Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rethinking My Publishing Plans

At the beginning of the month, I mysteriously mentioned that I was "reconsidering publishing tactics." Well, since then I have spent about half a dozen journal pages--and a fair bit o' brainspace--tossing the ideas about. Though it scares me a little to move these thoughts from a private journal and personal conversations to a place as public as a blog . . . I shall bare my soul. (Not really. Just inform you of my thought processes on this topic.)

The blog post that knocked me over

In July, I read a post on She's Novel that tossed all my plans upside down. (By the by, if you've never checked out Kristen Kieffer's blog, you're missing out on some awesomely detailed writing advice!) In How to Create a Smart + Savvy Publishing Plan, Kristen talks about how your first novel is not necessarily the one you should publish first.

The whole post is golden, but what really jumped out at me was this: for a publishing house, signing a brand new author is always a risk. But it's riskier to publish a debut author's first-book-in-a-series than it is to publish a debut standalone novel. Because what if that first-in-a-series flops? They're left with an unfinished series, which is kind of awkward for everyone involved. If it's a standalone (especially one with series potential) however, it's not as big a deal if it bombs; and if it succeeds, they can capitalize on it by having the author write follow-up books.

Or--here's another thing--if you have a series you want to publish, but you're a new author . . . You could publish a standalone in the same (or similar) genre to prove to publishers, "Hey, I can actually sell genre X. I have an audience! They like what I'm writing! And, just a little aside, I also have a four-book series in that genre I'd like to get out there."

And the publisher might say, "What's that? A series in the same genre? Can we have that too, please and thank you?"

Because you've got a track record, taking on your series is now less risky.

What does this mean?

Remember my long-time baby, The Prophet's Quest? For years, it's been my dream and my plan to publish that first, and to follow it up with The Prophet's Key and at least a couple more books in the series. Epic high fantasy with dragons and world-hopping--that's my jam. It's a series I've poured time and effort and pieces of myself into since I was twelve.

Now all of a sudden, I'm hearing advice that suggests delaying that plan. Again. If there was one word that could sum up the journey of writing this Journeys of the Chosen series, it would be DELAY.

I read the She's Novel post, nodded along to some parts, but kind of passed off the rest as a "that might be good for you, but not for me" sort of thing. (Don't we all like to think we're the exception to the rule?) But I gave it some more thought, and uncomfortably realized she made a lot of sense. Plus, I don't relish the idea of shopping The Prophet's Quest around for months, if not years, waiting for a bite.

Now I'm thinking it would be the wisest course of action to first put out a YA fantasy standalone, and then get TPQ & Company into the big, wide world.

The next question is what that standalone should be. Why, The Brightest Thread, of course! While trimming it down to size for the Five Magic Spindles contest last year, I ached because there was so much more story to explore, and the word limit kept me from doing so. But even in its lean, streamlined form, this story made it to the top ten list,* which gives me hope that it could become a successful debut novel--once I expand it, of course.

*I'm still in shock when I think about it!

There was something special about writing The Brightest Thread. I felt as if I'd truly discovered my voice. The story and I just clicked, and though there were struggles along the way, most of the writing felt very natural. Very much me. In the context of a fairy tale world, I could paint in vivid color and deepest black. I could craft my sentences with musicality and rhythm and punch. I could draw out themes in a fantastical way different from the more grounded Journeys of the Chosen books. Thinking back on Luci, Hadrian, Aleida, and Vyntyri, I sense they have a fuller story to tell.

But reaching this decision was not one resolute nod of the head and squaring of the shoulders. Like I do with many big decisions, I deliberated. A lot.


  1. It feels like abandoning my "baby," Journeys of the Chosen. I've never been the type to leave a good story in the dust to chase after a shiny new one. I hate quitting things I'm passionate about.
  2.  It feels like betraying the mentors who helped me so vastly with The Prophet's Quest.
  3. I'm scared that after expanding and publishing The Brightest Thread, I would return to my series and discover I've outgrown it. And if my love for it does grow cold, maybe TPQ was never meant to see the light of day. Oh, it pains me to entertain such thoughts!

My brain offered arguments against all three hesitations, however.

  1. It's not abandonment, just postponement. I don't want to give up Journeys! I will come back to it, just at a later date than expected.
  2. Practically speaking, it's not betrayal. The mentorship I've received has affected all of my writing, not just this series.
  3. I have outgrown them numerous times, and each time the series has evolved along with me. Every break away only fosters my love for it, so that when I come back, it's new and exciting again.
At the end of the day, I really just need to trust God with this series. Trust that He knows best, and that every delay and detour is for a reason. My dreams, including my dream career as an author, is safe in His hands. Whatever twists the road may take are not surprising to Him.

So what's the plan?

Once I get back into agent research, this means I'll be researching with The Brightest Thread foremost in my mind, and Journeys second. And it probably also means I won't begin querying this year like I thought. There's information to gather and things to write first.

But I don't like leaving one project hanging unfinished for long, so I will finish drafting The Prophet's Key before moving on. It's currently sitting at just under 60k words. I've been consistently adding approximately 10k a month, so at this rate I expect to finish sometime between the end of 2016 and the end of my first year of college. That's a big window, I know, but it's impossible to predict how much I'll be able to work on it while in school!

TPK is trying to throw a bit of a wrench into those loose plans, though. It's telling me it needs to be split into two books. Say what now? Well, the pacing is weird. According to my outline, I kind of have two climaxes. There's a very distinct line between the first half of the book and the second half--and the first is becoming quite a large half, even though there are lots of details I've left out. We'll see. I'll have a better idea of whether or not to split it up once I reach that halfway point.

(And today is not the day to get into the concern that if I split it, book 2 will be a letdown for readers. After spending most of book 1 in Alewar, who's going to want to hang out on Earth for a whole book? But I said I wouldn't go into that . . .)

Anywhozens. Once that draft of TPK is complete, whether it's half my outline or the whole kit and caboodle, I want to rewrite an expanded version of The Brightest Thread.

And then we shall think about querying agents and such!

It's my not-so-secret hope to go to the Realm Makers writing conference . . . hopefully next year? It's being held in Reno, Nevada, which is a long ways away for me--but Ted Dekker is going to be the keynote speaker. (!!!) I mention this now because wouldn't it be the most awesome thing ever to have The Brightest Thread rewritten in time to pitch it to agents at the conference?! Big dreams, yes, but it's something to shoot for, right?

Flexibility is key!

Some of these things are next to impossible to plan because there's no way of knowing how full life will be or how well the stories will flow. If nothing else, I have the sequence of events laid out--finish drafting The Prophet's Key, write the new and improved The Brightest Thread, get TBT published, then start publishing the Journeys of the Chosen series. It's the timeline that is very much subject to change!

And now I've talked about myself for more than long enough. I wanted to keep y'all in the loop, but didn't mean to get so longwinded.

So. A question for you: as a reader, do you prefer standalones or series? How about as a writer, if you are one?


  1. OH MY GOODNESS. THIS POST. I loved hearing all about your new plans, and I also sympathize because yes, it's tough to make decisions like this to take a break from a precious series... But ultimately, I think your plan sounds like a fantastic one! :D (No pun intended. ;))

    I think I currently like reading standalones... just because I have so much going that jumping into series for the long haul is daunting to me? But if I do start a series, if I like the first book I'm normally pretty excited to read more with those characters in that world... So I'm mixed on that. Both are good, but I'm definitely of the opinion that a first published novel being a standalone (but with series-potential) is a good idea. And that if you DO start with the first in a planned series, it's good to have the ENTIRE series written before the first is published! So many series I've heard of have major plot troubles later and headaches for the authors because they didn't write them all first... :P

    As a writer, most of my ideas are standalones... currently. But I also have a tendency to write a book (or start a book) and a new idea in the same place or with the same characters likes to raise its head and go "HI THERE." Tare's book was supposed to be a standalone and now I have 4 novels, 3 novellas and 2 short stories planned. ...Er, yeah. >.> *shifty eyes* I also have a tendency to get attached to a side character and promise them a spin-off sequel just so they don't take over the first book. XD Once you get attached, it's super tempting to turn AAAALL of the things into series. Ain't nobody got time for that, but I never said we writers were reasonable. ;)

    ANYWAY. Now I'm babbling. All that to say, sounds like a tough decision but I'm rooting for you and I hope your plans will go GREAT! Best of luck on finishing the first draft of TPK and expanding TGT! :D SO MUCH EXCITING. (I know that feeling about wondering if we should chop a book in half. Yikes. I've been there. It's very confusing. Hope you figure it out!) Also if you can continue at the rate you are going once college starts, you will confirm my suspicions that you're not human, but rather a super-human writer... elf or something. XD Thanks for sharing your thoughts, this was a wonderful post, and I always love hearing how your writing is going! Also a good question for many of us... which story to focus on. *nods*

    1. THANK YOU FOR SUCH A WONDERFUL COMMENT, DEBORAH. <3 And your pun is appreciated. XD

      Yes, series require a bigger commitment! I'm in the middle of so many, it feels like. So standalones are definitely easier to pick up during those busy times. I've had the same thoughts about having the entire series written before getting it published! After editing book 1, book 2 is now getting rewritten completely because a) a ton of stuff has totally changed, and b) my writing has improved since I initially wrote book 2. I can imagine that it would be tough to not be able to go back and rework things as you go along! It would be fabulous if I could get all the Journeys books written prior to publishing...

      I get so many "HI THERE'S" it's not even funny. XD It seems like with almost everything I write, it wants to expand and spin off and basically grow flaily tentacles all over the place. It can be a problem. So I hear ya! Ohhh, getting attached to side characters makes it so tempting to write them books of their own! ;) Heheh, Tare just wants to monopolize your time.

      I'm all for babbling. ^_^ Thank you SO much for your support and encouragement on this journey! I appreciate that. It makes the day to day grind easier to push through, knowing I have friends cheering for me. <3
      I may not prove to be a superhuman elf writer... But that would be awesome. XD

  2. I'm not going to go into too much detail here because I'll be sharing all my thoughts on this subject in our email (which I will answer, I promise!), but for now I want to say: I'M PROUD OF YOU!!! And I actually know what you're going through! Now, I haven't spent neeeearly as long on a book as you have with TPK. (I'm just in awe every time I think about how hard and long you've poured yourself into that book.) BUT I do know the struggles of wanting to publish a series but knowing, deep down, it'd be better to start with a standalone. Which is where Burning Thorns came in. I find it CRAZY that we're both considering Rooglewood entries as our first standalone. #BRAINTWINS

    Anyways! I know this is hard and headache inducing, but I think you're doing the right thing. Jill Williamson first started trying to publish a missionary/agent series she had, but it was so weird no one was biting. So instead she switched to fantasy as her debut novels. Then when those started selling and she became very popular, publishers were more than happy to pick up her weird missionary/agent series.

    TPQ WILL get published. Of that I have NO doubt. It just might not be its time. You are NOT abandoning it or letting anyone down. You're just taking the time to put down the roadwork so your fantasy series can zoom along and shine. If you think about it, pursuing publishing with TBT first, is still working hard for TPQ. Because once you have your first novel published, you'll have your name out there, and TPQ will have all the more readers! Everything you do is yet one step closer to getting TPQ out there.

    And, as you said, flexibility is key! I'm learning that verrry slowly and tediously. But it's so true!

    You just keep praying about it, and know I support you every step of the way! *huggles*

    1. No rush on that email! (I DID take like six months to get back to YOU, so...) But alskfjsalfj, you sweet thing! Thanks hugely for all the encouragement! Like I said to Deborah, the support means a lot. ^___^ But yeah, isn't it crazy/cool how we're both hoping to publish our Rooglewood entries?? I love it!

      Very neat to hear of a specific example--a real, live author who made this work for her. :D Speaking of Jill Williamson, I need to read her books someday, especially the fantasy stuff...

      *clutches heart* That's so encouraging! You're right, this is part of laying down the roadwork so that TPQ will have the ability to get out there in the future. I love that perspective--thank you! All the delays and detours really are building blocks and stepping stones.

      It is such a slow lesson to learn, isn't it? Ugh. XD

      I can't even say thank you enough, Christine! *huggles*

  3. Changing publishing plans or even writing plans is super difficult. I hope it goes well for you! And remember, you're right. It's not abandonment! You're just putting it on hold. You're gaining more experience and then when you come back to your baby (you know, that WIP that is like your one true love WIP?) you'll have all the experience to back you up with it! It's going to be great! :)

    1. It is, isn't it, especially when you've had them set in stone in your mind for a while. Yep, one true love WIP indeed! There's definitely sentimental value attached to it, besides a general love for the story. Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Ashley! ^_^

  4. This is my first time here, but I still really enjoyed this post! I'm so excited for you! Putting aside a series you've spent so long on is soooo hard (I had to do the same thing last year) but it is comfort to know you'll come back to it eventually. This post is so well written. I can't wait to read your books! <3

    1. Hey, welcome here, Hannah!!! I'm glad this was enjoyable even for a brand new visitor. :) Oh, it's wonderful to hear other people have gone through this too, the whole putting something aside thing. Makes it an easier change to swallow, you know? ^_^

  5. What a fascinating post :) I honestly hadn't thought of publishing in that way at all - but it does make sense to be able to 'prove yourself' and that a standalone might do better! I'm writing the first in a series, but I'm realllllly trying to make it have the much needed 'standalone with series potential' vibe.

    Your books sound great, especially that fantasy series ;)

    1. Thanks! :) I hadn't thought of it this way either, until I read the She's Novel post. Depending on the series, books definitely CAN be read as standalones will still belonging to a greater whole. It's doable!

      Thanks so much! I hope you get to read it one day. And thanks for stopping by Adventure Awaits!

  6. I know this kind of thing is a tough decision. When I made the decision to focus on a new idea as opposed to an old idea it was really hard, but it's paid off. My happy medium is switching in between them though, while one is sitting before editing I edit the other one. Good luck with this new decision! And I hope to see you at Realm Makers! Squee! I'd love to meet you in person.

    1. Great idea, switching off between projects! That's been serving me well recently, too. The novellas I've been entering in the Rooglewood contests have offered breaks from my fantasy series... It's fun to switch gears. Keeps the creative juices flowing. Glad to know you've been there too!

      Thanks! Eeeep, wouldn't that be the BEST? I really hope to go!

  7. Thanks SO much for sharing this with us! I can definitely understand how this would be a hard choice to make. I'm nowhere near ready for publication, but when I do try querying (one day waaaay off in the future), I will probably do a stand-alone. I generally prefer stand-alones because they're less of a commitment in my crazy-busy life. It's sooo hard to read each book in succession, and I feel like I need to do that with series (especially Bryan Davis's). But I also love series because I get to know the characters better and go on more adventures with them. ARGH, it's so hard to choose! But yes, generally stand-alones are my thing. :D

    I'm honestly in awe of you. Putting a project on hold can be TOUGH. I know. But it sounds like you're making a great decision and that it will ultimately work better in the end. Besides, you can always come back to your epic fantasy series, and you'll probably discover some awesome new things you want to do with it. ^_^

    I wish I could be more helpful, but seeing as I'm fairly new to "real" writing (I'm not counting any of the "books" I wrote as a middle-schooler *shudders*), I'm afraid I can't offer any insight or really share my experiences with querying. Because, like I said, I won't be journeying into that field for a looooong time.

    Regardless of my lack of experience, just know that I will ALWAYS be behind you. Feel free to send me long, rambling emails (you know, like usual ;D) or requests to word war. Or even if you just need a virtual hug or someone to rant to, I'll be here. ^_^

    Lots of love to you, girl! YOU CAN DO THIS!!!

    (P.S. That would be sooo cool if you went to Realm Makers! Lots of my writing friends have been in the past, and though it's verrrry unlikely I will go next year, I know it will be a fantastic experience for you!)

    1. Ahh, thanks so much for reading, girl! There are definitely pros and cons to both series and standalones, that's for sure. Less commitment for a standalone, more adventures with beloved charries in a series... I don't know if I could pick a favorite, either! (Though I tend to write series.) Are you the type to read each book in a series back to back, or do you read other stuff in between?

      D'awww, Mary. *internet hugs* ;) You're right, each time I take a break and then come back to it, I'm refreshed and ready to look at it with new eyes!

      That means so much--thank you! Having buddies along for the ride makes it 100000x better. ^_^

      P.S. I knoooow, I've been jealous of all those writesr/bloggers, LOL! It would be awesome if you could go sometime too. Doubly awesome if we could both go the same year. I'm sure if I go once, I'll want to go back. :D

  8. THIS POST. <3

    Meep, it pains me to think about what a hard decision this must've been. But I think you made a good one! The Brightest Thread sounds like a magical and wonderful story - judging by your snippets, anyway! ;) And I totally agree that it would be a better strategy to go after publishing deals for a standalone first because it'll make the publishing house an easier decision on whether or not to commit to your story.

    But I'm so glad you've come to a decision, even if it's been hard! You are so beautiful and talented, and God has great plans for you. <3

    1. YOU. <3

      Aww, I'm so glad you like the look of the snippets and such. I guess series are more commitment for the reader AND for the publishing house, eh? And obviously for the author too. XD

      Thank you ever so much, Emily! You always bring a smile to my face! <333 And may I just say, God's plans for you are amazing too.

    2. Haha, yes. :) AND THE SNIPPETS. Can I fangirl?? Can I scream?? SERIOUSLY, I NEED THE BRIGHTEST THREAD. I will totally be a beta-reader sometime if you need any. o.o

      Aww, well thank you. <3 It's so neat (and a little scary!) to think about all the wonderful people I know - both in real life and virtually - and to know that God has this big, incredible plan for each of their lives. Gives me chills.

    3. You can do all of the above, but just know I'll be screaming in delight over on my end too! XD Thanks for the offer! I'll keep that in mind for sure.

      Isn't it so amazing when you think about it? I get so excited when I stop and think of where God's going to take all of us.

  9. It makes a lot of sense to do a standalone first, and I am really excited because that means you are going to extend The Brightest Thread. Eeep!

    1. Heehee, your enthusiasm makes my day! I've been starting to think of what I want to expand...

  10. Sounds like you've been thinking rather hard lately. :) Good for you!

    I'm glad you've come to a decision you feel comfortable with. TPK may even be better for taking a break and coming back to it. I know my first story was better for the advantage of rewriting it ten years after I first started it (and had the advantage of having the rest of the series written, as well) :)

    AHHHH I WANT TO GO TO REALM MAKERS TOO!!!!!!!! But 2017 in Nevada probably isn't going to happen. Sigh. Maybe I should just start planning on 2018 now.

    As far as my reading preferences, I LOVE series. I far prefer books that have series... because I truly hate saying goodbye to characters I've fallen in love with, and having the chance to hang out with them in more than one book is just a deliciously marvelous treat.

    1. Thanks, Jenelle! It's been very present on my mind lately, that's for sure. :)

      Wow, you rewrote your first novel TEN YEARS later? That makes me feel better! Having the whole series written would definitely help get the right perspective for editing. You're right about taking a break being a benefit.

      YOU TOO?! YES, WE NEED TO GO THE SAME YEAR. THAT WOULD FABULOUS. I hope you get to go! (It would be absolutely dreamy to get to go '17 and '18. That way I get to hear Ted Dekker one year, then meet you the next. XD)

      Series are epic! I think that aversion to saying goodbye is probably a factor behind my tendency to write series, too, come to think of it. What's your sweet spot as far as number of books in a series goes? Trilogy? 4 books? 5? A dozen? Maybe that's an unfair question... it kind of depends on what the series calls for...

  11. I recently had to make a similar decision. After what feels like lifetimes spent laboring over my beloved fantasy WIP (and possibly the first book in a series) since 2014 (only a couple years ago, I know, but it still feels like ages!), I was struck with a standalone sci-fi idea that I believe is best to pursue, at this point (and I had hit a roadblock with my fantasy novel, as much as I love it).

    On to other thoughts, I really want to go to Realm Makers, too!! I feel like Nevada is as close to my part of the country as it's going to get.

    As a reader, I think I prefer standalones (simply because series = commitment), and while I wish I could say I'm the same way about writing, I know I'm not. Some characters just require more than one book, for me. :D

    Best wishes to you on THE BRIGHTEST THREAD!! <3

    1. Brain twins! Sometimes switching gears is exactly what you need to get past that road block. I hope your sci-fi goes wonderfully! Best of luck with both projects, Olivia. :)

      Wouldn't it be awesome to go the same year? :D

      True, true. I think I go both ways as a reader, but tend towards series as a writer. Those charries. So demanding! XD

      Thanks so much!!! <3

  12. TRACEY DYCK YOU'RE INCREDIBLY BRAVE *is very inspired by you*.

    I'm so glad you were able to come to this decision - I've struggled with things like this for a millennium (yes, I'm literally that old, and also an elf). ALSO I'm excited about you doing this because it means WE GET MORE OF THE BRIGHTEST THREAD!!! *wishes to read it very very badly* I'm totally up for beta-ing it someday :D.

    *gives you motivational candy* You can do this, girl! Love you!

    1. *is inspired by you being inspired*

      SAVANNAH. You never told me you were an ancient elf! o.o Thanks for the beta offer--I'll keep you in mind for when I reach that point.

      Look at you, handing out the motivational candy (and the motivational kittens earlier). Much appreciated! <3

  13. TRACEY! This post was delightful! I am always so happy to read about your babies. (Or books, as some people call them.)

    So this is something I've thought about A LOT. I haven't really thought about it in terms of series vs standalones, but that is a very good point (though also really depressing. Who wants to think about the publishing world in such an unromantic, monetary way? Gah). A very good point. For me it's more the fact that, while TCATT is my child, it's also the thing I started at 14, and I don't know if it's my best work? As in ... well, I don't know exactly, there's lots of problems I see, but I'm just not sure if it would be the best idea to try and publish it. Because once you've published something, you can't go back, that will always be the first book you published ... unless you use a pseudonym, of course, but yeah.

    The genre question is a big one. I am going to finish the TCATT trilogy before I do anything else, but following that it's gotta be LesMisBook or ARA, and it would be a weird one, publishing a contemporary, and then being like "yes but publishers I really see myself as a fantasy writer??" I hate genres. I really do.

    Anyway, I think your plan sounds very wise, and I can tell you're wanting to get back to TBT. You have that itch to explore it and you should definitely pursue that! And you're not going to outgrow Journeys. Your characters need you. Their story needs to be told. And you're going to be there to do that.

    Have a lovely Monday my dear <3

    1. YOU are delightful! I'm glad the updates are interesting. ^.^

      Arrrrgh, I know, it's a struggle to balance the passionate, personal side of writing with the "unromantic, monetary" side. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to think of the latter. But hey, if dealing wisely with that side means I'll get to do more of the fun side, I'm in. XD

      Ah, that's a good point. It's the same with my series--I started it at a young age (like 12-ish), so I question whether it's truly the best I can produce. Granted, it's gone through a LOT of changes since then and grown much stronger, but the base is still something preteen me thought up. And like you said, you only have one first book. Gotta start out with a bang, right?

      *is excited about more TCATT books* Oooh, that does sound hard to figure out, going from contemporary to fantasy like that... Why must the publishing world be so complicated? XD I hope you get that all sorted eventually. Maybe if your core readers are crazy loyal, they'll follow you into any genre.

      You're perceptive! I do want to go back to TBT, though at the same time, I want to give my current Journeys WIP the heart it deserves. Thank you soooo much for that encouragement/pep talk! I needed it! <3

      You too, Emily, though by now it's Tuesday for me and probably almost Wednesday for you?

      P.S. I love how we've both been thinking about the same topics!