I’ve been neglecting my blog as of late because I’ve been so swept up with my books. I finished the first of a duet last month, and after a couple of days’ rest, I hopped into writing the second book. I didn’t give myself enough time to think about what I needed to put into book two, and I stalled at 10k, burnt out and floundering.
I decided to take a break, but instead of stepping away completely, I dug up my five book epic fantasy series I began way back in 2015 before I starting publishing romance. These books are full of everything I learned not to do: head-hopping, word echoing, and oh my goodness, so much repetition and telling. They also don’t follow epic fantasy word counts–book two is only 57k. I remember writing these books, being so consumed by the characters, and the way I write hasn’t changed. When I start a new story, the characters and the plot monopolize my every waking moment. I would constantly think about these characters. I was more of a pantser back then, before I wrote more and drifted comfortably into the planster I am now.
I started rereading these because I really love these characters, and I’ve even thought about taking a detour and fixing them up. I wrote a blog post about it, but I never did pause my contemporary romance momentum to do it.
I have learned some lessons while rereading work that is six years old, and I thought I’d share them with you:
Not everything you write needs to be published. I’m not going to fix these and publish them. I have often thought about it because I love these characters and while I was writing them, I poured my heart and soul into them. But there is so much wrong with just the writing, never mind the non-existent characters arcs and weak conflicts, that I would have to rewrite them from the beginning. We’re talking 441,000 words, and not all of them are good words.
It’s important to know genre expectations. I don’t know why I thought I could write an epic fantasy. Back then, I hadn’t read Game of Thrones, nor had I much exposure to anything like that. The books aren’t word-count appropriate, and they don’t contain the required tropes, such as The Chosen One. (I do have one character who was “chosen” but she does not go on a journey to save a kingdom or find herself along the way.) While I can appreciate them for what they are with an author’s admiration for the start of what I hope will be a long-term and lucrative career, I know readers won’t value them as much as I do. That is one thing indies don’t seem to understand. Just because you love your work, if you’re not fulfilling reader expectations of that genre, your readers may not. It takes a lot of courage to look at your work and admit it’s lacking.
The core of who you are will always be evident in all your work. What’s funny is that I realized even after all this time, I used some phrases, favorite words, tone, and general feelings in these books that I have not lost. I suppose you can consider that my writing style, my author’s voice. It’s fun to see the ways I’ve changed, how I’ve grown into my writing, but how much of it has stayed the same.
I use the same character names. It’s probably best I created a table to keep track of the characters names I’ve used from book to book. No matter how imaginative I think I’m being, chances are I’m using names I’ve used in the past. In the second book of the duet I’m writing, my female main character’s name is Talia, and imagine my surprise when I opened these files and I have a female character named Talia. In this one thing, being consistent is not a good thing and can cause reader confusion if you do it too often or with books published too close together.
They were a foundation for bigger and better things. Jumping into a five book series as a “first book” laid a foundation for the books I’ve written since then. Looking back, I didn’t consider it such a daunting task. I was telling a story (and boy was I telling–no showing in 441,000 words) and it didn’t occur to me to be scared of the magnitude of the project. That attitude has served me well, and since then, I have written a trilogy, a four-book series, and a six-book series that I will publish under my pen name next year. There are times when jumping feet first without looking can have consequences, but in this case, writing this series without concern set me up to be utterly fearless in the trajectory of my career.
They weren’t a waste of time. Probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn over the past five years of writing and publishing is nothing I’ve done is a waste. It may feel like it, as last month I barely made $50.00 and that was after paying $25.00 for a promo and a little bit of ad spend. Not enough to mention, as my books are old and I’ve let them and my ads stagnate. But I do have to console myself every once in a while with all that I’ve learned:
*How to format–I learned the hard way copying and pasting my Word document into a KDP interior for a paperback book. There are so many programs now that will format for you in practically just one click of a button that it’s almost laughable how many hours I spent copying, pasting, and tweaking that template to create the perfect paperback interior.
*How to do covers. I read Chris McMullen’s A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers: How to Print-on-Demand with CreateSpace & Make eBooks for Kindle & Other eReaders, and he laid out step-by-step instructions on how to make the text boxes to do paperback covers in Word. Yeah, in Word. How to create the text boxes for the back cover, spine, and front cover. Published in 2012 by CreateSpace, back before KDP existed, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it now, but it’s how I learned and knowing about the dimensions, bleed, and how to do the math still helps me every time I need to create a new canvas in Canva for a full wrap.
*Writing to market. I learned it’s not enough just to write a book. If it were, I could publish my epic fantasy and it would find a million readers. I’ve learned about tropes, genre/reader expectations, how to look at the top 100 in your genre for covers to help cover books to market. I spent a lot of time writing what I wanted to write. That should never be a bad thing, and for me, it hasn’t been, but you have to find a way to meet in the middle with writing what you love and also what readers love to read.
*Things about myself. While writing that series and the books since then, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I love learning about the industry. I learned I love being part of the writing community. I learned that there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than writing. I learned I love writing this blog. I’ve learned that I love everything about writing a book, editing it, formatting it, doing the cover, and uploading it to KDP. (Notice I didn’t say I love writing the blurb LOL). I think this is why I’ve stuck it out for so long. I love every aspect of this industry. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in the five years I’ve been publishing. Not everyone has the tenacity to stick with something where success seems so out of reach.
I’ll finish reading these, and in doing so, I’ll say goodbye to these books. As long as they are on my computer, I will always think in the back of my mind they are “fixable” when in reality, they are anything but. I’ll email them to myself and delete them from my hard drive. I don’t need them hanging around anymore. It will be bittersweet, but there are so many more stories, so many more characters to write about. I will never rewrite them. Sometimes we need something just for ourselves, something we aren’t going to share with anyone else, and these books will be that for me. No one has read them besides me, and no one will. I need to say farewell and look to the future.
Okay, I’m sniffling, and to move on from being sad, here is what I’m liking this week.
The 20booksto50k Facebook group hosted by Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle had their annual writing/publishing convention earlier last month. They’ve been putting up their presentations on YouTube for those who could not go in person to Las Vegas. One day I will, but not for a couple of years. I have too many responsibilities in November to make the trip–at least until my daughter graduates high school.
I’ve been slowly getting through some of the ones I really wanted to watch, and I loved, loved, loved Kyla Stone’s presentation on writing to market.
I don’t know why I get so enamored with that message, because I am a huge advocate of it, and all I do is nod my head. But her talk really spoke to me, and I am so amazed at what she has accomplished in such a short amount of time. I want to be Kyla when I grow up. Or hopefully in the next five years I’m writing and publishing. Check it out!
That is all I have for today. Thanks for hanging out with me!
Enjoy your weekend!