Indie Author Weekly

094: 7 areas of growth as an author

January 12, 2021 Sagan Morrow Episode 95
Indie Author Weekly
094: 7 areas of growth as an author
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Indie Author Weekly
094: 7 areas of growth as an author
Jan 12, 2021 Episode 95
Sagan Morrow

Are you curious about the different ways you might grow as a writer, and what might change along your writing journey as you publish more books? Well, that’s exactly what we are going to discuss on today’s episode of Indie Author Weekly.  

This is the podcast for indie authors, aspiring authors, and curious bookworms who want the inside scoop, tips and motivation, and behind-the-scenes journey of writing and self-publishing books.  

This is a listener question from Alana, who says: “Looking back on how you've grown as a writer... What areas have you grown? Were they areas you knew you needed to grow or were trying to grow, or was the growth unexpected? Thinking about not only the speed and efficiency of your writing and productivity, but also dialogue, theme, setting, all the stuff... I was thinking about this when listening to Episode 90, where you talk about how you've gotten funnier (which I totally agree with as an assessment from your first novel to your seventh) but I'd be interested to hear your self-assessment on growth in other areas, and also, if it just happened from writing or what precipitated it…”  

TUNE IN to this episode to get the inside scoop, and discover 7 areas of author growth!  

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:  

Let's chat about this episode:  

Support the show (https://saganmorrow.com/secretpodcast)

Show Notes Transcript

Are you curious about the different ways you might grow as a writer, and what might change along your writing journey as you publish more books? Well, that’s exactly what we are going to discuss on today’s episode of Indie Author Weekly.  

This is the podcast for indie authors, aspiring authors, and curious bookworms who want the inside scoop, tips and motivation, and behind-the-scenes journey of writing and self-publishing books.  

This is a listener question from Alana, who says: “Looking back on how you've grown as a writer... What areas have you grown? Were they areas you knew you needed to grow or were trying to grow, or was the growth unexpected? Thinking about not only the speed and efficiency of your writing and productivity, but also dialogue, theme, setting, all the stuff... I was thinking about this when listening to Episode 90, where you talk about how you've gotten funnier (which I totally agree with as an assessment from your first novel to your seventh) but I'd be interested to hear your self-assessment on growth in other areas, and also, if it just happened from writing or what precipitated it…”  

TUNE IN to this episode to get the inside scoop, and discover 7 areas of author growth!  

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:  

Let's chat about this episode:  

Support the show (https://saganmorrow.com/secretpodcast)

Hello and welcome back to Indie Author Weekly! I’m your host, romantic comedy novelist and productivity strategist Sagan Morrow, and this is the podcast for indie authors, aspiring authors, and curious bookworms who want the inside scoop, tips and motivation, and behind-the-scenes journey of writing and self-publishing books. 

Now, are you curious about the different ways you might grow as a writer, and what might change along your writing journey as you publish more books? Well, that’s exactly what we are going to discuss on today’s episode of Indie Author Weekly.

For our new and returning listeners, you can now get all Indie Author Weekly podcast episodes plus book and writing updates delivered directly to your inbox each week at SaganMorrow.com/behindthescenes—link is in the show notes.

Now let’s get into this episode of the Indie Author Weekly podcast. 

This is a listener question from Alana, who says: “Looking back on how you've grown as a writer... What areas have you grown? Were they areas you knew you needed to grow or were trying to grow, or was the growth unexpected? Thinking about not only the speed and efficiency of your writing and productivity, but also dialogue, theme, setting, all the stuff... I was thinking about this when listening to Episode 90, where you talk about how you've gotten funnier (which I totally agree with as an assessment from your first novel to your seventh) but I'd be interested to hear your self-assessment on growth in other areas, and also, if it just happened from writing or what precipitated it…” 

Alana, this is a wonderful set of questions, so thank you for asking about it!

Quick background about my books thus far: I published my first book, The Business of Writing & Editing, back in 2016. But since that’s a non-fiction book, for the purposes of today’s podcast episode, let’s just focus on my fiction works. I’ve published 7 romance novellas from 2018 to 2020, all of which are set in the same world, because they’re all part of the Polyamorous Passions series. They are all written in 3rd person, and Books 1 - 3 have Emma as the main character, Books 4 - 6 have her friend Helen as the main character, and Books 7 - 9 will have their friend Scarlett as the main character.

I’m currently working on my 8th romance novel, which is NOT part of the Polyamorous Passions series. It features a brand-new main character, and it’s also the first time I’ll be publishing a book written in the first person. 

So that gives you a quick background if you’re new to this podcast—You can also learn more about my published works at SaganMorrow.com/books

Alright! Let’s get into my response to Alana’s series of questions. We’ll explore 7 areas of growth that I’ve experienced as a writer, plus what precipitated the growth for each of those areas, and whether it was planned or unexpected..

First, speed & efficiency. 

Interestingly, I’m actually a slower writer now. I published my first romance novella within about 6 weeks of coming up with the idea…. Whereas with my seventh romance novel, it took me 9 months from start to finish. 

There are 4 reasons for this: #1, my books get longer with each one—Book 7 was almost twice as long as Book 1. #2, the pandemic has simply caused everything to go at a slower pace. #3, this past year I’ve been focused more on other areas of growing my business, so that I have a stronger financial foundation to experiment more with the book writing and publishing and marketing process. And #4, I’m taking a lot more time to think through what I want to include in the stories now, and I’m doing more rounds of rewrites and edits compared to how I did it with my first book. 

Because of that last point—the fact that I’m basically being more thorough with my writing—this actually means that I consider it to be a growth that it takes me a bit slower to write my books nowadays. That being said, personally, I want to get more of a middle ground. I’d like to write and publish new books each quarter, ideally. 

Was I expecting this type of growth? Nope! I was fully intending to make my Polyamorous Passions series my “experimental series,” and therefore I figured I’d just churn them all out as fast as possible. It’s been really interesting to slow down my writing pace as I’ve been more thorough with getting to know my characters and so on—more about that in a little bit.

The second area of growth I want to talk about is the genre. 

When I started writing my first novella, I lumped it under “contemporary romance.” Then I started describing my books as “new adult romances.” I didn’t start describing them as “romantic comedies” until Book 6. 

This goes back to what I was talking about in Episodes 76 and 90 of the Indie Author Weekly podcast, where I shared about how a lot more humour has been added to my stories over time, and the intricacies of writing humour. 

Honestly, I find that identifying sub genres is oddly challenging to do, as an author. We are so close to our work that it can be tricky to pull out the nuances of one sub genre vs. another. But I do think that romantic comedy is a good descriptor for how my writing has evolved over time. 

Was I expecting this type of growth? It happened pretty organically. With each book, I’ve learned more about my own style and voice, and the genre has come from that.

Third area of growth: dialogue. 

This is a weird one, because I don’t think that my dialogue skills have changed too much over the course of my Polyamorous Passions series. I’d be really curious to hear what you think! So if you haven’t read my books yet, please go and do that and then connect with me on Twitter or Instagram, @Saganlives, to let me know your thoughts.

The reason for my dialogue abilities not experiencing that much growth is, I think, related to the fact that when I started, I thought of myself as a dialogue-heavy writer. I had it in my head that I’m good at writing dialogue, but not very good at writing descriptions. I don’t know where this preconceived notion came from—and again, maybe this is something you, reading my books, would totally disagree with.

Anyway, because of this thought process, I’ve always assumed that dialogue was one of my strengths, so I decided to focus on improving at other areas of my books. So my dialogue skills haven’t changed dramatically over the course of the 7 books.

Was I expecting this quote-unquote “lack” of growth? Hmm. I think that I assumed I’d naturally get a lot better at dialogue by now, without putting the effort in to get a lot better at it, if that makes sense. It’s almost as though, because I haven’t been concerned about my skills at dialogue in comparison to other storytelling skills, now my dialogue skills are levelling out. So I see that as an area to actively focus on building up in the future. 

Fourth area of growth I’ve experienced is theme. 

When I started writing novels, my main interest or concern as the author was, “Okay, here’s my character, here’s what they’re dealing with, let’s get this story on paper.” Nowadays, though, I absolutely love searching for the themes after the first draft or two. 

This is a super cool aspect of doing more rewrites than I used to do, actually: Sometimes I’ll write a full draft of a story and not know what the themes are, and then I’m working on the next draft, and I’ll see the same theme cropping up again and again. And from there, I can more fully flesh out the themes.

The more that I write, the more easily I can identify themes I wasn’t even expecting, too. For example, when I first decided to write my upcoming romcom, Small Town Stilettos, I had no idea it would be about grief. But when I wrote the very first page of the first draft, it became immediately apparent to me that the grieving process is a super important theme of the story. So it’s neat that I’m now getting to the point where I can identify key themes a lot faster and build on them, whereas in my first couple books, theme wasn’t something I actively focused on or could easily identify.

Was I expecting this type of growth? Yes and no. I knew it was something I wanted to get better at, but I was worried about being too heavy-handed with it for a long time. 

Fifth area of growth I’ve experienced is setting. 

I don’t know what this says about me, but the setting isn’t generally a priority with my writing. I am fascinated by what my characters are thinking about and feeling and their reactions, so the setting is a secondary piece. 

It’s not that I don’t think about setting, it’s just that it happens at a more subconscious level. 

And that’s actually been beneficial, because of what comes out of it. For example, the recurring settings in Polyamorous Passions are places like Emma’s apartment and the coffee shop/wine bar where the three main characters hang out. Having one of those as neutral ground and a public place shifts the dynamic of how the conversation unfolds, compared to when they’re in the privacy of Emma’s comfortable home, curled up with her cat. 

In my next romcom, Small Town Stilettos, the setting is really important: the entire story is about a city girl moving to a tiny town. It’s fascinating to play with setting as an influential part of the story, whereas previously, it isn’t something I was deliberately planning.

Was I expecting this type of growth? No I wasn’t—probably because I’ve never worried too much about setting before. The setting itself wasn’t something that piqued my interest for a long time. But the more that I write, and the more that I see how my characters shift their mannerisms and conversations and so on from one setting to the next, the more I want to explore it a lot more as a nuanced element of each story.

The sixth area of growth I’ve experienced is with characters: 

When I wrote my first book, my characters were clear in my head, as to who they are in the present day. I wasn’t too concerned about their past, and what led them to a particular moment. That has changed A LOT! One of my favourite parts about Book 7 is the way that I got to know the main character, Scarlett, so well over the course of planning and writing the story. 

In the past, if a character did something I didn’t expect, I’d kind of shrug and figure, “They know what they’re doing, so I’ll let them do it.” Nowadays, if a character does something that seems unusual, I go digging. I take a step back to get to know the character better... and then they unfold their backstory for me. I think that this provides for richer storytelling, when we, as the author, really get inside our characters heads. 

This, by the way, is a big part of the reason why I decided to try writing in the first person for my upcoming romcom, Small Town Stilettos. It has been one of the most incredible experiences to really get into the main character’s head, and to understand all of the nuances of her personality. I actually love writing in the first person so much, and it’s something I want to do more of in the future.

So, my growth in writing characters has definitely been precipitated by me getting to know my individual characters on a deeper level. 

Was I expecting this type of growth? Not at first! It didn’t really hit home just how much I’ve improved on this until I was working on Book 7. And it’s really shining through on the book I’m currently writing.

The last area of growth I want to address is plot.

I tend to be more character-driven with my stories, I think, than plot-driven. This is why that last section of growth on character development has been such an important factor in my growth as a writer and storyteller. 

Of course, the plot is also important! I would say I’ve gotten better at fleshing out the plot of my stories over the course of my books partly because it’s easier to market them that way. For example, Book 7 in my Polyamorous Passions series tells the story of Scarlett trying to save her burlesque business from bankruptcy, and how she needs to win a dance competition. And I think that concept pulls in potential readers more easily than something like the premise of Book 1, when Emma is realizing that she identifies as polyamorous in the process of dating two men. 

Developing the plot is, in my experience, more marketable than focusing on character growth. So this is something I specifically decided to develop in my more recent books. As such, plot is an area of growth that I was absolutely expecting, and I’m really pleased with how much I’ve grown as a storyteller with it—I anticipate this is an area where I’ll continue to grow a lot in my upcoming books.

Okay! So that covers all of the main subsections of growth that I think I’ve experienced: speed and efficiency, genre, dialogue, theme, setting, characters, and plot. 

Do you want me to elaborate on any of these, or is there another specific area you want me to talk more about? Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram, @Saganlives, to chat about this. 

Doing this kind of self-assessment can be really valuable: the more we understand about our books, the more that we grow, and the more we improve as writers and storytellers. But/and, I also want to caution us when we are doing it, because with self-assessments, we don’t have any distance from our work. It’s always going to be difficult for us to be impartial in our assessment of our own growth. That’s what I love about seeing reviews of my books, especially by readers who have been reading my books right from the beginning. Those readers are going to probably be able to assess my progress in a different way than I can, because I’m in the thick of it. 

This is also why I’m super curious if you, listening to this podcast, have differing opinions on my growth as a writer! Do you agree with my own assessment, or do you have other thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think. 

The final note I want to make today is that you’ll notice a pattern with a lot of my assessment of my own growth, and that pattern is this: Much of the growth has occurred organically. 

As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted my Polyamorous Passions series to be my “experimental” series, where I could try things out and see what comes from it and the type of response it gets from readers, so I could focusing on specific areas of improvement and hone in on my voice and style over time. And that’s exactly what’s happened! I think that’s pretty cool. 

This method of writing will not work for every author. But I like that it’s taken the pressure off of me, and I think it’s also helped take my ego out of the equation, because I’ve approached my writing from that experimental angle. Trying it out to see what works, what feels good, what readers like or don’t care about, and so on. This has enabled me to now get to the point of having a better idea of specifically what I want to focus on improving, so I can step more fully into my voice and style. 

Regardless of how we approach writing and publishing books—or, really, doing anything in our personal or professional lives—I encourage you to look at it, always, as a growth opportunity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my main goal, as a writer, and really as a human being, is to be better than I was before. The most important marker of success to me as an author is when each book I write is better than the previous one… when I experience growth from every single book.

And if I can let you in on a secret… It’s really fun and fulfilling to approach it from that perspective. 

Okay, my friend. That’s a wrap for today’s episode of Indie Author Weekly! Access the show notes for this episode, including all links and additional resources, at SaganMorrow.com/podcast.

Thank you so much for tuning in. Please take 2 minutes to rate and review Indie Author Weekly on Apple Podcasts—I really appreciate your support. 

Until next week, this is Sagan Morrow, signing off the Indie Author Weekly podcast.