Putting the Cart before the Horse


I’m currently hot and heavy writing the first draft of a new project. When polled to pick their favorite step in the writing process – prewriting (outlines, research, etc), first drafts, revisions, editing, and/or publishing – writer’s responses are typically all over the board. It’s a no-brainer for me. The first draft is when I feel the most alive, creatively, and if I’m not careful I can become so absorbed in the process I let other parts of my life suffer. Not a good habit to fall into.

But even when I’m conveying my random thoughts into a tale with some sense of structure and arc, I still find time to daydream. No, I’m not talking about taking quick peeks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even your blogroll. That’s something else entirely. What I mean is sitting back when you reach a chapter break or a certain word count you’ve set as a goal, and letting your mind wander. Inevitably it will drift into the future and allow you to experience what life will be like when the book you’ve been sweating over is finally revealed to the world. Doing that can serve as a great motivational technique, sometimes yielding thousands of additional words in an effort of reaching your musing more quickly.

While this is happening it is very easy to get caught up thinking about the various things you might want to do to market your book. You’ll want it to do well, so it’s natural to develop strategies to help maximize its exposure. I’m guilty of this myself. But here is where I feel things go haywire sometimes, and it involves putting the cart before the horse. During my tenure out here in the blogosphere, I’ve come across multiple posts that devote a great deal of time discussing promotional activities for books that have not even been completed yet. Now this is going to the extreme, but I’m sure plenty of writers spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about future moves on the checkerboard instead of focusing on the task at hand. It’s just another one of those procrastination quirks we have to fight through, but this one is more romantic than the others because it still involves our book, albeit not directly.

So take it from someone who knows, don’t get caught looking down the road and end up running into a ditch.

19 comments

  1. Hi DL - that is the cart before the horse isn't it .. great illustration too. I can imagine you getting totally stuck in - glad you're making progress ... and keep on that steady straight path .. cheers Hilary

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    1. It's not so much that I'm making progress, but more like I'm being pulled towards something. I think this one will be special. :)

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  2. Until I signed for each book, I had no idea what I was going to do for promotions outside of contacting some book bloggers and having a blog tour. And for my first book, I really had no clue.

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    1. Sometimes that's the best way to be Alex...clueless! :)

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  3. I'm on my second book and I still have no clue - I'm starting with a small blog tour, but after that, who knows. I'll figure it out as I go along.

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    1. That's the ticket...taking it slowly. Can't rush the good stuff. :)

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  4. Drafting is also my favorite part of the whole process!

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  5. I call that procrastinating; but whatever makes you productive :) I never even think up the casting couch until I'm ready to query. Then the real dreaming begins. I prefer the editing and revision phase myself.

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  6. My favorite part of the writing process is the brainstorming! I love outlining and planning and writing down all of my ideas. The first draft is probably my next favorite. First draft revisions are probably my least favorite because I feel so overwhelmed with how much there is to fix. But you just have to take it one step at a time.

    Good luck and have fun with your first draft!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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    1. Long time no hear, Laura. So great to see you again. Sure miss your quotes. I do a lot of my brainstorming with my family, so it's right near the top of the list. :)

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  7. I'm with you - love the drafting high of a new story! Anything is possible and any bumps can be easily gotten over by putting in square brackets. [fix this] [add tag] [look this up] and so on... Then comes the editing slog...

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  8. I'm guilty of this. I developed an interactive game for my series only one book in.

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    1. Being a bit early aside...that's a novel idea! :)

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  9. I love writing first drafts too. That's probably why I'm currently sitting on 4 drafted but un-revised books at the moment.... But I certainly have never started thinking about how I'd market them before they're done. And I work in marketing too!

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  10. I think it's because of all of the agent sites, or "how to get an agent" posts, that make suggestions like "prove you can sell" or "show you have fans already" and "get lots of followers and anyone can land a book deal." It's tempting, even easy, to dismiss that. Then you see a book by some reality show celebrity-of-the-season on the center table at Big & Notable bookstore, and flip through it to find some dictionary-vomit, and wonder how this book exists... oh right, they proved they could sell because they already have fans and followers. People buy it not to read it but because it's by someone they like. (Not to imply that all those celebrity books are bad. But I have seen two that made me question humanity...) And I'm guessing that's how a lot of people end up putting that cart before the horse. Maybe even a few horses. Trying to get horses to push instead of pull. Some writers even try blogging the book. That sounds crazy. (Unless you wrote The Martian and now have Matt Damon playing your main character.) Or the writer didn't even plan a book, but was just screwing around having some fanfiction fun and then suddenly there was 50 shades of bookdeals and movies. Knowing those two examples of carts before horses can really screw with the head!

    I would guess a few people have grown to a place where they come up with a basic construct and then test market to see if it is worth developing. Is it marketable? Before valuable time is devoted, and possibly valuable money as well, is this book marketable? Will anyone who doesn't know me buy it? (Heck, will the people who do know me even buy it??)

    Taste this sauce. Is it good? Before I dump it on $75 worth of steak, I want to know if it's good. Yeah? Okay, is it still good with the steak? Allllll rightttyyy... maybe I can sell this recipe/ food.

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