Michelle Rowen

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Ten things I've learned

I’m working through my second draft of LIVING IN EDEN right now. I’m about half way done. However, most of the changes are in the second half. I’m very happy with how it turned out — it reads way more fun than it was to write — and can’t wait to get it to my betas next week.

It was three years ago that my first book was released. The official release date for BITTEN & SMITTEN was January 1, 2006, but by now, three years ago, it was already on the shelves. THREE EFFING YEARS. I can’t believe it!! Time sure flies. Right now it’s being released in Germany and that’s just way too cool for school.

I’ve learned a lot in the last three years about writing, publishing, and…well, writing. And I thought I’d share with the class…

Ten things (in no particular order) I’ve learned after three years of being published

1.     Writing doesn’t burn calories.
A full day of writing will be mentally exhausting but if you don’t do any exercise or watch what you eat, your ass will get bigger. And bigger. And…well, you get the idea. Why is RT in Orlando in 2009? Sigh.

2.     Never reply to a bad review.
This is sometimes difficult, but far from impossible. I think it’s best to just not respond at all. It gives the illusion that the writer is much too busy with her oh-so-glamorous writer life to allow such things to negatively affect her. Bottom line, the more successful you get, the more reviews you will receive — and it’s impossible for everyone to love you. The more popular you are, the more haters you will collect. Don’t respond. Ever. Blogs, MySpace, Amazon, wherever. It makes you look like an idiot or really, pathetically needy. I repeat. NEVER. Restrain yourself. There’s a review site I read religiously but I won’t comment on. I just think it’s better that way for everyone involved. Mostly me.

3.     Writers are all varying degrees of crazy and paranoid. The successful ones are the craziest and the most paranoid.
There might be an exception to the rule, of course. But I doubt it. And I don’t even mean it as an insult, just an observation. Just because we’re crazy, doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us really, really dedicated. Obsessed is another good word. How can you write four books a year if you don’t have a little bit of obsession going on? YOU CANNOT, that’s how.

4.     In the middle of a first draft I’m always convinced that it’s utter crap.
It’s always the way. It feels like I’m pushing my characters around and forcing them to have strange, meaningless conversations. But once the book is done I see these strange, meaningless conversations actually contribute to the plot as a whole. At least, I sincerely hope so.

5.     Writing is hard work.
If it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it. Sure there are those magic days, the days when the muse lands and the pages fly and everything is perfect — la, la, la. Those days are few and far between. Usually it’s a slog. It’s forcing yourself to sit down and write something that might not be any good and possibly end up being a huge waste of time that could have been spent seeing Twilight yet again.

6.     It is possible to write a book in three weeks.
My average time to write a first draft now is six weeks. I’ve done one in three weeks. I won’t say which one. But this is, of course, after I’ve done lots of prewriting and more than likely already have a proposal to work from. And it’s also not including revision time. What’s the difference between the first book that took me two years and the ones that take me a month and a half or less now? The fact that I wrote two hours a week then, and I write eight hours a day now. Sometimes more. Including weekends. Concentration of writing time. That is the only secret to being prolific. Use it wisely.

7.     Nothing cures a bout of depression like a new book deal. At least, temporarily.
The first five months of this year were very touch-and-go for me. I quit my day job to write full time, but I hadn’t considered that that didn’t guarantee me a flood of new contracts. I worked harder than I’ve EVER worked on my writing this year and worried about my dwindling funds and the sudden scary case of writers block this money panic had created. But then I sold. And I sold again. And I sold again. Three book deals in two months for five books. The relief and happiness is tempered by the reality check I’d experienced, because it can happen again. But right now I feel pretty okay about everything. Sort of. And, FYI, five books at my current advance rate is what it takes for me to continue writing full-time. We’ll see what 2009 brings. Hopefully new eyeballs because I’m wearing out my old ones.

8.     Awards and good reviews are nice, but numbers are the only thing that matter.
Just because the world seemingly loves your book and the awards are pouring in…doesn’t mean anyone’s actually buying it. And if no one’s buying your book, you better be damn prolific, because an award doesn’t guarantee you another book deal or an address on Easy Street. Reviews and awards are a nice ego stroke, but they don’t pay the bills. However, a consistent sales record can.

9.     An idea is never as perfect on the page as it is in your head.
Maybe this is the reason a lot of people stop writing the book they wanted to write. I know that used to be why I abandoned lots of ideas back in the day. The first chapter didn’t sing and didn’t match the movie in my head. Perfection is one way to guarantee never finishing anything. The sooner you get over that fact, the sooner you’re going to start making some major progress.

10. Just because you want to write the book, doesn’t mean you should.
I have this fabulous (ready to go) proposal sitting in on my hard drive. It’s a humorous, action-packed sci-fi with romantic elements. It could be a series. But it’s not marketable right now. It’s hard to see past that. It would be fun to write, but it would take several months to finish and send out and then there are no guarantees. I’m now focusing my efforts on building my career with specific projects instead of having my attention scattered by shiny new ideas. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

3 comments to “Ten things I've learned”

  1. Leah Braemel
     · December 29th, 2008 at 4:12 pm · Link

    Yup, I hear you on #1. Ugh.
    #4 gives me heart, but every single first draft I hear myself uttering that phrase.
    #5 – ho boy, yes! Same with #9.
    And #10? Got a few of those myself. But they’re so shiny and bright and … Ooh, look over there, something sparkly …

  2. Carolynn
     · December 29th, 2008 at 9:29 pm · Link

    This member of the class loves when you do these kinds of posts. #2, 4, 5, and 9 definitely resonate with me right now.

    Honestly, I’m really glad I took a chance on an “unknown to me” author and ordered B&S from Amazon a couple years ago, because you’re a constant source of inspiration. And you always make me laugh while you’re being inspiring, which is no mean feat. ;)

  3. Michelle Rowen
     · December 30th, 2008 at 1:47 pm · Link

    Leah…shiny is good. Sometimes. :)

    Carolynn…thanks. I appreciate it. :) I’m working on another Ten Things post about what I look for when I’m revising my first drafts. Problem is, informative and/or inspiration posts take longer to write than sad, pathetic ramblings about Robert Pattinson.

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