I’m sitting here at sort of loose ends, thinking about my stories in progress and hoping the thesis doesn’t come back with big changes. Finishing that thesis freed me in so many ways and yet, here I sit, staring at the screen, tinkering with a novel I finished two years ago but never finished revising, and thinking about other stories I want to write. And it hits me that I’ve been tinkering, in one way or another, for years now. I finished the first novel, I sent it into the world, I got the rejections and the requests for more work. And of course I froze, life events taking me off in different directions than I’d anticipated.

But now I can’t seem to ever let myself get to the stage of being satisfied with the work so that I’m forced to actually contemplate the submission process again. So long as I don’t submit, by golly, I can’t fail. Right?

Huh. Allison Brennan talked about that very thing over at Murder She Writes recently. (Yes, I’m late in reading it since it was posted last week, but good discussions are never stale.)

For thirtysome years, I wrote stories I never finished. I could argue that it was because I was young, immature, irresponsible, unmotivated, busy, yada yada, but those are all excuses. The truth is, fear kept me from getting to the end. If I finished a book, I would have to send it out, try to get published, and what if it was total dreck? (It was.)

Once I got over THAT fear–fear of rejection or fear that I couldn’t write myself out of a paper bag–other fears crept in. What if I entered a bunch of contests and never finaled? Well, I DID final . . . but I never came in first. What if I never sold? I did. What if I got published, but the books were a total failure? Well, my books did pretty good. What if my next book isn’t as good as the last? THE KILL hit #21 on the NYT expanded list . . . what if I never get that high again?

The difference between success and failure is not whether you hit lists or don’t hit lists; it’s not whether you sell or don’t sell. It’s whether you keep going . . . or
give up.

I have a billion and one ideas. And I’m positive none of them are ever good enough. I sometimes write ten pages, then go away to think about it, and never get back to the story. I have half a dozen files like this. And that’s not even counting the short stories I get part way through before losing focus.

Obviously, I do finish some of what I write. I have 4 complete novels and one novella under my belt. I have published two short stories and quite a few articles. I can get the task done.

But part of my problem is knowing which direction to go in. I have two literary novels in progress, several romance ideas (as well as a few in various stages of progress), a couple of erotica ideas, and no idea which I should be pursuing.

And don’t even get me started on the path to publishing I should take. Sometimes, I think I should explore the e-publishers, especially the RWA-approved ones, for a way to get started. But e-publishing still seems to have a whiff of non-respectability in some circles. I HAVE read some good e-books, books that you wonder why NY didn’t buy them and authors so fabulous you can’t believe they don’t have a print contract yet. And then I’ve read some sample chapters that fall anywhere between boring to utter dreck. It’s true that some (by no means all) e-pubs aren’t known for their quality.

And yet writers have been picked up from e-pubs when NY came searching. And working with an e-publisher gives you some experience and a track record of some kind. Someone, and I forget who, in the NY world actually expressed that this could be a plus to them.

I get frozen when I start to consider the possibilities. Try to target category and build up from there? Bust out the gate with a big single title and try to sell that? Write those literary novels and go that route? Or head for the e-pubs and go from there?

Naturally, none of this means I’d get picked up anywhere, so please don’t assume I’m saying it would be easy to do any of these things. It wouldn’t be, of course. Some paths appear easier than others, it’s true, but that doesn’t make it so.

Of course I have an idea of how I’d like it to work for me. It involves print, a multi-book deal, and a medium range advance. But I know this may not be the case, and that’s where I start to choke. Work on this idea or that idea? Target this market or that market?

Sheesh, it never ends, does it? Most importantly, and I do know this, is to write and finish books and then submit them. The best battle plan in the world won’t work if you don’t have the soldiers to back it up.

What about you? Do you have a plan? Are you where you want to be? Do you change the plan from time to time?