27 December 2015

Why You Should Write Only if You Have To



 It’s the end of the year and once more, I’m going to have to say good-bye to the last twelve months without having released “Hi, I’m Here for a Recording, the ordinary life of a voiceover artist”.

A project that started in October 2014 (“I’ll release it in time for Christmas,” she thought, naively) is still nowhere near completion. I wrote a first draft – and loved the process so much I already started planning another memoir, “Adventures in Small Scale Theatre”. Then I gave the first draft to four trusted friends and my mother. The feedback: “Yes, it’s ok, but sometimes it reads like a memoir, other times like a “how-to” book.”

Back to the computer. Try out a second draft. Take out all the little bits of information that don’t have any emotional input in the story. Ok, a little bit better. Leave it in a drawer (a metaphorical one, I don’t really have drawers for stationary anymore) for a couple of months. Come back to it and… it’s nowhere near ready to give to my friend Sue who offered to read it and give me her opinion!

May 2015. Lanzarote. I take ten days off to edit two pieces of writing, both as Kindle documents: The content of my novel (written under pressure of NaNoWriMo in November 2014) and the latest draft of the memoir. Result: the content of the novel is way too all over the place so I just use it to create a synopsis and decide to start from scratch in November 2015 (I tried, and stopped a few days into the process); the memoir, I really need a printed version if I want to make any proper changes.

December 2015. I decide to take time off Virtual not Distant and dedicate two weeks to editing the memoir. Result? There’s too much interesting stuff happening around Virtual not Distant and too many things I need to round up before the new year. But, I do make the memoir the focus of my time in Madrid. I start reading ‘The Happiness Project” as an example of a memoir that also gives the reader an insight into a process. So far so good, I’m enjoying the book and learning as I go. And picking up some good quotes along the way, like this one by Oscar Wilde:

“One is not always happy when one is good; but one is always good when one is happy.”

Having read quite a bit around writing a novel over the last six months, I’m now at the stage where I need to give the memoir a meta-edit, by which I mean, stop reading and improving the writing and have a look at the arc of the story – my story – and the shape of each chapter.  Treat it more like a novel and less like a biography.

I don’t know why I’m hooked on finishing this book. I could say that I don’t like leaving projects half-baked (which is very true); I could say that I look forward to finding out that every month I’ve sold a couple of books (let’s be realistic); I could say that I have thoughts and stories I’d like to share.

But ultimately, I’m writing this book because I have to. That’s why I’m always baffled by books and courses on writing non-fiction which have a section called “What Shall I Write About?” or “Finding your Topic”. As Guy Kawasaki said in his book APE, only write because you want to write. And you usually don’t want to write unless you have something to say.

Don’t write for money. Once upon a time, it was possible to sell ebooks for a decent royalty. Once upon a time, not many people had published on the Kindle and it was easy to get rich within a month. But although now is the best time to be a full-time writer (the market decides whether your book is worth reading, instead of relying on publishers to decide that your book is worth publishing), it’s not easy. And if you don’t have anything to say, why spend time (and money and energy) self-publishing a book when there are so many other things you could be doing with your life?

Today I had time to read Mark Coker’spredictions in the world of publishing and self-publishing. (Will we soon stop using the term “self-publishing” soon and just refer to “publishing”? Will we ever stop using “virtual” to refer to certain kinds of teams and just call them “teams”?)

Mark is the founder of Smashwords, a self-publishing platform for ebooks, that also acts as a distributor. The platform has been around for ages and Mark definitely knows what he’s talking about. So, I’ll leave you with a quote from his latest blog post. 

“If you want to make a lot of money publishing ebooks get a job at McDonalds instead.”

(Okay, moment of procrastination over, let’s get back to editing.)

Happy 2016 – may it bring you lost of joyous moments reading or writing, or both.




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