As you may know, I am an occasional guest blogger over at Fangs, Fur & Fey, a LiveJournal community that focuses on urban fantasy/paranormal romances. They have a nice deal where once a week the various authors answer reader's writing related questions. I thought I'd post my answers here as well.
How long does it take you to write a novel on average?
About a year, but, admittedly, I'm lazy. I tend to take exactly as long as the publisher gives me. When I only had six months to write Tall, Dark & Dead, it took me six months. When I had no deadline at all, it took me about four years.
Do you have another job?
I do. I'm a stay-at-home mom. Until really recently that was a full-time job. Now, my son is at pre-Kindergarten for a few hours in the morning (not quite half day, but close.) Next year, I'll be a full-time writer.
However, when I first started writing professionally -- that is, during and after I sold my first novel, Archangel Protocol, I had a full-time day job at the Minnesota Historical Society. It was only after budget cuts came along that my family and I decided to risk trying to keep me at home. Until this year, I've never made anything approaching a "real" salary from my writing, even when you include a regular teaching gig at the Loft.
How long did it take you to find representation? How many rejections?
A ton. I didn't keep track of how many query letters I sent to agents, but I'm sure it was over fifty. I got nibbles from two, neither of which went for it. My story is weird, however, in that I originally approached the man who became my agent as an editor (which he also was at the time for Tor.)
A friend of a friend of a friend knew this guy Jim Frenkle who was a consulting editor at Tor. With a sort of old-fashioned "letter of introduction" from this friend of a friend, I sent my first novel Sidhe Promised (which has never sold) to Jim. Jim ignored it for years. Luckily, someone (I think it was Lois McMaster Bujold in an interview I did with her for Science Fiction Chronicle) suggested that the best thing an author can do when a novel is being shopped around is start the next one. So I did. That next one was Archangel Protocol, and after writing about fifty pages of it, the friend of a friend taught I should sent the partial down to Jim. I did, and he wanted to represent it (not buy it for Tor). So I actually got my agent before I finished writing my first novel, which I think is probably quite unusual.
How do you deal with irritations or constant interruptions when you're trying to work?
Mostly, I write after my son is asleep, and I've gotten to the point where I can actually sit with my partner as she's watching TV and write my novel. I would never have thought I could do that, as I usually require a lot of quiet to compose my thoughts.
For those of you, especially debut authors, who sold series where the first book was complete but future books were not: How much freedom did you have with the writing of the second book? Did you just write Book 2 and send it off to your editor? Or did you have to write a Book 2 proposal/synopsis and have it approved before you began writing? Or did you have to write multiple different synopses for Book 2 and let the publisher choose which one you would write? (I've heard of the latter happening, and am wondering how common it is.)
My editor bought my first novel and "an unnamed second book." I wrote her a very informal set of pitches for the ideas I had for a next book. They were a paragraph or so long, but at least one of them represented a novel I had about eighty pages already written. At the end of this rather long email, I wrote, "Or I could write a sequel, I suppose." The answer I got back was, "Yeah, do a sequel."
Which I just wrote without any kind of formal proposal, which was an enormous amount of freedom, and something I've never experienced since. All of my paranormal books as Tate, I've had to submit a proposal - usually about a twelve page, detailed synopsis outlining my beginning, middle and end.