To fully understand how far I’ve come and to put things into context, I will explain in brief, my writer’s journey so far.
In December 2018, I was a different author. In 2018, I was about to quit writing; hang up my hat; walk off into the sunset. In 2019, I had more confidence, my writing is cleaner, and I have published books. The reason for my change – a half-million words and thirteen manuscripts completed.
I was in my last year of high school and taking English 12. At that time, I wanted to follow my idol, David Eddings, and write fantasy novels. I had a world in my head, needing to get out. My English teacher told me to stop trying. I did scrape out a ‘C’ in her class.
Fifteen years from then, my life changed many times. I went to film school, got married, got into a career, had two kids with my wife, moved across the province, got laid off from my job of seven years, and decided to go back to university.
I spent seven years working on my first novel. I thought it was great, but after re-writing it six times, I destroyed it and the horse it rode in on. By summer 2017, I’d written seven incomplete manuscripts in different stages of completeness. I had the squirrel syndrome terrible.
During the entirety of 2018, I finished and published my fantasy novel after three attempts to complete it. Another writer friend, who is also self-published, encouraged me to publish it. At the same time, I managed to complete a post-apocalyptic novel I’d been working on, then a military sci-fi. None of the three made any traction, and by December, I wanted to quit and call it a day.
My accomplishments to that point were I had 25k words average per year written over fifteen years of writing. It’s not very fast for an independent author who relies on steady and speedy publishing to be successful – publish or perish – or so it is said.
In my mind, I was a failure:
- My stories were decent, but they’ve been better.
- I was not ready to publish when I did.
- I knew there were errors in them, but I didn’t know what they were or how to fix them.
- Despite having three novels completed, seven were incomplete, and I couldn’t focus on any one project.
I tried my best, but perhaps my English teacher was right. I thought maybe I should quit; fifteen years of trying and failing can’t be lying after all. Luckily for me, I have a writer friend who had my back. He saw the diamond in the rough when I only saw shit. “Polish a turd still makes a turd,” I said.
He suggested giving this writing thing one more try. I wrote a list of goals to be ambitious. I needed to push myself, starting with writing every day. Writers write, after all. The ambitious goal I made was to write 500,000 words; dividing it equally per day came to 1370 words. But the idea was to write every day and then see what happened. I was unsure, but I wrote it anyway.
365 days later, and my mentality changed. By writing every day, it built up the discipline needed to bridge the gap between an amateur and a professional – someone who didn’t quit when the road got rough.
*That is the flowchart I made to help track my progress.*
I’d never used a word tracker to that extent before. I found they never helped me. The green represents days I wrote over 1400 words, while the yellow is anything lower than 1400 but over 150. Any day under 150 words would have been red. I didn’t have a single day under that number.
Besides developing the discipline to write, I learned other lessons:
- Motivation failed me for fifteen years. I learned motivation was as useless as climbing a mountain while wearing flip-flops. It’s easy to become unmotivated.
- Discipline is the reason I stay up late to get work done. It’s the reason I make a sacrifice to accomplish my goals. Discipline is the reason I seek to improve as an author. It is the reason I wrote 526,997 words in 2019 and the reason why I’ve continued the trend and have written 119,658 words in 2020 as of March 11, 2020. It’s the reason why my writing streak is at 437 days in a row. Keeping the writing streak going became the reason I wrote some days.
- Forcing a daily minimum, allowed me to write on days where I wasn’t motivated. Some days I went to write the 150 words and then pumped out two thousand.
- Writing a novel shouldn’t take years to accomplish. It’s not a hobby or a casual task. By writing to make those goals, allowed me to complete the seven incomplete manuscripts and write five more to complete twelve novels.
- Protect your writing time. Writing takes more time each day than is expected. The family means well, but unless the house is on fire or flooded or both, then time needs to be protected.
- Writing a substantial amount highlighted the common errors I was making and gave me material to get workshopped.
- Not to get tied up in other people’s word counts. Other people’s circumstances are different than mine, and I should only look at my own.
- A big word count is not the end all. There’s more to do than writing the words. There’s editing, book design, cover design, marketing to get a handle on.
The moral is there is never time to quit and to ignore motivation as it goes nowhere. A better strategy is to learn how to discipline oneself into getting the work done. Find a system that works and to keep it up. For me, it is my writing streak. What will it be for you?
This journey is not something I can do alone. It takes support from many people for it to become a reality. The easiest way is to visit my Amazon Author Page and purchase one of my books. They are available in all countries and for free on Kindle Unlimited. I do have a tip jar set up at Ko-Fe, where you can buy me a coffee. Or you can also visit me on Facebook. Your help and support are much appreciated.
One thought on “Zero to 500k: A Story of Perseverance”
I’ve just finished my first book to a standard I can tolerate. This morning I was excited and proud of my achievement. By the afternoon, I downplayed it so much that it hardly mattered. I’d finished it before, and rewritten it. I have tons of projects that I plan but don’t write, and various manuscripts, but my confidence fails me and my motivation dissipates. I started my blog to force some kind of structure, to help me build up the discipline to write.
I really appreciate the opportunity to read this post; it has helped me solidify my resolve to stick with it, one day at a time, and see how far I can go.