Well, it took me nearly four years to write and publish a sequel to an epic-ish fantasy novel.
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with the above statement. It’s pretty normal, actually. At least, it used to be.
When I first published Shadows of the Underwizard, the first entry into my semi-experimental take on the epic fantasy genre, e-book publishing was just hitting its stride. While the Kindle and its few competitors had been out for a while, it took a couple years for the momentum to build; for publishers to accept the format (which they still fight to some extent) and for unpublished writers to take advantage of this entrepreneurial near-direct (and basically free) connection to potential readers.
And I saw some writers who were quite successful in this brave new world. The golden ticket in genre fiction appeared to be writing a series and making the first one permanently free (permafree). I was sold on the concept. I religiously read the forums where writers were exchanging tips and tricks while I prepared my first novel. I finally sent it out into the bit-abyss in December 2011. It did pretty well considering I had zero name recognition and did even less marketing. I actually sold maybe 100 copies altogether, which seemed encouraging at the time. I just needed to keep the momentum going. However, editing and formatting had taken me months alone, while the novel itself had been brewing for years and I had multiple false starts with writing it before it settled into its final form. Already I was doubting my ability to produce more content while the ebook market was still a virtual land grab.
And then life got busy. (Cue the excuses.) I was in my last semester of my engineering degree when I first published. I didn’t even want to go back to school, but it was something I ended up doing anyway because (especially coming off the 2008/9 recession) I had no better prospects of a reliable day job. And my last semester was pretty much hell. I had also gotten married the semester before (busy busy) and, naturally, we were expecting our first child before I even graduated. The summer after graduation and before I found a job would seemingly be the time to knuckle down and write, but between wasting hours applying for jobs (and having a mini-existential crisis every time I did), unwinding from school, and worrying about the future, I didn’t accomplish much. Now that I am a parent, I really need a time machine just so I can go back and kick my child-free butt into gear.
Eventually, I landed a (terrible and ill-suited-for-me) job in another state. I had already moved way too many times in my life at this point, but it was time to do it again, while my wife struggled with a new baby and selling a house. It wasn’t great. But eventually things settled down somewhat and I made significant writing progress while my pseudo-career slowly crashed into a wall. But what I was writing was still longer than anything I had attempted before. Whenever I squeezed in short periods to work on it, I felt like my output was terrible. Only when I had a big chunk of time, like most of day, could I really get some momentum going and produce my best work. I still feel this way. During editing, I am always fixing those short stretches of crap I wrote when I tried to write on a regular basis, while the 5,000-words-in-a-day blocks always felt like a new creative high, and were the most enjoyable to immerse myself in.
So, yeah, days like that didn’t come often enough, and here I am–after two more moves and another career change, to one I like more but unfortunately leaves me less time to write (or do anything). But, eventually, mostly while stranded in hotels on business trips, I managed to finish my sequel. The ebook world has already undergone multiple convulsions of different hot marketing techniques, sudden superstars, changing Amazon algorithms, and influxes of new writers. And the only lasting rule of success was to publish more more MORE, faster faster FASTER.
And what now? The benefit of permafree is now debatable at best, especially for someone with a mere two books to his name. Other marketing techniques exist, but I have trouble finding the time or motivation to do them. I don’t really want to be an Internet personality. This neglected not-a-blog is the closest I will probably ever come to that. I actively despise Facebook and Twitter. It’s hard to justify taking out advertisements for a series only two books in. But if I am that slow at producing more work, is it really possible to market anything in the lightning-fast age of the Internet?
So why am I writing this post? I don’t know. I’m really not trying to complain. The opportunity was there and perhaps I didn’t capitalize on it as effectively as I might have. But, honestly, I don’t know that I ever could have. It’s just not in me. I don’t move fast. This hasn’t been great for my general productivity (or longevity as an employee), but I haven’t been able to improve upon that aspect of myself, and I’m certainly not getting any younger.
Bottom line is, despite the doubts almost every artist has, I am proud of what I have written. I tried to write my best, not my fastest. Perhaps this was a mistake career-wise. But I hope at least a few readers somewhere appreciate it (hopefully more than just a few, obviously).
And although as a non-professional writer I have excuses lined up for years to come, I will try not make anyone wait four years for book three. Hell, I don’t think I can wait that long.