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: