Being a Better Writer: The Expectation of Instant Success

I’ll lead with a fun fact: This post was originally going to be an OP-ED last week, until I was barely into writing it and already switching into “and here’s how this comes up in writing,” at which point I realized that this was becoming a Being a Better Writer post despite what I had originally presumed about it. So it shifted over to the Topic List, and today … Well, you can clear see.

All right, so we’re diving in without a preamble: What on Earth—or whatever world you happen to be reading this on—is this all about? Most of you reading the title are probably going to guess that it’s going to be addressing the creator, and be about “tempering expectations.” And it’s not. We’ll address that briefly, but instead this post is going to be coming from a slightly different direction: that of the public.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Let’s start at the beginning. Or rather, what the public often sees as the beginning: The publishing of the first book.

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Being a Better Writer: Acknowledging Our Accomplishments

Welcome and Merry Christmas, readers, to this quite delayed Being a Better Writer post! First of all, it must be said, I’m sorry for the delays. I try to avoid letting these happen, but with the Christmas rush being what it has been … I’m fighting to get a lot of things done.

That said, this will also be the last BaBW piece until the new year. That’s right, I’ll be taking the next two weeks off for Christmas. A small Christmas vacation for myself (and a chance to finalize those last few chapters of Jungle when I’m not at my part-time).

Apology accepted? Good! Now, let’s talk about today’s topic. I’ll be up front with this one: It’s not from the Topic List. Nor was it something I’d thought of until I realized it was likely going to be the last post of the year, and maybe giving things a bit of a theme wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So rather than talking about how to invoke emotion with your characters, or how to pace a fight scene, or set up a armory of Chekov’s Guns, I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about acknowledging your own accomplishments.

Good time of the year for it, no? Like I said, year’s end …

There was a webcomic special I read once (I actually tried to find it for this post, but didn’t have much luck A reader found it for us!), about accomplishment. It showed the author climbing a mountain, fully laden in cartoonish hiking gear and working their way further and further up to the peak. Eventually, after much struggle, they reached the peak, planted their flag, and cheered.

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Being a Better Writer: When Characters Fail

Welcome back, readers, to another Monday Being a Better Writer post! Today we’ve got a request topic, one that hopefully I’ll be able to do justice to the satisfaction of the one who asked. In addition, it’s also one of the last topics left on Topic List IX! We’re close to Topic List X, and I’m glad, because I’ve already got some pretty neat topics on there to go over.

But that’s in the future. For the now, let’s get going on today’s topic: When Characters Fail.

I’ll admit, I bounced around a bit on topic titles for this one, and not without good reason. For a moment it was “Failing to Succeed,” and then almost became “Letting Characters Fail.” But finally, I settled on When Characters Fail, rather than on letting, and I think that distinction is important.

See, if we go into our characters failing with the mindset that we’re “letting” them fail (and in fact, are), then we might be approaching our story in the wrong way. Sure, we’re giving our characters the “try/fail” cycle that they need, and they’re going through it, but here’s the thing about “letting” them fail. When we “let” our characters fail, then they’re not the ones acting on the try/fail cycle. We as authors are. We’re looking at our story and going “Okay, you can fail here, this is a good spot for it,” and letting the failure happen where we decide it works, rather than simply letting the characters be free to fail when their own choices drop it on them.

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One Million Strong

Normally I wouldn’t be putting up a Sunday post. But this post is different, different enough that I’m going to make an exception.

Last night, I was lying in bed and thinking about writing things (as usual). The release of Unusual Events, work still to do on Colony, plotting for Shadow of an Empire … even the upcoming LTUE convention near where I live (which I will, sadly, apparently not be paneling at this year, though I will likely still attend).

Anyway, as I was lying in bed trying to sleep (and failing utterly because my mind wouldn’t stop rolling along) I realized something. I’ve hit another milestone. A massive one.

One million published words of fiction.

I had to pause and think about it for a moment. The Dusk Guard: Rise? 275,000 words. The Dusk Guard: Beyond the Borderlands? 300,000. Side stories? 115,000 words. One Drink? 33,000 words. Dead Silver? 139,000. And now Unusual Events: 152,000.

Total? 1,014,000 words. As in one million, fourteen thousand words.

Even better? I’m going to almost double that this year. Colony, slated for a May release at the moment, is 325,000 words. Shadow of an Empire isn’t far enough along to have a dedicated length yet, but given that it’s another Epic and I haven’t written one under 250,000 words yet, it seems a safe bet that it’ll be at least 200,000 words edging on 300,000.

The point to all this, aside from me going “Holy smokes, look at what I wrote?” You can do it if you put your mind to it. A million published words in just a few years is feasible if you’ve got the drive. It’s not about the car you own, it’s not about how many workshops you attend or how much you talk about how hard you’ve been working.

It’s the doing. The sitting down and pushing forward. Not giving up or thinking after an hour “I’ll do that tomorrow.” And eventually, as we push forward, we reach the mountain peak.

And then we find the next one to climb.