This might take a few posts to fully explain and add to. So hang on…
Over the last month or so the biggest and most deadly issue I have tried to help writer’s through is the desire to make a lot of money with book sales quickly.
In other words, the writer is not focused on the fun of writing a story, but on how the book is selling after they have finished it.
This is what I call “Product Focused” vs “Process Focused.”
The real problem comes in when the product focused gets into the process of writing and usually stops it cold, or makes in difficult and no fun.
Sitting alone in a room and making stuff up should be fun. What else would it be? No one is going to come and hurt you if you write something that doesn’t work for every reader on the planet (a silly goal on its face.) No one is going to die at your hands (besides characters) if you mess something up.
And best of all, no one cares. You are free to sit in that room and make up whatever you want. No one cares.
When you should start thinking about the product is after your write the last line of the story or book AND NOT ONE MOMENT BEFORE.
But if you start caring too much about the product WHILE WRITING, or even thinking about the product, your process becomes no fun and just stops.
SO HOW DOES A WRITER SLIP INTO PRODUCT FOCUSED WHILE WRITING?
Let me list a bunch of ways, and I know I will miss a bunch of major ways. Add them in the comments if you want.
1… Need to make money quickly. It is the “quickly” that is the killer. Your writing, over time, will make you more money than you can imagine if you keep it fun and keep learning. But if you focus on the writing needing to make a lot of money quickly, it will not. If you need extra money, get a part-time day job and take the pressure off the writing.
2… Writing for other people. Setting deadlines for others puts all the focus on the end product. Deadlines for some can be a motivating thing. They often are for me, but I never attach people to that deadline, or do I ever care what any reader, fan, or critic will think. (Anyone who has watched this blog over time knows how often I have failed on deadlines. If the motivation works for a project, great, if not, great.
3… Writing Series to a sales deadline. You didn’t have the series done before you put the first books out and suddenly you are afraid of being a George Martin and not finishing the series and thus all the focus while writing the next book is on finishing the product, not having fun writing. Chances are you will not finish the series until you forget about selling it.
4… Books Aren’t Selling… This product focused is caused by the old 1980s way of thinking that books spoil like a bad banana if they don’t sell quickly and through traditional channels. This is normally caused by not enough product in your bakery. You think your third book should be making you thousands and actually it is selling three copies a month, maybe. The reality is the fact that it is selling is fantastic news that you are starting to build a fan base. But product and performance focused writers take this as a bad sign and often just quit. Perspective is not a strong skill set for early stage writers.
5… Comparing Your Sales to Other Writers… This is deadly to writing, so if you are in some group that is full of toxic people trying to tell you how you need to promote more and spend money to promote and write faster to get more product, run. The more you listen to that crap, the more you will become product focused and it will kill your writing.
6… Letting Others Into Your Work… This comes in a ton of ways. The stupidity of beta readers to workshops to letting someone, anyone, read part of a work in progress to “help” you. This kind of thinking always takes the focus to the end product and will kill it.
7… Writing sloppy and rewriting. This is always focused on the end product, not the process of creation. What causes this is fear that the book won’t be good enough or have a few flaws and because of those flaws the hit squads will descend on your home and kill you and your family because your story wasn’t “perfect.” This also brings in the scams of developmental editors and beta readers and such. Just fear of the end product stopping the fun of the process of creation.
8… Writing the Same Book Over and Over. Only reason any writer would do this stupidity is fear that a different book won’t sell or will bother fans. Learn to not care and let your creative voice be in control instead of some faceless fans who chances are won’t care in the slightest.
9… Focus on Only One Way to Sell a Book… This seeps back into your process and you end up forcing books to certain lengths or certain patterns or forms, thus killing the creative process of just letting a story be what it wants to be. Early stage writers really have trouble with this because now to them they either think they must go to traditional publisher or sell the book electronic themselves. Nothing else. I will be doing a lot of posts and classes and such on the different ways creators can make money in this new world. But first you must clear all that out and just write stories that are fun that you want to write.
As I said, I am sure I missed a bunch. But overall, this comes down to money and being in a hurry. The moment either of those two things creep into the product side in any fashion, it changes the process side, causes you to make bad decisions, listen to toxic people, rewrite to death, and make your writing no fun.
The goal is to sit alone in a room and make stuff up, anything your creative voice wants to make up, without any influence from what the book will be at the end. Then, when finished, give the product some time and do as best you can with it. Product work is very different from the creative process work. Don’t let the streams cross.
And that is the key, folks. PROMISE YOURSELF that when the book is done, you will do the best you can on the product part. But until the book is done, only think about the process of writing and having fun. You make that promise to yourself and stick to it, you will find yourself creating some amazing stuff, original stuff, and wow will you have fun doing it.
And you will save your writing and write even more (in the process).