Our topic this week at the SFF Seven – one entirely appropriate for science fiction and fantasy authors – is “spending time on worldbuilding vs. actual drafting – what’s your balance?” Come on over to find out more.
We’ve been on a long road trip this last week, seeing all kinds of family. And leaving the cats behind, like the monsters we are. Here is Jackson showing off his best Pitiful Abandoned Kitty face.
Thus, I’m late posting today. But so it goes!
I’ve shared this news elsewhere, but I’m happy to share again here! Many of you have asked what I’m up to with various writing projects, including a few delayed ones. (Yes, the next Sorcerous Moons books are coming – I promise!) Basically what happened is that I changed agents back in February/March. And then I worked up something entirely fresh for New Agent Sarah Younger. Basically I gave her a list of ideas, we debated them, and I wrote 100 pages of one of her top three choices – the one I loved best. We went back and forth on it with several revisions. That’s a great benefit of working with an agent as sharp as Sarah. She gave me great feedback on the book, tightening it up and making it the best it could be. Basically we spent three months working on this.
Which meant I kept setting aside other writing projects to work on the next round of THRONE OF FLOWERS, THRONE OF ASH. Thus my entire schedule getting delayed and shuffled. The beautiful part is, when Sarah took this out on submission, we had tons of interest, multiple offers, and a sale two weeks later. And here it is!!
These books won’t start coming out until 2019, so now I can go back to a regular schedule. Which absolutely means finishing both the Sorcerous Moons and Missed Connections series. The other thing that happened is that Kensington, who published my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, started up a new SFF (Science Fiction and Fantasy) imprint. They wanted to publish THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE, but that would have delayed its release until March of 2018 and I knew you all would have fits. (See? I do love you and want you to be happy. I really do!)
So, we said no on that, but they really wanted me to be part of this new imprint, so we settled on me writing a trilogy for them set in the Twelve Kingdoms world. It will be high fantasy, which means less of a romance arc. BUT, I’m pretty sure it will be Jenna’s story. For those of you who know what that means! We finished talking about that right before the other submission, so that got announced at the same time.
All that taken care of, our topic this week is Scrapbooking—taking stories from real life as the springboard for your stories and subplots. Come on over to get my take on blender settings.
I’ve been seeing some scuttlebutt scuttling ’bout the interwebz (which of course – besides porn – is what it’s for) about how access to advice from successful authors leads to a toxic environment. By this the posters mean that finding out when X gets up or how many words Y writes each day can lead to another writer feeling despondent at their failures to meet some sort of similar standard. The (semi)inevitable conclusion seems to be “don’t listen to them, you do you.”
Which isn’t bad advice at all. At least the second part, isn’t. The first part though… Well, I’m not going to say anyone has to learn from more established authors. I did. Lots do. No, you don’t *have* to. I tend to think, however, that doubt and self-recriminations come from within and have nothing to do with what other people are doing.
All of that said, I want to go on record about my position on this. Because I often teach about my process or give advice on how I do things.
My first advice is always, always, always: Own Your Own Process.
Which is a variant of “you do you,” to be sure.
Now, I tend to believe that discovering our own process comes from a combination of doing the thing a whole bunch AND trying out what’s worked for other people. (And if hearing what’s worked for other people sends you into paroxysms of self-doubt and despair, then yeah, maybe don’t do that.)
Still and all, while I’m happy to teach and share, that really is key. Find out what YOUR process is and own it. That puts all the rest into perspective. I promise.
A shot from Los Angeles last week and lunch with the delightful Lynda Ryba (@fishwithsticks). She’s going to be helping out with my Facebook Author Page, so we should see VAST improvements in that! (Really, it couldn’t get worse…)
What with it being NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if you live under a rock – basically you commit to writing 50,000 new words during November), I’ve been thinking a lot about the writing process. Quite a few people wanted me to participate in NaNoWriMo. I could, because I’m seriously drafting book 3 in Covenant of Thorns right now. (I think it will be called Rogue’s Paradise.) I’m almost 20K into it and will almost certainly write at least 50K during this month. And I’d like to be supportive – I really would. Some of the newbie writers in my local chapter are doing it and I can see it would be helpful of me to join in. I like being supportive that way.
Except I said no.
Why? Because I *have* to turn in this book – complete and polished – by December 31, according to my contract. Worse, my editor is going on this long trip to New Zealand (yes, we hate her) and really wants the manuscript by December 25, so she can take it with her. Really a week doesn’t make that much difference, but it makes the deadline ever so slightly tighter. I cannot miss this deadline.
But Jeffe, you say – isn’t that all the more reason to do NaNo, to crank on getting those words down?
See, it’s really not.
Over the past several years, I’ve put a lot of effort and concentration into learning and refining my writing process. I say “learning” because I really believe we all have an organic process that we have to discover and love. It’s rough to go against that. I’ve now written six novels and novellas according to the method I’m using now. I know how much I can do each day (right now, about 2,250 words in 2-3 hours) and how long it will take me to complete the draft and then to revise. Being able to reliably create on a schedule is crucial for being a professional writer. This process is delivering for me. That makes it precious.
Which means I’m not going to mess with it.
Call me superstitious, but I’m not changing a thing.
I’m feeling much the same about workshops and classes. Now, I’m a huge believer in continuing education, lifelong learning – all that stuff. I was the girl in college who took 21 credits every semester, just because there were so many interesting classes to take. That said, I don’t have a writing degree of any sort – no English major, no MFA. I’ve taken tons of writing workshops, etc., over the years, but for the time being, I’m feeling like I want to stay away from them.
This isn’t the hip thing to say these days. Particularly not in the romance-writing community. (In fact, I don’t recall seeing this perspective much at all in the literary community. Those writers are much more apt to be protective of their process and to be vocal about it.) People love to point out when established writers come to workshops. They say things like “I’m never done learning!” and “not taking workshops can lead to stagnation.”
In fact, someone said that last to me just the other day. I threw the question out to Twitter (of course). I framed the question carefully, asking if any of the writers – especially well-established ones – found themselves staying away from classes and workshops, to protect their method. I tried to phrase it to weed out the happy “I love to take classes!” answers. Even so, I still received those responses.
@jeffekennedy Yes. I get very “I’ll do what I want!!!” about it. I always hated writing for school.
— Victoria Dahl (@VictoriaDahl) November 3, 2013
@jeffekennedy Definitely. It’s taken me a long time to get my process right, and I’m not messing with it now after 20 books!
— Zoe Archer (@Zoe_Archer) November 3, 2013
Another author, who preferred to remain anonymous, told me about an experience early in her writing career about “you can’t do that” that stopped her flat. She didn’t write for almost a year.
I think if I cast my net wider, I’d hear more of this kind of feedback. Because it sounds better to be enthusiastic about learning and growing, those writers who feel protective of their process might be less likely to speak up. But, I think it’s an important point – and speaks to the gal who said that not learning could lead to stagnation, a very common view – to remember that growing isn’t necessarily derived from taking workshops. There are thousands of ways to learn and grow as a writer, not the least of which is reading!
It’s certainly a fine line to walk. And it’s not that I think my process or my art is perfect. I do feel, however, that it’s working for me. I’m continuing to improve as a writer and that’s important to me.
More, I’m protective of it.