Whistling in the Dark-Or More On The Pace of Publishing

As a writer, part of my job is to answer questions about my current, past, and future works and what I was thinking when I wrote this or that. We do this for interviewers, classrooms, talk audiences, and fans. If you happen to notice that I or another writers pauses a moment before answering questions, there is a reason for that: we don’t know the answer. Or, at the very least, we have to dig deep to get there.

Like most other writers the first book I sold was not the first one I had written. It was in fact the 4th. It sold with a sequel which I wrote shortly after getting the contract. That book was my 9th. It was followed into print by my 11th, and my 12th will next published, unless I sell something else in the next month or so which is entirely possible.

At this point I have written 12 novels and portions of 5 more. Of those, 5 complete books are out being shopped around along with 9 proposals. I currently have three books that I am actively working on, none of them sold. In all I have roughly 4 years worth of potential future work spread across seven different series that is out under consideration and that could land in my lap at any time.

This is occasionally nerve wracking, to say nothing of confusing. Both because I don’t know what among my various projects should be priority one, and because of things like the interviews I am doing as part of the promotional effort for book 11, CodeSpell.

When I am asked questions about my latest book and my next book I always have to remind myself that they are talking exclusively about the WebMage books. When I am asked about process stuff from WebMage, I have to reach back past 8 complete novels, 9 proposals, something like 20 worlds, and several dozen plot outlines to try to recapture what I was thinking at that time. That ignores the complications of short stories, major life events, and stuff I’ve read in other people’s novels that may also be blocking the spigot of authorial knowledge.

This is not a complaint. I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk over my work with people who are genuinely interested. It’s just, as an author, it can be a little bit intimidating to know that often the person asking the question is more familiar with my book than I am.

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  1. 1. chrisweuve

    That last sentence really resonates with me. I’m a game designer, and there’s something similar in the game design world — you don’t just know the rules as published, but EVERY version of the rules, and sometimes it’s tough to remember which ones are current. Add in publishing delays and other things like a team of two designers alternating doing the heavy lifting, and you often get to the point where you don’t remember your own game. As a friend once wrote in a game review, “this game is so simple even the designer can learn it in under an hour.”

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Author Information

Kelly McCullough

Kelly McCullough is a fantasy and science fiction author. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series—Penguin/ACE. His short fiction has appeared in numerous venues including Writers of the Future and Weird Tales. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star—part of an NSF-funded science curriculum—and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited—funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Visit site.

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