05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Danger of the Good

by M.L. Buchman

One of the great jokes on a writer is that most of the job is mental...okay, 99.999% of the job is mental. During my decades of corporate I'd say it was about <25%.

Oh sure, in corporate there were good days and bad days. Having a positive attitude made for a more pleasant working environment, made my teams function better, and made clients happier. But in corporate there was one implacable rule: it never stopped. A good day today didn't stop whatever s*** was about to roll down the pipe and plop on your desk the next morning. And having a truly crappy client call didn't mean that your presentation that afternoon wasn't going to rock and leave you feeling great. They might make me go a bit "mental" at times, but it was the job that did much of the mood making. My only choice was to make the best out of whatever plopped onto the desk.

Writing is about staring at a blank page and finding story. It's about writing through the times when the story isn't working, as well as when it's flying. And the joke on the authors is that something good can bump you off the tracks just as well as something bad.

My traditional press editor told me that Target Engaged (the first book of my new Delta Force romance series) is the best book I've ever written (not that she's read any of my dozens of indie books). Guess what? That simple bit of feedback made it almost impossible to write the next book in the series (Heart Strike will be out next August). How do I live up to the standard of "best ever?"

Simple answer: You don't!

You write the next book to be the best book you can at that moment in that place and time.

I can't begin to emphasize that enough. So, having just finished (finally) Heart Strike (and I'm quite proud of it actually), and understood the mayhem that simple compliment to Target Engaged had caused me, I thought I finally had the "Danger of the Good" under control...


Last week I found out that Hot Point had been chosen as a Top 10 Romance of the 2015 by Booklist. Then they offered a compilation of the Best 101 Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years which had two of my books on it.

Now the challenge is to go back to that blank white page and simply write the best book I can. Harrumph! Saying I need to do that and actually doing so are a world apart as any writer will tell you. So I was looking for a way to reengage with my next Night Stalkers novel (coming in October).

And then I look at another upcoming release. On October 14th, by first "Ides of Matt" short story collection will become available (you can pre-order the electronic now, paper available on release day). I think about this collection a lot when I'm having trouble writing. There are some really wonderful stories in here that I don't know how I ever found them in the world of the blank page. There are others that I think of as simply "good stories." They work and I'm glad that I wrote them, but they don't have the Snap! of one that really clicked. Yet as I was writing the introduction to each story, I remembered how much fun it was to write that particular tale. Every time I so enjoyed the experience of discovery of character and story.

That's the secret I've discovered about how to react to the good reviews and the bad. It extends into everyday life as I contemplate the good news and the bad as well.

Follow the fun!

I love every tale mentioned on this page and on my website. I had so much fun writing the two short stories that went up this month on my website (one was free on my site--no longer but it's still for sale, the other one is still free to newsletter subscribers or for purchase). And I love the Night Stalkers book that will be coming out in October though it has neither cover nor title yet making it hard to promote,

I love writing!

It gives me something to be thankful for every day. And if I focus on that instead of reviews, accolades, stray comments, and other distractions, then I can dodge the "Danger of the Good" (or the Bad) and keep doing what I love most: Telling Stories.
M. L. Buchman has over 40 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the Year,” nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews, and twice Booklist “Top 10 of the Year” placing two of his titles on their “The 101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at 


Judith Ashley said...

A pocket full of wisdom in this post. I've long held to a truth for me - if I'm not enjoying writing, it's time for me to stop - for the day. I've done many things because I felt I had to. At this time in my life I'm focused on doing what I want to do - well, maybe not the dishes or scrubbing the bathroom but once the household stuff is done, it's time to do things that bring joy to my life.

M. L. Buchman said...


Sarah Raplee said...

Congratulations on the accolades you've earned, Matt! It's hard not to second guess and compare when writing a new book, especially one in a series. All we can do is for on, and I'm all about 'following the fun.'

Paty Jager said...

It's true when someone says one of my latest book is my best book, I thank them, think about how the book was put together and then move on to the next book and try to do it justice. I think with each book the writing does get better and the characterization gets better. So in reality, each book should be better than the last.

But not all subjects/themes will resonate with every reader.

Good post! Congrats on all your good fortune in writing, Matt.

Maggie Lynch said...

As always, good wisdom and the realization of lots of hard work.

I hear you on how setting expectations for being better than "the best" can stop you in your tracks. Meeting someone else's expectations is never an easy path.

For me, I have to truly believe the book I'm working on now is the best I've ever written. If I don't believe that, then I will stop writing. There are always points in every novel when I question the writing, the plot, the character, the emotion. But I always find a way to work through it. When I'm stumbling it rarely has to do with the work, but has to do with things in life outside of it.

Marrying the two is always a struggle, but in the end provides the best for both my novels and my life.

M. L. Buchman said...

Great point Maggie,
The way I think about it isn't "this next book is the best book I've ever written. Instead, I think about this next book being the best story I can tell at this time. My skill set is always growing, so hopefully it will be better as well. But this is the mindset that let me continue after one book was named Top 5 of the Year by NPR or that one Top 10 by RT...and then the next one isn't. So, I always strive to write the best book that I can..."at this time."

That's works for me, anyway.