My sixth published book ANYONE? exceeded expectations. I had written a book that went to market at the right time and readers were gobbling it up. I spent little on advertising, so all of the attention the book received came organically, and I was feeling pretty darn good about myself. I'd made it in this writing world!
Finally, after five books, and experiencing some mediocre success from them, it was happening! *Release the doves!*
Any other books I would write after this one would surely ride on the tails of ANYONE?'s success.
So I thought.
I published ZIA, The Teenage Zombie & The Undead Diaries the following year, and everything was different. It did not do what I though it was going to do. In fact, it was the exact opposite of what I'd experienced with ANYONE?.
Seriously, the VERY opposite.
I couldn't get this book in front of the right audience no matter how I tried. And boy, did I try! I loved this book (I still do). I loved the characters and the story, and those that had read it, thought it was one of my best works. If I had to do it all over again, I would still write this book. I have no regrets. It's a sweet book with blood, brains, and romance--my cup of tea even if it isn't for everyone else. The problem was that my readers for ANYONE? were not interested in ZIA, something I did not expect, but now know totally makes sense. I get it.
But this "failure," along with some hard personal issues in my life that I was experiencing at that same time, caused me to doubt everything I was doing. Every aspect of my life went under the microscope, including my writing career. It was the making of the perfect storm.
It crippled my writing and a type of depression set in.
Book two, ANYONE ELSE?, was in the works. The cover had been made and promises to readers needed to be kept. I love my readers and I didn't want to let them down, but that only added pressure to my already fragile state of being.
I was struggling. Really struggling. Time and years were slipping away, and I didn't know what to do to stop it or fix it. I'd set goals, and then watch those goals flutter past me, unmet.
I wanted to do anything but write. Doubts plagued me. Horrible thoughts crept into my head every time I would put my fingers to the keyboard. Where I was once able to write a chapter in a day, I was lucky if I could write 100 words in a week. Blogging? Forget about it. My author social media? Practically non-existent. I dabbed a little here and there, but nothing like I once used to.
I no longer trusted my intuition. I no longer believed that I had it in me to create good stories that people would want to read. If I no longer believed in myself, how could I possibly expect anyone else to?
To top everything off, more life struggles were thrown at me, some near life threatening, and that didn't help my already broken self.
Also, watching author friends release new book after new book, and though I was truly happy for them, pulled me even deeper into my own head and further increased my feelings of inadequacy. Doubt and fear and feelings of complete failure was killing me.
Then, I would receive an email or a Facebook message from a fan who would ask when they could expect book two. These inquiries would momentarily spur me to write, but they would also paralyze me, too. People were waiting on me, and I was letting them down. I know this will sound bad, but there was a great part of me that simply wished my readers would forget about me and forget the promises I'd made. It was a double-edged sword in a way.
Finally, as life became more clear and took an upswing, I made a decision: I would deliver ANYONE ELSE? to my fans who had so patiently waited for it and who had cheered me on, and then I would quit.
I'd be done.
That was my plan. I'd put out that book and then slip away. Just like that.
It seemed like a great plan.
Forget that I used to write ALL of the time.
My whole life I'd been a writer, and now, I'd planned to walk away, because I didn't think I could do it anymore.
I've never really shared this with anyone. Not really. Friends and family knew I struggled, but not exactly to what extent. I have never told anyone I planned to quit.
You're actually the first to hear it.
Then, my very very good friend, and perhaps my biggest writing supporter in my life, suggested going to a writers conference together. Back in the early days, I jumped at these opportunities. I had went to conferences before I'd published anything, eager and willing to learn. I went to them after I'd published several books, and walked away with awards for my works. I'd loved going to conferences.
But somewhere along the way, I stopped going. Not sure exactly why--life, too busy, my time was better spent writing than learning about writing (never, never stop learning)--I don't know. Years had gone by without attending one.
When Diana presented the idea of going to a conference, I wasn't excited. I was excited to see her and hang out with her for a full weekend, but the actual going to classes and everything else that came long with attending a conference caused me nothing but dread. Would I be wasting my time? My money? What was the point of going when I was planning on quitting anyway?
She seemed excited to go. She kept feeding me details about the conference that was months away, and insisted this would be a great for us. I wasn't so sure, but I paid my money and signed up. No extras. The basic fee was all I would invest and nothing more--no writers workshops; no editor or agent meetings; nothing.
It would be fun just to hang out with Diana.
I expected nothing from the conference.
I was so wrong.
There, I admit it. I was WRONG. I was horribly, horribly wrong.
What was I wrong about? All of it. From start to finish. (Except the hanging out with Diana part. That was awesome just as I figured it would be).
But the conference itself? What a dumb dumb I was.
While my friend took classes on World Building and Deconstructing the Break Out Book, I took classes on Owning Your Own Path and Freeing Yourself From Self-Doubt. At this point, if I couldn't shake the darkness that was hanging over me, then what good would a class on Creating and Controlling Tone do me?
The difference this particular conference made for me was game changing. I'd gone with the attitude of simply trying to get through it and maybe, just maybe, walk away with a little something that made going worthwhile.
In fact, I walked away with SO much more!
The biggest thing I learned...I wasn't alone. Others were struggling just like me. To go to a class on Self-Doubt and find the room PACKED or to hear the instructor ask, "Do you find yourself wondering why you're still writing? Why you're doing this to yourself?" and see other writers nodding.
You can't believe how HUGE that is.
It changed EVERYTHING.
Since this blog post has taken on a life of its own, but I still have more I'd like to share about my experience at the writers conference, I will create a PART TWO. I'm hoping it will be much shorter. Fingers crossed. PART THREE will discuss all the reasons you should go to a conference (yes, yes you should), no matter what stage your writer career happens to be and it will hopefully give you some pointers, too.
Leave a comment. Let me know you're out there. Feel free to ask questions if you have them, and I will do my best to answer. Otherwise, I'll see you over at PART TWO of How a Writers Conference Saved My Career.