You cannot always choose both

choicesMy usual answer when I’m asked to make a choice between two good things is ‘yes’. Would you like chocolate cake or banana muffins? Yes. Would you prefer to have a bath or watch tv? Yes. Do you want to dance or have a glass of wine? Yes.

And this last two years, since I’ve started writing fiction for publication, I’ve been piling on the ‘boths’. I figure I have four lives, any one of which could be full time: writing fiction, a full-time day job, family and friends (including some fairly demanding responsibilities as an arms-length care giver), and then a whole mix of community activities I’m involved in.

It is interesting, sometimes thrilling, and mostly a lot of fun. But there’s no room for anything else. With a couple of health and family crises simmering since November, somethings had to give. I’m two months behind the frequently revised date for my draft of Embracing Prudence. And my marketing activity is way, way down, as shown by my book sales figures.

Thinking about priorities

I had a wake-up call, recently. I read a published book by a writer I admire, and it sounded to me like a first draft. Lots of long sequences of backstory, telling rather than showing, some odd sequencing stuff. And I think I know why.

Publish a book every three months, received wisdom says, and then live in the marketplace telling people about it. The pressure is on to rush to get stuff to the publisher or (in the case of us independent publishers) to get it on the bookshelf. And the time isn’t there to make it as close to perfect as we can.

I am not playing that game. I want every book to be better than the last. Because I don’t like doing the same thing over and over, I may not always please the same readers, but I need to know that at least I’m improving my grasp of the craft of writing.

Here are my priorities, more or less in order.

  1. to deepen my relationship with God
  2. to look after my family
  3. to stay healthy
  4. to give my employer my best attention and commitment during working hours until the mortgage is paid and I can retire and write fiction as my full-time job
  5. to write books I am happy to put my name on
  6. to share those books with readers.

So writing comes ahead of marketing

When the squeeze is on, as it has been over the past four months, in future I’m choosing writing over marketing. Maybe this means that I’ll have another two years of adequate but not spectacular sales. (My author rank at Amazon generally sits somewhere in the 20,000–25,000 bracket. To put that in perspective, I’m not millionth, but each step from here is tightly fought, and I won’t be anywhere near making even a modest living till I’m up around 10,000th.)

In two years, when the mortgage is paid, I might be able to spend more time thinking about how to get my print books into libraries and book shops, and which review sites and other gate keepers might be persuaded to take a look. Meanwhile, I’m in the writing cave. I’ll pop out to play with my friends. Yes, and to do a bit of marketing, too, when I have time. But my priority is going to be the books.

What’s next from Jude Knight?

I’ve recently been project manager for the Belles on the Combined 2015 Editions of the Teatime Tattler, published last week. Click on the title to find out about it, and to get your copy while it is still free.

While you’re there, check out our previous box set, Mistletoe, Marriage and Mayhem. We’re removing it from publication on 31 March, so get it now for only 99c, all proceeds to the Malala Fund. After 1 April, we’ll each publish our own novella. I’m targeting 8 May with my Gingerbread Bride, which is about Rick Redepenning and his courtship of Mary, seven years before the events in my novel Farewell to Kindness.

Before the end of June, I plan to publish Embracing Prudence. That’s pretty tight, since I’m only halfway through the beta edit, so it may slip (once more), but no later than July.

I’ve made a good start on A Raging Madness. I’m 12,000 words in, and I have the rough plan for the rest mapped out. I expect to publish before the end of the year, possibly as early as September.

I have a 1 May deadline for the novella for the next Bluestocking Belles holiday box set, which has a house party theme. All our novellas have their lives affected in one way or another by the festivities at Hollystone Hall. The venue has its own Facebook page, where we’re posting character sketches and scenery on our way to publication on 1 November. My contribution is titled The Bluestocking and the Barbarian.

And Mariana Gabrielle and I are cowriting a novel that ambushed us when we were thinking about something else. We haven’t set a publication date for Never Kiss a Toad, but watch this space.

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