Module four was a nightmare from start to finish, pushing me to the limits but hopefully being overcome. As the FPL Nightmare series concludes, the new phase of my writing career begins, and the resolve to succeed on my own terms deepens.
It’s been two months since my last update, which concerned a degree disaster where I posted my worst assignment score in four years in the aftermath of Covid-related depression. It was a conscious choice to put my website on the back-burner, because although writing is my true passion, the chances of making a living through it are slim, and I need to ensure I have a back-up plan so I’m not scraping around barely above minimum-wage for the rest of my life. So, for the last two months, all I have been writing is the final book of the FPL Nightmare trilogy, of which I have now completed bar a final read-through of the proof copy to catch any silly mistakes. That will be released in about a month or so, and the series ends in spectacular fashion. I can’t wait for you to read it.
Apart from that, my full focus was on my university work, with one assignment and then six essays to write for a remote exam to do. The assignment did not go well. I posted the second-lowest score of my four years of study, which was really rather frustrating because I felt I had addressed the issues raised by my tutor in previous assignments, only for them to then say that I should have done it differently, more in line with how I had been doing it. My frustration was then compounded when, after messaging my tutor to ask for clarification and guidance as to how to achieve higher marks, given I felt I was enacting their advice and I didn’t understand what they were asking for, they told me that they would not give me any extra feedback due to having already offered feedback on my previous three assignments. This made no sense at all to me, because the fourth assignment was poorer than two of the three prior, and I clearly needed support, given my grades were between 15 and 20 marks lower than what I normally score. They also said if I was unhappy with my grade, I could mount an appeal which could alter my score positively or negatively, but after checking the assessment calculator and seeing I need to score 55% to get a second-grade pass for the module, I decided not to. It wasn’t what the point of my email to them was about – I wanted to know how to improve so I can avoid this situation in the future, but my tutor was unwilling to tutor me, so there wasn’t much I could do really except focus on getting that 55% score in the remote exam.
I won’t find out until the middle of July whether I did or not, but I feel I should achieve that mark. 55% would be my worst-ever score by some distance, so even if I can match my worst scores so far, I will get the grade I need. I’m not confident, to be honest, because the questions were difficult, but I’m not stressed either. I’ve done my best, and even if I fail to hit the 55% mark, I should comfortably clear the 30% threshold to move forward onto module five. It would mean having to score higher in the final two modules to achieve the second-class degree I want, but when looking over the modules years ago, it was this one I identified as the one I’d struggle with the most, given the nature of the exam at the end. It’s frustrating that the tutors and forum moderators seemed more concerned with making their own lives easier than supporting students, for large parts, but it is what it is. I don’t know what stresses and difficulties they are going through behind the scenes, and I’d rather move forward than dwell on a year’s study that it feels everyone – tutors, moderators and students – wants to forget. I just hope my exam submissions were good enough to enable me to do that.
What it has done, though, is reaffirm a lot of beliefs I have developed over the last two years about my writing, and trying to make a real go of it. The FPL Nightmare trilogy will be finished in a few weeks, and I finished Dancing With Disorder last November, so the books that have occupied my focus and my time for several years need to be replaced with a new project. I’m still undecided as to which genre to tackle next, but my partner’s daughter wants me to write a fantasy story, so I imagine that is what I will do. The challenge is to do it in a way that is memorable for her but is also marketable enough to get more sales than my previous books have garnered. It always feels dirty talking about money when it comes to artistic pursuits, but for me to make a career out of writing, it is something that must be considered. Fantasy is a genre with huge money-making potential – you only have to look at Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings to see that – but it is also a saturated market with high standards. Making a name for myself in such a competitive genre will be very tough, but it’s a challenge I look forward to. Knowing I’m doing it for someone I love will help during the inevitable frustration and doubts to come.
Before I start that, though, I need to do some research into the genre and learn about reader expectations and stuff like that. I have some ideas, and I’m looking forward to getting going, but I need to do it right. While conducting that research, I’m toying with the idea of recording an audiobook version of Dancing With Disorder. That would involve a completely different skill set, and I’m not convinced I’d be a good narrator, but at the same time, I don’t think I’d trust anybody else to tell that story. It’s too personal, it means too much to me, and I think I’m the only man for the job. I do think it’ll take up way more of my time than I’d like, but I also think it’s something I need to do at some point, and this is the best time to do it. If recording an audiobook helps Dancing With Disorder reach more people, then it’s worth it. I also plan on making some minor changes to my website, but they are just small things that will probably go unnoticed.
The main thing is getting back to writing blogs regularly, which is something I enjoy doing but something I’ve found a struggle these last nine months. Some of that is circumstantial, having deactivated my website during my mortgage application then having so much of my time and mental energy consumed with moving house, grief, university and the FPL Nightmare, but now it’s time to get back to the keyboard regularly. I think the whole ‘Chapter XX’ aspect of this blog hasn’t worked in the way I hoped, so I will be ending that, and I will be replacing The Lawes Report section with a tributes section, where I can put my writing about the people and things I love the most. I think this will help me get my mojo back, and my intention is at least one blog a week of some description. I need to keep myself sharp, and to get the words flowing, and these blogs are the best way I know how to do that. I mean, a silly blog about Fantasy Premier League turned me into an author with four books, so who knows what lies around the corner now. All I know is that writing about FPL isn’t the way I’m going to make a career out of writing, so it’s time to prioritise pursuits that will help achieve that goal. My ultimate aim is to pay off my mortgage with writing, which seems a fanciful aim, but these ‘wildest dreams’ scenarios become far more realistic when you replace idle fantasising with a solid plan. I’ve learnt so much from the books I’ve published so far; it’s time to put those lessons into practice and move to the next level in my progression.
The beauty of being an indie author is that it’s all on me. I love that. I love that whatever success I have is because of the choices I make. I love that I have to learn so many new skills to have a chance of achieving my aims. I love the freedom that comes with being an indie author, like not having to wait eighteen months to two years for my book to hit the shelves. Being an indie author is punk as fuck, and while I may never be the singer in the band, that ethos is something so close to my heart, and succeeding or failing on my own terms is very important to me. I want to be the man in charge of my life, for reasons which I’m sure are apparent to anyone who has read Dancing With Disorder. So, while I continue my university studies (which are purposefully done with the intention of being able to work for myself at the end of them, too) I also continue attempting to literally rewrite my life, so that I may give the people I love a better one, and hopefully make the lives of my readers better in some small way too.
Thank you to all who have bought Dancing With Disorder recently. I’ve had an upturn in sales this last fortnight, and I appreciate every one. I’ve knocked the Kindle version down to £2.99, so give a go. I’m pretty sure it’ll grab your attention. Thank you also to everyone who chooses to have me in their life, in whatever form. I appreciate your support and kindness more than you know.
Song of the Chapter:
‘Tonight, Tonight’ by the Smashing Pumpkins
Quote of the Chapter:
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity."
"One of the most insightful works I've read on mental health problems in men ... It is very well-written and a real page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dancing With Disorder
"It communicates a deep understanding of troubled individuals who suffer from the challenges of mental disorders ... Courageous, wise, humorous and thought-provoking ... an easy-to-read, surprising and subtly moving chronicle.
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