How Do I Do This Thing, Again?

SNOWMAGEDDON IS COME!! Okay, not so much. Once again, we were promised much, and much wasn’t delivered. Muchly. I find this more than acceptable, as Snowmageddon: PNW Style is not my favorite style. I far and away prefer enduring the love child of the Everfrost Tundra and the Howling North Wind in a locale equipped for such occasions. Like Colorado, or failing that, any locale with more than a single snowplow for an entire landmass, however less than enormous. [Update: Snowmageddon is more or less genuinely come. Three inches (much for this region) and still falling. Horde is home from school, base is closed. We have no snow shovel STOP Send dog sleds STOP]

Still, roads were sufficiently untreacherous that the Wee Horde fell upon school like a ravening, well, horde. Which meant I could have the mental space I (apparently, *sigh*) need to write. Only writing didn’t happen. I foolishly stopped in to check the Book of Faces to see what those of my cohorts who are not in physical proximity (almost all of them, natch) were up to. And within those unholy pages I witnessed things to drive saner men stark and raving. Some such things inspired rage. Some caused doubt. Still others aroused such disgust that I thrust the bookface away from me.

After fuming — while accomplishing some of the domestic consulting which earns my keep — I put in a cry for help to a friend of mine whom I know will neither blow smoke, nor leave me dangling over the abyss. After some rambling (look, I tend to range all over in conversation, and that’s leaving completely aside the Squirrel Facto- oh, squirrel!) he asked me what it would take. What what would take?

“What would it take,” asked he, “for you to feel like a successful writer?” The funny thing is, I didn’t really even have to think. Six figures a year. Preferably mid six, but enough to replace both Mrs. Dave’s income and benefits, and to hire domesticy things done by someone else. Of course, I know what the secret is. “Secret.” Persistence. Discipline. Butt-in-chair time. It goes by many names, but they all involve putting in one’s time in the word mines, and continuing to finish stories and publish them.

But here’s the thing: that begs a couple of questions. Namely, who is your market? Are you writing for kids just starting their reading careers? In which case, you should be marketing to their parents: kids rarely have money for books. Ditto YA. Do I know how to market middle grade or YA? No. No, I do not, but that’s your market. I know it’s difficult going the indie route, as most of your market gets their info from schools, libraries, and bookstores. And those are tough nuts for indies to crack.

My market, you ask? Power readers (those who read more than a book per month. HAH, more like those who read more than a book a day) with interests in genre fiction. Specifically, those people who are usually single or married with no children, and who are unlikely to acquire same, who also have sufficient disposable income to support their habit. I’m chasing adults with money to burn and a penchant for fiction, and that particular market has gotten tired of tradpub over the years. Not enough fun for too many years. Fortunately, indie offers them a lot of cheap words, and that’s what I’m going for.

My method: short novels full of rich worldbuilding, thoughtfully drawn characters, and larger-than-life plots. Witness the thing I’m serializing here, what a buddy humorously called Prince of Thebes (*sigh* that’s stuck as at least a working title, darnit). I think I’m on target for fifty to sixty thousand words, my protagonist has been thrown off a building (twice), wrongfully imprisoned, and then … altered by a mad and dying ancient AI, and is now struggling to escape his prison-within-a-prison as well as make some sense of the madness his life has become. And his life wasn’t particularly easy before the events I’m recording.

What’s going to be important for me going forward is consistent output. To meet the desires of the market I’m working to reach, I’m going to attempt to finish and publish just such a novel between quarterly and monthly. Before you scoff! Before you scoff, I say, this is a goal, and a more distant one. I have reason to believe I’m capable of such output, and I have the motivation (at least some days).

But that’s me. You need to decide for you what goals you’re going to set, and then how you’re going to meet them. I’m starting with writing for an hour a week. It doesn’t seem like much, but when I’m ticking along, I can write a chapter in that hour. That means everything after that first hour is gravy. And it’s just a starting place. And I’ll be tracking it. The following goal will be writing an hour a day. After that, just increasing time and wordcount until I’m consistently meeting goals and deadlines.

For a completed business plan, at least a rough one, it’s just a matter of defining how you’ll support yourself until the sweet, sweet fiction millions (HAH) start rolling in. For the state of the Dave, that’s a matter of regular and superb performance as a domestic consultant, freelancing in custom catering, textile care, and the removal of filth, as well as local guide and Horde transpo. Eventually, I fully intend to pass most of those duties off to the senior Hordelings, for pay.

More seriously, if writing is to be more than a hobby, you need a plan. I needed four decades and someone more experienced than I am to point this out in very plain language. And if my plan seems simple, well, it is. Simple doesn’t mean easy, and it hasn’t been easy up to this point. But having a plan puts me closer to success than I was yesterday. Having a plan will serve you well, too. Who are you going to serve? How are you going to serve them? How do you intend to survive until your service bears monetary fruit?

A slight addendum. If y’all would share our posts via the various social media outlets, that will expand our reach, and our community in delightful ways. Better you share Amanda’s post from this morning, in the hopes of attracting some chew-toys. We know how you enjoy them.


  1. “We have no snow shovel.”

    LOL! And you can’t get one either. Sometime end of next summer you may be at a hardware store and there will be a box display of six snow shovels made of flimsy red plastic and you’ll have to decide; do you feel lucky? Well, do you punk?

    1. Hey, I liked my plastic fantastic when I lived in the Land of Snow. Lightweight? Yes, with a slick finish so wet snow didn’t stick as badly. I knew it was a little fragile, so I didn’t overload it, and it worked great. Had a metal edge on the blade for more serious work and to reduce wear.

      Sort of like good genre fiction, it filled the need, gave what I asked of it, and didn’t try to do more than it advertised.

      Aaand this is where I quit before the metaphor breaks. 🙂

  2. I feel your pain, Dave. My snowblower sits unstarting. I do have a shovel, but it avails me naught because funky knee. Fortunately there is tractor. ~:D

    You buddy: “What would it take,” asked he, “for you to feel like a successful writer?”

    Um, who cares? Because how I feel doesn’t reflect Reality (TM) it reflects my inner turmoil of the moment.

    There was a demon once who asked such a question. He was told: “Feelings are like farts. Just wait five minutes and another one will be along to stink the place up.”

    “Success” is measured by comparing your results to what other people have done. But that’s a false measure. This is not a contest. They don’t give you a prize at the end. It doesn’t matter what others do. Only what -you- do.

    If my characters have a life outside my own brain, and if even one other person sees their adventures and loves them for who they are, then I am a successful writer.

    Just so you know Dave, I’ve been reading along with your story. You have succeeded. Atta boy.

  3. Glad I’m not the only one struggling under Snowmageddon. It’s so cold here you’d think Al Gore was coming to town.

  4. Actually, several shovels may be wise. There are bigger and smaller ones, the first for light fluffy snow so you can do it faster, and the second for not giving yourself a heart attack.

    1. Oh yes. I don’t even have to shovel or chip and then shovel, being in a condo complex, and like all sane people, think snowstorm beats icestorm.

      1. I currently live in an apartment building so others get the “fun” of shoveling.

        As for Ice Storms, when my sister and I were young, Mom (a school teacher) would always make us wait until the official announcement of a “No School” for snow but there was the time of the ice storm where she said to us “You aren’t going to school today” (of course, there was an official announcement of No School). 😀

        1. When I lived in an apartment, I was the snow removal person. I got a lot of exercise the year we got 150″ between October and April.

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