#128: Writing for Money, Writing for Joy

Dear Story Nurse,

I’ve been working hard the last year on putting my work out there: shopping a fully edited novel round to agents, pitching and submitting short fiction/game writing and putting some stuff up for free. While I’ve had a good response when I have a direct audience (i.e. with my alpha readers, free work and blogging), I’m hitting a huge wall of rejection with anything that requires investment from professionals. I’m very aware that this is exactly the problem plenty of writers have (and there are so many examples of famous writers getting rejected a lot) but it feels like such a roll of the dice every time, without any way of improving the odds. I’m never going to stop writing, but I’m losing confidence in my ability to be more than an amateur.

Right now I’m at a crossroads where I have to choose where to put my energy and time: do I keep hacking away at the cliff-face of novel revisions, knowing it’ll take me at least another year before something else is ready for submission? Do I try and cultivate other outlets I enjoy such as RPG writing or short fiction, which are much more limited in their scope for professional gigs but have a more direct audience reach? Do I focus more on my blogging, which I keep as a background thing right now, but is probably my most successful outlet?

I’m not asking you to decide for me (I’m aware it has to be my decision), but I am frozen with indecision right now. Any one path takes time from the others, and while I enjoy moving between them, taking a dilettante attitude towards writing or editing a novel will mean it takes even more time. None of my choices are wrong exactly, but any of them could be frustrating and fruitless very easily.

Unfortunately I can’t even consider which of these I might find most fun right now – not because it’s a bad idea, but because I can’t relax until I find some measure of professional success. My mental health becomes worse when I’m not making progress towards becoming published, which means I have to keep moving forward. Any tips on facing these kinds of big decisions in the face of rejection and loss of confidence?

Thank you for being such a force of positivity in the world.

—Dauntless (she/her)

Dear Dauntless,

Thank you for the kind words! I will be glad to be a force of positivity for you.

First of all, I encourage you to chat with a mental health professional if you don’t already have one on Team You. It’s not great for you to have your mental health so closely linked to something that’s out of your control. I hope you have access to mental health care and can get some help untangling your sense of self-worth from the trajectory of your writing career.

Second, let’s talk about progress and success.

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#68: Creating a Sustainable Self-Publishing Career

Today’s question comes from @thepoetjean on Twitter:

Dear @thepoetjean,

Welcome to the great challenge of self-publishing: being a publisher, with all that entails and implies. Your books don’t have to be pristine, but they do need to be of comparable quality to traditionally published work. As for sustainable income from self-publishing, that has to do as much with quantity as with quality.

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