So... you've written your novel, beta tested it, thrown it out there on Amazon, sold some copies to followers on your list and even got a few reviews. You're delighted that most of them are supportive and positive. And then...?
That one negative review comes in from someone you don't know and probaby hasn't even read the book.
Still, that's the one you focus on. What went wrong? Why does this person hate me? I thought my story was okay, and I get this?
It's a curiosity of human nature that we always tend to focus on the one negative review even if most of them are good. Why is that? Why do we place so much weight and importance on the one bad apple? Like in the picture above, our attention goes directly to the apple that's half rotten, not the good one.
I'm no psychologist. I know nothing about why we behave the way we do, and the best advice I've seen about dealing with that one bad review is to ignore all reviews, good, bad and ugly. I think if we're able to do that, we can continue focusing on creating our art. We don't allow ourselves to think we're wonderful, and we refuse to get sucked into a shame spiral by wondering why some people don't like us.
Here's something I tell my writers. Seek out their favourite authors on Goodreads or Amazon and check out the reviews. Not the gushing ones, but the bad ones, because they all have them. See? Even the brilliantly successful authors have bad apples in the barrel. Do you think they spend as much time as you do on worrying why their story didn't resonate? Nope. They simply refuse to take any of it personally and get back to work.
We should do the same.
Last month, I set myself a goal of writing the first draft of The Hands Of Moaning Bones - my new Sissy Jupiter science fiction series in 4 weeks. I approached this challenge by making sure I'd done my plotting well in advance, so I knew the story and didn't have to pants it along the way. That made a huge difference.
The result was, I actually completed the first draft in 19 days.. just over 70,000 words under 3 weeks. So I'm thrilled with that because for me, the hardest part of writing is getting the first draft out. I love thinking about the story, characters and plotting, and I really enjoy revising--adding colour to the story and all those little nuances that keep it interesting. So being able to put the first draft down quickly is a lot of fun for me.
With the first draft done, my next step is to perform what I call a heavy revision. I go through the story and fix all those things I need to fix (I keep a to-do list with me as I write the first draft). Things like names, inconsistencies in characters, settings, speech patterns, and so on. This can take some time, so that will be my focus for the next few weeks once I complete another project I'm working on with one of my writing clients.
And then? I'll begin plotting book 2 in the series. The question is: which series? Sissy would be fun, of course, but I've also received some good feedback from the beta readers for The Quantum Awakening, and may need to bump up the schedule for the next one there. To be determined!
To be clear, writing quickly is not the only point. I wrap up the two week mark in my quest to write my first draft in 4 weeks, and I'm ahead of schedule. I should have it done by the end of the weekend. But fast is not the point.
Efficiency is the point.
Once you know the basics of story structure and plotting, the key to effective and producing more than one novel every two years is efficiency. You want to write consistently well, and frequently. If you write quickly and, even after revising your work sucks, that's bad. If you write slowly but your prose sings, well, that's good if your aim is to produce a novel once in a while, but no good if you're trying to make a living writing and selling books.
This is the no crap advice I offer you, and yes, it's free :)
If you want to become a good writer and sell books writing, then you need to work on your efficiency (4 or 5 novels per year?) and your effectiveness (solid prose and storytelling skills). The good news? Anyone can learn to do this. The bad news? There are no short cuts. It takes time and effort. Aim for 10,000 hours of writing and revising, then see what happens.
Yesterday's writing sessions went reasonably well (I write in 14 minute sprints), but I've had to take some additional time to tweak my plotting roadmap moving forward. I'm over half way through, and I know how the story will end and the main plot points, but the details in between were a bit fuzzy for me.
So a lot of time yesterday was spent just thinking about Sissy Jupiter's story, along with a bunch of writing sprints. The next week will prove interesting as I have some other business and projects to attend to and my writing time may be a bit squeezed. But we shall see!
But how about you? Writing in sprints and focusing on getting the first draft done warts and all isn't for everyone. But if you've tried it and have some thoughts on it, I'd love to hear from you!
Hi, I'm David. I write science fiction from a Christian worldview that promotes hope. Want to know the darker details? Click here.
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