It’s a long haul game

Along with birthday well wishes, one of my fabu commenters yesterday said, “As a newly minted 30 year old myself, I’m starting to worry that I’m running out of time to find an agent. But I like your idea of focusing on one aspect of the craft and working on it much better!”

This feeling is SO SO familiar to me.  When I finished graduate school in 2006 with a degree that wasn’t going to help me do what I really wanted, I felt like I was waking up from a long dream.  Like my life had been on pause for years and was just starting again with the admission that I really, truly wanted to write for a living.  No matter how impractical that might be.  I dove back into the book I’d abandoned in grad school and pushed through to finish it–the first book I’d finished in 9 years.  Regardless of what my husband thinks, that book was terrible.  The story wasn’t, and someday it may be rewritten and see the light of day.  But it’s not my priority for now.  The year after that I started a rewrite of that book, hit a major procedural road block, started another book.  I didn’t finish anything that year.  I was furious and frustrated and felt like I was wasting time.  I’d wasted all this time and I wanted to see results.  There was this self imposed ticking clock hanging over my head.  And that time clock’s name is KIDS.

It seems like almost all the successful writers I know online are in their mid to late thirties with school age or older children.  They all seemed to come to writing late in the first place or put it on hold for kids.  The ones in my age bracket have small children and generally do good to pound out a few paragraphs a week because, let’s face it, kids are one big giant time suck.  I don’t care that they’re usually the most important and cherished thing in one’s life.  They’re a time suck and they kill your brain by depriving you of sleep.  For a variety of reasons I won’t get into here (most of them practical), hubby and I chose to wait on having children until our early thirties–most specifically when hubby finishes school.  At this point we have a year and a half.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.

It’s enough to make me break into a cold sweat.

Well somewhere in the last three years I’ve reached the point where I understand that publishing (traditional or otherwise) is a long haul game.  The name of the game is usually hurry up and wait.  Except while you’re waiting you’re supposed to be building a platform and producing stuff to submit. Oh, and working on the Evil Day Job so you can support yourself while you write since you’re not likely to be the next Stephanie Meyer.

Well I’ve done the platform thing.  I’ve worked slowly to expand my readership both here and at Pots and Plots (which I fully intend to utilize down the road as a means to launch a culinary series).  I’ve made a Facebook page and interacted on Twitter.  I’ve made good writer friends who make me laugh, and even better, make me think.  I’ve expanded my opportunities on the job front, increasing my chances of obtaining a full time job that will integrate neatly with my writing for a living.

But I don’t have a book to submit to an agent yet.  I had hoped that by the end of last year I would.  I was beyond disappointed at the mess that first draft of First Blood is.  Pot had to pull out the pom poms and remind me of the things that I HAVE learned and HAVE improved.  I’ve learned about Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.  I’ve learned about story structure.  I’ve eliminated all the tangential trips into Fluffyverse.  I’ve turned into a bloody plotter (God help us all).   All of this was a very deliberate series of steps along the path of making myself a better writer.  Each year I’ve picked something to focus on and improve myself.  This year that’s really connecting emotionally with my characters.

Anyway, I’ve digressed.  You’d think that with a year and a half to go until Baby (:shudder:), I’d be spazzing out.  Not so much (though, give me a few months).  And here’s why.

I’ve realized over the last few months that publishing is changing.  With places like Amazon being willing to deal directly with authors to epub via Kindle and others, it opens doors that weren’t there before–eliminating the middle men and increasing the percentage of royalties the author gets to keep.  Many argue that without the New York-based team of copy editors and regular editors that the book will be absolute crap and not ready.  Sometimes that’s true.  It’s equally true that many of the books coming out of New York are not as clean as they ought to be.  I’ve seen authors independently release things themselves that were every bit as good as what comes out of New York because they’ve taken the time to make it so.  I don’t really want to argue about that.  Everyone’s got their own opinion on that particular subject, and frankly, the market will decide.  If it’s a worthy book, people will give it positive reviews and it will find its niche.

But what that option has done for me is release me from the ticking clock.  I’ve already been clear here that I plan to release Forsaken By Shadow in epub myself.  I have a second novella in the works that I intend to do the same with.  Both are prequels to the book I am writing now–the book I plan to use to pursue more traditional means of publication.  The plan is that those novellas will help me build an audience for the series I’m planning.  And the beauty of it is that if New York isn’t interested, I can still release it myself.  I can still connect with readers and make a bit of money doing so.  And I can do it on my own time frame.  So if baby sucks away my brain and time for a few years, so be it.  The beauty of epub is that it never goes out of print.

More than anything else, I think it’s allowed me to widen my scope of what qualifies as success as a writer.  Sure, I want to succeed the traditional way.  I want the agent and an editor who believes in me and my work enough to put the strength of a big New York house behind it.  I want to have that stamp of approval and to be able to say that I did it.  But the days of what I really want (to be able to write and have the publisher do everything else) are long past.  If I’ve got to do everything anyway, it IS an attractive notion to cut out a lot of the middlemen and get to keep a greater percentage of profits.

Either way, I think the next decade is going to bring a lot of change to the world of publishing.  And I’ll be quietly plugging away to make my place in it.

3 thoughts on “It’s a long haul game

  1. Somehow, I missed the birthday post yesterday – so happy birthday! I actually kind of liked turning 30…I was “old” as a child (as it sounds like you were), and I thought maybe people would finally start admitting I was old enough to “know stuff”. 😉 Unfortunately, since I’ve surrounded myself with people older than I, it doesn’t seem to matter how many birthday’s I have. On the bright side, I always feel young, even just having turned 35 this year.

    I can’t speak to the kids thing, since I have no ticking clock, but as to the self-publishing thing…I’ve come to similar conclusions myself. Deciding that I’m perfectly fine with self-publishing (even though I still want a traditional contract eventually too), took all the pressure off for some reason, and my writing has just gone gangbusters in the year since I made that decision.

  2. Great post Kait! Makes me feel like rushing out there and *doing* stuff. But I’m not a marketing type person. What do you do in the 21st Century when you want to be the type of surly author who mails manuscripts in from an isolated villa in Italy or crumbling castle in Scotland? Even worse, I write YA. Me, get up in front of a group of kids and *talk*?? I must be nuts.
    And yet, the stories are there. They have to be told.
    What to do, what to do…

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