Tag: Writing

When You Give Up What’s Yours

A couple of months back, I made a plea on Twitter asking for post ideas. I took one of those ideas — a short story prompt challenge — and have run with it. That said, I wanted to start getting to a few of the others. One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, Eve, suggested I talk a bit more about self-publishing. I have a couple of different posts in mind where I want to do that. One of those posts, which will come at a later date, will go into deeper detail on my experience as a self-published author[1], expanding on this post I wrote last year.

As for this post though, I want to go down a different, more philosophical path. In a recent Vlogbrothers video, John Green talked about how he felt knowing that his newest book, Turtles All the Way Down, was going to the printer for final printing, meaning he wouldn’t be editing it again from that point forward[2].

Around the 48 second mark of the video above, John talks about how Turtles All the Way Down was his book and his alone for the better part of six years. But, from the point at which it got to the printer forward, the book was no longer his. It belongs then (or now?) to the reader.

I hate that feeling — the feeling that your work, your creativity, and your art no longer belongs to you. I know part of why I dislike it. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good of a writer you are, and no matter how well you vet your work for any problem that might arise, someone is going to hate your work. It happened to me and it took me the better part of a year to get to the point where I could talk about it without sounding like a total asshat.

I know that I have plenty of room to grow as an author. I know that my writing will continue to improve as I put more work, more time, and more effort into it. I know that most people don’t write a book that’s considered to be a classic as their first work[3]. I also know that reception of my book has been generally positive, at least if Amazon and Goodreads are to be believed. But still…there are critiques that have been made that I can improve upon. And I hate that I can’t do that.

There’s plenty I can do better going forward. I can flesh the short stories I write out better — be that as a novel or just as longer short stories. I need to do a better job of writing more diversely. Even from a non-writing standpoint, I need to learn how to market myself as an author and writer better. I absolutely can work on those things going forward. Even if the effort that it will take to complete those actions is significant, I believe I have the capability to do those things.

But the work I’ve already done…that eats at me just a little.

As John Green says in the video a bit earlier in the post (and I’m paraphrasing here for brevity): I just really want people to like my work, but if they don’t there’s nothing I can do. And I agree with that sentiment, mostly. I do really want people to like my work. I’d love for them to love my work, to tell all of their friends about it, then those friends tell their friends, and eventually I get picked up by an actual publisher[4]. That’s the dream. The sales over the last six months tell me that said dream is not realistic — not with this book, at least.

To say there’s nothing I can do is a complex thought. On one hand, there really isn’t anything I can do about the book that’s already out. Unlike John Green, I’ve re-read my own book a few times since it published. Doing so has allowed me to see how my tastes for my own writing have changed, not to mention to take ideas from previous works and build ideas upon those thoughts for future works. On the other hand, there’s plenty of things I can do to work to improve myself constantly as a writer, as a person, and as a citizen of modern society. After all, in order to be a successful writer, its critical to understand that those three roles do have overlap. I’m still learning what that overlap is.

Now Offering Professional Services (and Two Quick Updates)

Hey all. This won’t exactly be a lengthy post. After all, I just had two posts of over 1,500 words go up last week on Monday and Friday (go check them out if you haven’t already), so I don’t have a ton to write about. Plus I was on vacation all last week, so there’s some posts lined up for coming weeks.

That said, I do have two small updates, as well as one slightly larger update I wanted to share with you all. The first small update is that you might have noticed a few short story posts from earlier this year came down. This is intentional, as I’m going to be making some changes to the way I post serialized short stories on this blog. The standalone short stories like last Friday’s will still go up as normal.

The second small update is in regards to a post you’ll see go up later this month. As most of you are aware, the podcast I was part of died off a few months ago, leaving me with this blog as my only major creative project. That said, I’ve been working with someone on a project that may be the next podcast project I’m part of. With that in mind, I’m hoping to get feedback from all of you on that project. More on that to come in the next few weeks though.

Finally, as for my major update, you may have noticed a new page pop up at the top of my blog today. As of today, I’ll be offering audio and print editing services in varying capacities for those interested. This is something I’ve been doing a good bit as part of my 9-to-5 job, as well as something I’ve done pro bono for various folks who have requested it. I feel like it’s time for me to start putting my time and skills to use via freelancing. If you have anyone in need of any of the services listed, I would encourage you to send them my way.

August Mid-Month Short Story Challenge

Looking for responses to this prompt? Here are some:

Mine: https://thattinywebsite.com/2017/09/01/1356/


Thank you to everyone who participated in last month’s short story challenge. While I only had my link to share, a couple of people reached out to me with Google Docs of their story contributions to the challenge. As a result, I wanted to do the challenge again this month for those interested.

Your prompt is below. If you do decide to blog your short story, link back to me and I’ll be sure to promote it where I can.

  • Suggested number of words: Limit of 2500 words
  • Your theme: Write about someone who is learning the history or lore of a sacred weapon, spell, or symbol.
  • Seven words to work into your story: army, oracle, squid, voltage, sparkling, duet, deeds
  • Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi
  • Rating/Content Limitations: None

Your story should be posted on September 1st. Good luck and happy writing.

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge

Looking for responses to this prompt? Here are some:

Mine – https://thattinywebsite.com/2017/08/01/foxtails/

Grand Moff Joseph – https://docs.google.com/document/d/13rE0pyS_mOl5DS97yklXztkWX8c1fB5X6O5MpwCDCvs/edit


Over the past few months, I’ve been trying really hard to figure out what I want to do creatively. I’ve struggled to find something that spoke to the writer and creator in me. I’ve had multiple projects over the last year or so fail pretty hard and get me down. So on July 4th, I took to Twitter to try to get ideas as to what to write about.

At the recommendation of long time reader Tabitha, I want to try something to engage whoever out there might be reading this blog. I know that there’s not a ton of you out there, but I would love to interact and engage with you through creative writing. After all, creative writing was one of the first things to give me an outlet for my mind and make me care about writing. I’ve always loved writing communities I’ve been involved with…so why not try to build one here, however small that community is.

I’ve listed a short writing prompt below. Feel free to take it whatever direction you’d like. I’ll be posting my response to the prompt on August 1st. If you link back to this post, tell me about your prompt response, or write your own piece inspired by the prompt, I’ll try to share it along with my short story on the 1st (likely by adding links to that post, as well as this one, when it goes up). Didn’t see the prompt until well after the deadline has passed? Still shoot me a note or a link back. I’ll add where I can.

  • Suggested number of words: 1000-1500
  • Your theme: Recapturing a long-lost feeling
  • Seven words to work into your story: Gazebo, hollandaise, archive, caffeinated, quixotic, aglet, campfire
  • Genre: Your choice
  • Rating/Content Limitations: None

One Year of Being a Published Author

June 27th, 2016 was a monumental day for me. It was the day that my first book, An Epilogue to Innocence, went on sale. It was available at that time via direct purchase on Kindle, as well as available for pre-order via CreateSpace and Amazon[1]. I’ve shared quite a bit about the publishing process, as well as the twist and turns things took both before publishing and after. If you care about reading those stories, click on the links in the previous sentence. What I’d rather do today is to have a bit of reflection on my book, on being an author, and on what I could have done well/did do well in the process.

When a fellow author found out I was going the self-publishing route, they gave me a bit of advice regarding sales. They told me not to expect to turn a profit, rather I should expect to lose money — potentially a significant amount — if I took my book to market. While their statement was technically wrong, the spirit of needing to temper my expectations for my book’s sales was correct. My book broke even last December, as sales related to a charity drive I did were just enough to edge into profit territory.

That said, even with a handful of sales this year, the amount of money I’ve pocketed is minimal. I went from first draft to published product with minimal financial cost on my end. I’ve run zero advertising campaigns anywhere that I had to pay for. Every review that’s been written for my book either falls into the category of pre-release readers who wrote reviews or people who have submitted their own reviews out of their own kindness. My costs were the cost to have the book edited, the cost to get a ISBN from CreateSpace, and the cost to have a handful of copies shipped to me that I in turn mailed out to people I had promised copies of the book to. With all that said, I think the amount of money I’ve personally made off the book is enough to buy a Chipotle burrito for my wife and I. No guac or drinks though[2].

Speaking of that charity drive, it was definitely both the most rewarding and most disappointing part of my first year as a published author. On one hand, I got to donate a bit of money to a cause I care a lot about — the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On the other hand, the amount of money raised through the charity drive fell short of one-quarter of my mental goal for the drive itself. Limited advertising was definitely a reason for that, however I also think that other deserving causes got far more attention than suicide prevention in the wake of the 2016 US election. Had I hitched my wagon to a different cause, I think it would have done better. But suicide prevention is a cause I care a lot about, so I have no regrets about choosing the AFSP for the donation.

As for my book itself, shortly after I published, I saw a video from someone (I think John Green?) talking about how the most stressful part of being an author is seeing people misinterpret work you’ve written, and since it’s already published, you can’t change it. That idea, combined with the fact that I re-read my book so many times as part of the publishing process and wished I had changed some things, made me go back and think about each of the short stories in the book.

  • Ljepota Oni Izlučivati – This story ended up being one of the few in the book that I didn’t have any strong opinion changes about even after a year after the book went to market. If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I wouldn’t have led off the book with this story, however it definitely would have stayed. A year on, no one has found the hidden storyline within this story, so I feel like it was written really well for what it was meant to be.
  • Phosphor and Fear – This was the original story that was supposed to start the book, however I was convinced not to lead the book with it when someone told me that no one’s going to want to keep reading the book if I lead off with depression art. Unnecessary mental illness jokes aside, I think this story would have benefited from being a bit longer, particularly after the story’s time skip. The fact that I’d go back and change this one to make it longer has impacted some of the work I’ve done over the last year, particularly the first two chapters of the AI Project series that I posted this spring.
  • A Delayed First Date – Meh. It was a good premise. I took a risk trying to write from a point-of-view I didn’t understand. Even with research and interviews to try to write it better, this story hasn’t aged well to me. I mean, it’s fine. It’s not boring. I still love the concept. But I don’t like this specific story as much as I used to.
  • Soma – It was my favorite story before I decided to compile the book into a published entity. It’s still one of my favorites I’ve written a year on from publishing the book (though not my favorite anymore). I really need to keep focusing on adding heavy amounts of emotion to my writing. When it works, it really works. This is one of the stories in the book that I’ve received almost unanimous positive feedback about. Nothing I’d change here.
  • Elk Ridge – I’m so confused by this story and the reader reaction to it. Both me and my editor thought this was the weakest story in the book, even after adding quite a bit of length to it. Yet most people who have given feedback thought it was one of the better stories in the book. The ending is what seems to be divisive. I personally hate the ending and would re-write it if I had the chance. The whole ghostly spirit being released from a demolished building angle is kind of cliche and the longer it’s been since I published[3], the less I like it. Readers liked it though. I have no idea what people want.
  • The Strongest Feelings Are On the Inside – The reaction to this story was by far the most surprising of any story that went into the book. I received ZERO negative feedback on this story prior to publishing. Considering it was one of the few stories that had been on the blog prior to going in the book, this was doubly confusing. People were split down the middle as to what they thought was the biggest issue with this story — either it was too long compared to the rest of the book’s stories[4] or they were upset that the story’s main villain was bisexual. Remember what I said about stuff getting taken out of context? In context, it’s a story about a woman who loves someone of her same sex who doesn’t love her back and she doesn’t feel totally comfortable with it because of her religious background. She then tries to repress it with a deeper dive into cult-like religious practices to try to “fix” herself. Then, when her love dies, she has a mental break, using her warped religious views to exact revenge on those who hurt her beloved, going so far as to kidnap a lookalike and treat that lookalike as if she were the departed woman. Then the villain chooses to die once she finally has closure through that surrogate. That wasn’t the takeaway by some readers though. It’s a learning experience on a lot of levels.
  • Awkward? – The other story in the book that I didn’t particularly like but people loved. It was the closest thing to a light-hearted story in the book, and it was only included to serve as a change of pace following the previous story. Most people thought it was funny. I found it corny. If I did it all over again, this and A Delayed First Date would be cut in favor of making other stories longer.
  • Use As Directed – Along with Awkward First Date, this is the story I did the most research for prior to writing it. I’m really happy with how it turned out. Feedback was largely good, it had a neutral ending that I liked, and apparently I did a decent job at representing a perspective of someone with a mental illness fairly and objectively. This story makes me happy.
  • Laments of a Disillusioned Twenty Something – Oh my fucking god I was so whiny in this story. I’d re-write this story to be something more like what happens in one of the two storylines of Janus if I had it to do again.
  • Tia – This has become my favorite story in the book over time, however as one reviewer said, they really wished it was longer. I agree. It’s a very powerful story, but I could have done so much more with it. Definitely my biggest disappointment story-wise for that reason.

As for me and how being a published author has impacted me…it really hasn’t. As I mentioned, there hasn’t been a financial impact of any kind. It’s not like my social media life has taken off[5]. Even though I still a see a copy or two of my book purchased every now and again, the book sits largely dormant now. I definitely haven’t been able to make a career change to be a full-time author…not that I’d be able to if currently proposed healthcare plans pass anyway.

I’m still writing though. I’m working on a couple of different projects as a writer, as well as trying to get some work together as a copy editor. If anything my real job prevents me from writing as much as I want or need to due to mental fatigue. That said, it’s largely been a positive experience, in spite of my gripes. I’ve learned you can’t please everyone, even if you have the best intentions. I’ve learned that I can produce quality work. And I’ve learned above all else that I love writing — even if my family still doesn’t know I’m a published author, even a year on.