Monday, April 8, 2013

A View From the Other Side


From 2007 to 2012, I was an aspiring writer, though that term isn’t necessarily accurate and when you really think about it, a bit insulting. I wasn’t aspiring to be a writer. I was a writer. I was just a writer without a book for sale. But this blog isn’t about semantics. I’ll save that one for another time.

This blog is about finding myself on the other side of that wall all writers are trying to climb. The other side of publication. I’m not all the way over yet, as the book won’t hit the streets until next month, but I’m far enough along to have a completely different view. A view that requires some adjustment.

When you’re working toward getting published, you finish your manuscript, then you revise it. And revise and revise and revise. Maybe then you send it to friends, and when they give you feedback, you revise a little more. By the end of the process, you’ve lived with those characters for a long, long time. At least a year, if not five.

This is not the case once you get to the other side. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just different and a bit disconcerting. I started writing MEANT TO BE in early 2011 and finished the revisions in March of 2012. I started writing book 2 in the series, UP TO THE CHALLENGE, in the summer of 2012 and finished it early February 2013.

That’s a book in 14 months to a book in 8 months. Now I have less than 5 months to write the last book in the series, HOME TO STAY. At the same time, I have to promote book 1 and take breaks now and then to do edits on book 2. And then there’s creating a proposal for a book that isn’t written yet. As a writer who doesn’t always know what happens in the story until she’s writing it, summarizing something that doesn’t exist is not easy.

My point is, I don’t get to live with my characters for a year or two anymore. I don’t have time to revise six times before maybe sending the story to a few friends. Almost as soon as I get all the post-its on the storyboard for the book I’m writing, it’s time to take them back off to make room for the next story.

Let me make this clear. I am not complaining. But I think this is an element of getting published that few talk about. So I’m talking about it.

A new class of Golden Heart finalists was recently announced. More than 40 writers who now have a badge of honor that will get them noticed, get them read, and maybe get them an agent or editor. To them and all the other writers who are scaling the wall, I say be ready. Take a deep breath, keep an open mind, and enjoy every minute of whatever the future holds.

Just know, it might not always look the same as it does from where you are today.

Do you think about what it’ll be like when you’re on the other side? Are you prepared to produce at a faster pace? For readers, do you like the faster turnaround on new books these days? Do you ever think quality is being sacrificed for quantity?

27 comments:

Marnee Bailey said...

I do think about what it'll be like after I get to the other side. I have wondered about trying to juggle all the rest of my life and a more intense writer's life.

Sometimes I think the powers that be that control these things are right to hold me off a little longer, until I have a little more time to juggle this stuff. I make time to write. I write almost every day. But it's just not as much time I wish I had. And I wish I could say I could find more time, but I think I'd have to sacrifice more sleep to get it. I already don't watch TV and I've cut out the things that required cutting to make time for this career.

I do like the faster turnaround of books. But I do sometimes think that quality is sacrificed. Not always. But sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. I think it's a fine line between satisfying demand and maintaining quality. It looks difficult.

Terri Osburn said...

There is a lot of timing involved, Marn. I wasn't ready for any of this before now. Kiddo is the right age. Life, though never calm, is settled enough. Back when I first started writing, I was going to college, working, and kiddo was much younger. I wasn't getting words on the page but I never stopped absorbing the craft classes and workshops.

Some people gave me a really hard time about not finishing anything back then, but I just couldn't. I watched other writer friends get published long before I'd finished anything, but I wouldn't change it now. I simply needed more time to be ready.

Marnee Bailey said...

Things happen in their time, when the world is ready and so are we. I'm not going to rage against the universe. I've learned a lot this past 5ish years. :)

MsHellion said...

I'm just hoping my editors are as understanding of me as George R.R. Martin... *LOL*

Although I like books about 6 months apart, provided they're GOOD (GREAT preferred)--I can wait a year between books pretty decently. Or the 2-3 years between every Harry Potter book, it seemed. *LOL* But those had a lot more subplot and stuff going on.

And no, I don't think about the other side much. Anymore than I think about what my life will be like when I'm skinny, beautiful, rich, and famous...I figure all those things have a likelihood of happening of NIL.

quantum said...

Rebecca York has some interesting thoughts from the other side of the fence.
http://books.usatoday.com/happyeverafter/post/2012-08-16/rebecca-york-traditional-vs-indie-publishing/826289/1

It seems curious to see an established author moving into Indie publishing. With her name well known, it seems a profitable move, though the lady is cautiously hedging her bets by keeping a foot in all publishing camps!

With more than 70000 e-book titles, an author needs some sort of label as a beacon to attract readers, otherwise they will be lost in 'The Tsunami of crap'. Golden Heart finalist is a good one.

I like the faster turnaround for series, but would never want to sacrifice quantity for quality.

quantum said...

Drat. Another error. please switch quality and quantity! LOL

Terri Osburn said...

Hellie - I still cling to the day I might at least be skinnier and have my teeth fixed. The dream is still alive. LOL!

Q - We knew what you meant. I should be clear and say I'm not knocking anyone else's quality. That is purely a selfish concern. I sold a book I worked on for a very long time and now I have to sell one I've barely worked on. Just seems odd.

Thanks for the blog link. I'll check it out. More and more authors are taking control of their careers with the self-publishing opportunities now.

Elisabeth Naughton posted a very honest and interesting blog about her venture from traditional to indie publishing.

http://www.elisabethnaughton.com/2013/04/06/self-publishing-1/

Janga said...

Somebody posted a cartoon on FB a while back that showed writers at every stage envying the writer at a different stage. It was funny, and I suspect it also held a lot of truth.

Since I seem to be more productive when I work with an externally imposed deadline, I tell myself I'd write more if I had a contract. But that may be just another of my self-delusions. I think we all have a pace that works best for us, but sometimes reality demands adjustments. I've seen the quality of work decline for some beloved writers. I may think it's because they are writing too quickly or are scattered in too many directions, but I can't know that. Nora Roberts certainly offers ample evidence that quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive. A bit more up close and personal, I'm awed by the number of good books Maggie Robinson has produced in a relatively brief career. But I also am amazed by Joanna Bourne who produces one book a year and does it brilliantly. As with most things to do with writing, different things work best for different writers.

Terri Osburn said...

Excellent examples, Janga. I guess I'm looking from the view of someone just creeping through the curtain. I don't have the luxury of power a Joanna Bourne holds. She's beyond brilliant and worth waiting for. I, on the other hand, am not. LOL! At least not yet.

A year ago the idea of writing becoming the day job wasn't even a thought. It's still not a possibility, but today I so wish writing was the thing I could do all day.

I believe you would finish the novels if you had a deadline, Janga. Which makes me want to give you one that would really stick. We want those stories!

P. Kirby said...

I'm sort of on both sides of the fence. Or maybe my fence is sagging and has raggedy holes that I slip through easily.

I'm published, but small press and ebook. There's an implied pressure that I should produced more, but it's not like anyone really cares what I do. Mostly, I feel guilty and annoyed with myself for not getting more books written.

At the same time, I'd really rather have an output of a book every two years, and have the confidence that the product is the best it could be, then otherwise. Of course, I know I'd do better if I had an deadline imposed by an outside force.

I confess, I see "A book every six months or less" as unsustainable (burnout eminent) and I think it takes a special writer to maintain the quality at that pace. Just my opinion, though.

Terri Osburn said...

Pat, I picked my own deadlines and I gave myself 6 months to write the last 2 books in the series. Once I get going, I'm actually a fast writer and find this deadline doable, provided the characters and life both cooperate.

I'm not getting the cooperation I need so book 3 is almost inevitably going to be behind the 8 ball, so to speak. Or rather, I will be. LOL! But I have faith I can do it, which is another element required for this side of the wall.

Everyone who has read book 2 says it's just as good if not better than book 1, so the shorter writing time didn't affect that one. As is the case with every single aspect of this game, what works for one writer is totally different for another.

P. Kirby said...

Um, yeah, I can see keeping that pace for a few books, but can you see yourself maintaining it for ten books or more? Seems like it would get...tiring.

Didn't mean to put you on the defensive. Mostly, I was directing my comment (obliquely) at some of the FB folk (no one here) who seem to have a book out every month.

Terri Osburn said...

I didn't mean to sound defensive, I wanted more to show that I picked the short turn around and it wasn't forced on me. I'm fortunate in that I'm not on the self-publishing side. I keep hearing how the key to making money in that game is to crank out book after book.

That is a strategy I don't think I could keep up. But I could crank out 2 books a year. Doesn't sound too daunting. And it gives me something to do. I'm a terrible procrastinator. If I had more time, I'd futz around and end up with only the 6 months or less anyway. LOL!

Kim Law said...

I love this post, Terri. Though I also set myself up with tight deadines and was prepared to write stories much faster once I got published (because I was aware of just how much time I procrastinated instead of wrote!), I was not prepared to miss the time with my characters. That is something that I'm struggling with. I just want to hang out with them longer!!! Isn't that funny? But yeah, right when I really know and love them, I sweep them aside and bring in strangers that now need to be my best friends :) It's just odd. And different. And a little sad.

Terri Osburn said...

Kim - At least I'm still writing in the same world with many of the same characters. I'm going to be forlorn when I have to leave Anchor Island completely. It's not even that I doubt the quality of the story, it's as you say, I want to linger with these people a bit longer. I know I can take all those post-its down, but I can't make myself do it. Not yet.

Then again, maybe that's what I need to do to get the next set of characters talking.

Leslie Langtry said...

You had me at 'this isn't a blog on semantics...'

Terri Osburn said...

I'll leave that one to you, Leslie! Of course, I stared at a blank screen all night trying to come up with a topic for today and got this one at the last minute. Then I went to bed and damn if a better topic didn't come along.

Which reminds me, I'd better write that one down.

Janga said...

If I counted correctly, Grace Burrowes had 14 books (11 novels and 3 novellas) on her publication schedule for 2013, bringing her total to 17 novels and 7 novellas since her debut in December 2010. Someone said that she had written more than a dozen books when she got her first contract. I'd love to know how many of her published books existed in draft form before 2010. Her story offers purpose to those of us as yet unpublished. I am particularly encouraged by the fact that she had already celebrated her 50th birthday when she got that first contract. :)

Maureen said...

Honestly, if I had an editor pushing me, I could put out three books a year. I did it once. And I was fine. But I'm not juggling a job, kids, etc. I think those books were better for the tight deadline and back and forth.

Now, I'm struggling with the self publishing and learning to totally trust myself on the editing issues and it's much harder.

I'm with Pat, I know who she is talking about in regards to FB and I question the quality of what these authors are putting out.

I solved the pain of losing my characters by writing a 30 book series. ;-)

Terri Osburn said...

Every time I see those Grace Burrows numbers, I'm gobsmacked again. I just can't imagine it. I would have to think most of those were written before the contracts were signed.

I also often wonder what I could achieve if I didn't have the day job. If writing WAS the day job, I might push for 3 books a year, but I can't imagine more than that.

Terri Osburn said...

Chance said:
"I solved the pain of losing my characters by writing a 30 book series. ;-)"

I want to hang with them a bit longer. I don't want to toddle into old age with them. LOL!

Maureen said...

Ah, see...I write paranormal...I have lost some beloved side characters to old age and balled my eyes out when I did it...but the center is still there...

What's a bit scary is realizing I could spend the rest of my life editing and never write a new book... I don't know, part of me loves that idea, part of me wonders if it means something...

Yeah, I have more than the 30 book series in the laptop. Probably another 10 books if not more...

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

I have to admit I only think about it rarely right now - mostly because I am at that place where I just can't finish a book. Too much upheaval, 2 jobs, current job that isn't 40 hrs a week (even if they only pay me for that), etc. Yes, I am aware those are excuses and I can find time to write but not enough to actually get substantial words on paper.

I do have to say as a reader I find the quickness of books in a series coming out overwhelming. I like a few months in between because I only get so much time and money for reading and I like to vary what I read. That means I might want to hope from one genre to the next and if the books come out too close I feel like I miss them and then never get back into the series. On the other hand, it can help increase sales on all the books to have that constant marketing process going.

Terri Osburn said...

Sabrina, that's what I'm talking about here. Life is weighing on you. There isn't room for one more major thing. And writing is a major thing if you're doing it with the goal of publishing. Do not beat yourself up right now. Life is never as simple as we'd like it to be, but I have complete faith that one day you WILL finish an MS, and more after that. And then you'll be writing the message from the other side. :)

Maureen said...

I'm always astounded at the juggling that goes on with authors who manage to raise kids, work jobs, and do it all... I don't know how they do it.

Discipline and being organized. Terrio has this in spades and so does Scape...

I wouldn't stand a chance...

Terri Osburn said...

I only dream I was an organized person. You should have seen me doing my taxes this weekend. Oy vey.

Maureen said...

Trust me, compared to me, you are the Queen of organization. But I have to admit, Scape is the Pope.