He that knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Shun him.
He that knows not, and knows that he knows not is a pupil. Teach him.
He that knows, and knows not that he knows is asleep. Wake him.
He that knows, and knows that he knows is a teacher. Follow him.
— Arabic proverb
Writing and publishing the first full game from Asparagus Jumpsuit was an incredible experience. I laughed, I nearly cried, I felt elation and terror and everything in between. Then I spend a lot of time deconstructing what I actually learned, so that next time things go more smoothly and every step of the process, including the output, is even better.
I validated what I thought I knew
A lot of research went into writing Starship Tyche. A lot of it had to do with setting information, to give it verisimilitude, so that the science and the sociology felt right, so that it stayed true to the genre, and so on. There was a lot of research on the game system, so that things meshed well with the setting and so that I wasn’t reinventing wheels. More research went into the marketing, though, because there’s no point to any of it if it doesn’t sell.
There was a goal I established for the number of pre-orders I thought the book could get. It beat that number. I had ideas about who would buy the game. Those people responded. I had thoughts as to how it would be received, and that’s how it was received. So far, so good. I came out with a sense of confidence that this writing things is I thing I can do successfully, and that I have a general idea of what I’m talking about.
I learned what I didn’t know that I knew
Things arose that I hadn’t planned for, but I was able to roll with them. A lot of these learning were things that I was aware needed to be done, but I hadn’t put them on the project plan or written them on a to-do list. More of these things came out as potential customers asked me questions, and I realized I knew I should include things like page count in the promotional material, I just hadn’t. So perhaps this heading should have been “stuff I knew but didn’t think to write down until it came up.”
I validated what I knew I didn’t know
There were areas where I admittedly had no idea what I was doing. I’m still too embarrassed to admit to any of these. Because so far no one seems to have noticed, I’m not willing to draw attention to them. I knew that I was going to be teaching myself as I went along, that the results were probably going to be kludgey due to my lack of experience. I know that going forward I’ll get better with each book. I will continue to fake it until I make it.
I learned what I didn’t know
The main things that I didn’t know were how long things would take. Having never tackled a project of this size or scope before, I had no idea how much time to allocate for writing, research, editing, layout, and a dozen other little things. You don’t know how long a thing will take you until you do it. Now I know. Going forward, I can budget my time and lay out my project plan better.
I hammered out my priorities
Right after Starship Tyche came out, Chris Pramas wrote a blog post proposing a 24 hour rule. In short, when some creative type releases something, give them 24 hours to bask in the gory of having created something before you start tearing that thing apart. So far, I’ve gotten good feedback on the book. I haven’t gotten a lot of feedback, though. I wonder if people are just being polite and don’t want to hurt my feelings, but when have reviewers ever been worried about that? I started going down the rabbit hole of self-doubt, experiencing all of the negative emotions that all writers seem to go through, the plague of negative emotions and negative self-talk and the need for validation of your talent and your vision and your ideas and their execution.
Then I remembered that I made enough money to pay the rent. Did I get the warm fuzzies I craved? No. But where the rubber hits the road, I live to fight another day. Or more specifically, I get to have a roof over my head while I write the next one. My priority is to take everything above and make the next book even better, so that sales remain solid, and then, at the bottom of the heap, I can worry about my own fragile ego.