Journal

Stir Fried Thoughts

There have been a random assortment of things on my mind lately, and I wanted to mull things over before posting. So in no particular order, let us begin.

#NaNoReMo Update: I’m three and a half books into January. I think I’ll finish the last one by the end of the week.

  • Idoru by William Gibson – Done!
  • Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup – Done!
  • Sleight of Hand by Peter S. Beagle – Done!
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making – Halfway through

Writing:

I’ve officially passed the 50% mark of ‘The Golden Thread’, my current WIP. It’s still a first draft and very rough, but I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed working with an outline this time around. Even with a scene by scene guide, there’s still room for surprise. The characters still get up to their tricks, and move the story along in ways I never anticipated. Those surprises are what I love best about writing. It feels a little bit like magic, and maybe it is.

Publishing:

I had a chat with Doug Savage of Savage Chickens over hot chocolate. He explained what he went through to get his book published, including how he worked with his agent to put together a proposal to pitch to publishers, and what happened afterwards. He said that right now publishers are looking for a sure bet. They wanted to know that there was a market ready for book, and they want concrete evidence. In his case, since his book was non-fiction, he had to provide detailed stats including how much blog traffic he gets, how many people follow his twitter account.

It’s not the same for fiction, but that brings me back up to the crux of this rambling section: a need to identify a market. I’m a little lost with this part. I don’t know who my novel will appeal to. I read a lot of fantasy, but I haven’t found any easy comparisons. In fact, I wrote this novel to address things I didn’t typically see in fantasy, but I wanted to. I’m going to have to do a little bit of research reading so I can fill in the blanks: “My book will appeal to fans of X author, and X author.” I’m just worried that I may come up empty, or that at present the book is completely unmarketable.

Not convinced this is important? Check out pitch tips from agents on twitter. They will ask you for comparable novels if you pitch your novel to them. They will take it as evidence that you are not well read in your genre if you can’t answer. I don’t think this is necessarily a true assumption, but what can you do?

Courage!

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Courage comes and goes when it comes to this whole crazy writing business. For the most part, I usually keep my head down, and busy so I don’t have time for fear. I’m anxious because no idea how to know how far along I am on the journey, nor even if I’m at the point where my writing is publishable. Do you keep working on the first novel? Keep sending it out? Or go on to the next thing? When do you stop? When are you done?

I realize there are no clear answers to this, because no one’s journey is the same. I think it’s the uncertainty that gets to me. Some reassurance that I’m still making progress would be great right about now, but there really are no statistics to measure by.

FIN

And so that’s about it. In the meantime I’m just going to keep working. I have another novel to finish, and it’s looking like the first draft will be done by the end of March. It’s a completely different subgrenre from the first novel, which has been a nice change, but also a challenge.

How do you know you’re making progress? Do you? Or do you worry about it like I do?

14 Comments

  1. Yuuup. Progress is a hard thing to measure in this biz. At every stage, from what I hear. And, this is hard to internalize but I think it’s important: we probably can’t/shouldn’t measure progress externally then. It’s definitely something I struggle with, especially when (well-meaning) friends and family are constantly looking for milestones they can congratulate you on.

    My advice is not to worry about the market. Write a great book. At the end of the day, some way, some how, great books rise to the top.

    1. The lack of external progress markers do bug me. Maybe we need to set better milestones, internally? Say like, being proud of a particular chapter, or playing with a new technique. Hmm I’m going to think about that.

      And I’m always going to write what I want to write… but when it comes to publication, I’m not sure if it’s the right timing for it, if I should hang on to it for now, or if it needs some more work…

  2. That’s exciting to be halfway done with your new novel! Woo-hoo!!!

    I know I’m making progress when I can look back on a section and say, “Yeah…that was way better than what I had down before.” But honestly, it’s pretty intimidating when you manage to write a section better than you thought you could and then realize it’s kind of your job to do the same with all the other areas in your story that aren’t “up to par”. Sometimes you wanna just slack off and skip certain things, but then you’re sure to pay for it later… That’s really the hardest thing for me right now.

  3. I think Kristan nailed it. Write a great book.

    The “when are you done?” question is tricky. I think sometimes you have to set a hard deadline (or at least I had to). When that deadline passes, it’s done. Otherwise you can keep fiddling with it forever, and that can be (at least for me) depressing.

    1. It’s certainly tempting to keep fiddling with it. I don’t want to be working on it forever, but I do want it to be the best book it can possibly be. It’s hard to know when to stop 🙂

  4. I worry about marketability, too. Mostly I worry about writing a good book. But marketability comes after I think that I probably am writing a good book (an opinion which changes occassionally). Okay, so it’s good… but can I sell, it?

    It doesn’t help that I probably am under-read in my genre (on account of several years being woefully behind in my reading). I’m trying to catch up, but I’ll never be fully caught up. I just don’t read fast enough.

    As for when is it done? As others have pointed out: that’s a hard nut to crack. For the stories I’ve written… it’s done when I’m happy with the story, and when I feel good about how I’ve addressed the concerns that readers have brought up. But some writers will never be happy. For those, Anthony’s method might be useful: they may need a deadline.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I’m finding that selling is a whole different game than writing. It requires learning a skill set that I have no familiarity with. I’d much rather be writing!

      If I ever met a writing genie and could ask for one magical tool, it would be a thermometer to check manuscript ‘doneness’. Only at 80 degrees in the interior? Not quite done yet. I need to let the manuscript bake for 30 more minutes. LOL

  5. A long-time friend just got representation (pretty top-level representation). He definitely did all the things you mentioned (identified his audience, other books his book is similar to, etc.). He studied the market pretty systematically before he even started writing.

  6. For me, the most valuable thing was to become a publisher. Once you become a publisher, you can see the world, and publishing, through those (jaded/cynical) eyes!

    I thought my first book, a middle-grade historical realistic comedic coming-of-age novella, was delightful! Why weren’t the publishers lining up to bid on it? Then I self-pubbed and heard the deafening roar of disinterest. Ah, but my next book was a little more commercially-oriented. I still loved the heck out of that book and wrote my heart out with it. Mild interest, modest sales. Ah! Yes, the best books are those at the cross-section of What You Want to Write and What People Want to Read.

    FWIW, I would prefer to read a book that was created from an outline. Authors don’t disclose that fact with their marketing, but I can always tell when characters are faffing around, wasting time, describing meals, waiting for the story to begin. Good luck to you with your outline!

    1. OOPS, MISFIRE! I mean, good luck with your first draft, based on your scene guide.

      I’m also experimenting with a more detailed outline for my current WIP, that way I don’t have to go in and cut as much faffing. 🙂

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