I haven’t updated this blog for months. I’ve been busy, revising two more novels for my agent, writing a new space opera back in June, and completing a time travel novella earlier this month. I’m not patting myself on the back; I know other writers who work even harder. I see no reason to celebrate simply because I completed yet another manuscript. Celebration is for victors, and that is a table I haven’t won the right to sit at.
I know, I sound crazy. My first novel was published last year by a major house, I have an excellent New York agent in my corner, and I’m never out of ideas or inspiration. I know a few writers who would love to have these things. Once, I thought that if I amassed these accomplishments, that I too would be happy, and my writing career would simply take care of itself. All I had to do was keep working my ass off, right?
I’m not naïve. I realize the work and anxiety doesn’t stop. But nothing gets easier. My first book didn’t sell well, and the reviews have been mediocre, on average. Some readers liked it; others absolutely hated it. I’m still proud of Inherit the Stars, but it’s not something I can use for leverage. That’s how this industry works. Sink or swim, and there’s no do-overs.
But I keep writing. Keep plugging away at stories that might never get published. All writers deal with that. The difference now is that if I don’t get a novel published soon, I’m probably out of this business. Hell, I barely got my foot in the door to start with.
Failure at anything is tiresome, but failure in art drains something from you that is hard to replace. So much of an author’s personality, ideals, and hopes are poured into a novel. It’s hard when it doesn’t pay off. This is more than a money issue. Even with a book out there, even with an agent, I still seek validation with each work I write. It’s a never-ending popularity contest. I display the same behavior exhibited before I even got my first short story published: I don’t tell anyone that I write. I don’t mention that I have a book out there. The only place I discuss writing is on social media, and I know some people groan when they see my updates, about completing yet another manuscript, or prepping for the next one. I hardly update my Facebook Author page, and my website has as much content as a tourism pamphlet. I’m not embarrassed to be an author, nor am I embarrassed about my work. But unless you’re writing full time, with a title that won an award, or is a bestseller, most normal people don’t give a damn. So I don’t bother.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I despise pity. These are the realities of being a no-name genre writer in a market glutted with pros who spent years on their novels, to schmoes who didn’t even edit their book before self-pubbing on Amazon and selling it for $0.99. So I try to write something better each time. I try to correct my mistakes. I’m up to the challenge (if I doubted that, I wouldn’t write this blog). I hope I can stay in the game long enough to get another title out there, and then another. Then, maybe another.
There will be critics of this article, saying if I wrote better fiction, I wouldn’t be in this predicament, or that if I worked just a tad harder, or had the right connections, I’d be set. To these trolls I say: fuck you, you obviously aren’t a writer, or you would know better. These people love to kick someone when they are down, but kiss ass when that individual succeeds. So I ignore them.
I’ll be on vacation soon, and when I return, I’ll resume my work. Write like hell, I’ve always said, and I will. Perhaps certainty is another illusion we create, to make life bearable. Yet it’s the author’s job to give illusions flesh, if only while the book is open.
This is one illusion I intend to make real.