Arena 3: A Follow-up Message to my Readers

*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.

It wasn’t.

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.

About the Author Holly Jennings

Author of the Arena series from Ace/Roc books.

10 comments

  1. SO FREAKING LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS NEW BOOK. I hate waiting. long long wait I know. If you weren’t “satisfied” with Arena and Gauntlet, be aware it did not reflect that to me as a reader, imo. I loved both. Hopefully book 3 will get published. Maybe the publisher for new book will publish it akin to Dan Brown Digital Fortress after the huge success of Davinci Code. Maybe as a kickstarter, go fund me or patreon or short stories.

    Like

    1. Thanks so much Glenn! Don’t get me wrong, I loved Arena. Looking back though, I was focused more on getting published and less on the joy of writing a book. You know, one of those “focus on the journey, not the destination” things. This time, I’m really focusing on the journey and taking my time with this book. I know that means everyone has to wait longer to read something new from me and I really wish I could just transfer everything in my head onto the computer in a snap, but I need to slow down this time and really enjoy the creative process.

      This is the last of my posts from my old site, so from here forward I’ll be posting new updates about writing and New Book. I can’t wait to share more with everyone.

      Like

    1. As of right now, there will not be a third book in the Arena series. However, this doesn’t mean there won’t EVER be one. Right now, I have to focus on other series/developing other parts of my career. Depending how things go, I may (or may not) be able to return to this series and write a third book.

      Like

  2. I just found Gauntlet at the library and immediately grabbed it, even though I was in the middle of the LIghtbringer multi-thousand-page series. Loved Arena, and loved Gauntlet (finished this morning). Final twist of the knife made me immediately jump online to look for book 3… and what?? no book 3? I applaud you growing as an author, and I can’t wait to read your fantasy book too. But please… don’t leave us hanging!

    Like

    1. Wow, thanks so much for reading! And so sorry to leave you hanging like that. If I would have known that the publisher was going to pull the plug after book 2, I would have given Gauntlet a much more “final” ending. Depending how things go with other books, I may be able to get someone else to publish a third book (or just do it myself). Unfortunately right now it’s still a “time will tell” situation.

      Like

  3. I recently discovered your books and I have to agree with Rick that I loved them. I too went to the internet to get a book 3 status. I wish you well and here is another vote for book 3.

    Like

  4. Honestly… I’m the kind of reader that might read a book once a year or once every other year. In the spring, I took my family to a big book fair in the country and there I found Gauntlet and figured “why not give this a try”. As an online gaming nerd, you plucked all the right notes with making me love the characters and what they were doing. It should be noted however that you EXCELLED past that of other authors who have had recent fame and fortune producing works about future, online games (I’ll leave it at that). Your word play is very entertaining. I found myself reading snippets of Gauntlet to my wife (who is an avid reader) just to point out how well you paint the scene with words. Well done.

    Sorry to hear that business nonsense has derailed the possibility of Arena 3, but I look forward to reading the first book in the series as I had discovered your work at book 2! You’re a good writer. I’m eager to read whatever you put out next.

    Like

    1. Wow, thanks for such an amazing comment, Matthew! Thanks so much for reading Gauntlet and sorry for the bad news about Arena 3.

      I have finished another book and am currently writing my fourth, so hopefully I get to share new content with all of you soon. Traditional publishing is a painfully slow business.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: