How important is having a routine in writing? You seem very distraught whenever your routine is interrupted and I don’t know if it’s just because the deadlines or because it throws you off. Do you think you will ever retire from writing (not just publishing) or is it something your brain will always want to do?
Writing is compulsive. The act of writing can be excruciating or rewarding, sometimes in the same writing session, but most writers would write even when financial incentive isn’t there. That’s how we process our emotions and interact with the world around us. Writers do stupid things like work on their honeymoon, on the day of their family member’s funeral, and in a room full of screaming toddlers who would give normal people nightmares. Because it’s a compulsion, it’s a bit difficult to stop.
The exception to this rule is the burn out. When that happens, there is no writing. Burn out occurs when you ignore the warning signs and push things too far. It takes time to come back from it and it’s very frustrating.
Given what I know of my writing habits so far, while I would probably write less in retirement, I wouldn’t completely stop.
I do have a bit of a routine. On a perfect day, I get up about 7:00 am, take my Prilosec, squeeze in a short work out, take a shower, make shakes for Gordon and me, and get to work but 9:00-10:00 am. We work about three or four hours, however long it takes us to finish the scene. Then we have a meal and move on to emails, administrative tasks, and just basic life chores like cleaning and laundry.
We’ve had very few perfect days. Monday was the mammogram day. I had my screening and now I wait. I’ve knocked out some admin tasks, but not really enough to be productive. Sometimes getting up is very difficult, because I stay up too late for various reasons. Today will have to be a better writing day.
With the other author jobs that are not writing (e.g. finance, blog etc.) do you each specialise in your own ‘departments’ or both do everything?
Gordon does the majority of the interviews. He is funnier than me and much more diplomatic. I am kind of over being “Ilona Andrews, the author” and so my answers sometimes are not great. Nobody wants to send in an interview question that says, “Are you happy with your X series?” and get back a one word reply, “Meh.”
I do the majority of blogging and industry gossiping. Okay, I know that it sounds funny, but publishing world is prone to sudden, jerky shifts and gossiping is how we stay current. If someone’s book is being talked about, I want to know if it’s a start of a trend. If someone switched jobs from one publishing house to another, I want to know why. If there is a new promotional opportunity, I want to know if it’s worth it.
We both work on compiling documents, we both read the contracts, we both give quick approvals. A lot of times an email pops in that says, “Hey Taiwan wants to renew for Title 1 and 2 at $1,500 per. They had a nice sell through, so it’s a good offer.” One of us needs to greenlight that. More serious issues require a phone call between the two of us and our agent on speaker.
Writers are notoriously slow when it comes to paperwork and shipping. Kid 2 used to do a lot of admin stuff for us. We would be cornered and presented with a stack of tax forms and a growl, “SIGN HERE.” But now that she is busy with college, we mostly do things in batches and since nobody wants to do it, it’s whoever gets enough courage first. 🙂
Do you feel obligated to read your author friends’ books and how truthful are you with them if you don’t like them?
No, I don’t feel obligated. Life is too short to read books unless you love them. When it comes to feedback, professional authors are brutal to each other. The rule is, don’t ask if you don’t want feedback. If I am not specifically asked to edit and I am just reading something and don’t like it, I will simply say nothing. If pressed, I will say exactly why the book made me want to gauge my eyes out with ice cream scoops.
I read a book yesterday morning. It was a UF. It was a good book, but I am not going to reccomend it. It’s 40% longer than it should be. I have no problem with how things are written – they are written quite well – but with what the author chose to put into the book. Not that much happens and most of what does happen is sandwiched between research into the world’s mythos irrelevant to most of the book. She could’ve covered what the reader had to know in about two pages. Sometimes it’s better to do the exposition, get it over it, and move on than try to get creative by writing lengthy passages from ancient books or government documents.
The characters also had annoying ticks. It’s not necessary to use a nickname in every single interaction with the female character. Yes, the male lead thought up a “term of endearment” for her in his own language. I get that it’s an incredible accomplishment and nobody has ever used that device before, ever, but after the 9th time it appears in three pages, it’s overkill.
The book did have a really good sentence about the way the table and chairs were described, and I liked it, so I am going to pilfer the way it was structured and make it my own. It also did a good job of providing a distraction when it was badly needed, so I don’t regret the read. 🙂
Now I’m super curious to read that book!
Apropos of nothing, is innkeeper inspired by fairytales? I always recommend that as the first book to start with for my friends, and when they ask me why I love it so much, I have a different answer each time. And yesterday I was just making parallels between innkeeper and the better fairytales from disney these days.
Hope you have many better days!
Please refrain to say fairytales from Disney: they did not write them; they just adapted fairytales and legend from all over the world (and not the accurate way either) into animated movies!
Patricia Schlorke says
Thanks for the insight. It reminded me of the days of dissertation writing. There were days I wrote. There were days I procrastinated. I was also a teaching assistant as the time for my department over the summer, so I could excuse not writing or researching. The one thing I learned from that was to write for the one person who was not a statistician. I could have used all the statistical jargon that my professors could understand, but it would have caused a lot of confusion for the one who was not. Plus, I wanted brutal honesty from my mom (who hated math by the way) when I would read to her sections of what I wrote. She told me, at the end, that she could understand the statistics behind my research. My jaw dropped when she told me that.
You don’t give yourself enough credit, I laughed out loud at the end of the paragraph!
“Gordon does the majority of the interviews. He is funnier than me and much more diplomatic. I am kind of over being “Ilona Andrews, the author” and so my answers sometimes are not great. Nobody wants to send in an interview question that says, “Are you happy with your X series?” and get back a one word reply, “Meh.””
Yeah, the “Meh” did sound like Ilona.
The feedback internal critique seems like an occupational hazard. I’m in software and often have “opinions” on other products and processes. I also have opinions on hardware which most people outside my industry would happily or obliviously be using.
We tend to see things differently in our own fields than people outside of them.
So, Ilona Andrews is just a normal everyday working couple in a family owned business. Wow, such an understatement. You two produce some of the best, if not the best, entertainment this old codger has had in several decades. Thank you.
I agree. And Ilona is hilarious IMO
I think it says something about how much I love your writing that I look forward to new blog posts almost as much as I look forward to new books! Selfishly, I am very glad that you update us every few days, because it makes the wait between books much less excruciating. Also, thank you for sharing so much insight into the world of publishing, which most readers know nothing about!
Mary Beth says
Louisa Paarsmarkt says
Nobody likes paperwork. Really, nobody. I get a major sense of accomplishment when it’s all done and filed, but I procrastinate until they have taken over my desk and cannot be put off anymore.
A good editor is worth their weight is gold, I’ve read so many books lately they could’ve used a good edit. The story was good, but it could have been done without so much clunk. The boost that push it from good and forgettable to great and reread worthy.
Sara B. says
… except for Catalina, who is the queen of paperwork …
Mary Beth says
Burn out is a persistent blight when you work from home. Hubby’s office switched over to home based working full time after January. They’re still cleaning out the main office and it’s been a scramble to retro-fit his office space.
He’s a gregarious person and the isolation’s been hard on him. To keep him from burn out he has a routine: Every morning he lets the chickens out, has a cup of coffee, breakfast, then goes to his office to work. At the end of his day, he goes outside to the mail box, and if the weathers good he sits outside to wind down. Once he’s back inside, he’s done for the day. Our mail box is across a busy road so it breaks him out of work mode well.
I’ve been disabled a while, so my routine is ‘whatever I can do’. I go on binges of either writing or watercolor painting. (I’m in the middle of a good writing sprint now.)
If I can’t read the books my friends publish right away, I at least buy a Kindle copy. There are nights sleeping is not possible and it’s wonderful to read a story I know something about, but haven’t had a chance to dig deeper on.
Oh, there is one I just couldn’t finish. Hubby bought it for me thinking it would be funny, and it was just awful. Something about Honey Badger shifter romance. (Oh yeah, it’s out there. Turned out not to be my cuppa tea.)
If its the author I’m thinking of, I love that series!
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the post. Educational. I have never really thought about why I keep a story journal and my siblings don’t. Not diary although I do write something there every once in awhile. You are correct. It’s like an obsession to write.
I LOL about your “Meh” answer. Sounded like Ilona Andrews to me.
This was a great post… very entertaining and so Thank you. It made me smile.
It stinks when the kids grow up and leave home for so many reasons.. you have an extra one 🙂
Routines can be nice and comfortable. The hard part comes with changing them.
I hate when books are so close to being a good book, whether they are too long or not detailed enough. There is an author that has written a lot of books and I love the action part but don’t care for the relationship side in how they treat each other. But it doesn’t stop me from getting new books much to my husband’s dismay ????
My pet peeve is when I read a book with a wonderful plot (fresh and exciting) but the book is poorly written. Argh! They just ruined it!
That confirmed a few things for me and expand others.
A couple of weeks ago an author I have enjoyed put out a new book in a long-running series, previously my favorite one of hers. I was behind on the previous book, so I got both on my ereader. DNF either. Adult characters acting like teenagers, only more angsty. I’m out! My lifetime capacity for angst was exceeded sometime last spring.
Luckily another author had put out the (probably) final book in another series. It was exactly what I needed. I’m rereading it now, having reread BLOOD HEIR in between.
I also quit a spinoff of another long-running series due to a nickname tic. The author might as well have added it to the character’s name, because it was constant. It’s like having a burr snarled in your sock. If it won’t come out, that sock might have to go.
I have been wondering if you listen to specific playlists/songs while you write? Is there any music that just makes you say, “This reminds me of X” character? I have listened to so many songs recently that remind me of Blood Heir so I am very curious!
Big Mike says
I’ll take this opportunity to ask how the house hunt is going for Kid 2?
Wendy S says
Like Naomi Novak. She’s an excellent writer, but she doesn’t know how to edit! And apparently, neither does her editor. I’ve read the first 3 books of her Temeraire series and after awhile, just skip whole chapters to find out what happens. I’m giving up on the series. She writes beautifully, but it’s like reading the YA books, where they just go on and on and never get anywhere. Oh wait, maybe these are YA books too! That might explain it. But Ursula Le Guin didn’t have that problem. Sorry. But so many authors nowadays don’t know how to edit! And I’m spoiled after reading and rereading your books. Never boring!
For what it’s worth, I think they are supposed to be YA books. She has some other books too, maybe you’d like them better? ????♀️????
Diane Wilson says
Ahh, the dreaded information dump. “I’ve suffered for my art; now it’s your turn.” I’ve read a few of those.
Most of us are not that different when it comes to the admin tasks. I’m a software engineer and a pianist; neither one leaves me inclined for brain-deadening things like taxes or email.
It’s curious, though, how being forced to stay at home can be so disruptive to routine. But stay with it, please; I’ll read anything you write.
Meg Drallion says
Actually,Ilona I think you’re very funny. Yours is the only author’s blog I read because it’s usually written by you and you make me smile, and sometimes, like today burst out laughing but you always make my day better by being yourself. Thank you.
+1 to this also
Thank you both! I love your compulsion!
Thanks for the behind-the-scenes glimpse, I always enjoy those! Yes, it’s always a shame when when a book isn’t as good as it could’ve been with a better editor. I struggled through one of those recently, plowing on through the end because I wanted to find out what happened. It was an audiobook, which I listened to on my daily walks; if it had been a paperback, I might’ve given in to temptation and thumbed to the end.
It’s good that you’re candid when asked for your opinion, because only honest feedback is actually helpful.
A Kid who did your taxes? Now THAT is a good kid! 🙂
Susie Q. says
I was basically a technical writer/editor. As a compliance manager for a mortgage servicer, I was in charge of keeping track of new laws and regulations . The laws are written by politicians and say what you are going to do and regulations are written by beaurocrats and say this is how you are going to do it. NEITHER GROUP CAN WRITE WORTH A DA#*. Forget brevity, clarity and grammer. Anyone who writes for a living should be forced to memorize Strunk and White.
Information is scattered throughout whenever they thought of something instead of grouping it all together. I read obsessively throughout my life. I love words, the way they can transport you to another place and time and let you experience being someone else. Imagine the pain of slogging through poorly written dreck, then turning it into something that is organized, easy to read and understand. Once I learned to treat it as a jigsaw puzzle, I ended up enjoying it. I start by making a copy, color coding it so notices were yellow, for warning, actions would be green for go, etc. I would then move all the color coded sections together, like putting all the edges in one area, then sorting the pieces by color, subject matter. Then the fun would begin. I took the mess and edited the heck out of it and translated the legalese into English. I once took 90 pages of regulations and turned it into 30 pages of useful instructions.
I’m retired and I actually miss the satisfaction of creating something useful out of garbage. If I can feel that way about writing something which even when well written is extremely boring, to be a real writer and turn your imagination into reality and share it with others would be a compulsion that you could never stop.
Even I tell myself bedtime stories and will go over them to make it more believable, better plotted, etc. I can also use them to bore myself to sleep by getting too detailed, like focusing on how a room looks, down to the colors in the artwork and accessories or details on the clothes, like buttons vs. zippers, different collars, etc., until I’m asleep.
Patricia Schlorke says
Sounds a lot like the health policy rules I read towards the end of every year. ????
Hi! How long do you spend doing adminstrative tasks. As an emerging artist I have been told that I will spend a minimum of 60% of my time doing administrative tasks.
Do you have any advice on marketing and maintaining a marketing routine?
Moderator R says
This blog post might help a bit 🙂 https://ilona-andrews.com/2020/social-media-and-academic-marketing/
I will take a look. Thank you!
Sorry you have to wait for your mammogram results. I got a 3D one yesterday and was quite shocked when an hour later, at my gynecologist appointment, she told me the results were in and all was good.
Most fervent wishes that you receive the same news soon.
Or you could embed the boring exposition in something extremely entertaining like … I dunno … the minutes from a presentation at the Order of Merciful Aid head office?
This was very interesting. The best thing was, it revealed how well you and Gordon work together. And how that’s accomplished. Even with all the jaw clenching times, I think you’re very lucky. Your readers are as well. Hugs.
Speakimg of books read this morning, I got an anthology Night Shift from the library a few weeks ago because it had an Ilona Andrew’s novella in it (I quickly realized I already owned the Jim/Dali book).
But I discovered in it Lisa Shearin’s Lucky Charms, a prequel to her Supernatural Protection & Investigation series. The 7th book was released today and I’ve bought all of them.
I thought the novella was the best & this latest book addressed my main complaint of the series. Funny & good action.
I’ve gotten lots of good book recommendations from this blog so I thought I would share. Hope that’s okay.
I’m 99% sure I know the book you’re referring to and if it is the same one the constantly changing nickname drove me insane. But by the end of the series I felt like I could speak the language a bit and that was cool.
I love your writing.
It’s creative, funny and technically accurate. You have great characters, inventive storylines and you get invested in the characters and what happens.
Thanks to you and Gordon , Kid 1 , Kid 2 ,Jeanine Frost and all the moderators.
I think you and Gordon are a hoot doing interviews.I always learn something, laugh and generous enjoy the interview.and the pets shenanigans. Also , trying to figure out Gordon’s tee shirt.
Thank you for all the information on the publishing world.
I think I’ve read that book…. if its the one I think it is, I loved it but skipped all the parallel life bits….
I always think I’d love to be an author but…thats as far as I get! Need a bit less dreaming and a bit more hard graft!
Your description of a “good book” looks familiar to me.
To keep a list of books that I can put on a Christmas list (library reads), I give them all a rating. 3 stars is a “good book.” I finished it, I’m glad I read it, and if someone asks me about that book then I’ll tell them to read it. I don’t ask for it for Christmas.
4 stars is a great book and if someone asks what they should read, I will direct them to it.
5 stars is a book that lives in my soul and I will evangelize about it unprompted.
I’m fighting the need to list five star books right here, right now.
Take good care… And I hope Gordon finds his courage before you ????
List, List, List!
+1 We use the same ranking method.
over the years you’ve turned me on to some really good authors, do you have any new recommendations? If not i totally understand, good authors are sometimes hard to find.
Moderator R says
Have you come across the BDH Recommends blog post? https://ilona-andrews.com/2018/open-thread-for-author-and-blog-recommendations/
I hope you find some good suggestions there!
“Meh” is a perfectly good word. It can say it all.
Exactly! “Meh” is an excellent answer I use myself most days.
Roberta Kerwin says
How do you find the energy to do daily chores after four-five hours of writing? I put the same amount of time into my writing day, but then I feel like I’m coming up from a deep sea dive and not good for much except staring into space. Of course, I do work a second job, the proverbial day-job except it’s at night, so that might be a factor. Still, how do you expedite the adjustment from the world inside your head to the one that has real people in it?
I just written to Say I Love You
No jokes, thanks for your sippents, yòur gifts, your personal stories…..
Difficult times…. we need to breath, laugh,cry, enjoy…..
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
I found a new UF (to me) this morning, in the sample there was a wild fight with a kraken, which was a dream. Exciting, but I nearly didn’t buy the book. I have story tropes I hate. Dream sequences (unless they’re precognitive) is one of them. I did buy the book because it was cheap… but … I won’t buy the sequel unless the Kraken shows up.
Love your info on what it’s like to be a writer! thank you! Hope there are no issues with your mammogram!
I think you’re funny. Maybe Gordon is funnier, but you crack me up; Gordon doesn’t write daily for your hungry fans. That being said, the distracted read you commented on resonated with me. I despise the retelling (overkill) in some series, over and over. Not yours. Ever. Quick, pointed, accurate & if I haven’t read the previous book(s), your stories would drive me back to the beginning.
I’ve mentioned that I’ve reread several times, all but the Edge series. I started it once & it didn’t grab me, but I will read it because I want to learn of the people that are mentioned in the other books, so I understand their backstory.
I retired a year and a few days ago. I thought I wanted to teach in retirement, because it was always my favorite part of work. No I never was a “teacher” by title, but taught many things in my profession, and in the volunteer realm.
I’ve canned the idea. I have an awesome husband that I actually love bunches (40 years in Aug ‘21) & I have no need to interact w/ people, except for pleasure. I think I’m going to stick w/ reading, sewing & machine embroidery. I sure would love to knit like you do, but I can’t get past purl stitch (eve roll here). I love what you two do. You make me happy. Your books are amazing. Thank you.
As for your test, you will come out negative. Worry not 🙂
I have a very similar routine… except I do chores & life admin first, then emails, then focused work. My brain is weird and only likes to think deeply when it knows everything else is taken care of.
Also I work out after finishing for the day.
So kind of the exact mirror image of your routine. 😀
Jéssica Freitas says
A lot of it sounds what is like to work with my creative works in general tbh, be it the interior design/architecture side or the selling my art stuff. I’m not great at managing my time or energy so burn out is a real problem and a bitch to deal with so I feel you. Your art is one of the things that help me recharge, so sending some positive energies your way.