Under her real name, Lynn Carthage was a Bram Stoker Award finalist, a Yaddo fellow, and San Francisco Chronicle “notable” listed novelist. She’s just published a new novel, Haunted, under a pseudonym – a book author Danielle Paige calls “spooky and fun.” Paige goes on to say, “If you like American Horror Story, you will love Haunted.” And Lynn shares some great advice here today. – Meg
I drop these details not to terrify, but to demonstrate that persistence is key for writers.
My path to publication for Haunted: The Arnaud Legacy almost seems like its own ghost story to me. The biggest scare? That I’d never see it published.
Over a decade ago, I had a nightmare about a malevolent mansion that tricked me into climbing up onto its roof, where I came face to face with the evil person who became, in my novel, Madame Arnaud. I woke up and jotted a few notes down. It seemed like something I could tease into a young adult novel, so I began writing.
A week later I had a rough draft, very short and very drafty (as drafty as a haunted hallway!). I began reading it to my writers group and getting feedback to improve it.
I then embarked on an up-and-down journey involving three agents, eight title changes and ultimately my selling the book directly to Kensington Books myself, although I brought Agent #3 back—the wonderful Marly Rusoff—to help with contract negotiations.
I drop these details not to terrify, but to demonstrate that persistence is key for writers. If I hadn’t kept revising the book and pitching it, it would not be in print today. I was so unrelenting in my efforts that I’m one of the “poster child” authors featured in Jordan Rosenfeld’s upcoming Writer’s Digest book, A Writer’s Guide to Persistence.
I didn’t give up—but I also didn’t stop improving the book, either. I revised not just on the sentence level, but also with large plot points and even characters. Anyone who reads my book and meets the teen character Eleanor Darrow, for instance, will be surprised to learn she started life in my book as an elderly male librarian named Algernon. I also continued to read other people’s books voraciously to pick up craft on an unconscious level.
The other key to my mental health and to ushering this book into print? I started writing other books.
“Don’t put all your eggs into one basket,” goes the saying, and so I doled them out. The creative buzz I get from starting a new book made the endless rejections and near-misses for this one seem bearable. And one of those projects even snuck up from behind and got published eight years ago under a different author name—so for a while I was ecstatic and distracted and forgot about Haunted. But after a while my attention returned with renewed vigor.
In hindsight, there are things I might’ve done differently to see Haunted on bookshelves earlier, but in general these three tips served me well:
- Keep revising with great courage. Don’t be afraid to change big things. Moving around commas doesn’t count.
- Keep reading high-quality literature to unconsciously (or even consciously) dissect what makes it work.
- Set the first book aside temporarily and write something new.
This month Haunted shows up in bookstores, and the albatross around my neck is now flying the sky. Thanks to my agent’s suggestion it’s part of a trilogy, so I’ve turned in the second book to the publisher already and will deliver the third next February. Pretty good outcome from a bad dream! – Lynn