Writing Toolbag: Expectation Management

Sometimes your expectations can lead you astray...
Sometimes your expectations can lead you astray…

We’ve all been there, you’ve got all these grand ideas and images, you’re certain you have the best story, best thing ever.  You’re going to write it and awards, accolades and money are going to shower down from the heavens…

And then as you sit there in front of the computer, you feel that your writing is crap, that no one wants to read this drivel.  You try to write, but you’re too busy, you fall behind on your writing goals,

This is sort of how your loved ones feel when you're cranky about your writing.
This is sort of how your loved ones feel when you’re cranky about your writing.

you come to hate writing, even come to hate the people who said you should write.  Then the next thing you know you’re hacking a door down with a fire ax.

Okay, that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration.

The point is, you need to have some realistic expectations about your writing, your sales, and things in general.  Don’t expect things to be like the movies.  You aren’t going to write the perfect manuscript on the first try, send it off to a publisher (or self publish), and then be overwhelmed with money, awards, and film options.

Writing is hard.  This is something that all writers realize.   Most of us hit points in writing each book where we severely question what we’re doing.  The “Dreaded Middle”, writing humps, writer’s block… everyone runs into parts where they sit down in front of their work and feel like they can’t go on, that what they’re producing is terrible.

What happens with me is that I’ll want to do something else.  Anything else.  My wife realizes I’m hating what I’m writing when I’m asking for the third time if the trash needs to go out or sorting my socks.  Sometimes this leads to me writing on other projects or

The key thing here is that words on the page are what will get you through.  It doesn’t matter at the time if everything you write feels like crap.  That’s what editing is for.  And trust me, some of the “worst” scenes I’ve written when I come back and look at them with fresh eyes have been much better than I thought.

Don’t view writing as a complete process.  Never assume that what you write is final (not until you publish it).  There’s always editing, tweaking, and perfecting.  The goal of writing a novel, novella, or short story is to  get it done.   Once you’ve written the whole thing, you can worry about rewrites.

Also, don’t think that your first novel is going to be the best.  Writing is a continuous effort towards improvement.  You always have room to improve, to challenge yourself.  I’m not talking about gimmicks like writing a certain number of words a day, I’m talking about improving your craft.  Writing better characters, crafting a better story, a tighter plot.  Acknowledge that what you’ve written has room for improvement and move on.

I’ll take a moment to mention sales.  Sales (and reviews) will always be frustrating.  When you sell a huge number of books for no apparent reason one day only to have zero sales (or one, which can be more frustrating) the next.  Sometimes you’ll have a dozen reviews for your book pop up over a week… other times you’ll fight to get even one review for a book which has sold a thousand copies.

You have to just accept your sales for what they are.  Promotion, self promotion, advertising, these are all tools, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to individual reader preference.  People being people, they’ll buy your book if they want… or not.  Don’t get wrapped around sales, especially if they’re not where you want them to be.  Religiously hitting the update button on KDP or your publishing platform of choice to see if you’ve sold a book is not only OCD, but it uses up time you should be using for writing your next story.

The key part to all of this is to set realistic goals.  Don’t tell yourself you’ve got to write the entire novel in a week if you’ve only managed a few pages over the past month.  Don’t get too wrapped up in the quality of your writing, especially not for your first (or second or third) novel, especially not on the first draft.  Cut yourself a little slack.  Writing is hard.

In the end, writing is emotionally taxing.  If you can manage your expectations, if you can set realistic goals, you can manage the emotional and mental cost of writing.  You can be more productive (and happier with yourself) if you go into it with a clear understanding of what you expect to get out of it.  At the end of the day, that’s what you want, right, to be happy?

Writers just want to be happy people…

One thought on “Writing Toolbag: Expectation Management”

  1. This reminds me of something a writer friend of mine always tells me, actually! He says “don’t work about writing the best thing or a new thing, just write.” If you are constantly thinking about the end result of it all, you won’t be able to create much anyway. Thanks for the good read 🙂


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