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S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writers Must Write First

When I announced I was participating in National Novel Writing Month the same month I was launching my book, several people commented that they were impressed (and were probably thinking, boy is she crazy). It was a bit crazy, but I am so glad that I did it!


(Yes, I met the 50k mark, although I'm certainly not done drafting Closed Hearts.That's what December is for.)

Having to chase that line every day forced me to remember - in the middle of possibly the zaniest marketing month of my life - that writers must write first. This is quickly becoming a platitude, but it takes on a whole different meaning when people are actively adding your (as yet unwritten) book to their TBR pile on Goodreads.

Before starting to draft Closed Hearts, I did a substantial amount of plotting. Of course, it's a sequel, so some of the character and worldbuilding work was already done. But I'm finding the sequel just as challenging as the first book, because new elements, characters, and story arcs have to be built from the ground up, just like in the initial novel.

There really is no short-cut in novel writing.

But I have found that plotting ahead of time does substantially increase my drafting speed. Adam Heine, bless his well-charted heart, has shared data on how plotting has sped up his drafting speed. Zoe Winters has a great post about trying to speed up her writing process. I don't have the data to prove I'm any faster when I plot ahead of time, but before I sat down to draft Closed Hearts, I had 13,831 words of outline written, plus another 5-7k of notes (on top of all my notes for Open Minds). That doesn't count the additional outlining I did for Unnamed Book #3. There was one point during drafting the first half of the book that I had to pause and do some more worldbuilding to get through a sticky plot point. But overall, I was able to mostly crank out words because the storybuilding had already been done.

There were times this month that it was difficult to write, simply because the siren call of marketing was so strong. I was just sure that any incremental minute, hour, day that I spent trying to reach new readers would bring in more sales. I was like the greyhound who chases the rabbit around and around the track, only in this case, the dog actually gets the rabbit - marketing efforts do result in more sales. Just imagine how hard the dog would run if he actually caught that dang rabbit every once in a while!

Which is why NaNo was so important to me this year. It kept bringing me back, reminding me that the most important thing I should be doing is writing the sequel. Every minute, hour, day I spend creating new material is a minute, hour, day I am closer to releasing the next book. And the next one after that.

This isn't a sprint around the racetrack. The bell rings to signal the beginning, but the chase never ends. And the most important marketing event I can create for my book is to release another one. I'm building a backlist, writing works that I hope readers will enjoy not just this month, but next year and the year after that.

But only if I write them.

26 comments:

  1. oh yeah baby!!!!
    hmmm... if the dog catches the rabbit every once in awhile they'd be more productive?
    *eyes carrot*

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  2. @vic Ha! I think the carrot is different than the rabbit … one is a reward you give yourself. The other is a tease that you may or may not ever catch. I use carrots all the time, but the rabbit is something that’s out of my control (sales), that I chase after, hoping that my efforts will work. And sometimes they do! Some people do well with the rabbit, but I’m not entirely convinced that I’m one of them. 

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  3. I've struggled more with having too many projects going simultaneously in my effort to build publishing credits. I think I need to do a NaNo-like month sometime this winter to get the final 50K of my WIP drafted. I'm thinking February. November is a crummy month to be productive when you're married to an academic--I basically have to behave like I'm a widow at this time of the semester.

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  4. So true, I definitely agree with the backlist part. Plus it does seem the more you have the more people take you seriously.

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  5. Awesome Sue!
    The turkey coma made me chuckle :)
    Have fun writing the rest of Closed Hearts...
    I'm planning on letting this novel rest for a while (and me recuperate).

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  6. I'm completely with you on plotting affecting drafting speed. The more I know the scene, the faster I can write it.

    Congratulations for completely NaNo! You're completely correct that writers must write first. It's what I learned during NaNo this year. :)

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  7. Terrific post. And one we all need to remember. I do think a great book is the best marketing and writing the next one. Our posts kind of complimented each other today in a weird sort of way. :)

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  8. Good for you Susan! I fell flat on my face this year with NaNo. I started off strong, and then just tanked and never recovered. I'm just not sure I have the superpowers you do, able to do the marketing, blog tour, and write.

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  9. Congrats on finishing NaNo! You're a superwoman. :)

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  10. I love how you didn't give yourself any excuses. Inspiring and motivational post, Susan, so glad I dropped by today.

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  11. Congratulations on completing NaNoWriMo! I'm in awe of anyone who even attempted it, let alone released a book and marketed it simultaneously! Boggles my mind, but makes me very happy for your accomplishment.

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  12. And since I'm waiting to read the sequel, I'm glad to hear you weren't "slacking" off during November. :D

    So have you recovered from your Turkey coma yet? LOL

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  13. WTG! Way to be productive. I didn't make it on Nano, but I did come up with 31 picture book ideas this month. :)

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  14. I kinda like the idea that my heart is well-charted...

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  15. hi miss susan! wow! for sure you been soooo busy. hooray for getting your goal with nano. im thinking your a real good role model for writer to follow. for sure i could wanna be just like you. :)
    ...hugs from lenny

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  16. I am truly impressed! Congrats on getting through most of that first draft. I (and many others) eagerly await the chance to read your efforts :)

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  17. Sequels are tricky. It's a balancing act to get exactly the right amount of back story. I highly recommend getting someone who hasn't read your first book to critique the second one. That way you'll have an unclouded view of whether it works on its own. I tell you this from personal experience. :)

    It's also really tough to balance the marketing and the writing. I haven't figured that one out yet. I think I need some sort of time travel device to get it all done.

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  18. Hi Susan .. well done on finishing the 50,000+ .. and all your ideas for your future with your books - seems to have a strong base.

    Write, Write, Write ..

    Good luck - Hilary

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  19. omg, Susan! You DID Nano? You crazy lady. I need to kick my pants in gear and get back on my own sequel. I'm so preoccupied it seems. But you're right about sequels--AND you want them to be as satisfying as the first installment, so there's that pressure as well.

    I've been toying with the idea of upping my plotting. I just might try it~ :o) <3

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  20. Good job doing NaNo. Love the graphic with the "turkey coma." The message is clear - write - and don't stop.

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  21. I'm impressed that you launched and did nano too! And I like the name for your sequel--it is so perfect with your first title. I didn't do nano this year, and I do regret it. Next year, I'm on it.

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  22. I'm with you 100%! Writing has to be #1. You go, girl!

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  23. Congrats on everything, Susan! Finishing NaNo AND releasing your book! You are a rock star. :)

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  24. I love the "turkey coma" call out. So true, Nano should just automatically account for that. Congrats!

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  25. You earned your superhero cape this month! Three cheers for momentum. I think NaNo is a great shot of writing adrenaline just by knowing how many creative minds are simultaneously chuggin' away.

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