Thursday, July 31, 2008

If a writer dies with the most books, he/she's still dead.

Actually, the phrase my hubby repeated tonight was "If a guy dies with the most toys, he's still dead." Of course, he was making a point about all the "toys" he'd accumulated and the fact he had no time to enjoy them. He was too busy working himself into an early grave to pay for them all.

I am very envious of the writer who can crank out more than 2 books a year. Wow, and look at how prolific Nora Roberts is. I want to be her when I grow up. Well, maybe. I do not write fast. I'm faster than I was when I began and with a bit more discipline and a lot less distractions, I could be even faster, but then I refuse to sacrifice quality for quantity. Nora writes fast, but she writes well. Not me. If I try to force a book, I know the plot will have holes and the story might even contain those silly phrases that make readers groan.

No, I stress over every word. I read the ms over and over. I submit to critique groups (and there's another subject worthy of blog comment - maybe next time) I read it again. Of course, after all of this, I will be submitting the perfect work to my editor. Nah. It amazes me how much she finds even after I've combed through it a hundred time. Why? Because once it's on paper, the human eye has a hard time finding the little blunders. Did you know that we don't read the word "of." Our mind skips over that little connector. You can't see the forest for the trees. Cliche but true.

So as much as I'd love to write 3 books a year or even 2, I'll settle for one. I can manage one and make it the very best it can be. Any more than that would cause me to work myself into an early grave and no matter how many books I've written at that point, I'd still be dead. Darn. I love writing too much to do that to myself.

Some writers, like my good friend Kim Lenox, write on proposal. Of course, she has an agent, so this works for her. She drafts a synopsis that her agent shops around. If the publisher likes the idea, he/she contracts the book. But - here's the catch, she's then given a deadline in which to write a full manuscript from start to finish. This works great for some as the writer doesn't waste time writing a full novel that he/she can't contract.

I don't like deadlines of that nature. For me, I make sure the book is 75% complete before submitting the query. Why? I write too slow and I can't turn off the internal editor. The downside is that I could possibly devote a whole year to a book I can't sell. So - I better make sure I write a darn good book!


KMTolan said...


This article hit a sympathetic chord with me. I can't write a "simple" book if it was to save my life. The world building, depth, and all that good stuff isn't something that can easily get kicked out, assembly fashion. Least not for me. Part of the problem I think the industry has right now is that too many writers are sucumbing to schedules - and end up writing formula-driven drivel. Any wonder why such works tend to gray into obscurity? Often, the author is only selling their name at this point. Glad to see you're doing it the old fashioned way - working for it. Your SF series demands it - there's no "formula" for that kind of creativity.


Kimber Chin said...

I hear you about the one book a year thing.

I look at Nora and think "good for her." I don't want to do that myself though.

I'm a one novel + one novella a year type of writer. This summer, I'm writing one novel + two novellas and that is seriously pushing it (the only thing saving my sanity is the two novellas are connected).

You're obviously doing something right, Ciara.
Don't let yourself be pressured into changing!!

Ciara Gold said...

Thanks guys, Yeah, you're right about the world building, Kerry. And there's so much more than just writing. In order to keep it all straight, you have to take lots of notes along the way and pray you never lose the set of notes. Been there, done that.

Kim, I envy you getting that much done. Wow. I'm impressed. I do think those of us with the "drive" to write that also work other jobs are in a different position than the writer who actually gets to stay home and write. Even if I could quit right now, I wouldn't. I have too much invested in the career and am looking forward to retirement. But - I envy those with the luxury to lose themselves in their fantasy worlds and let the Muse take over.

And Kerry, my hope is that I never write a book that feels like a "formula." Of course, I imagine that's all personal opinion, but still. I think with your vivid imagination that you do indeed understand this.

Anonymous said...

I could never write by proposal as my first goal is to entertain myself through the telling of a complete story. I have to know how characters I can love work out their problems.

Carol McPhee

Ciara Gold said...

Carol, me too! I envy the writer who can do so and who can draft an outline first. I know they write faster because they problem solve in smaller chunks I think. Alas, I'm happy I write, so I guess I shouldn't complain about the way my Muse washes the dishes.

Phyllis Campbell said...

Hi Ciara, sweetie! I don't think I could write a proposal, but then our dear friend, Kim Lenox is used to it. LOL Although...I could easily write a good five books a year...IF I didn't have my full time day job. Yuck!


Ginger Simpson said...

I write slower than I used to for the very reasons you mention. I like to have a critique group go over my chapters and help me hone the piece into shape. I've got some great writing buddies and I constantly learn from the. Besides, I'm a pantser, so plotting and writing out an outline doesn't work for me. I have to have the characters in my head, leading me to the meat of the story. Deadlines don't work for me either. Give me one and I'll guarantee something will happen to screw with me meeting it. I'm spontaneous in life, and that includes writing. A dear friend of mine shops her novels before they are finished, and if she gets a nibble, she can hustle and finish. I suck at that! Right now I have three stories going at the same time and all are progressing steadily or not at all, depending on the week. :)
Thanks for the interesting topic. Hey, I bet if we had Nora Robert's money we could pay people to leave us alone so we could write. *lol*


Ray said...

One of the participants in one of my groups who went to RWA in San Francisco attended a talk by a group called PRO (writers who had finished a book, but not yet published). The speaker said she didn't feel disappointed she wasn't published, she was proud of the fact that she had finished a book.

I imagine there is something to be said about having to shop a book even if you are previously published. What is important is what works for you.


Ciara Gold said...

Ah, you all had great responses. And Ray, you hit the nail on its head. A writer must be true to themselves otherwise they begin to sacrifice quality.