The Juggling Act

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 under Crisis of Vision, Editing, Kings of the North, Life beyond writing, Marketing, Oath of Fealty, the writing life.
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Writers with what I call Engineer Mind have perfectly organized desks and files.   I’ve met a few of those.   I’m not one.  I have what I call Writer Mind (in lieu of calling it Chaos Mind.)    All my organizational skill goes into the writing…none is left over for anything else.

This becomes even more obvious when I’m faced with competing demands on organizational ability.

As I’ve pointed out before, books in the same pipeline overlap more than may be apparent.    At the moment, for instance, four books are competing for my attention (actually it’s five, but we’re going to ignore the fifth briefly…)   Last year’s hardcover release, Oath of Fealty, is coming out in paperback March first.  That’s, um, real-soon-now.   This year’s hardcover release, Kings of the North, is coming out March 22.     Next year’s new book, Crisis of Vision, is heading into production mode.   The book after that,  not yet titled,  is now being first-drafted and will also need to be finished, polished, and turned in no later than January 1, 2012.

Right now,  I’m supposed to be doing some promotional writing for the March releases, and certainly in March will need to be visiting bookstores as the release date for King nears…and then signing stock after.   I’m also working on the editorial revisions for Crisis of  Vision…the pages Editor marked came in the mail today…and trying to do some first-drafting on Book IV.

Coming up, after Editor is happy with the changes to Crisis, comes its true production phase, all of which is a matter of hard deadlines.  Copy edits to check and return.  Map to be done.  Page proofs to be checked and returned. Copy edits and page proofs must be dealt with instantly and quickly whenever they show up.    Production work on next year’s book often (usually) overlaps the release promotional work (going to bookstores, going to conventions, etc.)  of this year’s book and of course the first-drafting of the book after that.

And all these require different skillsets and attitudes.   Even such minimal public appearances as signing shelf stock in a bookstore requires appearing as a pleasant, sane writer, not the wild-eyed, intense, socially unaware first-draft creator…for one thing, you can’t do it in pajamas and slipper socks.     Blog writing (for the publisher’s blog)  is very different from writing Story.    And so on.   The period of overlap requires changing gears multiple times, and the more books are somewhere in the pipeline, the more times and the more dramatic the gear changes.  It’s very tempting, for that reason, to leave off the first-draft-writing until after the page proofs are done…but that way lies a frantic dash to finishing before the deadline for the next book.

On the other hand, it’s also exciting.    (Not so exciting in a good way that I could ever be one of those writers who has multiple books coming out in one year…I do not know how they do it!)    But I feel solidly embedded in the writing world when there’s a regular (if sometimes frantic) rhythm to the year.    Last year’s book showing up in paperback, this year’s book moving along its track to release, next year’s book moving along the track to production, the book after that tripping along the flowery path of first draft.

The fifth book?  Well, April is Autism Month, and every year Agent nudges me to think of something to do to perk up the interest in The Speed of Dark.

Other things…like a presentation to the Native Plant Society this month, singing in the St. John Passion on April 2, and being on an SF panel at the Texas Library Association’s annual meeting on April 15…have to be fitted into the corners of the writing schedule.   And then there’s gardening, and taking care of the horses, and…who has time to be bored?

Book IV is now over 45,000 words.  And today I wrote a blog post for Editor.


  • Comment by RichardB — February 4, 2011 @ 2:49 pm


    I know what you mean about desks and files. What most people would perceive as rampant entropy in my study is actually chock-full of information *to me*. “Tidy it up” at your peril.

  • Comment by Kip Colegrove — February 4, 2011 @ 8:52 pm


    I was raised by an army engineer and a schoolteacher/librarian. How I developed the barely-controlled crash style of organizing my workspace has mystified all who have known me since infancy. But even those of us whose work zones resemble a (very interesting) midden manage to get good work done on time. There is more than one road to the castle. In my case I think it helps that an overarching temporal pattern is provided by the ecclesiastical year.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 4, 2011 @ 11:25 pm


    I think in my case it is rampant entropy, but it’s what I need to focus my mind on what I’m making. I have no idea why that works.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 4, 2011 @ 11:44 pm


    Hmmm….now that’s an interesting thought. I’m certainly aware of the ecclesiastical year but also of the solar year and the secular calendar…and the places they intersect, or don’t, make an interesting counterpoint to the main flow of each.

  • Comment by Margaret — February 5, 2011 @ 3:48 pm


    I’m intrigued about Agent wanting to promote The Speed of Dark, which I found to be entirely engrossing and thought provoking. Most of the students I work with are autistic and their families (nationwide) are such a strong community – I know that you know this, but maybe other followers don’t. I think I remember that you got mixed reviews from adult autistics, but how did parents respond to it, and how well known is it in that community?

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 5, 2011 @ 4:12 pm


    Parents generally liked it. So did adults who had not realized they were on the spectrum. I have no way of knowing how well known it is in those groups, because I don’t really have a handle on those groups.

  • Comment by Genko — February 7, 2011 @ 10:56 am


    I liked it a lot, and recommended it to my son and daughter-in-law who are raising my autistic grandson. They know a lot about autism, of course, and may already have heard of the book even, but I figured if they hadn’t they might enjoy it.

    I was thinking about this multiple-task life you are leading with these books. The Deed, I remember, you wrote all at once, and that was a very different matter. This seems much more complicated. It sounds like you are taking it in stride, at least mostly. Do you think maturity helps us track multiple things better?

    I think this complexity also shows up in the writing — that is, Deed was a simpler story in many ways. Now you have multiple POV and storylines going on. I never used to enjoy such stories, but now am digging it. Still enjoy Deed too — seem to have to reread it every so often even now. It did such a nice job of setting up what you’re working on now.

    Just curious, will we at some point see Kieri’s and Paks’s perspective of that interesting exchange with Luap? Perhaps revised (as you said you got it wrong then)…

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 7, 2011 @ 11:05 am


    Hi, Genko. Experience in writing does produce a fuller toolkit and thus the ability to do things you can’t do at the start. When I wrote the first Paks books, one main POV was all I knew how to do. Then in the books I did with Anne McCaffrey, I was pushed into doing multiple POVs–and at the side of a very experienced writer, which was a huge help. By the end of the second book, I was much more comfortable with that, and immediately started playing with those tools in the Serrano/Suiza group.

    I’m not sure it’s maturity of mind as much as experience in the craft.

    Will we see the exchange with Luap? Almost certainly by the end of the current group.

  • Comment by arthur — February 11, 2011 @ 9:33 pm


    Personally, I haven’t read anything by Anne McCaffrey for several years now, ever since her last main-line Pern book “The Skies of Pern.” I kept hoping she would do a book about the Human decendants of the intersteller state that the Pernese came from, but that does not seem likely, so I’ve dropped her. I gave my dad Speed of Dark, and he liked it and said that it helped him understand a lot of things about Autism that he hadn’t before. And, I know this is presumption, but will there be sequel, someday?

  • Comment by arthur — February 11, 2011 @ 9:40 pm


    Luap is a odd character. He’s a sad person, in that his whole family is lost, and he’s not really either Aarean or Finthan, and can’t make up his mind which he should be. One of the things I got from “Liar’s Oath” is that the world of the Eight Kingdoms was getting… greyer, or older, or… less “romantic”. The battle had been won by the granges, the true evil of the mage-lords crushed as it should be, and Gird established his Code… but it wasn’t enough. You even have Luap and the Rosemage trading places between Surrender None and Liar’s Oath. He tells her she’s too bitter, and he accepts what has come as ‘mostly’ good, and then , of course, he changes his mind.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 12, 2011 @ 10:17 am


    Luap is a classic tragic protagonist, his fatal flaw being that he cannot see himself as he is–he cannot see that he is unfit to rule. Dishonesty is at the core of his being…even when he sees the right, and accepts that it’s the right (for a time) he can’t hold to that. He thinks wanting to be good is the same thing as being good.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 12, 2011 @ 10:23 am


    The Speed of Dark is unlikely to have a sequel. If there were one, it would take the story of one of the other autists and how he or she dealt with the changes that were coming.

    When a character comes to me and demands that his/her story be told, that character determines where the story ends–when, for that character, the most significant struggle of their life took place and how it ended. Lou is satisfied for now, and unless he comes back and says “Now the next chapter is…” I can’t write it. Not all writers do it this way, but this is how it works for me.

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