Hey, Geeks. I’m glad you’re here. I know that I’ve been poking fun at other people’s creations over the last several weeks, but I want to take a break from that. Let’s dive into my favorite Geekdom: Writing.
As some of you know, my debut novel came out a year ago this month. It has been one of the most amazing, terrifying, frustrating, and most rewarding experiences of my life. And, while I cannot profess to be an expert, I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Everyone’s Process is Different. Yours is Not Wrong.
People tend to think that there are two basic types of writers in the world. Planners and Pantsers.
A “Planner” is the writer that mostly knows where the story is going from the beginning. They know the basic outline, the acts, the ending. They’ve created an amazing world in their mind, and they know how they want you to experience it.
I’ll tell you right now — I envy these types of writers. Because I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since Day One and I’m not even going to pretend I know how to hold on. I don’t even usually know what my characters are going to do until about a page after they finish doing it. And, while my writing process might take longer and require more editing in the end, I’ve decided that it’s way too much fun to stop. But it’s also exhausting because I tend to write my characters into corners I can’t get them back out of and then have to delete entire chapters to keep them around.
Do you know how many times I accidentally killed my MC without meaning to? Too many.
There are, of course, variations of these two extremes and most people don’t fall exactly into one or another. Some people know from the beginning that they want to write a dystopian sci-fi giving homage to 1984 with five acts and 2 deaths in chapter 18. Meanwhile, my debut novel started out as a dream and I said “Cool. Let’s follow that for a year.” Maybe you wish that you had more outlines when you write. Maybe you wish that you weren’t so structured and pigeonholed in your craft.
But here’s the thing — no matter where you are in your writing process, if you’re actually writing anything at all you’re still better off than 90% of people who exist and, like, 65% of the people that call themselves writers. It is so easy to compare yourself to every other writer out there. Don’t. They’re just wishing they could do what you’re doing, too.
Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Geekiness (Yes. Even for More than a Minute)
I think the most common question I get asked is “What does ‘Faoii’ mean?” When the book first came out I always gave a quick answer like “warrior” or “it’s a word I made up.” Once or twice I even gave the condescending reply of “there’s a glossary in the back.” (Yes. I hate myself for it. I’m still learning too, okay?) But I never wanted to give more than a second’s reply because it felt weird talking about me.
I’m telling you honestly — you better get over that idea of being judged right now if you want people to be interested. You wrote a book. You created something amazing. Show it.
And you know what? I love language. I love language so much that I created my own just to fit the story I wanted to tell. And I’m proud of that. I regret every time I didn’t take an extra 3 minutes to explain how much that one act changed my story and my life. English is, at its core, patriarchal. Mankind, kingdoms, fighter — a lot of our ‘strong’ words elicit images of males first and females second. So when I created a matriarchal society for my debut novel, I needed a word where people would immediately think ‘woman’ when they heard it. “Warrior” wasn’t enough. Now, I’m actually shocked at how many people within my circles have started to use my language to describe the strong women in their life. And that never would have happened if I hadn’t decided to stand up and be geeky for a little bit.
Don’t be afraid to be proud. Show your geeky side. Other geeks will listen.
Don’t Focus on the “After”
I think that one of the biggest things that keep people from writing is the absolute terror of what’s going to come after the story is finished. Querying for agents sucks. Editing sucks. Marketing sucks. Crowdfunding (the soul-crushing method of publication I’m aiming for. Again.) really sucks. And that much potential suckage in the future is paralyzing.
But you know what really sucks even more than any of that? Not even getting a chance to see what could have been because all you’ve written is “Chapter 1” on the top of your first page before scrolling through every font 4 time and calling it progress.
I didn’t write anything for over a year after The Last Faoii came out. I was so encompassed in my own self-doubt, in the fear that came with crowdfunding and marketing, in the absolute certainty that I couldn’t do it again — that I didn’t even want to try. A year of my life. Wasted. Because I was afraid of what might possibly come sometime in the future.
The day I realized I didn’t have to worry about the future — that I didn’t have to publish anything ever again if I decided the process was too toxic for my own sanity — I wrote 8,000 words. I wrote 9,000 the following day. And, for the first time in a long time, I was excited about writing again. Even to the point that now I’m willing to follow through and see what can happen in the future. Because now I have something real in my hands, again. Not just doubt and fear. And that’s all it takes for a lot of people. You just have to get past the bump.
Keep writing now. The After can come… well, after.
You’re Never Going to Please Everyone. But There Are Groups That You’ll Please More Than Others
You need a really thick skin to be a writer. And that’s terrible because basically all of the writers I know are introverted nerds that never really learned how to stand up for their own abilities. But let me tell you right now — you’re not alone. And the things that some people see as shortcomings can really be your greatest asset moving forward.
I was told by more than a dozen agents that an all-female cast without a male love interest would not be marketable to most fantasy readers. So, I went a different route and sold pre-orders in women’s groups and at Renaissance Fairs. My incredibly talented audiobook narrator contacted me because she saw a book supporting women and wanted to be part of that. When I got my first (and so far only) one-star review on Goodreads I was devastated… for, like, 3 minutes. And then I made this thing and posted it in my LGBT writing groups:
To this day, I have gotten more marketing out of this one review than any of the other 60. Thank you, Max.
Whoever you are.
You’re never going to please everyone. There are going to be so many people that tell you that you should stop, that you can’t do it, that this is a waste of time. And if you’re like me, that person is going to be you most of the time time. Ignore them. Ignore yourself. You have something worthy to offer the world and there are people out there who are going to want to read it. But you have to write it first.
I believe in you. Go create something extraordinary.
And if you’re willing to help me make a dream come true again, I need 750 pre-orders of my second book in order to reach publication. I know it’s possible, even if so many people keep saying it’s not. But it’s not the first time a writer has proven the world wrong. You can support that dream by clicking here.
Take care of yourselves. Be great.
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.