The Temptation to Do Nothing

No one ever said that being an indie author would be easy. It’s not. It’s hard work and I made my peace with that a long time ago. I never expected to sell thousands or even hundreds of books. I’ve always reminded myself that to sell anything at all is a massive achievement, and I still believe that.

Over the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had a bumpy ride, full of highs and lows, expectations and dreams, disappointments and achievements. Again, I remind myself when I feel thwarted, or dispirited, to look back and see how far I have come. And it works. Mostly. I do sell books every month. I have never had a month without sales since I started in 2013.

Every now and then though, I feel the need to stop, take stock of what’s going on, what’s bothering me or making me anxious, and do nothing. I don’t mean stop writing. I could never do that. If there is one thing I am certain of it’s that I will never ever stop writing and releasing books. I’m desperately addicted to writing, it’s who I am, it saves me on a daily basis, makes life worth living, fulfills me in so many ways, and allows me to release what is inside of me. I love it, and if you follow this blog, you will know that.

It’s trying to sell books that I often consider quitting. Trying to sell books is stressful. Without money, it’s almost impossible. I feel I have worked really hard over the years to build my author platform. Building up this blog, my facebook author page, Instagram, newsletters, you name it. Writing articles for Authors Publish and more. There is nothing I have not tried. Nothing free anyway.

And I guess, to some extent it works. I get sales every month. Some months are better than others and I can never work out how or why. No one ever said that selling books was easy either.

I’ve seen so many indie authors quit over the years. Announce they are closing their blog or their Facebook page, that it’s too hard and they can’t justify the time and effort anymore. I get that totally. But that will never be me, not while I still have so many books lined up to write.

Selling books is hard if you are naturally an introvert. You’re drawing attention to yourself. You’re saying, hey look at me! Look over here! Buy my books! You’re sending out free copies with your newsletter. You’re offering people ARC copies of upcoming releases. You’re contacting reviewers and bloggers for help. You’re messaging friends and relatives to see if they’re interested. You’re setting up street teams and asking for help. Introverts do not like asking for help. Introverts will do everything themselves and then cry about it. There’s a martyr inside every one of us, I swear.

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It makes us uncomfortable. And then come the rejections. Of course, you’re used to rejection if you’re a writer. You’ve got the scars from endless rejections from agents and publishers. You put on your big girl pants and went solo. Became an indie. Fab stuff. Only now there’s no one to help you, you have to force yourself to be brave, day in, day out. Put on a big professional sunny convincing smile when really you just want to climb under your duvet and hide.

I’ve had a lot of disappointments lately. I’m not going to go into them, because I really don’t want this to be a pity party. I hate it when authors moan on social media about being an author and not getting sales. I don’t want to be that person. This isn’t really about sales either. This is about being tired.

I’m tired of doing everything I can only to have it not make an impact. I’m tired of giving away free books that people don’t then review. I’m tired of the expense of sending out paperbacks that people don’t then review. I’m tired of asking and hoping and suggesting that people share my posts, comment, read or review. I’m tired of feeling like I am wasting my time. I’m tired of sharing my books on Twitter and Facebook when I know there is no point. Every time my finger hovers over the share button I’m so tempted to do nothing. And every now and again I let it win and I go with the temptation to do nothing and I hide away I write my books and my blogs and my poems and I hide away from sharing and trying to sell.

Maybe it does me some good every now and then to have a little retreat from the business of selling and just focus on the writing. I am so tempted to do that again right now. But then I feel guilty about my books, and I so want people to read them, I don’t want to quit or be a quitter. Maybe I just need a rest. A chance to refuel and come back stronger.

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Because if you don’t try, you can’t fail. There’s nothing to lose. But if you do try, and try and try, then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointments. It’s tempting not to try, believe me. And I’ve been here before. I didn’t try to publish my books until I was in my mid-thirties. All those years I wasted because I was too afraid of failure to even try. I got over that somehow, and I’ve moved on. But there it is again, the urge to do nothing. If my books don’t sell, it’s because I’m not trying and that’s easier to deal with.

But then I got thinking and I remembered a quote from a song that I once decided would look good on my gravestone. This is the full quote;

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut,
Not everyone was born to be a king,
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury,
But everyone can raise their glass and sing.
Well I haven’t always been a perfect person,
Well I haven’t done what mum and dad had dreamed,
But on the day I die, I’ll say at least I fucking tried.
That’s the only eulogy I need,
That’s the only eulogy I need.

(Eulogy, by Frank Turner)

It struck a chord with me the first time I heard it, and I laughed and joked that I’d have those words on my headstone. At least I fucking tried…

Some days that doesn’t feel like enough.

Other days, calmer days, sunnier days, it really, really does.

Because it’s pretty fucking brave to keep trying.

It would be so much easier to quit. And I’m going to have those days. I’m always going to have those days. I’m going to wallow in it some days. I’m going to cry about it on others. I’m going to seethe and fret and grumble and moan. Mostly to myself. I’m always going to have days where self-doubt gets it claws into me and won’t let go. I’m going to hear those voices in my head that have been with me for so long…you’re rubbish, you’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re a joke…

But that’s okay. That’s being human. Deep inside, we all want attention, we want validation, we want to know what we’re doing is worthwhile and appreciated, and when we don’t quite get that, we turn on ourselves pretty viciously.

But I suppose the thing is to let those days run their course, as they will do, again and again, but then come out of the other side and just keep going. Just keep doing it anyway. Because at least you can say you gave it your best. So for now at least, for me, it’s business as usual. The temptation to do nothing has not won.

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Embracing All Forms of Writing

There was once a time I considered myself a novel writer and a novel writer only. It was what I wanted to do and it was my comfort zone. I will probably always be happiest when lost inside the numerous drafts it takes to construct a novel. I’m confident with this form of writing, and a few years ago I would never have considered any other.

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Of course, that attitude had to change when I started publishing. I soon noticed that all authors had a blog or website and I shyly embraced this as a way of sharing my writing and gaining followers. It took me a while to get into the spirit of it, but it’s fair to say, once I found my feet, I began to relish writing my blog posts, and most of the time I’ve been fairly good at writing on a weekly basis.

As my attitude to blog writing changed, so did my attitude towards other types of writing. Back when I considered myself just a novel writer, I would never have considered trying my hand at writing articles. But somewhere along the line, I gained the confidence and started submitting articles about writing to Author’s Publish. This style of writing did not come naturally for me and I spent a lot of time reading and analysing their previous articles in order to work out what was wanted. When I had the first few accepted, I was over the moon. It was a real confidence boost.

Short stories were another form I once dismissed. I write such long books, that writing something short just seemed impossible. However, when someone mentioned writing short stories to compliment your books, I did get excited. This eventually led to Bird People and Other Stories, and now that I’m more practiced, short stories are a regular thing for me and I hope to have another collection out this year.

Screenwriting was another form of writing I never would have tried a few years back, despite how much I’ve always longed any of my books to be made into films or TV programmes. In fact, I often write as if imagining a real scene and pen my dialogue this way. Last year, when I had the new material for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side filling my head, I was reluctant to do anything about it but decided writing the material in screenplay form would be quick and fun and would help get it out of my head. It became ridiculously addictive! I read a few books about screenwriting and downloaded Scrivener, and off I went. Writing the book as a screenplay first was so much fun, and as I carried the notebook around with me everywhere, I got it done really quickly. Just recently I completed a free Introduction To Screenwriting course with Futurelearn, and I absolutely loved it!

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And just lately, I’ve been playing around with another form of writing I once turned away from. Poetry. When I was a young teenager, I did go through a poetry and song-writing phase. But I was put off by the poetry we had to study at school. It was so wonderful and complex, it just made me feel I could never compete, so why bother?

Poetry was not my thing, or so I told myself. But something weird happened very recently. I started getting ideas, or thoughts, quite randomly, which were really all just things I wanted to say. They were too short, random and weird for blog posts, articles or short stories though, so I started writing them in note style, like poems. I also starting re-reading a Bukowski poetry book I have, one of the only poetry books I’ve really enjoyed, and his style encourages you to have a go. I don’t think he followed any rules or was ever taught how to structure a poem, he just did it. He just wrote what he thought and felt. There is something really raw and beautiful about that and I think people should be encouraged to do it.

Once I started writing, more started to flow. I’ve nearly filled a notebook now and I’ve even decided to put some of them in my next short story collection and make a short story and poetry collection instead. I don’t try to force them or rush them, and they all seem to come from an emotional place, rather than a descriptive or rational place. Which is weird, and interesting.

I thought I would be really brave and share two of them with you today. These are two of the really early ones that came to me when this poetry thing started. These are first drafts and I’ve not messed with them or edited them since I wrote them, so please bear this in mind! I’m looking out for a local poetry workshop to go to, as I’d like to learn more and get my poems as well crafted as I can.

As always feel free to comment and share! How do you gain the courage to try new things? Do you have a comfort zone you wish to edge out of?

 

Murder

The crows were pissed off today

Fury in their hacking call

Feet pounding, heart racing

Breath hissing

Because I am not as young 

As I used to be

The crows took flight

Reluctant, squawking rage

Lifting and falling

Silhouettes in the black bones

of trees

The crows were pissed off today

Do they plot murder?

They say they hold funerals for their fallen

If this is true

What might be in store for us?

The crows were pissed off today

As I ran on

But I am not the one

Who shoots them with a gun

So that they live their lives

With one eye trained down

No wonder they screech and cry and hack

I’m pissing them off just being here

On the way back

A rasping sound

Like they are dying

Maybe they know

That everything is

Things You Don’t Want To Do

What’s that tangled mess in your belly?

For no reason

‘Cause nothing is wrong

Yet, it’s there like a disease

Writhing and tightening

Til you can’t breathe

With the weight of it all 

Following you around

Maybe it’s just the fear

Of the unknown

Of death in a metal mess

Of breathing your last

Ragged breath

Or maybe it’s just

All the things you don’t want to do

How My Books Are All Linked Up

With the imminent release of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part Three, (released February 22nd, available for pre-order now!) I thought I would write a post about how all of my books are linked to each other.

Some of the links are quite obvious, but others are more subtle so you might have missed them. Let’s start with my first release, YA novel, The Mess Of Me.

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The Mess Of Me is linked to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, by location. Lou and her best friend Joe live on an estate on one side of a bypass and have to cross over the bypass via a bridge to reach their school on the Somerley estate. In The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Danny and his friends attend Somerley school in the first two books. Danny is also mentioned in The Mess Of Me, by Joe, who is angry with his stepfather and issues a vague threat about doing what Danny Bryans did in the 90’s. The narrator Lou explains to the reader that Danny Bryans was imprisoned for knifing his stepfather to death, and that his is a well-known and notorious story in their area. She also mentioned his name is engraved on a bench near where he used to live.

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The Boy With The Thorn In His Side will later on in the series, have links to two as yet unreleased books. A Song For Bill Robinson, which I hope to release later this year, and a book which has the working title of The Lane Brothers. The Lane brothers appear in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts 5 and 6, which are not out yet. Danny will also appear in their spin-off book.

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This Is Nowhere is linked to Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature by location. This Is Nowhere is set almost entirely in my home village, Hurn. All of my books contain real locations, but I usually fictionalise them and change the names of towns and streets. In this book, I kept everything real. The character of Jake returns home to Hurn after running away as a teenager, and the house he lives in is my actual house now. In Elliot Pie, I have fictionalised some of the locations, but kept Hurn real. Elliot cycles out to Hurn when exploring new places and befriends a lady called Sandra. Sandra lives next door to Jake and May. They are not mentioned by name, but eagle-eyed readers might have picked up on her mentions of the neighbours, and the fact she dislikes the long-legged lurcher type dogs they keep. Both books contain scenes set on the beautiful Sopley Common, a real place, and probably my favourite place in the world.

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Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is linked to A Song For Bill Robinson, a YA book I hope to release later this year. Both characters live on Hoppers Close, on the Holds End estate. In Elliot Pie, he longs to escape this small world and frequently cycles away from the area to make new friends. At the start of the book, he mentioned the other people who live on Hoppers Close (based on a close I used to live on as a teenager) and tells the reader a bit about the Robinson family. He also spots Bill Robinson walking across the close with his guitar on his back. A Song For Bill Robinson is set almost exclusively on the Holds End estate. It’s a fictionalised version of a council estate named Townsend, which is where I grew up.

And as I have already mentioned, A Song For Bill Robinson links to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, in particular, the last three books, where Danny is an adult and running his own nightclub. Indie nightclub Chaos features heavily in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, and in the later books is a place up and coming bands can audition for regular slots. At the end of A Song For Bill Robinson, he and his band secure such an audition at Chaos, and Danny Bryans is mentioned. He may even appear briefly in the sequel to A Song For Bill Robinson, Emily’s Baby.

The only book not obviously linked to the others is The Tree Of Rebels, because it is set in the future. In my mind however, the location is a future version of the places I have already fictionalised in my other books.

I’m not sure why I like to link my books up. It sort of happened naturally and has become a habit. It’s easy to do because I tend to use the same real and fictionalised locations and my characters tend to be similar in class and background. Plus, it’s fun. It means I never really have to say goodbye to anyone!

I Confess…I Write My Books For Me

I think it’s time to admit the truth. Who am I aiming to please when I write and publish a book? Well, mostly it’s me. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. 2018 was an endless round of editing and revising for me, as I prepared Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature for release in October, and revamped and released The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts One and Two, and edited Parts Three and Four. Because of this amount of editing, and the fact I was taking part in a reading challenge, I didn’t get a hell of a lot of reading for pleasure done last year.

Which made me think about a few things. One, I really, really enjoy reading my own books, no matter how many times I’ve edited or read through them… Eek, I know, sounds big-headed, doesn’t it? But it’s true. I love my characters and my storylines have me hooked so much they keep me awake at night. Every single book I’ve ever published has a sequel bubbling away inside my head. I just can’t fully let any of them go. I’d miss them too much.

So, when I edit, revise, read through, proofread again and again and again, I enjoy it. I genuinely do. I become immersed in these characters lives. I enjoy the drama and the twists and the turns, even though I know how it ends! Weird, right?

Well, maybe not. After all, why do writers start writing in the first place? I’ve been thinking about this. Now, I’m sure for some it’s the dream of money and fame, of making it ‘big’, becoming an international, award-winning bestseller, who has all their books made into films. JK Rowling or Stephen King, in other words. I mean, it sounds amazing, so who wouldn’t want that?

And I’m sure for some, it’s the urge to entertain, to spin tales, to amuse, to awaken, to entice, to deliver a message.

But for others, I think it’s something different, something they’re not entirely in control of. And I think reading sparks it off. Reading a good book at a young age, then reading more. Becoming utterly drawn into a made-up world that holds your attention, keeps you amused, enthralled, or terrified. The kind of book you don’t want to end. The kind you want everyone else to read just so you can talk about it with them. The kind where you want the characters to be real, and almost believe that they are.

And then, because this is just so exciting, you start to wonder. I could do this myself. I could entertain myself. Then I’d be in control, and it need never end! I can create worlds and lives and people just how I want them, and I can make it funnier, or scarier, or sadder, whenever I want to. Forever!

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And thus, a writer is born. A writer who originally set out to please only themselves.

That’s definitely how it was for me. Throughout my childhood and my teenage years, I was totally addicted to writing. I wrote early versions of some of the books I have since published or are working on. I wrote short stories, poems and endless, endless diaries and outpourings of words, thoughts, feelings, and dreams. My writing kept me sane, and it kept me entertained. I was never lonely or bored. I absolutely adored this game of make-believe, and I still do.

I write what I want to read, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Maybe this is true of a lot of writers, I don’t know. It’s no coincidence that the kind of books I write are the kind of books I am always searching to read. I long to read books with amazing, complex characters, the type you never forget, the type you love and loathe in equal measures, the type you can empathise with and root for. I love realistic dialogue and prefer that to too much exposition. I like to read about characters I can relate to, which is difficult as so many books contain middle-class characters. I like to read gritty, hard-hitting storylines. I like realism.

So, there you have it. When I write a book I am mostly writing for myself. I want to write something for me to read. That’s not to say I don’t then spend years trimming it, honing it, revising it, proofreading and editing it until it becomes something I am proud to put out into the world. That goes without saying. I do want people to read my books. Desperately. I do want those reviews and those messages. Without a doubt, I would like better sales! And of course, my ultimate dream is to have all my books made into films or TV series! You got to have your dreams, right?

But in the beginning, it’s me I’m trying to please.

And I think that’s okay. At the very least, it means I will never stop writing!