Friday, August 31, 2012

A Writer's life: Juggling books and characters!

Are authors just normal human beings or is there something slightly off about them? You know what I'm talking about. They carry on conversations with invisible people all around them, they can remember twenty character names but forget their own, they pretend to listen to your every word, but you can see that behind their eyes they are plotting the world's demise. Yes, we were once normal like you, but then we got our first contract. And the world as we knew it imploded.

Today's questions come from Diane S:

1) What happens to your social/family/church life when you're in the midst of writing? Especially since the characters become like friends, as you say, is it difficult to leave the desk and give your attention to other activities and responsibilities? Do you find ever find yourself so psychologically connected to your books that it becomes a stumbling block to your "real" life?
I should let my husband and kids answer that one!  I would say that if you asked my family and friends what I'm like when  I'm in the middle of writing a book, they might say kinda spacy.  It's really hard to pull myself from 1811 back to 2012 in the snap of a finger. Or get my characters to stop play acting their roles!  They usually continue on in the scene whether I'm there to write it or not.  Brats!  So,  my family will probably tell you that I'm sort of in a daze much of the time. I'm hanging out with them, but my eyes are glazed over and I'm actually in my book, listening to my characters squabble. This becomes a real problem when I have to leave a scene unfinished and in particular if that scene contains a lot of action and suspense.  To you, it would be like leaving your best friend hanging by her fingertips off a cliff.  It's very hard to do! But life calls. I'm a housewife and mother. I have to cook and clean and deal with all the normal issues of the day. Sometimes, my characters are left hanging.

It's when they start yelling at me that it becomes a problem. Normally, I can handle shifting my persona from author to mother or author to wife or author to friend, pretty easily. But there are moments when the story sort of takes over my thoughts and I'm really no good to anyone until I finish the scene I'm working on.

Another time when the characters drive me crazy is when I don't know the next scene in the story. Imagine play actors on a stage not knowing their next lines or what they are supposed to do next. When this happens, my characters stand there, twiddling their thumbs, leaning against trees and sighing, yawning, tapping their fingers over tables, and making me feel horrible as if I'm wasting their time! I actually feel pressure from them to give them something to do!!  Of course when I try and explain this to my husband, he simply stares at me with that I-hope-you're-not-going-nuts-cause-we-can't-afford-an-asylum look.

2) How do you juggle concentrating on several books at once? It sounds like you have at least three in the cooker at the present moment: one you've just recent done the marketing/publicity for as it came out, one just off to the publishers (which I assume you may still have to do some work on?), and another that you're actually writing at the moment. Is it hard or complicated to go back and forth among them all, especially with the same amount of enthusiasm for each project? 

Great question!. This is one of the hardest things I do and something I hadn't even thought about before I got published. I think part of the problem is I've been on such a short publishing schedule. Six months is not a very long time to write a full length novel. Many authors take a year.  To illustrate this mad juggling act, let's just look at the past 3 books I've written. For ease of clarity we will call them Books 1,2, and 3.

  • I turned in Book 1 three months ago and already went through the edits from my editor
  • I turn in Book 2
  • I immediately start Book 3
  • I get the galley proofs for Book 1 which means I stop work on Book 3 and read over galleys   
  • I start back on Book 3
  • I get edits back for Book 2, so I have to stop work on Book 3 and take a 2-3 weeks to go back and work on Book 2
  • Book 1 is released so I have a ton of work to do for marketing. Meanwhile I'm still writing Book 3 and editing Book 2
  • I finish edits for Book 2 and start back on Book 3
Then the cycle starts all over again!!   

Savvy?  So, this is why Veil of Pearls just released last month but I'm now working on the second book beyond that one, book 2 in the Escape to Paradise series.

Is it hard to do this? YES!  It drives me insane. When I am writing a story, I'm REALLY into that story. I'm in the time period, the setting, in the character heads... then to have to time warp myself out of there to a different set of characters in a different setting in a different time can really mess with my mind.  It takes me a few days, sometimes a week, to transition between books before I'm actually writing productively again.

Hence, yet another reason why my aforementioned husband thinks I may need an aforementioned asylum. Sometimes, I tend to agree with him.  

Keep the questions coming!! And have a Great Weekend!


  1. Thanks, MaryLu for another look into your writing world! It is a facinating process. You made me chuckle with the image of your characters standing around twiddling their thumbs, tapping fingers on the table, leaning on the tree ... waiting for what's next! Ha! Love that! I can almost hear them saying "Come on MaryLu! We just want to play! What are we going to do next?"
    I can't say how much I am looking forward to meeting the newbies in the next several books! :)
    Have a great weekend!
    Have a great weekend!

  2. Hee-hee ... oops! Apparently I want you to have a REALLY great weekend - so much that I wrote it twice! ;)

  3. Fri Aug 31st,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    And, Caroline ... you're still funny !
    Wow, MaryLu ... although I believe you are totally normal, I almost don't know how you can be ... with that lifestyle and busyness of an author !!! It sounds so -- confusing, and, overloaded, to say the least ! Well, now I know for sure, there is no way I could be a writer, as I can "only" handle one-thing-at-a-time, and, completing it !!!
    You must have to be so very organized and disciplined ... juggling everything going on ... with Books 1, 2 and 3 !!!
    Truly, I don't know 'how' you fit the normal, daily life in to all of that. But, it sounds like you have a very understanding and empathetic husband ... thank goodness, eh !
    Never thought you needed an asylum ... just time and space, to see it all through. How do you even find/make time to set up a "daily blog" for us each day ??? You do have permission, you know, to cut back ... if you need to ... right ?
    Well, once again, my hat is off to you girl !!! Amazing, simply amazing ! And, I'm quite sure that with prayer, and the Lord's help -- His love, grace and mercy ... sees you through each and every day !
    Thanks for sharing with us, once again, most busy lady ! And yes, MaryLu, have a "doubley-good" weekend !!! (You too, Caroline.)
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  4. Thanks Caroline! Yes.. it's so weird when my characters are waiting on me.. standing there with sword in hand.. itching for a fight! And I've got to go scrub my toilet!! LOL
    Have a great weekend too!

    You have never met me.. so you may change your mind about me being normal if you did. LOL. Disciplined? Organized? me? Some days I feel like I'm in the middle of a cyclone!
    But like you said, the Lord sees me through.. gives me strength, ideas, and time! He's never let me down.
    God Bless!!

  5. Your blogs are so encouraging!!!

  6. I've been away on a retreat and just got back this morning. Thanks for the interesting answers to my questions. I sort of figured it was probably like that! :)