One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition as an advisor for Fantasy Book Review’s judging team. I decided to offer a spot to the authors in our group and will post them throughout the year. To see all of our content regarding the competition, check out my SPFBO page!
A.Z. Anthony is best known for his genre-warping fiction whose popularity commonly crashes global markets. Also, his humility.
More realistically, he is an author of fantasy (as A.Z. Anthony) and LitRPG (as Alex Knight). He’s currently hard at work on the sequel to Servant of Rage (due Spring 2019), the sequel to Warden: Nova Online (also due Spring 2019), and a standalone survival thriller.
Though he was raised a Jimmy Buffet-loving, scuba-diving Floridian, he currently lives in Boston. His hobbies include writing books that redefine genres, cultivating a massive ego, and destroying opponents in Rocket League.
Hey there, everyone, A.Z. Anthony here! Before I get started, I want to give a huge shout out to my legion of fans reading this! (A dozen basically rounds up to a legion, right?)
Anyway, for that small percentage of Earth’s population who doesn’t know who I am, I’m A.Z. Anthony when I’m writing fantasy, Alex Knight when I’m writing LitRPG, and no one when I’m ghostwriting. Think of me like one of the Faceless Men from Game of Thrones, except instead of switching faces, I just switch names. And I’m not really as cool. And definitely less murder-happy.
Ahem. We’ve gotten off track.
As stated in the title, I’m here to write about some of the lessons I learned this year as an author and ghostwriter. But first, a confession:
I didn’t write 1,000,000 words in 2018.
I know, I know. The title clearly says 1,000,000. In reality, I wrote about 85,000 words per month, from January through September. My final total rang in somewhere around 800,000 words. I had ghostwriting clients booked through the end of the year that would have brought me right to 1,000,000 words – but I had to stop.
So really, this should have been titled “Lessons from Writing 1,000,000 Words in 2018 Except I Fell a Bit Short and Only Hit 800,000.” But let’s be honest, that title sucks.
Put simply, I love writing. Supporting myself through it was (and still is) incredible. But there are also limits. And I don’t mean: “I don’t want to write today,” limits. I mean “I physically cannot do this anymore” limits. But this post isn’t all doom and gloom.
I want to share the lessons I’ve learned this year – the good and the bad. Hopefully they can help you as much as they’ve helped me.
Lesson One: 800,000 Words is An Insane Amount So I’m Basically A Hero
Why aren’t you people heaving me onto your shoulders and parading me through town to the sounds of fan fare and swooning women? I wrote 800,000 words, guys!
Okay, clearly I’m screwing with you. My ego isn’t that big. Yet.
The Real Lesson One: Write True To Yourself
This is a topic I’ve written about previously on the Fantasy Hive, but I think it bears repeating here. What I mean by “Write true to yourself” is that you have to be passionate about what you’re working on. You can’t fake passion.
Now, I don’t mean only work on your projects when you’re feeling inspired. That’s something different. What I mean is, after having written around six novels this year alone, I’ve learned that the quickest way to burn yourself out is by working on projects you aren’t passionate about.
Put perhaps more simply, “Write the book you want to read.” I’ve seen that quote attributed to dozens of writers and have seen even more repeat it. Another way I like to word it is: “Fun writing makes for fun reading.”
If you’re not having fun writing something, how can you expect anyone to have fun reading it? The best way to have fun while writing something is to write true to yourself – to what you’re passionate about.
Lesson Two: Hyper-focus is Hyper-effective
No, I’m not talking about Pokémon attacks (but let’s be real, hyper beam was an awesome move). I’m talking about tackling too many projects at once. At one point during this past year I was working on two manuscripts for clients, the draft of one of my own novels, a bi-monthly column for a website, and a series hosting monthly original fiction. All in all, I was working on five different stories and several columns all at the same time.
Was it manageable? Questionably. Did it all get done? Yes. Do I like asking myself questions because it sets up easy answers? Maybe.
More importantly, what I learned from this is there’s a *hard* limit on how far you can stretch yourself. There’s only so much of your awesome self to go around. I know you may want to push harder to get everything done. And if you push hard enough, everything will get done. But it won’t be the best it can be.
There is a limit to how creative we can be without resting and recharging. I found my limit and the consequences for hitting it were severe. For about three weeks straight, I hated writing. I wanted nothing to do with it.
Since then, I’ve learned that I’m most effective when focusing on a single fiction project at a time. In order to truly get into the minds of the characters, to truly understand the story, to truly live in its world, I need it in my head unchallenged. I need time to idly explore the world while in the shower or riding the train into the city. I need the world and ideas about it to percolate and simmer.
When I had to jump between multiple stories and projects at once, all of my projects suffered. Now, I only take on one project at a time. Hyper-focusing on a single story has returned me to a comfortable, creative space where I can think, and write, at my best.
Lesson Three: Don’t Settle for Anything Less Than Everything
Since I was a child, I’ve wanted to become an author. And not just the author of a book, but the author of many books who lives full-time on the proceeds. I’ve been a freelancer for a while now. A couple years back, I thought the idea of ghostwriting would be a good transition to being a full-time author.
No, don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot from ghostwriting. The most important thing I learned, however, was that it wasn’t my dream. Sure, I was writing fiction all day and earning a living off of it. I’d thought that would be close enough to my dream of being a full-time author.
And because it wasn’t, I slowly came to resent ghostwriting. It was close to my dream – adjacent, you could say – but it wasn’t my dream. This, combined with lessons one and two, combined into a vicious cycle that left me stressed and overworked.
It got so bad as to drain my passion for writing.
Now, I don’t say all this because I think everyone reading this is going to become a ghostwriter. I say it because it applies more widely than that.
When you’re chasing your dream, settle for nothing less than your dream exactly. When it comes to something so important, “close enough” is never close enough. If you want to techno-thriller, high fantasy romance novels, then write nothing less than techno-thriller, high fantasy romance novels. If you want to be a killer book reviewer who pairs each book review with astrological prophecies, well, maybe don’t do that exactly…
What I’m trying to say is chase your dream. Don’t settle for anyone else’s.
And there you have it! Lessons from Writing 1,000,000 Words in 2018 Except I Fell a Bit Short and Only Hit 800,000. I hope these were helpful!
Now can we get to the part where everyone carries me around town in my own parade?
Should you wish to contact A.Z., you must first defeat him in a Rocket League duos best-of-three or discover his true name via dark alchemy. Regrettably, he can also be reached through these less effective means:
Check out my review and get Servant of Rage by clicking on the cover below: