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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ideas vs Things

I have many ideas and many plans. All the time, I get ideas about things and make plans to do things. Some of them are relatively mundane, like build my Death Star Legos, and others of them are quite large, like I hope to someday build my own home (while hire builders, since I'll probably screw up the Lego Death Star and it comes with instructions).

Back, way back when, a whole two years, when I first started getting published and before that, I would blog about any IDEA I had. I would say all kinds of things, but if there's one thing I like, it's making declarative statements.

Some of my ideas were mundane - like I have a Back to the Future marathon - but sometimes my ideas included books - like how I was going to write a graphic novel about cannibal unicorns.

Before I had people reading my blog and my books, it really didn't matter what I said. The only people who reading it were my friends, and they understand that my "What I Say" and "What I'll Actually Do" category don't always align.

It's not that I'm a bad person (or at least, I'd like to think I'm not a bad person). It's that I often don't understand how time works or much work things require or I forget how much I enjoy sleeping. I will say things like, "I'll finish that book by next week," when I haven't even started it, because I think I can. Theoretically, there is enough time do it. Realistically, my brain can't always handle that much of a load.

The point is that in the beginning, when I was newbie writing, I frequently made the mistake of telling you what "my ideas" were. I would tell you IDEAS I had for stories, or hopes I had for novels, or plans I had for this and that.

It hadn't yet occurred to me that people were paying attention and didn't know that nothing's concrete until it's an actual THING. When it's an IDEA, anything can happen. It also didn't occur to me that people would be let down if I just dropped an IDEA because I had been talking for a very, very, very, very long time, and nobody had been paying attention, so even when people said they cared and were listening, I didn't really believe them

This is just the way I've always worked. I've written about 100+ outlines in my life and started at least 50 different novels and written probably around 150 short stories. Hell, I've finished over a dozen novels I'll never publish because they're bad. 

I did not realize that when I was talking to you about my life, my process, my IDEAS that I was unintentionally setting you up to be letdown. I was just talking, sharing, having a conversation, and it did not occur to me that people would be hurt by this information. I didn't know anyone even cared that much.

I'm sure that I'm not the only writer who has gotten ideas and started working on them and then went, "Well. No." Neil Gaiman, in fact, began working on the idea for The Graveyard Book in 1985 but didn't publish it until 2008. Of course, he had the good sense not to blog about in 1985 and get everyone all excited and then repeatedly let them down for the next 23 years by not releasing The Graveyard Book.

I think we can all agree that Neil Gaiman is smarter than me.

But the point is that's just how it goes. Sometimes ideas don't make it past the conceptual phase. Sometimes they make it to almost novels. And sometimes they make it all the way into entire novels before the writer realizes they're terrible.

And so, without Neil Gaiman's insight, I have made the mistake in the past of telling you all about IDEAS that have never come into fruition. Not because I intended to mislead you or betray or just fuck with you. Because I in good faith was talking about something that I believed would change from an IDEA to a THING.

Honalee was one such foible. If you don't know what it was, that's because I took down most of the stuff for. Honalee was intended to be the first book in a YA series about a girl named Hazel and she's a witch. I'd finished Honalee sometime in 2010 and I was getting ready to publish it.

It was at this point, after I talked about it as being one of my next books to come out, I realized that it was really quite bad. A lot of it felt redundant of my other books and too predictable and I knew then that as the concept for a series it wouldn't work. There were glimmers of hope and some genuinely interesting bits to it, so I tried to rework it, but eventually I realized that it was just a lost cause. It was not a good book.

I cannot emphasize that enough. The reason Honalee has never and will never be published is because it's not a good book.

However, the good parts of Honalee - some of the interesting things that were working and even most of one of the characters (Molly) - made it into the Watersong series. I've done that before, and I'll do it again, I'm sure. I try out in idea, but some of it doesn't work. I scrap the bad parts and rework it as something else.

That brings me to the real moral of this story. Occasionally I still get questions about Honalee. Most are just curious, but sometimes I get enraged people, demanding to know where this book is that I promised them (which honestly, I find a bit weird, since all they really had was a pretty cover and a vague synopsis).

I have realized the error of my ways. I cannot discuss IDEAS with you because not all IDEAS will becomes THINGS, and if you are expecting a THING, you get sad and angry when that THINGS is not delivered. That makes sense, and I apologize for the times in the past when I have unintentionally let you down.

It is still a very strange thing to me have a readership, and I don't always say the right things or do the right things. I'm learning as I go along, but everything I do, I honestly do with the best of intentions.

But this brings me to the point of the blog. I'm not going to tell you about IDEAS anymore - only THINGS. An IDEA becomes a THING when it's finished and has a publication date. Anytime before that, it's just an IDEA. I will not publish the first book in the series until all the books in the series have been written, so I can always tell you when the next one will be out.

To put it in perspective, I've written 7 outlines for novels in the past 8 months, but I haven't told you about any of them. Because I know that not all IDEAS become THINGS, and I don't want you to get excited for something that isn't going to happen.

So, if you're asking me about a project or a book or something, and I say "I don't know" or don't answer you, it's because it's still in the IDEA part and I don't want to let you down. I will only talk about it when it's a THING. So me not answering is me not being glib or a bitch or a blowing you off or something other horrible thing you think I am. It's because I've learned my lesson.

So please, be patient. And the very second it's officially a THING, I promise I will tell you about it. But yelling at me and nagging me constantly doesn't make it become a THING any faster. In fact, it slows down the process because I get distracted.

Meanwhile, all four books in the Watersong series are officially THINGS, and I might have another smaller bonus THING to tell you about in the near future, but I can't say more than that. I have other IDEAS in the works, but hopefully, soon they will be THINGS, and then I can tell you about them, too.

Until then, I apologize for letting you down with past IDEAS, but I promise to do my hardest to not let you down with any THINGS in the future.


  1. Glad you were able to make some of your IDEAS in to THINGS and I simply wish you the best in making more of your IDEAS into THINGS in your own good time.

  2. I don't think you should feel too bad about this. After all, the point of a blog is to let off steam and give people a visual of your life in your words. Though I can see why people can be upset, I don't understand why anyone would want to be irate about it.
    That said, I believe your solution is a sound one. Can't wait to hear of other THINGS in the future!

  3. My grandmother said of things like this that your eyes were bigger than your stomach. It's something that happens to a lot of writers, me included. I think of writers as magpies sometimes, attracted by bright, shiny objects and forever drawn here and there by the next bright object. It doesn't make us bad people, but creative people. Creative doesn't always equal common sense -- or any sense at all. Some people understand that about writers and some people never will. I always hope they will forgive the "ooh, bright shiny object and over there another bright shiny object" phase and keep reading anyway.

  4. No Honalee? NOOOO! I was really hoping for this book. But I guess if a book's not making it, it's not making it. I don't mind reading ideas by authors but I will say that you kind of set yourself up when you did a cover for it. Amanda Hocking's covers are nearly $1000 US. When someone pays that much for a cover. It kind of sends the signal that you're doing a book.

    But I agree that you have to be careful about Ideas vs Things. Glad you made it clear and I can't wait for future work from you.

    1. I just want to clarify one point - I did NOT pay $1000 for the cover of Honalee. I've actually never paid that much for a cover - not even close to that much.

      The cover artist who did the work for Virtue, Honalee, and the Hollows was just getting started when I began working with her. I'd actually found her on devientART, and I approached her and she set a price that we both agreed with fair. I'm not sure what she charges now, but if her prices have varied, it's justifiably so, as she does amazing work and she's running a business. But again, when I started working with her, we were both newbies.

      Part of the reason I bought the cover was just because I liked it. Even now, I look through covers and pictures for inspirations. But now my publisher provides the covers, so I don't buy them.

      In the past, I did buy covers for books I never published, covers that I've never even posted, because the books fizzled out. But I liked the covers anyway.

      With all that said, even if I paid $10,000 for a cover, I wouldn't publish a bad book or a book I didn't believe in. I'd rather be out of pocket of money or even pay back advances then publish something I think is crap.

    2. So just out of curiosity should I expect a third in the Hollows series or is that still in the idea stage? It won't matter either way I'm just trying to figure out if I should keep that story alive in my head or not lol. Regardless great work. From a guy's perspective who isn't in to the romance of books with a female protagonist I thought The Hollows series was pretty awesome for a zombie series. Good work!

    3. no it wasn't pretty awesome IT WAS AMAZING !! xx you have to write a third book or I'll die!! xxx BEST BOOK EVER (I daydream about that book, is that weird?) :D

  5. No need to apologize to me. We are creative people. Sometimes ideas come to us faster than we can bring them to fruition, and sometimes they leave us just as fast. The point is that you continue to have a flow of IDEAS....and that is a very good thing. Regardless of how many of them end up in long as you are still generating new ideas, you're good. I talk vaguely sometimes about projects I am working on....only to realize as I get into them, that I need to re-work the concept entirely.

    PS: There is absolutely nothing wrong with a 'Back to the Future' marathon. I usually view the Holy trilogy twice a year if possible. The hard part is finding somebody that wants to sit through it with you. lol

  6. It is your blog you are posting on. A blog is something you should be able to share your ideas and thoughts on anything. Rather it be a vacation or a book. Its sad that you great authord have to watch everything you type on your blog.

    You have not let me down. Not for one second. I did not read that often at all then last November I bought a nook tablet and The first book I bougt was your blood approves. That is the series that got be back reading. I have been a book junkie every since.

    I also Love Batman. Thought I would just put that out there :)

  7. Sure, I was dissapointed when you announced delaying Swear, but that happened a while ago, if people are still holding Honalee against you, they obviously dont have lives.

    And I have lived in the Twin Cities for most of my life, and I have family in Dexter, so I'm visiting your area pretty frequently but my parents wont take me to the Spam Muesum, but they finally announced that we're going in a few weeks. And I have finally seen all 3 Batman movies.

  8. Hi Amanda - I'm a new reader of yours, just bought Wake. :)

    I found this post really interesting. I have started and stopped so many different blogs / etsy shops etc, and even on the blog I have now I have started a LOT of different "ideas" and "projects", announcing them all to the world, only for them to fizzle into oblivian. I've now started a story that I'm writing once a day over a year - so that is definitely an IDEA in progress, and I'm not sure when it could be called a THING. But at least I'm planning on sticking with it and hoping my magpie eye doesn't get (too) distracted. :)

  9. I personally think that "ideas" are just that & it makes me sad that you have been getting negative harassment. I am one of the ones patiently waiting for Swear, but I want the book to be as amazing as the others so ergo why would I want to be mean and bully you?!? Immature & pointless! You keep doing what you do & I will faithfully keep reading! Lots of love to ya!

  10. I find it amazing that you need to justify your decisions about which novels you publish for us ....... love Loki and Finn . I don't want Ascend to end :)

  11. You know what, JK Rowling never apologized for anything she did (and she killed several very well liked characters), most writers don’t and neither should you. You should not have to explain yourself so many times about such issues. I really can’t believe that people are screaming and cursing at you about who ends up with who and about finishing the book. I think people have just gotten a bit spoiled about having the books available so soon because you’re so awesome you finish them quickly. There are some writers that spend years not publishing the next installment of their series and they are still allocated some respect. I for one support you no matter what because you are a great writer and so open with us, so open in fact that people take advantage. Don’t let it get you down!

    1. I agree wholeheartedly. I've never seen a writer apologize for something so mundane. I don't believe Amanda should have to apologize for such a thing. It is HER idea who ends up with whom. It is her imagination and her creativity and no one else should be so adamant about changing her mind. It kind of sickens me that people can be so hateful. If they want Alice and Peter to end up together perhaps they should write it themselves for other fans who would have preferred it that way. Do a fanfic rendition of it. BTW, I admire you Amanda, I can tell you have a huge heart. The fact you want to find that connection with the characters first tells me everything I need to know about you as a person and as a writer. Then again, I understand since I am an aspiring author as well. I know what must be done to finish a novel and you simply can't finish one if the connection with characters is vacant. I wrote a blog about this and mentioned you in it so hopefully my readers can come to understand the absence of connection and effects it has on the whole story. :) Have a great day! I am also patiently waiting for Swear and will be uber excited when it comes to print!

  12. I always really enjoyed reading about your ideas. Even though many never became books or whatever it was interesting to see the process. I've been reading your blog for several years now and honestly I forgot all about Honalee. Your Ideas really can show a young writer that a good idea can take a lot of work to become a publishable novel and that many could be unusable. Even some that are completely written that just wont work. I hate to see a few people ruin this awesome inside view but you have to protect yourself too. Good Luck!

  13. I can't belive people got upset by that! I think you're doing the right thing, after all, people shouldn't get upset with a book you never even published.

  14. Hmm, I like when you discuss ideas. The world is made of ideas. In fact, I think you and I might be made of ideas. But don't quote me on that.

  15. A very nice post to which others can relate themselves...people don't let us live...

  16. Amanda, this was a good explanation of a writer's woolgathering and creative mulling that gets taken as reality by readers who care. As a writer I often have multiple ideas and projects floating around in the ether and never get them to the thing stage because I get distracted...look, a kitten...what was I saying? Oh yes, and then they just drop off my screen while someone else is wondering where the really cool story or book is at? Thanks for the clear explanation of the difference between Ideas and Things. I may borrow that. : )

  17. The only reason you shouldn't put ideas on a blog is because people may steal them... like a cannibal unicorn... hmmm

    If you do get around to writing it, you should name him Trevor. It's clearly a name that cannot be trusted. If I was walking along one day, and unicorn introduced himself, the first thing I would do is ask it's name. It's a unicorn, it surely has an awesome name, and how often am I going to get to speak to a unicorn?
    But if that unicorn told me his name was Trevor, I would run for my life. Not because I'm a unicorn. If I was a unicorn, I would type more like this: ioefq0i qpoefosf fs posdopsfd Coz they have hooves. I would run for my life because my cover is blown. Trevor now knows that I speak unicorn, and am probably on my way right now to tell all the other unicorns. I'd be pretty much screwed is all I'm saying. Something to think about at least...

  18. I'm new to blogging, though not so much to writing, and I really think you're on to something here. I think I can see where you're coming from. Nobody wants to create frustration in other people, or to be frustrated themselves by having to explain old ideas and why they wouldn't have worked out, even in general terms. (That being said, the entitlement it would take to get enraged at you over Honalee... wow. Just wow.) Thanks for this post. Like I said, I'm new to this, working on getting published, just started a blog, etc. etc. etc., and I think this was good advice for me to follow as well. Only things, not ideas. Thank you; I'll have to remember that.

    Your comment about only publishing the series after they're all written fascinates me. I want to do this. I think it would make for better books and a better series. I guess I was under some misconception that wasn't "allowed" or something. This is very interesting to me.

    And no, there is nothing wrong in the world with a Back to the Future marathon! :)

  19. So I don't want to be a prick, but is there to be a third book to The Hollows, I understand 100% that you have many IDEAS and THINGS that go on in your daily life. It would just be very nice to have a update on your 'The Hollows' series.. Thank you KBtm
    P.S I ws wondering why is it that Hollowmen #2 in the Hollows series in only in Kindle and Nook, is it published in paper back? Best of luck in writing

  20. So I don't want to be a prick, but is there to be a third book to The Hollows, I understand 100% that you have many IDEAS and THINGS that go on in your daily life. It would just be very nice to have a update on your 'The Hollows' series.. Thank you KBtm
    P.S I ws wondering why is it that Hollowmen #2 in the Hollows series in only in Kindle and Nook, is it published in paper back? Best of luck in writing

  21. I am still very upset that there hasn't been a 3rd book in the Hollowland series. I love your book and this was one of my favorites. I really wish you would finish this or publishes it already. I know you have many more fans who agree.

  22. i have to say i have read the trylle series, watersong series, and the my blood approves i know as a reader it sucks to wait but its so fabulous when the book comes out you forget that it took so long. your books are amazing. my husband doesnt read for fun but loves to hear your about your stories. keep up the amazing work and when the last book of my blood approves does come out it will be AMAZING, im sure. patiently waiting...