The Writer’s Corner: The Writing Cycle [from Barb]
Because the initial manuscripts for our books are due at the same time each year, JC and I have fallen into a cycle regarding which stage of which project we work on in each season. Cycles are a part of life for authors working under contract. Until last month, I never realized how comfortable I was with this, or how much I had come to depend upon it…
For me, the year starts near the end of May. I know that sounds odd, but the initial manuscript for a new book in the Noble Dead saga is due in January, a full year before the book’s actual release. May is when we begin a new outline… and when we put in our vegetable garden. That is around the time when (here in Oregon) the rain stops long enough for us to till the soil and begin planting.
We do a lot of organic gardening during the late spring and summer, which is also when we begin collaborating by passing the outline back and forth, changing or expanding it. Having a household network with a little server that stores our work files makes this easy. We start drafting around the end of August or early September, which is also when the tomatoes and apples all ripen at the same time. We write in the mornings and put in long afternoons making marina or apple sauce to store in our chest freezer for the winter and the coming early part of spring.
From early October to late December, we write every day with time off only for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Well, there is Halloween, but that is usually not a whole day off; just enough to prepare for visitors and put up a few spooky decorations. We submit the finished manuscript to our editor in early January.
After that, we mentally—and physically—collapse for a few days before returning to work on stories for the T·N·D·S: Tales from the world of the Noble Dead Saga. I normally write two novellas, turn them over to JC, and then it’s time for me to start writing the manuscript for the next book in the The Mist-Torn Witches series. That manuscript is always due on the first of May. I tend to submit it in April and then write two or three more Tales.
Between all of this, we also work on follow-up stages for the submitted Noble Dead manuscript (revision per our editor’s notes, copy-edits, proof pages, etc.) And at the end of May… we start outlining the next Noble Dead book. I have come to love our yearly cycle.
This year, due to a health problem on my end, we are “off” in our cycle a bit. To my surprise, this has thrown both of us for a loop. I never quite realized how settled I was into our yearly cycle. Everything should be back to normal in about three weeks, and I expect November to shift us back to “dawn to dark” writing, but… September and October have definitely been odd. Perhaps JC and I have become set in our ways. I find myself wondering if other full time writers become accustomed to similar patterns.
For everything, there is a reason and, it seems, a season. That is something to think about in your own writing. Even if you are not (yet) under contract, you need a sense of time to pull you forward. Perhaps until you are under contract and working toward a published novel, you should think about the phases of your work in an additional way. Self-made deadlines need not follow just the calendar or other artificial measures.
Look out the window from time to time. Get outside often. The seasons might be your better sense of what needs to be done in your writing, just like in your life, year by year.