A Faster Book, or a Better Book?

Porphyry MarbleWhen I first started indie-publishing my books, I set the goal to release eight books in eight months.

Crazy.

Especially since I write huge books. I did have several of them completed, but revisions, covers, and lots of other things weren’t done. Plus, I like releasing physical copies (both paperback and hardcover). So that goal was simply, physically impossible.

It was motivating, though, and it helped me stay focused. But one sad truth about my writing is that first drafts are far from finished drafts. Some authors can pump out a first draft that’s a single polish away from release. Not me. My revisions are more like full rewrites most of the time.

Hence the growing conflict for me. Do I stick to my new, but still aggressive publishing schedule, or do I allow the planned release dates to slide to make sure each book can be the best possible?

The importance of that question became clear when I was speaking with another author at the amazing Superstars of Writing Seminar. I was explaining my goal of releasing books as fast as possible, along with my plans for how many books I’d release each year. He simply said, “I don’t hear you talking much about how you want every book to be better than the last.”

Oops.

Of course I wanted that, but he was right – it wasn’t in my goals. Time to re-think and re-commit to something I really believe in my heart. Readers deserve the very best I can give. Sure, they might clamor for the next book as fast as possible, but they’re willing to wait a little longer for the book to be done right.

Last year, I did not meet my publishing goals. I planned to release a book in the springtime, but edits turned into a full rewrite. Then I had to set that mostly-finished new draft aside to write Affinity for War – book four of the Petralist. I had set the goal to release that one by Christmas, but again rewrites took longer than planned. The book is nearly done, and it’ll be released in March, but for a while I was really stressed about the fact that I might missed my planned date.

I had to remember that the book has to be ready and it’s worth the time to get it right. So it’ll be right, and it’ll be amazing, and fans will love it.

And in 2018, one of my goals is to figure out how to make my first drafts better so I don’t need such heavy re-writes in revisions. That will help everyone.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Finishing What You Start, Or Not

When I first started writing fiction in 2009, one of the first things I learned were Heinlein’s Rules. While they all have a place in the heart of every writer, the one that sticks out the most to me is “Finish What You Start.” It’s the single most often prescribed bit of writing advice I give to aspiring authors. The ability to sit down and finish a story, good or bad, is critical to learning the craft. However, I’ve also come to understand (and experience) that there are simply times when you shouldn’t finish what you start – you should put it down and walk away.

I’ve had an idea for a novel in my head for the last several years and I’ve toyed with outlining it here and fleshing out dialogue and characters there and I decided that I’d sit down on really focus on it last year. My intent was to write about 10,000 words and really determine if the story was something I could commit to fully. While it sounded good to me, and I was pretty sure I could write it, could I make it an authentic story? Could I answer the most important question in every reader’s mind – “Who gives $&@#?” I believed I could and I promptly sat down wrote about 8,500 words and stopped dead – seriously, like in the middle of a sentence.

At the time, I believe the words I spoke to myself were “What in the hell are you doing, Kevin?” My great idea wasn’t as great as I’d believed it to be. From my reading and occasional instruction of outlining and character dynamics, I realized that while I had a fun premise to explore, my character was simply horrible. I’d designed goals for them and tried valiantly to put them into some type of story line capable of captivating an audience. On paper, everything was a fit, but I realized that I didn’t “love” my protagonist. In fact, I kinda loathed them. Every time I wrote their dialog in that 8,500 starter, I cringed. It got to the point at the end that I threw up my hands and said “I’m not finishing this.”

A few years ago, this would have bothered me tremendously. Having learned that finishing what you start is critical to success as a writer, my younger self would’ve pressed on and turned out something vaguely akin to a novel that was destined for the circular file. Instead, I realized that while I’d seemingly done my homework, outlined and plotted the story, and built my character in a way I thought would work – the whole mess didn’t come together. Was it a result of my talent? Or my motivation? Or did I just not believe in the story anymore? Your guess is as good as mine. What mattered was that my brain said it was time to stop – that I wasn’t getting anywhere fast and that I was laboring over a first draft instead of letting the ideas around my outline flow. That story went into the dark recesses of my hard drive likely never to be heard from again. It simply didn’t work. I didn’t need to send it to my first reader or any beta readers – I could sense that the story was dead on arrival and I stopped.

I recently went back at looked at what I’d written in the 8,500 word, suddenly truncated start and completely agreed with my decision. In some similar cases, I’ve looked at something with fresh eyes and starting typing anew – pushing that gestated idea to finalization. As I read the first chapter, I thought I might be able to do just that. By the end of chapter three, I knew it was a lost cause. That character, and their storyline, went into the experience file. From there, I went back to another one of Heinlein’s rules – “Write something else.”

I’ve been busy ever since.

How Goals Can Destroy Your Writing Career

Goals: part of any plan of success, right? WRONG. Take it away, Dr. Cox!

Of course, it’s not really that simple. Goals really are important, in writing or in any other endeavor. But you need to be careful about how you set your goals. It’s important that you approach them with a Goldilocks mindset.

Everyone remembers the fairy tale, I’m sure. This porridge is too hot, but this porridge is too cold. The third bowl? Just right. Goals can have similar qualities. Set a goal too high, and you wind up with an unattainable peak to climb, setting yourself up for inevitable failure. With failure often comes discouragement, and discouragement can really wreck the creative spark and sap your will to sit down in front of the keyboard. Remember that time you went to the gym for the first time in months and tried to pick up where you left off? For some reason, it works fine while you’re doing it, your body every bit as clueless as you are that there is such a thing as muscle atrophy. Then you are in agony for a week, can barely get out of bed much less get down the stairs, and you don’t go back to the gym for another six months.

It’s the same in writing. So, you decide you’re going to pound out three books a year. At 1000 words a day every day, that’s 300,000 words per year, or three 100,000 word novels even if you take 65 days off. Great! And totally doable, which should — oh wait, you have a day job 12 hours a day? And a family? And basic human needs like food and sleep? You … may want to dial that back. Even if you have the time to get down 1000 words, most days, you may not have the energy.

Of equal but more subtle danger is setting your sights too low. Sure, you rewrote that scene three times already until it felt perfect. But I bet if you read it again today you’d find it needs rewriting. The rest of the book can wait, maybe forever, but this one scene will be a flawless work of art. Or, sure, you haven’t written at all in two weeks, but that video game isn’t playing itself, is it? You work hard. You deserve a break before you set out on your second job. Things will probably ease up after the holidays, even though, if you’re being honest, they never have before. As long as you jot down a few quick sentences sometime this month, that still counts as writing. And just like that, guess whose book is never getting written?

A goal should be something you strive for. If you meet it, it should be a challenge to do so. If you fail to meet it, you shouldn’t miss so wildly that you are left feeling hollowed-out and worthless. So what does “just right” mean in a writing context? Hint: it’s not necessarily “just write” as punny as that would be. As I’ve harped on so many times that you are probably sick of it by now, it depends on your particular situation. You have to figure out what works for you.

The catch? The only way to do that is through experience. I’d recommend trying to set some easy goals first, ones you are confident you can meet. Finish a draft of this chapter this week. BUT make this goal be in service to a larger, more challenging one, one that will, once achieved, feel like a real accomplishment. Finish a draft of the book by your birthday. There’s a funny thing about human beings. Once you sincerely believe you can do something, something that once seemed impossible now seems relatively straightforward. So use this early goal-setting to teach yourself that you can set realistic goals and meet them, all in service to a larger goal. Each small step will be achievable, advancing the larger goal. And even these larger goals can feed into still-larger ones.

Like, say, “become a successful author.”

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

A Gamer’s Guide to Quitting – A Guest Post by Heidi A. Wilde

A guest post by Heidi A. Wilde.

When I was first asked to submit a post about knowing when to quit your goals I had mixed feelings. Aren’t we supposed to never quit? “Winners never quit and quitters never win” and all that? But the more I thought about it, and read other people’s thoughts on the subject, the more I realized that there are quite a few instances where quitting is actually the right thing to do, and that it doesn’t mean you have failed. I love playing games of all sorts, board games, video games, computer games/MMOs/etc, you name it; and as I was pondering how best to talk about the circumstances when it is okay to abandon a goal a few gaming correlations came to mind. Stick with me here, and I’ll share five examples of when quitting is the better option.

  1. Your quest log is full and/or you’ve out leveled the area you’re in. In order to make room for more level appropriate quests, you need to abandon some whose rewards are minimal because your level is too high. If you made a goal in your 20s and you’re now in your 30s but have yet to accomplish it, chances are that the goal just doesn’t fit your life now. You’ve grown past it. It’s hard to let go sometimes, especially as we’ve been told so often that quitting equals failing. If you’re only hanging on to this goal because you don’t want to be labeled a quitter, but it’s not actually going to give you anything in return, it’s time to let it go to make room for goals that are more appropriate to where your life is currently heading.
  2. Your raid group cannot defeat a certain boss. Every week you and your friends group up to try their hands at the new raid boss (big level character that takes many people to defeat), but just can’t seem to do it. Perhaps it’s time to look at your equipment, your understanding of the boss mechanics, your understanding of your own class abilities. In other words, you’ve set a goal for yourself that you don’t actually have the tools to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with setting aside a goal for a time when you are equipped to complete it, or of simply dropping it completely.
  3. Overcomplicated Quest line whose benefits are not worth the effort. You heard about a quest that sounded pretty cool, but when you get into it you discover it has 36 mini quests and you need to complete them all before getting any rewards, and the reward you do end up getting is a piece of junk. Are the developers trolling you? I would say this example would be when you set a goal for something you thought would be simple, but discovered it would take much more time and effort than you thought. Now, there will still be goals that are worth pursuing even if they end up being more complicated, but that is something you will have to decide for yourself. Is the end reward what I thought it was going to be, and will it be worth my effort? If not, then don’t waste your time. There are plenty of other quests in the game 😉
  4. Limiting Quest Line. There are some quest lines that open up relations with certain factions, but by doing so you become hated by/closed from interaction with an opposing faction. You need to find out which faction will give you the benefits you want and can use. Does a goal of yours cut you off from interactions that would be more beneficial than the ones brought about by that goal? This would be a time where dropping a goal would be appropriate. Again, you are the only one who can decide which benefits are best for you, but don’t be afraid to let one go just because you’ve invested time into it if there is a better goal for you out there.
  5. Misleading Quest Line. Either a quest line looks like it will lead to a certain perk (new mount/companion/area), or you were told it would, but you find out once you get into it that it doesn’t. It’s not uncommon to set a goal with a certain outcome in mind only to find out that working on the goal is actually taking you in a different direction. If that direction is not something you want, don’t feel bad about letting go of this goal. Just because you start something doesn’t mean you have to finish it if it is going to work against you in the end.

These are just a few things that popped into my head while contemplating this topic. I hope you were able to get something out of them whether you are a gamer or not. There are a couple of other thoughts I had that I want to hit on before I end.

The first one is about mindset. Sometimes being too focused on results can be a detriment. Enjoying the process, the journey, and focusing on that will bring more joy. The Bhagavad Gita (Gandhi’s ‘spiritual dictionary’) states “Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do.” A goal should have you thinking more about ‘getting better’ than ‘being good’.

Secondly, if you are contemplating abandoning a goal, I want you to ask yourself a few questions. Why did you set the goal in the first place? Do you still have the same reasons for completing it? Do you want to quit merely because it is harder than you thought it would be? Or is it that the effort involved is too great compared to what you will actually obtain from completing it?

Make a list of honest pros and cons for quitting. Only you can know what’s best for you and what will make you happy. Get rid of goals that don’t bring happiness and fulfillment. Executive coach Steve Robbins said, “The people who had the least extraordinary lives were the ones who managed to adhere closest to their plans.” Lives change, circumstances change, so don’t be afraid to dump any goal that isn’t working for you anymore.

 

About Heidi A. Wilde

Heidi A. Wilde is a Respiratory Therapist by night and aspiring author by day. She spends her nights dragging people back from the brink of death, but she has dedicated her daylight hours to the pursuit of writing. Current projects include a Regency Romance series, a fantasy saga, and even a foray into the realm of Steampunk, as well as the occasional short story competition. She attributes the bulk of what knowledge she can claim to attendance in fabulous programs such as Superstars Writing Seminars, Dave Farland’s workshops, and various conventions.