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Monday-itis

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Monday has been cancelled until further notice due to a complete lack of interest on the part of all participants. Tuesday is not looking so good either. And last we heard Wednesday only had ‘half way to Friday’ going for it.

One of the things about being self-employed (as a writer) is that every day is Monday (and you thought Sarah was a sadist). Fortunately it is a field which is well supplied with masochists – or at the very least, hopeless optimists. As you might gather I agree with Sarah’s description of the field – especially trad publishing. Well, with one caveat. I think she’s too generous to it.

Look, Traditional publishing has been in a situation it was their way or the highway (and you’ll never work in this town again, not for ANYONE) for longer than most of the people employed in it have been alive. If you don’t believe that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, well, you’re in for some rude shocks. I’m one of the optimistic ones who believes that now that their power is no longer absolute, we may start to see some return just to normal business practices instead of instead of the absolute one-sided situation that came out such power asymmetry. Frankly that would – medium term, be as good for publishers as it would for writers and readers. Of course, as the short term beneficiaries of being super-powerful it’s very unlikely that any traditional publishing employees see it this way!

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think some people employed in publishing are nice people, but that’s just like some people in a tribe of cannibals are nice people. The nice cannibals are still cannibals and still going to eat people, and publishing contracts and business practice still are a harsh one-sided environment for an author. There’s a lot of Stockholm syndrome in this, but really authors are better off with not hoping these are really their friends doing this for love of their work. They may love your work. That won’t stop you having WW3 to get your rights (even the ones they’ve never used) back, or you getting your book in stores without anyone bothering to tell you the release date (costing you 6-8 cents in every dollar your promoting it could have made – and your publisher 40-50 cents in every dollar it could have made. You’d think they’d have in-cent-ive to let you know.)

Fortunately, we have choices now. I’ve been repeatedly asked if this means ‘do you turn down trad publishing contracts? Or do you even stop looking?’ The answer, in my opinion, is unless you have a large ready-made audience, you should use publishers the way they use you. Give them as little as possible, get as much as possible, use them to build your audience and name recognition. You be friends with some of them, but they will probably not treat you any better than Joe Otherguy. It’s a business, and one that still has to adapt to the fact that it is a business like most others, without the asymmetry. And don’t get tied down for life.

Now: to return to Mondays (and I wish it were Sunday…) What I was trying to say here is… believe it or not, writing books is work too. It may be the best job you could ever find. But it is still work (despite the fact that people have the happy delusion that books write themselves, and all you do is collect large checks and revel in the fame.) For some of us it is easier than others. It goes fast and easily. Sometimes even well, too. For others (and I’m one of those) it is a long, slow hard process.

Now – speaking as the veteran of around 3 million words sold (that would be 30 books if they were all standard length – but some are goat-gaggers) sooner or later even the best of jobs hits Monday. Some whole books are like that. They don’t seem to sell any worse, be less popular, or even, dispassionately, read worse. They’re just hard to write. There are reasons for that, and as often as not, if you can unpick those, you can – sometimes – free up your muse, or at least make work feel like Friday. For me, anyway, this is often a subconscious niggle about the path of a book.

Sometimes, of course, it’s that you’ve chosen that hard path. When I wrote JOY COMETH WITH THE MOURNING I chose to write it first person, and from the point of view of a timid urban female priest – which was a very hard headspace for me, because I am none of those things. I had also chosen to write a cosy – which meant no action on scene – but it was a murder-mystery so there had to be tension. Right now I am writing a Karres book. They are by intent, light. But I’m writing about slavery (as mentioned as a feature of James H Schmitz ‘s original Karres universe.) and post-traumatic stress. Do you have any idea how hard it is to write ‘light’ on that? I’m in a world of Monday – but I am quite pleased with what I’ve done (I’m around 70K of target around 100).

But, sometimes these are intractable problems. Real life with things like depression, stress and financial issues (trust me your traditional publisher/agent can cause those, even if families and other circumstances don’t).

Here’s the thing: you still have write. In my case that has been ‘No write, live in cardboard box under bridge’ from time-to-time (particularly at first when we moved to Australia. That, and paying for the dogs and cats quarantine and transport (cost 5 times our move) and the fact the exchange rate had me getting 75 cents for every dollar… and the money was late, had us counting slices of bread – particularly while I learned how to forage off a strange land). It’s an added stress, which really doesn’t help.

But it must be done.

So: just how do you do it?

If there is an easy answer, I haven’t found it.

But doing it the hard way also works. Books get written, no matter how you struggle to write even a thousand words… and you’re aiming for a hundred thousand. It’s just that it needs a hundred days. It’s not the days when you just write a thousand words (or even 500) – it’s the days when you write nothing that’ll stop you.

I use a bunch of techniques, from bribery to a familiar routine (that one is good) to a schedule of daily word count (works exceptionally when the book is going well – speeds me up a lot. Works not all when it isn’t) to jumping ahead over hard bits (they really are easier later – because they’re often hard because you’re trying to set up for what to do later. If that’s sorted, they suddenly get easier. And the book itself gets a shape in your head – like the more bits you have in jigsaw puzzle, the easier the puzzle gets). Mood music, reading a book…

They all work – some better, some worse. None of them all the time.

You just need to keep trying.

So: what works for you?

33 Comments
  1. “So: what works for you?”

    They tell me cannabis CBD oil works pretty good. ~:D

    For me, wanting to know how the story turns out is good. Pretending the people in it are real works too. (They seem pretty real in here, in my brain pan, that’s for sure.)

    Weirdly, watching anime at night after the day’s work is all done can work. Lifts the mood, because its a happy story.

    Cutting the lawn works. Eating good food does too.

    Being angry at the assholes out there does -not- work, hence my blog. Put it on paper, post it, and its gone from my brain. Better than yelling at the TV, that’s for sure.

    September 10, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      So you are saying the anime you watch to de-stress is not Hellsing, Jormungand, Black Lagoon and Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans?

      September 10, 2018
      • LoL, I was just thinking ‘They must not be watching the same anime as I am.’

        September 10, 2018
      • Yes, that’s what I’m telling you. 🤣

        How about “In Another World With My Smartphone” That was so fluffy it floated right off the screen. Sturm und drang is for when everything is going well.

        September 10, 2018
        • BobtheRegisterredFool #

          I like both types. Though Black Lagoon is more nihilistic than my taste runs. Maybe a lot more.

          I’ve been watching Gundam Build Divers, but haven’t seen the latest episode. A couple of episodes back, they had a reveal I wasn’t expecting, and it has gone a bit darker than I care for right now.

          September 10, 2018
          • The thing I like about anime is that the Japanese culture is so different it takes all the sting out of even the darker shows.

            I watched Death Note most of the way through. Toward the end I lost interest and skipped to the last episode, but it didn’t -bother- me, you know? Characters making dark choices because of convoluted Japanese reasons, it doesn’t carry the freight of emotion that a Western story does because I’m missing all the subtleties and subtext.

            Conversely, I hate French shows. Characters inevitably go dark, and I know why, and it pisses me off. Then I’m yelling at the TV. So, no French shows at Chez Phantom.

            Ignorance is bliss. ~:D

            September 10, 2018
    • My trouble is if I started dealing with being angry at idiots by writing a blog – I’d need an extra life ;-/

      September 10, 2018
      • I get that. ~:D Yelling at the idiots is a full-time job these days. As my character Alice likes to say, “So many assholes! So little time, and limited ammunition.”

        Its a target-rich environment. But, tough shit for them. Being an idiot is its own punishment, Dave. No reason you and I have to suffer too.

        I found another thing that helps today. Get a haircut. I feel -way- better after my haircut. So weird.

        September 10, 2018
        • There’s less on your mind? *scampers away*

          September 10, 2018
        • MattB #

          Less insulation means better cooling for overclocked meatware?

          September 10, 2018
  2. Synova #

    It seems to me that from a business perspective that there is a “value added” place for publishers (that does involve changing with the times.) I’m not disagreeing with *any* of what anyone has said about how the publishing industry works but the affirmation of “this is worth investing in” and those money-up-front elements of editing, cover art, book design and marketing would be useful provided by a second party. Maybe more of a patronage model, or selling a share in future sales when a person can’t afford an artist, I donno. What I am NOT is good with business at all. So it’s just a feeling.

    And of course there is the artist/author side of supply and demand and even as the only game in town the fact that authors (quite often!) don’t treat it all like a business doesn’t contribute anything good to the dynamic. (My husband has a “real” job and it doesn’t matter if my contract is predatory and my labor essentially unpaid… I have a book!)

    But I am bad Bad BAD at business and even worse at personal time management. Any good advice on how to rewrite decades of extreme bad habits from anyone who successfully did so would be welcome. “How to Learn to Be Your Own Boss”. Practical advice or tools. Because I’ve already got “suck it up you loser slacker” and “turn off Facebook” in my backpack. But when it’s Monday it’s clearly Procrastination Day. And September is is OMG How Is It Not Still May?

    September 10, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      I’m actually in mid process of making some of those changes for myself. This community, ATH, MHN, and stuff have helped motivate me because of how embarrassed I am by my own choices and accomplishments in this august company. Also, I’ve learned from the serious business people here.

      1. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and get advice from others.
      2. When you identify a crippling weakness, work to fix it. Change one thing at a time. Time management is/was one of mine, and I used the Chrenshaw course on Lynda. There are lots of books on time management. And most other areas of business skill.
      3. Project management is another big weakness area of mine that I am addressing. The Project Management Institute publishes the Project Management Body of Knowledge. Might not be the most accessible book, but now you have a topic keyword to search on. I’m not sure how important it is in other fields, but self employment means you need to manage your own projects. (You know need the whole nine yards of formal project management, but you will need the core truths.) One general takeaway is it is important to communicate project progress regularly with project stakeholders. Your husband will be a stakeholder in your projects. A weekly progress report with goals, what you did and did not do, etc with your loved ones is very embarrassing but probably essential.
      4. Research is itself a skill. You will be doing lots of research as you identify skills you need to learn, and start learning them. Again, there is a lot of business literature. Take notes when you read. Track your progress through the research topic, track your practice of the new skill, and your level of achievement with the new skill.
      5. I’ve found that internal reflection is actually pretty important. a) Looking at my records, I see x performance issue. How do I address that? b) Well, what chain of thought or behavior caused that result? Is there anything that stands out as different compared to a period of good performance? Is there anything new or different that stands out? c) Keep working to change and improve things until I am satisfied with my performance. This may not be necessary for everyone, it is possible that I only need it because of medical issues.
      6. Sometimes the choices you want to make, or drift into making, are not the ones you need to be making. I really, really, really, want to complete this. I have trained a compulsion into myself of explaining things fully and completely. Long predated the transition to increased effectiveness, so not a recommendation. a) I’m mid transition, and do not have even the lessons I have already learned clearly organized in my mind. This is not an explanation I can complete any time soon. b) I have stuff to do. I’ve been avoiding work myself. Drifted into a mini-vacation after last night’s push, rather than on purpose. Any behavior I drift into is likely to be a problem, so I really need to switch gears. Good luck.

      September 10, 2018
    • Just exactly how is not still March?

      September 10, 2018
  3. I use my sense of obligation as a whip to keep me writing. I post my first draft online, with new writing going up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. My online audience is tiny – two dozen readers on a good day – but my mind is convinced I “owe” them new stuff three times a week. The closer I get to a posting date, the more pressure I feel to write another 1000 to 1500 words. I’d actually like to write more but must balance writing time against a full-time job and taking care of my family.

    I’ve been doing this since 2014 and have a dozen books out of it so far. (I’ve written two more but have to rewrite the middle of one before it’s publishable. The other is in beta reads right now.) I’m well short of Dave’s 3 million words, but I’ve published about 800 thousand using this process.

    Oh, one other advantage to the obligation approach is that it doesn’t leave much room for writer’s block. It can make writing hellishly difficult some days but I have to work through it or fail my obligation.

    September 10, 2018
    • Synova #

      My teachers cured me of any possible “avoid-shame” motivation for getting my work done before I finished my second year of fourth grade. :/

      September 10, 2018
    • I do that too, but my readers are too forgiving. But it’s better than nothing.

      September 10, 2018
  4. Zsuzsa #

    I’ve always thought we should get rid of Mondays and replace them with “Second Sundays.”

    Motivating myself is a trick I really haven’t learned too well. Sometimes goals can help, especially when there’s an audience to judge if I’m not making them. NaNo always works well for me, because anyone on that website can see my shame if my progress bar starts dipping further and further below the target line. However, thus far, ten days into this month I’ve been working on trying to get a piece edited into a second draft and have only managed about a chapter and a half, so my advice is probably not what you really want.

    “The answer, in my opinion, is unless you have a large ready-made audience, you should use publishers the way they use you.”

    I’ll admit I’m curious about the other half of that advice. What do you do if you DO have a large ready-made audience?

    September 10, 2018
    • Sunday – Funday – Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday – Friday – Saturday works for me.

      September 10, 2018
      • Wednesday – Friday Eve – Friday…

        September 10, 2018
    • Kord #

      My wife actually lives that. She is a teacher, but her mondays are off from school as she writes learning material for a one of the two or three big education publishers around here.
      Her Sundays are just lovely nowadays, with no back to school stress.

      September 10, 2018
  5. Well, so far today I’ve motivated myself into the gym, seven loads of laundry, dinner’s in the slow cooker and side dishes are ready in the fridge, dishwasher unloaded, shopping done, parts prepped for epoxying a broken bit of bedframe together, and concrete flowerbed edging prepped for digging it in… I may have even started cleaning out the fridge in a valiant effort of “If I’m not writing, I have to be getting something done around the house.”

    I may have to give up and write. I usually do, sooner or later, because I get too tired to keep cleaning, and right now writing looks more appealing than scrubbing the kitchen grout clean and resealing it.

    September 10, 2018
    • I taught, graded, met with a student, graded, and e-mailed The Dean (with good updates). You win. 🙂

      September 10, 2018
    • Evenstar #

      It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you are avoiding another task.

      September 11, 2018
  6. 23 skidoo

    September 10, 2018
  7. Mike Houst #

    Dave:

    If you’re ever stumped for a topic, you could always do a blog entry on bugs of Australia, or the Southern Night Sky, or native flora down under.

    September 10, 2018
    • Hear hear! How -do- you deal with a spider the size of a dinner plate? Broom, shovel or buckshot? How many times do you have to stomp on it before it stops trying to eat your boot?

      September 10, 2018
      • Pick it up and carry it outside. My Mum taught me never to be nasty to spiders. She liked snakes too, but I never could around to that.

        September 11, 2018
        • Man, I would SHOOT that thing! KaPOW! Shame about the floor though. ~:D

          September 11, 2018
  8. What works for me? Conversing with my Marquee characters. Pulling one offstage, so to speak, and plying him with questions about what he really wants, what he expected his latest deeds would get him, and what he learned from what followed.

    Try it. You might like it.

    September 11, 2018
  9. Draven #

    ok, now that Monday is gone, can we get ridda Tuesday?

    September 12, 2018

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