Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Five Years

So, it's been a half a decade now since I started writing seriously. As you might have noticed from my post a couple days ago, sometimes this fact hits me like a sack of wet cement. (Almost like my 30th birthday and my upcoming 40th in another 16 months.) Sometimes it just gives me pause, and I look back at the things I've learned over those years. Today is one of those look back and ponder days.

Yesterday, Jessica Faust over at BookEnds wrote an excellent post called Rolling with the Punches in which she says: "Give It Five Years... In my opinion, five years is the time you need to really be able to judge whether or not your business is working.". At first this statement about derailed me. Since it's been that exact amount of time for me, I wondered whether this particular tip was going to indicate I should probably chuck this business of writing and take a job at the local grocery store. (How hard can scanning food into a cash register be?) Lucky for me, that isn't what she was trying to say at all. In the second paragraph of that, she goes on to say that at five years look back and evaluate your progress.

Have you learned anything or are you still in the same place you were when you started? I've learned a bunch. I've learned that this isn't anywhere near as easy as I assumed when I started (not the writing part, but the publishing part). I've learned that not everything I want to write is going to mesh with the market - and that sometimes that's okay because writing with the market in mind may mean not being true to myself. (Tried to write for the market - failed miserably.)

True, in some ways I'm still in the same place. After all, I'm not published, I'm not agented, and I'm still adding to my rejection collection. But for the most part, I've grown as a writer. My work now is much tighter and cleaner than it was five years ago.

Additionally, I've grown as writer as it pertains to the business side of this enterprise. My query letters and other submission materials are much better than they were when I started trying to get someone interested in Spectacle. I'm receiving partial requests and full requests. So I must be doing something right. Right? Another thing Ms. Faust mentions is a change in my publishing network, which has certainly happened. (Many times over, as a matter of fact.) I still don't belong to any writerly groups - well, I used to, but that didn't work out - but I have people I can connect with in this business. I have this blog, for instance, and I have a wide range of blogs I read and comment on, which is sort of like a big amorphous writerly group.

So all in all, I'm moving ahead. Not at the rate I originally assumed I'd be moving at, but forward motion shouldn't be discounted even when it's baby steps.

As for the accomplishments of the past five years, I've:

- Written five books (Spectacle, Caldera, Blink, RTL, Manhunter) to THE END.
- Revised and revised and revised all of the above.
- Gotten book six to almost THE END, and I've restarted a series I've been meaning to write for the past three years.
- Written umpteen query letters, synopses, outlines, bios, etc. With each pass getting stronger.
- Had a great CP
- Lost a great CP (has anyone seen my missing CP?)
- Made some awesome new friends (some of whom have also become beta readers - thank you)
- Started and maintained this blog. I've even had some notable people stop by.
- Guest blogged for another blog.
- Wrote and entered a few shorts to competitions and lit journals.
- Started two other blogs (although posting has been sporadic at best)

During all this, I also started homeschooling my daughter, and we've been at that going on four years now. Who knew I could re-learn Algebra, and teach myself enough Chemistry to point her in the right direction?

Looking back, I guess I really don't have anything to bitch about. I'm sure I could've done more to get my career off the runway. I could've sent more queries. I could've learned about the business more before I sent Spectacle out into the world, so maybe it wouldn't have failed so miserably. But what's past is passed, and as much as we might like to, we can't change what's gone before. We can only learn and move forward.

Thanks to Jessica Faust for reminding me about that part. She really is an awesome person - whether she knows how much she's helped me over the years or not.

Your turn. How long have you been writing? What are some of the lessons you've learned over your time in the business? Do you feel like you've grown or are you in the same place you were when you started?


Kristen Painter said...

What have I learned? That sometimes when doors close, you have to open other doors you might not have considered previously.

JenWriter said...

Sounds like you've accomplished a lot in five years, and you have been moving forward. I'm sorry you've been feeling down lately, but keep at it! I know you can do it. :)