Columns > Published on April 21st, 2014

Path to Publication 2.2: On Being A Writer And Having Poor Impulse Control

My debut novel, New Yorked, will be published by Exhibit A Books in January 2015. Until then, I'll be writing about the path to getting that book published...


My first novel is the start of a series. In my last column, I talked a bit about the process of researching the sequel, City of Rose. You'd think, in the month since that column ran, I would have gotten a lot of work done. And you would be wrong!

If I were a smart person, I would have used my impending purchase of an XBox One as an incentive to work harder. I should have said: "Self, you can buy the XBox One only when you finish the first draft of your next book. Then you can play a straight week of Titanfall as a palate cleanser, before you have to get into the editing process." 

If I were a smart person, I would have used my impending purchase of an XBox One as an incentive to work harder... But I have poor impulse control.

But I have poor impulse control. So I bought it. And really, it's the definition of a catch-22: I wanted to use my advance to treat myself to something, and in the process turfed my chances of having the free time to write another book. And you know what? I'm fine with that. Titanfall, man. There is something so viscerally satisfying about being pinned down by enemy fire and then summoning a giant robot from the sky and then climbing inside it to fire rockets at people. Especially after a long day. 

(If you ever want to grab a match, my handle is robwhart. I'm deadly with the arc grenades.)

So, all these hours I've spent pumping bullets into skulls and ripping arms off robots has got me thinking a lot about how being a writer changes after you sell a book. The thing that used to be a calling suddenly becomes a job. It's still an amazing, wonderful, privilege of a job—but a job none the less.

Which means I've also been thinking about my work ethic. I tend to trap myself in a vicious cycle where I decide that I can't write unless I'm inspired, which is pretty dumb and self-absorbed. Or I come home after a long day dealing with MysteriousPress.com, dive into my responsibilities with LitReactor, and end the day so cross-eyed I can't imagine staring at the computer screen for another second. 

And yet, I'm already hearing the siren call of a stand-alone novel I want to write. And I've got enough ideas that my agent and I are having a hard time deciding which one I should prioritize. Which is a good thing. The door is open and all I have to do is stick my foot in, keep it from closing, and power through. Which means I need to apply my ass to my seat and write. 

Woe is me, right? But the thing I really need to think about is process. Coming up with a ritual of some kind and sticking to it. I'm not sure if it's a set number of words (1,000 words a day), or a set amount of time (at least one hour of fiction writing), but I need something. I'm curious to hear from the writers in the crowd—what are your rituals? Word counts? Timing? Time of the day? Phase of the moon? 

Getting all official and stuff

Speaking of the job part, I had a conference call with my publisher about marketing—me, my editor, Bryon Quertermous, Publicity Manager Caroline Lambe, and the North American Sales and Marketing Manager Mike Underwood. Great, smart, enthusiastic people, who are excited about the book and have some cool ideas on how to get this thing out into the world.

I'm helped along here a bit, considering I sell books for a living over at MysteriousPress.com, so I came into the call with a big list of ideas, and they were able to focus that list, and make it actionable, and then expand on it. It's interesting how, after spending so much time in such solitude on this thing, that it's suddenly turning into a team effort. There are people with a stake in this. 

There's a lot of cool stuff on the horizon. I have a unique idea for a book trailer. I've got an idea for a marketing campaign, and I don't want to use the word viral, because the word viral annoys me, but that's probably how most people would describe it. We even talked about the possibility of a book tour—I may be able to visit a couple of cities for events after this thing comes out. 

There's still a tinge of the unreal to all of this. The release date is still so far off, and I don't have a cover, or my edits, and I'm just facing the prospect of how this story is going to grow, and what it's going to mean to my future and my career, and it's a little scary—but damn, it's also a lot of fun. 

Speaking of events...

I think I decided something: I'm not going to read from my book when I'm at events. 

There are a couple of reasons for that: 

  • It's not a complete story, so there's no way you can't leave the audience hanging. 
  • It doesn't have the cadence of something that was written to be "performed." 
  • If someone is coming to a live event, do I want to read from the thing they're probably going to read anyway, or give them something fun and exclusive? 

I did read the opening of the book—half the first chapter—at Noir at the Bar in Baltimore. It was particularly exciting because it was two days before we made the official announcement about signing with Exhibit A, but I was able to tell the crowd, so they were the first ones to hear about it. And then I gave them a sneak peak at what was coming up. But I wasn't a huge fan of reading the work out loud—it felt like I was leaving too much off the table. I couldn't even get to the landing point at the end of the chapter, to bring it home. 

I think it's more enjoyable to write something specifically for readings. I did that for the last Noir at the Bar in NYC, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. It also gets you thinking about the mechanics of reading. I feel like there are a couple of things you SHOULDN'T do at a reading: Read a dialogue heavy piece (unless you're really good at doing voices, so the listeners can differentiate). Read something that requires a lot of set-up, so you spend five minutes just explaining the piece. Not making the audience laugh or cringe—you need to give them something to remember. 

There's a freedom is writing something that's specifically written to be read. Then you have the opportunity to play with the sound of it, with the spacing of the lines and the timing of big jokes. 

I'm working on a short right now for the next Noir at the Bar (see below) that I'm pretty excited about. And it serves a few purposes: It keeps something active in my writing queue, it challenges me to try something new, it has me thinking about performance and live readings and being better at them (because it's an area where I need work). 

I'm curious to know—what do y'all think of live readings? What do you hope to get out of the reader? Do you prefer a short, or do you want to hear from the novel they're selling? 

News round-up

  • Do you live in or around New York City? On April 27, you should come to Noir at the Bar. It's at Shade, at 241 Sullivan Street in the West Village. I'll be reading. There's a lot of great writers on the slate, and booze, and crepes. It'll be a good time. Starts at 6 p.m.
  • Check out the Spring 2014 issue of NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir. I have a story inside called "Knock-Off." It was inspired by the crazy people who dress up as cartoon characters in Times Square to scam tourists. 
  • I've got a newsletter. Sign up if you're interested in learning about cool, exclusive stuff. Chances are you won't hear from me until the book is close to coming out, but hey, gotta get started sometime. 
  • Cheers to Nik Korpon, who just signed with Exhibit A. This is another reason I'm excited about where I am—they're cultivating a list of very cool, talented people. 
  • As you can see below, the Amazon page is live! There's not much on it, save the plot description and my first blurb. But... progress!
  • Any questions or comments? Fire away!

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

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