Getting Back in the Saddle, New Year’s Resolutions (and Other Cliched Metaphors)

Have you ever been away from doing something for so long that doing it again sounds difficult?  Where you’re not even sure if you still can do whatever it is?  Where the prospect of even trying it is actually frightening?


Blogging is that way. Seriously: it’s been literally four years since I last posted here. Basically, it’s just easier not to blog. And yet, here I am, after what feels like forever, dusting this old thing off and actively thinking about regular blogging again. But blogging is not what I’m here to talk about today.

For me, sitting down to write – to really write, to write the fiction I crave to write, that I must write – after a roughly 13-week hiatus brought on by a million-and-one reasons (some good, some bad, but all unfortunately valid) is sometimes one of those scary things.  Sure, like I said, I have reasons.  Many of those reasons I am powerless to alter.  (We could argue the point, I suppose, but I’m also not here to talk about the reasons writers don’t write.)  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever the reasons, they are standing in the way between me and engaging in an activity that is fundamental to who I am.  (I’m not me if I’m not writing.)

(Apparently I’m also not me if I’m not making parenthetical asides.  I jest.  I can totally stop making parenthetical asides anytime I want.  Parenthetical asides aren’t the boss of me.)

I don’t have a magic bullet answer for this.  (This isn’t a writing advice blog.)

I guess… If the opportunity to write presents itself, whatever valid but usually insurmountable reasons I don’t often get to write there are, then I should shut up, put my but in the chair, hands on the keyboard and just, you know, write.

So I have a lot of lofty goals for 2020: get in shape, lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy. The standard list. And I don’t mean to give these short shrift – I hope I can actualize those things in my life. But my true goals live elsewhere: in my heart and soul, I am a writer.

In respect to that, I need 2020 to be the year I start taking my career as a writer seriously. You read that right: my career.

No, I haven’t garnered any publications in the years I’ve been away from this blog. But here’s the thing: I’ve long considered myself to be an aspiring author. Except there’s one thing that’s lacking: I haven’t acted as though I’m seriously pursuing this as an actual career. It’s always just been this little hobby of mine.

On the plus side, treating it like a hobby has insulated me from most of my own self-criticism when it comes to lack of writing. No big deal, I reasoned, It’s just a hobby, and I have other priorities, like my actual career, and my family, and being a homeowner. Sometimes I just don’t have time to write and that’s okay. Well, those things aren’t going anywhere. I’m still a father, still a homeowner, still a corporate desk jockey. So I still have priorities which will often supersede my writing. And when those things are done, I’m still going to need days where I just have a little downtime, when I’m not working.

But I’m changing my perspective. I’m also a writer. And that means I write. That means that when I have have the bandwidth, when I’m presented a choice between spending my “free time” vegging on the couch watching TV, or writing, I will (more often than not) choose writing.

It’s not going to be easy. Those other priorities will mean that sometimes I can’t choose to write. Sometimes, I’ll have a choice, for instance, between playing a boardgame with my wife and writing – and I’m going to choose to play the boardgame, because time with my wife having fun is a priority for me. (Have I mentioned that I’ve gotten the itch to start designing more own boardgames? Yeah. I actually have a prototype game design that I’ve printed up [it’s terrible, mind you, but I made it]. Maybe more on that later.) Sometimes, I’ll have the choice between TV and writing, and I’ll choose TV because I have a deficit of mental energy. These aren’t inherently bad things, obviously.

My point is: sometimes I won’t write when I have the time, and that’s okay. Recently, however, I’ve just gotten used to not writing. It’s literally been months since I added any real words to my novel. And diving back in is daunting, because I have to reorient myself to what was going on, reread the last five or ten pages, and as often as not that takes up all of whatever free time to write I had. Inertia sets in, and I just don’t even think about it.

That’s not an excuse. And starting now, in 2020, that’s not happening anymore.

What does this mean for my blog?

I’m going to start updating here again. Mostly just to keep myself honest about my writing. How much did I write this month? What did I write about? What did I do if I chose not to write? That sort of thing. Maybe, occasionally, I’ll geek out over something or other.

I’m not going to try to stay abreast of the industry, or comment on ongoing trends in SF&F literature. I’m not going to offer writing advice. There are other sites and blogs that do these things and better than I could ever hope to. Realistically – I’m still learning the ropes same as the rest of you.

If, however, you’re interested in me as a writer, if you’re interested in my writing: then you’ve come to the write place. Err… right place.

Welcome (back) to the Undiscovered Author.


Stephen A. Watkins

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2012 In Review: Writing and Blogging

Last week I started looking back at the year 2012 by reviewing how I did against my goals for the year.  I started with looking at the books I’d read.

But I wasn’t just trying to read last year.  I was also trying to step up and write.

What were my writing goals last year?  I had four writing-centric goals: first, to write for at least 2 hours each week for at least 45 weeks out of the 52 weeks of the year.  Second I’d intended to have finished the background work and worldbuilding and plotting for my current WIP January 25th of last year – or roughly almost exactly a year ago (which gives you an idea of how far behind I am on reviewing last year and getting to my goals for this year).  Third, I intended to write at least 2,000 words of new first draft for each week that I spent writing after the completion of my background work.  Finally, I’d intended to have written at least two short stories written, each theoretically 8,000 words or less.

How did I do against the goals?

Well, to start, I never did track the number of hours I spent writing each week.  The only thing I’ve been tracking is my total writing productivity – relating to the third goal.  But based on the idea that 2 hours a week gives me 2,000 words, I figure that’s a good enough figure to count for both those goals.

Around the mid-point of the year, I’d checked up on my progress toward these goals, and at that point, things weren’t looking to bright on the writing front.  Well, here, after the old year has ended, things still aren’t super-bright.

Out of the 52 weeks in 2012, I actually wrote something, anything, on 34 of them – or roughly 65% of the time.  That means that I wrote nothing at all on 18 weeks.  However, I actually met my goal of 2,000 words per week only nine times last year.  If I treat my goal a little flexibly – say I count it good if I got within 75% of my actual 2,000 word goal – then my success rate rises to only twelve weeks.  Even looking at the year with a rosy outlook, I failed to meet my goal 77% of the time last year.

As for the short story goal… I started writing one short story, though I didn’t finish it in 2012.  I figure I’m about three-quarters of the way through that story as of the end of the year.

All told, I wrote a total of about 48,902 words in 2012.  That’s not nothing, but it’s not where I wanted to be, not by a long-shot.  If I’d met my goal of writing 2,000 words a week for at least 45 weeks of the year I’d have written 90,000 words.  Which means I’m sitting at around 54% of my writing goal for the year.  I’d hoped to be some 50-65% done with “The Book of M” by the end of 2012.  Instead, I’m sitting in the just-over-16% range.  At this rate, I won’t finish “Book of M” for another 3-4 years.

None of which is very encouraging for me, as a writer.

Sure there were lots of good reasons why I didn’t write very much in 2012.  But the fact remains: I didn’t really write very much.  And at the rate at which I’m writing, I’ll never have written much.  This isn’t a rate of writing that is conducive to me developing a career as a writer.  If I’m ever going to be successful at writing, I’ll need to be a lot more prolific than this.  Someday, I still hope, that will be possible.  But for the immediate future, as I consider 2012 in retrospect, I know that’s just not in the cards.  2012 was a busy year in non-writing.  Looking ahead to 2013 doesn’t looks pretty much the same: different things going on, but still extra-busy in the non-writing part of my life.

Now… as to my Blog… well… I’ll invite you to take a look at my 2012 Annual Report.

The long and short: I had 14,000-ish hits in 2012, which is down from 16,000-ish hits in 2011.  That’s not surprising considering I wrote only 122 posts in 2012 (just over 2 per week) compared to 189 in 2011 (just over 3 per week).  Fewer posts means fewer hits.

Interestingly, my highest trafficked posts in 2012 were all posts I’d written in 2011 or earlier, among them my series of posts in which I analyzed Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, or the post where I uploaded some of my pics from the 2011 Dragon*Con parade, the one where I talked about some research I did on the relative lengths of books in popular fantasy series, and the one in which I leveled a fairly strong critique against those people in the self-publishing universe who seem to be hoping for the demise of traditional publishing (and  have the most to gain from it).  In fact, of the top ten posts in 2012, only one of them was actually written in the year 2012: my post on genre explorations and “Post-Tolkien Fantasy“. 

After that, next in popularity among the posts written in 2012 was a follow-up genre article called “Epic Fantasy: Archetypes and Window Dressing” in which I continued the discussion I started in “Post-Tolkien Fantasy”.  I’ve got more ideas for topics in that same vein, but those articles are pretty meaty, and take a lot of time to write – and time has been a commodity in increasingly short supply around these parts.  The next most popular post written in 2012 was one in which I discussed the business side of being a writer, from my perspective not as a published writer in the business, but as an aspiring author with business experience and an MBA (and highlighted some of the systemic problems with the industry as it is currently structured).

So that was the year (2012) in writing and blogging for me.

How was your year?  Did you meet your goals for the year, or fall short?  Tell about it in the comments, or link to your own year-in-review posts, if you’d like.

The WordPress 2011 Year In Review Post

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog, so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Continue reading

From the Top, From the Heart

Blogging is hard sometimes.  You invest a lot of  yourself into the words you put up on the screen.  You release those words into the wild, hoping they’ll come back to you with the new friends they’ve made – comments from other readers.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don’t.  Some words seem to make more friends than others.

It’s a lot like being a parent, I guess.

Except, you invest more of yourself into some of those words than into others.  As a parent, it’s kind of not cool to favor one child over another – at least that’s my philosophy; though I don’t have experience to back it up since B.T. is as-yet an only child.  But as an author, you can totally afford to play favorites among your wordlings.  Some of those wordlings come straight from the head.  Some come straight from the heart.  You want them all to be wonderfully successful.  But you want the ones from the heart, most especially, to be the most successful of all.

Of course, you try to stay realistic about which words are most likely to succeed.  But that doesn’t mean you still don’t have a lot of hope for the little blog post that could.

Man.  I’m really digging a hole with this extended metaphor thing.  Maybe beating around the bush a little, too.

The thing is, I don’t always know when what I blog is going to be a popular post.  I don’t know who’s going to comment on what.  I hope every blog post is great.  But at the end of the day, it’s like throwing darts at a board and hoping something sticks.  (I mean that literally.  Half the time when I throw darts at a board the darts bounce off.) Continue reading

Guest Post: Writing & Parenthood

Today I’m guest-posting it up over at Ollin Morales’ {Courage 2 Create} blog, where I’m talking about the challenges of being a parent and a writer (when you’ve already got so much else going on), strategies I try to use to succeed at both, and commisseration for the hard times – when being a parent means there’s just no time to write.

Ollin’s blog is a great place for writers to go when they need an inspirational pick-me-up.  If you’re a writer who also has one of those things called a life, you’ll find plenty to appreciate on {Courage 2 Create}.

If you’re a writer who’s also a parent, know a writer who’s a parent, or are a writer who might someday become a parent, hopefully you’ll find something of interest on my guest post there today.  So head on over and share your experiences!

Content Theft – DMCA’d!!!!

I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen this around here… but I  had one of my recent posts stolen.  I won’t link to the site that stole my content – I believe it may be attempting to do something illicit, possibly by running spyware or malware.  I’ve reported the site to the hosting company’s security staff.  But this is a new experience for me.  I’m a little disappointed that it happened, but not really surprised.  As continued blogging raises my blogs profile, this is going to happen more often.

[Edit: After contacting the host provider, I’ve now filed a DMCA.  My first ever DMCA!  Boo-yah!]

At the Feet of Masters: The Writing Track at JordanCon 2011 (Part 1 of 3)

Wherein I share and elucidate the mysteries revealed unto me whilst attending the Writing Track at JordanCon 2011.

The main panelists for the writing track were Guest of Honor David B. Coe, Eugie Foster, Jana Oliver, and Brandon Sanderson.  (The details of who taught what are in my blow-by-blow account linked above.)  Attending the writing track was definitely valuable for me, as an aspiring fantasy author.  But what was surprising, in some ways, was how little I learned about the craft of writing as compared to what else I learned by attending these panels. 

Which is not to say I didn’t learn quite a lot about writing during these panels.  I suppose I was expecting to learn more about the craft.  But what I did learn, I believe, will be enough to push me up another level – or so I hope.  But let me save the big, revelatory take-aways for the end, and let’s start with an account of what I learned along the way.  Which is a long account, so expect this to go on for several posts – this is considerably more detailed and thorough than my pictorial blow-by-blow.

Writing for Younger Readers

The first bit of craft advice I learned when I ducked into the Writing for Young Readers panel a little late.  The panelists agreed that you should write your protagonist at an age one or two years older than your target audience – specifically when targeting younger readers.  This is because younger readers are aspirational – they are interested in what people older than they are think and do.  However, the older YA readers tend to read more and more like adults, so the lines get blurred considerably.  They also pointed out that mushy stuff like romance: kids totally go in for that, whatever you may think.  Yes, even the boys.  Continue reading