Waiting For The Miracle

As you guys know, this last weekend I was attending a seminar here in town.  One of the presentations (which I’d got to audit last year and already knew was great) was James Owen’s Drawing Out the Dragons – go look look, for the book and/or CD which I understand is a close approximation to being there in person.

I think it’s great and inspirational and I wish I’d got it thirty years ago, when we didn’t have dependents (other than the cats) and when – frankly – we were afraid of our own breath which is why I’d write novels and spend years not sending them out.  (Okay, we also didn’t have money for postage, but we could have sold something.  (Not one of the cats, though.  No one would buy them.))  If you’re relatively young (younger than I) you definitely want to buy the book/CD and go through it.  It might be the kick in the pants you need.

Keep in mind, though, that you’re not him.  Take a sane and rational assessment of your drive, your qualifications and your need to do whatever you really want to do (writing, cooking, painting or playing piano) instead of what you’re doing.

I am aware of my own limitations and my own internal issues.  Just listening to this doesn’t turn me into J. K. Rowling – by which I don’t mean the writing itself (yes, she is a good writer, but she also hit at the right time, in the right place, and I might be as good as she was and as lucky as she was at some point.)  I mean that if I were a single mother, on public assistance, even if I weren’t so poor that I couldn’t afford heating, the paranoid side of my brain would lock the writing down absolutely tight, and I’d be getting a minimum wage job, just to bring in some money and set my foot on a ladder.  I know I have the crazy paranoid person inside my head who spends most of her time locking my writing down tight (which is why I hate being on contract.  As deadline approaches, and then after the deadline passes which is worse, I spend more time being paranoid than writing. – After I deliver these two contracts, I’m going to try to send Baen a book every six months, on spec, so I don’t have to be under contract, which is a serious psychological problem.)

Okay – let me backtrack – James Owen’s presentation is about having the courage to let go of your stupid, go-nowhere “safe career” to do what you really want to do.  He says, right at the beginning “If you want to do something, no one can stop you from it.  If you don’t want to do it, no one can help you.”

You should listen to it, and consider his point, but you should also consider who you are.  For instance, I wish I’d listened to this 20 years ago, so I’d have had the focus to work without the near death experience, and even more importantly, to have more focus for the last twenty or thirty years.

Near death experience?

We were talking about this session – my husband and I – and we went back to the fact that part of the effect of the presentation was achieved for me when I was 33 and I found myself on my back, in an hospital bed, with pneumonia, and thinking I was going to die.  Or rather the doctors thought so.

I had a kid who was 5 and one who was a year and a half, and I thought I was going to die.  There was the usual issue when you have children that age.  I worried about my husband and my children, of course; I worried about who would look after my kids when Dan was working.

But what surprised me – shocked me to the core – is that I was guilty and worried about the books I’d never written.

Now, yes, I’ll probably die with books unwritten, but all of my worlds were dying with me.  One of the worlds was one I had had since I was fourteen – and when I died all of those characters would also die. (Part of the conversation this morning is that this world will have to be written.  And those of you who know exactly what I’m talking about, yes, what I mean is that world, and yes, it will be a pen name.  Closed.  But wouldn’t it be hilarious if that is the series that takes off.  It will be written, as time permits.  It will have to be published indie.  This is for my own conscience.  The rest is not important.)

When I actually recovered (and that’s a story in itself and not here) and went home, even before the year of recovery passed and I was fully recovered, changes were made.  That illness is part of the reason my children went to kindergarten and later to public school – so mommy had writing time.  They were still getting taught at home after school.  And yes, if I had the time again, I’d homeschool and write while the kids were working.  When forced I found out later on that I could do that.  But that’s besides the point.

I’d been writing before I almost died.  In fact, I had been part of a writing group, and I thought I was serious about my writing.  But in fact, I only sent a short story out a year or so, and though I was working on my writing everything else took priority.

After I came out of the hospital, even in my lowest-fiction-writing year (aka 2013), I’ve never written fewer than two novels and several short stories a year, and I sent them out, and I started seriously applying my time and effort to getting things published.

Because if I went back to the hospital, I didn’t want to be lying there and knowing there were worlds that lived only in my head and were dying with me.  I didn’t want that guilt.

That alone was enough to seriously focus me, though I had distractions – still do – and last year I got sucked into a whirlpool called non-fiction writing and consecutive illnesses, and finally had to step back, take a hard look and realize I couldn’t go on with that and is it what I really wanted to do?  (Yes, I’ll still be writing for PJM, but we’ve arranged things differently, and I’ll be writing less and have only one deadline for four posts a month.)

That is what a near fatal illness will cause you to do.  And I think it’s possible that Drawing Out Dragons will perhaps give you the same drive, the same focus (or close enough) without a near fatal illness.  (I get no portion of these sales, so if you can sit down and do this calculation yourself, do it.)

But think about it.  If you find yourself in bed, dying tomorrow, what would weigh on your conscience?

If you find yourself regretting that you spent so much time writing and so little playing with your kids or holding hands with your spouse, for the love of G-d, stop writing now and go do that stuff.

No.  Wait let me explain.  You’ll always feel a certain regret on those things.  When I get to take a walk with my husband, and spend the whole afternoon just the two of us, I treasure those days – or weekends.  Yes, the canoodling ones – and would like to do a lot more it.  And the other day I found myself crying into a box of pictures of the kids when they were little, because you can never hug them or play with them enough.  (They’re wonderful kids now, but they’re really not kids anymore, since both are legal adults and the older is the age I got married at. I miss my littles.  And no, I didn’t hug them enough.)  But this is the stuff you never do “enough.”

The question is do you regret that MORE than you regret not having published those worlds that have haunted you since the age of six?  If so, just go and play with your kids now, and devote ten years being a mom/dad or wife/husband.  Later, when the kids move out, revisit this question.

On the other hand, if, as with me, you feel bad about the times not taken to cuddle the kids, but what you REALLY mind is all those worlds – find a way to be serious about writing.

No, seriously.  Find a way.  Remember who you are.  Quitting your job might only make you neurotic and lock down your writing.  So you might want to keep a job, keep a safety net, whatever.  And yeah, you might still want to take time to spend with the kids and the husband – but put in two hours a day (say) hard and fast so you can write.  Or whatever it is you really want to do.

Because few of us (ah!) come back from their death beds.  And you might not have a second chance.  And waiting for the miracle when everything is perfect for your great work, just means it will never get done.

141 responses to “Waiting For The Miracle

  1. And the other day I found myself crying into a box of pictures of the kids when they were little, because you can never hug them or play with them enough. (They’re wonderful kids now, but they’re really not kids anymore, since both are legal adults and the older is the age I got married at. I miss my littles. And no, I didn’t hug them enough.)

    When they’re that magical wonder-filled age between 6 months and 6 years. Ahhh. I look at my now 7 year old and my 14 year old and think sometimes “I still remember when they were babies, and when they were wearing those squeaking sandals! What happened?!” Fortunately, the 7 year old is still young enough to want cuddles and hugs though he has almost outgrown my lap. (I’m secretly hoping that when he’s twenty he’ll bellow “Mooooom~! ❤ HUUUUGS!" like my brother Al, who hit 30 last year, still does. I’m told even now it’s NOT ENOUGH HUGS! so I conclude there’s never enough hugs. Fortunately, endless supply! And one hopes, grandchildren to cuddle.)

    At times I find myself mourning the worlds that used to live in my imagination – or are memories, wondering why it’s harder now to write stories than before. I remember being able to whip out a short story in an hour. Does the seminar address those folk who’ve had their storytelling muse lose their voice and is struggling with sign language, as it were? I don’t want to look back and regret not writing them, not trying to have them published (because, who knows, right? Maybe someone will want to enjoy those worlds… but I guess the voice that silences me is Doubt, whispering that I’m foolish and arrogant for thinking anyone would want these stories read…)

    • Well, it addresses writing habits… and your muse might come back once you realize you can indie…
      My 19 year old comes and stands by my desk, and when I look up he goes “I need a hug.”

      • I’m in my 30s and one of the great parts of visiting my folks is I can get hugs!

      • *glee* Thanks for the reassurance that one day my son may well decide he will need mummy’s hugs.

        Indie is how I’m going with the guy I’m co-authoring with, aka my housemate, via Lulu. Writing in his ‘verse. …In fact, I’m awake right now working on the second edit.

        Also glaring at the clock because it’s past 2 am.

        • NOT just LULU. Please? Try ebooks. Try Create Space. Try Lightening Source.

          • He’s leery of the ebook format because it’s easy to pirate. For stuff perhaps, that’s purely my own, I might try. When I have something I feel is solid enough to try publish.

            • Sigh. Seriously — what you lose to pirates is hardly noticeable.

            • Don’t forget – CreateSpace does print books.

              • That’s encouraging. I’m utterly new to this so I’m curious about things like copyright and such.

                • Copyright registration, on the other hand, *is* a good idea.

                  I’d expand on these points, but I have to get some work done.

                  • Shadowdancer is not a US citizen/resident.

                    • Yeah, but wouldn’t I run into issues re: US copyright law and Aussie copyright law because of it? Also, if the company I’m publishing with is a US one, issues of getting paid if I did sell anything at all, regardless of format. The not being sure under whose laws I fall under if I did sell was one of the things I started to look into a few years ago (…er, when it first started really becoming popular), and had to stop researching because I didn’t have enough time to keep looking.

                    • No worries. You can publish without problem. Your copyright fully enforceable. Registration not required at all, don’t let it slow you at all. Not a barrier.

                  • U.S. and Australian law aren’t identical. But they’re both Berne convention signatories, and they’re similar.

                    In the U.S., you want a copyright registration because it does a number of important things for you on the rare occasions when you need to involve the law. I never needed to know whether that’s true of Australia; it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s also advantageous.

                    You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to register a work in the U.S., or to sue under U.S. copyright law.

                    The getting paid thing:
                    So far, I haven’t heard much about writers not being paid by the online booksellers.

                    Not being paid by publishers is a whole ‘nother thing.

                • Think of it this way: there are roughly three kinds of people who pirate entertainment. (Books, movies, and songs.)

                  The first kind are the ones who can’t afford it. If it’s easier to get from pirate bay than the library, they’re pirating. If it’s easier to get to the library, the borrow. Either way, they can’t afford their entertainment, and you wouldn’t have gotten a sale from them anyway. However, broke is often a passing condition – and the people who borrowed/stole/listened to the radio/sat outside the concert hall where they could hear works earlier in life often buy the same things again, and everything else they like besides, of the artists whose work they were exposed to during that time. The Baen Free Library is a long-running experiment that proved you can get a lot of lifetime fans with one book free… and that you can sell signed hardcover editions to fans who first got FreeHold for free.

                  The second kind are people who refuse to pay for anything they get. If they can’t get it for free, they won’t get it. So if they get their hands on one of your works, it’s hardly a lost sale… and at best, if they really like it, they’ll often talk up your works to their friends. So they can become word of mouth advertising to people who will pay.

                  The third kind are kids who are in it to score points. They’ll race to see who can get the most stuff, downloading gigs upon gigs because they can. They’ll strip the spine and run book after book through OCR and upload, just to say they have. They really don’t care about the work, and will likely never look at or listen to most of what they have, because quantity is much more important than content. No, they wouldn’t buy your stuff, either, unless it’s to strip the DRM and immediately return for refund, so they can upload and say “f1rst w1th th1s b00k! Lulz!”

                  Yeah, they all have copies they didn’t pay for (or demanded a refund.) But how does it impact you, as an artist? That’s three chances for exposure, two chances at gaining a fan and word of mouth, and one good shot at having a fan who spends plenty of money on you when they grow up and can afford to… without you having to pay for advertising at all.

            • Worrying about piracy is almost 100% wrong-headed, for a bunch of reasons. Your task when you’re starting is to get noticed by *anybody.* I strongly advise some research.

              • To quote Eric Flint (Nota Bene, this is rare for me) “When you’re starting out, the problem isn’t piracy, the problem is obscurity.”

                • I will certainly take that to heart. Is copyright and registration thereof, hard though? I mean, for me.

                  I’m probably not expressing myself well; it’s 4:30 AM and I’ve been writing a while…

                  • Shouldn’t be. You can probably register it in the states for $40. Ask Dave Freer. He might know.

                    • I’ll have to look into that when my brain is actually functioning and I’ll know what to look for (and whether the copyright would be an international one, because alas, I live on the other side of the world, and copyright law is not one I’m familiar with at all – either Australian or American!)

                      The dialogue I’m working on right now is starting to sound flat, so I think I’ll take that as a hint that it is indeed time for me to hit the hay for a couple of hours before the morning kiddy routine.

                      Thank you so much though, for the encouragement!

                  • I never registered anything in Australia. It’s not particularly hard in the U.S.; the form has its obscure points, but if you’ve read a decent primer, it’s not too bad. What it mainly is, is slow. They don’t get back to you for months.

                    British copyright registration is significantly faster but more expensive.

                    • oooo! Thanks so much! (sorry for delays in replies; today is an RL sort of day and I’m not much at the PC for several hours yet. Also, lack of sleep – bad for coherence.)

                      When I am done with this deadline I’m definitely going to have a good hard study of these.

                      @nothermike – From what I understand, yes, copyright registration is voluntary but it does help in case someone decides to go after you. The kerfuffle about Spots the Space Marine honestly scared me as well as pissed me off, but it did make me a little more aware of the whole IP/copyright thing. Or should I say, wake-up awareness alarm?

                      You are all wonderful folks for helping out lil’ scatterbrained me!

                  • See

                    http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#register

                    In particular

                    “Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
                    No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.” ”

                    Let me repeat that. From the moment you create something, you have copyright. Registration is NOT required. Registration does (1) put your copyright in the public record and get you a certificate (2) may mean you get more money if there is a court fight (3) can provide evidence in court. In other words, if you think you are likely to go to court, you should register. Kind of insurance in case of court cases.

                    Incidentally http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/ has quite a bit of useful information about copyright.

                • Back on the old Baen Free Library, Eric had an essay on piracy and the free library (does anybody have links to the documents? I just looked and couldn’t find them there any longer). Included an anecdote that after Mercedes Lackey put one of her new/recent books in the Free Library, within a few months she saw a significant increase in royalties from old books, from unrelated series, even from previous publishers. Without the Free Library, I would have lost my mind (or what little is left…) when I was out of work 8 or 10 years ago, and I might not have picked up books by several authors. I might not have come to lurk around here…and my life would be a drearier place for it.

                  And in case it wasn’t obvious enough with that last sentence, for this blog and your books, THANK YOU, Sarah!

                • I heard that same quote from Tim O’Reilly. If you can get a million people to pirate my stuff, I’ll be grateful.

            • When you’re starting out, piracy isn’t your problem. Anonymity is. People who pirate quite likely wouldn’t have been paying customers in the first place.

          • Do we have somewhere about here advice about how to get into e-selling short stories?

  2. I worry about the things that make it onto the page more than the wild thoughts in my head (as I’m irrationally sure they will find someone else’s head to haunt should I die in the next five minutes). Once it’s on a page, or a hard drive, not so much as “hey this is cool!” ideas but as “story” it’s sort of a contract, I think, to finish it.

    Which means I’ve only got two that I would be angsty, frustrated, and weird about on my deathbed. *grin* Fortunately, if the second (third? Does occasional contract work apply as a “job”?) job takes off, I will have more time to make marks on a page. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but it works.

    While I might wish I were the kind of guy who, after raising a pirate crew in Tortuga and pillaging his way across the seven seas he regrets not doing more of the same, I don’t much like the taste of fish, so I suppose writing it shall be. Because, more than anything else, I have to know what happens next! *chuckle*

    • Maybe you could do pirating as a part-time sideline? I still think it would be fun to get a letter of marque (still legal! In the Constitution!) and go pirate hunting around Somalia. Dave Freer could do our SEAL-type underwater demolition and general SCUBA mayhem. As for my qualifications, I like fish, rarely get seasick, know four kinds of knots, and can sing the entirety of “Pirates of Penzance”.

      • Although I need meds and vomit a lot from them, I don’t usually get seasick either and I like to shoot (I am a pretty good shot although I haven’t done any shooting on board a ship). Anyhoo– I also know some Navy lingo (just need to brush it up).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Letters of marque are still legal (IIRC) but good luck getting the US government to issue one. [Sad Smile]

        • We can call it a sight-seeing cruise with a self-defense package. Kinda like the guys advertising “hunting trips” off the Horn of Africa a few years ago. I think you got a certain amount of ammo per day with your basic ticket, and could upgrade from there. No bag limit, either, IIRC. (Yes it was a joke, but I know people who wanted to sign up.)

          • Have an entire Carrier Strike Group given a letter of Marque or the Admiral Commanding. Think what they could do with relaxed ROE! Do we have friendly ports around there?

            • I like the way you think!

              • Thank you! You could say it’s a memorial visit to “The shores of Tripoli and the Barbary Coast”.

                Always take more firepower than you think you’ll need. I think a character of David Weber’s said that in “Out of the Dark”.

                I wonder if you could add some subs and a dedicated satellite or two to the CSG?

                • Who needs satellites these days? Take a flock of drones, both the airplane kind and the quadcopter kind.

                  • Speaking of, if you can get a drone hunting permit, why not a pirate hunting permite (aka letter of marque)? Present it as a novelty case that the gov’t could make money on, all legal and proper.

                    Then actually take them up on it. Gear up a converted freighter, an Iowa class if I’m dreaming of mountains made of money, and ‘troll the pirate coast. Get your own satellite, again, if you make Bill Gates jealous.

                    Oh yeah. I’d do that in a heartbeat. I don’t get seasick ‘cept occasionally in little boats. Driving a boat is fun. Possibly get a bit of kickback from insurance companies for convoying high-value freight? Much fun to be had. *grin*

                  • There’s a whole delightful suite of fun you can do with satellites without resorting to imagery as the main use…

            • There are two kinds of ports around a free-range CSG: Friendly and Former.

              • LOL! Imagine an entire CSG as privateers. It probably wouldn’t work because it’s implausible, but it tickles my fancy anyway!

                • Where should we base it? Not at an American port.

                  • Actually, there are some private security escort ships working in the area. One recently got into big trouble in India because they didn’t like them docking there with weapons on board.

                • Splitting the prize money would be the real problem. You’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 sailors in the entire group. Still, it’d be more fun than Figure 8’s for Freedom.

                  • They figured it out in the Honorverse. Where would the CSG get supplies of food water weapons etc?

                    If there was a $6 billion prize it would work out to 100,000 p/p.

                    • I can’t think of that many pirates that people would be willing to pay $6 billion to see dead.

                      The way CSG’s get supplied now is that each Fleet (5th Fleet in the Gulf/Western Indian Ocean, 7th Fleet in the Western Pacific, 6th Fleet in the Med, etc.) has one or two supply ships that load up in port and then pull up along side the warships and transfer everything over via lines and helicopters (it’s a bit of a shock, after months at sea, to walk onto the hangar bay and see the elevator doors filled with ship). I suppose we could make access to that part of the letter, or hire one ourselves.

                    • There’s gotta be way more than 6,000 sailors in the CSG. There’s 6K on the carrier alone.
                      I think the US would be the only country in the world that can field this kind of force. How many fleets do we have?

                    • With the airwing on board there’s around 5k on the carrier. The destroyers and submarine have around 100-120 each. The cruisers are around 200 each. That’s nominal manning, it’s usually lower than that (my division was at 54% and it was one of the better ones in the Navy).

                      The US has the only navy that can routinely put together this level of combat power and send them to the other side of the world. We currently have 5 fleets: 3rd (Eastern Pacific from the West Coast to the International Date Line), mostly a training fleet for the Pacific; 7th (Western Pacific from International Date Line to the tip of India), the naval component of Pacific Command; 5th (the Middle East from the tip of India to the tip of Africa), the naval component of Central Command; 6th fleet (Northern Atlantic and Mediterranean), the naval component of European Command and Africa Command; and 4th (the Atlantic and Pacific near South America), the naval component of Southern Command. There used to be a 2nd, which had the Western Atlantic and performed the same job on the East Coast that 3rd does on the West, but that was rolled into Fleet Forces Command as a cost saving measure.

                      It’s important to note that these fleets are purely administrative entities, they have few if any ships permanently assigned. They take charge and responsibility for the ships as they enter their area of responsibility. For example, my ship belonged to 3rd fleet while working up for deployment and the first few weeks. Once we crossed the Date Line we “CHOPed” to 7th Fleet. Once we rounded the tip of India we CHOPed to 5th Fleet, who owned us for the months we sweated our neither bits off. 5th Fleet decided if we would operate in the North Arabian Sea to support the war in Afghanistan, or if we would operate in the North Arabian Gulf to support the war in Iraq. Or if we would pull into Dubai to support the UAE’s economy.

                  • “Jeff Gauch | February 11, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Reply

                    Splitting the prize money would be the real problem.

                    Privateers used to have this all figured out on a sliding scale when you signed up. Captian gets X%, First Mate Y%, etc. usually with all expenses taken off the top of course. Oftentimes it was detailed what sort of bonus any crewman would get to compensate for injuries also, loss of an eye was worth this much, loss of the right hand this much, and loss of the left hand only this much. (which sticks in my mind because of the obvious discrimination against left-handers.)

                    • The difficulty doesn’t lie in the math, as you say that’s pretty straightforward. The problem is that the prize value would be so small and the number of recipients so large that the shares wouldn’t be worth much. I could see a destroyer or submarine going privateer, possibly a cruiser, but not a carrier, much less the entire strike group.

                    • You need a market of some sort.

                      Pirates in the 1600’s Caribbean were dependent on what were basically fences, traders who would buy the plunder, then transport it to and resell it in legitimate markets. Works great when the British colonial authorities are looking the other way when you arrive with a load of Spanish loot, but when policies change or someone goes after one too many British flagged merchie, you’re in trouble.

                      Captain Aubrey’s Royal Navy Prizes were dependent on British governmental legal and financial infrastructure, most importantly, on Prize Courts, who would decide what that French 34 gun ship-rigged captured off the coast of Spain was worth and award that to the ship that captured it! To be shared out to the crew according to the approved formula by rank. Of course if peace breaks out, too bad, no more prize awards.

                      CBG Arrrgh would need a market for the plunder.

                    • Don’t just split prize money.

                      Form a corporation, each member buying/being awarded shares as they accept employment/membership. Extra stock shares can be held for merit awards or the corporation could otherwise issue bonuses. Income streams could include prize money, plunder, merchandising, literary, film licensing and production and whatever other source of leveraging the unique environment provided by the corporation’s assets can be devised. Some crew positions might be paying tourists rather than paid crew — people would likely pay good money to play the tourists on Cruise Ship Bait, for example.

                      Franchise certain facilities — perhaps Red Lobster would pay to provide galley services — and encourage athletes and Hollywood “manly” stars to take short tours to prove their testosterone and enhance the glamour of the venture to attract paying participants using the same business model as cons do. Ships can be used to stage scenes for movies & TV at competitive rates and the corporation could establish and manage its own publishing and licensing offices, e-pubbing articles, stories, books, artwork and music. And, of course, licensing its logo just as do professional sports teams/leagues.

                    • Get one of those shooting team games to model off of your ship.

                      However, make sure that the layout isn’t accurate– one of the games, can’t remember which, had a pretty accurate base layout for a then-active ship. There were parts that were wrong, but still.

      • I can’t sing The Pirates of Penzance but I could probably sing We’re The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. Does that count?

      • If you do get a Letter of Marque, I suggest a Q-ship. Start with a normal container ship, then add a few containers full of heavy weapons and trained operators.

      • Including a Model of A Modern Major General? Amazing.

  3. Mostly I agree with what you say here about doing what you really want to do, but I would take point out that for most people–artists, writers, musicians–art isn’t a revenue stream, it’s an expensive hobby. Unless one lives on the largess of wealthy relatives, a lucrative day job is a prerequisite for following one’s dreams.

    You still have to choose what to do and what to give up on. I work full time and I write full time, which means that the hugging and hanging out and such doesn’t happen. There are only so many hours in a day. Art requires sacrifice.

    • And though it’s not the primary purpose of the book, he does touch on that early on. If art is your destiny (his word. I’m still ambivalent about the concept) then you have to treat it as a business.

    • Misha, not necessarily anymore. Writing will always be a pyramid income, but the exaggerated peak and base of it was a function of push marketing. I’m meeting more and more people making a good living from this, and you never heard of them. The break into making money seems to be 4 years and 15 novels.

      • So I’ve got two years to write eleven novels. Better get to work, then.

      • Which? Or do you mean writing fifteen novels in four years? While also working full time? I can’t imagine how that would be possible.

        • Um — trust me, it is.

        • Most of us have a large backlog of manuscripts. We keep writing even while our babies languish in slush piles and/or get hawked around the houses by agents.

          My goal is to publish five more books this year, but two just need a final polish and covers. Two are rough drafts from years ago. One is the 50K words I wrote for NaNo last November. One is completely new. And there’s another scratching at the door, asking to be let in. And I’ve got some shorts that could polish up to another collection . . . Wait, am I up to eight?

          • Well, yes, but his question was “with a day job.” Yes, it’s possible. Books in epub can be shorter, more like golden age novels. It involves lack of sleep and working like a loon, but I’ve known people who did it.

            • Do you really feel that releasing a novel every three months (which would give you sixteen books in four years) is what is required to make a living as a writer? I seriously doubt I could keep up that pace even if I wasn’t working full time.

  4. He’s talking about opportunity cost. You can’t have everything; give up a job you’re not thrilled with and offers no advancement in exchange for what, exactly? Will you capture the elusive happiness we all pursue? I spent ten years of my life in a career that I enjoyed, but that was not financially rewarding. I was successful and I think the time spent was marginally worth it, but only marginally.

    The person who inspired me to change my life around a little is Tristan Jones, the author and mariner. I think he’d be amazed if he knew how many people he inspired.

    • Well, it depends on HOW MUCH you want it. Some of us are a little unhinged. (Okay, I’ve never been hinged.)
      I repeat, I wouldn’t do what he did. I wouldn’t turn down a deal when I have kids waiting for food, because it’s not good enough — that’s probably why I’m not a mega bestseller.
      BUT it is an interesting and useful perspective.

  5. Write on!

    Write now, while you can, if you possibly can: life may take your brain, and with it, the ability to write what you want to write. I haven’t completely lost it, yet, but knowing that I only have a couple of hours every day when, by micromanaging my energy, the brain will have enough fuel to be creative at all, is very focusing.

    Never count on being able to write ‘when you retire,’ or ‘when the kids are grown,’ or … – not that I could have done it earlier (when well, there was the real physics career; when ill, there were the 3 small children, and yes I wrote a mystery novel and a half before starting this novel-in-progress), but if I’d been more serious, MAYBE I could have found more time.

    Don’t put off until tomorrow what you might not be ABLE to write tomorrow.

    It scares me every day. I wrote this for myself:

    PRIDE’S CHILDREN
    I don’t want to die with this unfinished and having spent millions of hours surfing and ‘educating’ myself.
    I don’t mind dying unfinished if I did my best.
    And I would rather leave it, finished, as my legacy.

  6. Slightly off-topic, just wanted to say your guest bloggers have been as much fun to read as you 🙂

  7. I must be lucky that way– almost died at three from a black widow spider bite. At fifteen I was sick for over two weeks, vomiting every day– and no my parents didn’t take me to a doctor. I didn’t want to die then because I had too much to do and didn’t want to die in my parents house. At twenty I had a migraine that mimicked a stroke– I thought I was dying that day too. Those incidents pushed me to leave home and to eventually join the Navy.

    And then my chronic illness– that was the death bed and I also went through guilt– but it took almost two years before I could write again because of medications and illness. Then I spent five or more years trying to get back my writing skills that I had lost from illness and medications. It was like I was starting all over again.

    So yes, I am writing and publishing stories, poems that want to be written and published. They may not be that good, but they needed to come out. Plus writing until the last fifteen years has not been my main focus– I want to travel, I want to hike, and I want to run. I get too tired to do most of those things– I can write– and I wonder sometimes if I was put in this position so that I could write… I have a choice. I either fritter away my days with TV and cleaning or other digital pursuits– or I write.

    I feel like I am repeating myself. 😉

    • I can’t say I’ve had many death bed experiences, although about 8-9 years back I contracted Cytomegalovirus and it laid me pretty low. For three weeks I didn’t even have the energy to be bored. On July 4th, in south central Texas, I was shivering under several blankets, an heavy knitted blanket, and a sleeping bag, with the temp on the water bed cranked up.

      That’ll make you appreciate life! And at one point during the height of my fever, I felt a black figure hovering closer to me, pausing, then fading back away. They say high fevers can make you delusional. I suppose. But I know what I perceived.

      And that’s why I decided to rejoin the fiction community. It’s where my heart is; and even if I never publish, it’s soul satisfying.

      • We are all weird together … sing it loud, and proud . ROFLMAO

        As for the black figure, I have seen a void a few times when I was really close. It scared me alive.

      • When people mention brushes with death, for some reason I always think of the cartoon the guy at Dresden Codak did when he was really, really sick. It shows someone in bed and the Grim Reaper standing there looking at his watch and saying, “Come on already. I have appointments later today.”

  8. It can get deeper. As a reader, I always wanted to write, same with my wife and my mother. I had read so many times that even if you have a good story, the editors would make you rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until the grammar and punctuation were perfect. My poor grammar and punctuation skills made me afraid to even attempt writing. None of us (back-country folks) knew that writing could be a hobby without publication. That’s stamp collecting, right? Therefore, we published the stories within our own minds, of course there was only one victim. All three of us stressed out in our own way.
    After a heart attack, I began writing because I couldn’t work and do the rehab too and there isn’t that many good books to read. The stories came fast, the learning to edit into decent grammar and punctuation continues; but, the peace of mind that comes from putting words on paper or correcting mistakes has been a godsend. If I, years ago, had written for one hour a day and made notes or wrote a few lines after lunch, I doubt if I would have felt the stress. Now with Indie, other opportunities arise. But, even if my stories never get off this computer, it’s enough.

  9. My biggest regret in writing in not the stories left untold, but the great lines I come up with that have no place in the stories. And unfortunately, trying to write an entire story just to insert one line is futile. I suppose some might be able to do it: not me.

  10. First comment here; I finally had to come out of lurkerdom to comment on this. Right before Christmas, at my physical, I mentioned to the doctor I’d been having some tightness in my chest, so he did an EKG and it was abnormal. That launced a very scary month or so of testing and doctor appointments and me being convinced I was going to drop dead at any moment. My kids are mostly grown (17 and 24 years old) and I suppose my husband could muddle along without me, so I wasn’t too worried about how they would do if I was gone, although I figured they’d probably miss me, and who would make the Christmas fudge if I wasn’t there? The thing that scared me the most was the idea of leaving the series I’ve been working on unfinished and unpublished. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever written (though choosing my favorite book is like choosing my favorite child!) and also the coolest thing I’ve ever written. All six books are complete first drafts, and I’ve instructed my husband that should something happen to me he’s to just post them online, but I’d really hate for them to go out into the world the way they are now. You never know what’s going to happen in life, today or thirty years from now, so my mission now is to get as much of my stories written and made presentable and published as I can before it happens.

    (As for my heart, there are still unanswered questions, but right now it looks like a mild condition – or a couple of mild conditions – that aren’t causing any serious problems right now and hopefully will either correct themselves or at least not get any worse.)

    • choosing my favorite book is like choosing my favorite child!

      You don’t have to have a favourite child to know which of them will be the heart-breaker and which will have a difficult time finding a mate — but will be treasured once they do. Nor is it favouritism to recognize which is best for a fun outing and which is best when your doctor orders a week of bed rest. Children and books (unlike, this being the eve of the day of romantic myth, mates) do not have to be all-purpose companions.

  11. Last year I went through a middling stroke, then heart attack quickly followed by by-pass surgery (at least six way. Not really sure, they quit counting after five. I do know I was on the table for about 13 hours.) All that was book-ended by a couple of staph infections. At first I thought I was going to die, then, when I woke in the ICU, I was sorry I hadn’t.

    The day before the surgery when the family came to visit I kept instructing them what to do with the story I’d written, to take what-ever little money it made and use it to help raise my sister’s girls. I have been their father in all but name since they were in diapers. While was terribly worried about what would happen to them if I died, I was nearly as worried that what I’d spent all that time getting out of my head and on to paper (or into a Word file) would just vanish.

    Needless to say, I lived. Also needless to say I went back over the story and saw so much that needed to be fixed – yet another reason to be happy I didn’t die, I’d roll over in my grave if it went out into the world looking like that. Soon I’ll have the computer back mostly all to myself and I’ll be able to boot the thing out of the house just a little before the girls leave. Fly or fail, it’ll be done and I can start to work on the next one. Writing is the only thing even vaguely productive that I’ve ever done that makes me happy, and I’m going to be as happy as I can for what-ever is left of my life whether any of it makes money or not.

  12. Near-death experiences can have a salutary effect on your outlook on life, when there are only a few of them, and you have the time to reflect on what the gods of fate and circumstances are trying to tell you through them.

    Have too many, and it just kinda becomes “Bleh. Another day, another narrowly missed encounter with the grim reaper…”. After awhile, the novelty wears off, and it just becomes another thing you dismiss nearly as soon as it happens.

    I remember the first time I almost died in the service. Hyperventilated, panicked, had nightmares about it for a couple of weeks. Years later, recognized symptoms of PTSD in what I went through. By the end of my military career, I was almost blase about the whole thing: “Oh, hey… That was ill-judged and dangerous… Let’s not do that, again, shall we?”. Meanwhile, my guys would all be freaking out over the whole thing, assuming I had witnesses to whatever it was.

    Imminent death has a certain horror when you’re not intimate with it. Grow too familiar with it, and you gradually get to the point where it just doesn’t matter. Utterly lack experience with it, and the first time you encounter it, you’ll find it horribly traumatic.

  13. Sarah, I can relate to the regret that attends realizing your kids are too old to take to some family-vacation-venue, or that you’ll never goto their high school again. I take consolation that in a few years my kids may produce grandkids to spoil

  14. Hey, a personal best! I managed to overload Word’s temporary memory for the first time ever! Um, yeah, I get a kick out of breaking software, why? (For those who are curious, I had a 93K word, illustrated document open; an 85K word novel; the character and world guide to the novel; and an 85K word, illustrated document open. I made changes to the big book and the novel.)

    • So um, what exactly happens when you overload Word’s temporary memory? Does it crash everything and you lose all your changes, or what?

      • I Hate MS Word. Losing documents due to crashes, especially after writing research papers in college, was a bane. I totally love the ‘recovery’ option in Libreoffice something fierce. Especially when I’ve sleepily shut my PC down for the night and realized later I didn’t save a spreadsheet, or instead of ctrl+s, I’d done something else…

      • It froze, then said I’d overloaded its memory, then showed me a blank page. I quit Word, rebooted the computer, reopened Word, and found everything as I’d left it EXCEPT there was not a “recovered” document as usually happens when I lock Word (typing too fast, for example). I lost no changes, this time (I save every sentence).

  15. I would live each day as if it was my last, but the constant weeping is kinda depressing.

  16. Several years ago I thought I had colon cancer. I wen to my unwritten story an completely revised it. I didn’t have colon cancer. The story is still in my head. Is there a writers group I can join?

    • I’m wondering if it would be possible to do something like this online and how it would look. Any ideas about that? Would you have a desire to join? Who else can we sucker…uuhh… recruit?

      • There’s been some talk about it. Seems to me that the best way to go about it would be to set up a website, and install forums on it. Something like phpBB would work. Post stories to forum. Comments go below. Members only.
        Shouldn’t be too hard to set up.

    • Answering all in this little thread:
      I’ve needed this myself – I’m useless without accountability. I’ve never been part of one, but I’ll be at a writing conference this weekend (LTUE, woohoo!) and one of the panels is on starting/running a writing group. I have a domain and forum software we can use, for anyone who’s interested. Heck, if there are enough people who want it among the Horde, I’ll set up multiple forums, and y’all can create more writers’ groups. Let me get through this weekend alive, and then anyone who’s interested can ping me.

  17. No health-related near death experiences (Well, I was laid up for 10 days with a Staph/Cellulitis infection that immobilized me), but accidents can be scary. Like when I was moving a table in the basement and nearly fell on a pipe sticking up out of a box. (Which caused me to wonder how quickly one could be exsanguinated through a 3/8″ tube if it followed THAT angle through my chest cavity.) Most distressing about that is I realized that given my living situation, nobody would find me until after foreclosure….

  18. I thought I’d weigh in here with some real-world data. For any new author considering eBooks vs. print, this is our experience. My co-author and I published our first novel last May, both on KDP and in print via Createspace. The pricing is such that we make about the same amount per sale from either format. We did no marketing to speak of (we are not even on Facebook, and I’d never even heard of Pinterest at the time); all our energy has been put into writing the second book. So what was the result? In 2013, the paperback edition made us less than $10. The Kindle edition made us $3090.

    I have no idea if our experience is typical (I sort of doubt it), but this does support the conclusion that eBooks are much more profitable format for new authors.

    • Oh, ebooks are far more profitable, in fiction (nonfiction is a different game), but! The point of having the paperback up is not to make a good profit on the paperback. It’s to make your ebook look like a “standard published book”, and make your ebook price look like a real deal.

      When a customer goes looking for something to read, they do judge unknown-to-them books, very harshly, by their covers. Cover and synopsis are the two major points that will make or break whether your book gets to them downloading a sample / flipping it open to read the first pages. After you’ve got that down, the rest of what you’re trying to do is present a professional image that says to the on-the-fence browser “I know what I’m doing. I got this. Trust me!” That’s where making sure you’re publishing in a press name instead of “John Doe publishing”, having a print book to offset the price of the ebook and complete the product page so it “looks right”, etc. come in.

      And besides, there’s the one customer in a thousand (in nonfiction, it’s more like one in ten) who either prefers paper or prefers paper to converting and sideloading to another device. When you start getting serious fans, too, there’s a group of ’em that want something in paper they can put on a shelf, or physically hand to a friend.

      (We just handed a free paper copy to a teenage boy last night, because he’s wildly enthusiastic about the Maxwell series, and wanted to do a book report for school on the second book. The teacher wants a copy so she knows he’s not making something up whole cloth – how could we not support such enthusiastic word of mouth? That’s an outlier of the uses of paper, but it amused me greatly.)

    • Owen, yes. But if you have a paper edition you sell more ebooks, because it lifts you above the lowest of the self published. Does that make sense?

      And keep at it. Next book that comes out, you’ll make more money from the first too.

      • Aspiring authors, as well as expiring ones, need to think of their output not as individual items for sale but as part of a brand. The more broadly present your brand, the better your chance of being found by consumers who, if they like the first purchased product, will shop the brand further.

        This is also why it can be important to publish some work under a different brand-name, to avoid harming one brand by too-close association with another; the purchasers of your YA product might find your Noir Romance putting them off the whole brand. It is okay to let folk know you offer multiple brands — nobody confuses Levis and Dockers even though both have the same publisher.

  19. After this post, and some good hard thought, I put a thousand fresh words down on a manuscript I’ve let slide for too long.

    • Not writing quite yet (okay, I wrote half a scene just to get myself in the MC’s head), but I’ve got about 3/4 of an outline done. Mostly I’m discovering just how much research I need to do for this dang story. Still trying to figure out how to make the MC himself more interesting, too; he’s rather cookie-cutter at the moment, and my craft is weak. *Why* won’t my muse just let me edit? I know how to do that! (Technically, that’s why I’m trying to write – need to know the craft better, so as to be a better editor. Also, fun story needs written.)