Musings Over Sunday Coffee: “the failed novelist”

Years of work and emotional investment wasted, I finally gave up, to save my sanity. But I’m scarred.

…I still read, but stick to the classics. I have next to no interest in contemporary fiction and avoid literary debuts by British female writers, which all seem so safe and samey. I’ve a higher tolerance for American writing, which seems willing to take more risks and subvert gender expectations. I don’t go to writers’ groups any more, either: the whole scene is a complete turn-off for me now.

Four years on, I still can’t look at the new fiction tables in Waterstones; they make me feel like an infertile woman at a baby shower. I feel pity and scorn for people with dreams.

You’re writing a novel yourself? Good for you. Now please shut up about it.

A year-and-a-half ago, this could have been me, jaded and completely disillusioned over what it (really) takes to be an author. Sure, I’m a writer and I’ve been writing since eighth grade and telling stories since fourth grade. Stories fed my soul, even the Bible stories between the pages of my mother’s prized collection of hardcover Bible storybooks that she never cracked open outside of Easter weekend when nothing was literally on TV except for a 70’s era Jesus movie. Even stores were closed during Easter weekend and so we stayed home and read.

But I digress…

It takes more than just writing well, winning school awards, and getting a literary agent to become an author. If you fail the first time, you get up and try again. If you fail the second time, you get up again and… guess what? You try again. At least, that’s what I did after my third novel came and quickly went. I told myself, surely I’m not that terrible a writer. I know I can tell a story but if success is equated with books sold, well, I was doing a terrible job at it.

Three years after I sheepishly published my first book, I finally practiced the things I preached. I learned – and am still learning – everything I could about the marketing/promotion side of writing. Since I don’t have the luxury of having a literary agent or a publishing house to back me up (I’ve only queried once on Twitter, and then turned down the request for a full manuscript after I learned there wouldn’t be any advance nor did they help with marketing), I have to do everything myself, including writing and promoting my books.

It’s not easy, and sometimes you do have to talk about your books. One of my best friends didn’t even know I was a published author because I used a derivative of my nickname and back then, my married name, to publish my books. I was also suffering from imposter syndrome then, but that’s a whole ‘other story for another day.

But you gotta do what you gotta do. And you know what? For some people – like me – marketing and promotion aren’t bad at all. I actually enjoy corresponding with my readers on Facebook and via email. I enjoy writing blog posts like this, not because I heard that they’re a great way to promote yourself (which is highly unlikely if I only have 70 or so followers), but because I like to connect with people, whether they’re fellow writers and poets, other bloggers, or readers.

So if you’ve always wanted to be a writer, keep going. Don’t quit. Sure, you’ll have those down times – and I’ve had many – but when you’re surrounded by writers who know the life of an author and readers who just want to see you succeed, you know you’ve got this.

Just don’t quit.

18 thoughts on “Musings Over Sunday Coffee: “the failed novelist”

  1. OMG! That passage sounds like my feelings towards Wattpad. Lol, if I stayed on that website, I would have felt like a failed writer and stopped working on my craft. It’s sad how certain groups of writers or places can make us feel like that. It wasn’t until I moved to WordPress, and ultimately Writing.com where I felt like a decent writer.

    On Wattpad, it was like, since I didn’t have 100K reads on my work or ads in my stories, I must be a failed writer on the site. I know people got tired of me saying that, but it was true. Honestly, I really don’t F**** get how people think having 3.3K followers and just 80K reads on a story means something there. The way other writers acted and talked about themselves made me feel less than what I was.

    I’m glad you never gave up, Liz, because from what I’ve seen of you, you are a success. ^__^ If anything, I’ve never accomplished anything =( Well, I accomplished stuff when I moved to WordPress and Writing.com, but never on another site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve accomplished more than many people who say they “write” have. You’ve written books and continue to write them. You never gave up and you should never give up.

      I used to write on WordPress before someone introduced me to Wattpad and then that’s where my stories ended up afterward but now that Wattpad has changed considerably, I need to learn how to write without an audience awaiting every chapter. I need to write like I used to write before Wattpad – just complete the book and get it edited, proofread, slap a cover on it and then promote the heck out of it. I need to treat it like a business just as much as it’s a passion 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Liz, I suppose I have. Ah, you make a good point about writing without an audience awaiting every chapter. I also don’t like that way of writing stories. Right now, I want to learn just to write my whole book, edit it, proofread it, and then send it off for submission.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s addicting though to hear what people have to say, especially on Wattpad. I had to wean myself from that instant gratification reaction. I have to think of the long game 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The instant gratification is nice, but in the long run, it isn’t worth it. Most readers are only loyal as long as the stories are free. Once you start charging, they run to the next free story.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. LOL Exactly! Wattpad has been a good launching board for me and about 1% of them buy my books so it’s not all a loss. And many of them have become my friends because we all started out there and then self-published our works. And one by one, we did our own thing outside of Wattpad.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That’s good. I’m glad the website at least worked for some people. The website worked for my fanfictions, but not for my original stories. I don’t think my original story was “clean” enough or “cliche” enough for Wattpad readers there. Lol – there was no high school, no teen girl who was beautiful, but thought she was ugly, and my main character was a black woman. Honestly, I don’t really know, but it’s the past now. I just take that experience and move on, ya know =)

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Let’s hope so :3 I’m still reading Loving Ashe. I’m waiting for them to get out of the elevator. Though, if I was Ashe, I would be enjoying the situation more. It’s not every day you are trapped with a hottie.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great advice all around – for me writing is about writing, and that’s all. Yes, it’s great if you get lots of readers, and if you are able to be paid (I have written successful plays in the past) but the reason for writing is to write, and if you are a writer, how can you ever stop?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true! I used to just write day till night. I could write 90K in one month for NaNoWriMo and keep going. It’s my passion to tell stories although most of my days is swallowed up by the marketing side of being an author.

      Liked by 1 person

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