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On Self-Publishing: Contagion

There’s a bug that’s been going around recently.

As a matter of fact, there’s two.

The first is a summer cold. An upper respiratory virus. Nothing terrifying or crippling, but just enough to take a man down for six to ten days. In this case, the grown man was me.

That’s only a small part of the story, though. See…two weeks ago, I woke up feeling immensely relieved and immensely worried. Worried because there was a little bit of soreness in the back of my throat, some ache in my joints as I pulled myself out of bed. I was aggravatingly sick just four months ago, and I had no interest in going through that again. I spent about thirty seconds grumbling and grousing and just generally frustrated at the possibility I might be getting sick again.

Then I remembered it was Tuesday morning, June 21. That was the official launch date for Taming Fire. I’d spent the weekend working hard to get it published. I’d spent more than a month frantically rewriting it. I’d burned my candle right down to the stub to get it done, but I got it done. And now it was time to relax and bask in the flurry of launch-day activity.

I didn’t get to do as much relaxing as I hoped. In the midst of that activity I had a chat with our amazing cover artists asking me if I could please get them a copy of the next book. I barely have this one out the door, and they’re already frustrated the next one isn’t in their hands (and for good reasons).

So Taming Fire got to launch itself while I got to work banging out schedules, getting people ready, and diving straight back into my next book. Luckily this one wasn’t going to take nearly as much work as Taming Fire had. This one, I knew, should be a couple days’ work. Maybe one day’s. I just had to get to it.

I spent the next week not working on it. No matter what I intended, the Taming Fire launch demanded some of my attention. There was more to it, though. I was mentally exhausted. I did some amazing work on Taming Fire in a remarkably short time span, but it took its toll.

So I took a week off. Not off, but off writing. I read Jessie’s novel (due up for publication in 2012). I read Joshua’s novel (also 2012). I started on Courtney’s (October). I was working, I just wasn’t writing.

I was also getting sick, but we’ll get back to that.

And in the midst of it, while I was working on scheduling stuff with the hope of making our next book launch less stressful than the last one, I discovered something rather delightful: my next book wasn’t actually due yet. It wasn’t due until July 6th. I’d spent all this time beating up on myself for being so behind schedule…and I actually had two weeks to spare.

So I let myself enjoy the reading, let myself take a little break. I had a holiday weekend coming up, and really just half a day’s work to do, right? And the way things worked out, I ended up staying home for the holiday weekend while the wife took the kids to visit her parents. It was the perfect opportunity to finish up Restraint and maybe even get started on The Dragonswarm for December.

And that’s where the sickness crept in. By Monday of last week, we had a Consortium Time meeting where three of our writers complained they were having trouble focusing on their writing projects, and I huddled in a corner trying to cough up a lung.

You’ve heard about that Consortium Time meeting. Courtney talked about it here, and Jessie talked about it on her blog today. (Sorry, Jessie.)

I felt really sorry for them. It’s brutal when you have a project you want to work on, you need to work on, but you just can’t make yourself work on it. I tossed back some pills, spent a few minutes coughing violently, and then went back to feeling sorry for them.

On Friday I bid my family goodbye over lunch. I got home from work, set up my workstation in the living room, and pulled up the book I hadn’t really done any work on for the last two weeks.

And I stared at it. For two hours. I did nothing. I scrolled. I reread chapters I’d read a half-dozen times. I changed a word. I changed it back. I switched to another browser tab and checked my sales of Taming Fire (it’s doing ridiculously well, by the way).

Finally I gave up. I turned on an old episode of Friends and dove into another project I started last week just to get something accomplished before bedtime. I ended up blazing away on that project for three hours and finally fell into bed with my mind still racing with ideas.

Some of them even had to do with my book. I slept late Saturday, but as soon as I was up I went to my computer. I pulled up Restraint and reread the last half a chapter I’d finished with Friday. I stared at it. I checked my sales numbers. I made myself breakfast. I stared at my document some more. Then I took a bunch of pills and went back to bed.

Honestly, that was my whole weekend. I had four straight days with no interruptions and no obligations other than this one deadline. I made essentially no progress on it.

  • I designed and documented a new videogame.
  • I catalogued all my long-abandoned Magic cards.
  • I did a story conference with Joshua and Courtney.
  • I spent four hours on a friend’s birthday lunch.
  • I read several more chapters of Courtney’s book.
  • I watched three full seasons of Friends.
  • I took so many naps.

And I didn’t write a word on my novel. I barely touched it. I did spend a lot of time feeling guilty, but that was probably the least productive part of my weekend.

When I mentioned some of this to my wife, she just shook her head. “Sometimes you get sick,” she said. “It’s just part of life. It’s a good thing you had this weekend to get better. That’s what matters.”

And she’s right. That’s writing advice for all of us, even if she didn’t mean it that way. Honestly, most of the reason I couldn’t work on my book was chemical — the cold was messing with my head, and the boatloads of medicines only compounded that. All the fun little things I did instead were also things that didn’t need the attention that I couldn’t muster anyway.

But I’m looking at three other writers in my little writing group who are perfectly healthy, but we have all caught the other bug. For lots of different reasons, we’ve all found ourselves at the same time unable to sit and concentrate.

And Trish’s is good for all of us. It happens sometimes. Sometimes it’s even contagious. Take a break, get some rest, do what you’ve got to do to get better. Life will pick up again when it’s over.

So now I’ve got some work to do. I’m gonna get started. If I can find the time, I’d like to talk a little more about self-publishing and self-promotion later this week. See you then.

One Response to “On Self-Publishing: Contagion”

  1. Since you admitted to watching three seasons of Friends, I guess it’s safe to tell you that I watched two seasons of 3rd Rock from the Sun this week. Hope you get over both those bugs and get back to writing! I’m looking forward to editing Restraint.