Evolution of a Blog (and a writer)

It’s funny.  When I started this blog, I had little idea of what I wanted to put here.  Then I ran across an article in one of the Writer’s Market books.  In it, the author was talking about “how do you know when to quit?”.  He proposed that a person might be best served by writing a novel a year for ten years, and at the end of each year sending the finished novel out and moving to the next one.  If, after ten novels and ten years, you are unpublished, he suggested that then you might consider quitting.  Looking back, I’m not sure he, and I say he, because I recall the author being a he, but I’ve donated that book now, so I don’t have it to reference.  If I’m wrong, I apologize!, anyway, he probably knew that by the time a person got a few years and books in, they would likely never think of quitting.  When I first read the article, however, I thought “okay, I can do that.  And then I’ll know if I’m no good at all.”

I’m technically two years into that plan.  I’ve learned a ton (not the least of which was that hey, I can write a novel).  And the plan no longer works for me.  This blog was originally my ‘ten in ten’ record.  Now it has evolved to something else.  It’s just about me, as a writer and my plans to make a living (and a good one, hopefully) at writing fiction.

I had some funny realizations at the Dean Wesley Smith workshops I went to, things I have spent the last few weeks processing.  One was that even a year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to get all I got out of that experience.  It would have terrified me, froze me up.  Not because a year ago I felt that differently than I do now (I still feel like a rank amateur and imposter).  I’m not even sure why or what changed.  Somewhere I got serious about this.  And even I hadn’t realized that until the end of the week when a bunch of us at the workshop were sitting around and Dean asked if anyone was actually following completely Heinlein’s writing rules.

That is the moment it hit me, the moment I’ve been thinking about and using to put everything else about myself as a writer into context.

I am. I am following all of the rules now, almost completely by accident.  And I think this is what feels different.  A year ago, I wasn’t following the rules.  I had a lot of issues making myself mail things out.  I mailed some things but not others.  I was slow to get stuff back out.  I rewrote over and over and over on a few stories, worried that they were “bad” and “not perfect”.    I started a few things and had trouble finishing them (the novel currently out on submission, for example).  And then somehow I started following the rules.  I started pushing myself to finish things, even if they felt “wrong” or “bad”.  I gave myself permission to suck.  To fail.

And I finished a novel.  And I sold a story.

Ever since about October, I’ve been following the rules.  Stories that come back go right back out.  My novel is out to people who can pay me for it if they so choose (ie editors, not agents).  I’m working on five more novels and a bunch of short stories.  I finish something, it goes out after a clean up pass.  No multiple drafts, no crazy rewriting and agonizing because it isn’t “perfect”.

And that’s how I managed to survive a week surrounded by “real” pros as a complete impostor who sucks (so says the evil voice in my head), and still learned things.  I was ready to hear what they all had to say because I’m really doing this.  Having a name for it (Heinlein’s Rules), helps.  But in the end, it just is a way for me to see that I’m truly working at something and going for what I really want. And that feels really really good.

It’s easy to get discouraged.  The downside of having a lot of stuff in the mail is that sometimes I get two or three rejections in a day.  It is easy for me to get frustrated and feel like I have no control over anything.  That’s why I like rules.  I think it is what attracted me to the article about ten novels in ten years.  That in a way was someone else saying “do this! see what happens”.  Heinlein’s rules are the same way, but without an end date.

I can write and finish what I write.  I can rewrite only to editorial order (and only if I agree).  I can send what I write out to someone who can pay me for it and keep it out until it sells.  I have control over these things.  That’s a job description I can live with.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to say in this post is coming across, but basically I’m ditching (have already ditched) the ten in ten idea.  I’m going with the unending plan of writing, finishing, mailing.  That’s what this blog will be about (and has really been about for a while, even though I was too wrapped up in the process to tell).  I’m following a simple set of rules, and I’ve never felt so free.  Which isn’t to say there won’t be hiccups, because fear gets me all the time.  I imagine that if I start selling more I’ll likely face a whole new set of fears since success has always been one for me (that’s another post for another time, for sure).

So yeah. That’s where I am right now.  Now, back to my job.  *grin*

3 Responses to “Evolution of a Blog (and a writer)”

  1. Brad R. Torgersen

    Ha! I’m a “real pro?” When did that happen? (grin) I understand the impostor feeling. Absolutely. But like Dean told us last year, just the very fact that we’d put in the time and the effort and the money to come do a pro-level workshop, meant that we were on a different level from most everyone else.

    I agree, about abandoning the, “If I have not made (this) by (this point) I will quit,” model. Especially when you so clearly have the mania to hit and keep production goals. I think Dean is correct, you will sell too much to ever reach or maintain 80 on the Race chart — on short fiction, that is.

    One thing I was always told — before I broke in — was that rejection didn’t stop. I kind of ran from that knowledge, because prior to the break-in it felt like rejection didn’t stop anyway, and there would be no end in sight. Now, I kind of look like it as “fishing.” When I used to fish, I used lures. Which required a great deal of casting, reeling in, and casting again. I never kept track of stats, but I’d wager I only got a bite every 50 casts or so. Some days I never got a bite, period. But then, the point of fishing — if you take it seriously — is not to get hung up on the next fish.

    It’s to focus on the next cast. And the next. And the next. Get into a groove. Learn to enjoy the casting for its own sake. The bites and the fish will come. Just keeping throwing out that line…

    • izanobu

      Thanks, Brad. I keep tossing the lines, even if the fish don’t bite 🙂

      I actually have “It never ends” up on a piece of paper on my wall by the computer, right below Heinlein’s Rules. Every time a rejection comes in or I finish a story or anything, I look up at that and just sigh.

      Of course, I also have my favorite proverb up where I can see it everyday, too. It’s Romanian I think- ‘A kick in the ass is a step forward.’

  2. Alex Kane

    I actually find Heinlein’s Rules to be extremely comforting and motivational. I can think of no reason not to abide by them absolutely. The idea that persistence, discipline, and positive thinking are the only keys to success (it should be obvious, really) is quite inspiring. I live by those rules, and every day it’s getting more and more fun.

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