100%, 100%

Today I thought I would talk about something it took me 3 novels to learn in the hopes that I can make other people’s lives easier.  I’m a pretty cautious person. I hate gambling, I hate using things if I only have a few left, I hate taking a risk with my money or time or valuables. This caution unfortunately transmits into writing. Say I’m writing a novel, and suddenly I have this great idea. Like, amazing idea, an idea that can carry a series. What do I do with this idea? Or say I had a fantastic world secret. I’d drop tiny hints, never show my hand. Used to be, whenever my brain tossed these gems my way, I would save them, play it safe. After all, I don’t want to put all my ideas in one basket, or tip my secrets too soon.

Back when I was first submitting The Spirit Thief, the criticism I got the most often was that I needed more. More secrets, more world, more cool stuff. This was very hard for me. I had so much cool stuff for the book, but I was holding onto it. After all, these were amazing ideas/secrets, I needed time to set them up properly, I couldn’t just waste them on the first book in a series! But as I got the same criticism over and over again, I finally realized that, if I wanted to WRITE all those books I was saving ideas for, I’d have to make THIS book a lot cooler. So I threw caution to the wind (or, more accurately, released my deathgrip on caution slowly and painfully before lightly placing it on the window sill) and went all in. I stuffed every cool idea I could into The Spirit Thief. I dropped big hints at the world secrets, laid everything out like a Sunday Las Vegas Buffet, lobster and all.

And it worked. Suddenly, everyone really liked my book. They wanted to read more, and so I got a chance to write a second book. And even better, despite all the ideas I crammed into the first book, I still had plenty of awesome secrets and ideas.

What I’m trying to say is that, unlike most everything else in the world, writing does not benefit from caution. Ideas are not a finite resource. In fact, the more secrets and ideas you use, the more you have. Readers read to be entertained, so give them everything. Give them fireworks and grand drama and lobster and the whole three ring circus. Don’t hold back with your novels, don’t save your ideas for later.  Spend them. Use everything you have like you’ll never write another book again. It doesn’t matter, you’ll have more ideas, better ideas. But to really write a book that will thrill and surprise, you can not be conservative or cautious. You have to give 100%, 100% of the time, because that’s what readers deserve. You are an entertainer, and whether you’re working a sidewalk or the Luxor, you have to give every performance everything you’ve got.

Break a leg!

5 Responses to “100%, 100%”

  1. 1 terri-lynne
    April 19, 2010 at 6:05 pm


  2. April 19, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Love this post! I’m cautious in all the ways you described. I need to stop hoarding my ideas for later. Thanks!

  3. April 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I am a hoarder too. I always think that each new idea has to go in a new story. I will try to stuff it in to my current story and see what happens. At the very least it should be fun.

    Thanks for this post.

  4. April 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Excellent. Perhaps this is what I need to get me through my current quagmire of a plot point.

    This reminds me of advice I’ve read on escalation and tension, that if you hold back because you have some awesome idea for a climactic moment and don’t want to use it too soon, the whole book will just drag to that point. If you use it earlier, when it’s the worst thing that could happen, it won’t be the end, something bigger and better will come along and the whole book will just continue to escalate, and become even grander than before.

  5. April 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    This is eerily appropriate for me today. Thank you.

    I’m editing my current wip. I tried hard with chapter one. Beta gave great advice. Tried again, stretched myself as far as I thought I could reach. Beta came back, said in some ways better, in other ways not. Gave good advice.

    On a whim tonight, I started it again. In a different pov. In first person, not third. I had fun. It is rough around the edges. I’m awaiting feedback to see if I’ve totally lost it or not. It’s a style of voice I’d wanted to keep for a different wip. But I have a feeling it could be something this wip needs.

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