Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.


Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

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Should Books Be Written on Soapboxes: Social Responsibility & Literature

As someone raised in the Midwest, I learned at a young age not to discuss sex, politics, or religion. While I’ll gab about the former with the right people (and after a glass or two of red wine!), I tend to avoid politics and religion. From a cultural standpoint, I learned by example that discussing these issues seems pointless and sometimes rude. How can I, as one little person, cause any real change in the world? Why waste my time trying to alter someone’s mind on such divisive topics? What does someone’s political affiliation or religious beliefs matter if they’re a good person?

protestFrom a personal standpoint, I feel I have no right to discuss these issues. Since I don’t have a political or religious association of any kind, who would take me seriously? How can I ensure the information I learn is even factual? And, given how much I hate conflict, why open myself up it?

However, with the current state of the world, politics and religion are becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. And perhaps rightly so. Between the radical propositions made by President Trump, Alt-Right/Nazi rallies (a phrase I never thought I’d type in present-day context), and devastating climactic events, politics and religion arise in nearly every conversation. And as I sit there, mouth clamped tightly shut while friends and family members rattle off their views and theories, I have a realization.

While I don’t often voice my views on contentious issues, I’ve written them into my books.

In the Desertera series, I’ve woven in several topics I care strongly about — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. I advocate for a positive view of female (and all) sexuality. I grapple with the de-criminalization of prostitution (an issue I’m still uncertain about). I support homosexuality by making it a non-issue in society (except for where it prevents the nobles from having biological heirs). I condemn classism and social stratification. And, especially in the final books of the series, I’ll warn the reader about climate change.

Listed bluntly like this, I marvel at my boldness. I do have opinions — quite a few that would shock my fellow Midwesterners — but I’ve made them more palatable, I hope, by lacing them in fiction. And I’m not alone. Not by a long shot.

Most of the literary fiction I studied in college contained moral or political messages for the reader. Many of my author friends use their writing to advocate for causes or social issues. Hell, Science Fiction as a genre basically serves as a warning from the future (it’s one of the reasons I’ve always been attracted to it). You’ll find the same agendas in nearly every form of artwork at nearly every stage in history.

This brings me to the crux of this article: As an author, do you feel a social responsibility to stand on your “soapbox” in your writing? And as a reader, how do you feel when authors “preach” a message within a novel?

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer.

On one hand, inserting your views into fiction can be a noble endeavor. It gives readers with similar views a safe place in entertainment. It allows readers with different views a chance to consider a new perspective without being personally attacked. And it offers you, as the author, to remain at arm’s length from the topic.

On the other hand, shouldn’t fiction just be fiction? In a world where the news constantly showers us with depressing topics, our social media feeds fill with contention, and our dinner table conversations get usurped by arguments, we need a break. Isn’t it just as noble for books to offer pure entertainment and unbiased escape?

I go back and forth on this issue a lot.

As a writer, I do feel an obligation to make my fiction meaningful. Though, I don’t always agree with myself about what is “meaningful.” Sometimes, I want to use my fiction as a platform. Other times, I just want to offer my reader that innocent escape.

Same goes for when I’m reading a novel. Mostly, I appreciate when an author attempts to make me think deeper — so long as she writes in way that feels respectful to me and doesn’t belabor her point. Though, other times, even the slightest hint of an agenda will make me cringe and wonder, “Why can’t I just enjoy this story for the story’s sake?!”

Maybe it’s about choosing which type of author you want to be, or which type of writing is right for each particular story. Maybe it’s about knowing what your ideal reader expects. Maybe it’s about striking a balance between theme and entertainment. Maybe it’s about being sneakier, having your cake and eating it without the reader even noticing you baked it.

My specific answer keeps changing, based on whether I’m writing or reading, the story itself, the mood I’m in, even the day (it’s no coincidence that I’m writing this on 9/11). But my politically correct, moderate, agnostic answer remains the same: as long as the author respects the story and the reader, that’s what matters most, soapbox or not.


What do you think? Do authors have a responsibility to advocate for their political/religious views in their fiction? As a reader, do you expect a “message” from the author, or are you only looking for entertainment? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

 

Month-End Update: August 2017

Yes, I’m alive. Yes, I’ll be around more in September. And yes, I have stories!

The Tyrant's Heir booksAugust kicked off with a bang, as August 8th marked the publication of my third novel, The Tyrant’s Heir. Book launches always stir up a lot of emotions for me: excitement (Yay! It’s finally out in the world), fear (Will my readers like it?), but mostly gratitude. Thank you to everyone who has read the novel, shared it on social media, and of course, left a review. I seriously couldn’t do this without you.

Good news: if you’ve been waiting to order your signed paperback copy of The Tyrant’s Heir, go ahead! I have two boxes of books ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered. Visit the book page for ordering info.

What happened after the book launch? Well, the very next week, Daniel (my husband) and I loaded up our belongings and moved to our new home in California. As you might remember, Daniel finished his Master’s degree in Connecticut, but now he’s off to complete his PhD. I couldn’t be more proud of him. We had kind of an extended, two-part move, but it definitely made for an adventurous summer!

Most people think I’m crazy for it, but I love driving. So, getting to say that I’ve driven literally coast to coast in my beloved Pontiac feels really cool. (And I mean coast to coast. I didn’t let Daniel drive a single mile just so I could claim that title for myself! Luckily, he hates driving just as much as I love it.)

Of course, it wasn’t all long hours in the car. We enjoyed a stopover in Kansas (my real home), where we caught up with friends and family. On the second half of the road trip, we made a 150-mile detour to pop up to the Grand Canyon. And let me tell you, if you haven’t seen the Grand Canyon, it’s worth the trip! I always worry about seeing monuments and famous tourist destinations in person. Sometimes, they appear more impressive on TV or in photos, but the Grand Canyon lives up to its name and then some. I’d love to go back and explore it more!

Eventually, Daniel and I made it to sunny California (113 degrees Fahrenheit driving through the desert!), then onto our new home in the Bay Area. We’ve been here for a little over two weeks now, and we already like it 100x more than New Haven. Being in a real house with plenty of nature around has improved my emotional well-being more than I can say. I grew up in the country, and I had no idea how much I needed wildlife around me until I lived in the city. As dramatic as it sounds, I feel like I can breathe again.

As you probably guessed, all this upheaval left little time for writing, reading, and the other author-related pursuits I enjoy. But now that we’re finally settled, I’m ready to dive back into my projects. August became a month of personal productivity, so I think it’s only fair that September focus on writing again!

Before I sign off, here’s the quick recap as concerns my annual goals:

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – a little behind from the move!
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3)

One of my goals for August was to decide on my next writing project, and my goal for September will be to make some serious progress. First, I’ll keep plugging away on the free Desertera short story for my Reader List. Second, I began planning my next series in August, and I hope to have a complete outline (maybe even a first draft started) on my first book in this series. Don’t worry — I’ll still have Desertera #4 out next year!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog once per week – getting back on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

Most of my business goals are ongoing, so I don’t have any new ones to cross off this month. However, I’m happy to report that I’m almost caught up with reading books written by my author friends. As always, you all haven’t disappointed!

Books Read:
Friend or Foe: A MenoPausal Superhero Short Story Collection by Samantha Bryant
Face the Change (Menopausal Superheroes #3) by Samantha Bryant
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (audiobook)
Fall of the Titan (The Desolate Empire #5) by Christina Ochs

Book in Progress:
A Time to Die (The Legend of Carter Gabel #3) by Jonas Lee
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – still going great
Break a bad habit – doing well
Visit a new state – several during our whole road trip!
Recoup savings post-Yale – such a relief!

I’m down to three personal goals for the year, all of which are continuous. Focusing on a positive outlook has been going well (I’m even adding meditation to my routine to help!), and I’ve been avoiding my bad habit. Exercise, though, remains my Achilles heel. The good news is that I have a free spousal membership to the university gym … so my excuses have dwindled to almost none!

Goals for September
Write Desertera short story for my Reader List
Outline the first novel of my new dark fantasy series
Establish a new author routine for my new surroundings


What successes do you have to report from August? What do you look forward to in September? Any tips for me on establishing a new writing routine in a new home? Leave it all in the comments!

The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) is Out Now!

The Tyrant's Heir“Launch days” like today always feel a bit weird to me. On the surface, today is just another normal Tuesday. I’m still sitting at my desk, writing product copy about wine (that’s the day job), and answering emails from coworkers.

Yet, today is anything but a normal Tuesday. The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) has landed in Kindles and reading devices around the world. Reviews have started to roll in on Goodreads. Invisible tendons connect you and me and readers from at least three continents.

Today also brings a feeling of completion. I’ve put the book out into the world. It belongs to you now, as much as it does me. Which means it’s time for me to hang up Lionel’s top hat and get to work on another project … but more on that later.

Pick up your copy of The Tyrant’s Heir TODay:

Order the ebook ($2.99 USD) or paperback ($12.95 USD) from your favorite online retailer: http://www.books2read.com/the-tyrants-heir

Reserve a SIGNED paperback directly from me (via PayPal, $12.95 USD + s/h): https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=P4UWDNF93HRYE

Please note on the signed paperbacks:
1) I DO ship internationally — email me for your custom shipping rate
2) Please expect a 2-3 week shipping delay. I’m currently waiting on the books to arrive so I can sign them!

GET SOCIAL WITH ME

Add The Tyrant’s Heir on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35702226-the-tyrant-s-heir

Watch me unbox the first ever copy on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/AuthorKateMColby/videos

Bring a friend into the fold

If you know someone who would love the Desertera series (or are behind yourself), now is the time to catch up! To celebrate the release of The Tyrant’s Heir, the first two ebooks are on sale until August 15.

Buy The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) for JUST $0.99 (USD)

Buy The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2) for JUST $1.99 (USD)

And that’s all she wrote

For now, anyway! Thank you to everyone who has purchased the books, shared on social media, and left a review. Your support means the world to me and allows me to live out my dream. I couldn’t — and wouldn’t want to — do this without you.

Month-End Update: July 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 WinnerJuly marked the first month with my revised goals and author vision. As you might remember from my June month-end update, I took 2017’s halfway mark to reevaluate my New Year’s resolutions, as well as consider who I am as an author and what I want for my independent publishing business.

These changes, combined with the fact that July was a book launch preparation month, have helped me focus on what’s really important. As silly as it might sound (and as invisible as it might be from the outside), I feel a new sense of purpose and maturity with my business.

However, now that The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) is all-but ready for publication, I’m also feeling a little lost. Yes, I have a massive to-do list to tackle (as always!), but I’m also standing at a proverbial crossroads. Should I finally start the new series I’ve been daydreaming about for months? Should I dive right back into Desertera and begin the fourth book? Should I take a creative break and focus on marketing for a while?

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I know I’ll have fun figuring it out! For now, let’s take a look back at July – aka Camp NaNoWrimo #2.

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – doing really well
Edit The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) – done!
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) – on track

Technically, I won Camp NaNoWriMo by completing over 31 hours of “author work.” While I wanted to split my time between finalizing The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) and creating a Desertera short story for my Reader List, I ended up working solely on the book launch. But, it’s all good news. Readers will get the third book on August 8, and my Reader List subscribers will receive their bonus short story in a month or so. Everyone wins!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog once per week – on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

The “business” side took a backseat to publishing this past month. However, since I wasn’t working on my own writing, I took time to read a few books written by my author friends, and I hope to read more this month. Another big August goal? Officially deciding on my next writing project!

Books Read:
Deceived by Heena Rathore P.
The Gate Guardian’s Daughter by K.T. Munson
A Bhikku’s Tale by David R. Jordan
Cemetery Shift (Cheston Chronicles #1) by Nina del Arce

Book in Progress:
Friend or Foe: A MenoPausal Superhero Short Story Collection by Samantha Bryant
Face the Change (Menopausal Superheroes #3) by Samantha Bryant
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – doing a little better
Break a bad habit – on track
Recoup savings post-Yale – I’d say we’re nearly there!

As you might remember, I’m (kind of) in the middle of a cross-country move, and Daniel (the hubby) is adjusting to his new Ph.D. program. Despite these rather drastic changes, my personal goals remain strong. If the last few years of moving and post-university”adulting” have taught me anything, it’s to take life as it comes and appreciate the present moment. Now, if only I could be as wise about exercising …

Goals for August
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3)
Write Desertera short story for my Reader List
Decide on and begin my next book project


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? What are your goals for August? Share in the comments!