Do Not Write Four Books a Year

It’s a never-ending discussion, but one that can trap new writers into efforts that will only harm them. It’s the idea that in order to be a successful writer these days, you have to publish, publish, publish. Faster, faster, faster. Four books a year? Pish tush. That’s for weaklings and people who don’t take writing seriously. A book a month is the goal. Remember, writing is a business, and you have to treat it as a business

Or do you? Lorraine Devon Williams sums it all up very nicely in her blog post, Step Away From The (Misguided) Advice and Do NOT Write Four Books A Year.

She isn’t at all shy about calling a hack a hack. Because anyone who write romances by the number, for just one example, is a hack. And that’s okay if you’re honest with yourself about what you’re doing.  You’re writing for the money, and you’re writing to please the greatest possible number of readers. You aren’t an artist. But then, I consider writing a craft that once in a very long while rises to the level of art. If you’re writing template romances, and the 400th iteration of the zombie novel, you aren’t producing art, and depending on how well you can fling around the words, the sentences, and the punctuation, you may not even be producing craft.

(For anyone who’s offended by “hack,” I don’t consider all commercial writers hacks, and I doubt that Williams does either.)

Some of these issues came up in a Kboards thread about engineering best sellers. Which, in its own way, isn’t that different from by-number novels that have a large built-in audience waiting for the latest variation on something they’ve already read hundreds of time.

It all comes down to different audiences, different expectations, different goals. Writing good books and making money aren’t mutually exclusive. But if you want to write something that burns to rise above the crowd, a story that has to be told, don’t let yourself be bullied into thinking that you’re a hopelessly quaint leftover from the dark ages of literature. I’ve seen it repeated too often that if you don’t write fast and publish often, and don’t treat your writing like a business, then you simply aren’t serious about your writing. The truth is that the people who stand on that very shaky assumption are the ones that aren’t serious about writing. What they’re serious about is money.

“Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality), writing good books simply takes time, lots of it. There’s no getting around that time. It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again.”

I can write a fairly decent novel in thirty days, but I can’t do it twelve times a year. Nor would I want to. My NaNo novel is almost always the product of a year or more of planning. I hope to do a good deal of publishing in 2016, but not one of the books will have been written from scratch in 2016.

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9 thoughts on “Do Not Write Four Books a Year

  1. I would consider myself lucky if I finish one book in a year! I might have two or three projects going at different stages at once though so I might finish more than one project during one calendar year, but none are less than a year old at time of completion.

    1. Sounds like you work pretty much the way I do. One novel that I hope to finish and publish this year is several years old. Another was finished last year, but I want to do one more round of proofreading before I publish it.

  2. That is so very funny. I can’t follow advice like that – and it’s just as well. Pride’s Children has been FIFTEEN years in getting the first third of the story to published. So there. It is good (proud mama here), and has levels of complexity even I get startled by when I come to them, and it was created to be a bestseller (we’ll see how that goes), and to appeal to men and women (I have nice notes from twenty-year-old girls and men in their seventies).

    If you can do that fast, more power to you. I can’t. Shrug. Now, you don’t have to be as slow as I am…

    1. The only time I can write fast is during the intense 30 days of NaNo, and that only produces a first draft. I couldn’t do it at all without the year or more of preplanning. It’s so exhausting that I’ve had to learn to pace myself, or I’d burn out right in the middle. But it’s also somewhat exhilirating to have one complete novel done in such a short time. Unfortunately, Privileged Lives, the novel I’m revising, was the victim of my impatience. It went through several drafts, but it still wasn’t ripe. And it shows.

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