The end of the year is upon us, and so it's time for the obligatory navel-gazing. This time, it comes with something of an announcement.
2015 was a big year for me. Probably the biggest ever, in terms of my writing career: Darkhaven came out as an ebook at the beginning of July and officially made me a Big Five published author.
You can only be a debut novelist once, so I put a lot into that launch: release party, blog tour, reviewer spreadsheet, the works. And while the results may have been variable, I'm still quite proud of what I achieved. I also completed my second book, Goldenfire, and went through the editing process with it. Plus, of course, I was a mother and a wife and an employee. I may not have been perfect at all those roles, but the house is still standing and the children seem happy enough, which probably counts as a success.
Looking back, I don't think I can have any regrets. I did the best I could.
Now, in theory 2016 is going to be an even bigger year. I have the second and third Darkhaven novels coming out in ebook format, while the first and second will be released in paperback. In January alone I have two releases and a book signing. But if there's one resolution I have for 2016, it's not to put too much pressure on myself.
I guess that leads me naturally to the announcement that my third book is going to be delayed. This is where I'm kind of relieved not to be Pat Rothfuss or George R.R. Martin, because it's unlikely anyone really cares that much if my third book is a little late. But just in case anyone does: Book 3 was due to my editor mid-January, and it's not going to make it. Not even close.
Why? Several reasons.
First, I've been running on empty for months now. I have a full-time job and two children under five, and I'm exhausted all the time. That sounds like a terrible excuse. I know there are plenty of people who have to work harder than I do. I feel like I'm being lazy or I don't want it enough. But the fact remains that I simply can't stay awake in the evening long enough to write. And if I can, there's usually something else to be done instead.
Second, it's not financially viable. This is the sad reality of life as an author, unless you're one of the few very successful ones. In 2015 I put in hundreds of hours of work on Darkhaven (editing, marketing, contacting reviewers and so on – note that this doesn't include the time I spent actually writing it, which didn't happen this year) plus I spent some money on promotional materials. Thus far I haven't even earned back that money in royalties, let alone been paid for my time. I know it's a long game, the best way to sell a book is to write another one, etcetera. But in the short term, it's hard to justify taking a day off work to write, and Mr Smith is reluctant to let me commit an entire weekend or holiday day to it when it's basically an unpaid job. (His words, but I can see where he's coming from. I might not like it, but that doesn't stop it being true.)
Third – and this is both the most personal and the stupidest reason – I'm having a serious crisis of confidence. I wrote my second book before the first one came out, so that was straightforward. But since then, I've read a lot of reviews of Darkhaven. There were many nice ones – I can't remember what any of those said – and there were some critical ones. One early review in particular was critical to the point of despising. And somehow, that reviewer's words have burnt themselves into my brain. They pop up when I'm in the shower, or walking, or trying to get to sleep. They repeat themselves every time I feel a bit down. And they're there when I turn on my computer.
I'm aware this sounds melodramatic. I did tell you it was stupid. And I would like to jump in right now and say I know it's my problem. Reviewers don't have any obligation to temper their criticism just in case someone gets hurt. It's the risk I took when I put myself forward in the first place. But it has shaken me to the point where I'm struggling to write, because I'm struggling to find value in anything that comes out.
There are other signs that my head isn't in a very healthy place right now. I keep fretting over sales numbers. I keep worrying that my one chance at being a real author has been and gone. Every time I try a promotion that doesn't give any results, I convince myself it's because my book is terrible. Every time one of my writer friends has a success, I feel a sinking depression because I know that will never happen to me. Because I don't deserve it. Because this is all just a big mistake, and I should never have been published in the first place. Because, to put it simply, I suck.
All this is why I've decided to take a partial break from the internet in 2016. My mailing list will continue to run. And I will share links if people are kind enough to feature me on their websites, because that's only courteous. But other than that, I won't be around on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else very much. If you need to contact me, you can email me – or if you don't know my email address, you can use my contact form.
That does mean I'll be taking a step back from my new book release. Aside from a handful of guest posts that I've already arranged, Goldenfire will have to enter the world more or less on its own. And part of me is saying I'm a failure for that, too; that I'm missing an opportunity. But for my own mental wellbeing, and for the sake of actually writing the third book, that's the way it has to be. Maybe if I don't get so involved, and don't put so much pressure on myself, I can rediscover the joy I once found in writing. And, to be honest, in life.
I wish you all a very happy and successful 2016.