Today I realized that what I really want to do is write: improve Mad Water, the third installment of my Pearseus epic fantasy series, follow my beta-readers’ excellent and extremely helpful advice, think about how I want to finish my story in the last, yet unwritten, book of the series … Instead, I find myself lost in the minutiae of everyday life, and haven’t written anything in over a week.
I also recognized that I hurried through Mad Water’s end, with an eye at a self-imposed deadline. I have now reminded myself that this is an unacceptable loss of focus: writing is not about promoting my sales, but about doing something I love. Sales will inevitably follow a labor of love – a good book will sell, whereas a mediocre one won’t. I know, it sounds a bit of a cliché and most authors reading this post will probably roll their eyes.
OK, so I do know that there is no assurance that a good book will sell. And there is no certainty that a mediocre one will not; I have seen fantastic books sit on shelves and some really ordinary ones sell like cupcakes. 55 shades of cupcakes, to be precise. With whipped cream.
So, yes, I still don’t know for sure what drives the sales of a book. What I do know is that I want to write something worthy of being read, and sometimes I seem to be forgetting that, as I lose myself into a myriad of other things. Between my day-to-day job, my personal life, my book marketing efforts and my actual writing, it appears that the latter has suffered lately. But there just aren’t enough hours in a day, as I have come to realize!
All this was brought home by a wonderful blog post by Robin Black on the Review Review called 21 things I wish I had known before I started writing. I will not summarize her 21 points: they are all great, so I just invite you to read them on her original post. I promise that they will make absolute sense and most of you will go ‘ah, she is so right!’
I will, however, mention a few sentences that resonate with what I have been feeling lately. First of all:
The best you can do is the best you can do.
My writing has improved because I keep writing, reading, re-writing, correcting etc. I am constantly debating rewriting Pearseus, Year 18 – my first book – as my writing improves. But then I fear that I would like to re-write my second one as well, just to mirror how well I have done on the first … Then, presumably, Mad Water, and The Power of Six, and… OK, you see where this is going. I guess that at some point you have to draw a line and say: that’s enough. I am about to do that, as soon as I finish rewriting Year 18. 🙂
Second: I didn’t even like much of the writing I wanted to emulate.
I couldn’t have put it more eloquently! I used to envy how other people write, but now understand that I envy how this writing reflects on them. They are ‘hip’, ‘edgy’ and ‘interesting’, and I would love for publishers and readers to think the same way about me. But I can’t write in a hip-ppy, edg-y and interesting-y way just to have people love me. I just have to write my way. And apparently, ‘there are more than enough different types of readers out there for us all’, so I shouldn’t despair!
And third: You cannot write the pages you love without writing the pages you hate.
The pages I have written and couldn’t fit anywhere would probably deforest a small Amazonian rain forest if printed out. I have had ideas that just didn’t stick with the general plot, unnecessarily complicated it or didn’t add to the story. Basically, I have composed pages that eventually didn’t work. Knowing what to keep and what to get rid of is a great part of learning to write, and I now appreciate how hating these moments of acute anguish and utter desperation was actually helpful. It made me who I am.
So, I promise myself that from now on, I will concentrate more on writing. Of course, I now have to leave to go to a meeting with a client. And summer is coming; Greece – as you might have guessed – is pretty balmy and wonderful in the summer. Hmm…