Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Always another way...

A year ago, I was about ready to pack it in and quit writing. After everything I'd been going through after losing my job at Bell, the failure of The Unearthing to sell and everything else that was going on, well, I pretty much feared my writing was worthless.

...I know I know, this is not a new statement from me, and I've repeated this little story more than it driving the point home...just keep reading...

Everything prose-related I tried to write turned to shit. I couldn't look back on anything I had written and had been planning to rewrite just stared back at me like an impossible mountain of text. Besides music reviews and the occasional article for CONFRONT Magazine and even more occasional posts here, I wasn't writing anything.

It's easy, as a writer, as an independent author, to get discouraged. Big publishing is a closed ecosystem and it's very hard to break into. Smaller presses don't have the budget to run many titles, and self-publishing has all kinds of ridiculous and oftentimes unwarranted stigmas attached to it. And when you're responsible for your own marketing, well, then it gets even harder to accomplish anything, isn't it?

If I didn't have friends and loved ones who encouraged me (and by "encouraged" I mean refused to tolerate my wallowing in self-pity and kicking my ass about it until I decided to do something to change my lot) I would have given up. Giving up would have quite literally killed a very significant part of what makes me who I am.

I did a lot of soul searching. I reevaluated much of my writing. I decided to scrap a lot of it. I decided to keep other things, and I decided that it was time to change not just my approach to this whole venture, but what was truly important to me, about writing.

First and foremost, I have sincerely learned that there is only one person that I should be writing for: myself. Any dreams and ambitions beyond that are fine, but the truth is unless I am writing something that I feel is worthwhile, unless I feel that I am writing something that I am enjoying, there is no reason to write it, at all.

Yes of course, as a writer I don't want my work to remain anonymous. I desire an audience, readers. But as all the traditional paths to literary success were barred to me, I had to find my own path.

I started researching ways to drum up readership for my weblog. I stumbled across a lot of information about ebooks and electronic publishing--much of which I'd previously covered and forgotten about. I decided that if I really wanted readers, e-publishing The Unearthing was the only way to go.

According to the stats I've collected from the various download sites hosting or linking to The Unearthing, there have been a total of 1329 unique downloads.

I'm not making any money off this book. I'm certainly not becoming famous, and the downloads themselves aren't proof of the quality or lack thereof of my work, the calibre of my writing or any such thing. The downloads mean only one thing: there are people who are interested enough in my work to read it. Some of those people have even favourably rated The Unearthing on the download sites.

If I'd have quit, if I'd have given up I would have truly failed as a writer. I certainly wouldn't have 1300-plus readers, which is a very small audience at the moment. It is, nevertheless, more than I had a year ago when I was sitting on my ass feeling sorry for myself.

I started regaining my momentum with the e-release of The Unearthing, and now other projects have revived themselves: I've begun rewriting a novel I'd left by the wayside.

Another one of my novels is also now being considered for publication by a small Canadian press. I'll be the first to admit that in this very real real world, the short odds are against it getting accepted and published, but the fact that I'm putting stuff out there again is what's important. I'm also in the running to become a story writer for a video game company.

Write what you want to read and let the universe take care of itself, to paraphrase J. Michael Straczynski.

I've said that I want other independent authors, other aspiring writers to be able to learn from my experience. My experience includes many, many mistakes, which, I think, I've freely admitted to. One of those mistakes, undoubtedly the biggest one I made was almost giving up. That would have been a failure, and an absolute failure on my part.

So, don't give up. I don't give a shit how many rejection slips you have. I don't care if people are reading your stuff and telling you it's garbage. They might very well be right, but you can do something to change that: go to your local college, university or adult-education center and take a writing course; take several if need be. If your writing is bad, you can fix it. The fact that you can write anything at all already sets you apart from the majority of people, who don't really have the time or the interest to foster their creative impulses. So, keep at it.

If you're fed up of getting rejection slips and form letters from publishers and agents, change the scenario. Look at self-publishing. Look at e-publishing. Look at other alternatives, look at every possible way of getting your work out there that you can imagine. The Internet is one giant reference guide (and pornography store). Use it. If self- or e-publishing isn't for you, well, then find another way...there is always another way.

I am going to continue writing these chronicles. I am going to continue posting about my successes and failures in the world of writing and publishing. Why? Because if only for myself, it gives me a record to look over, to chart my progress, to be reminded of my mistakes and to commemorate my successes.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again:

My name is Steve Karmazenuk, and I am a writer.


R.J. Keller said...

Hi Writer Steve!

I found you through Sid Leavitt's site. I've been making my way through the work posted there and although I haven't got to The Unearthing, it's definitely something I'm very interested in reading.

I'm stopping in here with an "Amen" to this entire post. I wrote something very similar on my own blog just this morning, but with far less eloquence.