Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Up and Down of It All

This week, I came across a thought-provoking blog by Laura Resnick, who has interesting things to say about writing and the writing life. Her latest piece is a poignant, funny, and head-shaking account of the ups and downs she’s had over the years as a writer. Since the link’s mentioned below, there’s no point in repeating it, but her post made me reflect on my own ups and downs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy where I am, as my fifth mystery (3rd in the Casey Holland series) will be released this fall by a traditional publisher, and for this I’m very grateful. But there were times before I found TouchWood Editions that I really wondered if I’d propped my ladder against the wrong tree.

I’ve said it before and it still holds true: I’m not a prolific writer.  My first two books took over ten years (overlapping) and twelve drafts each to polish enough to submit, and even then editors found necessary changes to make. Since I’ve had the opportunity to write full time over the past three years, I’ve learned to cut the number of drafts in half.

With the very first book, Taxed to Death, I acquired a Canadian agent and, being a loyal person by nature, stayed with her five years before I realized she wasn’t going to sell the book. She did, however, give me valuable editing tips and advised me to read lots of mysteries, which I still do.

I continued submitting the book and eventually found a publisher who liked it, however, he wanted to try a new “publishing model” where the authors kicks in a couple thousand bucks to help with production costs. This was before the days of AuthorHouse and iUniverse, but I guess you could say he was one of the pioneers. I went on to self-publish the book, which was a great, albeit expensive, learning experience.

Later, I acquired a second agent, this one American, who also happened to be a writer, for another mystery, which later transformed into The Opposite of Dark. She was a nice person, who actually submitted the book to big publishers. I have a copy of their cordial rejection letters. After two years, we parted company, again amicably. I don’t think either woman is in the agenting biz anymore.

Shortly afterward, I found a new, small American press who offered me a three-book deal, but closed shop before we even went into production. Still, I kept trying, and finally found TouchWood. My experiences are short and amicable compared to what Laura, and I expect many others, have endured.

A writer will always have ups and downs, but after 30+ years, I’m still here, still enjoying the process of putting ideas on paper. I’ve learned how to write and complete novels, how to publish books, and how this somewhat dysfunctional business works. I’m still trying to figure out how to make money at it, but if I hang around long enough, I’ll get there. And that’s the point of this and Laura’s blog: writers who hang in there are survivors. Although there are no guarantees of fame and fortune, there is work, and hope, and luck, and probably some level of talent. You keep mixing and experimenting, and maybe one day you’ll get to where you want to be. Staying power and the pursuit of a dream are probably key to any successful career. I wish you luck with yours.


Amber Harvey said...

I've only recently started believing one of my novels could be published traditionally; maybe it can. Thanks for giving me hope, Debra.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

You're welcome, Amber!