I’m now seven books into my career, with four more contracted through 2020, so this might seem strange for me to say, especially to those of you still trying to break into publishing or just getting started, but I often fantasize about the freedom of writing without contracts or deadlines.
Some authors can write and write and write indefinitely without feeling like they need more space for the book they’re working on. And some authors can afford to take two or three (or even more!) years between books, either because they have day jobs or their advances/royalties allow.
I can’t speak for anyone for myself, but I used to think I belonged in the first group. Before my first book came out, I just wrote as fast as I could until the story was finished, and then I’d revise, and then — if agents didn’t want it — I’d move on to the next project.
Now, as I’m sure you predicted, I find I want that time of contemplation and distance that I recklessly squandered in my rush to achieve publication, but I’m in a place where I cannot afford to take years between books without giving up something else, like time (to another job) or hobbies (you won’t like me when I’m not knitting) or even readers. If it truly became necessary, I could do it. However, I’ve set myself on an upward path and to reach my next goal, I must keep going.
Still, if I could tell past-me one thing, it would be to appreciate the time and space to dig in to a story and run in seventeen different directions with it. Because once publication hits, the work of being an author can easily take over. There’s email and travel and promotion and stop what you’re drafting because it’s time to go back to the manuscript you finished three months ago because COPYEDITS. It doesn’t matter if you were in the zone. Deadlines come from someone else, and publishing schedules largely don’t care about process.
Honestly, learning how to fit the creative parts of writing into the business parts of authoring is really, really hard.
None of this is meant as a complaint. I know how fortunate I am to have this career, to have so many books published, and to have such dedicated readers. I absolutely know what all of this is worth.
It has made me think, though, about what I want to do in the future, and how I can keep going on the career path I’ve chosen while also giving my stories the time and space they need, because I won’t sacrifice the quality of my books — not even if my knitting is at stake.
The specifics of what I’m planning to do in the future is between my agent and me, but because I know there are others out there feeling like this . . . broadly, I’ll say that I’m going to work really, really hard in the next several months and aim to get a book ahead; I’m hoping that will offer some breathing room. I’ll more than likely write complete drafts to sell, rather than proposals, to give myself more time upfront. I’ll mine the sixteen manuscripts I wrote before Incarnate to see if there’s anything I want to use for parts. And mostly, I’m going to be grateful for the time I have right now, because if I’ve learned anything about this business, it’s that space to be creative is a precious resource that could vanish at any point.