Friday, January 3, 2014

My Year in Writing 2013

Every year I put together a month by month look at writing journey over the past twelve months and see how far I've come. (sorry for being late again this year--stupid head cold!)

This one will probably read a little differently, since 2013 was ... a year of curveballs. And being so new to the game, I wasn't always as great at fielding them as I wanted to be. But hey--I learned a lot!

(and btw, you can find 2012's post HERE, 2011's post HERE, 2010's post HERE, and 2009's post HERE)

January
The calm before the storm
I typed "the end" on LET THE STORM BREAK on January 1st and turned it in fearing massive revision, since I'd written it on the tightest deadline I'd ever faced. But when I got my edits, it was my shortest edit letter--by far. I'm not sure if that means I'm finally figuring out how to write a book, or if I just got lucky, but it made for a surprisingly light writing schedule for the month. Which was good because the release day for LET THE SKY FALL was getting close, and I had a launch party to plan, a blog tour to write content for, contests to organize, swag to make, on and on and on. Launching a book is a TON of work, but since I'd just been through it for KEEPER in October, I had high hopes that it would be easier this time. Naive Shannon was so, SO cute.

February
The rug gets pulled out from under me
It started with a strange email from the B&N I'd booked my launch party with, telling me they had to cancel the event because they'd "entered a holding pattern with my publisher." My publicist was able to move the event to the ever-awesome Mysterious Galaxy Books, but for a few days no one could explain exactly what the "holding pattern" meant. And then the bad news came: S&S and B&N had entered into what I've decided to call a kerfuffle, because it makes it sound much more pleasant than it was. As a result, LET THE SKY FALL would barely be stocked in B&N stores. I wasn't the only author affected--at all. But that didn't make the news any less scary. And the hardest part was that I wasn't sure how much I could say about any of this online. So I sat quiet, and tried to believe the people who said it would be fixed soon. But mostly I stressed, and got an upset stomach every time anyone asked me about my upcoming launch.

March
A not so happy release 
Launch day is supposed to be a super-exiting day. And in some ways it was. I was so grateful to the huge group who came to support me at Mysterious Galaxy and all the people who tweeted/ facebooked their congrats on release day. But I also couldn't stop stressing about the MULTITUDE of tweets/emails I got from people wanting to know why my book wasn't at their B&N, wanting to know why I wasn't doing events at B&Ns where I'd done them before, etc. Especially since all I could think to say was: hopefully that will change soon! But it didn't. In fact, as the month stretched on, it only got worse. I'd been invited to be part of a YA Author group event at a B&N at the end of the month and... had to be uninvited when the situation still wasn't resolved. Everyone was nice about it, but still... not necessarily fun. And the "I can't find your book" emails / tweets didn't stop. I knew I was experiencing something that many, many, MANY authors have to deal with (it's really quite sad how many good books don't get the wide stocking they deserve) but knowing I wasn't alone didn't make it any less stressful or depressing. 

April, May, June, July
The lost months
I don't usually lump so many months together in these recaps, but thanks to the kerfuffle, these months were all kind of the same. Looking back, I realize that what I should have done during this time was WRITE. I owed my editor the draft of K33P3R by mid-October and I knew how long that series takes me to write (those books are *rather* long, after all). And I did use the time to put together a very thorough outline and troubleshoot a number of plot-related things. But every time I tried to start actually writing the book, I'd just sort of stare at the blank screen. It wasn't writers block. I'd just let all the stress get in my head and snuff out the fire--something I *definitely* paid the price for later. But at the time, I thought my smarter move was to focus on organizing events at awesome Independent Booksellers. S&S also arranged for several amazing things, and I ended up with a jam-packed event calendar for May, June, and July, which was SUPER exciting. And... kind of scary. I love events--and I was so incredibly grateful for all the support S&S and booksellers were giving me. But I also wasn't exactly in the happiest place mentally, and I was terrified that it would somehow show at the events. And all the travel definitely was challenging. I don't want it to seem like I don't appreciate all of the amazing people who came to see me and bought my books, or the awesome booksellers who were so incredibly kind and supportive to me. I look back on each and every one of those events with very fond memories. But the process was also extra-draining, and only seemed to encourage me even more to close the draft without adding anything to it--a mistake I will NOT let myself make again.

August
Hope returns
By now I was starting to look at the calendar and face the very terrifying realization that I had two months to write a book that I hadn't really started. So I started. But progress was slow, until the end of the month when an email showed up announcing that a resolution between B&N and S&S had FINALLY been reached. To this day I can't tell you what was in question or who was right or wrong or what the final solution was. All I know is that I finally felt hopeful again, and it was amazing how that tiny ray of light seemed to melt the murky fog that had been snuffing out my creativity all year. Finally I was ready to write!

September
Drafting like a boss
I wrote all day, every day, trying to make up for lost time. And I made really good progress on the draft. But when I compared my daily word counts against how much I still needed to write--and how many days I had before my deadline--it ... wasn't looking good. Especially when I got the news that I would be traveling most of October. I don't mean that to sound like I wasn't happy with the news--I was SO excited to go to new cities and meet new readers and do events with amazing other authors. But writing on the road is HARD. So as I packed up my suitcase to head out, I had a horrible feeling I was going to have to ask my editor for an extension--but I was still hoping to pull off a miracle.

October
Extension #1
My fall tour was humbling and amazing and awesome and unforgettable. The people I met. The places I saw. Words cannot express my gratitude for the experience. And EXILE was lucky enough to be stocked in B&N--and went into a second printing during its first week--so things were truly back on track again. But sadly, it still affected my writing. Most of my days were filled with events from morning until evening, and the few free days I had were not enough to make up for the lost time. By the middle of the month I knew I had to admit to my editor that I wasn't going to be done on time. But I was terrified. Not because my editor is scary--she's one of the sweetest people I've met in this business, actually. I just hated that I was letting her down--and that it was my own fault for allowing everything to get in my head and stop me from doing my job.  So I wouldn't have blamed her at all for being mad at me. Fortunately my editor proved her awesomeness once again and granted me an extension until Thanksgiving. I knew it would be tight, but I came up with a schedule and was determined to make it. As soon as I finished my last trip I locked myself in my office and dove in.

November
Extension #2
I have never written as many words in one month as I did in November. But it felt like the ending was running away from me. No matter how many chapters I wrote, I never seemed to catch up and it started to feel like I was never going to finish the darn book. I worked until 3am pretty much every night. I skipped meals and showers. (which makes this a good time to mention how awesome and supportive my husband is). I... tried to resist the siren call of the new kitten we'd adopted--though she had a way of demanding occasional attention. And while I *did* reach my wordcount goal by the week of Thanksgiving, the book was sadly still quite a long way from being done. So... I had to shamefully reach out to my editor AGAIN--convinced that this time she WOULD be mad at me. But miraculously, she said we still weren't in the "danger zone" (the zone where we would have to think about pushing back release dates), so I could have another few weeks. And I PROMISED her I would have it to her before the December holidays. I didn't care what it took--I was going to conquer this beast of a draft.

December
FINALLY
The first two weeks of December are pretty much a blur for me. All I remember is writing writing writing. I typed until my fingers went numb--literally. But I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. LET THE SKY FALL also came out in paperback (in a lovely shade of pink) and was stocked much more widely--which added a bit more fuel to the fire. And on December 16th I finally typed the words that had been eluding me: The End. I even had a couple of days to clean up some of the mess before I turned the draft in on December 18th. It was two months late--and I'm still waiting on word from my editor as far as whether she likes it (file that under: Things Shannon Is Trying Not To Stress About). But I'm actually really proud of the draft I turned in. And conquering K33P3R feels like a HUGE victory.

There were points in this year where I really wondered if I was cut out for this job, and worried I was in over my head. Maybe I shouldn't admit that but, I spent so much of last year hiding stressful things that I wanted to start the new year by truly being honest with you guys. 2013 was... a very soul searching year for me. But now that I've survived it, I've realized how much it taught me. And yes, it definitely helps that things improved B&N-wise for me--but even if they hadn't, what I take away from the experience is that I need to always, always, ALWAYS focus on THE WRITING.

There are so many things about this business that I can't control--but I CAN control my writing. I forgot that for a while in the middle of the year, but as I worked through those marathon drafting days at the end, I realized that there were lots of things I could've done to protect my creativity during the harder times. Listening to music. Taking walks. Treating myself to a cupcake. Snuggling with my furbabies. Reading a good book. Taking bubble baths. Most importantly: UNPLUGGING from the internet and social media when I need to.

So I have a whole new plan of attack for my writing schedule in 2014, and I'm very hopeful it will hold strong no matter what curveballs publishing throws at me. I guess only time will tell if it'll work or not. But in the meantime, thank you for reading, and for sticking with me on this crazy journey. And I gotta say, I have a good feeling about 2014. Bring it on new year--I'm ready!

21 comments:

  1. I loved reading about your publishing/writing journey over the past year. I admire how you persevered and didn't crumble under the stress of your situation. Sometimes the most difficult times are the ones that we learn the most from and make us stronger. It's so important to make time for ourselves - to refresh, recharge, and renew our spirits - even in the middle of insane pressure.

    Good luck with this year's goals! Thanks again for sharing your experiences and I wish you all the best in 2014!

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    1. Thank you so much, Suzie! It really is true, the whole "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" thing--and it seems to make us smarter too. Still wish I could fast forward to the easier parts, though. ;) Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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  2. I hope 2014 isn't anywhere as stressful for you as 2013 was my dear! Thank-you for sharing your year of writing with us, I always find these kind of posts insightful.

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    1. Me too, Sandy. But hopefully even if there are more curveballs (I'm starting to learn that they kind of go with the territory in publishing) hopefully this year I'll know how to handle them better. Thanks so much for the comment!

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  3. It's stories like this that inspire the writer in me. Thanks for the honest post and I hope 2014 is WAY less stressful!

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    1. LOL--and here I was scared I was warning everyone away from publishing. It still is a wonderful job. There's just so much more involved than I ever realized. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. You mean it's not all rainbows and mallowmelt? Dang it.

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    1. Alas, sometimes it's just poop-y--and not even sparkly poop-y. :)

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  5. Thanks for sharing your journey over the past year! I'm glad the kerfuffle (great word, btw) was resolved, and you finished the new book. Wishing you a productive and happy 2014!

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    1. Thank you so much, Ruth! Wishing the same for you!

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  6. We adore you. Thank you for sharing ALL of this. You bring light to the darkness! <3

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    1. Awww, thank you so much Jennifer. It is nice to have it all "out there" now. :)

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  7. Love this post, Shannon! Proud of you for hanging in there, and here's to a wonderful, much less-sucky 2014!
    P.S. Guess what I'm reading?!

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    1. <3 Couldn't have done it without your cheerleader emails along the way. And MEEP. I really hope you don't hate it--or me for what I'm about to put all the characters through... *hides*

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  8. I'm so sorry that this year has been so stressful for you, but I'm so thankful with how honest you are with us. I have no interest in being a writer, but it is still refreshing to see you be so honest with us, your readers.

    And as someone who has seen you multiple times this past year, I had no idea that you were fighting this. It's also probably for the best because I would have ended up awkward hugging you.

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    1. Aw, thank you Ashley. So glad you couldn't tell because yeah, some of the events you were at timed out with some of the most stressful days. Good thing Changing Hands--and all the people who go there--are always so kind and welcoming to me. :)

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  9. Wow! I loved reading this. You're so hard-working, and you've got amazing–I repeat–amazing! perseverance. I think it's so wonderful that you keep writing even when times get hard. You rock!!

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  10. Shannon! It sounds like you had a Learning Year too. I'm so sorry you had to go through that S&S/B&N kerfluffle. It would have weighed on me too. But it sounds like you've come out of it with a fantastic new focus, and I'm wishing you lots of joyful writing in 2014!

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  11. Your year is terrifying to those of us who have yet to plunge into the world of deadlines and promotion, etc.I'm gulping hard and turning back to writing with more sober resolve. You did so well to get through all that!

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  12. Sorry it was a rough year! I can't believe how fast you wrote 3-per (this is how my brain pronounces K33P3R, btw)! Also, my son will be super excited. He LOVES Keeper and Exile. (And he hasn't been a reader until now, so this makes me extra excited and happy!)

    Best wishes for an awesome 2014!!!

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  13. It sounds like a hard year. So sorry. Just following you since you signed your book contracts, it seems like you were under a lot of deadlines and stress. Not sure what you're planning once these two series are done. But maybe writing one at a time would make the process more enjoyable. I don't know how you've produced two series at once. You're amazing. Hoping you have a less stressful 2014.

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Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3