I wonder if you reacted to that bit of advice to write a short bad book the way I did, which was “No way!”
It isn’t my advice. It belongs to the awesome and well known author Philip Athans. I rejected the idea almost without reading his blog post (which you can find here). But I did read it and it got me thinking even though I still didn’t really agree. It took days and the finishing of a really rough draft of Spark of Defiance for me to see and understand the wisdom in his advice.
Philip doesn’t say publish a short bad book. He says write one. And actually in the post, he says give yourself permission to write one. Because sometimes that is what it takes to get that first draft out. Otherwise you sit and stare at a computer screen or tweak the same paragraph over and over and get no closer to that finish line. Sure you’ve got editing to do after the writing, but that was going to happen anyway.
I’ve been fussing over my writing the last six months or so. There were times things didn’t flow or I created a plot hole that I had to go back and fix. My writing just seemed sloppy compared to when I wrote Born of Water, Rule of Fire, and Spirit of Life. But you know what, I also only wrote one book a year when I wrote each of them. I’m anxious over a period when I wrote over four books in less than a year. And you know what? I found those plot holes, tweaked those less than stellar chapters, and created books I am quite proud of. Even if they were pretty rough when I called the first draft finished.
Hmmm… Philip is on to something.
In the end, I only really had an issue with his suggestion on the “short” part. I write epic fantasy! These books are hitting 100,000 words. Nope, not short. Except… when I was nearing the end of Spark of Defiance I was only at Chapter 32, which for me is VERY short for an epic fantasy. But that was all I had mapped out and the book felt like it was wrapping up. Only then I tripped on a plot hole, one that required a bit of jiggling in early chapters, which led to realizing the action jumped too fast and I needed at least another short chapter, and then the final action scene needed one more chapter. By the time I considered the first rough draft done, I was at 36 chapters, which is much more akin to my typical.
I honestly could have called the first draft done sooner. I hit the end, backed up and hit it again, and then backed way, way up and cleaned up some stuff (that still isn’t perfect but at least is flowing the right direction), and then reached the end again. So maybe this is my third first draft??? The bottom line is the original rough draft was shorter than what the finished novel will be (when I’m finally finished with edits). I simply couldn’t leave it alone when what needed to be fixed was so fresh in my mind. After all, this is book 1 in a series and sets up two more novels. It sort of has to have a lot of those plot holes cleaned up!
Being able to tweak things in consecutive books is the reason I decided to write all the books in a trilogy – at least to rough format – before publishing. The angst of wanting to create hints of later events (or fill in a plot hole that develops in a later book), but knowing that would mean pulling a published book to add detail or fix something is horrible (especially when PLOT related!). So I’m avoiding it by writing all the books first, even if I have to plow through parts that aren’t wholly developed. Sometimes you just don’t know all the plots and subplots until you get to the end, turn around, and see what is missing.
And that is all Philip is saying. Write, just write, the darn thing. Then you’ll know what you have to fix. You know what, that is really good advice!
What is some of your favorite writing advice that keeps you going? Please share!