Writer’s Bootcamp Day 2- Goals

Part 1 – Writing

Today started with writing for 1 hour before going on to the journaling part.  

I spent about the first 5 minutes of that closing browser tabs that had been left open from work.

Then I decided to write the short story I had thought of last night.  I don’t have a publication in mind for this one, no deadline or theme, just entertaining myself and getting into the habit of writing again.  

After 55 minutes or so of writing, I have 1109 words and a respectable beginning to a short story.

writingIt was fun and easier than I remember it being,  I just moved my fingers and words came out. Maybe not great words,  maybe not interesting words to form a story that anyone would want to read, but words.  The time flew by, time always seems to go really fast when I’m writing. I love writing when I’m doing it for the pure pleasure of itself,  I get so much joy for the act of telling stories. When I was a kid it was my escape from my scary life.

But in the working world of an adult, writing isn’t just a fun, cathartic thing I like to do.  Each moment has to be justified because each moment I spend writing is time that I am not doing something else that needs to be done.  Like today I can write because I am off for a few weeks and I can say this 30-day project is a stepping point in the long-term goal of turning this into my job.  There is no way the person I am currently could have just done this because she wanted to, the guilt would have burned away all the joy and creativity. Even as it was several times in the last hour I thought about the “more important” things I could be doing.  The things I have to get back to in just a few minutes after I do the other half of today’s assignment.

Part 2 – Goals

The book says I need goals,  I can’t just flit around writing whatever, whenever for the next 28 days.  I need a focus. I need to name the project and make a folder on my computer.  I need a schedule, a plan so that I can evaluate if I’m being successful or not.

This is where I panic and this boot camp thing seems too hard.  I suck at making and keeping goals like this. Because I never feel like I have picked the right goals,  I feel like someone else needs to give a fuck about what I am doing and validate my choices. But there isn’t anyone.  When I was married I tried to get my husband to be my writing “Dom”, but that wasn’t something he was into. And I am clearly not very good at being my own Dom.  At this point, I really want to give up and just cry. I’m going to walk away for a second, get a drink of water (cry) and come back, hold on.

DonnieOk, I’m back.  Hydrated, dehydrated for like 2 minutes, hugged a cat and played a stupid video game on my phone.

The book (Writer’s Bootcamp by Rachel Federman, I mention that since I’m doing direct quotes)  gives examples of goals I could have.

It can be a time goal like “20 minutes a day’

Or it can be a finishable project like “write a short story or essay”  or “write a poem to read at a workshop”

It can be working on something bigger like “finish a chapter in your novel”

A year ago when I started this my goal was to edit “Lost in Reflection”  that novel I wrote a few years before. To be honest I think that might be why I didn’t get very far last time, well, that and the leg breaking thing.  The thought of editing that book makes me want to never write again, it makes me sick to my stomach, it makes me want to jump out of a window. It’s not the book’s fault, in fact,  for being the first full novel I have ever written it’s not bad. However….

  1.  Editing isn’t fun, it isn’t exciting, it isn’t something I can write much of a blog about.
  1. Work to profit/cost ratio.  I worked about 4 hours a day for around 30 days to write it, so 120 hours.  I have edited and revised some of it already, but editing takes about twice as much time as writing, so add 240 hours.  Then I have to have someone else edit it, get a cover artist and then format it, then publish it (another 20 hours or so).  The last self-published book I wrote made about $70 so far. So if I finish this book, paid an editor the least amount I could, say $200, to give it a once-over,  and got a cover artist for the least possible amount, maybe $50, it will have cost me 380 hours and $180 to publish a book. That would put me in a super bad headspace.

bojackWhen I think about I realize this hobby costs me too much money and time, it’s just not worth it.  When I think of finishing my book, knowing I don’t have an audience interested in reading it I want to give up and do something that is at least free.  I would lose 0$ by watching tv. Doing nothing is more economically sound than being a writer. So, editing my novel isn’t my goal.

Leading us back to the question, what is my goal?  

I could write one blog post every day about what I am doing,  that’s a goal. But it’s sort of a meta-goal, if my project is writing about my project then I can see possible days in which that doesn’t work. I think doing a blog post every day should be part of my goal, but not the goal itself.  

I don’t want this to be a timed goal every day,  because I have a feeling that each of these daily tasks will have its own time to finish,  I don’t want to feel like I’m racing a clock and I also don’t want to be sitting here with a timer running and have nothing to do.  

My instinct is to have a goal with completion built in,  like “write and submit 3 new short stories”, 3 stories in a month is reasonable goal,  but this doesn’t take into account all the extra time that I would spend searching for markets to submit them,  formatting them to guidelines and stuff like that. That stuff needs a totally different challenge. Before I started trying to be a professional writer I had no idea how much time writers spend doing business work instead of writing.  The other problem with this goal is what if I finish and publish 3 stories before the end of the 30 days?dryden

Days like this I really wish I had a manager or something.  I wish I had someone to tell me what to do. I really enjoyed writing for Dryden House because the publisher, Katie would just tell me what she wanted, when she wanted it and then bully me until I did the work. I miss that.

I’m over 2 hours in on this today and I still haven’t done the thing I have set out to do.  

Ok, I’m going with 3 short stories.  They can be brand new like the one I started today or they can be pulled out of my “in process folder”,  but not my “finished- needs publishing folder” as that would be cheating. The business side stuff (searching markets, contacting publishers and networking) counts as working, so if it says “write an hour” I’m going to take that to mean “write or do writing business for an hour”

Goal:

In the next 28 days, I will write and submit for publication 3 short stories and blog something about the process every day.  

Writer’s Regimen

For a while, almost a year, I had formed a good routine. I was putting several hours a day into my career as a writer. That is not to say I wrote fiction every day. Some days were spent searching for markets, some days doing blog posts, interacting with other writers or possible readers, or working on my webpage. Mondays I wrote a short story from a prompt; most other days I did a mixture of editing and marketing. And then I stopped.
It was a few months ago. And now I can’t even remember why I stopped. I have some issues with mania and depression. Maybe I found something better to do, or maybe I thought writing was pointless. Whatever the reason, one day I decided not to write. The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months. The longer I went without working, the scarier it became to go back to it. I started to not feel like a writer at all anymore.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. I thought of all the work I had done, and how no one was ever going to read it if I could not make myself get back in the saddle and finish it. I put “Writing, 1 hour” on my task list. This is not the first time I have done it, but I guess it was the first time I meant it, because here I am, writing. Editing my novel might be the most important thing I could be doing, because I can’t have a career as a writer without a product for people to buy. However, that seemed much too hard to jump right back into. I don’t have any short story ideas and I don’t know if I am up to writing something fresh from a prompt right now.

A blog post about my life, thoughts and feelings is always pretty easy, as I love talking about myself. I know very few people will read this today, or maybe ever. But that is not the point. The point is that the clock is ticking down an hour and my fingers are clicking on the keys. It feels good, still a bit scary, but good.

Maybe I will finish this post in less than an hour. Then what? There are so many things I could do, so many paths I could choose to take back up Awesome Author Mountain. Maybe I could go read and comment on some of my favorite blogs (which I have also been neglecting). Maybe I could at least open my novel and read a bit. Maybe I could organize all my finished and ready to publish stories and start looking for people to buy them. Maybe I could start on another blog post or order business cards. Perhaps making a list is in order. Today it does not matter what I do, as long as I am doing something. Today is one day, but the days will turn into weeks, and the weeks will turn into months, and soon I will feel like a writer again.

I love reading about other writers’ routines; some of them are so strange, with weird superstitions, ticks and habits. Daily Routines is a great blog to check out if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Other than a timer, I don’t have anything that always happens. Some days I feel the need to write with paper and pen, some days I light a candle, burn incense, or turn on the salt lamp. A few days I got really drunk first, which worked out better than I want to admit, but I don’t plan to make a habit of it. I keep a keyboard (the musical type) beside my computer, and I have found that playing a song or two when I am frustrated with something I am failing to write correctly is helpful. If a certain food, action, time of day, or weird habit forms I will let you know here.

Please tell me about your writing routines in the comments.

People Farming

veggiesEveryone on the writing sites, blogs and communities are talking about “fans”.  Some say that social media is the way to get them; others talk about the “million fan fallacy”.  Some talk about “true fans” as opposed to people who just ‘like’ your facebook page.  You can find countless people talking about the correct marketing strategy to get all these fans.

It occurred to me today that this is farming, with people as the crop.  When you friend as many people as you can on every social media site possible, start a blog or Youtube channel you are planting the seed.  When you comment here and there, show an interest in other people life/work/family, write blog posts, read blog and comment, make a new video or put your stories up as podcasts that is the fertilizing and watering.   The idea is that if you do this enough you will get “fans” who are harvested when they buy your books.

If your books are good then the “fans” will buy each new book.

I am doing this.  There is a good chance that you are doing this.  Many of the blogs I read are those of other writers.  Most of my communities are for writers.   All of us say we are there to learn new skills and make friends, but really we are thinking “I am a reader, I read tons of books, all writers must be readers, I bet writers will buy my book”.

But there might be a big problem with this theory.  I don’t think about buy and selling at the same time. This is not like going to a WoW merchant, where you sell all your old stuff and buy new stuff in the same window.  I don’t often think of reading as work/research.  Sure, each time I read a book it sparks my imagination and helps me be a better writer.  But when I am “working” I am not actively looking for the next book to read in my leisure time.

When I am farming for people that is work.  Marketing is the most worky work I can think of involved with writing.    So far, I think I have only bought two books while doing people farming; one because the book looked interesting and the other because I liked the blogger.  So, it can happen, but I have looked at the pages of maybe a few hundred people, so don’t hold your breath.  I don’t think a single person I have met from writing communities or blogging has ever bought my book. So far people I know in person buy it. Some of them just because they want to support me emotionally, not because my writing interests them.

I have two goals that don’t play well together:

-Find my future “fans” when I market and convince them to give my work a try.

-Find the best new writer each time I finish reading a book.anne-geddes-cabbage-kids

There are people out there who would love my stories or want to be my “fan” because of how awesome I am.  I am a fan of lots of people, but honestly very few of them are indie writers. I know there must be indie writers out there I would love, but I mostly read popular, established writers because it is easy to find the ones that matches my tastes.

Here in lies another problem; the soil in which we plant our seeds.

You might not ever be a fan of my writing, and I might not ever like yours.  You can market to me all day about, a Christian romance novel or a sports related mystery, and no matter how good it is I will not buy it.  Ever.  If you don’t like sci-fi, fantasy and feminism you will never like my books.

The big publishers marketing works for them, because they can throw so much advertising out that some of the seeds will have to germinate even if they don’t try to find the right soil at all. They put up posters of their new books in the book stores, we can’t do that.   They send their author’s out on book signing, advertising it on the radio and newspapers. I don’t even have a physical copy of my book to sign.   They send their authors to conventions, where I am just possible person to farm.  They make deals with movie people and famous readers.

As indie authors we don’t have their reach or resources to do that sort of throwing to the wind marketing, and yet we try so hard, wasting our efforts.   But there must be something we can do.  I can’t think of anything right now to try to make you love me (other than be lovable  which I am rocking), but I do have an idea of how to maybe find some indie authors I might like.

My mind is fertile soil, come plant your seed.

Off the top of my head my favorites you have heard of are Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Christopher Moore, Susan Collins, Neil Gaiman  Octavia Butler, Lovecraft, Douglas Addams and Poe.

I like fantasy and sci-fi with a nice amount of action, but not all action.  I like humor thrown in as well as the strange or absurd.  I am a big fan of YA novels, especially with strong female characters.  I like urban fantasy, steam punk and weird westerns.  Creepy and dark, without being gory torture porn, is also a favorite.

I don’t like the type of fantasy that is centered on romance/sex.  Some romance and sex is great, but if that is the main plot then I am not your audience.   I don’t dig non-consensual sex especially  or women being abused.   I am not a big fan of books where sadness is the goal.

If you like at least half of the above authors and you think your work or something you have read is what I am looking for then comment here.  I will check you out.  If I buy your book I will review it honestly.  So don’t try to trick me.

Thank You to My Tens of Fans

First off, I have been out of town for the last week in Chicago, so I have been too busy having fun to post to my blog. Also sadly too busy with the fun to get much work done on my novel, which I am about 5000 words behind on. But don’t worry, I will work hard and get caught back up soon.

Today, what with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I wanted to write a little thank you note to some people who are making this becoming a professional writer thing a lot easier. A huge thank you to everyone who has bought my book or told people about it. I can’t express how much your support means to me. I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. In fact my first memory of it was a summer night when I was ‘swimming’ in the above ground pool my mom had just gotten. It was a full moon that night and I wrote a poem while I floated around. Of course my little poem when I was 8 was not very good, but I still have it around here someplace. It was that night that I first thought that someday maybe people would want to read my thoughts and care about the things I make up.

Anyway, since I was 8, I have been writing and dreaming of someday having people read my stories, and even better of being able to make a living off of people reading my stories. When I was 11, I got a type writer for Christmas (not a useful tool when you are a horrible speller). But until this year I have always been too afraid to actually give being a professional writer a a try; afraid of rejection, afraid of not being very good, and afraid of losing the dream forever if the reality was that I could not do it.

Something changed this year. I think the first change was when I realized that sometimes people write stories and books that are not “masterpieces” and they do just fine. I don’t have to write something so OMG amazing that it rocks the world. I just have to write.

The second thing was that I can publish my own stuff. I don’t need any “professional” publisher’s approval to be awesome. I can be awesome any time I want, no waiting.

So between giving myself permission to not be ‘great’ and the ability to self publish, my last fear was just that I might lose the dream. Fuck a whole bunch of that. What is the point of a dream if you never even attempt it? It was time to stop waiting around for someone or something else to convince me to write and publish. It was time to take control and do it.

So I did. I worked hard and I wrote something. Yay! But some of that fear was still there. What if no one read it? What if everyone thought I was being dumb and made fun of me? What if it just sits there on the internet getting cyber-dusty? What if this is it, no one buys it, and I lose faith in myself and the dream really does die?

But then people stepped up and bought my book. Most of them are my friends in real life, supporting my creativity. But some stranger has bought “Treacherous Nature”. Friends and strangers alike, it has meant so much to me. Each time I sell a copy I feel so happy, and I feel the urge to keep going. I even sold a story to a publisher. I am writing a novel. I am submitting several stories every month. I am getting paid to write. And I don’t think I would still be working so hard if it were not for all the wonderful people who have bought my book, asked what I was working on, told people about me, commented on my blog, and just said “Good Luck!” or “You can do it” when I needed it.

I don’t want to sound too cosmic space bunny here, but this process is not just about writer and words. The reader is just as important. So, if you are reading this  — Thank You! If you have read my book THANK YOU!!!!!!

Professional Writer

I sold my first story this week! “Noir Noel” will be in an anthology “Strange Christmas” which will be out later this month. It is a nice feeling to know someone wants to pay money to print my story. I am now a professional. 🙂

As for everything else, I have only sold 2 copies of “Treacherous Nature” this month. I need do something to pull that up to at least 5. The NaNo novel is going very well. I have written over 10,000 words and most of them are pretty good. I am enjoying the pace of a novel, which is so different than a short story. If this keeps going so well I hope to have it released in a few months.

It is going to be a long time before I can make a reasonable living from being a writer, but for the first time it does not feel like some silly pipe dream. I have been doing this seriously for 8 months, and this month will be the first money I get paid. Right now it looks like I will get a total of $36, from the sale of “Noir Noel”, Amazon and Gumroad combined. It is only enough money for one trip to the grocery store, but it is income. Maybe in December I will make $50. I just have to keep writing. Put a few more books on Amazon and Gumroad, get better at short stories and submit them everywhere. At this pace it will take a few years to start making minimum wage, but that is ok. I would gladly do this for minimum wage. I have been doing it for free the last 8 months.

A Taste of Space

As you might know, I have a collection of short stories published.  In case you have been toying with buying a copy but you want to sample the merchandise first I have decided to post a few excerpts.  You can also read some of the first story by “looking inside” on the amazon link.

This one is from “Red, In Tooth and Claw” , which everyone says is their favorite.   This surprises me,  I did not think this one would be the hit, but it is.  “Red, In Tooth and Claw” is written in a journal style by a woman in orbit around Mars.  I am giving you two days near the beginning of the story.

I hope you enjoy it!
 

Day 193

I miss hiking. I wonder if I will ever get to do that again. My favorite time to hike was always the fall; the red and gold leaves and crisp air made me feel like I was someplace alien. I loved a hard climb up the side of a mountain or rough hills. I guess hikes with my mom as a kid are what first sparked my interest in geology. I found the different colors, textures, and shapes of the rocks fascinating.

When I was twelve, Mama took Alex and I to the Grand Canyon during summer vacation. If it had not been for all the other tourists, I could have believed I was on another planet; I remember pretending that I was. The Grand Canyon is beautiful and strange. Each stratum a different shade of orange or tan, each wall cut in a different shape. Horseshoe Bend was my favorite part; it did not look at all like something that belonged on Earth. Anytime I daydreamed about my first walk on Mars it was just like the Grand Canyon, but with me in a space suit and completely alone.
 

Day 198

Something strange happened last night. I was sleeping in the quarters I had shared with Captain Johnson, in the hammock which was modified after my injury. We all strap in before sleeping so we don’t float away. But mine has some extra support to keep my leg stable; once in place I can’t move around quickly or easily.

I woke up around 3 am with that prickly feeling of being watched. I had the impression that I was not alone. In order to turn towards the door I needed to release my leg from the harness. While I was doing that, I heard the door swish open and closed.

I think Richards was in my room.

I had taken some pain and sleep medication before bed. So it was with some difficulty that I got to the door and locked it.

When I woke up this morning, I thought it might have all been a dream. The sleeping pills have given me some pretty crazy dreams. But my door was locked, and I never locked it before now.

When I relieved Richards a few hours ago, he said nothing about entering my room. I was hoping he would say something about it right away. Like maybe one of those red lights had warned him something was wrong with the air in my cabin, or maybe I had hit the comm button on accident and he was coming to check on me. But he said nothing about it. He just smiled his bloody smile, told me the night shift had been pretty quiet, and asked what I was having for breakfast.

Post Publishing Doldrums

For the last few months putting out this collection of stories was my main goal as a writer. I did some other writing too. I submitted and got rejected for an anthology and worked on a novel idea. But now the book has been released and I feel sort of flat.

What now?

I don’t expect this book will do well. So far I have sold 7 copies, which I have to admit hurts my feelings a lot. I am trying not to let it, but it is hard. I am a big supporter of the arts where I live. I spend more money than I care to calculate right now on plays, local music festival, my friends’ art and their artistic endeavors. I go to art auctions and give donations to local groups. I am not saying I expected these people to support me, not exactly. But I expected some sort of boost. I know, I sound like Earl in “My name is Earl” – “You do good things, and good things happen”. And now I feel sort of stupid for having these expectations.

I am trying not to take this personally, but it is really hard. Sure, lots of people might not like the sort of stuff I write. And that is ok. I give time and money to the thing I do because I like them and think the work they do is good and worthwhile. I wonder how many people think what I am doing is worthwhile?

I need to think about my next moves? Should I start submitting short stories to anyone who will take them? Should I work on a novel? Should I take a break and get a real job? Should I try to save up money and go to a writer’s workshop like Clarion West? I could use the pointers and practice, but I could use the contracts even more?

To the people who read my blog who have some success at selling their work, do you have any advice? How do I get my stories to the people who would enjoy them? What is a good balance between traditional publishing and self-publishing?

This is Cheese-Burger taking a nap. This is about how I feel right now, but that is ok. After he sleeps like this for a few hours he is full of energy, so it must be a restful way to be.

Treacherous Nature

My book is available now!
If you like fantasy, horror and sci-fi please go check it out. Let your friends know about it if you think it is something they would like. If you buy a copy it will make me very happy.

.

Here is the Amazon Link:

Treacherous Nature

If you don’t use Amazon then you can also get it in EPub format on Gumroad.

Treacherous Nature

‘Twas the Night Before Announcing Publication

So you would think that with my first book coming out tomorrow morning that I would be talking it up and telling you it is the best book ever; that it’s going to change your life or something. But in fact what I want to do is preemptively apologize. I bet that makes you want to run out and buy it, right?

I should explain. Something new is always a little scary. This is scary on lots of different levels.

Any time you create something and put it out there to be judged, you run the risk of rejection and ridicule, so I am having the “I made this, please don’t make fun of it” feelings. Sure, some of my friends will buy this and they will tell me it is great. But since this is something I am doing in the hopes of building a career on it, strangers have to buy to. What if they buy it, read it, and hate it? What if no one buys it and my little spirit is crushed?

My work is a little piece of my soul.

This is self-published, so I don’t have any validation from an expert. If this was traditionally published, someone whose career is knowing which books will make money would be telling me my book has a chance. I have lots of cheerleaders, and a few of them have even worked in the publishing world. But I don’t have someone who is willing to risk their reputation or money on my work.

I know a great story when I read one. I have read some amazing stories over the years. A few that come to mind are “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman, “Snow,Glass and Apples” by Neil Gaiman, “Braiding the Ghost” by C. S. E. Cooney, and “Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick. None of the stories in my collection are great stories; they are entertaining and might make you think, but they are not the work of the masters. Don’t misunderstand – I think my stories are good, or I would not waste my time trying to sell them at all.

I want to be able to sit down with each person who buys “Treacherous Nature” and before they read it say, “OK, so if my career goes the way I hope, this will be the worst thing I ever publish. Someday people might look back at this, and chuckle at my embarrassing first collection of stories, and that is OK. Kitty of September Future is doing well and she looks back at these and laughs too. However for Kitty of September Present, these are the best stories she can write. These are months of hard work, stress, and tears. To Kitty of September Past, this is the fulfillment of several dreams. She dreamed of the day when she would have the motivation to finish stories; she longed for the day when she would have the self-confidence to put her work into the world. So please, for the sake of Kitty of September Past and Kitty of September Present, save all your negative comments for Kitty of September Future”.

But I can’t do that. People will buy or not buy; people will like it or hate it. Once I post the links, this collection has to stand or fall on its own.

Almost done

Technology is amazing.

I just put what I hope is the final version of my book on the kindle, which by itself is amazing.  But there is a link in “About the author” to this blog.  And if you click it, my blog shows up!   And Jamie’s art work shows up if you click a link in the acknowledgements.  (My husband figured out the link thing not me, but I figured out all the rest of the stuff).

I just can’t get over that.  It is like magic.

This book looks so professional.  And I did this.  I had all the ideas, I wrote all the words, I edited (this I had help with), I put in all the art work (except Jamie’s cover), I formatted it, and I converted it.

I feel like a superhero tonight.

I hope the upload to Amazon and the release tomorrow go well.

If it does there will be a link here tomorrow so you can go buy it!!!  Yay!!!