Do you know what one of the most frequent questions writers are asked?
“When is your next book out?” (Or some variation of that).
For many writers, this is part of the landscape that’s changed a lot over the last ten years. I know my audience wants, or expects, books to be released quicker, and that need has only increased in the age of digital downloads and kindle readers. With so much content available, you don’t have to patiently wait for my next book. Instead, you can jump to the next writer and, if I’m lucky, you might come back when I have another book ready.
So, what’s taking me so long?
The simple answer is: me. I’ve gotten in my own way, more often than not. However, generally speaking, the thing that slows down book releases is EDITING. I hate editing. I hate editing more than someone on the KETO diet craves cake. However, much like cake, editing is a necessary evil. It’s part of the secret juju writers apply to novels in an effort to convince YOU to buy our books.
Right now I’m editing my third novel. I intend to self-publish, but I still need to have an editor look over my work to make sure it’s polished to a beautiful shine. Before I have to deal with someone else’s deconstruction of my writing, I have to do some of the deconstructing myself. For me, the biggest part of this process involves getting rid of “junk words” or so called “naughty words”. That doesn’t mean swear words… far from it… but it means cleansing my story of useless filler words: adverbs, pointless speech tags, and words that tell instead of show.
I liken it to the idea of trimming fat…violently, with a blunt weapon. Meanwhile, good words build muscular sentences and sculpted paragraphs. And if I do it correctly, you won’t notice when you read it. You might remark, frequently, what a bloody good read it is, but the hope is the magic is retained and your nose is stuck in the book until you finish it.
Examples of words I try to avoid overusing: UP, DOWN, VERY, FELT, THAT, JUST, TOTALLY, QUITE, NOD(DED), SHRUG(GED), SMILED, GIGGLED… you get the idea. These are just some examples of words I’m cutting back on. Now, I know you’re thinking that some of these words seem perfectly fine to you and if you read them in a story, they wouldn’t bother you so much. Take “UP” for example. UP is a perfectly sensible word. However, take this sentence:
Gareth stood up and walked out of the kitchen, his manly awesomeness plain for everyone to see.
Aside from the jokey commentary… clearly I wouldn’t be in a kitchen, what’s the point? If I’ve been sitting in a chair and want to leave, I can just stand. I don’t have to stand UP. You get it! The action is not a mystery to you so why spell it out like you’re a derpy derpster? Sitting is the same. You don’t have to sit DOWN. Just sit.
Of course, you can sit UP and can stand DOWN, so we mustn’t just break out the flamethrower and burn all of examples, just the ones where the word is superfluous.
Similarly, speech tags should be used sparingly. We’ve all read dialogue that doesn’t ‘zing’ like a conversation should, but instead is interrupted constantly with staccato bursts of “he said” “he yelled” “he joked” “he hullaballoed”…or something like that. I use speech tags simply as a means to keep track of who’s talking and if that’s apparent by the dialogue, then why bother with a tag?
So, despite shorter release windows, editing still eats up a lot of time. I know some writers who stockpile books to shorten the release time between them to keep their readers on the hook. And there are some who continue to ignore the changes in market demand and wait years between releases. I have accidentally become one of latter, although I hope to up my game in the coming year.
So, when will my next book be out? I don’t have a definitive date set yet, but I promise to let you know. And, I hope you’ll join me in my journey again.
There will be cake.