Rachel Fikes

Sh*t Happens

Forrest Gump had it right. Shit happens. I won’t have any problem completing edits for draft three this month. In fact, I’m almost done now. Then what’s the problem, you ask?

Money, or rather, the lack thereof.

Believe me, this is not a rant or a pity party about how poor I am. When I got out of the Army at the end of 2013 as a captain, I was under the false impression that with an M.A., I’d easily find a job. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For nine months I applied and searched, and nothing. Finally, when I moved up to New York at the end of October, I landed a job at Victoria’s Secret, working retail at $9 an hour; oh how the mighty had fallen. Suffice it to say, living on my credit cards for almost a year didn’t do me any favors. Unlike many of my friends, I had been lucky previously, and graduated with my bachelor’s degree debt free, completely funded by scholarships I busted my ass for in high school. The Army paid for my graduate degree. But living on credit cards for that long, with a mortgage to pay, well, I racked up a significant amount of debt. Now, I work as an ESL teacher for Education First, which I love, but $15 an hour just isn’t cutting it for my editorial needs.

I can’t hire my editors for another line edit (3 cents per word at 112k words, damn me for choosing such a wordy genre) until I come up with some major dough. That’s not a hit against my editors. They are fantastic, and their rate is below the industry price. I put so much stock in what they say, I refuse to venture into the query process until I have their final okay. I’m sure you’re saying, but Rachel, surely your third draft is fine, and you can start the query process without your editors. The thing is, I don’t want to. My manuscript wouldn’t be 10% of what it is today, had it not been for Rebekah and Lindsay’s critical input. I need to feel 1000% confident with my book baby before I start pitching. Without their final stamp of approval, that just isn’t the case.

Does every debut writer need an editor? Absolutely not. But I’ve tried to query without an editor’s input before on BOA, and it only ended in heartache. In truth, the book was crap, but it wouldn’t have been had I hired Author Crash Course. Some debut writers don’t need editors, but that’s not the case with me. When I dive into the query trenches, an agonizing journey that can take months or even years, I need my editors by my side.

So what’s next?

I’ll be working doubles the next couple of months (really the next year to pay off all my debt) and hiring Author Crash Course for edits this December. Yeah, this isn’t the deadline I originally wanted, but the way I see it, this gives me three more months to make my manuscript really shine. The push of my deadline does put a damper on my goals for this year, but at the same time, I’ve heard both my editors say writers are exactly where they need to be in their writing process. Often, debut writers are so excited about their new draft, they query too soon and get mass rejected. Been there, done that. The literary agents, publishing houses, and readers will still be in full swing next year—let’s just hope the market for adult fantasy is too.

Until next time,



train tracks

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.

I read a dropkick-to-the-chest statistic the other day. Less than .6% of people who write a book ever get published. Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! With information out like that, it’s easy for a writer to lose hope. How does one continue with the madness of writing with the odds not in their favor? Quite simply, you have to believe in yourself. Yeah, I know. It sounds cliché. But it’s a cliché for a reason. Whether or not you succeed is entirely up to you. It all starts with your mindset.

When I was a kid, almost every morning before we climbed onto the school bus, my mom used to read to us (my two brothers and two sisters), loads and loads of books. One of my favorites was THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD. For those of you who haven’t read this book, you should. I know, I know. It’s a children’s book. Nonetheless,  it teaches a valuable lesson about being optimistic and having a positive attitude that even an adult can benefit from. The engine that prevails keeps telling himself, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” It’s a mantra I’ve carried with me all the way from childhood to adulthood, and it’s helped me get through some pretty dark times.

Is it easy staying positive and believing in yourself? Not in the slightest. Some days, I feel like that little engine, trying to power up some tracks that scale the side of Mt. Everest. I read a brilliant book and immediately wish my writing was better. I see all of these authors ten years younger than me, getting massive book deals. Don’t get me wrong. I’m ecstatic for their success. But it’s hard not to compare. Even today, right before writing this post, I received a lackluster beta reader review. They didn’t hate my book but they sure as hell didn’t love it either. I poured my heart and soul into this manuscript and downright sobbed during some heartbreaking scenes, yet they didn’t manage to shed a tear.

I know the only way for me to power up and overcome this mountain of doubt is lessening the load. I have to toss off the baggage that’s holding me back. Forget about the negative reviews, the naysayers who proclaim I’ll never make it, and the vast accomplishments of other writers. What separated these successful authors from the 99.4% who didn’t make it?  They never gave up. And neither will I.

Whether you’re a writer trying to break into the publishing industry or you’re following another Herculean dream, just remember—if you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, well, you can’t and you won’t.

As for me? I know I can.

Mountain view