One Year’s Salary in One Month – An Interview with Full-Time Author Timothy Ellis (Part 2)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

shutterstock_377173960

If you missed part one of the interview then check it out here. Otherwise, please join Timothy and me for part two of our chat as we discuss:

  • His publishing plan when he finished his first manuscript of “Hero at Large“.
  • What he would do differently if he could do it all over again.
  • How he gets out of a writing slump.
  • The one thing he does that contributes to his success as an author.
  • The major thing that gives him job satisfaction as an author.
  • One of his favorite quotes and what it means to him.

Let’s take a step back here. Can you tell us a story when things weren’t going so well for you as an author? Can you share us your worst moment as an author or when you were trying to become an author? Really bring us to that moment.

I guess my worst moment was with book one. I got a third or half way through and suddenly I couldn’t write. My migraines got a lot worse, and I spent more of the day not being able to do anything. When I sat down to write stuff was cluttered in my head, but I couldn’t get it out. Frustration factor of having a head stuffed full of ideas and not being able to type them is quite high. That to me was a really, really bad time. And I still get them every now and then. Sometimes I have days where I know what I want to say, but I can’t type it. That for me is the worst. There’s just nothing I can do about it either. I’ve just got to muddle through it as best as I can.

I think every author gets something like that. There’s something that’s going on that prevents them from writing. In fact, this is probably an opportune time to suggest something. There’s a lot of talk around about writer’s block, but what is it exactly that’s blocking them? You want to be taking medication for some condition, which is actually a fear of what your brain processes. It’s like the doctor increases the dose of the medication but then changes you to a different one. Suddenly you can’t write, but you haven’t recognized that there is a correlation between the medication that you’re taking and the fact that you stopped writing. Sometimes you need to say, “OK, what happened at the time I stopped writing?” If you changed your medication then you go back to your doctor and say, “Look, this is having a side effect that is really bad for me. Can we go back to the previous medication or can we change the dosage on this one?”

Sometimes it’s something that simple that’s stopping you from writing. It’s simply because your brain has changed, and the words aren’t flowing the way they used to. This actually happened to me. After I came back from Brazil I had not written for close to six months. After I came back I went back to my doctor, and we did our normal tests. The doctor said, “You don’t need to take as much of this now.” So I scaled back on the drugs that I was taking, and lo and behold, my brain started functioning again. Over the next month I scaled back on that drug again, and I started typing madly. I was typing like crazy. So just because you stopped writing that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cause you can go looking for. So go looking for it. It might be something completely different, but if you’re writing and suddenly you stop then something’s happened. Figure out what it was and address it. Don’t just say, “I can’t write” and get out of the habit of writing. You’ll completely lose your flow. Think about what happened immediately before you stopped writing, and do something about it.

When you stop writing then getting back into the habit can be very difficult. If you can do something about it in a short timeframe it’s a lot better than coming back to it a couple of months later because you’ve lost that habit. That habit is quite often what gets your novel written on time.

When you finished your first manuscript what did you do with it? Did you have a plan before you published?

Yeah I did. I had already published the X3 handbook and about eight to nine spiritual books so I was really familiar and comfortable with Kindle. The moment I finished editing book one it went straight on Kindle. I didn’t expect anything, but it went up. As I got the odd sale I got my first review, and it was like, “Wow, I’ve got a review!” It was a reasonable good review too.

The plan basically at that stage was the moment where I thought it was worth putting up I published. Since I was still learning the editing process at that stage I had somebody else do some editing. I was also editing and proofreading myself. I didn’t publish until I got the manuscript to a point where I thought it was readable. I actually hate reading other people’s books where there are all sorts of problems in it so I was aware of that. I made an attempt to make it as clean as possible before I put it up, and then it just went straight up. That was the plan, and it was the same with book two. The moment that book two came out of editing it went up on Kindle. That’s basically my plan these days. The book gets written, it goes into editing, and then it goes in as soon as I’m convinced I found everything that might be wrong with it. That doesn’t mean I find everything, but it goes in as soon as I get to the point where I can’t actually find anything myself. That was basically the plan from my first novel, but as I said, I had the previous experience of publishing other books so I was comfortable with the maintenance.

I already had my own set of instructions on how to publish each book. All I had to do was follow it each time. Now, of course, I don’t even need to think about it. It helps if you’ve made the decision about going all in with Amazon or going wide right from the get-go because each publishing platform has its own way of assembling the book. If you do choose to go wide then you need to have all the different things that you need to do in order to put them on each platform so that once the book is ready all you do is just follow a list of instructions to put them all up. You get them all up in one day. You get them all up at the same time; that’s the plan. It helps if you’ve got a list.

Looking back, if you could do it all over again, is there anything you’d do differently?

I started writing a long, long time ago. Actually, I was very late to the party as far as Kindle was concerned. I’m a diehard book person, and I have a bookshelf where I got all my space opera books and what have you. I’ve got every sale awards book that’s ever been put out that I can find in the shelves. I collect good series so moving to the electronic world was very, very slow to do. If I started back when Kindle first came out I would have had the confidence to start writing probably two to three years earlier. I could have done this back then. I might have still had the blocking problems, but at least I’d have actually started on the novels a lot earlier than I did. Who knows where I would be now. Instead of writing book nine I could be on my 20th or 30th novel by now.

I discovered when I started writing book one that writing space combat scenes is just as much fun as playing it on a computer game. It gave me the exact same buzz and good feelings and in some ways the frustrations of when somebody takes a potshot at you and blows your rear shield down, and suddenly you’re rear engine bay is half what you had a couple of seconds ago. Stuff like that is the same as playing. As I’ve been writing these novels I’ve been having a great deal of fun. Some of the stuff that I’ve written had me laughing my head off as I was typing it. Then as I go back and edit I laugh at it again, and it seems like what I’ve written is somebody else’s stuff. It’s just so much fun, and I could have started this earlier.

 What do you do to get out of a writing slump?

Well, the first one was a medication change that got me out. The last two times I’ve had slumps was the space between book five and book seven, which was three months, and book six was only a novella in length. That hasn’t done anywhere nearly as well. Then again between books seven and eight was another three months. It can be a week or two where I simply can’t write. A lot of the time I just go with it, and I still sit down at a point in time and try to write. I keep my habit. I keep my methods going. If I can’t write then I can’t write.

Sometimes, if I can’t write then I edit. So, I’ll go back to start reading from the beginning of the current book, and I’ll simply edit as I go. While I won’t get any words written, what is there takes on a slightly better shape. So don’t stop and keep doing something. Even though I might lose those two weeks what I’ve already written is in a lot better shape. When the book is finally finished and goes into editing that section of the book doesn’t need much work at all because it’s already been edited five or six times. Channel your energy into what you can do, and I find that I don’t need a brain to edit. I just read, and it automatically happens. I need a brain to write.

The other thing you can do is work on something else. Sometimes it takes a day or two for my characters to actually tune into what they want to do next so then I do something else. If you’ve got a spinoff series in mind or you’ve got a completely different series in mind, and you’re blocked out with what you’re currently doing, go and write a synopsis for what you can do in another series. Write all the ideas you have for doing something completely different. Get them down so that even if it’s two years before you go back to it you have it sitting there as an idea. Every series must end. So even if you’re writing a 20 novel series there’s going to be a time when you’ve written that 20th one. The next day you’re going to say, “Well, what am I going to do now?” Now, if you’re always in a period where you’ve had blocks in your writing progress you go back and start jotting all these ideas down. You got all these notes and then you got something to work from immediately. Sometimes you can go off on a tangent, and you can actually put out a 10,000-20,000 word short story that you can actually release. Then it’s another book that’s out there. I actually did that between books seven and eight.

Christmas was coming, and I’d finished book seven and started book eight, but there were bits of it that weren’t flowing for me at the time. Then I suddenly had this Christmas idea. So it was very early in December, I just released book seven, and I sat down and did a “day in the life” of one of my characters where I covered the Christmas day. Basically, my main character and his family are dispensed with all the holiday type things centuries before. So it’s one day in the life of the crew set sort of somewhere between book seven and book eight. It panned to a short story length, and I put it out there. For one of these it’s doing quite well. If you’re having trouble with the working process and something else comes in your mind then get it out and then go back. You’ll find that your characters want to get your attention. Sometimes you can’t and your characters need a day off.

So, I think you’ve already touched on this, but what’s a personal habit that contributed to your success as an author? I think for you it’s just showing up.

Well yes, it’s what I call, “the habit”. This is something I got from Steven King, he wrote a very good book called “On Writing” in which he talks about that. The first half of the book is about his personal experience and the other half is basically his advice on how to go about writing. One of the things he says is, “Establish a habit.” He might not have said it in those words but what you do is find a time of the day where you can sit at wherever it is you work. Find a place, a time, and sit down at that place and time to write every day. You try and make sure you’re not going to be interrupted even if that means locking the door and putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outside. The first couple of times you blow up at people who try to interrupt you. You shouldn’t have a phone; turn it off or leave it outside. You don’t turn on Facebook, and I tend to. I allow myself to get distracted, but I’m also a multitasker. So I do things like that without losing my thread. If I lose my thread then I turn everything off.

It’s important to establish a routine where you sit down at a certain time, and that’s when you write. Whether it’s one, two, three, or eight hours, that’s what you do. The more you can keep doing that the better you will write. Times where you’re not really feeling well or you don’t really feel like writing then the habit will put you there and then you’ll get it done. That’s why you establish the habit because the days where you don’t feel like writing are the days where you still have to write. If you let those days add to each other suddenly a month will go by, and you haven’t written a thing. Then you’re in serious trouble.

So what are you most excited about right now?

One of the things that gets me most excited is feedback coming from my fans. It’s when a fan posts a comment on either my Facebook page or my Facebook group saying that they’ve just finished reading my whole series for the fifth time. Then someone posted after that and said, “Only five? I’ve just finished my eleventh!” It’s like, “Wow!”

That is amazing!

Then you get reviews that say, “I’ve just finished all eight books completely now.” That is exactly what you want to hear as an author. That’s actually how I like reading books. I want to find a book where I pick it up and don’t put it down until I have to go to the bathroom, get something to eat or go to sleep. It’s like I don’t want to stop. You don’t with the best books. You take as quick of a break as you can and you go back to it. You don’t get up until you’ve finished it. Several of my fans have said that they’ve picked up my new book 15 minutes before they’re due to go to bed because they like to read a little bit before they go to sleep. Then they finished it at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning even though they still have to go to work. As an author that kind of thing is job satisfaction. People that are continually rereading are the ones that keep saying between each book that they’ve gone back and read the entire series. For an author, that’s job satisfaction. You know you’re doing it right when you’ve got people who are saying that.

Congratulations on that, Timothy. That is so cool!

It doesn’t come immediately, but if you’re writing the right thing, and you’re writing something that’s going on, it does definitely come. Early on I think it was about book four where somebody asked me, “Is there any chance this series will go to 10 books?” And I said, “Well, I planned it for six.” It’s like book three became three books on its own. So the first trilogy became a trilogy in five parts. I still reckon I’m at the second trilogy at book nine, and I got a third trilogy to go. I think it’s going to be a trilogy. The last section might be two books, it might be three, or it might be four; I don’t know yet. I’ll know when I get there. But, it’s like the guy was absolutely wrapped with the fact that the series won’t go to 10 books. At the moment possibly, it might go to 14. Then it ends. The ending is probably one of the last things that is fixed in stone, and that’s stuck in my head. If my fans want another series then it can go on. It’ll just go on as a different series, and it’ll have a completely different thing.

The plot I originally came up with had an ending point, and all series must have an ending point because people will lose focus if they can’t see the end. Especially once you get up around eight or nine books. If they can’t see there’s going to be an ending a lot of people will give up, but it depends on the book style. In mine it’s like a serial in novel form. The books just keep going and adding onto each other. If you’re writing standalone books using the same characters where there’s just basic things going between them then the plots are all going to be in one book. Like “The Jack Reacher Series“, you can literally write as many of those as you want, and people will keep reading. The thing that I’ve heard from a lot of people who are reading is that somewhere around 13 to 14 books is where they start to glaze over because authors tend to repeat things without knowing it. Your fans will know that you repeated it. I used to read early Australian naval books as a kid. The later books had whole chapters that were copied from previous books. It’s virtually a new book, but as a reader who constantly read those books, I knew that those chapters were copied. Once you get to that stage it’s time to end the series and do something new.

So what’s the best way that we can reach you?

The best way is probably through Kboards. If anybody wants to ask a question I’ll answer the best I can. Or maybe I’ll suggest somebody else to ask. I’m also active in the threads so if you find me in a thread and want to ask a question then just go for it. The other alternative for me is Facebook. I have a Facebook page and a Facebook group for my series. But the page is predominantly just announcements and that sort of stuff. The group is for discussion. If somebody is interested in anything to do with my series, and that includes authors who are interested in the craft of it, because I’m pretty sure some of my readers would be interested in some of those questions, then by all means ask a question. If I don’t think it should sit there then I’ll take it private or I’ll move it. You can get me through private messages on Facebook either through the page or the group fairly easily. That’s probably the easiest way to reach me.

Let’s end on a positive note. Can you share with us one of your favorite success quotes and tell us a little bit about what it means to you?

It’s a quote that I’ve actually used a lot over time, which I’ve had my main character say a number of times. It’s the old quote from Hannibal in the A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together!” For me, getting the book finished and up on Kindle is the plan coming together for that book. Once I get it up there that’s a good feeling. It also comes within parts of the writing because sometimes you will get a three or four chapter block that is a very specific path within the novel. Literally you can have your character say, “I love it when a plan comes together” and then have everything go wrong in the next chapter. That one for me just sums up so much.

 

If you want to lose yourself in a gripping space opera that will transport you to the 27th century then go check out Timothy’s “The Hunter Legacy” series here.

If you enjoyed the interview then please let me know! Email me at Brandon@buildyourauthorcareer.com or leave a comment below. I read every email and comment.

Feel free to check out some of my previous interviews with other inspiring authors:

Aaron Hodges

Logan Rutherford

Wayne Stinnett

To your consistent progress,

-Brandon

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *