Stuff; a Cover; and, a Question about Writing and Fear

First, a friendly reminder to anyone reading my blog on LiveJournal or at Amazon or, really, anywhere other than at my actual blogger blog: I won't see your comments unless you come to my Blog Actual to leave them. Sorry for the confusion. Syndication complicates the world!

La la la. Next up, behold my cover for the German edition of Graceling!

♥. And I don't just love the image; I love the title. Die Beschenkte basically means "One Who Has Been Given a Gift," more or less, except all in one awesome word. Or so I'm told. What do you think?

Moving on, a great question (with no spoilers) came to my inbox the other day from an aspiring writer:

I love to write, I need to write... but at the same time, I am afraid of publishers and editors and agents. Not so much about rejection letters or working with them, but sending my work to them. I know it must sound weird, or maybe not. How did you cope with it when you sent Graceling away? Was it really hard to let your creation out of your hands?

My dear aspiring writer: I am leaning out of my computer and giving you a hug.

I think I understand what you're saying on a visceral level. And I mean literally on a visceral level, because shortly after I signed with my agent, right about the time she started sending my manuscript out to editors, I developed heart palpitations -- weird, fluttery, uneven heartbeats -- that sent me to a cardiologist because I was scared that I must be dying! I wasn't dying. In fact, it turns out that all I was was scared -- so scared, in fact, that my anxiety chemicals were playing around with my heartbeats.

It was crazy hard to let Graceling out of my hands. And fear has played a starring role in my life since I did so. Along with all of the other emotions -- joy when I got a deal, pride with every completed round of revisions, excitement at seeing my book cover for the first time or reading a good review or holding Graceling in book form in my hands -- fear has always been present.

It comes from a lot of places. Some of it simply comes from your life changing. Change is hard and scary, even "good" change, the kind that looks to outsiders as if it should be easy and feel great. "Your book is doing well? Wow, you must be so happy!" When actually, sometimes, I can't tell if I'm happy, because everything's spinning so fast that I feel like I'm about to whirl right off the earth.

Fear also comes from realizing that you are not in control, and I think that might be, partly, at least, where your question is coming from. When you let go of your manuscript and send it out into the world, it's no longer completely yours anymore, and you're not in control of what happens to it. It's vulnerable, away from its parent, fending for itself. The thing is, your manuscript contains a little bit of your soul, and when you send it out away from yourself, it kind of feels like you're throwing your soul to the wolves! Once your book is out there meeting people, people will criticize it and interpret it however they like. IT STOPS BEING YOURS.

Except that the thing is, it never actually stops being yours. It will always be yours, first and last, yours. It's just that it will be other people's, too, but in completely unexpected ways, ways you never imagined. People who are the last people you ever pictured reading your book will tell you that your book affected them. And one of the most amazing things for me about Graceling being in the world is having people see things in it that I never even meant to put in it. They say it like, "Oh, it's neat how you connected Theme X with Theme Y in this scene! Good work!" And I'm like, "I did? Oh my God, you're right! I did! Look at that! How did that happen?" ;o)

The work of writing is very, very different from the work of getting and being published. They are two separate jobs completely. I'm only at the beginning of learning how to add the job of letting my books go to the job of writing the books in the first place. It's been quite a whirlwind, it's been one of the most terrifying things I've ever done, it's sent me to cardiologists. In the beginning, I floundered a lot, and sometimes coped badly. But you know what? I'm still writing. And I'm alive! Letting my books go hasn't killed me! Not only that, but I've done some serious adjusting. Some things that freaked me out a year ago barely faze me now (thank goodness, because it sure is exhausting to freak out on an hourly basis). And I hardly ever get weird fluttery heart palpitations now! (Maybe now and then, like when I get asked to make speeches AND have been drinking too much tea. ^_^)

Have I answered the question you asked? Letting my manuscript go was, and continues to be, hard. But for me, at least, what it led to was a better manuscript, from all the feedback. It led to experiences from which I have learned exponentially -- about myself, about business, about readers, about the world. And it also led to the ride of my life. :o)

One thing I want to add, though: I'm not saying you have to let your manuscript go NOW, or even SOON. I waited until I felt like I was ready; until I was ready to take the risk. I can't say what "ready" feels like -- I expect it feels different for different people -- and it DEFINITELY doesn't feel like success is assured. "Ready" always contains a little bit of "OMG I AM SO NOT READY." But it also contains enough "I am ready" for you to be ready.

Oh, good lord. That paragraph was meant to be helpful, I swear. Here, read this poem by Anaïs Nin:

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.


If I somehow managed, in my blathering way, to sidestep what you were really asking, please tell me!

And if anyone has comments or questions to add, please do so!

Finally, because this post isn't long enough yet, I forgot to mention before that Graceling was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults -- yAt! Also, thanks to Emily Mitchell of Emily Reads, who brought a big smile to my face with her haiku review. :o)

Happy Thursday, everyone.


Misrule said…
It's a beautiful cover, Kristin (and I agree about the title) although I am not sure it conveys Katsa's power in the way the UK cover does. But still, very, very pickupable. And apart from that a terrific blog post I'll be sharing with my writing students. Cheers!
JMS said…
I love the badass haiku. And the cover. And the courage behind the fear. Rock on, KC!!! xoxo JMS
Artemis Grey said…
Nevermind that Graceling itself has affected me and driven me to continue with my own endeavors in writing, this one blog has affected me almost as much! I must say that my heart palpitations have already started with just sending out query letters and sample chapters in my attempts to secure an agent. But the tremors are getting fainter with each round of queries that I send out, and my heart gets stronger with every round of rejections that comes in. In a way, it's like author bootcamp, and by the time I do secure an agent, hopefully I will have built up enough muscle that I don't simply coagulate inside my own body when asked to send my manuscript out into the wide world. =^.^=
tinkandalissa said…
As and aspiring writer myself, I must say - Kristin, you ROCK! Just reading today's post made my heart flutter. You have such amazing voice when you write. I could FEEL your emotion.
I love love love the German cover! But my fave has to be the US cover w/the blade. Totally the best!
My mom is reading Graceling right now and loving it!
Sarah Miller said…
Supercool cover. Will they send you one? Because I have friends in Germany...
The cover is gorgeous, and the title is fantastic (but then, I've always loved German).

With the heart palpitations--I had them start before I even finished my first draft. I was going to doctors for a month and a half after I finally gave in and went to the first. I've only recently started querying and I have to admit, it's not as bad as I expected. No, I haven't had any bites on my manuscript, but I have learned to back myself away from the situation to a degree, just for self-preservation! Because it is really, truly frightening.

It helps to find blogs like this where you get to find out how freaked out actual published authors can get. Thanks, Kristin!

Aria said…
Oddly enough I'm terrified to write, like at all. I have about 75 files on my computer that are stories waiting to be written. The basis for my fear? What if it's already been done? Once, in a creative writing class I wrote a short story that I was very proud of. My teacher reemed me because It was a lot like some book I hadn't even read! Everytime I tell someone about a story I always ask, is there anything like it? Am I being original. Even though I know I should write because I want to hear the story, not for the audiance. Still, it's something that haunts be everytime I sit down to write.
Pam said…
Cool cover. Love the font. And the haiku. And the Nin poem.
tinkandalissa said…
Aria - I totally do the same thing. What's worse for me is that I also love to read the genre that I am writing in. I can't stop myself from reading but I also REALLY love to write. I am working on my first novel..and this also has been stressing me out for months and months. I keep reading things (descriptions, scenarios, entire paragraphs!) that I have already written for my novel/ideas. I get frustrated and feel like scribbling thru everything and just saying "forget it!". But my fabulous friends and family keep reminding me - nothing is ENTIRELY original. There are too many writers out there. There is always going to be SOMETHING that probably has some similarities. You cant let that stop you from writing. There are tons of books that I've read where I think, "hmm, that sounds a lot like this other book I just read" but it isnt EXACTLY the same even if there are similarities. And all those guys are still getting published! We can too! :)
Thanks for this post, Kristin. As an aspiring writer, it always helps to hear that writers you admire struggle with things too, whether it be the editing process or sending your "baby" out into the world. I'm always terrified when I send it to anyone to look at, especially the big publishing people. Someone once said to me, "you feel exposed, like you're standing there completely naked in front of strangers." I think that's true. I get nervous and am still nervous as I prepare to submit again, but having readers helps us learn and get better, and for me, it's the ultimate goal in this process. Still, it's great to know that published writers who receive so much praise for their work still get nervous! Thanks!

Oh, and I love this cover. :)

StefanieEmmy said…
Ahh, that's so great seeing that cover!! I'm from Austria so I plan to read Graceling in German, too - especially after seeing that cover.

And thanks for this smashing blog post!
Oh my!! I just love that cover! Lol when I seen the cover I hadn't yet read your post and I thought, that is a book I want to read, and then it turns out to be your book. :P
Melina said…
From an inspiring writer to a writer, I want to ask you something. When you first started to write Graceling, did you sit at your computer thinking oh I'm writing a book now or did you just let the words flow? My problem is I start thinking of everything else and letting it overwhelm me even though I haven't finished yet(not even close).

My other problem (which is far worse and if this doesn't get fixed, the other problems won't matter) is that so far I have started two other stories, but that's it, I just start. After writing a few chapters, I stop and move on to the next story. I don't know why, but I would suddenly realize that I don't like the story anymore or find some flaw in it, and I would stop. Currently, I have a third story floating in my mind because I haven't had time on the computer to "flesh" it out yet, but I'm already worried and I haven't even started.(Am I destined to fail? Sigh.) I really love my idea for this one (but then again, I thought the same thing for the second one) and I'm worried that if I start to put it on paper, I'll find some fault in it and stop. =( Have you ever started to write a story and stoped?

Similar to Aria, I also have the constant worry that what I'm thinking of has already been done.

Kristen, you being a successful writer, please help me! Do you have any advice you could give me? Or should I just give up? It's like my writing is out to get me, everytime I get close, it bites my fingers off. =(
Melina said…
** I just noticed my error in my post(above). I meant from an aspiring writer, not inspiring.
hip hip hooray! for awesome covers, german words, and winning awards! everyone now! hip hip hooray! HIP hip hooray! HIP HIP hooray! HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!

im done ^_^

thank u for the writers advice. note to self: i got some i need to send to u.

"dont be shocked that people die, be surprised ur still alive"-cassie (auchostic version)(which i totally spelled wrong) by flyleaf
Anonymous said…
This is an off the wall question, but for people trying to learn a foreign language from English, it would be great to get your book in the other language. How do you find your books in a foreign language in the US?
Kristin Cashore said…

To Misrule, JMS, Pam, Stefanie, BeyondtheIcyWalls -- thank you! :o) (Beyond -- you crack me up!)

To A. Grey, Tink, hobbit, Lesley, and itdepends -- NEVER SURRENDER!!

To Sarah Miller, Lovely Authoress -- (don't worry, I'm not assigning you that as a secret code name, I just like referencing "Anne Shirley, Avonlea's famous authoress" now and then) -- let's email!

Now, to Aria. You know what? I hate your teacher. What is a writing teacher doing squashing people? I had a writing teacher once who squashed me and it took me years to recover. Seriously. Writers have so many fears; writers are, at times, fragile; and a good teacher knows the difference between constructive criticism and the kind that paralyzes the artist. HOW DARE YOUR TEACHER DO THAT. AND WHAT AN ASS THING TO SAY, TOO. Writers learn by writing. Part of learning is imitating other writers, intentionally OR unintentionally. And even for the most experienced writers, nothing is 100% original. Our writing builds on all the writing of the past. Also, just to give you my own perspective, one of the reasons I go months and months sometimes not reading a single fantasy is that there are so many similarities between fantasies that reading other people's stuff can freak me out. Sometimes I feel like I'm plagiarizing -- even when I read the thing I'm supposedly plagiarizing from AFTER I've done the writing! So, you're writing something and it's a lot like something someone else wrote? Well, as long as you're not actually lifting passages or intentionally copying major ideas, so what. We all do. And like I said before, writers learn from writing. Maybe right now you feel like nothing is original. But if you keep doing it and let your writing breathe, you'll start to find who *you* are as a writer. And you'll stop feeling so unoriginal. I promise.

Also, did I mention that I hate your teacher?

To Melina -- It sounds to me like you've lost the fun. What do you *like* about these stories? When I get stuck, that's what I try to think about: Why am I even writing this? Where is the fun? I try really hard not to take myself too seriously, because that's where the worry starts. Also -- I've learned that sometimes you just have to ignore the faults and tell yourself, yes, that's a problem, but I'll fix it later. And what usually happens is that by the time I get further along, or even get all the way to the end, the solution for how to fix that flaw way back near the beginning just sort of appears to me. If you were to look at my notebooks, you'd see a lot of pages where I've written in big letters across the top: "THIS SUCKS BUT I'LL FIX IT LATER."

Does that help at all? Be patient and kind to yourself :o). Also, it's not a sin to stop writing something, you know :o) It doesn't mean you've stopped forever.

Finally, to Ruth -- I actually don't know the answer to your question. It's not out yet in any other languages, but I don't know what you'd do once it *is* out -- I don't even know if the foreign presses are going to be distributing it in the US -- although I might be able to find out. If I do, I'll make an announcement!

Does anyone else out there know how you can do this?

Kristin Cashore said…
Ahem. Upon further consideration, I would like to add that many, many teachers are awesome and it is only the rare and occasional asshat that I have a problem with. Lest you think I hate all teachers, please read this post.

Anonymous said…
Ok, umm this is completely off topic, but I had to comment on your use of the Anais Nin poem.

It just helped me make a decision I have been fretting with for four months. of those life altering decisions.

Thank you...
Ai said…
As a "wolf" (I'm an editor, although not for fiction), I'd like to say that for the most part, we're not that scary! :) While the rules that dictate structure, flow, house-style, and grammar can be strict, and in turn seem constricting to a writer who gets back a manuscript with queries and strike-throughs, we do it because we want to help you make your book better! We want your book to communicate clearly to your chosen audience and to have the maximum impact possible. A lot of editors I know, including myself, are/were aspiring writers too, so we know we're holding your baby in our hands. It's a hard job trying to strike the right tone and develop a good rapport with a writer so each suggestion or edit isn't seen as an attack on the writer and his/her writing and storytelling ability. While there are pompous ass-hat editors out there, the good ones really do care. I hope this helps all you aspiring writers out there to breathe a little easier.

As for Aria's writing teacher, s/he is an ass-hat. I was lucky enough to have Tim Powers as a writing teacher. He repeatedly said that not only do you need to just sit down (turn off the inner editor) and write in order to become a writer, you need to read too. It's a good way to see the difference between a well-written/presented vampire novel (for example), and a bad one. Yes, the basic stories are all going to be the same since there's "nothing new under the sun", but your voice is unique to the story; that's the "new" that you can bring. That's what your teacher SHOULD have pointed out, not the similarity to the base story. What I loved about Powers most was that, when someone wrote a particularly good story or came up with a good idea or a new twist or way to present a tried-and-true story element/plot, he'd say "I'm gonna steal that," to let you know he liked it. That's a moment you (Aria) should have had had your teacher been less ass-hat-ish.

Oh, and I love the cover, the german translation of "Graceling", and the Nin poem. :D (Sorry for rambling.)
Kristin Cashore said…
Victoria -- wonderful, and good luck!

And Ai, thank you SO MUCH for writing in from the editor's side of things! You make some really great points. My editor (and my agent, and actually every person I've worked with at my publishers) has been such a blessing in my life. One of her greatest qualities is her ability to get her point across without trampling. She's very strong and firm but also GENTLE. And she exudes this sense of trust in me that is completely strengthening to me. Before I sent my manuscript out, I had to find all that strength on my own. Now I have people to help me -- such a thing to be grateful for.
Artemis Grey said…
Wow, so this post just gets better and better! Thought I'd throw a couple of questions out, since people have been talking about persevering with their writing. At what point should I consider that my queries might be getting denied for reasons other than they just haven't gotten to the 'right' agent yet? Without feedback (and I understand why agents can't give detailed replies to everyone) how can I know if it's NOT that my writing isn't of publishing caliber? Should I be sending to editors as well as agents?
To Aria: Your teacher was an ass-hat of the highest order! I agree to everything that Kristen and Ai said about that. It's like the great masters where art is concerned, everyone learns from those that came before them.
To Melina: There might be something to what Kristin said in response to your post, but I want to tell you that I have DOZENS of started but unfinished stories. I's not kidding, I have NOTEBOOKS of them. I have one that's finished, but so bad that it will never see daylight, but that's okay, because if I hadn't written it, I wouldn't have been able to write the novels that I'm currently trying to get published. It's like trying on shoes, or trying out different mediums of art. At least that's how it was for me. Some of my stories are hundreds of pages long, some only rough outlines. Some I'm sure I'll go back and rework, some were merely momentary infatuations. The point is, KEEP WRITING!!! Possibly my favorite teacher of all time told me that. I had given him a manuscript (the one that will never see daylight) and after he'd read it he spoke very honestly to me about it. He told me that in his honest opinion (and he was a rare books dealer as well as an english professor) that that particular manuscript, would likely never be a marketable piece of work, but that parts of it showed what I COULD do, if I kept practicing the craft so to speak. He told me to write all the time, anywhere, even on scraps of paper, write anything, and the more you write, the more the WAY you write will change, and improve. So who cares if you have a dozen half-done stories? Each one means something in its own way, and when you go back and read them you might shake you head, but you might also find a line or paragraph that causes you to shout EUREKA! So keep writing! =^.^=
Artemis Grey said…
By the way, much belatedly, love the cover, I did exactly what Beyond did! :D I think I like the American one a bit better thought, it conveys Katsa and her personality to you before you ever meet her.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for answering my question Kristin. You rock!
And that cover is absolutely amazing, I love it.
You answered my question perfectly, I wont forget it.
Thank you again, so so much ^_^

Anonymous said…
My goodness. Each and every one of you make me want to write more. Every comment I read makes me want to write, but the thing is, I am not a storyteller. I've never been. I am extremely good at relaying events, but the creativity often lacks with me. I suppose I will try to write on some random items as A. Grey suggests. It seems like such great struggle, but then again, I might just end up pulling my hair out and being unnaturally bald for the rest of my non-writing life-- smile.

Also, I have no idea where I would be without the work of others. I have become a better student from reading other work, because I have learned to question.

Thanks for the inspiration from all known and unknown authors!

Have a lovely day everyone!


BTW-- LOVE this cover too.
Anonymous said…
I just wanted to stop in and say I absolutely love your book, Kristin, and I'm reccomended it to just about every single one of my friends.
My favorite part about words in different languages- they sum up in a word what it would take English a phrase to do.
Thanks for the writing advice, too.
Alix said…
Hi Kristin,

The cover is beautiful but like other readers I love the US one the best.
I just finished Graceling and I absolutely loved it, I couldn't out it down. You did an amazing job with Katsa and Po. I loved the ending. I'm so excited to hear your writing a prequel.

Also as a just starting out writer this post was so interesting to read as were the comments so thanks for that too.
That's a beautiful cover! It reminds me of the German cover of Ingrid Law's Savvy - I think it's the same imprint over there.

And, man, I totally get the heart palpitation thing. I get very anxious to the point of heart flutterings, too, though not as much about sending my work out - more about opening the envelopes I get in return!
Anonymous said…
Wow, I have to say all of these people that commented about each other are so supportive and comforting when you guys dont know each other. Its wonderful.

Id love to write like a lot of you but I have a problem with getting it down on paper. I can come up with worlds and highly descriptive scenes and characters in my head but when I try to put it on paper it disappears. =[

I guess writing was never meant for me. Good thing Im going to college for vet. =]

Oh! Congrats on the award Kristin!!! Thats amazing. You deserve it =]
cindy said…
oh, that's a lovely cover...congrats, kristin!!!! and from a recent post online somewhere by me :

i've said it before and i'll say it again, it takes a lot of courage to chase your dreams.
it takes an even braver soul to live it.

great advice and post!
Kristin Cashore said…
Oh, thanks so much, everyone -- and Ashley, you're very welcome!!
ICQB said…
Wow. Nicely answered.
Anonymous said…
I LUVS THIS COVER!!!!.....I still love the u.s cover the best with the dagger and the eyes...but this cover is so beautiful...the name alone makes me want to buyz da way...your u.s cover helped so much with one of my art projects....i could not think of how to draw a feminin looking turned out great and i got an A....
Kristin Cashore said…
Hey there, continuing along a theme, if anyone's interested, a friend sent me this link to a short video of the writer/director Francis Ford Coppola talking about how writers should steal from other writers! :o)
Anonymous said…
I was just wondering if you ever read comments on old blogs,Kristin? I had just finished reading Graceling today and I loved it. And if you do reply i would like to know if people have to actually go to college to become a writer and have your work published? It's a stupid question probably but i am very curious. I love to read and write. I'm still in high school though. Well I better go now. thanks. A fan of yours Ash.
Kristin Cashore said…
Hi there Ash! There's definitely no requirement that you go to college to get your work published. And I believe 100% that college is not the right route for everyone's soul. That being said, I'll tell you that my in my own case, college and grad school played a HUGE role in getting me thinking about what makes writing good, and in learning how to become a writer. (I studied literature in college and children's literature in grad school.) BUT, now that I've argued that side, I'll argue the other side and say that college isn't the only way to study those things and learn those things. And now that I've argued that side, I'll add the college helped me to get a job that provided financial security, which is something a writer needs if she's going to have the time and energy to write.

And now I'll stop arguing, and wish you luck. :o)
BigTimeReader said…
that definitely answered my question because i am planning to go to college but to become a teacher but i would also like to write. thank you!!! Ash
Your post was one-hundred percent, holy-crap-that-hit-the-spot inspirational for me. Thank you so much for writing this!

It is inspirational in general to be able to read the "first book" of authors in fantasy and then go to places like this blog and know they are human beings just like yourself. Sometimes the whole process of writing/publishing becomes intimidating to the point that the humanity part is just tossed into an unmapped corner of oblivion. I sincerely admire and appreciate your work!
Kristin Cashore said…
Kourtnie, you're very welcome! :o)

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