A friend of mine owns a thriving physical therapy clinic here in the Seattle area and was kind enough to invite me to speak later this year. He runs a lecture series for his patients and friends and thought they would enjoy hearing about our cycling trip and that it would be a great opportunity for me to plug my upcoming book. He’ll print flyers, post to social media, and even spread the word to his ten-thousand person mailing list. I excitedly agreed on a date in October. Then he wrote back, asking a question that froze me in my seat.
“Do you think the book will be complete and available for signing by then?”
When I finally remembered to breathe and relaxed the iron-clad grip I had on my mouse, I realized it was a fair question. After all, the publishing world had changed significantly over the past ten years and it’s common for authors, particularly self-published ones, to crank out at least several books per year. In fact much of the advice to indie authors trying to make a living out of their writing goes as follows: Publish as often as you can. It’s the advice given by and to those who place earning an income as a writer above all else. And it works beautifully for some. But it’s not the path I’m wishing to take. At least not at this time.
Somewhere between Somalia and Sri Lanka, afloat in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I put a four-year writing schedule together. A flexible roadmap with some suggested deadlines to help me not only keep on track, but to help me see the big picture and to not feel the pressures to rush this story out in hopes of chasing a few bucks. That I have the occasional strategy guide to write and a wife with a solid income allows me this flexibility without having to endure the rigors of the starving artist. I’m not blind to that good fortune.
So I looked back to that schedule I assembled and discovered that I was already out in front on some tasks. I didn’t intend to even build this website until July. I didn’t plan to clean up the formatting and adjust the keywords and description of One Lousy Pirate until August. I accomplished both the website and the book update in January. But where does that leave me for October? I told my friend that, if all goes well, I hope to have the manuscript in the hands of beta readers by the end of the year. My original schedule, based only in the reality that exists in the mind of this conservative novice, didn’t even have me querying agents until the summer of 2017.
Yes, I hope to go the traditional route. Not entirely because I’m seeking validation (though I’d be lying if I said it never entered my thoughts) but because I’m following a different piece of advice: Write what you enjoy. I don’t read genre fiction. I don’t read serial books released by authors who churn them out four times a year. I don’t have anything against those who do, it’s just not what I typically read. And I want to write not only a story I want to tell, but on a level that approaches the quality of art I respect most. I understand the chance of me writing a story that gets remembered decades from now or taught in classrooms is probably less than winning Powerball. But people still buy lottery tickets, right? They still dream. I’m not dreaming, I’m simply trying. And that’s going to take time.
So no, the book will not be available this October. If all goes extraordinarily well, it might be under contract next October. But only if it’s what I hope it can become.
- Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year – I couldn’t not include this link given what I just wrote above. Lorraine Devon Wilke does a great job of not hurling stones from a glass house while still providing a voice for those who need reminding that it’s okay to slow down, take their time, and hone their craft.
- The Greatest Heroines of All Time – This article by Samantha Ellis via BBC was just sent to me this morning by my wife and it provides a great discussion of classic, enduring heroines from Jane Eyre to Katniss Everdeen. It’s an interesting, thoughtful look at what inspires certain female characters to stand the test of time.
- Writing the Perfect Scene – I used to think books were all about chapters. That authors focused their writing one chapter at a time. And then I started studying story structure and understand that, for novelists, the scene is the most important story unit. A chapter might contain one scene. It might have several. I’m a big fan of the StoryGrid teachings by Shawn Coyne, but this article by Randy Ingermanson is a great one-stop deep-dive into all of the things a scene must accomplish, and how to go about writing a good one.
- How I Use Scrivener to Organize Research and Marketing for My Books – I love Scrivener. I use it for all of my writing except when I’m writing strategy guides and have to use my publisher’s Word template. Whether you’re writing a novel, a blog, or just want to keep track of some larger project, Scrivener can help you do it. This article by Susan Kaye Quinn includes several other uses that I hadn’t before considered.
- 22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing – Nearly two dozen thoughtful pieces of advice on the subject of writing from the masters of the craft. From Orwell to Chekhov, King, and Nabokov, nearly all aspects of the creative process are covered. Enjoy!
Board Games That are Super Fun to Play Solo – I love board games. Alas, the best games often require at least three people to play. Many need more than four. And unfortunately, I’ve always straddled the no-man’s land between geek and jock. The majority of my friends I know through sports, whether it be surfing or mountain biking or running. But when I’m not playing outside, my interests skew towards videogames and board games. My wife and I recently picked up the game Machi Koro which is quite fun, but I find it a bit too simple and repetitive. She’s reluctant to get anything much more complex. What I need are solo games and here’s a list of them! Yay!
Post Image by Ian Sane, used under Creative Commons