Motivated Hamster

A couple of days ago, I overheard my husband talking on the phone with his brother. He was updating him on the 'writing' side of my life. "She's just finishing up revisions. Then it starts all over again." Meaning as soon as I mailed in this book, I'd start writing the next. He was right. I knew this, but his take on the process made me feel like a hamster on one of those exercise wheels. Sort of going and going with no rest in sight. If I hop off, the wheel will continue to spin and I'll be forever trying to catch up or, horrors, standing in the wood shavings, immobile, as the wheel that is my career peters out.

I have read and heard many times that given the competetive market, a new or even midlist author needs to write two books a year to really launch or secure (as secure as one can be in the arts) a career. I've been doing just that since 2003. Writing two novel-length books a year. I'm contracted (thank God!) to continue that pace through 2008. For me, it's a frantic, admittedly stressful pace, but I am hoping that it will eventually pay off. I'm hoping that the longer I do it, the easier it will become. I'm hoping I'll learn how to balance a social and professional life. Between working a day gig and writing, I've pretty much forgotten what a feels like to relax. If I do break away, there's always that anxious feeling of falling behind on work related projects.

At his blog, author J.A. Konrath offers constant insight and advice for other writers. A recent post Time to Make Time (9/20) drove home the knowledge that I am not alone in my struggle to keep up. Konrath wrote:

...I've heard about writers who have things called "day jobs" and "families" and apparently these can take up a lot of time. So can "vacations" and "leisure" and "sleep."

But how can you fit any of that in when you're:

*Writing your next book
*Revising your previous book
*Answering email
*Updating your website
*Doing your blog
*Going to conferences and conventions
*Visiting libraries
*Dropping in bookstores
*Sending out your newsletter
*Doing interviews
*Establishing a web presence

Well, the answer is: you can't.

Oddly, I felt a little better reading that. I'm not alone and, hey, hello, I'm human. Konrath then offered a few tips on how to handle, well, being overwhelmed. I need to go back and read them again . . . over and over.

My point (yes, I do have one) is for any writer who is as driven as me and decides to write multiple projects a year. If you think you can write a book in four months, allow for six months in the contract. If you need six months to write it ask for eight. Why? Because all of those things Konrath listed above will come into play and eat up writing time. Per recent contracts, I allowed myself six months to write one book. Reasonable, I thought. Except it's yet to work out that way. When all was said and done (or not done) I ended up with a window of 4-5 months to write a story begining to end. As of today I am finally free of revsisions on a previous book and find myself left with exactly 4.5 months to write the next one.

Well, at least I'm consistent. And I know I can do it, because I have done it. Still, there's no stopping. No resting between projects. Not just now. I'm not complaining. I'm living my dream. I'm a little winded, but not beaten. Forget the Energizer Bunny. I'm the Motivated Hamster.


Cyn said…
B, you know I am in awe of you. :-) It always amazes me how much you can do in so little time. You ARE making your dream come true--you are already living some of it--and it will all pay off.

Of course, if I have to write two books a year, I'm completely screwed. Unless I stumble upon some switch within myself as time goes on that I'm suddenly able to do this. Maybe it will happen. Maybe it won't. Right now, it's enough for me to worry about one book!

Keep going, motivated hamster! You inspire and remind us all what it takes to tackle your dreams. I always remember your words about wrestling the story to the floor. Doing that now!

Hugs, C
Gabriele C. said…
Lol, I know why I don't want to make a living off writing. I so can't do two books a year, one book in two years is more like it. :)

One of the reasons I work on several projects now is to have books done far enough to finish within a short time for the first three years (one book/year is the standard contract in most genres outside romance) and hopefully I'll have established a reader base willing to wait a bit longer for book 4 by then.

If I'll get published at all. :)
Julia Templeton said…
Excellent post, Beth!
Yep, you are living the dream. Keep it goin', sister!
Congrats on finishing those edits.
Scott Oden said…
I want to be a nuclear-powered sloth :)
Bethany said…
It WILL be worth it in the long run. I hear, once you get a nice backlist and a bunch of readers, that 2 books a year thing, well, you could maybe make that 1 1/2 books. We can hope right? :-)
Beth Ciotta said…
C, you flatter me. *blush* I know you're working hard to wrestle your story to the ground. When you pin it, it will be a sweet victory indeed! For now stay focused and work your magic. I'm inspired every time I read ANYTHING written by you. :)
Beth Ciotta said…
Gabriele, the important thing here is that you know your pace. You know how long it will take you to deliver, and you're not willing to rush it. No reason you should. Also, keen observation, perhaps it IS only the romance genre that is pushing for those two books a year. I don't know if it's the same for new authors in say, horror or suspense, to name two. I can absolutely see where it would take two years to write one 500-800 page historical fiction novel. To me, that's just as daunting as what I'm doing--just for different reasons. :)
Beth Ciotta said…
Waving to my friend, Julie, who is always in the same boat as me, juggling books and revisions. :) I SO owe you an email. LOL

Oh, Scott. A nuclear-powered sloth?! Aren't sloths kind of icky looking? At least hamsters are cute. No, no. Can't see you as a sloth. Pick another critter, please. :)
Beth Ciotta said…
Bethany, yep-per... hoping someday down the line to have a healthy backlist that will make one book a year (or 1 1/2 as you said) doable!! :)
Jordan Summers said…
That is actually a bit of a relief to read. I always thought there was a balance. I should've known better. :-/ Good luck with the schedule. You can do it. :D
Scott Oden said…
How about a super-charged armadillo hopped up on energy drinks, chocolate, and speed?

Oooh, or a solar-powered rat . . .
Beth Ciotta said…
Jordan, if you find that balance, PLEASE let me know. :)

Scott, MUCH better! It's gotta be the super-charged armadillo hopped up on energy drinks--and such. I can see it now...
Kristen Painter said…
I'm not even published yet and I feel like I'm on that wheel.
Beth Ciotta said…
Kristen, I know exactly what you mean. I jumped on the wheel the moment I realized I wanted to write a book and started dreaming about writing for a living. That was 14 years ago, and I've been spinning since. :) Hang in there!
Hey, it may be a hamster wheel, but it's OUR hamster wheel. We writers are on it voluntarily and even though we bitch, we love every revolution.

I am in the process of leaving my Dilbert gig, and I am really looking forward to being a one-wheel hamster!
Anna Lucia said…
How about a wind-powered skunk?

No. Maybe not. Think about the downwind effect... ;-)

Beth, kudos to you for working hard, but yes, PLEASE make sure you put in that margin of error in future deadlines! You worry about not being able to do enough, but you won't be able to do anything if you burn out.

Invest in your long term career with the same energy, and plan yourself some breaks. :-)
Olga said…
Loved the motivated hamster! I think many of us can relate. So many things to do, not nearly enough time. Beth, you do work hard, so I hope there will be some rest and relaxation in near future for you!
Bruno Amato said…
"Living your dream"....How many people can really say that....I don't know how you do it Beth...being able to create so many stories and characters, day after day, year after year...Obviously you love it...and it shows!!!
Roni said…
Beth, you are amazing...a true juggler (work, writing, entertaining, dog-caring). Remember to be good to yourself and occassionally take a day off to refresh yourself--read, hang around the house, or go shopping and do lunch with a friend. A day off can re-invigorate you and then you can keep working on your projects!
Beth Ciotta said…
I was away for a couple of days and, wow! Look at all of these swell comments! I appreciate your kind thoughts and words of advice. I did take some me-time this weekend. Okay. I was talking writing stuff, but I was with a friend and we talked while walking, dining and generally enjoying the quaint time of Red Bank. The important thing is that I actually got OUT of the house, away from my cmpuer, and spent the weekend with a friend. Yay me. *g* Now I'm back and diving into web site updates. Which means taxing my tech skills. Wish me luck.

--The Motivated Hamster

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