I was surfing because I couldn’t sleep and stumbled across this site:
The League of Shattered Authors”>http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2013/06/10/the-league-of-shattered-authors
I read the post because it happened to be written by one of my favorite authors – Judith Tarr – and once I started reading I actually read through all of the comments (not a common thing for me). I pulled out a few threads from this that I’d like to share with my fellow indie authors.
I just published my latest novel, and am currently living in the “aftermath” of that experience. After writing and editing feverishly for months there’s suddenly a big void now that the book is published. I liken it to postpartum depression because the drive to forge ahead and finish the work is all-consuming (not to mention really exciting) and when it’s d-o-n-e there is a burst of relief and joy followed by…nothing.
When I’m getting close to the end of a novel it consumes me. All other things get put on hold because I just need to finish the work because the fact that it’s stuck on my computer and not finished frustrates me beyond belief. Every day it remains unfinished is torture so I work toward completion every spare minute! The process of completion doesn’t last for a day or a weekend – there are WEEKS of work between writing the ending and finally putting the book up for sale. I edit, rewrite, read, listen, talk to my beta readers and revise again just to make sure it is as good as it can possibly be, but I’m still not done.
Once the publish button is pushed and the work goes live – there’s another read through on my Kindle to catch those odd formatting issues that seem to creep up (I can’t imagine how I read my own book six times and missed the fact that there’s one sentence of dialogue without an opening quotation mark or how I accidentally wound up lighting the “bath” instead of lighting the “path” – I swear Word is just messing with me) and then I fix those errors and I fall into the abyss of post-writing depression – or complete exhaustion depending on my mood.
I think many writers experience this and for indies it can be especially challenging. Once the book is written, there’s a transition from polishing the manuscript to marketing the book then another transition into writing another book. That constant loop is challenging enough, but then the ensuing roller-coaster ride of sales surges and plunges begins – YIKES! I think the emotional stress of that contributes to the disappearance of a few authors who just find that roller coaster to be utterly exhausting.
Add in a publisher with the pressure of contracts, deadlines, and sales numbers and the roller coaster turns into a runaway train with a sadistic conductor. The article I referenced from (the brilliant) Ms. Tarr mentions writers who fall off the map for a variety of reasons – one of which is having their dreams of full-time authorhood shattered by a variety of things. In my opinion, indie authors are particularly vulnerable to some of these pitfalls – and rightfully so.
While an agent and publisher can add pressure, they can also provide a support network – indies don’t really have that network of professionals to push them forward. Indies spend months – maybe even years – pounding away at keyboards night after night, ignoring many things that once took up time (housework, friends, maybe even bathing – although I certainly hope not) and when the work is finished they dash off to…a real life that has withered from neglect and sales reports which are usually less than mind-blowing. It’s tough to start that next book with three months of laundry to do and a yard that is so overgrown there may be an undiscovered species living out beyond the patio. Yet we must…must…must write that next book, because it tickled the back of our brain while we were finishing the last one and the idea is starting to blossom into something that could be awesome.
Why do indie’s get their dreams of being a full-time author shattered? Maybe because it takes time to write a book – so much time that when the writing is over, there are things that need to be nurtured back from the brink before the next novel can be started. It’s hard to nurture when you’re emotionally drained – but that is indeed what an indie needs to do – nurture their lives for a while and let that next story marinate for a few days or weeks or months. If it could be awesome in the aftermath of finishing the previous book, it will still be awesome later.
When everything is humming along again, and you feel like you actually have a life outside of writing, start the next book. If you’re not taking care of yourself, your characters will suffer, your plot will falter, and the roller coaster will come off the tracks. Don’t be shattered – be aware and take the time to enjoy the ride. It’s normal to have ups and downs – how you handle those will determine if you will be in it for the long-term or if you’ll be someone who used to write.