The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Being an Indie Writer
I know I haven’t been around at all really the past couple weeks. Sorry, but I’m finishing up on the next book, polishing each story, formatting it, all while trying to write my next novel. Dale, though, has done a stellar job of keeping up with the blog while I’m bouncing off the literary walls. Thanks, man. So I know I owed a blog post, and since this is what has consumed me the past few weeks, I’ll talk about that.
There have been times the past few days that I’ve asked myself, why do I do this? And this is what I came up with:
I have no choice. For my own sanity, I have to be a writer.
Publishing has changed so rapidly and completely that it is unrecognizable from what it was even ten years ago. And the way we write and present our work has had to change.
I guess at this stage I consider myself totally an indie writer. I slave over the keyboard for hours each day, juggle a full-time job as well as family responsibilities, and generally tear my hair out with stress and frustration. I won’t lie.
There are a bunch of bad things about being an indie writer. I don’t sleep as much as some people. I neglect my household duties at times, all because I need to write. I fret over every story, every line, and every word, really, trying to be sure I get it right. Then comes the polishing until you can’t polish any more. Then I get back notes from the fearsome creature (I call her EDITOR!). I make changes to calm her. Then comes formatting the entire manuscript. Submitting it and making sure it’s right. And after all that comes the terribly difficult job of marketing. Writing is a difficult and lonely business.
I live day by day knowing that the only way for the story to be told is for me to get my ass writing it.
And the pay sucks. No, really. You don’t do this for the money, because there are thousands of other writers out there, many excellent, trying to do what you are doing, vying for readers’ attention. And the big pay day may never happen. Ever. That’s the reality. And yes, it sucks.
But let me tell you about the flip side, the great side of being an indie writer. Often I’m lying in bed nights, unable to sleep, because a story is forming. There are times that the story is just suddenly there, complete, and all I need to do is write it down. Other times the idea is a saucy tease, a tender seedling that burgeons into something more. And the idea, whichever way it has begun, grows and moves with a life of its own, tapping at my mind again and again all day in spare moments.
And then, suddenly, I can’t wait any longer. I have no choice. I’ve GOT to write the story. I sit and bang on the keyboard for as long as possible, trying to keep the excitement within me going. I try to write it as fast as I can. It’s at that point I am the only one who can write it.
Sure, I still get stuck in places, but I usually stare at the blank page until I need to stop. Usually that is when the story fills in the blanks for me. My subconscious, I guess, is always working on it, because I know I need to do it to get it right. And then I finish the first draft and put it away for two days or so. My mind, however, is still thinking about the story. Ruminating about plot and description, and what needs to be changed. Then I look at it again and fix it. Then I go back and do it again and again, until I have settled in my mind that the story is there, and complete.
To be quite honest, I don’t care which way the story presents itself, whole or in pieces. It only matters that the story is there, and I like it. You see, ultimately, I write for myself.
And that is why I’m an indie writer. I am able to write what I want and like to read, story ideas that are interesting and characters that matter to me. I’d write what I write if only to entertain myself. But I also know that the story is a harsh mistress, and demands to be presented to an audience. A story is not a story if no one reads it. So I force myself to market. This is the ugly part.
I truly and utterly suck at self-marketing. It all stems from my upbringing. My parents, though lovely people, raised me to never, I mean NEVER, brag about myself or my accomplishments. So naturally, I find it difficult, if not damn near impossible, to do proper marketing. Fortunately, for Deadsville, Dale Elster took most of that work, and did a cracking job at it. I know I’ll have to do the marketing all by my lonesome once Banquet of Souls finally comes out, and I guess I’ll just have to deal with it.
This is the joy of being an indie writer. I write what I want to read, and, if I’m lucky, other readers will enjoy it. I love it all. If I tried to get a short story collection published through the standard publishing house, it could take months, if not years, to ever have the stories get to the readers who want to read them. As long as I have an editor I trust (I do), I’ll take it and run with it. I do not have to follow the whims of what publishers believe is salable. I don’t have to emulate any other writer (Looking at you, Stephen King). All I need to do is to develop and refine my craft and be mindful that I’m only beholden to the master of my universe, the story.
That is my joy. I’m a lucky guy.
And, as painful as this is to me, Deadies…
All are Welcome to the Feast!
Banquet of Souls by T.D. Trask coming in October!