86 episodes

My name is Matt Brotherton. I'm a stuggling author just getting started. Each week, I share a piece of my journey to try and encourage others on their own path. There are no hot tricks or tips here. I'm not going to tell you how to sell books. I'm only going to give you a small look into who I am, and how I write.

New Writer Podcast M.A. Brotherton

    • Personal Journals
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My name is Matt Brotherton. I'm a stuggling author just getting started. Each week, I share a piece of my journey to try and encourage others on their own path. There are no hot tricks or tips here. I'm not going to tell you how to sell books. I'm only going to give you a small look into who I am, and how I write.

    84 – Where The Heck Have You Been?

    84 – Where The Heck Have You Been?

     

    This week, I’m talking about my depression, absence, and all the brain garbage that goes with it.

    Episode Script:

    My name is Matt Brotherton. I’m an indie author struggling to get started in his career. Each episode, I talk about my journey from obscure to awesome. This is the New Writer podcast.

    #Episode 84 – Where the Heck Have You Been?

    It’s been a month since I recorded a podcast and about five weeks since one was published. It’s been about the same since I put a short story up on my website at MABrotherton.Com. I haven’t sent an email to my mailing list in that time, either.

    I’ve taken the same amount of time off from my official Facebook and posted very sparingly on twitter.

    People are starting to wonder where I am. What’s happened to me. What I’ve been doing.

    I wish I could say that I was in deep work mode. I wish I could tell you I was in my lab solving the world’s problems. I wish I could say I was doing something–anything–with my life.

    But I wasn’t.

    I needed time off. I didn’t know it when I went on vacation. I didn’t know I needed to spend time decompressing and unwinding, but I did. I needed to get away from the world and just spend some time *hiding*.

    The truth is, I burned out on life.

    In September, I went on a vacation. It was supposed to be reinvigorating. It was supposed to let me get my head back in order. It didn’t.

    What happened was me spending 40 hours alone in a car. Alone with my own thoughts. Alone with my emotional baggage.

    Just me and angst-ridden music on a loop.

    And, I realized some things about myself. I realized I was losing my battle. I needed to do something different.

    But, I’m lazy and depression has a way of dragging you into apathy and inaction. So instead of trying to find solutions to my problems, instead of trying to do something different to make myself happy. I just gave up.

    I did nothing.

    Where have I been? I’ve been sitting on the corner of my couch. I’ve been sleeping. I’ve been going through the motions of work.

    I’ve been hiding.

    This happens to me. Not as frequently now as when I was younger, but it still happens. Now, it hits me once or twice a year instead of four or five times. But, I think the down swings last longer, too.

    The triggers can come from anywhere. They can be huge personal events or they can be minor global perceptions. It’s rare, but it can also be minor personal events and huge and global.

    I think this time it was a bit of both.

    Since I started publishing, I’ve tried to ignore politics. Which is hard for me. If you go back and look at the early days of my blog, I was definitely a political writer. I wrote about politics all the time. I have strong opinions and generally assume I’m right and everyone else in the world is wrong.

    I think that’s part of how I was raised. Fight for what you believe. Fight and fight and fight and never, ever, let anyone knock you down.

    But, I was told talking about politics was bad for me. Bad for writers because we don’t want to alienate our readers.

    So I bottled that part of me up. I hid it away from the world.

    There are other reasons I did that, too. My day job frowns on it. I work in a very political industry. I don’t like talking about it, but everything about my work is directly tied to who is in office. That makes it a bad idea to have too strong an opinion.

    But, I have strong opinions and I’m not good at not sharing them.

    Honestly, that’s probably killing me. A little bit inside. Day-by-day.

    At first, I pushed a lot of that anxiety into my writing. I tried very hard to keep those emotions poured into ink. It worked for a couple of years. But it was a band-aid.

    • 7 min
    83 – Defying the Echo Chamber

    83 – Defying the Echo Chamber

    Episode Script:

    If you are like me, you probably listen to a number of podcasts about indie publishing. There are a ton of them. Dozens of them are great. Some of them are considered absolutely essential listening for all indie authors.

    But, the podcast-o-sphere, like the blog-o-sphere and the 24-hour-cable-news-…o-sphere… are echo chambers.

    “The Audience” is a vague, amorphous entity and it hungers for content. It needs its regular feedings or it will turn and feed on the only thing it can find. Your soul.

    So, we give it content…

    That isn’t inherently bad, in-and-of-itself. The danger comes when we, as “the audience” forget to analyze everything we hear. We forget to use our own minds to determine if something is worth accepting into ourselves or not.

    Letting something become part of you without making a conscious decision to absorb it is the single most dangerous and destructive habit humans have as a species.

    We all do it. We can’t help it. It’s human nature.

    Fortunately, I think writing is probably the best way to gain insight into yourself.

    “Writer, know thyself.”

    You can’t do this for long without starting to be able to recognize patterns in your behavior. You gain a certain kind of clarity. Almost like stepping outside of yourself and seeing your traits as you would one of your characters.

    And, if you have the will and the strength, you can start to make positive changes through conscious decisions.

    Or, you can be like me, and just feel smug about your self-awareness while you go back to being a despicable example of what appears to be an almost functional human being.

    Either way, the experience teaches to recognize the things our fellow authors, and especially our fellow indie authors, tell each other for what they are. Dangerous, toxic axioms passed down through the centuries.

    Recently, I’ve caught myself dwelling on one of the all time biggest and one of the current hot trends.

    If I’m going to survive them, I’m going to have to steal their power. Like any good nerd, I only know one way to do that:

    Debunk the crap out of them and make the jocks feel bad enough they forget to dunk my head in the toilet.

    Sure, it’s a defense mechanism, but I need it in my life right now.

    So, that’s what I’m going to do.

    Dangerous Soundbyte Number 1: Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist

    “Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block.”

    I hear this all the time. Usually from well-established authors with enough published work under their belt to qualify them for the incredibly fluid and elusive title of “prolific.”

    But, here’s a little secret: If writer’s block is defined as “not knowing what to write” it definitely exists and under a similar definition of “not knowing what to do” plumber’s block exists, too.

    I think both are a matter of experience and skill.

    There is a reason the master’s of the craft don’t believe in it anymore. They have gained the abilities needed to overcome it through hard work and training. They’ve learned how to solve all of the problems. They’ve got all of the tools they need. That’s why they are masters.

    But, like all humans, their minds favor remembering the positive things and banishing the bad. It’s one of those tasty neurological survival things. We forget when things suck and it causes us to live in a revised personal history.

    Most of us, myself included, are apprentices in this craft. We’ve learned some of the skills we need, but we just haven’t ever encountered something a master finds old hat.

    We’ve never seen a metaphorical clog caused by He-Man underoos being flushed down the drain.

    So we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to fix the problem. We get stuck. We get discouraged. We give up.

    And that, my friends, is writer’s block.

    There is hope, though. We can do like the apprentice plumber does.

    • 11 min
    82 – Is Everyone Laughing at Me?

    82 – Is Everyone Laughing at Me?

    Episode 82 – Is Everyone Laughing at Me?

    Episode Script:

    As writers, we spend time mastering the techniques necessary to reroute our reader’s mental plumbing so the pipes dump their emo-juices exactly where we want. The greatest writers are true maestros, playing the whole range of feelings like an expert violinists.

    And, some of us—like me—are the literary equivalent of a pop rock band. We only know four chords and that’s all we’ll ever need, dang it!

    The irony of it all is our own fluid emotional states.

    I don’t know about you, but mine tends to swing back and forth between narcissistic egomaniacs and hypervigilance paranoia.

    See, one minute, I’ll be typing along and absolutely sure everything I’m writing is the greatest thing anyone has ever written. I’ll be so in the zone, I can’t possibly be stopped.

    “I am god and you will bow to my whims!” I shout at my characters and they cower before me because they know it is true.

    But…

    Then the emotional pendulum swings back across and I’m suddenly frozen in my tracks. My brain turns into a useless rock. My characters revolt and start acting like a trust fund brat in a 90s movie and the jock bully from an 80s movie got together and had a baby.

    And… I know… I know everyone in the world is sitting outside my window, just beyond my curtains. They are watching. They are judging. They are laughing.

    Because they know. They know I’m a charlatan. I’m a poseur. I’m a complete mockery of talent.

    I’m not even fit to write for a throwaway Disney channel sitcom.

    So, I hide under my desk—sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally. I hide because it is too damned hard to stand up to the imaginary gazes and scream, “BUT I WAS GOD A FEW MINUTES AGO! OBEY ME MORTALS!”

    We’ve all seen how that ends. We still end up getting tossed into a volcano or blown up by a school full of homemade gunpowder.

    That’s what it feels like, anyway.

    It’s a steaming stew of self-loathing, suspicion, and anxiety peppered with a few minor hallucinations.

    And it is always triggered by the smallest things.

    My current round of ostriching came from Seven Keys Saga Book 6. I knew there was something not quite right about it when I sent it off to be read. I knew there was something I could adjust and fix. Something big.

    But, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

    Then I got the notes back and it became very clear.

    The plot somehow mutated into two different plots. It is a very common issue for pantsers, but not one I’ve had to deal with before. I’m usually too far on the other side. Too structured and rigid.

    Those are the only chords I need! I don’t need your allegro espressivo!

    So… I know exactly what is wrong with the manuscript and I have no idea how to fix it. I’ve tried quite a few different things. Plucking scenes out. Rewriting them. Replacing them entirely.

    It’s not working.

    And now, I think I’m going to have to pull out the biggest, heaviest cannon in a writer’s arsenal. I don’t want to do it. I’m worn out from the marathon of grinding out this book the first time. I’m tempted to do nothing, leave it on a shelf, and pretend like that two years of my life never existed while I continue on my merry short story journey over her.

    I’m tempted and I don’t think it would be the worst decision I’ve ever made.

    But… I want it out in the world. I want my handful of readers to have access to it. I want them to know that I’m not abandoning them entirely.

    I hate the idea of not putting it out because it was such a slog and it was so damn hard to write.

    It took a lot of time in my writing schedule and I’m afraid to switch to something new.

    Because, what if I do it again?

    Last year, I wanted to put the Seven Keys Saga away for a long time. I felt like I hit a good spot at the end of book 5. It was closure on an a

    • 8 min
    81 – Year Two in Review

    81 – Year Two in Review

    This week, I’m taking an introspective look back on my writing career and reminding myself not to only count the failures, but remember the success. 



    The Hard Numbers:

    Total Downloads: 5956 (table below does not include August 2016)

    Total Dollars Earned from Book Sales: $842.99 (Does not include Adword or Affiliate marketing revenue)



    Episode Script:

     

    I’ve lived in other worlds my entire life. I started writing about them when I first became literate. I began defining myself as a writer in High School. I decided I wanted to figure out how to make money at it in my twenties. I’m about to turn 33 and so far, I’m still working on the last step.

    I started writing online when I discovered Livejournal on April 27, 2001.

    Nine years later, on September 22, 2010, I decided to create a real blog and try to become a professional.

    I published my first kindle book on February 21, 2013.

    I started this podcast to track my professional writing career and help expose other struggling authors on August 27, 2014.

    So far, in my entire professional writing career, I’ve made about $1000.

    The journey is far from over.

    The lessons I’ve learned over the last few years have been excruciatingly painful. For one, I’m not nearly as talented as I thought I was.

    Big fish from the tiny pond, Meet the ocean.

    Honestly, looking back on my writing career, it is apparent to me now I never really intended to be a writer. I always had some other goal in mind and writing seemed like the best way for me to reach that goal.

    Some of those goals were pretty stupid. Like becoming a millionaire by running a free Live Action Role Playing game with a handful of dedicated and beloved players.

    Some were insanely egomaniacal, like creating platforms for legions of diehard fans who would help declare me the Pharaoh of Earth.

    Some were more realistic but much more painful than I imagined, like becoming a go-to talking head for the world of politics.

    I didn’t really do any of those things and I don’t really want to do any of those things… except become Earth’s Pharaoh. I’m still down for that if you’re interested in having a global election.

    My goals have never been real or concrete. They’ve never been achievable.

    I am a leaf on the wind. Watch me soar.

    I don’t think it would surprise anyone to know I have no idea what I’m doing. You might even be tempted to say I’m a washed up has-been… or never-was.

    You could be right.

    I haven’t published a new book since August 5, 2015. That’s more than a year ago. A painful, long year ago.

    I was tempted to think of myself that way, too. This year has been pretty sucky.

    I tried and failed a lot of things this year:

    I failed at writing a space opera.

    I failed at writing a young adult superhero series.

    I failed at writing a SciFi adventure epic.

    I failed at writing Book Six of the Seven Keys saga, which I’ll talk about more next week.

    Mostly, I failed to advance my book publishing career.

    But… I also succeed at new things, things for which I should give myself credit.

    Some of them come from my day job. I don’t think I give myself enough credit for those accomplishments.

    I’ve written white papers.

    I’ve written dozens of newsletter articles on things from high school baseball teams to national awards.

    I’ve written technical guides and how-to manuals.

    I’ve translated complex documents into plain language.

    Those weren’t easy feats.

    And, of course, I should give myself credit for the accomplishments I’ve made in my writing career, too.

    I’ve written and published 20 short stories in as many weeks.

    • 7 min
    80 – Brainstorm!

    80 – Brainstorm!

     



    Links in this episode:

    John L Monk’s Hell’s Children

    My Bradbury Challenge Story List

     

     

    I definitely have crutches as a writer. For example, my first instinct when I’m coming up on my short story deadline is to just write a murder scene. I’m not going to get into what that says about my psychology, it just is what it is.

    Early on in the Bradbury Challenge, though, I decided I wouldn’t let myself rely on my crutches. The entire point was to stretch my creative muscles. I’m still trying to find the exact niche, my narrative voice. I think I’m about 78% there, so this may change in the future, but for now, I’m just looking for ways to expand.

    So, I can’t let myself use my consistent go-to’s, yet. In the future, I might decide to specialize in one type of story or another. It seems like a good way to perfect one aspect of the craft. But, for now, it’s intentional chaos up in this joint.

    It also serves another purpose. I post all of my short stories on MABrotherton.Com. There is a list of them available at MABrotherton.Com/the-bradbury-challenge/, you can go there and check them out. I don’t just post them there because I have a hard time with the concept of selling anything with less than 5000 words. I’m treating them as a bit of a pilot program.

    I put them out on the blog and see which ones people comment on. So far, I’ve been pretty surprised by which stories have gotten the most feedback, too. Since my main series is an Urban Fantasy, I assumed my readers would respond to that type of story more. Granted, I haven’t put very many of them up there yet, but I just figured it would be that way.

    I was wrong.

    So far, the biggest responses have come from For a Few Chips, a first-person short story set in a vague post-apocalypse involving violence and rescuing a little girl. I actually really enjoyed writing that short story and have been asked to turn it into a full length book. I might at some point, but I have hard time coming up with a full length plot for it. It’s on the list.

    The other is a vignette describing a house and its history. There isn’t’ actually a story there at all, but it got a pretty good response, which encourages me to try and be a little more purple in my prose. It was permission to incorporate poetry, rhythm and cadence into my text. A big plus for dication, I think.

    These little surprises have been a huge encouragement. It makes me want to push harder on fringes of my own writing style. It makes me want to go farther. It make me want to do different.

    Which is why I’ve managed to get pretty good at brainstorming over the last few weeks.

    It started out as a way to get some cheap words in while on my lunch break at work. I carry a legal pad or three with me in my car because I like to be able to write when I can. I used to do it on my tablet, but my hands can’t handle my tiny Bluetooth keyboard anymore, so now I do it long hand. I’ve already talked about the benefits of writing longhand, so I won’t tout those again, but it is definitely working for me.

    For a long time, if I wasn’t working on a story, I would free write. I was taught to free write my freshman year of highschool and it has served me well over the years. But, here lately, I’ve been rehashing my own negativity over and over when just putting words on the page as quickly as possible. It isn’t helpful for coming up with stories. Cathartic? Yes. Creative? No.

    So, I made a point of learning some new ways of brainstorming.

    • 11 min
    79 – Identifying My Own Weaknesses

    79 – Identifying My Own Weaknesses

    • 8 min

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