Creating space

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.


3 Responses to Creating space

  1. Claire Gem Sep 27 2017 at 7:55 am #

    “Honestly, learning how to fit the creative parts of writing into the business parts of authoring is really, really hard.”

    Jodi, you have touched on a really important aspect of this dream of “author.” There is a delicate balance between creativity which flows unrestricted, and “creating” on a deadline.

    I suggest whomever seeks this author life as their dream really examine the reasons why they write before plowing forward on a path that may lead to a life in which creativity is placed behind bars of responsibility, and slowly withers and dies. It’s one of the things I talk about in my author resource book, The Road to Publication.

    If writing is your passion, decide on what you want to do with that passion before you take the wrong road for you. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

  2. Eugene Sep 29 2017 at 7:20 am #

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too, as one of those writers who is taking a really long time between books, because I kind of burned out on the deadlines and always working (writing with a day job and a toddler to take care of). I still have deadlines on my current projects, but they’re much more manageable, and they give me the room to refill the well and have some time for things that aren’t always work, and basically just get excited about the best parts of writing instead of getting overwhelmed by the business parts of writing.

  3. rbpublishing Oct 8 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    Hmmm. This gives me some to think about. The few works I’ve tried to publish have all been direct to self-publishing but, as I’ve improved, I’ve considered working with someone bigger. Now I’m really questioning the benefits and boons.

    Thanks for the insight all the same. 🙂

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