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Saturday, February 5

Too Fast, Too Furious, and Way Too Much

By Janice Hardy. @Janice_Hardy

I have no shortage of novel ideas. New ones come at me all the time and I’m always starting new files to hold notes and plots and whatnot. Naturally, whenever I get a new idea and I get excited and want to dive headfirst into that idea.

This didn’t change when I sold my first book, The Shifter. In fact, it made it worse. Because now I had an agent, and an editor, and I had to get as many of those books written to capitalize on this fabulous luck before they found out I was a zero-talent hack. (sound familiar to anyone? Yeah, we all have the same fears)

This is pretty normal. We wait and struggle for so long to get that first book published, then the floodgates open. I made detailed plans of when I was going to write which book. When I’d do the various drafts, when I would send them to my crit groups. I think I even gave my poor agent a schedule of my next few books and when I expected to get them to her (major cringe at this memory, but I’m sure she chuckled and my cute naiveté and forgot about it).

Then I learned that books take the time they take, and trying to force yourself to a schedule is going to drive you crazy.

Blue Fire, my second book, was “scheduled” to take six months. Two months for a first draft, working off my “oh so achievable” three chapters per week schedule. Two months of revisions, one month for the crit group to review, then back to me for the final month of edits. Easy peasy, right?

Fifteen months and five total rewrites later, it went to my editor. Where we did three more rounds of heavy revisions before I (and she) was happy with it.

So much for my schedule.

It was a great learning experience, though. Not only did I learn that I did have the chops to do this writing thing and take a “the first book was a fluke I really can’t write” draft and turn it into a pretty decent novel in the end, I learned that I couldn’t schedule creativity.

Not that I didn’t try again on book three.
Taking so long on Blue Fire put me behind schedule on book three. So I had this “I’m so behind” mantra eating away at me, making me feel like I had to write as fast as possible. Which of course  meant I wrote so-so drafts where word count was more important than the story. And then berated myself when the book wasn’t what I knew it could be.

My husband finally made me realize what I was doing to myself. He reminded me how long Blue Fire took, and reminded how long my first book, The Shifter, took. And then he asked me how book three was going compared to them. He told me to forget about getting it done “on schedule,” and look at what I honestly and reasonably felt I needed to finish it the way I knew it had to be finished.

And it was about nine months, the same time it took me to write The Shifter, back when I had no deadline, no rush to get it all done, no agent or editor. Without losing my mind or making me feel like a failure for not living up to my ridiculous “two books a year” schedule.

Books take what they take. Some writers can do two or three or even four books a year, others do one book over two or three years. There’s nothing wrong with either process. Understanding the time I needed to write a book I’d be happy with, on a schedule I wouldn’t lose my mind trying to adhere to, made the whole thing manageable again. If I wanted to be in this biz for the long haul (which I do), then I needed to find a schedule that didn’t burn me out or make me crazy.

The rush to write all those stories in my head is still there of course. I’m a writer, after all. But I know I’ll get to them when I’m ready.

And they’ll be better novels because of that.

Originally posted during the Blue Fire blog tour at First Novels Club