We all have different expectations when we enter the writing field. Sometimes we think it’s going to be easy and it turns out to be difficult, we forget about promotion, or we learn that it’s easier than we thought. I was curious about what other authors was most surprising about their books.. That’s the topic of this week’s question:
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Here are their unedited responses.
I think the most surprising thing that I learned in creating my books was how easy it is for me to come up with ideas and write the book. In fact, the whole process is straightforward and simple. It’s a matter of coming up with an idea, doing a little research to make sure the idea has commercial value, doing an outline, writing the book, editing it a few times, proofreading it, getting some feedback from others, and finally publishing and promoting it.
But what really surprised me was how difficult it is to promote books. Part of the reason is I tend to be a little bit introverted – not that I don’t like talking to people. It’s that I get my energy from solo activities such as writing, working on my hobbies, watching movies and so on. That makes writing perfect for me as a career.
But promotion, wow, that was a whole new level of discomfort for me. Talk about being out of my comfort zone. I had to learn how to advertise, write good copy, talk to people on the phone, meet them in person, go to book signings, attend events, give podcasts, the on radio shows, and hundreds of other activities that involve being with people. It’s not something that I expected as a writer.
I know the beginning and the end, but the middle is vague. Only when I sit down to write the narrative just makes its self. This often happens and other writers have told me the same; they don’t know how they are going to get their character from one situation to another but when they sit down and write something deep inside takes over and unfolds revealing the story to them.
Dixie Maria Carlton
The most surprising thing I learned in creating my books is just how much work really does go into the production side of producing a book of quality … beyond what I think most people Would ever expect … and it’s a constantly changing and evolving process.
My book consists of daily blogging with an all holds barred approach to life. i remember and embellish while incorporating current events and moods. I seriously have no desire to be a superstar published writer unless somebody offers me a big fat offer to read years of blog posts and edit. It is therapy to me, day by day.
I learned that my fantasy stories were autobiographical. I was processing my past. When I saw this, I went for it and found ways to amplify the work, even fashioned names from family. For example, the captains of the Pla’than’tirian guard, the Sister Twain, Allessia and Alaxa… from my sisters Alice and Alexandria.
One of the things that surprised me the most in writing is how memory details emerge with absolute clarity. I wrote a scene with my childhood neighborhood in mind while fictionalizing the names. When my family read it, they recognized it immediately; and through reminiscing we all recalled bits of details we thought were long forgotten. The gift of writing is that the process can tap into the recesses of the mind that stores minute memories.
One of the things that surprised me early on in creating my novels was the vast number of rewrites involved. I’ll go over a scene, paragraph, or chapter at least fifty times doing revisions before that first draft is complete. The initial time you write it, you’re getting the main thrust, details, and hopefully the emotions. On rewrites, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As writers, we have to keep in mind that the thing readers crave above all else in fiction is an emotional journey.
When I first decided to write a book, I selected a painful topic, the story of how three colleagues and I bought an ad agency back from a major international holding company. It was a fascinating time. We were assaulted by all around us, the executives selling the company, the other potential buyers, the colleagues who opted not to be involved in the purchase and the staff who desperately wanted details we were not legally permitted to share.
I didn’t get very far in writing this book for two reasons, a nagging fear that I would get sued by one or more of these miscreants, and the fact that every sentence was painful to write – it was not a joyful time.
When I asked my future publisher if he thought I would get sued, he said probably not, but he agreed to show his attorney. About a week later he came to me with a question “My attorney wants to know, are many of these people dead yet?” Answer “Not enough!”
That publisher suggested I backburner the book, but he also asked me what was my passion. I told him comedy. He suggested I write my comedy and send it to him. In a blink, I had the first three chapters of Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? I forwarded it to him for an opinion, and the rest is history.
What took me completely by surprise was how much fun I had writing. After my first attempt at what would undoubtedly have been a drama I expected to be suffering and hating every session with my reward being the final result, assuming I made it to the finish line.
What I found instead was that the writing itself was a sheer delight. I would wake up on a Saturday and start writing at 8 a.m., working practically non-stop through the evening cocktail hour. Then I’d wake up Sunday and do the same all over again. I couldn’t wait for my fingers to hit the keyboard. And when the manuscript came back after each edit, I swore at one or two irritating comments and then I got down to business and happily wrote again. I loved comments like “you’re in a restaurant but I don’t know what it looks like,” because that gave me license to write some more. It was not only fun, it was improving my masterpiece.
After the pain of that first failed attempt I never expected that the writing could possibly be this much fun. Now, if I should ever get the guts to go back and finish that first book, I think it would make one hell of an action-packed movie.
I’ve gone through 21 drafts of the novel. Each of them told the same story – in different ways, as I continued to learn the craft and work with my editor. At first I’ve learned that it wasn’t just the point of view that could drastically alter things. Sometimes removing or adding one sentence changed everything, forcing me to rewrite ten chapters. But there was more to be learned…
As I was revising and revising what theoretically was the same novel, I began to realise that the book wasn’t about what I thought it was. In my head, I was writing a mixture of Scandinavian thriller with a love story involving three brothers as protagonists. At the end, the parts dealing with death, sex, sin, and destruction remained largely untouched. But the book ended up being about a small, claustrophobic community, and how the people themselves can change, but a community like that continues to enforce certain social roles which must be fulfilled no matter what and by whom. It was the novel that told me what it was about rather than the other way round. (On the plus side, now I have the answer to the dreaded “ah, you’re writing a book, what is it about?” question!)
Bjørn Larssen – writer, blacksmith, spiritual Icelander
As a new writer, there have been quite a few things that I have learned, most of which have been surprising. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is that I learned is that writing a book (rough/first draft) isn’t that hard. The story progresses and you just write it down. Unfortunately, for me, the first draft of the first story I wrote could barely be called a book/novel. So so so many mistakes. Not just grammar, but flow and story sequence and description and word choice and … and … and … It was eye opening to say the least. When someone says, “Oh, I could write a book,” I smirk a bit now. Lesson learned – writing is not putting the story to paper, writing is actually the work you do to make it good. That’s what separates wanna-be’s with an actual writer.
Wendy H. Jones
The most surprising thing I learned when writing my books was that I could write a book in the first place. I continue to be surprised every time a reader says they loved my book. After 11 books I know I can write but, like many writers, I always think the next book is going to be the one that readers say is enough. I was also surprised by the fact, after writing several adult crime books, that I was able to write Young Adult Mysteries and a rhyming children’s picture book. Writing for children is a whole new ball game and doing it in rhyme, well let’s just say I am not famed for my poetic ability. However, writing rhymes for children turned out to be surprisingly fun.
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