The growth of epublishing has opened up the door for many writers who, like me, spent years thinking about “getting published” but were so discouraged by the secret-handshake monopoly of legacy publishers that we did not even try. For my part, the authors I saw making a go of it were killing themselves slowly with almost no publisher support for their marketing efforts — we might bitch about having to maintain a facbook page AND a twitter, but it pales in comparison to the literal miles a writer has to trudge through on a book tour.
But it means that I’m coming to party late (a phrase we will all find hysterical five years from now). In fact, I did not even know I was invited. A friend got her novella picked up by Dreamspinner, and that inspired me enough to write a short story and send it off.
The four month turnaround meant that the story was not released until September. Time, you would think, that I spent furiously writing and selling more stories, and building up name recognition. Well, you would be SO VERY WRONG.
Life happens. Friends are cruel, day-jobs suck, debt weighs us down, fiendish lovers break our hearts. It’s not all bad, but when the going gets rough, people generally tend to pull back. I sent that short story off in May after being both laid off and divorced in April, which came on the heels of remaking myself after a serious mental breakdown in 2008. And then I started graduate school in June.
Selling that short story was a high point, a symbol of my personal strength and hope, but after that I hit a many months long writer’s block that stalled all my fiction, and I did not submit another story until the end of December. Fully six months after I first dipped my toe in the water did I dare to risk my whole foot, it seems. I did not even build this blog until that December, and I did not promote my short story at all throughout the course of the year. It sold, and that felt incredibly wonderful, but it was essentially a leaf thrown on the ocean to float away.
I am angry at myself for letting that opportunity just drift by, but in the end, those six months are gone. I can’t look at what I’m doing now as “catching up”, because in a creative endeavor like writing that’s detrimental to both the process and the end product. As it stands, though, I’ll be lucky to have my first novel out before the end of the year (it is in final draft right now, and needs editing, and won’t get submitted until later this month, maybe) and it is hard to view that delay as anything but a failure.
It is not, of course, because while last year was a watershed of progress for me personally, it was also stressful as hell. As writers I think we tend to judge ourselves by the (conflicting) factors of quality and output, and forget that we are people too.
I’m doing the best I can, which is all I should ask of myself, and keep my eyes on the better future I am making for myself rather than the regrets over things I can’t change.