I haven’t done as much as I expected in 2016, but that is because I’ve realized that I need to put less pressure on myself. I want to recover the enjoyment that writing, world-building and art used to give me before I self-published.
I’ve been re-thinking my attitude to writing this year. For a long time I’d been writing for fun, but when I self-published The Web of War in 2014 I got this idea that I had to start acting like a professional author. After all, I was going to have readers. I needed to try to sell my books.
I spent 2015 feeling like a ‘failed author’ because I was unable to get more than 10 people to buy The Web of War. They didn’t even want to read it when I gave it away for free (the Goodreads giveaway was a particular disappointment, since it cost so much money to ship the books out to people!) I sadly concluded that my book was too boring and confusing to be enjoyed by others.
At the start of 2016 I re-read the first few chapters of The Web of War, and realized that, not only was it boring and confusing to new readers, but it was not even well written! This depressed me immensely. The book had already been through four or five drafts. I’d thought it was alright when I published it, but now the writing just made me cringe.
I ended up re-writing The Web of War, meaning that I did not get The Scepter of Ice published until June. That still gave me half-a-year to get the first draft of The Ruler of Ruins done… except that I could not get beyond the first several chapters! I felt like I couldn’t move on with the story until I’d got the beginning right. The result is that I’ve only written 15 chapters of The Ruler of Ruins. I am pleased with them, though.
I’m telling myself that writing is not my career. If I really wanted to be a professional writer, I would write the kinds of books that are popular. Instead, all I want to write about is Askamar. If I can’t write about Askamar, I’d rather not write at all!
From now on, I am not going to judge the worth of my books by how many readers they have. I don’t care if I’m a failed author. What matters is how much I enjoy writing and re-reading my novels (and since I’ve concluded that I can’t re-read them without wanting to re-write them, I’ll probably keep publishing new, improved versions over the years).
I’ve always regarded my world as a work of art in its own right, rather than just a setting for my books. The idea that I ought to become a professional author made me lose sight of that for a while, but now I’ve rediscovered the delight of intricate, irrelevant world-building!
As usual, most of my world-building this year has focused on drawing maps and working on character profiles. I’ve also given more thought to the history of the world, and finally settled on a way to date the years. I’ve done more work on Udaris, particularly the lands of Razurea which feature in The Ruler of Ruins. I’ve even started work on some of the languages of Askamar, which was fun!
Maggie has been working on some wonderful new paintings, including this picture of Zotharan and Erulorian, and this one of Arellesria which she is currently re-working. I hope to be able to add the rest of them to the gallery next year.
I always mean to paint more as well, and I never get around to it! Still, I’ve been telling myself that paintings are like novellas. They can’t just be dashed off in an afternoon. They need weeks of work. I shouldn’t be surprised if I only create a few new paintings every year.
I think I’m getting better at blogging about my world – or at least, recording my thoughts and feelings. It would be nice to think that others who feel like failed authors might read what I’ve written and realize that they are not alone – and that creativity has a value in its own right, even if the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care.
As always, I’m proud of myself for having kept the blog going (even if I only manage one or two updates a month). I’m sure it will be fun to look back over it all next year! Hopefully by then, all my ‘failed author’ feelings will have faded away, and I’ll just be enjoying my world as a hobby.