A Successful Author

The first time I was asked when would I call myself a successful author, the answer was easy; if I was writing full time it meant people where buying enough of my book that I could do what I wanted.

 

That was when I started four years ago.

 

It doesn’t feel that long, but an aeon of time has passed, so much of my life has changed. Much of it not for the better. And now I know how incredibly wrong I was.

 

I read over and over on Twitter about people making it, they get agents, advances from publishers and all the while a host of “aspiring” authors sit in the wings, clutching their precious creation of fiction, and weep for the day it will be them too.

 

It started to make me sad, seeing so many of them, and knowing I was one among the throng.

 

How could I possibly hope to be a successful author if I couldn’t even publish my books. After 3 very hard years I still only had half of what I wanted out there for readers.

 

One full time self-published writer told me she released a book every three to four months.

 

I hadn’t done that, I spent years in a vacuum of tragedy, seeking to find definition in a life that wasn’t of my choosing, of potentially being barren, of everything that was wrong and everyone in it who laughed at my aspirations.

 

Worse still, I started to see other stories that didn’t have a magical happy ending.

 

About how people’s books were given that gold status; sold to a publisher.

 

But then the advances they got, what happened to them afterwards, it was rare anyone truly made it on one book alone. I started to question what “making it” really meant.

 

Then other stories came out, how the publisher didn’t want another book from that author, how the author lost their way, the golden moment, a brief passage. More and more you read how authors make on average less than ten thousand a year. It doesn’t matter the currency, only that it’s not enough to be a full time author.

 

Authors who’d won awards for books they’d written previously, but worked in mediocre jobs because a publishing contract isn’t a magic wand that changes your life.

 

My idea of success was dwindling with every tweet I read, every article on what it meant to finally make it, only to fall down when no one was interested in your stories anymore.

 

Even the so called full time authors lived in perpetual fear that they weren’t real. They called it imposter syndrome, and even the thousands of reassurances from fans, readers, and writers alike did little to abate it returning in a matter of days in another self-depreciating tweet.

 

If traditional publishing wasn’t the way then what was?

 

I self-published knowing I’d done it because I’d be rejected by a traditional publishing, but hoping after my 21 book novella series was bought up by the masses a golden contract would be handed to me too.

 

I wasn’t prepared.

 

I published a mediocre novella, followed it up with an OK one, and then published a reasonably good book.

 

It was a learning curve, but I felt like a failure.

 

And I wasn’t the only one. For every indie author I saw out there with a brilliant story, who thought to go alone and self-publishing was the key, many have done it unprepared.

 

Bad book covers. Bad editing. Bad stories read by betas who were friends or fellow authors and didn’t want to be honest about picking up parts of the story that were lacking. Learning that your work needs honesty of good editors and beta readers, that not even the first, second, or third draft is perfect is the hardest, most agonising lesson for new writers. Many don’t listen.

 

Writing the story is possibly the easiest part. Its polishing the script, waiting on it to mature, sitting with it and going over and over it again to make it as perfect as possible that is the hardest thing.

 

I have spent too long bent over my keyboard crying for what might have been to let myself do this anymore. To let someone else’s magical success crush the life out of a story I believe in heart and soul. A person I believe in with everything that I have that has given me strength through the darkest hours of my life.

 

It’s me, I have a purpose, and its being an author.

 

But I had to redefine what I wanted my success to be, in order to be successful.

 

THE DEFINITION OF AN AUTHOR IS A WRITER OF A BOOK.

 

I am NOT asking you, I’m telling you, look it the fuck up.

 

I haven’t written a book. I’ve written many. I will write many more.

 

To be successful at selling a book you have to be a salesperson.

 

To be successful at getting a wider audience you have to be in marketing.

 

To be successful at making money writing you have to be good in business.

 

Being a successful author doesn’t require any of those things.

 

Not all of us will ever be able to “make it” to what our inner hearts believe is success without working incredibly hard, every day, and to a large extent have an inordinate amount of luck.

 

Its become very important to me that I realise if I want to be at peace with the event of never “making it” I have to redefine my answer when someone asks when would I call myself a successful author.

 

I am one.

 

Right now.

 

If you’ve ever written a book you aren’t “aspiring” to anything. You are successful at being an author. And if you’ve ever done it, you will have gone so much further than just about anyone you know. Sit back and think about it, how many people do you know had the tenacity to sit down and write a book?

 

Few.

 

In the greater scheme of things, very few.

 

And if you haven’t written a book yet I want to tell you something. Finally finishing that bastard isn’t going to magically make the world a golden, magical, fantasy. It will be the same world. But you, you, my beautiful, creative, magnificent, writer, will be a successful author.

 

 

Sunset chaser

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide

So you signed up for Nanowrimo… good job!

 

There are a lot of guides out there, so I’m just going to tell you what works for me, take of it what you will.

First things first – Nano isn’t hard… for a vetran writer.  Stephen King says write 2k a day, well you only have to write 1667 for Nano.

 

And you can do that two ways;

Panster – someone who just sits and writes as it comes to them

Plotter – someone who outlines what they are going to write before they do it

 

Generally, I’m a panster but I’ve normally seen the 3D movie version of the story inside my head beforehand… well, at least the scenes that would make it to the trailer for the film.

But for Nano I do a bit of plotting, and its because Nano day in day out can get hard. I normally ask for a week of leave off work just to do it. When you work full time that leave is precious, and I cant think of anywhere I’d rather spend it! This year I can’t do it, so I’m plotting. That way, when I sit at a computer to write, I know exactly what I should be working on.

 

How do you plot Nano?

It devolves down to outlines. I write novellas for Nano. 50k words on a novella is great, and with a prologue and epilogue it leaves me with 16 chapters at 3k a chapter (18 if you aren’t a fan of the prologue epilogue). If you like smaller chapters you can break it down further. So a table for those feeling intimidated;

34 Chapters @ 1500 words per chapter

25 Chapters @ 2000 words per chapter

18 Chapters @ 3000 words per chapter

Anything longer than this can get intimidating and basically be a bit of a time suck that doesn’t evolve into anything useful. You want to keep the general story short, punchy and interesting enough so you can rewrite the scenes with more detail when its done.

 

How do you keep going?

ITS ONLY 1667 WORDS A DAY!

Break it down.

Make it up.

Stretch it out.

Fill it up.

 

Nano is about writing on weekends and busting out 10, 15, 20k words over a weekend. Its about writing 500 words at lunch, first thing before work in the morning, and putting aside TV/gaming binge time to write. With an outline, you put on the write tunes (ahaha… I’m so punny), and you write as much of the scene as possible. That’s what its there for, it’s a guide, and then a ladder, and then when you invariably fall off, (we all do), a crutch towards the end of the month. Sure the story might deviate, but it does keep you focused on writing.

 

But I have writers block!

No, you don’t.

Writers block is a big fat self-doubt lie!

Realistically, characters only have a couple of choices. Think of your story, if you will, as a choose your own adventure book. If you were watching a movie, and someone paused it, and asked you what happened next, you’d probably take a stab in the dark about it, wouldn’t you? Well, getting past writers block is the same. Take a stab at it… literally or figuratively, whataever works for you.

Here is another cool way to do, to make the outcome random, fun and interesting!

Work out what the choices are, and the make one even and one odd, and then roll a dice. Trust me, this works. If you aren’t certain, treat the dice (even/odd) like an eight ball;

“Do they go down the passage? Even = yes, odd = no.”

Even.

“When they get to the end of the passage, do the get lost (odd) or find their way (even)?”

Odd.

“If they are lost, do they figure a way out (even), or do the need to be rescued (odd)?”

Odd.

“If they are rescued, is it by an ally (odd), or a enemy (even)?”

Even.

This may not work exactly the way you had it in mind… but it does promise to at least shake the story up enough for you to keep going.

 

I am finding it hard to find time to write…

 

No you aren’t, you aren’t making time to write.

Sit down and schedule your day.

What time do you get up?

Can you get up earlier?

What are you doing at lunch? Can you type or write in a notebook?

What do you do when you get home?

IS there an activity you are doing which is basically a brain reset, like gaming or watching TV?

Doing those “relaxing” activities are fine, but break it up. So do half an hour of writing, 15 mins of TV or gaming, and pace yourself. All of a sudden you have your daily quota, and you can spend the rest of the time relaxing for the day.

 

Other options

You can make up writing time but also give yourself credit!

Some people don’t count, but if you’re dead set on 50k words then do count, but only at the end of the day, last thing before bed.

If you’re happy and making plans don’t worry.

If you aren’t, ask yourself this; did I do all I could to make writing time, and if the answer is yes, then do me a favour. Congratulate yourself. Finding time to write while working full time, especially with kids, absolutely sucks. If you can do it you are an amazingly hard working writer.

If you’ve given up for the day, and fallen a little behind schedule, make it up over the weekend.

But most importantly, if you love writing, and want to prove that you can do this, for yourself, make time to just do one very important thing.

 

Love the story, fall into its arms.

Let yourself go and see where the muse’s hand takes you.

You never know how far you’ll go…

The Last Prophecy – Explained!

You’re doing what?!?

Writing a 21 book/novella series… and in my sleep Cthulhu eats my brain.

This came about thanks to @lilcrow during a flurry of twitter when she asked me what I wrote, and I blabbed about my series, later realising I’d given her the complete wrong impression. She’d assumed I’d actually finished this mammoth task, and flattering as it was, I’m a long way off. But I am determined… if somewhat crazy.

And she’s not the only person to question my sanity, or in fact, what it actually is I’m doing.

So here goes – I’m writing a 21 book/novella series.

10 books and 11 novellas.

3 are available now;

The Hidden Monastery; Novella 1

The Last Prophecy; Novella 2

The Well of Youth; Book 1

I will hopefully this year release the next two books in the series;

To Chase a Prophecy; Novella 3

A Phantom Presence; Book 2

The books revolve around a prophecy found during the 2nd novella – and thus what the series is named after… the Last Prophecy;

Since capture and taming of fire

Cross worlds lit by man’s pyre

Relics of old will not rust

Lost in time, crowned in dust

In man’s hands, certain fate

Gripped by limitless hate

Frozen tears start to thaw

Sleepers awaken from before

Shadows slink in puppet’s guise

Striking the sinless, led by the wise

Words of gods cross the night sky

Struck black earth, letting virtue die

Let loose the howling beast

Hear its lies on devouring feast

Twisting thoughts through fear

Singing to silence not to hear

See echoes of a soul unknown

Holding deceit in the heart of its throne

Turning the key on misguided fool

Exhausting the dead, endless pool

Feel the lingering touch of blight

Stealing from seer, sacred light

By the fists of many, a realm will quake

Time for world’s end to awake

Brought together by faith, led by a lie

Till the end, where darkness comes to die

Found in a sealed cave written by a mad immortal, it tells of an age when the word faced a time of great distress. And in such times, humanity always turns to the surest methods of survival, even at the cost of their own morality.

The overarching story features a series of books that are mostly standalone, but are best read with the novellas. This will change as the series progresses, but for the moment the books can be read by themselves. They feature a range of characters of different countries and backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, in a world that changes them, and what they choose to do about it.

The novellas for the most part follow Lady Katarina Salisbury, as she does her best to discover the origins of the prophecy, and how best to stop its unimaginable power falling into the hands of those that would misuse it. Or so she thinks. Her story is interwoven between the novellas and in some of the books.

At the moment I have also got half of two of the books in the series done, and a couple of the novellas, so while I have not even reached half way on this project, I am cutting through it, one book at a time. I write a book every year, and a novella every November for Nanowrimo.

Each book is about 130k words, and each novella ranges between 45 and 70k words.

WHY??

Why would I do this to myself?! What unhinged dream that came swirling out of my dark imagination convinced me that I could do this, let alone would? Still got a good guess for who I blame…

giphy

Ever hear the saying that in ever person is a book? Well… I have a series.

I’ve never been convinced I couldn’t. Every time I wonder if tackling this self publishing thing is worth it, I have to remind myself that underneath it all is a very definitive purpose, I’ve been as sure of this book series as though its my own breath.

And this is why I self published. I couldn’t let anyone else dictate to me how these books had to be written, I just knew that this is how it would be. When you have a gut instinct driving you to spend your weekends indoors writing, and throwing every single penny you have at it, it becomes everything you are.

And I’ve never been prouder of myself – and from someone who has contemplated suicide in a fit of depression, anxiety, and an overwhelming feeling of uselessness, that statement speaks for itself.

So, writers and creators, don’t let anyone stop you, no matter how crazy you think your idea is, because otherwise it will be stuck inside you until the day you die and you’ll only have regret. And if that’s not a scary enough threat for you, then try this; imagine how proud you’ll be when you’re done. I know I will be, because I already am.

15 Ways to Write More During Nanowrimo

I’m crying. I’ve been crying all morning.

Pronoun is shutting down and I have no idea what I’m going to do. I just launched the Well of Youth and its getting 4 and 5-star reviews. I just put a lot of money into advertising and reviewing to garner its attention. I took down my novella and made it free before, lost all the great reviews that Amazon wouldn’t put back, and got left with a bunch of mediocre ones.

I’ve cried in bed, in my husband’s arms, over blueberry pancakes and in the shower while I pulled myself together. Now, on my 5th coffee, I will still do the post I was going to do today.

Which is to tell you how I do Nanowrimo.

 

I committed to 150k words for the month of November, to write the next novella in the Last Prophecy Series, and to do the next book in the Queen of Spades series. Its been a rough couple of days but I’m on over 10k words and plan to write another 10 if not 20 today by mostly pouring my heart and soul into it.

How?

So first up (& cheating a little here) I posted last year on 5 ways to get through writer’s block;

https://ejdawson.com/2016/06/28/5-tips-for-writers-block-on-your-project/

I can’t recommend deciding on two separate decisions a character has and rolling to see which is more likely, that gets me through so many hard writer’s blocks.

But now I want to impart 2 other lots of tips; 5 ways to work on your book when you can’t physically sit down, and yet another 5 ways to get through writer’s block with your current work in process!

5 Ways to Work on your Book when you can’t sit and Write.

  1. Think about it all the time!

I do mean this. I think about my story when I’m on the road, when I’m in the shower, and when I’m going to sleep. It doesn’t matter if I forget or can’t write it down, I follow the thread and review where I’m currently up to, and then I sort of play out the rest of the chapter or scene in my head. I pretend it’s a movie I’m directing, and when the characters don’t speak or act I have to prompt them. Sometimes it helps me see objectively how a reaction is wrong, or the story isn’t going in the right direction.

The added benefit of this is that you *know* what you are going to be writing when you finally do sit down so it’s not such an issue.

2. Take a notebook!

I can’t believe I have to say this but take a notebook. Not your phone, not a tablet. A book of blank pages. A writing implement. I carry one everywhere with me to pencil in ideas, write down the names of characters or even just a great name when I hear it.

Don’t make excuses not to carry one. You can fit a palm-sized notebook in your pocket, pens are everywhere – and that’s only if you don’t have a backpack or handbag!

I have nearly lost great ideas because I didn’t have a notebook, and when I don’t have one I scrounge for paper and pens. I’ve written an idea on a napkin with the waiter’s pen.

The added benefit of this is that you actually remember it better when you physically write things down. This has been proven, (don’t ask me where I don’t remember) for exams and tests. So if you write your brilliant scene in dot point formation it will actually be easier to remember when you do get to write it down!

3. Talk to Someone who’s Objective

I’ve said this numerous times, but my husband’s ability to predict movies and books never ceases to amaze me. When we were dating he hadn’t seen the Usual Suspects and within the first 15 minutes knew Keyser Soze was the bad guy.

So when I have a plot problem I throw what my plans are at him, usually on drives and when we’re walking the dogs, to see if it’s too predictable. If you are worried about the direction of a story ask a trusted and honest friend.

Not someone who says “Yeah, that’s great!” and doesn’t offer any critical feedback.

Someone who will listen quietly and give good advice. They are rare people to have, but they might surprise you with their insight.

4. Make time to exercise

I suck at this one. But it helps clear the cobwebs in my head, it gets rid of the stress. Even a walk listening to the soundtrack I’m writing to is really helpful. Alone time with your thoughts is as important as writing time. It’s really that simple.

5. Plan your time

I have a good habit of sitting at my computer and just writing all the time. I do it when I’m waiting for games to load, I do it when I’ve got a spare 20mins, I do it during my lunch break at work. There are little ways you can spend five minutes getting through a scene or bit you don’t like, so that when you return you can work on the good bits. Don’t worry about it being a perfect setting, just make sure you have the capacity to write as much as possible wherever and whenever you are.

What I mean by this, is that I go through my day and pre-plan writing time; I have to exercise this morning so I’ll write at lunch. I will get home late today because of a meeting so I’ll write tomorrow morning. Think about when you are going to write, and make sure you do it, even if it is only a few minutes. It helps to know you are allocating time specifically to writing, even if it’s only a little, and sometimes that time can be very productive!

 

5 More Ways to Work on your WIP!

  1. Are you listening to the right music?

It came up in a FB post what people listen to, and is it odd to listen to soundtracks while you write? I *cannot* write without a soundtrack, I will actually hunt around for the right soundtrack for my story.

And you don’t have to listen to the LOTR soundtrack to write fantasy. The music should evoke a response from you, and you use that response to write the story you wish to work on. You wouldn’t listen to an upbeat song during a funeral scene, so you need to make sure you’re selective. It also has the added benefit of blocking out other sounds and distractions.

It doesn’t have to be soundtracks either, there are numerous artists out there I suggest you check out for evocative music;

Zack Hemsey; I can’t get enough of this guy, both his singing and instrumental. I am listening to Nomad right now, and I love his songs.

Audiomachine & Two Step from Hell; Both these are great for more fantasy/epic music, but I find there is a great balance of other songs in there too, really wonderful to write too.

Celldweller & Glitch Mob; I’ve been listening to heaps of these guys for my sci-fi romance. They have great action songs, upbeat and full throttle, and they can drop to darker/sadder music too.

2. Where are we?

In the story? Are you describing what everyone is wearing/doing? Are you travelling somewhere? What’s out the window?

Sometimes just a paragraph on what can be seen out the window of a car is far more telling, and sometimes it can lead to intimacy or moments between characters you didn’t see coming; touching hands accidently, a moment of solace. Even bringing the tension higher by sticking the protagonist and love interest in the back seat together when at this particular moment they can’t stand the sight of each other. Or better yet, the protagonist and antagonist.

There are the actions scenes that are great, but what comes between those are dialogue and description. Don’t forget those, and if you start with a description sometimes the dialogue happens on its own.

3. Plan your chapters

Presumably you know roughly how long your story is going to be, whats going to happen in the end. Even if you don’t this is a good way to keep things on track.

I usually know whether my work will have roughly 3k or 5k chapters. I then lay out the story based on the estimated word count I expect. My novellas are 50k words, my fantasy books are 130k, and my sci-fi romances are 100k.

I break it down into chapters, and then I start writing out one line about what happens in each. Sometimes (especially for the bigger books), I’ll leave a few lines. I don’t always stick to this plan, but when I don’t have the motivation to write or am not sure I’m happy with what’s going on, it’s a great reminder of where I’m supposed to go.

The stories tend to have their own lives, and there is a constant question of “Panster/Plotter”. For those of you who don’t know a panster is someone who does next to no planning, and a plotter lays it all out.

It’s been compared to planting a seed and letting to grow, to being an architect and building a house.

I like to think of chapter planning as planting a seed, and putting up the frame work of a house, and then letting the plant grow. You can encourage it to climb in any direction, but sometimes it will head off on a tangent you didn’t see, and that might be a great thing. If not, you can always chop it off and refocus on your framework, it at least keeps you on track!

4. Secondary Characters

Without them the story can be lacking, they give it fibre, believability. So what do they think about what’s going on? Do they agree/disagree with the current status of the book? Maybe the main character doesn’t care what they think but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aware. Is it worth telling the reader at this point? Wouldn’t it be better to show them by bringing them up?

It can be a concerned parent or guardian. A bossy sibling. An angry friend. A crying lover.

What is the effect of what you are putting your MC through to everyone else?

Whether it’s dropping out of school or deciding whether the antagonist should die, the decisions your MC makes has an effect, and not just on supporting characters. On the principle of the school, on the general public when they see what happens to those that cross the protagonist.

We give our MC actions to take, that they think are right, but what if someone else thinks they are wrong? Ask yourself this, see if it affects what is happening right now.

5. Leave it alone.

Yeah, OK. This runs in complete contradiction to one of the tips I gave which was to write through it. When I was writing Phantom Presence I was really angry about a lot of things and my normal outlet couldn’t cut it. I had to walk away from the MC because I didn’t have the patience the character possessed to keep writing her story.

Sometimes emotions sneak up on you, and they can influence your writing for the better, making your stories great. Other times they can completely stuff up the attitude of your MC, making them more depressed or angry than they otherwise are.

There is never a perfect time to write, but there are the times when it isn’t happening, and you need to treat your characters and story with the respect they are due, sit back, take a breath.

Venting feelings through writing is a good thing, but sometimes you need to give it a break, maybe watch a movie or something, and then get back into it.

Writing isn’t easy, I don’t need to tell you that. Writing this has been very therapeutic for me in the wake of Pronoun going down. I can admit that now, and keep working on Nanowrimo.

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