Friday, May 25, 2012

What Happens After Writing 3 or 4 Books a Year

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Striped_Notepad_4710 (7)There was an article in the New York Times recently, entitled Writer’s Cramp: In the e-Reader era, a Book a Year is Slacking.

Obviously, this is a provocative title. I don’t think a book a year is slacking. I just don’t think we can make a living off a book a year if we’re midlist authors. (Actually…I know we can’t. Unless your book deals are a whole lot better than mine are.)

Not everyone can write several books a year. If you write 175,000 word historical sagas, no, you probably can’t write three or four books a year. If you write nonfiction (the type that requires a lot of research and fact-checking), probably not.

For the rest of us time-challenged writers (which means everyone, probably) I wanted to let you know that writing several books a year doesn’t take that long. As I mentioned in this post, if you can write 3 1/2 pages a day, you can write three or four books a year. Even if it takes you a long time, thoughtfully considering each word and making each word resonate with meaning, you can probably manage a least two if you stay focused during your writing time.

So what’s it like to write that many books a year? I can let you know what it’s like for me. This is the first time I’ve really analyzed it, so it’s interesting to break it all down (for the record, since the start of 2012, I’ve written one full book and I’m now passing the halfway mark of the second. I do edit quickly and I do have either my publisher’s editors or freelance editors go over my work after I edit it.)

Good things

*You write every day and you don’t lose any story continuity.

*You don’t forget or stumble with your character’s individual voices.

*You think about your story more during the day. Plot ideas, small scenes, even just words occur to you during the day in reference to the story.

*You don’t ever get bored with what you’re writing.

*You just jump right into the story every single day. No wondering where you left off. No feeling like you’ve lost the story thread.

*Frequently you’ll get story ideas for the next book in the series while writing the book.

*Readers don’t have to wait very long between books.

*Obviously, your income is higher.

Not so good things

*The way the publishing cycle goes, you can end up with two books with nearly the same deadline (this would be me, now.)

*If your deadlines are spaced fairly far apart, it still doesn’t mean that you don’t end up with two books running into each other. I nearly always am working on edits for one while drafting another.

*If you’re writing different series each time (this is exactly my situation this year), then you have to get your head quickly back into the game with each book/different series.

*If you’re writing the first book in a series, it takes a little more time….you’re establishing characters and settings.

Downright lousy things

*There’s a sense of burnout sometimes. It means you have to work harder (and if that seems counterintuitive…yeah, it is. But it works. I don’t know why, either…)

*Once in a while there’s a feeling of extreme panic. I’ve committed to what this year?! And the accompanying feeling of complete inadequacy, of course.


All that being said, I wouldn’t give it up because of the easy rhythm of it. I might prefer three instead of the four I’ve completed in the last 12 months. But ultimately it works really well. You never get that stale feeling from not having written for a while.

This being said, it’s also important to make sure we’re not mindlessly churning out junk. We’ve got to think of our reader first. I’d hate for a regular reader of mine to be disappointed by one of my stories. I’d also hate to discourage a new reader from reading more of my books. I’m hoping for a trusting relationship with my readers that lasts for decades.

There can be so much of a rush to publish that the story is full of holes, is too derivative, or is full of typos and other errors. There are editors that can help us with those things, but it’s a lot better in the long-run if we revise before the manuscripts get into our editors’ hands.

What’s your writing pace like? Do you set yourself a word-count goal or a timed goal? Do you write more than one series? Would you?