Five years ago today my first book, Liar’s Waltz came out. Five years later I have 19 sales to my name – 18 released, one pending. The digital first publishing industry moves fast! I’m still trying to work out how I’ve found the time to write all those books in that time.
But “first book” is a misnomer. Many writers talk about their first book meaning their first published book, but there are usually a lot of words before that book. Perhaps some full length novels that will never see the light of day. I’d been writing since late 2003 and it was only in 2009 that I decided to try writing a novel to submit. That then took me several months to draft and edit. Loose Id accepted it in mid-2010, and it came out in January 2011. So even once you make the decision, and even if you’re lucky enough to sell the first book you submit, to a digital first publisher who will move a lot quicker than the older style publishers, it’s still going to take a long time. Even now that I’ve shaved down the time it takes, my fastest time from starting a novel to having it come out is still around nine months (and that’s not even taking planning work and outlining into account. Those make it at least a year usually.)
What I’m saying is, writing is a long game. Establishing oneself as a writer is a multi-year project, which can really sort the serious writers from the wannabes. This is the era of getting helicoptered to the top of the mountain, not of climbing it. Of becoming a singing star by appearing on the X-Factor, not by paying your dues for years until you get a record contract. But writing isn’t like that. Even people who score big with their first published book have already put in long years of work, and have long years of work ahead of them – since once a book is out and read, people are looking at you all “What have you done for me lately?” I recently heard the writer Diane Duane, author of fifty novels and loads of other writing, first published in 1979, say that she feels as if she’s just getting into her stride! (Hear the interview on the Women at Warp podcast.)
Some people resent the idea of “wasting” all that time before producing anything publishable. Or of being published for several years before that breakthrough book makes people notice them. They spend too much time looking for a secret, a trick, or a short cut. None of those things exist. (Anyone trying to tell you otherwise wants to sell you something.) There’s only the work. The words that are never published are like playing scales, or doing rehearsals for musicians. Or endless hours refining their putting for champion golfers. They have to be done to get that final result. Time, time and more time. Words, words and more words.
That’s why I say I’m just getting warmed up at five years gone. I have plenty of ideas waiting for me to write them. I make a plan for the year. I make a general multi-year plan and I keep on thinking ahead. It’s nice at a milestone like five years to look back and see what I’ve accomplished. But the past is the past. Always be looking forward and asking “What now?”
Thanks for all of you who’ve bought my books over the last five years, or offered guidance, advice and support. The m/m and Romance community has its kerfuffles and controversies. But I’ve met many great people in it, readers, writers and publishers. Here’s to the next five!