Success Story with Eric Lard
Eric Lard’s base camp is at the foot of the oft-smoldering Sierra Nevada in NorCal where he enjoys the outdoors with his wife, three adult sons, and a pack of pocket wolves (chihuahuas). His debut novel, Dawn of the Construct, is releasing on October 28th, 2022 and is available now for preorder on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Writing was my consolation prize. What I really loved was music—playing shows, designing t-shirts, booking gigs. But after dropping out of college to pursue my dream and having that dashed upon the rocky shores of a new marriage and early parenthood, I had to find another way to vent that unstable artistic reservoir. I dabbled, wrote some short stories, sometimes got grandiose visions of writing something bigger, but just couldn’t get around my limitations as a writer and as a human being.
After shelving my stories for other ventures—having ADD makes it easy to find other ventures—I finally came back to some of what I’d written, and it pulled me in. It had been fifteen years, but wow, some of the stories and scenes were really good. But the writing… was really not good. So, I started reading again. As an only child with working parents, I had been a voracious reader. So I returned to that heritage, and it was like books were unlocked to me. I realized I could write something bigger.
Then I had an idea about how some of my old stories could tie together and suddenly, I was a third of the way to a full manuscript! That lit a fire under me. I wrote the rest of the book in less than a year and thought I was done. I was very far from done; I just didn’t know it. I learned what a query letter was and started submitting to agents before getting it edited (collective groan). Unsurprisingly that didn’t yield many responses. Very few provided any constructive criticism. If you’ve queried at all, you know what I mean. There was a lot of waiting. So, I got used it.
I looked up editors. I found a few that seemed like a fit, but not all were interested in working with me. One suggested I read the Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester. That was pivotal. It was my master class. It taught me that every scene had to move the plot forward. What?!? Why hadn’t I realized that? I tore my manuscript apart, and in the meantime found a few more editors. Their suggestions were amazing and when I finally settled on one, the collaboration elevated my story and highlighted many more problems. I cut out 15,000 words. Ouch. But suddenly it worked! I focused on the hook, and the story ignited.
Now I had something to query with. But that didn’t do it either. My editor, Tim Marquitz, gave insights on my query letter. I read somewhere that you needed to query sixty agents. And then query another sixty until you were successful. So, I did. I tracked it. I honed my letter, my pitch. I researched agents and small publishing houses all the while making the product I was sending out better and better. Failure, as I saw it, was a springboard.
Over the course of a year, I sent out fifty query letters to agents. I received back twenty-nine rejections and had twenty-one time out. Of the rejections, exactly zero provided any insight on how to do it better. So, I kept going, kept researching, and when I wasn’t doing that I was writing. I queried ten small publications. Of those, I received two rejections, seven timed out, and then the most beautiful thing happened. I received a YES! And, they even said why—what they liked, what needed work. It felt amazing to get that validation, but it felt even better to get insight on my craft and ability and what I could do to make my dream a reality: creating art that people could really engage with.
Looking back, it’s clear I was stunningly ignorant about the industry. That was a mistake. I was so excited to actually finish my manuscript that I totally ignored the next most important thing about writing: getting people to read it. Now I’m focusing on both and it feels a lot like those days in college, designing t-shirts and booking gigs and writing. Only now, the writing that was just a part of the picture is the whole picture. It is the performance, and I’m into that.Dawn of the Construct is my Frankenstein monster, cobbled together from different stories and animated by desperation, imagination, and an astounding lack of good sense. But somehow it works and the story of how humanity has been captured in a machine that syphons off soul energy through perpetual reincarnation jumps off the pages. And the hopeful ignorance of its protagonist, a young mage carried from one stupefying adventure to another by an unwieldy magic, feels a lot like me going through the experience of writing my first novel and getting it published.