The Best-Laid Plans

Often, I’m asked what it’s like to write full-time.  Generally, I answer by explaining that I write on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I do all my admin work (publicity, promotion, marketing, website updating, etc.) on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I restrict my socializing to Tuesdays and Thursdays as well, and I fold in grocery shopping, laundry, and other errands on those days.

But that’s only part of the story.

Every day, I have a to-do list, outlining the specific tasks I need to accomplish.  But some days, new emergencies arise, knocking that to-do list to hell and back.  Take yesterday as an example.

Interruptions

Yesterday was a packed day.  I had my exercise class first thing in the morning, and then a long list of publicity and promotion items for the Diamond Brides Series.  I intended to knock off work early, at 2:15, because I had tickets for my first Nationals game of the year, which had a 4:00 start.  (Spoiler: They won, 7-1!  Yay!)

So, I settled down to work quickly and efficiently after my exercise class.  And in my inbox (newly arrived since my scan of my inbox upon awakening) was a new contract to review.  The contract is for me to grant new rights to a publisher for works previously published; it’s an interesting opportunity, but it requires some reading, parsing of options, and decision-making.  I squared away that document and got back to work.

And a new thing hit my inbox:  a new writer who I’ve been mentoring was getting ready to launch a book on Nook Press (Barnes & Noble’s ebook publishing arm.)  He needed an .epub version of his document — stat.  (And for a variety of reasons, including the amazingly cool volunteer work he’s doing in Sierra Leone, I’m generating his ebooks for him.)  Time out to create an .epub of his book.  I squared away that project and got back to work.

And then the phone rang.  A recruitment company was calling to ask for my reference for a woman who worked for me several years ago. (The woman had recently asked if I would serve as a reference, which I agreed to do, gladly.)  The recruiter wasn’t expecting me to be home, apparently, because she’d only left herself ten minutes before she had to go to a meeting.  She begged my indulgence, rang off, and then called back half an hour later.  I squared away that interview and got back to work.

Ultimately, I completely my to-do list, even with those three fairly substantial additions to the morning.  But a writer’s life is never calm and boring and predictable.

I have strategies for dealing with the interruptions — I close my inbox for chunks of time during the day; I only answer phone calls from known numbers during the day, etc.  But sometimes, the best-laid plans…

How about you?  How do you cope with interruptions in your daily work?  Do you protect your creative work with the same vigor?

So I’m going to hit “publish” on this post, before something can interrupt me :-)

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On Writing: My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Jamie Brenner, er, Logan Belle, for bringing me into this fun blog tour. Jamie writes young adult and historical (1920s) fiction under her own name. As Logan Belle, she writes contemporary romance and erotic romance. Her website is www.loganbelle.com.

1) What am I working on?

I’m writing Diamond Brides, a nine-book series of hot, contemporary romances.  Each short novel tells the story of a different player on the (imaginary) Raleigh Rockets baseball team.  The first book, Perfect Pitch [buy now!], is in stores now.  The second, Catching Hell, will be released on April 13.  The third, Reaching First, will be in stores on May 4, and all other books in the series will be released on the first Sunday of the month, from now till November.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Each Diamond Brides book features a heroine who is a smart, competent woman in a professional field.  Each Diamond Brides hero is a sexy, confident baseball player who comes into conflict with the heroine, usually as a direct result of their professional interests being at odds.  A little bit baseball, a big bit very spicy romance, the Diamond Brides series strikes a unique balance in fun, fast storytelling.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Growing up, I had no interest in any sport, including baseball.  When I met and fell in love with the man who became my husband, I had to accept his lifelong love for baseball.  While I originally learned about the game by rote memorization of facts, I came to appreciate the stories, the players’ individual histories, and I realized that I could build some fun, sexy, romantic stories around an imaginary major league team.

4) How does your writing process work?

I need to limit interruptions when I write — each break in concentration serves as an invitation to check my email, my Facebook page, my Twitter feed, my inbox again…  Therefore, I structure my work week so that I have “Writing Days” on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take care of everything else — publicity, promotion, paperwork, and a jumble of household obligations (laundry, anyone?)

On each Writing Day, I set a goal — generally a single 5000-word chapter (or, occasionally, editing of four chapters).  I draft straight through, working from my outline (which is relatively sparse — three or four sentences for each chapter, describing the main action and character motivation for each major scene).

I do some “Spot Research”, tracking down specific details, such as the average number of home runs hit by a third baseman in a season.  I also ask occasional questions on my Facebook page, having readers help me name businesses or confirm familiarity with words or phrases or similar input.  (I sometimes give away a free copy of the book I’m drafting to people whose suggestions get incorporated into the work.)  In my ongoing attempt to limit interruptions, though, I often leave blanks for Spot Research, going back to fill those blanks when I edit.

Upon finishing drafting a novel, I edit the manuscript, punching up characters’ motivations, emphasizing specific plot points, correcting clunky sentences, etc.  After my editing passes, I circulate the work to my beta readers, who comment on general things (character, setting, plot, etc.) as well as some specific things (sentence structure, word choice, etc.)  After I receive comments from all my beta readers, I revise the manuscript one more time, before sending it out to a copyeditor.  After that, it’s just a matter of time before my baby is a book :-)

Next week (April 14) visit:

Laura Anne Gilman, “Writer, Editor, Tired Person”, a novelist in many genres (and my first professional editor).

Amy Sterling Casil, a short story writer and novelist who blends various flavors of speculative fiction.

Sara Stamey, “Novelist, Editor, Teacher”, Book View Cafe’s newest member.

 

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Jay Lake, NIH, and Local Visitors

As many of you know, author Jay Lake is undergoing treatment for terminal advanced metastatic colon cancer at NIH.  He is scheduled to arrive in Bethesda on March 4, and he’ll be staying for an indefinite time period, but probably until around April 3.  During that time, he’ll have a CT scan, MRIs, insertion of a chest catheter, two phases of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, a course of “helper drugs” for the immunotherapy, and recovery time.

Throughout Jay’s visit, he is allowed to have visitors.  In a perfect world, Jay would love to see 1-3 people each day, for an hour or so each visit.  That would give him a chance to break up the monotony of his hospital stay.  (Jay is *not* looking for patient advocates or “babysitting”; he’ll have family to help with that.)

I’ve set up a Google calendar, showing the relevant dates and the expected treatments (which may, of course, change over time). As near as I can tell, I’m the only one who can edit the calendar to add visitors, but I’m happy to do so if people send email to me at mindyklasky@gmail.com.  People definitely do NOT need to sign up on the calendar before they do visit; the calendar is just a convenience.

View Jay Lake – NIH calendar

Visitors should go to the Visitor Entrance on W. Cedar Lane (on the north side of the NIH campus).  All visitors will have to present ID, go through airport-grade security, have their car searched, and not be bearing firearms or alcohol.  On some days, when Jay’s immune system is particularly suppressed, visitors may need to wear face masks.  (As is the case with any hospital patient, Jay might not be up to socializing at any particular time on any particular day.)

Please feel free to share this post with DC, Maryland, and Virginia people (or visitors who come from further afield) to visit with Jay.  He’s happy to have this information made public.  I’ll update here, if and when the situation changes — if we’re overwhelming Jay with visitors, if he’s not up to company, etc.  Let me know if you have questions, comments, or concerns!

P.S.  If anyone knows how to open the calendar to general edits, let me know!  I *do* know how to add specific individuals to edit the calendar.

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Paying Forward

I recently added some new articles to the “writing advice” section of my website.  Check them out!

I’m also considering adding a new section that will answer “all” the questions new writers want answered.  You know, the ones you’d ask someone over a cup of coffee, or a dinner.  What questions would you ask?  Or, if you’re more in answering mode, what questions are you asked on a regular basis?  (I have my own list, I just want to make sure my experience matches the general experience!)

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Fanfic for Fun and Profit

This just in:  Amazon is going to start selling fanfic, with royalties to be paid to both the author and the world-creator.  Color me… bemused?  Uncertain?  Confused?

Like many authors, I have an uneasy relationship with fanfic.  Although my first serious-to-me writing effort was a sequel to The Lord of the Rings (drafted when I was thirteen years old), I’ve never been serious about fanfic, and I’ve never participated in any of the many online communities dedicated to the craft.  As far as I know (and that’s the way I’d like to keep it), no one has created fics in my worlds.

As a lawyer, I’m not as rabidly anti-fanfic as most.  I understand the difference between copyright and trademark law, and the defense of estoppel (which applies to the latter, but not the former.)  While trademark owners can lose their marks if they don’t enforce against infringement, the same standard does not apply in copyright law.

Mostly, I just don’t understand the allure of fanfic.  I invest a tremendous amount of time, effort, energy, blood, sweat, tears, angst, etc. into creating my fictitious worlds.  I don’t understand the craving the pour all of that into someone else’s world.  It feels … like a cheat?  Like a waste?  Like…  A bunch of things that sound really negative, but I don’t actually mean them that way.  What I mean is, I don’t have the resources to do my writing and fanfic writing, and I don’t understand the investment some people make.

So.  I suspect that Amazon’s program is going to open the door for a lot of public discussion about fanfic.  It’ll add a lot of pressure to authors who have publicly demanded their work not be ficced.  It’ll raise some questions about plagiarism and continuity and, and, and…

Maybe I’ll go pop some popcorn.

 

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Seventeen Novels Later…

…  I have finally learned when a story is working and when it is not.

That doesn’t mean that I always know how to fix what’s broken.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t rant and rave and despair that the book on my computer screen will never match the one inside my head.  It doesn’t meant that bluebirds fly around my head as I work and mice carry me around my office, all singing saccharine songs.

But I can tell when I’m heading down the wrong path.  And I know enough to stop before I get to the end.

This week, that happened in a major way.  I started Chapter 10 of Jane’s story, a chapter that follows a big, action-packed, emotion-punching chapter.  And I had Jane casually joking with Melissa about baked goods.

Yeah, Jane has a best friend.  Sure, she looks for validation from her best friend on a fairly regular basis.  Of course, it’s fun to figure out new treats from the Cake Walk bakery (and maybe even some recipes to go along with them.)

But Chapter 10 wasn’t the place for that.  Chapter 10 was the place for exploring emotions, for grappling with consequences, for reacting to the Big Bad that went before.

Once I realized that, it wasn’t very fun to cut 2500 words.  Especially since it was already 4:00 in the afternoon, and I had vowed I would finish the chapter that day.

But snip, snip.

And wow, is the new Chapter 10 *right*.

Are you a writer?  Can you tell when things are broken, or do you need to ride them out till the end?  And as a reader, how much faith are you willing to invest in a writer, that they’ll get back to where they need/should/want to be?

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