I’m reading a book by a twenty-something author who started her manuscript as a teen, worked on it for a few years, spent a couple of years finding an agent, then was picked up by a big publisher. It’s a good book. But it triggered something in me that I hate to admit I ever suffer from.
For the most part, I can celebrate the successes of other authors and cheer them on when they feel discouraged. Every once in a while, though, the discouraged author is me.
I first started writing novels in my early teens. I spent a lot of time daydreaming and placing myself in different imaginary scenarios, which formed the foundations of my stories. Most of them were pretty ridiculous—as most writers’ early writings are.
At the same time, I was taking honors and AP English classes and studying literature. This continued into college. I have never wanted to write stories that are escapist fluff. I want my stories to have substance, for my readers to feel that they are learning something about others and about themselves. I want to write stories like those I have always studied: stories that make us think. With the training I have, I can’t be satisfied any other way.
Reading a book of literary fiction, especially by someone so much younger than myself, has caused me to experience a resurgence of self-doubt. Am I really capable of writing the literary fiction I love so much?
My writing journey has been chaotic. I’ve had great teachers over the years, but I had to figure out by myself which questions to ask, how to ask them, and how to pursue the right paths. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I’m doing. The industry is also constantly changing and I have a lot more learning to do.
Literary fiction takes time. Time is not something most self-published authors have a lot of. The market moves so quickly, we run the risk of being forgotten if we wait too long to publish between books. So, here I am, forty years old, one self-published book out in the world, wondering how on earth I’ll be able to write quality books while also finding relevance. It’s a stressful place to be.