A while back my sister introduced me to an artist by the name of Jake Weidmann. I believe I’ve mentioned him before due to his TedTalks. Anyway, he’s both a master penman—one of only eleven in the US—and a painter and carver who uses old-world techniques for much of his art.
The work he does is beautiful. He carved roses so thin you can almost see through the petals. He drew a ship on a sea of waves using calligraphy words from the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.” He painted the above image of two hummingbirds as a tribute to marriage using vintage calligraphic off-hand flourishing. The thing is, these works take time. In our day and age of instant gratification, they take an ungodly amount of time.
And the pressures of society expecting him to produce more work could push him to compromise on the technique and quality of his art. Yet he doesn’t. He would much rather create something of quality than simply crank out quantity.
I am taking this to heart this year and finding it remarkably hard. There is a pressure, a drive, to always have a new book on my table at every convention, especially ones I’m returning to from the previous year.
And I also believe there is a kind of unwritten social contract between a writer and her readership in regard to a series. It’s not only unkind to produce the first book in a series and never come out with another, it breaks faith with those who have been kind enough to believe in you.
But storytelling is also an art form and I’m fully coming to realize that, if a piece of art requires more time to be done right, it’s a disservice to both the writer and readership to rush it.
This entire year has been a lesson for me in figuring out that balance between keeping the social contract and not compromising on the quality of the product produced. I would love to say I can write a novel in three months and have it published in a year. Perhaps it’s my pride that chafes behind the truth that, so far, I cannot.
What I have found is I can write it in a year…and perhaps have it published in two.
Another part of my pride would love to say I can outline the entire book and so have a cleaner manuscript at the end of the rough draft.
Again, I’ve not found this to be true. The only reason outlines work for the adventure books is because they’re short and, when I do deviate from the outlines, it’s easy to adjust. With a novel, those deviations become so large that the outline becomes useless about a quarter of the way into the story.
I’m a Gardener novel writer. There, I’ve said it. (Also known as a pantster…a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer.)
What that means is there’s a significant amount of editing required to clean up the manuscript. It’s disheartening to think about, and yet, there’s something incredibly special about seeing the gem in the story emerge with each pass of the editing pen.
This is, of sorts, a review of my year. I posted early on that I wanted to write and produce an adventure book and also write the sequel to Quaking Soul. At the time, I hoped I could accomplish both rough drafts by March. I succeeded on the Adventure book—Mystery of the Golden Shells—and it came out in August. On the Quaking Soul sequel, I grossly miscalculated both the word count and time required. (I gave myself 100K words and three months.)
I finished the sequel yesterday and it’s 165K words. It’s a mountain with loose bits running everywhere. I get to look forward to uncovering the gem in all that chaos next year.
However, I can say IT’S FINISHED! I have a rough draft. And that’s not a bad way to end the year. Humbling, but definitely not bad.
And I’ll take the humbling in hopes of creating a piece of artwork that’s worth the wait. I’m still learning, always will be, but I hope to improve with each story. And I appreciate the encouragement and patience of my readers. I promise I will produce a story if I say I will and it’ll be as good as I can make it. I also promise it’ll take as long as it takes, within reason, to do it right.
Thank you for sticking with me on this writing journey. I am continually blessed by those who encourage and support me.
Happy New Years and see you in 2023!