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:
What a great and touching article. Wishing you the best with Book 2 and all the ones to follow. I've never written a series, but lately have been working on a sequel to one of my books. Don't have a clue whether it will work or not. Yes, writers do create something beautiful, sometimes with blood, sweat, and tears. 🙂
I'm not a fan of rushing something to print just to put something out in print. Good for you for realizing you needed to step back. That always helps.
When you readers are leaving you message saying “what happens next?” You have to do something to make them happy. I went to a conference recently and the biggest lesson I took away was that i needed to write more. I am trying to keep that at the front of my mind.
I was toying with the idea of coming out with a 'short' that would serve as a sort of bridge between the two volumes. …but there's nothing worse to get a book that you've been eager to read and discover that it is not good.Interestingly enough, having decided that quality is more important than promptness, I find that my output is far better. We'll see how it goes…thanks for coming by!
This is an excellent post! As a writer, I know that a first draft may be done in a rush, but completing an excellent finished novel in a rush just doesn't seem like a good idea. As a reader, I may be impatient to read the next installment in a beloved series, but I'd rather endure the longer wait and have an amazing book to enjoy. Good luck with your writing!
thanks! Isn't it interesting how 'finding out whether it will work or not' somehow turns into a full-fledged endeavor with all its ups and downs? good luck with your sequel. I suspect it will be excellent and rewarding!Diana
Thank you! I don't want to present Borat when I would like to offer Swan Lake (sorry: the .gif just makes me laugh). Good luck with your move, and thank you for stopping by!
That makes me happy. And I now have an excuse to linger, tweak, savor, deepen – polish, in a word. Thank you for stopping by!Diana
Oh, man–I think this is SO COMMON for middle books. The second suffers because the start is great and the ending is planned, but the middle just has to be gotten through. I'm glad you decided to take the time to give it justice. It stresses me out to see writers putting out firsts when the rest of the story isn't written, but that is just because, being me, I can veer from the plan and the changes have implications for early story…
I think middle books are like middle children. The first (book or child) is a 'ta-DAH!!!', the last is 'See what we could do with all the wisdom and experience we gained?' while the middle is sort of 'Sheesh. I'm too tired to deal with this!' (can you tell I'm a middle child?)Realizing that there's a nifty center part and having to build it more or less from scratch is an eye opener!Thanks for stopping by!
People often say that readers want the next book in a series pretty much instantly, but that's not going to be any good if the next book is a letdown. If each installment is a gem, they will wait as long as it takes. That's not to say it should be a ridiculously long wait either. I'm just finding out that writing a trilogy has its own particular stresses. I'm drafting Book 2 of mine at the moment and I won't release Book 1 until 2 and 3 are fully sketched out. That's so I won't have gaps that are too long and to allow me to tweak the first book if that becomes necessary. Good luck with that tricky middle book!
Yeah, I can relate to that. I've been working on a trilogy, but I know how slow of a writer I am, so I've waited until I have two novels ready to go before working toward publication. Fingers crossed, it will buy me enough time so I can take my time with book three. For me, good is better than fast. 🙂
Ah, it’s so refreshing to hear someone else taking a stand and not rushing to finish a book! I agree with the perils of not publishing academically and have decided to just let that one go. As for your book II… That was courageous.
| think | understand. A friend of mine is writing 3 books this year. She has gone through hell and back. Her advice to the group-don't promise a series unless it's written all ready. After what she went through, I know I never a will. 🙂Anna from Shout with Emaginette
Smart move – take your time and do it right. Yes, there is that sense of urgency. Some of us just can't crank out books that fast though. Not ones people would read. Work on the second one, and when it's done, it's done.And welcome to the IWSG!
Hi Diana, I'm #78. I read the Hunger Games last year, expecting that the middle and last book wouldn't compare to the first. I was wrong. I think you can make book 2 and 3 awesome by treating them as if they're singular. I think your attitude is right on the mark. Take your time, don't rush, don't feel pushed, and yet challenge yourself to write the best possible book you can write. I'll be cheering when it comes out.
@Nick – Very sensible and streamlined. And with any luck I will remember it. But that's half the fun~ Thank you for stopping by!
Hi! I'm writing a trilogy too, and have rather the same problem. I know that the second book needs a lot of work! Right now, I'm nearly finished the first book however I somewhat dread the amount of effort I'll need to put in to drag the sequel out of the dirt. I'm feeling you! Great post too.
*sigh* Now, if I had done things in an organized fashion instead of seeing an overall story and then dividing it into two then three parts… Good IS better than fast – good luck! :)And thanks for stopping by!Diana
Good for you – I totally agree! It's so hard not to bow to that pressure, but it's not worth putting out a flat, rushed piece. Readers will wait for a finished, polished work of elegance 🙂 I love that statue of Laocoon, by the way – what a perfect image for this post.
Oh, I am where you are at. You can NOT rush art. Period! I had my first book published November 2011 but so many things happened between now and then and I've let my fans down by not producing a second or third. I had not planned on either, but I have written five books since.I have not published other books yet, though I have signed contracts for others and are in the “oven”. Now, I'm burdened with having to rebuild my Roman Empire because at the time, I had strong virtual presence.Thanks for sharing your story, you are not alone!!!((Hugs))
I think a lot of authors, certainly some I've been exposed to, should listen to these wise words. Some of my favorite authors have fallen into over-publishing and come out with new books year after year that don't satisfy and leave me as a reader disappointed with what seems like a rushed book. It sounds like you wisely trusted your gut on this one- and that's the best thing.
It's always wonderful to learn that someone agrees with you. The funny thing is that now the pressure is off, it's coming quickly and well. (and will still require months to finish…)