Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writing goal for 2012: sanity

I went through a huge change in my writing life this year, imho third only to finishing a novel and selling a novel. After 21 years of writing novels and 6 years of getting paid for them, I finally quit my job as a copy editor and became a full-time writer.

There were a couple of reasons for this. One was that my new agent sold five books for me this year, compared with the seven sales agents had made for me over the last five years. I am still not a gazillionaire, but I'm making enough to constitute a full-time salary without supplementing my author money with copy editor money.

But I quit before we'd sold the last two books this year. It was book number three, The One That I Want, that pushed me over the edge. And it really wasn't a money issue but a time issue. If I agreed to write that book--very quickly, because it's out now!--there was no way I could have corralled my son while he was out of school all summer long AND continued to copy edit articles about nasal polyps.

I've joked a lot about the nasal polyps job, but the truth is, not all the articles I copy edited were about nasal polyps, and I absolutely loved being a medical copy editor. I didn't give up that job lightly. But my bosses did have a tendency to throw five days of work at me with no advance notice and ask for it in three days. Hey, a lot like revisions and copy edits for novels! I was able to handle one job like this for years. The schedule was easier for me to juggle back when I had only one novel out per year and most of my writing deadlines were self-imposed. But two jobs like this didn't work for me anymore. One of them had to go. You know which one.

This went down in April. So for the first third of the year, I was still copy editing a lot of nasal polyps. Despite this, I managed two write two and a half novels this year and go through the revision process on three. I've also written proposals, promoted my books, all that stuff that goes along with writing. Yet I feel like I haven't gotten anything done at all, like I have been very unfocused and airheaded, spinning my wheels. Granted, for years I mothered a toddler with my husband mostly gone to his third-shift job or sleeping during the day, I copy edited articles about nasal polyps, and I wrote novels whenever I could grab a minute. Great swaths of my first published novel, Major Crush, were written while I was on the elliptical machine at the YMCA. It was those levels of drive and panic that I was trying to dial down when I went from two jobs to one this year. It didn't happen.

Therefore, my writing goal in 2012 is to start feeling like writing is a job that I can go to each day, complete, and leave. I will then walk out of my office and do something else. I will get so much done in my designated writing time that I will not be revising a novel on Christmas day in 2012 like I did in 2011. (It's Such a Rush, it's coming out this July, and I will be able to show you the beautiful cover soon! I am so happy with it and I hope you enjoy it too, but I really could have done without it on Christmas.)

That's the goal, anyway. But after working as a full-time writer for eight months, I'm beginning to suspect that feeling insane and unfocused and airheaded may not be the product of my hectic schedule. I may actually be insane and unfocused and airheaded, and that's part of what makes my novels what they are.

4 comments:

  1. This is a great goal. Share any tips you find along the way please. I'm a freelance writer, and I'm trying to get break into the publishing world (young adult stuff), plus be a mom to three very rambunctious kids. I need any tips you can give!

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  2. Congratulations, Jennifer! Five novels in one year--how FABULOUS. You absolutely deserve it.

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  3. Well, then. Being insane and unfocused and airheaded isn't quite a bad thing, is it? I love you the way you are, Jennifer. You're an awesome writer. And 5 novels in a year just goes on to prove how dexterous you are ;)

    Have a great year end! And take time to breathe.

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  4. Cheers to insane, unfocused and airheaded! I think it comes with the territory. And having just read your post and Catherine Ryan Hyde's, I think I am now convinced of what I have come to believe: it doesn't get any easier. It doesn't get less crazy. But I do relate: After balancing writing and teaching 6 classes of 30 English students (that's 180 kids in case anyone isn't mathy) and family and health crap and life in general, some days during these past few months that I've been mostly only writing, it feels weird. it's hard to stop and turn it off because I've been so used to working 24/7 non -stop just to get it done. And somehow this makes me think of more projects I want to write. So it's no less crazy. Just a different crazy. But five novels!! So freaking wonderful!!

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