Welcome to November!! I hope your month has started out in the best of ways. Let’s kick things off with a fantastic guest!
I’m pleased to introduce you to Author Mike Crowl…
In 2014, I published three e-books. That sounds impressive until you realise that the first of those books, Grimhilda!, had started out life as a musical produced in the theatre, back in 2012. In spite of having a script to work from, it took another two years for the book version to get off the ground. Procrastination took its toll, along with many rewrites. Turning a playscript into a novel wasn’t as straightforward as I’d anticipated.
I finally published it in January 2014, by which time I was viewing it as the first of a series of children’s fantasies.
However, the second book, Diary of a Prostate Wimp, was non-fiction. I’d had this book in mind for some time, planning to use a set of blog posts from 2009 as its basis. It wasn’t just a matter of publishing the posts: they had to be edited, an introduction had to be written, and more material added from other sources to complement and give additional breadth to my own experiences.
Nevertheless, all that was done in a short time, and that book was finished and published in April 2014.
The draft of the third book, The Mumbersons and the Blood Secret, took a little longer, but was still written at a fair pace. It became the second in the fantasy series under the collective title of Grimhilderness. The Blood Secret still had to go through a rigorous process with my editor-cum-beta reader, a person who’s like a dog with a bone; she won’t let anything go that she’s not satisfied with, or that reeks of inconsistency.
Still, that book was produced far more speedily than Grimhilda! – it was published in early November, 2014. I was beginning to think I was a bit of a whiz at producing books.
The third in the Grimhilderness series, The Disenchanted Wizard, turned my idea of being able to churn out books at a rate of knots on its head. I started it in late 2014, as soon as The Blood Secret was finished, writing the first (very disorganised) draft as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. I had a good idea in mind, some thoughts about how it would end, and some well-defined characters.
Yet another two and a quarter years passed before it was ready for publication. Did I do something wrong?
Not really. Though procrastination and music work got in the way (I play the piano, mostly accompanying singers), the book’s original plan was sidetracked again and again. My co-author/editor/plot-consistency-overseer/script consultant and I discussed the intricacies of the plot endlessly, and again and again discovered loopholes that readers would see right through, or brick walls in the story that were apparently unassailable. Sometimes we’d sit in my house staring into space, wondering if all the effort was worth it, or if we’d ever find a way out of the maze.
The first half of the book took long enough to get worked out, but once the writing process was begun in earnest the structure didn’t really change. The second half was a nightmare: much of it was rewritten several times over after going off in wrong directions. Whole scenes were abandoned, characters annihilated. I even wrote a piece of flash fiction at one point in which the lost characters railed against their fate.
The grand climax I’d envisaged got chucked, leaving a great gap, and then later was brought back in. It too was rewritten over and over as various improbable things were removed. The biggest difficulty was that the main character, a girl with no defensive magical powers of her own, had to confront the villain – a wizard – and somehow lay him low. She’d already failed to do this earlier in the book, so it was a challenge to figure out she could deal with him in the climax.
Sometimes solutions turn out to be so simple that you think they’ll be seen as too easy by the readers. In fact, readers accept them. We spent ages figuring out how the girl’s father would be found after he’d been whisked away by the villain. I’ll let you read the book and see for yourself whether you think the solution worked.
There were things I wanted to keep in, and fought tooth and nail over. In the end I had to let them go because they complicated the plot unnecessarily. Being willing to give up seemingly great ideas for the betterment of the whole book isn’t easy. It was another reason things took longer than anticipated.
So, two and a quarter years of slog. Were there downsides to this slow process? Yes, of course. The frustration of feeling that it would never get finished, for one. The sense that I wasn’t really a very good writer because I couldn’t produce another book at speed.
But the upsides were that the book was immensely better for its long gestation. Weak and unnecessary characters were left by the wayside, as were weak scenes. Scenes that did survive were continually strengthened, and, because I had time to think about details, the book was improved in a myriad of small ways.
A number of authors promote the idea that writing at speed and producing two or three or more books a year is the ideal. Yes, there are authors who can work at this kind of pace and produce quality. I think they’re few and far between. I’ve read books by some of these prolific authors, and I wish they’d given more time to their work instead of to trying to add more titles to their bibliography.
I’ve mentioned the word procrastination a few times here. There are an endless number of authors online who want to advise you on how to deal with procrastination. I’ve read endless advice on the subject. In spite of that, I’m currently procrastinating on a fourth children’s fantasy. Some of my reasons are valid, and more important than the completion of a book. Some of the reasons are pathetic and need to be dealt with severely. Either way, real life does get in the way of writing, and often takes priority, as a local author, a Mom with two small children, frequently notes on Twitter.
But if we want to write, we need to try and find a balance between procrastination for good reasons and procrastination for bad reasons. Take every day as it comes. Take time to write (rather than make time to write), even if the creative brain feels at its lowest ebb. A piece of draft writing may seem like rubbish, but I find that it usually gets creativity moving again. That’s always a plus, and it moves us one more step on the road to publication day.
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Until next time…………………………… Stay Creative!!