The long road to success as a writer

Last updated on May 14, 2016

writersblockWhen I remember that I’m a goddamned writer, I totally write things.  I write a shit-ton of things. I write like I can fuckin’ write or something.

And then I forget, and werds ar hurd, and sentence whut r thet, hur-de-hur-hur-derp.

(I’m sure all writers go through this.  Or rather, I’ve never met one personally who didn’t.)

So, understand the full range of audacity that I’m committing myself to in actually putting up the Patreon page and promising you guys… *does a math right quick* … around 8,000 words per month on “Long As There Are Violets” and around 12,000 words per month on “Lost Ground”.

No one’s taken me up on “Larry, Inc” just yet, so I’m not going to tell you how many words you aren’t getting for that one.

So, 20,000 words per month, which isn’t a big deal, really – I’ve done 115,000 in three weeks without really breaking a sweat – but the key is to make them good words, not just any words…

oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god what the hell was I thinking oh god oh god oh god oh god …

And then I go back and I read some other things that I’ve written, and I realize… what the hell do I have to be worried about?  I got this!

Oh, wait, what the hell was I thinking, I’m a total hack, I have no idea what I’m doing…!


And I can.  I really can.  I know I can.  I already have a few published-and-paid writing credits under my belt, including a superhero story (not my best, not my favorite, but it sold, so who am I to judge?), so there’s gotta be someone out there that likes my things.

But, they’re my friends.  Are they sparing my feelings?  Are they willing to tell me the truth, that pacing issues are my bane because I can go sometimes months or years between writing the next chapters?  Or that my characters are two-dimensional?  Or that my spelling and grammar sucks?

(I know this last one is bullshit, I just had to throw it in there for contrast.)

If you stalk me on Facebook, you know that I posted a couple of weeks ago about how I was contemplating how to come up with both the time and the money to go to a really intensive workshop like Clarion.  These things are a big deal.  That’s six weeks away from home (San Diego, in Clarion’s case), lots of successful writers as coaches, fairly expensive (if you’re broke, have children, or have millennial-type budgets), and you have to submit your work and get approved before you can even think of scheduling the time.  BUT, everyone I’ve known directly and indirectly who went to these (reputable) workshops has enjoyed fantastic real-world success.

It’s not just about networking, like you’d do if you were going to a marketing or technology conference.  These workshops are focused on helping you actually write better.

I’ve been at this for so long, I really think that having that kind of feedback would help me take a step back from my habits and determine if they’re even worth a shit.

(Oddly enough, I do not take my lack of submission acceptances as a sign that I’m a crap writer.  It’s more like, I’m a lazy submitter and don’t really send things out they way I know I need to.  So, if you take the number of acceptances I’ve had compared to the number of rejections, I’m not really doing too bad.  16% acceptance for the last year, with two no-responses?  The actual numbers are, twelve submissions, and of those, two acceptances, so note that it’s a pretty small sample size.  The main thing that makes me think I’m a crap writer is letting myself get eaten alive with anxiety over maybe being a crap writer.)

Back to the post that I made last week:  My saintly husband saw it, and he messaged me immediately.  “I didn’t know this was something you wanted, HERE HAVE ALL THE THINGS!!!”

Magically, three or four writing groups showed up on my calendar as appointments.  He started digging into the hows and whys and whats for managing to get not necessarily into Clarion but how about Odyssey?   You know, that’s where George R.R. Martin went, and look at his success!

I balked.  “But I don’t want to kill off all of my characters!  I’m pretty sure Odyssey wouldn’t be for me, if that’s what he learned…”

And then I killed off two major characters (out of a nine-man crew) within the next hour.

Okay… so maybe this is a good idea.

In the end, I really want to be able to support myself exclusively with fiction writing.  I don’t expect to win all the awards, but I know I can pump out books like some people pump out children – several a year.  I have a fantastic system for inspiring my imagination when I just can’t come up with anything to write (that’s the real challenge when you know that you have to write Every Single Day), and I’m really, really good at building worlds and the people in them.

Yeah, I’m learning how to program, and yea, I’ve got Swift Mugsy over here, but having to stay home and be accessible to Daniel makes the job thing dodgy at best.  This would be the best of all worlds.

What do you think?  Should I do the thing?

(I think I’m going to do the thing.)

normfac Written by:

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