Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Status Update, just like the last status update: Life after contract

Yet another reason writers tend to fall off the radar is that it takes a long time to write a book.

And for the whole time we're writing, we are painfully aware that most of the book doesn't exist yet. The problem with that is it's rude to talk about something that literally no one else can share in. I can talk about it sure, but it ranks on the same boring scale as people telling you about what they dreamed about last night. Some people will find it interesting, or they might find parts of it interesting because they like you and are interested in what your dreams tell them about you, but otherwise? Nope, not really the stuff of riveting conversation

Sadly, the same is true of a book that isn't even a book yet. In fact, in some circles, it's considered rude to talk about unwritten novels. No one can even read it. There's no use in pitching it because it doesn't exist yet. There's no use in talking about the plot because, well, that could change dramatically too.

And yet, there's this ongoing need to do a sort of check in.

Many writers move to the talking about word count, or the "wrote a great scene" sorts of posts, but those aren't exactly the stuff of legends either. So there's the writer, a book in their mind, a blog full of blank pages and they've already talked about the--still imaginary!--book enough to push the boundaries of politeness.

Which brings me rather nicely to a status update:

Everything is uncertain in a writer's life. I currently have one novella that is in production. Everything else is in various states of maybe or not finished. I'm waiting to hear back on one novel. I'm finishing up edits on a rough draft to send off to my early readers. I'm plotting the rest of a rough draft for a novel in a completely different world. And I'm researching self publishing and if I want to go that route with one of my books.

Which is a guarantee of exactly nothing (another reason writers tend to clam up). It looks like I have a lot going on writing wise, but it could literally pan out to nothing (except the self publishing bit). And every time a writer finishes up a book, that's where it might be headed. All that work, seemingly for naught.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Life Goal Met! Now what do I do? Life after contract

This post is pulling double duty as a continuation of my Life After Contract Series, and Insecure Writer’s Support Group. So pop on over and say Hi to Alex, and give a big hand to this month's co-hosts: Jennifer Hawes,Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

Sometimes writers talk about how the first half million words suck. Yeah, that was me. I was well past that mark before agents and publishers started requesting partials. All of those early requests landed in the rejection pile.

My most recent break in writing lasted until the summer of 2009. I hit September and started writing like a woman possessed. Over the next 18 months I wrote over 350,000 words, all of it crap. I spent the next six months after that writing another novel, so two full years in. Then, a year after that (!!!) I got my first partial request. It came back a week later as a form letter rejection.

As you can imagine three full years of busting buns to get a thing going, and the best I had to show for it was ONE partial request. Ouch doesn’t begin to cover the moment when I started questioning my life choices. And, as a side note, writing was not the thing I was doing for my daily bread. Writing was a major sacrifice for me and my family. I had believed in it—believed in me!—and all I had at that point was a partial and a quick rejection.

Yeah, things were dark, so I did the thing that many writers do: I picked a different goal. I stepped back from my writing and asked myself “What would be worth it? What would be worth all of this sacrifice?”


Well, to be clear, fame has its own problems, and I’m just not interested in playing that game.


Well, pretty much no one makes a fortune in books (which reminds me of a joke: Wanna know how to make a small fortune in publishing? Start with a big fortune). Okay, so money isn’t on its way.

So if fame and fortune aren’t goals that I can work towards, then what is the goal?

After much soul searching on the Do I cut bait and run or do I stick this out scale, I came up with another reason to write stories. I wanted to write stories so that other people, people who found them could know that they are not alone. Specifically, I wanted people to be able to read my books, identify with something or someone inside the book and think “I’m not the only one.” Because, honestly, I was very lonely growing up, and books were my salvation. So I chose that. I told myself that if just one person could ever have that feeling after reading my book, I was good with the effort I put into it. That thought carried me through years of rejections and hope and revisions, it was what kept me from diving into my writer’s cave to never come out. I could always write and not share it with the world. But I held the hope of sharing the light of not being alone in this great big universe with someone else, someone I would never meet, through my books.

And then my book came out into the world, and someone said that reading my book made them feel less alone—on the very first day! A complete stranger no less!

That’s right, life goal met on day one. Now what?

And there was this mad scramble in my mind because I had never prepared for success. Not once, not ever. There were plans and contingencies for failure. Failure I knew how to handle, but this unqualified success, this light in the darkness thing? What was I supposed to do with that?

There’s a StarTrek saying that’s confusing until you experience it: Having a thing is not so pleasing a thing as wanting a thing. It means that sometimes the pursuit of a goal is more fulfilling than have accomplished the goal. I know, pure insanity, but for me, the journey had become tied up with my identity as a writer.

And by having accomplished that thing, I fell into a sort of shock. Now what? I thought. I’d done the thing. I’d managed the impossible. Now I needed a new dream, and I hadn’t been ready to say goodbye to the other dream. It caused some major discord in my life to have my identity stripped from me by success. I’d failed so much that not failing had become out of character.

How about you? Did you ever accomplish something big and have that moment where you’re looking around for the things that define you?