Earlier this week, I tweeted that it turns out writing a book a year is actually really hard. For some reason, I hadn’t expected that.
I’ll back up. Before I was published, I could write two or three drafts a year, and even sort of revise them. One year I wrote five manuscripts. (What is sleep???) Naively, I thought that if I could do all that, then a book a year would be easy peasy. I mean, it’s one book. What’s the big deal?
But I’d neglected to consider all the other things that happen when you’re publishing a book, like multiple rounds of content and line edits with an agent and editor. Like copyedits. Like pass pages. There’s all the work of being a writer — and then there’s also the work of being an author. (Emails, nagging people, being nagged, travel, pretending to be a cat, interviews, blog posts, scary self-promotion, developing a severe caffeine addiction. . . .)
This year, I had two books come out. This may be shocking to hear, but it was actually twice as much work. Who knew!? Not just work for this year, but last year and the year before, too. Because in 2014/early 2015 I was writing and editing The Mirror King, writing and editing My Lady Jane, writing and editing the four novellas that went with The Orphan Queen, getting ready for The Orphan Queen’s release, and realizing that if I wanted a 2017 book, I had to start writing something and get it on my editor’s desk soon.
And even though next year I have just one book coming out (Fall 2017), right now I’m finishing copyedits on that, writing the first draft of book 2 (Fall 2018), and gearing up to work on revisions for My Plain Jane (Summer 2018), which I wrote (a third of) this year (along with editing the book I’m copyediting now).
I’ll tell you what else. Unless a book just falls out of my head (thanks, The Orphan Queen, I love you best), post-contract, there is no such thing as being able to totally focus on it during the drafting phase. There’s lots of pausing and going back to do copyedits on the previous book (that’s what I’m doing now — pausing my first draft of Fallen Isles 2 to work on copyedits for Fallen Isles 1), or pass pages, or even edit letter stuff. More and more these days, it seems like I squeeze in first drafts between all the other stuff. It can be a challenge when the books are in the same series, but when the books are from different series? Or different genres?? Wow. Oh, the mental gymnastics I did with myself to go from writing a happy comedy back to characters getting crossed out left and right.
Now, I look back on those years I spent writing draft after draft, experimenting with different types of stories and ideas, finding out what I was passionate about and what I couldn’t focus on for more than a month or two, and I’m glad that none of those things I wrote then ended up getting published. It was emotionally very difficult, because I so wanted to be published. But I don’t have time for that kind of experimentation anymore. Not if I want to publish a book a year (and I need to, because I have bills). I must write what’s contracted, and think carefully about what I work on next, because I’ll only have so much time to work on a new book before it needs to sell.
Where am I going with this? I don’t know that I really have a point, beyond it’s harder than I thought. I feel like when I’m playing Skyrim and I finish a quest, only to realize I’ve somehow picked up three more along the way and now there’s a dragon attacking the town where my Skyrim kids live.
But I also want new writers to be able to prepare themselves, because publishing sure isn’t easy. And I want published writers feeling like this is a breeze to feel good about themselves (teach me your magic). And I want writers feeling overwhelmed by the book-a-year schedule to know that they’re not alone.
I also want to say . . . it’s not for everyone. And that’s okay. Some books take longer. Some authors need more space. Overall, you have to do what works for you. Sleep deprivation and caffeine addictions might keep you going for a little while, but ultimately, taking care of yourself is most important.