The Writer’s Well Episode 187: In the past 12 months, what has been your biggest challenge and what has been your biggest joy?

In this week’s official murder episode, Rachael asks J. to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 12 months.

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What’s your answer to our question? Leave one in the comments…

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43 thoughts on “The Writer’s Well Episode 187: In the past 12 months, what has been your biggest challenge and what has been your biggest joy?”

  1. Morning guys. Interesting question this morning.
    The views I express in this comment are entirely my own and in no way represent the views of J and Rachael so please direct any flak and negativity to me and not them.
    I agree with J’s low but I am more optimistic about the same topic. Yes rapid release and advertising is a route to success, but it is not the only route. In a way this is like door-to-door sales a la Willy Loman. Here is a method, anybody can do it if they learn the method, (I’m prepared for the flack here) but one does not need to be a talented writer to achieve success; one only needs to learn the method and apply it.
    This reminds me of an article I wrote on the ALLi website blog comparing today with the Pulp Fiction era. “Are We in a Pulp Fiction Reprisal?” Sep 23 2019 ALLi blog post. https://selfpublishingadvice.org/opinion-are-we-in-a-pulp-fiction-reprisal/
    Not sure if this link will work, if you are not an ALLi member.
    The point I was making is ebooks have a lot of similarities with Pulp Fiction but many great writers wrote Pulp Fiction and survived to become well known writers, whose books still sell today, because of the quality of their writing.
    So to answer your question my biggest challenge is to call myself a writer whilst I don’t rapid release and I don’t advertise (yet). My biggest joy is that I am beginning to hear some writers beginning to talk about the quality of their sentence writing as a desire.
    Great show today and if you can, check out my article to see how spookily similar the pulp fiction era was to today, and see a list of great writers who were pulp fiction authors.

    1. That link works. Great article!

      I agree with you. However, we have to acknowledge survivorship bias. Although there were many names on that list we recognize, we don’t know about the thousands who tried making a living at pulp fiction and failed.

      1. Good point about survivor bias, because we know their names and still buy their books today doesn’t mean they were great writers. It would be interesting to speculate which of today’s Indie writers might still be read in 100 years time; bearing in mind copyright remains with their heirs for 70 years after their death, potentially setting up their sons and daughters for life.

    2. My biggest challenge in the last year has been that as a full-time writer, everything depends on me. If I don’t produce, I don’t make the money, I can’t pay rent and buy food. And that weight has been INSANELY heavy this past year. I’m finally in a place where I can put structures (investments and savings and licensing existing properties) into place to reduce the weight of that mental burden, and the next year looks much lighter in this regard.

      My biggest joy: So hard for me to define. Cliche, but my kiddo is a ball of shining light and love and pulls me out of my darkness and gives me the focus to move on days where I don’t want to. In business, just the freedom I’m finally learning to take true advantage of. Working less. Working different hours. Different days. Changing direction quickly if an opportunity presents itself that sparks joy. Just picture me as the Costa Rican expat version of Braveheart.

        1. J and Crys – according to my wife and historical fiction book she read dealing with Scottish clans (the books are very similar to Outlander) – anyway, the time traveling woman describes herself as a badass and the 17th century Scottish clansman is confused and asks, “Why are you a terrible arse?”

    3. Flak – Flak – Flak 🙂
      Chris – I agree. I’ve talked to a lot of people about pulps and have noticed the similarities to today. Back then – fast writing of shorter stories and doing tons of them led to more books and popularity. And serials – that’s another form that seems to be coming back and I think it’s party because you can write them shorter and faster.

  2. My biggest challenge and my biggest joy????? I have to pick one ???? I think my greatest challenge in the last year was learning to self publish and ALL THE THINGS that went with it. When I began writing words again after a twenty year hiatus, my plan was to go the traditional route. I knew NOTHING about self-publishing. And I mean NOTHING! Thank heavens for podcasts! The more I listened the more I knew I wanted all the control. I didn’t want to get two weeks from publishing and have the publisher bail on me. Look at me assuming I would have a publishing contract right away. EGO. I was computer illiterate. I was at a first grade computer level if we want to go there. I could write in Word but didn’t know how to use track changes or anything. It was that bad. Everything has been such an overwhelming challenge. BUT! I can now explain to my daughter how to set up her website and perform different tasks. Not sayin’ I’m a genius but I think I’ve made it to a freshman level in a year. There have been a few tears of frustration shed, a few “shits and fucks” along the way, a few slamming doors. But it’s all gravy. (gluten free of course) My greatest joy has been actually holding my book in my hands and better than that, selling some and getting great reviews! It truly has been a dream since about the 5th grade. It only took until 48 to accomplish it. It was terrifying to release it to the public. Talk about imposter syndrome. It seems everywhere I look and listen the writers have a masters, a bachelors, they are a college instructors, lawyers, they were marketing managers for large firms… I have a cosmetology license and two years at a Jr. College and no associate’s. Two semesters of journalism and a two year stint at the local newspaper. But two books later I’m trucking along. Will release the third in the series in November and God willing three more next year. I too feel the push to rapid release, but I can’t find the time. There are not enough hours in the day for ALL THE THINGS! Speaking of…I need to work on some ads… and go cut some hair…

  3. Great show as always. It was so great and important to hear J being very real an honest about the business. I’d feel more pessimistic if I hadn’t just listened to Joanna’s 500th episode and the way she brought her entire strategy back to something I first heard about years ago: 1,000 true fans. I think for our low price ebook market we may be talking about more like 2,000 true fans. But if you can build that, if you can find 2,000 true fans who will spend $25 per year on your product, then you are making a living and you can ignore all the bright shineys and just focus. How to build that fanbase? – I think you told me yourself, on the Q & A: build that email database!

    My biggest challenge in the past year has been taking time from writing to try and get my financial life in order, and now trying to get past the resistance to re-engage writing after a long absence. My biggest joy has been hearing my first audiobook read by a professional!! It is mindblowing and made me smile for days.

  4. My biggest challenge is similar to J’s. In the years it’s taken me to write/edit/revise the three books in my trilogy, the rules of the indie publishing world have changed. I don’t write fast enough (nor do I want to try) to do rapid release and put out a book a month or two. Nor do I want to spend the time and energy, either in my own energy or in money energy, learning Amazon ads. I’m game for most of the other marketing strategies, though.

    My biggest joy is simply writing. I love to write. It brings me so much joy to create stories out of nothing. Even when it’s hard, when the words aren’t flowing well, it’s still a joyful process. And when I finish that scene, chapter, short story, or book, it’s the best feeling in the world. 🙂 When I’m on my death bed, I can honestly say that I did what I wanted to do when I was a kid–I became a writer.

  5. Hi all, great question

    Before I answer I wanted to say I know the problem Rachael has re choosing what to write next- all i can come up with is which book keeps flashing up the most in my mind.

    My biggest challenge in writing is the same as the rest of my life – not limiting myself but striving to find my limits.
    In writing it means NOT saying I can’t do all this social media advertising, i can’t do a school visit or a book signing because of where I live, I can’t cope with email lists, writing a blog etc…

    My biggest joy has been doing some social media stuff in the most simple way- asking others for help with marketing by sharing a book poster – and discovering people like to help- 90 % said yes and shared my poster with their friends. I can do an email list sign up, I can create reader magnets, I could zoom a school visit, I am breaking this scary marketing into do-able steps.

    WOW, I’m awesome. Thanks guys xx

  6. Man – those are tough things to say but felt good because as a new writer, I’ve felt those things but figured it was more me.
    So here’s my framing mindset 😉
    I am a very analytical person and my day job is working with computer programming and databases to solve problems. My brain will click all day on solving a problem.
    When I’m presented with the problems of publishing, most of the time I look at things as problems and how to solve them. I’ve been doing a lot of testing and experimenting. As mentioned above, I’ve looked at pulps and have released more free short stories to go with my books than the actual books. For me, it solves several problems: rapid release, looks like a bigger catalog, magnets to get people in, have stories for newsletter swaps or multi-author promos. Over the years I’ve written tons of short stories for my own stuff and for contests etc. I’ve compiled those into a full book that I will give away for free and i’m going to blast it everywhere in every way I can. Inside are stories dealing with all my series and enticements to go read the series.
    On my website, I have a prequel story to an upcoming series. I’m releasing a chapter every week or so, serially, for free on my website. Once I get the series out I’ll probably compile and edit this book and use it as the free lead magnet for that series.
    and advertising – that’s my big challenge. I again approach it as a puzzle and a challenge. Might be some narcissism also, but I’m bound to figure it out and win.
    That’s not saying everyone should. Me, I don’t want to coach authors but I’m sure glad J does that. That’s your challenge and puzzle to figure out and make it the best you can. Again J – framing. 🙂
    Does that mean either path will work or be correct in a year or five? Maybe not. But we still have the ability to change and adjust and do something related or something else entirely. I would love to play in a good party cover band. I wouldn’t mind finishing a couple board games I’ve been dabbling with or even an app or game for mobile devices. There’s still other ideas of things I would like to do. I would rather write and make that successful enough to support my family and I’ve been making the path choices I have so I can move closer to that goal.

  7. My biggest challenge hasn’t changed in the last year. It’s navigating the intellectual knowledge there are readers out there who will like the stories I write vs my inability to find those readers. Time and again this results in me questioning why I’m working so hard to craft the best story I can when I can call this draft done and hit publish.

    My biggest high cames from digging into the 2nd draft of my 3rd novel in violation of the why bother my biggest challenge keeps forcing me to address.

    Joanna Penn has helped me a lot on the publish fast issue. She admits freely how she can’t compete on that level which gives me the courage to say I’m free to pursue my writing passion my way. That I can take the time I need to build out my systems and create a niche I can live with.

    Now back to navigating the intellectual assent of that last point when the indie scene keeps telling me I need to surf the rapids on their terms.

  8. Great question!
    The biggest challenge has been the ongoing recovery of having to sever ties with my former publisher almost exactly one year ago. I’m still working through re-releasing the short stories and novels I had with them. Plus it totally threw the publishing plans, which at the time ran into 2021, into chaos.

    The biggest joy comes directly from that. Will and I took full control of our work, which was too much in the hands of someone else. The conversations he and I have had about our business and what we want to do with writing fiction and non-fiction as well as with our podcasts have been amazing. Some of that would’ve happened anyway, but the kick in the butt we had from everything that went on has, I believe, given us a strong foundation for the future in countless ways.

  9. While thinking about the answers to this, I realized my greatest challenge and my greatest joy coincided with two “firsts” of mine – and they’re all the same thing. I wrote the first series of my career in a new sub-genre (paranormal romance) this past year. Up until then, I’d written only contemporary romance at novel length. Four books in one year was extremely difficult, as was learning the ins and outs of a series. My greatest joy is the fact that I finished it on time and loved it so much, I’ve now started another series in the same sub-genre. Here’s to not being afraid of striking out on a new path when you have no idea where you’re going.

  10. A year ago I was just starting to climb out of deepest and longest depressive episode I had every experienced in my 52 years – so the worst has been missing ALL the goals in the last year I set for myself with losing 5 months of my life. The best is that in the past I would have seen it as a sign to shift gears and give up on writing completely since it was a fairly new endeavor and my main passion when the depression took me down like a freight train. This time, with a tether in Rachael’s 90 Day Revision Class, I put aside the manuscript I was working on at the time and started something new, and recently took the 90 D2Done. So joy in finding and now keeping two amazing groups of women I have as writing groups that meet on a regular basis (thank you Rachael) and a book that is almost done and SO much better than the one I put aside. Hopefully in the next 12 months I can get it out in the world. Thank you both – always an inspiration.

  11. The biggest challenge these last 12 months is coming to realization that I don’t think I want to write books. I enjoy writing short fiction. I tried to write a book and it was just a bunch of scenes and try as I might I have no idea how to fix it and have no real desire to. This is a bummer because I went thru the trouble of plotting out a series that may never happen now. But the actual thought of writing a book seems such a long a tedious task. I don’t know how you guys do it.

    My biggest joy is realizing that I love doing oral storytelling and that is where I am going to focus my writing attention and also writing short stories to get published, based on the characters in the aforementioned series that may never happen. This frees me up of the guilt I was feeling about not wanting to write books.

    1. Chachanna – just don’t get into the mindset that you only write books and your a short fiction writer. That may be true not but doesn’t mean it will be true in the future and if you block yourself off from that you may find that your skills have progressed that you could have written a book. I started with short stories and didn’t think I could get a story over 2000 words. Then I wrote a couple short stories at 5000 and 7000. Then I wanted to write a couple bookend stories for a collection of other stories – those ended up being 10,000 and 15,000. Then a series of short stories went for about 7,000 to 25,000 words in the latest one. I wrote a short book that came in at 25,000 and book 2 came in at 35,000.
      All I’m saying is don’t pigeonhole yourself one way or the other and don’t think you can’t do something. Just do what feels right and best and don’t stress about it. Stress is a killer.

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