Getting to that *next* novel

A friend’s social media post recently observed that the abundance of writing advice online (and at convention panels, and in writing workshops) focuses on New Writers. Writers who are working on their first book. Writers wholly unfamiliar with publishing. There isn’t much for writers who are working on their third book, or their eighth.

And the question was posed: what advice would you (where you means writers of multiple books) offer to writers who have gotten beyond their first. The thoughts I had were bigger than a comment, so they’re here!

First, why is this so? Welp. My cynical take: the money is in pushing products & resources to those who haven’t made any personal connections or located professional mentors or tracked down their own resources. Less-cynical me is willing to acknowledge that there are a lot more New Writers than ones who are typing away at book 4 or 5. And most writers who’ve stuck it out that long have collected colleagues and bookmarked resources and developed a lot of tricks they like.

And my answer to the questiion was this: my words of wisdom to writers seeking guidance wouldn’t change between book 1 and book 8.

  • There is no One True Way To Write Your Book
  • There is no One True Path to successfully publishing a book.
  • There is no One True Definition Of Success

I can break down that a bit more, though, and right now that feels like a good reflection post to share while I await the release of book 8 and work on book 1 in a new series.

We now interrupt this post for an advertisement! Do you love fantastic fiction? Do you enjoy stories full of emotional depth, high-stakes conflict, and mysterious superpowers? You need to pre-order your copy of The Sharp Edge of Yesterday today.
B&N link
AMAZON link
–> or order it by name from your friendly local independent bookstore!
–> or recommend a purchase to your local public library!

Ahem. Back to writing advice for writers who’ve already written that First Book all the Internet Advice Experts focus on.

One. The tricks you taught yourself to remain motived through writing FirstBookEver won’t necessarily help you get through Book 2. Or book 5. Motivation is a fickle thing, and the creation of art is an ever-changing pursuit of an ever-changing goal.

Two. There is no International Agency of Writer Certification. No one will ever send you an official Writer Diploma, not when you graduate from writing to having a book published, not after three books, not after seventeen thousand short story sales. Once your words have been read by an audience–even if that audience is you and you alone–you are a writer. All other levels of accreditation, legitimacy, and worldly success are just additional layers. And remember–we inhabit a late-stage capitalist hellscape. It’s a tough fight to define legitimacy and professionalism in non-financial terms, but it’s a battle worth fighting. Professional writing associations set their membership bars based on economics, period.

Two point five. Success isn’t a set of moving goal posts. That’s bullshit. Every damned goal achieved is success. Period. Setting new goals after achieving a goal is one form of growth. So is shifting focus and working on something else. Which brings us to the next point.

Three. You are allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to stop writing a first book or a fifth one. You’re allowed to stop writing a series. You’re allowed to stop writing at all–for a day, for a month, for years, forever. You’re allowed to turn your back on publishing after querying one book, or self-publishing three, or selling seventeen thousand short stories to magazines. You’re still a writer even you never pursue publication at all & only write in your private notebooks or on fanfic sites, or in letters to your besties. But that’s a different post.)
The point is, you decide what to write, how to write it, when to write it, and what to do with it when you’re done. YOU AND ONLY YOU.

(CAVEAT: the above paragraph is true unless you have signed a contract obligating you to write a given thing within a given time frame for financial remuneration. I mean, that’s a legal commitment.)

Four. The feeling that the next piece of writing isn’t “good enough” won’t ever go away. Wrestling with insecurity is a popular hobby for many creatives. Impostor syndrome is a popular term with gigantic amounts of advice written on overcoming it, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. The classic form is fear of being exposed as a fraud–feeling like you’ll be kicked out of the cool-kids club as soon as people realize you don’t belong. I rarely feel like that. Okay, never. I just don’t feel like a fraud, ever. But! I often feel un-respected in the company of experienced, talented, and business-focused professionals. That’s a VERY different kind of insecurity, but it’s rooted in the same fear of not-good-enough. (It’s an insecurity rooted in and fueled by the pro-club’s finance-focused membership requirements, but that’s another different post.) My defiant answer, even when my on insecurity whispers “not-goodenough” is this: “FFS, WHAT DOES GOOD ENOUGH EVEN MEAN? Good enough for whom?”

Five: You should never expect the publishing landscape for the next book to look the way it did for the last one. Publishing is still in a state of massive flux fifteen (or so) years after electronic self-publishing began disrupting it. Marketing strategies and social media change even faster. One year, email newsletters are The Route To Commercial Success. The next year, it’s Twitter followers. The year after that, it’s all about Bookstagram. The one thing that never changes: everything changes.

Six: Everything except writing the next book is a distraction from writing the next book. BUT ALSO. Some non-writing distractions are IMPORTANT, and some will remind you why you’re putting all the effort into writing that next book. Never underestimate the power of connecting with other people who get excited about the worlds and people you write.

I think that’s all the rambling thoughts I have for now. Remember, there’s a new book for you waiting for you to pre-order it right now! Moms with superpowers, potential apocalypse, and gardening tips!

Here are those links for Sharp Edge again:
B&N link
AMAZON link
–> or order it by name from your friendly local independent bookstore
–> or recommend a purchase to your local public library

Until later!

Writer Reading Report: January-March 2020

I’ve read over 20 new books and done a couple dozen re-reads since the first of the year. I’ve also watched plenty of shows & movies, but not as many as I would have done in the same time period last year. One nice thing about the new house is that we cut the cable cord, so turning on the TV is an Intentional Act, not a default activity.

Writing is now the default activity. Go, wording!

Well. To be strictly accurate, Writing is now among my many default activities. Writing & working on table & bling ideas for Gen Con, & hammering away at the intractable Series Title Problem, &planting things, & baking, &…my days are not empty.

Anyway. I’m going to do my usual thing & summarize things more by author than title. No pretty pictures because I am The Laziest Ever. Also they were mostly library books read on ebook, & those don’t get pretty color cover pictures.

First I did a comprehensive chronological re-read of ALL the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I then bought all the Constellation short work collections. A new book came out while I was finishing those, so I  read it too. I love these characters, I love the universe, and I love where the plots are headed.

A review of one of my books complimented my writing by comparing it to theirs. That remains one of my all-time favorite reviews.

Next up in reading: Hunter, Elite, & Apex by Mercedes Lackey, a tidy series I somehow entirely missed when published, because I always want to read All the Lackey. Neat spin on the usual post-apocalyptic dystopian  thing, (add magic, plus it’s not a totally horrible All Guvmint Bad kind of place) And the young protagonist is competent all by herself because it’s what she does, not because daddy wanted a boy or to heal trauma or For Boyfriend…I do adore no-excuses competent heroines.

I got Peace Talks by Jim Butcher & Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs through NetGalley. Those two are both Advanced Reading Copies of novels due out later this year, and I very much enjoyed them both.

I read a Regency in there somewhere…ah! Project Duchess by Sabrina Jeffries. An unexpected delight. I guess I still love my fantasy romances if they have loads of good dialogue and comedy of manners elements.

And currently I’m on a YA/Middle Grade kick. They’re mostly (all?) books written long after I was an adult, but I decided to tackle them just because. So I’ve finally read a bunch of Gail Carson Levine books. (And obviously I enjoy them or else I wouldn’t keep reading.)  So far, it’s been Ella, Enchanted, Fairest, A Tale of Two Castles, Stolen Magic…I think that’s all so far. I’m on a waitlist for more. I did read a couple in paperback, but it was a painful slog compared to reading onscreen.

I’m 3/4 of the way through Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, loving every sentence.  I need to go put myself on the waitlist for All The Tamora Pierce books through the library’s digital loan program. And I suspect I’ll need to own them all in the end, though.

In summary : I recommend without reservation all the books I’ve mentioned here–except the NetGalley titles. I do recommend the series they come from, but…BUT.  The Harry Dresden & Mercy Thompson series are both clocking in at  10+ books. Despite great efforts by the authors to keep references to past events understandable and relevant, the weight of continuing plot is a tangible force in almost every scene. Someone could jump in, but it won’t be nearly as much fun as starting at the beginning.

That’s all for now. If I keep up with writing and reading the way I aim to do, the next reading report won’t be quite so LOOOOONG.

Until later, world.

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Long Time No Lists.

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TL;DR: If a post is categorized as Other Things, it will be free of any practical writing/authoring/work-related material, and you can plan your reading or avoidance accordingly.

I had been writing in two blogs, one for personal-me and one for professional author-me, but it turns out I’m less plural than I thought. Starting with this post I’ll lumping all of me onto one big messy blog. So to speak. On with the week’s show & tell.

Six weeks since I tallied up my media consumption. Six weeks! My blogging time went to news of convention travels and authoring accomplishments, gripes about various illnesses,  and a lot of etc. Life has slowed with the turn of the seasons, and thanks to the technological wonders of library due slips & a Netflix activity profile, I can bring the record up to date.

Bookses, my precious!

Most of my recent reading fell under the heading “Fluffy Romantic Fantasies of a British History that Never Was.” All these books are delicious mental cotton candy: pretty to look at, easy on the emotions, quick to finish, and dissolving in memory as quickly as flavored sugar melts on the tongue.

A Gift for Guile / Alissa Johnson
The Knave of Hearts/ Elizabeth Boyle
The Untamed Earl / Valerie Bowman
The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior / Jennifer McQuiston
Only Beloved /Mary Balogh
An Invitation to Seduction /Lorraine Heath
Once a Scoundrel /Candace Hern
How to Treat a Lady /Karen Hawkins
The Wicked Duke /Madeline Hunter
Just Wicked Enough/Lorraine Heath
Lord of Wicked Intentions /Lorraine Heath
I Thee Wed /Celeste Bradley
How the Duke Was Won /Lauren Bell
Heir to the Duke /Jane Ashford

The two books that weren’t that kind of treat were salty, urban fantasies:
Fire Touched / Patricia Briggs
The Curse of the Tenth Grave/Darynda Jones

Moving Pictures:

My summer blockbusters tally this year is a quarter of what it usually is. A lot of movies didn’t pass my threshold for “is this worth half a day’s time plus the hassle of the drive plus major money for tickets?” Suicide Squad, Sausage Party, Mechanic:Resurrection, Ben Hur, War Dogs, Pete’s Dragon–I’ll catch them on disc or streaming. Kubo & The Two Strings is the only one I’m sad I missed. Stupid rhinovirus.

First, the feature movies I collected these last few weeks:
The Wave. Wholly forgettable.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. OMG THE STUPID. “Hey, kids! Let’s start up the hydroelectric power plant after 10 years shut down. How hard can it be? Flip the switches! Connect cables! Everything starts right up!” BWAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA. No.
The Big Short. Funny, informative, moving, clever. Superlative. I didn’t find the information in it to be revelatory, educational mind-blowers the way all its reviews mentioned, but then I learned about the havoc potential of secondary markets and the sociopathic cray-cray culture of Wall Street at my daddy’s knee in the late 70’s. The crash was never a shock or a mystery to me. Greed & corruption burned down a building that was already sliding off a cliff. Plenty of experts were raising alarms about the dangers of deregulated banking & the housing bubble from the late 90’s onward. Anyhow. It made me laugh, even while I got angry all over again.
Allegiant part 1. I see why the finale’s going direct to DVD. Bad. Dull-bad, not fun-bad.
Bridge of Spies. Atmospheric, brilliant, and damnably depressing.
The Giver. Could’ve been great. Wasn’t.
Zootopia. FOX! BUNNIES! OTTER! Progressive social message delivered with a fethery tickler instead of a mallet. Fifteen stars out of five.
Seven Samurai.  This is the first time in four viewings that I realized the villagers are the main characters. I think this is the only version where that’s true.
Magnificent Seven (1960) Watched right after 7 Samurai. Fascinated to see how 45 minutes of story development were condensed to 5 minutes of screen time in this iteration.
And finally a theater-worthy flick:
Magnificent Seven (2016) A few too many Hollywood cliche writing flourishes for my taste, but a fine updating nonetheless.

In serial viewing:
Zoo season 3: last three episodes in one sitting. I may have broken brain cells.
All 7 seasons of West Wing. Details offered in an earlier Other Things post.
Designated Survivor.  I’ll definitely be watching this one.
Miss Fisher Mysteries. Just starting now. Already in love with it.

Six weeks. It adds up to a lot.

Yes, I could get much more media creation done if I didn’t consume so much media. Then again I could also get a lot more writing done if I gave up gardening, cooking, volunteering, exercising, or socializing.  Value judgments. They’re sneaky. If I was independently wealthy and didn’t work at the library and had servants to do all my shopping and cleaning for me, I would get tons more writing and reading and movie-watching done.

I refuse to devalue any of my joyful work for the meager reward of bragging rights. I will not pursue monomania for quantity’s sake. Beyond physical survival & fiscal solvency, I strive for a balanced, healthy, grounded life. Productive? Enh. I’ll define it my own way.

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