My first novel was the most fun I’ve had while writing. There are a number of reasons for that; most of them obvious: It was my first attempt, therefore the outcome was uncertain. I had many mental scenarios stored away over the years to draw upon. Everything was available – I could use any imagery, any backdrop, any expression, any character; in short, anything I wanted to use, because the slate was clean. I had the freedom to go anywhere, and I did. Every day was exciting.
I set my second novel in a very different locality with different sub-characters, I think largely to try to maintain that same freedom of mind. But I soon realized I was dealing with diminishing returns, even then. I now had to reject some ideas because I had used them already. It was still fun, but an element of work had been introduced.
After my first two novels were published, it was time to market them. The idea was that I’d give those books a head start and then begin the third novel of the series. But I faced a serious learning curve in a very uncertain world. It was a struggle that diverted me completely away from writing. I found it difficult to return. I needed to make choices.
1. Remember The Feeling. I decided I had to go back to what got me here in the first place. That meant focusing just on writing, at least for a period of time each day. I find that writing will draw you in if you let it, if you allow it time to occupy your brain completely from day to day. I wanted to recapture the feeling I had writing my first novel. I sensed that anything less would be cheating my readers. My first decision was to demand of myself sufficient writing time to allow it to happen.
2. Don’t let the market cart lead the horse. Marketing brings with it a sense of desperation. Book sales are uncertain and unresponsive to most stratagems. There is a disconnect between market manipulation and results. Every marketing expert has a device to recommend, something that invariably works. Try them all and you’ll never write again; you won’t have the time. There are only a few basic marketing strategies that work: create a good product, expose it to a lot of people, create another good product, and so on.
3. Fit your image of yourself. When I began to write novels, I had an image of myself as a successful writer. The image itself was vague, being perhaps more a collage of moments stimulated by certain circumstances such as signing books, speaking about my novels to fascinated audiences, being asked to speak about my books to fascinated audiences – that sort of thing. If you can’t visualize yourself as a successful writer how can you become one? Don’t be embarrassed by the imagery – instead, pursue it and adopt it.
4. Remind everyone around you that you are a writer. People rejuvenate and refresh each other in a way that is impossible to duplicate. When a neighbor asks me a question about my book, I am instantly recharged. When the man who sells me my bread asks how my writing is going, I want to run straight home and get to work. But they wouldn’t know to ask me those questions if I hadn’t told them multiple times in multiple ways that I am a writer. Give away your books to people you know and they will give back to you twofold.
5. Go back to your childhood. Remember the book that drew you in to its pages and wouldn’t let go? How you never wanted to put it down, even to eat? How you identified with the main characters completely? How you were transported to a place you never wanted to leave? Now is the time to try to recapture those feelings, because that is exactly how you need to feel about writing your book. Do not think that you are writing your book for others, or you will try to become others to write your book. You are writing your book for you! And for the passions, the longings, the pain and anguish, the triumph that only you can feel. Write that book, and they will love it.