Elizabeth: Choosing a Path

Once upon a time, half-a-dozen years ago (give or take), writing moved up to the top of my To Do list.   I had just made it through some major life changes and decided it was time to focus more on “want to” and less on “should.”

Though I had been writing all my life, in one form or another, I thought getting some solid foundational knowledge would be a good idea, so I headed off to grad school and studied craft-first from the literature perspective (where they mocked genre fiction) and then from the more helpful romance-writing perspective (where there was no mocking).

With that knowledge under my belt and the 8Lady network in place, I joined the Romance Writers of America and began seriously working on book #1, a Regency Romance.  Publication was a far off-crap shoot of a goal, but after attending my first RWA conference I had what felt like a more achievable goal in my sights:  finish the book and submit it to the RWA Golden Heart contest.   Finaling (or winning) would have been the icing on the cake, but finishing the book and submitting it seemed a more realistic goal since, what happened after submission would be pretty much outside of my control.

I wrote and attended conferences and worked on my craft.  In due course, I finished that first book and submitted it, along with a second book, and later a third.  None of the entries made it to the final round, but the the scores they received convinced me that I wasn’t completely wasting my time.  (I found it interesting that, for all three books, the judges either really liked them or really hated them; there were no “middle” scores.)  There were also some other local contest finals along the way, several with agent requests for a “full” or a “partial,” but nothing quite clicked.

Then an unfortunate thing happened.

The powers-that-be in the RWA decided that the Golden Heart contest had to go, thus removing the goal-post that I had been aiming for.  Publication remained an ultimate goal-post, but the since publishing industry had undergone a fundamental shift since I had first joined RWA, I was less sure about what exactly I was aiming for.  The days of writing a book, finding an agent/editor, getting published, and then happily moving on to the next book had morphed into write your book, hire an editor, design your cover, self-publish your book, and figure out your own marketing strategy.

Not exactly what I was looking for.

Further complications then ensued.

Unlike many of the other 8Ladys, I have a full-time day job that includes (or did pre-pandemic) an hour-long commute to the office and lots of long hours focusing on things that are “not writing.”  While in my fantasy life I packed up my things, declared “I quit” in dramatic fashion and returned to the writing castle to spend my days with characters of my own invention, in my real life I applied for (and got) a promotion that meant more responsibility and even less writing time.  To be fair, it does include some writing–white papers on sustainability and carbon footprints–but hardly the stuff of romantic dreams.

All of which has caused me to take a step back and make some changes.

The first change was a pretty easy one:  I didn’t renew my RWA membership when it expired in March.  After the crash-and-burn of RWA at the beginning of the year, I had my doubts about the viability of the organization.  I hope they are able to rebuild into something more functional and inclusive, but I’m not holding my breath.  The membership chair wrote to me to ask why I wasn’t renewing.  I replied candidly (with specific bullet points), but the response I got–filled with a lot of justifications and “we’re making decisions on how to fix things”–just confirmed that my decision to leave was the right one for me.

The second change was a pretty easy one too, once I stopped to think about it.  While writing is still at the top of my bucket list, finding and editor and designing a cover and developing a marketing plan are not.  Hats off to the 8Ladys who have taken on all of the necessary tasks to get their books into print, but that’s not me.  At least not right now.

With a demanding day job and worries on a global-pandemic scale, I have time for only one more thing, and that is getting words on the page.  If that means that the only writing of mine to see the light of day (besides those fascinating white-papers) is the random short story that I post here on the blog, well so be it.

That doesn’t mean those dreams of walking through a store and seeing a book with my name on it there on the shelf aren’t still part of the long-range goal–that would be great.  But it does mean that I am no longer trying to do ALL THE THINGS right now.

I’m okay with that.

Actually, I’m feeling quite relieved.

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Choosing a Path

  1. I’m pretty much on the same path. I, too, have a day job that right now is super busy (all those grants that provide services in face-to-face settings need to be amended to provide different services). I have no interest in designing covers, hiring editors, etc. I want to go the traditional publishing route because I don’t have the time or the inclination to do it myself. I applaud (standing ovation style) all of those who do it themselves. Someday, Elizabeth, we’ll see our books in stores.

  2. It sounds to me like you’re choosing the only path that has any potential for sanity.

    I love reading your stories here on the blog and hope to see your name on a spine in a bookstore someday. (And mine!)

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  4. I totally understand. It’s so hard when you work towards a specific goal and it’s taken away from you. Hopefully now that you left the organization, you’ll continue to make new goals for yourself. ❤️

    • Yes, Lauryn, now is a great time to make new goals. Neither I nor the publishing industry are the same as we were ten years ago. Even if RWA hadn’t changed so radically (and imploded earlier this year), I’d probably still be reevaluating and readjusting.

  5. Interesting! Can you comment more on the idea that self-publishing has become the way to go? I see books published both ways, but I don’t really know what’s involved.

    • Hi Amy. I think self-publishing provides more opportunities for new authors and those authors who don’t fit into the standard genre categorizations that traditional publishers are comfortable with and know how to sell. The authors I read that are traditionally published seem to be those with an established career and/or good name recognition. There are, of course exceptions.

      Some established authors have also either moved to self-publishing or are at least including self-published books in their offerings for a number of reasons. Some want to try something new. Some want the additional control. Some want to write stories that their established publishing channel doesn’t want.

  6. Pingback: Elizabeth: The Break-Even Point – Eight Ladies Writing

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