Monthly Archives: February 2024

And…still dealing with the slump

Well, I got all ambitious and…nope, it’s not gonna work for being aggressive about blogging.

The first two months of 2024 have been somewhat of a coming to terms with myself about writing, letting go of ambitions, and accepting the fate of obscurity. Lemme tell you, letting go of a dream of making it big in a creative field is not an easy thing to do. Nonetheless, for the past few months I’ve been wrestling with this concept.

It was rather ironic that I read another newsletter about quitting Substack and getting off the hamster wheel of chasing subscription income and developing an influencer following just this morning. The person in question was pulling back to their Patreon, deleting their Substack, and just backing out entirely.

Which–I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Whether I could draft enough blog posts to maintain a weekly schedule. After all, I used to blog on LiveJournal just about daily. However, that felt different from Substack, or even what I’m doing now, which is posting on my WordPress blog, then to Dreamwidth, then sending it to a small list of subscribers via SendFox.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to obsess about my audience anymore. Seriously. One of the big issues with the Substack model is that there’s an almost constant pressure to keep putting out new work, and do what you can to remain visible. I ran into the same issue with my newsletter plans at the beginning of February when I realized that I wanted to spend some time wrapping up the conclusion of Crucible and moving on to Redemption, so that hopefully I can release the three volumes of The Cost of Power later this year, and move on to other work. Thinking about doing the bare minimum of posting made me flinch, and felt like a Sisyphean chore. I–just didn’t want to do it.

The other thing is that I am mourning the loss of a dream, and have been since December. I’ve dreamed about “making it big” as a writer for damned near sixty years now. I sent out short stories in high school. Never sold a one of them, and at times I wonder if I should have mentioned that I was a high school student. However, I’m not sure that would have mattered in the early ’70s, especially since I’m female. I’ve wondered if I should have started out under a pseudonym using initials, though the obvious one is already taken, and the number of Reynoldses out there is downright appalling.

I’ve been writing and submitting off and on since then. I had started to really push hard in the ’90s, but mistakenly listened to a so-called “friend” and tried to sell essays instead of fictions. Additionally, my spouse was working long hours which left me with the primary responsibility for raising our lovely but challenging son. As it was, I probably spent more time working at writing when I should have been parenting. But I had this dream. In retrospect, I should have been parenting more, writing less, especially considering what has happened to the dream.

Look. I have a decent essayist’s voice. But I find writing essays to be a challenge. Yes, even this blather can be like pulling teeth. And it’s not my first love. I want to tell stories, not necessarily spend my time writing about the latest and greatest or coming up with clickbaity rants. I suppose I could spend more time writing about politics. However, while I’m still an occasional politics junkie at heart, I also really don’t have the desire to write political essays regularly. Political fiction…sure. Essays? Nah. Maybe I’d feel different if the essays actually sent people to my fiction, but they don’t. Not even if I write essays about my stories (look. I review my sales dashboards regularly. I know when something clicks and people try me out. I’ve had assorted peeps claim they’ve either bought the book or their reviews sold books for me–and I’m here to tell you, if it doesn’t show up on my dashboards, I have a hard time believing you. You can BS a tradpub author that way. You can’t do the same for a selfpub author.).

The other thing that went bad for me in the ’90s was a toxic writing group that killed my desire to write for a few years.

This latest block of mine hasn’t been that bad, thankfully. All the same, I’ve had to face some facts.

I’m never going to be a famous or well-known author.

I can count my known fans on the fingers of two hands and have fingers left over.

The last three attempts at entering self-published fiction contests have been disastrous. The reviewers echo my traditional publishing rejections–“well-written, an interesting and different take on the topic, and–we’re cutting it from the competition, along with the poorly-written and poorly-edited work.” Sounds an awful lot like “love your voice, love your work…can’t sell it.”

I’ve gained some perspective as to why this might be happening. I tend to find my characters and their ethical dilemmas more interesting than McGuffins or tech or high, gimmicky, trendy concepts. I mix genres freely, including using scene techniques more in line with literary than commercial work (as I learned from reading a recent guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog). The current fashion in fantasy and science fiction is for hard magic and hard science systems, with visible, known, and consistent rules for both.

I don’t write like that.

Furthermore, I don’t like the sales model of spending 9K in advertising to earn 10K.

But the other piece is that I’m downright lousy at networking, butt-kissing, and schmoozing. Success on platforms like Substack or the assorted self-published competitions requires a lot of networking and back-scratching, some of which is just plain old tit-for-tat “buy and review my stuff and I’ll buy and review yours.” A certain amount of that is to be expected. Some of the schemes, however, verge on unethical behavior and I’m just not going there. I don’t really have the time or money for the big-name workshops that would give me an insider’s support. That doesn’t mean I don’t have friends in the writing world–I do. But I’ve said “fuck you” to powerful and toxic people far too often, and, well, that’s the price I have to pay for being true to myself and what I believe.

In any case, I’ve spent several months wrestling with where I go with my writing. At this point, I’m out of the contest world. But the other piece–letting go of the dream of “making it big” as a writer–is a hard one to accept. There have been days of tears and sorrow. Lots of them. Questioning. Bargaining with myself.

Nonetheless, I have to deal with reality. I lack the temperament to market myself in the manner that will earn me more attention. I don’t want to spend large amounts of money to earn a small amount in sales. I’m not going to spend $15k on edits for a series that isn’t going to earn me even a fraction of that expense. Same for covers. I’m not an influencer sort. I’m sixty-six years old, and women my age just don’t start breaking out in my chosen genres, whether you’re talking self-pub or tradpub. Note the bold. I’ve been told otherwise, but the examples cited are either male or in another genre, and comments to that effect are likely to earn you some barbed snark because I’m sick of hearing non-matching examples.

It’s not easy to accept, however.

So yeah. Lots of blather about why you haven’t seen anything from me for a month. I do have some horse blogs written, and maybe some other stuff. But for now, this newsletter is gonna show up irregularly, when I feel like writing it, and that’s the way it’s gonna be.

If you want to subscribe so you don’t miss this blather, here’s the link: SendFox.

Or you could throw me some $$ at Ko-fi. Or not. Whatever. It’s up to you.

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