Oh, hello there! Nice to see you again. I wasn’t expecting anybody, so just park yourself wherever you can find a dry spot. Don’t worry, it’s not blood, it’s just the… creative juices left over from the most recent instalment of Interview With A Writer! It’s a section of the site where I ask things about stuff to do with writing, and people write answers about things to do with stuff. Make sure to check out the other interviews, and share/follow/like/support the writers featured. You can do the same for me as well, just keep on scrolling to the bottom of the page!
Troy Blackford is a 29-year old writer who lives in the Twin Cities. He currently has seventeen published short stories, five works available on Kindle & Paperback, and a host of short stories available on his website. He’s married and his first child was born in July 2013. He likes reading. He likes writing. He likes cats.
He’s reachable at this e-mail address: email@example.com
NR: Going full-time as a writer can be a daunting thing. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who got a nice advance on their next book – the ones that I’m not murderously jealous of at all – the security and safety of the regular paycheck is gone. You’re twisting out there on your own, with nothing but your talents, your keyboard and whatever stimulants you can get your hands on. Freelance writing holds a lot of the same shortfalls, especially when you’re a beginner.
Did you ever get scammed or take scam jobs starting out as a writer? If so, what happened, and if not, what was the worst attempt?
TB: This never happened to me. I haven’t really done freelance work, so that’s probably why. I work full-time in an office, and write mostly during my commute and evenings, with some weekends thrown in. The closest I’ve ever come to this is very early on, when I worked with an editor who wasn’t much better at editing that I was myself at the time: but that wasn’t really a scam, just poor judgment.
I imagine they got better, just as I did, as well.
NR: It’s important to keep your head in the right space. It’s a lonely affair a lot of the time, I don’t care how many cats you have wandering around while you write. On top of that, you have rejections, major criticisms, lack of support from friends and family, and the article or story that just won’t pour out of your head no matter how many times you headbutt the table.
How many times did you want to pack it in, and what was/were the last straw(s)?
Nothing ever really made me want to quit writing... Ashley Rose
TB: …but there were some definite instances when I got rejections on stories I thought were particularly good that frustrated me to no end. Eventually, I took six of my most rejected stories and put out a small collection called ‘Flotsam,’ which even includes the rejection count of each story, just so I could get past that and move on with my life. As a whole, those stories have found hundreds of readers now so I feel much better about it than I did when I kept getting rejection notices!
NR: Dry spells are not just the bane of farmers and porn actors. One of a writer’s biggest fears is running out of words. Sitting/standing there, looking at a blank piece of paper or a white screen, the only words you can come up with are “The End”. As in, “The End Of Your Career And Eating Real Food”. On those days, you have to motivate yourself, to push through the empty pages and get something down.
What do you do (or have you done in the past) to get yourself out of a slump, whether it’s because of a dry spell for writing, a dip in sales, or an emotional slump related to both?
TB: Sometimes, when working on longer stuff, I’ll definitely get to a point where I’m spending more of my efforts working out big picture stuff in my head than I am putting scenes down on paper. When this happens, I like to do a few smaller projects (short stories, starting something new) and have those to work on so I don’t just totally quit writing anything. I’ve got such a backlog of ideas to work on, there’s usually something there that can use my attention.
As for motivation, I have found that listening to the same playlist each time I write, and only then, helps instantly catapult me into a mode where my mind thinks: ‘Okay, here’s these songs — it’s time to write.’ It’s a form of state-specific learning or memory that helps to quickly induce the right mindset. Being awake enough that you aren’t passing out can help. And, lastly:
There's nothing like a deadline to get your booty in gear. John-Morgan
NR: Most full-time writers do it for the money, but I’m sure that none of them would turn down being a household name. It’s all well and good to say that you’re doing it for the love of the written word. However, literary integrity doesn’t have enough calories to get you through the day, nor is it warm enough to wrap yourself in when the heat and power gets switched off.
How long before you started making a name (and a decent living) for yourself as a writer? If you write full-time, when did you make the leap?
TB: I wrote for about three years before I started selling my stuff, and about two before I had a short story accepted for publication. I would have to sell many times more books than I do presently before it would be something I could live off of, but I manage to have a hefty output while not neglecting my work and family life, so I am happy with the way things are. I would jump at the chance to do nothing but write, but it would take a few successful books before I would consider quitting my job because you never know when that luck will run out. So few novelists work solely as novelists, (I think I read somewhere that the figure is something like 5%) that I’m not really thinking of that as an end goal. I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment.
I am making a decent extra hunk of cash off something I love to do, and that's awesome.
NR: Anyone who has struggled to get where they are today learned some lessons along the way. Usually, these insights were gained through making glaringly dumbass mistakes and overcoming failure. There’s plenty of material out there for writers to avoid making the same mistakes, but some people have to figure it out for themselves, because stubbornness is an authorly trait. Besides, defeat and redemption makes for a good story.
What would you have done differently in your formative years as a writer?
TB: I had this optimistic sense that my very first writing was super amazing, and didn’t bother to learn any of the nuts-and-bolts parts of it for quite some time. I probably wouldn’t have finished that first book if I had been more aware of its glaring flaws, but at the same time, it might have benefited from my slowing down and trying to get the details right. I can’t complain too much because I eventually did realize that I was like an overeager little dog, and learned to take my time, and I feel like it has all worked out for the best. But I would smack myself in the head with books like ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers’ earlier on, for sure.
That one book changed my life. John-Morgan
NR: Looking back now, what was the worst part of your writing life that you laugh about today? Are there still some things that make you cringe just thinking about them?
I used to place far less emphasis on rewriting, and I was overly eager to rush out foolhardy things.
I remember I used to take rejection very personally. Warthfire GTX
Worst of all, I had a terrible tendency in my first book to say something one way, then another, then a third way in a row. I think I was afraid if I just said everything once, it wouldn’t be long enough for a book! Don’t worry folks, that book isn’t available. If it were, I would definitely be cringing right now.
Thanks again to Troy Blackford for agreeing to enter my little virtual lodge out in the woods and understanding the rule about screaming. You can check out his latest book, Under The Wall, as well as his other works – including the anthology Robbed Of Sleep – on his website.
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