Hey Peter, thanks for having me here today. It’s always a pleasure hanging out with you. For your readers, I decided to talk about the challenges of writing a trilogy. Specifically, the demands of getting each book out within a reasonable time frame. I’ll preface the post by saying that I am a relatively slow typist. I still have to look at the keys and never learned proper typing technique—a huge handicap and one I have not pushed myself to overcome and learn. Stubbornness is a double-edged sword, my friend!
As a “recovering pantster,” I had to decide up front that if I was writing a trilogy, I was going to keep a series bible and plot out each book ahead of time. A series bible is where you keep all your details straight about facts, family trees, character traits (descriptions), and technical/research data. I knew I needed to do all of my character grids and story arcs for my main protagonists, and plan out my production schedule. The industry standard these days is two books a year or one every nine months. With Indies, I have more freedom to set my schedule, but industry standard is more like three, or even four stories per year. Occasional short stories or novellas are almost expected between releases. It’s gotten very competitive out there and the more product you have on the market, the better you’ll fare in terms of discoverability and sales—as long as you can continue to create quality material.
Now, in that, there can be no compromise for me. Quantity, in my opinion, is never worth risking quality. With all that said, I figured I could do a book every nine months. If I can grow an actual human being in that amount of time, I can certainly write a book.
I’ve found my limit—the hard way. But I’m happy with that pace and, if I’m not, I can change it. But to try to force more of myself makes the job, a job, and sucks the joy out of my writing. I treat my writing as a business, but I also treat it as an art and a passion, respecting the creative drive.
This is what I did. It’s a broad picture of my production schedule:
Between September of 2011 and March of 2012, I published three back to back releases every three months (Contemporary YA novels that I had already written and had tried to sell to traditional publishers). While marketing and promoting those three books, I began writing WANING MOON in January of 2012. I published it later that year in September of 2012. That gave me two books in 2011 and two in 2012.
WESTERN DESERT took me nine months as well. I worked on it from September, 2012 to June of 2013. If I stay on schedule with the third book, it will be out next spring around March, 2014. That means only one book out in 2013…unless…stay tuned! The best part of being Indie published is that nothing is set in stone. If I need flexibility, I have no one looking over my shoulder but me, and I try not to do that. Our necks are stiff enough already, right?
I further break down my production schedule per book. I figure out a reasonable weekly page/word count which gives me some flexibility in taking a day off now and then. I know that I should be able to write a first draft in three months if I write 5-7,000 words per week. It takes me three months for revisions with back and forth edits from editors and beta readers. Then it takes me at least another month or two of what I call the 3P’s—polish, prep, and promo. The nine months is doable for me to create a quality work of YA fiction of about 70-90,000 words (WESTERN DESERT is my longest by far at 90,780 words). Publishing requires planning and discipline, but I like the work.
Here’s where the art takes over and my yin energy prevails. I am compelled, for both artistic reasons and business reasons, to finish a contemporary YA romance I started last year, before I move on and write the third book in the trilogy. Oddly, I’ve had real trouble finding a name for Book Three, and I normally have no trouble naming my babies. This one just isn’t coming to me. That should have been a sign to me that I needed to take a step back.
To be honest, it feels great to take a break from the trilogy. I have learned as a writer to follow my gut and write what’s working if I want to be productive. But if I’m not inspired to write, the words will always feel like work. I was a bit fatigued after producing the first and second books in the trilogy and I needed a creative shot in the arm. The story I’m working on is doing that for me (by the time this post goes live, I’ll have written a whopping 20,000 words or so this month), so I’m going to allow the muse to take the lead. After all, I am the boss and I’m having fun! And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?
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