Author Override is the place where authors take the reins and take you on a journey into their world. Some may allow you into their private writing dens. Others may take you along with them on research trips or interviews. Whatever the case may be, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride because here you’ll get an in-depth look into an author’s musings.
Welcome to the Journey of a Debut Author Blog Tour!
This is our NINTH week in a behind the scenes look at what’s involved in getting a debut author prepared for publication. My own debut novel, FEVER, releases February, 2012, just two months away! At every stop on the tour, I’ll have a guest NYT bestselling author answering questions about their experience as a debut author and I’ll also be giving away their books! Links for previous topics and locations are listed at the end of this post.
My guest author this week is the wonderful Marjorie Liu, and I have FOUR of her books for giveaway!
Burnout — that’s our topic this week!
It’s actually rather apropos considering the time of year — traditionally filled with both cheer and stress as we try to fit all our regular activities into the day along with a bevy of new holiday fun. But I’m going to take a little different approach on the subject today.
Anyone who has ever attempted any significant endeavor knows a stellar outcome usually requires a significant investment of passion. In a start up situation, such as mine as a debut author, that passion usually comes in the form of a whole lot of time, effort, selflessness, generosity, goodwill, prayer and hope, because, honestly, most first time authors don’t have much in the way of money, fame or any noteworthy family in Hollywood standing by to give us a boost.
One of the definitions of burnout is a fire that has totally destroyed something. While that may not be the first or most common description that comes to mind, it fits this situation quite well. Generally, writers have two passions in their careers–the writing itself and everything else (i.e. promo, development, finances, management). They are like dual fires, burning toward each other until they finally meet and extinguish each other for lack of oxygen. (Can you tell I’ve been married to a firefighter for over 20 years?)
This scenario can be applied to anyone suffering burnout from too much too do with too few resources in too short a time frame, not just writers. Welcome to modern America, right? Well, to a degree. We all have choices.
In my case, I am my own worst enemy. An overzealous obsessive-compulsive perfectionist pleaser, I may as well plaster Kill Me Now on my forehead and be done with it, but evidently, I also have a masochistic streak and prefer to drag out the torture. Lucky you.
In addition to all that, I’m nervous. I really don’t know what to expect when Fever releases, so I figure better to over prepare than under prepare. The drawback there, given my crazy tendencies, is…you guessed it–burnout. Big time.
For me, burnout manifests in a variety of negative ways and it radiates outward. What I mean by that is that I will sacrifice myself and the things I want and enjoy first. The things I need next. Beyond that, less important duties fall to the wayside and everyday tasks go uncompleted. When this goes on week after week, month after month, a negative cycle develops and the dysfunction that I thought would be a temporary situation until I got through the rough spots has become an everyday norm, one that now takes significant effort, possibly even weeks of vacation time and purposeful focus, to break. Additionally, the activities that I believed would extend for a two month time frame have created other, unexpected and continuous time consuming tasks.
Can you see the cyclone? That’s me…that piece of twisted spaghetti waggling in the eye of the storm.
And it’s truly a double-edged sword because individually, there is not one piece of this journey I don’t enjoy. Each new door I pass through has introduced me to new people, fresh opportunities and a stronger part of myself. What is overwhelming is handling everything at once. And, I’m not, honestly…at least, not very well. I don’t think anyone can. Something has to give–personally, professionally, physically, emotionally…
Here’s what I’ve done in the last few weeks to start my recovery.
- I’ve reduced my book reviews for publishers, taking only specific books because they are new releases of very good friends.
- I’ve decreased the number of guest authors on my website for the same reason.
- I’ve left a block of time open before my Feb/March blog tour to prepare posts ahead of time.
- I stay in touch with my writing friends–those who understand me and love me anyway.
- I’ve given myself permission to not be perfect. (This may not sound like much, but it’s huge.)
- I’ve accepted the fact that not everyone will like me, no matter how hard I try. (Another biggie.)
- I am learning to recognize my limits instead of running over them like a truck.
- I try to stick with a routine that keeps my dark side from taking over.
- I’ve enlisted the help of my family to pick up the pieces.
Marjorie has studied and traveled extensively through Taiwan and China, and spent some time working at the US Embassy in Beijing. She loves to read and loves poodles.
Today we’re giving away FOUR books in Marjorie’s paranormal romantic thriller Dirk & Steele series. The latest in the series, WITHIN THE FLAMES, released November 29th, and a brand new novel in her Hunter’s Kiss series, THE MORTAL BONE, releases December 27th.
Marjorie, as a debut author who had never experienced the complete production and publication cycle before, did you ever find yourself at a stage of burn out? If so, how did you deal with it?
For me, burn out is the same as writer’s block — like, multiplied by a million. It’s exhaustion combined with a lack of direction, with an extra dose of frustration and self-doubt mixed in. Basically, it’s pure misery. And yes, at least once in the writing of every book, I experience this. In the beginning of my career, I didn’t deal with it very well. I didn’t know how. I’d never experienced anything like it. So I’d stew and stew, trying to write, fighting for a break — and eventually, I’d muddle through. But man, oh man. What heartache.
Again, burn out — for me — is the same as deep exhaustion. There were days when all the work would come to a standstill, and I’d have to walk away. Just walk away from the computer and read a book, see a movie, do some laundry — anything but actually think about the story at hand. There was no specific point when that would happen, either. I’ve become exhausted writing a novel at 30,000 words — or at 70,000. it just depends on the story I’m trying to tell.
By the time I’m finished writing a book, though, my energy levels have usually returned. This might have something to do with the fact that — after a couple months writing the same thing — I’m more than ready to move on to a new project.
Do you still experience now? To the same extent? What have you learned over the years?
I’ve learned how to give myself permission to relax, and ask for help from my editors. That was incredibly difficult for me to do in the beginning. In fact, I don’t think I ever contemplated the concepts of “relaxing” or “calling my editor.” How foreign! I was supposed to do this on my own! So I’d hit the wall and just sit there for days or weeks, gnashing my teeth.
Finally, about four years ago, I worked on a book that drove me up the wall. It was the last straw. I called my editor, and told her that I’d reached a point in the book that had me stumped. I didn’t know what to write next. And, lo and behold, she talked me through it. She asked me just the right questions, soothed my rumpled, ruffled, feathers — and by the end of the conversation, I had a direction and renewed sense of energy. I was able to start writing again.
I’m not shy about calling my editors anymore.
How do you balance the writing side vs. the business side of your career?
I don’t balance it well. Not on my own. This is where having a great agent comes into play. Not only do I have a wonderful agent, but I also have a lovely publicist who helps keep me on track.
If you could tell debut authors one thing to do to avoid burn out, what would it be?
Give yourself permission to relax! Please! This is not a race. It’s a long haul endurance run, and you need to give yourself permission to stop every now and then, and breathe. Also, ask for help. Call a friend if you get stuck or feel worn out. Call your editor. Don’t hold all that frustration in. You have to talk it through.
That’s so individual. Do what makes you happy. For me, it’s reading and watching movies, and talking to my friends. It’s cleaning (of all things) and reorganizing my closets. Or maybe just going for a long drive, or having a massage. Meditation helps. Prayer. But this is me we’re talking about. Again, everyone is different.
What perspective can you give on the importance of your writing career in terms of your health, family, and friends?
Reading, telling stories…all of it, from cracking open a new book, to putting pen to paper, fills me with a sense of purpose. I also happen to think the act of writing — for everyone — is incredibly important. Words are the foundation of everything we do, and how we interact with one another.
But it doesn’t matter how much you love something if you approach it in an unhealthy fashion. You need to live a balanced life, which is something I’m beginning to learn and integrate into my own day-to-day. Being able to do what I do — full time — is such a privilege. I have such incredible freedom, which allows me to spend time with my friends and family. Being a writer has also brought wonderful people into my life whom otherwise I would never have met. It’s all such a blessing.
Prior Journey of a Debut Author Tour posts:
10/3 Romance at Random with Lauren Dane — The Sales Call
10/10 Romance Novel News with Kat Martin — Edits
10/24 Dear Author with Pamela Palmer — Cover Art
11/7 USA Today, Happy Ever After with Suzanne Brockmann
11/14 Love, Romance, Passion with Carly Phillips — Author Websites
11/21 Romance Dish with Brenda Novak — Building an Author Network
11/30 Reading Between the Wines with Sharon Sala — Writing a Series
12/7 Seductive Musings with Victoria Alexander — Moving on to the Next Book
Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist. She writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, and her first novel with Kensington Brava debuts February 28, 2012. Her second, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012.
Currently, she works as a sonographer at a one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation, and lives in magnificent wine country on the central coast of California with her husband and two daughters.
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