Jodi Picoult, Luanne Rice, Glen Cook: Your writing tips, please!

Are these facts or urban legend rumors?  Novelist Luanne Rice writes a book per year. Ditto for Jodi Picoult.  And here’s a definite one: I read that SciFi and fantasy novelist, Glen Cook has already cranked out 40 books during his career–most of them while he worked full time at General Motors.

Fact or fiction, if these book-per-year outputs are all true, then pass me the paper bag–to put over my shameful head.

Actually, I’m not so much in awe of these writers’ productivity as their dexterity in being able to complete one project and get stuck into the next.  Or is it an overlapping, relay-race process? In other words, as one book awaits publication, the author is already drafting the next?

I don’t know. I wish I knew.

My second novel, DANCE LESSONS was launched on April 1, 2011. That’s four months ago. In Rice and Picoult years, that’s a third of a new book. Have I written a third of my next project? Hah!

Last week, I wrote a guest post on this topic for the wonderful literary blog, Savvy Verse and Wit. Until I sat down to pen that piece about the après publication period, I didn’t realize just how strange and direction-less this fallow time actually is.

So I’m having a strange old fallow time. And in some ways, it’s kind of fun. But scattered.

How about you? Can you effortlessly switch projects? Write in more than one genre at a time? Or is there a regrouping phase in between?

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About Aine Greaney

I'm an Irish writer living in greater Boston. I've published four books--two novels, a small collection of short stories and a how-to writing book, "Writer with a Day Job" (Writers Digest Books). I've also published lots of short stories, essays and feature articles. My latest project, "What Brought You Here" is a non-fiction narrative about being an expatriate in America. Find me on Twitter @ainegreaney. Or at my author web page, www.ainegreaney.com. As well as creative writing, I am the communications director for a healthcare non-profit. I also lead creative writing workshops at various libraries, schools and arts programs. At my workshops, I've been inspired by lots of wonderful writers--most of whom work a day job!
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11 Responses to Jodi Picoult, Luanne Rice, Glen Cook: Your writing tips, please!

  1. I always have several novels in progress and often work on two in the same month…when I get stuck on one I work on the second. But my books are character driven and search around for a long time sometimes for what I call a rising plot line. The more the plot line is defined and external, the faster it is for me. MARRYING MOZART took nine months because it was just four sister hoping to be married and one lovesick musician (Mozart) who initially fell in love with the wrong sister! Mozart’s operas told me the story. I think every novelist has her own time. I am trying for a book every two years. My friend Melanie Benjamin does one a year and thinks it all through first. I discover the story as I write and end up rewriting tons. CLAUDE & CAMILLE took more than five years to write. I couldn’t decide whose POV it was and what it should emphasize. When I finally found the best one, the last draft went very fast.. But mine is a meandering creativity.

  2. Aine Greaney says:

    Thanks for commenting, Stephanie,
    Yes, I think I see what you mean about the more the plot line is defined and external. My first novel only took me about a year-and-a-half–start to finish. I also discover as I write, and … as I have now passed a … ahem … *certain* birthday, the discovery happens a little more slowly than before. To borrow a brand-term from Amtrak, here’s hoping that our next books are real “Acela” express models!

    • Brad says:

      Yes, output envy ineedd. Can we have that classified as an official condition? I am inspired, Laurence and Stephanie, by the idea of switching between projects. It’s something I’m doing at the moment, but relatively new to it. I’m also pottering, aka, muddling between a non-fiction and a fiction project. Elizabeth, thanks for the endorsement of .. well age. I could do 1,500 words per day in the early days sometimes up to 3,000. I do think that the day job has an influence, too. There’s only so much concentration and language use in there, and lots of it gets used up at our paid jobs or at mine, anyway.Interesting discussion here given me so much to chew on thank you

      • Aine Greaney says:

        Hi Brad,
        Thanks for your input. Pottering indeed–exactly what I’m doing at the moment. It’s the three-way triangle between a non-fiction book proposal, a short short story and a sorta kinda novel. And I agree: My output was way, way higher when I was part-time or freelance. But so was my debt and debt-related anxiety. Thanks again for visiting and commenting.

  3. I work on several projects at a time, but usually in different genres as well. I’ve always felt bad about that, but Stephanie’s comment makes me feel better. I switch when I get stuck, when the characters stop talking to me, or when a character just won’t shut up!

    I write very slowly–one writer friend of mine says it’s because I edit while writing, which may be true. I don’t plot everything out, but when I do have a clear outline, things get down on paper (pixels, I guess) more quickly. The more character driven, the slower–Stephanie describes my experience exactly.

    And Aine, your comment about passing certain birthdays is spot on for me–I wrote much faster when I was younger.

  4. Laurence says:

    I am working on two different projects at the moment, which is new for me. Like Stephanie and Elizabeth, I switch between the two as inspiration strikes. It is easier than I thought, though sometimes I have a lot of different characters talking in my head at the same time. I do little plotting ahead and let the story unfold as I write. So far it is working, but it doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. It takes me about a year to write a book, and I do edit as I go, which slows the process somewhat. More time to write is what I need….

  5. I think my first 3 published books just poured out of me. Then I came to understand that even great national reviews and People Magazine coverage do not always equal the sales figures a publisher wants! So I think I became more uncertain of my path. Now revising my 6th novel, I have found my way a little again! But it is easier for me to write books with big external plot points,,,wars, reigns overthrown, Titanic sinking! More ordinary lives often do not have such great turning points..or rather they have hundreds of smaller points which must be combined into larger ones.

  6. TJ Alexian says:

    Egad! Talk about output envy, my dear. Now I really do have to hop back on the saddle…thanks for the motivation!

  7. Aine Greaney says:

    Yes, “output envy” indeed. Can we have that classified as an official condition? I am inspired, Laurence and Stephanie, by the idea of switching between projects. It’s something I’m doing at the moment, but relatively new to it. I’m also pottering, aka, muddling between a non-fiction and a fiction project. Elizabeth, thanks for the endorsement of .. well … age. I could do 1,500 words per day in the early days–sometimes up to 3,000. I do think that the day job has an influence, too. There’s only so much concentration and language use in there, and lots of it gets used up at our paid jobs–or at mine, anyway.
    Interesting discussion here … given me so much to chew on … thank you …

  8. I find it hard to work on more than one story at a time, because the story takes over my imagination and becomes intrusive. So more than one feels schizophrenic in my head. But then I make a game out of completing a story. I work toward a goal, like 10 pages a day. So when I hit more some days, I feel especially happy.

    • Aine Greaney says:

      J.J., Welcome. Thanks for your input. I’m kind of a monogamous (sp?0 writer, too. The only way I can do more than one project is in two different genres. Ten pages of a story a day? Congrats to you for your output.
      Glad you took time to stop by. I like your site, too.
      Aine

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