Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Where Am I?

Our question this week is: How often do you step back and take stock of where you are in your writing life and where you want to go?


Terry here.

I frequently “take stock” if that means agonizing over what I’m working on now and wondering if it’s good enough to keep going or if I would be better served turning  to one of the ideas waiting in the wings. My inner dialogue goes something like this: “Should I stop what I’m doing, or persevere? Am I beating a dead horse, or if I stop now is it because I don’t have the ability to stick to it? Is the book I’m working on actually the book I intended to write? Do I need to stop and start over? Is that stupid? Where am I ?” If that’s what is meant by taking stock, then I do it all the time. More likely, though, it’s just.

Publishing my first book was the fulfillment of a long-time dream. Having the series be popular, with good reviews and award nominations was more than I ever hoped for. But reaching and even exceeding my originals goal didn’t mean sitting back and congratulating myself. It meant more goals—and working harder and faster to achieve them. Which means constantly taking stock of how far I have come and where I might go. Coming to publishing at an (ahem) older age, I feel a particular push to produce more, more, more.


I want to be the best author I can be, so put a lot of effort into it. I edit my work carefully, send it to my writers groups and beta readers, then edit some more. All of that work would be useless if no one reads the books. So that means working at promoting my books. Which in turn means more goals and more taking stock:  Am I present enough on social media? Am I producing a newsletter often enough? How do I get more subscribers? How do I entertain my readers in between books? Should I give them a contest? Should I give them some swag? A short story? Do I do enough events? Or am I doing too many? Are people sick of hearing my name? Again, this is a constant battle. Taking stock, or obsessing? Which is it?


I think mostly I’m obsessing. To take stock of where I am and where I want to go, I have to take a wider view. With my eighth Samuel Craddock book coming out next week, it’s a particularly good time to think about where I want to go. I have written down ideas for eight more Craddock books, but I also have ideas for standalones. And yesterday, to my annoyance, I thought of an idea for a new series that I thought would be great fun. Oh, to be forty again, with the energy that came with those years, as well as seeing long years stretch out in front of me. Yes, I still have a lot of energy, but I also am realistic about the time I have left.

I am also painfully aware of the time and effort it takes to be a published author, beyond the writing itself. One of the things I think about is possibly just writing, and giving up the burden of promotion and marketing. My publisher, Seventh Street Books, has contracted with a terrific book promotion professional, and the group has done a great job of getting me guest posts, guest articles, and reviews. But guest posts and articles don’t write themselves. They also don’t organize book tours, which I have to do for myself (happily! But still it takes time).

I admit I would love to be picked up by a big publisher that would do a lot of the promo work for me so I could spend more time writing. But it’s a long-shot, and from what I hear it’s rare for even the big publishers to put much money and effort into promotion.

In this mode of taking stock I realized I’m actually pretty happy where I am. For years I hung out with writers, trying to soak up the magic that made them published authors, going to panels and classes, learning, reading writers I admire, writing crap sometimes, and occasionally writing something that seemed okay. I thought that at some point “made it” would mean less of that. But in fact, I still do all of it. I have long conversations with other writers about where the magic comes from (and I’ve found that for most writer’s it’s a baffling process that is sometimes magic and sometimes slogging.) More than ever I read with an eye toward “how did she do that??” I go to classes and panels, and write things that turn out to be worthless as well as a few lines here and there that seem okay. It’s not a bad gig, and I’m along for the ride for the long haul.

And with all that said, here is blatant self-promotion for my next Samuel Craddock book, A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary. It comes out April 23! I hope you’ll give it a try.

Booklist says: “As often happens in Shames’ work, the evil is found to originate in the bitterness of blighted lives, and here the finale is as touching as it is violent. Craddock is a slightly more cerebral version of the late Bill Crider’s rural sheriff Dan Rhodes, but they share a bloodline.”


Paul D. Marks said...

I think this is the key today, Terry, when you say, "I am also painfully aware of the time and effort it takes to be a published author, beyond the writing itself." I think many writers are solitary lot, at least the writing is done in solitary confinement of sorts. But unfortunately, I we have to be so much more than just a writer these days, much as we'd like to be. And then how much do we have to put into promotion and PR and all of that, when we'd really just rather be writing? I think it's an endless chicken and egg type question.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I question all that too, Terry. And I agree, just write the best book you can.

Terry said...

Paul and Dietrich,

Case in point this morning, I've been at my desk for over an hour and have done nothing but chase my tail in the promo game. Sheesh!

kk said...

When I say this to the gen x and millennials, their eyes widen but it is exactly what I think: quoting you..."Oh, to be forty again, with the energy that came with those years, as well as seeing long years stretch out in front of me. Yes, I still have a lot of energy, but I also am realistic about the time I have left."
Excellent writeup of my own views, Terry. All of it.

Terry said...

Kay, I know it does no good to look back and yearn, but I can't seem to help it!

Marilyn said...

Terry, you have been a dedicated and disciplined writer since I first met you on the African safari trip many years ago. While most of us "slept in" until 6:00 a.m. or so, you had already written umpteen hundred words by breakfast time. That dedication and discipline has certainly paid off for you!

Susan C Shea said...

Oh, the process, the self-doubts, the re-igniting of the engine, the ramped up goals...The life of a successful writer!