End-of-Year Update (and Changes)

As we near the end of 2018, I figured it was time for me to take a look at my writing goals and see how well I’ve been doing, and if I need to make some adjustments.

This was an interesting exercise, and it comes with some realizations that I wasn’t terribly happy to see, but that are necessary for me to actually achieve my goals.

So I’m going to start with my actual goals, as that’s the most important part.

Writing Goals

  • First and foremost, writing for me is something that I’m driven to do, and which I enjoy immensely. As long as I continue to want to write, as long as it brings me happiness, then things are working well regardless of any other metric I may choose to measure.
  • My second goal is to complete my writing projects. It’s fine to just write, but if I never end up with a finished story or novel, then I’m just puttering. While this goal is subservient to my first goal above, it’s very closely related. I know that if I’m not finishing my writing projects, then something in my writing process is broken, and it means that I’m probably not enjoying some part of this.
  • My third goal is to put my finished writing projects in a form that others can read. Whether this is just throwing a short story up on my website, or producing a full novel in electronic and hard-copy form, I want to share what I do with others. Of course, having this as my third goal means that if I’m spending too much time on this step, then I’m not actually writing. So I need to find a happy balance here.
  • My fourth goal is to promote my stories and novels so that others might find them. This is not specifically about selling my stuff. I’m not in this for the money—though I would absolutely love to make enough to do this for a living if it was possible—but I do have a desire to have others read what I create. And I’d like to make some money at it as well.

And, surprisingly, that’s it. I had a few other goals that came up in my mind when I was doing this exercise, but it turned out that I could fit all of them into one of the four goals above. And when I made it down the list of possible goals to the point where they didn’t fit, I realized that I was reaching and those goals just weren’t that important to me after all.

So How Am I Doing?

The next step, of course, was to compare 2018 with my goals and see where I ended up this year.

For the goal of writing (and getting pleasure from it), it was actually a mixed bag. I’m certainly doing a lot of writing. I’ve written over eighty thousand words on this blog alone.

Eighty thousand words.

Almost a novel.

Almost another novel.

And for happiness? Well, this is where I have to be brutally honest with myself. As much as I love roleplaying games—and most of my blog posts have been about that exact topic—the truth is that I’d much rather write fiction than write posts on the blog.

Writing on the blog is something that I’m doing because, as an author, I’m supposed to have a platform. I’m supposed to provide value to readers, to give them a reason to come back to my blog over and over. And that is supposed to help me find eyeballs for my fiction.

But the thing is…it’s not working.

It’s not working on a couple of levels. First, it’s not really working in getting people interested in my fiction projects. The fact is, no matter how many visitors I get to my blog each week—and I’m actually pretty happy with that number, as it’s a lot higher than I expected I would be able to achieve—those people aren’t turning into readers of my fiction.

In truth, though I have had a dozen short stories posted for the past year that visitors can read for free, and even download them as epub and mobi files, that part of my site is the least-visited of all.

Anyway, bringing this back to my primary goal, the fact is that I’m not happy. I’m doing this writing because I committed to myself that I would make a blog post each week, not because it’s bringing me any pleasure.

And what’s much worse is that this blog is taking time away from me doing the writing that does bring me pleasure.

Which leads me to my second goal.

The Traitor and the Thief should have been out earlier this year. It’s not done yet. I stalled out on it for months. And as I look back with that 20/20 hindsight we all wish was foresight, I realize that it’s because I’ve been distracted with other writing. I’ve been working on building a platform to promote writing that I haven’t had time to complete.

And it’s not just the next novel. I have a roleplaying game product that I wanted to get out many months ago, but the blog has eaten all of that time, as well. But I’ll talk a bit more about Rooms with a View in a bit.

My third goal certainly hasn’t been met. Other than this blog, I haven’t managed to finish a single writing project this year, so I haven’t had anything to put in a publishable form. Except for Rooms with a View, and that’s not out yet either.

And my fourth goal is one that I thought I could say I’ve achieved. This blog is the result of that. Except when I really looked at it (as I noted above), this blog isn’t actually helping me promote my novels or stories. This blog is getting attention for the blog posts about roleplaying games, and that’s it. So I can’t exactly say that this goal has been met, either.

Regroup and Reorganize

I’m not happy.

That’s the end result of 2018 when it comes to writing. If I was putting the effort and energy into my novels that I’ve been putting into this blog, then I would likely have finished the Undying Empire: Rebellion trilogy by now.

But I haven’t met my first goal. Or my second goal. Or my third goal. Or my fourth goal.

I’ve let myself become distracted by things that I do enjoy to a point. But they aren’t why I write.

So, the fact is, something has to change.

My focus has to change.

And that means this blog has to change.

I had made a commitment to write a blog post each week, and my desire was to post something that was interesting or useful to my visitors. But that commitment takes me away from the commitments to myself that are more important.

So I’m going to be refocusing my efforts. Those four goals above are what’s most important to me when it comes to my writing. And so when I write, those four goals, in order, are going to be on my mind and will drive the time I spend on writing and the related activities.

So What’s Next?

I’m not abandoning this blog. That’s not what this is about. It’s about spending my creative energy wisely. So I’m not going to go back to my first couple of years on here and only post every four-to-six months, if that.

It does mean, however, that posting every week is not achievable. It takes too much time away from the writing that I need to be doing. If I was a full-time writer, it would be different. But I can’t abandon my day job any time soon.

I will still write about roleplaying games, and other things that interest me. But those posts are going to be written when I’m motivated to write them. Not just because it’s Sunday and I’ve got a schedule to keep.

It means that there won’t be a post here every week. At least not until something else changes.

It means that I’m going to finish The Traitor and the Thief, and then I’m going to write the Revenant and the Reaper.

It also means that some elements of this blog are going to be restructured.

Other Projects

So what are all my writing projects again? Here’s a quick summary:

  • The Traitor and the Thief—This past month, as I realized I was spending too much time on the blog, I dove back into the manuscript. And I’m already feeling reinvigorated. Just the realization that I was going to relax on the blog has given me new energy, and I’m writing almost every day, whenever I get the chance. So things are…progressing. It’s too early to say anything more than that.
  • The Revenant and the Reaper—Obviously, my first goal is to complete the middle book in the trilogy. But I intend to dive right in to the final book immediately after. I want to build some momentum here, and then use it to keep things rolling to that there’s not another two-year gap between novels.
  • Origin—I still have the young teen novella that I wrote for my son. My idea is to get some pencil illustrations, one for each chapter, and I don’t know exactly when I’m going to do that. This fits solidly into my third writing goal, so it’ll happen when I feel I have the bandwidth to deal with it.
  • Rooms with a View—The writing on this one is complete. The layout is even complete. The delay in getting this out have been on the creation of the updated maps. I’ve done a couple of them, but doing good maps is a time-consuming effort, and it keeps getting pushed to the back burner. I’m considering some options, though the truth is I make so little on these kinds of products that paying for cartography is not really an option right now. So I don’t have a good answer.

Anything else falls under the “Miscellaneous” tab and is so far down the list that there’s no point in discussing it at this point. I’ve got a novel to complete, and another to write. That’s my focus now.

Do You Write?

I do hope this blog post is interesting to other writers who are having trouble meeting their goals. It’s hard to manage all the other elements that go along with writing and publishing and still have creative energy to finish your novel.

Me taking the time to write down my goals and seriously think about whether or not my efforts are actually aligning with them was something that I should have done a long time ago. But again, hindsight is 20/20.

So I encourage other writers to take a good look at what you’re doing. Is your energy being spent where it will do the most good, where it will bring you closer to achieving what you want to achieve?

If not, then make the necessary changes. It’s not fun, but it needs to be done.

Conclusion

So, this blog is going to undergo a change. For those who have just started following the blog due to the Dungeon-A-Week series, I don’t intend to completely abandon that effort. But I’ll need to change the name to Dungeon-When-I-Have-The-Creative-Energy-That-Doesn’t-Take-Away-From-My-Other-Writing-Projects Series.

Okay, maybe I’ll need to rethink that name.

If you’ve read this far, thank you.

If you’ve read my blog at all, thank you.

But now it’s time for me to get back to writing.

Writing Update – June 2018

There are a few things I want to write about this week regarding my novels and RPG products.

The Traitor and the Thief Novel

Yes, this has taken far longer to publish than any of my previous novels. I’m still hard at work on it, though I ran into a few structural issues that basically meant I stalled out on it completely at one point. I’ve been trying to juggle two separate but related stories and interweave them to make something where the whole is greater than the individual parts, and this has proven more difficult than I originally expected.

Having said that, I realized that I needed to start over from scratch. I took everything that I did before and set it aside, and then focused on the core themes and key characters and spent some time brainstorming ideas about the second and third book in this series. I know where I want to end up, but I even tossed that aside during this process so that I wouldn’t limit myself.

What has come out has been something that I think is stronger, and that I’m more passionate about, than what I was writing previously. Ultimately, this will be a benefit to my readers, though I understand the frustration that delays cause.

All I will say at this point that is that I’m writing again with a drive and a feeling that this is the story that needs to be told. I don’t know how long it will take—it’ll be done when it’s done. But I’m optimistic that things are moving well and I don’t expect any further delays.

Wide Distribution for My Novels

I was enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select for a while, which meant that some of my novels did not have wide availability on platforms other than Amazon. That is no longer the case. In addition to Amazon, all my novels are now available from DriveThruFiction, Kobo, and are in distribution through Smashwords. That means that they will shortly appear in Apple iBooks and on most other ebook selling platforms.

While my experiment with KDP Select did gain me some reads early on, I found that they did not make up for what I was losing by not having wider distribution. Therefore, I don’t plan—at this time—to enroll further books in KDP Select (though of course I reserve the right to change my mind if things change on the Amazon platform or other platforms that currently sell my novels).

Rooms with a View RPG Product

My RPG product Rooms with a View is nearing completion and I’ll be doing the test prints shortly. I think this new version will look fantastic with all the new maps combined with the original wonderful layout done by my wife, Pam.

At this point, I’m going to be releasing a version for D&D 3.5 (which was the original version), and for D&D 5E. In addition, I’m looking into a license for a version that includes stats for another game system—though I cannot announce anything just yet.

HeroQuest RPG

I’m super-happy about the announcement over on the BRP forums that the HeroQuest RPG will be getting the OGL treatment later this year. HQ2 is one of my favorite systems, and I’ve enjoyed looking at ways to use it for various settings, such as:

Needless to say, I’ll be looking closely at the OGL terms and the license requirements. In fact, I have a sword-and-sorcery adventure that I ran at GenCon a number of years ago, and I think others might enjoy playing it.

Obviously, nothing is going to happen with this for a while—at least until the actual license terms and SRD are released. But you can expect I’m going to do something with this once it’s available.

Origin Novella

I’ve still got the novella that I wrote for my son sitting on my hard drive. I’d love to release it, but I have a specific idea of how it should look, and I’m really attached to having it done properly. Unfortunately, it requires a number of pencil sketches for the chapter headers, and I haven’t had the time to source the right artist or start talking about commissioning those pieces. And then there’s the cover art.

This is something that keeps getting pushed back, and I realize that I’ve put it near the end of this update, which reflects, perhaps, where it sits in my priorities. I think that I need to move it up the list and get it out, because I believe that it’ll be a well-received story.

Conclusion

At this point, my priority is completing The Traitor and the Thief, so that those who read The Soldier and the Slave are able to get the next book in the trilogy. In conjunction with that, I want to get Rooms with a View back out, as most of the work on that is already done. That will take up my time when I’m not able to sit down to do actual writing.

Then, I’ll focus on getting Origin moving before I dive into the last book in the Undying Empire: Rebellion trilogy, The Revenant and the Reaper.

Any further RPG products, using the HeroQuest OGL or otherwise, will come after those priorities have been met.

Next week, I’ll return to looking at using HQ2 for other settings, with a dark horror/sci-fi offering.

 

Rooms with a View Announcement

Back in 2004, I published a PDF supplement for D&D 3.5 named Rooms with a View. When the official d20 Trademark license was revoked in June 2008, I pulled the PDF from sale with the intention of eventually stripping out any references to anything related to the d20 license and putting it back up.

Ten years later…

Okay, so I got busy with other things. A lot of other things. But I was recently looking at my old files and I realized there is actually a lot less work to get it compliant than I had thought.

In fact, as I write this, the 3.5 version is already finished. But it also occurred to me that this would be a good source book for 5th edition as well. After all, these are non-combat encounters, and the value is in the ideas, which are pretty much edition-neutral.

So I’ve also created another version with 5E stats, and I will be putting out both the original 3.5 and 5E versions of this book.

Right now, I’m just in the process of redoing all the maps in the product. As you can see from my post on the update to the Betrayal at Shadewood Keep adventure last year, my ability to make decent maps has improved dramatically over the last 14 years.

I will be making both versions available in PDF and Print-on-Demand.

Here’s a bit more about the product:

Rooms with a View gives you a twelve unique locations that you can drop into any existing campaign, to use as springboards to dozens of adventures. Each location comes complete with color maps, detailed NPCs, rich history, and interesting adventure hooks that stimulate your imagination.

Cross an ensorcelled bridge into an ancient land. Visit a very special inn, where the entertainment is head and shoulders above that found anywhere else. Meet the caretaker of a dead god’s final resting place. Watch a traveling show perform legendary stories. And explore eight other locations that will keep your players coming back again and again.

Rooms with a View was written by a great team of contributors: Shannon BennettMalcolm Davies, Fred Herman, David Lalinde, Trevis D. Powell, Peter A. Shaefer, Ross A. Shaw, Garth Wright, the extremely talented Corey Reid, and ENnie Award Winner Bill Collins.

Release of these two books is easily a month—or maybe two—away. I’ll have a firmer release date in a few weeks once I order the print proofs.

In the meantime, happy gaming!