Life’s funny. When I was younger, I never imagined I’d someday be a Contributing Editor at Writer’s Digest Magazine with a book on writing coming out (Writing Without Rules, natch) and a solid freelance writing career going. There was also a time when I didn’t see myself as a science fiction guy, and yet seven of my nine published novels are SFF.
On the other hand, I also never saw myself married and living with five cats. Make of that what you will.
FIVE GODDAMN CATS
The point is, your writing career may not go exactly as you imagine. When I sold my first novel, Lifers, I thought it was the first step in a very literary career; I saw myself as writing a series of realistic novels with subtle genre twists. When the book got reviewed by The New York Times I thought that was the next step. And then literally nothing much happened until I sold the sci-fi cyberpunk novel The Electric Church that I didn’t even tell my agent about until it had sold.
Every time I thought I knew where my career was going—or where it should go—I’ve been pretty much wrong. I’m at a point where I’ve stopped trying to guess—I just follow my opportunities combined with my imagination and passion, and hope that the combination of the two leads to something interesting. There’s just no point any more of trying to figure out whether a certain book will sell, or some kind of master plan for literary domination. I’m just along for the ride.
It can be frustrating to realize you’re at the mercy of forces. Forces like the market, which may or may not be buying what you’re writing. Forces like your agent or editors, who may or may not like your latest project. Forces like the fact that you need to make a living and therefore take writing jobs you might not have ever imagined yourself taking—which in turn lead to unforeseen moments of grace.
So, just write, submit, revise, and say yes to opportunities. No other strategy makes any sense.
I’d also suggest “drink heavily” as a way of blunting the horror that is writing for a living, but that seems like something y’all will figure out on your own.