Thursday, September 27, 2012

No Wine Before Its Time

by D.R. Shoultz


I’ve written three books, but have published only one. So where are the other two?
 
I took my time on my first novel, CORRUPT CONNECTION, focusing only on writing. No marketing, no blog updates, no website maintenance, and no book club appearances. I just wrote, taking nearly a year to complete it. As a result, the first draft was pretty solid. It obviously required editing (tons of it), but the characters were developed well, the subplots were interesting and interwoven properly, and the book flowed. Being a first novel, it was clearly far from perfect, but I was proud of the effort and the result.
 
I started writing my second book, UNINVITED VISIONS, when my first book was in editing, and by then, I was working on a marketing plan for my first book. Being a self-published author, I was spending almost as much time on marketing activities as I was on writing my second novel. I continued pushing forward on what I thought was a realistic schedule. I even set daily and weekly goals for the number of pages to be completed. That was a big mistake.
 
While setting targets motivated me to produce more than 80,000 words and over 300 pages in a time I thought was reasonable, I ended up with a product that was inferior to my first novel. I wasn’t pleased with the flow of the book. It was too predictable. It lacked page-turning intrigue. I practically had to start from scratch, revising it chapter by chapter, often getting so frustrated that I put the manuscript aside for days at a time. After spending nearly five months on UNINVITED VISIONS, I completely stopped working on it two months ago, convinced it would never be as good as my debut novel.
 
Some authors think it’s wise to let a book “age” for a time, like a fine red wine. I guess the logic is to give the author a break from the daily doses of an immature wine and somehow hope that when he/she returns to the novel, the prior chemical imbalances would become clear and more easily resolved. I hope it works.
 
As I waited for my second novel to age, I began writing my third novel, BETTER LATE THAN EVER. The plot and subject matter came to me several months earlier, and I was excited to dig in and start writing. I set no goals or deadlines for completion, working on it when I felt like it and stepping away when I didn’t. I also decided to wait until this book took shape before worrying about future marketing activities.
 
What I discovered was that my third novel flowed and developed much like my first. I felt like the characters really existed, that I knew them and could see them experiencing the situations I’d put them in. In less than four months, my first draft was completed. It’s now being edited and I can’t wait to read the final product.
 
It may be obvious, but what I’ve learned is that I can’t force the writing process. Self-imposing deadlines and pages of output doesn’t work – at least not for me. It’s like making wine. You can’t pour grape juice, sugar, and water into a vat and drink it before it’s ready.
 
It also seems, like wine, that not all books unfold at the same rate. Some require more care and aging than others. I’ll eventually get back to my second book. I still like the characters, subject matter, and plot -- it just needs more care and curing. It remains my hope all three books will be published this year, but only when it’s their time.