One of the adages for writers looking for a career nowadays is to release several books a year so you don’t lose your readers. Even stalwarts of the New York Times list are being asked to deliver more by their publishers, albeit those delivery dates are buffered by long production and editing schedules so it may not seem quite so quick to readers.
However, those of us who have elected to control our own publication schedules can be as fast as we can manage. Which is both a blessing and a curse. I know authors who can write a book in six weeks (a book that their readers love and gobble up, so please don’t start a quality discussion flame war about whether it is possible to write a good book in six weeks — some can, some can’t). It’s one thing to write the book, but when you do it yourself, you then need to manage the editing, cover design, promotion, formatting, uploading, sales, etc.
Trying to carve up the daily schedule to protect the creative spark becomes challenging, to say the least. Which leads to the understandable urge to look around and see what shiny new program/service/app/tip will help you have more time for the writing side of the equation. Alice’s rabbit hole, indeed. Those little tempting cakes that say “Eat Me” and you just know if you do your career will be faster/better/shinier/newer/bigger.
And then comes the reminder that you can’t promote an unwritten book. So you put down the tempting cake and go back to the writing.
The pressure to produce ignites some writers’ creativity. It dampens the spark for others (like me). The trick for me is to know what I need for the particular book I’m writing at the time. Music? Silence? Long stretches of time locked in my office with the headphones on? Hours at Starbucks with the sounds of the snorting espresso machines and grinding blenders? My needs are never the same, from scene to scene and chapter to chapter. The hard scenes are best written away from home, where even the laundry begins to look tempting.
The one thing I do know about myself is that I am easily distracted. I can be sitting in a doctor’s office and conjure up a conversation between two of my characters that helps illuminate the conflict in an upcoming scene. However, I can also turn on my email or start reading FlipBoard on my iPad and get lost in a new way to attract readers, boost sales, monitor my website visitors.
I spent a year distracted by Magnispies, a reading game app my son and I created that came about because I tutor children with dyslexia and my older son is a programmer. I built an entire promotion plan around my daughter’s wedding and my drive across country to get there and back. In other words, I am distractible with a capital D.
But my first love is writing, so I sternly told myself that for 2013 I was going to limit the distractions. One conference (Novelists Inc., which I’m co-chairing again this year). One new skill learned (webinars — this summer I’m going to learn how to do short writing webinars to post on my website because I think it will be fun, and because my younger son is a videographer).
This week has been a painful one for me, though. This week O’Reilly’s Tools of Change Conference was held in Manhattan. So much shiny. So much bling. I was there two years ago, and had to miss last year because of the wedding. I’m reading Porter Anderson’s Tweets and reports on the conference, but it isn’t the same. I hope I’m able to go in person next year.
This year, the conference added in an Author(R)evolution day. I hope they do it again next year. But my favorite thing of all (the shiniest of the bling) is the Startup Showcase. The year I went, I met two new and interesting startups (Figment, and Readmill) that are doing very well in the reader space right now.
This year’s 10 startups vying to win best startup are showcased on the conference site. I confess, I did distract myself for several hours wandering around and visiting their sites. My favorite was The Holocene. Check it out and see which ones you think will help build the future of publishing in our new digital age. And then (if you’re a writer) go back to writing. If you’re a reader, bask in the fact that you have never been more loved than you are right now. Everybody wants you!
Kelly McClymer has written historical romance, YA, fantasy, chicklit, and is about to mashup a few more genres with a cozy noir series that will begin with Shop and Let Die (think secret love child of James Bond and Harriet the Spy). Coming soon to an ebookstore near you. You can find her on Twitter, and Facebook (when she is distracted, naturally).