Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Joy of Writing

First off, I want to congratulate the winners of my Gargoyle Charm giveaway. The winners are:

Kathy Lane
Laurel N

The cats had fun picking the names and I had fun watching them! Thanks so much for playing! ☺

Now that KNIGHT'S CURSE is out and on store shelves, you'd think I could breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next thing. The build up to this point has been arduous to say the least. It's been years of honing my craft, writing one manuscript after the other and collecting enough rejections to wallpaper an entire room (or two). So do I feel relaxed now? No.

This post is meant to be about the joy of writing, and it is, but there can't be joy without a little disappointment to highlight it properly. So bare with me.

I've been an apprentice novelist since 1995, when I wrote my first manuscript. It took a couple of years to write and it wasn't too horribly bad for a first effort. It even got me my first agent, but looking back I know it wasn't ready. It was a poorly written work of angsty women's fiction and it was just something I needed to get off my chest. I don't even know where it is now. Reduced to digital dust inside a discarded hard drive somewhere I imagine.

I went on to write five more books after that, two of which were published with small presses. It was good training ground. I made very little off those books, which is perfectly fine with me. It wasn't until the second one was published that I discovered how limiting small presses could be. So I decided that if I was to ever be published again, it would be through a large established publisher that could ensure good distribution through all the major and independent bookstores in the country.

All this time I never forgot the joy of writing. Once into a book and cavorting with my characters and their journey, all the gritty realities of the publishing world faded away. I was doing what I loved to do, what I knew was all I ever wanted to do. So the dream of being published took a back seat to just loving the challenge of writing a good book. Every word I wrote was pure joy.

That being said, my focus on writing competed with my other career, the one that brought me income. Even after I got my agent and she worked her butt off submitting my manuscript to publishers, then submitting my next manuscript, I was starting to feel the pressure. I had to make a choice. Yes, writing is all I want to do, but I also need an income. Would this book ever sell? Was it time to let it all go and just settle for being a hobby writer?

I hung on by my fingernails and gradually sunk into a state of depression. I wrote less so I could focus more on finding ways to make a living. I stopped blogging. The economy tanked and I lost 80% of my design clients. I quit all my writing groups because I could no longer afford to pay their meager dues and I had nothing to contribute to them anyway. I gained weight and I cried a lot. I was a mess.

And all this time my amazing agent never gave up on me. She gave me pep talks. She encouraged me. She believed in me. She saved me.

Then it finally happened. I got "the call" from my agent about Luna's offer for a two-book deal. Did I immediately bounce back to life? No. But I slowly crawled out of the pit I'd dug for myself. I had to. I had to write another book to fulfill my contract and I could hardly wait to get started. I felt reborn.

Now KNIGHT'S CURSE is out and everything is rainbows and sunshine, right? *cough* I wish. I wanted this, yes, but most importantly I want to keep this. My goal is for my writing to become a full time career. My primary design client unexpectedly and unceremoniously kicked me to the curb a couple of months ago so that she could hire a different designer. My writing is all I have now and I have no choice but to make it work.

I'm lucky to love writing as much as I do or I'd be in danger of getting that mysterious thing called "Writer's Block." I've never suffered from it, but I understand it's a miserable condition. I have so many more stories to tell and I especially love the stories I have lined up for Chalice in her Knight's Curse series.

So to wrap this up let me just say that getting published isn't the end of the dream. It's the joy of writing that gets you there, and it's the joy of writing that will keep you there. I'm in it for the long haul.


Chris Devlin said...

The joys and griefs indeed. I'm so glad you're out of the pit and writing and excited about it again. It's amazing what havoc the daily struggles can wreak on the writing life. Congrats on staying the course and sharing your incredible writer's journey. And yay! You got to be a writer!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Chris! I think sometimes we get so caught up in wanting that pub contract we forget the joy that brought us to writing in the first place. Then it's just a hot mixed up mess of emotions along the way, as it is with just about any art. But we manage to muddle through some how. :)

Liz Hill said...

Karen, what a heartfelt post! I admire your fortitude in getting to this point. As the Quakers like to say, when way closes, way opens... here's hoping Knight's Curse opens new doors for you!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Liz! And yes, this post came from the heart and barely scratches the surface. But that's the gist. Being under the scrutiny of so many reviewers is a whole new experience for me, too. Lots of opinions floatin' around out there. :) I can't read them though. I've tried and it messes with my head.

Patricia Stoltey said...

What a great description of the "joys" of the writing life, Karen. I can't imagine why anyone would even try to be a writer unless he loved to write so much he couldn't stop.

Karen Duvall said...

So true, Pat. And when we do stop, we're very unhappy. I'm always the most serene while I'm working on a book. :) Thanks for dropping by!

Janet Lane said...

So glad to be part of your writer's journey, Karen, to have shared the speed bumps and the triumphs. You are an inspiration! You already have the great reviews, so now I'm sending humungo heart-felt wishes for great sales.

Paty Jager said...

Karen, You've been diligent the whole way and you'll continue to dig your way to the top of your genre. I have faith in you and your writing.

ViolaCross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ViolaCross said...

Karen, Thank you for sharing your journey with us - the ups, the downs, the integral part of you that is a writer. I just picked up Knights Curse yesterday at B&N and am looking forward to reading it, and your future works of art as well! May the wellspring of words overflow for you. ~ Viola

Karen Duvall said...

Hey, Janet! And it's been so great to have and the rest of the Alphas there to support and encourage me. I never could have done it without you all.

Karen Duvall said...

Thank you, Paty, for having faith in me. I need that! :)

Thanks, Viola, for buying my book. I sure hope you enjoy it!

Cathryn Cade said...


Unfortunately, part of our highly creative personality is a tendency toward angst. I struggle with it myself, mentally 'writing' myself into dark corners.

I control it with regular no-days-off-unless-I'm-sick-or-injured exercise, prayer and regular reading of other writer's blogs like yours, to remind me the pitfalls are just part of this fabulous journey!

And of course, the amazing high of being in the zone, where the writing is flowing and the ideas are popping out of my fertile subconscious!

Thanks for sharing so honestly,