Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why being a successful writer is hard.

For all of you aspiring novelists out there, who would like nothing more than to write full-time and make a living at it, be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

To wit, I am currently writing a full-length historical romance on a flat-out CRAZY deadline. As in, one of my editors called me up a week or so ago and asked me to write a historical medieval romance (a straight "sweet" romance, not my usual porno-erotica type stuff). The money was there, the contract was there, and it was exactly the kind of book I've been wanting to do for a while. The only catch----she needed it completed in a very short time frame. Like less than a month.

I have to admit it----I balked. All of you aspiring writers out there would probably scream, WHY??? I had an editor begging ME to produce something that she really needed, which is a 180-degree turn from what most early-career writers usually deal with (i.e., a pile of manuscripts nobody wants to pay the price of a Chinese dinner for). Well, here's why. I already had multiple contracts with multiple deadlines to fulfil. I have a kid (a busy toddler who monopolizes most of my free time), and I run a household and a side business on top of being a full-time writer. I was already having trouble meeting some of those deadlines and had even asked for an extension. Even if you consider how prolific (and disciplined) I already am when it comes to my writing output, writing a full-length historical novel (complete with all the historical research that goes with it) in less than a month is INSANE. But the opportunity my editor presented me was just too good to pass up, so after a long conversation with the hubby, I decided I had to just bite the bullet and do it.

So far, I have written 25,000 words (roughly half of the novel's length) in a week. A WEEK. That's nuts, even for me. The only reason I've been able to do it is because the hubby has taken a week off of work so he can watch my son and manage the household in my stead, giving me free reign to write and do research for eight, ten, twelve hours a day if need be. It's hard. My back and neck are hurting, I've got migraine headaches from eyestrain, and my carpal-tunnel is acting up. Meanwhile, the household is falling apart without my usual supervision---the house is a pit, plus my hubby destroyed an entire bed of my precious phlox perennial flowers when I asked him to do some work in the garden for me. My son is eating a diet consisting of nothing but instant Ramen noodles and brownies, and my ironing basket overfloweth. My son's diaper rash from hell is back, too.

And yet despite all that, I'm having more fun writing this book than I have writing any book I've ever written before. I'm writing 3,000, 4,000, sometimes even 5,000 words in a single sitting, all the while excited about where the story and characters are going to go and do next. And who knows---maybe this will end up being the book deal to end all book deals, the one that enables me to hire a full-time nanny, gardener, and housekeeper so I can do nothing all day, every day but write, write write.

I recently met New York Times-bestselling author (and one of my favorite writers) Lora Leigh at a conference. We got to chatting, and she asked me about my books. I mentioned a few, compared myself to authors I thought she'd probably read so she'd have a better idea of what I write. Ms. Leigh just smiled and said, "Honey, don't even talk to me about reading. I haven't had time to read a book for pleasure in over three years. I'm at my computer twelve, thirteen, fourteen hours a day, writing. I never get a day off. Deadlines, ya know." This coming from a lady who usually has four or five books on the NYT list at a time and makes millions of dollars in royalties.

Ah, to be successful. It seems the more successful you are, the more you have to work your ass off. So much for authors supposedly living a life of leisure.


1 comment:

  1. Hello Ms Layne. Reading this post inspires me to nurture my writing career to the fullest potential.

    I'm a mother of two, work full time, and have a novella coming out in March 2010. It was a little bumpy finding balance while pursuing my writing dream. I must say, I have been successful with the balancing act.

    Reading your post with the deadlines, the housework, your toddler, and hubby taking off to back you up fills me with great admiration. You continue to extend above and beyond; I commend you.