Strange topic, isn’t it? I’ve been struggling with questions and more questions for over a year now, and the answers, whatever they may be, remain elusive. I’ve considered the value of simply shutting down my sites and walking away. Not necessarily giving up writing, but accepting the end of a dream to do this as a career. Lots of reasons that sometimes make sense, and other times don’t feel remotely valid. Is it really the writing that’s so bad, or is it something else entirely? Who knows? Really. I learned a long time ago that it’s rarely about talent, and all about luck and timing. If there was any doubt, the frenzy of Fifty Shades of Grey removed any doubts since it stands as solid testimony of how luck can beat talent to the bank vault–in grand style!
I’ve always been a perfectionist. When I wrote fan fiction, I was just as picky about crafting a solid story as I have been about the important stories I’ve published over the past ten years. Notice I say the important stories… they aren’t all in that category, believe me. I spent a good portion of the past ten years churning out crap I can’t even remember clearly. Much of the erotic romance is a blur to me, and meant nothing more than making a word count. It always has and always will amaze me that so many readers have enjoyed the stories and praise them so highly. Some people say that’s a testament to the talent, I think it’s more than likely subject matter… I’m not fond of erotic romance, and I don’t write it well. It was the only opening I had to “go pro” and it was fun for about five minutes. After that, it became an ever-growing albatross around my neck. I can’t tell you the names of more than a handful of characters from most of my stories that fall into the erotic romance category–but I can tell you about the childhood of my fantasy heroine Amarantha, and her love for a prince who would one day be king. I can tell you my hero, Riccardo Bartolinin, in the novel I am currently finishing is a man with dark secrets who wants desperately to be loved and cherished, despite his outward actions. I can tell you what he likes to wear, and sing, and eat… he’s real to me. These are the “real” books that I take pride in, it makes a huge difference.
In this wonderful electronic age, everyone with a computer can be a writer, and it never ceases to amaze me just how many people think this business is a cash cow they can milk for a quick buck. If that really is true, I’ve never seen it happen. Most of the writers I know are barely making four figures, never mind six and seven. Where it once took dedication and patience, and yes, real talent and drive to sell a book, it’s now something that can be done by everyone. I often wonder if many of these writers had to do it the way it was done thirty years ago, would they bother? The honest part of me doubts it.
Social media is an incredible power, and it’s been unleashed… maybe it’s better described as an explosion, really. Unfortunately, this again has led to an influx of endless promotion from millions of sudden authors wanting you to buy their books. Far too many lack savvy and any real understanding of the publishing world, old or new. We’ve all seen it, authors ranting on Facebook pages, wars waged with reviewers on Goodreads, Twitter… wherever the controversy can ignite. There are times when I think quality books will never surface to the public again. We are told repeatedly to respect our readers, not to insult their collective intelligence, etc. Yet, those same readers are to be suffered in silence when they fire off the most inane rhetoric you will ever see because something went wrong with a book download, or they hate a cover… I’ve even seen “reviews” that honestly state: I haven’t read this but I can tell by the blurb it’s awful–and a one star is left. I gave up on reviews a long time ago. They’re nice when they’re positive and helpful, but it’s a hot button. Many authors believe they’re necessary to sell a book–others believe they’re just more information to push at potential readers. Who knows?
I made a decision last year, to step back from the rat race and regroup. To rediscover just why I wanted this career, and what I wanted to bring to it. It’s been a scary venture, because I was releasing books at a crazy pace, sometimes two and three a month. It’s been well over a year since a totally new book has been released from me. Career suicide is what many people would call it. Does it worry me? Yeah, it does. A lot. To the point that I wonder if this dead thing called a writing career CAN be resuscitated and saved. I also frequently wonder if it’s worth the effort?
I’ve made a lot of changes this year. Not the least of which is leaving publishers who really aren’t a good fit for me, nor me for them. I’ve learned, and rediscovered the kind of stories that I would genuinely love to write again. Long before I wrote anything published professionally, my mysteries were compared to PD James and other stellar names in the genre. I wrote espionage thrillers. I wrote high fantasy. Sometimes with a touch of romance, but not always. It’s time to go back, to start fresh. I’ve had it suggested to me that I need to start over with a new name, but I really don’t believe that. I’m not so entrenched as any kind of erotic author that it’s all people expect.
There was a time when I wondered if I had the talent to do this. In recent years I’ve come to realize talent is mostly perception, although I do know I’m creative and imaginative. And, dare I say it–a damn sight more capable with words than many people. Funny how it never really translated into any real success, but who knows what the future holds? I have so many notebooks filled with stories, outlines, maps, ideas… Don’t ever underestimate the power of pen and paper–keep them close to you at all times. I’ve been known to write opening chapters of books in waiting rooms of hospitals.
Editors have been a source of inspiration and frustration. I’ve been told to dumb it down, or sex it up, to cut words, to add words… the conflicting advice can grind things to a halt quickly, as well. In the end, every writer has to decide what works for them, and their stories. I’ve been lucky for the most part, I’ve learned from my editors. Some more than others, but it’s all part of the process. I don’t know what the answer to the questions is, but like everything else, it’ll reveal itself when the time is right. The career may be on life support at the moment, but that means there’s still hope, I guess?