You know, when I was a kid, I wanted to write fantasy novels. I read Tolkien, and then I cracked open my journal and started a story:
The old door opened.
As I recall, that was as far as I got at the time. When I was a senior in high school, I wrote a fantasy novel, an entire manuscript. As one does. Mercifully, the manuscript does not survive. I expect it was probably on the same quality level as my earlier attempt, only much longer. I also wrote short stories in high school, but then I basically stopped. I kept writing fiction, in the form of songs and screenplays, but I wrote my second novel at age 37.
So here are some things I don’t regret:
Starting Late. I look at S.A. Butler and Sarah E. Seeley and Chris Husberg, my friends starting their novelist careers in their 20s, and some part of me thinks I should be envious. Only I’m not. My career as a published novelist is coming in mid-life (unless those guys at Google Calico have their way, and I certainly hope they do — I’m a science fiction writer!), as career number three (not counting McDonald’s). That means I bring to this career things I didn’t have in my 20s: life experience, tolerance, a stronger grasp on history and language, a degree of business sophistication, negotiation and selling skills, and maybe even a little insight and wisdom. I’m okay with the trade-off.
Getting Dumped. I got dropped by my first agent. Man, that smarted. But in that pile of manure sprouted many interesting blossoms: I co-wrote with Emily and saw her career start to take off, I started self-publishing (see below), and I turned to non-fiction projects I otherwise might never have taken up. And then I got picked up by Deborah Warren, whose cheer and persistence and general approach are a much better fit for me.
Getting Rejected. I’ve had rejection letters. Lots of ’em. Form rejections. Dishonest rejections. Arrogant rejections. Once in a while, kind rejections or even helpful rejections. I’ve had multiple rejections from the same agents. I’ve had agents reject manuscripts, then subsequently offer to represent them. I’ve had agents pass on manuscripts, and then subsequently sell them. I have not enjoyed any of the rejections. But without those rejections, I wouldn’t have made any of the progress that I have.
Getting Bad Reviews. After three years, I think I’ve finally got to the point where I’ve stopped reading reviews. I’ve had some bad ones. I’ve had reviewers who didn’t finish and gave me one star. I’ve had reviewers who clearly didn’t read the book at all, and just made up rotten things to say. I expect I’ll have more of all of the above. Bring them on. That just comes with the territory.
Self-Publishing. The market out there is changing, it always has been, and it always will be. Self-publishing forced me to learn to sell, to market, to network, and to strategize in that fluid environment. As a self-published author I built a coalition of allies that continues to grow as I’m transitioning into other publishing methods. Self-publishing let me start finding an audience and show publishers that I can stand on my own two feet and pitch. It let me create a portfolio, a presence, and a brand, all of which I think has only helped me with other professionals, be they convention organizers, writers, cover artists, agents, publishers, marketers, anthologists, or whatever.
So yeah, regrets… too few to mention.