The Good, the Bad, and the Meh, I Guess That Went Okay

Has anyone told you lately that this is hard job? Here, allow me:

THIS IS A VERY HARD JOB.

Sure, on one hand, we’re doing what we love. Writing stories, letting our imaginations run with interesting, and sometimes crazy, ideas. We write late, wake up early, and do it all over again because we love it. Not only that, we gotta write. It’s just what we do.

And then there’s the other hand. We polish our stories, make them the best we can for human consumption, and submit them for editor and agent approval. Ninety to ninety-nine times out of a hundred? Those precious stories are rejected. Our craft is rejected. And we are expected to smile, say thank you, and do it again and again and again. Because we are insane, yes, and because what else are we gonna do? We gotta write. It’s just what we do.

At the end of 2017, I find myself here, with these two hands. Thankful and grateful I’m still here after five years, working hard, grinding away at a career even if it feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace. And on the other hand, I’m asking myself: “Am I crazy?” Because I have to be honest, reader. Sometimes I feel like what I’m doing is crazy. Working for days and sometimes weeks on a short story. Asking friends and family to spend their hours beta reading it. Submitting it, receiving a rejection. Submit again, receive another rejection. And occasionally, an acceptance. If I’m lucky, $100 for all those combined hours, and a publishing credit I pray to the gods will somehow entice an agent to take a chance on me.

I had a very frank talk with my husband about these battling feelings on our date night at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Indian food restaurant. It’s usually the one night a week I put on real pants (if you work from home, you feel me so hard right now), even put on a little make-up. But instead, I looked down-right sloppy. No make up, hair hardly brushed. I couldn’t even pretend to put on a mask. I was just tired. (I should give myself a little credit…I did put on pants.)

I explained everything that I was feeling to my husband – feeling beaten down and pretty exhausted. And true to form, he was nothing but supportive. “Take a week off. Take a month off. Hell, take a year off,” he suggested. “Don’t write for publication. Just write for you.”

“Would it help if you focused on novels instead of short stories?”

I nodded. They were all great suggestions. I dug into my matter paneer and he his bengan bharta (tandoor baked eggplant with peas and herbs). I temporarily forgot about our conversation as we both burned our mouths on way-too-spicy food, drank pitchers of water to cool the burn without avail, and laughed.

The next morning, I woke up feeling better. I got to work on research for my novel. I wrote a draft for this very post you’re reading now.

To be honest, I don’t know why. The only thing I know for sure is that no matter what, I’m going to write. No matter what I’m feeling, no matter how many rejections pile up. No matter how many acceptances grace my inbox. I don’t know why.

I gotta write. It’s just what I do.

Digging Out

2017 is coming to a close. Endings always give us a chance for reflection and review.

For me 2017 was a year of regrouping in many areas of my life. I spent a lot of time working on my new house. While I still have a long way to go, I also did complete a lot of major projects. When we moved in at the end of 2016 our basement was completely unfinished. I mean completely. My windows and external doors were installed, but there was no trim, no internal doors, no window sills or framing… It took me a couple months, but I got all that done, and more.

I built a wet bar, using my first fantasy trilogy as the theme. I installed a TV mount, and wired it for internet. Lots of things. The same was true for my job, and both of my children moved out.

It’s been a year for sure.

I know a lot of people are upset about politics. I’ve long ago learned that people are always upset about politics. Sometimes it’s one side, sometimes it’s the other side. When power shifts, attitudes shift to match. I try not to get caught up in all the hysteria of either side.

So why is this titled “Digging Out?”

Because 2016 was a very difficult year for my family. Building a house is stressful. Finishing an epic fantasy series in the middle of that is stressful. Losing a brother is stressful. Although I didn’t fully realize it at the time, I think I reached one of the lowest points in my life personally, professionally, emotionally and physically in January-February of 2017.

Since then it’s been one long effort to dig out of one mess after another. Many, many times I wondered if the effort of digging was worth it. And I’ve got a lot of digging left to do. But things have steadily improved since February, and now I’m about to wrap up my first sci-fi novel. I have high hopes for this book.

So I am going to be optimistic about 2018. And I’m going to just keep digging out.

Not Enough Time in the Day

Did I Hit my Goals2017 is almost over. This year went by way too fast. I wish each month had a couple more weeks in it.

I love setting goals. Goals motivate me to work harder and stay focused. This year I set a lot of writing goals, and there’s a chance I over-estimated how much I could accomplish. Or maybe I underestimated how long each project would take.

Or both.

I achieved some goals, for sure. I worked hard, and hopefully built momentum that I can capitalize on through the next year. Did I Hit all of them, though? Not quite.

The BIG goal for the year was to release two major novels this year. Did not happen. Several factors contributed, including a much heavier day-job schedule than anticipated that cut into writing time, as well as enormous first drafts of both of those novels that weren’t as on-target as I expected them to be. That required heavy rewriting, which takes a lot of time.

I write big books. Both of the novels I worked on this year were pushing 200,000 words at times. One of the challenges is to cut them down to about 160k or so for release, but first I need to get all the major framework and plumbing working properly, then I can worry about trim and finish work. One book was the final chapter in my Facetakers urban fantasy series, but that novel had to be almost entirely rewritten. I had hoped to release it in May, but ran out of time. I had deadlines that I couldn’t miss for my fourth Petralist YA fantasy book, so the mostly-completed 2nd draft has been on the shelf for a few months. Not enough time in the day.

That Petralist book – Affinity for War is nearly done though! First draft ran long (big surprise). Joshua Essoe, my editor, told me it took the title as the #1 longest book he’s ever edited. The #2 slot was Rune Warrior, also mine, released last year. Edits are going very well, but again taking longer than expected. I had hoped the book would be released this month for Christmas, but it’s going to bleed over into early next year. I chose to make it the best possible book I can, even though that means missing my target release date by a couple of months, but that’s better than sacrificing quality to hit the target.

San MarinoThe year wasn’t just misses, though. I served as president of the Fictorians, which has been an honor. I attended a couple different conventions, and even shared a vendor table with the amazing Gama Martinez (his books are awesome) at SLC comicon. I began learning about marketing, with much more learning still needed, and I took a trip to Italy to research my last Facetakers book! Check out this photo of San Marino. It’s a tiny little nation entirely embedded within Italy. Who knew?

This year I also wrote another novella in the Petralist world. When Torcs Fly should be released by the end of this month (official announcement coming soon!). It’s the hilarious tale of how Tomas and Cameron, two comic supporting characters in the series, first joined the elite special-forces company and had their first misadventure together. It will be super fun.

I also started the process of getting Set in Stone produced as an audiobook! I’ve wanted to do this for over a year, but there was not enough time in the day. I finally just started the process, even though I didn’t have time. I’m glad I did. Joshua Story is the narrator, and he’s amazing. I will begin reviewing chapters this week, and we should have the audiobook out very soon (again – official announcement coming soon!).

So I accomplished a lot, had a blast writing some amazing stories that will be released soon, and learned some lessons on time management and estimating my work. I’ve got big goals for 2018, so hopefully I’ll do a better job planning it out.

Every day, I plan to write as much as I can, but not forget that balance is important. Time with family, my day job, service in my church youth group, and Sleep! are all necessary too. It may feel like there’s not enough time in the day, but I still try to enjoy the journey.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Lessons (Re)Learned

Before we get started, I’d like to urge everyone reading this to consider donating to Pat Rothfuss’s wonderful charity drive Worldbuilders. Fans of Pat’s work (aren’t we all?) will likely know about this already, as he runs it every year. But 100% of the proceeds go to Heifer International, the charity that helps lift families in developing countries out of poverty permanently by giving them what they need to provide for their own livelihoods indefinitely. PLUS, for every $10 you donate, you have the chance to win some truly fabulous and geeky swag. Books, comics, games, and some really unique stuff you can’t win anywhere else. I’m proud to say that for the third year in a row I donated books to serve as prizes. Enter and you can win one of eight sets of both Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God, as well as literally thousands of other prizes.

There are only a couple of days left. Donate here.

So, down to business. In preparation to write this post, I looked back to take stock of 2017 and see what sorts of lessons I could draw from what went well (I published a book! I placed a story in another anthology! I landed a spot in a book bundle!) and, more importantly, what didn’t (writing speed!). Some of these are lessons I already knew after a fashion. Some I’ve probably even related on this blog before. But that’s okay. If there’s one thing I’ve learned (and learned, and learned) about people, it’s that we can all use refresher courses in life lessons from time to time.

First off, in an unexpected twist early in the year, I got a kind of promotion at my day job. This was good in that regard, it put me in a position I think works well for me and which I enjoy. But as with all things, there are tradeoffs. But it did heap a bunch more responsibility onto my shoulders. So:

Lesson 1: Energy is a zero-sum game. There are only 24 hours in a day, and there is only so much that can be done in those 24 hours. When you push harder in one aspect of your life, you have to ease up in another area or you’ll burn yourself out fast. Suffice it to say, my writing speed suffered this year, largely as a result of more of my energy and focus being burned at my day job.

I’d originally had a deadline for Book 3 set with my editor that was based on far more optimistic projections of my writing speed than wound up happening. In the past, deadlines have worked wonders for my editing speed, even if (see Lesson 1) I always paid for it later. Well …

Lesson 2: Deadlines affect different parts of the writing process in different ways. Turns out that what works well for my editing process has the exact opposite effect on my writing process. My creativity well just dries right up. After much waffling, I wound up pushing the deadline back, and it was amazing how quickly the font of creativity sprang back to life. Things are going much better now.

So right around the time I was getting set to publish my second novel (shameless link for holiday shopping), I had the chance to submit to another anthology in the series I’ve had such good fortune with. There was no way, with my edits to Ungrateful God, that I was going to have time to write a new story from scratch. I tried anyway, but no luck. Which leads me to …

Lesson 3: Turn down opportunities only after careful consideration. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The anthology’s theme was sea monsters, and after some thought and speaking with the editor, I was able to modify an existing story of mine (a longtime favorite, tragically unplaced) to fit closely enough to submit. And it got in! So be on the lookout for Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath next year, featuring my story “A Marsh Called Solitude.”

All that being said, too much is too much. So the corollary to the above is …

Lesson 4: Know when to say no. The simple fact is (and this relates again back to Lesson 1) that if you take on too much at once, you’ll end up doing nothing well. This limit is different for everyone, and you’ll probably have to experiment, as I have, to find where it lies, but once you have learned, you’d do well to heed it.

Let’s talk some more about those opportunities. They come in all shapes and sizes, often when you least expect it. But they can only reach you if you’re listening.

Lesson 5: Keep the lines of communication open. We’re writers. We like to retreat into our own little worlds where we reign supreme. I get it. But I was able to place Unwilling Souls into a really fantastic book bundle this past summer, and it was all because I was keeping up well enough with my social media to notice when the request for submissions came along. Turned out it was a great fit, and it netted me an unprecedented number of sales. That in turn provided a nice bump in sales for Ungrateful God as well.

But not every opportunity will just fall into your lap, even if you’re paying attention. Most will, in fact, require chasing. Which brings me to the final lesson of the year.

Lesson 6: Don’t wait. Go after it. One thing my work needs badly is more reviews. The reviews I get are almost all great, I just don’t get enough of them. The internet is filled with blog reviewers that will turn around an honest review in return for a complimentary e-copy of a book. But unless you are already well-known enough that you probably don’t need the help, they probably won’t come looking for you. I received a lovely review for Unwilling Souls by Nerd Girl, as well as a great Ungrateful God review from The Novel Girl Reads, and I’m just getting warmed up soliciting reviews. My goal is to have a nice list of reviewers to contact by the time Book 3 is ready to go. But I’ve got to set aside the time (and the energy) to get that done.

I’m willing to bet a lot of you have learned these lessons before, just as I have. But as I said, some of the best lessons are the ones we need reminders of from time to time. Happy writing, happy holidays, and happy New Year. Catch you in 2018!

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.