Joshua C Cook

Author, Husband, Father, IT Manager

Tag: wall

2017 – A look back in walls, delays, and writing fails

2017 was not a banner year for me as a writer. It started off not great and never really got moving. To start with, January 2017 saw books sales fall like a brick. In particular, the second book in The Echo Worlds series, titled Bridgebreaker, was not doing well. I was am still rather proud of the book. I had really taken feedback and good criticism of the first book, Bridgefinders into consideration, and had written something I though had the story I wanted, but carried a more emotional ‘umph’ than the first book had possessed. But by January 2017 which was 4 months after the second book had come out, it was apparent that the book wasn’t doing so well.

I did a massive ‘blitz’ in terms of using book lists, advertising services and the like to give sales a pump. In retrospect it was totally a foolish move, as I signed up for to much all at once, and it became nigh impossible to figure out which service was working, and which was a waste of what little money I had to spend on the marketing. On top of it, it didn’t really help much and sales stayed flat for the entire year of 2017.

This did harm my motivation a bit, so I sort of pushed off the third book of the Echo Worlds, which I had been planning on writing right away, to explore something else. I had a few ideas floating around, but only one I had fleshed out to any degree. With my normal goal of two books a year, I pushed forward with writing something called “Worker Road”, a post-apocalyptic story. However about a quarter into it, I realized I was struggling with the story. I was having a hard time with the main character, and after several weeks of back and forth in my mind, I shelved the story. I may pick it up again, someday….Maybe.

So, now a bit more discouraged, I sort of started looking at some previously started but never finished stories I had floating around. One a YA sci-fi book, and the other a fantasy novel I hadn’t really fleshed out other than to know it involved Blacksmiths. The YA book I had previously started and shelved in 2016, and I still had a core of a story. But after reading through what was there, the knowledge became quite clear, I’m not a YA writer. I wasn’t much of a teenager when I WAS a teenager. To serious for my own good, I tended to find some of the antics of my peers to be.. annoying. And so, writing YA was a struggle, as I tend to color my writing with a main character who was to serious by half. That story still sits, half done. I might take parts of the ideas for that one and use them else where, someday.. Maybe. 😉

So, the fantasy novel, revolving around Blacksmiths. With a working title of ‘Forgemaster’ I started fleshing out some basic ideas and tenets of the world. It quickly became obvious that this was going to be a large undertaking. Fantasy novels can be that way, as the need to describe and inform a reader about the world they are exploring becomes much more important than what I had been writing before, namely “Modern Fantasy”, meaning stories set in our normal day to day life, but with a magical fantasy element thrown in.  But having got some basic rules laid out for the world I was creating, and a few notes about the plot, I dove in.

Now, if anyone actually reads this, you should be aware that I’m not a outliner by nature. Or as I prefer, I’m not as George RR Martin described it, an Architect. I’m a Gardener. I take the seed of an idea, and jsut let it grow as I write. Or I should say that’s how I THINK I write. As working on this Fantasy book made very clear to me, I’m much more a hybrid of the two.  Forgemaster, which quickly had it’s name changed to “Blood of a Fallen God” became a beast. I realized I wasn’t just working on a fantasy novel, but an EPIC Fantasy novel. Sweeping of breadth, a great many characters, a large number of subplots that intertwine. I had to step back and really change the way I was going to write, as simply, there were to many things to keep track of for me to be a Gardener all the way, at least for me.

Around this time, l hit a wall. Writers block times a hundred, a wall just stopped me, and stopped me cold. I had no ideas, and the discouragement I felt over both Bridgebreaker, and some decisions I had made in terms of the first book, Bridgefinders, spilled over into me just not wanting to write. And I didn’t want to.  I was busy at home with the kids and family, Summer vacations, and major expenditures,  and new distractions, made it less enjoyable to write. And so I stopped. For two months. I was unmotivated, and the few times I tried, I just couldn’t get anything out and into the work.

I honestly began to think about walking away from writing, and diving into other things. Crypto-currencies, a few home projects, and some other things started to absorb what had used to be writing time. While I enjoyed the mental break from writing, there was always hanging around a vague feeling of guilt for not staying on top of it. I pretty much abandoned twitter, and all social media work and outreach, and let it sit.

Then one day while swimming in out (new) pool, an idea for how to solve a problem in the Blacksmith story, Blood of a Fallen God, hit me. As is normal for me (and many others) I wasn’t even thinking bout writing, but the idea came to me, and wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I wrote it out and down, and just like that, it all started to flow again. I was past the wall, and moving forward. I started making a fair amount of notes as I wrote to keep everything straight in my head and in the story, who was who, what did the character want and why? What did they know about what was REALLY going on,  etc.

The rest of the year flew on. I hit another small wall in lake October, but I didn’t walk away, and soon was past it. I already knew I wasn’t going to meet any part of the goal of 2 books in 2017. This bothered me because I always had met that goal, but considering the breadth and length this book was shaping up to be, I still was OK. And finally in December of 2017, I finished the first Draft of Blood of a Fallen God.

I quickly put it away, and didn’t look at it until after Christmas had passed. I needed a break from it. This wasn’t a wall however as I spent the time jotting down some other ideas, for books to explore after this one, including returning to the Echo Worlds, and getting the third book finally done and out.

 

So that’s where I am now. I’ve started the rewrite/edit phase, and clean up of notes. As of this blog post, I’ve already reduced BOAFG from 189,433 words to 174, 122 words. I’m being a bit brutal in the cutting phase of things, but I think that’s needed. This book is almost three times the size of a normal story I get out there and I want it to be as focused as it can be.

Next week I’ll do a goals of 2018 post, but for now, theirs 2017, my wall from hell.

Where have I been?

So where have I been? I’ve not updated the blog in over a month, Facebook as well. There’s been a couple of things going on, and though there’s not a lot of people who visit this tiny corner of the web, hey it’s my tiny corner, and I’ll share!

  1. Work – I currently have a great job, and I mean that. I work as one of two IT support people at a Tax/Bookkeeping/Auditing group here in Florida. However,  until last week it was ‘Tax Season’ which is usually the most busy part of the year.  I wanted to keep up with things, and I did at first. Tax season runs from January through to Mid April. Sadly for me, the closer we got to the tax deadline day, things got busier, so no blog updates, and very little social media items done.
  2. Allergies/illness – So as I mentioned I live in Florida. Seasonal allergies aren’t anything new here, but this year was a beast. Much worse than normal, and I spent two  plus weeks coughing up a lung and blowing my nose every 10 minutes to breathe. Not fun, not pleasant, and not overly conducive for writing, or again social media. All better now, thanks to the end of ‘Pollen Hell 2017’
  3. The Wall – This was the final reason. I hit a wall. Meaning a combination of poor book sales and writers block made me so profoundly unmotivated to do anything with my writing for a bit. I simply did not care, nor did I have the energy to move through it at the time. The good news is that I’m past that now. I had some sales (unexpected and happily.) and I got through my writers block.

 

Blood of a Fallen God is back on track, and I’m working to get this first draft done and put away. I’ve some cover stuff to look into, maps to finish off, and a few other things. I’ve also got Book THREE ( I like saying that, hence the caps) in the Echo Worlds series to finish, and then that stand alone book called ‘Timetable 93’

So I’m back, I’ll update the blog at least twice a month moving forward, and try to be more active on twitter and my Facebook page.

Here’s to taking that next step!

So that’s where I’ve been.

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