Things I’ve learned (#1)

So, with NaNoWriMo 2013 fast approaching, and the promise of an entirely new and exciting novel to work on, now is perhaps a good time to review the past twelve months and sum up what I have learned in getting The Floors out of my head and into your hands.

There may be a few of these posts over the next however-long, but I’ll keep the self-indulgence to a minimum if I can. Hell, you might even find some of these insights informative, or at least leavened with the occasional knob gag. Maybe.

Anyway, let’s kick things off with this little pearl of wisdom:

Don’t saddle yourself with a release date!

Release dates are funny old things. They’re applied to all sorts of products that seldom need them. Often it’s a bid to boost initial sales of a book, a video game, a DVD etc; a simple ploy to increase the cachet of a product by pushing it into a bestseller chart of some description. (We can argue the dubious value of the term “bestseller” another time.)

Then you have what I’ll call the vanity release date – chosen either because it has a tenuous link to the product in question, or because it simply looks cool on a poster. (Movies and TV shows have been flogging this dead horse for the last decade or so.)

With regard to The Floors, I couldn’t help it. Vanity got the better of me. A novel based around a maze of thirteenth floors demanded a 2013 release date. Sticking it out in the middle of 2014 would have just looked odd. Friday 13th seemed a natural date to use – the first in 2013 being September. For a story involving a ton of unlucky floors it made sense to choose one of the two unluckiest dates in the calendar. (We’ve another Friday 13th in December.) Bingo! I had my release date. My mistake was in announcing it a year in advance. I found adhering to it introduced a fair number of challenges.

The main challenge was in producing a book within a relatively short space of time. Not only are we talking about getting a 100,000 word story up to scratch, but all the ancillary bits too: producing a cover, creating the interior artwork, typesetting, proofing, designing adverts, creating artwork for the blog, Twitter and so on. You wanna know why books take so goddam long to come out? I believe I can field that question!

Another challenge was in managing the human element, and the slippage it sometimes introduced. I won’t cite specifics here as that would be mean of me. Besides, we got there in the end with no harm done. In some regards it worked out better than expected!

In short, a release date introduced unnecessary pressures into the project. That said there were positives to be had too, chief among them a real focus in getting the job done. A deadline gave me a good idea what it would be like to write professionally, or, given that writing pays dick these days, writing to a contract alongside my day job. It proved to me that I could do it, I’m just not entirely sure I would want to. (Wave a contract in my face, of course, and my heart may say otherwise! 😀 )

But there was another reason why I needed The Floors published sooner rather than later, and one that didn’t hang on any particular date: I simply needed to get the story out of my head. And, as wanky as it sounds, I would stress the word needed. I’ve mentioned a few times how this story was burning a hole through my mind. I wasn’t joking. It was getting to a point where I couldn’t sleep. If my mind strayed into anything to do with The Floors then that was it: I’d lie awake until 3 or 4 in the morning while my brain buzzed over plot details, scenes I had planned, cool new scenes to add in, and so on. Not good with a full working day lying only a couple of hours ahead!

If my next story possesses me to the same extent, so be it – I’ll take it as a good sign – but I won’t chew my fingernails to the bones with worry if it doesn’t.

So with my next project you won’t see me announcing its release anytime soon. I have a deadline in mind (Halloween 2014), but I won’t be putting myself under the same kind of pressure to meet it.

That’s enough blathering for now, folks. Next up, I’ll have some words to say about  professional edits. Are they worth it? What can you expect from one? That kind of thing.

Thanks for reading. Do drop by again, whydoncha?