Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Thorny Lives of Debut Authors

I aspire to be traditionally published. That is not meant as a slight toward writers who self-publish. All of us have to walk our own path and I've decided mine leads toward the more traditional route of write a book/get an agent/get a book deal.
As such, I'm still in the 'write a book' phase. Morphing from mostly a writer of short stories to novels has been a challenge for me.* However, I feel I'm making good progress and I look forward to the day I can start querying agents. To help me prepare, I've been following some debut novelists and some of what I've read recently scares me a bit.
I imagine this must be how it feels to be
buried under a lot of rewrites requested
by either your agent or editor. How can
a debut author even conceive of saying
no after all the hard work to get this far? 
For J. Kathleen Cheney, 2013 was her launch year. Her many blogs posts about the constant editing and re-editing gave me great consternation. I question my ability to survive such frequent rewrites. 
Once her novel hit bookstore shelves, it sounds as if the event was not as joyous as she had hoped. I admit I cringed a little when I read her 2013 summary. (I won't even discuss the link embedded in the post. That author's journey depressed me so badly I couldn't finish reading it.)

Then, there's my good friend Arianne 'Tex' Thompson. I can confidently say I've never met a more gregarious and giving person. When she sold her first novel I was almost as excited as she was. Now that I've read her year-end post I must admit I'm more than a little saddened. 2014 should be an exciting year as she looks forward to the publication of her fist novel. Instead, it sounds as if it will be more of a burden.

I suppose I'm being naïve to believe life is all happiness once a writer gets past the "get an agent/get a book deal" phases. Why would I expect the process to be any easier? No matter the path taken - traditional or self-publishing - the route appears to be littered with thorns. 

Please, someone give me some good news about being a debut author. There have to be some positive points, too!  

*A fellow author at DFWWW commented recently that he wrote two novels and one short story in 2013. He said the short story gave him hell. I had to laugh since it's just the opposite for me. My brain operates in short-story mode. How to plot and pace a novel still baffles me a bit.


  1. Didn't mean to bum you out! I suppose her post is all about managing expectations. We all want to be that person who hits it big, but you never know if it's gonna happen until you're out there.

    One of the things that I had a weird time accepting was that everyone wasn't going to read my book the day it debuted. I can't fathom why I thought that would happen....but apparently I did think that, so I was disappointed that I didn't immediately have dozens of reviews.

    But it has been worth it. I suspect what you're hearing is that it simply wasn't the way we expected....

    1. Thanks, Kathleen

      Following your journey in 2013 was an eye opening experience. I had never given any thought to the amount of work that would be necessary after an editor says "Yes!". It sounds as if managing expectations after selling a book should be a topic at all writers' conferences. However, I suspect us wannabes wouldn't listen (just as my kids think they're smarter than me and never take my advice - lol)


  2. Aw, dude - I'm so sorry that we've inadvertently harshed your aspiring-writer buzz!

    It's really not bad, man. I promise it's not. I guess maybe I haven't written about all the awesome stuff because that's the stuff that everybody's already fixated on... and I *hate* to sound like a showoff, a gloater, or a braggart. Maybe I should do a writeup anyway.

    You know, I don't know exactly what angle you came into parenthood with, but I wonder if it's not a little bit like that. You know, kids sound great, and the movies and Hallmark cards and your friends make them look great, and you get the idea that they ARE great... it's just that when the line turns blue and impending parenthood is now a Thing, with a due date and the whole nine yards, maybe you start thinking more about how things are fixing to change, and what you're about to give up, and even though that doesn't at all mean you regret your decision, saying goodbye to your old life is part of getting ready for the new one.

    (I may be talking completely out of my hat with that comparison. Parenthood's not really on my radar. But I'd be interested to hear how that lines up with your experience!)

    1. Thanks, Tex

      Hmmm ... comparing parenthood with being a debut novelist. I can see the similarities. Neither comes with an instruction manual and both are fraught with life-altering decisions. It's a wonder children are ever born or books published (just kidding).

      Yes, please do brag some. I, for one, would love to know there are positives, too (just as there are many wonderful moments being either a mom or dad).