Category Archives: Inspiration

Can A Writer Live Off Of Writing?

Hi everyone!

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.

Market Saturation?

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:

Image source – fanpop.com

“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.

Believe.

Advertisements

Holidays and Adventures!

Hi everyone!

I apologize for the gap in posts, 2 Saturdays without a peep!  But worry not, I’m back, after several new adventures to talk about!  It’s not often that I write a blog about what’s going on in my personal life, but there’s been so much, I just can’t not share!

Image Source - http://hotelbellwether.com/
Image Source – http://hotelbellwether.com/

It began with the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, when just the day before, my girlfriend and I left town to go see my parents.  It was a big day for us, since it was her first time meeting my parents!  And I’m very happy to say that the first meeting went very well :)

Thanksgiving itself was quite a busy day!  With food prep, some play time with frisbee golf (Beck did amazing for her first time! :D ), lots of food, and lots more family.  I think at one point we had 14 people in my parents’ house, including family and friends!  So much delicious food, and such fun times!

And then… :D Cards Against Humanity!  If you ever want to have a delightfully awkward time, play CAH with one or both of your parents ;)  But it was seriously a blast, and Beck and I had such a fun time!

Image Source - nerdist.com
Image Source – nerdist.com

We also go to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and that was such an incredible movie!  I had high expectations going in and it still blew me away by how good it was!  My favorite character is of course Newt, he’s so delightfully awkward :D  Beck’s favorite character is Queenie, she’s such an adorable character!  If you’ve seen the movie, who is your favorite?

We also went to a river walk park and saw soooo many deer, more than I’ve ever seen at that park.  It was quite magical :)

wolf-creek-passBut then the real adventure began when we tried to make it back home on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  A storm that wasn’t supposed to hit until that Monday came early, and I wasn’t able to get us over one of the mountain passes. We ended up having to turn around and stay in a hot springs town in a rather…interesting motel.

Picture something straight from the ’70’s….or perhaps even older.  We walk in, and the first thing we see is a floor to ceiling heater, and then on the other side of the bed…a plug-in radiator.  Thinking the in-unit heater was broken, I turned up the thermostat to see.  It worked…and made a series of ticking noises before a frightening BANG after it finished every cycle!  So naturally we used the radiator that night…

Then there was the mislabeled shower (cold is hot, hot is cold), light switches you had to reach up high to turn on (on the opposite side of the room from where you enter), bad electrical (threw the breaker…), and the hardest bed I’ve ever slept on…

And yet…I was glad to have that extra night with Beck.  We got to talk a lot and learn so much about each other, and for all of the troubles that came with that extra night, I wouldn’t trade it in for anything :)

I’ve been on the go non-stop ever since we got back, so much so that I only just today finally went grocery shopping (for the first time since before Thanksgiving,) and am just now getting to writing this very article!

Modeled by Beck Stewart, photo by Inoli Images
Modeled by Beck Stewart, photo by Inoli Images

Among the many things we’ve done recently was a crazy fun cosplay photoshoot that a friend of ours organized!  (Check out our friend’s cosplay page!)  I wasn’t in the shoot itself, but Beck dressed up as Jack Frost, and she looked amazing!  (For the photo, please go check out Inoli Images, the photographer who took that photo! And while you’re at it, please go check out and follow Beck’s cosplay page!)

It was a little cold outside, especially at the end of the day when the wind kicked up around sunset (seriously, this sunset at 4:30 is ridiculous…) but it was a blast!

For those who are not familiar with the term, cosplay is an amalgamation of Costume/Play.  In a nut shell, it’s where someone dresses up like a character and acts as if they are that character.  It’s loads of fun, and the cosplay community is huge!

Wayne Adams of Show X was the one who really started to get me into it, and Beck is really into it, and makes some of the most amazing costumes!  (Check out her cosplay facebook page!)

Doctor Who?
Doctor Who?

If you’ve ever gone to a convention like a Comic Con, then you’ve seen cosplayers :)

Anywho, I apologize for the semi-disjointed blog article, but I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures these past couple weeks!  I had meant to do another vlog, but perhaps I’ll try for that on Saturday, when we resume our normal blogging schedule!

Tell me about your recent or upcoming holiday adventures!  And if you’re a cosplay, please post links to your pages/blogs in the comments section below!  :D

Thanks for reading
-Jon Wasik

The Longest Week – Depression and Hope

Hi everyone!

I want to apologize for being over a week late on a blog post!!!  I’m so very sorry for the delay :( A lot has happened over the past 10 days, much of it centered around Mile Hi Con and Halloween!

milehicon48So what about Mile Hi Con, you ask?  How was the con?  How many books did I sell?  Did I make a ton of important industry contacts?  Are my social media pages getting tons of new hits??

…I am really sad to say that, as far as the convention and book sales went, it was a total bust :( The entire weekend, I sold one book.  Just one copy of The Sword of Dragons.

One.

And at $15, that didn’t even come CLOSE to making me break even on expenses.  It summarily put me back in the red on my business.

But it wasn’t just me.  Mile Hi Con was a bust for a lot of people.  The con was relatively empty.  In fact, of all of the conventions I have attended, it had the smallest crowd of them all.  And when we spoke to many of the authors in Author’s “Row,” they all had similar experiences.

In fact two of the people I know came from out of town and only sold a few books.  If this weekend set me back as far as it did, I can only imagine how much it hurt them.

My amazing girlfriend, and her new hat!  Check out her facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/beckstewartauthor
My amazing girlfriend, and her new hat! Check out her facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/beckstewartauthor

Seriously, if my wonderful and amazing girlfriend hadn’t been there with me the whole weekend, I would have been so depressed about it.  Much more so than I am, any way.

Why was the weekend so bad?  I think a big part of it was timing.  This was the first time Mile Hi Con was on Halloween weekend, which was very unfortunate.  One of the guys who runs the con told my girlfriend and I that they usually have the con a couple weeks earlier, but this was the only weekend open this year for this venue.  He thinks that greatly contributed to it.

At least there were a few good cosplay costumes!
At least there were a few good cosplay costumes!

I also think it was a huge mistake that they split up Author’s Row on two sides of the…lobby?  Atrium?  Not quite sure what to call the area where the authors were setup.  But we noticed that a lot of people visited the authors on the other side of the wide-open space, but when they came to our side, they walked right by without stopping.

I even recall one patron asking “Oh, is this part of author’s row too?”  So I really hope the organizer of Author’s Row takes my suggestions to heart for next year…

It doesn’t help that my sales have been almost non-existent for the entire month of October.  This is easily the worst selling period I’ve had since I first published The Sword of Dragons.  :(

And Then There Was Hope – Why I Write

For all of the sadness and disappointment regarding my writing career (I’m very careful to specify that, because everything else in my life is going amazingly well, especially my relationship! :D ), there came a ray of hope this week.

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

All of a sudden, I received a message from an old friend from high school, “My daughter is loving Sword of Dragons!”  She further elaborated that she read the prologue and chapter 1 to her daughter, and that by the end of the prologue, her daughter proclaimed, “I wanna be the Keeper, I wanna be the Keeper!”

That, right there, made me smile so very much!!  It was a much-needed reprieve, and was a reminder of why I write.

To inspire.  To kindle the imagination of people, no matter their age.  To make them dream!

And my story did just that for this one little girl.

I needed that…badly.

So a big shout out to my friend and her daughter!  Thank you for reminding me why I keep doing this, even when it seems like no one wants to read my work.  Because, so it would seem, someone does read it :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!  You can fully expect a new blog on Saturday, returning us to our normal schedule :)  (Perhaps I’ll even get brave enough to do another vlog!!  :D )

-Jon Wasik

Writing What We Know – From The Heart

Hi everyone!

Thank you so much to everyone who has viewed and supported my first foray into vlogs earlier this week!  It was simultaneously a terrifying and fantastic experience, and based on what I’ve read and been told in person, I think I’ll do more in the near future :)  (If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to check it out!)

In that first vlog, I admitted to something that made me blush on-screen: much of what the characters feel and experience on an interpersonal level came from my own personal experiences…more so than any other story I have ever written.

Doctor Who?
Doctor Who?

Last night, when I was at a friend’s Halloween party, I was talking with some of my friends there and telling them about this, and some of the comments they made started to make me think further about this…

This emotional connection is what draws people in to many stories.  I read an article not long ago about this very thing, too, and I believe I recall the word used was pathos: when you frame anything into a narrative where the people and their experiences are the focus, it causes a reader or viewer to feel empathy for the characters, and feel more drawn to them and their story.

How important is this, you say?  Here’s an example of a story without that element:

A great evil’s power resides within a ring, which is taken cross-country to a volcano where it is cast into the fires and destroyed.

lotr-mordorSound familiar?  It should…I’m pretty sure anyone reading this is likely to know the story of The Lord of the Rings.  Except…if the way I told it just now was all that the story consisted of, it’d be kind of boring.  Tolkein’s writing style aside, that would not have been a memorable story.

frodo-and-sam-mount-doomBut when your story includes a single Hobbit who thinks he can’t make a difference, but still rises up to save the entire world, through pain and hardship and loss, overcoming the most difficult obstacles ever, along with a fiercely loyal friend who never gives up on him…that is a story that connects to the readers.  Not to mention all of the other characters’ stories: Aragorn’s struggle to rebuild the great kingdom, Legolas and Gimli’s friendship, Merry and Pip’s adventures and friendship, and Gandalf’s rise to become the White Wizard.

Image Source – http://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/06/28/new-writing-from-j-k-rowling-about-the-north-american-school-of-magic/

I’m getting a bit off topic here…but then I wonder, how much of the emotions evoked in Lord of the Rings came from Tolkein’s own experiences in life?  We know from her interviews that JK Rowling’s own life experiences and emotions were poured into the Harry Potter novels, and they are one of the most wildly popular books out there, for both children and adults!

So I wonder…is this the secret to writing stories that people will love and connect with?  Stories that they will obsess over and write fan fiction about and make fan art for?

Image Source - https://www.pinterest.com/pin/200128777168277635/
Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/200128777168277635/

It looks like I’m going to find out in the coming years…because as hard as it was to write some of the scenes in The Orc War Campaigns, especially the final episode…I want to keep doing this.  I want to infuse my life, my experiences and emotions, into the stories.  It helped me connect with my characters better, and it is my hope that it will help you, my dear readers, connect with them as well…

Thank you for reading, and for all of your support over the past few years!  <3!

-Jon Wasik

The Stories That Endure

Hi everyone!

Image Source - www.pinterest.com
Image Source – http://www.pinterest.com

Do you know what Star Trek is?  What about Lord of the Rings?  How about the Never Ending Story or Labyrinth?

There are some stories out there that endure the test of time, ones that have such a powerful impact on the world that they just seem to never die.

In fact, it almost seems as if some will never die.  Never Ending Story is almost as old as I am at 32 years old.  Star Trek just celebrated it’s 50th anniversary this year!  And Lord of the Rings?  It was first published in 1954 as a sequel to the almost-as-popular The Hobbit, published in 1937.  That’s 79 years old, and it’s still just as popular, if not more so, than when it was first published!

And even though I’m not a fan myself, there are even older stories that still exist in our public consciousness: Shakespeare.  Often cited as the origin of the modern story, Shakespeare’s stories are told and retold, over and over and over again today.

Let us not forget the oldest of stories, too, what I recall someone once saying may very well be the first-ever written narrative: Beowulf, said to have been written between 975AD and 1010AD.

Why These Stories?

So what is it about these stories that allows them to endure?  Is it possible to examine these stories and figure out how to write the perfect popular story, which would endure for a thousand years or more?

Image Source - www.thedigitalbits.com
Image Source – http://www.thedigitalbits.com

For that matter, will the newer examples endure just as long as the older?  Will new Star Trek stories be told 500 years from now?  That’s an interesting question right there, being a sci-fi series.  500 years from now, further ahead than when Star Trek actually takes place, what new forms of entertainment will exist?  What forms of space-based travel?  Where will our society be?  And will there still be a place for Star Trek?

This is going to sound strange at first, but bear with me – for different, and yet strangely similar reasons, I think Star Trek will endure another 500 years or more.

generationsThe reason that differs from Lord of the Rings or even Beowulf?  Star Trek is a continuing narrative that can evolve.  Look no further than the vast differences between the original Star Trek series and The Next Generation, let alone the retelling of Kirk’s era in the new movies.

In fact, if Star Trek can continue to evolve (stop going backwards, Trek writers, and start moving forward in the story!) I think it might have more staying power than almost any other series out there.

…but then how is it the same?  What qualities does it have that means it will endure as long as the others?

There are many, I think.  But more than anything, I think there are two elements that are essential.

Image Source - http://direimpulse.deviantart.com/
Image Source – http://direimpulse.deviantart.com/

The first is wonder.  In this, Star Trek has the greatest advantage.  Lord of the Rings still makes me drop my jaw when I read about Moria or Minas Tirith.  I still get a sense of warmth in my soul when I see the Shire in the movies. I still get a sense of dread when I see Minas Morgul.  But Star Trek can reinvent itself with every incarnation, and show new, amazing places that have never before been seen in human history, limited only by imagination…

The second is perhaps one of the most important aspects of fiction, at least in my opinion, and I know I’ve talked about this before: the characters.

Image Source - l-o-t-r.tumblr.com
Image Source – l-o-t-r.tumblr.com

When I think of Lord of the Rings, I think of Frodo and Aragorn and Legolas, not the One Ring (though that comes in a close second.)  When I think of Beowulf, I think of, well, Beowulf.  When I think of Shakespeare, I think of King Lear or Romeo and Juliet (even though I really don’t like either of those…)  And when I think of Star Trek…well for me, the first thing I think of is Picard and Data, followed by the infamous trio, Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

These are memorable characters, many of whom start out by fulfilling common tropes, but quickly become much more complex and interesting.  Fulfilling the common tropes in the beginning makes them interesting on the surface and help readers or viewers attach to them quickly.  But by itself, common-trope characters alone would make people lose interest fast, and so it is the fact that they quickly become much more complex characters that helps them endure.

Image Source - www.inquisitr.com
Image Source – http://www.inquisitr.com

We become emotionally invested in characters.  Hate or like them, we want to see what happens to them.  We need to see how they overcome obstacle A, and then find out what obstacles B through Z will be and how they overcome them.

That is why these stories endure.  That is why they never die.

Because they spark our imagination, and pull on our heart strings, all at once…

What are your thoughts, dear readers?  Do you agree or do you think there is something else that ensures these stories will endure?

For that matter, what are some of your favorite stories that have already shown an endurance?  (Immediately, Disney characters are coming to my mind :) )

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

WAIT!!!!!!!!

There’s more.  A quick, exciting announcement!

The Orc War returns...
The Orc War returns…

 

Writing Fiction to Inspire

Hi everyone!

Image Source - booksandicedcoffee.com
Image Source – booksandicedcoffee.com

It’s no secret: one of the reasons I write fiction is because I want to inspire readers the same way I have been inspired all of my life!  I want readers to dream, to think, to wonder, to be in awe, all because of something I wrote.  It’s an amazing feeling when I succeed and hear from readers!

However, today I read a blog by Niina Paasikallio that helped me remember that, sometimes, inspiration can go far beyond just dreams of fantasy.  Books have inspired social change, some so sweeping that entire countries have vanished, or been created, because of what someone wrote.

Sounds daunting, doesn’t it?  When you start to think about it, about the implications, the what-ifs…what if my novel becomes so popular that people start to model their lives after one or more of my characters?  It can be frightening to think like that.

On the other hand, what if that’s what you want to do?  What if you want people to see how things happen in your novel, how characters act or treat others, and consider the good in those examples?

Image Source - dailyfig.figment.com
Image Source – dailyfig.figment.com

I agree with Niina, and many other writers – words have power.  And we as writers do have a responsibility to create good examples.  I know I’ve written about this in the past, and every time I write about a character doing something horrible, I wonder how others will view it, and what it will inspire…

However, something else came to mind while reading Niina’s blog – how do you write to inspire change?

Show, Don’t Tell

It’s something you’ll hear again and again in writer’s critique workshops and creative writing classes: show, don’t tell.  Don’t tell us your character is brave, show us by having them do something brave, right?

The same goes for inspiring others.  As Niina mentioned in her blog (I’m referring back to her article often today!) being preachy in your novels will probably not go over well.  Nor will “throwing it in a reader’s face” as I’ve heard others call it.

So what does that mean, exactly?  It means show the reader the world you want by writing your story in just such a world, or have your story be about a world becoming the kind of place you want ours to be.  Do you want people to treat each other a certain way?  Show that in your stories, and make sure the context shows that it is good.

Image source - onceuponatime.wikia.com
Image source – onceuponatime.wikia.com

I think it is all much more complex than simply ‘showing,’ because as a reader, I want complex worlds with diverse people, and diversity often includes people we don’t like, or situations in life we don’t like.  But even these can be opportunities to both write a story and show how those are bad, and more importantly, how the bad can be overcome.

But I will give one warning about all of this: not everyone will agree with your point of view.  No matter how subtle you are, no matter how many you inspire whether consciously or unconsciously, there will be those who flat our reject what you write, and they might not be nice about it.  In fact you can bet someone somewhere won’t be.

Push through it.  Write what you desire anyway.  If it was worth writing in the first place, then don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Your story is worth telling.

-Jon Wasik

When A Stranger Compliments Your Novel!

Hi everyone!

Being a writer, especially an independently published writer, has its ups and its downs.

Certainly among the down sides: very long hours, deadlines (whether publisher-imposed or self-imposed) that can sometimes be unrealistic (yes, I’m glaring at myself for this one, heheh,) and no guaranteed return on any of your investment, let alone profit enough to live off of.

So why do I keep doing this?  Well, you mean other than the absolute need to write?  The insatiable desire to take the stories that are rolling around inside my head and get them into a form that can be shared.

Cover Sword of Dragons DigitalIt’s because of times like last night…which makes all of it absolutely worth it!  When someone I had never known sees me wearing a shirt with the cover of The Sword of Dragons on it, and he says, “I love that book!  Wait…are you the author?!”

No joke.  This happened to me last night at a party.  And I was just blown away, I am still giddy at the thought!

It happened at Gamefest (last year, I wrote an article about my first Gamefest, check it out!) late last night, I was just getting ready to head for home at about 1AM…and as I’m walking out of the living room to go put on my shoes, that’s what I heard someone say.  Thanks, Rioux!  :D

These are the moments I’ve looked forward to ever since my first book was published.  Not to downplay all who have supported me thus far, but to have someone you’ve never met before recognize your book, give it accolades, and then say, “Wait, you’re the author?” and be happy to meet you?

That was an awesome way to end the evening :)

Sorry for the short post, it’s a pretty busy day today, but since it’s my regular posting day today, I thought I could share that with you :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik