Friday, May 05, 2023

Reflections of Life, Part 2 by Karen S. Wiesner

Reflections of Life, Part 2

by Karen S. Wiesner

In looking back over the course of my life as an author who's looking forward to becoming an artist in retirement, I've learned to slow down and reflect on the past, savor the present, and look forward to the future. Interspersed through these ruminations, I'll include some of my own most apropos sketches.

In Part 1 of this article, I talked about feeling directed to find a better balance in my life. One of the first things required in order to bring about very necessary changes in my crash and burn lifestyle was the crushing of my ego. I've spoken before in my writings of the worst experience I've ever had with editing a project. Specifically, when I completed my Arrow of Time Chronicles (a massive science fiction saga) over the course of two intense years, I truly felt that I'd written my pièce de résistance. I believed it was the best thing I'd ever written up to that point. I was on top of the world. I couldn't wait to have my masterpiece published and in the hands of my readers. The editing process took place over the course of several months as all four books were released back to back.

As a little background to ensure full understanding before I continue, in the span of my writing career, I've written for at least 25 different publishers big and small, at first because it was the only way to get my horde of books out to the world as quickly as possible, considering how fast I wrote. Following a few years of the worst luck possible with some of my publishers who, frankly, "did me wrong", I decided to place all my books with a single publisher, the only one at that time I actually trusted, and still do. One after the other and sometimes in huge batches, I pulled my books from my other publishers, revised and reformatted each of them, and gave them to this one publisher, who, initially, reissued the majority of them very quickly, all while also publishing my brand new works.

From my very first book published in June 1997 to the one just before Arrow of Time Chronicles, the revisions handed down to me from any of my numerous editors had been mild up to this point, amounting to a few typos needing correction or sentences that required reworking for clarity with each book. With my first two writing reference books, editors wanted me to add certain sections, which meant drafting new material to coincide with a feature they wanted to see displayed in the manuals. All told, none of this was serious. Structurally, from the start of my career, all my books were solid and polished even before I submitted them. I possessed the editorial skills to make them so.

To this day, I'm not a hundred percent sure why this particular project caused such a rift between me and my publisher (who was also my editor for all my submissions). Even after the arduous, soul-tearing editing was completed, I still believed the four books in Arrow of Time Chronicles were some of my best to date. The agony I suffered through four excruciating times with each of the books in that series decimated me in ways I couldn't have previously imagined, given my editing history. I left the process limping and bleeding each time, my spirit ground to ash. My confidence took such a violent blow, I never wanted to write again because it meant inviting further attacks that would surely come during editing. While I couldn't and wouldn't do anything as drastic as quitting writing, all the spinoff books I'd planned to write in the Arrow of Time universe, once the four-book set was published, were summarily canceled. I couldn't take the risk that this series had been the cause of the damage that wreaked havoc between me and my publisher.

Copyright Karen Wiesner
Karen Wiesner Sketch: Agony

As I said, I didn't quit writing altogether, but I did know I needed and wanted to make changes. In the span of my career, I've started 16 series, varying in length from three to twenty-three books in each. At that time, all but four of the series had been finished previous to this crisis. There was no way I could abandon those final four series without providing satisfactory resolutions. 

Over the next two years, I worked hard rebuilding my relationship with my editor, who was my only publisher now. While I can't take full blame for the problems between us, I know I did my share of harm. Chief among my issues was that my ego and (what seems like now) certainty that my every word was golden needed to be checked with humility and the willingness to compromise. These two lessons were hard fought battles for me, both internally and externally. In the process of learning them, I also undertook the heart-rending job of culling my list of upcoming projects.

Next week I'll talk about what brought about the strong sense that I needed to slow down.

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

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