I’ve got the first 30,000 words of Book 4 already written, but those need to be fleshed out, and by the time I’m done with them they should actually cover the first 2/3rds of the novel. I originally set out to write a trilogy, and began to panic as ‘The End’ of Book 3 receded before me like some desert oasis mirage. The more I wrote, the more the plot unfolded, and it was only when I was about 35,000 words over the mark that I decided (with a friend’s timely advice) to cut Book 3 into two, and make it a tetralogy.
So. The first third/two thirds is done, and all I need to do now is start from the beginning, work my way through each chapter, and finish the sucker up. For somebody who’s written entire novels before in a month (Books 1 & 2 in The Human Revolt being a case in point), you would think this would be easy. That I would have Book 4 wrapped up by the end of September, edited by the end of October, and published come November 1st.
There’s a problem though.
I’m facing a bad case of writer’s block. Facing? Wallowing. Drowning, even. I’ve got no motivation. No desire. I don’t even sit at the keyboard and stare at a blank screen before getting up in disgust – more like I don’t even sit down to begin with.
At first it was just plain burn out. I’d written over 300,000 words in about three or so months at the end of 2012, and also created my Kickstarter video and project and launched it successfully. Following that massive creative phase, I was just gutted going into 2013. Scraped thin like the rind of a papaya once all the flesh is gone. That then morphed into a melancholic disappointment after I launched Book 1. Because nothing much happened. A handful of people read it, and then it stopped selling. In fact, by that point all my books had stopped selling. I was doing worse going into my third year than at any point outside my first couple of months as a self-published author. But I told myself things would change when I published Book 2, which I did around May–and again, after a few initial sales, everything petered out.
Still, I forged on. Edited Book 3, planned a big promotion for the launch, and sent it out into the world. And lo! The promotion worked! For a week the copies were flying off the shelves. And then, when the promotion ended, so did the sales. Today, about a month later, sales have stopped again.
It feels like shoving a car with no wheels through the snow. If you put your shoulder to it, you can force it forward a couple of yards, but as soon as you stop shoving, so does the car.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some truly wonderful responses from readers. People have written some heartfelt and touching emails and Facebook posts, which have felt like flashes of light in an otherwise silent and dark cave. But these are isolated, and few and far between.
Which leaves me in a strange place. My original burnout has deepened under the weight of my frustration. After a year of intense, backbreaking work, I’ve received some wonderful reviews, and that’s it. Of course I know I should finish Book 4. And publish it. And hope for the best. But at this point, I’ve got little faith that the pattern won’t repeat itself. I’ve got 8 books out there, and none of them are selling. How much difference will a 9th make?
So that’s where I’m at. Writer’s block, frustration, burnout, and disillusionment. Something’s missing. Is it the writing itself? The reviews have been mostly positive. Is it the covers? Sophie’s art is stunning, but maybe it’s not appealing to readers? Is it the back copy, or my lack of constant promotion, or…?
I don’t know. After three years of publishing, I’m at an all-time low. I know I’ve got to keep on trucking. I know I’ve got to keep on publishing, and some day soon, maybe the good luck fairy will kick me a break. But right now? It’s tough.