Monday, June 27, 2011

The Contract: Blessing or Curse?

I was recently asked in an interview if it was more fun writing before landing that first contract or since the contract.

I didn't hesitate. Definitely before.

Before the contract I wrote for the sheer pleasure of it, I could take my time with the manuscript, work through it at my own pace, tweak it here and there. I could spend as much time as I wanted to with no pressure from deadlines or editors, no worries about finicky reviewers or unsatisfied readers. It was just me and my ideas, me and my words.

Before the contract the stories flowed easier, the creative fire burned brighter. The joy was in the process, nothing else.

After that first contract things changed. Deadlines rule the day now, schedules and marketing and interviews and social networking. It's not just about the writing anymore, not just about the story. I can't write at my own leisure; I have to write every day if I'm going to meet deadline.
And with deadlines looming and pressure to top my latest offering and sales numbers swimming in my head, the creative fires need to be stoked a bit more than before, tended more often and diligently.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still love writing, still love weaving stories and bringing to life interesting characters, but the joy isn't just in the process anymore, in fact, it's less in the process and more in the finished product and aftermath.

Being published is very satisfying in a narcissistic kind of way. There's great joy in knowing other people are reading your work and enjoying it. That they are intrigued by the thoughts in your head. Now my greatest joy is in hearing the feedback of satisfied readers, knowing the hours I pour into a book, the early mornings seven days a week, the re-writes and edits, no matter how painful they may be, are all worth it because I'm making a difference.

And that's the dichotomy of writing under contract. The result is just as important as the process and intimately dependent on it. Often, what you get out of it is proportionate to what you put into it.

And isn't that just like life?

Now how about you. If you're a published author, did you enjoy writing more before being published? If you're not-yet-published, does the prospect of being published with all it's deadlines and expectations scare you?


Greg Mitchell said...

I am so, so blessed. For over ten years I struggled to get "The Strange Man" picked up by a publisher, but in the meantime I went ahead and wrote the rest of the trilogy. As I got closer to getting a contract, I began to see how God was really looking out for me. I was able to write the entire Coming Evil Trilogy at my own pace over the course of all these years, as my passions directed me, and now that I have deadlines, the books are already done--well, I say "done". There's always tweaking and reworking, but 90% of the work was complete on all the books before I signed on the dotted line. I'm happy to say that it's still a leisurly process for this series and I'm thankful for that.

Of course, once the Trilogy is done and it's off to something new, I'll be in that boat of deadline-meeting anxiety :p I don't look forward to it :)

Jillian Kent said...

I'm right there with you, Mike. I wish I'd focused more on finishing my series like Greg did before he got his contract. But we all have different lives with different obligations. I also know that for me and where I'm at in the process now that my series will be far different than if I'd finished it already.

I've also had to cut back on my personal blog and I think that's fine. I need the time to write the books and if the books don't get written the blog will be useless.

I love learning how to write better and develop my craft. As long as I have that fire I'll be happy. Some day when I'm long gone from this earth someone might pick up one of my books. It's a part of me that I can leave behind that I hope whoever reads will enjoy.

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Great post, Mike. I enjoy writing more AFTER my first contract. Something about a looming deadline that makes me totally get focused -- or is it panicked. LOL Anyway, my deadlines have helped me be less of a procrastinator.

Bruce Hennigan said...

I can relate to Greg's comments. I self published my first two books in my series and have finished a total of four books. When I landed my contract with Realms, I was four books ahead of the game! Problem is, now I'm writing blogs and getting ready for marketing and doing book reviews and social media. What I will be doing soon is going back and rewriting those other three books after learning SO MUCH from my editor on the first book! This is when the writing becomes work! But, like you said, Mike getting feedback from a life that is changed by your book makes it all worthwhile. My other book, "Conquering Depression" came out in 2001 and while I've never made a whole lot of money or garnered accolades, not a week passes that someone doesn't send me and my co-author, Mark Sutton, an email saying how the book saved their lives. I mean, SAVED their lives! How cool is that? God used something that came out of my wild, disordered mind and touched someone's life! I give God the glory and ultimately, I have to keep reminding myself that this is why I write to get published. It is part of God's work for my life. Notice that word: work. So, yeah, I love the freely creative flowing process but as we all know, the vast majority of getting that book out there is all about the WORK! Whew! I need a glass of iced tea!