Writing more and more books per year...Why should you bother?

Books (Photo credit: henry…)
Is it madness? American writers are gearing up to writing more than one book per year - some set themselves the goal of 4 books per year! Of course big name writers who have long been on the NYT best seller list and have the means can do it: they use teams of assistants to help them - people who do the research for them and (probably) write up pieces that they can then use with a minimum of editing. But the others?

Why should any author aspire to writing 4 books a year? A writer on a popular blog, Author Culture, recently wrote that he would "love to be in a position where [he] could churn out upwards of eight titles a year". Why would he ever want to do such an apparently insane thing? Because he is extremely ambitious, that's why: he's planned on producing some 50 to 60 titles over his lifetime as a fiction author, and by speeding up yearly production, he'd be able to achieve his life goal much, much sooner,  in seven years instead of seventy! And probably produce more than 50 books, maybe double that or triple that amount! Imagine going to your grave having authored upwards of 200 or 300 titles!

Wow! I'm impressed! And why so many books? Because he says he's bubbling up with stories: he had started out with the modest goal of one book/year when he realized that if he kept that pace, he'd have to live past one hundred years "just to write the stories that had come to [his] mind in the last seven years"...An explosion, a tsunami!

Certainly this is admirable. And also it helps that he writes in a genre - action/adventure thrillers - where you tweak the setting, twist the plot and modify the characters and voilĂ , you get a new story with every new variant.

If you're in that enviable position of having so many stories to tell in your genre, then follow his advice, I found it quite thoughtful and spot on, particularly the idea of participating in NaNoWriMo to get your writing hand exercised (you have to write 50,000 words in one month) and as an added bonus, you get to make contacts with fellow writers both on line and physically - which can always come in handy should you decide to publish your NaNoWriMo produced book. I've got a fellow writer who did this and she was very pleased with the result.

Another good idea is to write more than one book at a time. Actually, I suspect that's something most writers do. I know I do: for example, I'm working on my novella I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU BEHIND, I'm putting the finishing touches on my BB novel A HOOK IN THE SKY (BB stands for Baby Boomers - the novel's main protagonist is a recently retired Baby Boomer), I'm translating Fear of the Past back into Italian with the help of an Italian editor, Giuseppe Bonanno di Linguaglossa who's curating it and has given it a smashing new title: IL VOLO DELLA FENICE ( the Flight of the Phoenix), love it! And he plans to release it in the form of a trilogy this fall. Then RICH, FAT AND BORED, a novel set in Tunisia needs a profound rewrite so that it takes in the events of the Arab Spring. And I've got a couple of non-fiction titles in the works as well: about the United Nations (having worked 25 years for the UN, I really know it from the inside) and the biography of Lievin Bauwens, Napoleon's favorite entrepreneur...

Will all this add up over time to some 50 titles or more? I doubt it. And it's certainly NOT my goal. I'll write just what comes to me naturally and following my interests and instincts. To try and produce a set number of books per year sounds so...mechanical. I know I couldn't do it and I'm not even interested. Because one thing is certain: if I don't enjoy what I'm writing, if I'm forcing myself to produce 5,000 words/day, then it's no good. Oh, sure, if a novel has got suspense or sex it might be fun to read, but it won't be literature.

Bottom line, it depends on your writing goal in life. If you want to be a successful genre writer and make money, it is true that you have to produce several titles a year, the more the better. If you're not a genre writer (my case), then you needn't worry. Write as much or as little as you like and feel comfortable doing.

In short: don't despair! This is one race you don't need to get into!

I know I won't. I can't possibly produce more than a couple of books/year, and probably only one book a year (if that) once I will have finished releasing my backlog. I'm totally, completely convinced that a high number of books produced does not equal a high quality of literature. 

Indeed, even among the classics, I don't think there's more than two or three titles per author that matter - I mean books that are really worthwhile and memorable and will stay on as beacons in the History of Literature. Even a giant in world literature like Tolstoy is only associated with a couple of novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina and perhaps the novella Death of Ivan Ilyich. Yet he's written a lot more...How many of his other books have you read or do you plan to read?

Because there's another consideration: how many readers are there out there who can absorb so many books? If you've got one million writers (the probably number in the English language), can one expect the market to absorb 200 million books over the next fifty years? 
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