Tag Archives: perseverance

Finishing What You Start, Or Not

When I first started writing fiction in 2009, one of the first things I learned were Heinlein’s Rules. While they all have a place in the heart of every writer, the one that sticks out the most to me is “Finish What You Start.” It’s the single most often prescribed bit of writing advice I give to aspiring authors. The ability to sit down and finish a story, good or bad, is critical to learning the craft. However, I’ve also come to understand (and experience) that there are simply times when you shouldn’t finish what you start – you should put it down and walk away.

I’ve had an idea for a novel in my head for the last several years and I’ve toyed with outlining it here and fleshing out dialogue and characters there and I decided that I’d sit down on really focus on it last year. My intent was to write about 10,000 words and really determine if the story was something I could commit to fully. While it sounded good to me, and I was pretty sure I could write it, could I make it an authentic story? Could I answer the most important question in every reader’s mind – “Who gives $&@#?” I believed I could and I promptly sat down wrote about 8,500 words and stopped dead – seriously, like in the middle of a sentence.

At the time, I believe the words I spoke to myself were “What in the hell are you doing, Kevin?” My great idea wasn’t as great as I’d believed it to be. From my reading and occasional instruction of outlining and character dynamics, I realized that while I had a fun premise to explore, my character was simply horrible. I’d designed goals for them and tried valiantly to put them into some type of story line capable of captivating an audience. On paper, everything was a fit, but I realized that I didn’t “love” my protagonist. In fact, I kinda loathed them. Every time I wrote their dialog in that 8,500 starter, I cringed. It got to the point at the end that I threw up my hands and said “I’m not finishing this.”

A few years ago, this would have bothered me tremendously. Having learned that finishing what you start is critical to success as a writer, my younger self would’ve pressed on and turned out something vaguely akin to a novel that was destined for the circular file. Instead, I realized that while I’d seemingly done my homework, outlined and plotted the story, and built my character in a way I thought would work – the whole mess didn’t come together. Was it a result of my talent? Or my motivation? Or did I just not believe in the story anymore? Your guess is as good as mine. What mattered was that my brain said it was time to stop – that I wasn’t getting anywhere fast and that I was laboring over a first draft instead of letting the ideas around my outline flow. That story went into the dark recesses of my hard drive likely never to be heard from again. It simply didn’t work. I didn’t need to send it to my first reader or any beta readers – I could sense that the story was dead on arrival and I stopped.

I recently went back at looked at what I’d written in the 8,500 word, suddenly truncated start and completely agreed with my decision. In some similar cases, I’ve looked at something with fresh eyes and starting typing anew – pushing that gestated idea to finalization. As I read the first chapter, I thought I might be able to do just that. By the end of chapter three, I knew it was a lost cause. That character, and their storyline, went into the experience file. From there, I went back to another one of Heinlein’s rules – “Write something else.”

I’ve been busy ever since.

Unexpected Invitations and Opportunities

Earlier this year, I sent off my novel Vendetta Protocol for a blurb from Baen books author Charles E. Gannon. When he responded with an excellent blurb, I was surprised by the last line of his email. After reading my book, he recommended me to authors Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey. I’d never heard of either of them, but in the weeks that followed, I learned that each of them had authored one book in what they called the Four Horsemen Universe – a military science fiction universe where humans most commonly act as mercenaries and often find themselves on the short end of the galactic stick. Mark and Chris offered me a story spot in an anthology they were launching to flesh out their universe based on that recommendation alone.

I hadn’t read their books and Chris and Mark hadn’t read mine. As we emailed back and forth, a knot of self-induced pressure built in my chest. Could I pull this off? Could I make good on my friend’s recommendation? When I received their “primer,” a fifteen page document outlining the basic rules of the universe, I sat down to read it and immediately gravitated to the concept of a Peacemaker Guild. Combined with a timely thought about a really bad movie from the 1980s, I developed a short story idea. Over the course of two weeks, I wrote the story and then did something I’ve never done before – I sent them the rough draft of the story and asked if I was anywhere close to what they wanted with their universe. Their response surprised me.

Not only was the story exactly what they wanted, they wanted me to continue the story of Earth’s first Peacemaker in novel format. I looked at my writing plan for the year, the success of the two additional books they launched in the universe, and what they were doing with the anthology (of which there were plans for three) and said yes. I scrapped finishing my Protocol War series in 2017 and signed on to write an unplanned book in a universe I was still learning about, and I had about twelve weeks to do it. Could I?

I did. When I completed the novel Peacemaker and turned it in to them, I had no idea what to expect. Would they like the story? Would the rabid fans of the Four Horsemen Universe embrace it? Had I told the kind of story I wanted to tell in their universe? The answer to all of those questions unfolded in late August and was a resounding “YES!” From that unexpected invitation, I’ve now committed to writing a total of three books in the Peacemaker storyline and have just completed book two – Honor The Threat.

For me, 2017 was all about embracing unexpected opportunities. Doing so has led me into avenues I’d never considered and put my work in front of new readers and fans. It’s hard to believe that I’m writing a new series from a short story idea, but that’s the way this writing thing tends to work. I’ve paddled into a wave and I’m going to ride it as best I can. In the coming year, I have books to write and conventions to attend, but I’ll be looking for opportunities because they can come in the most unexpected places. Keep your eyes and ears open – you never know where things might go.

Into the Fire-A Leap of Faith From My Day Job into Full-Time Writer

Currently I work in the Engineering Department at a company that makes hand-crafted, wrought iron lights for really rich people. I take sketches from our design team, or from the customer, and figure out how to build them, creat blue prints (except there’s no blue involved anymore) for the guys in the shop and send the project out.

I’ve been at this job for fifteen years. And I love the work. I like figuring out how to make a light that looks like a gondola, or a hat. I enjoy most of the people I work with. And I’m good at what I do.

But it’s not what I really want to be doing.

A couple of years ago, not long after I got married, I went part time at my day job and part time writing. Since then I’ve put out seven novels, three novellas and a handful of short stories. I tried the traditional publishing path, then converted to hybrid (both traditional and indie). I’ve never replace my monthly income from my day job with my writing…but I could.

  • If I learned marketing.
  • If I figured out Facebook Ads.
  • If I read some books on business.
  • If I spent more time researching Amazon and keywords.
  • If I wrote romance.
  • If I had 10k people on my newsletter.

If, if, if…All of these things have been hanging over my head all year. If only I had time to (fill in the blank) I would be a more successful writer.

Now, plenty of people hold down full-time jobs and are successful writers. Some are stay at home moms who work even harder than those with full-time jobs. So I kind of feel like a whiner when I say that I need more time.

But then my husband pointed something out. What I do for my day job is mentally taxing. It uses my creative energy, and often I come home with little to none left.

And as I thought about that, I thought about the fact that I was putting 25-30 hours

a week toward a career that I was never going to cultivate. I learn new things all the time, but I’m not particularly motivated to memorize how many LED drivers and chips are needed for a twenty foot chandelier that looks like elk horns. Or how to use the new 3D program when I’m faster than everyone else in the 2D program I’ve worked in for twenty years.

The realization came to me that I wasn’t being fair to either of my careers.

My inner writer was always upset that I put my day job first, and I wasn’t giving my full effort to my day job, because it’s not the job I want.

So, a few months ago I decided that this would be my last year at my current job. Starting today, December 22nd, I will officially be a full-time writer!

Which is both exhilarating and terrifying. I might crash and burn, or I might rise out of obscurity and into the realms of those selling enough books to replace my lost income. I’ve tried to prepare, but to tell you the truth, I think it’s going to be like getting thrown into the fire no matter what. But a bit of fire is good in the winter, right?

 

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