The Depressing Part of Being a Writer

Joshua had a few things he needed to say

There are a lot of writers out there who haven’t been that successful. Yet, they keep on plugging away, convinced that one day it’s all going to work out for them. I’m kind of in that same boat, but unlike the others who never had their chance, my chance came several times…and sort of fizzled away. Let me explain:

Years back, I was shopping my first book. I was in my early twenties, and I had written it while in the Army. It was a really good book called INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. And it was published. Not to great fanfare, but it was published.

So, I started shopping my second novel, LOSER (which would eventually become LEADER OF THE LOSERS). Nothing. Not even a whimper from anyone wanting to sell it. One editor pointed out that perhaps it was the depressing title. Publishers didn’t want to publish books with such a negative title. So, it sat there, forever.

Then I wrote my next novel, the infamous The Armageddon Project, which was a story that took place during the Cold War. Keep in mind, it was written during the Cold War. But at the time, the Cold War was ending, so I quickly rewrote it to match the new events taking place in the world (much of the action takes place in East Germany and Western Russia). And then those regions kept changing, so I kept rewriting it. At some point, the title changed to match the main character (known as “the Unicorn”), so the title became TO TOUCH THE UNICORN. And then a publisher told me that the title was too much like a fantasy novel, but the novel was corporate/government espionage. He also said that it was hard to figure out what exactly the main character’s job was. At the time, I had created the concept of an economic hit man, but the concept was completely unknown in the 1990s, so it just couldn’t catch on. Years later, after Germany and Russia have settled into the republics they are, the story changed massively and is now being rewritten for about the 90th time, and it now takes place in 1991 during the August coup in the former Soviet Union. It’s now called 72 HOURS IN AUGUST, but it’s on the back burner for a rewrite.

Anyway, somewhere around this time, I was starting to make a name for myself as a writer. I had been writing tons of short stories and they were published in a bunch of different magazines. At first, they were published in mostly literary magazines, but then the larger presses started picking them up, and several prominent magazine editors started recognizing my name from previous things I had written. Things were kind of going pretty nice for me back then.

And then one of my novels was bought for publishing by a prestigious book publisher. And then I got an agent who once represented one of the greatest science fiction writers in modern times before he passed away. All was looking great.

And then the publishing company folded. Overnight. Without a single warning.

My agent got into an accident and severely injured her head. She dropped out of the business for a while to recover, and when she did, she seriously didn’t even remember who I was. I gave up trying to re-establish our working relationship.

And then the Internet exploded. Amazon became the biggest thing in independent writing, and the industry changed overnight. If you weren’t already established, you were basically an unknown, and if you were an unknown, you had to now start building a social following in order to even sell a single book. Not being really good at social networking (just has never been my thing), my career kind of just fizzled and died. Sure, I sell a few books here and there, but I might sell more just standing on the corner and asking people to give me a buck for a hand written copy.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m the middle of writing an epic novel series that I suspect might not be read by more people than this blog post. I say this with trepidation because of the amount of time invested in this project. I’ve already spent seven years researching this thing, and I’m about to start putting actual physical work into writing it. Keep in mind that my last two projects took me each half a decade to produce, and my stuffed animals get more attention when they’re pulled over for drunk driving. My previous project took me six years to complete the first book (of a three book project). The research involved was extensive. It was called The Deck Const. Doesn’t matter what it was about because no one’s going to read it any way.

The project before that is probably the one piece of work of which I am most proud. When people talk about a crown achievement in one’s life, that book would probably be mine. It is a humorous novel that tells the story of the last hero of Troy who comes home to found a little civilization called America. It’s called THE AMERIAD, and it was so much work, and it involved so much research. But to someone reading it, one gets the sense that it’s a simple, fun story that seems very familiar. It’s told in Iliad/Odyssey format, and the main character is actually the translator who has interpreted this found epic in the only way the worst translator could possibly ever do. The book was so hard to write, especially in a way that made it feels so natural.

That’s the dilemma I find myself in as I finish up the last stages of research to begin constructing my Arthurian epic. And part of me wonders if my time might better be spent playing a video game instead.

duaneThe Depressing Part of Being a Writer

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