(Almost) 20 Things I Learned in 2020

Happy holidays, all! And a special hello to new subscribers from 2020—there have been quite a few of you, and the support is really appreciated.

#1 People you talk to in your day-to-day life won’t get ebook publishing. I’ve no idea why I thought it would be different (or I do—the internet told me). In the past year, I’ve fielded questions from ‘do ebooks online have covers?’ to ‘but why don’t you publish in Croatian?’ The physical book thing is a huge stepping stone, here at home, but there are enough hip and/or young (post-Ao3, but not just us) people that we still get the occasional cheer from the squad.

Oh, and I’ll never forget the first ‘is the book really available in all these stores?’, which actually came from a friend and collaborator (hey!). The rush of right I got that moment still echoes in my mind, pushing me forward.

#2 When you work for yourself, working doesn’t really stop, not in the traditional way. At the moment, for me, it’s because I’m having so much fucking fun I can’t even focus on a single project during the course of a day. It’s most definitely going to change, whenever, in whichever direction. I’ve had publishing-related hard days this year. But, all in all, I’m living the top of my fucking little life, so far, and I’m loving it.

#3 Writing really is as fun as I remember it being from when I was a baby typist. When I wrote about postapocalyptic teenage clans roaming my childhood block, and about adventurers finding love on mysterious islands—and, I’ll admit it, Guy Gavriel Kay fanfiction I called ‘a novel’. These days, it’s redhead dieselpunk ladies and snowed-in posh retreats and—oh, shit, wait, that would actually be a spoiler. Anyway. Fun.

#4 Youtube is a good resource for writers. Being the traditional old-schooler I am (and having a genuine dislike for tech altogether), I was a little slow to realize there is content related to the writing business everywhere. 

There are always layers to learning about a business. In a simple example, layer one was, for me, discovering self-published authors and their extra awesome (and extra cheap!) books on digital distributors. (Yes, I’m late, but I had too many things to figure out in my life back in 2011/2012 to even think about publishing online. Also, I wasn’t nearly as bilingual as right now.) The current layer, in my book, would be figuring out how much money—if any—we might be able to afford to spend on our first batch of ads ever. The, uh, if any part being the focus of the story. (For my chaneel recs, see here, and add this one to it.)

#5 You can write anything you want—it just takes time. (At this point in my life, I’ve already written enough that some things are easy. Some things are still hard, and a lot of things I haven’t even begun learning, but that’s a tale for another day.) Since I’m sticking to rather safe rivers, classically plotted novels, romantic murder mysteries, simple alt!history and such, I can get things out on the page rather easily. (Yes, I’ll still whine about certain scenes and certain character tropes etc, but it’s more because I’m going out of my comfort zone and learning in the process, than from the writing itself being really ‘hard’.)

The only thing worth noting, though—like I’ve said above—is that it takes time. Yes, I could write the feudal postapocalyptic sci-fi trilogy, if I wanted, over the next few months. Or I could write the next few books and novellas in the Ranger Paraversum series. It’s all a question of time. Which, I’m slowly learning, is the real reason writers never get to write everything we want. Not lack of inspiration. Only time.

#6 Self-designed covers have a steep learning curve. I’m still gathering the courage to share what my process has been, from sometime in 2019, until my most recent foray.

#7 (And hiring a real creative is still one of the best things you can do for your writing. I still can’t share—there’s too much left to do before I’m able to!—but… whoa. Like, truly, incredibly… whoa.

#8 Marketing has to start before the book is out. Having read what I’ve read and having listened to the people I’ve listened to, I was so damn set on having at least something of a ‘backlist’ to show by the end of 2020, that I kinda sorta… skipped this part? Well. You live and you learn!

#9 Copyediting takes way more time than you’d think. If you’re a newbie to copyediting, and you’re doing it all yourself (like we still are, for science and budget reasons), schedule a lot more time than you think you might have. We’re staying on top of things, as much as anyone is in 2020, over at the centipede HQ, but… It took me three days to recover from the sleep I’d lost over our latest release, lemme tell you that.

#10 Writing for yourself is incredibly, utterly priceless. I’m having a hard time, at the moment, imagining almost anything else which could be a bigger, more-encompassing thrill. (There are things, okay, but… still.) It is, most definitely, the most fun I’ve ever let my brain have. The freedom. The fun. The sheer level of engagement you’re asking of your brain to be able to write. Right now, I’m deeply sorry I ever thought I could treat writing as a hobby. Everyone was young once.

#11 Sometimes, ‘goodbye’ truly is the best answer. Oops. How did this personal tidbit get in the middle of my ‘writing lessons from 2020’ post? Oh, well. You’ll have to take my word for it, because I’m not going into detail, here. I’m just happy to be able to leave it in the past.

#12 Partnership is so, so much more than it seems on the surface. Yes, I have been lucky. I’m still reminded, every single day, how lucky I am. It’s not a lesson. It’s a one-in-a-million thing.

#13 Tomorrow doesn’t always come.

#14 Having pets (alright, dogs) can make or break a year. I’m really not sure how I was ever able to manage before. One of my most vivid memories from this year is when we were in nationwide quarantine back in the spring, and I was able to get out and walk the dog whenever I needed. Or, more accurately, whenever he needed. This was a truly weird year.

#15 Twenty is a lot of things. Even though this was a ‘let’s take a break from asking the public budget people for money’, it ended up taking quite a good chunk out of my day.

Not bad, not bad.

Hope you have a great, safe, and writing-abundant 2021!

Photo by Jack B on Unsplash.

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