Consistency (or, Why My Writing Output Isn’t What My Internal Guiltmonkey Says It Should Be)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my writing career, and by career, I mean the one novel and one novella I’ve managed to publish with some degree of professionalism. I’m a fast writer. Why is this all there is? It’s not for lack of material. I’ve got roughly a dozen novels and half as many novellas in various planning stages.

For a long time, I could blame the Black Dog of clinical depression. I’ve had a lot of stops and starts over the years, and countless missed opportunities in both fiction and nonfiction. And in most cases, a combination of abnormally low serotonin in my brain along with cynical, self-defeating thought patterns kept me from making any significant progress. As I’ve said before, clinical depression isn’t being sad. It’s an overwhelming fatigue and sense of helplessness/hopelessness that makes actually doing anything insurmountable.

But I beat depression and put it behind me for good last year. With meds and cognitive therapy to change my thought patterns, I’m cured. I simply don’t let myself sink back into that mire. And yet, my writing output (in fiction, anyway; I’m doing pretty well with this twice-a-week blogging thing) could still only charitably be called “occasional irregularity.”

I want to tell these stories. They still excite and entertain me. So what will it take to produce consistently rather than fits and starts?

I’m tempted to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel to Revelation, Crusade. For several reasons:

  1. To see how much demand for the further adventures of Daniel Cho there really is.
  2. To give me a financial incentive to write Crusade rather than something else.
  3. To guilt the hell out of me when I slack off and don’t work on Crusade.

I think the reason I haven’t done it yet is that I’m afraid of the answer to question one. Revelation still only has nine reviews on Amazon. I managed to give away 776 copies in my one-day free promotion earlier this month, but I wonder how many of those downloaders will actually read it. I’ve got dozens of books in my Kindle library I snagged because they were free (or even cheap) that I haven’t even opened, much less read all the way through.

And even that is just a dodge. Because consistency has to come from me, from inside. The nice thing about ebooks is that there are no hard word count boundaries like there are in print, where a book has to fit on the shelf with all the other books. So it really doesn’t matter if an ebook is 50,000 words or 500,000 words, rather than the “standard” 80,000-100,000 for a novel. Because of that, I don’t really pay much attention to word count anymore when I’m writing. Instead, I focus on butt-in-chair time. Completion percentage on a project is directly related to how much time I’ve actually spent writing. Not thinking, not planning, not noodling over cover ideas, but writing. And that’s something I’ve done precious little of recently, at least in fiction.

I know what I have to do. I have to find a way to build a butt-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard habit. I have to put in the hours, even if it would be easier to browse through my reading queue. Consistency is a matter of will. I either want it, or I don’t.

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