The Road to Becoming a Full Time Author

Becoming a full time author, a career a lot of people have dreamed about. There’s a survey that says 81% of people feel like they have a novel in them. It's in humanities culture to tell each other stories. That's how we grow and develop and learn and hopefully have a good time too. Well surprise surprise I’m one of the 81%.

I’ve written and published a Novella and a handful of short stories but the full length novel still eludes me. I’ve had a request for a full manuscript from an agent before but that’s the limit of my publishing success with that one.
I realise that becoming an author, let alone a full time author, is a goal that may take years to reach. So that I can see the progress I’m making and for my own posterity I thought I’d condense my journey into a blog.

Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have low expenses and no family that rely on me financially. This makes achieving a living off my writing income much more viable. If I’m ever going to take a proper run at being an author now is the best time of my life to do it.

Traditional Vs Indie Publishing, which one am I going for? Most likely my initial efforts at publishing will be focused towards indie publishing. Not that I am against traditional publishing, as I mentioned earlier I’ve had a manuscript request from an agent before. It's just that for now I think my goals match better with the quick responses of the Indie market. Ultimately, I would like to be Hybrid published - Publishing both independently and with a traditional publisher.

Before we set out some goals let's talk weaknesses.

Mainly, the thing holding me back in a career as an author is… the whole publishing thing. I guess you could say, in some ways, I’m a perfectionist.  I’m extremely hard on myself when I know I’m capable of more. This comes across most potently in my writing, where I know I can do much better than my current standard. This has stopped me from publishing multiple projects in the past and hindered me massively. Part of the problem with never thinking I’m quite good enough is that I’ll never be able to master writing, there will always be something else I can learn. Some way I can improve. So I need to get over my own hang ups about my work and publish, let the audience be the judge of my writing and in the meantime I’ll keep writing the next story.

Ok, ok so lets talk something more concrete. Yea, I want to be an author, but what am I actually going to do about it.

2000 words a day. No excuses. My writing speed varies greatly. I’ve seen it be anywhere from 500 words per hour on tough scenes up to 2000 words an hour when I’m really flying and even up to 3000 words per hour if I’m dictating (I’m not currently dictating and don't see myself getting back to it in the near future) The reality of my writing speed is somewhere in between. But let's say I can comfortably get 1000 words an hour, that means I need to dedicate two hours a day to my writing. For where I want this to lead me, that type of time investment is negligible.

The caveat being I need to consistently hit 2000 NEW words a day. These can't be words from me endlessly editing my manuscript. I need to be pushing the story forwards towards completion.

Given I expect the manuscript length to be in the region of 100,000 words, that means that it would take me fifty days to complete the first draft of this manuscript. This means as of the date of writing this, my 1st draft will be finished by the 21st January.

For now thats all we will focus on.

After that I can make editing goals, sales goals etc etc. But let's get the book finished!

Ok. So today is step one. It's time to go write 2000 words.

A word on fictional settings

Why are some settings better than others? When it comes to writing, especially in fantasy and science fiction, the author has a chance at creating something new, at transporting the reader to a location completely unlike our own. But why do some of these leave lasting impressions and others fade into the background in otherwise great stories.


When discussing the Harry Potter franchise some people talk about Harry, Ron and Hermione, about Hagrid and Dumbledore about Umbridge and Voldermort but they also talk about Hogwarts and Diagon Alley and as the Autumn and Winter season approaches people will start to talk about heading down to Hogsmeade.


Hogwarts and Hobbiton, two fictional settings so beloved they have permanent real world constructions that fans make pilgrimages to year after. There are other settings such as the multiple London’s in V.E. Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic” series and Erin Morgernstern’s “The Night Circus” which people hail as vivid and that gain some respect, though not on similar level. Understandably, most of this can be chalked up to pure sales numbers.


But if all it takes is a popular story to have a popular setting then why aren't there others? Nevernight, Six of Crows, The Name of The Wind. All popular books in their own right with fans ready to talk about their love for the respective series, plot or characters but to a much lesser degree their setting.


Why is this?


I believe in the end it’s fairly simple. We want somewhere that can be a home.


There are theme parks of Hogwarts and Hobbiton because although there are dangers that take place in these worlds and indeed in these settings largely we spend a lot of time in these places feeling safe and happy.


We claim our wands in diagon alley and all the wonder of the wizarding world, we have feasts and celebrations in the great hall and largely our time in Hobbiton is one long party in one of the most idyllic settings you can think of. We love these places because we can be happy there, we can escape to them.


And that’s tough to do.


In fiction we want conflict, and tension and suspense. For the modern audience at large, spend too long in one place relaxing and enjoying yourself then you run a risk of them putting down the book due to bad pacing or being boring.


Just another reason why writing high quality fiction is extremely tough. If you want memorable settings it can't just be a setting. It has to be woven in with character and plot to keep the story interesting. And if you really want us to fall in love with the setting, to discuss locations in the same breath as character and plot twists, then make it somewhere we want to visit. Make it somewhere we could call home.

Animation in mainstream adult programming

I think there is huge untapped potential in animated projects in western media. Eastern media, specifically Japan has largely accepted animated stories.


Anime is a huge market. It’s so popular and western audiences have such a lack of it that I would say it’s one of the largest influences of eastern culture. There is nowhere near as much interest in non animated projects from Japan and Chinese film, one of the biggest film industries in the world,  is essentially ignored by mainstream western audiences.


So if why doesn’t the west create its own animated content?


Well of course they do. In fact in recent years some animated tv shows have really begun to push the bar. But it’s still not taken seriously.


A friend and I were browsing through netflix the other day and she was asking me for recommendations. I asked her if she’d watched BoJack Horseman. What is it? She asked. It’s a great show, I responded, it’s funny but in the most recent couple of seasons it’s started to get really emotional and there’s a bunch of celebrity cameos. Oh? She was interested. She searched it on Netflix and there it was in all its glory. Oh, she said again, this time her face was scrunched up like there was a bad smell in the air. Not a fan of animated things? I asked, already knowing the answer. Naaa, came the response.


Season four of BoJack Horseman was one of the most emotionally charged pieces of television I’ve watched. The whole series touches on issues close to my heart (and for that matter deals with topics a lot of people struggle with, depression, loneliness, self doubt and self worth) but season four really upped the game. And yet because it’s animated it’s dismissed as if it’s something only children should watch.


If Game of Thrones had the exact same storyline, the exact same actors but it was animated, it would be nowhere near as successful. That’s sad. You’re missing out on a story purely because the medium has a negative stigma.


Now of course, there are those that just won’t like animation. It’s not for them, it has nothing to do with the medium feeling childish they just don’t like it. That’s fair enough, but I feel like a lot of people disregard it for feeling it's not a serious medium.


There’s no real answer to this. No quick fix. This has been more of a rant. As I mentioned there has been a lot of great animated content recently and hopefully the streaming services will keep taking risks on animated projects.


If you want to watch some animated shows here are some recommendations:


Comedy/Fantasy/Drama:

Avatar the Last Airbender

The Dragon Prince


Comedy/Sci-Fi/Drama

Final Space

Rick and Morty


Drama/Fantasy:

Castlevania


Comedy/Drama:

BoJack Horseman (Slight fantasy in a sense that animals are like people)


Spy/Comedy:

Archer

Why do you read?

When I read a book I want to have fun, I want to be entertained. A book can focus on characters or plot or theme, as long as I’m having fun and I’m immersed in the story I really don’t mind.


But if I'm not having fun reading it is it even worth it? To some people, yes. The plot may be standard but the writing luxurious, maybe the theme of the book is important while the prose is stale. There are components of the book other than 'fun' which matter more to people.


Well I may be an uncultured swine then because when I pick up a book I want to go on a ride. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me scared or keep me guessing, whatever method is chosen it doesn't matter as long as I'm enjoying it.


This is sometimes the, in my opinion, unwarranted criticism laid upon genre fiction. That it focuses too much on plot or character developments to have any lasting merit. That the books core is soft and unworthy of our time because it focus more on “entertainment” than deep theme or high quality prose.


Well maybe that's true. In some cases I'm sure it is.


But just because a book is fast paced or focuses on interesting characters doesn't mean it can't carry a message. One of my favourite recent reads ‘Charmcaster’ by Sebastian de Castell has an emotional core and theme which has fast and fun action wrapped around it.


Some books are hailed as masterpieces that will stand the test of time and be taught in schools for generations and sometimes those books are so thick and dense it makes staring at a wall seem like an appealing option. Now I'm sure our need for constant entertainment and stimulus is a commentary on today's society of next day delivery and online streaming. We want it and we want it now. But if that is indeed the way of our society then shouldn't we adapt to change with it. Shouldn't books aim for a blend of moral, theme and purpose with a healthy dose of entertainment.


I recently read the biography of Dr. Seuss who I'm sure you've probably heard of. Or maybe some of his characters like 'The Grinch' and 'The Cat In The Hat' his idea was that reading should be fun! A young child wouldn't be enticed by stodgy prose and overly moralistic characters. Get them reading and get them having fun. By fostering this habit of reading you encourage their reading abilities to grow with age and for them to take on more challenging books as they grow older.


Now I'm not saying disregard the classics and the people that built the foundations for the works we have to day. But rather than having a student half read a dense literally novel or barely comprehend a Shakespeare play how about having them read Harry Potter, or Illuminae or Circe by Madilenne Miller which is rich with real world culture and theme and yet is a pleasure to read.


Maybe, maybe not.


I guess it all depends.

Why do you read?