word craft




It’s that time again: I have to decide what my next book will be.

It’s hard­ly a sim­ple deci­sion. I will be liv­ing with that choice for the next two years—at least. There will be a year of writ­ing, then a year of revis­ing, edit­ing, and pub­lish­ing. Maybe more. A few times it’s been all for naught. After draft­ing the book, I have been com­pelled (my own judg­ment) to acknowl­edge the book isn’t good and is beyond sav­ing. I put it away and start some­thing else. 

There are oth­ers that were beyond redemp­tion. Gone. Bare­ly remem­bered. Man­u­scripts thrown away. Erased. Deleted.

Some­times I put such a book away and look at it after a few years, think­ing I might res­ur­rect it. A book such, Bright Shad­owhad that fate (again and again) until it final­ly emerged as a pub­lished book—fourteen years after I had first begun.

But no mat­ter the rea­son, or lack of rea­son, a failed book can bring on—for me—a finan­cial cri­sis. Book writ­ing is how I make my liv­ing. A failed book equals failed income.

So, the choice of which book to write is a major one.

For­tu­nate­ly, I have been blessed with the capac­i­ty to think of many ideas. Some­times the idea is a com­plete­ly new one. Oth­er times I have an idea and I lodge it some­where in my mem­o­ry. And, like going to a file cab­i­net of old papers, I can extract a notion and see if it can work for me.

I need to find which idea res­onates most with me. Not so easy. 

Some books had rea­sons to be written. 

I wrote The End of the Begin­ning because I knew I would enjoy the challenge. 

A book such as The Most Impor­tant Thing came about because a pub­lish­er sug­gest­ed I write it. 

The End of the World and Beyond was a sequel that was almost required to be written.

When I shared my idea for Catch You Lat­er Trai­tor with my wife she said, “You have to write that.” 

Mind, all this it’s not just my deci­sion. There is an edi­tor who must be attract­ed to the idea. So, I have to write a com­pelling syn­op­sis. Then the edi­tor must bring it to his/her supe­ri­or in the pub­lish­ing house. There might well be an acqui­si­tion com­mit­tee or some such, which must pass on it.

How this kind of deci­sion is made is a com­plex one. Pub­lish­ing is a busi­ness, not just a cre­ator of lit­er­a­ture. Will the idea sell? What’s the author’s track record—if any? How did my last book sell? What is or is not pop­u­lar these days? The state of  the book econ­o­my? Lit­er­ary trends? Fads? What “does the read­ing pub­lic want?” Is the qual­i­ty of the book worth the invest­ment? Have I pitched it well? And so on.

Have I ever made my own deci­sion based on pure­ly busi­ness rea­sons? No. I have nev­er authored a book because I thought it would fit a com­mer­cial mold. But I have made neg­a­tive deci­sions because I thought an idea was too out­landish or wouldn’t find an audience. 

Or I didn’t think I could do it. For exam­ple, I have nev­er writ­ten sci­ence fic­tion. I have nei­ther the knowl­edge nor the skill.

And so on …

But I now have to make the decision.

When I do you might—after per­haps two or three years—learn what I decide.

Okay. What res­onates most deeply? This idea? Or that one? Then again, maybe this …

See you then … if then happens. 

2 thoughts on “Decisions”

  1. Read­ing this arti­cle opened my eyes to the com­pli­cat­ed process from an idea to print. Thank you for shar­ing this. Most of all thank you for writ­ing so many won­der­ful books. They have giv­en me (librar­i­an) and count­less student’s expe­ri­ences we would nev­er have enjoyed with­out your tal­ent and ded­i­ca­tion to storytelling.


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