Simon Wood

SHELF LIFE: Criminal Habits

Today is a guest post from New  York Times bestselling author Rebecca Cantrell.  She’s fun, talented and a good friend–or so she tells me.  Anyway, she’s here to tell us what a terrible person she is.
What are my worst writing habits?
Someone recently asked me about my worst habits as an author. Sadly, I have too many to list here, but I decided to give you the top five that would be considered criminal in writer’s court, punishable by not getting as much writing done as I think I should. Here are the top 5, in reverse order. Try not to be too shocked.
5. Worrying about deadlines or sales or anything else. It’s a terrible waste of time, very neurotic. And I do it anyway. But I’m trying to stop. I am. Let me just check my numbers on Amazon and then I’ll be right back.
4. Remembering only the bad reviews. My first novel, A Trace of Smoke, got almost uniformly great reviews, including starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and Library Journal. Do I remember quotes from them? No. But four years after it came out I can still recite all the damning bits from the ‘mixed’ New York Times review. Obviously, this is a trend that must be reversed. I must set about memorizing the good reviews and blurbs and become positively insufferable.
3. Not backing things up. I do back up my work. But not my iPhone. Not when I’m traveling. This one ranks so high because a couple of gallons of the Chesapeake Bay killed my iPhone with all my pictures from my New York tour on it. I should have known better. I did know better. And I got punished for it. So, now I back up more. In fact, I just went and backed something up now.
2. Over-researching. My books often have historical elements, so I have to do a lot of research. But I overdo it because it’s just plain fascinating. I find out tons of things I don’t really need to know to finish the book. For example, I have a scene with Hitler in it in A Night of Long Knives. I read tons of diary entries of people who were at that event, bits from the Nuremberg trial, historical analyses, etc. I compiled them all and picked out what I needed for my scene. That should have been enough. But I kept going. I call it the “what would Hitler smoke?” syndrome. He’s not smoking in the scene, so I don’t need to know it. But I do. In fact, that’s a trick question. Hitler was a nonsmoker. (hey, I did get to use that bit of research somewhere!)
1. Spending too much time on the Internet. Sure, I can pretend that some of it’s promotion and some of it even is, but I think I’d get a lot more done if I moved to a remote island with no Internet connectivity.  Wait, I did live on a remote island. It didn’t help. The Internet was there, too.
What are your writer’s crimes? Reader’s crimes?



3 Responses to “SHELF LIFE: Criminal Habits”

  1. RA Odum

    My writers’ crimes:

    1. Worrying I’m not marketing and promoting enough. They say that marketing is 90 percent and writing is 10. I feel that I don’t do ninety percent of marketing. I am still figuring it out. It’s the hard part about being an author. And I’m an indie author so I’m doing it all on my own.

    2. I used to have a habit of reading reviews–my book hasn’t been out that long–but I have banned myself from reading any, even the good ones! I don’t go on goodreads, I only go on amazon to get the link to post to something. I was reading them when the book first came out but when I got some one star and two star reviews I decided that its not doing me any good to read them. Some may differ on this but I find that reviews aren’t for authors, they are for the readers. Authors have editors and beta readers to tell them what works and what doesn’t. We don’t need to get upset over a mean spirited one star.

    So since I’m fairly new at this author thing, that is my crimes so far. I am sure there will be more along the way. And as for checking sales, I really don’t do it that often. I sometimes will go days without checking.

    Okay that is all! Great post by the way!

    • Rebecca Cantrell

      Good for you for staying away from the reviews! I agree that reviews are not the best place to learn craft. 🙂

      I would say you should write WAY WAY WAY more than you market. Certainly not 90/10, not even 50/50. Writing is the most important thing a writer can do. Period.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>