Do the Thing: Knowing when to stop

Do the thingDoves (Love in Los Angeles, Book 2) comes out on January 21, which is…16 days away, and I kind of wish I hadn’t counted that out just now. Our blog tour is also starting soon, and it’s going to be bigger and more extensive than our tour for Starling was. And while that means good things in terms of our marketing, it also means much more work for us. We kind of both just want to take a nap already.

But, even with as much marketing as we do, I always wonder if we should do more. After all, every new blog post on another site hits another potential audience, right?

Which is probably true. But there’s a cost/benefit thing going on, which is basically that the more time I spend marketing, the less I have for other things. Like actually writing. And sleeping. And while a lot of times that tradeoff is worth it, to an extent (our rule of thumb is an hour of marketing every day, for each of us) there is a point of negative returns. Like this morning when I emailed Racheline with a new list of blogs to possibly add to our tour, and she replied with, in essence, “Staaaaaaahhhp.”

Because as much as we want to talk about the book in all the places, we do have to keep writing new projects. And sleeping. And paying attention to our partners and our cats. And not overextending ourselves to the extent that we can’t actually deliver on what we need to.

There are never enough hours in the day to do everything I want to. I’m still learning how best to prioritize the time that I do have. And it’s hard, to let things that I want to do and that would benefit me, go,and put some things to bed so I have the time and the brain to do other things. But it’s also completely necessary, so I don’t get a heart attack and don’t miss deadlines.

So what hard choices are you making this week, between all the things you want to do? Leave a note in the comments, and we’ll be encouraging, offer whatever advice we can, and always give you a high-five for doing the best you can to make the hard choices.

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2 Responses to Do the Thing: Knowing when to stop

  1. Anonymous says:

    Non related to this week’s topic, but, um, I may need some help? Encouraging? Something?
    I’ve been doing the “write a novel in a year 250 words/day” since May, and now I’m sitting at around 63K words. Today, I decided I want to make a big setting change. Like big BIG change. It means I have to start making HEAVY edition on all that words when till now I’ve been on “keep writing, you can always change it later” mode. It’s a lot of work, but I’m also afraid of re-reading things I wrote on a rush, doesn’t make sense with latter parts, etc. And now I’m kind of freaking out.

    • erincmcrae says:

      First of all a MASSIVE congratulations on doing the 250 words/day thing, and getting so many words down as you have. All a first draft has to do is exist, and you have done an AMAZING job getting this far. Serious high-five for that!

      Second of all, two stories from our own recent history.

      First is from Phoenix, Book 3 of the LiLA series. That was a really fucking hard book to write, and when we got to the end we realized it needed a lot of structural rejiggering — things hadn’t been written in the right order, timelines kept shifting around, themes we thought were important weren’t, and new themes we didn’t expect had cropped up in the meantime. So we metaphorically dumped all the jigsaw pieces on the floor and put them back together. We killed a lot of stuff and added a lot of new stuff. It was epically painful. We’re thrilled with the final product. But there’s definitely a reason we dread the black unending pit of edits.

      Story number two: We were about 35K words into LiLA Book 4 when we realized it just wasn’t working. Well, rather, we’d kind of known all along it wasn’t working, but we couldn’t really put a finger on what was wrong or what needed to change. So we kept plugging along and making more words. Until we figured out one thing we knew had to change. AHAH! We said to ourselves. Brilliant! We have solved it! So we killed about 20K of the words we had and plugged in the gaps we now had with new words and the things we thought were the new plot elements. Yay progress! We thought.

      25K words in again, it still wasn’t working. We sweated. We freaked out. We had bad nights when we wondered if we should just ditch the whole series or if we were utter failures as writers. And then one day — while we were both epically sleep deprived for a variety of reasons — we Figured It Out. We now know exactly what the story is It’s going to be totally brilliant (this time!) It just involves scrapping everything we had written to date and starting completely over.

      Which we’ve done. The piece is flying now, and we’re really happy with the progress and the story we’re telling. But we’ve thrown out more words already than we’ve put into some entire novels.

      This is all really to say: Don’t be afraid to go back and re-read. Sure, some of the words are probably going to suck and make you cringe. That’s what first drafts are for! It exists! That’s what matters! When Racheline and I do our first round of edits once we finsih a first draft, they’re peppered with comments like OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK WERE WE THINKING WHY DID WE WRITE THIS WE SUCK.

      But then we break it down, step by step, and attack it piece by piece. We leave a comment where anything needs to be fixed. And then we attack those systematically, one at a time. Saying to yourself “I will resolve these three notes this afternoon” feels way more manageable than thinking to yourself “I must fix this entire fucking piece oh my god.”

      It’s like the 250 words/day thing, really.

      And also, and really most importantly, you already know what you want to change! That’s so much of the battle. You know what you want to fix and what you want to achieve! Epic fucking congratulations. From here, it’s just a puzzle. An often dark, painful, irritating puzzle, but it’s doable. Piece by piece. Bit by bit.

      You can totally, totally do it. No change is too big to make and it’s never too late in the process to make it.

      Best of luck and all the encouragement in the world. Let us know how it goes!!

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