Monday, February 1, 2010

Keeping the Balls In The Air

My guest is Cecilia Tan. Cecilia writes Erotic Romance and Sci-Fi, sometimes writing on more than one project at a time.

As writers, we have often have to juggle our life tasks to be able to write. Many authors work full time, others work part time and raise children, or taking care of parents, spouses receiving medical treatment, or jobs and college.

I've always been able to multi-task, but after reading what Cecilia does and how she does it, I know the men in the white coats would be coming to take me away, if I even tried to follow her schedule, lol!


I've always been a juggler, and by that I mean a multi-tasker, although I did learn to actually juggle when I was younger. I think my brain just likes lots of variety in stimulation. It's why I like tasting menus at restaurants better than just one big serving of something great. A little of this, and a little of that, and always more coming... but you never get bored or tired of any one thing that way.

I get the workaholic multi-tasking streak directly from my mom. When I was a kid she was always doing a million things, balancing shuttling me and my brother around with cleaning the house, working part time, running fundraisers, being band booster president, teaching classes for the Girl Scouts, being a quit-smoking counselor, and still getting dinner on the table every night so we could sit down as a family together.

But lately I haven't just been juggling my fiction writing with freelance editing, volunteer work, and a few other part-time jobs (teaching tae kwon do and doing massage therapy), but juggling multiple writing projects. It's exciting and a little scary at the same time.

I told a friend that I was writing two romance novels simultaneously, as well as an erotic serial, and a couple of short stories, all at once (not to mention my baseball blog, tea blog, et cetera...) and she told me her head would explode if she tried to do that. I pointed out, reasonably, that she did quite well in college while taking four classes per semester, and for me that's a lot of what it is like.

Some days I work more on one project, some on another. The real secret is that whenever I get blocked on one project, I can "procrastinate" writing it by writing one of the others! It is a lot of balls to keep in the air, and when Christmas came, all the balls hit the floor for a bit and it took me a few weeks to get them all back in the air again. Oops.

One character in particular was trying to hold me hostage. Kyle, the main character of my
Magic University paranormal romance series, just would not do what I wanted him to do. He reached a certain point in his book and then just dug in his heels and wouldn't go any farther.


Magic U is probably one of my most ambitious projects in 20 years of professional writing, because it is a four book series. It was a more intricate level of plotting than I've done before, and of course I can't go back and change things in the earlier books now that they are out. It was while writing book two,
The Tower and the Tears (which literally just launched last week! Excitement!) that I realized just how complicated a multi-book project really is, especially in terms of the kind of character development that can take place over multiple years/books.

Kyle's book, of course, was the one with the nearest deadline, but I had to just take a deep breath and let him stew on the back burner for a while. I concentrated on getting ahead in
The Prince's Boy instead, a serialized m/m romance I've been writing and posting as I go along. Doing a serial is kind of a high-wire act because I have to get a new chapter out every week. And what if Prince Kenet decided to dig in his heels like Kyle did? I'd really be up a creek. Fortunately for me, Kenet cooperated, and I wrote several chapters ahead on his story while I had the "free" time.

Kyle and I eventually came to an understanding about what was going on inside his head, and in his heart. I'm not giving anything away by saying that in the Magic University series, part of our hero's fantasy quest is the quest for true love. It being a quest, he isn't going to find it in the beginning of the story, but toward the end. As such, he ends the first book somewhat on the lonely side.

Well, actually, that is the problem. Some traumatic things happen to him in his freshman year of college, and I had planned that by the time I started book two, for his sophomore year, that he'd have gotten over them. As it turns out, he hadn't gotten over them at all. If anything, he was in denial about not having gotten over them, too, so with both him and me in denial... we had a lot of baggage that needed to be dealt with once it had dragged the story to a complete halt.

Of course, one of the things I like best about writing romance is I know my readership won't shy away from emotional highs and lows; they come to me for the rollercoaster ride, and so when a character has a lot of emotional baggage to deal with, ultimately it's like handing me more wool to weave. I can keep layering in more and more...

Until the deadline comes, anyway. And then I have to tear it free and hand it to the editor.

  • How do you multi-task your work or writing projects?


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Cecilia Tan has been writing professionally since she was a teenager, which she definitely isn't, anymore. She is the author of several romances for Ravenous Romance, including her "Harry Potter for adults" the Magic University series and Mind Games, as well as the BDSM sci-fi adventure Royal Treatment just released from Torquere Press. Her literary erotica has been published nearly everywhere. She loves tea, baseball, cats, and books, and more of her thoughts on these and other subjects can be found at her blog: http://blog.ceciliatan.com/.

9 comments:

VA said...

Which ever voice screams the loudest gets the words. Until I lock them away and get what has to be done, done. Then back to playing with the voices. :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cecilia, welcome to Over Coffee. I have plenty of coffee and tea to jump start your morning. I put up some fresh baked goodies to munch on and a nice comfy chair to sit in. After reading of your juggling act, I'm thinking you need to sit a spell and recuperate. :-)

Kat Sheridan said...

Cecelia, please forgive me for laughing at your pain; I can only do so because I'm so used to trying to multitask myself! And boy, do I know about stubborn characters! Thank the stars, I don't have writing deadlines just yet, or I'd have to threaten a couple of recalcitrant characters with death and destruction! I'm with VA--write whoever is yelling the loudest. I would add--set out chocolate in hopes of luring the quiet ones--sort of like you do with Santa. LOL!

Sia, another great guest and fun topic! It's too late/early for coffee--so I'll sneak in a Manhattan.

Mason Canyon said...

WOW, I'm tired just reading what all you do. I can't image having that much going on at once. I never know if I'm coming or going and I'm not doing a third of that. It's always good to meet someone else who enjoys tea (I also love coffee) and cats. Your books sound interesting, I'll have to check on those too.

Cecilia Tan said...

@VA -- I know what you mean! Sometimes the character with the soonest deadline isn't the one that demands the most attention. Sometimes I just have to give in and strike with the hottest iron. The work usually comes out worth it when I do.

@Sia! Thank you! I'm drinking a nice honey & pear flavored tea today. I am so ready for this winter to end, but I'm in Boston and it will be cold for another 2 months easily... Sigh. All the more reason to stay in and write!

@Kat -- LOL! I will try it with cookies maybe...!

@Mason -- What's funny is I'm just so used to doing a million things that it doesn't seem like that much. And yet I remember when I used to spend weeks agonizing over a single short story or a single chapter... I figure if I have the creative energy, I ought to ride that horse hard now while I can. Who knows when the muse will be fickle again?

Cecilia Tan said...

Oh dear, my assistant just looked over my shoulder and pointed out that "Keeping the Balls In the Air" could have a certain other connotation... especially given that what I write does tend to have a lot of erotic content. No really! The pun was unintended!

Anonymous said...

I love the way Kyle here is represented, it puts a face on what must sometimes be the madness of great writing for the author. -FreeTim

Cecilia Tan said...

Hi Tim! Yeah, writing is like therapy where you reveal your subconscious to yourself. But we put names and faces on the pices of it. And sometimes, also like therapy, you're just not quite ready to face what's there. I had to listen to Kyle, too--he knew better than I did what the ending really needed.

Dana Fredsti said...

I'm really sorry I missed the post the day it came out (out of town)! I'm so looking forward to reading this series, Cecilia!