Next year is shaping up to be a big, big deal for my career. In the coming months, my release schedule includes Revision, my debut novel; three short stories, two in pro-rate magazines and one in a charity anthology; an interactive children's book; The Complete Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart, in one finished volume; and Mermaid Hunter, a Choice of Games game set in the Lucy Smokeheart world. And that's just the first half of the year. Who knows what else will come to pass?
And so I have The Terror.
This is not my first rodeo, of course. I've been a pro writer since I joined the team of Perplex City back in 2005. I'm intimately familiar with the pernicious logic of: this thing I'm about to launch sucks, everyone who sees it will hate it and by extension will hate me personally, and I will never work again.
But this time, The Terror is different -- the flavor is different, the texture has changed. This is my debut year. This is my work, the stuff that means something to me. This is me.
Calling this a debut year might at first seem eyebrow-raising. But I'm accustomed to working under very different circumstances -- stitching together the pieces of story needed to hold a marketing campaign together, or to show how the future echoes the past. Taking a musician's songs and ideas and spinning them into functioning rules. Distilling the sensory descriptions of someone else's fantasy world into something that can be touched and tasted. But none of that is mine.
These are no "little goofy side experiments," like Lucy Smokeheart or My Super First Day, executed and promoted haphazardly so they cannot hurt me if they go badly.
This time, there is no team effort nor collaboration. There is no shell of "experimentation" to hide behind. I've woven the cloth of these stories warp and weft; every stitch of their embroidery is mine. Which means if these things go badly, that's also completely and thoroughly and inexorably mine.
So. The Terror.
The Terror arises from that unknowable chasm between ambition and reality. It's easy to fill that chasm with absolutist thinking. Either I will be a raging success -- the next big thing, with all the awards and acclaim and money the imagination can conjure -- or I will be an abject failure, no future opportunities will ever present themselves, the song will have ended forever.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Few writers make an enormous splash in their debut year; the ones that do aren't always destined to have a long and flourishing career afterward. But it's easy to tell yourself the story that as goes this year, so goes the rest of your career. And it's hard to logic away The Terror.
So. Next year will be a big year for me. It will be my debut year. There's a certain amount of pressure for it to be a big year. But then again... it may not be a big year. All I can do now is wait, and worry.