A little over a year ago I did a guest spot on Southern Writers. Several months on this seems a perfect moment to reproduce that blog here, though an introduction explaining why won’t hurt.
Writers everywhere get days when they would like nothing more than to remain in bed, and to draw the pillow over their heads. Despite the longed-for dream, not everything about writing is fun. I always look at writing and publishing as two different ‘beasts’. This is one of those not-so-fun instances.
I’ve moved. We’ve work to do in the house, and this being the biggest relocation of our lives (so far), we’ve much to organise. I’d love to be one of those people who can compartmentalise, push everything to the back of my mind and write. I’m much better at getting everything finished and then concentrating on one thing at a time. No way in publishing can that happen. Right now I’ve a book to finish I wanted to sub at the end of January. I’ve another in a trilogy that requires approximately another 20k of words and I should send in…oh about now. There’s no set deadline, but I’m trying to reach readers, publisher, and my expectations. Then I’ve another, and, in many ways, far more important book to finish that needs a whole subplot adding to it. I’m swamped.
At the weekend I walked away from it all. I took a time out I couldn’t afford because something was going to snap; bad enough it should be my temper but I didn’t want it to be me. All that leads me into the subject because writers live with a good deal of fear. Fear they won’t meet deadlines. Fear they won’t be able to finish a book. Terror each new work won’t be received as well as their last. Fear of taking on new projects, especially those outside of their comfort zone, and the temptation to walk away from it all.
While the books I refer to below are currently unavailable I’m working on other projects that feel as terrifying, maybe more so. Add to that the dread of days that end in what feels like a blink and a bed and a pillow seems evermore enticing. The trouble with that temptation like so many types of avoidance, it cures nothing.
I wish I could write an encouraging ‘how-to’ narrative revealing all the secrets of mastering the writing craft. Such a missive might make the task easier and eliminate writer anxiety. My own included. My advice? Be afraid but grasp opportunities, anyway.
The secret is there is no secret. What may work for one author may not work for another, same for genre or market. There’s no specific wrong or right way to write, wrong or right way to market (though spamming is never a good thing). There’s no yet revealed way to kill the worry of finding the next idea, the right publisher, receiving a bad review, or jumping in and trying something new. I’ve learned to view the occasional fluke as providence.
I try anything, and file that which doesn’t work now in case something becomes useful. This goes for stories as much as promoting. I find stories often by ‘accident’. I’ll begin with two seemingly unconnected incidents, a vague idea of characters or places, or a single occurrence. I’ve even created stories from a title idea, a phrase, or a random selection of words, tried many genres. Some markets I stumbled into because an idea nagged me to write it, or because I was searching for submission calls. That’s when accident bridges the gap to intent. Where one formula won’t work for one writer, it may do so for another. Where a blueprint doesn’t apply to one genre, another must be rigid. Study the market. It’s amazing how many writers still send the wrong material to the wrong editor or publication. A horror publisher doesn’t want romance or vice versa. Pay attention to guidelines.
I read anything and everything; have too many interests, so with writing it was hardly surprising I wanted to run in all directions. I called myself a multi-genre author little knowing I was making an already difficult task more problematic. Branding is important, possibly imperative. My stories appear from the mysterious well of my imagination working together with a brain that seems to tuck away the quirkiest detail; I sometimes feel as if I’m fooling myself if I think I’m anyway in control of them. There’s no knowing where I’ll head next, so I keep my options open. That’s why my next publication will take me to Jupiter where there are dragons.
Being willing to make ‘accidental’ connections both in real life and in my storytelling is how I got embroiled in the steampunk world of Space 1889. I received an invitation. I quietly panicked. Then I took a breath, started reading and researching. Now I have three titles (one co-authored) in a series that is a little part of history. Regard fear as the enemy.