State of the writer, October 2017 edition

Posted in writing.

When I first started working with an alpha reader, I was a bit nervous, because he read every chapter as it was written (and still does), and it meant he would see the rough edges and the bits and pieces of incompetence that is raw first draft.

I was afraid that, because he loved these books and got them, he would become disillusioned because I was not infallible or genius or whatever. I was just me. This did not happen. He approached process as an edifice that had already allowed me to produce novels that he loved, and he was aware that he did not know what that process, ultimately, was – but he absolutely trusted it.

He was, however, still surprised.

I remember this clearly: he was surprised at how much of the work of a novelist had… nothing to do with writing the books. Revisions. More revisions. Editorial letter. More revisions. Copy-edits. Page proofs. Terrible angst about how. Damn. Long. The books were.

Starting the next book six times, trying to find the exact voice of the particular book. Etc.

And so: October.

Revisions (WAR). These came to a halt with copy-edits that were somewhat urgent at the beginning of October (Cast in Deception. I finished those just in time to go to Can-con. I returned to page proofs of the mass market edition of Grave. I have a book review column due in November, and there is not a lot of October left.

How much writing did I get done this month? T_T

about 2k words of a Severn novella.

War is now with my DAW editor. She will read it, and she will have comments, suggestions, etc. I will return to War when I receive them. In the meantime, page proofs are due back in the DAW office at the beginning of November. I can usefully proof about 50 pages a day before I start to miss mistakes. That will be the rest of October.

So: my intent going forward is to finish those page proofs (I am one of the authors who finds this agony because all I can see are mistakes, which is arguably the reason for page proofs), write novellas, and then start Cast in… while waiting for my DAW version of the editorial letter on War (which is a long phone call or two).

Sorry =/

44 Responses to State of the writer, October 2017 edition

  1. desiree says:

    Never, ever, be sorry! I can always read Jewel’s story again. You are a prolific author (as well as my favorite) and work takes time. Your fans and readers understand this. Now go about your business woman! And forget we’re waiting! Peace ✌

  2. hsmyers says:

    Because I’m greedy, I’d love to convince you and your editor(s) that “too long” is a good thing! That said, I will wait semi-patiently, semi, sorta…

  3. Karen Zorn says:

    Writing is work, a lot of work, and sometimes it comes easy, most of the time not. I haven’t written fiction, but over 35 years of technical and procedural output, which at times can be agonizingly dull. I look forward to each and every one of your books and am always amazed at the worlds you create and the individuals who populate them and their stories you tell. Unfortunately my imagination doesn’t go much further than “click Enter”.

  4. wmacneill says:

    What in the world could you possibly be sorry for ? It sounds like a lot of work or more exactly it sounds a lot like work. I have found delving into e-books as currently published a seemingly host of errors and I also find that I tend to mentally correct those errors as I read. Most seem to be the victim of autocorrect and 99 percent of the time the correct verbiage just pops into my head. So I can sympathize with your dilemma but try to stay the course as your sweat, toil and agony results in my delight. So again, thank you.


  5. Kitiara Aerin Young-green says:

    Michelle I was hoping to meet you at can-con but lost my apartment at the time. I cried for two weeks about not being able to go and meet you my hero.. Who inspires me to not give up on writing the books I’ve tried to write with little success since I was 8 years old (I’m 27 now). Meeting you means everything to me save immigrating back to my ancestral country (Scotland) which I’ve wanted and planned for my whole life. All the five or six degrees I’m going for in college are to accomplish that goal. I wrote you a letter, thinking I would hand it to you in person so you would know everything i wanted to say to you because I struggle with autistic traits and ADD/anxiety depression disorder so I have social interaction problems. I want to send you that letter but I want to send it somewhere that you’ll actually get it and that it won’t be lost in the tons of fanmail I’m sure you get. Can you tell me where to mail it? This was the first convention you were to go to where I had enough forewarning to try and find the money to go, so I was heart broken. Everyone in my life who I’ve shared the cast books with agrees that kaylin is me like an identical twin. The things she suffered at barren’s hands I suffered at my father’s and a lot more. Kaylin is what keeps me going everyday and I read the whole series once and even twice a month. My books are falling apart because I can’t afford new ones. Not since we lost our apartment (me and my husband). I dreamed of seeing you sign my books.. As much as I have always dreamed of seeing my hero’s comments on one of my own finally published books. My other hero.. Anne McCaffrey (you’d love her book serieses I think) died before that dream ever had a chance of reality, but you’ve been far more encouragement and hero to me than even she was. Kaylin means the world to me, I’ve no idea how I’m going to get cast in deception yet.. But I’m writing this to you, because I’m praying you’ll remember me the next time you’re going to be working at your bookshop, or going to a convention, And so announce it with enough time I can beg for help to get there and meet you. I have struggled since I graduated high-school in 2008 to get started in college and be successful, it’s only in the past two years that I’ve been moderately successful and now I’m about to graduate next December with an associates and finally start university. I ninety percent of the time have no idea how I’m going to afford my books or manage around my disabilites. But your books always get me through. Books are life and oxygen to me anyway and always have been. I hope that you’ll let me mail the letter to you.

  6. Ralph Walker says:

    You continue to feel the need to apologize to the one group who never ‘needs’ an apology from you. Your Alpha Reader; your editors; your publishers; your contractual responsibilities; and, most importantly, your family and friends; THEY need and deserve apologies, but not us.
    I am always aghast at how much work you have to do in order to provide us our pleasures. We appreciate all that you do.
    Please, take all the time you need. We can wait, impatiently at times for sure, but nevertheless, we can wait.
    Don’t forget to build in some time for you. Relax, decompress, enjoy the pleasures in life, like we do when we receive your writings.

    Have you named a Sword of Power after Terry yet? You know he will never forgive you, if you don’t :)

  7. Zia says:

    I echo other voices here, you don’t need to apologize. I hope you were able to enjoy Can-Con.

    I’m looking forward to all the upcoming works with great anticipation, but I’m also willing to wait as long as needed.

    October does seem to be flying on my end as well, but as I switched jobs a month ago, I’m still running around with the deer-in-the-headlight look.

    Hopefully things calm down for you! As always, thank you for taking the time to write an update for us. I always appreciate them.

  8. Stefan Engel says:

    I am Proud of you. I am rereading all the Jay series, to be ready for War’s debut. The breadth of character types is amazing. You created a true hero in Jay. Thank you. You are a creator of heroes and that is the highest art. :)

  9. controuble says:

    Hope you had a good time at CanCon. I really need to try to get up to one of the Canadian cons one of these years, but I just got a new contract position, so no PTO until/unless I get hired on direct. Looking forward to reading anything you write – where, when will the novella be available? I like Severn.

  10. Joyce Ronquillo says:

    As my son sometimes says to me; “Don’t over think it”. We love you, we’ll wait; and most of us won’t whine too loudly about it either. I’m down in the bottom of the American Southland so I’m sure you can’t hear my toe tapping as I wait for Kaylin to arrive.

  11. Wave says:

    Don’t worry about the time it takes, we will still be here and will read/listen when it is released.

  12. Nikita Segadaes says:

    I have been waiting for war for so long, this series is astounding, you are a genius never think less! the amount of detail and precision in your war and cast novels are amazing! I love the elantra world, it has so many remnants of the sumerian/anunnaki homeworld history where Tiamat (the primordial dragon mother) and other feline/human and aerian hybrids play a major role in our ancient historical record. I was flabbergasted when i saw the name Tiamaris as a dragon! Was that intentional i wonder or did you randomly choose that name? Was Elantra influenced by Mesopotamian historical record? Or did they just happen to be closely related? I only wonder because in sumerian and babylonian tablets it speaks of the original homeworld of the anunnaki ancestors having sentient dragons who were the firstborn, then anunnaki humans and hybrids came later, can i ask if this was where the influence came from?

  13. Tracy Perkins says:

    Thanks for continuing to share your process with us. It’s interestibg seeing how the sausage is made 😉. As someone who has to squeeze writing into her life I am as always impressed by your dedication and commitment. It’s obvious you put your heart and soul into these books and as readers I don’t think we have the right to ask for anything more than that.

  14. Daniel Catudal says:

    Every time you take a moment to update us about your progress and mindset, is worth more than you may beleive. I never thought I would care more about the author than the books themselves, which I love by the way. Its been very pleasant to hear from you again, Every one of your comments are a great moment in my day. Love to read your next book whenever, no rush.

  15. Jo-Ann Pieber says:

    I echo all the thanks for the update, for the sheer doggedness in working on multiple (yay) projects, and the reassurances that we are both patient and supportive of all your efforts – whether we fully comprehend the scope of these or not. I too feel concerned that you protect yourself from getting too frazzled or too stretched with multiple competing demands. I suppose I still, naively, imagine that writing is an activity that is vastly solitary until it’s Done, and that authors have total control over the end result. Have to say that the notion of all the back-and-forth, deadlines, space constraints and so on make me break out into a cold sweat. Stay strong and take care of yourself.

    It’s good to know you have taken the time to read (assuming you have already done so) for that column you mention. Is that sort of thing ‘under wraps’ until it’s published or can you share here about what you have read? Any positive recommendations from you, or others here, would be appreciated as my choices lately are very lackluster and I’m yearning for a damn good book. The last good thing I read, or was swept up into and loved was Ada Palmer’s first two of a series, Too Like the Lightning, and Seven Surrenders. Though ‘technically’ sci-fi, or at least categorized that way at the bookstore, I do think it’s just a plain old Good Story and thankfully for me anyway, it avoids the usual things in sci-fi that make me roll my eyes.

    So, have you or anyone read anything lately that they highly recommend? If you love reading Michelle Sagara/West as I do, what do you love reading nearly as much (if that is even possible)?

    Finally, I know you have a few other places you communicate and I’m not sure that This is the place where this sort of discussion is ‘supposed’ to be. If I err, pls forgive and let me know.

    Wishing you joy and ease in whatever you are doing on any given day.

  16. Miriam says:

    Thank you very much for the glimpses into the logistics/business of writing fantasy novels. I really appreciate it! Can’t wait for War.

  17. @Walt: a writer friend said, last week, that she feels that I don’t consider anything “real work” if it doesn’t involve new words. And, ummm, yes, in some fashion it’s true. The work all has to be done–I know that intellectually–but somehow I feel that I’m not… not being a writer if there are no new words.

    And no, rewriting whole chapters, which in theory is all new words, are not new words – they’re fixing old words which wouldn’t have needed fixing if my brain had been firing on all cylinders.

    That’s part one. Part two is: people who come to the web-site come because they read my books. And because they want new books and new words. And since I’m not actually getting new words written, I feel on some level, that I’m letting them down.

    And yes, again, I realize that the work is necessary and it has to be done, but I’d like it a lot if I could manage to do *both*. And I can’t. So, then, apologies >.<

  18. @controuble: When the Severn novella is finished, and the person who donated to pixel project gets it, I will (probably) self-publish it, and will announce that here. But, ummm, it’s not finished yet T_T.

  19. @Nikita: not consciously (re: influence). But the thing is… everything one reads and thinks about and loves – or hates – kind of sinks roots into the brain, and becomes part of the roving subconscious. I read a lot of mythology when I was a child, and a lot more of it when I was a teenager – I liked myths. This wasn’t so much about study. I just liked reading them.

    I did not deliberately pull Tiamaris from a known source – but I can’t say definitively that I never read that name, if that makes sense?

  20. @Tracy: I think, before publication, it was squeezing writing time around the day job and the home – but… I feel as if, since this is effectively the day job, I should somehow get More Done. And I get more done than I did in 1989. But. Well.

    @Daniel: Thank you :). My assumption is that people want to know about the book they want to read – but I realized that if I went completely silent for months at a time (usually when a book was not going well and I felt guilty) people actually started to worry that I’d been hit by a car or had wandered so far off the grid I might not come back. So… then I started to try to do a monthly post so that readers *wouldn’t* worry about that. But… I guess I felt a bit bad about having no actual news to post. I mean – to me “still writing” didn’t feel like something newsworthy for readers?

    The easy posts are: I’ve sold two new CAST books. These are followed by: This is the cover. And at least by: I have finished the book!

  21. Kat says:

    Speaking of ‘this is the cover’, I noticed the CiD cover and blurb is out in the wild. Get amongst it everyone! Yay! I’m so pleased they have continued with the same design/designer for the series. I’m still waiting for the nightshade tattoo to appear, though!

  22. Peter Moore says:

    Like everyone else has said, no need to apologize. We understand. (or at the very least I think I understand) I do know that the creative process is work. HARD WORK. As my mentor has told me innumerable times; “If ______ was easy, they’d call it sexy and everybody would want to do it”. Don’t worry about us. We’ll get by. War will be done when it’s done. At the very least you are better about getting stuff out than many many other epic fantasy writers. Now if you were Patrick Rothfuss, G.R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, even Robin Hobb, we might have a beef, but you are “relatively” punctual about getting stuff out. So thank you for all your words: your new words, your old words, your old/new words, and your new/old words, and most especially all those wonderfilled universes those words build. Thank you for building an escape hatch into another universe where I can go on occasion, after I finish my visit, no matter how long it is I come back here refreshed and willing to do my own work.

  23. Ralph Walker says:

    Hey, no fair. You should have left Robert Jordan off your “late” list. First, it is not right to speak ill of the dead ( Emma should have taught you that ).
    Second, Jordan was pretty timely, bringing us the Wheel of Time.
    And, lastly, of the others on your list, whom do you suspect would leave notes with a bequest that someone finish his series, for us!

    No flaming, please. Just MHO.

  24. DeDe says:

    Definitely no need to apologize! Snow here today, so I curled up w/ my re-reads. Your books are some of the few that I can read, and re-read endlessly. So no matter how much time it takes you to finish the story – I’m pretty sure I’m getting more time enjoying your work after it’s complete.

    And thanks for not getting hit by a car… :-)

  25. Natasha says:

    Your books can never be too long. I miss the days of thousand page books. I prefer reading to watching television so a 150 page book is maybe 3 hours worth of reading—on a busy day. Your books, thankfully, are longer than that. As such, it would be awesome if you could convince the folks who write the checks that there is profit in marketing two versions of your books. The shorter version they believe is more marketable, and then the much longer version (digital only) with all of the detail and cut chapters you wrote originally. I, for one, would purchase both copies because I love nothing more than delving into these characters lives and letting my imagination go wild. Happy writing!

  26. @Ralph: I was enormously impressed by the amount of work Jordan did in his later years. Had I been Jordan, I don’t think I could have written a word given the various medical treatments; he wrote three books. And yes, he tried to make plans to have that story finished.

    I’m sure no disrespect was intended–but not everyone is aware of the context in which he wrote toward the end of his life. I know that as a reader, I see… the books. But I don’t know a lot about anything else.

  27. Tickle says:

    Hi Michelle! No need to say sorry for anything. Your process is your process (even if you have to wait on others). Your stories are so enjoyable & have that re-readable factor, that we have tons to entertain us until the next book in the series (I love both Sun Sword/House War & Cast series). So just do you Boo, we will be here waiting to throw our attention, love & money at you, LOL. My question is, after War, will there be another series in this saga that will bring back some of our favs from The Sun Sword & Sacred Hunt series to join the fight w/Jewel’s crew and/or do just as important things somewhere else? Maybe not all, but def Kiriel & her crew (incl. Valedan, Diora, Aurelius, Osprey’s) & Margaret and her Voyani crew, or Stephen/Bredan’s child & his hunt sister? I don’t need any details, a yes, no, or maybe will suffice (though detail wouldn’t go amiss either, LOL).

  28. @Tickle: The answer is both yes and no. Yes, I intend to finish what is the final arc set in this universe. Yes, it returns to Kiriel. But I’m less certain about its eventual publishing disposition. Regardless, even if self-published, I’ll write and finish the End of Days arc.

  29. Ralph Walker says:

    OK, color me confused. I thought that the return to the Dominion with Valedon, Kiriel, and Stephen of Maubreche with his huntsister(?) Nenyane, etc., was going to be named, The Black Gauntlet.

    Is The End of Days a different arc? Is The Black Gaunlet kaput?

    Or, ( hoping against hope :) ), there are TWO Essalieyan arcs pending?

  30. Fyreink says:

    Publishing a book is a long process, never be sorry! One of the reasons I love the Cast books is that they make great comfort reads, and when I’m going through a reading drought.

    Reading Cast in Flight, I was surprised that the Barrani didn’t make a big deal out of bloodlines, considering that they make a huge fuss over lineage, and that adoption and children not born in marriages were perfectly acceptable.

    Also I was rereading Cast in Moonlight, and was wondering if some of the characters will appear again, like Captain Neall and the nameless Barrani Arcanist who apparently knew Teela?

    And finally, regarding the back cover copy of Cast in Deception, in the second paragraph, it says “Add nine of their closest friends…”, shouldn’t it say eight, unless you’re counting Teela, in which case please ignore this comment.

  31. @Fyreink: We did include Teela, and now, on balance, I’m wondering about that >.>.

    Re: Barrani: they don’t make a big deal about bloodlines because there’s no inherent power *in* the bloodline in their pragmatic view. It’s more Roman: if you can adopt the best, you adopt the best. If the cousin is more political powerful or adept than the son, the cousin will hold and take the line. If that makes sense?

  32. Fyreink says:

    Re: Barrani: Yes, it makes sense :) and I actually liked how you wrote that. It reminded me of a Twitter thread by Aliette de Bodard about magic and lineage in SFF. Here’s the link:

    And sorry if I caused any headaches about the back cover copy. I thought that Teela is the only “normal” one out of the original 12 that went to the West March, and since Terrano is gone, I wasn’t sure if she was included as well.

  33. Mary Grove says:

    One thing you do extremely well is tell us what’s going on. One author I really really like wrote two wonderful books in a series and then disappeared for 25 years with nary a word. So until you start leaving us out in the cold like that, we’re happy to listen to what’s going on in your life, glad offer praise and encouragement, and always, always rejoice in the work you offer us so generously. That’s my strongest impression of you actually, that you’re generous–with your gifts, your time, your honesty and your fierce desire to do more, better and sooner than anyone else would ever expect of you. If you can’t be gentle with yourself at times, please listen to us and believe it when we tell you that we’re grateful for what you’re doing. That it’s more than enough to make us happy just to hold a new book with your name on the cover and prepare to dive in with glad expectations for all the joy that reading it will bring. Know that you are part of our lives, just as you make us part of yours in these posts, and we’re happy to hold you for as long as you need while you do the work we love.

  34. michelle says:

    @Mary: Hmmm. Well. I understand how an author can disappear, although 25 years is a long stretch. It goes like this: (Michelle’s inner thoughts).

    1. People actually like my books! Yay!

    2. People come here to interact with me because they like my books! Yay!

    3. People want news about New Books!

    4. … book is not going well. Book is not going well at all. I have nothing to post of any interest to readers because I haven’t finished a book. I haven’t sold a book. A book is not being published now that can actually be read by readers. And the book is not going well.

    5. No one wants to hear non-news, right? I mean: “still writing” is non-news, right?

    6. Radio silence.

    I try to post here once a month, in a kind of “State of the Author” in part because I realized that this was not, in fact, true. I was offline and people were starting to panic; some people were worried I’d been hit by a car among other things. “Still writing” has value for readers because it means I haven’t abandoned my book(s) or given up on writing. It was actually my alpha reader who pointed this out, because I asked whether or not posts containing no useful information to readers had any value for readers. And he’s a reader, and he patiently explained that knowing that an author was still working on a series or a novel was actually relevant.

    “But-but-it’s not finished yet!”

    “Yes. But you’re still working on it *to* finish it. Trust me.”

    So I did.

  35. I just hope you’re taking the time to care for yourself. I remember reading your LiveJournal entries, talking not only about your writing process, but your job at the bookstore, and your family – particularly about your son.

    So, in between all the cons, and the writing, and the deadlines (god I hate deadlines), and family, I hope you’re making you-time.

  36. Vance Marker says:

    Hey….all you can do is all you can do! You’ve touched so many people with your many works and I think I can safely say that we are all incredibly thankful and appreciative that you have chosen to share your talent with the world.

    I, myself, am waiting for War….and the anticipation is both exhilarating and agonizing! Until that hits the shelves, I’m carrying around dinged up copies of The Sun Sword and Oracle. I hope that perhaps one day we’ll get to hear the stories of the Voyani in much greater detail. I’ve been longing to return to Arkosa and know more of the other three lines.

    In any event, I hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy (and productive) new year!

  37. Tarun Elankath says:

    I am a software developer and the process of bug-fixing, code-reviews performance-testing and the last 10% of any development activity are always the the most painful. Yet proper attention during this process is what makes something truly shine. I suspect its more painful for a writer – big book writers don’t appear to have some of the tools that we have to expedite this phase.

    At any rate, if it makes you feel any better, I prefer to read long, spell-binding Sagara books than the quick noodle-food fare of faster writers. (Not that I am averse to quick noodle-fare when needing lighter entertainment…)

  38. Anna says:

    I have only found your writing recently, and I have never been so attached to a character as I am to Kaylin. You have written so many books for me to love. And there is depth, and cohesiveness. Your characters think and feel in ways that make sense.

    All these words to say: your work is worth waiting for. The care that you take in your writing shows.

    Also… The number of books you’ve published in a fairly short period of time is impressive. We really aren’t waiting long.

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