Three years ago this morning, I woke up as a published author. Bite Somebody had been set free upon the world. It was my first full-length novel picked up by an actual publishing house. People could buy a paperback copy of the book on Amazon. People could say, “Sign my book,” and they did. I had thrilling launch parties and big book signings.
Those months surrounding Bite Somebody‘s release were some of the most intense, exciting months of my life because I had achieved my earliest, biggest childhood dream: publish a book!
I have continued to publish since. Bite Somebody Else came out in 2017. Magazines and anthologies galore have picked up my short stories and novellas. I entered the LGBTQ writing community like the Kool-Aid man with The Escape Trilogy from 2018-2019. I currently have three additional books under contract, and I’m self-publishing one this summer as an experiment.
How does it feel that Bite Somebody is three? It feels good, especially with the audiobook on the way.
How do I feel about writing? Honestly, the business side has taken the fun out of creating.
I recently got a super painful rejection letter from an agent about how much he loved my newest manuscript … but how it was too weird, too quirky, to fit into the mainstream market.
I get it—and I don’t. I realize I’m weird and quirky, and my work (Bite Somebody included) encompasses that. However, isn’t it good to be different? Isn’t it important to press back against the mainstream (and Hollywood sequel after sequel after remake, remake) and create something unique?
No. That’s what the mainstream publishing industry would say. NO.
Stay in your box!
Write for the market!
Whatever you do, don’t go off the beaten path!
Lately, writing fan fiction is where I am freest to create. I can do whatever I want on Archive of Our Own. There, I write without ego, without pressure, and without fear because I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m not worried about marketability or eventual promo or my idiotic image. No, when I write fan fiction, I create for the joy of creating—because I do love writing … I just don’t much like what comes after:
The agent and publisher search and looking to someone else for affirmation.
The social media. The publicity.
The worry that no one will read my book anyway.
Will I make enough money to pay my bills?
Does anyone care?
Then, of course, the self-loathing when a bad review rolls in …
Since the release of Bite Somebody three years ago, I’ve learned a lot about this “business.” I’ve grown as a writer and as a person. Despite my success, my mental health is currently the worst it’s been since long before Bite Somebody saw the light of day. Part of that is due to life circumstances, but I’m also disillusioned with being a professional writer.
I achieved my professional dream of publishing a book, but since then, I’ve only wanted more … more … bigger … better! I am killing myself with work, but it’s not the writing aspect; it’s all the other industry shit: the envy, the competition, the constant rejection and hard work that leads nowhere. All of this makes me want to stop writing altogether and just bartend the rest of my life. (I’m a great bartender, okay?)
Then, I remember fan fiction and the joy of creating something simple and beautiful that was never intended to be judged by the faceless gatekeepers of “publishing.” I remember the peace I feel when I write for me, not for anyone else, and when I write with no fear of rejection.
I speak at writers’ conventions—about necessary evils like social media and marketing—but I always try to remind attendees: “Write for you. Not for the New York Times Bestseller List. Not for oodles of cash. Write for you.”
Ha, I’m the one who has forgotten this simple advice as I have spent the past three years trying to scrape my way into the mainstream. Find an agent! Be interesting online! Start a Facebook group! Do your newsletter! Make more money! Keep working and working … until you forget you’re a writer and become a monster of “onto the next, onto the next, onto the next!”
Being an indie author has brought me great joy, but I’m sad I no longer remember the innocent enthusiasm of Bite Somebody‘s birthday. I look at pictures, but the memory of that initial excitement eludes me. I wish I could find it again, but I don’t know if I ever will.
Writing. I used to love writing. I think I can again, as long as I put myself in the fan fiction mindset and write for me. In recent weeks, I’ve said I want to give up writing—until I received a frankly adorable, frantic call from an amazing author friend in Germany, no less, telling me that wasn’t an option.
I am a writer, but that part of me has been buried beneath the weight of social media, promo, Twitter pitch contests, failure, rejection, failure …
It’s time to stop stressing about what the world thinks and write for me. I want to write for fun again. So what if people don’t like my work? It’s for me, not them. I write to exorcise my own demons and create characters I want to be around, quirky and then some.
I mean, for those of you who have read Bite Somebody, the character of Imogene is about as quirky as you can get—but an editor at World Weaver Press loved her anyway. (Thanks, Trysh!) I could use more Imogene in my life. She doesn’t give a shit what people think and laughs in the face of judgment (while rocking out to fantastic 80s tunes, of course).
I seek to find the joy in creating again, the fun in writing. How about you? Has adulthood stolen the innocent thrill of make-believe? Let’s find it again.