4 min read

[In the middle] Man plans, God laughs


Man plans, God laughs

In December every year, I plan my writing schedule for the next year. I look at the series and what I have in the drawer. After the review, I create a detailed month by month plan that includes writing, editing, publishing, and marketing goals.

As of December 2013, it had been two years since I tried a year-long serial fiction set in another city. After input from my entire team, I decided that 2014 would be the year to launch Suffer a Witch, a serial fiction set in modern day Boston based on the Salem Witch Trials.

In the past, when I've written a serial, I've needed at least 16 hours at my desk a day. I knew I needed to get my support systems in place right away. I hired a trainer. I solidified a relationship with a PT for my aching back.  I even hired a team to clean our house. I told my tech guy that we were not launching anything new in the coming year. I reminded the artist that everything was going to stay the same this year. I contracted with an editor. I hired an assistant. And I had a long conversation with the husband.

In order to pull off this desperately complicated serial and keep my other writing going, I needed to be sure that everything was calm and secure. The husband agreed. The tech guy agreed. The artist agreed as did the editor. The trainer agreed to a year-long contract and PT laid out how we would work through the serial stress. I started working on the project with the confidence that everything was in order.

The first parcel of Suffer a Witch was released on June 10th, three hundred and twenty-two years after the first woman hanged in Salem.

In the interim months, I had knee surgery, the husband had surgery for three hernias, the dog had a cancerous tumor removed, the PT changed jobs, the trainer quit training people, the cleaner moved out of town, the tech guy had to completely redo the structure of our sites due to hacking issues, the editor's computer crashed,  the artist retired, the vet gave the dog meds that almost killed her, my GP decided something was wrong with my heart, the assistant decided that she as the writer not me, and the husband's work blew up in ways that you simply would not believe.

Nine months after all of those agreements for calm security, I found myself standing over a broken dishwasher at five in the morning. I hadn't showered in two days. I hadn't slept more for than three hours a night in one-hour increments in more than six weeks. I hadn't seen the inside of my office in more than a month. The dog was panting and pacing circles around my feet, and the husband was leaving for work.

"How am I going to do this?" I asked as he was walking out the door.

He turned to look at me.

"You just do it," he said.

With that grain of wisdom, he left for another day at the fun house.

I ran in to PJ around that time. As I told her my tale of woe, I saw her eyes get big and gleaming. I'd barely finished when she asked me to write a column for Tuesday Serial about what it's like to be in the middle of a serial. Because I'm insane, I agreed.

In the coming months, I'm going to share with you some of my strategies for getting things done. This series won't be about creating the perfect schedule or even the perfect writing environment. We won't build sacred spaces or make sure to write a thousand words before stopping.

This series is about finding the story when you're out of balance and more than a little crazy. We'll talk about how to hire people who will fight the fight with you, and not against you. I'll share with you tools that make things easier and some that suck. I'll pester my professional writing friends to speak on the record about what they do to meet deadlines. I'll share my fast and easy techniques for getting in the writing mood. I'll even share my ninja skills for battling the despair demon.

Whatever comes up, I'll share with you what worked, and what didn't. We'll talk about the triumphs and pitfalls of writing serial fiction. And when Suffer a Witch ends in September 2015, we'll talk about wrapping it all up in a bow.

The column will be about the desperate space between  the"I love this story" beginning to a "Thank the Lord" finish.

We're going to talk about the horrible middle.

I hope you'll join me. If you'd like to follow this series by email, sign up below.

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