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?