Nothing is Written After 10pm

Writing isn’t my full time job. It isn’t really even my job. Well, it currently isn’t even a job.

But I aim to write novels. Josh and I are in the final stages of finishing our debut book, and have two more completed drafts in the edit-hopper. We have another two books in the series mapped out. Barring abject failure, friendship collapse or bodily harm, this project should continue well into the foreseeable future. Whether it will extend anything beyond a dottering hobby will be up to the market and our shameless gumption for foisting this repeatedly in your face. While it would be nice to make a living writing, for now it serves as the outlet of creativity and purpose I have craved.

At some point in my life, my wife and I decided to stop just practicing and procreate. At the time I worked for a small landscape architecture firm, fulfilling my design education by creating places and spaces, while my spouse kept us living comfortable working in a multinational high-rise. A blend of logic and personal choice led me to taking on the atypical role of stay-at-home dad. Not long after the birth of my first, Josh and I decided to make something.

All parents will understand the time and energy it takes to keep a single half-functional whelp alive. Most parents will appreciate the time and energy it takes to raise even just one human child. At a minimum you are responsible for their calorie intake, basic hygiene, and health. In one moment you are going to bed when you please, eating on your own schedule, and making daily plans with another able bodied adult. The next day you are slinging a noxious concoction of powdered nutrient into the gaping maw of a screaming animal. You’re mopping shit out of folds of flesh. You’re awakened at unholy times of the night for the basest of human needs not your own. You are no longer on you-time. Then later on you have another kid and the cycle starts anew.

I will try not to digress into the extreme joys and personal fulfillment I have encountered in parenthood. They are there much more often than the trials of fluid modulation described above. This post isn’t about the ups and downs of rearing kids. What it is about, however, is how little time I have to myself.

So when do I write?

The weekend. My wife has every other Friday off, so on odd numbered weekends I sometimes get a large portion of the day where I can escape to my favorite coffee shop and just *write.* Sunday mornings I go to said coffee shop with my daughter. She drinks a hot chocolate and either makes a friend, flips through a book, or plays nicely. She is four now and is independent enough to let me enjoy my drink and start in on some edits before her mom comes to relieve me.

Secondly, I can scribble some thoughts down during the hour of nap time. That is, if I am not so wrung out that I need those precious minutes to recoup my sanity.


After the children are abed, after I’ve showered, and after I’ve had the first non-interrupted conversation of the day with my wife… sometime around 9:30 I get to sit down, breathe a sigh of relief, and open Giterary.

Avoid working until it's too late to try anymore.

I find the evenings the most difficult time to get fuck-all done. I’m exhausted and kind of just want to watch Stranger Things or play a few rounds of TagPro. Hey Josh, how about a quick round of Nuclear Throne?

You are probably starting to understand why we started writing in 2012 and nothing is published yet.

On Decision Making

When I began writing, my sole objective was to create the kind of story I wanted to read. That meant a world with depth, history, airships, and some light fantasy elements. It meant relatable characters born my own life experience. It meant an adventure story with cruel realities and misguided expectations. I wanted it to be fun to write and fun to read. I managed to convince Josh to help me with this and for some reason he included me on what *he* wanted to write. It took some discourse over many drinks, but it quickly became *our* book.

Though the product is wildly different from our initial 2012 outline, I regret nothing when it comes to the development. Josh and I have endlessly debated and tweaked the narrative based on our own ideas for what *our* story should be. Though I find we’ve easily discovered compromise within the broad strokes, we often haggle over nomenclature and each make unreasonable demands on what should not – nay, cannot – be altered. Some debates are kicked down the road time and again, the resulting line item looming in perpetuity inside the NextJam file. Only when the shame becomes unbearable, and self-imposed deadlines lie within sight, that we force ourselves to blunder into a resolution. I hope our tens of eventual readers never come to know how much time has been spent unearthing cogent names of irrelevant landscapes.

Sometimes the topic of marketability comes up. Who is our audience? Are we marginalizing X? Are we forgetting to include Y? Who will this even appeal to? Most of these questions still hang in their air unanswered. We stare at each other in silence before shrugging to continue writing the story we want to write. It is inevitable someone will stumble upon our work and wish it was something else. We cannot either cater to, nor please them all.

At the outset I wanted to shop our book to the traditional publishers. It’s respectable, I argued. The grand institute of validation. Josh had his reservations, but gave a silent nod of reluctant assent and entertained my ambitions. And so we dipped our toe into query letter writing. The idea of distilling your work to under 200 words, without spoiling key plot points, is a task unto itself. Josh did the brunt of the work, with me chirping unhelpful, distracting critique. The fruits of that labor can be found here and all praise should be heaped upon my co-author’s dark altar of broken PSUs and hoarded coax cables. The querying field is littered with mines, intended to whittle sparse wheat from the frequent chaff put before agents and publishers. Feedback we received from the query letter writing community provided us with some key advice that pushed us towards making some important decisions trending towards self publishing.

1. Our book is too long. For first time writers, a 300k word book is unlikely to be considered by a literary agent, much less a publishing house. Getting someone to read your query letter is a chore in itself. Having an agent digest two unknown’s lengthy manuscript might be a near impossibility.
2. We would split our book. Book 1, as it was intended, was outlined and constructed as three distinct acts from the get-go. Each act still comes in around 100k words, a healthy book by itself. The editing to smooth the transitions has been comparatively minimal, thanks mostly in part to our initial construction for narrative arcs.
3. Marketability. Because we are splitting the book into smaller pieces, we can price our work more competitively. This might just be my instinct, but buying an unknown author’s $9-10, 300k word book is a risky proposition, particularly with the minimal-marketing self published approach. But three books averaged out at $3 apiece might entice readers to actually take a chance on the first volume. Once we have established a body of work, using Volume I as a loss leader into the greater series might work in our benefit.
4. There are existing champions of self publishing. While success stories like Hugh Howey and Andy Weir are encouraging, we by no means accept it as the norm. But the available data is trending in the favor of self publishing.
5. Edit. Perhaps this is low-hanging fruit, but before we shit our first book onto your Kindle, the work needs editing. And then more editing. It needs to be honed, sharpened and reforged again. If we fuck up here, we’re perpetuating the stereotype that self publishing is for amateurs.

And so we take our time. Josh and I have been working on this project for over four years now, and while we do not have a definitive date to foist this upon the cold, unfeeling world, it *will* make its way out there. We’ll stumble and make some mistakes. But we’ll already be working on the next installment, so our fervent, insatiable eight readers will not have to wait long for Volume 2.

Minimizing Potential

When I make a purchase, it usually follows a period of long reflection on the object’s highest use. I do not like committing to something without understanding what it was designed to be used for, and then maximizing its potential. Some of my logic extends from a cost-benefit analysis so that I am getting the most for my dollar, the rest comes from the depression of seeing something languish in disuse. The stroller my wife and I bought some years ago has had countless miles put on the axles, despite our initially wrangling over the purchase price versus expected use. Often my motivation for maximizing potential comes after acquiring a product, as I am now committed to making the most of it. Seeing that stroller sit in our garage inspires me to get outside and take my children somewhere. I’ve pushed it over rough surface, walked on paved trails, run with it, and towed it on a bike, using it well within the designed parameters – not just as a luxury carriage. I’ve restrained myself in other avenues, calculating that I don’t need the bigger storage device on a phone, or that I wont be shooting short films when looking for a video camera. When I use a product or tool, I dedicate myself to its highest use.

However, there are exceptions to the rule.

Giterary is one. For Josh, I imagine he often see’s me as the crass, club-handed and hind-brained user. I barge in regretful and angry to have something new and foreign foisted upon me. I mash the keys and balefully wonder what the big problem with a Google doc was. “Why can’t I just copy paste out of an unaddressed email? Google autosaves on the reg, *Josh*, if that’s your real name.” My coauthor foresaw the plethora of deficiencies that would arise from collaborative writing, and sought to rectify them all in advance of our colossal undertaking. He surveyed what was available on the market and determined he could- nay, *should,* summon a work from the primordial ooze of bytes and bits. I nodded along when Josh introduced the concept of the tool, more concerned with getting words on digital paper than his ramblings about *redundancy* and *clarity* and other bullshittery. His constant nattering about *archiving* and *backups* was only cluttering my brain space. I just wanted to get to the story about airships and skywhales.

So Josh took me along by the hand, a disinterested and apathetic co-writer with the attention span rivaling my toddler. While he simultaneously worked on our story and the very palette with which we would chisel it upon, I would make scathingly naive critiques on the nascent UI. I bumblefucked my way through his elegant baby and Josh would solve my problems with nary a nod of objection or whisper of dissent. While I would scrawl my purple utterances in mislabeled documents, Josh was already thinking ahead on how Giterary would scale with our work, creating processes and tools to head off future problems of categorization, timelines and tables. While I would happily mash word after word in the same bloated document, Josh had coded organization and structure in which we could effortlessly create. He built things I didn’t use. Things I don’t use.

But the thing is, he fixes my bullshit. He cleans up my visceral grunting and rambling world building into coherent content. I revisit old wiki-esque entries on our invented calendar or nomenclature concepts and gleefully discover that I can sort an integrated table by different parameters. Did I enter the content properly? Did I ask for that organization? No, but by the All Father Josh thought of it (or was sick of my single carriage return lists) and made it happen.

With a keystroke I can find myself with the minimal input terminal I require. I can search for that mislinked document on concepts for the pilot’s oderic weapon. Most importantly, I can see every minute change to every document we made the mistake of creating. Josh and I are writing this thing together, and he left us a record of every gods damned punctuation change. With a click I can revert to content three years old (and Josh can sigh and redact my editing privileges). He created an amazing, helpful, powerful tool.

A tool I sadly do not appreciate for it’s highest use.

You signed up for many years of this, Josh.
Josh suffers well.