The Worst Part of Being a Fiction Author

Every fiction writer is different. Each of us has our own complaints.

Of course we shouldn’t be complaining. We sit on our butts and make up stuff for a living, which is far easier and more fun than most of the working world gets to experience on a daily basis.

But still, we complain. It must be something to do with us being human.

Some fiction authors complain about their editors. Others complain about readers. Some will complain about the writing process itself, or the editing process, or having to do self promotions. It’s becoming more common for fiction writers to complain about one another, especially in the seemingly never-ending indie publishing vs. traditional publishing debate.

I think writers just like to complain.

And as a fiction writer, I have my own complaints, of course.

When is it toughest for me as a fiction writer?

When a project comes to an end.

I hate that time period, especially if it’s a long project that has kept me occupied for a few months.

It’s not so much that I’m in love with my last project (though I usually am to some extent), or that I’m completely tied to it. My feelings are more like a lost traveler looking ahead at a blank desert that seemingly has no end. There’s this empty canvas before me, and I’m not sure what direction to take.

It’s not that I have absolutely no direction. No, not at all. It’s more like there are too many directions I could go.

For instance, just a couple of days ago I finished the first draft a 16,000-word young adult dark fantasy novelette. That’s a bit long for most magazine and anthology publishers, and much too short for book publishers, but I’ll spend the next year or three sending this story out to the handful of publishers I know who take stories of that length. My guess would be in the end I’ll have to self publish this story, simply because there is not much of a professional market (or any kind of market, for that matter) for novelettes.

But I finished this story. It had taken up my time for a couple of weeks. Now I’m floundering.

I’m keeping busy, of course. I’ve set aside that novelette for the time being, but I’ll get to it again in a month or so after I’ve given it a little breathing space; then I’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and give it a couple of edits. I’ve spent the last couple of days doing a little editing work on one of my novels for my print publisher, and I’ve got an article finished for a heroic fantasy website that should be available in about a week.

Still … that vast desert stretches before me. What project do I start next? Where do I go from here?

That is the part I hate most about being a fiction writer. The unknown of knowing what project to proceed to.

In hopes of reaching a decision, I sat down last night and updated a computer file of potential projects. I have ideas for a dozen or so short stories in that file, and for about 50 or so novels or novellas.

My ongoing epic fantasy series will eventually be about 40 novels, if I live long enough to finish it. But I’m not sure I’m in the mood to get back into that universe at the moment.

Then there are a handful of horror ideas I’ve been contemplating, but I’m not really in the mood for that either.

I might be in the mood to pen a more literary tale, a mood that hits me from time to time, but in my experience these novels just don’t sell. Not that sales have to be the only reason to write, but they do help to give one a nice push.

I’ve also recently found a fondness for novellas, works in the 15,000 to 40,000 word range. That’s my own definition of a novella. Other writers and editors and publishers have their own definitions, but most are somewhere in the ballpark of my own numbers. I like writing novellas. They don’t take as much time to write as a novella, and they are longer so the writer still has room to explore a little.

So what do I do? Write a novel? Or a novella? Or a short story?

Do I get back to work on my epic fantasy series? Or do I start on a stand-alone tale? Horror? Literary? Even science fiction?

I’m not seeking a real answer, of course. Eventually I’ll make a decision. Sometimes that decision comes easy; I’ll wake some morning and be in the mood for a particular project, and I’ll start it. Other times the decision comes with much difficulty, with me having several small starts on various projects before finally settling on one.

Yes, this is the part I hate most about writing fiction. The unknown. That blank slate. The empty page. Worlds unexplored.

Gosh, it sucks to do this for a living. 😉