Publish? Perish?

The Keeper of Tales came out over three months ago now. I’m pretty proud of it. But something interesting has happened… sales have dropped off. It’s not getting all that much attention, as far as I can tell.

Now that’s not uncommon in the least. Most books make their best sales within the first month of release, and then they sort of piddle out. There’s a reason “publish or perish” is a saying. Course, I usually hear that in relation to college professors, but it applies just as equally to authors.

With every publication, authors get eyes on their words again. And if someone likes what they read, well, they might just check out that author’s backlist. I know I’ve done it before. When I first discovered Neal Shusterman, I started looking for other books he wrote. Same thing with Robert B. Parker. And Peter David. And… well, you get the idea.

In professional writing, generally the more you publish, the more each book makes as readers start searching up that backlist.

What that means practically for me is that if I want to make more sales of The Keeper of Tales, I need to get another novel out there!

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Eat a Book

Before you feed others, you gotta eat yourself.

No. Don’t eat yourself. That’s just weird. I mean, you gotta eat something for yourself. Like, before you cook something for someone else, you gotta make sure you’re eating, or else you’ll pass out and then no one gets food!

It’s something that I tell others. If you’re gonna write, you gotta read. Some writers will tell you to read everything you can get your hands on. Others will say you need to read things you love. Still others will tell you that you need to read what other people are reading, so you know what to do to get people to read your stuff. All of that has some logic to it.

Me? I really think it’s simpler than that.

You just gotta read.

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Using Slang to Spice Up a World

Oi! You gonna shilly-shally here, you tuft-hunter? Well, don’t be kicksy! Pull up a chair and let’s voker, shall we?

Right.

So, my forthcoming novel, Dragons of the Ashfall, takes place in Londinium, an imaginary steampunk city. And when you’re in a steampunk setting, your characters should talk that way. If they speak like 21st century Americans, like yours truly happens to be, it hurts the setting.

Well, I’ve never lived in an imaginary steampunk setting.

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I Lost My Pants

I had no idea where the novel was going. When I wrote the rough draft of The Keeper of Tales, I really had no idea what was going on. Who were the characters? What was this world? When I began, all I had was a feeling I wanted to replicate. I wanted the story to begin where I felt Return of the King ended—not the plot, but the emotions.

I introduced new characters haphazardly. I discovered the nuts and bolts of the world as I wrote. After that first draft, my wife read the words. Then we did the world-building to weave into the first revision. As we wrote the backstories for the main characters, I had an epiphany. “Lazul’s wife is dead!”

My wife looked at me like I was an idiot. “Of course she is!”

Because I had made it up as I went along, I really had no idea who most of the characters really were. Apparently my wife had a better grip of that than I did!

This process of writing is called pantsing. In other words, I made it up by the seat of my pants.

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Let It Rest

You take the steak off the grill. Oh, can you smell that? The char entices, and you know it’s the perfect doneness.

But don’t cut into it! Not yet! You need to let it rest.

Resting meat is absolutely necessary. Cut into that delicious meal too soon, and all the juices will run out. All your work will be reduced from sublime to… passable? Maybe?

Last week I wrote that I’d completed the rough draft for a new novel. My rough drafts always need a major revision. I need to tighten up scenes, themes, all sorts of things. (I also think one of the minor dragon characters may have changed gender halfway through the novel… I should probably check on that, unless I feel like introducing a wrinkle into dragon physiology.)

So why not just dive into it right away?

Because when you create something, you need to let it rest.

You need to approach your creation with fresh eyes. Does this scene work? What about this character arc? If you come too soon, you’ll be too close to catch many of the issues. Some will certainly be apparent, but others simply won’t be.

I do the same thing with short stories. I’ll complete a draft, and rather than going through it again immediately, I’ll set it aside for a day or two. I need to! But a novel is a longer, more involving beast, so it needs longer to rest.

Of course, letting a novel rest doesn’t mean the writer should do nothing. I’ve been cleaning up some short stories and figuring out my writing schedule for the summer. By concentrating on other stories, I’m forcing my mind to step aside from the novel for a bit.

I’m hoping to start in on the revision next week, but we’ll see. I may wait another week before tackling it. Either way, it’s rested.

And soon… soon I’ll be able to dig in!