3/25/08

How Long is Too Long?

This question was taken from a recent comment on a post from last year. (Thanks for reading through the archives.)

I've been working on a book for 2 years now, and am thinking I'm getting close to submitting a first draft to a publisher. After reading this, and all the comments, I'm now thinking I need another four years before I'll be to that point…

What can I do to keep my motivation?

Part 1—How long do you need to work on your novel before submitting? The answer, of course, is: as long as it takes to get the story right.

Having said that, however, I have a few more comments. First, if it takes you six years to write a novel, and you've only been working on the one story during that time, as a publisher, I'm going to think twice about accepting your book. Reason being, if I publish your book and readers like you, they're going to want more ASAP. If it takes another six years to get book two out, readers will forget about you and we'll have to start all over again to establish a fan base. If you want a career as a novelist, you should plan to produce a book every year or two.

Now, first books usually take longer to write because you're learning your craft. We understand that. And if you're going to be a "one hit wonder," you may still be published if that one hit is good enough. Just keep in mind that part of my decision making process in accepting a book is if I think I'm going to be able to create a "reproducible commodity" of sorts. (Okay, I know that phrase is going to get me lots of hateful comments. Fine. Go ahead. Give me your best shot.)

If you've been working on a book for two years, get yourself into a good critique group right away and get that thing polished up and submitted this year!


Part 2—What can I do to keep my motivation?

Readers—jump in and help our new author out. What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you're either dragging in your work-in-progress or you're waiting to hear back on submissions?

9 comments:

Marta O. Smith said...

Attend writer's conferences whenever you can! If the Storymakers Conference could be bottled and sold, they would all be disgustingly wealthy.

Paul West said...

What have I done to keep myself motivated?

I believed in my work. I have faith that it will someday be published. I have to admit, however, that I've thrown it in the trash can about a dozen times, but it keeps coming back to me.

What do I do while I'm waiting for an agent to respond?

I've begun work on my second novel. I'm finding it much easier to write than the first.

Anonymous said...

I go play some soccer. Or go jogging. I don't eat. No chocolate. No soda. Just some water. Oh. You wanted more than short term daily motivation? Hmmmmm. Read the newspaper. Go watch a documentary, history channel, PBS, something that has all sorts of ideas about the world around you. Its is interesting how the real world can stimulate ideas for your novel. Critique groups are very cool motivators and they will help you fix a lot of things that you don't see. Find some good readers who can give you some feedback about your novel. There's nothing like some good old fashioned feedback to stimulate some rewriting. Learn how to annalyze feedback. If a reader is confused, find out the source of their confusion and rewrite. If they're bored, find out the source of their boredome and fix it.

Janet Kay Jensen said...

What anonymous said. And also, ask yourself why you're afraid to take this scary step. It is scary. Be prepared for rejection.

Send it and work on the sequel!

Anonymous said...

So what if you don't want to write as a career? Can you still get published? Seriously, Some people only have one series in them and sometimes I feel like the authors that put on one book a year severly decrease the quality of their writing by doing so. Their stories all start to sound the same. That totally turns me off as a reader. I rather read books 5 years apart that are great then read a crappy novel by the same old writer once a year.

Maria Zannini said...

As Marta said, cons are great for morale and motivation.

But for everyday motivation, you have to decide what kind of personality you have. For example: I am an alpha through and through. I hate not being able to get something right, so I keep at it. Getting pummeled by my crit partners might rain on my parade but the very next day, I'm back at that keyboard trying to get that groove.

Figure out what motivates you personally rather than look for a one size fits all. How? Network like crazy and get involved with writing groups, both live and online. Eventually, you'll find people you click with.

onelowerlight said...

What do I do to keep motivated? Right now, I'm taking a creative writing class and participate regularly in a writing group. I typically record the lectures from the class and listen to them throughout the week. Also, I listen to several podcasts on writing, and they often interview writers and ask them about writing and the business. After listening to all of these things, I am really pumped up and eager to sit down and write! In fact, more often I find that I want to write but don't have the time.

Sometimes I do just not feel like writing. When that happens, I just force myself. I believe that the difference between a hobby writer and someone who's serious about getting published is tenacity. And if my first novel is really crappy, so what? Brandon Sanderson's first novel (Elantris) was the seventh one that he wrote. In fact, I pretty much plan on writing half a dozen to a dozen novels before any one of them gets published.

Probably the biggest motivator for me, however, is the personal goal I set for when I would have the rough draft of my novel finished. Instead of thinking "oh, I'll probably have it finished by this time," I think "I need to have this draft finished by this date, so I'd better get on it." When I set the goal, I didn't think at first that I could have it finished by that time, but I've been writing steadily since then and I'm fairly confident that the rough draft will be finished by that time.

I wouldn't set a goal for "have the book finished to my satisfaction by such and such date," though, because that's more subjective: I'd say "have the rough draft finished by..." or "have the first/second/third/ revision finished by..." etc.

Annette Lyon said...

Great ideas all around. I agree that conferences, networking, and critique groups are essential to keep up the motivation. Concrete goals help me as well ("I'll write 6,000 words this week.") Having a personal deadline, such as with a critique group, can really help. I also like to reward myself when I reach a milestone.

Nancy said...

I, personally, love magazines like The Writer and Writer's Digest. I also love books about the craft and books other authors have written about how they do it. These things keep me motivated on a daily basis. I also like to check the market on the web and see who's publishing what kinds of things.

I started reading Writer's Digest while I was writing my first book and the articles on the craft and the industry taught me lots of things I needed to know. Love that magazine!

Nancy Campbell Allen