One thing I hate when it comes to writing advice, as I know I’ve said here before, and the one thing I refuse to do when talking about writing myself, is to claim that every writer’s journey is the same. For every generalized truth, there are any number of exceptions. In the world of advice, what works for one writer may not work for anyone else.
Everyone must find their own path. Every writer must find their own truth.
All that to say that my own path as a writer has been a bit rocky of late. Things that were supposed to be simple changes or even routine have proven to be massive crags that have been difficult for me to navigate.
My policy on this blog is real talk. I may not share all my personal demons, but when I do pull back the curtain, I am revealing my truth to you — at least as a writer.
WEBSITE: I talked about this briefly in what I originally intended to be a very short February update. (I was not going to do this entry at all, but someone convinced me it might be helpful in my current frame of mind.)
Suffice it to say that I had so much difficulty doing what WordPress claimed was simplicity itself that I ultimately nuked the whole thing from orbit. I have gone back and put up my January entry, so this version of the blog begins with 2021 for now.
The most frustrating part of the whole thing was that each thing I did to try to fix things actually seemed to be taking me one step closer, to the point where the actual posts seemed to be showing up. The problem was that trying to do any administrative tasks at all resulted in a database error. I could have kept the site as it was for the rest of my days, but I would never be able to update it again. Obviously, that was not an option.
I have also been unable to recreate that limited success in a subfolder, or I would already have the archive up. What’s worse, the older entries I have on file? Turns out I was only saving them starting in May of 2020 — so I do not even have a full year of archives backed up here. (I have a complete database back-up from the old host but no clue how to get anything out of it.)
To say this is disappointing is an understatement. It’s frustrating to think you are halfway computer literate, only to be faced with the simple fact that you are not even close. I might as well be one of those 50,000 monkeys trying to write Shakespeare and only succeeding in flinging my own feces at the other monkeys’ screens.
TAXES: Here’s a fun reality check for all you aspiring writers who think you’re going to make millions the moment you press the Publish button at Amazon or some other retail site or aggregator. You’re probably not. (Like I said, for every general truth, there are going to be exceptions.)
2020 was my second full year of having published works on the market. My second book did gangbusters compared to the first. (All kidding and/or sour grapes aside, I am incredibly proud of how it’s done.)
In 2020, I earned a grand total of $42 in royalties. (My 2019 total was $4, and Q4 of 2018 was a big fat zero. Like I said — gangbusters!) So $46 earned in royalties so far over the life of two novels, and $1500 spent on covers, editing, and the audiobook. This is the reality of the early days of a writing business, especially when you treat it like a hobby as I have done. In truth, the audiobook was a bad idea this early on, but I do not regret it. I wanted it, so I made it happen.
The point is that it’s tax season. (Pretty much worldwide, if my international friends are any indication.) The time and effort it took to fill out the segments of the tax software to report that $42 far exceeded the worth of doing so. (But I got the tax forms for the royalties, so it was necessary.) Plus, because I had the royalties to report, I was not able to use the free version of the software. I ended up spending more to file both Federal and State taxes than I made to require the paid software!
ANALYSIS PARALYSIS: Pretty sure I’ve talked about this here as well, but my eagerness to write this year is, as usual, tempered by not knowing what it’s going to be. I know I’ve said that what I write does not have to see the light of day (I could just start pounding away on something that will never amount to anything), but the brain is trying to steer me toward Comedy of Terrors 2. And when I start thinking about that, it says to write Axe to Grind. So I start thinking about that, and it reminds me that I want to write short stories. (Conveniently, it forgets to provide me any fodder for that.)
The bright side is that editing is off the table for the moment. Right now I am working on a first-read for a friend, and that is taking the time I would be spending re-reading some of my own older books trying to find one to work on. The moment I hit THE END on her book, however, that’s another element that is going to start nagging me for attention.
This phenomenon, which is all too common, is what I am referring to if I ever say I have Writer’s Block. There is no shortage of things to work on. I can just never seem to commit to one, unless it’s November.
NANOWRIMO: And speaking of November, let’s be completely honest. I’m still shaken by my near-miss for NaNoWriMo last year. (Yeah, yeah, Grand Scheme is that it’s an insignificant event, barely a blip on the radar of World Events — but it’s been part of this writer’s life for more than a decade and a half. It’s significant to me.) I’ve already been through the phase where I denied being a writer in spite of all the evidence to the contrary — and in the deepest, darkest recesses of the cranial cavity, that doubt has begun to creep back in. I had accepted that I am a writer, because in November I write. I have made efforts, often in vain, to write the rest of the year. Last year I had a modicum of success there.
And that near-failure has that voice nagging in the back of my head: “Are you sure you’re a writer?”
NaNoWriMo is rarely a breeze. To complete the goal and win, you have to put in the time and effort. There have been years that were a genuine struggle. But never, since 2004 when I first participated in the event, have I truly believed I would not succeed in the task. Sure: 2017 and 2018 had some nail-biting moments, but knowing it took effort was the cure.
Three months ago? I was ready to throw in that proverbial towel and accept defeat. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. When the one thing you can say with certainty stops being so certain, it hits you pretty hard. I don’t think I’ve quite recovered.
SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN? It means that my life as a writer is still a work in progress. Everyone has massive victories that have them walking on sunshine (whoa-oh) and blows to the ego that leave them devastated and licking their wounds.
It means I still have things I’m working out, both internally and externally. I came into this publishing thing with zero expectations, except that I would not stop with one book. While most people would say I’m a failure (so far), I have sold more books than I thought I would. One of my books is in more than one library across the country. I have been read and/or listened to in at least five countries outside the United States, and that’s pretty damned cool.
But that doesn’t mean I am any more confident in my writing ability than I was when I started writing as a wee little Blake person. There are still doubts.
Right now, I’m working through some of those. I will come out the other side, just as cocky and incompetent as I was in the first entry of the old blog.
For now, though, please excuse the mess. Renovations in progress. (And that makes the timing of the site issues eerily apt.)
WRITING IN PUBLIC
The only writing I have really done is a couple hundred words on the just-for-us story with my sister. Just enough to advance the story a little and give her something to work with to continue it herself.
Other than that, my 2021 writing has consisted solely of Blog posts. (And because the Goals post did not specify fiction, I’m not even calling them Cheater Blog Posts now.) Short.
We have completed Rise of the Runelords! The last scenario had us arguing strategy, because the timer it put in place wasn’t a simple deck that runs out and we lose. It was the very lives of the characters! The moment we read that part of the set-up, at least one person (who may or may not be writing this entry) made one of those screaming cry sounds usually reserved for season finale cliffhangers of favorite television shows being watched live as they aired. (I have still never forgiven Star Trek: The Next Generation for that.)
In the end, we prevailed. We managed to complete Rise of the Runelords with zero defeats. (Timer never ran out, and not a single character died.)
In our most recent game session, we decided to take a brief break from Pathfinder, mix things up, and play Jackbox Party Pack games again. It worked much better with four people than with three.
Seems like the favorite in the group is Trivia Murder Party, though we did find Monster Seeking Monster pretty groovy, and a couple of them really enjoyed Tee K.O., in which we draw and write T-shirt design ideas, mix and match, and vote on the results. We also got a kick out of Survive the Internet, in which we take on the role of Internet Trolls. (A concept we all had trouble with in the first game. It took a second game to fully appreciate it.)
I would like to play some of these on a slightly more regular basis, but I know it’s hard to fit in extra games when Pathfinder normally takes so long.
Not sure how long our break will be, but Pathfinder will be back on the agenda.
If anyone were to follow this blog, this entry would convince them to stop. This was one of those “Way Too Much Honesty From a Random Writer on the Internet” posts. I can’t apologize for that, though. Every up has its downs. Conversely, that coaster will eventually climb another hill, and I will be excited and jazzed and telling you how great it is to be a writer in the 21st century.
It really is, too. In spite of the mental set-backs, in spite of the creeping doubts, writing is the second-best hobby I participate in.
Oh, come on! You know gaming is #1.
As the saying goes: This, too, shall pass.
If you are a writer struggling with that identity, know that you’re not alone. While it might never go away, it gets better. Keep moving toward what you want, and don’t let the doubts get the better of you.
After some time, you will come out the other side, stronger in the knowledge that you are a writer.
And that’s also pretty damned cool.