Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Deadlines for Books and the Writing Process
We all know the Douglas Adams quote: I love deadlines. I love the wooshing sound they make as they fly past.
Years ago I heard Sean Williams give a talk. He had a contract to write two books in two years. Then his agent called him with another contract to write two books in the same two years. He thought, can't turn it down, so he accepted. That's 4 books in two years (each over 100K). Then he had a call from George Lucas's people who wanted him to write two Star Wars books in two years. Thinking he'd be crazy to turn them down, he accepted. Now that was 6 books in two years. He set himself a goal of X number of words and wrote every day no matter where he was. And he did it.
I asked him, what if he'd gone wrong and had to scrap a couple of chapters and start again. He said, he couldn't go wrong.
Now that's confidence.
I'm bringing this up because I just read this post by Zoe Archer who has four books out this year. When that call comes and the editor says 'I want your book.' They are just as likely to say 'And is it part of a series? We'd like to release them back to back.' As they did with my King Rolen's Kin trilogy.
I love reading and really appreciate it when the whole series comes out at once. But I know for a fact that I'm not a brilliant, first time it's right, kind of writer. I write the book. I think it is finished. I go off and write something else, then I come back to it and discover I can tighten the narrative and delve deeper into the character arcs. (Make those characters suffer!).
As regular readers of this blog know I'm cleaning up The Outcast Chronicles for my publisher. I know I'm improving the books, but they are growing as I add more layers and tweak the narrative. I'm lucky in that I had the books written (in first draft form) when the publishers accepted them. The editor gave me feedback on the synopsis and I've been nose to the keyboard ever since.
Maybe other writers can write their best draft first. Maybe the editor steps in and helps them pull the book together. I like to hand in a book that requires nothing more than a line edit and maybe a 'what did you mean here?' query or two.
I just can't see myself writing 3 100K books from scratch in a year. I might get 2 written, but they would be raw first draft. I'd need another year to polish them (and in the process the 2 books would probably expand into 3 books). That's the thing about NanoWriMo. I like the idea of spending a month doing nothing but writing (banish the husband, six children and the job!), but I don't just sit down to write from Beginning to End.
I sit down and write with a general idea of where the book is going. But at some point I will hit a brick wall and it will be there because I'm trying to make the characters do something they don't want to do, or because something that happened earlier isn't quite right to motivate them to do this scene. So I'll have to go back to where the problem is and re-write. By the time I get to the blockage, I can write through it because the problem is fixed. For me the book is very organic, it just grows. So I end up with a first draft book that is really polished in the first half, then less so as I go on. Time away from a book is really important to help me bring fresh eyes to it.
What is your writing process? What would you do if you had an offer from a publisher who wanted you to hand in three books in twelve months? (After you'd broken out the champagne? LOL)