Got a big box of books in yesterday, more than I expected. So I drew 2X the names for the website contest. Congrats to: Nicholas Pyron, Duca Jolic, Susie Armstrong, Tom Sims, Sanna Sjoberg and Maheneen Alam! Please send your addresses to KarenChance@hotmail.com and I will get your books right out to you. If there’s something special you want in the inscription, please include that, too. Thank you to all who took the time to enter. I hope you enjoy the book!
I was just informed that Ride the Storm, the sequel to Reap the Wind, has been postponed.
The short version:
It’s a long and complex book and is taking longer to finish than I’d hoped. I was faced with a choice: finish it up quickly and have it be less than I knew it could be, or take another few months and do it right. I chose the latter. Unfortunately, in doing so I lost my slot in the publication schedule, and have very likely just pissed off a lot of people. For what it’s worth, I am really sorry. I have honestly done the best I can, but in this case, my best wasn’t good enough.
The long version:
I don’t talk about the writing process much because I try to keep the blog/Facebook/etc. light and positive. Hearing about an author’s struggles to get you the book you want might diminish that book for some people, and I don’t want to do that. It also isn’t very interesting. So I mostly just deal with it, and try to get you the books as fast as I can. But some people have interpreted that as me not caring enough to keep you informed, which was . . . upsetting. So for those of you who want the whole story, here is what’s been going on.
Reap the Wind was double the size of most books in urban fantasy. Originally, the beast came in at over 200,000 words, which my publisher wouldn’t print. I write mass market paperbacks—the very cheapest type of books published by traditional publishing houses—which means they don’t make the publisher a lot of money. And that makes them reluctant to publish longer books (because they cost more to print, edit and warehouse). They will stretch a point to a degree if they think the book warrants it, but not to that degree. I was told to cut it.
This decision led to the following series of events:
a. The first question, of course, was where to cut it. One of the original ideas was to bisect it. Some people like a thick book, but surprisingly, some don’t, and won’t read something they consider too long. So publishing half of a large book and then following that up a few months later with the other half is something often done to get around the problem. It also generates more revenue, which is usually viewed as a good thing.
b. However, Reap the Wind was not a book that would be easy to cut in two. It was a continuous storyline and halving it was going to lead to a very abrupt ending. Eventually, it was decided that this was one of those books that really needed to be published whole. I was told to cut enough out of it to get it down to 170,000 words or so, to make it possible to publish as one mass market title.
c. The contract for the sequel to RTW was being written while debates over where/how much to cut were going on. I told Penguin that, if they were going to bisect RTW, I needed the second half out as soon as possible after the first, so that people would not be left hanging with half a story. This was agreed to. But when it was decided not to bisect the book, just to cut it down somewhat instead, the deadline wasn’t changed.
d. I knew this would make things very difficult, because instead of a few minor alterations to make a bisected book possible, I was now looking at writing an entire second book, part of which I had, sure, but a large part of which I didn’t. So I was staring at a very tight deadline. I should have just gone ahead and announced a postponement then, but I thought it might just be possible to pull off if I put in some very long days.
e. Unfortunately, I forgot to take into consideration that I didn’t have just this book to work on. I also had to rewrite sections of RTW to get the page length down to something Penguin would publish, and I had to do the edit. RTW was a long book, and the edit took a good deal of time. I was also tired, having just come off a long write and having immediately started another, and wasn’t writing as fast as I would like. In the end, there just wasn’t enough time.
So what’s happening now? Ride the Storm will be done in a couple months. A decision about a revised pub date will be made then. And, as soon as I know anything, I will announce it. The immediate project after RTS is finishing up the fourth Dory book, part of which is already written. That should take up the last month or two of this year, and the first part of 2016. I also owe you guys a couple of freebie novellas, which I haven’t forgotten about, I’ve just been playing catch up and couldn’t get to them. You now know as much about my schedule as I do.
One last thing. I have spent years trying to put out good quality fiction, something original, something fun, something well written, and also do it fast. It is very disheartening when people give a book bad reviews, or just stop reading all together, because it took longer than they’d like. That’s especially true when you are doing absolutely everything you can to get it to them quickly. But people want what they want; I understand that. But, lately, I’ve come to understand something else, too: I can’t give it to you.
I would like to put out more books per year. It would make people happier with me, and would much improve my standard of living. I drive a fifteen year old car–believe me, I would like to put out more books. But I did an assessment recently, and you know what I came up with? Here, I’ll show you:
In 2009, the first year I wrote full time, I wrote Curse the Dawn (140,000 words). I also wrote some short stories for various anthologies: “The Day of the Dead (14,500 words), “Vegas Odds” (17,000 words), and “The Gauntlet” published in 2010 but written the previous year (18,000 words). Total: 189,500.
In 2010, I wrote Death’s Mistress (140,000 words). I also wrote “Skin Deep” for Inked (40,000 words), and “The Queen’s Witch”, a freebie companion story for “The Gauntlet” (15,000). Total: 195,000.
In 2011 I wrote Hunt the Moon (145,000 words) and published a free novella “A Family Affair” (25,000 words), and a short story “In Vino Veritas” first published in Chicks Kick Butt (8,000 words). Total: 178,000.
In 2012 I wrote Fury’s Kiss (171,000 words). I wrote and published a freebie novella “Shadowland” (25,000 words). I also published a free short story “The House at Cobb End” (8,300 words), and wrote part of the fourth Dory novel, only to realize I couldn’t move ahead with it because it depended on things in Cassie’s world that hadn’t happened yet. Total: 204,000 not counting the Dory material.
In 2013, I wrote and published Tempt the Stars (123,000 words), wrote Masks (140,000 words), for a total of 263,000 words.
In 2014, I edited Masks for publication, dealt with the fallout, which you can read about on the blog if you’re curious, and wrote the equivalent of a book for Reap the Wind, since I had around 110,000 words before the end of the year. I also wrote “Updating Pritkin”, a freebie short story of approximately 7,000 words, over the summer. Total: 117,000 words.
In 2015, I wrote the rest of Reap the Wind, which was the equivalent of another full sized novel, and edited it. I am now in the final stages of Ride the Storm, having well over 100,000 words finished and more in pieces. I expect to finish it up in the next couple of months. Assuming I do, that will put me at somewhere around a quarter million publishable words this year, which is above my average. Total: 180,000 currently; 250,000 estimated.
So, I realized something as I started adding things up. I write an average of 199,500 publishable words a year. If we discount 2014, a low for me because depression affects my writing quite a lot, and I had a rather bad one that year, we get 213,250. So what is that, exactly?
Well, the average urban fantasy novel is 90,000-100,000 words. So 213,000 means two short books per year (or what I consider short, anyway). Or one longer book and a novella. Or a very long book, plus some short stories. Or a longer book and some work done on a second book, resulting in two longish books the next year . . . do you see where this is going?
There’s all kinds of combinations, and you can see most of them in my calculations above, since I’ve done something a little different every year. But the word count doesn’t change. It can’t, because while depression or illness or some other serious problem can bring it down, doing more than an absolute max of a quarter million words a year just isn’t happening.
Well, why the heck not?
Because, as I’ve discovered this year especially, more hours at the computer doesn’t necessarily translate into more publishable words. More words, yes, I can always write. But they won’t always be anything you’d want to read! And I try to give you the best of what I do. So that, when you buy one of my novels, you get something that hopefully delights you, not something I churned out to meet a deadline.
I had a reader tell me once that my books were the best entertainment value she’d ever found, because they cost less than most movie tickets, but they gave her hours of enjoyment and could be read again and again. It was one of the nicest comments I think I’ve ever received. Because that was exactly the reaction I was working for.
So why have I bored you with this rather long explanation? To make a secondary announcement. For years, I have felt like I was trying to play catch up. Working to get all the books out every year that people expected, yet stressing because I never seemed to manage it. What I finally realized this summer, a summer of seven day weeks and twelve hour days, a summer of boarding my dog with a friend because I had to concentrate, a summer of no vacation, not even for a day, because deadline, deadline, have to make that deadline, is that I can’t catch up because I can’t catch up. Literally. I can’t write as fast as people expect me to. It isn’t physically possible.
Maybe it is for someone else, but that 263,000 words up there? Yeah, that’s pretty much my limit, and that’s on a really good year. Maybe someone else can do more, if so, good for them. I wish I was them. But I’m not, I’m me, and I am already doing everything I can and more than is actually useful. What did I learn this summer? That I have to chill the heck out.
So here’s my announcement: I’m going to stop trying. Not stop trying to do good books, I hope I will always do that. But stop trying to push myself crazy hours and just end up with diminishing returns. Stop trying to please everyone, because it’s not happening anyway–seriously, are you pleased? Didn’t think so. Stop trying to make impossible deadlines, and giving optimistic estimates because I know that’s what people want to hear, and instead just do the best I can.
From now on, I am going to put in my ten hours a day and quit. I am going to have weekends. I am occasionally going to go away for a few days. I have a suspicion–a pretty strong suspicion–that this may actually resort in more usable stuff, not less, because I usually write better and faster when I am not stressed. But either way, that’s my life now. It has to be, because otherwise I am going to burn out and not be good for anything.
I hope you understand. And I hope that, like with my other reader, what I do produce will give you pleasure for many years to come. Thank you for reading.