If I didn’t already have two of them, I’d insist that “mistake” is my middle name. There are many reasons I’ve been churning away at this writing caper for as long as some luminaries, and much longer than other luminaries, yet have not made any kind of wide impact.
Looking purely from a perspective of potential royalties, I believe I made a mistake back in late 2011. I was (and still am) on an online forum with a bunch of authors, many of whom had just taken the plunge into writing smut. Several of those folks hit it rather large, rather quickly, and a number of them were writing step-incest and material which was at least bordering on pure gonzo. I looked at the titles, and the cover art, and gave it some serious consideration. “I, too, need money for stuff,” thought I. I even had a bunch of snappy porn-like titles (titles only, no story), like “Have A Niece Day” and “Gang Bang, You’re Dad”.
And then I made the decision not to write such material. Not for any artistic reasons, nor pride, nor snobbishness. But more on that in a moment.
Another mistake I made was to un-publish all my stories back in 2013. I only had three books out at the time (not counting stories in anthologies). The un-publishing of the Willsin coincided roughly with the emergence of Abi Aiken. (I mentioned a month ago I’d been writing under a female pen name… and that was it: Abi Aiken).
It was a mistake to un-publish the titles because doing so left me with basically nothing out there to show Willsin Rowe was an author. I did it almost two years after having been laid off from my day job, so I ended up having to work on other things, since I was in a quandary about what direction I should move with writing.
More recently, I made another mistake, and it’s one which many authors make. I invested myself heavily into a story. Emotionally, physically, mentally. It took up a whole lot of my time every day, and when I hit publish on it, I was suddenly directionless for a short while. And as much as I promised myself I wouldn’t let this story be a huge part of me, that I wouldn’t expect anything particular from it… I succumbed. It became my third child. Big mistake, because as an author you leave yourself open to feeling all its highs and lows.
Did I say that?
All right, so I chose not to jump on the erotica cash cow of 2011-2012. I hasten to add, my main reason for this choice was the belief it requires a skill set which I don’t possess. I’d read some of the books out there, by my friends and colleagues and by total strangers, and I just didn’t feel it. So my “mistake” was really a blessing. Had I tried that writing, I would have failed miserably, and that would have left a stain which would take years to remove.
The un-publishing thayng… well, I look back at the two longer stories I withdrew, and quite simply the quality was that of a fledgling author. There’s potential in them, but the final product was jerky and canine. It was almost as though I’d used voice dictation and barked the words out. (I also had an anthology of flash fiction and short stories, some of which I’ve shown here in the past few months… that work, I feel, was far stronger). Removing those works from sale, as I said, meant I had to refocus myself. My new direction was cover art. I’d been making it for a few years by then, but that was the point at which it truly took off for me. As I’ve mentioned in many places, if someone has heard of Willsin Rowe at all, it’s almost certainly as a cover artist.
The other matter, of investing myself so heavily into a story… well, that stems nicely from the previous “mistake”. This new story which I ploughed my heart into is actually a re-work of one of the older ones. Had I not withdrawn The Three-Day Hump from sale, I might never have revised it into The Last Three Days. That new incarnation is the one I feel every bump and shimmy from, and while that’s arguably a mistake when felt from within, surely that can only mean a stronger story for the reader. At least, that’s the theory!
And so we come to the after-school special part of the program… where I pound you over the head with my super-subtle message, ecky-thoomp style. Essentially, I believe many mistakes are transient. They appear as errors only while we make them. With the benefit of hindsight, we recognise them as what they truly are, whether that be a lesson, an experience, or a lucky break.