Losing faith in yourself

(This is the sixth Stumbling into Publishing post.)

It always starts well because I always start alone. Working by myself, I have the peace of mind to just focus on the work, work on the components, polish the details, and simply go where my interest takes me.

Sometimes you share with people you trust; never more than with a small group.

Sometimes you lose interest and just stop. You are working alone and so who is going to judge you for giving up?

As time goes by, the thrill you had when you first started working begins to give way to something deeper—more profound. Your desk becomes the place where you sit down, heavy with troubles and worries, and stand up, hours later, light with serenity and calm.

Your routine becomes a glass palace where your soul lives, made out of emotional transparency and honesty of work; a place as fragile as it is beautiful.

Before 2010, I had always blogged just for myself. When I first started blogging, Facebook hadn’t even reached the point of being an obnoxious idea discussed at a college canteen. If you wanted to write and share with your friends, your options were Livejournal or a blog. I picked blogs, mostly because it offered more scope for experimenting with web technology. (I’ve been making websites for what is approaching two decades. It used to be fun.)

I never had any cause to be concerned about the ‘people out there’ who came to my blogs from outside my social circle.

That changed when I decided to take blogging seriously. It was all a part of the one and the same experiment:

Learn about publishing and study it.

Do it by self-publishing.

Write for an audience on the blog.

Take the idea of having an audience seriously.

Write fiction for an audience.

Take the self-publishing process seriously.

Learn everything you can about the process.

Talk to people.

Take them seriously.

Adjust your writing to suit the audience.

Lose the love for writing.

Let a deluded community guide you away from much more important problems and to focus on the tedious and mundane.

Lose the joy in tackling a hard technical problem.

Let self-interested shills dictate the issues you focus on.

Lose the thrill of figuring out a complex issue.

Lose the love of telling a story.

Lose heart.

I documented earlier the toxic difference between blogging and other kinds of writing, where the immediacy, tight feedback loop, and brevity of the form doesn’t compromise the writing to nearly the same degree.

The problem was more fundamental than that. It was much more basic than a conflict of form and desire. I failed myself.

I got into blogging, debating with people, commenting on the format specification process, talking at conferences, and participating in the publishing community online. I began to take seriously the feedback people in the community gave me and adjusted my writing to suit. I changed my focus of what problems to look into based on the suggestions of people in publishing. I began to rely on external feedback—other people’s responses—to counteract my utter conviction that I suck at this—that I suck at everything publishing.

Because, like so many others, I think I suck.

The feedback loop didn’t counteract that conviction. It strengthened it.


  • Everything I enjoy writing tends to be less popular.
  • Conclusions I come to on my own, through reading, studying, researching, and working, are—if not ignored—immediately labeled ‘controversial’ and ‘provocative’.
  • The only really positive response I get is when I state the bloody obvious—the kind of observations everybody with common sense agrees with.

Even worse is the fact that I was (and am) monitoring the responses. I used to check Google Analytics every week. I used to monitor the response on Twitter. Even though I pretended otherwise, these things mattered to me.

Then I burned out. I didn’t lose faith in myself. I burned out when I realised that the only reason I inflicted this torment upon myself was that I never had any faith in myself to begin with.

When you’ve burnt out, lost faith in yourself, and lost respect for your audience, you begin to play at being deliberately provocative.

Part of it is a desperate attempt to get people to take something—anything—more seriously than just a yay or nay retweet. Dialling the idea up to eleven and having them reject it is better than having them ignore it completely.

Part of it is a loss of respect. While I respect the people I’ve communicated with online and in real life, I haven’t respected blog readers as a group for a very long time.

I think the only way to respect blog readers as a group is to ignore them. Write either for yourself or for a specific individual. The most interesting and rewarding blog posts are the ones that are like a letter to yourself or to a friend.

That means giving up on the idea of getting any real value out of your blog, much like the only way to enjoy social media means giving up on the idea of benefiting from it.

Your blog can either be a resource for your career, or it can be a piece of work you enjoy writing.

Social media can either further your business, or it can make your life richer.

Optimising your activity on blogs and social media is toxic. It’s a pit of venomous adders because all of the compromises and adjustments that increase the response and improve your career are also actions that poison your mind. They draw you away from yourself and into a feedback loop where your self-worth depends on what button some moron decides to press on their smartphone.

Once you’re hooked by the loop you start doing crazy things like compromise your other writing projects, self-censor, and make a truck-load of bad choices in general.

See also: ‘sellout’, ‘Judas’, ‘dishonesty’.

(Lesson one: if you’re going to sell out, do so properly and get paid. Don’t sell out for free.)

I made bad decisions:

I decided I wasn’t any good at anything I do.

I decided that anything I enjoyed didn’t have value.

I decided other people knew better than I did about what I was good at.

I no longer trusted my own taste.

I lost the will to work on projects I enjoyed.

I listened to people’s feedback, adjusted my work to suit, but I didn’t believe them and so lost the emotional connection to my work. I no longer had the bond with my work, the pact you have with your own imagination that you need to make something that interests yourself.

All that crap about how the only way to reach your readers is to be true to yourself? Probably true about book readers but patently untrue about blog readers. The manipulative, evil, and sleazy crap works online. It doesn’t just work, it works brilliantly. It gets traffic. It gets conversions. It gets leads. It gets sales. I have no idea how people do it without completely losing their souls.

The path to repair yourself is to write for yourself again:

Don’t write for the hungry horde of blog readers.

Don’t write to prove yourself or demonstrate what you can do.

Don’t write for the feedback loop.




Wander around the words and see the sights.

It takes a while. Bad habits tend to stick around—those bastards are hard to shake. But, with practice and heavy writing, they begin to fall off one by one.

Some bad habits seem to stick around forever but that’s all right. There’s always room for more improvement.

Most of the posts I’ve been publishing on my blog this January were written some time over the past couple of years. They are not new. Most of what I wrote during this period just went into a folder, to be stored and forgotten. Some of them I wrote to shake some bad habits loose. With many I failed.

In writing largely for myself over the past couple of years, I’ve built up a small pile of text files. Not all of it is suitable for you piranhas. Some of them are. Some of them won’t make sense to you. Some of them are just crap. With a lot of them I was still in the habit of stating the obvious. Some of them are clearly written in the toxic blog style I hate. Some of them I like. Others I don’t like but will post anyway. Some I genuinely enjoyed writing. Others were a torment through and through. Whatever the quality, over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a bunch of them on this blog, roughly one a weekday, until they run out.

I’m monitoring the traffic to these posts and replying to the comments. Not as a part of the old feedback loop where I used to try and figure out how to get to you people. More as a comparative experiment. Since the writing process and the monitoring of the data have been completely separated, there is relatively little risk of the feedback loop reinstating itself.

I don’t know what I’m going to do once I’ve unloaded that bucket of half-digested crap onto the blog. Maybe I’ll just continue in that vein, writing for myself and throwing an occasional one onto the site after it’s aged a bit and the stink of the first draft has been brushed off. Maybe I’ll just stop and just use the blog to let people know about what else I’m up to whenever I’m up to something interesting.

Whatever else I do I’ll keep writing. The only question is whether you will have a chance to read it or not.

I haven’t decided. Whatever I do, I’m not going to take your advice on it. Don’t tell me what you want. You don’t get a say.

Sex, violence, and stílbrot

(This is the fifth Stumbling into Publishing post.)

One flaw (out of many) that’s endemic in my writing is that I tend to introduce detail that’s either irrelevant, too early, or too late. Like describing the cut and pattern of somebody’s clothes before the cultural origin of said design becomes important or adding superfluous technical detail to a post when you only need the general idea. A lot of the time adding detail detracted and obfuscated the effect I was driving for.

This tendency of mine was exacerbated in the stories by my decision to have an objective third person narrator and not quite doing it properly.

The perspective I used in the stories was modelled after the Icelandic Sagas. All of the sagas have in common a narrator who can see almost everything that happens but cannot read minds. Or, more specifically, what is described is whatever could plausibly have been relayed by a third party witness because the sagas were pretending to be historical documents of actual events—stories about real people relayed down a couple of generations. E.g. if a murder happens in the story where there aren’t any witnesses likely to blab about it (like in Gíslasaga Súrssonar) you can’t describe the murder, nor can you say for sure who did it. When somebody dies alone you can’t describe their final moments. And clearly, you shouldn’t be able to have any scenes at all featuring a character alone unless you can be sure they told somebody about it afterwards. So, anything that can be witnessed is fair game but you can’t dip into character’s minds or be sure of their motivations.

So, it’s a saga-specific twist on the common objective third person narrator pattern.

I bent and broke this rule several times in the stories in minor ways, but in each case I figured that the character’s motives or actions would be so obvious that stylistic consistency would take care of itself. Of course, that meant the end result was closer to a quirky style of my own than intended, which was probably for the best.

A corollary of this stylistic approach is that you don’t shy away from describing what happens. If, as happens in Gíslasaga (my favourite saga), a character has to tighten his belt to keep his innards from flopping out of a belly wound, you describe that. If another character gets his head and torso split in two down to the navel, you describe that.

And that’s where my self-censorship kicked in again.

Which is a statement I know surprises a lot of those who provided feedback on the stories while I was writing them. It’s plain that if I hadn’t dialled back the violence in places some of the stories would have been intolerable to read to those who were kind enough to be beta readers.

But to assume that the problem lay in the detail of the descriptions is to mistake a symptom for the actual problem. The real issue with these stories is simply that they were much too oriented on, well, fights, which was a consequence of too faithfully following the tropes of the sword and sorcery genre. Fighting people, monsters, undead, whatever, it was all too much. Violence should be disquieting and discomfiting. Reading about violence should make you feel bad—at the very least unnerve you. And if violence takes over the story that’s because there’s too little story, not because the action is described in too much detail.

(At least, in this specific case. Different things apply to different stories and styles, I’m sure.)

I can forgive myself for that. I chose to fall into the generic sword and sorcery crap trap. Beating things into oblivion is part and parcel of that particular snake pit. It wasn’t what we call in Icelandic Stílbrot or a break in style. (Breaking style is one of bigger writing sins a writer can commit according to Icelandic literary tradition.)

Shying away from depicting sex, however, definitely was a break in style. Which embarrasses me as an Icelander because, as I said above, not committing stílbrot is one of the Icelandic literary commandments.

Thou shalt not break style.

Instead of plainly and pragmatically describing what was going on, almost every time something sex-related happened I chose to, in filmic terms, fade to black or pan away as if I were a 1950s prude trying to adhere to the Hays Code. Or, which is worse, when the story would have benefited from it, I often avoided it completely.

The stories definitely suffered because of this omission. A sex scene between Cadence and her husband in the first story would have told the reader so much about how they managed to navigate their admittedly now loveless relationship with at least some care and emotional investment. It would have given their relationship an added dimension, made them less like caricatures, and transformed their fate into a proper tragedy. They had been in love once.

A sex scene between Cutter and Parell in the fourth story would have provided a much needed contrast to the violence and highlighted how unfair Cera’s situation was.

The sex doesn’t have to be pornographic for it to work. The love life is an important dimension to a love affair or a relationship and omitting it completely flattens the relationship’s depiction.

Say you have two characters whose marriage is one of convenience. You present them as almost strangers, a certain distance in their every conversation—their coexistence nothing more than a necessary formality. But if you manage to add a sex scene between them where they engage with each other as peers—a scene that is full of compassion, tenderness, and negotiation—that changes how people see their relationship. They are clearly not in love. They may not even be friends. That still doesn’t mean they don’t share something flavoured with arousal and tender feelings.

Or, to be even more crass, you can have a couple who are loving and affectionate in all other scenes but where the sex scene is one-sided and almost brutal where one partner dominates the other, that changes how readers see their relationship in ways that you can’t with any other kind of scene.

A sex scene lets you add a series of sensations and an emotional dimension to the relationship that you couldn’t have otherwise depicted.

I gained nothing by omitting sex—prudes are never going to be reading sword and sorcery stories nor are they likely to enjoy anything I write, not even the blog posts—but by avoiding sex I diminished the stories’ capacity for emotion and sensation.

Which were two things the stories could have done with a lot more of.

Blogging has trained me to assume you’re stupid

(This is the fourth Stumbling into Publishing post.)

One of my biggest regrets with the Knights & Necromancers series is how generic it sounds.

Not just the title—if it were just the title I could have fixed that by changing it.

No, the problem is that the stories seem impossible to summarise without sounding like generic cookie-cutter sword and sorcery fiction because that was the foundation I built on. I’d like to think I made something more of it but that ‘something’ is a thing too vague to boil down and market.

After trying, again and again to summarise the series, I’m forced to come to the conclusion that the premise probably is, a little bit at the very least, a little bit uninspired.

While I can pick out individual elements that definitely aren’t generic, the whole they compose looks and feels rather generic.

Which makes sense, since I felt rather uninspired writing them. My internal censor was in full force throughout. Whenever my mind got sucked towards something weird, I dialled back towards the more normal. Whenever I got fascinated by something I found interesting but was definitely off-beat for a fantasy story, I either skipped writing it or edited it out after the fact.

Most of what I normally write I write for myself. Both fiction and non-fiction, most of it simply goes into a folder in my Dropbox, only revisited if I need to reconnect with the ideas, emotions, or reasoning I was trying to preserve. A lot of it is perpetually half-finished. Which is okay. A lot of it gets deleted once I begin to find it stupid. Which is also okay.

It’s just that one thing I learned while blogging is that you people hate the non-fiction pieces I enjoyed writing and love the ones I hated. (‘You’ in this context being the generic aggregate bio-matter of the people who visit this site.) So, paradoxically enough, if I really like something I write, chances are I will never blog it.

Seriously, the difference in the traffic the two get is usually just about an order of magnitude. (I.e. over 10x, a real order of magnitude.)

The most popular posts in my blog ‘career’? Either posts that are magnets for email-happy lunatics (i.e. facile posts that nonetheless manage to be ‘controversial’ in some way), boring pieces that outline the blatantly obvious in as simple terms as possible, or lightweight pre-digested fair (like listicles or ‘this versus that’ fight posts).

What blogging has trained me to do for public writing is to remove all subtlety, abandon any structure that requires people to read from start to end (seriously, if you lay out a problem at the start of a post and follow it with suggestions for fixing, people will call you an arsehole because they only read the start and not the suggestions), tone it down (morons will ignore logic if you call an idiot an idiot), explain everything (even the stupid super-obvious stuff that shouldn’t need explanation), and generally assume that the readers are more boring and less imaginative than a senile middle manager three days from retirement in a large bureaucratic organisation that would make the offices from Gilliam’s Brazil look like Brazil’s Semco.

Because if you—my generic aggregate blog reader bio-matter—aren’t a fucking idiot then as a collective you do a bloody fucking good impression of one.

(And a lot of you are nutters too, judging by some of the emails and comments I’ve gotten in the past. Long emails. Long long crazy crazy emails.)

Once you get sucked into the trap of thinking that your writing can be of use, the temptation to adjust the writing to be more ‘effective’ gets pretty strong. The problem is that ‘effective’ blog writing—the writing that blog readers actually read and act upon—tends to be drivel because those same readers ignore most things more substantial.

Without blogging, I would probably be unemployed today. Which is a fact that weighs heavily on my mind whenever I consider giving it up completely to preserve my sanity.

The trouble with fiction is that, in storytelling, the writer’s emotions are at least partially infectious. If I am not fully emotionally invested in the story, that comes across. It might not be something you can pinpoint and it might not even be readily apparent, but that lack—that hollowness—is there no matter how well you write.

But, you, my reader, have trained me well. My experience with blogging has trained me to tone everything down, because the web is full of touchy fucks. It has trained me to simplify everything, because otherwise you’ll misunderstand it. It has trained me to chunk everything, because otherwise you’ll ignore it. It has trained me to make everything facile, because anything with nuance will be grossly misrepresented by you. All of these lessons work well to drive up blog traffic and kill productive discussion in favour of meaningless yay or nay prattle, but they absolutely destroy fiction. All you get is faceless people tackling vague problems in a generic place.

Moreover, blogging has trained me not to publish because I am not a robot and I have to write about what I have to write. I write what I like in the ways I like and then I close the file unpublished. Because publishing it would be pointless at best and a magnet for trouble at worst.

Blog readers are the worst kind of reader in the world. They arrive eager to misunderstand and ready to be angry with you.

Fiction readers arrive generous with their time but expect a world rich and complex enough to inhabit and a cast of characters who seem real and recognisable without being too familiar.

They are two audiences in diametric opposition. Any lesson learned for dealing with one, must be unlearned for the other. Not realising this sooner was, obviously, a major mistake on my part.

(Not saying fiction readers are saints. A lot of them are dumb fucks with an axe to grind. But, compared to your average blog reader, they might as well be old J.C. himself returned to save us all from our sins.)

Afterwards, before I actually published them, I tried to reconnect with the stories, trying to find facets in them that I could emotionally invest in but without ‘weirding’ them up too much. I hoped to make the characters feel as real to you as they do to me. I don’t know if it worked.

What I do know is that if I had just followed my writing interests, followed the lines and threads that captured my attention, I would have enjoyed the writing process much more.

It probably wouldn’t have sold any better but I doubt anybody would have felt that it was generic.

What I thought I wanted versus what I really wanted

(This is the third Stumbling into Publishing post.)

The project idea was simple: write and publish a series of novella-length ebooks.

The reason was even simpler: to learn about ebooks and publishing.

I had a few requirements at the start.

  • I was only going to put together four to six stories. Not just for my sake, but also for the reader. I wanted to make sure that the reader had an end in sight.
  • I needed to pick a genre.
  • Ebook only. I have nothing against print, I’m just not curious about the ins and outs of print publishing like I am about digital.
  • My sister would be doing the covers. We had been looking for projects to work on together for a long long time. This publishing project then led to Studio Tendra and the Oz Reading Club, and will lead to more.
  • I wanted to do the whole shebang: ISBNs, formats, design, website, etc. Because that sounded like fun. (Which it was, for the most part.)

I didn’t do this to get published. I don’t have any particular desire to be published or have my writing widely distributed, but I do find the idea of an ongoing readership interesting, especially if it can pay for the work in some way.

The covers turned out great. My sister is a fantastic illustrator. The ebook files were easy but a tad overworked (e.g. there was no point in them being epub3 at the time, way ahead on the curve on that one). The website was easy (websites is what I was doing for a living at the time.) There was more paperwork, bureaucracy, and admin than I expected but nothing overwhelming.

The problems I encountered were both obvious and subtle.

One obvious problem is that I’m crap at marketing. That’s fine. I knew that going in.

The subtle side of that problem is that while I’m pretty sure most of my regular blog readers know about my fiction, they just aren’t interested in it. If I had a penny for every time somebody told me they really liked my blog but didn’t have time to read my fiction, it’d be a bigger pile of money than what I earned from selling ebooks.

Which meant that I was starting from scratch when it came to marketing these stories, I just didn’t know it at the time.

Another obvious problem was with my choice of genre and style. I picked fantasy but didn’t really bring in any of the tropes or traditions people expect from fantasy. Which made it even harder to market. Then again, marketing the stories wasn’t the real problem.

I had four choices for genre. The first was literary fiction. Which, frankly, I’m pretty sure I can’t pull off. Mostly because literary fiction is just a genre fiction with really boring rules and tropes dominated by a big pile of snotty authors. The second was crime fiction. But every other Icelander on the planet is writing crime fiction, so that ruled that out, even though I’m a fan of the genre.

Fantasy or Sword and Sorcery was the genre I chose, mostly because it was safe. It’s a big genre with a big following and plenty of room for variety. Or, so I thought. A big potential audience ought to be easy to market and sell to, right?

I think, in the end, that was a mistake. The mistake wasn’t in choosing fantasy but in choosing it as a safe option. That cut down my emotional investment in the stories right at the start. This in turn compromised my motivation and led me to vacillate during the publishing process as I tried to rediscover the emotional core of the stories and reconnect to them, which then caused the delays. If other people aren’t connecting with the stories, it’s probably because I was finding it difficult to connect with them while writing.

The genre I really wanted to do was oddball unclassifiable weird stuff that would probably qualify as SFF—as in, not scifi, not fantasy, but in the wishy-washy, hand-wavey area that both of those belong to.

At the face of it, that sounds like an even less practical choice than literary fiction. Prose scifi is a tiny niche these days (TV and cinema scifi being less tiny) and, if anything, looks like an even less inviting clique than the fantasy crowd. It’s a community full of old and middle-aged male authors saying awful and horrible things and self-important fans who castigate new writers for not fitting in with their favourite flavour of scifi (hard, space opera, near future, post-human, mundane, whatever). Most of them sound like exactly the sort of people you try to avoid when you go to the comics store.

“Oh, no. It’s a Scott Lobdell fan. Don’t make eye contact!”

(Some writers simply have very creepy fans.)

Wanting to do weird-ass stupid stories that are so hard to categorise that you’d have to just stick with SFF over either scifi or fantasy seemed like a crazy stupid idea. So, I didn’t.

There’s a lot of nice and incredibly clever people in scifi, doing incredible work. Athena Andreatis, Ann Leckie, Debora J. Ross, and Tobias Buckell being a few examples of the many good, smart, and eminently sane members of the SF community (all with good blogs as well), but as a whole the culture surrounding the genre looks worse than inhospitable. It looks outright hostile.

It was a mistake to think I would have to engage in the culture and community around the genre in any way. Fuck community. I’m crap at it, so I’m not going to do it. And, as it happens, these genres—both of them—are crap at it as well, so it all works out.

Anything oddball might well be harder to market and sell. It might not be. Anything that is different should, in theory, be easier to sell because it is easily differentiated. Different makes it identifiable. Different does limit the upside: the maximum number of sales you can make. (Too different: too small an upside.) But, remember, you start with zero sales. Alienating a bunch of non-customers doesn’t matter if it brings you your first real customer.

But, honestly, I don’t care anymore. Fuck sales. My interest is what counts. If I want to be clever, I’ll be clever and play with the thing until it won’t fit anywhere in any genre. If I want to be stupid I’ll be stupid and make something that gives me joy and visceral thrills even if other people groan at the idiocy of it. If I want to be anonymous and alone, I’ll bloody well be anonymous and alone and write in the dark.

Fuck sales.

Which brings me to…

My biggest mistake was not choosing to write the stories that fascinate me the most either emotionally or intellectually. That’s the one that came back to bite me again and again. That choice meant that the stories never quite clicked, never quite worked, never had that spark you drive for. That choice meant that the whole process was a lot less fun.

You have to care about the end result—personally, intellectually, and emotionally.

Otherwise what’s the point?

Stumbling into publishing

(This is the second Stumbling into Publishing post.)

If it looks like I have focus, that’s just because every hour, every minute, every second of every day, I feel lost.

I eye the world seeking sense and finding patterns in the same way a man on a sinking ship eyes the horizon desperately for sight of land.

I’d like to call it curiosity but it really is more than that; deeper and more obsessive. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned how to direct my fixations a little bit better, but I still sometimes fixate on a trivial subject and end up spending a weekend researching what is known about the Antarctic climate during the Paleocene for absolutely no reason whatsoever instead of doing whatever it is normal people do on weekends. (I wouldn’t know. Haven’t met a normal person in years except in passing. No idea what they actually do on weekends. Wouldn’t know where to start. I’m assuming there are social rituals involved as well as misdirected sexual anxiety. There always are.)

Still, I’m not as bad as I was ten years ago; one time I lost a couple of weeks fixating on the subject of dyspraxia for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

One tactic that has always worked well for me, to direct my focus and to work my way through by obsessions, is to write about them. It’s a way of processing. Sometimes that writing is non-fiction. Sometimes it isn’t. (The other thing, doncha know?) Sometimes that writing goes onto a blog somewhere. Mostly, over the past year, that writing hasn’t gone anywhere, just stayed in my Dropbox drafts folder.

I hope to make the reasons for that clear over the course of this series of blog posts and, by writing about it, process them, and learn.

The beginning is never where it starts. It’s in the instincts of most writers to begin where the story starts. Because you have a clear picture of the course of events—the progression of fact A to fact B all the way to fact Z—your instinct is to present everything to the reader so that they can see the beauty of the whole like you do.

But they won’t. They never will. They never see the beauty because they don’t care like you do. You see how glorious it is, the intricacies, and you feel in your bones how much it matters, because you care. You have to make them care. And that’s why you never begin where it starts. You begin where it gets interesting, where the emotions of the story are clear. You begin at the point when everything that is at stake can be taken in at a glance. They might not understand it all yet, but they can see it, like a grand emotional snapshot of the story’s landscape.

Only then, after you’ve drawn them in, after they have bought into the stakes—been touched by the emotions—only then can you show them how it all started.

And with that, everything unfolds in their mind. They see it like you do. They feel it like you do. They care like you do. The story has become a part of their world and they can’t breath without finding out, like you do, why it matters.

Back in 2009 before I had published my first blog post on baldurbjarnason.com—a year earlier—I began work on a plan to self-publish a series of novellas. I hadn’t decided what to publish; I just knew I would never publish any of the fiction I’d written before 2009. I decided I’d have to start from scratch with new stories and a new world. I’d have to figure out all of the details about how everything works in ebook publishing and production. I needed a lens, an angle that would let me approach, understand, and process what was going on in digital publishing. The project did that.

A project’s failure is found in its genesis. If it can’t be traced to a fundamental part of the project’s initial design then you can still find hints of it mixed in with the scattered and random jottings and outline that served as the first vestiges of a plan—like a haunting vision serving to onlookers and in your hindsight as foreshadowing.

All of my projects fail. Not necessarily because they are bad. Nor do they always fail to meet what I and others expect of them. Actually, they usually meet expectations.

(Have I told you that I have a reputation for pessimism?)

They fail because at the end of it, I know better. I can see all the incorrect turns, all the mistakes, all of the things that were simply wrong, even though I can’t articulate exactly why. They just are. I’ve found the patterns I’m looking for and they are irregular, broken, uneven, and so utterly human. All I can do after that is accept failure and aim to do better.

Hence this series of blog posts. They’ll be sporadic—mixed in with posts on other subjects—and it’ll probably be a long while before I feel done with the issue. I plan to go over what I learned over the last four years writing and preparing a series of novellas, self-publishing them, the mistakes I made, the emotional roadblocks I hit, the wrong turns that caused me to burn out on posting things on the web, the gaps that put me in a holding pattern, and the realisations that finally brought the sight of land on the horizon into focus.