The New York Times published an article recently about the amount of productivity being required of authors in the digital age. At one time, the article said, a book a year was considered enough, and any more would glut the market. However, with the advances in e-publishing and the other demands on readers’ entertainment time, much more was required of authors to keep their audiences. James Patterson, it was pointed out in the article, produced a book a month with the help of co-authors. Another author interviewed said she writes 2,000 words a day, seven days a week.
The article sparked a tidal wave of discussions on writers’ websites and blogs. How can you maintain quality when so much quantity was required? Aren’t writers supposed to have a life? Writing is hard!
And the grousing continues. Yes, it is hard, and if you’re a good enough writer, when your publisher comes to you and says “I need you to produce a book a month,” you can just say no. Seriously. If you’re a good enough writer, then when your next book is ready, the publisher and your audience will be there. The critics will love you for not giving in to a system attempting to squeeze literary juice out of very sour turnips.
Look at J.K. Rowling. What if someone had gone to her and said, “Okay, you’re going to lose your audience if you don’t turn out the next six books in your series within the next year. I mean, if you put out a book a year, by the time you’re done, your audience will have grown out of Harry Potter.” What would her reaction have been? I can imagine.
I encourage writers to do what I plan to do. Write true. If that means writing a book a year, good. If it means you can turn out a book a month that you’re proud of, do that. But don’t fall into the trap of killing yourself to write trash. (Funny, that, coming from a writer of trashy romances, huh?) But seriously, writing is a journey when you do it right. Your characters take you on that journey and if you try to rush them, you’re going to get a badly written, sketchy travel plan.
I’m going to swipe a quote from the article from author Steve Berry, with whom I once discussed cheesecake while riding on an elevator in New York City. He said, “You don’t ever want to get into a situation where your worth is being judged by the amount of your productivity.” Write on, Steve! (But take a breathing moment every now and then…)