Dear friends…I don’t really know how to start this, I don’t really know what to say. This past weekend, my mother passed from this life to the next.
I’ve been trying to figure out what to write…and for the first time in my life, I’m having trouble with it. I’ve been lucky in life to have two supportive and caring parents, and I’ll miss her terribly. I do miss her terribly…
Her name was perfectly chosen. She was an angel… What I wrote in the dedication of my first book holds true, she taught me to be strong, to never give up, no matter how hard life became.
I hope you’ll all understand, it may be another week or so before I return to regular blogging. Thank you for always being supportive, dear readers. I’ll be back, I promise.
What if I told you that writing as much as humanly possible and publishing as much as humanly possible…wasn’t necessarily the best way to go?
I’ve written before about all of the research I’ve done over the question ‘can you make a living as a writer?’ and I’ve learned so much about the industry. And one of the things I’ve learned is that many of the new authors who make a living these days often do so through volume – they write and publish, a lot.
I should have dug deeper. But then, the self-publishing market is kind of a new thing, relatively speaking. Who knew where the trend was going to go?
In reading a recent blog article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which led me to another, and then to another, the market has matured, and many self-published authors are trying to write more to keep up.
Writers are getting burned out. And many of the new big-hitters from the past decade have apparently disappeared.
Burnout can be a problem in any career, any job. But Rusch made a very good point in her blogs:
“If you want to sustain your writing and publishing businesses, you have to stop thinking like a manufacturer. You need to start thinking like an artisan. By that I mean, you are “a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.””
When I read that article, it made me think about my own experience turning out a novel in record time. When I wrote Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, I developed, wrote, and put it through two rounds of editing/proofreading in 3 months. I was proud of myself for that.
However, the product wasn’t the best it could be. I finished it on a deadline to pitch it at a writer’s conference, and the pitch went well, but when the agent read the product itself, she said that it needed a lot of work. And she was right.
More than that, I had spent every single night after work, and every single weekend day, working on it as much as I possibly could. That on top of a full time job meant I had time for little else except the essentials (grocery shopping, etc.) That kind of effort was unsustainable. It was exhausting
Making the Strongest Product You Can
Writing fiction is an art. This includes in the cinema, although Disney seems to have turned it into a manufacturing job based on their extremely aggressive Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars Universe release schedule. To their credit, they have probably dozens of writers working on the stories. But they’ve also run into problems (and thus keep having to fire directors and restart filming on Star Wars movies, always citing ‘creative differences.’)
For those of us who don’t have an entire team of writers at our beck and call, putting out a novel a month, even one every three months, is insane. I’ve even read that many consider one per year to be aggressive for a single writer.
And when a writer burns out, there’s no one else around to pick up the slack for them. Their business growth falters. Their income slows or stops. And if they didn’t plan ahead for that…they’re in trouble.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
As Rusch stated, being a self-published writer is a marathon, not a sprint. Sprinting is not sustainable long-term. And I’ve come to understand (even if I unconsciously knew it before) that the only way to eventually ‘make it’ as a writer is to settle in for the long-haul. And to not jump the gun.
I want to write full time, badly. Writing is my passion. That’s why I’ve been doing it for well over 20 years. And I’ve come such a long way in the past 3 years.
I also have a long ways to go. And sprinting to that finish line wouldn’t be the best idea in the world. I’ll arrive exhausted, if I even make it there at all. And then I won’t be able to keep going.
A novel in 3 months is impressive, but that novel won’t be ready for publication for a long time. In the mean time, I have the Sword of Dragons series to finish.
One of the things I’m having to let go is the ability to have a dead-locked release schedule. I originally had a plan to finish the Sword of Dragons series by 2020. It’s now 2018 and I haven’t even finished writing book 3.
And that’s okay. I’m going at the pace I can sustain while maintaining life and sanity. Plus, more than ever, I’m convinced that my re-branding of the series is a worthwhile move.
Because it took me over 2 years to learn that releasing the best product that I can, rather than a mediocre product at a fast pace, is more important.
When a reader pays $15 for a print novel or $5 for an eBook, they’re investing more than just money – reading takes time. And investment in the characters. They’re taking a risk by buying your product, especially if they have never heard of you before, or your story.
So make it the best damn novel you can. I don’t just mean the writing, either. Make it the best product that you can.
And however long that takes is however long it takes.
7 hours from now (where I live,) 2017 will become a memory, and that memory is full of mixed feelings for me. Some of my greatest joys, some of my hardest sorrows. Today being the last day, I thought I would end things with my annual ‘glancing back, and looking forward’ blog :)
Writing Without Publishing
After two years in a row of publishing, 2017 was the first year where I didn’t publish a single new novel. And for much of the 2nd half of 2017, that meant depression for me…I already had a plan moving forward for my writing career, but I knew nothing would be ready for publication in ’17.
However, a recent article I’ve read by another author has reminded me that there’s something more important than pumping out novel after novel like a factory. Writing is an artisan career, and sustainable writing is more important than mass production. But I want to spend an entire blog writing more on that. For now, let me just pass on the word – you don’t have to write 20 novels a year to be a successful author. That leads to burn out. Just do the best you can, and don’t forget to live a little.
On the bright side, I have made considerable headway this year, especially in the 2nd half, towards the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons books 1 and 2, as well as finally getting the Orc War Campaigns anthology ready for print!
I’ve learned a lot about the market, far more than I ever anticipated, and I think I’m a little more prepared to move forward in my writing career in 2018.
One of the greatest highlights of ’17 was the day I proposed to my beautiful Starshine, Beck Stewart! Since that day, we have moved in together and begun living and planning our lives together. After more than a year together, and nearly a year engaged, I am happier than I ever thought possible with my relationship.
Fellow author, artist, geek, and weird like me ;) She has been my rock, my muse, my voice of reason. She’s helped me keep the demons back, helped my writing move forward, and encouraged me every single day. Thank you, Moon of my Life!
2018 – Three Books At Once?!
With everything I have learned about writing, marketing, and cover art, I came to a decision in the last couple months: when I release the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons books, I plan to release them together, along with the Orc War Campaigns anthology. That’s right, 3 books at one time!
As crazy as it sounds, it’s actually not a stretch, and in fact gives me the time I need to get everything prepared, and actually make the books look like they belong together, both with their covers and their interiors.
In fact, as of tomorrow, I’ll have finished editing Burning Skies! At least, until I read through the proof copy. I’m sure I’ll find more to fix with that.
But that’s my system – I have a proof of Rise of the Forgotten, and when I finish editing Burning Skies, I’ll order that proof while moving on to The Orc War Campaigns. Once I finish that and order its proof, I’ll go back and read through Rise of the Forgotten’s proof copy, and so on.
When will these three be released? I don’t know yet. But I’m working quickly.
The Year I Get Married!
The first half of 2018 is going to be busy for another reason – my marriage is coming up fast! And that means more and more of my time outside of work will need to be devoted to preparations. I’m hoping I get proof copies of all 3 books before then, but I’m not going to rush.
That’s a difficult lesson 2016 and 2017 have taught me – rushing stories out isn’t the best idea. Working under a deadline is one thing, but as I mentioned before, sustainable writing is more important. I don’t want to burn myself out.
I know this is a writing blog, but I hope you all will understand if I indulge now and again and post news regarding my upcoming wedding :)
Happy New Year!
Thank you to everyone who visited in 2017! Much to my surprise, my blog has received more new followers and views this year than in 2016, and I’m so glad you all have found your way here!
I apologize for the lateness of this past weekend’s blog, it has been a busy holiday weekend for us. But I have some good news! In that time, I was able to post the first maps of Halarite!
It’s been a very, very long time coming, but I’m so happy to finally have these ready to go. I’m also happy to say that I’ve seen these in my first proof copy of the 2nd edition of Rise of the Forgotten (Sword of Dragons book 1) and they look fantastic in print!
Without further ado, click on each image below to see the larger version :D
First, the overall, low-detail map of the world of Halarite, as known by the Four Kingdoms of Edilas. You can also see the political borders of the kingdoms in this version.
Next is the higher-detailed map of Edilas, the continent central to the first novel of the series, and home to the Four Kingdoms!
I’m really excited about these maps, and I’ve even started looking into poster-sized prints of them. Perhaps when I release the 2nd editions, I’ll find a way to sell them as a box-set and include printed maps with the box set! What do you think?
Oh, and that 1st proof of Rise of the Forgotten I mentioned? It looks incredible! There are a few parts of it that need fixing, mostly with alignment, but I think I’m just about ready for a cover reveal early on in the new year!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this exciting development!
I apologize for the lack of a blog post this weekend. It…has been a difficult weekend. My family had to say goodbye to our elder puppy Kayla, and it has been an emotionally difficult weekend for me.
She’ll live in our hearts forever, and I’ll never forget the day I came home from work and my parents had picked her up from the pound (we love pound puppies.) That was about 14 years ago…
And there are more trying times ahead, so I apologize if posts don’t always come on time. I’ll certainly try. At the very least, I’ll post my usual end-of-year look-back and new year look-forward post.
Last night, my fiancee and I had the exciting experience of attending Lindsey Stirling’s Warmer in the Winter concert! This is the fourth Stirling concert I’ve been to, and as is always the case, I was not disappointed!
But why am I talking about concerts on a blog about writing? Because of Stirling’s history, where she was and how far she’s come, and how she’s gotten there.
Because there are days when I need a reminder…
I know I’ve talked about Lindsey Stirling before, in fact it was after the first concert I attended that I made the decision to self-publish. Not only does her music speak to me, but the story of her rise to stardom has inspired me.
And last night’s concert reminded me why. During one of the breaks between numbers, she spoke of how she gets to live her dream every day because of her fans, but before her rise, she would play anywhere and everywhere she could get a gig, even in school cafeterias. She did anything she could to get her voice, or rather her violin, heard.
She got her shot when she tried out on America’s Got Talent, but was shot down by the judges. I can imagine how she must have felt, being told she wasn’t good enough. And somehow that reminded me of Peter Dinklage’s speech that I wrote about several months ago, when he mentions how the world will keep telling you that you aren’t ready.
Now Lindsey is one of the most popular performers out there today, and her star shines brighter than ever.
How many times have people told me that I’ll never make it as a writer? That it’s impossible? That it’s a pipe dream? There are days when I find myself wondering if those people are right.
But there was something else Stirling spoke about that struck a chord in my heart and helped me regain my composure. It was when she spoke about her battle with depression, when she used to look in the mirror and wonder if she had anything worth contributing to the world.
Fast forward several years later, and the answer is yes, she did have something worthwhile to contribute.
These concerts, her story, they remind me that though I may run into roadblocks often, though I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder…I believe I do have something worthwhile to contribute.
And so I keep going. I keep writing. I keep publishing. I may never have a rapid rise to stardom, but I know that if I keep going, if I keep working hard at it, then no matter what happens, I’ll have left something behind that is worthwhile.
Plus, I’m reminded often that there are people who like my stories. I’ve sold hundreds of copies of the first Sword of Dragons novel through Kindle and print, and the Amazon reviews may not be numerous, but they are positive.
Not to mention the positive things people say to me when they meet me. Or when they send me emails. I recently received an email from a long-time reader of my fan fiction series, expressing his sadness that I’m shutting down my fan fiction website in the near future. He was emailing me back in the early 2000’s when STDragon was still live!
So I just need to remember all of those facts. Remember the fans, those who have read all of my work, who encourage me to write more, and just keep going. Someday, I’ll get to write full time, even if it isn’t until I retire from I.T. work. Until then, I’ll just keep going.
Where do writers write? That’s an interesting question that came up when reading a blog by friend and fellow writer M.L. Humphrey. In her blog, she mentions that she writes in a dedicated office at home, while another of her friends writes in a bar.
For me, I can’t write at home. I used to be able to, but these days it’s difficult for me to find my focus when I’m at home. Usually I go to a coffee shop of some sort, throw on my ear buds, and get to work.
What happens if I try to write at home? Most often, I sit at my laptop and stare blankly at the computer screen.
Why is that? Why do I write better in a coffee shop? Why does my friend write better at home, and why does her friend write better at a bar?
Location, location, location
One of the things that caught my attention in my friend’s blog was when she says she works in a dedicated office at home. I recall reading a long time ago something about separating work life and home life, and that people who work from home need to have a dedicated space to do so.
According to several articles, one of the big reasons behind this is to maintain work/life balance. If you don’t have a dedicated home office, one blog suggests, then your temptation to check your work email or phone ‘after hours’ is strong and your home life starts to suffer.
But it also goes the other way around, I think. If you don’t have a dedicated home office to your writing pursuits, the distractions of home can be too great and make it difficult to focus on writing. Especially if you have a family. I can’t imagine how difficult it is either way for Dads and Moms with kids that aren’t yet going to school, or are on breaks from school. Distractions would abound!
But if having a home office is the answer to undistributed work, then why does going to a coffee shop work for me? Distractions abound in coffee shops, don’t they?
It all comes back down to mindset, and separating home from work, even writing work.
Have you ever walked into a room, then stopped, looked around, and forgotten why you went in there? Surprisingly, there is an explanation for this in science – the Doorway Effect. To put it simply (probably too simply), the mere act of walking from one room into another changes the context in which your brain is operating.
I believe this is a big part of why going to a coffee shop works for me. And why I used to be able to write at home, but have great difficulty now – I don’t have a dedicated office these days. But back when I lived with my parents, we had a dedicated ‘computer room.’ And when I lived in Las Cruces, I had a spare bedroom where I kept my computer.
I didn’t start going to the coffee shop until I moved to Denver. Every time I’ve had a 2nd bedroom since I’ve moved here, I’ve had a roommate. And now that my fiancee and I have moved into a 2-bedroom together, we’ve made the 2nd bedroom into a craft room. I was more than okay doing that, because at this point, I’ve gotten used to writing in a coffee shop, and even prefer it these days.
Which brings me to one other point that my friend M.L. Humphrey made in her blog: sometimes what worked before might not work now or later. And that’s okay.
Writing in a coffee shop works for me now, but it might not always.
Find what works. When you do, go with it. When it stops working, find something else that works. Life is ever-changing, ever-evolving. It’s up to you to keep the writing going.
Something I just thought of: when I was in high school, part of my routine for doing homework was to go into my bedroom, close the door, turn on the TV, and start working on my homework. If the TV wasn’t on, I had trouble doing my homework.
Again, shouldn’t it be the other way around? First, there’s the white-noise phenomenon. Some noise in the background helps me focus, where as no background noise is too ‘loud,’ and I suspect this is the case for many other people. It’s also why I put on ear buds and listen to Lindsey Stirling when I write (seriously, any other music usually distracts me too much.)
But I’m also wondering if this is part of the ‘separation of work and home.’ That routine of going to the same spot, turning on the TV, tuning out the rest of the world, and working on homework was the best way I could set my mind to ‘homework mode.’
So now I’m wondering…could finding a place at home, putting on earbuds, and tuning out the world around me allow me to write at home?
Something to try in the coming days :)
What’s your favorite place to write/work/read?
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.