Friday, July 30, 2010

On Being Prolific

Being prolific, at least to me, means far more than merely writing a lot of words. It also means making those first draft words into something I would be proud to show to others. No first draft is ever perfect, and the stories I've written over months and the ones I've written over weeks all need editing. I don't lie to myself and say that writing slower will make the story better and I won't have to edit.

I love the rush of writing a story or novel in a short time frame. I love the feel of being caught in the story and not letting go -- rushing from start to finish and living the story in a way that slower writing can't allow. I know because I have done both.

Living the story is wonderful. It's exciting and an adventure in ways that no other kind of writing can compare to. There's nothing wrong with slower writing if that's what works for you. Sometimes it works for me, too -- here's an important fact that many people overlook: You cannot judge the quality of someone's writing based merely on the amount of time it takes that person to write something. I've known people to spend years on first drafts and come away with a story that needs just as much editing as that of someone else who wrote the same amount of work in a few weeks.

Neither can you judge anything by a first draft.

But for an adventure -- for me -- the rush of living in the story is the important part. The faster I write it, the more 'in the story' I am from start to finish. It means that I will maintain the same style, remember more of the little bits and pieces, and overall not lose the 'feel' of the story.

Here is something a lot of people seem to misunderstand about me and being prolific. It's not about the numbers. Word count numbers are just a byproduct of what I do. Being prolific is about having many tales to write and no fear of putting an idea in concrete form and see if it works. I weed out the ideas that don't stand up to examination before I begin work. I often outline the longer ones and put the outlines aside for a little while. I still have more story ideas than I can devote time to.

I have stories I want to tell. I don't have time to waste.

I love living in the adventure when I write a story.

The combination of these two things means that I am going to write quickly. It's how I work. It's not how you work, and that's fine.

Now there is a second part to this that goes beyond the first draft writing. I love editing, and even rewriting sometimes. While I love the rush of first drafts, I also love the power of going through the story, line-by-line, and creating something that has more depth and character. The plot is there. The flavor is there -- editing is about adding the spices and rearranging the plate when it needs to be.

Being prolific also means having enough material that I can afford to experiment with story placement. I have ebooks that have been around for five years and more and are still bringing in a few sales. I also have short stories I've used as marketing fodder and placed in popular (sometimes non-paying) markets on line. There aren't a lot of those markets left that I really like, unfortunately. I'd still be doing it because I found it was a great, fun way to connect with readers.

Being prolific mostly means not being afraid to write.

There's something that I keep telling people. Don't be afraid of words. You don't have to show your work to anyone. You can write anything and erase, change, rework -- it doesn't matter. No one but you has to see it until you are ready.

And what if you're never ready?

Only you can make that decision. But if you really, truly want to be an author who is read by others, you have to realize one very important fact that many going into the writing world seem to ignore:

You cannot please everyone.

When it comes to writing, the first thing you have to do is please yourself. That means being honest and not an angst filled -- oh, poor me, this is all crap -- pretend artist. That's just an easy excuse not to do better and too many people use it as an excuse to get sympathy.

Sometimes such feelings are inevitable. Don't grab onto them like they're the only answer. You want to be a writer? You want to have readers? Then start looking at your work seriously and figuring out what you need to do to make it enjoyable for you to read.

Yes, for you. Never mind the rest of the world. If you can't please yourself with your writing, how can you hope to please anyone else? You are your own first reader. There are other people out there who will be interested in the same sorts of things that you are. Therefore, you have to write well and write something that you love in order to draw your audience.

If you are trying to write for the market, you better love what the market is offering. If you don't, then don't write something boring just to ape it. If the story bores you, it is going to show in the writing.

Is the current book market not the kind of thing you like to read? Then write what you do like to read and work to help make a new market for it. Yes, that's right -- create a market. It can happen. Several years ago, when the Internet was a fresh, wild place some people who loved Regency Romances lamented that they were no longer being published by places like Harlequin. Well, at least with these new ebook things they thought they could publish a few and enjoy them still, right?

And they did well.

Soon, Harlequin and others were back to publishing that dead market Regency book again because they found out they were wrong about the market having disappeared. It had disappeared because they were no longer offering the solid 'old-fashioned' regency tales that these people wanted to read.

So here we have the slightly different part of being prolific -- yes, it does all tie in together. If you are prolific you can afford (as I said earlier) to use stories as marketing fodder to draw readers. That means that if you are writing for a genre or sub-genre that is not quite as popular as it used to be, then you can still build up a readership and perhaps even draw in enough attention to get notice elsewhere.

But first, over everything else, you have to write. Then you have to edit, and edit again and make those words as wonderful and exciting as you can.

No excuses. No fear of words. Get out there and write.

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