Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Herding cats or time management, same diff

An actual conversation between my editor and me, circa early 2016.
Her, in a soft, reasonable voice: So, here’s how it will play out. I have the manuscript for book 1—yay—so we will get working on that. You’ll get revisions around March. You’ve said you’ll have book 2 to me in June…?
Me, lying like mad as I had NO idea what I was doing: Is June fast enough? Because I’m sure I can write it faster, if necessary.
Her, patiently: Ah, no. June’s fine. And mid-December for the third manuscript, you said? And of course you’ll have other stuff come along in the midst.
Me, as dork: Other… stuff? 
Her: Oh you know, revisions, line edits, copy edits, publicity paperwork, page proofs, galleys, cover art packets. Just the usual.
Me: ?!
Her, in this super kind voice, because I’m sure I wasn’t the first noob writer she’d ever had to talk off a ledge: We sometimes call it herding cats.

Okay, so that wasn’t exactly how it went, word-for-word, but the gist is accurate. I'd talked to a few veteran writers, and they'd all advised that it takes about six months to write a decent manuscript for a full-length (90k-word) book. So I'd gone into that conversation with all their collective assurance at my back.

And came out panicking.

I distinctly recall that phrase—herding cats. And the part about her being amazingly patient with me. And the part about me pretty much freaking out. I mean, not just during that call. I was freaking out essentially all of 2016.

In the end, we hit all the deadlines, more or less (see below regarding Christmas), and lo! Books occurred!

So… I sort of know how to schedule my time so I can write 2.5 books a year? Except I really don’t. That whole year was a blur. When the family went on vacation, they snorkeled and sight-saw, and I stayed in a hotel, writing. When we had Thanksgiving, I came out and ate bird meat, then went back to my room to write. At Christmas (because that mid-December deadline slid out to January) I ventured forth to exchange presents, and then locked myself in the guest room, writing like a crazy person.

At any rate, we all survived, but I have no idea how it happened. Neither do I have even a sniff of wisdom on this topic.

It was herding cats.

Which the MythBusters proved is impossible.

So the two books that came out and have my name on the covers? Are basically miracles.

Which is not to say I will not again attempt the impossible. Because crazy-making as it is? Creating books is also a gorgeous thrill ride of miracle-making cat-herding fun.


  1. I wish I could tell you this changes, but each finished book pretty much feels like a miracle. (Though I have gotten much better at knowing how long they'll take me.)

    1. Good to know, though I hate relying on regularly occurring miracles to pull me through. Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert's BIG MAGIC? I'm listening to the audiobook now (hello, Austin traffic!), and she talks a bit about the magic and "genius" of writing and then says the truth: we have to do it anyway, even when the muse/genius/magic isn't there. We just keep plodding and if we're really lucky, the universe will insert a miracle. It's hard to have that faith, but I'm trying.

    2. I do think there's a lot to that concept. We can organize our lives and schedules, but that magic can't be forced. Neil Gaiman says writing a novel is like bricklaying - day after day, you make and lay down the brick. That image really works for me :-)

  2. Ummm....I think I have some things to learn. ;) Thanks for the heads up!!

    1. The base truth is we all have a lot to learn. I'm not sure the learning ever stops. But I'm learning to be comfortable in a state of perpetual what?S?

  3. ~cheers from the 2-ish club!~

    ~fist bump from the "Holiday? What's a Holiday?" Support Group~

    1. ~fist bump from the "Holiday? What's a Holiday?" Support Group~

      I may have finished the draft of a novel on Christmas.
      In a hotel room.
      Of a beachside resort.
      I may have a problem.

    2. If there are more than two fists involved, I think maybe the bump turns into one of those Avengers Assemble huddles? Regardless, am in the *best* company, you guys.