A misstep is not a failure

So as a new year’s resolution I set myself the goal of writing a thousand words every day. I actually started a little before New Year and hit my goal every day right up until the 14th whereupon I just…didn’t.


It wasn’t even a particularly bad day.

I just reached a point in the evening where I needed to go to bed and I hadn’t written anything. This wasn’t even a near miss. If I followed the pattern of every other writing resolution I’ve ever made this would be where one day would turn into a week, and then a month. Self-loathing would have kicked in on missed day three and by the end of that month I’d be ready to drown my sorrows in ice cream and salted fries (goodbye weight loss resolution, I barely knew ye).

And yet this year I woke up on the 15th, churned out 1800 words and felt pretty good about that. It’s still early days of course but I haven’t missed a day since. In fact since the first of January I’ve written a little under 30,000 words. That’s something of a record for me in terms of output and it’s definitely a record in terms of not chucking in the towel when things go wrong.

I have no concrete reason why this year has been different. I wish I could say it was a profound realization that drove me to force myself to keep going, but the realization didn’t turn up until this morning when I suddenly realized that against all probability (and historical record) I hadn’t quit. I think the reason is this: just because I made a mistake doesn’t mean all is lost. I’m a little disappointed I can’t put another X on my Star Wars calendar but it’s hardly anything terrible.

The same reasoning spilled over into the other goal I set for 2017, which is getting 100 rejections by the time the year is up. I got a rejection that was the most formy (I maintain that’s a word despite what my spellchecker and the dictionary tells me) of form letters. I should have been okay with it, after all another notch on the goal post, but for some reason I took that one hard. Yet, despite using up more than my allotted 32 seconds of sulking, the idea that it was merely a misstep and not a failure came back to pull me out of my bad mood. If the manuscript I’m sending out never sells, again, it’s a misstep and not a failure (although it’s a misstep I’d better learn from).

Failure only kicks in properly when I stop trying.

I think this is a good attitude to have to writing, because the road to success is littered with deep pits, rabid bears and bitter opportunists and I’m yet to meet any author who hit it big after rattling off their first manuscript in six weeks (I’m sure they’re out there, I’ve just never met one). There’s a saying in jiu jitsu that a black belt is a white belt that didn’t quit, and I think that’s probably true of writing too.

Like jiu jitsu it comes with a caveat: A black belt is a white belt who didn’t quit, trained regularly, improved on their mistakes, was a bit lucky (not to get permanently injured) and worked really hard. So a professional author is someone who worked hard, learned from their mistakes, was a bit lucky (to find the right market/agent/editor at the right time), sought to get better with everything they wrote and still didn’t quit.

Now I just have to remember all that the next I feel like packing a sad.

Writer ice cream.

I’m not saying there won’t be ice cream though, because ic cream.

Things I found on the internet

I’ve been writing again.

That feels more like a confession than it should.

Still, this new found enthusiasm for bashing out a YA novel with my face (that’s how everyone else write, right?) has left me with precious little time to waste on the internet. That hasn’t stopped me wasting time on the internet mind you, it’s just been at a higher personal cost.

Did you know after three days without sleep you start seeing things that aren’t there?

I did find some good stuff though…

Sarah Gailey write a thoughtful, interesting piece on PTSD and Harry Potter. It also has cute animal pictures. 

This amazing cover of Bad Moon Rising by Mourning Ritual.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION: I wrote an article on the ELEW about knives and knife fighting for writers.

This is creepy as all get out, especially if you fear either dolls or black and white photography.


I now return to writing about my protagonist and her sweary, alcoholic, ex-spy, octogenarian badass of a grandmother.


Best villain ever?

I’m going to come out and say it, I think it’s A New Hope/Empire Strikes Back era Darth Vader.

*deep breathing*

*deep breathing*

I know, I’m a writer, I should have picked someone from a book, but Vader is the one who comes to mind when I think of ultimate villain. I specifically mention the first two movies in the original Star Wars trilogy because Vader is still a mystery at this point. He’s as much a force of nature as he is a person; a black cloak and skull mask that brought the darkness with him.

I first saw Star Wars when I was four or five years old, and unsurprisingly Darth Vader scared the ever loving wee out of me. I had dreams where he’d step through my chattered bedroom door, wreathed in smoke, coal red lightsaber in hand.

On the other hand when I got the chance to have my own cheap plastic lightsaber I grabbed the red one straight away.

Perhaps my parents should have looked into that.

When I force myself to look at the book villains I’ve loved things start to get trickier. Voldemort is a great villain, but on the face of it he’s not really all that smart. I love all things Cthulhu and Lovecraft’s Old Ones and Outer Gods are certainly terrible, but they’re terrible because they’re beyond good and evil. Humans aren’t even ants to beings like that, and in some ways that excludes them from being proper villains.

When it comes right down to it, I think it’s a character named Carcer from a book called Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, because I’m almost 100% sure I’ve met him.

Not the actual character, but the type. A friendly smiling chap until, as Pratchett said:

You realized that people like Carcer were not mad. They were incredibly sane. They were simply men without a shield. They'd looked at the world and realized that all the rules didn't have to apply to them, not if they didn't want them to. They weren't fooled by all the little stories. They shook hands with the beast.

Carcer is the charming sociopath, the man with the extra knives. He’s not a super smart Hannibal Lecter type, but he is charming right up until the knife sinks into you…and sometimes even after that. Carcer is exaggerated for fiction, but I’ve met a few people like that and Carcer’s plausibility, the idea that I ran into him while I was working nightclub security or even just passed him in the street is as much of what makes him scary as anything he does to anyone.


So, how about you? Who is your favorite villain ever?