A Year To Remember

When I first started writing professionally, I had a vision of what my career path would look like.  I understood, from all that I had been told by people wiser and more experienced than I, that success wouldn’t come easily, and that the first several years of my career would be a struggle.  But I also had confidence in my ability to persevere, to weather those difficult early years and emerge them them tougher and better prepared for the rest of my career.  And I believed that once that difficult period was over, my career would advance steadily.  My readership would expand, my sales would grow, my advances would increase, and I would establish myself as a professional who no longer had to worry about the next contract.  My future would be secure.

Ha!

Seventeen years and more than a dozen contracted books later, I am that wiser, more experienced person I should have listened to more carefully when I was still a newbie.  There is no such thing as security in this business, career paths are not linear, advancement is not the absolute norm.  Writing, like any artistic career path, is subject to the whims of the market.  It is a series of fits and starts, successes and setbacks, triumphs and disappointments.  The good times are sweet and worth all the work necessary to achieve them.  The bad times pretty much suck.  I’m familiar with both.

But I didn’t intend this post as cautionary.  I’m not trying to sober you with bad news.  This is not a tale of woe.  It’s a tale of survival and, as such, it’s got a happy ending.

This has not been an easy year.  Last year I had several releases and enjoyed one of my more profitable years.  (Yes, I know:  writers don’t always talk about “profit.”  But the fact is, my art is also my business, and as much as I enjoy being creative, I also enjoy eating, and I prefer that my family live in a house as opposed to, say, a cave.)  This year I’ve had no original releases at all, though the final volume in my Blood of the Southlands trilogy, The Dark-Eyes’ War, will be re-released in paperback in December.  Instead, I’ve been preparing for the release next year of the first book in a new series that I’m writing under a new pseudonym.  (The series is the Thieftaker Chronicles, the book is Thieftaker, the ‘nym is D.B. Jackson.)  And I’ve been writing other stuff.  A ton of other stuff.

I’ve written short stories, I’ve written a middle-grade novel, I’ve written a contemporary adult fantasy, I’ve been revising a second contemporary fantasy, and I’m planning to outline a couple more Thieftaker books.  In short, I’m jumping from project to project, and I’m having a blast.

I worried at the beginning of the year that I might lose my focus, that not having a new release would leave me discouraged.  The opposite has been true.  It has allowed me to forget about the promotional side of things for a while and just focus on writing, which is what I most love to do.

I often tell aspiring writers, in the course of cautioning them about the difficulties of this business, that they should only write if they love it.  For most of us, writing is not incredibly lucrative.  Advances and royalties are not the steadiest, most reliable forms of income.  Previous success does not ensure future work.  So, if you want to write, make sure you’re doing it for the right reason.  Do it for the love of creating, do it because the characters in your head have to be given their day in the sun, do it to realize the promise of those wonderful stories burning a hole in your chest.

But while that’s what I tell people, the truth is that I’m not always so great at following my own advice.  After all these years, I have allowed myself to forget why I started in the first place.  This year, I’ve remembered:  I write because I love it.  And I have been living that passion again this year.

My career has not followed that steady ascent I had so naively envisioned years ago.  But the ups have been more frequent that the downs, and after seventeen years, I remain as enamored as ever with the career choice I made.  There is no way to put a dollar value on that.  And the cool little secret of this year is this:  Not only am I having fun, but I’m also setting myself up for future success.  I’m writing from my heart, I’m writing stories and books that I want to write.  Best of all, I like the material I’m churning out.  I think publishers will like it, too.

It turns out, all that advice I was giving and ignoring was pretty good after all.  Write because you love it.  Write because you have to in order to remain happy and sane.  Learn the business; be smart about your professional choices.  But never ignore the passion that got you here in the first place.  I needed an unusually quiet year to remember that last.  But remember it I have, and in unexpected ways this has turned out to be my most successful year ever.

David B. Coe
http://davidbcoe.livejournal.com
http://www.davidbcoe.com

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There are 4 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Elias McClellan

    Mr. Coe, your words are sobering and (maybe due to rationalization) inspiring. Thank you.

  2. 2. David B. Coe

    Thanks, Elias. I suppose they were meant to be both. This isn’t an easy profession, but it is worth pursuing anyway, which I guess is the point of the post. Keep at it, my friend.

  3. 3. Elias McClellan

    I tried to quit! But giving up smoking wasn’t as difficult as giving up my daydreams/dayfrights. After two agents and countless rejection letters, my first MS is with a buying editor now. While I pray for a sale, I’m also reviewing HIM classes for the Spring. I’d rather support my habit working one unfulfilling job than two.

    Do you have any experience with (or opinion of) Chuck Sambuchino’s guide to query letters? Thanks again for the encouragement.

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Author Information

David B. Coe

David B. Coe (http://www.DavidBCoe.com) is the Crawford award-winning author of the LonTobyn Chronicle, the Winds of the Forelands quintet, the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, and a number of short stories. Writing as D.B. Jackson (http://www.dbjackson-author.com), he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a blend of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. David is also part of the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), and co-author of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. In 2010 he wrote the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Visit site.

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