Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"My Way" (someone had to use that, right?) by Cathy Ace

Now we’ve told you all about our writing journey, here are some insights into our writing life, and how we live it.

Fresh & happy, my first book 2012
I truly believe that, when it comes to “living the writing life” we’re all like Ol’ Blue Eyes, doing it our way. And that’s as it should be. There’s no right or wrong way, just my own way - the way that works for me, now. And what I’ve learned is that the way it works for me changes over time – it has to, because I hate and fight against routine of any sort. Always have. Always will. I seek out new challenges, adore the battle to comprehend them, do my best to master them, then…I find uncharted territory more appealing.

First novel? I danced around the living room when a publisher asked me to submit a manuscript. They invited me to do so in June. They wanted it by the end of the year. I phoned them in October to check if “by the end of the year” might, in fact, mean before Christmas. They said yes. I started to write the book. I emailed it to them on December 21st (I checked my email records). I finally received news that they were going to publish it on May 11th (that I remember, it would have been my late-father’s birthday). For that book I wrote for about an hour and a half every day, printed out, edited, made amendments, then wrote for another hour and a half – repeat. Eventually a book came out at the end. 

Then the “hard work” set in. When I realized I was about to become a writer – a published author – I read about writers who produced a daily word count, and were writing every day. I panicked. I felt utterly inadequate. I can’t write every day of the year, I’d just write nonsense. I can’t write to a word count, same reason. Me? I write when I have a deadline. And it seems my psyche needs that deadline to be galloping toward me at an alarming pace for it to spur me to action. 

Currently I’m working on what will be my twelfth traditionally published novel (I’ve self-published two other books) as well as two short stories which seem to flit in and out of my “got to do it” mentality; because I have two series of books each with a different publisher – one in Canada, one in the UK – I have to show them I am supporting my work in the marketplace but, for one series, I have different launch dates for the UK vs the USA/Canada so promotional effort is staggered for different series/markets; I’m Chair of Crime Writers of Canada; I write for two different blogs, and run three/four blog tours per year.
Luckily, I have always thought a seventeen-hour work-day is normal. I’m also fortunate that I married a fellow workaholic. We each understand the other. I’m blessed with high energy levels (and drink a fair amount of coffee) and am stubborn/determined (delete according to specific situation). 

The amount of coffee I drink each day
So – for me, when it comes to “the writing life” this is how it goes: I’m always thinking of future tales to tell; usually I am plotting at least one book; research at the keyboard/on location is ongoing for one book; I’m plotting and outlining one book; I am writing a book; I am editing a book; I am re-editing a book; I am promoting at least one book – all these things are now happening simultaneously, for the three books per year I tend to have published, so they, inevitably, overlap. The toughest thing is that I am usually facing a deadline JUST when a book is coming out. It sucks!

 The “sitting at the keyboard writing the first draft of a book” is the part that – for me at least – means “writing”, and is the most fun; it comes after the thinking, plotting, planning and research for that book. That part of “writing” is something I get to do and enjoy for about four weeks at a stretch, three times a year, when I am writing in full flow, and loving it. (The process, not necessarily the output.) I do this sort of writing for three, four or five hours at a time, forcing myself to leave my seat to stretch, usually when everyone has gone to bed and there’s no reasonable expectation for me to be replying to emails, or responding to Facebook posts, or Tweeting like a madwoman.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s 11.24pm and I have a deadline for a manuscript in 11 days. Needless to say, it’s nowhere near finished. It’s going to be a WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery (title to be decided in conjunction with my publisher, though I know what I’d like it to be) wherein, for their fourth outing, the WISE women are juggling various “cases” including malevolent moles, an unsuitable suitor, disappearing domestics, a vengeful vandal, purloined potcheen and…oh no, that’s enough for you to be going on with. I’m sure it will all come together at the end – it does in my outline. Speaking of which, back to it…

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries (#8 The Corpse with the Ruby Lips was released on November 1st) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#3, The Case of the Curious Cook, was released in hardcover in the UK on November 30th and will be released in the USA & Canada on March 1st).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers: 


Art Taylor said...

Great post, Cathy, as always. Love hearing about your approach--and admire how much you've accomplished!

catriona said...

This makes me feel rattled just reading it! I'd be curled up in a ball, whimpering.

Celia Fowler said...

Thanks for sharing some insights with us. Malevolent Mole -- can't wait!

Unknown said...

One book a year is stress enough for me! First book written in two months??
I know you're too busy to answer :0 but did your self-published books lead to the traditional? Anyhow, thanks for the insights -- I too am rattled :)

Kathy Reel said...

My head is appropriately spinning! Busy, busy, and always with a beautiful smile on your face.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Art - thanks for your kind words...and when it comes to accomplishments, I'll take that too - I'm still in the mindset that I'm delighted to be published at all in this challenging business :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Catriona - oh come on're producing some of the best work in the business at an extraordinary rate. Your nose must be at that grindstone too :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Celia - so pleased you like the "Malevolent Mole" bit...his invisible and damaging work is mirrored in several of the other strands of the book and is a sort of "theme" - let's see if that works through the edits!

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Rachel - one book per year is something I'd like to work towards as a goal. :-)

I think I talked about how I used my self-pubbed books to nab myself my first contract in my last post - basically, yes, I did: I got them both, wrapped with a ransom note, and sent them to TouchWood Editions - who invited me to write my first Cait Morgan. :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Kathy - thanks for the "beautiful smile" bit (only you will know it's a manic grin!!!)