Time Keeps on Slipping (slipping) into the Future

Before I forget, this is important. Jim Hines is doing his annual fund raiser for rape awareness. Check out the prizes.

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You know, sometimes, when you track your energy? If I do it early in the day I’m going to give it my all. If I do it about now (1 pm – 3pm) this is the time of the day I really, really lag. So, here I am today, trying to snag my writing time right now. And I’ve managed to read through yesterday’s stuff so far, and think okay, this is where I should start.

You might be saying to me, well, what are you doing here, writing at ye olde Writer Tamago?

I’m maximizing tomorrow’s writer time, which will be morning time in part. And I’m also going to talk about goals and time.

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You remember about the post about getting organized? No? Well, here’s a brief refresher. I set a goal to make a chapter revision a week. Yup, been making that goal. And keen to stay on that. There comes a point in the writing process when I can plan, and the combination of goals and time is a heady potion.

A trap many artists fall into is overestimating what they can do in a given amount of time.

At this point, I’m not talking to you if you’re a writer who wants until a week before the deadline, and then makes a glorious kamikaze effort to hit that deadline, avoiding life’s little annoyances like sleep and going to the restroom. I got nothing for you. I’ve never had anything for you, even when I’ve taught your ilk, except the usual advice, said in a horrified tone of voice: “Don’t do that!”

I won’t judge you. I got nothing to say to you, though. This is not the journal entry you’re looking for. I just don’t have your crazy adrenaline-induced stamina, you wildcats you. You go and live on Snickers bars. Let the wrappers fall where they may as testament to your hubris.

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I’m talking to those of you who plan to write War and Peace before breakfast.

Author: I can write that novel in six months. Sure, it’s a 100K monolithic re-envisionment of the epic fantasy from the cultural stance of an imaginary amalgam of Latin and Sumarian culture told in the style of James Joyce, but piece of cake.

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The Writing Process and Jim Hines

Well, my plot to take over the world get Jim Hines nominated for the best fan writer Hugo has come to fruition. Now, of course, what remains is to get you to vote for him. In the interest of providing you with yet again another example of why you should, I refer you to Jim’s entry today, which is about himself and privilege. That’s why we love you, Jim.

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Jim was also very kind about volunteering to be my next interviewee for the writing process interviews that I am doing. You can find more information about Jim and his work at his website. A very versatile writer, Jim has authored the comedic Jig the Goblin books, and the fairy tale princess adaptations beginning with The Stepsister Scheme. His new series, Libriomancer begins in June.

And, Jim Hines is the poster child for all of you who say you can’t find time to write. Read on…

Tamago: Do you have a regular drafting process, or does your drafting process vary from book to book. Can you describe it to us generally, or at least for one project?

Jim: I have a fairly regular process, though it’s messy. I start with an outline, because my brain just can’t hold an entire novel. I’ve tried. It’s ugly. So I get a 3-4 page outline, then start writing the first draft. Around 20K-30K words, I realize the outline is utterly messed up, and throw it away. At that point I have to stop and write up a new outline. (Small brain again.) This usually repeats at about 50K words, so by the time I finish up a first draft, I’ve crashed and burned at least three times. Most books require about four complete rewrites, though after the first draft, I don’t have to stop and redo the outline quite as often.

Tamago: I know that you used to write mostly at work over your lunch hour. Is this still true? What do/did you like about this writing technique? About how long is a writing session for you? Do you get a certain number of words per session?

Jim: It’s still true. I write for about an hour during my lunch break, and on a good day, I can get through close to 1000 words. I think the biggest advantage to this schedule, for me, is that it’s a regular time when I know I won’t be interrupted. Occasionally one of my coworkers pokes his or her head in, but most of them know and respect what I’m doing from Noon to 1:00 every day.

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Clocking In

I figured I’d better personalize this baby in between interviews.

Where have I been? Last week we were registering students here at the English Ranch. The week before I was in Philadelphia meeting fellow future Taos Toolboxer Fran Wilde. Did you know that they coat anything in chocolate in Pennsylvania? Fran assures me it’s a well known fact.

I’ve…read some books I want to tell you about. There’s at least one movie I want to review too, and it isn’t The Hunger Games. (I suppose the last thing you’d need is another Hunger Games review.) And there’s the thing I’m going to do tomorrow, which is put up another Author Process interview.

And…Paradise Iowa was approved by Icon, so I’ll have a lot of good writer’s workshop information up here soon for any of you journeymen writers who might like to come to Iowa to go to a workshop and attend a con at the same time.

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I think I’m going to start posting some of my horror research too, so you can expect a post on Hammer Studios soon. Well as soon as I finish the books.

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I hope you are all doing well. Me? I gotta let Margo color my hair. Later.

Cath

Guest Post: Breaking the Rules by Stephanie Burgis

Guys! Here’s a guest post from Stephanie Burgis! What a great post about what you should and shouldn’t do in writing, and why you should break the rules anyway. Actually, that sounds like something the heroine of Renegade Magic would do…

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BREAKING THE RULES
by Stephanie Burgis

There is one rule of publishing that has saved many, many aspiring authors from heartbreak and wasted energy: Don’t write a sequel until you’ve sold the first book!

It just makes so much sense, for so many reasons. You’ll probably never find a publisher for that second book if the first book doesn’t sell, so why not use your writing time and energy, while submitting the first book to agents or editors, to write a really stunning, completely new and different book?

In the best-case scenario, you can still write your sequel after you sign your first book/series contract, and you’ll also have a fabulous new book to sell next. Win-win! Even in the worst-case scenario, if the first book doesn’t sell, you’ll be ready right away to start the submission process fresh with something new and different.

I believe in this advice; I’ve given this advice to other writers; I’ve genuinely seen this strategy save other writers’ careers; and for several years, I followed this advice religiously myself.

Until 2007, when I flagrantly broke it.

Here’s the thing: until 2007, I had always tried to make the smart choices, the strategic choices, with my writing. I loved writing more than anything else, but still, I had my eye on the prize, which – for me – was eventual publication and a long-term career.

Then my life imploded around me, when I was diagnosed with M.E./CFS, lost my day job, and found myself physically limited to a couch. At around the same time, I turned 30, one of those ages that feels like a milestone at the time – and I amicably parted ways with my first agent.

So. In other words: I had no day job, I had no agent, I had no foot on any career ladders of any type, and I was scarily, horribly sick. (And did I mention that I’d always been an ambitious perfectionist, too? So you can just imagine how well I was taking this whole situation.)

To cut a long story short: I needed, desperately, something to make me happy.

As it turned out, writing in Kat Stephenson’s voice made me happier than any writing had ever done before.

Writing Kat, Incorrigible helped me escape and made me laugh. I loved Kat’s loving, quarrelsome, loyal family, I loved Kat’s reckless confidence. I loved writing about her jumping on top of highwaymen’s horses and performing scandalous acts of magic.

Then I finished writing the book, after joyfully hurtling through it faster than I’d ever written before…and I found myself at a sudden loss.

I knew what I had to do next: write something different while I shopped Kat, Incorrigible to agents. I absolutely knew that was the only sensible thing to do. After all, I knew from experience how hard it was to get an agent – and even once you get an agent, there’s no guarantee your book will be published.

My last agented book hadn’t sold. Why would I expect Kat, Incorrigible to sell? There was only one thing I could do now, which was: move on.

There was only one small problem: I couldn’t.

Because the thing was, I knew exactly what would happen next. There was big trouble brewing for Kat’s sister Angeline’s romance – a piece of gossip carelessly dropped in Kat, Incorrigible had made it clear that her true love’s mother would NOT approve of her. There was wild magic brewing in the Roman baths of Bath, which Kat was bound to get mixed up in. Her hapless brother Charles was just about to be unleashed on a city full of his dissipated Oxford friends, and who knew how much trouble could result from that? Kat herself was going to run into SO MUCH trouble trying to fit into the snooty magical Order of the Guardians.

I couldn’t stop now! Not before I found out what happened!

And so here’s what I finally realized: guess what? There is a very good reason not to write a sequel to any unsold book, which is: no one wants to waste time and energy. But for me, in 2007-8? It was anything but a waste.

I laughed out loud as I wrote about Kat and Angeline running afoul of a notorious rake. I cried as I wrote the magic-drenched and intensely emotional climax of the book.

In the end? Three-quarters of the way through writing Renegade Magic, my new agent sold a full trilogy of Kat novels to Atheneum Books. As a wild professional gamble, writing the sequel had actually, unexpectedly paid off…

…but the point was never my career, with these books. And the truth is, there was nothing that could have made me regret writing Renegade Magic, even if it had had to languish in my desk drawer forever. Renegade Magic had already given me the best possible gift as I wrote it: happiness, creative fulfillment and emotional escape.

This week, Kat, Incorrigible came out in paperback on exactly the same day that Renegade Magic came out in hardcover. Seeing pictures of them on North American bookshelves (from my home in Wales) fills me with amazed joy.

I really hope you guys enjoy them too.

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Stephanie Burgis is an American writer who lives in Wales with her husband, fellow writer Patrick Samphire, their son, and their border collie. Her first novel, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE, won the Waverton Good Read Children’s award in the UK and was chosen by VOYA for their list of Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers 2011. Her second novel, RENEGADE MAGIC, was named by Kirkus as a New and Notable Book for Teens. To find out more and read the first three chapters of both books, please visit her website.

Stephanie Burgis and Kat Stephenson

Finally.

It looks like the United States will be treated to more of the adventures of Kat Stephenson in Renegade Magic. Author Stephanie Burgis tells you all about it, as well as treats you to some book release goodies. Looks like Kirkus has included the book on their list New and Notable Book for Teens in April 2012.

Well, yes. That’s perfect, actually.

I remember reading the first book in the Kat Stephenson series and being transported. The book is one of the freshest concepts I’ve seen in young adult and middle grade in some time. Kat is a refreshing character. She’s got it into her head that she should be taking care of her family, and she doesn’t see the world in a conventional way at all. She’s a perfect heroine for a young person searching for adventure.

As an added bonus, Kat’s family are wonderful support characters, equally well-developed and captivating to read about. The magic is fresh and distinctive. The history is solid. The alchemy of the book is heady.

You know you want this book. I’ll be buying mine soon.

Oh…on Thursday, Stephanie Burgis is writing a guest post for us here at the Tamago. Come back and here what the author of this fantabulous book has to say.

Catherine