First off, I am pleased to say that the three Kate and Cecy books will be going live as e-books on May 22. Stephanie Burgis did a lovely blog post on them. Which means that all of the backlist except the Enchanted Forest books are now available in nice, legal ebooks, one way or another (the two Mairelon books are available together, in the omnibus “A Matter of Magic,” rather than as individual titles). There are an assortment of issues with the Enchanted Forest that I hope to work out eventually, but I have no idea how long “eventually” will take, especially if lawyers get involved. So let’s just say it’ll be quite a while yet for those, and leave it at that.
For those who are interested in the glamorous, exciting lives that writers lead: I have spent the last three days doing every stitch of laundry I could find anywhere in the house. I am currently waiting for the plumber to arrive to unhook the ten-plus-year-old washer and dryer, so that they can be hauled away when the replacements are delivered tomorrow. They don’t get hooked up until the new floor is down in the laundry room, though, which won’t happen until at least next week. And then they get to repair the ceiling, which will be much easier without the new machines in the way (hence the frantic laundry-doing, in hopes of minimizing the number of trips to the Laundromat during (re)construction.) Then I get to go to Home Depot to pick up some widgets. Doesn’t that sound glamorous and exciting?
Which brings me back around to another writing balancing act (several, actually). Everybody has daily life to do: cooking, laundry, cleaning, house maintenance, etc. For writers, it’s perilously easy to put off doing the words in favor of sweeping out the laundry room before the repair guy arrives (it’ll only take a minute), doing the dishes (they have to be washed some time, so why put it off?), sewing that loose button back on (it’s been bugging me for days, but I only seem to think of fixing it when I’m standing in the middle of Target, so now that I have thought of it, I’d better seize the moment).
It’s especially easy when the writing isn’t going well; it feels so much better to be doing something actually useful instead of just staring at the blank page/screen and muttering balefully under one’s breath. And if one is yet to be published, or doesn’t actually have a deadline at the moment, it’s even easier to justify. After all, there’s no guarantee that whatever words one manages to painfully extract from one’s backbrain will sell, so why not do something more obviously productive?
The problem with thinking like this is that if one does, one generally arrives fairly quickly at a point where no writing happens at all. Not only that, but “I’m not getting any writing done today, so I might as well do X” turns into “I can’t write today, because I’ll be more productive if I do X” and then to “X is more important to get done than writing, so I can’t write today” and finally to “I can’t write.”
The solution to this is fairly obvious, if notoriously difficult to implement: sit down and write anyway, whether or not you feel like it, whether or not there’s other stuff to do, whether or not you feel worthy or competent or whatever else you think you need to feel. Writing isn’t about how you feel; it’s about getting words on the page. You have to figure out how for yourself, but really, making time to write and guarding that time from everybody and everything else including yourself is ultimately what works.
The other balancing act is the one involving the characters in the story. They, too, have daily lives and need to cook, do laundry, etc. The convention in most fiction is to skip lightly over all this daily maintenance, because really, who wants to read about someone doing laundry? At the other end of the scale, there are writers who feel that giving the readers all the dramatic details of cooking and laundry makes the characters “more real” (or perhaps it’s “more realistic;” I’m never sure).
And of course, they’re both right – for elastic values of “right.” Which is to say that it depends on the story, the characters, etc. Every story has a unique balance point between showing the main character cleverly breaking into the museum and showing the main character lovingly chopping onions for the stir-fry. In some cases, even one scene of onion-chopping would be too much; in other stories, the right balance means spending several pages having the main character wax lyrical over the proper way to chop onions.
And once again, it’s up to the writer to figure out where that balance is and what the most effective way of achieving it is.