Tag Archives: Anxiety

Daily Struggles

One of the things that I, as a writer, try to do, is write every single day.  I have a file where I keep track of my daily word count, and I try to make sure that each of my writing sessions is at least four hundred and fifty words long.  Ideally, I’d like them all to be much longer, but… well, you have to put the minimum somewhere, and for the time being I chose 450.

But, inevitably, there are days when I don’t have writing sessions.  Sometimes I’m working on editing something.  Sometimes I’m critiquing stuff for friends.  Sometimes I’m helping someone move.  These things happen, nothing you can do about that.  The problem is that I know myself.  If I let myself get away with really and truly missing a writing session from time to time, then, very slowly, I’m going to start increasing the list of things that are allowable.  So I have a sort of ‘carry over’ rule for myself.  I can have more than one ‘session’ for day, so long as each session is distinct (ie, I can’t just sit down, bang out nine hundred words on a story and call it two sessions), and by the end of the month, I’m all caught up.  Any longer than that and I’m just going to let myself get farther and farther behind until… no list, no accountability, no point.

A habit I’ve found myself getting into lately, when I don’t have the energy to work on one of my serious projects, it to start a story, write  few hundred words, then save it with no intention of ever coming back to it.

Part of me thinks that this is a terrible habit to get into.  I remember when i was just starting as a writer, I couldn’t finish a story.  I had a file just stuffed full of false starts.  So many stories that never went anywhere.

On the other hand, I’m not the novice I once was.  I have, in fact, finished many stories, both short and long.  And sometimes these false starts are useful.  Sometimes they tell us something, give us ideas.  Sometimes they can help us realize the direction our writing should be going in.

Still, there could be problems in the long run if I don’t make myself write with purpose at least part of the time.

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Book 3

I’m almost done with Bloody Banquet.  Fingers crossed, I’ll have it sent off to my second round of beta readers by the end of the week, and in the hands of my editor near the beginning of September.

Book 3 has me a little worried, though.  It’s not that there’s a problem with it, it’s that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing with it.  I’ll be honest with you, this is going to be the first time in my life that I’ve written book three of anything.  I got to book three once before, but I didn’t really have any reason to finish it so… I let it stagnate.  But now I have a contract.  I am required to make this work.

Okay, I am being a bit optimistic there.  Given how shitty my sales have been there is the distinct possibility that I’m going to get a polite brush off soon and find myself having to self publish any further books I want to write about a ghoul named Walter.

But let’s assume that, for whatever reason, my publisher decides to let/make me keep going.  Everything I had from here on out was just a vague idea.  I know some of the things I want to have happen, but now I’ve got to put them in order, make them stand up straight and behave themselves.  I’ve got to actually make the book.  And I’m kind of terrified.

The promotion game

I just finished the first draft of my big promotion ploy.  There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on it.  Like, oodles.  The end product is actually going to be another book.  Not a full length novel like what I normally write, but a book, something to be published and sold…. Even so, I count it as a promotional device, something that will, hopefully, get people to try out my other books.  The ‘real’ books.

Sorry I can’t go into too many details right here and now, I don’t want to spoil the surprise just yet.  The thing that’s frustrating to me is that even though this project is, itself, a promotional tool,I’m going to have to try to promote it as a product unto itself.  The reason that this might work is that the new book is designed to be more of an attention getter than my novels have been.  Novels have a tendency to get swallowed up in the tide of new literature that’s released every year.  Unless something draws people to it, unless something makes them stop and stare for a second, their eyes just float right over it.

So I’m making a decoy book, something that is meant to make people stop, stare, and read, with the hope that they will then say, ‘hey, what a clever writer, what else has he written?’ which will, hopefully, lead them to my ‘real books.’

It’s a bit absurd, but let’s be honest, if you’re an artist and you want to make a living as an artist, absurd is just the first stop on your trip to crazytown.

Juggling

So here’s the thing about writing as a business:  There’s a lot of waiting around.

I think I addressed this a little bit in some earlier posts.

When you’re just writing for the love of it, time isn’t a factor at all.  You write when you want, don’t when you’d rather not, edit whenever the mood strikes you.  When you decide that you want to write for a living, however, everything changes.  After you write, you send it to people to help you edit, and you wait.  You get it back, you make some changes, you send it to people who might want to publish it, and you wait.  You mostly get rejected, but let’s say you don’t: you get accepted, and then you wait.  You find out what they want changed and change it, and you wait.  You get a little news here and a little news there, and you wait.  Everything finally gets finished you find out when it’s supposed to be released, and you wait.  Well, actually you promote, but whatever.  It gets published, you promote it and you wait.  you promote it some more and then you wait.

A lot of downtime.  So eventually you realize that you need to have other stuff going on during the downtime.  Maybe you work on another book.  Maybe you critique stuff for other people.  Maybe you help a friend write a movie script.  But whatever you’re doing, if it’s in the writing world, you will soon find yourself in a spot where you’re waiting for both projects to come back to you.  Why?  Because that’s how waiting works.  You can bust your ass trying to get your part done as fast as you can, but at some point you’ll find yourself in line behind a bunch of other people waiting for something that you can’t make go any faster.  So you start another project.  And maybe another.

Then one of the projects that you have up in the air comes down.  Usually when you’re right in the middle of something else.  So you manage your time as best you can and try to get both balls up in the air again, and when you do… guess what?  Now you’re waiting again!  You start a new project because there’s no sense in wasting any time, but just when you get started on that, one of the other balls comes down.  That’s okay, you just did this five minutes ago.  Rush, rush, rush, and both balls are up.

Eventually one of two things happens, you’re either fifty years old juggling eight projects and not doing anything else with your time, or all of your projects fall down around your head at the same time.

Or maybe I just need to work on my time management skills.

Promotional Project Woes

So, as I’ve mentioned before, my book sales are not exactly where I want them to be at the moment.  My publisher and I discussed a couple of promotional things that I can do, and I’m hoping that as soon as my book becomes available in print, as well as just online, my sales figures will start to rise.  But in thinking over what I can do to draw some attention, both to my book and to myself as an author, I remembered an idea I had a few years ago.

It’s pretty much a perfect fit with my current series, and I while nothing is guaranteed, it at least has the potential of drawing quite a bit of attention.

The downside is that it basically centers around my writing another book.

That’s right, to promote one book, I’m going to need to write another one.  And how do I promote the second book?  I’ve got a few ideas on that front, but i’m going to be playing it all a little close to the vest for right now.  And that isn’t the point of this blog.

The thing that’s giving me trouble at the moment is that writing this new book involves a complete style change for me.  I’ve spent years learning to write a particular way, and now I have to make massive adjustments in how I approach my new book.

There actually isn’t all that much to write.  Where one of my novels will typically be around eighty thousand words, this new project might get up to ten thousand.  But I’m struggling with it more than I do when I’m writing a novel.  With a novel I hit maybe one or two walls in the first half of the book, five or six right in the middle, and one or two as I approach the end.  With what I’m working on now, it feels like every paragraph is its own wall.  I find myself lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to sort through one more line.

In the end I expect it will all be worth it.  Even if this doesn’t work as a promotional tool, it’s a project that is forcing me to practice writing skills I don’t usually use, and I’m a bit believe in that.

But in the here and now, I’m starting to get frustrated.

How much realism is too much realism?

So there’s a science fiction story that I kind of want to work on that involves a crew living in a stellar system where a large number of the planets and moons have been terraformed.

Brief sidenote, I found out recently, the reason our solar system is a solar system is because our sun’s name is sol.  So if you’re in another stellar system you apparently either have to call it a stellar system, or use whatever name it has.  I’m currently planning on their sun Luyt, thus making it a luytar system, but I digress.

Anyhow, one of the things that’s frustrating me is determining the weather on these worlds.  I mean, in order to have them survivable I’m just basically going to pretend like humans come up with some kind of system of custom building atmospheres so if you live closer to the sun, it reflects and refracts a lot of the light, and if you live a long way off, they build up the greenhouse gasses to keep as much heat as possible in the atmosphere.  I’m willing to make that leap, or more accurately I’m wiling to assume that my readers will take that leap of faith with me.  But even so,there are questions that need to be answered, like what would the sky look like on a world that has to block out that much sunlight?  Probably opaque and light colored?

But let’s forget about that, the big question, the one that’s driving me nuts, is what life would be like on a moon.  First off, it’s going to spend half its time behind the planet it’s orbiting.  It won’t necessarily be hidden from the sun for all of that, but for some of it, certainly.  Especially if it’s orbiting, let’s say, a gas giant.  And what would the weather and seasons be like?  The earth tilts back and forth creating the seasons, right?  So what would a moon do?  it would tilt even more because of its planet, but it would also be moving closer and farther from the sun as it circles the planet.  Would that make it notably hotter and notably colder, or is the only important question how much sunlight it’s getting?

Part of me wants to ignore these things.  I certainly haven’t read anything about it in any other books I’ve come across, and even if i do figure this out, I’m honestly not sure if it will play a part in the story i want to write, but dammit, it could be incredibly important!  And how the hell do you find something like that out?!

That Itchy Feeling

Human beings have a lot of skin.  I mean, a whole lot of it.  As it happens, I have a bit more than your average bloke on the street, partly because I’m taller than average ,but mostly because I’m… well, wider than average.

Anyhow, we’ve got a lot of skin, and our skin is feeling a lot of stuff pretty much all of the time.  And most of the time we don’t even notice it.

But if you want to find out just how much your skin is feeling all the time, all you really have to do is find one bug on your person.  Just one.  Maybe it’s a caterpillar that dropped into your hair as you were passing under an old oak tree.  Maybe it’s a beetle that was passing by and decided to land, just for a moment, on your arm or the nape of your neck.  Maybe, if you’re fast enough and have good enough vision, it’s a flea that was lying in wait as you happened to walk past some poor mutt.

Whatever it is, once you find one of them, your body goes on alert.  Next thing you know you’re getting information about EVERYTHING that could POSSIBLY be another insect on you.

Occasionally it’s actually in insect.  Most of the time, though, it’s not.  It might be a tiny sliver of grass that’s stuck to you, or a thread that’s hanging off your shirt and brushing against your skin.  Or it could be the wind catching the hair on your arm and tugging it just so.

You could go days without even checking to see if you’ve got a mosquito on you, but the second you catch one, you’ll spend the next four hours checking yourself every twenty seconds.

I recently sent a manuscript out to a bunch of my beta readers, and now, thanks to years and years of experience, I know that I cannot check that manuscript until I have at least half of them back.  Because if I find one thing wrong, one misspelling, one piece of bad grammar, one wrong comma, I will be spending every waking minute from now until I get those copies back searching for anything that could possibly be wrong in my manuscript.  And I’ll be e-mailing all of my beta readers with up to the minute updates.  “Found another comma splice, sorry about that folks.”  “Crap, subject verb agreement problem on page 155!”

So even if I’m pretty sure, pretty damned sure, that I forgot to take care of something in the last chapter, that I left a tiny little plot point open that I meant to shut, I cannot, cannot, cannot actually go fix it.  Not yet.

No, I have to accept the itch.  Just endure it.  Endure it just a little while longer…

Sleep Schedule

I have to say, I’ve hated every job I ever had.  Even the ones that I liked.

Over the years I’ve accumulated a somewhat eclectic resume including such jobs as an animal caretaker, typist, farmer, and usher.  Some of my jobs just sucked.  Bad pay, annoying work, rude coworkers, bad boss, some of my past jobs have had absolutely nothing redeeming about them whatsoever. But I’ve had a few that were pretty good, objectively speaking.  My last job was working for people that liked me, with people who respected me, doing something I was pretty good at.

Most days I still hoped for some accident that would lay me up for a couple of months just so I wouldn’t have to be at work.

It wasn’t that I’m lazy… I mean, I am lazy, but that wasn’t what this was about.  I’ve known for most of my life that I wanted to be a writer, so every job I’ve had that wasn’t directly related to that felt like a waste of time.

But one thing I will say about all those jobs, they kept me on a schedule.

It’s 8:50 in the morning, and I haven’t gone to bed yet.  When I don’t have something specific forcing me to keep to a normal sleep schedule, my mornings and evenings just kind of… slide.  They slip a few minutes here, a half an hour there.  Suddenly I find myself waking up in the middle of the afternoon and working on my writing until the sun comes up.

Now, give me a couple years and I (hopefully) won’t be complaining about that.  Working at night is fantastic.  Something about being up when everyone else is out just makes you feel… creative as hell.

But I’m not to the point that I can do that yet.  I may not have a job, but I still have responsibilities, I have phones to answer, I have things to do.  I take care of some odd jobs for friends and family, and they don’t much care for me trying to take care of that in the middle of the night.

So now I’ve got to choose, I can try to force myself to go to sleep earlier and earlier, or try to stay awake later and later.  You’d think that schedules would slide back into place as easily as they slide out of it. You’d be wrong.  Sleep is a fickle mistress, and there’s nothing she likes more than to tease you to death.

Alright, I’m going to stay up one more hour, just one more.

If I had any caffeine in the house it wouldn’t be nearly so hard to pull off, but I just ran out and I don’t want to drive to the store when I’m this tired.

A manufactured Rush

So, I got some terrible news today.  It seems that in the three weeks since my book came out, I’ve sold a total of seven copies.

Now, in fairness, most of the people I know who are willing to buy a copy of my book for me are more into print copies of the book, and for the last three weeks no print copies have been available.  That said, seven books in the first three weeks is… pretty bad.

I talked to a friend and fellow author about the problem.  Jason Richter, who wrote Mating Rituals of Migratory Humans.  He suggested that I ‘arrange a rush’ on my book.  Basically I’m supposed to contact all of my friends who are willing and able to buy copies of the book and try to get all of them to purchase a copy on the same day at around the same time.

The theory, as I understand it, is that if you do that your amazon ranking shoots up, which, presumably, means that some amazon algorithm decides that your book is ‘hot’ and they market you a little bit.  Theoretically, you get a few extra sales out of the deal, I think.

Now, honestly, I don’t really get it.  Any of it.  But Richter is a smart fellow, and according to him it can work, so what the hell, I’ll give it a try.

The problem now is that I have to wait until I know for sure my book is actually in print, and then I have to contact everyone I know all at once.  Sadly, I am not the most organized person in the world.  At the moment, for example, my bedroom floor is a bit tricky to navigate as I have a sprawling pile of clean clothes that I really need to hang up, a pile of junk mail from the past couple of months that I need to shred, and a pile of dirty clothes that is slowly encroaching on the clean clothes pile.

Oh, and a giant roll of paper that I bought from the newspaper people so I could make diagrams to help me keep track of crap in my writing.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: writing is a passion, a calling, a lifestyle.  Promoting is a job.

Anyhow, if anyone out there who happens upon this blog is interested in reading a book about an anti-social ghoul who finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between neckbiters and crotchsniffers (that’s vampires and werewolves), please, head to amazon and buy a book.  You’ll make my day.

No, seriously, you’ll make my day.  I’ve got to have a ‘talk’ with my editor and a marketing guy in a couple of days.  It feels like I’ve been called into the principals office.

Off to the Beta Readers!

So, about four or five hours ago I finished my first round of edits on Bloody Banquet, book two of the Corpse-Eater Saga.  I currently have it sent off to three beta readers, two who I’ve used before, and one new guy.  I also have feelers out to try to get one or two more, new beta readers.  If all goes to plan, I should get the manuscripts back sometime towards the beginning of August, at which point I’ll make a series of corrections, then read it through again and touch it up, and then… I guess I’ll be sending it to my editor.  Wow.  That feels fast.  I mean, sure, I’ve been working on it for a couple of months now, but it really feels like I’m calling an egg a chicken.

I am absurdly anxious about this.  God only knows what I’ll be like when I actually have to send it in.