I’m not usually a jealous person. I’ve often thought that I was pretty Zen about my position in the writing world. I don’t have an agent or a publishing contract with a big press, but I don’t lie awake at night comparing myself to others who do have those things. If I did, then I’d have to look no further for angst than Jay Kristoff, who I’ve known for more than a decade. He’s been very successful with his Lotus War trilogy, and was able to quit work to write full time (basically every writer’s dream ever) after he signed the contract for Illuminae.
The thing is, I’m genuinely happy for Jay, who is entirely deserving. I don’t even feel a twinge of jealousy — I actually find it inspirational. Back when I was at uni, I had a very dour lecturer who told all the wannabe writers in the room that, as Australians, we’d never ever be able to quit work to write fulltime (unless we wrote romance, which she was contemptuous of).
I’d like to be able to rub Jay’s success in her face. Maybe with a copy of Endsinger, which is 600 pages long and rather heavy.
But then I realised that there is one thing that I am really jealous about. If I dwell on it, it actually makes me a little depressed. It’s not the end result of the book deal and the agent that triggers this reaction me.
It’s the speed at which some people write.
I’m a slow drafter, although I’m getting better. Isla’s Inheritance took over a year to draft; I was averaging maybe 2000 words a month and, because it was the first book I wrote, I was still feeling my way through the process. That means I wrote a couple of chapters that were ultimated scrapped (sob). With Isla’s Oath, I doubled my word goal, but it still took the better part of a year. With the next two manuscripts, Melpomene’s Daughter and Lucid Dreaming, I set myself a goal of 2000 words a week and finished the first drafts in around seven months. These were also much cleaner drafts than my debut was, meaning there was less work to do in the editing stages.
The most recent manuscript, an as-yet-unnamed fantasy, took a little longer — but it was also almost 20k words longer, so I won’t beat myself up over that.
Still, that’s just a first draft. Looking at all the reading and re-reading, and re-re-reading that happens during the editing process, it’s more like a year for me to produce something polished. And by comparison, Chuck Wendig — who is a fulltime writer — writes 2000 words a day.
When I see people who are releasing two or three books a year … that is when I get jealous.
It’s even more sobering when I see articles and posts by indie authors who talk about how you need to release at least two books a year to maintain momentum, keep your fans keen. I try to do the things “they” say, but this one’s beyond me. There’s not a lot I can do to write faster than I am now. I work thirty-five hours a week and I’m a single mother, which means the only times I get to write are after my son goes to bed, or occasionally on the weekend if I decide to let him have a “lazy day” in front of the TV or on the Wii. (I feel guilty when I do that, but a wise friend once told me that it’s important to let your kids see you pursue your goals.)
The other factor in my jealousy is that I have other book ideas I’d love to be working on. I went through my plot bunny notebook the other day, and there were ideas in there for four novels, two novellas and a short story. One of the novel ideas is actually plotted out, down to character details; the rest are in the embryonic stage but could get there with a little bit of time and energy.
It should be said that I’m happy for others who are able to publish more than one book a year. Delighted. Being crazy jealous that they can do it doesn’t make me less pleased for them! And I know that the mere fact of having written a book — more than one — is a massive deal. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved to date and look forward to doing more of the same.
And, of course, jealousy can actually be a good thing. It’s a kick up the backside, a goad to action. Even though I’m not sure what else I can do to increase my productivity, being jealous does at least keep me thinking about ideas to do so. It’s also an awesome spur to get my butt in the chair to write (or edit) when I do have the opportunity.
So that’s my confession. I found my green-eyed monster. It was down the back of the couch this whole time!
Also, I realise this post is a bit of a ramble. It’s more me thinking aloud (well, on screen) than anything else. But I thought putting this out there might help other writers who feel the same way I do.
Some of you do feel this way, right?