I got an email yesterday from someone I didn't know. It said, "I loved your book. Please let me know when you put out your next one." This person went out of her way to find my web site, find my email address, and call attention to her email with a subject line that would make sure I didn't mistake her email for spam. That's pretty cool, right? Totally made my day.
This afternoon I followed a link on Twitter to Rachelle Gardner's blog of November 7th, which presented a succinct collection of writerly roadblocks, along with a pithy collection of ways to avoid falling into despair when confronted by them. You should go read it.
An optimist by nature, I tend to look at life as a huge pile of opportunities, a pile so big I can only experience a tiny fraction of them during my lifetime. Despair is not something I experience often because I simply dump the un-fun activity and go do something more worth my limited time.
Writing a book takes tons of time, but it's also really fun. Navigating the cruel and merciless publishing industry? Not fun. Rejection is a "rite of passage," if you get any response at all. Acceptance is usually just another step on the path to a different type of rejection. And at the end, two years later if you're lucky, you get three months to prove that your book was worth that measly advance you got.
After I'd written Semper, I held my completed manuscript and stood between two options. On one side, the publishing industry. On the other, my huge pile of opportunities (like exercise, traveling, reading, time with my kids, etc.). I just about tossed the manuscript aside and dove into the pile. Why jump into a pit of despair when life could be full of fun things?
Even so, I did despair for a while. I didn't want to give up writing, or my life-long dream of publishing a novel. And here I stood, with what I thought was a pretty darned good one. On the verge of quitting writing altogether, I started discovering, on my own, the other truths that Ms. Gardner describes. I had options. I could take control. I could carry through my dream in a different way. So I published Semper myself.
Had I quit, I would never have written the sequel (due out in January 2013). If I hadn't written the sequel, I would never have gotten these notes from the friend of a beta reader who also read the draft:
I started reading the book Monday and couldn't stop reading. So, I finished reading tonite (Tuesday) at about 7:30pm. ... That book was gooddddd. I need him to get that 3rd book out. How in the heck did he get his ideas of this book on paper. What an imagination. WOW!Now, is that the best review in the world? Naw, of course not. But it's a validation of my decision not to quit. It's a validation of everything Ms. Gardner says. Do not despair. Things might not work out the way you initially envisioned, but things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out. And there are more options for writers today than ever before. You may need to reexamine your goals as I reexamined mine. But never despair. If you truly love writing, there's no need for despair. Certainly, life is too short for it.
As if I weren't busy enough, I've committed myself to a NaNoWriMo novel that is totally unrelated to Semper. It's a middle-grade fantasy novel. After six and a half days, I'm over 16,000 words into it and having even more fun than I expected. I am so glad I didn't quit. I spend half my day wishing I could find more time to work on it, and half the night trying not to think about it so I can get to sleep.
Are you doing NaNo? If so, leave a comment or drop by the nanowrimo site and friend me. On the NaNo site, I'm PJD.