Should I carry on, or start again?

I’ve been suffering from a certain paralysis when it comes to writing this year.

I’d hesitate to call it writer’s block, as I’ve not actually stopped writing but I’ve certainly been having trouble getting any specific project done. I’ve been swapping about from one to the other of my works in progress (there are currently 8 or 9). I’ve done a few thousand words on one, then left it for another. I’ve not been able to settle to finishing any one of them.  

I think I’ve found the reason, it’s all to do with enthusiasm, not just mine but also my readers. It has made me wonder if the effort and angst I put into writing sequels is really worth the bother?

It’s not as if there is a huge clamour for them, there are no emails demanding that I tell the next part of the story, or explain how things went after the end of the last one. Despite my leaving the possibilities open.

In fact, of all my series (there are four, in case you hadn’t noticed), there is only one that seems to generate enough interest to warrant my further attention. I’m talking about my Andorra Pett adventures, in case you wondered. I’m quite happy to write more of her exploits as they consistently sell. Not only that, there will be a spin-off from Andorra Pett’s series, coming soon. Watch this space for details.

Andorra Pett flows, yet with the others, the series featuring Dave Travise, The Balcom Dynasty or Horis Strongman’s Steampunk adventures, I sit in front of an empty page, willing the story to continue. The same is true to the sequels to Life and Other Dreams, Survive, The Hitman and The Sensaurum. I can see where the stories will go but have no motivation to put it on paper.

If people can’t be bothered to read book one and comment about it, what’s the point in torturing myself over completing book two?

Wouldn’t it be better if I concentrated on the new projects that I have, because there are as many of them as I can cope with?

And wait until enough people actually ask me for a sequel before agonising over writing it.

All of which means I’ve made a decision. I will carry on with new work, first will be My Sister Alex, followed by a new idea I’ve had for a time travel caper, which at the moment is called The Crime of the (Last) Century.

As a sort of weird coda, just after I wrote this, I had a review for one of my Steampunk adventures, The Sensaurum and the Lexis. This is one of the novels that I have been struggling to write the sequel for.

As you can see, someone has just done what I’ve been complaining that they don’t. Getting this must have given me a bit of a push towards writing it as I added several hundred words to it yesterday.

Doesn’t life work in strange ways?

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I’d love to get your comments, please leave them below. While you’re here, why not take a look around? There are some freebies and lots more content, about me, my writing and everything else that I do. You can join my newsletter for a free novella and more news by clicking this link.


8 Responses

  1. Darlene Foster

    It has been a funny year too, Richard. I also have had trouble pushing on. Maybe I need something new to work on as well. Congrats on the great review. It is just what we need. As long as your characters still have something to say, I would keep writing. I love the idea of the time travel book.

    • Richard Dee

      Watch this space, it’s yet another one for the list. I was hoping to catch up in lockdown. It seems that I’ve just slipped further behind.

  2. Colleen A Parkinson

    Richard, I have had the same problem since the latter half of 2020. It is very discouraging when we pour our hearts and countless years into our work only to see little response from readers. Add to this the fact that so many people have been upended financially due to the Covid-19 crisis, that they hesitate to spend even three pounds for something considered unnecessary, like an ebook. Try not to be concerned about this creative dry spell you’re experiencing. I believe we sometimes need to rest our creative “muscles” in order to produce stronger work later. This is just a temporary lull, an interim best spent exploring new projects or pursuits, or doing nothing at all.

    • Richard Dee

      I think you’re right, it will do no good to try and force words to come. Better to let them develop.

  3. Chris L Adams

    Richard, first, I commend you for your admission of a condition all authors eventually face but which not all will admit to. The creativity just ‘seems’ tapped out at some point and that blank screen stares at you with a smirk. I prefer it when I can’t type fast enough to keep up with the flow of ideas.

    My advice would be to take a break from the writing for a bit and focus on something else, like your cooking, or boning up on some photoshop trickery which you told me you enjoy, or some woodwork. Do some reading, read old favs or watch a tv series you like. I’m currently listening to the original Tarzan novels by Burroughs on my commute and absolutely enjoying these again after having read them in my youth. In short, take in all sorts of inspiration—but don’t try to immediately turn it into cognitive output. Just let it simmer in that pot like a stew that you know will taste better if you let it alone for later. Be thinking about the rolls that will be good with it.

    On the point about feedback, I completely understand how you feel. Even if I get sales, or downloads of what few stories I have made available for free, the feedback is rare. I’ve only been self-publishing since 2016, so not as long as some of you, but I remember thinking, “Dooby Do! These’ll sell like hotcakes, and the good reviews and feedback will roll in like the high tide and I’ll lap it up like honey off my finger.” Boy, was I in for a — fairly gradual — awakening.

    For, as time wore on, none of that happened. Or rather, I got a sale here or there, sure, and I got a review or two, also (a few bad ones!). It just didn’t happen as quickly as I had imagined. There was no gush of sales and no gazillion 5-star ratings. I have had some appreciative feedback of my pulp-style tales but also ran into readers who either didn’t get it or who were much more astute readers than I was a writer. Probably a little bit of both. I know for a fact some just don’t get what I’m doing. I’m not writing modern style fare, nor do I wish to. I want my stories to read like something out of an Amazing Stories issue circa 1941.

    Now, you also touched on another topic I face–that of, do I write another new novel, or do I continue a series and develop it? I admit to at first turning out random, disconnected novels and having trouble getting sales. Once I decided to develop a couple of these stories into a series, and came out with a Vol. 2 for them, sales began picking up. Still not much on the rating/review front, tho. But, sales remain low, and I decided, based on looking at reviews that other authors get and sales that I hear of, that it is the series with several volumes that get the sales; readers are looking for a series they can nestle in and get comfy with, and then they burn thru them.

    So, with that idea in mind, I decided to focus on two of my series, and develop them, probably one volume each a year if possible, as an experiment to see if what I hope and suspect to be true actually is…ie that when these series hit 4, or 5 or 6 volumes, the sales, in turn, begin picking up as the number of available volumes makes the series more attractive to readers who want to get into it and stay in it.

    And I get that. The missus and I enjoy watching shows together in the evenings, and the shows with multiple seasons are far more attractive to us than is a single-season series, and a single-season series is often more attractive than a one-off movie. We enjoy staying with the characters for a while.

    In your case, if you are getting sales but no reviews, I shouldn’t worry about it. The important part of writing/self-publishing is to sell copies. Anything else is a laurel. Sure, those are nice. But unnecessary. Yes, they pump the ego. But, so do sales. In your shoes, I would focus on what series is doing the best. If you have one you are really interested in, get a new one out in the bread and butter department, then work on your pet idea. Get the pet idea out, then go back to the bread and butter.

    I hope this doesn’t sound too rambling. I really do empathize with all of your concerns as I face them myself. I have come up with a plan for my writing that I will stay true to for the next 2-3 years, that of developing my Prehistoric and Tomahawk series into multi-volume series, and see how that goes. If it results in disappointing sales, well, then I’ll finally admit I can’t write stories and probably hang it up and focus on my painting which really is a fun hobby I can recommend.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks for such a great reply, Chris. You’ve just about nailed how I feel. There is so much to answer there, I’ll have to get back to you properly.

  4. Lela Markham

    I’ve had trouble settling down to stories and even non-fiction articles this year. I think it’s because life has been so constrained this last year and I feel like something needs to happen outside my head.

    But I also had the problem of lack of enthusiasm with the third book in Daermad Cycle (a high fantasy). I think the first two books are the best writing I’ve ever done, but it hasn’t been a huge success, so why write the third book? I’d visit it every now and then, but mostly I was concentrating on what sold or what people wrote me about. Until an old personal friend contacted me to ask me when the third book would be out. I didn’t even know he was reading my books or that he even knew I was publishing. And now I’m actively working on Fount of Wraiths. But it’s taking time to actually get the story flowing again. I had to make a rule that I wouldn’t touch any other fiction writing for a month and that seems to be working..

    • Richard Dee

      As I said, I’ve fallen out with sequels, and since I said that, I’ve had enough good reviews to encourage me to look at them again. Of course, with the passage of time, a lot of catching up (with what has come before and already been said) is now needed.

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