The Illusion of Productivity

Dandy Poses with Productivity

A week or so ago, a writer friend of mine said something about my having three books out in the last six months. 

“You’re so productive!  How can I ever live up to that?”

Since yesterday marked the release of A New Clan, my newest release, written in collaboration with David Weber, and the fourth novel in the Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington Honorverse series, I thought I’d pull back the curtain and show you just how it works that I have three books out in six months.

Our tale starts in 2017 when, on a wander through Albuquerque’s Old Town with Jim, we stop in an art gallery.  I ask the proprietor, who also happens to be one of the featured artists, about the stories behind some of her paintings, which feature ravens and hawks wearing various bits of gear.  I am astonished to learn she has no story.

I start wondering what story I might write.  Later, this merges with my desire to write a portal fantasy in which the protagonists will be older women, rather than people usually something younger than sixteen. 

In April 2017, I start writing this story.  Its title is Library of the Sapphire Wind.  By early October of 2017, I have 150,000 words.   Then I need to put it on side because I have other work to do.

Some of that involves getting my indie pub novel Asphodel on various sites for sale.

Some of it involves doing new e-book editions of the first six Firekeeper Saga.

Some of it involves writing Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul, the new Firekeeper Saga novels.  These will keep me busy in various aspects until early 2020.

Some of it involves various short fiction writing projects.

In July of 2018, at Congregate in North Carolina, David Weber tells me that Baen Books is interested in new books in our Star Kingdom series. 

I tell him “great,” and get back to work on other projects.  Oh, and that October Jim will have his first knee replacement surgery.  He won’t be able to drive for at least six weeks, so all errands are on me. But I keep working…

Some of what I do is get backlist editions of Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls, out.  Later on, I’ll also do backlist editions of all the “Breaking the Wall” novels, and both “Artemis Awakening” novels.

In July of 2019, Weber and I finally start working out the Star Kingdom novel mentioned a year earlier.  In September, we sign a contract for three new books.  Brainstorming and such happens, and in January of 2020, I start serious writing on what we call SK4, right up until it becomes A New Clan.

In August of 2020, I send SK4 to Weber.  That’s when I finally get back to…  Do you even remember it? My project from back in 2017, Library of the Sapphire Wind.  By the time I have finished reviewing it, expanding it, and such, the novel will have grown to the point that it needs to be two books: Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge.

Oh, and Jim is hospitalized with a cryptic infection in July 2020, and has another knee replacement surgery in September 2020.  And there’s this pandemic going on…

In March of 2021, I send Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge to Toni at Baen.  She accepts them in April of 2021.  Pretty much all my writer life for the rest of 2021 and into 2022 is spent working on these books, then on the final version of what is now being called A New Clan.

So, is it three books in six months?  Sure, as publication dates go, absolutely.  However, as my working life goes, it’s more like five books (remember Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul), as well as some backlist stuff in five years, and a fair amount of short fiction.

Why did I go into all of this?  Because too often writers or artists or whatever get intimidated by other people’s perceived productivity.  Yes.  I work hard.  I work steadily.  But I don’t work sloppily fast or in a fashion that’s ridiculously productive.

Moreover, it’s highly unlikely I’ll have a book published in 2023, or if I do, it will be late in the year.  But I’ll be writing, and I’ll be working, because it’s the day-by-day writing, not the publications, that is the real life of a writer.

2 Responses to “The Illusion of Productivity”

  1. Sharon Says:

    What a great story and thank you for busting the myth. As a non-writer, but professional ‘dabbler’ and productive most of a few days per week, I appreciate you (and this message).

    • janelindskold Says:

      Thanks so much. I realize the way to fame is to act as if it’s effortless, but I’d rather be honest. I’m not joking by the way. I have watched the game. Brag about forthcoming projects. Don’t mention when they’re late, get cancelled, don’t ever come to fruition. People only remember the brag.

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