Airing my own dirty laundry: a writer’s Black Moments

Writers understand black moments. They're our bread and butter and appear in every novel. First we establish our protagonists' worse fears, then we throw rocks at them, pushing them toward their nightmares. From the first pages we frustrate, annoy and confound them. With slightly dysfunctional glee, we deepen their problems. With Donald Maass's voice ringing wickedly in our ears, we think, "What's the worst thing that can happen? Now how can we make it even worse?" By the time our battered hero reaches the final pages, he's exhausted, financially ruined, suffering a tarnished reputation and likely suffers from a bleeding wound or two.

It's only fair when karma catches up with us.BlackMoment1316139_1280

Black Moment #1. Contest Entry Agony.

Disclaimer: this incident did not involve RMFW's Colorado Gold Contest. I'd been writing for over six years and was trying desperately to gain an editor or agent's attention by winning contests. After days of careful revisions and study of the contest rules, I sent my entry and $65 to the largest competition in my genre. I waited with optimism and the high hopes and dreams only a struggling writer possesses. A Black Moment slashed all four of my tires when I received notice that my entry violated the manuscript preparation rules and my $65 entry fee was forfeited.

My violation was the font size of my header. I went back and looked at the picture of the full-size reproduction of an acceptable entry the organization printed in their newsletter. I had even checked their example against my printer font size checker. It was the same size as my entry. The contest officials refused to reconsider. I found little consolation that close to a hundred other entries were similarly DQ'd that year and the rules were hastily revised the next year, but at that moment, I was devastated and outraged.

Black Moment #2. Word Processing Disaster.

I had typed "The End." I loved my story. I was prepping the manuscript for Kindle and other outlets. I discovered that during the conversion, the word processing program scrambled the quote marks and apostrophes. They had become a helter skelter pattern of straight quotes and smart quotes! Using the search-and-replace function was useless because it's a style, not a typo.  Hopeful,  I reloaded and converted, but it happened again. I was on deadline with Amazon to get the book in on time. My Black Moment crashed in when I realized I'd have to proof all quote marks and apostrophes on all 350 pages--manually.

Black Moment #3. Facebook Ad Fail.

In prepping for the July 15 release of Crimson Secret this summer, I developed a really fun ad campaign featuring my gorgeous cover, which was developed after scrolling through images and art until my eyeballs fell out and rolled across the keyboard. I also won hard-fought battles with my graphic artist about fonts and models. Of course the cover was included in the ad. Imagine my fury when I received a rejection from the Facebook ad gurus for "too much text." (Facebook has a strict 20% rule about the portion of the ad that can contain text, not for number of words, but for how much space in the ad contains text.)

I appealed, explaining that book covers are exempt from the "text" rule because they are, in fact, an image of the "product." Said gurus didn't listen and rejected it again. A Black Moment leaked into my veins like dirty transmission fluid when I realized that, if I wanted my ads to run before my book release, I would have to re-do all my ads.

Stuff happens. We've all heard horror stories of other writers' Black Moments. One author suffered through holding her first published book in her hands, only to realize that the printer had omitted the final page. (Yes, with the ending.)

Maybe it's payback after all those evil plot rocks we throw at our characters over the years. A case of "Here's some karma, back atcha!" One thing is certain. We can find value in our writer black moments. They help us identify and sympathize with each other. Having suffered from them, we can write black moments with credibility and passion.

May your black moments be few and far between!

Janet Lane
Janet has a new release this month! ETTI'S INTENDED, part of her #1 Amazon bestselling series, will release on September 1 in ebook and paperback format.
The fifth book in the series, Etti's Intended is available now for pre-order at -- order now and you'll be among the first to read what Library Journal reviewed as "Almost too perfect ... Lane does a superb job creating layers to the Gypsy culture... a must-have for fans of the series."
Her novels are set in fifteenth century England during the so-called “Gypsy Honeymoon” decades. The first novel in the series, Tabor's Trinket, is a #1 Amazon bestselling novel. #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author Lara Adrian called Emerald Silk “ enchanting medieval romance filled with passion, intrigue and vividly drawn characters that leap off the page. I loved this novel!”.
Janet was a featured author in RMFW Press’s Tales from Mistwillow anthology, and co-chaired the editorial board for RMFW's 2009 anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for the Colorado Book Award.

Janet welcomes your comments here or via her blog at, or her website,

6 thoughts on “Airing my own dirty laundry: a writer’s Black Moments

  1. First, I’ll go on record as saying that I detest the “black moment” in romance fiction because I know it’s all going to work out–in fact, I usually predict what the black moment conflict will be. However, I dutifully include them in my books because they’re part of the genre, and my personal preferences aren’t part of that.

    As for the quotes — I prefer working with straight quotes, but when I’m ready to submit, I go to the Word settings (not document settings–that would be too easy) and there are two places to check the ‘change straight quotes to smart quotes’. Then, a find/replace for quotes and apostrophes will change them all except for words that start with a contraction, like ’em for them, etc. I figured out a way to search for those, although I have a great editor who finds any I’ve missed.

    And the Facebook Ad Fail — yes, the Facebook bots don’t read their own rules. I had one FB ad that bounced back and forth like a ping pong ball. I don’t bother with them anymore–the actual clicks once the ad got straightened out were such a teeny percentage of the people FB told me I’d reached that it wasn’t worth the money.

  2. Isn’t it amazing all the things we “writers” have had to learn in the last few years? Um, decade? If only it were just the words & the story. In one way, it’s lots of fun to learn new tricks and technical skills. On the other hand, there’s always frustrating issues with managing “stuff.” Nice piece, Janet, thanks !

  3. Good morning, Terry! Thanks for the tips on quotes. I was able to use the search function to locate all the quotes and apostrophes, but had to correct them manually. Are you serious, there are *two* places to change straight quotes to smart quotes??? Are there malicious software engineers who dream up ways to drive innocent, hard-working folks insane??? Really, *really* thanks for the tip.

    Shannon, no! Thank goodness for your sense of humor. I’m sure you left him or her laughing about it.

    Mark, you’re one writer I point to as a shining example of techno-wizard, producing all those great podcasts and directing all your social media and book signing events. I’ve determined it only takes about seventeen seconds of techno-sludge to strip me of all civility and leave me cursing like a sailor.

  4. Janet – I long for the days when all a writer had to worry about was writing, and let the publishers figure out all that unimportant stuff like spelling, punctuation, font-continuity, advertising, etc.

    I read once about a famous author – I forget who so let’s just say it was Hemingway, because it sounds like him – who would turn in his manuscript in a total mess – some handwritten, some typed, some on restaurant menus or deli wrappers, others on inconsistent sized notepaper, not even stacked in page order. The editor had to sort all that out and actually retype it all. Can you imagine being so famous you could do that?

    I imagine editors back in the day celebrated the invention of the word processor, and all of these over-the-top, uncompromising, ridiculously picky formatting rules came out of that euphoria.

  5. Oh, my — thanks for the glimpse of that manuscript from the past. The simplicity of the good old days! I think I’ll “long” along with you, Kevin!

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