Monday, June 16, 2014

Writerly Worries

We writers always have something to worry about. When we start out, we hand our chapters to our critique partners in hopes that they will love our work. When we’re more experienced, we send out partials to agents and editors and pray they will take our work. A book is published, and the worries increase geometrically. Will readers like the cover? Will they buy our book? Will it sell well? Why did that mean-spirited person have to write that awful review? Will it sell enough copies so that my publisher will want the next book I’ve written?

We even worry when a book is doing very well. Readers let us know how much they’ve enjoyed it. The Amazon numbers are great. But how long will they continue to be up there? Will my fans like the next book as much? If they don’t, will the publisher continue to buy books that I’ve written? Am I a one-book author? Only a five-book author? Why doesn’t my book appear in bookstores where anyone can see it? Why isn’t it nominated for an award?

No matter where we are on the ladder of our writing career, we worry. Each new book we publish must stand on its own. Readers compare our books to those of our fellow authors. Even worse, they compare our books to ones we’ve written before.

Which is when I remind myself of all the wonderful comments readers have made over the years--they like my style of writing. They love my characters and the way they interact. They couldn’t put my book down. Surely, I don’t lose this ability as I write one book and then another. Though sometimes the final results vary. In the past few years I’ve been disappointed by the last book four of my favorite authors have written. If they—much more prestigious writers than I am—have produced novels I’ve found too long or downright boring—then I can be forgiven for writing a novel that doesn’t always strike a homerun. All I can do is keep on writing books, and writing them the best way I know how.

25 comments:

Patricia Gligor said...

We all know that worry is pointless, Marilyn, and yet we all worry.
I've been concerned lately over the fact that I'm not selling many books. I had to stop and remember, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I need to rethink my marketing strategy and get busy!
Great post!

KM Rockwood said...

Since I write primarily for my own satisfaction, I don't worry too much about what other people will think until I'm in final revision stages. Then I want to hear if a scene doesn't make sense, if I haven't explained the motivation for a character properly, etc. I know some people will like my work, some people won't, and I don't worry about that.
In my main series, Jesse Damon Crime Novels, give voice to a segment of the population that is not often represented, and to tell the truth doesn't either read or buy many books generally. But when I do manage to get them into the hands of my buddies, they tell me the stories are fascinating and they actually read them. (Best bet there to donate them to prison libraries--even people who seldom read will do so when they are incarcerated)
My husband, however, doesn't like them.
So I try not to be influenced too much by other people's opinions.
KM Rockwood
Steeled for Murder-Fostering Death-Buried Biker-Sendoff for a Snitch-Brothers in Crime

Marilyn Levinson said...

Patricia,
I think the only answer is to keep on promoting and write more books.

Marilyn Levinson said...

KM,
I think there's satisfaction to know that some people really like our work. How many times to we leave the movie theatre hearing people saying they didn't like the film, or thought it boring or silly. You're right. Not everyone's going to like what we write.

Lorna Collins - said...

Marilyn, I think all writers who want to do their very best work share your concerns. We often wonder if our work is as good as it could be. Reader reviews help alleviate the anxiety. But I really think the drive to improve and create better and better work is what motivates us. And I'm not sure it's a bad thing.

Nancy LiPetri said...

It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one worrying. I worry that once those reviews start coming in, I'll forget I'm not trying to please everybody. Writing is art, and tastes vary...yet there's bad, good and amazing art, right? No matter what, I keep trying to improve.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Lorna,
I agree. Writing is a process. A lifelong process.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Nancy,
I think we have to remember we can't please everyone. If you write cozies, readers who like grittier books will find them tepid. If you write mysteries that include gory scenes, readers who don't like that type of book will find them gruesome.

I, too, keep trying to improve.

Terry Shames said...

Nice post! I'm not a big worrier--except about a few things that aren't concerned with writing. Like others, I try to write the best book I can and then do the best promotion I can. Sometimes in the dreaded middle of a book I worry that this time I won't be able to do a good job of tying everything together, but I find that the best way to deal with that is just to make myself write another 1,000 words. And then do it again the next day.

When my first novel came out I got some great reviews and lots of emails from people who said they loved the book. The best advice I got was to start a "feel good" file. That way, when I start to feel my confidence slipping, I can open that file and read those good words.

Mary Thornburg said...

... I have fears that I may cease to be, before my pen... WAIT! That's John Keats, not me! My own biggest worry is that my "teeming brain" may fail to pull me out of the latest "dreaded middle-of-the-book" tangle. My next worry, as a one-published-book (so far) writer, is about whether the dearth of reviews and sales is caused by my ignorance about promotion or by the fact that readers just don't like the book! But it's encouraging to know that more experienced writers worry about this stuff too. Thanks for this post, Marilyn!

marja said...

I'm a born worrier, and I have most of the same worries you do, and others you didn't mention. I decided to take off on my own with publishing, and all I did was give myself more to worry about. Great post, Marilyn!

Kait said...

So true Marilyn. Each part of this process seems to come with its own set of fears. But love of the craft keeps us writing and overcoming our fears. I couldn't imagine any life but the writing life. Could you?

Cindy Sample said...

Marilyn, I think we must be sisters because our worry lists are the same! The more books I release, the more I worry whether the new book is as good as the previous ones in my series. I also find as my readership has expanded that I'm checking every little nuance, clue, red herring, to make sure that I haven't left something off the page. What makes it all worthwhile though are those fabulous 5 star reviews. People from across the world who take the time to comment on your work. That is truly the best motivation there is! Thanks for the great post!

Palmaltas said...

I think the only thing I worry about right now is that my current WIP is going to be very controversial. In a way that could be a good thing but it could also bring a backlash. But I will finish and publish it anyway.

Kimberly said...

This surely hit home. My book just came out and I'm worried about selling it. How to market it? How not to go broke marketing it? I keep checking the rank when I need to check myself.

Karen and Bill said...

This is "advanced worrying". I am cocooned in elementary worrying which for me is just trying to write a book in the first place. Writing an interesting story with great characters. Maybe someday I'll have a book on some sales shelf and then I can do advanced worrying. Thanks for the post. Gives me something else to think about!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Terry,
I love your "feel good" file. Must start one!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Mary,
Keep on writing books. That's the best way to get noticed.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Thanks, Marja.
I think each step or mode of publishing brings its own set of concerns. You're doing a great job in your latest venture.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Kait,
I couldn't imagine not writing. It's my way of life.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Cindy,
And with more books out, we worry that we're not repeating ourselves.
5 star reviews remind us that we're good writers. That people like us and "get" us.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Cindy,
And with more books out, we worry that we're not repeating ourselves.
5 star reviews remind us that we're good writers. That people like us and "get" us.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Pat,
A controversial subject is something else to worry about. Knowing you, you'll do a great job with it.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Karen and Bill,
You're at Step One on the Worrying Ladder. It's normal to worry, then get on with the writing.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Karen and Bill,
You're at Step One on the Worrying Ladder. It's normal to worry, then get on with the writing.