The conclusion I reached

I started this blog around two years ago with the following intent:

This blog exists as a record of my journey to become a recognised author, in the hopes it will one day help people on similar paths. As an untested author seeking publication, I highly value candid documents of established authors and feel there can never be too many of these accounts.

Having written and edited my first manuscript (at the time), I wondered why so few authors had an online record of their journey from start to finish.

I now know it’s because their stories are all short and boring. You write a book, then meet someone who is a) interested, and b) able to get it published. That part is mostly luck. Nobody can tell when or where it’s going to happen, so when it does the resulting tale is underwhelming.

In short, every published author’s story looks like this:

I wrote a book, then I got lucky and met a relevant editor/publisher.

That’s it, for everyone. It’s far from the inspiring story I thought it would be. I was disappointed to discover I had a better imagination than reality…

I’ve had my answer for a while. It took me a long time to publish it here because my focus is on writing.


When am I a writer?

As for writing advice, most of that is a sales blurb pitched by people who have published their first book or two. They want your money.

If you want to know how to write, read profusely. You’ll pick up different styles, pacing, and techniques as you go, some of which will appeal to you more than others. Focus on those.

In short, writing can be summed up in three words:

Read, then write.

No matter how you write, or what you write about, there’s an audience for it out there. Finding an editor/publisher who’s interested in that market is another matter. Every published author will have different advice on this because clearing this major hurdle is so individual (again, luck is involved).

If you read profusely with an author’s eye then you’ll quickly pick up on quality issues in published books. Editors miss typos, authors screw up pacing, and everybody overlooks consistency.

If those works can get published, why not yours?


What’s next for me?

I keep writing. I’ve been writing steadily since February this year, after a shaky reboot last December. I’ve written and thoroughly edited three manuscripts by this point (editing is my unrecognised super power), with content for a novella on the side. Alpha reader feedback has been largely positive.

I’m currently 250 pages into Animators – Book 2, which I now know is the style and length of book I most enjoy writing. I rewrote the first 200-page draft because alpha reader feedback was negative, and the story is better for having done so.

I keep telling myself that when I finish this book (my 4th manuscript), I’ll get serious about being published. It’s about time I got paid for my second job, frankly – nobody should create for free. That said, I now recognise the element of luck so if it happens this time, it happens. Otherwise, it’s on to my next manuscript. Got to keep writing.

I’ll likely repurpose this website to showcase my works. It’s already associated with my name (tick) and established (tick) but the blog no longer needs to be the main focus. I’ll move it off to the side somewhere.

A final bit of writing advice:

  • You’re a writer if you write.
  • You’re an editor if you edit.
  • You’ll get published if you persist.
  • Don’t expect any of this to happen quickly.

Ruminations

Following on from last week’s post, I’ve been thinking lately about what to do with my writing, and how to spruce up my blog. As always, I decided to sit down and ask ‘why’ until I got an answer (I love this technique – it always works). I began with “why am I not writing lately?” and went from there. In due time, I ran out of ‘why’ questions and got to the root cause.

I’ve been trying to force myself to finish something I don’t like.

I know that’s a common thing adults have to do – and that we all hate doing it – but it gets a bit weird when it involves something creative. See, I’m writing books of my own free will, to pursue topics and themes I personally find interesting. That’s my fuel. No fuel, no progress.

At the same time, I’m keenly aware that creators often don’t like their own work, for any number of reasons. Heck, my favourite musician even made a song about this on her latest album.

That has put me in a weird space, for months now, where I’ve been wondering whether or not to finish the book. I can sum it up with a forcefield diagram.

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer to a dilemma like this. I decided it might be best if I remove the wayward third act from Violin by Moonlight, finish editing it, then publish it for free as a novella on here. It’ll be 175-200 pages, giving curious visitors something to read.

I made this decision because it’s in line with my mission statement:

I want to write stories that encourage people to connect – with themselves and others.

Violin by Moonlight was hard to write because it’s a story about disconnection. I had planned to have the two protagonists choose very different solutions to their similar problems and then explore the outcomes. By design, this meant the protagonists would have to stay disconnected, else how could I illustrate the consequences of their different actions?

By contrast, The Network is about the protagonist finding himself, connecting with two significant people along the way. Animators is about an entire family searching for connection and meaning.

I hadn’t realised until recently just how much this theme means to me. It makes sense, though, since I can’t help but find myself through writing. That’s the power of constructing a story, and I aim to share this with others.

Up until now, I had thought I could write about anything – any subject, topic or theme. Certainly, my writing takes me places I’d rather not go as well as to places that surprise and delight me. Anything can happen once you start to write. That said, it seems I’m very much against the idea of writing a book that focuses on disconnection to the point it devolved into emotional monotony, even if it was almost ‘complete’.

There’s a book I’d like to write about rituals and mythology in the context of societal bonding. As a perk, I can blend it into my Animators world that I’ve already created, since it fits perfectly into the setting for book two of the main series. I reckon I’ll start on this project next.

Spring cleaning

Spring is here, and with it the storms, sun, and flowers I’ve come to expect in Melbourne. With the changing of seasons comes a fresh energy for writing (and by extension, this blog), although that could also be due to my hiatus. As far as this blog goes, after all, I’ve been hibernating for much of Winter. I’m wondering if I need to stop doing that. Last time I took a break, I didn’t think anyone noticed. People noticed this time, though.

The first thought that brings to mind is, “Well, why am I doing this? Is it for myself or others?” The answer is: both. I’m writing stories to figure myself out and inviting readers to do the same for themselves (by provoking varied thoughts). As part of my Spring cleaning, I want to make a mission statement and put it on the about page. It’ll go something like this:

I write to discover myself.
I seek to invite others to do the same.
My aim is to become widely known so I can achieve the above.

I’ll play around with the wording, but that’s the gist of it. Did you know stories are a recognised psychological tool these days? It’s called Narrative Therapy. I discovered that in my current workplace, which is filled with counsellors and psychologists. It was nice to get that jolt of validation, but at the same time utterly unsurprising that a cohesive narrative can be valued in this field. After all, people have been exploring the psyche in theatre throughout recorded history. In particular, Greek dramas come to mind, rich with mythology and metaphors that represent universal situations.

Anyway, I’m getting off-topic there. Suffice to say this blog is as much a narrative as any of my manuscripts, probably moreso.

Another thing I really want to change on this blog is the theme. It’s so sterile! Sure, it works well but it doesn’t reflect much of my personality and it certainly doesn’t show why I’m writing. I suppose my vision has evolved since I first set out to put my thoughts on here. Hmm, I really need a new photo, too. The current one is quite old.

The last thing I need to update is the purpose for posting here. That’s changed, too. When I last reviewed this, probably a year ago, I wanted to use this blog for accountability. In short, I wanted to push myself to deliver results quickly – more writing, more enquiries! Look, that has merit but it isn’t where my mindset has been for a long time now. I’ve achieved great stability this year, and while I very much desire to be published, I’m not going to use the rocket fuel that is desperation. In my experience, this fuel burns very brightly and equally briefly. It’s entirely unreliable (and miserable).

In short, I’d rather continue posting thoughts on here. I’ll even renege on what I’ve said earlier and include writing “advice” now and then, bearing in mind this still boils down to being ideas. In posting thoughts here instead of being so focused on updates, I’ll take the pressure (of perfectionism) off and maintain my own narrative as a developing author. It’s my hope that this will enable me to resume weekly updates, seeing as that’s worked well for most of the year.

So, to recap, my goals for the next month or so are…

  1. Update the About page. Add a mission statement.
  2. Change the theme to be interesting!
  3. Less focus on publishing progress. More on being.

The burden of leadership

I’ve heard it said that true leaders never seek the position; they answer the call when it comes. I think it was in an ethics book for some business studies I did, or perhaps it’s just something I picked up from pop culture.

Consider the ongoing theme of hero movies, or the fantasy genre which is full of hero stories. The heroes are often ordinary people raised into the spotlight by circumstance. It’s interesting to follow the story of a nobody becoming a somebody, and we care about the character if they’re at all written well.

Well let me tell you, it’s a bloody awful experience when you are the hero.

Hero stories are the short, sweet, sanitised version of a courageous life, and a courageous life is anything but short and sweet. It’s arduous, confusing, and often seems unrewarding. I feel like I’m frequently choosing a much harder road over easier ones, just because it’s the right thing to do. At any rate, I feel a strong need to live an authentic life.

I’ve heard it said, too, that leaders are born, not made.

Perhaps there is some truth in that.

Authors as leaders

At this point, some context is probably in order, so here it is. There are many paths to becoming published, most of which are significantly easier than going it alone with no industry contacts. I have no guide or writing peers, and attempts to find the latter have so far only revealed how lofty my aspirations are (and thus different). As for circumstances, I have all I want. This is an excellent situation in general but counter-productive to my goal of becoming a widely recognised author, for desperation has spurred plenty of aspiring authors into action. Finally, personality. I’m not arrogant enough to believe my writing is amazing, quite the opposite. Having innate perfectionist tendencies, I’m typically filled with self-doubt and questioning.

If mine isn’t a tale of struggling against the odds, I don’t know what is.

It took me a long time to realise this, and I’m still struggling to really own it. I suppose the silver lining is that my experience will make a fantastic story, one of these days. In the meantime, I’m doing the best I can, which is typically small, repetitive actions (such as writing) while having the knowledge that I’m making a miniscule bit of progress each time I try.

It’s not much of a hero story yet. I’m still an average Joe, except it’s astoundingly obvious that I’m not, when I look at all of my circumstances. You see, it’s true that leaders answer the call, and so they’re the first to hear it, long before anybody else knows what’s going on. When you hear about a real-life hero, it’s only ever long after their heroics have been recognised.

I feel it’s time to stop looking at others – how they write and how they got published – and admit that I’m treading my own path now, blazing a trail.