I never truly gave up, but I set my tools down and walked away for a while. As I’d mentioned, I can be easily frustrated and discouraged, and after struggling for a long time to release Book 2, I didn’t weather its failure very well. I’ll own up to that.
The thing about failure, though, is that while it may exist, there’s no rule about how I have to feel about it. It’s only convention, a social contract, that says that I need to crawl away in disgrace if I fail. I’ve mentioned before that unlike conventional publishing, indie/self-publishing only really has one metric of success: money. Almost nobody in this horde gets critical acclaim (though some may be worthy of it); few awards are open to this field; there’s not really any such thing as a cult following. You prove your worth by making piles of money, and thereby Prove Everybody Wrong. There really isn’t any other option.
And I did not do that. Okay. Now what. Going back to my list of priorities, Priority 0 is “is this fun or at least gratifying?” Now let’s look at the options.
1) Change what I’m writing so that people want to buy it. Well, I could, but it would be a different, more tiring kind of fun, if at all.
2) Quit. What fun is that?
3) Fail, and do it anyway.
Here we are at option 3. I’m not so arrogant to say that I define what matters in indiepub. But I can say what matters to me. What matters to me is enjoying writing, and getting better at it whenever I can. After watching the sales numbers die on the vine, I reminded myself of where I “came from”: first writing just for myself or a friend, and then several years in fanfic. I did this for free. All the time. And it was fun. Yeah, more people read my fic in the end than read my books (understandably, familiar settings/characters blahblahblah), but I wasn’t even in it for attention or glory. It was just fun.
I won’t deny that Book 2 sank without a ripple. I won’t deny that there is no practical reason to write Book 3, or the others taking shape in this series. There’s no reason to write anything at all, except that I want to. Except that it makes me happy. And sure, I could write them and not release them, but that double-edged sword of a low barrier to entry says: why not? What’s it going to hurt? One more drop in the ocean.
I started writing Book 3 thirty-two days ago. Theoretically, it will cap off Agna and Keifon’s story. (Getting into what that story should be is another crisis of conscience entirely.) Unlike my last writing-every-day spree, I am not limiting myself to word count, and some days it’s slow going. And it isn’t always on that project; this post counts as today’s writing. But it’s something. Every day. That’s how I got to where I am now, after all.
Book 3 is underway, because it’s fun. At this rate, negative 250 people will read it. It will unread itself. But it’s still fun. I can’t explain why or how, but there it is. I’m also outlining and planning, and occasionally writing bits, for two others: one about Agna’s sister Lina, and one taking place a bit before The Healers’ Road, with some classmates of Rone’s. Who knows whether they’ll make any of that all-important money. I enjoy working on them anyway.
That’s the update. That there is an update. I’m glad of that.