On Letting Go (and killing darlings)

[It’s really freaking hard to not have every blog post be OMG I AM HUGO FINALIST HEAR ME SQUEE! but I think that might get old.]

I got a “domain about to expire” email from my domain provider a few days ago, and I’ve let it sit for a while, trying to figure out what to do. It’s strange how we get tied to simple things.

heavennovel.com is up for renewal. And I don’t think I’m going to do it. This was a surprisingly difficult decision.

Background: Ten years ago, when I was publishing via podcast only, I wrote a bunch of novellas that got a very passionate fan base. I tried to combine them to become novel-length to sell them to a publisher, and didn’t get any interest. I finally decided after two agents and a bunch of rejections, that I would crowdfund to pay for a good ebook transfer so I could get it to the fans who had been asking for it for years. The kickstarter funded at almost 1000% and I created hard copies as well as ebooks. And the ebooks sold!

The popularity of the kickstarter got another agent interested in me. By now, I had edited the books so many times, to make them flow as novels, then to make them skew more YA, then to skew them back to adult when the YA version didn’t sell, that I was entirely sick of them. I told her I really didn’t want to work through them again, but she encouraged me. When she saw the edit she said, “Oh. You really don’t want to work through this again, do you?”

What gave you that idea?

Note that years are passing here. I’m becoming a better writer, I’m writing a new urban fantasy about monsters needing travel guides. I’m attending grad school. My agent had zero interest in my urban fantasy, so I sold it myself by networking at a con and sending my manuscript to an editor I had coffee with. Then my agent quit being an agent and passed me to her boss, a longtime veteran of publishing. This agent did not do SFF. She was not interested in the stuff I was currently writing and how I was growing. She called my new writing “brutal” more than once. She did not mean this in a good way. (I guess she hadn’t read Hunger Games.) 

Yes, the gentle Hunger Games.

Instead, new agent wanted me to revise the novellas. Again.

Or I could do this, which would be more productive.

I told her that I’d been down that road before and it was a dead end, and she said the market had changed and she thought it could be a breakthrough hit. I liked the idea of a hit. But then I thought about going back to what I was writing seven years before, and the anxiety and dread was similar to the feeling one gets coming home from vacation and realizing your cat sitter hadn’t scooped the litter once. I politely asked her if she had any interest in the stuff I was working on at the time, and she said no.

So we parted ways and I found an awesome agent who represents SFF and likes my stuff. As for The Afterlife Series, I’ve put it behind me. I love the fact that the books helped build my fanbase, and it was an important step I took toward the writer I am now, and heck, the ebook sales still trickle in, but I think it’s time to stop spending money on the domain for a project that makes me spike anxiety just to think about it. Still, it’s a tough step. It feels like killing a darling in a book.

Hey. Note that nowhere in this history of this failed series did I decide the world wasn’t ready for my genius and I should quit.