I wrote a book! Now what?

So, something happened this weekend.

Did you notice?

Screen shot of front page of the blog, with the "Manuscript Progress" bar circled in red because I have written 75,026 words out of my goal of 75,000!
What now?

I finished my book! I both hit my word count goal of 75,000 and actually managed to end the story satisfactorily.

Well, I say satisfactorily, but I’ve already made several notes to myself with plans for revision. Because I said the book is finished, but I didn’t say it was good.

Now, before you protest and say I’m being too hard on myself, just stop. While I do certainly suffer from my share of imposter syndrome and am often unreasonably harsh on my own writing, that is not what’s happening here.

What’s happening, is a first draft. And sometimes to finally finish a first draft, you have to do some weird things. Like completely change a side character’s occupation and backstory, and maybe even delete a character because they weren’t really serving the story. Like add in new aspects of your protagonist’s motivation that didn’t exist in the first chapter that now need to be added in to the first, like, three quarters of the book.

So, when I say the book is bad, it’s more like, the book is a hot mess.

But that’s okay. It’s not going to stay that way, at least not forever. It is going to stay that way for a couple of weeks while I focus my pen elsewhere.

That’s really what this blog post is about.

I stopped doing just about any other writing for a few weeks because I realized that if I focused all of my energies on the book, I could be finished with the first draft by Halloween, and that realization proved to be an extremely strong source of motivation for me. But now it’s time to get back to other projects.

The problem is, I’m feeling a bit torn on how to prioritize my attention.

As a fledgling fiction writer in the 21st century, I’m unsure what the most strategic path to publication is for me. Back when I was in college (2004 – 2008), the path to fiction publication was to write a book and then query agents and/or publishers. If, when you wrote said query, you could add in a list of fiction you had published in respected literary or genre magazines, you were more likely to get a positive response. So a crucial early step to publishing your book was to write and seek publication for short stories.

This is still a path to publication, and unless you’re magic, it’s the only path to traditional publication.

But is it?

Part of the reason for including your short story publications in your queries to potential agents or publishers is so that they can see that other professionals have invested in you before. Agents and publishers are essentially making a financial decision. They want to know if your work will sell. If it has an audience.

But literary and genre magazines are not the only pathways to building an audience anymore. They’re a good pathway, certainly a well-respected pathway, but not the only pathway.

Other pathways to building an audience for your writing include blogging, podcasting, vlogging, social media, even fan fiction, and online serial publishing services like Tapas.

But growing an maintaining audiences through those platforms takes a lot of work and a lot of time. I recently read a blog post by Chris Breechen, the brains behind the very popular Writing About Writing Facebook Page that talked about how to build a social media following.

His recommended posting schedule?

Roughly one post per (waking) hour, every single day. Roughly ten to twelve posts a day, maybe a hundred posts a week.

I read that, and my heart just sank. Chris said he spends roughly one to two hours per day on the WAW facebook page, planning and scheduling posts. And that’s not counting the blog posts he shares, either, if I remember correctly. Combined with the time he spends writing for his blog, writing on other projects, and doing his other non-writing jobs, he works at least 50 – 60 hours per week.

Damn.

That’s… a lot. More than I can do and maintain my current levels of mental and physical health. So, uh, I’m… not going to do that.

But I could certainly up my blog and social media output.

But any time I spend on social is time I spend away from writing. And I have one story that needs to be revised and resubmitted (for an early December submission window), one story that needs to be finished and submitted somewhere (no deadline), and one story that I’m thinking of writing for an upcoming short story contest with a mid-November deadline.

And that’s not even to mention the research, plotting, and world building I’d like to begin for my next book.

Or the bit of freelance writing/SEO work I’ve got on my plate this week.

Or, of course, revising my finished book.

So, yeah, I’m a little uncertain where to turn my attention just now.

What about you? What’s your ratio of writing to blogging/social-media-ing? Do you spend more time writing on spec for lit/genre magazines? Or do you find the wide, digital world of self-publishing to be more strategic? Let me know in the comments below!

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