In a couple of weeks it will be my 62nd birthday. I came to terms with aging when I turned sixty so that doesn’t give me angst. I remember driving through Snowdonia on that day, January 16th 2016, and seeing a goat standing proudly on a rock. I’m sure his eyes turned to me with a message – slow and steady if you want to get to the top. This was particularly significant as I’m a Capricorn, the symbol of which is the goat, (actually the goat-fish but we won’t split fins on this).
From my particular plateau, I’ve watched prolific authors publish one book after the other with barely a blade of grass between them and wonder what drives them. They tell me it’s about boosting their brand, or making sure they don’t get forgotten between books. Always interested in their writing schedules and methods, I’ve come to the conclusion there seems to be two main approaches to this novel writing business.
One way is to go with the stream of consciousness and get the first draft down not worrying about the plot, characters, grammar, etc. as you can solve them in the next several drafts. That’s the way I’ve been working to date.
Another is to write fewer words each day (I currently write 2,000), but take more time over the crafting of those sentences until you are absolutely happy about every aspect of the daily output. Know where the book is going and make sure every scene gets you there.
In my business life there was no time for procrastination or pontification. I had to make decisions on the spot for clients and get on with it so my mind- set before writing my first novel was already fixed. This is going to change. The draft of my third novel is completed but I’m going to take my time in getting it ready to leave my laptop.
If you go by the announcements on Twitter, you’d be forgiven for panicking that you’re behind in the game. But what game? Only the one you’re playing against yourself. The first task of any author is to write the best book possible and not rush to publication. Life has a way of bringing up opportunities when it’s time and not before. Submit to agents and publishers in haste and there’s a risk of losing out because the book simply isn’t ready. It’s not so easy to go back a second time.
This is one of the dangers of going down the self-publishing route. The temptation to press the upload button before all the checks have been done several times over might mean giving the reader an inferior product and that’s what your book is in the business world – a product which is competing with disposable income for any product, not only books. No matter how much we love our story telling this is the harsh reality of the publishing industry today.
You’ve got to be that mountain goat. Take your time with the climb and be careful where you stick your hooves.