Launched rocket ship in the shape of a pencil

Author Burnout: One Too Many Book Launches?

When something’s bugging me I’ve found that writing it out, as in writing about it, helps. That’s why there are so many sociopolitical issues addressed in my novels. Fact is, I haven’t written about writing on this blog lately, because I haven’t drafted anything but my weekly blog posts.

Back in March when the sixth novel in my Other Worldly series, Altogether Alien, finally launched after more glitches than my psyche was prepared for—and, months later, more unfortunate revelations regarding my publisher—I felt lost in space. Upon going through this process multiple times since 2020, I hit burnout.

It wasn’t as if I hadn’t already drafted opening chapters of the next novel, Aliens Watch, because I tend to launch right into the evolving storyline without pausing for breath (kind of like my protagonist Rowan Layne is accused of when it comes to speaking). But at this point I’ve only completed five chapters. That’s not much when all of my books have 83—albeit short—chapters.

This has been so not true to form over the past three years that my editor contacted me at the beginning of the summer, checking in because usually, after three months post-launch of the last book, I’ve tackled the next and am ready for the professional editing process.

Maybe part of it is because I originally planned to write six novels for this series, yet somewhere along the way it morphed into eight.  I have topics and plot lines crafted for novel number seven and beyond scribbled out in notebooks.

So, what is it? Not writer’s block, though I seemingly have lost the passion and the will to crank out Aliens Watch to its completion. Yet, I like the first five chapters, and fully embrace where this otherworldly story is heading.

It’s not as if this is the last book in the series, which I presume will induce anxiety because I won’t want it to end.  To alleviate this, I have plans for future books focusing on the next generation of fierce female (alien) characters. Writing from a younger perspective is a daunting challenge, but not enough to make me stall my writing.

What’s bugging me, what’s got me mired in quicksand, is not the writing or rewriting process, nor the critiquing from beta readers, and it’s definitely not the professional editing process. It’s the publishing process—and the publisher.

After I attempted a first draft of Alienable Rights in late 2017, I spent the next two and half years rewriting, overhauling and creating an entirely new second half of the book while learning the craft of fiction through a writers conference and writing publications. Then began the dreaded sending-query-letter-to-literary-agents torture.

I painstakingly researched agents, honed that query letter to fit each and every mercurial whim of the traditional publishing industry’s do’s and don’ts. Then I waited. And waited. Those of you who’ve done this know the drill.

No response from many. Canned responses from a pitiful few. Requests for partial reads that went nowhere. And a full manuscript request from an unprofessional scoundrel at a reputable agency who then ghosted me. He’s no longer an agent, and I no longer wanted one.

Eventually I realized that traditional publishing was probably not for me. In my late fifties at that time, I didn’t want to wait years to publish the first in a novel series. And I was told by an agent that I shouldn’t even attempt a series because no one was likely to give an unknown entity a multi-book deal (despite the seeming ubiquitous requirement for writers to be prolific).

Then there’s my subject matter, which is a whole other bailiwick of judgmental torment I decided I wasn’t willing to compromise on. The reality is I wanted my story to still look and read like my story once it was actually published.

Hence, it was the first week in January 2020, after I’d moved from the place where I’d drafted Alienable Rights and the unfortunate situations that led me to write it, when I contacted my current publisher upon recommendation of a professional I’d met at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference in May 2019.

This self-publisher didn’t automatically accept any wannabe author who handed them money to transform a manuscript into a finished paperback and eBook, and their price was more reasonable than far too many others. Once this outfit took a look at my work and accepted me for publication, I went for it and had a book in hand two months later plus listings with online booksellers.

My only regret in the timing of that first novel was that I didn’t employ my professional editor, Ali Shaw of Indigo Editing, that I hired for the other five. And not only did I get smarter about that, I also further honed the craft of novel writing as I progressed. Learning to pick up the pace and embrace action scenes.

Yes, it’s good to get better, but don’t we inevitably continue to cringe at mistakes made in that first novel?

An isolating pandemic soon raged and all I did was hunker down and write, publishing Feeling Alienated that summer, and two additional novels in 2021, Aliens Abound and Being Alien. I also started this promotional blog in March 2021 with a blast of posts, sometimes more than one a week. Then I slowed down to one post a week and publishing one novel, Alien Sensation, last year, mostly because I moved to a new house in the same city.

This year I don’t have that excuse, yet I have been spending more time in activities in my over-55 community, not solely focused on writing the next novel. But in my heart I know that’s not the only reason.

It’s past time for a publishing change. For me, it comes down to personal and professional integrity and, ironically, the same sociopolitical issues I write about. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

No, I don’t plan to start up the query letter process again at this late stage in my Other Worldly series because I suspect that having independently published six novels is likely to be met with derision. Also, I’m now in my early sixties and not particularly fond of waiting around, twisting in irrational, unpredictable winds.

Plus, these days new authors have to do most of their own promotional work regardless of a traditional publishing deal, though I do applaud those who stick it out long enough and are willing to compromise enough to get one. Maybe I should have launched this fiction-writing endeavor earlier in life, but then I wouldn’t have an over-50 feisty female protagonist’s outlook on all things worldly and otherworldly.

I’m not sure where the universe will next take me. But I have to hope that as I land the spacecraft and close the hatch on my previous publishing path, other options will manifest and beckon with positivity. Because I’m not ready to give up on my Other Worldly series. Or writing in general. Any more than I’ve given up on the notion that aliens are likely among us.


2 thoughts on “Author Burnout: One Too Many Book Launches?”

  1. Thinking of you and your wonderful writing path you have been on and are continuing on in the future. May you find what you are looking for to spice up and tighten up your writing even more to your ideals.

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