Monday, September 5, 2011

The Great Balancing Act

Realities of Being Published: Lesson Two
Learning Balance
Someone juggling would have been a better picture, I suppose, but when I'm hiking, I always end up in the water in the above situation. I apparently have poor balance.

In my first post in this series, where I talked about working with agents and editors, I listed for you what I envisioned publication being like. This was my list:

  • I would have a story idea.
  • I would write this story.
  • I would send it to my editor.
  • She would love it. (My future editor was always a woman. Not sure why.)
  • My publishing house would send me a check. (Or maybe I would stop by and pick it up, since I, of course, lived in New York City.)
  • I would have another story idea.
  • I would write this story.
  • And so forth.

That list is laughably simple. Even if we ignore all the other responsibilities of being a novelist - blogging, networking, marketing, critiquing for friends who are nice enough to critique for you too, staying up-to-date on the current market, and many, many more - this list is still way too simple.

When I was contracted for The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, my publisher wanted the books to release within 4 months of each other. Eager to please, I said, "Sure! Not a problem!" Because I didn't know what all my publishing house was going to need from me, or how much time marketing should take up. I was very naive. You, fortunately, won't be because you'll have read this.

It never works out where I write a book from start to finish (by which I mean from typing "Chapter One" to wrapping up all the edits) without having to break for another project. Something time-sensitive always crops up, especially if I have a project contracted. When I was working on the Skylar books, the timeline looked something like this:

  • Write a couple chapters of book two, Out with the In Crowd.
  • Receive several questionnaires from publishing house regarding the release of book one, Me, Just Different (asking for information like who I knew who might be willing to endorse the book, my thoughts on cover design, a revised bio, etc.)
  • Turn those in. Write a couple more chapters of Out with the In Crowd.
  • Receive feedback from editor about Me, Just Different. Input her changes. Send it back.
  • Finish first draft of Out with the In Crowd.
  • Receive "galleys" of Me, Just Different. These were often continuity issues, but in my experience the copy editor had just as many suggestions as my regular editor. I would spend a week or so doing this, then turn them in.
  • Write second draft of Out with the In Crowd. Send it to critique partners. (I think I had six at the time, or maybe I was down to three. Either way, it was too many. I have one now, and that works much better for me.)
  • Receive "second galleys" for Me, Just Different. Make changes.
  • Write a couple chapters of book three, So Over It.
  • Receive feedback for Out with the In Crowd from one or two critique partners. Input their changes.
  • Write another chapter of So Over It.
  • Receive page proofs for Me, Just Different. That's one of the coolest parts because it's the first time you get to see what the book will look like once it's printed. My publisher sent them to my house in a box like this:
There's a letter accompanying them detailing a few potential issues the editors or proofreaders see, and a reminder that at this stage we can only change what has to be changed. (Like typos.)

Everything is formatted the way it will be for the book, which is such a thrill.

I won't walk you through everything that took place during that crazy year. My above list is limited to my correspondence with my publisher, so it doesn't include the things I was supposed to be doing on the side to promote the books. Even if you're fortunate enough to have writing be your full time job, you still need a lot of discipline and time management to complete everything by your given deadlines.

Just a little glimpse into the realities of being a novelist.

Make sure you're back here tomorrow; Sandra Orchard will be here to talk about her writing process, and she's offering a 3-page critique for one lucky commenter!


  1. I'm only dealing with one solid contract and other potentials, and boy howdy is this true! I promised Editor B a manuscript 75% done by August 15. While working on that, I had to break twice for edits from Editor A on the contracted book. I'm now supposed to be writing that last 25% for Editor B, who is taking the book to committee, but have page proofs coming from A, had a request for a proposal from Editor A as well on another book, and am still handling marketing of my Biblical. Busy days! Definitely a balancing act, but it makes one feel like a "real" author. =)

  2. If there's one thing I've picked up from reading various posts like this it's that as much as being published is a dream come true, it's also a hell of a lot of work, and anyone hoping to get involved should look forward to quite a lot of craziness. Good luck handling your own. :-)

    <3 Gina Blechman

  3. I love this series!
    Sounds like it'd be easy to get confused.
    I bet everyone who dreams of being a writer thinks it's going to be easy. I know for a long time I did. As I learn I see that's not true & im still crazy enough to want to write. The other day I was listening to a recording from a conference where Robin Jones Gunn was talking and she said something about 22 years ago she was surprised how hard it was being an author and 22 years later it's still hard!!! Even a prolific author thinks it's a challenge

  4. I know it seem it's never ending! This was an interesting post. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Ugh.The time schedules are going to be pretty hard for me.I like to do it my own way.Slow and steady.And I tend to jump from one idea to another. I've got two definite stories right now.One has 2 1/2 chapters and the other only 2. It really encouraged me when you said your first book took four years.I'm a few months away from the year anniversary for one.I really need to start outlining an idea for the chapter and then just typing for a couple hours :) Thanks for doing these Stephanie!
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  6. Roseanna, you are the queen of shifting from story to story these days. And I think that would be WAY harder with historicals than with my contemporaries.

    Gina, YES. A dream come true ... that makes your life madness for a while. Well put :)

    Tonya, I once took a class from Robin Jones Gunn on writing YA. We were all in tears by the end and pledging our devotion to the genre. She's an incredible speaker!

    Martha, glad you liked it!

    Sierra, it's good that you know that about yourself! It means you'll know what kind of boundaries to set up with publishing companies. I have a writer friend whose first series was contracted at 6 month intervals and she told me next time she's going to say no, that she needs a year between releases. And they prefer that to you not making promised deadlines!

  7. I would looooooooove to take a class from Robin Jones Gunn!

    The most amazing thing, like, ever? A writing conference with Steph, Nancy Rue, Robin Jones Gunn, Sarah Ann Sumpolec and other authors of awesomeness. What do you guys think?;) I'm all for it. :D

    Oh, I still live and believe that the life of a writer is simple and relaxing. I just picture myself in a cushy office with a beautiful view -- watching the sunrise, perhaps -- typing away. I guess it won't always be that way, I suppose things will have to change if I ever become published. But hey, I'm living for now. I'm just thankful you're preparing us!

  8. And ooh ooh ooh what a cool prize! 3 page critique!

  9. Ahh, Stephanie your are so lucky to be in her class!! And Emii I love the authors of awesomeness conference.
    This is the recording I have, in case you wanted to download it

  10. Oh, Emii, you are way too sweet! If I were in the presence of those authors, I would be way too tongue tied to speak. And anytime anybody asked me a writing related question, I'd be like, "Let's have Nancy answer it..."

  11. For some reason it scares me to know how much being a professional writer, but I still want to do it lol. I have no other interests that would or could be successful.