Snot-work (or ‘s not work)
Gah. Snot. The story of my weekend in one word. Not the worst problem in the world, but the one most on my mind at the moment. Well, pressing on my brain, anyway.
I’m a one man business: so snot, or not, something must be written. I have either ‘flu or a cold but trying to work, as I am not in the least subject ‘man-flu’ (I have taken to my bed for a day and half in the last 30 years, with malaria. Add ‘bed-rest’ to the very long list of things I am not good at).
None-the less I will admit my brain feels like cream cheese and just as capable of rational thought. Yes, I did stick my finger up my nose to find out. Or I might have, if not for the Niagra pouring out of it. We’ve reached peak tissue in this household and have been forced to exploit less gentle on the nose supplies of kitchen paper towel, and no end is in sight (it being the Queen’s birthday holiday here, with the tissue mines closed for the day).
It has made thinking difficult, because every train of thought is rapidly derailed by a hunt for more nose fodder, let alone that a head-ache and fever don’t help me to be at my brightest. And I needed an idea for today’s post. The thought ‘so this is what it feels like to be the kind of person who believes File 770 is a reliable source’, wasn’t very constructive.
And then it came to me: this is the core of being an author – especially if you’re in Indy publishing. No I didn’t ACTUALLY mean unable to think coherently and in dire need of soft nose wipes. Or ‘feeling rather stupid’. That too those are added extras that come FREE if you call now! And for the 99 callers we’ll throw in an extra parcel of confused, and our bestselling pack of ‘did-not-read-but-gave-a-one-star-review’ because we decided we wouldn’t like your politics or possibly even the price you set.
What I mean is you’re a one-man-business. If you take off sick, or don’t produce… no one is going to fill in for you. There is a strange belief out there- particularly among non-writers and occasionally among wannabes (not much among the earnest, researching hardworking kind, but the kind who think publishers keep special people to correct grammar and spelling problems. They do. They’re called ‘authors’) that ‘being your own boss’ means you can afford to do Sweet Fanny Adams (AKA SFA Writers) most of the time. Well, no. It means that you work for a prick-of-a-boss who knows every skiving move you could pull, and spies on you non-stop, and is intolerant of your excuses and unsympathetic about your illness or frailties. If he (or she) isn’t just like this, actually, you’re stuffed. Give up while you’re losing without making the hole deeper.
Deadlines, wordcounts, to-do lists, are your friend. So is forward planning, thinking ahead, collecting materials, doing scut work when you feel sick or rotten or braindead, so that when you aren’t – you can write. For me a daily discipline works. Nothing extreme, an electric cattle-prod is good enough to get me to my desk most of the time. A red-hot poker will do the rest of the time. This is a real challenge, because as you’re a one man business… you have hold the poker and threaten yourself. And you have to really believe you will apply it. And then at the end the you have the difficult problem of sitting at your desk with a red-hot poker in one hand. At all costs (or at least, replacement cost), resist putting it through the screen. One day I did 37 trips to the fire-place to return it, to need to apply it again to need to return it… Seriously, a rigid pattern helps me. So does a word-bank (I have a minimum words-per-day, and a final goal date. If I am ahead and something comes up that doesn’t involve writing for a day… well, I need enough words in the bank.
What most of us tend to forget, is that it isn’t just words. Trad published, or indy, a real part of EVERY day has to go to promotion. I’m rotten at this. Vox Day, John Scalzi, Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt and Peter Grant are good at it. You don’t have to like any of them, or their work, to study what they do. But here’s the key. They post often, and not just about their books. They interact on social media (to various degrees, and at various levels). And they work, relentlessly, at it.
This, sadly, is a major feature of modern writing. Your publisher will not do it for you. It is not impossible to succeed without it, just a much bigger hill to climb.
If you’re indy of course it is important to remember your time isn’t JUST writing – and you have allow in that word-count planning everything else, from designing your cover (or getting it done) to editing (and I advise getting this done, at least copy-editing. It is now becoming common for trad authors to get this done independently too, as it seems this is another ‘cost saving’ trad publishing is investing in).
One of the most difficult things I find is to ‘get distance’ while editing. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with most of my work. I either love it or hate it – whereas really a dispassionate assessment has ‘like’ or ‘yawn, bleah’ as both more likely, and more worrying things. I’ve found the best tool I can use to be dispassionate is the intent to be… and time. If I can leave work for years I can edit very well, but even weeks helps. What doesn’t work is hot out of the hot head and onto the screen… and process.
Talking of my own work, Tom is selling relatively well (yes, the picture is a link)
Nothing wildly exciting, welcome money, but don’t quit my trad income yet. I’m still wondering if the cover is too cutesy, and putting off readers who might enjoy it. It is, however intended to be light, amusing, and easy to read, and fairly fast paced. Might be a welcome change from the news, if less fictional. As I said, not War and Peace, light escapism, with my gentle satire under it (yes, of course I poke fun at the world, politics, fantasy tropes. This is Dave Freer writing, not some sf-establishment dahling.).
One thing I’d love opinion on is KENP (KU and KOLL ‘borrows’) and whether other folk have any opinion of how good/bad for a writer this is. Look, I figure I’m getting around 40-50 people -‘borrowers’ reading TOM a day. I’m not knocking them – they paid to belong to Kindle Prime, I get something – probably around 50 cents a read. I’m not sure how many of these are ‘new’ (have not read my work before) or potential return customers, or people who know my name and, understandably are reading it for ‘free’ (at no extra cost to them, even though I get paid something). If it is the latter, well, I am better off, financially, charging $2.00 and getting more customers and 70 cents, or $2.99 and getting $2 a copy… But if I’m gaining readers that I would not otherwise, well, the longer term wins the game. What is your opinion?
And now to take my snot to bed, it being 9.00 PM here. I need an early night.