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20 September 2012

To me, writing isn’t something you do by finding one tiny narrow niche and sticking to it forever more. That is something that produces burnout, boredom, and a strong desire to move on – sooner rather than later. But then sticking to that tiny niche has never been my forte, even if many in the business think it should be how writers operate. Years back Andre Norton told me a joke commonly heard in USA writer circles.

A woman sits down to write her first fiction book. It’s brilliant, insightful, and becomes a best seller overnight. About a year later the publisher comes to her. “Your book was wonderful, but we think that you need to do a second book to keep the momentum. We want another novel from you that’s exciting, fresh, completely new – and exactly the same as the other one.”

Which, as she said, is why, increasingly, American publishers want a series, and not a line of standalone books.

I don’t operate that way, which is why I’m far less likely to burn out, become discouraged, or bored and quit writing. Yes, I do write series, but aside from my usual short stories and books, I also write (and often see published) the occasional poem, ordinary articles, a series of articles on ‘making savings’ for our local small newspaper, my blog with five sections, and assorted other items that are often written for fun with no great expectation of selling or winning.

That’s been typical this past few weeks when I’ve been a competitor in the karaoke poetry competition in town (and won the Pam Ayres section – mmm, lots of chocolate.) Written a poem for entry into a specialized poetry competition in Napier, completed a piece of ‘art writing’ for a competition in Wellington, and sent our local paper an article on dealing with hangovers – Xmas is coming. During the period and as actual writing work I’ve been revising my latest Daze book, revising a new book not yet sold, and putting together a short story collection I hope to sell. I write to sell my work, yes. But about half the time selling what I wrote is a byproduct of having had fun doing something. And the outcome is a lack of boredom, burnout, or bafflement as to what I should do next. There’s always something to do. Oh, and retirement? What’s that? No writer who has a working brain and the ability to produce words has to retire, and personally I intend to write just so long as those criteria apply.


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