Goals are important for just about anyone who wants to get something difficult done. It’s important to have a timeline, preferably one that both challenges you and gives you a little wiggle room if you stay on track. I learned this the way I have learned many of my lessons. Alas, the hard way is often my way. It doesn’t have to be for you, though; let me tell you what I wish I had known about eighteen months ago.
We published ‘Demons & Angels (Walking Between Worlds, Book I)’ the same month we closed on our first home. The clock was ticking, and I knew it. As an old school reader, I expected to wait no more than a year for a follow-up in a series. More than that, and I was on to other more attentive authors. We moved into our house, and I got to work making things and installing things and assembling things and fixing things. Then I realized; I’ve got the second book half-way written in longhand, and a third to go. I need to get to work, even if I have until December!
Yeah, that was wrong too. It turns out that today’s reader has come to know today’s authors pretty well. They’re turning out two to five books a year, thanks to time-saving devices like the ones I have mentioned in previous posts. If I was going to keep up, I needed to step up. I needed to do what so many blogs and author interviews kept telling me I needed to do: I needed a writing schedule, and a publishing schedule. The two had to work together seamlessly, and show readers what they could expect from me. I also had to know what I could realistically expect from myself, given proper discipline. So I got to work.
Book II in the series started to come together as soon as I made it a point to start working on it every day. That’s one of those lessons you learn over and over with writing: take even a day off, and you lose a little of the sureness in your stride. A week or two, and you’re reading things you wrote before and wondering where on Earth it came from; the language starts to slip away, and the doorway begins to close. Of course, a few hours pounding away at the pages and the fluency comes back. Still, it’s important to remember that anything you do every day is a part of you in a way that something you only do occasionally can’t possibly be.
The pages finally started coming fast enough that I knew Dawn could start typing. It was still all longhand back then, notebooks filling up with pencilled chicken scratch that stained my left hand as I dragged it across the page. Very archaic. I finally got it done, and she finally got it typed up, and I finally got the first edits done. I kept them in mind when I started writing the next book, as well as the next string of outsider edits, still dragging my hand across the page and my knuckles along the floor. It went more quickly, as did all of the edits for the final installment. The more feedback I got, the cleaner my writing became. The third book was going to be ready to drop within a year of the first! Barely.
It got quicker and cleaner, but there was a long way to go. There still is. When we started this year, I decided to be realistic about everything I wanted to get done. I was going to write one long book, about the size of one of the ‘Walking Between Worlds’ books, and it would be a stand alone story. It was going to be called ‘Zombie Zero’. There was still so much to do around the house, and I didn’t want to promise more than I could deliver while living a somewhat balanced life. I was going to step out of the dark ages and bathe in the glowing light of a laptop while I wrote this year, and I expected that to take awhile to get used to. I also needed to learn to use a proper writing program, and that would require time too. So many things needed to be done for me to get to that next level.
I didn’t mind spending the year looking like an amateur; I wanted to get ready to present myself as professionally as possible next year. So all I promised was that one book, and a more aggressive publishing schedule in years to come. I got to work laying the foundation, and paving the path. Imagine my surprise when my typing started to speed up to match my writing, in about the time it took me to really get used to using my new writing program. I got more and more of that book done, until I realized that I had been wrong.
This wasn’t one story; it was two. It wasn’t one long book; it was two shorter ones. Not only that: something was missing. I had wanted to tell this story without any excessive time spent building the world that was falling to this apocalypse; I wanted the books to be lean and ferocious, fat-free predators like the monsters in them. But this left out a bunch of stories that I kept seeing behind the scenes, and I wanted to write them more every day.
Right about this time, I finally heard enough of the voices I was listening to for advice on all this echo what Dawn had been saying for some time: Give your newsletter subscribers consistent free content, and they’ll be some of the best allies you can have.
How about a bunch of short stories? I checked in with Dawn, then checked in with my mind, and I told her something that freaked us both out a little: there are apparently eighteen of them, scratching to get out of my head. They are zombie stories, and there are brains in there, so I better get them out. Why not give subscribers at least one a month, every month, and drop bonuses on them throughout the year? Oh, and can we move the release date on book one? Yeah, I said book one; there will be two. The title has changed a little too. I really like writing this way!
So I still look like an amateur. I promised one long book this year, and now I’m delivering eight shorter ones. That’s okay; I still am an amateur. The good news is that I’m looking for ways to be more professional all the time, and I’m actively leaving my legacy at last. I’m learning how every book I write today is another conversation for me to have with countless readers tomorrow, and how that’s a lot more important part of all this than I ever thought it would be. We’ll talk about that next week, in a post called ‘Your Books Are Your Babies’.
Thanks for reading!