The Pressure To Produce – An Author’s Perspective

Rarely does a week without me being asked when the fourth Wycaan Master book is coming out. Let me be very clear: I am absolutely chuffed (ecstatic in my new country’s vernacular) that people ask and truly humbled that readers care enough to ask and want the next installment.

 Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

Most of these questions come from young people, the generation of instant gratification. You click and you get it. It is hard to explain that it takes 5-6 months to write, a further 2-3 to edit, and another couple to publish. I have set a goal of a book a year, and I don’t believe I can produce more. Those who crank them out (or have others write for them) are, I suspect, doing themselves a disfavor, even if they sell well.

I can’t help thinking that unless you blindly follow a strict formula, there needs to be some creative downtime and an opportunity to mull over what has happened and where the series might be going. I’m trying to work a good wine or whisky analogy, but failing dismally. Everything needs to ferment and you need to burst into the next book, not start still breathless from the last climatic battle.

I am, however, waiting on two ‘next installments.’ The third Magicians book by Lev Grossman is due out in the fall and then there is that author I dare not mention who takes a couple of years to write each tome.

images-1George Martin to kill Tyrion

In total hypocritical mode, I have to say I am impatiently waiting for these books. It is really a compliment that readers bond with the characters and want to see how they develop.

But it is also pressure. The need to maintain a creative energy is perhaps akin to working out and keeping your body at a weight or suppleness that age and gravity take issue with. We know that our bodies react better when we work out regularly, and sometimes I think that it is the same with writing.

If I was to give one piece of advise to a beginning writer, it would be to cultivate a daily practice, whether writing a chapter of your novel or blogging, but not your shopping list. I only write a first draft of a novel in half a year, the other half as explained above is for editing, production and promotion.

While I embark on a novel with a lot of excitement there is also apprehension as I begin to work those creativity muscles and feel the soreness and fatigue. This feeling disappears as I settle into a rhythm and the plot reveals itself to me.

images-2

And if I have doubts, or feel lethargic, I always have those readers who earnestly ask: “When’s the next book coming out?”

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

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3 comments on “The Pressure To Produce – An Author’s Perspective

  1. So true! Takes even longer for me…. I don’t know if you are producing that quickly (I do consider one book a year quickly, and extremely awesome) with another job or not, because I just don’t know your story. But a lot of authors work at least part-time, if not full-time, elsewhere to keep a roof up and food on the table. It’s a huge time suck!

    • Elf Writer says:

      Thank you, Victoria, and you are right that it is very personal. I do have a f/t job and a young family which are both higher priorities.

      I do wonder, however, if aspiring authors are writing an hour a day and this is at least 1,000 words, whether a novel a year isn’t feasible.

      I have written one book every year for the past seven or so, and there are other things that need to be sacrificed. When people discuss the latest play or sitcom, I have nothing to contribute.

      Thank you for your response.
      Alon
      http://www.alonshalev.com/

  2. lisafender says:

    I too hear that question a lot and it sure feels good, but like you it takes time to get the next one out. I figure about a year also, maybe longer. I am looking forward to your next book and appreciate the support you’ve given me in my writing. I am also waiting for book 6 from George Martin and wonder why it takes him so long! 😉

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