I want to talk a little about career stuff and how being a writer has been and might be going forward for me. This is some deep random thought bullshit getting into things that likely most of you don’t care about, so I totally understand if you look at the wall of text and nope out now. If you are reading this looking for news about Harper’s Tale or Bad Moon on the Rise, the only news is the same old which is Kira’s book is coming in October as scheduled (pre-orders are up!) and Harper’s book will come whenever I finish it but likely this year also (and if you can’t wait to read the first three chapters, you can join my Patreon here where they are posted).
This post is going to cover a few things. First, looking back on the phases of my writing career so far and why/how each evolved and changed. Second, I’m going to talk a bit about what I hope for going forward, and why that might look a lot different than the past. If I was a good essayist, which I am not, I would conclude with something pithy but brilliant, insightful and wise that gives hope for the future while showing that I’ve learned valuable lessons of the past, but I don’t (spoilers: only bad metaphors and maybe a kitten end this post) so there’s no feel good intelligent philosophical cookie waiting if you read through this, sorry.
I’ve been a full time writer for 11 and a half years, and I’ve been thinking a lot now that I finished 20sided about what my career has looked like and what it might look like in the future. The world, to put it mildly, has changed a lot in the last decade, and that includes the landscape and world of publishing. I’m a hybrid author, which means that some of my work is self-published and some is published by larger publishers who publish multiple authors (we call this traditional publishing usually, and I will in this post). This post isn’t about changes in publishing, either, other than how those changes and how publishing in general works might affect my career (at least as much as I can predict).
My career has definitely gone through phases, and I think it is important to talk about those to understand what might happen going forward.
Phase 1 was figuring out not even what I wanted to write but how to write at a level I felt like anyone would want to read. Most of this phase nobody saw (and it started before I quit my job to be a writer, so a lot more than 11 years ago). I started with short stories partially cause I was told that was how people broke into publishing (you write short stories first, get some publications under your belt, and then someone might want to buy a novel from you. I won’t go into how this advice wasn’t maybe the best and was kinda outdated even when I started, cause that’s a whole other blog post probably). The other reason I started with short stories is that they are very forgiving in terms of time investment vs craft exploration and learning. Short stories are not forgiving at all when it comes to if they are working or not, and that very rigidity in some ways makes it easier to learn while doing them, at least for me. When a novel isn’t working, sometimes it is the part you are working on, sometimes it is the opening or whatever, and sometimes it is because of stuff you haven’t written yet, and it can often be rough to diagnose on the fly, especially if you are six months in and thousands of words deep in the mire. With a short story, the most you’ll be tossing away is a few thousand words at a time if things aren’t working. They were a great learning vehicle for me, other than the tiny little detail where writing short stories didn’t really teach me a whole lot about writing novels.
In many ways, Phase 1 lasted up until about 2014, so the first five years of me being full time (and a bunch of years before that, though I did write a few novels in this time as well). Phase 1 was turning into Phase 2 by 2014, probably the mix of those phases was 2011-2014, where I was still trying to get as many short stories done and published as I could, but also writing a novel here and there and still hoping for traditional publishing to somehow magically give me the money and acclaim I sought. My goals at this point were very simple: I wanted to be rich and I wanted to learn how to consistently write books that readers couldn’t put down and I figured that if I could master that second part, it would likely lead to the first. My ultimate goals was “Forbes list of most-earning Authors” but “consistently make six figures a year” was the smaller goal. Which a lot of people laughed at or shook their heads and tried to tell me wasn’t likely, but unlikely isn’t the same as impossible, and fortunately for me, I didn’t listen. Six figures a year seemed impossible as I headed into 2014 drowning in medical bills, on bed rest, and struggling with physical and mental health. I had already begun to have a sort of “you need to make a change because things aren’t working” epiphany in 2013, before I got sick, but there’s nothing like facing rock bottom to drive home that as lofty as my goals were, I wasn’t doing things that would work to get me closer to them.
I think at this point most peeps reading this know how that story goes. I decided to focus on novels, and to focus on self-publishing, which I’d been doing for years but with irregular output and a habit of writing something, and then writing something entirely different. So phase 2: just pick a thing and stick to it, was born. I’ve said this before, but 20sided came about because I made a list of all the things I loved to read about and then I figured out how to cram almost all that list (sorry, spaceships, no room!) into a single series. Turns out, somewhere along the way I had started more or less consistently writing books that people didn’t want to put down, and that I was right about how that would work out for me.
Phase 2 of my career has been focused on that one series almost entirely (I have a thriller pen name also, but almost nobody reads those books so we’ll just ignore all that haha). Finishing it, getting subrights sales like audio and translations sold, the unexpected but super cool print-only rights deal with a major US publishing house, etc. Twenty-Sided Sorceress got me to my six figure income goal (though getting there and staying there are different things, publishing income is a rollercoaster forever it seems, at least at my level) and brought me an audience that I’d been working for and trying to build for years. Book 10 is done, the series is wrapped up (ok, I know, Harper’s Tale, but it’s in progress and likely done and out in the next few months), and while I’m writing a spin-off novel in the same world right now, that’s part of what I want to talk about here.
Because we get the crux, what brought on all these thoughts about careers and phases etc.
I love Urban Fantasy. I love reading it, I love writing it, I’ve loved being able to play in Jade’s world and cram in references to every nerdy thing that has saved my life or helped shape who I am as a person, and I’ve loved sharing that world and those characters with other people. But I don’t think I can write nothing but Urban Fantasy, and nothing but Jade’s world forever (though I definitely have some plans for more in the world and maybe with Jade eventually). I’ve lived and breathed that series for six years.
I think I’m done for now, which are the scariest words to write ever, because I know that is what my audience wants and what keeps a roof over my family’s head and allows me to keep my immigration status in my new country etc. Which is probably why I buried them down here after a giant wall of text. But I’ve been writing UF and Jade and almost nothing else for so many years that I feel like I need a real break, and that brings us to where we are now.
So what does this mean? It means I’ve been asking myself two really important questions: Who am I now as a writer and who do I want to be?
On the practical side, I will definitely honor commitments and Kira’s book and Harper’s book will both be released, because I’ve promised them and I’m already writing them and frankly Kira especially is a joy to write and I am excited to share her with readers. I have three more books in Six-gun Shifters planned out with lovely Gene Mollica covers already shot and paid for, but the decision of if I write them or not and how quickly will rest a lot on the combination of reader demand and my own desire to do so. I can say with moderate certainty that I won’t be writing more than one a year at the most. I want to deliver books that I feel good about and though that isn’t always the most financially sound decision in terms of speed of release, it is something I’ve always stuck to and I’m not going to start compromising on now.
But we have those two important questions. My focus is novels, and has been for a while. I miss short fiction, and I might do more of it for my Patreon, though I also hope to get back to finishing projects like Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division via Patreon in the near-ish future. But for the moment, longer work than short stories is where both my brain and the market in terms of “pays enough to keep lights on” are at.
As a writer right now, I am a primarily a novelist who writes Urban Fantasy for self-publishing. But I think I have more in me and I know that there is a larger world of publishing possibility out there. I want to write bigger books (Kira’s first book will be almost twice the length the average 20sided novel, for example, so hopefully y’all like longer works) not just in word count but in scale. I want to write more epic fantasy, and I want to incorporate more romance elements. I think doing those things will be a fun stretch and challenge not just for my world-building skills but for my writing skills in general. I don’t want to stagnate or stay comfortable. I still have a giant list of things I love to read about and I think there’s room for that list to translate into more books, new work and a new-ish genre, or at least sub-genre. (Fantasy is my first and truest love and I’m sticking with it)
Obviously I want to keep paying my rent, but I think that fear of failure is how people (and careers) shrink instead of grow. I took a huge leap in 2009 when I quit my job to be a writer. I’ve taken other scary leaps in terms of what I chose to write or by jumping both feet into self-publishing and survivorship bias or no, those leaps worked out for me. My 2020 motto was BE MORE and while 2020 has been an unpredictable dumpsterfire of epic proportions for everyone, I feel like there’s still time for me to fulfill that.
So what is Phase 3? I have a trilogy idea that has kept me up at night, filled my dreams with scenes, and so far filled more than thirty pages of notes. It’s a scary project, with a bigger scope and more characters than anything I’ve ever successfully written. It’s epic fantasy with a heavy romantic component (multiple romances!) and going to require a lot from me as a writer in both time and (hopefully!) skills. I’m planning to give this project to my agent upon completion (of the first book anyway) and to take the huge risk that is traditional publishing. It might not sell. It might sell and then not sell to readers. It might not be the big series I feel it is with the scope and power to ignite a readership into fandom. With something new there is always risk. But I’ve always believed that without risk and trying new things, it is hard to grow. I am not the end stage of whatever writer me I envisioned. I’ve hit “career midlist writer making a living” goals but I still have the “Forbes list” stars in my eyes and while I know that reaching for the moon is often a fool’s errand, I’m aching to keep trying to fly.
Because some people get to go to the moon, so why not me?
I hope you’ll come with me on this new phase, this new journey, however it shakes out. I promise I’ll keep writing stories that you won’t want to put down. I’m ready to take a bigger risk and to change and evolve, to stretch my writing wings a little further.
I’m ready to be more.
if you made it this far, here, have a kitten!