…Especially when those distractions are other writing projects.
I realize that I am not particularly good at keeping my promises sometimes. Example: I didn’t end up writing a flash fiction piece yesterday. I tried. It was one of those too-many-options-to-choose-from scenarios. Crash and burn. Sorry.
Sometimes, I do, though, and as promised I’m here to discuss something with you all.
Writing a series is appealing. Yes? Is it generally agreed on? I think so, at least, because I’m creating this whole new world for you readers, and it’s a lot of work. It’s enough fun to be worth it, no matter how many books get set in that world, but of course it’s always nice when you can set several books in one world. After all, world-building is a lot of work. (Duh.) You call that cheating? Taking the easy way out? Well, you go stand over there… sit in the corner and draw up your dozens of worlds. Let me be proud of my one.
Anyway, my point is, it’s easy to get swept away in all the possibilities of a fantasy (or sci-fi) world. The wonderful thing about life in general, whether fictional or real, is that even as you’re living through your story, other people are living through theirs. As a result, there’s an endless opportunity for other stories to tell. You finish writing one short story, one book, one series set in a particular world, there’s nothing stopping you from delving into another story in that world, but set in a different region or different time period.
You get so swept up in these different ideas that suddenly this book you’re writing, the one that is giving you so much trouble and refuses to listen to reason, suddenly doesn’t seem so appealing. It’s boring. It’s mediocre. It’s probably a terrible story anyway. But that other one over there? How can you NOT to fall in love!
I know that, for me, I had every intention of writing and rewriting and re-rewriting my work in progress until everything was perfect. I didn’t know if it was good, but I didn’t care. If it’s not good now, I can make it better in the next draft. My issue sat in the fact that it’s really difficult to get published, and I was so worried about making my chances better by writing other short stories or prequels or perhaps even setting this particular book aside in favor of a potentially more interesting one, if only to get my foot in the door… Because of course it’s impossible to know if publishers will like this idea, and maybe they’ll be more open to it if you’ve been published before.
Different source, but same problem. By thinking Oh, they might see this as a risk; they might not want to publish this story if it’s written by a first-time author, I started generating a half dozen possible ideas to simply get my name out there. And because I’m still working on my work in progress, finding it difficult to make it just right, I couldn’t help but wonder if I just needed more practice. If perhaps I oughtn’t wait until I have more experience before tackling such a project.
So my friend, my wonderful wonderful friend, came to my rescue and shook some sense into me. And here is where I pass her sage wisdom onto you (See, there was a point to all that rambling and me-talk.):
You cannot look at your first book and think to yourself this is the first in a series; this has to be good. Everything has to connect, everything has to make sense. (An issue I was struggling with, since I wanted to make sure I had everything planned out so I had all the tools I needed when I came to plots further down the road.) A first book, despite being possibly one part of a larger whole, is still a book. Plan out the series if you like. Plan out side stories even, if it makes you happy. But when you’re writing your first book, you focus on just that book, and making it the best it can be. Not because it needs to work with the rest of the series, but because it deserves to have your utmost attention.
Essentially, forget the possibilities. When you sit down to write that book, you owe it to it, your readers, and yourself to make that novel the best it can possibly be. Every book in a series might connect to its sequels and prequels, but each book — even the first; ESPECIALLY the first — should be capable of standing on its own.