*This post was originally published on August 29, 2017.
It’s been a little over a month since I released the post about all the changes in my life, how I nearly gave up on writing, and about the Arena series getting dropped by my publisher. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the link.
Since then, I’ve felt compelled to write a follow-up but wanted to give it some time so I could also give you an update about what’s going on with me and my writing.
First of all, you guys are awesome. The amount of love I received in messages, emails, tweets, and even in person was phenomenal. I spent a good few days crying (happy tears) after the incredible response to that post.
As for my writing, it’s taken me a lot longer to heal and get back on track than I thought it would. These last two weeks, though, have been huge for me.
There’s one thing I want to be clear about. I worry this may have been misconstrued in my previous post.
I love Arena.
But I’ve recently realized why I didn’t love the book as much as I should have, why I’ve felt so unfulfilled as a writer, and why I nearly quit writing for good.
I didn’t push myself enough.
I’m going to repeat that, because it was a critical revelation for me.
I didn’t push myself enough.
Nearly everything about Arena was familiar to me. I’ve played plenty of video games ever since I was a child. I’ve followed eSports on and off for years. I was even a teenager once, many moons ago.
The only aspect of Arena that I didn’t really have any experience in was diversity. I’m not particularly diverse myself and neither were my characters. So I pushed myself to write about a diverse group of people, researched until I nearly broke the internet, found beta readers who weren’t afraid to tell me what I did wrong, and so on. However, this was the only way I pushed myself to grow as a writer and as a person.
The rest of the book wasn’t much of a challenge.
In fact, it was easy. All of it. From the initial concept to a book deal just over a year later, it was one smooth ride. Never did I feel like quitting. Never did I doubt myself. I thought this was a good thing.
Once Arena was on the shelf, I felt strangely empty for having accomplished a lifelong dream. For the next year or so while writing Gauntlet, I felt like I was floating around in space: getting places but without any direction or destination in mind. Eventually, getting dropped by my publisher was the wake-up call I needed.
That’s when I took a giant step back from my life and re-evaluated everything that had gone wrong. I slammed the door shut on the super-logical voice in my mind that was telling me to pump out another Arena look-a-like as fast as possible.
Instead, I listened to my heart. What did it say? To slow down and write a passion project I’ve had in my head for years. It’s a story that I love but never thought I’d be good enough to write. The plot, characters, and world-building are… complex, to say the least.
I’ve been at it for about a month now and it’s not easy. Not one bit.
There are multiple narrators, each with a distinct voice. It’s fantasy, which I’ve read a lot but have hardly written before. It’s a completely made-up world with nine supernatural races, each with their own history, geography, powerful families, and even bigger power struggles.
Every single sentence is a challenge. And that’s exactly why it’s working.
Last week was the first time I literally cried tears of joy over my writing since January 2015. It took days for me to understand why.
It’s because it’s hard.
Those tears of joy were coming out because I finally felt myself growing again as a writer. Every day I sit down at the computer is overwhelming. It usually only takes about ten minutes before I run away from the screen, just to get pulled back in again a few minutes later.
Write me, it whispers. I’m beautiful.
I tell people this is my bestseller. Now, even if it doesn’t hit the NYT list, even if it’s poorly reviewed across the board, even if it never sells to a publisher…
It won’t matter.
Because I’ll know exactly what it took for me to get it down on (digital) paper. I call it my bestseller not because I think it’ll actually trigger a floodgate in sales (it may or it may not). It’s my bestseller because it’s the book that’s changing my career and perspective on writing. Whether anyone else thinks so is out of my hands.
I really hope that one day I get to share this book with all of you, but for now, I’m just enjoying the ride.
*Originally posted on my old blog on August 29, 2017.