The dream and the reality
Bah. So I got a book deal.
For the book I was distracting myself with while waiting for a book deal.
The Cliffs Notes version: I write fiction. I've always written fiction. I've always dreamed of doing well at writing fiction. Meanwhile, it's the nonfiction that always got everyone's attention.
I wrote novels and short stories in high school, but it was my papers in AP English that stole all the glory. People kept saying I should do journalism, or literary criticism, not fiction. Major in English! Be a professor! Analyze the crap out of things! Nobody cares about your silly stories!
I even had a high school teacher who offered the choice of a critical paper or a creative project for one of our big grades. I applied to do the creative project and the teacher was EXTREMELY dismayed when I turned in a portfolio to apply. He protested, "But you're so good at the CRITICAL stuff!" I knew that. He was always using my papers as examples in the post-grading reviews, for God's sake. He then proceeded to mysteriously lose my portfolio, deny that I had turned one in, and then encourage me to just do the critical paper because after all I was very good at that. He "found" my portfolio after the deadline had passed and returned it to me unread.
I wrote novels throughout college. I didn't pursue publication. I tried short stories but I wasn't good at making them short so my options were limited. I graduated with an education degree. I worked at a bookstore for six years, read a lot of terrible books, and got very popular online trashing them. In the meantime, I started querying agents to find representation for my long fiction. My novels. My little dreams. (Okay, so they were big dreams. Both in terms of what I was shooting for and their rather obese word counts.) Partying amongst the peanut gallery commenced every time I released another critical review of a book I hated. Only a handful of people really cared about the fiction, though I did acquire some really awesome critique partners.
I also ranted extensively on my website, and then on YouTube, about asexuality and the related misconceptions. As I developed a following, my stuff became less ranty and more educational. I passed 2K in YouTube subscribers. I got an unpaid but compensated gig writing articles on the subject for a sex-positive magazine. I got interviewed regularly in mainstream magazines and they made a documentary featuring me. Everybody was interested in that. The fiction? Not so much.
After a few months of querying, I finally got offered representation for my fantasy series by a literary agent who seemed absolutely smitten with the books. She began to offer the trilogy to a series of mainstream publishers, and I, you know, waited.
They say you're supposed to start working on your next project while you're on submission. I was sort of doing that. Editing a newer novel, but not actively writing one. When I thought about beginning a new fiction project, it just didn't seem like the time. Sometimes authors will pester each other and insist that any period of time during which you choose not to write is a "block" you necessarily need to get over, but I disagree. I took a vacation from it for my mental health. I know what writing does to me. I didn't want to go under those waves when I was already busy drowning over something else. Submission anxiety was never huge for me when approaching agents, and while it's still not huge approaching publishers, I'd say the pins and needles are sharper. It's uncomfortable. And it doesn't leave me in a creative mood.
As a distraction, I decided I should work on a nonfiction project. That requires a different brain muscle. So I slapped together a draft manuscript for a book on asexuality. Researched and navigated the murky, unfamiliar waters of nonfiction proposals. Wrote one of those suckers. Started querying. Got signed to a literary agent for nonfiction. (My fiction agent doesn't represent this type of nonfiction.)
I signed with the nonfiction agent in May, and she said that the weirdass topic probably meant it would only sell to a mid-size or small publisher. I agreed. We massaged my proposal and went on submission in June. I got my first book offer for it in August. Two more followed. We discussed the multiple offers and my agent ate the contract and spit it back out in a more pleasing format, and I signed with a publisher just last week.
For a nonfiction book I kinda wrote as a distraction.
Shortly before I got my last offer, I decided on a lark to write something for Asexual Awareness Week and try to get it published in a magazine. I queried a new editor with my idea; she said she liked it; I wrote the article at 4 AM. Submitted it. It was published later that day. An article I almost literally wrote in my sleep.
Meanwhile, my fiction agent plods on, determined, still trying to sell my fantasy trilogy. (As I write this, it's being considered by multiple large houses, but I can't say specifics.) No bites yet. Just nibbles.
So far, only the times I've written about reality have become a reality.
The fantasies stay fantasies. The dreams stay dreams.
Seems kind of weird to be sitting here all sullen and weird when I just got a book deal, but sometimes I just can't help wondering whether the only thing I'll ever succeed at is the thing I just do because I'm good at it. I care about the people affected by my nonfiction work, so much, and I know I'm making a huge difference for everyone who thinks this topic is important, but sometimes it's just really disheartening to be really close to my dream and still unsure if I'll ever see it become reality.
Maybe one day I'll look back on all this and laugh.
But until then. . . .
SO YOU THINK YOU'RE ASEXUAL by Julie Sondra Decker. Skyhorse Publishing/Carrel Books. Fall 2014.