Around mid-April, I decided to push back the release date for Death Marked, my debut fantasy novel.
This choice came after weeks of anxious revisions and frenzied writing. I would have had a draft to publish on April 26th but my work was lifeless, a far cry from the enthusiasm I started with.
I’ve stopped writing and returned to outlining and world building. The book I was writing, while a decent story, did not feel right.
What caused my growing discontent? Initially, I dismissed my concerns as the mark of a perfectionist. Like most authors, I want my writing to be as polished as possible.
After reading each paragraph dozens of times, boredom set in. Boredom, though, is a natural consequence of getting too close to our work. Even the best stories lose their sparkle after hundreds of hours of scrutiny.
More than bored, more than critical, I was unhappy. Eager to meet my self-imposed deadline, I forced myself to outline and knock out the words as fast as possible. And, hey, sometimes that’s necessary. We create by doing, not sitting around and thinking.
Sometimes, though, we need to give ourselves a little more time to prepare. As I searched my feelings, I pinpointed the source of my unhappiness: by rushing ahead I had lost my voice.
Write With Purpose
When I first worked on the Death Marked series, I had clear goals in mind. Through my story, I wanted to tackle issues and highlight viewpoints that do not get enough attention in the fantasy genre.
I still want this. Unfortunately, by rushing my writing, the purpose of my book shifted. It was no longer about the experience but establishing my author platform.
Getting your name out there and building a fan base are important for any author who wants to make a living with their words; but, that can’t be the focus. That kind of attitude bleeds through the pages. It reduces art and expression to business and marketing.
Writing is a business. Business requires marketing. But, the focus should be the story.
Rediscover Your Author Voice
Pushing my publication date has left me re-energized. The joy has returned to my work. How did I get back on track? By asking myself a few questions:
- What themes do I want to explore?
- What issues do I want to shine a light on?
- How do I want my readers to feel?
- Are my characters people or caricatures?
- Do the events and choices have purpose or are they plot devices?
- Am I conveying what is unique about the setting?
- Does the setting make sense?
- Is the story consistent?
- What’s the intended tone of the book?
- Is each scene crucial or am I writing to fill space?
This list is far from comprehensive but it is a valuable jumping off point for any author who is lost.
Email lists, daily word counts, and followers are important components of a writing career; but, they’re just empty numbers if you lose your voice in their pursuit.
Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this. Adjust if you need to. Start over if you need to. Whatever it takes to tell the story of your heart. That’s the book we want to read.