Saturday, October 9, 2010

Janice Hardy on curbing unrealistic writing expectations + BLUE FIRE giveaway!

Today's guest post is from Janice Hardy, author of the ever-so-excellent Pain Merchants trilogy. (Yesterday we reviewed book two, BLUE FIRE!)

Janice dispenses top-notch writing advice 5 days a week on her blog (an FNC favorite!), and she's guest posting about the problems she came across when she tried to schedule her creativity and write her latest book in six months. Eighteen months of writes, rewrites, and revisions later, she's ready to impart her hard-earned wisdom!

Too Fast, Too Furious, and Way Too Much

I have no shortage of novel ideas. New ones come at me all the time and I’m always starting new files to hold notes and plots and whatnot. Naturally, whenever I get a new idea and I get excited and want to dive headfirst into that idea.

This didn’t change when I sold my first book, The Shifter. In fact, it made it worse. Because now I had an agent, and an editor, and I had to get as many of those books written to capitalize on this fabulous luck before they found out I was a zero-talent hack. (sound familiar to anyone?)

Yeah, this is pretty normal. We wait and struggle for so long to get that first book published, then the floodgates open. I made detailed plans of when I was going to write which book. When I’d do the various drafts, when I would send them to my crit groups. I think I even gave my poor agent a schedule of my next few books and when I expected to get them to her (major cringe at this memory, but I’m sure she chuckled and my cute naiveté and forgot about it).

Then I learned that books take the time they take, and trying to force yourself to a schedule is going to drive you crazy.

Blue Fire, my second book (just released), was “scheduled” to take six months. Two months for a first draft, working off my “oh so achievable” three chapters per week schedule. Two months of revisions, one month for the crit group to review, then back to me for the final month of edits. Easy peasy, right?

Fifteen months and five total rewrites later, it went to my editor. Where we did three more rounds of heavy revisions before I (and she) was happy with it.

So much for my schedule.

It was a great learning experience, though. Not only did I learn that I did have the chops to do this writing thing and take a “the first book was a fluke I really can’t write” draft and turn it into a pretty decent novel in the end, I learned that I couldn’t schedule creativity.

Not that I didn’t try again on book three. (Yeah, I know, what was I thinking?)

Taking so long on Blue Fire put me behind schedule on book three. So I had this “I’m so behind” mantra eating away at me, making me feel like I had to write as fast as possible. Which of course only meant I wrote so-so drafts where word count was more important than the story. And then berated myself when the book wasn’t what I knew it could be.

My husband finally made me realize what I was doing to myself. He reminded me how long Blue Fire took, and reminded how long my first book, The Shifter, took. And then he asked me how book three was going compared to them. He told me to forget about getting it done “on schedule,” and look at what I honestly and reasonably felt I needed to finish it the way I knew it had to be finished.

And it was about nine months, the same time it took me to write The Shifter, back when I had no deadline, no rush to get it all done, no agent or editor. Without losing my mind or making me feel like a failure for not living up to my ridiculous “two books a year” schedule.

Books take what they take. Some writers can do two or three or even four books a year, others do one book over two or three years. There’s nothing wrong with either process. Understanding the time I needed to write a book I’d be happy with, on a schedule I wouldn’t lose my mind trying to adhere to, made the whole thing manageable again. If I wanted to be in this biz for the long haul (which I do), then I needed to find a schedule that didn’t burn me out or make me crazy.

The rush to write all those stories in my head is still there of course. I’m a writer, after all. But I know I’ll get to them when I’m ready.

And they’ll be better novels because of that.

GIVEAWAY TIME!
Want to win a SIGNED copy of Janice's latest book, BLUE FIRE (The Healing Wars, Book 2)? Enter below! (Thanks, Janice!)
* THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED *
Janice's Bio
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.  She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Links!
- BLUE FIRE Online Retailers
- Janice's website
- Janice's previous FNC guest post on proactive characters 

We wanna know!
What's the most unrealistic writing expectation you've had for yourself? Any wise lessons to pass on? How quickly (or slowly, like in my case) do you write and revise a novel? Leave it in the comments!

6 comments:

  1. No entry for me (I'm in Australia), but I wanted to comment. I've had this same realisation just recently--I was hurrying along to a self-imposed deadline, and realised I wasn't achieving anything except stressing myself out! I've now relaxed, moved my deadlines to a place that take into account my other commitments, and the standard to which I want to complete my work, and I'm doing so much better!

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  2. That's great! And I bet your work has improved, too, because you're able to focus better.

    I read somewhere (forget where) that if you wrote 250 words a day, at the end of the year you'd have a 90K novel. 250 words isn't much, so when you look at it that way, even small, steady, steps can get you to your goal.

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  3. Great interview. I'm glad to know it's okay not to be a fast writer. My unrealistic expectations have been that I'm done when I'm not and that it would take less time than I thought. Sound familiar?

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  4. Totally :) Writers don't compete with each other, but there is this weird sense that if we aren't doing what someone else is doing we're "losing" in some way. Hard to snap out of that sometimes.

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  5. Great post. For me, very timely too. I am currently editing a book that I was planning to submit by November, but I know that's not going to happen. I am considering some major revisions, and I know I have to do them because I know what this book could be, and I don't want it to be any less.

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  6. Good luck, Dolly! It's not always easy to set aside our self-imposed (or editor-imposed if that's how it goes) deadlines. That adage "it's not a sprint,m it's a marathon" is so true. I remind myself of that every time I feel that crazed urge to rush when I KNOW I don't have to.

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