Retrospective

2022 was the year I decided to stop teaching and focus on writing. Financially, it was a stupid decision. Now that the year’s over, I have compiled some statistics.

My short story anthology, Dreams & Dragons, was published in the spring (by an actual publisher). Despite advertising and a plug from a fairly well-known author, it sold only 47 copies. My total income for months of hard work was about fifty dollars.

My Amazon royalties for my memoir and my creative writing curriculum produced a similar underwhelming result.

My literature guide to Jane Eyre, which came out in the fall, apparently sold no copies at all, despite being put out by a popular curriculum publisher. Again, months of hard work led to zero income. Zero.

I submitted queries to four agents. One resulted in a rejection, and the rest never responded at all.

I wrote a new novel in 2022, the third in my middle-grade Sky Gypsies series. It came in at 51,348 words, although that will no doubt change with revisions.

Over on my main daily blog, I wrote an average of 10,327 words per month, for a total of 123,029 for the year. Despite having over a thousand subscribers, this has not translated into any interest in my fiction or memoir or curriculum. So, from a business standpoint, blogging is pointless. I do it anyway, though, because I process things by writing about them, and because the habit of recording my life has become so ingrained that I just keep doing it. And it is a way to preserve memories that would otherwise certainly be lost.

But that leaves me with an obvious question: given such incontrovertible evidence of my failures as a writer, what should I do? Here are the choices as I see them:

—I can do nothing differently. Just keep writing novels that no one will ever read or appreciate, and maybe make fifty or a hundred dollars a year (at most) from what I’ve already got out there. Almost everything I’ve written will then just die when I do.

—I can quit writing and focus on being better at something else. HA! Just kidding. I can’t actually quit writing. It appears to be essential to me as a person.

—I can do what many of my writing acquaintances do. I can self-publish my books, then spend much of my free time selling them at local craft fairs and other community events. This would boost my income to several hundred dollars a year—maybe.

—I can focus on preparing more curriculum for publication, and make more of an effort to get the word out about it. I have TONS of curriculum that I wrote myself during the years I spent teaching. But considering the curriculum I wrote that was put out by a respected publisher didn’t sell any copies at all, this seems like a huge waste of effort.

—I can step up my submitting game, spend the time doing research and submitting to targeted agents at the rate of at least a couple a month, in the hopes that at some point my persistence will pay off, while still working on new material. I know there are many successful authors who were rejected over a hundred times before finally finding an agent and/or publisher who loved their work. I don’t feel I can refuse to keep submitting until I’ve racked up at least a hundred rejections. But at the same time, it’s a soul-destroying process for sure.

Therefore, I’m giving myself a time limit. I will go all out on submitting this year, and then, when 2024 rolls around, I will re-evaluate. Perhaps I will revisit the idea of self publishing. The reality is, I can’t be happy selling a handful of copies of my books. I do actually need to make money. The reduction in our income (after my husband quit his second job) has created some strain for sure. I will be looking more seriously into online employment while I continue to submit queries. Right now, 2023 seems very intimidating.

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Rejected

I sent in a query on Monday of this week, and it was rejected on Thursday (yesterday). In the publishing world, that is lightning speed. Sure, it’s discouraging—but this is the first response of any kind I’ve gotten this year. At least I know they read it and decided it wasn’t for them.

And this is good in the sense that it doesn’t leave me hanging, like my other submissions this year. I don’t have to allot any mental bandwidth to wondering if I’m ever going to hear from them. Instead, I can channel my energies into picking another agent to query and going through with it.

I’m trying to adopt the attitude that each rejection brings me one step closer to the person who’s going to love my stories and want to see them in print. Because I do believe that person exists.

Day 29

I am victorious! I’m sorry I didn’t post word counts daily. By the time I finished writing on my novel every night, and wrote an entry in my other blog, I was just too tired to post to this blog as well.

This novel, tentatively titled Simon Down Under, came in at 51,338 words, which is about normal for a middle-grade story. I expect it to grow a little with revising. As they say, write in haste, revise at leisure! It is the third book in a planned five-book series, and my ninth finished novel.

Of course, I won’t be revising anytime soon. I need to let this sit for at least a month or two so I’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes and identify any potential plot holes.

My dilemma is that this feels like a pretty big achievement, and one worth celebrating, but . . . I have no one to celebrate with. Not a single person that I am close to has even the slightest interest in my writing. If I mention that I’ve just written a novel in one month, the most likely response is something like, “Oh, cool,” with the implication, “please don’t force me to listen to you talk about it.”

So, I just had a nice big mug of tea like I do every afternoon. And I will channel my energies into submitting some of my previous novels, which have been thoroughly revised already.

Day 14

I have struggled the last few days and have been too tired to post, but I’m keeping pace—just barely. My plot is going faster than I expected so I will have to think up some new complication. BUT I passed the halfway mark today. I wrote 2288 words and my total for the month is 26,336. So that is a relief.

So It Begins

Here I am, doing NaNoWriMo again. I hate that it’s in November. But my competitive spirit makes me want to “win” at this, even if it’s very stressful every year. I’ll be posting word counts here to keep myself accountable.

This year’s NaNo novel is #3 in a series of 5 middle-grade novels I’m working on. Today, day one, I wrote 2480 words. That’s a good start.