Three things I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd need as a novelist

Up until recently, the profession of novelist really hadn’t changed, well, for eons. In fact, until the past decade, it was a pretty backward-looking profession, which was something that made me eager to join it. 

Budding scientists and engineers aspire to do new things, but for most of my youth, I aspired to be like writers who lived decades before me. My picture of success was pretty old fashioned: a stack of books, and I would build that stack by working hard. And my computer was just a souped-up typewriter.

Crystal ball

The last thing I thought I would want or need as a writer was a crystal ball! Who cares about the future? Que sera sera, biotches!   

Hah. That has totally changed. I've never been more obsessed with predicting the future as I am today as a writer of novels. I change my mind every other day about what my priorities should be in this crazy new climate. New and different things are important. Nobody agrees on anything except that things are changing. Will I make a decision today that I will regret bitterly in three years? Never in my life have I more badly wanted a crystal ball!


This, too, is a recent phenomena! In my 20s and 30s, the biggest distractions (beyond the day job) were squirrels and cars out the window, which was totally fine. But now, during pauses for thought or hard spaces in my fiction-writing work, I’m way too aware that there is a party in the next room full of many friends (aka twitter!) or the exciting ding of the email (could be something wonnnnnderful!) I never imagined I would have to enforce periods of detachment from communication with a selection of timers, from the 25/5 minute dealio of FocusBooster to my dashboard timers.

And then, there are the #1K1hr things on twitter, which I’ve begun to really enjoy in certain first drafting modes (though, I rarely go above 500 words. I’m slow). Anyway, that requires a timer, too. 

It’s all very robotic. I feel strangely automated. Like a Borg.

Spreadsheet with numbers

This is the biggest freaker, that I would ever need to track things like numbers on things like spreadsheets. But now that I’m involved in a self-pubbed anthology (Wild & Steamy—currently FREE, by the way) and about to put out another self pubbed novella, I’m suddenly involved in tracking things, gaining various insights that numbers can provide.

I’m learning to use Excel, a program that sat unused, even somewhat disdained, in my Microsoft office folder.

Someday when I'm a more savvy writer, ideally I will track the sales of all my books, the way I see other authors doing. Publishing companies are starting to give authors numbers and data—one of my publishers, Random House, has plans to follow suit, and I think my other pubs—Audible and Samhain—give it pretty readily (note to self: check that!)  but in the meantime, there are bookscan numbers from Amazon, which I never look at, but should. 

I imagine myself someday as that more savvy author applying my new Excel spreadsheet skills to plotting and tracking these numbers against various online activities.  Because, it would help me know how to best spend my promo time. Which translates in to more writing time.


Making sense of things, creating order from chaos, writing stories for people to read, it all still has lots of old fashioned aspects to it. It's just weird how it’s changing so suddenly and rapidly.

I don’t think it’s bad; actually I think it’s healthy when things change and evolve and get influenced from new quarters. Language itself is constantly changing in much the same way. It’s just...weird

What about you? What do you need these days for your various endeavors that you never thought you’d need?


Roxanne Skelly said…
You're still using Excel in your computer? How very quaint. This millenium is all about the cloud, you should be at least using google spreadsheet. :)

So, the whole thing about publishers giving one numbers more often reminds me of things I've noticed in my day job over the last few decades. This computer programming thing has gone 'agile', with updates coming as often as weekly.

I wonder if we'll see a larger migration from the self-contained 'book' to a more episodic or serial form, with each episode not only based on the authors vision, but also input from readers, publishers and the like. The 'numbers' would steer your story in near real-time.

I think we're already seeing this somewhat, and with the move to e-readers, well, releasing in this manner is more feasible.

Just my pondering on the future.
B.E. Sanderson said…
I use Excel to track my word counts and Access for all my query data. I sure don't miss the days when I was a teen banging out a book on my grandmother's tiny green typewriter. Or the days of counting the words and lines by hand and then applying a formula so you could get an idea of how much you'd written. Bleh.

I love technology. =o)
Carolyn Crane said…
Roxanne: those are very interesting thoughts! Also, hold on here, Excel is QUAINT? lol. I thought I was so advanced!

BE: I am so glad we left the typewriters behind. I think about that a lot!
Unknown said…
It sure seems like expectations have changed. I'm just entering this world, but every event I attend there are a few seasoned writers asking if social media is if they just can't believe they now have to add another skill set to an already increasing author responsiblity list. I'm excited by these changes and anticipate more opportunity...I like Roxie's idea too, but see that as a blog prospect. I wonder if the Kindle will publishe a story in installments? All of these changes make it exciting and interesting! They keep me charged up and involved inbetween my heads down writing time.
Carolyn Crane said…
Unknown: I love that thinking. It may take time to do social media and put up sites and stuff, but it also feeds something, and opens possibilities.
Mario Acevedo said…
I didn't think I would have to use so many coasters. Sweat off my cocktails messes up the mouse pad.

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