Aka, “Why haven’t you published anything since Gathering (2016)?”.
Since the launch of Gathering I’ve had to enter the job market, stacking supermarket shelves for 25 hours a week. In theory, it’s a simple job with part-time hours that should allow me to write. In reality, it’s physically demanding work that often leaves me quite exhausted.
I could do different work based on my business and computer skills, but as I don’t have qualifications in either I’d probably be looking at basic admin work that would actually pay less, or full-time hours that are likely to restrict my writing time further. My financial situation is stable, so for the next couple of years I’m safe with what I’m doing.
However, the big lesson I’ve really learned is that being an author cannot be a full-time occupation – unless you have existing financial support, such as a partner working full-time, a pile of gold like Smaug had, or a string of bestsellers behind you. That means treating writing fiction as a hobby to grow into a career over the long-term – ie, decades. And it also means an author should have a real-world career to support that endeavour – and I don’t have one.
I could go back to running a web development business, but aside from being burned by the recession, I found it left little free time for writing – in addition, market conditions are poor as most companies have taken that in-house. So I had a big think about what I’d actually like to do, and decided it was teaching at college or university – I’ve always had a soft spot for that and often considered it. The only problem is you need a degree to teach at any level, but I never finished mine.
So this year I started my first year of an Open University degree in Arts & Humanities that I originally thought to specialize in Classic Studies and Creative Writing. In short, become qualified in what I already spend all my free-time doing, ie, reading ancient/mediaeval history and writing fiction. However, I’m increasingly looking to focus on doing a pure BA (Hons) Classical Studies degree as that would be more academically useful and I would also find that more engaging and interesting. Yay, Romans!
But it’s also left me obsessing about how far I can take an academic career through postgraduate qualifications. I’ve already begun focusing my attention on a MLitt in Archaeological Studies at UHI, partly because it would allow me to study the ancient world more widely (Neolithic to Vikings), but also because I can do it all online from home, in my own time. And maybe eventually a Ph.D in some aspect of ancient history? That’s all running too far ahead of myself, though. 🙂
So what about writing? Yes, let’s get back to that!
I’ve quickly learned that the most successful self-publishing model is to write a lot of books quickly. So I’ve been focusing on tie-in stories to my main Chronicles of Empire series, most of which I’ve had in my mind for a very long time.
I finished the first short trilogy – a science fiction thriller – in Sept 2017. Only to then be told in both mild and hard terms that I was pushing sloppy work and that I could do better. In other words, go back and rewrite. And rewrite again. And have it properly edited and rewritten again. So my attempt at quick publishing looks like it’ll end up taking around 2 years to publish 3 short books of around 60k words each. I expect – hope – that it will be ready for publishing around Easter 2019.
The next book – a standalone short science-fiction – should come within a year or so after that. Not least because I now have a better idea of what I’m doing.
So where’s Awakening, the sequel to Gathering?
On the slow burn. Which means I’m continually writing up notes, drafting scenes. But I don’t have the privilege of dedicating my full-time to it – as yet. The plan is for the smaller books to help further my career and therefore allow more creative freedom to work on the main chronicles series. I will finish writing it – it’s my destiny and life-purpose to do that – but they will be written and published as they need to be.
In the meantime I’ve also refreshed Gathering – removed the opening prologue which unnecessarily explained context (and no one really liked), as well as simplified the structure of chapters – so instead of many short chapters, they are now larger chapters with POV breaks, which should make for easier reading. There have been a few very minor tweaks to the text, but no significant change to character or plot, other than changing the spelling of Sirath to Sirrath simply because I thought the phonetic spelling would make for easier reading.
So, altogether, working part-time, studying a degree, reading a book a week, and putting the rest of my hours into writing – things are pretty hectic for me. That’s on top of having a growing family and two dogs that also require walking (the dogs, not the kids).
TL;DR: All in all, I’m keeping extremely busy, the writing is still coming along albeit more slowly than I’d want, but I remain fully committed to finishing the Chronicles of Empire series, and firmly believe a new series of tie-in novels will provide for a richer and more interesting experience of it. 🙂