I suppose to most people this is not news. In fact, it might seem odd that, having lived just a year short of half a century in the world, this is just starting to dawn on me. (Though to be honest, it took me six years to realize I wasn’t a kitten, so allowances must be made for teh issues, which I clearly do have and in spades.)
It is tempting to blame the publishers and, if you read Amanda’s article yesterday, it’s hard to believe I shouldn’t, just because, in principle, one at times feels like blaming them for pretty much everything: stock market crashes, pestilence, rain of fish, teenage boys sulking, rainy days.
However, to give the publishers their due, it is not their fault. To the extent they’ve treated me as a machine, I might have forced them into it.
It started long before the zombie career, before I was fully an adult. You see, I was in one of those “advanced” high school programs, one of those in which each of the teachers thinks he’s your only teacher and gives you two hours of homework a night.
No, maybe it started before that, because when I came at that program I was already badly broken. Broken in a “I’d rather break than bend” way. Broken in a “I’ll be d*mned if I cry uncle” way. So, faced with eight, or ten, or twelve (don’t ask) hours of homework a day, I’d give up sleep and sleep for two of three hours a night, then save the rest of the sleep for the weekend. But the work got done. (Which btw, was enabling behavior for those teachers, and probably the reason that I wasn’t too liked around the school.)
This, you can see, was perfect setup for the publishing age at the time I entered, when most writers got two books and out as a chance. Part of the issue, of course, is that most writers aren’t insane. Well, not insane enough. Most of them don’t write because they have to. Most of them don’t write to relax, when they run out of work. I figured “Ah. They’re weak. I will not cry uncle. I’ll stay in the field.” And I figured three or four series are better than one, right, because then – ah, then, when one tanks the other one will keep you going.
Only I’m not a machine. (I’m only coming to this conclusion now, yes.)
It’s not the volume of writing, I’m realizing, as I face the fact that my writing has SUDDENLY exploded. It’s the scheduling.
Writing is not like school work. It’s not learning, or reading, or even memorizing. Yeah, there were times I wasn’t in the mood for math, but since all I was required to do was solve problems, my mood didn’t matter.
Writing is creating. And to create you need several conditions. Being in the mood is just the least of them. Which means… Which means that over the last few years I’ve a few times hit the wall of “I just can’t do this now” and let a book wait six months or a year. While I forced myself to write another book I didn’t want to do.
So, what’s changing with being able to indie publish? I’d think just about everything.
The first and most obvious change is that I can write things on spec – i.e. when I want to – and if someone won’t take them (or if the publishers in that particular area have failed to impress me, like, say, mystery) I put them up myself. I told Toni years ago I hated having contracts, because I hated having stuff due. At the same time, I hated not having contracts because stuff might never sell, and this meant I’d shut myself down mid writing it, out of sheer doubt. Well, now I can do it. I can write on spec. I don’t need the contract and the arbitrary deadline hanging over me. Mind you, my production might become very odd. “This year I did five space operas, two shifters and two mysteries.” BUT yeah, I expect it to become that prolific, so… who cares? I’ll feed the fans more often than I have.
But there are other things, some which seem to me like they’d work, but I haven’t tried yet, so I’m going to put them here and let you tell me what you think:
1- Write what is pounding on the door. But once started, whether novel, novella or short, finish it before moving to the next. (Avoid popcorn kittens.)
2- the corollary is, “don’t force it” – I’ve written a couple of novels because they were grossly overdue, which frankly could have done with a bit more cooking in the back brain. If you’re like me forcing it robs you of entire dimensions of subplots and links. So, don’t force it, but also don’t sit idle. Play with what’s ready to go.
3- Separate your writing and your editing time. Like, one in the morning and one in the afternoon or perhaps “On Fridays, I edit.” I used to do something similar with “secretary” work – i.e. proofing and mailing out of manuscripts, say.
4- Feed the beast. This will vary for different writers. This varies for me. Though mostly my beast runs to dinosaurs and long walks. If I’m not on drop-dead deadlines, with the consciousness of it hanging over me, and if I am, in fact, writing more than I ever have, I can afford to take a long walk a day. And maybe a weekend a month to go look at something dino related. Or just walk in a nice place. Or cook an elaborate meal, or… whatever.
4a – Read. This is the need of every beast that writes. Read. Read everything. Remember when you were a kid, and you read because it had printed words on it? Like that. Read. Read in your free time, and in between writing times, but most of all – I’m going to try this – take a day a week and just read. Just immerse yourself in it and enjoy it.
4b – Sleep. Yeah, this works much better if you’re not wondering what those zany editors are going to do with your book, but it’s necessary, so… sleep. Every night. Or every morning, if you write at night. Go to bed, turn off the brain and sleep.
4c – Do something non-writing related at least a few hours a week. For me that’s usually playing with art. Your mileage may vary.
5 – If you can’t pivot between works – always a big issue for me – take a couple of days off and do non-verbal stuff. Paint walls. Garden. Whatever. Then come back to it.
6 – Enjoy the journey.
7 – Stop berating yourself for not being a machine.
crossposted at Mad Genius Club