Saturday, November 18, 2006

Since I attended my romance writer's conference, significant doubt has crept in to my conscious.

Not that I think I suck. I actually think I write rather well for the most part. But it's more of an insidious, shadowy doubt that was born during the conference. We had a guest author, and agents/publishers, etc... there and they all gave speeches as part of the day. The common thread I noticed in all the talk was that it's not how well you do it, it's how much you can do. Apparently the reading public has gotten so fickle that if I, the author, cannot commit to publish several books a year, they'll forget all about me. Then my publisher will dump me and my career will crash and burn.

No, they didn't say it quite so dramatically. But the point was made, more than once that you need to crank out those stories like a house on fire.

I'm no Nora Roberts. I haven't even been published yet. And inevitably the thoughts work their nasty little way into my mind: What if I can't produce? If it's taking me so long just to finish a book and get it ready for production, will I ever be ready? And, stupidly, I suppose--Will my conscience let me get away with producing crap if I'm actually making money at it? And worst: How long do I do this unsuccessfully before I give it up for a loss?

I want my stories to be memorable. I want my readers to recommend me to their friends. I find that this is a problem with a lot of things I've read: they may be entertaining, but they don't stick with me at all. A week later I can't even remember the title. What does that say about me? (That I'm fickle, I suppose.) On the other hand, what does that say about the book?


spyscribbler said...

Yes, I've heard that. On the other hand, I've heard that one book a year is all you can get published, sometimes.

My first novella is an embarrassment and it took me over a year to complete. My second through fourth were huge struggles that took about six months each. Up until the eighth one, I had a huge lull halfway through, where I had serious doubts that I would be able to finish it. Just this year, I've come to a spot in my writing where I feel like when I start a novella, I'll be able to make it through to the end. If I don't have to work, I can pull off forty thousand words in ten days, polish it, and send it out on the eleventh.

But don't expect that speed in your first one. It's so very hard to write these big forms. So hard. How quickly you write now is no indicator or clue as to how quickly you'll write if you're writing full-time, or how quickly you'll write when you get to your third or fourth or fifth book.

If you ever need to write multiple books a year, then you will probably be writing full time. Writing is like a muscle: the more you do it, the easier it is. "Prolific" authors like Stephen King write only 2,000 words a day. You can easily be prolific on 1,000 words a day.

Keep in mind, they're writing full-time ... that means they're writing at least five hours a day. Even if you just squeze out two hundred words an hour, you'll be prolific.

Just keep writing and don't worry about how fast you're going.

And by the way, the crap part? I don't know most authors feel, but everyone I know personally and talk to intimately, HATE their novels and feel like they're COMPLETE crap when they're done.

I think the key is letting yourself produce crap. Once in a great while, I'll go back and read something I wrote a year or two ago. It's a bizarre experience, and it's nowhere even close to as bad as I thought it was.

It will never, ever be perfect, no matter how hard you try. The closer you get to what you thought was perfection yesterday, the higher you'll raise the bar today. Be proud of yourself, anyway!

(Sorry to rant, btw!)

Michelle said...

I was at the same conference and you weren't at the back table (at least I don't think so) with me. When the guest speaker said the minimum is a book a year/9 months, the authors next to me indicated it can be less than that, like 3-6 months.


It was at that moment that I thanked God I am not writing category or even straight romance (I took those timelines to pertain just to romance although I could be wrong). I can swing a book a year in Fantasy, which is respectable in that genre, but Romance seems to demand writers who can crank it out. I guess it's either write fast or build your inventory before you submit. Sink or swim.

The thing is, I can handle high volumes. 3k in one sitting is doable, the problem is, I'm a pantzer and I get stalled every so often and have to walk away. If I didn't have to do that I could do a book in three months. Or so I think assuming the plot fairy hands over the magic wand.