When I first started writing in earnest, all those years ago, my main challenge was to see if the book I had in my head would make it safely onto paper. It was immensely satisfying to complete an entire novel, and, for some time, this was achievement enough.
But other ideas would keep popping up. Soon I had rough outlines for as many as seven more books! I realized that I had a new challenge: finding the time as a young mother to write all these stories into existence!
Fortunately, since I was writing for the sheer creative enjoyment of it, there was no rush, and I allowed myself a full year (or two) to complete the first draft of each idea that held my interest, while others drifted away into obscurity. Sometimes there would be an entire year of writing only emails, as life got a little busier or more complicated for a while. But always the books called me back.
This was enough for over a decade. While my children were little, I really did not want my focus to be elsewhere. I was homeschooling my boys full-time and running between playdates and activities almost every day. This was what I had signed up for with my whole heart. The writing, much as I loved it, took second place.
What I discovered, though, after years of typing away in the background, was that writing can be a lonely occupation. And there was something else. For the first time, it was not enough merely to write. I wanted to write better. I wanted the input of others. I wanted to be part of a community, to share our journeys as writers, and to learn from each other. I explored what was available locally and discovered, to my immense delight, the very well-established Des Moines Writers’ Workshop founded by Beth Burgmeyer.
After eighteen months, I can honestly say that joining a writers' critique group was one of the best decisions I have ever made! The change in my approach to my writing has been powerful. I am now able to edit my work with mercenary culling skills! I am able to look from the outside in, and have stopped treating my books like precious, untouchable darlings. There are still aspects of my voice and expression that are so much a part of me that I will not change them, but everything else is fair game! That personal challenge is now ticked off the list.
As I (and my writing) have matured, the age-old question has popped up again. What about publishing? And the answer, finally, is YES! After fifteen years of hammering away at the keyboard, and relegating my writing to the role of "hobby", I am ready to tackle this daunting stage in what may become a new career. I have done research, explored agents, pondered self-publishing, pulled my blanket over my head in terror, and then resurfaced to put the next foot in front of the other.
But one question remains. And it's a real conundrum.
I write in two quite different genres. Two of my books are traditional Regency romance novels, in the footsteps of Jane Austen. There is a loyal fanbase for these types of works, and I have many more ideas to follow for future books in this genre. I love the Regency world and its language. I can even see A New Day as a film or mini-series with the BBC or similar. I am particularly proud of that book.
So it’s a no-brainer, right? Finish editing these books and get on with seeking an agent... Easy! We-e-ell, the thing is, maybe it's my age, but I'm not sure I can picture myself writing one romance after another for years to come. Is it worthwhile building up a self-publishing platform or a relationship with an agent -- both of which are very labor-intensive -- if I am not going to persist in that genre?
So, what else is there? I do have a four-part young adult adventure series. It is a coming-of-age story with Christian sub-themes. The Christian market makes up one-third of all published books, so the potential there is enormous. But anyone who knows me will imagine there’s a catch. Ha! In a future blog I will be discussing my approach to writing this series in great detail. Suffice it to say, being a story set in a world filled with war and slavery, there are scenes of violence. They are relevant, else I would not have included them. But Christian agents typically prefer what they call “clean” books, so my series might need to be self-published. And going it alone, sans agent, into a publishing arena that is filled with technology and jargon, sorting out my own cover and marketing, and managing my own sales, is absolutely overwhelming.
What to do, what to do! Whatever I decide, I will throw myself into that choice wholeheartedly. I will do the research, the endless editing, the fear-inducing pitches and queries, the cringe-worthy self-marketing. The question is which genre to tackle first…
I would love to hear your thoughts! If you are not the sort to post public comments, please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. After all, the publishing process is the big step that gets these books into your hands. Help me out, folks!