30 Days of Balance #12: The Cracks of the Day vs. Money

On the Fantasy Faction group of Facebook the question recently went out: what do you find most difficult about writing? The answers ranged from not being able to express oneself properly, to not finding the time, to writing certain types of characters, to loneliness. I thought about it for a moment and answered thusly:

Dealing with the contrast between my proven track record of producing day in day out for weeks without hitting a snag and the current financial limitations that prevent this from becoming a day by day reality. Aka the one thing that takes precedence over the work: supporting a family simultaneously.

Writing in the cracks of the day sucks. But if authors have any form of life responsibilities they need to make money. Unless your books are selling like proverbial hot cakes, this eliminates the possibility of writing full time all day every day – and yet this type of time and attention press is exactly what young authors need to see whether they can actually do it. Dabblers write here and there. Authors can fill a day with no reservations. The problem then becomes overcoming that feeling.

For five straight weeks in 2013 I drove my wife to work by 8:20am, got to the local library by 8:30am, read a few chapters in the car (I think I was finishing up Wheel of Time upon Sanderson’s third release), and then at 9:00am found my own space inside. I would write until sometime near lunch, eat a bagged lunch while watching a Futurama episode, then write until 4:15pm. I would pick my wife up at 4:30pm and drive home. Every day except weekends.

Now, plenty of authors can brag this sort of devotion. Devotion by itself does not make for excellent writing. What these weeks did do was prove that I could be productive and happy while writing 40 hours a week while giving Imbalance the unprecedented rate of focus it demands. Achieving this was important. I also got about a quarter of the book done.

I was a full-time teacher. I was paid over those summer holidays. I was paid as if working full time and yet I could write the day away.

It’s a hard habit to kick.

Now the pressures of the day are many, I have no teaching contract that extends over the summer, and my daughter requires attention above and beyond all manner of previous duty. Whenever I work on Grip of Dust I get hit with this malaise of frustration that such boundless time and focus may never again be available to me – that such a blissful writing set-up may never again provide such design alacrity. It casts doubt that I can once again compile such a mass of details during the cracks of the day with so many distractions abound. I know other authors feel my pain – even ones halfway famous. The distance between designated writing time and forced writing time is enough to sink a war galley.

Yet up paddles.

JM

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30 Days of Balance #11: Progress to Publication II – Six-Year Challenge

At the end of “Progress to Publication I” I was done with television production but held a great movie script in my hands sure to see no light of day. It became increasingly ignored on the backburner as only the dearest friends would read a movie script. There were no visuals. With only a few words to describe the action, could they ever see what I saw when put together?

I started on a comic with an illustrator while I waited for things to figure themselves out, and when they didn’t took another look at things. The comic was done, but in the end it had taken a long time without any hope of profit looming. Looking at the situation, I realized the proper answer was to work in a medium that was, by definition, a solo act. A way of producing the content I loved without relying on the approval of others or technology I did not know how to use.The answer was writing the movie script back into a novel – one using the script as a skeleton and my further five years of experience reading and writing as the motivation to finish.

What’s more, I had my original version of the book as a template for my first five chapters.

Now, I’ve mentioned my history of not quitting, but this was going to be the biggest challenge yet. Writing a full novelization was going to take a very long time and I was no longer a teen – I had bills and a job and responsibilities. I needed a way to gauge if I was capable of putting in the time to properly execute a full book. I also wanted to use the fact that being young had no bearing on being an author. In television and comics, being young and in the clique was essential to progression, but writing was deemed an older person’s game. It was and is a medium where your product speaks for you in full.

I settled on a 6-year plan to finish the book when I was 33. I figured that at 33 I would still be fairly young, I would be just as happy to have a written novel, and I would have a cut-off age to ensure the project never went into development hell forever. Over the next bunch of years I wrote, and I felt the cap of 6 years was very helpful in keeping me on track. I wrote when I could – sometimes in huge blocks of 8-hour days in a library, other times never for multiple months – but I always felt calm knowing it did not have to be done immediately. I had lots of time. There was no reason to ever feel like a failure if it ground to a halt once in a while. At some point I was going to haul out the gas tank and get moving again.

I finished my first draft of Purge of Ashes when I was 32 – and after numerous edits over the intervening years, found publication at 33, right near the end of my timeline. I will turn 34 eight days before the release date and what an amazing past six years it has been.

And don’t worry – with ‘publication’ replacing the ‘6-year plan’ as my principal motivator, you can rest easy Grip of Dust will not take nearly so long. At the time of this post it is 68,000 words deep.

JM

Sketches

Sitting here staring at a copy of A Clash of Kings next to the computer. It’s waiting on the table to be transported out to my mother-in-law this weekend who has taken up with A Song of Ice and Fire. I can’t say I would have expected that back in the late ’90s.

Just a quick note tonight that RPG has informed me of incoming sketches from my cover artist – so it has officially begun: the book being made in earnest. I’m am eager to pin down my vision for the cover and very glad RPG is open to artist/author engagement when creating covers. One of my biggest fears throughout the process was spending all these years creating the content only to be afflicted with a cover that featured a half-naked warrior woman next to an old guy in a robe, who is probably a mage but looks like an old guy in a robe, as they grapple with some lizard-man wielding a silver gun akin to the kind you’d find on the cover of a mid-’90s Choose Your Own Adventure cover.

When this cover is done it will be yet another reason to get the hardcover.

JM.