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POINT OF VIEW: Writing Without a Win

Waiting room - deposit photos

It’s been 7,464 hours since my last sale.

Not that I’m counting.

Honestly, it’s partly my own fault. In October last year fell into a bit of a … let’s call it a rough patch, since we’re not dealing with clinical depression here, and I don’t want to minimize those who suffer from it.

Still, I basically stopped writing for months.

I’d just finished and published the last of my two trilogies, and had wrapped up a novel, submitted it to Pitch Wars, and then utterly failed to even attract a full manuscript request.

Since then, I’ve thrown myself into an agent search that has now stretched into its sixth month, and have pulled up stakes and left the first publisher that took a chance on my work as part of my plan to see if I can make it alone in the vast, scary, undiscovered country of self publishing.

It’s lonelier than I thought it would be. The last few months have been consumed with re-release logistics – when to rerelease my books. Which platforms to choose, and how to get new covers for the rereleases. Figuring out Amazon’s algorithms, BookBub ads, formatting issues and all the little things that traditionally published authors take for granted.

And doing some actual writing.

Did I mention writing?

I realize now how accustomed I was to “winning” – to submitting my work and getting accepted for publication on a regular basis. Since 2014, I sold 25 stories – that’s like five a year. The first few times were amazing, life-changing, and then it fell into a regular pattern – submission > acceptance > publication. Rinse and repeat.

And now, nothing.

I started writing again in the late winter, working on some short stories and getting them sent out to the SFWA circuit. I also chose a new novel-length project to work on, which I’m happy to say that powering through this week – I’m halfway to the end of this first book in a projected new trilogy.

Still, I could really use a win.

We writers are needy creatures. We thrive on acceptance and wither away from rejection. One good sale can have us floating in the clouds for weeks. One “I’m sorry but this just isn’t right for us” can send us into a months-long tailspin of despair.

I’ve had my share of rejections lately – from both magazines and from prospective agents. It’s funny – some of them don’t bother me at all, while others hit me like a ton of bricks.

And still, no “wins.”

When you go without something for a long time, you either die from neglect, or you learn to live without it. For me, this extended period of waiting has pushed me to re-examine why I write, and why I let myself get sucked into basing my worth as a writer on my book publications and sales.

I fell hard for the written word when I was a kid. My mom was a steady influence there, encouraging me to read, and I took to her sci fi books like a duck to water. She was my pusher, and I was a willing and happy addict.

I started writing my own stories in my teens, turning out some really bad tales that will never see the light of day. I loved it. It was exciting to sit down and start a new story, to immerse myself in an imaginary world, closing my eyes and seeing it sparkle all around me.

Over the years, I have honed my writing skills. It’s not enough to create that pretty, sparkly thing. It needs to live, to breathe, to move, and to pull the reader along with it.

I learned how to structure a plot, how to build an interesting character, a whole world of them, and how to set up conflicts that could be mined for story gold.

And I learned how to wait.

This extended period of no new publications has become a time of reinvention, as I discussed last week. And it’s also a time to try out new things.

Looking over my most recent sales, I realized the two stories I sold to Galaxy’s Edge last year were both first person. So I’m writing a new short story in the same tense. And it’s personal, character-driven, and funny, another thing I don’t try all that often.

It’s also been fun to stretch my wings and build a brand new universe (though who knows – it may be connected to Liminal Sky someday, somehow). I’m loving creating this world and this new tale for you all to enjoy.

I’ve learned that writing is a cycle. Sometimes you wait, biding your time for the next big thing. Sometimes you outright fail.

And sometimes the stars align, and you charge ahead boldly into the dark night, not sure if you’ll finally get there this time. Wherever “there” is, for you.

I write hoping for fame or fortune. I write to share my beautiful worlds with my fans.

But when it comes down to it, mostly I write for me. Because I wouldn’t be the same – or sane – without it.

And understanding that is how I survive the long wait.

To my writer friends, how do you deal with the agonizing waits and times between “wins”?

1 thought on “POINT OF VIEW: Writing Without a Win”

  1. I’ve got no patience! I don’t write as much full-length stuff (to submit for publication) as I should, and I can be lazy! In 2019, I sold nothing! I got a couple of hints that a couple of things were going to be published later (maybe!) but I published nothing in 2019 and I sank into a funk! I spent time gawking at my framed printouts of the covers of my publications (I do that!) and gawking at the books I’m in on their shelf. I have to remember (I’m not a big ego guy!) that I’m doing something a lot of people only fantasize about doing—successfully writing for publication. Even if I only average one or two stories a year. Oh, and I didn’t know it but in 2019 three of my QSF columns got re-posted on the Amazing Stories website. I have to remember all that, and I have to write more! As an old buddy of mine said: “keep on plugging away!”

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