In October of 2014, me and my fellow Write or Consequences (WoC) partners got together to formulate a plan of action with the eventual goal of self-publishing. Click here to read the full story. My personal goal was simple enough. I was going to try my hand at romance (again). This time however, I planned to shorten my word count, limit POV characters, and write a three book series.
Here was my reasoning at the time:
- Romance is the top selling genre. Made total sense to start there, develop a readership, and hopefully some income. That was my short term goal. Long term, I wanted to generate enough income to quit my day job and write full time. Ambitious, I’ll grant, but I had another goal in mind, and it is here is where my reasoning began to break down. More on that later.
- My second aim was to shorten my word count to 40 thousand words. By doing so I planned to “pop” out three books in fairly quick succession. Prior to this, the typical word count in my stories were hovering in the 100 to 120 thousand word range. 40 thousand words would surely be a piece of cake by comparison. Oh, the hubris.
- Another factor to speed my production was to limit the number of POV characters. In my prior novel, I had a scary number of POV characters. This time? Why I decided to cut that number to one. Yep, my story was to be told entirely from the heroine’s POV. And not even in first person. Nope, nothing so expected and mundane for me. I was going to be different and write from only one POV. And again, the hubris in my thinking led to a breakdown in my plan.
- Finally, by writing a three book series, my expectation was to hurriedly develop a backlist, which up until this point was nonexistent. Can’t sell what you don’t have. That quickly changed from a series to a serial, which I did not understand at first. It was explained to me that a series is three distinct stories told within a common framework such as hometown or a family structure. By contrast, my story was a serial – a three book story featuring the same characters at different points in time.
Where I went wrong:
- Yes, Romance is the top selling genre, and Romance is what led me into writing in the first place. I’ve always adored a good love story, but over the years I changed to enjoy my love stories wrapped inside a thick and meaty fantasy. In fairness, I knew this going into the WoC challenge. My plan was to build enough of a readership and enough income to quit my day job and ultimately to write what I really love, and that was fantasy. My reasoning here went astray in several ways. One, readers of one genre don’t generally follow authors into a completely different genre. It happens, but not often enough that you can count on it. And because of that, earning enough to enable me to quit my day job was not very likely. And finally, for me anyway, writing something I’m not as fond of so that I can write what I really want to write, well I just didn’t find the writing as fulfilling. If I had it to do again, I would not have made the same decision.
- The notion that I can “pop” out a novel is not in my hardwiring. I know that now. Why? Because I like a rich, entailed story, and without even realizing it, I inherently take a very simple story idea and muddy it up with a whole host layers and complications. No popping here. Not now. Not ever.
- Limiting POV characters was a good idea. Taking it down to one POV character was not so good. Even supposing I kept within the Romance genre, one POV that is not first person is not favored by the vast majority of readers. They enjoy getting into the head of the male protagonist, and so book one of my serial will require a fair degree of rewriting as I add in the hero’s POV. Fair to say that whatever genre you write, it pays to know what the readers like.
- Finally, a series is a great tool for churning out stories in quick succession. A serial, not so much. Why inquiring minds want to know? Because in order to sustain the same story over the course of three novels requires layers and complication. Neither of which is going to speed you along to lengthy backlist.
So as the WoC ladies are nearing the end of our third challenge, will I make my goal of finishing first draft of book two? The jury is out, but I feel pretty darn confident. How then will my goal-setting be altered going forward? I’ve invest too much time and money to simply abandon this project, and so my goal is to see it through to the end.
But afterwards? Screw how long it takes. Screw whether or not my story has a strong market. Screw even the idea of someday getting to quit my day job and write full time.
For me, writing is a labor of love and injecting a business plan was not only wishful thinking but it took me away from what I love doing. It took me away from writing for pleasure and for personal fulfillment. Live and learn, baby. Live and learn.
Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.
Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.
Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.