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It's Okay to Freak Out Once in a While

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Recently a dear writer friend, contacted me for some advice. She said: "Two months ago I got a two-book deal that has left me really stressed. I know it's an honor, but [the sale] is kind of terrifying. Just wondered if you ever experience anxiety of this kind . . . I've gotten to the point I'm not sleeping well, and honestly, I'm going to take a week off and just be."

She wanted to know if I ever freak out like that. And secondly she wanted to know how I work on two books at once, primarily how I write one book while juggling the edits of another.

Since I've always been very open on this blog about my publication experience and how I've felt, I thought I'd share my answer to my friend so that others who are experiencing the same thing will know they're definitely not alone!

First, do I ever freak out (majorly stress) when I get book deals?

Absolutely! I can completely relate to the stress. When I got my first 3-book contract about 4 years ago, I started to have insomnia and minor heart palpitations (like panic attacks). I was really worried about how everything would go, if I would be able to keep up with all the work, and especially how readers would perceive my books.

But now that I've been published and under contract for a while, I'm much more acclimated to being an author and all the responsibilities that go along with it. My writing muscles have never been stronger. I've learned my pace for writing books and know how many weeks it takes me to finish a first draft. I'm much more confident in tackling rewrites. And I've also learned where to prioritize with social media and how much time to give it so that it's not so overwhelming.

All that to say, it takes time to adjust to the "job" of being a full time author. Like any new job there's beginner's stress. But eventually you begin to feel at home in the role and life goes back to normal (or at least a new normal).

Second, how do I juggle working on two books at once? How do I write one and edit another?

The answer to this question is a little more complicated.

I'm either researching a book or I'm writing the first draft of one. My book deadlines are approximately seven months apart. So I don't have much wiggle room. And once I turn a book in to my publisher, I usually have about three sets of edits that I'll have to tackle before the book hits shelves. I don't have the luxury of setting aside my WIP every time I get a set of edits back on another book.

Therefore, I try to juggle writing and editing at the same time–as long as it's line-editing or copy-editing. Every day I break my writing workday into two parts. First I tackle my daily word count on my WIP. Then when I'm done with that, I write blog posts, interviews, or when I have edits I work on those.

However, when it comes to content edits (aka macro edits), I always take the time off from my WIP to focus on the rewriting (which I've learned takes me two to three weeks). The macro-edits are too time intensive for me to do "on the side" while continuing to work on a WIP. And they take precedence in the line of what's urgent.

Yes, the macro-edits interrupt the flow of my WIP. But once I'm done with my rewrites, I re-read the WIP (which is a good refresher anyway!), and I have no trouble picking back up the story where I left off.

One reason I can set aside my WIP during rewrites on another book is because I've given myself some leeway for my deadline. I try operate ahead of schedule with my first draft, rather than burning the midnight oil as a deadline approaches.

Obviously every author will approach the process differently and figure out what works best for them.

Summary: The reality is that the life of a published author is stressful. We have to juggle multiple projects. But the reassuring part is that, we eventually get into a rhythm that works for our unique situations. The stress level diminishes. And while we still may have occasional "freak-out" moments, they're fewer and farer between.

How about you? Have you experienced any stressful moments as a writer? How do YOU juggle multiple writing tasks without freaking out too much?

31 comments:

  1. I am writing two books right now. One of the books slowed down in the writing process and the other one.. just jumped out at me.

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    1. Hi Michele,

      I haven't actually tried writing two books at the same time! I'm impressed that you're trying it! Wishing you all the best! :-)

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  2. I haven't had too much stress but appreciate you sharing how to work through it! :-) Your work ethic always impresses me!

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    1. Thanks, Jessica! Great to see you! It's been a while! Hope things are going well for you!

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  3. I always love your transparency, Jody. To be honest, I think this is why I self-published sometimes. My day job is so deadline-oriented that I was never sure I could also handle the stress of publishing deadlines on top of my day job deadlines.

    I do tend to impose deadlines on myself, however, and those do stress me out from time to time. But by imposing these deadlines on myself, I'm getting myself used to a regular schedule of demands, because you never know when the traditional side of things might slip into a self-publisher's life. :)

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    1. Hi Heather,

      That makes a lot of sense. You are the master of your schedule when you're self-publishing. You can work around your life and make deadlines that work for you! But as you said, I still think it's good to have those self-imposed goals that you're working toward to stay on track.

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  4. Nice to read how an experienced author does it! I haven't been in the position of having to write and edit at the same time, but I'm sure I will be soon. It makes sense that you can combine writing and line edits, but not the larger structural edits, and makes me more hopeful that I'll be able to manage both!

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    1. Hi Rinelle,

      Of course some of it may depend on how much time you give yourself for your writing work each day. If you can work for eight hours a day at writing, then you might be able to handle both a WIP and macro-edits on another book. But since my writing time is more limited and interrupted, I'm just not able to work on a WIP and macro-editing. Besides, I like to really focus and give that macro-editing my best shot. But whatever your case is, you'll make it work! :-)

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  5. Jody, I share your episodes of anxiety about writing and deadlines. Even after five books published, another ready to go, and one undergoing edits, I still have what I choose to call a "crisis of faith" over my ability to write, edit, market, and have what is laughingly called a life. I'm not sure it ever goes away, but it's a nice problem to have.

    And I handle my "juggling" pretty much the same way you do. I'm not sure how far down this road God will send me, but I do know that He led me here, so He's beside me.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I could probably do a blog post before every book release sharing my crisis of faith too! I always doubt my abilities to write. That's one area I haven't adjusted. Maybe after the tenth book? Fifteenth?

      And you're right, we just don't know how long we'll be on this writing for publication journey. The industry is changing and it's so hard to predict what it will be like in the next year or two.

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  6. It's hard for me to juggle multiple tasks, even though I work more than one job. I often end up focusing on one job and neglect the other ones; that makes me even more stressed out. So I'm still trying to discipline myself to spend enough time on each project; it's easy to get overwhelmed and not get anything done.

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    1. So true. There have been times when I've been overly stressed, particularly with rewrites, and it takes the joy out of everything and then I'm stressed about all of life. But after going through it many times now, I'm learning that I can handle it and that I don't need to stress so much. As you said, just focus and spend the time the project needs. It will get done!

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  7. Jody, thanks so much for sharing these answers with us. I find them helpful as I'm thinking of the future when I will have a book deal. It's great to be able to think of these things ahead of time and figure out a gameplan that I can practice before I sign a contract. Maybe then I'll freak out a little less. Maybe not.

    Blessings,
    Andrea

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    1. Hi Andrea,

      I hope that maybe you won't have to freak out! :-) But if you do, at least you'll know it's normal! LOL

      Hugs!

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  8. I absolutely have. And each time I hit a big "freak-out", I think I couldn't possibly freak out more. Until the next one.

    My first was when I had to cut the first two chapters of my first book. That hit me hard and drastically changed the book as a whole.

    The following year, while getting ready for my book to come out, I was desperately trying to get the second one accepted by my publisher so It'd be out the following year. I was terrified of missing that window and having too much of a gap between books, and my sales and exposure suffering as a result.

    And in the middle of that, I was asked to do a full re-write of the second book...

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    1. Okay, Paul. I think you take the prize for the most freak-out moments! Wow!! And you forgot to add that you had a lot of baby issues/stress going on in the midst of all of that!

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    2. Yep, including my wife going into labour while I was getting ready to leave for work. If I'd not stayed in bed an extra half hour, or decided to wait a few extra minutes to see if they were just stomach cramps, she'd have had no way to get herself to the hospital!

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  9. AHHHHHHHH!!! Now that made me freak out :) Trying to figure out fitting all THAT into a 45 hr workweek and two kids. Hmmm... :P

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    1. Oh I'm so sorry to make you freak out right now, my dear! LOL You will find a schedule that works for you. Maybe at this point in your life you'll only do one book a year, and that's OK. I think that's doable. You'll likely have to carve out some time somewhere, but it'll fall into place!

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  10. I'm no author and I know what I'm about to say does not relate to the post directly, but what I thought as I read this: What a pleasure it must be to be doing what you love. Yes, surely there's stress but still, it's fun! (In a sense ;) More and more contemplating the idea of launching myself into the publishing industry... You never know!

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    1. Great point, Ganise. It IS a blessing and a pleasure to be doing something that I love so much! I can't imagine doing anything else!

      And how exciting to hear that you're contemplating some writing for yourself! Keep us posted! :-)

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  11. I used to work similar to what you described, but I'm not the well-oiled writing machine I used to be. It might have to do with my not being as young as I used to be...it might be that I'm not an indie writer rather than writing for two publishers. I find that when I'm doing pre-edits and final revisions before sending to my editor I can't work on another project. The one exception is if I get a strong idea for a scene for a future book, at which time I will drop everything and get it down on paper. Then again, I might be a little burned out. I had a new release the first four months of this year (although two were backlist titles prepared for ePub). The important thing, for me, is knowing when to back off and slow down; I wouldn't want this situation to become permanent. I'm halfway through self-edits and rewrites and should be done in another week. Then it's on to the next project, which I'm already excited about!

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  12. I meant, "now an indie writer," not "not an indie writer."

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    1. Hi Bettye,

      Thanks for clarifying! I'm interested to hear you say that you're not the well-oiled machine now that you're an indie writer. Perhaps there's just more to juggle with all the editing, formatting, etc.? So each book has more work involved? Hope that you get into a rhythm that will work long term for you! :-)

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    2. No, that's not it. I use the same template for all my eBooks, so there's really no formatting unless I make a change. I've been indie publishing since 2009, when I was still contracted to one publisher, so for a time I was doing both. I think it's just me getting a little older and a lot slower. I pre-edit before sending to the editor, but it's up to me to see that everything gets input...or else they're no good (I was so embarrassed when a reader pointed out that there were two notes left in the published edition of my latest backlist title, which I promptly removed). Things just take a little longer now to get right. I'm not freaking out over it. Love your blog, BTW.

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  13. I know this is a bit random, but can you tell me what defines a novella? I love to read, but I rarely finish novels. I like short stories and novellas best and I think that might be what I need to gear my own writing toward. I'm sure there's more to it than merely calling it a short novel. Is there a set word count for a novella or does it vary?

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    1. Hi Ashley,

      The range for novella will like vary from publisher to publisher regarding their standards. But generally I've heard that a novella aims for about 40K. So may be more, some a little less. But I'm guessing if you're in about that range, you'd be okay.

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  14. Jody, thanks so much for being so transparent about your work and even getting down to the fine details of how your work day looks. Writing can be such an isolating job and you never know if you're "doing it right," or if there even is such a thing. I am simply in the process of trying to get two book proposals ready for a writers/speakers conference next month...and I'm stressing! If I'm fortunate my work now will indeed turn into a book contract. But even if it doesn't I plan to self-publish again, so the work will need to be done. Again, thank you so much for shooting straight with us about how you manage your workload. I just even took courage from your tweet about this post!

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    1. Hi Kay,

      Glad the post (and tweet) gave you courage. The little things like proposals all add up, don't they? In fact sometimes I think it's the accumulation of a bunch of little things that starts to make me stressed at times! :-)

      Thanks for stopping by! And I wish you all the best with your proposals!

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  15. Hi Jody:
    My twitter link @TheModernWriter invited me to GoFreeekOUT and so here I am.
    I do go nuts, but usually over the geek stuff. the technicalities make a mockery of my status as a gentle soul.

    What I want to share with you and all your followers on this blog is an edit tool. You may already be using it...if so well done; in short it is the EDIT click in the blue tool bar at the top of the word doc. Go to REPLACE...and from there it gets messy.

    I have a full page of instructions for you and your friends. Ask at qwayrod@mweb.co.za and I will send it to you (and then delete your address).

    I promise this little help is amazing.

    Kind regards Rodney

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  16. What can I say other than xoxoxox? Thank you, Jody. I've been on vacation and have come home refreshed. You are a dear and an inspiration. I am taking all of this to heart.

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