I was thinking about my next writing project this morning. I feel like I'm constantly in several stages at once: drafting, editing, final proofing... of different manuscripts. There are many considerations I take into account when I'm brainstorming a project. #1 is "will anyone read this?" #2 will the time I spend translate into sales? #3 can I do this justice, ie. is this book idea an award-worthy idea?
I've been very blessed, and probably even lucky, that so many of my books have received literary recognition. I've won 2 Whitney Awards, 3 Best of State medals, and 2 Golden Quill Awards, among several other awards. I'm currently a finalist in 4 categories for the 2013 Whitney Awards with 4 different books.
This is a Catch-22, meaning that I'm very grateful for the awards. Yet... I definitely feel the pressure of writing my next book and making sure it's up to par. I know that readers now have certain expectations. I know that they will compare my books. Readers will say "this is better than... this wasn't as good as..." So one of my considerations when writing a book is that I have to look at it as not just "this is a great idea I can be passionate about" but "this is a great idea that I can be passionate about and I have to write it well enough that it's award-worthy."
Of course writers all want their books to be award-worthy, but I have reached a point that I won't write a single-author novel unless I think it will be award-worthy. Don't take that the wrong way. It doesn't mean that I feel like my writing is necessarily award-worthy, no matter what I write about, but it means that I'm going to put a lot of advance planning into it, run it through many advance readers, do the right research, and focus on creating a compelling story... All so that I can continue to raise the bar on my own story-telling. Once a writer thinks she has it made is when things will start to fall apart.
Have I created a set of goals that will dictate what I can and cannot write? I don't think so because there comes a point in any writer's career where it needs to go from a hobby to a livelihood. And this is where I intend to take mine. In February I became a USA Today bestseller. This is purely on the merit of SALES. Not fabulous writing or story telling. There is a darker side of the business out there, and it's necessary to feed both. Some of my writing might be aimed toward garnering those awards, not for the award itself, but because it's a measuring stick that I've achieved my goals... touching the life of another reader (judge) in such a way that it changes them.
This is what reading a good book does to me. It changes me.
What if none of my books ever earned an award? Does that make them worthless? No. The readers who contact me and the reviews that are posted are also measures that I go by. Did my story touch someone's life? Did it give them an understanding? A wider perspective? Did it make them laugh, cry, think?
I may never win an award again, and that's okay. But I will continue to write and work hard at creating novels that are "award-worthy" even if they aren't publicly recognized as such.
Here's an example of where I am at this moment. Books 1, 3, 4, and 7 are on the "award-worthy" path. Books 2, 5, and 6 are on the "sales" path. It would be nice if these paths cross for some of the books, but I'm very well aware that it may not be so.
1. LOST KING (thriller). 2nd draft complete, received 2 edits back from beta readers, working on 3rd draft. Next step, another round of readers. No official due date, although I hope to start the submission process in the summer to my new publisher.
2. TASTE OF SUN (romance novella). 2nd draft complete. Just emailed to 1st beta reader. Due date is the end of May and it will go through copyediting & proofing & final approval by me.
3. SALEM book. 100 pages drafted. Stopped when I reached a major researched hurdle. Have been sitting on this hurdle for over a year. I hope to get over it this summer and have the book ready for submission this fall.
4. BIBLICAL NOVEL. Started page one of a novel about Miriam, Moses' sister. Thinking about turning it into a "Moses trilogy"... Miriam (book 1), Aaron (book 2), Moses (book 3). An epic story needs an epic series. This novel has been requested by one of my publishers and due date is OCTOBER. Yes. I need to get working on it.
5. CHRISTMAS NOVELLA. I haven't started this yet, but it will be due at the end of August. Not too intimidating, except that it will need research since it will have a historical setting (yet undecided).
6. TANGERINE STREET SERIES. Recently THE FORTUNE CAFE came out and my co-authors, Julie Wright and Melanie Jacobson, and I will be plotting the next in the series in about a week. We hope to have it written in early fall and will possibly release in November/December of this year.
7. EVE: IN THE BEGINNING. This book is completely done and I even have some cover comps. It will just need a final copyedit and proofread. I have a couple of publishers I'm going to query this summer, and if there aren't any bites, I will self-publish it in October.