After five years of being a writer, this is what I have to show for it. First of all, not a lot of money. Let’s just get that out of the way first. If I didn’t have a spouse who worked full time, things would be very different right now. We knew, when I decided to make writing my main career focus way back in 2008, we would be taking a financial hit, but we believed the payoff would ultimately be worth it. Every year that has passed, we have grown closer to making this true, but we are still not there yet.
However, in those five years, I’ve had a chance to completely immerse myself in this industry. I worked as a freelance editor. I wrote dozens of short stories and six novels (and counting) and hundreds of blogs, attended seminars and conferences, schooled myself in the industry of self-publishing, learned how to format ebooks and design covers, queried agents and crafted dozens of submissions, mentored others who were just getting started, and watched the triumphant rise or heartbroken descent of so many of my colleagues in this business. The list goes on and on. I have learned so much about this industry and have had so much time to work on my craft in these five years that I think if we hadn’t agreed to make that monetary sacrifice, I might not be writing this right now.
But five years after making the decision to leave a college path that wasn’t making me happy and would have only led me to a career that would have made me even unhappier, I am now a “published novelist.” In many ways, this five years has been like giving myself my own special college education in the specialty of writing and publishing, and now I am about to attend the commencement celebration of my own book release in the hopes that from this moment on, things will be different somehow. Better. I’m just cynical enough to know not to get my hopes up, but I think I’ve earned a moment to fantasize about a bright future for just a moment.
Don’t get me wrong. I have self-published a lot of work up to this point. The experience of putting my stories out into the world is not new to me. But this is different. This marks a turning point, the thing I set out to do from the very beginning, of writing a book, perfecting that book, submitting it to a publisher of books, and having them believe it was good enough for them to say yes--that dream has arrived at long last. If nothing else, before the reviews and the royalties start coming in, I should celebrate that accomplishment.
But it still took five years. This business is not a sprint to fame and riches. It’s more like a hellish treadmill. It took a glut of trial and error, and nearly a million words written (I estimated). Hundreds and hundreds of long nights crafting books, editing books, formatting books, planning future books, writing queries, fielding rejections, marketing myself, building that network of support and also improving my knowledge so I could become the member of other people’s support network. All of these things and so much more, and now I’m standing on top of the next hill of my climb, where the rewards are greater but the risks of failure that much higher. Maybe the ascent to the next level will be that much faster now that I have “published novelist” attached to my name. Or maybe the public will reject me and I’ll be knocked down three levels and have to climb back up to this same spot over and over again, so that the next post I write will be entitled “Ten Years.” I’ve seen it happen to so many and it could certainly happen to me. And yet I keep going, because I know I haven’t even begun to fight.
Your journey to this same spot might have taken six months. Maybe you’re still climbing after a decade. Either way, I can guarantee that if you’re doing it right, you’re probably bleeding at least a little. But it’s all worth it in the end. Right?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allison M. Dickson is a writer of dark contemporary fiction living in Dayton, Ohio. Though STRINGS is her debut novel, she has been writing for a number of years, with several short stories (including “Dust” and “Under the Scotch Broom”) available on Amazon. Two of her stories were featured The Endlands Volume 2 from Hobbes End Publishing. In 2014, Hobbes End will also be releasing her dystopian science fiction novel, THE LAST SUPPER, and she is independently producing her pulpy dieselpunk noir novel, COLT COLTRANE AND THE LOTUS KILLER to be released in November of 2013. When she isn’t writing, she’s one of the co-hosts of the weekly Creative Commoners podcast. She might also be found gaming, watching movies, hiking the local nature preserve with her husband and two kids who also serve as willing guinea pigs for her many culinary experiments.