I wasn’t really sure where to start with this post. I knew I wanted to talk about the struggle of writing prolifically and living up to reader expectations and how unreasonable this has gotten. But I wanted to be careful not to sound angry or ungrateful. I figured the first thing I should do is figure out how many words I’ve written since I started writing seriously.
And that’s what sort of stopped me for a second. Once I got the numbers it kind of… killed something inside of me. Because it’s a lot. Especially when I tell you the time frame in which I wrote these words.
If you’ve been following along, a couple of us have mentioned the plagiarism scandal that plagued the Romance community this past month. An “author” claimed to have used a ghost writer to help her churn out books at the expected rate her readers had come to enjoy. Apparently using ghost writers to get a shit-ton of books written quickly has become a thing. Because, here’s something a lot of readers don’t know: most writers aren’t wealthy and they don’t become rich over the success of one book. Maybe not even a whole series. So the pressure to publish multiple books a year (even 1 a month) has become a real thing if you want to be financially successful as a writer. And don’t at me about doing it for art, you want multiple books a year from a writer, then the girl needs to get paid enough not to a have a day job.
If a writer makes four figures, they’re doing better than most. If a writer makes five figures, that’s considered very successful–not per year, we’re talking *ever*. But we only hear about the major names and people think they’re over-night successes (they’re not).
I started seriously writing around 2009-2010. It took me a long time to find my voice and that first book. I did what you’re supposed to do when you finish your book while you’re querying–I wrote the next. And the next. I was half-way into the third book when both my husband and I lost our day jobs and my first book hadn’t been picked up by an agent yet.
Facing unemployment is fucking terrifying. I was lucky at the time, in that, we had a little savings. Not a lot, but some. So we decided, together, that we were going to use the time to pursue our dream jobs. He began getting certified for his and I decided to self-publish my first series.
Because I already had the next two books written, I was able to release them quicker than traditional publishing would have. I spaced it out so I could finish the fourth book and give myself some time for the fifth. But I’d set that expectation of a new book every six months.
If I could go back and slap my 2011 self, I would.
Releasing five books in two and a half years was so stupid.
Some writers only write one book for their whole carrier. Others, just one series. So really, publishing five books could have been a lifetime of work. Then I started the next to build and keep the momentum of readership I was building.
To be self-published you have to do everything and it takes a lot out of you with each book. But I pushed on, because, I knew there was a chance things would really take off and explode and I’d get the readership I needed to be long-term successful. And I didn’t stop to realize I’d already accomplished more than most writers had in the past. I was supporting our household on my income. It was great.
So I kept going. And I developed a pen name so I could write racier stuff and not confuse my YA readers. But I was constantly writing. Book after book after book. Only taking a week or two off between finish a rough draft before attacking the second draft.
Then, while the book was with my editor, I was outlining the next book so when edits were done I could start all over again, right away.
There were times where I wrote a whole 80-90k word book in one fucking month.
Eventually, by April of last year, I’d written the equivalent of 24 books (under my pen name I liked to write novels and novellas and short stories so the novellas and short stories were bundled into short novels).
So in less than ten years I’d written 24 books.
I was so done. I was totally and completely burned out.
I had a trilogy I’d been working on under my pen name and didn’t have the third book written, not even outlined, and I just couldn’t do it.
I’d run out of words. Out of ideas.
So I took some time off.
I didn’t manage to start writing that last book until November of last year (thank goodness for NaNo), having outlined half of it in October. But that was six months of complete radio silence from my characters, from my muse, from anything.
And I felt terrible.
I should have felt good about the time. I should have enjoyed it. Given myself permission. But instead I worried about my career and losing readers. But to be honest, that’s something I’ve been dealing with for the last couple of years. Because I couldn’t keep up the pace of 2-4 books a year readers slipped away. Or, and this is possible too, because I was putting out too many, readers couldn’t keep up.
I honestly don’t know. Maybe both are true?
So, write like the wind until your fingers bleed and you can’t think or take your time and let the words come naturally and there are going to be groups on either side that are angry. And, couple that with KPD Select and readers wanting books to be free or at least almost free and you realize how small the royalties are going to be, so you need a catalog of books to make it financially feasible to fight this and constantly dealing with pirates stealing your work. It’s a lot of pressure.
Every time I put out a book, no matter how fast, the first thing I’d hear from at least one reader would be: WHEN’S THE NEXT ONE COMING OUT I FINISHED THE BOOK IN ONE SITTING!
Now. Yay. Thank you. But also… I can’t.
I told you I’d tell you my numbers so here they are. Since starting writing around 09-10, I’ve written the equivalent of 25 books with a total of 2,134,547 words.
Two Million One Hundred Thirty Four Thousand Five Hundred Forty Seven.
That’s an average of 213,454 words a year.
I have been dying to start working on my witchy book. I’ve been talking about it for a year. And I have no bloody idea where to start. Nothing is coming to me. The inspiration, the excitement, the drive to write it, is gone.
It’s up there with those two million+ words.
This is what happens when we put pressure on writers to hurry up, hurry up, hurry up and expect the books to cost less than a cup of coffee so authors are constantly worrying about paying bills and keeping a roof over our heads. It takes a huge toll on us. We run out of ideas. We run out of words. I am terrified right now that I’ll never write something as good as my Ash & Ruin series again. I am terrified I can’t think of a new magic system.
But, mostly, I am tired. And I know a lot of other writers are too. We write more than a life time’s worth of words in such a short amount of time and yet, it never feels like enough. It always feels like we’re falling behind.
I don’t feel like I should end this here on such a melancholy note. So, if you’re wondering what you can do to help, other than obviously buying a writer’s book(s), you can spread the word about your favorite books. We say it again and again, but reviews are so important to our success that’s why we’re always almost begging for them. Go write a review, copy it and paste it to every retail website that carries the books, yes, even if you didn’t buy it there. Every review helps and every review makes us feel a little better.
Maybe your review will be the one that gives a writer her inspiration back.
6 thoughts on “The Difficulties of Prolific Writing”
Oh my dear, I love this and relate to it SO MUCH! Where do I even start?
“If a writer makes four figures, they’re doing better than most.”
Dang I guess I’m doing better than I thought…
“If I could go back and slap my 2011 self, I would.
Releasing five books in two and a half years was so stupid.”
Hello, pot, I am kettle. I did the same thing when I released four books in seven months. God I wish I could keep up that pace. It caught the promotion algorithms (which are a whole other topic) and I’ve never been able to recapture them.
“Some writers only write one book for their whole carrier. Others, just one series. So really, publishing five books could have been a lifetime of work.”
Whoa. Talk about putting things into perspective. *Ponders*
“To be self-published you have to do everything and it takes a lot out of you with each book.”
Hell yeah it does!
“There were times where I wrote a whole 80-90k word book in one fucking month.”
Holy fucking hell, lady! The fastest I’ve ever written one was three months.
“So in less than ten years I’d written 24 books.
I was so done. I was totally and completely burned out.”
I can see why. I’ve gotten close myself.
“So, write like the wind until your fingers bleed and you can’t think or take your time and let the words come naturally and there are going to be groups on either side that are angry. And, couple that with KPD Select and readers wanting books to be free or at least almost free and you realize how small the royalties are going to be, so you need a catalog of books to make it financially feasible to fight this and constantly dealing with pirates stealing your work. It’s a lot of pressure.”
THIS!!! Can we please shout this from the rooftops? EVERYONE needs to know this!
“Every time I put out a book, no matter how fast, the first thing I’d hear from at least one reader would be: WHEN’S THE NEXT ONE COMING OUT I FINISHED THE BOOK IN ONE SITTING!”
I’ve had this as well. It’s a great problem to have, but man readers need to understand how hard what we do is. maybe if every reader at least tried to write a book, they appreciate what we go through to give them the books they so eagerly consume.
“I’ve written the equivalent of 25 books with a total of 2,134,547 words.
Two Million One Hundred Thirty Four Thousand Five Hundred Forty Seven.
That’s an average of 213,454 words a year.”
I’ll say it again: holy fucking hell, lady!
“I have been dying to start working on my witchy book. I’ve been talking about it for a year. And I have no bloody idea where to start.”
*hugs* I’m sorry. It will come. I don’t know when or how, but it will. You are too talented for it not to.
“I am terrified right now that I’ll never write something as good as my Ash & Ruin series again.”
You will. And I will be there to beta read it for you. (God I loved that series.)
“But, mostly, I am tired. And I know a lot of other writers are too. We write more than a life time’s worth of words in such a short amount of time and yet, it never feels like enough. It always feels like we’re falling behind.”
YES, YES, YES AND YES. I was just talking with a writer friend the other night and I said how I feel like I’m always behind.
I hope things start looking up for you soon. I’m here if you ever want to brainstorm or just need a sounding board. Since I’m in totally different genres than you, maybe I can provide another perspective? (And you don’t have to worry about me stealing your ideas. I have more of my own than I likely will ever have time to write.) Much love and kisses to you!
Hahaha! Thank you, love! All the hugs and support back! I know we’re not alone in how we feel, but damn if it doesn’t sometimes feel like we are, right?
Trust me, I know what I’ve accomplished, but because the struggle to appear to be and to actually be successful is so real, looking at the numbers can actually be demoralizing. Like, when is enough, enough? Never, quite possibly.
And thank you for the offer to brain storm and beta (I will definitely take you up on the latter, and quite possibly the former) and I’d never worry about you stealing an idea. I mean, c’mon! 😀 I did finally finish that third book I mention in the post and the only other thing kinda hanging over my head is a last spin-off book to A&R, so maybe if I get that done the pipes will be cleared and I can actually think about The New Book.
I’m sorry you’re still feeling burned out, mainly because it doesn’t sound like you’re in a place to truly appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Because OMG you kept food on the table and the mortgage/rent paid!! And you wrote over TWO MILLION WORDS! That’s amazing, and you’re amazing, and I hope your muse starts whispering to you again.
Oh, I know. I mean, that’s kinda what I say a lot, like, I kept us afloat, that’s a big deal! I just wish I’d been able to put that money into savings instead. Ah life, what a bitch sometimes. Thank you though. I hope the inspiration comes back too! I’m definitely not giving up. Not yet, anyway!
Reblogged this on The Musings of an Author in Progress and commented:
Been awhile since I posted here, but I have a long post over on The Spellbound Scribes’ blog so you can see why I haven’t been very talkative lately.
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