By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
One thing about the holidays is that I’m always around people a lot more than I usually am. In fact, I really can’t think of a time in the last couple of weeks when I was alone in the house. I did really well, actually, keeping up with my modest writing goals, but part of me is glad that school is back in session today.
I definitely socialize more during the holidays than I do any other time of the year—and yes, it’s exhausting. But it’s interesting, too. I always get a different perspective when I’m talking with people I barely know about my writing.
This party season, I discovered that non-writers think it’s rather unnatural that I write three series. The writing-related questions I answer at parties are progressing now, since I’ve been outed as a writer for a couple of years. I’ve just given up avoiding talking about writing when I’m at a party. Especially since, several times, I’ve suspected that it was the only reason I was invited to the party to begin with. So we’ve moved past the why did you choose to be a writer? and how long have you been writing questions to the other stuff. Now it’s: remind me again—what names do you write under? and how many books again have you written? And did you go to school for that? And—in evidence this particular holiday season—… Elizabeth, why on earth did you choose to write three series?
Writing three series was something that I just happened into. A progression of events. I explain that I didn’t just sit down one day at home and take out three sheets of paper and start penning three different books. I had a series that was canceled by the publisher that I took up on my own to self-publish (first series). I had an editor who was interested in the books I was writing for the first publisher, who encouraged me to audition for a series they wanted written for Penguin (second series). Then my agent heard from an editor who was looking for a Southern writer to create a series involving quilting and mysteries (third series).
The fact that I didn’t turn down either of the series that was offered to me shows that I really am nervous about turning down work. I think working in publishing can be feast or famine—if you’re offered work, you should go ahead and take it. So I’ll stay a hybrid writer in at least the short-term, since I’m contracted through 2015.
Now for the juggling. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s doable—mainly because I’m rarely in the position of needing to draft two books at the same time. I’m usually editing one and drafting another. Or working solely on one book at a time, which is what I prefer.
One big thing I’ve noticed is that it can take a while for me to get my head back into a series after working on another one. So this time, I’ve done something completely different and it worked really well for me. I outlined the next book in the series after finishing a book in that series.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but this has not been my approach in the past. I’m a victim of Shiny New Idea syndrome, too, you know. It’s even worse when you write multiple series. And when you’re a hybrid writer, if you receive a check in the mail to start working on a different book than the self-pubbed one you’re currently writing, then you put down that self-pub book and start working on the other one, even if you’re still getting great ideas for the book you’d been working on.
In late-August, I put down a Myrtle Clover book that I was writing (I was about ¼ of the way through the book) and started writing Southern Quilting mystery #4. I turned it in by January 1 and my instinct was to immediately go back to the Myrtle Clover I was writing, since Southern Quilting mystery #5 is due in August 2014. I’d been thinking about the Myrtle Clover book while writing the book for the other series. Ideas for the book, bits of dialogue, funny twists kept popping up, completely unbidden and usually while I was deep into writing the quilting mystery. I’d record those on a separate Word doc and keep on working—on deadline, after all.
So you can see how I was totally ready to pick back up with that uncompleted book. But I thought…yeah. This is what happens every single time. And then I complain that it takes me forever to outline the next book for Penguin because I’ve got Myrtle Clover characters populating my brain and not the quilting characters. Or it will be the Memphis Barbeque series characters in my head. Whichever.
This time I did the smart thing, the responsible thing, and outlined that next Penguin book. The characters were all fresh in my head. The characters’ interrupted continuing subplots (because I’ve given up writing standalones—more on that later) were still familiar to me. I brainstormed a scenario for the murder that would pull my sleuth into the fray, I came up with some likely suspects, I even recognized that the story accidentally (subconsciously?) had a theme and tweaked the subplots I’d sketched out to better reflect it. It took me a fraction of the time that it took me to outline the previous book in the series. I’m really kicking myself for not doing this before.
Honestly…I probably should go ahead and write that first chapter now, too. I’ll be asked for that teaser chapter and I’ll be neck-deep in the Myrtle book and will need to hustle out the first chapter. Maybe that will be what I’ll work on for the next few days and then I’ll go back to the Myrtle. Or at least just get a rough draft done for it.
A bit of a rambling post here from me and I apologize for that…the upshot is that I’ve found it’s a lot easier and quicker to sketch out a draft of the next book in a series when finishing a project in that series. Even if I’d rather be popping back over to write a different series.
If you write multiple series, are you all over the place with it, as I’ve been? And, if you don’t write multiple series…have you thought about it? Had any ideas for other books?