LOUISE CUSACK

The guilty pleasure of solitary writing

I work with writers a lot, helping them hone their stories, find agents and publishers, then guiding them as they launch their books, physically and across social media. So I’m well acquainted with the tasks most authors undertake during various parts of the publication process, and I wonder if readers realize how much ‘work’ away from the actual writing itself, is necessary to produce a successful novel.

This year so far I’ve assessed manuscripts, conducted writing workshops, mentored clients, judged a major writing competition, and completed two computer game company residencies developing fantasy world-building. I’ve also restructured my two websites and spent approx 120 hours on social networking promoting my own work and that of fellow authors.

So… not as much time for writing as I’d like. However, this week things are different.

I’ve just embarked on a month dedicated to completing my Lost World fantasy Silk and I’m reveling in the deliciousness of having carved out a slab of time simply to write. No manuscripts to assess, no workshops to present, the babbling stream of Facebook and Twitter have been replaced by the silent sweep of imagination, and I’m in nirvana.

Really. I dream of this being my whole life (perhaps with some therapeutic gardening and obsessive clothes washing tossed in). And when I discuss this idea with other writers they get a glazed look, coupled with an almost-smile as they imagine what life would be like if they could simply write their stories and do nothing more. It’s like dreaming of winning the lotto. I mean it! Most writers I know spend far more time than they want to on promotion. And if they have to do something other than writing, I’m sure they’d rather be nosing around a bazaar in Istanbul, the bright lights of Vegas, or exploring the Medici Chapel in Florence for research.

Although that might be just me.

Still, no matter what we cram into our lives, the reality is that good books need time to incubate, time to be lovingly drafted, carefully edited and painstakingly proofed. Yet there are SO many books on the market, with thousands more being added each day. The sheer volume of novels in cyber bookstores like Amazon overwhelm readers who are looking for quality, and that volume also bludgeons the hopes of writers who become ever more desperate to find an audience for their work amid the bustle and confusion of the Internet. Writers are told to be a brand, and promote that brand relentlessly, often at the expense of time and energy. But little time and low energy equals crappy output, so it’s not an optimal situation for writers who want to build a readership.

I don’t have definitive answers, but when the question of what to do becomes loud in my mind I remember NY agent Donald Maass visiting Australia several years ago and telling the audience at the Romance Writers of Australia conference that “The best form of promotion an author can do is to write a good book. And the next best form of promotion is to write another good book.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing a good book. Luckily for me, every second with the characters is thrilling me. It’s like a clandestine affair where the real world is on hold while I pander to my desire for excitement, emotion and drama. I adore that, and it’s my intention that readers will too. So if you don’t see a lot of me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Google+, it will simply be because I’m not in this world. I’m on a Lost World based on Renaissance Italy helping a young ambassador choose between the prince she despises who can save her world, and the engineer she loves who can destroy it. Nirvana, pure and simple.