Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Monday, May 5, 2014

On Being Yourself #amwriting #alwayswriting

Writing challenges me to discover who I am.
Publishing challenges me to remember it.
[BIG HUGS to everyone who has guest posted over the last month and a half while I cranked out Second Daughter - you guys were inspirational and witty and informative, and I love you for your generous sharing!]
I've been very productive this year so far (2 novels, 2 novellas, and the better part of a screenplay... 185k total).
{Please don't compare yourself to me - that way lies madness. Start where you are and strive from there. That's what I did.}
It's very difficult to balance work and family. Or writing and publishing and marketing. But I'm finally - after striving to improve for about 18 months - getting a handle on how to manage my "workflow" (a term fellow Indelible Laura Pauling reminded me of this last weekend at the Northeastern SCBWI conference) (see Tools for Writing More). And now I'm writing at a pace that literally makes me happy - I have a joyfulness when I'm spending most of my hours creating that really isn't matched by anything else.
Writing challenges me to discover who I am.
Writing is a perpetual source of challenge. I write a variety of genres (although roomie Laura insists that they are all speculative fiction, and, of course, she's right). But I explore a LOT with my writing: middle grade, gritty future-noir, short form, serials, etc. I'm not just discovering different voices, or how to write in a different culture or time, or how to write the time-travel story that's terrified me from the start... I'm diving deep inside myself to discover what lays hidden in my emotions, in my subconscious, in the dark recesses of my soul. Things that sometimes I'm not sure if I want to look at, much less put into fiction that other people will read.
Example: For an upcoming amazing anthology, I wrote a novella about a time-traveling psychologist. Parts of that story were so dark, I suddenly wasn't sure if I could write it. I was experiencing some revulsion at what my character was encountering. It wasn't until I realized that my character wasn't evincing the same revulsion... and that he needed to... that I was able to finish the scene. And the story was much better for it.

{I love the final story and seriously can't believe I'm publishing it with the other amazing authors in Synchronic, a fantastic time-travel anthology put together by David Gatewood (Hugh Howey's editor) with a story and cover by Jason Gurley. Just... gah! Still can't believe I snuck into this party. Coming May 22nd... add to GR now}
Lesson Learned: In a very real way, I am my characters. This insight tells me that I'm pouring myself into my characters, which I think is essential to tapping the truth behind the fiction, and that when something is off... it might mean that I'm holding back from doing that. And I need to trust myself - trust my process - and go there.
Those reflections on who I am, how the world works, how people work, are part of what gives me that bliss feeling when my workflow is humming and I'm getting words on the page.

Writing makes me happy.
Writing more makes me happier.
Writing every day makes me happiest of all.
Publishing challenges me to remember who I am.
There are so many temptations in publishing to believe that you're doing it wrong... or at least that someone else has figured out the magic bullet to fame and sales success. You're writing in the wrong genre, or not writing fast enough, or haven't marketed the right way or... something. 
{Right now you're probably thinking "Oh, Sue has figured out how to write fast! She has the magic bullet!" But I don't... I worked my own process to figure out what works best for ME. It won't be the same for you, because your life is different, your process is different, your ideal writing life is different.}
The grass is not greener.
There's always a balance between striving to improve and chasing the latest idea rabbit down a hole. Just as we strive to improve our craft, but don't take every critique to heart (or we would end up destroying our story), not every new idea in publishing is one you should hop after. But even knowing that, there's still this perpetual sense that you're missing something or doing something wrong or should be marketing 24/7... and if you simply did these things, the sales would explode Hugh-Howey-style.
The challenge in publishing is for me to remember WHY I'm writing in the first place and express that in how I market and publish. I have no problem with people who want to follow trends or write what's popular (see Write What You Want), but for me personally, I write what I love. And it's not that I haven't considered (several times) writing something in a trending story-type (sexy NA) or more tightly within an established genre (space opera). But while discussing these ideas once with my mom, she said something that really resonated with me:
"I only want you to write something that you love."

For someone who is trying to support a family with their writing, choosing to write what sells is a very legit choice. I have the luxury of not having to do that (my book money goes to putting my three kids through college). I'm thankful that indie publishing allows so many authors to make money with their works, so I'm certainly not judgmental about how they do that. But for me, money is great, but it's not what drives me to write (see above: it makes me happy). And so, in publishing those works, I have to remember that it's not always about sales, it's also about love.
That's why I published a middle grade fantasy, knowing full well it would be hard to sell. I published that one almost completely for the love. But one reason I won't be publishing a lot more middle grade is because I also like to sell books... and it's just very hard to do that in indie MG (or trad-pub MG, to be honest - the market is simply smaller).
Even when I'm publishing works I hope will sell, I'm also publishing them for love. Which is why I publish things like a steampunk romance set in an alternate East-India. Because #WeNeedDiverseBooks and I would love to prove dead wrong all the people who think a story with a woman of color on the cover can't sell.
And because of this:

The fact that I can publish whatever kind of story I want - even the ones that supposedly can't sell - is one of the great freedoms of indie publishing. 
It sings to my heart.

Publishing stories people love to buy makes me happy.
Flexing the freedom I have in indie publishing makes me happier.
Publishing for love and money makes me happiest of all.

This is who I am. My challenge is to remember it and live it.
Discover who you are and craft your ideal writing life to go with it.


  1. Thanks for this post! I needed the encouragement this morning! I'm at that point of figuring out how much time I should be marketing, but I really just want to lose myself in the next book. As you know, it's hard to be everywhere at once.

    1. You can't be everywhere, so you have to choose. And I think choosing where your heart wants to be is seldom wrong. :)

  2. "he fact that I can publish whatever kind of story I want - even the ones that supposedly can't sell - is one of the great freedoms of indie publishing. "

    Well said. And there is a corollary: you can keep advancing toward your ideal balance and your best work. No one stops you with complaints that your books are not selling enough or that you are writing the wrong thing. That is why we are seeing, and will continue to see, such spectacular flourishing in indie land. -- Lindsay

    1. I get so excited whenever I think about that flourishing, and how we're just getting started in seeing the manifestation of what that means!

  3. I am the same way! I write for the love! If people don't like my book *some hated my first book* oh well! I loved it and that's all that matters. I thought of something the other day and made a quote about it. "Write what makes YOU happy! Readers are just joining you in your happiness." That's how I try to look at it. I'm still trying to figure out marketing though, still trying to figure out what works for me! Great post, Sue! *also reminded me that I need to blog, oops!*

  4. Well said! I definitely just write what I love, regardless of how well it sells. I'm choosing to indie publish middle grade -- which, as you said, has a smaller market. But it's what I'm passionate about. I may experiment in other genres later on, but I'm willing to take a leap and see where this goes.

    Thanks for the inspirational post, as always. Bookmarked!

  5. It was great to appear on you blog last month. And I loved your post today, having just put a novel out and feeling a bit lost as to where to go next. But I've only ever written what I love so I'll carry on doing that...

  6. You are so inspiring, Susan! As a matter of fact, when you addressed fear (Fear and the Creative Worker, Fear of the Dark, How to be Brave) you inspired me to just stop being afraid of what I can or cannot accomplish and GO FIND OUT. Today, I released my self-pubbed ya romance novella. Thank you for being so open and helping people like me step out of our comfort zone.

  7. It was so great to see you this past weekend! I try and write something I don't love and I never get very far or I lose interest or it just fails. :) Third Daughter came at just the right time for #weneeddiversebooks. Hope you've recovered and are back to writing! #ofcourseyouare