Thursday, April 4, 2013

It’s The Focus, Stupid!

The editor’s fingers drummed on top of her desk, her eyes steady, friendly enough, but not kind, “You have been claiming you’re going to get four books out this year—three of your novels and the next Land for Love and Money.”

I felt myself blink. “Yep!”

“Where are they?”

I launched into my mantra. “Well, the Sandy storm shut you folks down, and then I decided to rewrite the last third of Uncompahgre and, hell, this is only December…”

She brusquely cut me off, “Are you making improvements to your ranch this year?”

I felt my eyes widen. What the @**# does that have to do with this? “Yes—irrigation and field work on two fields on the spread…”

“Just two?” she interrupted me again with a wry smile.

“Yep. Try to do more and nothing will get installed.”

She nodded. “Exactly. So if that’s true for the cowboy and his ranches, what makes you think it’s less applicable to the author and his books?”

Of course, she was right.

“It’s the focus, Stupid.” That has been my grimaced message to myself in the mirror the past month.
There’s a host of things to attend to on the ranch side of my equation, compounded by the morons in Washington DC – and I include all of them, both parties, left or right. But that is yet another tale. And then there’s life, and the never ending promotion of the books.

When I finally do sit down to write, and those first several paragraphs setting the scene are on the page, it’s as if I’ve stepped through a portal. I am on the stage, it is 1855, and there is the smell of sage, gunpowder, perfume and the land. The characters smile, nod their heads as if they have missed me, and begin to again tell me the story. Then I can write like the wind – three to six thousand words a day, and sometimes more. The problems are two-fold. First, finding the time to sit down and do the first two transportive paragraphs. Second, now that the single cell in my thick cowboy skull has acknowledged that more focus on fewer books, and a set schedule taking into account the incredible myriad of mandatory steps will actually result in more “walk” and less “talk” in getting the highest quality books out and into your hands!

It wasn’t until we sat down during January and really mapped out the schedules to some of the smallest details (though even then not to the nth degree) that I realized how right they were. There are more than one hundred critical steps between story concept and the pages in a reader’s hands. The Cowboy had blissfully and woefully underestimated.

I’ve tipped my cowboy hat back and I’m scratching my forehead vigorously. “What the hell was I thinking?”

So in summary, apologies for getting Book 3 out later than I wanted or you anticipated, but taking a step back now means ten steps forward in the future. Adjusting the Uncompahgre release results in a schedule and structure critical to a realistic two Threads West books per year—still more than the typical big series schedule of a single novel per annum.

Yes, I write because I love to write. I pen because I have a story to tell.  I bond with the characters that live in the pages because they are me, and you, and real people we all know. I immerse myself in the tale because there are multiple messages on many levels that I want to send. But above all, I write because you like to read.  Thoughts, comments, or what have you are welcome!

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