Posts Tagged ‘life’

Well, since publishing the first book of The Wasteland Chronicles last December, the series has now reached it’s 1,000th sale (actually, on 1,005 at the moment). It’s hard to believe that in less than a year’s time, one thousand people have purchased one of my books, in one form or another. Like…actually paid, for something I wrote.

It makes me excited about the possibilities of the future. The more books I publish, the more people take interest.  I started off last December getting 56 sales, which knocked my socks off, and it’s more or less been positive growth since then. Adding the second and third book to the series helped pick up momentum a bit. Even though August is typically a slow month for books sales, adding on that third book has made August my best selling month so far (177, and hoping to reach 200). If these are my sales at three books, what will it be like when I have four? Five? Six? (Alright, you get the picture now).

I just feel so happy and excited about the future. At this point last year, I was simply not there at all. I dreamed of getting to the point of where I am now, and now that I’m here, it’s just amazing. It inspires me to keep writing.

If I were to tell my full story of life and writing, it would be many thousands of words. If I were to write this fifty years from now, it might be a hefty book (or two).

Now, I just want to concentrate on my thoughts of my writing and my life in the past few years.

For as long as I remember, I’d always been fascinated with reading. When other kids were out getting into shenanigans, I was in my bed reading J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov, or whatever author I was into at the time. I would read whenever I got the chance, between classes, on car rides, wherever. By the first grade, I was a book junkie, and by high school, my addiction had manifested into the desire to become a real life writer.

Now, at the ripe age of 25, I’ve written five books, two of which are self-published (and a third that will be within a week). If I had started realizing my potential earlier, maybe I would have written much more.

In the past four months alone I’ve started taking this writing thing a lot more seriously. I’ve done more for myself and my writing than at any other point in my life. I was stuck in a rut, writing-wise, for a long time. I feel like there were a lot of years where I wrote hardly at all, and if I did, the book was never finished because I didn’t know what else to do with it.

In 2010, I finished my first real book, with my friend Jelani Sims. It took two years of outlining and writing to finish it, but it got finished. Looking back, it could have, and should have, been done a lot quicker.

We had no idea what we were doing. We just worked on it, taking our best guesses on what should be done. We stopped outright at several points, only to start writing on it again somewhere else down the line.

Then, I learned the job wasn’t over when the book was finished. I learned about the joys of editing, copy editing, formatting, and marketing.

Well, we really did not learn that (at first). We published Night of the Necromancer in early 2011. It was exciting at first. There was a lot of fanfare, and it got some press. I think even to this day the book sits somewhere in OU Gaylord’s illustrious halls (perhaps in the professional writing alcoves)?

But after the first string of sales, everything just…died. It became clear, a few months in, that it was only our friends and family that bought it. No one else was interested, and I had no idea why. The book was great…wasn’t it?

Yeah, the story was good. That’s what a few random reviewers said. But why wasn’t anyone buying it?

I’d read some articles about some authors who found a lot of success by lowering their book prices to $.99 in order to get exposure, so I thought that might be what the problem was. So, we lowered the price from $3.99 to $.99. We got a few more sales, but by the time all was said and done, the royalties about broke even.

Then, I just got depressed about it, because I truly believed that was all there was to it. You write something, it either works out or it doesn’t. I think that depression created a block from me ever writing. I would write, but the projects wouldn’t get finished. I vowed that my next book would see an agent next time.

I attempted a fantasy novel a few times, always getting slammed to a halt about 50,000 words in (always when they got to that dreaded oracle scene). I may have attempted a few other things, I’m not sure. I was also working a job that was just downright depressing and boring, which certainly did not help.

I think the overall feeling was one of powerlessness. I tried to make something work, and it didn’t.

I didn’t know anything back then. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but now I know exactly what I did wrong. And I’m learning what I’m doing wrong all the time. I’m still doing a lot wrong, but the most important lesson is learned: I have a sense of power, and I recognize that even if I make mistakes, I can correct them or at least do better next time. And as I keep on doing that, my writing will get better, and the way I get my writing out there will be better.

What I did wrong:

1. I had bad quality. My problem was not pricing, as I had previously thought. After all, who backs down from paying $3.99 for a book they want to buy? Hardly anyone. Actually, $3.99 is very cheap for a book, even an e-book. That’s just a little over the price for a gallon of gas. The problem was one of quality. Not quality of story, but the actual text of the story. The formatting was horrible and not user-friendly. There were typos galore. The cover art was good, but even good cover art can’t make up for typos. This is just a fact. There are hundreds of other choices within the same genre that a reader can go to. Yours has to stand out above the rest, and be professional, or you will not be taken seriously. Recently, a reviewer pointed out my grammar and typos, giving me one star. At first, I felt upset and angry. Then, I realized that it was my fault. Maybe I couldn’t fix my characters without a complete rewrite, which is something else this reviewer pointed out, but I could at least hire a copy editor to fix the typos. I did. And the book is better for it.

2. I did not stay updated with the industry. I did not read blogs, articles, or forums where other writers gathered to talk about writing and the promotion thereof. I wished every day, when I was not writing, that I had a great community of writers to learn from. For some reason, it never occurred to me to go searching for one online. I think as I read the Kindle forums, KBoards, and blog posts of other self-publishing authors, I started to learn what I was doing wrong. If I had done this earlier, I could have taken advantage of many opportunities to advance my career, opportunities I will never have again. Then again, I’m glad I am wise enough to keep updated with self-publishing related things, because now I am more conscientious of what I need to be doing to be successful at it.

3. I did not promote. You can write the greatest book in the world, but no one will read it unless they find it. And readers can’t find it unless there is someone to tell them about it, in some form or other, whether it’s the author his or herself, or a friend. I have done almost zero promotion for the past month, and it shows. If I had promoted a bit more, solicited more blogs, done more giveaways, or found new avenues for promotion, my sales would not be so slow.

4. I did not read enough. Reading inspires you to write. When you read great books, it makes you say, “Hey, I want to write!” It really is like magic. I find my writing flow is so much better when I’m reading constantly.

5. I did not write enough. It’s really hard to talk about all the steps, and how they work together, but this one is a biggie. I had major lack of motivation. I think it stemmed from the lack of success and discouragement of Night of the Necromancer (which came from a skewed perspective of what “success” was). Success is the journey, not the end. Truer words have never been spoken, because the journey never ends. Success is getting better, being better than you were yesterday, and not giving on something that truly matters to you. Give up on everything else, but don’t give up on something that matters to you – and only you can be sure of what that is. I’ve never doubted, for a moment, that writing was what I wanted to do. I have the talent, I have the drive…why not go for it? Why waste my short life doing things that don’t matter, in the end?  I sort of lost focus on a lot of things post-college, and it took a while to find my feet. It’s important that in whatever field you choose, that you make it your passion and learn all you can about it, and correspond with others in it.

It’s also important to recognize the brevity of life and to do what you want with your life, while you still have it. That realization was very big for me. I have other goals in life, too, but writing books is the main one for now.

I think it’s amazing that anyone can publish a book using Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc.. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books and completely trash it.

I know that I have been downloaded in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, among other places, I’m sure. The few giveaways of done where thousands of copies of my books were downloaded were mind-blowing. The almost two thousand people that requested copies of The Wasteland Chronicles on the Goodreads giveaways section was also mind-blowing. I’ve had real life successes that give me fire to go on, which was something I was lacking before. So far, I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my books. I don’t think I’ve hit the thousand mark overall, but I’m closer to a thousand now than zero. Not enough to live on, but enough to keep trying and to keep pushing. I feel like by the end of this year, things will be moving a lot faster. Even if they’re not, I’m going to keep writing. Because that’s what writers do. And that’s what I’ve learned to do.

Maybe self-publishing isn’t the right path for everyone, but it is the right path for me, at least at this moment. As long as you’re self-motivated enough, and you have the talent and the drive, you have a shot at succeeding at writing. Not a guarantee, but a shot. That’s what I want: to succeed at a job that I’ve always wanted to do, which is to tell stories that entertain, and hopefully, when I get better at it, make people laugh, cry, and think.

Since college, I’ve never truly wanted any other job, other than to write full time. I always just assumed it would happen, that a muse would drop out of the ether and God would somehow write through my pen. Don’t worry, I’ve come down to Earth a bit since then. I’m trying my hardest to succeed, and I am getting better at this. I’m not there yet, I haven’t really found my voice yet, but I will.

Hopefully, I can tell more of my story at some future date. Right now, the main goal I have is getting Origins online. I’ve incorporated my copy editor’s fixes and all things are go as soon as I give both books 1 and 2 a back to back read. That should happen on Saturday, at the latest.

After that? Time to write Book 3, Extinction. And hopefully update the paperback of Book 1 to get rid of the typos. And promotion. Always, always, promotion.

One day about two months ago, I was sitting during my lunch break and got the idea to write a list of “rules” that a writer should live by. I came up with about forty (really 31 rules, but some had sub-rules). Really it was just another expression of my nerdiness in trying to quantify/describe something. Here are some of them, and in brackets what I now think of them a couple months down the road:

1. Write every single day, no exceptions.

[I still believe this is true, though ONE exception might be made – if you are editing a book you have finished, this counts as writing. I think it is still important to create new content, like a blog post.]

2. Write at least 1,000 words per day, even if you have to bleed for them.

[This is Stephen King’s and many other writers’ adage. I think it is a great rule. Granted you do a thousand words or more every day, you can be done with the first draft of most novels in two to three months. Novellas are even shorter, from a month to a month and a half. You can do a short story a week, counting editing and everything else.]

2a. Don’t wait to become inspired. Just become inspired.

[I still think this is VERY true. I’m not really a believer in any sort of mysticism, even if art seems to have a mystical quality to it. I think the idea that inspiration drops out of the ether takes credit away from the ingenuity of humans. I think we are all capable of amazing things…a lot of it is believing that we can do those things.]

2b. Some days you won’t want to write. Maybe most days. Write anyway.

[Like above, still very true. Sometimes, writing is a job. But as far as jobs go, it is pretty fun.]

2c. The Muse is a flighty thing; don’t wait for hours for her to arrive, like a pretty girl not arriving on time for a date (if at all). The Muse keeps her own schedule you are not privy to, and besides, you have writing to do. When she comes, do not dismiss her; let her guide you for her powers are far beyond that of you, a mere mortal.

[I still like the analogy of the Muse being a pretty girl who may or may not show up for a date. I think the Muse is a mysterious thing – some days she likes you, some days she could care less, some days you are own your own. But when she does decide to show up, amazing things happen. It’s not really our place as writers to question where she has been, or why she is not spending more time with you – it is just to be grateful for her company, because the Muse is always out of your league. Have a set time you write every day, so the Muse knows where to find you. Nothing is more annoying than the Muse showing up at an inopportune time when you are far from desk, notepad, and pen (though she will always do so anyway just to mess with you As a side note, I think the wording is kinda silly toward the end, but I may have just been feeling silly that day.]

Maybe I’ll add some more of the things I came up in a future post. After all there is still 30 or so of them.

Since this is getting a little long, I think it’s time to go. I have an interview this morning. It should go well, but wish me luck, ladies and gents!

Well, yesterday was an interesting day. I got laid off from my boring and not ideal job where I have been working for almost two years. I thought I still had a couple more months on it at least, but in a way it’s a good thing. Working there did not give me much of an incentive to try to find something else because I had found a way to live with it, even though I knew it was not good for me.

Now I’m in a position where I have to find something else. Only, I don’t know what that thing is yet. I would like it to be writing, but that is not too realistic at the moment, and I will have to put in a lot more months (maybe years) of hard work before it is reality.

I know there are jobs out there I could very easily get, but those are not the jobs I want. I know they are the kind of jobs that would suck my soul dry. No one really wants those jobs, it’s just a matter of circumstance.

Yesterday was also interesting in the sense that I got my return edits back from my professor on Apocalypse. I glanced through them and there were some good comments made. I also had twelve sells yesterday, which is way more than I usually get. I have no idea if it was a fluke or if it will stay at that rate. I had about four sells by the time I heard the news before lunch at work, so I don’t think it was just people on Facebook or whatever after finding out about me losing my job. I tweaked my blurb a bit, but it’s hard to believe that more people would buy my book just because of that. Also, my professor wrote a stunningly amazing review, which you can find here.

I’m a little bit afraid of the future, because it is unknown. I do know what kind of job I would like to have:

1. Something that allows creativity (preferably writing).

2. Something that allows interaction with other human beings (who are not yelling, complaining, etc., at you).

3. Something that makes me feel like I’m doing something important.

There are jobs like that out there, but there are in high demand and only one person can get it, in the end, even if all the applicants are technically equally qualified and it just comes down to interviewer taste.

I’ve been waking up at 5:30 a.m. or earlier every morning just to write. My new novella has reached 24,000 words on its first draft, and I am going for 40,000+ words. I am excited in the sense that I am finally, finally getting into the flow of this, not expecting success immediately, and learning on the way. I want to have it done completely by the end of this month. And it is always encouraging when I hear someone say they liked something I have written. It is always validation that I am doing the right thing, and helps to avert those crises I sometimes have where I feel like I took a wrong turn somewhere.

Writing stories is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. In a way I feel like I have wasted a lot of time in college not writing enough. But in another way I think I needed to be thrust into the harsh reality of the real world to realize how much harder I needed to work for it. College was a bubble – even though I had more time, I had less incentive to try. I had always assumed that I would magically just sit down and magically write an amazing book, because I was always filled with amazing ideas. Having amazing ideas does not necessarily translate to communicating those ideas effectively to paper. It takes a lot of work to put ideas to words, and words themselves change the ideas in a continual back and forth.

There is this cultural conception that creativity is a magical thing, when really it is just a lot of hard work. True, there are such things as bursts of inspiration – but these bursts don’t come out of the ether, they come as a result of putting in the hours every day. As your brain rewires, you begin to see the world differently and it becomes more natural as you form a habit.

Even though I don’t really want to do it, I’m going to have to force myself to find another job. I think in the end it will turn out to be a good thing, but there is a lot of not knowing involved and that is always the hard part, forgive the cliche. Since college I’ve become very aware of how hard things can be out here and how hard it is to find a good job you are happy with.

I really do think this writing thing will work out. I’m getting better and better. I’m going back to read Night of the Necromancer, my first book, and realizing that a lot of it feels choppy compared to what I’m doing now. A new version of it should be online soon, with completely revamped formatting. Things are only looking up writing-wise. I’m still waiting for the big payoff to come. Or maybe there will be no big payoff…just a gradual climb upward.

Whatever it is, I think I’m on the right track. I just need to keep going.