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Say What? (Updated)

This post originally appeared on MGC in Feb. 2017. I’m repeating it here, along with additional comments, because I heard a trad published author saying much the same thing not long ago.–ASG

In one of my rare breaks from the keyboard yesterday, I went wandering around the internet in search of inspiration for today’s post. I’ll be honest. I thought the search would be fruitless. Why? Because so much digital space was being wasted on conspiracy theories about Envelope-gate from the Oscars or more screaming about politics. Then, there it was. A story that had me looking at my screen, looking away and then looking back, sure I wasn’t reading what I thought I did.

Nope. I read it right. After beating my head, figuratively at least, against my desk, I put the link in a private writer’s group I belong to and waited to see if they had the same reaction I did. It didn’t take long for the responses to roll in and they were all about the same as my own. Imagine a group cry of “WTF?!?” going up, followed by shaking of heads and chuckling and then each of us shuffling back to our keyboards to get back to work.

What, pray tell, caused such a reaction, you ask. The answer is simple. This article chastises indie authors for writing too much, too fast. The author of the article is Michael Cristiano who works in editing and acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press.

As I started reading his post, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. After all, when someone begins with “I’ve been a little wary of the potential backlash I might face,” you get the impression that he is either going to strike right at the heart of some sacred screed of writing or he’s about to go political. When that is followed by admitting there is no one right way to write, that everyone’s process is different but. . . well, he just foreshadowed how he is going to begin telling us that there is a rule we must all follow and it is his rule.

Guess what that rule is?

We, as indies, are to slow down.

Wait, let me do that the way he had it in the post. We are to SLOW DOWN!

Today in the publishing industry, especially in the indie-author market, quantity is king. I’m not saying that quality isn’t being taken into account, because to some extent it probably is, but there is a new mantra for indie authors like myself: write a lot and publish as often as possible. That means that some authors are publishing three or more novels a year, sometimes as many as ten novels a year.

That one statement is enough to justify the author’s concern that he would take flak for the post. As he should. The chutzpah of assuming to know what drives the indie movement is mind-boggling. I don’t know any indie author who takes their work seriously, who has pride in what they do, who is more concerned with how often they click the publish button more than they are about putting out the best product possible.

Are there exceptions? Of course there are. But they are, pardon the pun, the exceptions and not the rule. But let’s continue.

Apparently, according to the OP, publishing three or more novels a year is a bad thing. Hmmm. Wanders over to Amazon to check my author page. I published three novels, a short novel of approximately 40k words and two short stories, both of which were between 10k -20k words. I guess that makes me a bad author because I write too fast. Funny thing, I have folks who are constantly asking me why I don’t write faster because they want to read the next entry in of series or another. Does that make them bad readers?

Okay, second amendment (and I’ll be generous): I judge authors who release three or more books within a year ESPECIALLY if the three books are not part of the same series.

Wait, what?

So, here is an author who begins his post by telling us there is no one correct way to right who is now telling us there is? Bad Amanda, you have now broken two of his rules. You put out three or more books in a single year and — gasp — they weren’t part of the same series. Oh woe is me. What am I ever to do? I know. I’ll tell the readers of the Honor and Ashes series, as well as the Nocturnal Lives series and Eerie Side of the Tracks series that they are going to have to wait at least another year or three for the next book in their favorite series while I finish the Sword of the Gods series. I’m sure they’ll understand and wait patiently for me to get around to writing the books they like. Oh, and I’m sure they won’t forget about the series at all as they wait years and years for the next book to come out.

NOT!

I don’t know the OP’s writing process any more than I know that of any other writer except, perhaps Sarah’s and Kate’s because we tend to bounce ideas off one another. For me, I need to step away from a series after writing a novel and, perhaps, a short story, for a while. By doing so, it lets me get a clearer perspective on what the plot for the next entry in the series should be. Yes, I could do that by simply not writing anything else for several months after publishing the latest book in the series but I’m a writer. I make my living writing. If I spend months not writing, I am not doing anything tangible to increase my income. So, instead of sitting around, twiddling my thumbs until my head is ready to wrap itself back around the next book in a particular series, I move on to something else, something different form what I just spent the last few months researching, writing, editing, formatting and then publishing.

I’m sorry: a writing career shouldn’t be a puppy mill of stream-of-consciousness vanity projects.

Wow. Condescending much? Even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that by “stream-of-consciousness” he means pantsing — and I don’t think he does — the “vanity projects” kills me. But it gets better.

I just don’t see how anyone has the time to publish more than three novels a year AND maintain consistent literary quality.

So, because Mr. Expert here can’t figure out how to do it, none of the rest of us can either. And remember, he started out by saying there are no two processes that are the same and no one “right” way to write. I guess that’s right, as long as you also accept his exceptions to those two rules.

He has a series of questions about how long you spend writing, how many drafts you write, how long you edit, etc. Then he comes up with this little gem.

Sure, if you’re a full-time writer and you have a really quick team of beta-reader/editor-robots, you could have a really good, polished manuscript in a year. Eight months if you’re lucky.

Now, show of hands. How many of you are laughing hysterically at this point? For one, I have this vision of robots sitting at desks, red pencils in hand, editing.

What the OP is forgetting is — gee, I think I mentioned this earlier — that no writer has the same process as the next writer. We write at different speeds and in different manners. Some of us are pantsers — hi, Kate! — and others are plotters. Some do a bit of both. Some authors put out a rough draft that is publishable with very little content editing needed — hi, Sarah! — and just a bit of proofing. Not every author needs to do three or four or six rough drafts.

Also, the more you write, the more you study the craft, the better you get. When I started out, I was lucky to get a book out a year. Why? Part of it was confidence. Part was that I needed heavier structural editing than I do now. Part was I couldn’t let go of a manuscript and wound up editing the life out of it. Ask Sarah. She got to the point of threatening to publish my work and then tell me about it because I was doing so many editorial passes.

So, where’s the sweet spot? How many novels should you release a year in order to ensure highest quality? I don’t know, frankly.

Wow, after telling us for how many hundreds of words that he knew and if we were releasing more than two or, at most, three books a year we were doing it wrong, he now says he doesn’t know? Surely there’s a catch. Ah, there is. You see, according to him, a book is like good wine or cheese. It has to age. So, if you haven’t taken enough time — whatever that means — you aren’t putting out the quality of work he wants.

Too bad he judges by the number of books an author releases and not by, gosh, actually reading the book. But I guess he’s afraid he might get the equivalent of moldy cheese and he doesn’t want to ruin his literary palate.

I will admit he is right on one thing. You shouldn’t release novel after novel just to inflate the number of titles you have out there. But to say it is nigh on impossible to produce quality work more than once or twice a year is to insult every indie author — and traditionally published author — out there who does just that.

I assure you, I will continue putting out more than one or two books a year, real life willing, as long as I am satisfied with the quality of the work. I will work on more than one series at a time because that helps keep it all fresh for me. Unlike the OP, I am a working writer, like so many of you. This is how I make my living. I don’t have the time to go backpacking around the world — or the spare cash to do it. So I write. As long as I have people out there wanting to read my work, I will continue doing so.

And so should you. Write at your own speed. Use your own process, as long as it works for you. And ignore everyone who tells you you are doing it wrong just because it isn’t the way they do things.

Additional thoughts:

Readers are adapting to the indie movement and they want books more often from their favorite authors. They now see they don’t have to wait a year or two–or more–between books in a series, something they’d been told was necessary by traditional publishers. Indies don’t have to wait for publishing slots. We don’t have to go through the months’ long edits (while the book actually sits on the editor’s desk without being looked at). We control when it is edited and when it is released.

But there’s something else, something I have learned this last year the hard way. If we let our production schedule slow down, so does the money. The sweet spot isn’t just having ten or more titles out there to keep income coming in, it is having a new title out every three months–two months actually seems to be even more of a sweet spot.

Going back to what I said several times already. Don’t worry about what someone says you have to do. If they start with “this is how it has to be”, nod and walk away. We each create in different ways. Our writing speeds are different. But never, ever feel like you aren’t a “real writer” because you don’t spend months and months on a single page or chapter. Write at your own speed. Put out your best work and don’t let anyone tell you that your process is wrong.

Now for a bit of promo.

Battle Flight is now available in both print and digital editions and, hopefully very soon, audio.

Honor and duty. Corps and family. Those values had been drilled into Ashlyn Shaw as long as she could remember.

Long before conspiracies and war threatened her home planet and those she loved, Ashlyn had to prove to herself and others that she had what it took to be a member of Fuercon’s Marine Corps. Along the way, she learned the true meaning of honor, duty and sacrifice.

Battle Flight is a prequel novel that takes place before Vengeance from Ashes. It is built around the short stories, Taking Flight, Battle Bound and Battle Wounds and contains substantial new material.

16 Comments
  1. Ask Sarah. She got to the point of threatening to publish my work and then tell me about it because I was doing so many editorial passes.

    That’s an awesome threat. Okay I’m a bystander, but still.

    And man, I would love to have more output. But I need to not be in a constant state of fog.

    May 28, 2019
  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    On the “taking a break from a series”, David Weber has said that he has to do that to remain fresh.

    Of course, that person may not think David Weber is a Real Author. 😉

    May 28, 2019
    • Mary #

      Then being an Irreal Writer is more fun.

      May 29, 2019
  3. Can we send Christopher Nuttall and Chris Kennedy to have a word with this person?

    May 28, 2019
    • TheOtherSean #

      Why would we want to cut into their output? 😛

      May 28, 2019
  4. So, the acquisitions editor for a failing small press that screws authors wants them to write more slowly?

    -j

    May 28, 2019
  5. See, it’s simple for an indy – no write, no pay.
    I have a bump-up for all of my books, every time I release a new one. And I can do two a year, of one of them is a lightweight, Luna City-type diversion. So, I’ll try to release a new one, and get the resulting bump-up in sales every six months.

    May 28, 2019
  6. I have heard the same argument from a union painter. See, the problem with non-union painters is they go TOO FAST! They get in, paint the room and then get out before the union guy is done adjusting his overalls and setting up his workstation.

    I mean, how can you paint a door in only half an hour? A properly painted door is a half-day project! These things must be done -delicately- or it spoils the work. (What movie was that stolen from? ~:)

    May 28, 2019
    • Draven #

      *beep* unions.

      May 29, 2019
      • Actually it was the witch in Wizard of Oz, but you were close. ~:D

        May 29, 2019
  7. Reziac #

    Yeah, I know the mentality there… it’s a combination of “you have suffered insufficiently for your art” and “the more you do something, the worse you are at it”, which pervades every left-leaning field of creative endeavor. Which gives dabblers a handy way to denigrate professionals, and if given sufficient political clout, a way to run the pros out of business.

    May 28, 2019
  8. Hand was halfway raised in the air because I was laughing my butt off.

    I wonder if the OP suffers from writer’s envy because others are outproducing him? Or maybe the OP is working from a very limited amount of experience with other writers? I wonder what the OP makes of Michael Anderle and his exploding network of writing collaborators? Or of other prolific writers in history?

    My goodness, E.R. Burroughs obviously did his Tarzan and John Carter books all wrong, hammering on manual typewriters roughly 2 novels per year, numerous other stories, and add war correspondence writing, running his own publishing house, dealing with Hollywood for movie scripts and production; my goodness his work must be consider among the worst in the business. Oops! Even ERB agrees with the OP! In a quote attributed to him, “…if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten.” Yep. Stories so rotten that people are still reading them 50 to 100 years later.

    May 28, 2019
  9. Christopher M. Chupik #

    Walter Gibson and Lester Dent would have something to say about this. At one point, Gibson was writing two Shadow novellas a month, every month.

    May 28, 2019
  10. Sheesh. I must be a really, really, BAD writer. Mind you, last year was one of the “broke the log jam, now I can publish the following stories in the series” years. But, six novels, four novellas, and three short stories. Better than one a month. BAD, BAD WRITER!

    May 28, 2019
  11. Ben Yalow #

    In 1943, the Kuttner/Moore team (under multiple names) had 26 shorter works (mostly novelettes and novella) plus a novel published. And they were clearly too rushed to polish “Mimsy Were The Borogoves”, or “Clash By Night”, or two of the Gallagher novellas, or ….

    Most writers, in a career, don’t write stories comparable in quality what a clearly “rushed” team turned out in just that one year. And it’s unclear if that was their best year.

    May 28, 2019

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