Pulled In Different Directions IWSG June 4, 2014

Welcome to the first Wednesday of June, IWSG day.  This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group .  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy or practical suggestions. 

Pulled in Different Directions

There is a saying in academic circles: publish or perish.  In other words, if you are a professor and you wish to be taken seriously and have your career blossom, you had jolly well better write something that is published and met with acclaim.  So (in academic circles, or at least the ones I am familiar with) you see a lot of scrambling and panic and despair if the proposed publication does not somehow make the grade. 
       I have heard time and again that in order to be read, a writer must write.  This is not as simple as it sounds, at least to me.  It is taken to mean that a writer must present his or her reading public with a steady stream of writings so that, one book being devoured, another is ready to be savored. 
       People have contacted me recently and asked when the second and third books of a trilogy will be published.  This is a tremendous compliment, and very gratifying, but it introduces a sense of urgency, a sense of ‘time’s a-wasting’.   
(‘I’m in a hurry to get things done, so I rush and rush until life’s no fun.  All I’ve ever got to do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why’ [Alabama])
So what do you do?
In my case, faced with the thought that my last work was published in October of 2013, I scrambled to get book II of the trilogy ready.  It was blocked out, it had some good flow to it.  Book III was better, longer established. I had realized that the story had a center part between Volume I and what had originally been Volume II, and it needed to be developed.  I started it in earnest six months ago, working on an old timeline. I set a December publication date.  I plotted and pantsed and typed and went over and over what I had, and then I sat back and took stock.  The story was there…and it wasn’t very good.  It was exhausted, stale.  The words were there, the thoughts were there, but writing that book was like trying to run up the side of a sand dune.  Forget the thought of dancing.
I know my own (current) capabilities.  I knew I could bring it in by December.  But at what cost?  My own exhaustion, certainly.  Worse, that stretched, dry, rushed endeavor would be a waste of my readers’ time.

The projected work, elegant in its concept…

They wanted to know what happened to a specific character.  Book III brings a very satisfying resolution, with a lot of adventure, suspense and laughter along the way (he’s that kind of kid).  But people would have to slog through Book II before they hit that resolution.   And that was where the problem was:  If a reader was opening Book II and expecting something like this:

How could I possibly even think of producing something like this?

Finished in a hurry…  Sort of.  Happy author?  Uh, no…

The fact is that I couldn’t. 

And that led to a revelation that should not have surprised me.  I can’t put out something that is consciously hurried.  It is an insult to the story and to the reader to withhold my best effort.  And – let’s admit this – it is disrespectful to our own talents and abilities not to endeavor to produce our very best.

Yes, the passing years will (I hope) bring improvement.  Something I wrote twenty years ago, that made me happy, may not be satisfactory now that I have lived and practiced and grown those twenty years.  But at that time it was my best.

So what is going on with Book II?

I contacted my editor and told him that it would be badly rushed if I pushed for a December release.  (He agreed.)  I took down any mention of the projected December date.  I took a deep breath, uploaded a mobi version of the working manuscript onto my Kindle and started adjusting it.  Tweaking wordings, contemplating the possible plot passages…  Opening myself to the luxury of writing an excellent story, fit to follow the first and lead to the third.

I have something small and fun that I can polish in my spare time and put out in December.  A fable that children and happy adults might enjoy.

And I can savor creating something beautiful.  That is, after all, what we writers live to do.  Isn’t it?

Check out the hop.  There are some fabulous, unhurried posts to savor: