Several weeks ago, while talking about my submission to Cobalt City: Dark Carnival, my friend Torrey pointed out with faint surprise that I actually had fun writing my story about Snowflake. And, I’ll admit, I have had stupid fun writing for all the other Cobalt City stuff I’ve participated in. I can’t say that it’s strictly a matter of the publisher. My entry into Growing Dread was a very difficult thing to write. But I think overall my Cobalt City stories have allowed me the opportunity to cut loose and play with the topic a bit.

There’s a lot of craft to writing well. And I learn that more and more as time goes on. The things I need to work on with my writing are endless and only seem to grow. Which is a challenge for me for many reasons. But I do work at it, and I’ve managed to pick up some tools to help me work with feedback. I don’t necessarily have all the tools to fix the things that are wrong, but I know how to deal with criticism. Usually.

But writing superheroes for Timid Pirate allows me a bit more freedom. Superheroes are already a bit weird and cliché, and the ground is pretty well trod. I’m not creating fine art, I’m not conveying a moral lesson. I’m just having fun with superheroes. I can totally have a cross-over between a fedora wearing 1930s mystery man and a leather harness wearing swordsman and it fits in the genre. I do try to mix things up a bit, like having the female love interests have to find a way to rescue their beaus in distress. But more than anything I’m just having stupid fun.

This whole thing weighs on me a bit more as I face the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Summer Conference. The conference is a chance to learn about writing (both in terms of craft and career development), meet other writers and, most importantly, pitch face-to-face with agents.

I started writing a paranormal romance last November with the intention of pitching it at the conference. It’s a part of my experiment in writing as a career. Since this started out as a NaNoWriMo project, I stopped at the end of November to focus on other stuff. My intention was to come back, finish it and polish it up in time to see agents. But other projects took longer than planned, and there was a wedding in there. And in the end, all I did was polish up the beginning and write a synopsis so I could submit to the PNWA Literary Contest in the Romance category.

I’m not a semifinalist in the contest. And the feedback I got was a bit of a slap in the face regarding how much I really knew about writing paranormal romance. Which is to say that I should have been reading more Eat Prey Love and less Dead Until Dark. Because while both get lumped under the category of “paranormal romance,” one is actually romance. The other has a strong romantic element but falls better in categories as “urban fantasy” or “paranormal mystery.”

Further, wrestling with my outline for Timid Pirate has slowed me down a lot and I blew my proposed deadline for that by a lot. But it left me with only a small amount of time to work on finishing my novel. This was further complicated by me misremembering the date of the conference. I was certain it was the end of August. It’s actually the beginning, which I discovered a week before the conference. Any faint hope I had of a miracle has evaporated. I made a few token efforts to get back on the horse prior to learning about my scheduling mistake, but the stuff for my YA novella has been churning through my head instead. And I really need to consider how I’ll approach the material novel at this point.

I talked to writer friends last night at our type-and-gripe, and the advice I got was to cancel my agent appointments so someone with a solid project to pitch will be able to use those slots. So I did that. But it also highlights some other stuff.

I love the novel I’m working on. But it’s not the main thing I want to do at this moment. I have a whole slew of novels I want to be writing, but I chose this one to focus on because it seemed more commercially viable. And that’s a statement on a lot of stuff I have out there. There’s a lot of what or how I should be writing to be successful and professional. But to do this my focus is shifted away from ideas that I’m more afraid and excited to pursue.

So I’ve been mulling around the idea of focusing less on career development and more on just working on things I love. If I find some success, then that’s good. But if I just write a bunch of stuff that only six people ever read, that’s also fine. There are much better writers than I could ever hope to be, and they are anything but financially successful. Pinning my self worth as a writer on the book deal or the vaunted SFWA membership only seems to make miserable.

This isn’t to say that I won’t work to improve my writing or send stories to pro markets. But I’m going to try and worry about it less. My muse is an androgynous god of Chaos that lives in my head. (His name is Sam.) And he needs nourishment if he’s going to keep spouting the madness I need to tell the stories I want to tell. I feel like he’s been increasingly starved lately, and I need to let him run rampant a bit more with his pants off.

Since I made that decision, I’ve been a lot less stressed. But there’s also this giddy anxiety that comes from being on a high place without a railing. I wonder if I’m going to be the only person not practicing their pitch obsessively at the conference this weekend.

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