Monthly Writing Updates: September 2020

Header with a typewriter and journal: Monthly Writing Updates

Greetings, my fellow lovers of the literary arts. It’s time for my monthly writing update. These posts help me stay accountable to my goals and for those interested, they show a realistic view of the work of an independent author.

Novels

Power Play – We released the book! I love the book. All is well.  I’ve started the outline (and written some of the ending) for Hostile Takeover. The final book in the trilogy will be out next year.

The Case of the Lady in the Luggage – I’m zooming toward the end of the first draft. Good times. 🙂

Kat Voyzey #4 – The cover art is ready and after I wrap up edits on The Case of the Lady in the Luggage, I’ll start writing.

September was a crappy month, energy wise and productivity wise. I’ve been lucky enough to stay productive during the first seven months of the pandemic, but I guess I finally hit my wall?  We’ve been in pandemic-wildfire-politics hell, and it’s hard to be creative when your brain is in survival mode, but I’m back to being okay. Bad months happen. Such is life!

Business Projects

Pen Name Contemplations: Thanks to everyone who chimed in on my post about pen names last month. I’m not going to use pen names. So that’s decided. Whew!

Making Difficult Choices: My writing theme for the year is “finishing what I’ve started.”  I want my readers to trust I will actually finish series and not leave things hanging forever. And I also need space in my schedule for new projects. That sounds great on paper, but it’s left me with an important decision to make. Which ongoing series will wrap up now, and which ones will go on for longer? Emerald City Spies was always intended to be a finite story, so the trilogy will end with Hostile Takeover.  That’s easy enough. And that leaves me with two ongoing series: my Kat Voyzey Mysteries and my Ellie Tappet Mysteries. To make space for more projects, I need to wrap at least one of those series up. But which one? While my writerly heart loves both series, financially the decision is a no-brainer. Ellie has an enthusiastic fan base and Kat’s audience is much, much, smaller. So I’ll be wrapping up my Kat Voyzey series with the fourth book this year. (weeps)

In truth, I don’t need to get too weepy. As an indie author, I’m always free to write more books in a series. But there are only so many book slots in a year, so I gotta bend to that reality.

Space Opera Market Research Blues: So… I’ve been doing research for my space opera series. Mostly I’ve been thinking through the worldbuilding. You can’t write space adventure unless you have a sense for the history and physics and governments involved, and it’s fun to contemplate those things! And because this new series could take up a good chunk of time, I’ve also been doing market research. If I’m going to spend a year or more working on a long series, I want some confidence that there are readers who buy these kinds of books. And guess what I’m finding? SADLY, NOT MUCH. There’s a ton of “military sci fi” out there, and even some fantasy sci-fi, but the whole space-western, colonization stories, wild-west in space thing? There aren’t many books in that category. Usually, a lack of books within a subgenre indicates a lack of a viable readership. So I poked around some more, and word on the authorial street is that Firefly-eque wild west space opera doesn’t sell. And I’m here thinking: Man, this really blows.

Obviously I’m free to write whatever I’d like. But here’s where the rubber of creativity meets the road of wanting to earn a living. In an ideal situation, you want to embark on a new series with a nice Venn diagram showing strong overlap between what you’re enthused about and what readers are buying. At the moment, I’m seeing two separate circles, and that’s a recipe for spending months and months writing something that few people will be interested in. Bah! It’s so annoying. I’ve got a compelling hero, plus exciting space battles, plus a space murder, and space pirates, and all sorts of FABULOUS shit taking up real estate in my brain right now, and I haven’t yet found a way to make the business side work. Because my business-brain isn’t authorized to choose my stories (creative-brain retains control, and business-brain is only allowed to consult), I’m not throwing in the towel. But I’m looking for some tweaks I can make to my brain-story to make it a bit more aligned with the market.

My research continues.

Non-Work Stuff

Family Visits – The highlight of my month was visiting my mom and brother for the first time since February. I’ve really missed them! We did the whole “small group, distanced, outdoors” thing, taking advantage of the good weather.

Philosophizing – I’ve been spending quality time with the Stoics (and to a lesser extent, the Existentialists) to arm myself with a mind capable of handling this moment in history. If you’re at all interested in philosophy, stoicism, and cultivating resilience in the face of chaos, check out Stoic Week, starting in mid-October. (it’s free!)

Volunteer Work – Nothing too big, just small projects like pet sitting for neighbors, writing get-out-the-vote letters, and sewing cloth masks for a local kid’s Eagle Scout project.

Dungeons and Dragons – The adventure continues. I’m always mildly surprised when my plucky halfling bard survives to fight another day.

Late Summer Walks – We walked the 7 mile loop around Lake Union yesterday. Pandemic life has us feeling cooped up, so we’re trying to do at least one hike (or outing) per week.

That’s what’s new with me! I hope your projects are going well, and that all is well in your world. Keep washing those paws, and don’t spend too much time doomscrolling, okay? Our lives loom large and beautiful in the flesh-and-blood world, outside the chaos of those little machines in our pockets and the screens on our walls.

As I close out this update, I’m thinking of the poet Rumi, who reminds me that:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.