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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

No Such Thing as "Right Now" (Things I've Learned Along the Way)

I work full-time as a retail pharmacist. Over the years, I have developed a sort of mantra that I use to remind customers and coworkers that sometimes waiting is necessary. When there are more customers than staff, odds are someone will have to stand in a line. Sometimes, the lines are grumbly and complainy but I value safety over speed--and I'll find myself gently resetting their expectations.

Usually, I turn to the phrase "You can get it right or you can get it now. But you can't get both."

Rushing through a task increased the risk of producing faulty work. In my career, that could be dangerous. That's why I work at one speed—the RIGHT speed.

I owe it to the health and safety of my patients.

Eventually, I realized that this philosophy also pertained to my writing career. When it came to writing and producing stories, I needed to combine the correct combination of craft and time to ensure that the story is the best it could possibly be before releasing it.

After all, I owe it to the satisfaction of my readers.

You can get it RIGHT

By exercising your writer's brain, you improve your craft. By improving your craft, you write better stories. Those are the stories you want to give your readers: the stories that are crafted so well that it leaves a reader gasping. Stories that leave you gasping, knowing you could not have done it any better.

But stories like that do not spring forth fully-armored from the foreheads of most mortal writers. We deliver our book babies the regular way—slowly, over time. The idea gestates and builds mass and definition. We nurture the characters and allow them to grow and develop and mature. We ponder their stories and we use all our craft to create a miniature, perfect world.

And a story is not done until it's done, rightly so.

You can get it NOW

We all know there are extremely prolific authors out there who seem to churn out titles. Their names seem always to be in the spotlight, along with the words "new release".  It's ingrained into our writer's mentality that the first rule of success is: write a book, release it, write another. Making it big with a breakout debut is less likely than getting struck by lightning while winning the lottery. One of my favorite author mentors once said, in part, that you need 4 to 6 books before you can begin to reach critical mass.

A quick look at Amazon reveals that not every book is a 100k word magnum opus. Short works and serials are tempting outlets for authors looking to build their lists quickly. Readers are happiest when the stories they love keep coming.

And it's no hard thing to get your 4 to 6 books these days. If you have the time to type and the vision to get your stories straight, you can bang those books out.

But you can't get it RIGHT NOW

Most writers can't sit down and crank out perfection in a single draft--not even shorter stories. Plain and simple: good things take time.

Those prolific authors that turn out title after amazing title are professionals. Yes, many of us are tempted to try and keep up with them. Sure, it's possible for less-experienced writers to rapidly turn out titles—but often it's done for the sake of expediency or impatience. And those are terrible reasons for a writer to publish anything.

Many times, the proofing process is skipped—the editing stages, the critique stages, the sit-and-think stages. If an author plots and outlines a story and possesses a knack for clean, tight first drafts, this might not be a problem—but those people are the exceptional few.

The danger is today's ease in publishing: anyone can hit the PUBLISH button at any moment, and living in a world of demand and impatience and instant gratification, there's a misleading belief that there's no time like the present.

Did you ever stop to consider that the prolific authors may have spent a ton of time getting their stories perfected, waiting until they had a sizable product list before releasing them in more-or-less rapid succession?

And even that bit of advice from my mentor author—you need 4 to 6 books before you reach critical mass—wasn't entirely complete. She said it takes 4 to 6 books...and then 4 to 6 months before you can start to see a shift toward critical mass. It takes time.

An impatient author can easily skip that last part. Don't you do that.

Do the RIGHT thing. You owe it to your readers.


Amy Gregory said...

This was something I needed to read at the perfect time. I always tell myself I write because I love it, but it's so easy to get your head wrapped up watching the names and releases, thinking of how large their lists are. Even though I spend time writing real stories with the editing, re-writes and more editing, it's hard while struggling to maintain a full time career, kids, house, husb and THEN writing.... I wish I could shift the order, but ....that's when I remember, I only do it because I love it and 99.9% chance I'll never hit Danielle Steel, Nora Robert or Susan Mallary status, but it's my passion.

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Amy.

You sound a lot like me. Writing is a bonus. I'm fortunate to have a career that supports my family financially, and all my writing comes in second to that. But I can't deny my passion for writing. And I do want my stories to succeed.

But without being able to devote full time attention to it, I'm sometimes tempted to hurry and try to make up for lost time. And that's a reckless situation for a writer.

Sheila Good said...

An excellent reminder that success as a writer does not come overnight. Patience is indeed a virtue. Thanks for the reminder.

kbrebes said...

Very nice. Thank you!

kbrebes said...
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