The most surprising thing for me about being published was how much fun it sucked out of writing. I don’t suppose an agent, editor, or marketing person ever intends to suck the joy out of someone else’s life, but my experience with the publishing industry has been that mostly it’s a joy suck. I went from writing with a gleeful eagerness to staring at the computer screen in annoyance and spending far more time on marketing than I ever predicted.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by it. As a graphic designer by trade, I have a keen understanding of the collaborative nature of creating art that meets the needs of multiple user groups. If you don’t know what that means, then may God bless you and keep you in that state. Graphic Design (in my case specializing in print and signage) is an artistic endeavor designed to inform a consumer about a particular item, message, or company. I could spend a books worth on the craft of graphic design, but basically it is a balancing act between my vision as an artist and the vision of a client. In an ideal situation, both visions mesh to create art. In the worst case scenario, someone who thinks they could do your job if only they knew more about “the Photoshop” stands behind you and tells you what to do.
But writing was something that was mine – completely, gloriously – mine. I wrote my first published novel Bulletproof Mascara to please myself. Every day of writing was like falling down the rabbit hole and discovering what came next. Some days were harder than others, but each day I spent with my imaginary friends was fun. When the manuscript was complete, I made the edits suggested by beta readers because I agreed with them. Everything I did for that first book was because I liked it that way.
Then came New York. There were changes (more changes), changing editors, (changing economy) and suggestions that I “work on plotting,” work on this… work on that… Basically, stop pantsing it. Stop dropping down the rabbit hole. Stop having fun. Sit up straight. Brush your teeth. Cut your hair. Get a real job.
OK, maybe no one ever actually said those last few. But it felt like that.
So why stick with it?
Oh, sigh. That’s the worst part. Because it made me a better writer. My plotting did need work. My “perfect” text can always stand to be pared back, because damn, but I do get verbose on occasion. And let’s face it, the things I don’t know about grammar will continue to infuriate copyeditors for years to come even as I slowly improve. Then, it turns out, that marketing (AKA talking to readers) is actually enjoyable. Who knew?
It took me awhile to reclaim the joy in writing, but self-publishing a few short stories and the kind comments of readers helped. I now look forward to my next adventures in writing and hope that you will too.