Which was all very flattering, of course, but it really made me do some soul-searching. The thing is, some five years ago, I stopped writing fanfic in order to write original fiction. I wrote a pair of fantasy novels. I did three drafts and rewrites, and much editing and polishing etc. I got them both entirely ready to go... but then wimped out of actually doing anything with them. I never wrote a single letter to a publisher or agent. I never did a thing.
I half-justified my hesitation by coming up with criticisms of the books. (They didn't have any female characters. They were longer than they ought to be. They were too full of wallowing angst.) But then I started a new novel, and as the months became years, it really became clear that I was never going to do anything with the first pair of books.
I wrote the first draft of a new novel, and of a sequel. The third and last in the series I had barely started when I got distracted by some other interests. It's now been stalled for nearly a year, although I've always intended to come back to it "one day." When I suddenly for the urge to write fanfic again this summer, I welcomed the urge, since I knew it was a good thing to write something. I hoped I could spend a few months enjoying fanfic, and then return to the unfinished novel.
So then I got that feedback yesterday, and it made me question what I'm doing. Will I ever return to that unfinished book? Last night I thought no. I thought it had certain problems in the plot, and perhaps it would be better to give up on it entirely, and start anew with an entirely new idea. Now, though, I realise that I was wrong to think this. I'm always critical of my own work, and coming up with reasons why it's a disaster. The grass is greener on the other side. Yes, there are some problems, but that's what a second draft is there to solve. I'm far closer to wanting to return to that world now than I've been for a year, so that's good.
But, ultimately, I need to decide why I'm doing this. Will I ever get the nerve to send a novel off to an agent or publisher? I'm not very thick-skinned, and an author needs to be. I don't know how I'd cope with rejection. Even if the miraculous happened and I did get published, I not sure how I'd cope with the issue of reviews and sales figures. Should I really be trying this at all?
Also, a lot of fantasy authors advise aspiring authors to start with short stories, saying that it's a far easier field to break into, and serves to get your name noticed, and thus makes publishers far more receptive to your novels. However, I'm naturally a wordy author, and I'm not sure how well I would cope with a short story that's complete in itself, rather than a short fanfic, where the reader knows all the backstory. Still, I'm fairly eager to try, should an idea come to me. (Ideas can never be forced. They come when they're ready, and not before.)
Anyway... All this is still unresolved in my mind. However, I am resolved to return to that unfinished novel as soon as I can in the New Year. I'm also resolved to finish off that half-written "Walking Shadow" sequel before that. I'm reproaching myself horribly for spending the last three weeks obsessing over an X-Box game, rather than writing.
So the plan is: Finish Walking Shadow sequel as soon as possible (though I doubt I'll get any writing time before Christmas). Write the first draft of book three of my series, and then go back to book one and do a second draft of it. And, also, throughout, be receptive to ideas and inspirations for short stories, and try to write one, should a promising idea leap into the brain.