Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jumping Back In

So let me tell you a little story.

(Supposedly that's what I do best, right? Being a writer and all?)

A little over a year ago I signed with my fiction agent, Michelle. A while later we went on submission. We're pitching to very large publishers so sometimes the response times are VERY long. I didn't do what most people suggest you do while on submission--that is, I didn't get going on my next project. Not exactly.

You see, one good way to forget about the anticipation and anxiety of being on submission to the biggest publishers in the world is to distract yourself, and what better way to distract yourself than starting the next novel? Right?

For me, that was wrong. I couldn't do it.

Writing isn't something I do piecemeal. I don't "write ten minutes a day" or schedule special writing sessions that I keep religiously. I am a binge writer. The idea hits. I go.

And let me tell you, it is intellectually and emotionally exhausting to write the way I do.

Writing the way I do yields output that's close to ridiculous. My "record" is finishing a 155,000-word novel in two weeks. My longest book, at 255,000 words, took five weeks. I know what that process takes out of me and I didn't feel that I would be able to knowingly invite that torrential, violently productive experience when I was already emotionally exhausted from the side effects of being on submission.

(Sometimes writers will tell each other that there's no excuse, etc., but I would like to say nobody--even other writers--gets to say what I should be able to handle or how I should be organizing my output. I do what works for me. Do not tell me I'm not doing it right if I'm not doing what works for you.)

So what did I do instead? Well, I picked a different kind of project. I worked harder on my nonfiction projects and other hobbies. I started another webcomic; I wrote more articles on the topic of asexuality and got them published; I began in earnest to write a nonfiction book about asexuality and did research on writing proposals. I went to a conference to speak on the topic. I did and said things that kept getting me interviewed. And I began writing more articles and making more videos to help other writers with their querying and writing. This was a different kind of creativity. It was a good distraction. And it was time-consuming, but it paid off . . . in a weird way.

I began submitting my nonfiction book idea and I got signed to my nonfiction agent, Andrea. Suddenly that book was on submission too. Now I'm riding the wave for two very different books, to different publishers, through different agents. And it's maddening.

Platform is very important when it comes to making it in the nonfiction world, and sometimes the decision-makers think I'm borderline despite all the media attention and wide recognition of my work. (I even get recognized by strangers and excitedly thanked for what I do sometimes. Happened again just today, when a guy called out to me from his car when I was riding my bike to work, wanting to know if I was that girl from the documentary. Though I have yet to be asked for my autograph! Ha.)

I've felt that it's important to continue "performing" for the community, creating content, being available, being authentically engaged, contributing to the conversation. I don't want to stop doing that (though I guess I could spend a little less time on Tumblr!). I think it's vital to my nonfiction career and being in touch with the community I'm going to be representing with my book.

But . . . I need to figure out what I can do differently. Because even though the stress is sharper than ever, I've been away from writing fiction for a long time. I'm not afraid of it. I'm not procrastinating. I don't have writer's block. I don't make excuses about "not having time" for it. I just didn't think I could handle the sheer intensity of what writing stories is for me--not with everything else going on--and I wanted to spare myself the complete emotional exhaustion on a level that will probably exceed anything I've ever dealt with before.

The problem is that being away from writing fiction is emotionally exhausting too.

And I think I'm done.

My vague plan for now is to finish up some editing obligations, tackle a short story first to ease back into this, and finally, start the sequel to Bad Fairy. I will put together a list of my goals and intentions soon and post them here so I can have some accountability, and amidst the other blog posts I plan to do, I will filter in information on how it's going. Soon enough you guys will be watching me pound out a novel real-time, I hope.

Let's just cross our fingers that I don't regret this decision, because given what I know about myself and what I'm dealing with right now, there's a chance I could drown if I try this. I think the short story idea will help me test the waters.

We'll see if I sink or if I swim.


  1. 155K in two weeks? I'm am super impressed. I can write fast, if I have the time--which I usually don't, but I don't think I'd get up to 155.

    I've done about 70K in two weeks and I considered that pretty good.

    1. Yeah, that 155-000-word book was written the summer before I started college--so I wasn't working or in school. I had more time than usual, and believe me, I milked it.

      70K in two weeks is pretty fantastic by most people's standards, including mine. If I spend an entire day at it I'll usually break 20K in a day, but I usually don't spend an entire day! I think usually when I write something I'll hit maybe 8,000 to 14,000 words in a good day. We'll see what my counts look like when I jump back into novel-writing.

      I have my to-do list up and it's just revoltingly crowded. :P