Taking Charge of my Business

I hope to make a career out of writing fiction.

That is a rather ambitious dream, when you consider all of the obstacles that new and old writers alike must constantly deal with. Scams seem to be around every corner, plenty of people will take your rights and your money with a smile on their face, there’s a ton of misinformation about writing and publishing everywhere you look, and sometimes you get sick and you miss a few days of writing and you think, this is it, this proves I’m not a writer, that I’m a fraud, that I’ll never make any money off this. Even though you have not yet published even one book yet.

Indeed, there is no guarantee I’ll ever make a living at this. Joe Konrath calls publishing a lottery and I am starting to think there’s some truth to that metaphor when you consider the millions of books published each year, traditional, indie, or otherwise, and how many new writers give up early on. Indie-/self-publishing has made it easier to make a living writing fiction, true, but it still takes a while to build a dedicated readership who will buy basically anything you write.

Nonetheless, I still want this to be my career. I’m taking a long-term view of the business, trying to give myself time and space to learn and make mistakes and to write a lot of books. It’s not easy because I want to be published now and I want to be making a living now, too, but I still have a lot to learn and it wouldn’t do for me to upload my first novel to Amazon or some other website right away until I’ve got a proper grasp of things like formatting and cover design, for example.

This is why I am indie-publishing, actually. I would like to have as much control over my business as I can, even if that doesn’t guarantee me anything except a lot of hard work. Indie-publishing gives me that control and indie-publishing is a viable option in today’s world, so I’m gonna give it a go and see where that takes me.

Oddly, I am excited for my future, maybe because I have set realistic goals. Right now, all I want to do is make enough money off my fiction (both novels and short stories and maybe other things, too, later on) to live off of. True, it may take a while for me to achieve that goal, but it seems far more reasonable that uploading one book to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Kobo or whatever and expecting it to sell a million copies within its first few weeks or months.

Whenever I get worried or depressed about my future as a writer, I remind myself to keep writing and learning and to never give up. I believe that as long as I do that, then maybe someday I’ll achieve my dream of becoming a fulltime career writer. Maybe.

I can only hope.

-Tim

Need Recommendations for Novels Featuring Characters Going through Crisis of Faith

I’ve recently came up with an idea for a project I want to work on very soon, but in order to start it, I need to read at least seven novels that feature at least one character (not necessarily the protagonist, though that would be preferable) who struggle to retain belief in God.

Any novel from any genre is appropriate and they can be old or new. Self-published, traditional published, and indie published novels are all acceptable, too, as are ebooks and print books. I don’t care who the author is, either. The only other limitation I must add is that the novels must be written in English (it’s the only language I can read well, though I can read a little bit of Spanish). You can even recommend your own novel, if you want.

As long as the novel features at least one character who struggles to retain belief in God (the resolution to that struggle is irrelevant), I’ll read it.

-Tim

New Year’s Resolutions

Christmas has come and gone (too quickly, in my opinion) and New Year’s Day is less than a week away.

Most people — perhaps even some of you who are reading this right now — will be making resolutions for the New Year. How many of these we will actually follow through with varies; nonetheless, New Year’s resolutions are a part of our culture for better or for worse.

Personally, I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions. I cannot even remember what my resolutions for 2013 were, if I made any. It’s too easy to join a gym with the intent of getting in shape and then a week later falling back into your old routine. I find it better to keep my goals open as things happen

Nonetheless, this year I have decided to make one New Year’s resolution. I decided to make it only one because it is a pretty big one and I don’t want to distract myself with other resolutions, especially because this particular resolution has been a dream of mine for a while now.

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 is:

To publish my first novel.

Yes, that’s it. To publish my first novel. Nothing too fancy or crazy. It’s pretty ordinary if you think about it. Especially with the ease of self-publishing nowadays, making it so that almost anyone — whether they can write well or not — can publish a novel.

Still, I have realized that in order to make bigger steps in my writing career, I will need to publish a novel. I will probably self-publish it, ’cause that seems to be the way to go right now, although I have been looking into small presses, too.

However I choose to go about publishing it, I will publish it. This will be my year, the year where I take a large step forward in my writing career.

I hope all of my blog readers will be with me as I get the novel ready for publication. I do not have a release date for it yet, but I can assure you it will come out next year.

And I know it will be awesome.

What do you think of New Year’s resolutions? Did you make some for 2014? How did 2013’s resolutions work out, if you made any?

-Tim

Three of my Favorite Books on Writing

I am a firm believer that the best way to learn how to write is by writing. You could read all the books on writing in the world, but if you never put any of it into practice, then you will never know for sure what and what doesn’t work for you.

Nonetheless, books on writing have been a huge help to and influence on me. They have taught me new ideas and new techniques. Sometimes I like to reread them when I feel lost, when I don’t know what to write, or when I don’t like what I am writing. In that sense, the books — or rather, their authors — are some of my writing mentors.

So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite books on writing. I’ve read quite a few books on writing over the years, but these three are the ones that resonate the most with me. I highly suggest any writer, whether a beginner just starting out or a veteran who has been scribbling for years, to buy these or at least check ’em out from your local library anyway.

Now let us begin, starting with:

#3: How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman (Buy it on Amazon)

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide

Drawing on 30 years of combined teaching, writing, and reviewing experience, authors Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman point out 200 mistakes most unpublished writers make, mistakes that often result in their manuscripts being rejected by agents and editors.

While sometimes the snark can be a little annoying at times, it is has nonetheless entertained me many times with its irreverent humor. In particular, I enjoy how they illustrate every advice with examples, which make it easier to grasp the concepts they’re talking about.

It does use a lot of adult language, however. While that doesn’t bother me personally, if you do not like that kind of language, then you probably shouldn’t read this book. But if you are willing to look past the language, then I think you will learn a lot of useful things to avoid in your writing.

#2: Your First Novel: A Published Author and a Top Agent Share the Keys to Achieving your Dream, by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb (Buy it on Amazon)

Your First Novel: A Published Author and a Top Agent Share the Keys to Achieving Your Dream

This writing book is unique among writing books because it is co-written by an author and her agent, thus dividing the book into two parts.

The first half is written by novelist Laura Whitcomb, author of A Certain Slant of Light, which teaches the mechanics and craft of writing. It’s my favorite half of the book because it has so much useful information for all writers looking to improve their craft.

The second half is written by author agent Ann Rittenberg. In this section, she teaches you how to get your novel published. It mostly covers traditional publishing (this book was published prior to the rise of self-publishing), but it is still useful. In particular, I loved the excerpts of bad query letters she shared as an example of how not to write a query letter.

As a result of these two halves, the book is a different experience from reading other books on writing. I know of no other book on writing co-written by an author and her agent, which is a shame because I think it’s a really neat idea.

#1: Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies, by Sol Stein (Buy it on Amazon)

Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies

In this book, author and editor Sol Stein gives a lot of excellent advice for both fiction and nonfiction writers. It’s one of the few books on writing I own or know of that covers fiction and nonfiction equally, which is why I consider it valuable.

Not only does it contain useful writing advice, but it itself is well written. It’s easy to read and follow along. And like How Not to Write a Novel above, Stein will sometimes use excerpts to illustrate the points he is trying to make. They’re generally from his own work.

I have read other books on writing (and there are still quite a few I haven’t read but want to read), but these three are some of my favorites that I like to reread again and again, learning something new from them each time. I imagine that I will probably always reread them.

Do you know any good books on writing? Share them in the comments!

-Tim

Victory!

As of this morning, I finished my NaNoWriMo novel, The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock, clocking in at 92,245 words. I expected to hit 100k, but 92k is good, too.

I’m quite surprised, to be honest. I’ve never finished NaNoWriMo a week before the end of November. Usually I find myself working on my novel well into December. That I completed it, and so quickly, too, amazes me more than anything else.

What is even better is that I think this novel can be made into something publishable. I need to do some rewriting and editing, some research and worldbuilding, of course, but I could very well see myself publishing this book sometime, maybe even next year if I don’t run into any unexpected problems.

In the meantime, I am going to work on some other projects for the rest of the year. I will talk more about them at a later time, I think.

-Tim

New Page: “Interesting and Useful Links”

I just added a new page to my blog, titled “Interesting and Useful Links.” It is basically a collection of links to various websites and blogs and such that I find, well, interesting or useful. It will occasionally be updated whenever I find new links to add.

Check it out by clicking the link above. You might just find something useful or interesting for yourself.

-Tim

Do you have a back-up dream?

About a year ago, I was talking with a friend about dreams. His dream, he told me, was to become a well-known singer/performer. He even informed that he intended to get his start on The X Factor. He was quite serious about pursuing his dream, as he practiced his craft often and had a plan to get it started.

Yet he was realistic. He knew that there was a slim chance he could succeed as a singer, that it wasn’t always possible to fulfill your dreams. So he had what he called a “back-up dream,” another, easier to obtain dream that he could fall back on in case his singing career didn’t quite take off.

I have no idea how my friend is doing, as I haven’t spoken with him since. But the idea of a back-up dream stuck with me and has recently come to mind as I pursue my own dream of becoming a professional writer who makes a living off his work.

I’m not naïve. I know that the publishing industry is highly competitive and tough to break into. Even with the ease of self-publishing, many writers still fail to make enough money to make ends meet. The vast majority of them have some other kind of job to help pay the bills and support their families, which is completely understandable. Even the best writers still sometimes have a hard time making as much money as they’d like.

What does this say for me, a basically newbie writer who has not sold even one novel?

It means the chances of me making enough money to live off of are slim. Slim, but not impossible. It means I will probably need to find another way to support myself, another career path that will pay more or at least enough to pay the bills. Unless I become the next breakout author — which, let’s face it, isn’t very likely, no matter how good I may be at writing — I will need to investigate other options to support my writing.

The only other career paths I’ve seriously considered, aside from writing, are teaching and pastoring. Of the two, teaching is the only one I could realistically see myself doing, as I’ve been told I could be a good teacher. I could be an English or creative writing teacher, as I love to talk about writing and help other people improve their craft.

I haven’t taken any concrete steps toward becoming a teacher yet, though. Mostly this is because I want to see how well I do in the publishing industry first, but another part of me feels that accepting any other job or career path other than writing — even if it is one related to writing or is supposed to support my writing — would somehow make me less of a writer, even though far better writers than me have managed to hold down another job in addition to their writing.

So I suppose you could say that my back-up dream is teaching. In the event I fail to make any serious money off my books, I think I’d go get my teaching degree. I know teachers don’t always make a lot of money, either, but at least they can usually count on a regular paycheck, unlike writers, who normally can’t (although self-publishing is quickly changing that, I think).

What is your dream? Do you have a back-up dream? If so, what is it? Is it more realistic than your main dream?

-Tim