A Year of Full-Time Writing or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Daily Structure

Well, I’d been dreading it for a while, but I finally bit the bullet and… rearranged my books and stories page.

Not such a colossal undertaking, I suppose, but one I kept putting off nonetheless. It’s a little more intuitive now, I think. Still divided by novel vs. short fiction, but with my recent releases closer to the top for easier discovery, and a whole new section just for highlighting the newest, shiniest thing I’ve put out. (Pssst, I’ve just put out a story today, and you should totally check it out!)

It might not be the fanciest of such pages on the net, but I think it’ll work for the time being. Should be easier for me to keep up-to-date, too. So I can check that off the Neverending List of Dreaded Chores and skip along to the next task.


 

The Husband and I made some changes to our lives last year, including moving to a new house in a neighborhood that suits our lifestyle and values much better, lessens his commute by at least half (thus giving him back a huge chunk of time that he used to spend dodging idiot drivers and white-knuckling through Michigan infrastructure), and allows me to work from home. These changes have made such a huge impact on our happiness and quality of life, it can sometimes make the time before the move seem like a dream out of someone else’s life.

So, my first year working as a (essentially) full-time writer wrapped up about a week ago. It’s taken me pretty much all of that time to really figure out how that was going to work for me. I’ve kind of ended up focusing on a lot of short fiction this year, doing various stories for a variety of bundles and other markets, and using those smaller projects to hammer out the kinks in my daily, weekly, and monthly work schedules.

Writing while holding down a day job is tough, frustrating, sometimes even impossible. Sometimes you have to make some annoying choices about how to use what free time you have. Get some progress done on the WIP, or spend some quality time with The Husband?

But somehow, bits and pieces of time are found, and the work gets done. Maybe not as fast as you’d like, but it gets done. The idea of quitting your day job, of finally being “full-time” and having the ability to get tons of projects done, is a billboard that reads “If Only I Had More Tiiiiiiime,” and it glows way off in the distance on the dusky interstate of life, indicating an exit that may not even lie along your current route. Or an even better metaphor.

A funny thing happens once you suddenly have all that tiiiiiiime, though. Because all that tiiiiiiime does not come with the built-in structure for how to use it the way a day job does, and, for someone like me, lacking structure leads to floundering, flailing, and ultimately, surfing the internet all day before finally getting maybe a hundred words written.

If it weren’t for all the other wonderful things I mentioned about our new life, I’d have slid head-first into depression within a handful of months.

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I’ve never had to define my own daily structure before. Maybe this reveals something about me, about the privileges I had while growing up and then as a young adult. But it is what it is, and suddenly having the freedom to decide exactly how I’m going to use every second of my day turned out to be a lot scarier than it seemed back when it was just a big, glowy “If Only” waaaaay off in the distance.

For a big chunk of this past year, even though I was still turning various projects in, I felt like I wasn’t getting anything done AT ALL.

I tried a lot of systems to manage my time. Some worked once, some worked for a few days or even a couple weeks. Maybe all of them would have worked right off the bat if my personality were more attuned to this sort of thing, but maybe not. I have no way of knowing.

But I think the reason none of them worked is that they were designed around the writing. They were designed to get myself motivated, or to trick myself into writing with various rewards or Pavlovian responses, or even to berate myself for not doing the work, rather than being built around giving myself a daily structure. Because once I focused on structure, it all suddenly clicked.

My writing schedule today isn’t really about writing, it’s about my whole day and where writing fits into it. Because I’m not just a writer, I’m also a wife, a home owner, a cat guardian, a reader, and a gamer, plus I still have a small part-time job that has to fit in somewhere, too, and all of those parts of myself deserve time on my schedule. The structure makes it so I don’t have to decide every day when to do each thing or how to prioritize the parts of them, and thus removes a huge piece of the fear that used to paralyze me in the earlier parts of this past year.

So I’m learning to love my daily structure, as scary as it seems, because it’s my own. At the very least, I’m a lot happier with the way I’ve utilized my writing time since implementing it.

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The Fount of Magic Release Day

It’s finally here! The day when I can share the third Songbird River Chronicles book with everyone has arrived. It’s been a long time coming, and launch day is a huge relief.

I am quite proud of this one. I feel like my writing skill level has increased since writing SINGER, and I think it shows here in FOUNT. I’m also giddy over the cover, which I think captures the spirit of the book. Plus, it’s pretty! Don’t you think so?

~o0o~

TFoM Cover eBook copy

Three heroes, three conflicts. The fate of Songbird River City hangs in the balance.

Katherina, the Greatest Fencer in the Realm, faces false charges of murdering Klessia’s Master Magician. Serille, the amateur Magician, struggles for a chance to retaliate against those who attacked the Guild of her heart.

And Singer, beloved leader of Songbird River City, returns to her homeland after defeating a rogue dragon to find her city in smoldering ruins. Her greatest fear has come true: her sword, the energy source for her city, has fallen into the hands of the evil Sorcerers in Chirlinia, and with it, the ability to control her enormous robotic Search-and-Rescue machines.

And as the three friends journey to different corners of the Two Continents, the Sorcerers’ attempts the sow dissonance between them may yet work…

~o0o~

You can pick up your copy over at Amazon or Kobo. Early purchasers will be loved forever, and early reviewers will be cherished like the treasures they are! If you need to catch up on the story so far, check out books 1 and 2 on my Books and Stories page!

And now, back to work on the next novel…

Second verse, same as the first

So in my last post, I told you all about my first short story publication in the 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, and how that was awesome due to a number of factors, including the fact that both me and my dad have stories in it. If you haven’t taken a look at that anthology yet, you really should, especially if you have middle-grade kids who might enjoy reading some science fiction aimed at them.

But today, I have to apologize for what may seem like a repetitive posting.

Two days ago, the Fiction River anthology Pulse Pounders was published. This anthology is really cool, because not only does it mark my second short fiction publication, it also marks the second anthology in which both my father and myself have stories! (Could this be an emerging trend? Is there more Collins take-over to come? Stay tuned, loyal readers!)

Pulse Pounders also features a never-before published original Frank Herbert (Dune) story, so that’s really super cool. Here’s the cover for your enjoyment!

FR Pulse Pounders ebook cover web

Yeah, my dad’s name is on the cover, and that means that half of mine is, too! This is how I know I’ve “made it,” my friends. *self-deprecating laugh*

Another sweet thing about this anthology is that, if you pick up the Kobo special edition, you’ll get some extra stories that aren’t in the print or other e-versions! How cool is that?

This anthology is full of exciting stories, from action to thrillers and lots of stuff in between. My story, “Frostburnt”, is a traditional fantasy, but the stories cover a range of genres. I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be bored reading this collection, so check it out!

Published!

It’s official! One of my short stories, “The Sugimori Sisters and the Interplanetary Concept Clash”, has been published! And what’s way cooler is that my dad has a story in the anthology, too.

The 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide is available now on Amazon in e-format, and will soon also be available in print. It’s full of science fiction stories aimed at middle-grade kids, and especially focuses on inclusion of girls. There are tons of great stories in here, and I’m honored to include my own beside them. Give it a look!

 

Also, I will be speaking on a few panels at ConFusion 2015 next weekend. I hope to see lots of people there and talk about lots of fun stuff!

An Article About ME!

I recently went to my hometown of Columbus, IN to visit my family and to attend a local festival. We had a lot of fun, both with the family and the festival, but I also took a little time out to be interviewed by a writer for a local publication that focuses on women in the community. The publication is called SHE Magazine, and features articles about how women from the Columbus area are doing their own special things. My special thing, of course, is that I write and have published two novels!

The article came out earlier this week, and I thought I’d shamelessly share it here with all of you. Because I’m awesome, of course, and everyone deserves to know that!

The article about ME starts on page 26. You should check out the rest of the magazine, too, since it’s pretty cool in general.

Obviously, this means that I have achieved “famous” status. The money should be rolling in by the truckload now, right? I’ve “made it,” now, right? RIGHT?


I’m chugging along on a new short story, having achieved 1,000 words on it so far. The finished product should be no more than 6,000, so this is good progress. I’m really enjoying this story, and I’m excited to figure out the best way to tell it. After all, often times the way we first envision telling a story is not the best way to go about it IT ALL. This results in frustration, of course, (especially in longer pieces) but it’s a good kind of frustration, the kind that lets you tear your hair out for a little while, but then sits you down and makes you work to turn something that’s good into something that’s really great (or, at least, better than what it started out as, right?)

And, even though there is frustration, there is satisfaction, too, once you know what needs to be fixed and have an idea of how to go about it. After the hair has been torn and the head bashed against the wall.

Writing is fun! Remember, I’m famous now. You can trust me.

 

New release announcement, and reflections on Detcon1

So, my new book is published! The Southern Dragon is available now through Amazon, Kobo, NOOK, Smashwords, and Google Play, both in print and ebook formats! You can find links to it in my Books and Stories page above. The price on Singer has dropped, as well, in celebration! Check it out, and if you like it, please leave a review in your preferred reviewing location. It’d be much appreciated!

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As I mentioned, I had some plans for this past weekend’s Detcon1 surrounding my promotion of the book. While my sweepstakes to win free copies of my books didn’t pan out, I did manage to pass out a number of my business cards. I’m hoping to see some results from that at some point, though we will just have to wait and see. The con itself was fun, with lots of interesting and useful panels surrounding aspects of the business. Of course, there were lots of whimsical panels as well, but I kept myself to the business oriented ones. I listened to Neil Clarke (the publisher/editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, to whom I have been furiously attempting to sell my short stories) speak on two panels, one about the state of Science Fiction magazines today, and one about what sorts of things editors and agents are looking for in stories and submissions. I heard another panel talk about the economics of self-publishing, though I can’t say that one was particularly useful to me, since I’ve been doing this for a little while now and have already experienced a number of the things they talked about. I also attended a panel discussing covers, which was interesting from an artistic standpoint.

It’s definitely interesting to listen to other people who are essentially trying to accomplish the same thing as you are talk about how they have been going about it, or what else they plan to try in the future. The debate on whether or not to go full indie publishing or to hold out for a traditional publisher’s notice still rages, with both sides giving good arguments. For now, I think I intend to remain an indie publishing author, but I am trying to keep my mind clear and unbiased as I go forward with this venture.

Anybody else have Detcon experiences to share? I’d love to hear about them!

Finishing

Today, I finished the first draft of The Fount of Magic.

Yay!

This one came with a five-week long hiatus, a segment of the “mid-book blues” as some call it. That time was painful, because I felt like I just wasn’t being a good human being. I wasn’t writing, so I felt like a failure in everything else I did, too. Like I was just wasting time.

But I got over it, and got back to the writing. Those first few days back at the keyboard were painful. I had pitiful word counts. I hated everything I wrote. But I did it.

Eventually, the pace picked up, and it became easier, because it was fun again.

And now, I’m finished with the first draft.

While I’m definitely glad to be finished (it means I can move on to all of the other projects I’ve got stacking up in my to-write list! Yay!!!) a part of me is not looking forward to NOT having the novel to come home to after work. It had gotten to the point that I would walk in the door, pet the kitty, and then sit down to say hello to the novel. Sure, there’s still editing to do, and that’s fun, too. But it’s not the same as when you’re sitting there, pushing yourself to just put thirty more words on the page. Only thirty, and you’ll break 3,000 today!

Obviously, since I’ve already stated I’ve got more projects, new novels will come along in the near future.

But now this one is done, and I will miss it.

We had our laughs and our hard times, and in the end we came out with a pretty good draft. But now it’s time to move on.

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