So, today I think I’ll post part of a proposal I’m working on for Tor. I’m going to send this to them, so that Tom Doherty can read about my plans and goals for the future before he and I meet in New York next week.
Writing is art, but publishing is business.
I’ve always believed that in order to succeed in this field, I would need two things. First, I’d need an excellent work ethic. Second, I’d need an eye toward my eventual goal of becoming a professional writer. When I started writing in earnest seven years ago, I realized that the chances of any one book getting published were slim, even if it was a superior manuscript. Therefore, I didn’t let myself stop writing–I figured that the more books I had to send out, the sooner I would get published. When Moshe finally called to purchase ELANTRIS, I was working on my thirteenth novel.
This background gives me an advantage, I think, over other first-time authors. I understand my writing style far better than a writer sold the first book he wrote. I know what I do well, I know what people enjoy from my books, and I have had time to hone and practice my craft. I also have a great wealth of intellectual property in the books I’ve already written. I don’t want to publish any of those books themselves–readers deserve to get books that represent my best and most current skill level. However, the ideas and settings I developed in those previous works can provide models for what to do in the future.
My foremost distinguishing attribute as a writer is my ability to create interesting settings and unique magic systems. I don’t use the standard fantasy setting–nor do I even use an iteration of it. I strive to push this genre to its full potential, giving my readers something new with each book. Another of my strengths is my ability to push my books’ plots toward dramatic climaxes with well-foreshadowed surprises and twists. I also think that I have a flair for witty side-characters and powerfully-motivated viewpoint characters.
My weaknesses are offshoots from these strengths. My books build slowly sometimes, and so the first quarter or so of a given novel tends to be the slowest. My books also have very steep ‘learning curves,’ meaning that because they have original settings and magic systems, it can be difficult for readers to grow accustomed to all of the new elements. Finally, I’m not a brilliant prose craftsman, though I think I’m getting stronger in this area. One of the things I’ve learned during my years practicing is how to focus my books around my strengths as a writer, while at the same time minimizing the effect of my weaknesses.
I’m at an interesting point in my career. My original goal, that of getting published, has been met–indeed, I’ve succeeded beyond what I dared dream was possible. I’ve been picked up by the most prestigious publishing house in fantasy, and am releasing a book in hardback.
However, getting published was always just a step. My real goal is to build a career as a writer. You don’t do that by publishing one great book–you do that by publishing a great book, then publishing an even better one the next year, then an even better one the year after that.
I can do this. However, I realize the need for a plan. Therefore, I’ve begun to look at the various books and series that I’ve written recently (within the last year) or am planning to write very soon. I’ve never published before, so I’m not sure which direction to take my career. Therefore, I developed this list of my most promising new and upcoming works so that I could get your advice on what plan I should use during my next five to ten years of writing.
Summaries of five series I’ve been developing follow. At the end, I’ll give a summary of my thoughts regarding my future.