This Writing Life
Writer and psychologist.
View all posts by Ian Hocking
There will be many who recognise your position, Ian. When I took early retirement I thought writing would be a ‘breeze’, but words are stubborn and often stay put, even when I have considerable time on my hands. I can only conclude that successful novelists pay a very heavy price to see their work in print. As ever, I wish you well. Things may change.
Thanks, Martin. If the words are coming at all, that’s good…
I’ve found time is the biggest killer for writing; not just the lack of it but the length of time it takes for a writer to get out books in a series. That change over a decade or so in terms of the writer you are now as well as the person (in my case it’s been 12 years since I started to write the Secret War book 1), impacts greatly on how a series continues. As a writer, your agenda changes. You may become less interested in a single point of genre or genres, and just a slight shift in interest is like only a degree or two at the centre, but many degrees at the circumference. The direction changes and you have to make a choice to stay true to yourself as a writer or give your readers what you think they want, not what you hope they want. I’ve been in that situation too and it cost me my publisher, but I still think I made the right decision. When you start writing for someone else, and not yourself, you’re not being honest with anyone.
Personally, I would keep on writing. Your non-SF books such as Proper Job and A Moment in Berlin might not have as big a following, but they are still well-loved and great books/collections and serve as a good platform to keep writing what you want …
… And over whatever period of time, regardless of the direction it takes you …
Thanks, Matt! Giving up writing is getting to be a habit with me… I think that the difference between my book The Amber Rooms and the previous ones isn’t too much of a factor in my decision at this point, although it is a bit annoying. I think I’m really just fed up with the whole enterprise. If I can muster up enough bother, I might try to finish off the series in a style more consistent with the first book. But I’m not sure.
Heavy sigh. We will see what the future brings…
I found that getting over the brain barrier of the correct “length” for a novel to be a good way to break the distance between releases. Ebooks don’t have to be a set length.
I’ve gone back to the days of Charles Dickens and started writing in episodes. Instead of 80k words I go for 10k-15k, and I can manage at least one or two of those a month, sometimes one in a week.
If the story carries over to more episodes, then I leave it on a cliff-hangar and pick it up again in the next episode.
It also means you end up with way more “books” in your list.
Both sad and annoyed that you have reached this point – I’m annoyed that how you feel will deprive your readers (hopefully only temporarily) and sad that it may prove permanent. Is it because you’ve had to handle all the production stuff that (in the print world) is done by others? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand, I work for an academic publisher and handling the technical as well as creative stuff is no trivial matter. As you not doubt discovered, you have your creative ichor saying “ooh try this, this’ll work” and your commercial/effort management ichor eventually chimes in with “is it worth the hassle…” Me saying “things may change” seems a bit trite but I’m sure you will come to a decision which is yours (could that be more cheesy). Best wishes.
Thanks for your comment, Ian. At the moment, the problem is holding down what are effectively two jobs, and it’s just not possible. The solution is a getting someone to take some of this load off my shoulders – i.e. a publisher! Maybe I’ll get back to it in a few months, but it’s not looking likely.
Hi Glynn – Thanks for your comment, which I’ve only just saw. I like the idea of writing in smaller pieces. As long as you know where the story is going to end up!
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