The long haul

The best way to increase sales of your book is to have written another.

That’s one of those truths you regularly hear trotted out that’s both absolutely correct and of no use whatsoever. It doesn’t actually help you write anything else. It also creates the idea (not entirely without foundation, sadly) that quantity is more important than quality.

When you finish one writing project you should set it aside for a few months until you can come back to it with a cool, objective head.

Great advice. But I don’t know about you; as soon as I’ve finished something knew I’m usually too excited, too much in a screaming hurry to let it sit like that; especially when I know that I’ve only created the outline and can still dramatically improve the actual words.

Which is why I’m always most comfortable when I have two or three or four projects on the go at once. That way when I finish a draft of one I can immediately crack on with the next, cycling between them and keeping my writing hat on all the time. It’s possibly a little schizophrenic, especially if you’re moving between genres and times or whatever, but it works for me.

I’m just finishing my latest draft of Australis, the middle book in my trilogy. As I’ve said before, this is an especially radical revision and the echoes of these changes will ring across both the first and last books of the series. That what I’ve done here will affect the third is no surprise: I’ve changed the architecture of the city, and also altered the world mythos: a new background, a new history, all of which will have to be reflected in later actions. Plus the plot will have to shift as, as it stands, the second and third books are now too similar in places.

But the changes also work backwards. Again this is partly due to world-building and similar fundamental things; but it’s also because I have a better idea of some of my characters and where they’re going. I’m creating landmarks not only in the Antarctic wilderness but also in the crew’s minds and bodies.

Australis isn’t ready yet. I know this because I’ve been coming up with new ideas all the way through to the end, and all these need seeding in the early chapters and expanding and developing and then trimming right back. But I’m not going to do this just yet. First I have to go back to Night Shift and get that damn thing (which has been sitting untouched since February) one draft closer to being ‘finished’.

And it does me no harm to have a corpus of work that I can show to publishers. Not only one, but three books ready to go (that’s an outright lie: none of them are publishable as is – but they are complete, and that’s close enough in the circumstances); a coherent trilogy that will require minimal editing and proofreading. And that too is a lie, but these things are all relative.

And, if I decide to self-publish, I have my whole series (almost) ready to go. I can promote them as a whole, try and maximise follow-on sales linking one to the other. The only problem is that I really rather fancy working on something new. Ideas? Easy. Time? Less so.

But soon (hopefully one more draft) Night Shift will be ready. Then it’s back to Australis, and then the major reworking of New Gods. Maybe I’ll find time to tinker with Chivalry once again. If I ever do get any interest from a publisher than I’m sure it’ll be back to Night Shift again… the cycle never ends.

But one day at least one of these titles will be out in the public domain. Finally I’ll be able to call it done. And then – finally, finally, it’ll be on with something new. And so the corpus builds.

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