When it Rains, it Pours, but, You Know…Rainbows and All That (An IWSG Post)

IWSG badgeThis post is going up a lot later in the day that I usually put up my posts, and that’s very in tune with the sort of time I’ve been having lately. Let’s go through a quick list, shall we?

  • Around the middle of September I had to suck it up and purchase a new vehicle. It wasn’t because the old one had crapped out on me, but rather because my daughter started school. Because of my work schedule (two weeks on the other side of the country, then two weeks home) and the fact that all my flights leave at “you’ve got to be kidding” o’clock in the morning, we became in need of two vehicles so that my daughter wouldn’t miss school every single time I flew. So that was the starting point…handing over fistfuls of cash for a very large purchase.
  • Around the same time we bought the new car, I had started working on my daughter’s Halloween costume, which I make myself every year. But because, again, of my work schedule, I was not able to finish back then and had to go two weeks (16 days when you count the days of flight) without being able to work on it…keep this in mind for a few moments.
  • Then, while I was on shift at work, our washing machine crapped out completely. My husband tried his best to get it up and running again, but it turned out that the required part was the most expensive one, making it pretty much pointless. And since our dryer was just as old as the washer, it didn’t make a lot of sense to get just a washing machine and then just be waiting for the dryer to die…so we ended up buying a brand new washer and dryer set, and although it’s not like we couldn’t afford it, it always sucks to have to make purchases like that so suddenly.
  • So I got home, and I had precisely four days to finish my daughter’s costume, along with helping my husband go crazy decorating the house, because we do Halloween right in this family. It was an extremely busy few days, which is always a little stressful.
  • Of course, after Halloween we did our traditional drive around to look for discounted candy, costumes, and decorations…and while we were out a big truck flung a rock at our windshield, putting an enormous crack in it. We were driving the brand new car. To make matters even worse, my insurance deductible is enormous, so it actually cost less to pay for it out of pocket, and it hasn’t even been fixed yet because the part that Speedy ordered arrived damaged.
  • So now I’ve only got a few more days before I head back out to work, and once I come home again it’s not only my daughter’s birthday, but I’ve got to get all of the Christmas stuff done in those two weeks because the next time I’ll be home after that won’t be until December 19th.

The point of all this? Just that this is a stressful time of the year for me, and it’s not going to be over for quite a while yet.

The upside? Well, there’s always writing.

This time of year – specifically, November – is National Novel Writing Month, and even when I’m stressed out and busier than I can possibly deal with, I always have fun during National Novel Writing Month.

This year I’m doing something purely for fun, not worrying about epic plots or anything like that. I’m writing a series of short, erotic stories based on fairy- and folk-tales. It’s silly, strange, probably reads like the worst drivel you can imagine, and it’s a ton of fun. In fact, I’ve written almost as much in the past four days as I wrote during all of October.

Sometimes it can be hard to remember when you’re trying to create a masterpiece, but writing should be fun. It should be relaxing, and a release from reality, and you should enjoy doing it. So maybe, just maybe, when things are getting out of control and it feels like your brain is about to explode, maybe you should just sit down and write some really raunchy sex scenes.

Or, you know, whatever kinds of scenes are fun for you to write. XD

And with that said, it’s time to get back to my dirty scenes…and I’m telling all of you fellow IWSG writers to do the same! Get out there and write whatever makes you happy! Do it now! ^_^

Looking on the Bright Side – An IWSG Post

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Well, it’s once again time for the “Insecure Writer’s Support Group” post of the month, and though I’m having what I consider to be a pretty rotten morning so far I’m going to try really really hard to keep a positive light to this month’s post.

First thing to be happy about: a couple of weeks ago those of us who are participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge got our results back from the first challenge. The way it works is that in each group (which has about 30 people), the top fifteen stories get points, and you get as many points as your rank. So the top ranking story would get fifteen points, and the lowest ranking story would get one point, with the remaining fifteen people getting zero points. For my first story of the challenge I got ten points, which I think is pretty great, especially considering that it’s my first time ever participating in the challenge. šŸ™‚

The second part of the challenge was about a week and a half ago, so I won’t get the results back for that one until October 20th-ish. Once those points are doled out the top six scorers in each group move on to Round Two. I’m not expecting to get into Round Two because my second challenge story wasn’t nearly as good as the first one, but it’s still been tons of fun and I’ve gotten lots of great feedback from fellow participants, so it was definitely worth it.

Second thing to be happy about: the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book competition is coming to a close very soon. Why is that something to be happy about? Because it’s been KILLING me waiting for it! To enter the competition you had to send them a hard-copy of your novel way back in March/April, so I’ve just been sitting around waiting for the results since then. I’m not expecting to place at all – after all, I’m sure there were probably hundreds of entrants all with amazing books – but I’m excited for it to be over because even the losers get feedback from the judges on their novel. Plus it’ll just be nice to not be anticipating it anymore! Only five more days until “all winners will be notified”, so soon I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief and know that it’s officially over and I don’t have to think about it. XD

Third thing to be happy about: although it’s actually taken longer than I expected it to because my life is a ball of “go here, do this, do that”, I am almost done of the current draft of “The Other World: Book One”. That means that I can ship the manuscript off to my beta-reader and not have to think about it again until she ships it back with her thoughts. This is definitely a good thing because I’ve reached that stage in every story where you just want to set your laptop on fire rather than have to re-read the same paragraphs one single more time.

Fourth thing to be happy about: NaNo season is approaching. Honestly, even though I love NaNoWriMo, I’m usually filled with dread at this time of year because it’s just such a god-damn busy time and I’m usually so stressed out and there’s absolutely no way that I can find the time required to write 50,000 words in one month. HOWEVER, this NaNo I’ve decided to totally rebel and do something fun and kinda-sorta-in-a-way relaxing. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing an erotic novel or two, mostly for research purposes (no, seriously), to see how such a thing would sell in comparison to my zombie novel, “Nowhere to Hide“. So, this year for NaNo I’m going to rebel and just write 50,000 words worth of erotic stories. My understanding is that the average erotic story is 5000-7000 words, so I’m going to try to write 8-10 short stories. I think it’ll be an interesting change from the usual system since, generally, by mid-way through NaNo I’m both losing interest in my story and wondering how I’m going to stretch it out to 50,000 words. With what I’m going to do this year if I lose interest I can just skip to one of the other stories in the line. Yeah, okay, technically it’s cheating, but the NaNo forums have a “Rebels” board for a reason, right. ^_~

So I guess that’s basically it for now. I’m just trying really hard to look on the bright side of things, because otherwise my eye starts twitching and I start grinding my teeth and not sleeping well, and it’s just overall a really bad scene. šŸ˜›

So what about you guys? What are you all up to? Looking on the bright side, right? RIGHT?

Dwindling Word Count: An IWSG Post

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So it’s been a whole month since the last IWSG post day and I… Oh dammit, did I seriously write less than 6000 fictionalĀ words this month? That isĀ totally unacceptableĀ unsurprising.

It’s been one of those months. You know the kind: you have every intention of having a spectacular four weeks, but somehow by the end of it you look at your meager word count and begin feeling suitably bad about yourself. I’ve had a lot of those kinds of months this year and it’s starting to get to me a little.

This month I wrote approximately 20,000 words. Now, for some people 20,000 words may sound amazing, and it’s definitely nothing to sneeze at…better than zero words, at least! But here’s the thing…the overwhelming majority of those words were blog posts. A few of those blog posts were “Flash Fiction Friday” posts, so that adds up to maybe 5000 or so words, and other than that the only fiction writing I did was to reviseĀ a couple of chapters of The Other World: Book One, which only worked out to about 800 or soĀ new words. So we’re looking at less than 6000 words of fiction over the course of a month.

Now I’ll grant that I have difficult hours to work with; for seventeen of the last thirty-one days I was dealing with 12-hour work days and an hour of travel each day. For three more of those days I was crammed into the most uncomfortable possible seats on a series of airplanes ferrying me across the country. That leaves eleven days that I was free to get some hardcore writing done, but those were the days I was actually home with my husband and daughter, and you can probably see where this is going.

Basically, what I’ve come to accept is that the best time for me to write is in the tiny window I have between the end of my 12-hour shift and the moment my body collapses into fitful, this-bed-sucks-so-much sleep. That window, after accounting for getting a shower and eating supper (and, twice a shift, doing my laundry), is about an hour long. I’m forever behind on blog posts, so I usually spend about half of that hour feverishly typing out something for the following day. That leaves half an hour. And what do I do then?

Honestly? Usually I wind up throwing on YouTube videos while I drool into my pillow and my eyelids begin to flicker.

IĀ couldĀ ignore my body and stay up later to get some writing done, but I choose not to because my health is bad enough as it is.

IĀ couldĀ rip the ethernet cable out of my laptop and refuse to let myself watch YouTube, but after a 12-hour shift I can’t help but justify my half-hour of semi-relaxation.

IĀ couldĀ suck it up and get down to it while I’m on my days off, but there’s always a million other things that I have to do while I’m home (or they don’t get done), and if I spend all day on my computer my daughter and husband end up frustrated with me because I’m home and should be spending time with them (and, you know, I actuallyĀ wantĀ to spend time with them instead of sitting at my computer all day)

Basically there’s lots of solutions that IĀ couldĀ employ, along with lots of reasons not to employ them.

And so I wind up with a measly 5800 fictional words over the course of a full month.

But I hadĀ plans, dammit! I was going to completely finish revising The Other World: Book One so that I could ship it off to my beta-reader and not have to look at it for a while! I was going to continue working on the first draft of The Other World: Book Two so I could feel like I was actually getting somewhere! And I was going to play my hand at writing a short romance novel, mostly out of curiosity to see what kind of reaction it would get, but also to broaden my horizons as a writer!

And literally none of that got done. None of it even got halfway done. Book Two and the romance story didn’t even getĀ touched, despite my daily internal pep-talks that today was going to be the day.

I know that I’m being pretty hard on myself (hey, that’s what we writer’s do, right?) because I do have an outrageously awful schedule to have to deal with while trying to write as well, but sometimes I can’t help feeling that I’m just being a lazy whiner, that if I really wanted to do these things I wouldĀ do them already. After all, I wrote, revised, edited, and self-published Nowhere to Hide while working this same kind of schedule. So why can’t I do it again?

Maybe I’m getting old and tired before my time. šŸ˜›

So that’s my insecurity for the month, in all it’s twitchy, teary-eyed glory. How about you?

The Misery of Book Sales – An IWSG Post

IWSG badgeIt’s that time of the month again. No, not that time of the month, you goon. It’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group time. And believe me, I’m pretty insecure this month. For any particular reason you may ask? Why yes! The reason that I’m feeling especially insecure this month is because of book sales…or rather, the lack of them.

Nowhere to Hide” was my first complete novel, my first self-published book, and is thus far the only published book that I have that is actually for sale. When I was writing it I knew that it wasn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea; when you’re dealing with a subject matter like zombies you’re not going to float everyone’s boat. And I definitely didn’t think that my book was going to be any kind of breakaway hit or anything, because I’m a brand new author and the statistics on something like that happening are astronomical. So, basically, I wasn’t expecting to have a great number of sales.

But I was expecting to have some.

When I first officially announced the publication I had a small rush of sales as interested family and friends happily grabbed a copy. I ordered a box of print copies myself and sold them to those who wanted me to sign it for them, and I managed to sell a few more this way to some coworkers. At the same time there were random sales popping up in Kindle, I can only presume from the kinds of people who like to check out “What’s New”. Over the course of about three months I made approximately $200 profit, which I didn’t think was half bad, all things considered.

And then everything went completely dead.

I encouraged my friends and family to rate and review the book on Amazon or Goodreads in hopes of enticing more readers to buy, but while some did, most didn’t. I really had to scrape and beg for over half a year to work my way up to thirteen reviews (five on Goodreads, five on Amazon Canada, two on Amazon US, and one on Amazon UK) and as near as I can tell none of it really did any good at all. My sales haven’t budged since that first influx in the very beginning. I’ve gone multiple months without selling a single print copy, and my average for e-book sales in the past six months has been approximately two per month. I even permanently reduced the price of the e-book to $0.99, but it doesn’t seem to have mad any difference at all.

On the one hand, I’m happy whenever anyone buys my book. On the other hand, whenever I log into my Kindle dashboard and see that one sale that netted me a whopping $0.35 for the entire month, it gets pretty depressing. I never expected to be successful, and the fact is that I write mostly just because I love it so much, not because I expect to actually make a living from it, but… I guess it’s just a little disheartening. I’ve gotten excellent reviews on the book (and not all of them from relatives, thank you very much), but those reviews just don’t seem to be enticing new readers to check out the book.

The key, of course, is to write more books, because only an exceptionally tiny percentage of writers actually become successful with their first book. Sometimes it’s just really hard to convince oneself of that fact, especially when some of the most popular books out there right now are utter crap and are inexplicably making their authors millionaires.

But I guess I can online whine so much before it all comes back down to, “Buck up, deal with it, and keep writing!” So that’s what I’ll do!

The Day Job Blues – An IWSG Post

IWSG badgeEvery month I see multiple posts popping up on my WordPress feed all on the same day, all with “IWSG” in the title or the first few lines of the post. Eventually curiosity got the best of me and I looked into the story behind these synchronized bloggers, which is how I discovered the Insecure Writers Support Group. The idea behind the group is, of course, to give and get support within a community of writers, most of whom are insecure about one thing or another (don’t laugh…it’s a writer’s lot in life to be continually insecure). On the first Wednesday of every month the IWSG hosts a blog hop; members can write about the insecurities they’ve been feeling, problems they’ve overcome, or whatever else they feel like talking about.

This is my first IWSG post, and today I thought I’d talk about the Day Job Blues.

Most writers are lucky enough to be able to make a decent living from our writing, especially those of us who chose to write novels. Making any money as a novelist is quite tough because of the over-saturated market and difficulties getting noticed, and even if you’re lucky enough to be traditionally published you might never make anything more than your advance if people just aren’t interested in your book. Thus, many of us have day jobs – the things we grudgingly do to pay the bills.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have a day job that is a great boon for my family. Because of the work I do my husband and I don’t have to worry about the bills, are well prepared in case of breakdowns or other emergencies, and we can afford to splurge a bit on ourselves with the mood strikes us. And while the schedule is sometimes grueling (12-hour days for 14 days straight), it does have it’s benefits (14 straight days off afterward). Truth told, it’s a pretty decent set-up – at least, it’s what works for right now. However, from a writer’s point of view it can be extremely stifling.

When I’m on shift I’m extremely lucky if I manage to scribble a few words in a pocket notebook throughout the day. Because of the long hours I have maybe a half hour to an hour per night to write, but usually that time is spent whipping up last-minute blog posts while trying to keep my eyes open. Many times I go an entire two-week period writing only a thousand words or less toward a novel because I just can’t find the time without sacrificing precious sleep.

And going home actually doesn’t help. Two of my fourteen days off are spent on airplanes, and if those planes don’t have outlets (hint: they usually don’t) I can only write as long as my laptop battery survives, or else take the much slower route of scribbling in a notebook (hint #2: my longhand is a snail’s pace compared to my typing speed). Of the twelve days I actually do get at home, I spend a lot of my time (understandably) hanging out with the husband and daughter that I’ve just been away from for two weeks. There’s usually a trip or two to go shopping or visit family while I have the chance, and more often than not there’s some kind of event like a birthday, wedding, or family get-together to attend while I’m home. There are the usual chores that never go away, and my experience has been that at least one appliance will break every time I’m on my days off. In other words, my twelve days off are not the lazy, tons-of-free-time days you would imagine them to be. Between doing the stuff that I have to do (chores, fixing stuff, engagements) and doing the things that I want to do while I have the opportunity (quality time with my daughter, catching up on our shows with my husband, actually getting a relaxing bath once in a while), I often only manage a couple thousand fiction words for every shift at home.

Now, the thing is, I did manage to write, edit, and publish a novel (and maintain a 5-days-a-week blog) under these conditions, because there is absolutely something to be said for sheer determination. But it’s not an easy path. Forcing myself to crank out extra words usually means giving up on sleep that I desperately need, and letting myself relax a bit means I often forget where I was going with a scene, or even lose interest in my WIP all together. Taking the middle road (or as close to middle as I can get) means that completing a project can easily take ten times longer than one would traditionally like.

The long and short of it is that writing – even though many people don’t look at it this way – is a job, which we work willingly and pluck away at whenever we’re able because it’s our passion. Meanwhile, the day jobs we do to survive steal all our time and energy, and while they support us financially, they leave us bereft of that passion, unable to scrap together the resources required to do the thing we actually love.

I’m writing about these Day Job Blues today because it’s about this time every month (midway through my work shift) when I start to lament my situation. As I crawl into bed each night, exhausted from long hours, eyes burning and body sore, I’ll dream about how wonderful it would be to not need a day job, to be able to spend my days cozy at home, sipping tea and writing to my heart’s content from sunrise to sunset. And then I remember that my debut novel, Nowhere to Hide, has to this day earned me less than $300, and I grudgingly accept the fact that having this day job is simply my reality, at least for now.

It’s tough, and at times extremely frustrating, but it’s life, and we struggle through because regardless of what else we have to do to have a good life for ourselves and our families, writing will always be something that has to be weaseled in somewhere, even if it’s just a few sentences while waiting for the toast to pop or the afternoon break to end.