Traditionally, I date the start of my writing career to December 20th, 2003, which is, as far as I can tell, the day when I completed and submitted my very first short story. That means that as of a few days ago, my writing career is around eleven years old. And what an eleventh year it’s been.
Ever since I began to write these year-end wrap-ups, I’ve had the mostly private fantasy that I’d someday be able to write, “And this was the year that all the hard work paid off.”
And, err I guess this is it. This is the year that all the hard work finally paid off. In April, my contemporary young adult novel Enter Title Here, which was the fourth novel I’ve written and my second to go on submission, went out to a number of editors, and within six weeks it’d gone to auction and sold to Disney’s YA publishing imprint in a two-book deal. With regards to publishing, I normally hope for the best and expect the worst and end up with something that’s closer to the latter than the former. This book deal is one of the rare occasions in which the end result exceeded anything I’d imagined. I can honestly say that what happened in May was beyond anything that I’d hoped for.
I also sold some short stories. After an interval of more than two years, I sold another story to Clarkesworld. I also had my first literary journal acceptances, at The Indiana Review and Birkensnake. Those made me really happy too, actually, because before that I’d gone years without even a hint of hope from literary journals.
I don’t really know what else to say. The business side of writing has been going really well. I still can’t believe that my book is actually going to come out. Like, it’ll be out, on shelves, and people will read it.
Oh, here’s something: selling a book to a major imprint gives you an immense amount of social status in the eyes of the sorts of upper-middle-class and upper-class people that I hang around with. This should be a no-brainer to everyone reading this. After all, writing novels is a difficult and poorly-paid profession. There has to be a reason that so many people want to go into it and, obviously, that reason is the prestige. But somehow there’s a persistent belief, within the writing community, that the general public thinks of novelists as useless and silly people.
I wonder if this belief is simply a hangover from the 19th and 18th centuries. Back then, writers (and actors) were not considered respectable professions, which is why they were left primarily to underprivileged people: women and gypsies and lower-middle-class people.
But that’s obviously not the case anymore. Nowadays, the novel is the nation’s preeminent popular art. In fact, the state spends so many billions of dollars each year on teaching kids (in English class) that novels are Very Important Business, and, oftentimes, treats them almost as secular religious tomes (which is why kids are taught to subject novels to the same sort of close reading and textual scrutiny that was once reserved for the scriptures). Which is why even people who don’t read novels still have some kind of reverence for the form.
Which is just to say, it’s a lot of fun to tell people that you’re a novelist. I’ve been doing it for seven months, and it still hasn’t gotten old. I have a feeling that after my book comes out and (possibly) flops, then my attitude towards this might change. But, for now, I’ll say that this whole ‘being seen as an artist’ thing is a lot of fun.
The thing about writing, though, is that by the time something sells, you’re sort of done with it. I wrote this novel two years ago. I wrote those short stories more than a year ago. All of this success is just the present-Rahul reaping the fruits of the past-Rahul’s brilliance. Which is to say, “What about this year’s writing? How has that gone?”
And that is a different and less fun story, which is why I’ll save it for tomorrow.