There’s just no way around this at this point, I’m afraid I have to announce that I’m going to take a short hiatus from blogging :( I’ve done so before (though never announced it ahead of time,) and I know that I lose a lot of readers every time I disappear from the blogging community.
But the fact is, I can’t focus on it, and I often don’t have time to think up new blogs, let alone write them. Between work, a cert I need to renew for work, and wedding planning, it’s time to temporarily take a break.
My plan is to return by the end of June this year, though I’ll be sure to let everyone know if that plan changes. I hope you all can understand and will come back when I return. Maybe I’ll even take this opportunity to revamp the look of A Writer At Heart or re-brand it like I was thinking :)
If none of you return to read in the future, I want to thank you all right now for keeping up with me as long as you have. You all rock! :D
In just a couple of months, this blog, A Writer At Heart, turns 3! I’m excited that I’ve kept this going for all of that time! There’s been ups and downs, and I know I haven’t always been able to keep up on posts, but it’s been an enjoyable medium to write in.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but one of my goals that I wanted to work towards when I started writing this blog was that I was going to make a living off of writing within 2 years. 3 years later, I’m nowhere close to achieving that goal.
Despite that apparent failure, my attempt to achieve that goal is why I worked so hard and was able to self-publish 2 novels in 2 years, and finish writing The Orc War Campaigns within a year (even if barely).
I may not be raking in the cash, but I am so much more accomplished as a writer than ever before!
Still, I’ve wondered lately, is it even possible to make a living off of writing? Can only the big names make it, the ones who make the top sellers lists and make millions? Was it a lofty, unobtainable dream of mine? Should I let that dream go?
The Market Has Changed
With this question in mind, I decided to do a little digging and research. Just going to google and typing in the question “Can writers make a living off of writing” yields apparently mixed results, or so I thought at first…
There were a lot of articles that enthusiastically said “Yes!” and a lot that unequivocally said “NO! It’s a pipe dream!” Who was right?
But the content of the articles, as well as their dates, is what started getting me to wondering about it. You see, most of the ones that said it was a one in a million occurrence for a writer to live off of writing were either, A: 7 years old or older, or B: were talking about traditional publication only.
The ones that said it was possible? They pointed out the change in the market. Everything began to change as the internet grew and took on new characteristics. eBooks changed the market, because suddenly you didn’t have to do a huge print run. Self-publishing was a rare and very risky thing, and cost a lot of money up-front before eBooks.
Furthermore, as things continue to evolve, print-on-demand suddenly is no longer prohibitively expensive, and in fact is at a point where it can compete with traditional print runs.
Suddenly there are all of these avenues, and just about anyone can get published with little or no up-front cost!
Does This Mean Lower-Quality?
I want to state something important before I continue: I am neither bashing nor supporting either method (traditional or self-publishing) above the other. In fact, even being a self-published author, it is still my dream to get picked up by an agency and publishing house.
Having said that, I’ve been scoffed at by some traditionally published authors in the past. They think of self-publishing as an evil, and the most common reason behind it: “Anyone can get published without even trying, so a lot of garbage makes it onto the bookshelves.”
I respectfully disagree, this is something that hasn’t changed. Before the internet, eBooks, and Print-on-Demand, there were a lot of good books that were published, true…but there were also plenty of bad. No, I’m not going to cite examples, but I’m willing to bet you can think of a few on your own.
Despite the risk publishers took doing print runs, and therefore despite how careful they were in who they published and the content of their publications, not everyone in the world agrees on what is a quality piece of work. And many trade publishers followed the market. One of the articles I found while researching this topic said it right: a lot of bad books were published for this reason, and a lot of quality books were overlooked for any number of reasons, such as not being right for the market at the time.
So now that it is easier than ever to self-publish, what does that mean? It just means more of both – the good and the bad. Lots more.
So is this bad, then? Does this market saturation mean readers are more picky, because there’s too much, and therefore it is harder for all writers to live off of writing?
Strangely enough, it seems like the answer is no. I’m not an expert, but I have a lot of theories as to why things are better than ever, rather than worse, and the biggest one is: audience.
If you get published by a trade publisher, your book goes out to stores. Depending on how much your publisher likes your work, it may just be your local market, or it might be out to a handful of countries, depending on what international deals they have setup.
But now? Well, I’ve had people from all over the world read my books! I only know this because of how Kindle Direct Publishing tracks sales and royalty currencies. I’ve seen Canadians, Australians, Brits, and a few others buy my eBooks and even some print copies.
Suddenly it’s not just specific locations. It’s whoever has an internet connection and the means to the right kind of currency. Suddenly there are billions of potential readers rather than millions.
On top of that, people who are voracious readers don’t have to worry about physical books taking up space or waiting for them to be delivered. Most people I’ve talked to outside of friends and family have read my first book in a single sitting.
Voracious readers are, if you’ll pardon the pun, eating up the increased volume of works to be read!
The Bottom Line?
The bottom line is that it is possible to make a living off of writing, more than ever! However…that does not change the fact that it requires hard work. A LOT of hard work. You don’t have to have that one best-seller anymore like you used to, but from what I’m reading, those who DO live off of it, write a great volume of stories.
And that is no guarantee, either. That’s an important thing to remember about writing: it doesn’t matter how good you are, you are not guaranteed to succeed. In fact, Picard once said it perfectly in Star Trek The Next Generation:
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life!”
So what should you do?
It all boils down to one thing: do you love to write? Is it your passion? Your calling?
If you can answer yes to that, then my advice is the same advice I’m giving myself: don’t give up. Don’t stop. Keep going. Never stop.
If you keep up with my fiancee’s blog, you’ll have read that we recently attended Anomaly Con, a Steampunk convention in the Denver, CO area. And as part of our time there, we were in costume!
Specifically, on Saturday Beck painted us up to be like robots! In fact, if you’ve never heard of them before, we were specifically ‘fan bots’ from the Steam Powered Giraffe music group and their fictional universe.
And I’ll say this…it was a unique experience for me, for many reasons. A couple of weeks before, Beck did a test run of my bot’s makeup on me, and it was a surreal experience when the makeup was done and I looked in the mirror.
I was someone else.
That’s how it felt. Like, for a moment, I seriously felt like I was the fictional character we had made up together, named L3GEND. And then interviews with characters from sci-fi and fantasy movies started playing through my head, about how they felt the same when they first got into the full makeup and costume from their characters.
In fact, we just went to the Denver Art Museum’s Star Wars Costumes exhibit, which is part of why I’m a day late on this weekend’s post. While waiting in line, they showed videos about the costumes, including Natalie Portman talking about how she felt donning Padme Amidala’s costumes, and it sounded like she had a similar experience.
And it got me to thinking something for writers…
Inhabiting Your Characters in Cosplay
I’ve toyed with the idea in the past, and Wayne Adams has even mentioned trying to find cosplayers to portray my characters at conventions when I have a booth.
But what if I worked on creating costumes for some of my characters, and actually wore them? Would this allow me to ‘get into their heads’ so to speak? More than I already am, any way?
In and of itself, that might not be enough reason to, but then there are the reasons of being ‘in character’ at cons when I have tables, not to mention, if the costume is impressive enough, it might garner more interest in the novels.
But I want to go back to the original point: inhabiting my characters.
Maybe doing so would give me ideas about different directions I could take their characters. Maybe even totally change the story direction, as has happened more than once already.
I can’t do this for all of my characters, but maybe the primary protagonists. Cardin Kataar being the most immediate character I’m thinking. But which costume? His tattered rags and worn out, mismatched armor from The Sword of Dragons? Or his newer armor from Burning Skies?
To be honest, that matters a little less than the actual prop itself, the Sword of Dragons…how in the world could I construct such a large weapon? Especially to make it acceptable to take to places like conventions, where they have very strict rules on what they will allow for prop weapons?
And then the armor itself…thanks to an artist I hired last year to start doing character sketches, I actually have a sketch of Cardin Kataar I could go off of for the armor. Could I learn to make the leather pieces myself?
It’s an exciting idea, but also a time-consuming one. I am intrigued enough at the idea that I might at least do some preliminary research into it.
What do you all think? An intriguing idea? Any authors out there ever do this before?
Who are some of your favorite writers? Can you point to why they are your favorite? There’s probably a lot of reasons, anywhere from the stories they write, the characters they create, and so on.
One thing to consider, however, is how they tell their stories. I love JK Rowling’s writing style, especially watching it evolve over the course of the Harry Potter novels. I also really enjoyed Michael Stackpole’s writing style.
I know I’ve touched on this more than once in the past, and every writer has a distinct voice of their own…
I mean, that’s what I’ve always thought: we all have our own writing styles that are unique to us. However, according to an interesting website that analyzes text to compare it to ‘famous’ writers…my writing style seems to change over time.
My fiancee first mentioned it, that she once found a website that compared her writing to another author’s. We searched and found it, and started putting excerpts from our stories into it…and were a bit surprised by the results.
Her results were relatively consistent, and for someone who has never read Stephen King, according to https://iwl.me, she writes an awful lot like him. Very consistently.
I started by putting in the first page of chapter 1 into the tool, and was pleasantly surprised when I apparently write like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The same man who wrote Sherlock Holmes. That was kind of cool to see!
However, I had the idea to see how much my writing changed after my 4-year writer’s block that was in the middle of the Sword of Dragons, so I took an excerpt from chapter 31 and put it in.
…and according to the website, my style matched that of JK Rowling’s. This didn’t surprise me a whole lot, because during my writer’s block, I had read all of Harry Potter. And all of my chapters from book 1 after the writer’s block period came out as JK Rowling.
That pleased me, because I really really liked her writing.
Then I began to wonder, how different was my writing style for Chronicles of the Sentinels? I intentionally tried to write it differently. So I put in the first page of chapter 2, and was not surprised to find I wrote that chapter, and action sequence with military-type action, like Dan Brown.
…However, a later chapter came out to say that I wrote like Stephen King. That caught me a bit off guard.
So again, wondering if things were different in later books, I started putting in excerpts for Burning Skies. And according to the website, I write like Ursula K. Le Guin, the same author who wrote Earthsea. I’ve never read any of Le Guin’s work, so this also surprised me.
While some other chapters had other authors’ names attached, mostly book 2 was written like this author. And when I put in excerpts from my work in progress for book 3, it again is coming out as being like Le Guin’s style.
This got me to thinking something…has my writing style matured? Have I found my voice? At least, for high fantasy? Where as my style changed in the first novel, and my style changed throughout Chronicles, my latest two novels are giving me Le Guin as the result.
Is this good? I think I might have to pick up Earthsea to see if I can pick up on the similarities, and see if I like her novels.
But if this is an indication that my writing style has matured, that’s kind of amazing…because it took 20 years to find my voice! I wonder if that’s normal for a writer, or not.
I also can’t help but wonder…I’ve always thought it is important to try to improve my writing all the time. Will this mean that, over time, my style will change and become comparable to someone else’s?
I guess time will tell :)
Thanks for reading! Let me know if there’s a particular writing style you like. Or if you’re a writer, check out https://iwl.me and comment below who’s writing style yours is similar to!
As I mentioned in the past couple of posts, due to delays and the desire to re-brand/re-cover the Sword of Dragons novels, I’m planning on releasing what would essentially be a 2nd edition of the first two books in the series.
While talking about this plan with some friends, one of them made a suggestion that I could add in new parts, new sections, new characters to tie in later novels, etc.
I DO intend to do a complete read-through for proofreading and to ensure sentence structure flows (and to make sure there are no glaring errors I missed during all of the other edits.) However, I hadn’t originally planned to make any story changes. And I still don’t. But the suggestion made me start looking at other stories that have done so…
The Hobbit – Gollum Was Not Nasty
What if I told you that in the original version of The Hobbit novel, when Bilbo and Gollum had their little game, Bilbo won and Gollum willingly gave over the ring? Not only that, but they parted on relatively friendly terms.
It sounds ridiculous, given what we know about that magical ring and Gollum. But it’s true! Back when Tolkein first released the novel, that’s how the scene played out. However, when Tolkein was encouraged to write a sequel and he started developing Lord of the Rings, he changed the nature of the ring, and by extension, changed how it affected Gollum.
So prior to the release of Lord of the Rings, Tolkein reworked parts of The Hobbit to be in line with Lord of the Rings, and his publisher released it as a 2nd edition.
Honestly I have no idea how well this ‘revised’ version of the story was received by hardcore fans, and I’m very curious. And I can only imagine how valuable the 1st edition of The Hobbit is now. Anyone who has a copy of it today is beyond lucky!
But did people react to that change back then the way so many have reacted to a particularly popular Sci-Fi today?…
Star Wars Special Editions and Prequels
If you talked to someone who saw the original Star Wars trilogy before 1997, there is a good chance that something would become very evident: they hate the Special Editions, and they hate the prequels. This is not universal, because I for on enjoy the Special Editions (except for one addition in the Blu-ray release of Return of the Jedi…), and I enjoy Episode’s 1 and 3 (but 2 is by far the worst Star Wars ever made…)
A quick search on the internet, and you’ll find that not only do thousands of people despise these, but those who once looked to George Lucas as a great creator now look to him as a reviled destroyer of their beloved Sci-Fi.
Why? Because of everything he changed in the Special Editions, and because of how much of the prequels went against what they knew to be the established back story. There are other reasons, of course, but I’ve noticed that this is the prevailing feeling. So much so that many people, if you ask them what they think about the prequels, will say, “What prequels? There are only 3 Star Wars movies.”
The most vehement response, oddly enough, was to one simple scene in Episode 4…when Han faces the bounty hunter Greedo. In the original version of the movie, Han blasted Greedo without Greedo ever seeing it coming. But wanting to appeal more to children and not to ‘sully’ Han, Lucas changed it, with a bit of ‘movie magic,’ so that Greedo shot first, and Han fired back only to defend himself (rather than cold-blooded murder.)
A great movement began, and bumper stickers started showing up, “Han Shot First.” To which Lucas replied, “Greedo Shot First.”
Should Stories Be Changed?
All of this brings up the question: can and should an author change their story in a 2nd edition if they have ideas to do so? To clean up scenes or change the history of a character?
This is a question I seriously have to ask myself when I begin to go through the Sword of Dragons books to revise them. Should I only clean up typoes and sentence structure, or should I actually add/change things to flow better with future stories? Should characters from The Orc War Campaigns make brief cameos? Would those who read the original versions of my novels hate and revile me for doing so?
What do you all think, dear readers? Is it a sin to change a story after it’s been released to the public? Today, almost everyone accepts the 2nd edition of The Hobbit as canon, I’ve never heard anyone complain about the changes Tolkein made to it. But is that because it was published in the 1930’s, so few who read that original edition are still around to complain about the difference? If so, will that eventually happen with Star Wars? In 50 years, will the Special Editions and Prequels be accepted as canon and no one will complain except a few old-timers who ‘remembered how it was’?
Thanks for reading! And if you’re at Anomaly Con this weekend, look for us! :D
If you’ve had a chance to read this blog’s “About” section, you’ll recall that I’ve been a writer for 23 years now. That’s a long time. I still remember that first time I started writing down that first story, how much fun I had writing it, and how much joy I took in hearing my classmates’ reactions to it.
It was then that I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was going to be a writer! Before then, I would say something like “I’m going to be Batman when I grow up!” but after that…telling stories was my future.
And to be honest…23 years later, I feel like a failure. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Those first few years, I found out that becoming a published writer was difficult, let alone living off of it. The stories of ‘making it big’ as a writer were few and far between. Most authors didn’t become famous until after they were dead O_o
But I was dedicated, and I was in it for the long-haul. I would work at it, slowly, bit by bit. I would live my life while writing in the background, striving for that day when I could make a living off of writing.
And then a ray of hope struck a few years ago. I started to get to know more fellow writers, started reading more about self-publishing on the internet, and read the blogs of other writers, such as Michael A. Stackpole, and realized that I COULD become a writer full-time, all it would take was dedicated, hard work.
I set out almost 3 years ago with the goal of: “I will make a living off of writing within 2 years.” And while I failed to meet that goal, In that time I published my first novel, and was on the way to publishing a second!
But then…since this past fall, sales have completely bottomed out. I’ve delayed book 3 indefinitely. And I’ve started to question whether or not I’m a writer. But then, that brings up another question…
Who Am I?
When someone asks what my passion is, I say “writing!” I identify myself as a writer. My Dad even jokes sometimes, if you’ve ever seen the movie Paul, he steals a quote from that movie and introduces me, “This is my son, the writer Jon Wasik.”
If I ever stopped writing…I honestly don’t know who I am. “What about your I.T. work?” I do it because it pays the bills and I enjoy it just enough not to go insane from it. Most of the time, any way. Believe me, I never wanted to do I.T. for the rest of my life. I used to call myself a gamer, but in the past year, I seriously think I can count on one hand how many video games I’ve played. If I was a gamer, I’m not really anymore.
This question has seriously been playing through my head the past couple months. If I fail as a writer…what then? Where do I go from here?
A Shining Star Lights My Way
Thankfully there has been a light in my life… When I turned to my fiancee and told her I’m a failure as a writer, and if I’m not a writer anymore, who am I? …she just looks at me, smiles, and says, “You’re my fiance.”
But more than that, she’s said something that has kept me from spiraling completely into depression…”Don’t give up.” It is something I’ve said to her more than once, and for her to look at me and say it as earnestly as I’ve said it to her… It has been an immense help. She hasn’t given up on me as a writer. And if she hasn’t…maybe I shouldn’t give up on myself, either.
And even as I’m writing this blog, I started realizing…what do people think of when they think of me? I’m a geek, very much so. I’m a computer guy. I’m a dedicated friend. I’ve even been called a moral example. And while yes, I am all of those things, there’s always one thing they say or think of first: “He’s a writer.”
“My son, the writer Jon Wasik.”
My Dad’s half-joking, half-serious, completely proud statement.
Have I failed to make it as a writer? Yes. …for the moment. But as I have read online and have been told, as long as I don’t stop, as long as I don’t give up, I’m still a writer.
Where Do I Go From Here?
As my previous blog post stated, I have to delay book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series. However, my fiancee made a good point…that doesn’t mean I have to stop working on things. I can’t dedicate my time to writing right now for many reasons. But I can’t NOT do something writing-related, because I go crazy otherwise.
My fiancee made a suggestion…if I can’t dedicate my time to getting book 3 ready right now, then I can do something else. In the background, I can start developing other stories. I have SO many ideas.
I can touch up Chronicles of the Sentinels, and start sending out query letters again. I can start developing the post-apocalyptic story that started as a dream a couple years ago. Or the sci fi that started as a nightmare last year. Or develop the genre-crossing fantasy/sci-fi idea I came up with a few years back.
Not finish. Not complete the development phase. But flesh them out. Keep my imagination going. Until I can dedicate my time to the Sword of Dragons again.
“Don’t give up,” she said to me. “Keep going.”
I am so glad to have her in my life…so glad that she believes in me and my writing enough to push me forward…
As a certain author stated in “A Knight’s Tale,” I shall trudge on…
Thanks for reading, everyone.
Really…thank you all so much.
And thank you, Beck Stewart. My future wife, my Starshine, for being that light in my life that gives me hope…
I’m back from Las Vegas! Yes, that’s where I went for my short vacation :) I’m not exactly a Vegas kind of person, but it was neat to see the strip and Lake Las Vegas. My Fiancee and I shared a Yard Long while we were on the strip, that was definitely fun :D
But now, on to the title for today’s blog…
Delaying Book 3
This is perhaps the hardest announcement I’ve had to make: there is just no way I can get book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series out by May. In fact…I really have no way of predicting when I will be able to get it out.
I’ve known about this for a little while now, but have been trying to figure out how to tell you all. I am really saddened by this announcement, and I cannot begin to convey how sorry I am.
The reason for the delay? I am only 4 chapters into writing the first draft, and have not been able to make any progress since the end of December. Things have been really busy, and I am due for a certification at work that I need to focus on or risk losing my job. Simultaneously, I have been looking for a new job, due to the insane, non-stop stress of my current job (and that really is an understatement…)
This is where I really wish I could just write full-time. I have so many ideas, and just no time at all to work on any of them right now. The Sword of Dragons, Chronicles of the Sentinels, and the slew of other series ideas I have. I am so incredibly sad that I cannot work on writing more right now :(
An Idea for the Future of Sword of Dragons
As I posted in a previous post, I’ve been considering creating new covers and rebranding the Sword of Dragons, including giving a more unique title to the first book.
One of my friends commented on my facebook that this might not be necessary, and that I should instead focus on advertising book 1. To that end, I’m going to begin promoting it once again and promoting Burning Skies a bit less.
However, I do think that I can present a stronger product with some additional work.
So my first plan? Try creating a cover that is a similar style to what I would do with books 1 and 2 for the print run of The Orc War Campaigns. I know that this is a bit of a risk, because it will mean spending money on buying the rights for an image for the cover. But it will help me determine if I can do the kind of presentation that I want, both for the cover, and inside.
If things go well with the Orc War Campaigns, and it gets a good reception, I’ll rebrand the first two books, and publish their 2nd editions a month apart as a run-up to the release of book 3.
When will all of this happen? …I don’t know yet. And I know, it’s not good marketing to state that publicly. But at least for the next few months, I won’t be able to direct much time and attention to my own novels.
I hope you all understand. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my writing career, but it is necessary. I really am so sorry for the delay, but I hope you all feel it will be worth it.
Thank you for reading :)
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.