Monday, December 16, 2019

Twenty

This week I completed the first edit of my twentieth book. This is the moment when I consider the book done, or “in the can.” There’ll be more edits later on if it is to see print, but at this stage I can put it down and start something else.

Twenty books.

It seems like a lot and a little at the same time. I know people who can pump out eight to ten books a year and others who’ll write one in a lifetime. The number is meaningless really, except as a moment of reflection. Not that the weather would concur, but it is winter, a time to assess.

Every book has been its own journey, each one happening in a different way. Some have been planned out to near staleness, others have spilled from my fingers in a gush where I was barely present. With each one my skill has improved. With each one I have pushed myself to new boundaries of ideas and form.

Twenty books isn’t bad for as long as I’ve been writing. I’m happy with it. Knowing my process it’s a solid outcome. About three books a year, more at the beginning of my career, fewer later on when repeating myself is a real threat.

My super power in this endeavor is simple. I finish what I start. It is a basic rule and one that has never failed me. I know a lot of writers who have a stack of unfinished manuscripts. I know a lot of authors who have a stack of finished ones. The difference is everything.

I have other rules of writing too, but none have been as demonstrably useful as finish what I start. It’s got me twenty books.

There’s an element of stubbornness here to be sure. When the moment comes in each book, and it always comes, when I hate what I’m writing and the devil on my shoulder has a great suggestion for another better, story, I no longer even pretend that he could be right. I don’t listen at all except maybe to take a quick note, add it to the list of story ideas, and then bullheadedly press on.

Since I write all my books on speculation, that is I write them and then try to sell them, I have to be this way to finish. Deadlines and expectations are necessary even artificially invented to trick me into productivity. One day perhaps, the deadlines and expectations will be real, I’ll be on the clock with a editor breathing down my neck to get a book done in time for publication, the check already cashed, but until then, it’s all on me.

I’ll get there one day, if I live long enough. I’ll open those doors with my finished books, the twenty I have and the more that will come.

That’s the plan anyway.

I’m seven years into my ten year plan to be an overnight success.

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