The Firehose

That’s a term we use when we encounter a writer just making the transition out of the old Traditional Publishing mindset and starting to think about going Indie. There is so much to learn that it ends up being something like trying to drink from a firehose.

And it’s not for everyone. I’m not about to stand up here and say that this is the only way to go about your career. Nope. YOU are responsible for your career.

But there are people willing to help.

And a firehose.

Overwhelming, I know. Requires a lot of patience and note taking early on, because the first step is enormous.

In TradPub, you complete a manuscript and then an agent handles everything until somebody buys it. Then you work with an editor who tells you what to change. Book comes out, you get famous.

Or something like that.

Or maybe you you’re sending in short fiction to bigger and bigger periodicals (in terms of pay and prestige). They’ll either take it or they won’t. If not, you keep trying until finally it finds a home or it finds the trunk.


In Indie, there is so much more you have to know. To learn. To understand. To keep up on, because it will change at some point and what worked today stops working.

Change. We use that term a lot, because the world goes through periodic revolutions, mostly technology-driven.

Thus, the firehose.

Around the various masterminds in which I participate, the goal is to start learning, so that you can move forward.

To be successful is to be a small business owner, and not just a writer. Not everyone wants to do that. Not everyone can. Sometimes you get lucky and have a spouse that can carry some of the load, or at least support the household financially while you try to do your thing.

But you have to commit to learning. New vocabulary. New technology. New world

Completing your manuscript? That’s the first half of the value chain, and the easier part, because in Indie, you get to write the story you want to read. (We’ll leave off those folks writing to market in a segment that they don’t read for pleasure. Won’t work long.)

I like to remind people that I’m not better at any of this, especially when working with a new writer. Just further along the track. But mine will be a different path up the mountain, anyway.

You can do it. That much you need to understand right at the beginning.

It looks like a lot of work, but none of it is so esoteric as to be unknowable. We’re not talking non-Euclidian Geometry, like Lovecraft loved to describe.

You finish the manuscript, then there is a list of questions for you to answer. Different for every writer. Different for every career. Different sometimes every week, but that’s partly the 2020 pandemic speaking.

Andrew Yang posited that we would see 10 years of social development in 10 weeks.

Been 10 weeks. Not done yet. In fact, just about to get worse. Another 10 weeks puts us at Labor Day, the end of Summer traditionally in the US. Now we’re talking about 20 years social development. That’s a whole generation. That’s the world as it existed in 2000. Remember those days?

But that level of change is going to occur before 2021.

If you thought it was a firehose before, it’s about to get worse. We’re about to enter the ugliest, brutalest presidential election in your lifetime. Whoever you are. 1968 is going to be a distant second. A warm evening roasting marshmellows over an open fire.

Watching the news will just fill you with greater dread, as it seems like the whole world is burning down around you. (And I don’t care what your politics are when I say that. Nobody will be immune.)

So, firehose.

Lots to learn. Information coming at you impossibly fast, and changing sometimes weekly.

You will need to surf this. It is a Kondratiev Wave that can be ridden.

Prepare. And breathe.

Everyone is going to be going through the same thing. Old rules that used to work for years are gone in days. Nobody (and I mean nobody, including me) has God’s Truth about what is coming next, so approach any prophet you encounter with a grain of salt and don’t, as Don Henley sang, end up follow the wrong gods home.

My goal in 2020 was always production, even before pandemic. We expected a messy political situation with the drawn out Impeachment and the aftermath. We expected revenge and payback, however that might play out. We expected the summer of 1848, and got 1968 instead, which was worse and its only barely started.

Come fall, everything will step up a notch as the election gets ugly. And it will get ugly. Memorable. Worst anyone will ever remember until someone tops it later, which might end the Republic. (Assuming we survive this one, mind you.)

But people will want to read. They will NEED that escape, because they’ll be facing a firehose of bad news and worse tomorrows.

They expect unemployment to go from 4% in January to 20% by the end of June and that’s with all the jobs that opened up at groceries and for delivery drivers as people stayed home instead of risking exposure and infection from an unknown killer.

So people will have to balance their reduced budget, if they’ve lost one or both household jobs. Maybe they lost health insurance, because the United States capitalist class has fought to the death to not let people escape their control. (How many people do you know have stayed at shitty jobs because the health insurance was pretty good? How many would skip out tomorrow if they could get it universal instead? Nuff said?)

I expected sales to be down all year. Shit happens, but we budgeted for it. Some folks will hit the right zeitgeist, and make bank, but they’ll be the exceptions, not the rules. Others will suddenly find that everything stopped working. All those little tricks and seams that they’d managed to exploit will close or be overloaded with everyone throwing wet spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

So breathe.

Write. You can’t control the world falling in, but you can control how you react to it. How much it gets to disrupt you.

I’ve put two major projects to one side because they were just wrong and too big for me to handle, on top of just writing. But I’m still writing. You can do the same.

Carve out the time. Writers write. That’s it. If you want to be a writer, you write.

For me (and many others I know) it is the drug itself. The writing high. If you have it, I don’t need to explain. If you don’t, maybe you need to rethink what you want out of life and 2020.

You cannot control the world. Even less so today than you once could, so don’t let it get you down. Understand that all this bad information is a firehose, and go back to when you first looked at Indie writing and decided to jump in.

If you’re at that point of just wanting to dabble, don’t lose heart. Everything everyone tells you will feel wrong, because we suddenly all are. No lies. Shit’s changed and we’re all flailing a little.

But you breathe and you write, because you are an artist, and the world needs your art.

Moreso now that ever, because the world feels like it is falling apart and everyone wants an escape. So commit art.

Understand that you’re facing an firehose of negativity today, like you did information then.

Writing never changes. The tools get easier, is all. The genres that are white hot change, but if you write what you love, you will find your audience. They’ll find you.

Each of you will think of the other as a life preserver in rough seas, and you can make it.

20 weeks. 20 years.

An entire generation of change happening in real time as you watch. A few will exploit it. A bunch will drown under it.

You need to surf it.




Surf’s up.