Tonight I finished writing Silenced .
As with any of my previous four books, coming to the end of a novel is always a double-edged sword. A feeling of accomplishment mixed with a bit of sadness that this story is over and these characters that have grown throughout the course of the book are sailing off into the sunset one last time.
As most of you know, this is the fifth and final installment of The Intoxicated Books, so for me this is a big deal. Most of these characters have been a figment of my imagination for about twenty years, and however silly it sounds, I’ll kind of miss writing for them.
My goal was to finish writing the book sometime in November. I’d say that wrapping things up on the first of the month pretty much shattered that goal. I wanted to have a finished – but not perfect – manuscript when I uploaded the preorder to Amazon. And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t be embarrassed if this version I just finished went live. I’m a pretty clean writer, and my final copy never looks that different from the rough draft.
Admittedly, I have an unorthodox approach to publishing. I’m of the rare breed that likes to finish very early, read it once, then set it aside for a while and start writing on the next book. About a month after the first read through, I go back and read again to make any other changes. My sideloaded mobi copy gets highlighted and notated, then I go back to the Word doc and change the real thing.
I usually have ARCs ready well in advance. Not that many people care about them, but I do have four or so people in my back pocket who will read and review for me. Once that’s done, I focus my attention on formatting the print copy and of course, writing the next book.
This time will be different. I’ve already decided that I won’t be doing a massive release day rollout, or a preorder event, or a blog tour, because I don’t really feel like I’ve benefited from them in the past. In fact, my paid marketing tactics for book four left me so upset that I seriously thought about erasing the entire novel (which I loved), cancelling the preorder and never releasing it to the public. With that horrible aftertaste in my mouth, I can’t treat any future books in that same manner. I have a couple marketing ideas that I’m tossing around, but nothing set in stone. Whatever I do end up doing will be controlled entirely by me and distributed by me, because I’ve learned it’s a good idea to trust only myself.
And in addition to me embarking on writing completely different characters, I’m doing something else unprecedented shortly.
I’m taking a break from writing romance.
Chasing Echo is by no means a romance book, but it’s definitely a love story of sorts. However, I’m categorizing it as Contemporary Literary Fiction. I can’t even realistically call it Women’s Fiction, because it will be told entirely from the viewpoint of the male character.
Because I think ahead, the next two books on my plate after that will more than likely be Women’s Fiction, and that will mean that I won’t be writing anything of the Romance genre for at least a good two years. Maybe longer, because I have some pretty decent concepts for Chick Lit tales as well.
Why? I’m tired of sex.
I’ve always been an outsider in the Romance genre, because my series has been notoriously difficult to categorize. People looking for an alpha male, mommy porn novel are bored to death. People looking for a clean romance are turned off by my foul language. And The Intoxicated Books are probably the closest things to romance that I’ll ever write. I do have a very loose concept for a new romance series, but that will be very, very far off, if in fact it develops into something more.
I’m having so much fun coming up with ideas for standalones that the thought of being bogged down in another series doesn’t appeal to me at this point. I’ve blown my series wad with these characters, and I can’t imagine anyone else taking their place.
Like I’ve said many times before, I write for selfish reasons. I don’t write what sells, but some people end up buying it anyway. I write stories that I want to read, tales that I don’t feel have been done before in the way that I can do them. And true to life, most of what I write does have romantic elements. Relationships permeate your entire life – for good or bad. And I think that comes across in what I create.
But the idea of writing full on romance, or even masquerading like I do, feels like a lie. And the only thing I’ve wanted to do during this journey is be true to myself.
I’ve been away for awhile.
During my respite from blogging, I’ve actually been living out my author dream pretty well. Just like the words of wisdom that I read from some other blogger sometime quite long ago, many authors start to hit their stride somewhere around the fourth or fifth book. I’ve found mine and it’s a beautiful feeling. For some reason, it’s the sweet spot and if you’re doing things right, by that point you should be pleased with your sales figures. If you’re not, it’s time to re-evaluate what it is you’re writing and how you’re promoting yourself.
I’ve always been a genre bender. I’ve always had difficulty categorizing what exactly the hell it is that I write. It’s easier to list off what I don’t: paranormal, historical, fantasy, sci-fi. For The Intoxicated Books, I settled on classifying them as contemporary romance.
But I’ve always known they were different. They don’t fall into the typical romance book mold, even though there’s plenty of falling in and out of love. But there’s humor and heartache and family drama too. And there are definitely some romance buzzwords that don’t show up in my writing, though I certainly am not afraid of the F-bomb. As such, readers looking for a cookie cutter alpha male story with hot, hot sex aren’t going to be impressed. That’s perfectly fine.
That’s part of the reason that I decided to market Book 5 in the series in a completely different way, if at all. It’s something that has been brewing in the back of my head since the debacle that was the release of Book 4. The moment that I realized without question that I didn’t fit in where I had placed myself. The moment that I realized that I didn’t want to play the competition game. The moment that I decided it wasn’t fair to myself to pay someone else for a marketing campaign that left me in tears and wanting to cancel the entire damn thing. Though Book 4 is quite arguably my favorite in the series (but I say that about all of them when I write them), for a few weeks I absolutely hated it and regretted ever writing anything.
Marketing your books shouldn’t make you feel like total hell.
So I stopped, and then the magic happened.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, and no one ever sells as many copies as they ultimately dream of. But my expectations are reasonable, and I’ve always been very clear that I do this on an extremely part time basis. I don’t spam book links to various social media accounts, nor do I even post everywhere frequently. Yet most days, I get paid sales on at least one platform. Sometimes I get more paid sales than free downloads. And I realize that by accomplishing this, I’m doing better than a large percentage of self-publishers. I’m not greedy; I’m humbled that I have found repeat readers. Readers who get hooked on the first book, who maybe did pick it up as a perma-free, and who dutifully come back and purchase the remaining books in the series. I’ve even gotten preorders for Book 5, which doesn’t come out until February, simply by having it available at most retailers already.
And you know me. I am always thinking ahead. Book 5 is over halfway done on the laptop, but complete in my head and I’ve moved on from those characters. They write themselves for me, after having been with them for the better part of twenty years.
I was sitting on ideas for about 7 standalone books, along with a very basic concept for another series. They range in flavor from chick lit to steamy romance, but never to the point of erotica. I might read it, but I don’t see myself writing it. And considering that I will have to start writing one of them to put a teaser chapter at the end of Book 5 before it goes live, I knew I needed to make a decision on which figment of my imagination was going to come next. I had almost decided on one of them; the one most fully formed with a title, tagline, entire plot and a cover vision.
Then Tuesday happened and another brand new idea took precedence. In the span of twenty-four hours, I had all of the above plus character names and a half-assed blurb jangling around in my brain. I was writing scenes and dialogue, envisioning the beginning of the book in my screenplay-esque way. And I knew without a doubt that it would be the next book going up for sale.
Guess what? It’s not a romance. Sure, there will be romantic elements. But this will be dark and depressing, a haunting novel that will hopefully stick with readers much the same as it’s consumed my thoughts lately. It’s the story that I feel I need to tell next, genre be damned.
Call it women’s fiction, or literary fiction, or whatever you’d like. And take the plunge with me if you want to. For I don’t write for sales, I write for myself. And maybe I’ve found that being a little off and unpopular is exactly where I want to be.
If you’re really observant, you’ll catch the title here, hiding somewhere on this blog. But that’s all I’m ready to say at this point.