It’s been a few weeks because I’ve been on one deadline after the other and then traveling. So lay em on me! Ask your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to get to them all today!
Over the last month or so I’ve received many questions about the reading order of my Cascadia Wolves books. They go like this:
Pellini Story Arc:
There’s a prequel novella: Reluctant which takes place 10 years before the start of Enforcer, but it’s standalone.
Fated is also a novella. Takes place several years after the end of Standoff.
Trinity is a spin off novel so it’s got Jack from my Cascadia series and Renee and Galen from the new de La Vega Cats series. Revelation follows.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously awesome Joan asks a few questions which I will endeavor to answer coherently (now that I’ve drained the tankard of coffee):
First and foremost, I want to know how you stay so prolific. When I was looking at your site to profile you for the January give away, I was blown away by your release schedule and your sheer production rates. I know you’re married and have 3(?) small boys. I want your secret — and I want it now!! :twisted::
2 boys and one girl = everything in my house is broken and it’s loud every minute they awake until they finally pass out at night.
I have to be sort of religious about my schedule. Over the last year I’ve started using things that involve my writing away from the internet (because I am addicted to twitter). I look at my yearly schedule and figure out a per day word count to get my stuff finished on time and I have to be consistent about it or I’d never get things done. I would actually like to ease back by one book a year because I’d like an actual day off, something I don’t have now.
There’s no real One True Way – but I will say that unless a writer puts writing in a place of importance in her life, no one else will. This is my job so when Mom’s door is closed, my kids aren’t supposed to bug me. (HA!). Now that they’re in school during the day, I like to get the bulk of my words done before noon with timed writing sprints (usually write or die, I have the program but I prefer the one at the website). I set for 15 – 20 minutes at a time and dive in. If I do that several times over and over I get my minimum wordcount finished and then spend the next several hours fleshing it all out and adding or deleting stuff as I go.
Oh and I have to fit in the business stuff, edits, galleys, blurbing, and promotion, etc at the margins.
I’d also like to know what your favorite kind of promotion is. Books. Shrug. I think giving books away promotes with the best possible promotional tool, the author’s own voice. I like to post snippets from future releases and excerpts as well. Contests are fun, but I try to keep it relatively easy and painless for entrants.
Your most successful promotion — liked or disliked. It’s pretty impossible to tell what really works. I mean if you go buy clicks, the contests where I give away books daily for a certain amount of time running up to release get great response. I don’t know, in the end, if they raise awareness and then numbers. It’s really hard to tell. So I just try stuff I can keep track of and that seems to be a hit with readers. They like books, I give em books.
I’ve tried blog ads at different sites, but have no real idea if they’re successful! It’s really working blind sometimes.
I’d like to know you’re least favorite part of the writing life and your most favorite part. I absolutely love starting a new book when everything is possible. When the characters are revealing themselves to me and when I’m building the world. Love that part. Of course then I often scrap openings and revise at least three times each book because later on I realize it needs a different feel or whatever. But for that first day or two, there’s no second guessing.
Least favorite is probably copy edits. NOT because I don’t think I need to be edited. I totally do and I love my editors for helping me make my book the best possible book. But copy edits are a different sort of creativity, the process is harder for me to get into. It also takes a while to get used to a copy editor and for them to get used to your style too so at first there’s a lot of “that’s a voice thing” or “gah, why is she changing that when I never do it that way” which usually isn’t about me or the copy editor, she’s doing her job and I’m doing mine, but that finding a rhythm is hardest for me. Also, I hate commas and most copy editors love them – it’s a doomed romance, LOL.
I’d like to know what types of things you do to advance your writing skills — simply keep writing or take classes or ??
I find I learn best by doing, so classes aren’t really that fruitful for me. I like to read as much as I can, because I think that’s where I learn the most. By seeing how different authors tell different stories, it’s sort of a master class. How does X handle dialog? How does Y write a fight scene? How do different genres handle backstory and foreshadowing, etc. Most of the time it’s not how *I* would write it, but just seeing how many tools are out there to tell a story helps me hone my own.
I also try new things every year. Last year, with Mesmerized, I started timed writing with Write or Die. It is doable for me to ignore hte door, kids, phone and internet for twenty minutes. I don’t worry about spelling or syntax. I just get it there on the page. That lack of constraint has been freeing for me. It’s getting the foundation down and then I can go back and flesh out. It’s a multiple layered process and it’s something I’ve found that has really worked for me and my creativity levels. It’s also really good for my wordcount because like I said, I’m free writing and it’s done in a space where I’m not obsessing about every single thing. Something about it has unlocked ideas I’ve had to struggle to bring out otherwise. I think it’s just that I turn off all that external stuff and write, let my creativity take over knowing I will edit out the repetition or whatever.
I also started using Scrivener on the enthusiastic recommendation of Larissa Ione and it’s awesome! I don’t actually write in the program at this point. But what I do is put the world together in the program and then I have all my pictures, links, details and character sketches in one place per book and per series. It’s been an incredible time saver and a really wonderful way to tie in my stories, etc.
More from Joan!
Another question I always want to ask authors who have structured writing time (because this happens to me so often), what happens when you get stuck during that writing time?
I rarely get totally blocked, but if I do, I try to work around it. Sometimes I write ahead and then go back, other times I try writing the scene a few ways to see where I need to go. If I have a low count one day, I make up for it the next, etc.
There’s a lot of writing that doesn’t happen on the page. Do you do that outside your scheduled writing time? What do you do during your writing time if you don’t have something to write? I think a great deal of the book comes from time I’m not actively writing. When I’m cleaning the kitchen or waiting for some kid to get out of some activity. I keep a notebook with me for those times. I can’t schedule that sort of work, it just happens. I have a great deal of creative media around me. Books, photographs, movies, television, outside, magazines, music, etc – I’m taking it in all the time as I go about my day. But I often find those period when I’m engaged in some mindless task to be the most fruitful for ideas/problem solving. Ironing, cleaning, dealing with laundry, cooking, etc. Oh and right before I fall asleep at night. I keep a pad and pen on the bedside table just in case!
Angie asks: I would like to know if you have any idea when the sequel to Revelation will come out? Not this year, but that’s pretty much all I know at this point. I’ve got to finish several projects before I can get to the proposal for Gibson’s book, but it is in my plans! So hopefully next year at some point. You can see some of the characters in November’s Heart of Darkness, though.