Monday, 12 March 2018

Novella Update 2: March 2018 – You Can Write Too!

As many of you will be aware, I’m moving towards the final stages of self-publishing a novella of mine – Lost Tunnels. If you missed the update I wrote about it a little while ago, you can find it here.

I’m still trying to set a final release date, which is contingent on a few different factors – not the least of which is me properly getting to grips with Kindle Direct Publishing. I want to make sure it’s a quality product that you – and other readers – get, not something that I have to go in and make a ton of edits to after launch. Watch this space!

But in the meantime, I thought I’d write a little bit about writing itself – to provide a bit of encouragement to anyone else thinking of giving it a go. If you’re thinking of writing a book, a short story or even just a blog yourself, I would really encourage you to do it. Pretty much everyone has at least one book in them, and the rise of digital self-publishing has meant far greater democratisation in publishing. But here are some things you might find helpful to know first, before you launch in head-first.    

You’re going to have to give something up

Many people think that they need to “find the time” to write. True, many of us could use our time more efficiently, but having been a professional writer to varying degrees since I was eighteen, much of my best work tends to happens by deliberately excluding activities from my schedule.

For me, writing in recent years has tended to come at the cost of video games. Now I appreciate that for many people reading, this would not necessarily be a huge sacrifice. But I love video games – to the extent that I actually worked for a prominent video games retailer for many years. Gaming while I worked there was not just a fun pastime; it was actually a necessity. You needed to keep up to speed on which titles were coming out, and you wanted to be able to give customers accurate information. You can fake it till you make it for many forms of retail, but it’s harder with gaming than most.

Now that I don’t work there any longer, I barely play games at all. My wife does; she’s obsessed with The Elder Scrolls Online. But I just get in the odd round of Mortal Kombat X or the occasional session on the SNES Classic. 

My larger point is that unless you are exceptionally disciplined with your time, you are probably going to need to give up one or more things that you like in order to write. Choose wisely; part of the reason I chose gaming was because I knew I could afford to lose it. I love writing more than I love video games, and completing Lost Tunnels was much more important to me than completing whatever Call of Duty came out that year. Your own mileage will vary. You don’t want to exclude yourself from something vital to your being in order to do something that will just cause you resentment.    

Put your phone away

Years ago, my mother-in-law met the one and only Sir Terry Pratchett while on holiday. At the time I was working on some fantasy novel or other, and she asked him if she had any advice for me. I don’t remember the exact wording of what he said, but it was to effect of “Place ass on seat. Begin writing. Remove ass when writing is complete.”

Rarely have truer words been spoken. I am a natural procrastinator and can quite easily chew up my designated writing time with social media, finding a new band to listen to (to help my writing, of course), looking for new t-shirts online, deciding to have something to eat or just simply getting anxious about what I’m about to write. None of this is made easier with a phone by my side. So put it the FUCK away if you’re serious about giving writing a go. NB: I am not always very good at following this advice.  

Why are you doing it?

I don’t write to be rich and famous. It would be amazing if that’s what happens after I release Lost Tunnels, but I am actually working with fairly modest expectations. Of course, I plan to write more – and am working on more already, actually – but I would be a terrible fool if I thought that success was going to be overnight.

So why do I write? It’s because I have to. Ever since I found out what a novelist was as a little kid, I wanted to be one. Writing is one of the only things I’m good at.  I’ve been writing stories since I was a little kid, and though there have been interruptions along the way, I’ve never really stopped. Even if no-one ever reads Lost Tunnels – and of course, I hope you do – I will still know that I’ve done it, and that’s enough for me. I needed to get it out of my system in one way or another.

Similarly, I slogged away at this blog for years before anyone really paid attention. This was partially because I didn’t have a good a grip on how to promote it, and partially because it’s a niche blog which in turn means you attract a niche audience. Either way, it didn’t matter; I wrote because it made me happy and it was therapeutic. And it turns out, Field of Dreams was right: if you build it, they will come.   

I am always pleasantly surprised (if not a little jealous) when I see relatively new writers/bloggers going gangbusters, hitting milestones far beyond anything I have done. I turn 33 this year, and I’ve see authors significantly younger than me hit heights of (material) success that are daunting by comparison. But with that said, I’m also in a position some might envy. I’ve written for Reader’s Digest, I’ve helped other people write their novels, I have a blog with a loyal readership and I’ve managed to make it all the way through a first draft of my own. You would be surprised at how many aspiring writers cannot. Perhaps most significantly, I make my living writing; it is my day job.

With that said, the comparison trap is easy to fall into and rarely helpful; you don’t know people’s individual circumstances, how hard they’ve worked or what opportunities they’ve been gifted. Not to mention your own circumstances; poor health, failed relationships, work and the other vagaries of day-to-day life can literally steal years away from you – years you might have spent writing. So if you’re not where you want to be, don’t worry. 

You do need to work hard, but it’s as much down to chance as it is anything else. This can terrify and overwhelm you, but it can also spur you on to greater heights. I suppose I’m an existentialist, so it does both for me on different days of the week.

I’ve rambled enough, and everything I’ve said above has already been said by others with far more experience than me. Get out there and write – because your idea sure as shit isn’t going to write itself.

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