I’ve struggled with what to write today–there have been 2 1/2 weeks of posts, of talented authors whom I respect offering advice about breaking the rules and following the rules. What more could I add to the discussion? Well, I’ve been in a discussion three times in the past couple weeks about sales and trends and such. And I realized there’s a rule in there that a lot of beginning writers are told — “write the book of your heart.”
The thing is, yes, you should write the book of your heart. Should you expect it to sell well? That’s debatable. There are so many factors that depends upon–genre, writing ability, strength of story, characters. And your competition. As much as authors don’t want to admit that we are swayed by the size of our royalty cheques, or that we aren’t worried about our rankings (seriously, does anyone really believe that?) because we love what we do and we’d write anyway, I’ve seen far too many of my friends walk away from writing lately because their sales have plunged, or watched them switch from genres they love but isn’t selling to a genre that is. From fantasy to contemporary, from historical to young adult, from anything to erotic romance. (I may have actually growled when listening to an interview where an author used the “I sold out” term when she switched from writing literary fiction to an erotic fiction–and I dropped quite a few F-bombs when she also admitted she was writing erotic fiction yet couldn’t say the C word. Seriously? You want to write erotic fiction but can’t say cock? Or cunt? Or maybe even fuck?)
Okay, that got me off topic, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. As I said, I rely upon my royalties to pay the bills. Especially since my 57 year old husband is facing long-term unemployment next year. At a time when we figured life would be getting easier, it’s going to get more complicated. I’d also love to write more books like my upcoming No Accounting for Cowboys. Full length books with complicated heroes and heroines, filled with angst and longing.But I’m not a fast writer and I can’t afford to take the 6 – 8 months it takes me to write the way I want it.
Which leads me to the second rule no one has really spoken of, but again I’ve seen mentioned on both Facebook and in emails lately. And I’m probably breaking an unspoken rule about only writing positively about the industry. But here goes.
When I first started looking at writing professionally in 2004, authors were publishing a book every two years. In 2006, I went to a talk given by Joy Fielding who said her publisher had just asked her to write a book every year. In 2007, I went to Texas to the Romance Writers of American conference and people were in awe of Nora Roberts who was writing 5 books a year. But most of the authors were writing a book every 8 months or so (though the Harlequin category authors have always written faster.) By 2010, one of my publishers told me they wanted 3 books a year from me. At the time, they probably would have been satisfied with 3 novellas a year. Except I tend to be a full-length type writer. And now they don’t take novellas anymore.
By 2012, I was hearing tales of authors signing contracts for 10 books, or more, to be delivered in a year.
And on Facebook this week, an author asked how long it took other authors to write a full length novel. Most answered around 2 – 3 months. It put me into a serious depression where I wrote yet another “I give up” letter to myself–the third one I’ve written in a year.
Trouble is I’m too damned stubborn to give up.
I wish I could write faster. I spent an average of 15 – 18 hours a day at my computer last year. I wrecked my shoulder and ended up in physiotherapy from spending too much time hunched over my keyboard. I crept downstairs for an hour when my son dropped in on his birthday last year, feeling guilt that I wasn’t writing, and then crept back upstairs and felt guilty for the entire year that I hadn’t spent time with him–on his birthday! So I’ll admit it pissed me off when someone later posted one of those “You should be writing” graphics to my Facebook wall. Like I don’t get to have a life.
I write on average 2,000 words a day. Ten years ago people told me I’d burn out, and I have. But still there are books out there telling authors they should be writing 10,000 words a day now. Except when I try to force the words,I can tell that I’ve forced it when I go back and read it and they end up deleted. On average, for every 100,000 words I write, I’ve probably written closer to 200,000 words. It’s just my process. I wish I could change it, but I don’t know how and still give you any type of quality.
So yeah, I’m breaking that “write fast” rule. Not that it’s a rule I want to break. And it’s technically not a rule, but an expectation by the readers. Who forget about authors who can’t put out a book every 2 – 3 months…and when it comes down to it, we look at rankings, so do our publishers. So yeah, as much it’s not a rule, it is. A very stressful rule.