Writing in My Debut Year
or “How Incredibly Lucky I Am”
It’s 2019. That means it is officially my debut year. The Imaginary Corpse is up for preorder in the usual places and has made it onto a list of 2019 debut novels. My edit letter has not arrived yet, which means I have time to focus on other writing.
It’s going kind of absurdly well. Since 2019 dawned I have made multiple days of 2000+ word output, which is unheard of in my days drafting The Imaginary Corpse (and positively impossible to fathom in relation to my earlier trunked works). Some of it is that this is a rough draft. Some of it is that I’m writing about a subject and a character who are very near and dear to my heartsong, as Chelsea Counsell described it. But I felt like it had to be more than that, given how stunned I still felt after these epic writing sessions.
Of all things, I think I figured it out last night thanks to a comment by a friend at a hockey game. We were chatting, and given we had not seen each other since the Big News, the chat naturally included comments about said Big News. This friend had known me for a while, and he said that when he read the post, and I quote, “I could feel the weight lift from [about 3 cities over].”
Honestly, I think that’s it. Some of what I have labored under has been the struggle of getting that first opportunity, that Agent Call, that Offer. Now it’s happened. I’ve had reinforced that yes, a total stranger wants to read my novel; yes, my words are of value, enough to pay a real advance for. Yes, there is a point to this. I’m not just toiling in obscurity.
Also, no lie: Before The Imaginary Corpse, I often wrote fairly bog-standard urban fantasy. I also had a strong tendency toward grimdark, to match the kind of cynical layer of shellac I had put on myself. The Imaginary Corpse is me unleashing my id onto the page and massaging it into coherency, and it is the first book that felt good to write and even edit, all the way through; and now, it’s the book that is getting me on the map. Now I feel good unleashing my id again, going a little high concept, giving it my own flavor. I don’t have to be Neil Gaiman; I don’t have to be Tim Powers; I can just be Tyler Hayes. And that will mean something to someone.
This is also not to say that your debut year should feel like this. Everyone’s different, and I am lucky enough to be in a very stable place — my marriage is solid, my support network is incredible, and my day job has us not prosperous, but very comfortable as we work to build a life out of this next step. This also isn’t to say that I will never experience a challenge again. I’m sure at some point, this year will get on top of me, and I will stall out. I’m sure the dreaded Block will rear its head. I’m sure that after my edits come in on The Imaginary Corpse I’m going to need some time to stare at the ceiling and pray for my immortal soul. Probably, at some stage, I will fret that my career may be over. But right now, it’s going very smoothly, and I feel good about the foundation I’m working from.
Thank you, again, to everyone who has gotten me here. May I stay here for as long as possible, and may all of you who are not up here with me already make the climb.