Things I Remember on the Writing Journey

Merreth confronts the Clan

Lady Merreth confronts the Clan

I recently finished the first draft of Chapter 27 of Western Watch.  That brings the novel up to about 107,500 words, and I anticipate it will top out at about 120,000.  It’s been a long journey, starting way back in 2009.

There is a long, long way to go.  After the first draft comes the revisions. Who knows how many?  I’m thinking at least three.  So much work.  The cutting, the polishing, the fixing of plot-holes and story lines that didn’t go anywhere, buffing characterization, imagery, dialogue, voice, and diction.

Sometimes it seems like I will never be done, but then I remember:

  1. The book will be ready when it’s ready; don’t compare your writing output to others
  2. Do not rush to publish.  Keep your desire to have your work on Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, and all the others in check so that you can pay attention to quality

Throughout the process my inner critic constantly berates me over sloppy prose, two-dimensional characters, cliches and atitudes, stock situations, unbelievable coincidences, chapters that are ‘too short’ and, above all, my overwhelming  conceit that anyone — anyone at all! — would want to read the dreck I crank out, much less pay for it.

Then I remember:

  1. Every other successful indie author has been exactly where I am right now.  I am in good company.
  2. Others have banished their inner editors, critics, and worriers, so I can too.  For excellent advice on getting rid of these “people” see Josh Irby’s Shut Up, I’m Writing post.

Sometimes I am able to ignore the Inner Critic.  This is a good thing because I need the time to worry.  I worry about building my platform — you know, the collection of social media tools that require a constant supply of links, useful articles, and interesting tidbits that will ‘get your name out there’.  This is so that when it’s time to publish you’ll be known to people other than friends and blood relations.

Then I remember:

  1. Everyone’s Author Platform starts from exactly the same place: Zero.  No followers, no ‘Likes’, no page views, no subscribers, no ‘watches’ nothing.  Zip, Nada, Zilch.
  2. Planning, perseverance, and goal-setting are used successfully all the time;  I can use these tools too.
  3. I am making progress.  I used to have no followers on Twitter.  Now I have over 1400.  My FaceBook page used to have no Likes.  Now I have 42.  My Deviant Arts page used to have zero ‘watches’, now it has 83.  Not big numbers, but the trend is in the right direction.

I worry I don’t write enough.  Sure I set daily word goals, but it’s really hit or miss — mostly miss — when it comes to meeting them.

Then I remember:

  1. Even if you miss your target, every word you write is one more that you didn’t that day.
  2. You can’t be writing all the time; sometimes your subconscious needs time to refill the creative well from which you draw.
  3. Time not spent writing can be spent doing other things to support the writing — research, editing, planning, learning new tools (hello Scrivener!).

I worry about finding my target market. Let’s face it, my protagonist — Lady Merreth — is a tall willowy brunette who dresses in black leather and carries a whip. She lives in a female-dominated society.  Hmmmmm … let’s see, just who do you think might find that appealing?  Where can I find them?  How can I reach them?  In my darker moments I think  I’m either going to be putting up posters at the local S&M club or hanging out in the comics forums online.

And I worry about what my family and co-workers might think about the subject matter of my novel.  I haven’t made an effort to ‘hide’ who am I and what I write about, but awkward questions can be raised at times.  Two years ago at the family Christmas dinner my 80 year old mother asked me, in front of twenty people, if I was still writing my ‘nice stories about the ‘ladies who wear leather’.

Then I remember:

  1. You have to write what you want to write; pulling your punches or modifying your subject matter because of what others might think ultimately cheats only yourself
  2. When you hit fifty you tend not to care as much about what other people might think of your writing;  I hit fifty a couple of years ago

So I think about all this from time to time and ask myself why I write.  Don’t have a clue.  But I do know this: Sometimes it all comes together.  The words flow, the characters cooperate, the dialogue sizzles, the action is intense, and imagery is evocative and I wind up with two or three pages of what they call a ‘cracking good read’. When I remember that, the road doesn’t seem quite so arduous.

Besides, would Merreth give up?

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