Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Books A Year…eep!

So this year I made the jump from having one book under contract per 12 month window, to having two books under contract per 12 month window. Now, at first glance you might say: That's a doubling of your work load, what were you thinking?

What I was thinking was that in each of the previous four years I'd written two books, one on contract, one on spec. And, since I haven't yet sold any of the spec books, though I do expect to, I would be doubling my income with no concomitant increase in work load. Turns out I was wrong.

Over the last decade or so I've tended to work in spurts with gaps of weeks or months between. Since '06 that's produced around 150-160k words per 12 month period, or one adult fantasy and one YA written on spec. And that's been a mostly stress free level of production.

Under the new deal I'm only contracted for 180k per 12 months, which shouldn't have been that much more work. But I also made the jump from contemporary fantasy to secondary world high fantasy and that seems to add about 20 percent more effort to the process. I'd heard something like that from George R.R. Martin at some point, but he was moving from science fiction to fantasy, and I was just changing types of fantasy. Surely it wouldn't that bad…

Add in that the first book went 7k long and that I expect this one to do so as well, and suddenly it's the equivalent of 220-230k of what I was doing before. That's 70-90k extra, or nearly another adult novel's worth of effort. I'm getting it done and not dying, but it's a major change.

The biggest adjustment from one book a year to two is how fast it catches up to me if I take a break. I've often dropped out for a month and a half of downtime at the end of a book, or when I needed to think about the story, or just to spend more time with my professor wife when she's off from the University. Now, if I haven't worked ahead, a month and a half is a 22k word deficit that I have to make up some time in my remaining four-and-a-half months.

When that was on a spec book, it didn't really matter. I could always punt my personal deadline a little further out. I almost never did, but knowing that I could made a huge psychological difference. So, an extra novel's worth of work plus more than doubled pressure. I think I've found a balance that makes it work for me, but it's going to be very interesting seeing how things go when we hit my wife's summer break this year.


Jonna said...

You can do it, Kelly!

Douglas Hulick said...

I've already decided that the next time I contract for a deadline, it's going to NOT be in the middle of my production period (when the kids are in school). As it is now, I get the next book rolling; then hit three months of inconsistent production (summer vacation); then suddenly need to ramp up and get my brain back in gear because, eep!, the book is due in five months.

Much better will it be* to (hopefully) have said future book due just before the kids are getting ready to get off for the summer. That way, I have the summer to plot & putter, start to build speed, and then hit high gear for a sustained period once the guys go back to school.

(And you don't want to hear how many k of a false start I had on this recent book. Ugh.)

But, different writers, different issues. I know you'll get it done; it's just the learning curve that's a bitch. I know I felt the world building in Hawthorn Queen was much easier than in Among Thieves, so I can sympathize with the switch in the other direction.

*= "Much better will it be"? Who am I tonight, freakin' Yoda?

Kelly McCullough said...

Yeah, it'll get done. I'm even barely back ahead of schedule at this point. If I can sustain this push for fifteen more days that should put me almost three weeks ahead of deadline, which I'm envisioning as the giant stone ball from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Tanya said...

any chance one of those 2 is a webmage novel? please please. love them.

Kelly McCullough said...

Tanya, I'm afraid not. WebMage is done for the moment. I wanted to stop before I burned out instead of grinding to a halt some time after. That said, if I come up with a fantastic WebMage idea and my editor goes for it there may be further books down the line.

What I'm working on now isThe Chronicles of Aral Kingslayer, a high fantasy/detective noir mix. It should start coming out in Dec of 2011 with BROKEN BLADE, with book II coming out six months after that and book III six months after that one. I'm pretty excited about it, and so is my editor which is why it's on a six month release schedule.

Tanya said...

sad on the webmage - but will be there for your new series.