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The Lost Days, or Babble, Babble, Babble

Ever have those days that no matter what you've set out to do, you can't make it happen?

I'm having one of those days. It's Monday, after a hugely successful library event in Alabama. Copyedits were turned in Saturday, jetting to New York overnight in their glorious little envelopes. There's something special about overnight mail. The sense of urgency, of expectation, of accomplishment, well, it's just one of those fun things. Whether I'm expecting it or sending it, I get a little thrill.

I had a very intense round of copyedits last week, making sure I made the book the very best I could make it. Copyedits are the last chance to make substantial changes, and I knew I wanted to plug a couple of holes in addition to whatever issues the CE caught. I had to be doubly careful to make sure all the little things we left or changed in the first book were consistent in this one. Like calling Taylor by her nickname on the force, LT. Common usage among police officers. It's short for Lieutenant, obviously. In the first book, we kept it as LT. This copyeditor wanted it to read L.T. Which meant a ton of STET scribbled on the manuscript. When that happened, I realized I needed to be extra careful that everything from book 1 was consistent with book 2. Which meant twice the work.

No worries, that's what we're here to do. Make things right. Right???

So I was especially happy to send these CE's back to New York. I count my blessings. Being copyedited is an eye opening experience. Much to learn, much to absorb. Every house has their style guide, so there's that to consider. I've learned so much about formatting through the CE process... silly little things like the chapter heading is simply the spelled out number. Don't indent the first paragraph after a heading or break. Little things like that. I try to incorporate the typesetting into the development of the manuscript. I now understand when published authors tell writers on submission not to worry about fancy formatting. The CE will just remove it anyway. Don't waste your time. Got it.

Once the CEs were off, it was early to bed for a Sunday appearance, and plans to finalize for a Tuesday night signing. Busy, busy, busy. I figured Monday would be a perfect day of rest. I'd read, maybe watch a movie or two.

Instead I found myself hitting refresh on my email. After a morning that is better unremembered (I may blog about what upset me at a later date, once I'm sure nothing can be done about it) I got myself into four separate conversations and we spent most of the day "e-talking." I mindlessly refreshed Crimespot, my email, the news sites, my email, reread the same three or four blogs (I guess wishfully thinking that a fresh post would appear by magic for my enjoyment,) cleaned out my bookmarks, checked my email, debated about what organizations to re-up and which to let memberships lapse, checked my email... I read a grand total of one page, looked at the clock and saw it was 4:00 PM. Lost the whole day, for nothing. I decided to heck with it, I'll just nail a few blog entries. So here I am.

It's funny how I get myself derailed on the "day after." I'm finding this more and more. If I've traveled over the weekend, I have to have a day to goof off. If I finish writing a book, I need at least a week, if not a month, to recover. If I'm waiting to hear back from someone about something, I have a very difficult time not checking to see if that answer has come in. It irks me, these lost days. I hate that I've wasted a perfectly good opportunity to do... well, anything but goof off.

I was so excited last Sunday morning. I was digging in my overnight case for my mascara, getting ready for the Alabama gig. It was only and hour and a half drive, no sense in overnighting it. (I asked them to take my accommodation stipend and donate it back to the library, and they were pleased. I was fed well instead.) So as I was putting on my makeup, I realized that wow, I can actually unpack this. I don't need to go out of town overnight for, let's see... oh. I might as well leave it packed. Two weeks. A grand total of two weeks at home. If it gives you any perspective, that case has been packed since November.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change anything. Lost days are just the nature of the beast. But being on the road in support of a book is hard work. To be honest, I'm tired. I can't even imagine what people like John Connolly, who tours for a month in a different country, must feel like. Nowadays, I get overwhelmingly excited that I have a weekend at home. Of course, that means people who've been neglected need to see you, but at least I don't have to dress up for them.

There's no such thing as taking a vacation anymore either. You have to plan to do drop ins wherever you are. It's a mind boggling turn of events. You never look at travel the same way again.

They say be careful what you wish for.

My biggest problem is the more I'm on the road, the longer it takes me to get back to my rhythm. And one of the things that newbie writers don't realize is when you write two books a year, you are working on three at once, at all times. Start from this moment in time. While the copyedits are being done on 2, book 3 is being read by my editor, and I've started on book 4. In another couple of months, there will be galleys of book 2 and edits of book 3 while trying to finish book 4. Then there will be launch of book 2, copyedits on book 3 on the 4th book being turned in, which just means that work on # 5 needs to start. It's insane. And I love it.

Add into this that writing and touring and getting exhausted is FUN. Let me repeat that. It's FUN. I love meeting new people. I've nearly licked the fear of speaking in front of a group. I love meeting people who've read the book and liked it. I love meeting the librarians, and booksellers, and festival coordinators -- people who love the written word as passionately as I do.

But since I've always been able to write four hours a day and not travel, it's taking some time to adjust to the new expectations. What do you do when you travel to get your head back in the game quickly? Is it better to schedule a month to do all the promotion, then stay home the remainder of the time? Do you really lose out if you don't travel to all the conferences?

I'm more convinced than ever that I need to limit myself to one or two of the biggies (next year I'm thinking about BCon, RWA and Romantic Times) and intersperse one or two smaller cons in. I love the book festivals, and think they are an excellent way to get your name in places you'd otherwise never be known, so you have to add in a few of them. Then you have your regular signing events... I've actually said no to a couple of invites because A -- the money wasn't available to make it happen, and I just can't talk myself into making a huge monetary commitment to get myself in front of ten people, and B -- I'm burning out. When, in the midst of all this travel and promotion, will I have time to write?

These are the issues new writers need to grapple with. You vets out there know how to manage all this. Can you throw some advice my way???

Wine of the Week: Cascina Pellerino Langhe Nebbiolo

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Not a veteran, but I play one on TV

Here's my sense about conferences: they're mostly for your personal satisfaction. From the standpoint of self-promotion, I think they fail on a pure cost/benefit basis. That doesn't mean I think they have zero promotional value, but when you add up the costs, they kinda make no sense, except for existential purposes.

So pick the conference or two that you think you'll enjoy the most. Until we land the Standard Rich And Famous Contract, I think they ARE our vacations. So if you see them that way, rather than as part of your work, then you treat them like any other time off.

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Exactly

Bill, you've hit the nail on the head. They're really for us. We need to focus them on the reader instead.

J.T. Ellison