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The Trials and Entitlement of an Unpublished Author

Or   'How Not To Start a Writing Career'

   Here we go. Some honesty about my writing 'career', the issues that come with such huge investments of time, rejection, and the ease of self-publishing, complete with backlinks to my blog aaaallllll the way back to the beginning of my publishing journey.

   I had the benefit of discovering a passion for writing when I was 12. I wrote books, I enjoyed it, but once I'd finished them, I just toddled off and wrote something else. I made no effort to get it published because, at the ages of 12-15, I wasn't really sure how to do it, and I didn't really need money yet. So I didn't bother looking it up, I just kept writing.
   When I was 20, I wrote something that I thought I could publish, and it was the first book of a trilogy (a trap lots of young writers fall into: trying to build something massive rather than starting with stand-alones or shorter projects). I was convinced that this book would get somewhere because I'd poured so much time, heart and effort into it. I looked up how to query, I did everything right, ticked all the boxes, and I posted it all out (because it was post back then) to agents who accepted fantasy manuscripts, and then I got straight on with writing the second.
   I was rejected. Some replied, some didn't; no one wanted it. Not one of them.
   I was crushed. I really was. I swore off of writing at that point and abandoned the trilogy because I was so hurt. I faked it on my blog (March - September 2012 starting from right here) and pretended to keep upbeat, but I wasn't, and I was sharing short stories I'd 'just' written that I'd actually done months ago. There was a reason they suddenly fizzled out, but I kept up the charade, and beneath it all I just couldn't understand why my book was rejected. I mean, I'd put all that effort and time into it, why did no one want it?!
   After six months of asking myself those questions over and over and over and over again, I wound up returning to writing simply because I couldn't stay away. I loved it. It was my air. It still is. I need to do it.
   But I didn't go back to writing that trilogy (though it seems I did try to send it back out the following January). I never have, it seems to just bleed disappointment. I do have a bound, hardback copy sitting in clear view in my book case, and I look at its spine from time to time and roll my eyes. I was so naive. Even back then, at the age of 21, I had no idea how the industry worked, that literary agents only take on 2 or 3 new authors a year, if any! I had never faced such rejection before (because I'd never wanted anything bad enough before), and I knew neither how to cope nor what realistic expectations would be.

   I started writing something else instead. It didn't last, so I bounced between ideas for a while, then I landed on The Archguardians of Laceria - and it was so much better than the previous trilogy-that-was-not. And I poured even more time and heart into that one, too. For two and a half years. I was 25 when I finished it, and then I researched approaching agents again, and this time I read up on the industry. I'd expected rejections, and this time, I was ready. If no one wanted it, I would self-publish it - so that all my time and energy wouldn't go to 'waste' (here & here).
   I was rejected. I never posted anything on the blog about it (that I can see right now), but I did half-feign the excitement about self-publishing. Once again, I was worried about wasted time, and I also thought that, because it was the best writing I'd done at that point, and it had taken me so long, that it was worthy of being read. It was entitlement.

I spent lots of my time on this thing, so it should be of value to you.

   No. And what a stupid idea anyway, 'time and energy going to waste'. What rubbish. I'd enjoyed writing it, what was wasted about that?! Not only had I enjoyed it, but it was practise. Practise for what I wanted to make my life-long career.
   And do you know what? I did learn from it. 
   Self-publishing The Archguardians Of Laceria is the best mistake I ever made.

   It wasn't ready. I wasn't ready. I should never have published that monstrous thing. My best friend and my dad read it, and my best friend gave it to her friend. They all said good things, though I got the most honesty from my friend's friend, and I shared it around for a while on social media because I thought this would be my way into a writing career, at last - realising a 13 year old dream.
   Do you know what it actually did? It damaged me.
   I took that book down, I unpublished it a month ago. Why? Because the last thing I wanted was for someone to read that before reading any good work I was actually proud of, and never see them again. It's now a black mark on my bibliography, because I can't get rid of that thing. Now it looks like it was discontinued by the publisher, rather an a decision I made. It doesn't look good. But I would rather have that black mark there, forever, than have that be the first experience anyone has with my work.
   I find myself wondering if I made the same mistake with The Zi'veyn - as I think I will for every other book I publish for the rest of my life - though this time the move to self-publish was the suggestion of a literary professional (who wasn't trying to sell me something). And I genuinely do think it's a worthwhile story, and I've had good reviews, so others must think the same. But I also know that anything you made 5 years ago looks rotten compared to what you made that day, but I won't be deciding to remove The Zi'veyn.
   But The Zi'veyn was written between 2016 and 2017, I submitted it in 2018 when I was 27, it was rejected, then self-published in mid-2018. It could have been more entitlement. Maybe it was, in part. 'Waste' again. But this time at least I stuck with the story and wrote the second instalment, which I just self-published this year. And I'm still working on the third.

   This story is better than Archguardians, by so very much. It genuinely is, and I still stand very solidly behind it.
   But is it good enough?
   By the time I started The Zi'veyn, I'd had 13 years of practise, and I'd learned some damned valuable writing lessons from Archguardians - mistakes I didn't make again - and it is so very much better than Archguardians. But, still, I wonder: was this book ready to be published? Am I ready to be published? I genuinely don't know. I know that I want it, and I feel like I've earned it with everything I've poured into it, but that doesn't mean anything where the work itself is concerned, it only speaks about me. And it may not say good things.

   What I have learned, though: writing is a damnably massive investment of time and energy. Everyone who writes a book feels like it can be published. That it should be. But ask yourself: is rushing your career with a book that just isn't going to reflect a good standard really where you want to begin? Yes, you poured yourself into it. Yes, you may even have planned for a series. But if the world doesn't want it, it doesn't want it. Just because self-publishing is easy (much too easy), doesn't mean you should do it. You could lose readers so quickly. My friend's friend was so turned off by Archguardians that she isn't interested in even giving The Zi'veyn a try. My husband hasn't read Archguardians, though we've been together for 9.5 years, and I will never let him. And I have a hardback 'trophy' copy of that in my bookcase, too, right beside the other disappointment, to serve as another reminder of all of the above.
   I liked the story, though. I may revisit it one day, rewrite it - I've forgotten all but the key points anyway, so I could write it without all the drivel that went with it.
   One day. When I'm a better writer.

   This was a very unpleasant yet cathartic post to write. Gathering up those links, delving into the murky depths of my blog (which is still relatively active) and finding some perspective of my work. I also didn't really expect the conclusion I'd come to. I am still 100% behind The Zi'veyn and The Devoted Trilogy as a whole, but looking at how I'm always completely convinced that what I'm working on at any one point is the best I've ever done, it has proven for the large part that that doesn't carry much weight. In fact, for the past few months I've been thinking that the next book I write, unconnected with the trilogy, will be even better, and now I'm fairly certain that it will be. And the one after that. And the one after that. And then, I might just be able to publish the one after that.
   I hope so.

   Just because you put your time into something, doesn't mean it will, or should go anywhere.
   It's not wasted time if you a) enjoyed it, and b) learned from it.
   Your next book will be better. The book after that, better still.


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