Letters from Erik

What does a frustrated author have to do?



The story starts here...

Have you ever had one, or more, of those frustrating, nightmarish days when you, and the page you should be working on, share the same expression?


Don’t you just wish there was someone you could turn to for inspiration?

For one particular author, there was someone...

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After a restless, sleep-deprived night in a bed that offered no comfort at all I went, somewhat limply, to my desk in the vain hope that I might break my mental deadlock.
However, the blank page is no longer empty, but the poor standard of the handwriting is only matched by the terrible grammar.
I read a little of it :

Dear Ausor,
Do not lose hert if se words do not come. Sey are sere vvaiting. Vvaiting for se right storrie.

I close my eyes and shake my head. When I open them again the writing has changed to plain English, and it makes for an interesting read.

So, I take Erik’s advice and all of a sudden, writing is fun again. It's not hard to come up with ideas because I’m writing for me, and I like the stuff I write.

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But what happens when the story is finished? Do you find yourself loving and hating the finished article? It’s a good story. It must be. You wrote it and enjoyed writing every single word... but still something doesn’t sit right with you. You may even reach the stage of wanting to scream in frustration as you can’t see what’s wrong.

But Erik can. Check out his advice.

How do I get others to help me, as Erik suggests?
Look around on the internet, ask around about writers groups and workshops with people who are willing to exchange reviews of your work, for reviews of their work. That's what I did and despite my initial reservations I stuck with it.

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A member of a workshop, you’ve performed a few reviews and have submitted your own work for similar treatment. Then you wait... and wait... and wait, all the time wondering why some of the people who have promised to return the favour of a review haven’t responded.

More than a little annoying it almost got me to the point where I wanted to “name and shame” the individuals concerned. But Erik saved me from that potentially disastrous action.

Slowly, but surely, I get reviews and one by one they add to my confidence. They are helpful, polite, courteous and so reassuring.

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But then, out of the blue, I get a knee in the groin, a slap round the face, a kick in the butt, you name it, I felt it!

It was the worst review I could ever have imagined anyone getting. The reviewer was, as far as I could tell, out for blood. They wrote more (atrocious) words in their review than I had written in a piece of comedic flash fiction.

Well, that was it! My dander was well and truly up and I was preparing for an all out war with this “person”. Note: the quotes should tell you that I did’t think they were a person at all.

Fortunately I took a little time to calm down and in the interim I found another missive from Erik.

I successfully avoid a war, and life returns to normal.

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That is until I receive a review from a “God”. A published, and well established author has performed a review of my work. It is brilliant, insightful, helpful both in broad and in fine and I am at a loss for words.

I look at their recently submitted work and it is phenomenal. I read, and read, and read again hoping to find something, anything to say that can be viewed as something better than ass kissing praise.

I give up. Seriously. It is so daunting that I am prepared to send an email of apology to the author. I guess I am too scared to say anything.

Of course Erik has an opinion on this subject too.

So, the work continues until I have, what I think is work that is ready for submission to an agent/publisher or even an independant publishing web site.

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Then I start hearing about things like query letters, manuscripts, a synopsis, an elevator line or headline and I am thrown into a state of blind panic.

Not knowing what these things were I went in search of answers.

What the hell is a synopsis, or an elevator line? How do I format a manuscript - isn’t there just a single accepted format?

My mind is behaving like a cat on a hot tin roof. It won’t stay still long enough for me to focus on a single subject.

Erik to the rescue, and then some - two pages worth.


When I have completed my preparations and I’m ready to venture into the big, some say frightening, world of publishing I encounter yet another problem.

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I am standing at a crossroads. I have come from ‘author-town’ but now have to make a choice about which road to take. Do I go down ‘agent avenue’, ‘publisher parade’ or take the ‘independant route’?

The first question that I have to answer is ‘What genre is your story?’

Uncertainty plus fear of failure = procrastination and I manage to avoid making a decision altogether.

Erik, though extremely patient, doesn’t wait too long before helping me over this particular hurdle.

Decision made, submission sent out and waiting for replies. The first one comes in - and it’s a ‘no’. Never mind, wait for the next one.
And the next?
The same.
And so on.

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All of these letters lead to restless, haunted dreams in which I am in an aircraft at 30,000 feet and my attention is drawn to a bright-red neon arrow with ‘rejected’ written on it. It is huge and everyone on the plane is gasping. Except me. I know where it is pointing. The tip rests squarely on the crest of the roof of my house. Somehow the other passengers get to know it is my house and they all turn to look at me; sympathetic smiles, sneers and expressions of horror on their faces.

Then I wake up covered in sweat. I feel terrible and desperately want to avoid opening the mail because I know what each and every letter will say.


I am so glad when the next letter from Erik makes me look at those letters from a different perspective.

My document tray is immediately relabelled ‘No, thank you’ and the word ‘rejected’ - which is totally absent in all of the replies - is obliterated by the new label.

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The mail continues to be the same until that fateful day when a ‘No, thank you’ isn’t one... it’s a ‘Yes, please’. Oh My Fairy Godmother, I can’t believe it!

The shocked expression on my face mutates into a fixed, moronic grin. Someone is saying that they like, and want to publish my work.

Pop the top off a beer and down it in one smooth swallow to celebrate. Don’t know how I didn’t spill any of it as I’m still in ‘smiling moron’ mode.

Wanna tell someone... gotta tell someone... who? Everyone, of course! Especially those who doubted me. Wipe the smile off their faces that’s for god-damned sure!

Sometimes I hate Erik, but even on this occasion it would seem he’s right. Take a look at what he has to say about it.

Wow. Erik isn’t just Erik... he is so much more. It’s kind of sad to think that I may have just heard the last from him. My ‘victory dance’ seems somewhat muted now.

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In the ensuing months I continue to write, almost wishing to have a crisis so that Erik will have to come back. But nothing draws him out of hiding.

After a year of hard work I complete a magnificent story. It is polished, sent out and I await the replies.

In the meantime I start my next project. It is a disaster. All I manage to produce are shadows of the characters from my previous book. Even the mannerisms and speech characteristics are the same.

Page after page is written, and page after page is thrown away. This is not meant to be a sequel. I want to write something fresh and invigorating, but the phantoms of the past will not easily be laid to rest.

At last I have the crisis, and Erik responds in style.

And so it was. Just a short break from the routine, the characters, the scenes and all the other paraphernalia was exactly what I needed.

Does Erik speak to you as well?




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