Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The Year-End Writer Blues


I’m writing this at 6:23 pm on Christmas Day. My family has always celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve (my dad said this was so the kids would sleep and not keep their parents up all night), so my Christmas was on the 24th. My one-year-old dachshund Bailey is snoozing on the couch next to me, and my fifteen-year-old cat Banshee is sleeping on the other couch. My wife is in the bedroom, talking to her aunt on the phone.

The holiday season can be rough on people. There’s pressure to buy a lot of shit, pressure to interact with family members you might not get along with, pressure to entertain guests, pressure to be happy and love everything and everyone. And if you normally feel down, you might feel even more down. Holidays magnify everything, good and bad. But for writers, the end of the year can be hard for other reasons as well. For this is the time when writers taut their accomplishments for the year on social media, and it’s the time readers, reviewers, and critics post their best-of-the-year booklists. And it doesn’t help that the publishing business grinds to a halt in December, so there’s a whole lot of nothing happening for traditionally published writers this month. (My agent won’t submit anything in December because of this. She waits and starts submitting again in January.)


Sometimes I wonder if we should come up with a name for this season. The December Doldrums? The Great Suck? The Envytime? Whether it has a name or not, it’s a lousy headspace to be in, especially with all the other stresses the holiday season can bring. But if you intend to remain a writer, you’re going to have to find a way to get through this time and come out the other side, if not recharged, then at least prepared to keep plugging away.


I struggle with posting my writing accomplishments at the end of the year. On the one hand, it gives me something to put on social media and it might help promote me and my work. But on the other hand, it could demoralize newer authors, authors who write slower than I do, or authors who have more obstacles in their lives than I do that keep them from writing as often or as much as they want. But this year I decided to do it and see what sort of reaction I got. Here’s what I posted across my various social media account – Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky, and Threads. (I still have an account on X/Twitter, but only so someone else can’t claim my name there and pretend to be me. I don’t post on X/Twitter anymore because fuck nazis, terfs, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and maga-heads.)


Here’s my 2023 Writing Year in Review!


I wrote:


1 novelization

1.5 novels

1 novella

6 short stories

 (And a couple more stories that haven’t sold yet)

2 introductions

3 articles for the HWA Newsletter

I won my fourth Bram Stoker Award and my first Scribe Award.

I conducted 10 writing workshops.


After posting, I added this:


I forgot articles for 16 blog entries and articles for 7 newsletters (usually 2 articles per newsletter)!


And I totally forgot to mention the handful of videos I recorded for my YouTube channel.


Does this sound like a lot? It’s more or less a normal amount of productivity for me, and has been since my daughters hit high school. They’re 23 and 28 now and haven’t lived at home for a while, but when they were very young, I was lucky to produce a third of what’s on the list, if that. I started writing at 18 and I’m 59 now, so I’ve had a lot of practice, which naturally helps me be more productive. And I’ve always been a fast writer, which obviously helps too. I’m also lucky that my long career means that people often approach me about doing projects. My novelization, novella, most of the short stories, the introductions, and all the workshops on the list came about because someone reached out to me and asked, “Hey, would you be interested in doing something for us?” It’s a lot easier to be productive (at least it is for me) when you know someone already wants what you’re creating.


The responses I got to my year-end productivity post were positive, and thankfully I didn’t get responses from people using my post to beat up on themselves. You’re so lucky. I wish someone would ask me to contribute a story to an anthology. I’m sure there were people who read the post and thought something like that, though. The reason I know this is because I sometimes think things like that when I read other authors’ year-end posts. You might think with everything I’ve accomplished so far in my career, I wouldn’t compare my achievements to anyone else’s, but you’ d be wrong. I don’t get super-depressed when other writers post their accomplishments, but I can feel wistful, jealous, and negative about myself as a writer.


I don’t mean this post to read like a Festivus airing of grievances. I’m writing it to let you know that even writers that have had a certain amount of success can still feel down during the Great Suck.


Here’s what always makes me envious about other authors’ end-of-the-year lists and posts.

·       They worked with publishers I want to work with. Most of my writing has been traditionally published with small to medium-press companies. I’ve had some media tie-in books published with bigger houses, but not my original work. And some of these bigger publishers have had submissions of original fiction of mine for several years without responding.

·       They made foreign rights sales. My media tie-in books have been translated into other languages, but aside from a French edition of Nekropolis and a few short stories, I’ve had no luck selling my fiction to foreign publishers – and I’ve tried for decades. An Italian publisher was going to bring out an edition of Like Death, but they folded before it was published. I’ve submitted work to a number of foreign publishers over the years, but after initial contact they always ghost me. So when I see writers talk about their foreign rights sales at the end of the year, I’m always envious (and I wonder what’s wrong with my work that foreign publishers of horror fiction don’t want to take it).

·       They made movie or TV deals. I’ve come close a few times over the years. When Like Death first came out, a producer of soft-core porn wanted to option it. He sent me a DVD of one of his films. I barely made it through the first few minutes, so that was a no from me, dawg. The screenwriter of Halloween 6 was interested in Like Death as well, but that movie isn’t good (to put it mildly), so I passed. When Nekropolis came out, several screenwriters and producers were interested in it, but none of them offered any money. My agent at the time said, “No money, no option,” and I followed his advice. That’s common wisdom in the writing world, but I sometimes wonder what might’ve happened if I took a chance on some of these people. It’s been years since any film folk have inquired about rights to any of my work, and although I reach out to some from time to time, nothing has come of it. So seeing writers talk about the works they had optioned over the previous year always makes me let out a big sigh.

·       Their work appears on best-of-the-year lists. My work rarely appears on any of these lists. (Writing in the Dark was an exception the year it came out.) I read the lists, and I’m happy for my friends who made them, but I’m always a bit wistful that I’m not listed with them.

·       Their stories appear in best-of anthologies. I’ve had stories selected for editions of Best Hardcore Horror of the Year, but that series was discontinued. I’ve had work in some other Best-of’s, such as The Best of Cemetery Dance 2, but my work has never appeared in Ellen Datlow’s, Stephen Jones’, or Paula Guran’s Best-of anthologies.

·       Their announce that this is their X anniversary as a full-time writer. This one always strikes me as funny because I long ago decided not to try to become a full-time writer. Back in the 90’s, I was on an online message board called GEnie, and since message boards were new (and few and far between), a lot of professional writers were there, too. In private topics reserved for members of writers’ organizations, writers would discuss what it was like for them to write full time: no health insurance, unstable and unreliable income, trouble paying bills, trouble feeding themselves and their family, etc. The ones who were doing okay usually had spouses that provided the benefits and a majority of the income. Sure, there were writers who made a living solely off their work with no extra sources of income, but they weren’t common. The writers who struggled to make ends meet were so stressed that they had difficulty producing work as well. All of that sounded like a nightmare to me, plus I wanted to stay connected to the world so I would have new experiences to fuel my writing. This is why I started teaching college-level writing classes, and why I’ve kept on doing it for over 35 years. And yet, whenever I see another writer post that this is the tenth anniversary of their full-time career as a novelist, I still wonder if I made the right choice.

·       They went to more conventions/writing events than I did. I get so jealous when I see other writers list all the cons and events they’ve gone to – especially the ones where lots of writers are present. One of the hard things about being a writer is that my friends are scattered across the world, and I mostly interact with them online. I rarely get to hang out with them in person, and I wish I was able to travel more frequently.

·       The Ghosts of Envies Past: I used to get down when writers posted about the awards they’d won, until I started winning some myself. And I used to get down about writers who published more often and more regularly than I did until I started publishing a fair amount each year.

So how can you deal with the end-of-the-year writer blahs? Here are some things I do.

·       I allow myself to feel my feelings, but I try not to intensify them. If a small fire starts, it will burn out on its own before too long. But if you keep pouring gasoline on it, it’ll grow and spread. Focusing on negative feelings can intensify them until they become entrenched, then they’re much harder to get rid of. I let the feelings come, I feel them, then I let them go (or at least I’ll try).

·       Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. It’s human nature to desire what we don’t have and to feel shitty if we don’t get it. You can make an argument that this feeling of lack is what drives us to achieve more, but if we never take the time to appreciate our achievements, whatever they are, lack is all we’ll ever feel. We’ll feel like we’re never good enough and never will be, and that’s a miserable state to exist in. And, of course, our writing will suffer for it. I try to celebrate every writing victory, however small, even if the celebration is something like buying a new book to read or going out to eat (at a reasonably priced restaurant). Years ago, I used to keep a daily writing journal where I’d record how much I’d written each day, any writing business-related stuff I did, and any achievements. I could look over entries whenever I was feeling down, and doing so helped raise my spirits. If you don’t want to bother with a journal, get a calendar, record achievements on the day they happen, then when you need to, flip to past months, look at the entries, and remind yourself that yes, you have made strides in your writing career.  

·       Perseverance furthers. A lot of writers used to pass around this advice, but not so much these days. It comes from the I Ching, which is used as in divination. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a link for more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching. In 1985-86, I was the editor of my college literary magazine. My co-editor, Vance Wissinger, was ten years older than me, and he introduced me to the I Ching. Vance had me concentrate on a question – I chose Will I ever be a professional writer? – then tossed a few Chinese coins that Vance brought on top of a desk. He read the numbers on the coins, did some mental calculation, then looked up the corresponding entry in the book for the answer to my question. It was Perseverance furthers. (I wouldn’t be surprised if every page of the I Ching has this answer on it, so often does it come up.) I didn’t really believe it was a magical prediction, but the message still spoke to me. Perseverance was something I could control, and furthers, while not promising massive amounts of success, did promise progress. This phrase has been my mantra whenever I start feeling crappy about my writing career. Perseverance furthers.

·       Keep a Zen mindset. I’ve written about this before in previous blog entries, but it bears repeating here. The author Taylor Grant says he writes with intention but without attachment to a specific outcome. This means he focuses on the creation of a piece of writing, making it the best it can be, and doesn’t focus on what will happen to this piece of writing once it is finished. Once the writing is complete, he’s succeeded in his goal. Whatever happens with the piece afterward is icing on the cake. To put this technique into practice regarding the topic for this entry, let’s say you write a ghost story with the intention of making it a unique take on the trope while also being hella scary. Once it’s finished to your satisfaction, you can submit it to an editor, but you aren’t attached to it being published, or if it is published, you’re not attached to it showing up on a Year’s-Best list (or being nominated for awards or optioned for film, etc.). This mindset keeps you focused on the writing, which is where your focus should be, and you don’t become overly focused on how your writing is viewed by the world. I’ve found this mindset very helpful over the years, especially if I find myself starting to feel disappointed my writing didn’t achieve a specific goal, like being made into a zillion-dollar-grossing blockbuster film.

·       What would the you of yesterday think of your writing career today? I sometimes think back to the eighteen-year-old I used to be and ask myself what would he think of what his fifty-nine-year-old self has achieved in the last forty-one years. Would he be glad to have the kind of career I’ve made for myself? Would he feel like I was a success? If I went back in time and handed him a giant stack of books I’ve written, would he give a shit that most of them never appeared on a year’s-end best-of list? Of course, not (although he’d probably be freaked out to see me!). The books would mean everything to him, though. Imagining this helps me keep perspective on my achievements and career.

·       Why are you writing and who are you writing for? Are you writing to be acknowledged in best-of lists, to win awards, make a pile of money, and to get on Hollywood’s radar? Most of those things won’t happen for each book you write, if they ever do happen. But if you write to please yourself, to learn and grow as an artist, to entertain, challenge, provoke, or inspire your readers, the lack of those other things won’t get you down. And paradoxically, not worrying about them will result in better writing, which will give you a better chance to win awards and get on Best-of lists.

·       Control what you can control – your writing. We can’t control how the world responds (or doesn’t respond) to our work. What we can control is the writing itself, and that’s why it should always be our main focus. Awards and appearances on best-of-the-year lists are nice, but they are not the writing. Only the writing is the writing.

It’s taken me a couple days to write this entry since I’m also currently working on a novel that’s due soon. It’s the 26th now. My wife is off shopping at Sam’s Club, Bailey is snoozing with her head in my lap as I type, and Banshee is asleep on the same couch as yesterday, although she’s moved to the other side of it. Variety is the spice of life, after all. And in the interval between starting this entry and finishing it, I’ve seen even more writers post their end-of-year reports on social media. One was a writer who asked me to blurb his first book years ago, and he’s now an author of 15 popular and well-regarded fantasy novels with more under contract, and he recently quit his day job to become a full-time novelist, supporting his family with his writing. So I had a chance to practice what I’ve preached above once again!

Bailey checking to make sure Banshee is still alive

Try the techniques I’ve discussed whenever you start feeling negative about your writing career, especially at the end of the year. That, or stay off social media during the entire month of December. Maybe January, too, just to be safe.



Terrifier 2 Novelization

Bloody Disgusting is launching their own publishing imprint, and they’re starting with a novelization of Terrifier 2, written by me! Here’s a link to the official announcement in Variety: https://variety.com/2023/biz/news/bloody-disgusting-terrifier-dead-space-1235791885/


The good people are Bloody Disgusting are planning to have the book out in February, but I don’t have any preorder links to share yet. No cover to share either. Hopefully soon for both! I had an absolute blast writing the book, and I got to add a number of original scenes. The plan is for me to also write novelizations of Terrifier and Terrifier 3, but there are no contracts in place yet. I’m confident the deal will work out, though.


The Atrocity Engine

The Atrocity Engine, the first volume in my new series for Aethon Books, will be out April 30th, 2024, and it’s currently available to preorder. Here’s the publisher’s description:


Men in Black meets Hellraiser in this rollicking mash-up of urban fantasy and cosmic horror from four-time Bram Stoker Award-Winning author Tim Waggoner.


Creatures from dark dimensions infesting your home? Demonic beings trying to drive you insane? Alien gods attempting to destroy your universe?


Just call Maintenance.


This underpaid and overworked secret organization is dedicated to battling forces that seek to speed up Entropy and hasten the Omniverse’s inevitable death.


Neal Hudson is a twenty-year veteran of Maintenance. A surveyor who drives through the streets of Ash Creek, Ohio constantly scanning for the deadly energy known as Corruption. Since the death of his previous partner, Neal prefers to work alone, and he’s not happy when he’s assigned to mentor a rookie.


But they better learn to get along fast.


The Multitude, a group of godlike beings who seek to increase Entropy at every opportunity, are creating an Atrocity Engine. This foul magical device can destroy the Earth, and they don’t care how many innocent lives it takes to build it. (Spoiler alert: It’s a lot!)


Just another day on the job. . .


Order links:


Amazon Hardback: https://www.amazon.com/Atrocity-Engine-Tim-Waggoner/dp/1949890899/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1699124447&sr=1-2


Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Atrocity-Engine-Tim-Waggoner-ebook/dp/B0CL9PW1W6/ref=sr_1_2?crid=33LY66VJJZMM9&keywords=tim+waggoner&qid=1699124447&s=books&sprefix=tim+waggoner%2Cstripbooks%2C115&sr=1-2


B&N Hardcover: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/book/1144299910?ean=9781949890891


Covers for Book of Madness and The Desolation War


The next two books in the series – Book of Madness and The Desolation War – aren’t available for preorder yet, but I’m going to show you the covers. I think they look awesome!

Let Me Tell You a Story

In Let Me Tell You a Story, I present stories from my own publishing career and use them to illustrate writing techniques and discuss ways writers can improve their own work. It’s a how-to book, but it’s also a career-retrospective short story collection, and a memoir as well.


You can order Let Me Tell You a Story directly from Raw Dog Screaming Press here:



But if you’d prefer to order from Amazon or B&N . . .


Amazon Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Let-Tell-Story-Writing-Dark/dp/1947879642/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2Y27YWQGQQ6QW&keywords=tim+waggoner&qid=1693058194&s=books&sprefix=tim+waggoner%2Cstripbooks%2C140&sr=1-3


Amazon Hardback: https://www.amazon.com/Let-Tell-Story-Writing-Dark/dp/1947879634/ref=sr_1_4?crid=2Y27YWQGQQ6QW&keywords=tim+waggoner&qid=1693058359&s=books&sprefix=tim+waggoner%2Cstripbooks%2C140&sr=1-4


Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CH7Q6NL4/ref=sr_1_10?crid=3W0IQXTRZOE04&keywords=tim+waggoner&qid=1693834587&s=books&sprefix=tim+waggoner%2Cstripbooks%2C119&sr=1-10


Barnes and Noble Paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1143990468?ean=9781947879645


Barnes and Noble Hardback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1143990468?ean=9781947879638


Scheduled Appearances


StokerCon 2024. May 30th to June 2nd. San Diego, California.


Where to Find Me Online