I have not deluded myself that fiction writing is likely to be a lucrative career, and I know there is an excellent chance that it won’t be a career at all, certainly not if we define “career” as “work one does for money.” However, I came across a book that makes me slightly more optimistic. At least, I feel like it’s possible to take this one-in-a-million chance and do… something… with it.

Here’s the book. It’s a free download, too, which can only be because the author is awesome. That, and he has a new book out, and part of his chapter (in the free one) on genre trends is out date, despite his best efforts to focus on macro movements. There’s a paragraph or two where he talks about how fantasy doesn’t get enough industry respect… clearly Harry Potter hadn’t happened yet. Other than that, it looks solid.

It’s easy to find inspiration in a book designed to promote hope. This guy doesn’t do that. He’s very clear that it’ll be a good five years after you publish (if you publish) before you’re likely to be accepted as a novelist. Not “as an established novelist,” just a novelist; not a flash in the pan. The book offers plenty of perspective from the business side of a career in fiction. I recommend it.

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It’s Monday

April 27, 2009

…and it’s already a better week than the last one. I’m not sure that word count is the best measure of progress, but I’m cranky that I’ve done so badly with it all month, and that is motivating.

Word Count 5

April 24, 2009

Numbers are down for the second week in a row. 2654 total; high of 696.

I’m tempted to say “woof” again and call it done, but there is some good news. I gave myself a new schedule this week. I have some time set aside for fiction every day. On the days that I missed a fiction slot, I canceled something else to make it up. Even if I only managed a couple paragraphs each day, that added up to more fiction than I wrote last week, or the week before.

It’s too early for analysis (by one week), but, as you may have noticed, I really like doing it.

Maybe I jumped the gun a little bit. The original plan was to focus on word count this month, see how I did, and possibly add new requirements in May. Now, with one week to go in April, I’m trying for word count, type-of-writing restrictions, and scheduled time slots for everything.

Achieving all of these goals by the end of April would certainly be good for my new career. However, it would be hubristic of me to claim that I will. It might be silly to think that I can… at least, not by the deadline I have given myself. I’m starting to wonder if 1500/day was a reasonable starting point. That’s almost NaNo territory, and NaNo advertises its insanity.

I asked a writer’s group what they thought about it. As it turns out, none of the respondents measure progress this way. The most detailed reply suggested dropping the count to 1000, or ignoring word count altogether and writing one scene per day.

If nothing else, I’ve learned that changing (and adding new) goals mid-month is not wise. It takes about a month to form a new habit, and it helps if you don’t try to form too many at once. I’m going to spend some time next week thinking about which writing habit should be given highest priority. Adherence to a schedule? Dedication to the mastery of… plotting, dialogue, etc.? Word count again, with the caveat that I should also learn to stick to one habit for the entire month?  I’ll include whatever it turns out to be with the last word count report.

Thank you for following my progress so far. If there are any writers out there with insight, or questions a relative newbie like me might answer, feel free to chime in!

Mid-week and All is Well

April 22, 2009

Sometimes I get worried about nothing. I have two possible responses to this: spend a lot of time worrying, or spend five minutes analyzing the problem, and about an hour scheduling myself into oblivion. In scenario #2, I’m assuming that if I have very clear guidelines for the following week, I will be so busy solving the problem and clearing other obligations off my plate that I won’t have time to worry unproductively.

Friday was like that. My word count was down again (omg, three weeks into it and failing, failing!), and I’d probably let the laundry go, or something like that. I wrote up my delightfully regimented schedule and felt much better. Blog, fiction, play with cats (yes, really; they claw things if I don’t), housework, new writing projects, yoga… Everything has a time slot.

This week has been better. I’ve had a couple strange conversations with my fiance. They’re reassuring, in their odd way. Monday evening, he asked casually whether I’d broken into the liquor cabinet during the day. Of course not! I told him I had a rule against that. How many writers are (were) also drunks? How many housewives? I won’t do it. He laughed. He reminded me that one drink a day was perfectly healthy, especially if it was just a glass of wine with lunch. Besides (he went on), I’m such a lightweight now that if I made a solid commitment to perpetual drunkenness, it would take me at least year to achieve it. Maybe closer to two.

Just to recap: he told me I should have a drink with lunch, and that I probably couldn’t be an alcoholic if I tried.

Last night, he invited me to start a character on his Warcraft account. Now, I was sure he had lost his mind. We discussed Warcraft before I started this whole stay-at-home-and-write thing. That was months ago. Under no plan was Warcraft an option. Even I could see that it was more dangerous (for me) than alcohol. I’ve never been much more than buzzed… but Warcraft… those of you who have played understand. Those of you who have not, I assure you: the most addictive game you’ve ever played has not one hundredth the power of this MMORPG. It’s like living a never-ending series of fantasy novels. They call it Warcrack for a reason.

My darling shrugged at my shock, and pointed out that I’ve gotten into a good routine, and playing Warcraft in my “free” slots isn’t going to upset the apple cart. “If your character starts leveling faster than mine, then we’ll know you have a problem.” That was a joke: when 70 was the new limit, he took a character from 1 to 60 in less than a week.The man has mad geek skillz.

So the guy who is now responsible for supporting us has suggested that I play the worst game for killing productivity ever invented, and almost dared me to booze it up. He’s either a very dangerous influence, or totally confident in my restraint. He’s not a lunatic or a bad man, so I’m going to have go with #2. Which is awesome. The person who has the greatest stake in keeping an eye on me thinks I’m doing just fine.

New Schedule

April 20, 2009

I’m trying a new schedule. The weekends will be surrendered to the weekends. If I squeeze in half an hour on a Sunday, great, if not, my production won’t be dependent on finding a gap in my social obligations. Daily writing time is split between mornings and afternoons. Fiction, blogging, and new project ideas all have their own slots. It’s pretty regimented, but I’ve noticed that pressure resembling external authority helps me focus.  There’s probably a post to be written about achieving self-discipline by pretending my self is not involved, but not today.

I’m hoping that this will have a positive effect on my Friday word count score.

I promised you a follow-up about why I decided to change focus from FLCW to fiction. It’s been building for a while, but there was one incident at the end of February that got me thinking.

A friend gave me a heads-up about an entrepreneur’s cocktail hour downtown. We got to the bar, tried the saurkraut’n’sausage balls (almost as good as they sound) and started talking to people. No, that’s a lie. I am not a natural saleswoman. Talking to new people is fairly scary, and it takes me about an hour to psych myself up for something like a networking event. I can do it, but it’s draining. That night I had not done it. I was feeling “out of it” and told myself that 90% of life is just showing up. That worked as far as it went; I did exchange business cards with someone who was looking for a web content writer. But I knew that I would have to ramp up my game if I really wanted to make events like that one work for my little business-to-be. Meanwhile, my friend spotted a real, live FLCW.

I watched her from my barstool. She was working the crowd,  smiling—but not too much, and exuding confidence in a way I could identify with. Some psyching up had taken place earlier that evening, I was sure of it. She was wearing what I would wear if I wanted to both stand out and look professional at a semi-casual event, and she looked a bit like me. Even her hair was of similar length, color, and style… and she was a FLCW. Clearly, I needed to learn more.

When I finally cornered her an hour later, I learned that she graduated about two years ahead of me, and that she had a polished (and strangely familiar) set of answers to my basic questions. I asked how she got started. She had read the same freelance business book I had read, and was following the plan its author laid out. The familiarity clicked: she had used one of his lines in her spiel. It occurred to me that I would probably have to do the same, and practice a spiel of my own. It had already occurred to me that I was looking at my future self.

The conversation was less bubbly from that point on. I had identified myself as competition, and a newcomer who was not in a position to toss overflow projects her way. I was thinking, I can do that. I can work this crowd, I can land those gigs, I can fake it and make it, and she was watching me think it. Sadly, she was all out of business cards. Too bad, maybe we’d meet up at a future event.

I can’t fault her. She’s working hard for something she wants, and the market gods are not smiling these days. If I had taken her path, I would be her, committed to the effort and proud of my success.

But I don’t want that job.

Another friend in another bar heard the news: I’m giving up on the freelance career. His comment: “It’s a lot of work.” Meaning: Running a business is tough; I understand you punking out.

My response was, “It’s all work.” Meaning: Thanks, dude; I’ll remind you of that when I’m on the fifth novel draft.

What I want is to live up to this idea I had when I was seven: that I can be a writer. Maybe even a novelist. It’s one idea that hasn’t gone away or gotten old.

Word Count 4

April 17, 2009

3315 words; high of 1136. There goes my trend. I’m not worried yet; I had some holiday obligations over the weekend. On the upside, I worked six days this week, not five, including about a hundred words on Easter Sunday. Dedication up; production down. Okay. For now, that’s okay. April isn’t over yet.

I have updated the About page. I’m still on my way from accountant to writer, but I am no longer aiming for freelance commercial writing. For anyone who follows this blog because you want information about becoming a FLCW, I apologize, I recommend this guy and his book, and I’ll post the story later this weekend.

I was thinking of putting that post up today, but I’m on rewrite #3 and it’s still not saying what I want it to say. As frustrating as that is, I’m glad to have discovered a powerful interest in getting it just right.