Always Writing

Writing, writing, always writing…

This New York Times article on authors’ writing schedules is both illuminating and a clear moment of “raise your hand if you’re surprised.”

You see, it’s all about how many big-name authors are now turning out more than one book in a year…and writing short stories and novellas on the side, while also doing social networking.

Shocking, I know.

Actually, I’m not being entirely sarcastic. The article is, in fact, illuminating, because it shows that even the blockbuster authors – Lisa Scottoline, Stephen King, etc. – are finding it harder and harder to satiate readers in the era of constant, on-demand entertainment. Kinda makes you feel better about how things are going down in the trenches, you know?

All those drafts can add up...

But at the same time, a lot of us in indie publishing, authors and editors and publishers alike, are shaking our heads at this. Debut authors and even midlist authors have known for years just how hard it is to build a following – and that building a following requires writing. A lot. After all, you have to have a backlist in order to keep building up your fan base – if someone finds you, and likes your work, they’ll want to read more. That “more” doesn’t necessarily have to be a ton of novels, although that’d be great, but you should at least have some short stories and maybe flash fiction out there, available, to tide people over until the next novel.

And social media? De rigueur these days. I have empirical evidence proving that the most social media-savvy, most accessible authors are the ones who make the most sales. People like to connect with the creators of the worlds they love; they always have. Witness fan mail to authors dating back to the 1800s and before. Today, it’s just become easier to make that connection – and more expected that the connection will be instantaneous and personal, courtesy of Twitter and Facebook and blogs.

So yes, authors have to spend a lot more time “growing their brand,” and also spend a lot more time writing. They have to put out the stories, the novellas, the extra content…in addition to the novels. There’s just so much out there – DIY authors publishing themselves, small presses like Candlemark & Gleam, big releases from the Big Six – that readers can choose from, and that’s not even getting into movies and TV and video games. You have to keep yourself producing and out there and involved and engaging in order to compete in today’s entertainment environment, and it’s rough. Producing quality work on that sort of schedule is hellish, and honestly, I don’t know how some super-prolific writers (Susan Jane Bigelow, I’m looking at you) manage it.

What do you think? Is the cycle of constantly demanding more original work degrading the quality of that original work? Is it beneficial to the reader to get the extras, the stories and novellas and tie-ins, if they’re not really something the author enjoys doing?

Personally, I love seeing tie-ins and I request them from most authors, for use in pre-orders (and, eventually, to be issued as digital shorts separately). But I’ll never force anyone to write anything they don’t want to, or produce on a schedule they’re not comfortable with. It’s better that the story that needs to be written gets written, and gets written right, rather than sticking to some perceived “perfect” publishing plan.

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4 Responses to “Always Writing”

  1. ankewehner June 18, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    I don’t think pressuring an author to write things they don’t want to write is a good idea, because I suspect quality would suffer, and besides it takes time off the next book – or off taking care of one’s mental health. I also don’t think pressuring a writer into doing a rush job because they “must” write at least two novels a year is a good idea. I’d rather wait a year or two until the next book in a series is published than get something disappointing, formulaiv with plotholes after 6 months. Though there’s some point of slowdown where I doubt a series will ever be finished… And, of course, if an author can deliver good work more quickly, great.

  2. Candlemark & Gleam June 18, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

     I think that if the author is capable of writing extra novellas, novels, short stories, etc, it’s a treat for readers – the more, the better – but only so long as the author is willing and able, and engaged. Churning out crap for the sake of a content mill isn’t beneficial to anyone…but adhering to a made-up schedule of “one novel a year” or “two novels a year” when one’s writing style might be faster or slower isn’t helpful, either. I mean, look at Stephen King – he was writing as Richard Bachman partially because he wrote so fast that publishers thought he’d glut the market. Now, that pace would be considered normal, or even a bit slow!

  3. ankewehner June 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

     Yes, definitely.

    I guess I feel a bit burned. There was one German author who wrote some books I liked. Then he started churning out half a dozen books or more per year, which became increasingly formulaic. In addition apparently his editors figured he was famous enough that editing wasn’t neccessary, and it ended up with the protagonist on one page “knowing each shrub in that forest by first name”, and five pages later only having skirted the forest’s edges, or the writer mixing up the protagonist’s and her sidekick’s name in a scene, or using a wrong name (of someone who died in a prequel) for a prominent secondary character for several chapters…

    It left me with the impression that there definitely is such a thing as “writing too fast”.

    Regarding treats for readers, I know Lindsay Buroker has (among many other things) posted scenes in her blog that had been cut during edits for pacing reasons. Just thought I’d mention it in case it might work for another author reading along.

  4. Candlemark & Gleam June 18, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

     Oh dear, that is DEFINITELY the worst-case scenario there. Yipes. You can’t just churn stories out like they’re widgets.

    I do love “outtakes” and such. I think they’re a great way for authors to show a little behind-the-scenes love and also keep that content coming, in a way that doesn’t necessarily require writing 10 new stories every three weeks.

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