Tag: social media

Success as an author?Success as an author?

Depends what you mean by “success”

One of my writing groups (the one that isn’t a critique circle) has set a blog-post prompt of “How do you measure success as an author?”
We’re supposed to introspect, come up with wise words to inspire and console others. I don’t know about y’all, but the past two years have been a low-rising roller coaster, beginning with a brief burst of elation that my first book (my “debut” if you want to get precious about it) was coming out.

WIte, red, and blue award ribbons from a fair

Only then we had a little bit of a pandemic to deal with.

And now it’s two years later.

All That Was Asked has never had a book-launch party (it slightly predates online launch parties), a signing session, a reading at a convention—none of those things. Not uncoincidentally, it hasn’t made much dough for me or for my publisher. At least the print copies are mostly print-on-demand, so no one’s staring at a warehouse full of unsold copies and calling a shredding company.

But is selling a ton of books a success? To stay sane in this business, I think you have to measure success more on the basis of what you are doing than what you have done. If you’re making oodles of money in the publishing industry, that’s mostly a matter of luck, so is that success? I’d call it good fortune. It’s very much a lottery. I’ve read absolutely stunning work in critique circles, listened to mind-blowing readings by little-known writers, and I’ve even had people tell me after a reading “wow, that was awesome!”

What makes sense is to measure how this work—writing—impacts your life. Is this what you live for? Not in a rosy-eyed, dreamy way, not “I luv writing <3” but “writing is what drags me out of everything else” and “writing is my food, drink, and sleep” and “writing is how I exist in this universe.”

What I’m doing right now is working on projects that I’ve wanted to tackle for years—no, decades—but never could due to the vicissitudes of child-rearing, day-job workload, personal upheavals, and disability.  I’m not whining. These are just facts. I chose to raise kids, and it was satisfying work (and, yes, frustrating, too, but in all the right ways). However, doing the best job possible involved more than dropping them off at our barely-adequate schools. It meant advocating for them, fighting an uncaring administrative system, volunteering, fundraising, and, as a last-resort, homeschooling. At least in the pandemic age, there are more parents out there who understand that homeschooling—at least not ideally—isn’t a romp in the garden, it’s serious work. And, like most of us, for me that was work that had to take place in parallel with earning a living.

So right now, I’m successful. Every morning (afternoon?) I wake up, and there’s writing to do.

  • This kind of writing, which is off-the-cuff, barely edited, and hurled into the interweb’s event horizon, never to be seen by human eyes.
  • Critical writing, where I’m critiquing work by fellow writers, trying to help them make their stories the best they can be. 
  • Social-media writing—mostly Twitter—where I practice being concise, kind, and thoughtful.
  • And, finally, yes, writing my own stories, the ones I’ve been wanting to read.

What I’ve been looking for—and yes, I’ve found some, but far too few—are stories led by characters who have trouble communicating, who don’t fit in, who think differently than others but find a way through life anyhow. I’m tired of hero’s-journey stories and chosen-one tales that take themselves too seriously. I don’t mind playing with the tropes. For instance, one of my WIPs has a seeming “chosen one” in it, but the whole thing is a crock, a scheme worked up by a person who’s trying to change society and is using an old myth to get buy-in. Not that the “chosen” person isn’t worthy, but there’s no magic in the process—they’re carefully selected for capability and then trained for the job.

I’m not writing to market. I admit that. So I can’t complain about sales, not too much. It may take time for people like me to find the stories I’m writing for them. That’s OK. I waited a long time. A little longer—I can deal.

Well, I’m trying to, anyhow.

In the meantime, I’m keeping on. For me, that writers learned to use remote meetings to connect for critiques, discuss craft, conduct conventions, and more has been a compensatory gain during the pandemic. It’s not a benefit of this horrible time; it’s a thing we could should have been doing all along, and only just now learned to value. When the pandemic’s over, we’ll keep connected this way. That’s a good thing, but we don’t get to pretend it’s all right that millions of people died while those of us privileged to live were fumbling our way to this belated discovery.

I’ve leveraged that new learning, because I’m an engineer and tech things come naturally to me. I’ve let myself get roped into volunteering to help others less comfortable with the technology—and that’s OK, because participating with other writers helps me connect more deeply with my writing community.  I value the friendships I’ve formed with people I’ve only met in Zoom rooms. This is not a trivial feeling—I dedicated my Monday afternoons for half this past year to help a Zoom friend whose critique circle had lost their only zoom-capable member. That meant stepping aside from one of my other critique circles, one that needed me less. I’m returning to my prior group as of this month, because my friend’s old zoom-host has returned. I’ll miss the new friends I made in her circle, even though we only ever saw each other in little boxes on our computer screens.

Am I a failure because I had to defer my writing career? Looking back through my drawer of shelved and partly-done stories, one thing is strikingly clear—I was so young, so ignorant, so clueless. Much of what I’m writing now, I couldn’t have done when I was younger. In technique, I’m much better than my younger self; some of that gain I can attribute to years of writing science and engineering reports and papers, working collaboratively with colleagues on phrasing, structure, and word choice … plus coping with deadlines. Beyond the technique, older me is able to imagine more-complex characters, see worlds with more-different people in them. Through personal experience, I know most lives—most real stories—don’t have a “call to adventure” or a “supreme ordeal.” There’s no wise mentor waiting to guide us. We have to muddle through, try to survive in an irrational universe, and deal with the fact we’ll never quite make sense of it all.

Sure, I’m still learning. You have to keep learning. It’s the key to growth in every respect. Even there, though, I’m doing better, working actively to learn more of what I need to continue improving.

In my next posting, I’ll demonstrate my success by sharing a list of what I consider to be my 2021 accomplishments not only as a writer but also as a member of the writing community.

I’ll warn you right now: it’s a longer post.

Learning to ThreadLearning to Thread

A screen grab from a twitter posting:  text is within blog post.

For my New Year’s Day new learning, I worked out how to create a thread (properly) in Twitter, in order to post my very first awards eligibility thread.

I know, I know, none of these are going to win any awards, though one has already been nominated (by the editor of the anthology) for a majorly major award. Nominations count; just being nominated is a huge, huge thrill.

But not everyone likes to hang out on social media. Facebook is broken. Twitter has deep wells of toxicity, Instagram is all about being pretty (and owned by Facebook), and Tik-Tok is … out of my league.

So in this blog post, I’ll try to recreate the Twitter post. I have two 2021 stories that are Hugos-eligible (the science-fiction ones). What awards do you know about that you’re eligible to nominate for? You might be surprised!

Let’s jump ahead now, and make this Not About Me. It’s readers who nominate for Hugos, and readers don’t care if the author is famous, made a bucket of money, or only managed to sell one story. Sure, the list of finalists is short, but consider–what did you read last year? What moved you? If you’re a 2021 or 2022 WorldCon member, you can nominate the things you liked. You can nominate up to five things in EVERY category. They don’t have to be the movies, stories, novels, or magazines that your friends liked, that your social-media leaders went on and on about. You can voice your own preferences.

So, pitch made. GO forth, write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, nominate all your favorites for awards, and then enjoy all the new (and not-so-new) stories out there in 2022.

Here, then, is my Twitter thread. Do ya love or hate my cartoony profile pic? I’ll only put it in for the opening tweet; otherwise, it gets annoying in blog format.

Cartoon image of woman with reddish hair in silly ponytails and grees streaks in the hair. She's holding a teacup and wearing glasses.

The official awards-eligibility thread. In 2021, I had three short stories published:

1. a #scifi story about stolen land

2. a light #scifi #romance featuring a favorite 20th-century artist

3. an upbeat piece of literary fiction grown from #autism, #depression, and #optimism.

2/7 “Heart’s Delight,” anthologized in Fault Zone: Reverse, edited by @LaurelAnneHill and published by Sand Hill Review Press. An intelligent ecosystem repels those whose ancestors took the land unjustly, returning custody to its true caretakers. #SFF

3/7 For the record, I live on Tamien Nation Territory, bordering Popeloutchum (Amah Mutsun) land, connected to the territory of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area. These people are all, right now, working to protect this land, e.g.: http://amahmutsun.org/history

4/7 “Parrish Blue,” published by Water Dragon Publishing (Dragon Gems short fiction). In an elite restaurant on a climate-ravaged Earth, under the glow of a recreated artwork, a young woman rediscovers a dream of life immersed in wonder—and finds one who shares that dream. #SFF

5/7 I’m dropping in an image of the piece of art these two fall in love under (Romance, by Maxfield Parrish). Just because.

A fairy-tale castle stands on a hill, with peaks risin gin the distance, and people in old-time fantasy clothes gazing on the scene from a collonade
(Note: on Twitter, alt-text includes artist attribution: this is a photograph of a public-domain artwork. The photograph came from Plum Leaves at Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/eoskins/5841870848).

6/7 “Reunion,” anthologized in Fault Zone: Reverse, edited by @LaurelAnneHill and published by Sand Hill Review Press. Two young people, separated in childhood by separate traumatic events, renew a friendship forged through shared suffering.

8/7 These are all findable via my linktree.

Glowy orange sunset clouds float over  a cluster of treetops at lower left. With text linktr.ee @Vanessa_MacLarenWray | Linktree. Character-drive literary speculative fiction. Science-y stuff. Cats. Ponies.

7/7 If this story resonates for you, consider further research at https://autisticadvocacy.org or connect with mental-health resources in your community. Also, remember to reconnect with friends in 2022.

Image of text screen: Rainbow-colored octagonal logo. ASAN Autistic Self Advocacy Network. autisticadvocacy.org. Home. Nothing About Us Without Us

It’s surprising hard to recreate a Twitter posting in a blog! Go follow me on Twitter, OK?