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Status Update!!! (but no selfies)

So, it's the new year, and the weather's been lovely so we've had a few barbeques and dinner parties. At one of them, someone asked me whether being a writer was like in the movies, which she characterised as follows:

Author has writer's block and looming deadline, has screaming arguments with agent and publisher over the phone, procrastinates and gets sucked into human dramas, before having a life-changing moment that provides them with the insights required to finish their book. It's wonderful, the agent and publisher weep for joy, it becomes a bestseller and the writer becomes household name.

In a word: Nope.

Writing is much like any other job, except your work mates are imaginary (though still dangerous - most of mine are armed and have secret powers) and your water-cooler conversations are with yourself. I'm at my desk by 7am, I run most days for around an hour, and knock off when my wife gets home around 5-ish. Despite that isolation, I'm usually so immersed in what I'm doing that it takes an hour or so after that to disengage and be communicative again - she's very patient with me.

So, I thought maybe you might be interested in how 2015 is shaping up for me: it's not just company executives who run around in late December and early January brandishing year-planners; writers do as well, so that their deadline dramas doesn't get too stressful:

Target Number One (contracted work, deadline 30 November, 200,000-250,000 words): I have to write book one of my new post-Moontide Quartet. set a few years after Moontide events, it was originally called the Lodestar Quartet, but for technical and aesthetic reasons we (Jo Fletcher, Heather Adams and I) have just changed it to the Sunsurge Quartet. In the world of Urte, the Sunsurge is the period opposite the Moontide in the twelve year lunar cycle, and corresponds with the seas being high, and more extreme weather conditions. Book One has a working title of The East Wind. It'll feature a few of the characters from the Moontide Quartet, but mostly a new cast, with a whole new story arc. My goal is that people who haven't read the Moontide Quartet could happily pick up the Sunsurge Quartet; but that those who have read Moontide what appreciate more of the nuances.

Target Number Two (contracted work, deadline 31 August, 45,000 words): Kiwis At War: 1916. I'm one of five New Zealand writers compiling a series for teenagers about New Zealanders in the First World War (alongside Susan Brocker, Diana Menefy, Brian Falkner and Des Hunt). My story concerns the NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion, who in 1916 served at the Battle of the Somme. This will be a change of pace for me - I've not written a real-world war story before, or a story without magic, or a story for an audience that is younger than YA. So, a lot of challenges, but I'm hoping it'll be an enjoyable experience. Susan Brocker's 1914 book is already out and it's great, well worth picking up for the teen in your life, boy or girl.

Target Number Three (contracted work, deadline 30 June, 80,000 words (but most are already written!)): My UK publisher, Jo Fletcher Books, are revising and re-releasing my Indian YA series, The Return of Ravana. Book One (formerly called Pyre of Queens, now re-titled The Pyre), will be released this year, and I have to do the revisions on Book Two. I'm really excited about this re-release, as I am very proud of the series, and looking forward to it reaching a wider audience.

Target Number Four (un-contracted project, no deadline, 120,000 words): This is my "If I get time" project - I'm wanting to do the first draft of an entirely new story, perhaps a one-off, perhaps book one of a new series. Probably it'll be an urban fantasy. I'm still trying to decide which of the ideas jotted in my notebooks is the best, and I have no idea when or if I'll get around to it, but it's on the table!

And apart from all that, I've got a couple of school visits tentatively lined up, and of course Moontide Quartet Book Four (Ascendant's Rite) will go into the editing process around April/May, prior to its release in UK/Commonwealth in October. Also going into editing this year is the afore-mentioned The Pyre, for which I'm expecting Jo's edits any day now.

It feels like enough to go with! I've made a solid start on Sunsurge#1 already, and feel like I'm on target. I budget to write about 25,000 usable words a week, and I know my targets, so the planning quickly becomes maths and deadline driven.

And that's it. If I stick to my disciplines, I won't have that movie-style angst to deal with, and will be a happier person. And as for that bestseller at the end of it - we can but hope. Most writers don't get near the bestsellers lists, but with a little success we can still survive as professionals without that Hollywood ending.

And we LOVE our job.

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