However, for the most part, I do tend to worry excessively over whether or not my writing is “ready” to send out. Road to Rejas is just the latest example. I started out working on what I imagined would be about a twenty thousand word novella, and ended up with almost thirty thousand words and counting. The story is basically done, but it still needs a lot of “polish”. Said polishing means adding sections to clarify the plot, removing sections that are redundant as a result of the new additions, tweaking unrealistic dialogue, checking the pacing that “just doesn’t feel right”, and a myriad other things that slow me down.
But the harsh reality is that the real impediment to rapid progress is none other than yours truly. You see, I have a really bad habit. I tend to procrastinate on projects like this for fear that it isn’t going to be “good enough”. As long as the project isn’t out there for public criticism, I don’t have to face the possibility that everyone will tell me that it’s complete and utter crap.
So I find other things to slow myself down. For instance, I tell myself I have to pay attention to my “marketing”. For the first months after HPM was released, I was hitting Twitter, FaceBook, GoodReads, posting on my blog, and posting on some topic relevant forums as part of the “advertising campaign”. I recently sat down and put pen to paper (or fingers to calculator) and realized that I was initially spending about twenty to thirty hours per week on various social media outlets. That may have been a good idea immediately after HPM‘s release, but there’s really no need for that to go longer than the first month or two.
I’ve done this before. When I tried to get serious with my writing back in the ’90s, I found myself in a new world, making friends and inroads into the local writing community. I was convinced to enter some regional amateur authors’ writing competitions and actually did pretty well. I had an editor at St. Martin’s Press after me to finish the manuscript I had entered (an early version of what would later become Half Past Midnight), and another editor for a new TOR imprint (new in 1996, that is) after me for completion of another novel I had started (an urban fantasy with a working title of “Soul Eater” – currently on indefinite hold due to a saturated market). I had won or placed in three different writer’s competitions, was president of a local writers’ group, chaired or co-chaired a few of that group’s writing conferences, wrote a monthly column for the group’s newsletter, and hosted a BBS called The Writer’s Workshop (and yes, I said BBS – it was the ’90s, after all). In short, I was spending more time writing about writing, than I spent actually writing.
In those days, it was a commonly bandied about stastic that fewer than two percent of the people who tried to make a career of writing were ever able to do so. And the truth of the matter is that statistic terrified me. The thing that really bothered me was that there was very little a writer could do to affect those odds. Everything was in the hands of other people. An agent had to decide whether or not your work was good enough to shop around. An editor had to decide whether or not the manuscript handed them from your agent was good enough to pass on to the senior editors, who then had to meet in committee to determine whether or not the work filled a niche that they needed for their business strategy for that year. And even if you managed to pass those hurdles, it would be a year or two before the manuscript you handed them would ever see print. “Luckily” for me, I ended up with a major career change and decided that I couldn’t afford to “waste time” on a pursuit that had such a low chance of success. In short, I chickened out.
Then in 2010 I stumbled across a podcast “for aspiring writers, by aspiring writers” called The Dead Robots’ Society. Listening to those folks rekindled the old flame. In listening to them, I found that the writing business had completely changed. If I wanted to write – if I really wanted to write, changes in technology and business practices would allow me to bypass the old traditional roadblocks. In short, there was nothing to stop me from publishing but a relatively small monetary investment, and my own lack of courage.
I decided it was time to put up or shut up. I tentatively broached the topic with my better half, who immediately gave me the encouragement I needed (more like kicked me in the seat of the pants and asked what I was waiting for), and I went for it. I researched and found Lynn O’Dell, the best editor I could ever hope for, and through that association fell in with a really great group of authors with the Red Adept Select group. These folks have been amazingly helpful in teaching me the ropes.
It is now six months post publication and I have found things changing for me. I recently realized I was beginning to slip back into procrastination mode. So I had a good talk with myself this morning on the way in to work, and I’ve decided I need to make some changes. Until Road to Rejas is out, I have to cut back on the social media interactions. I’ve decided to make the following adjustments:
- Twitter – I used to spend an hour or two per day culling through my Twitter feeds, but lately it seems to have become nothing more than a constant barrage of authors, agents, publicists, and cover artists trying to sell me their wares or convince me of their political views, and I don’t have time to sift through the crap for the real conversations. I will cut back to perhaps an hour or two per week. I may even drop it completely.
- Facebook – This one I still use consistently. It allows me to post a significant amount of data, show pics and links that *I* believe show more about “who I am” without worrying about that pesky 140 character limit. However, I have found myself spending way too much time there, also. Time to cut back.
- GoodReads – I really like the GR crowd. They’re a smart and savvy bunch of folks, but GR is primarily a book review site. Since I try to avoid reviewing the work of my peers, that makes it difficult for me to participate in many of the conversation threads. Truthfully, they’ll probably never miss me there.
- Blogging – To me, this one is still a must. Whether or not anyone is actually following me is irrelevant. Regular posting is a constant reminder of why I am writing, and it lays the groundwork for those readers who may pick up my work, decide they want to know more about me, and look me up. After all, I don’t want someone to find me, go to my site, and find that I have absolutely nothing more to offer. I look at this as the “behind the scenes” information – like the DVD “special features” section, and some folks are interested in it.
- Posting on topic relevent forums – For me this is something that I truly enjoy. Since I wrote a PA novel, and my protagonist was a survivalist (or in today’s vernacular, a “prepper”), it was a no-brainer that I should look up and join some of the prepper forums. Now, in truth, it was a topic in which I was already interested, had already researched, and was pretty familiar with, so this was not a marketing thing for me. But since I am an author with a novel in the genre, I have to make sure I avoid even the appearance of trolling for sales, as I truly want to be considered part of their community.
Currently, arithmetic shows that I spend 45-50 hrs/week with the day job, about 15-20 hrs/week with the various “marketing” venues listed above, and about 10-15 hrs/week on actual writing, culminating in a 70-85 hr work week. You’d think I could get more accomplished in that amount of time. But not when my priorities are bass-ackwards like this. So I’ll have to spend less time on the marketing side, and more on the writing. After all, as I’ve heard repeatedly on The Dead Robots’ Society, “your best advertising is the publication of your next book.”
So it’s time to change. If I don’t want to fall back into the old procrastination habit, I have to get my ass in gear. I will release R2R by mid-July. I also hope to have my next novel out before the end of the year. It’s a completely different genre, so I don’t know how it will do, but I’m already too far into it to stop. After that, I’ve got an idea that I’ve been toying with for a sequel to HPM. It’s not fully fleshed out yet, but I think that will be my next major project.
So that’s it – my mission statement, if you will. Basically, I have to cut back on some of the social interactions in order to get the writing back on course. So if you’re on one of the sites I mentioned above, and if you notice that I appear to be less active (or completely MIA), please understand. This is what I need to do in order to get the writing back on course. I hope you think the end product is worth it.
That’s it for now. Be safe.