When I gave up real work to spend all my time writing, lots of people asked me if this was a good idea, because the temptation to slack off at home while no one’s watching would be overpowering. (The implication is people only work when in an office because the boss is watching…)
There’s no way I’d give up what I’m doing for anything, but as a community service warning to anyone who thinks writing is the easy lifestyle option, here’s the reality: In terms of hours spent at it, I am “working” (if you can call something as much fun as writing work) at least 30% harder than I ever have before. And that’s from someone who used to work at Microsoft. Far from slacking off at home, the waiting laptop and the knowledge that there’s always a book due and huge amounts of ancillary stuff sucks me into the office every spare moment.
There’s work going on with three books simultaneously.
Everything’s on track for the first book’s release in October. We’ve designed bookmarks for promotion, and they actually look rather cool. I still need to design postcards to send out to places likely to place lots of orders, such as libraries (I know a few libraries have already ordered it!). I’m feeling guilty about the postcards because I could have done them weeks ago and I still haven’t done it. Naughty Gary. Now that I’ve posted about it here, I have no choice but to get it done. Once they’re designed I need to arrange for printing. I’ll be at Bouchercon (a mystery fan conference) this year, and straight after I’ll do a book tour. The tour events still need to be booked. Once booked, flights and accommodation have to be booked. The schedule needs to be physically possible. Luckily for me the Goddess of Punctuation is also a talented amateur travel agent. The flap copy remains to be written (that’s the book description you read on the back cover). I told Editor Kathleen I’d write a first pass for her to turn into something proper. It’s drafted but I’m not happy with it (yet) so I need to rework it. A big difference between working in an office for someone else and running your own small business (which is what writing is, really), is that it’s not enough to do the job; you have to do the job really well.
I’ll receive the editorial letter for the second book some time in the next two weeks. The editorial letter is an actual letter written by Editor Kathleen to me, in which she strives to tell me what a great book I’ve written while at the same time telling me how it could be better. Actually, Kathleen’s extremely good at this. As soon as that letter arrives, I drop everything else (see above and below) and I work on book 2. I have about 4 weeks to fix everything. I only get one shot at fixing, there’s no such thing as two editorial passes. (The book will still come back to me later for copyedits and final review, but by that time the text is supposed to be locked in and we’re only correcting errors.)
I’m really looking forward to flying down to Melbourne for the day to say hello to Editor Belinda and meet the gang at Penguin HQ. I still haven’t done it despite my best intentions. Naughty Gary. I’ll get there real soon now.
Editor Kathleen is sure to ask for an author note for the second book. So I started writing it. The first draft peaked at 30 pages, which is a trifle over the top. I currently have it edited back to 21 and it needs to shrink even more. For comparison, the author note in the first book was 8 pages. The problem is, there’s so much real history entwined into the plot and I want to call it out in the note. Clearly I need a lot more discipline.
I’m onto the second draft of book 3. I called time on the first draft at 78K, which is too short, but 70% of the draft is pure dialogue, and books normally come with other bits, such as for example description and action. By the time I’ve filled in the missing bits we’ll be at my normal length. So far every book I’ve done has been a different process. The first I wrote too much and then did lots of cutting. The second I wrote to exact length and then did a lot of rewrites. With the third I’ve written under and will approach my target from below. Maybe eventually I’ll end up with a consistent process.