She said, “Everything is planned well in advance, and I keep tweaking my schedule to make it as productive as it possibly can be.” Discipline has obviously stood her in good stead. In the past nine years, she has published forty-four books, which have been nominated for or won fifty-five awards, and has twenty more titles under contract. She doesn’t limit herself to one genre either. If it’s out there, she’s probably written it. Her books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror and action/adventure. She also offers writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as her bestseller, First Draft in 30 Days, available from Writer’s Digest Books, and the upcoming companion, Cohesive Story Building. I asked her how on earth she managed.
“Considering the number of genres I write in, the number of series I’m working on, and the number of publishers I write for, I'm extremely disciplined,” she told me. “For my novels, once a story has been brewing for a considerable amount of time and I’ve amassed the necessary research (which is done between books and well in advance of a project), I start with an extremely detailed outline, which is, in essence, the first draft of the book. The outline can take anywhere from a day to week to work out, depending on the complexity of the book. Because of the way I’ve worked my schedule, I’m able to set my completed outline aside for a month or more, then come back to it and make sure it’s as solid as I thought before I set it aside. As soon as I’m ready, I can begin writing. In general, I’ll write 2 scene per day (regardless of how long or short—this and the outline itself inevitably prevent burnout and/or writer’s block). My annual goal sheet can then include accurate timetables for researching, writing, and revising outlines and novels. I also use project goal sheets, so I can know down to the day how long it'll take to finish a book. Completing a 100,000 book generally takes me a month, usually considerably less. Once that ‘second draft’ (which is really my first draft) is completed, I again set the book aside for a month or so before I begin revisions. Depending on the project, revision amounts to minor editing and polishing. In this way, I alternate my time between novels in various stages of completion, and I can write at least 4 outlines/books per year.”
This way of working obviously works very well for Karen. Take a look at her progress over the last several years:
-wrote 3 novels and 6 novellas
-wrote proposals for 2 novels, 11 novellas, 1 series, and 5 Jewels of the Quill anthologies
-outlined 4 novels and 3 novellas
-revised and edited 10 novellas, 5 novels, and 3 JOTQ anthologies
-designed 25 book covers
-wrote 5 novels, 6 novellas and 1 writing reference
-wrote proposals for 2 novels, 1 writing reference and 2 Jewels of the Quill anthologies
-outlined 2 novels and 4 novellas
-revised and edited 8 novellas, 8 novels, 1 writing reference, and 4 JOTQ anthologies
-designed 21 book covers
2007: (so far)
-wrote 2 novels, 2 novellas, 1 writing reference
-wrote proposal for 1 writing reference
-outlined 3 novels and 7 novellas
-revised and edited 3 novels, 2 novellas, and 2 JOTQ anthologies, and 2 writing reference
-designed 16 book covers
Karen is firmly convinced that momentum is a powerful force in her, or any, career. She said, “If I stall because I haven’t done a good job of juggling my tasks, I can only blame myself. And, lest anyone wonders, I do plan my vacations from writing carefully, too, to help avoid burnout or writer’s block.”
She keeps track of her works in progress on her website. And she has shared the “secret” of her success with us all in her best-selling First Draft in 30 Days.
Like many of us, Karen has always wanted to be a writer, first and foremost. “I literally spent my childhood with my head in the clouds—when my nose wasn’t in a book, that is,” she said. “But I also had impulses to be a writer, a dancer, a singer. I still indulge my artistic urges by designing book covers, websites, graphics, etc.”
Karen is a compulsive list maker, as you might guess from the description of her work habits and her “progress reports.” She told me this is one of her strangest habits. “I can’t seem to help it,” she told me. “It started when I was a teenager. I made a list of my top ten favorite songs, albums, TV shows, cute guys… Ugh. Now I make lists for my career, lists so I don’t forget to do things, lists for camping, lists for other people…”
The hardest part about writing for Karen isn’t the planning or the writing. Karen has to be alone to write, so when her son is out of school for the summer she generally tries to work exclusively on outlines and revisions. “Mostly trying to relax and get my brain fertile again,” she said, “but my summer was all off-track this year because of my second sale to Writer’s Digest Books—the follow-up to my bestselling First Draft in 30 Days, Cohesive Story Building, which will be released in the Fall of 2008.”
Karen has so many series out, we could spend hours talking about them all. So, I asked her to tell me about one: her romantic action/adventure series called The Incognito Series. Book Five of that series, Under the Spell, was released in October of this year. (You can check out the reviews of this series by going to our reviews site here for all the books we've reviewed by her).
“I’ll give you a little background on the previous releases,” she said. “The first two books—No Ordinary Love and Until Death Do Us Part—center around a covert government agency I call the Network, in which all the operatives either willingly (in most cases) or unwillingly give up their lives to serve their country and basically live life in the shadows. All the books in the series are vastly different. In No Ordinary Love, readers learn about the only operative who’d ever escaped the Network. The second book, Until Death Do Us Part, introduces the scenario of the corrupt head of the organization putting his plan to topple the Network into affect. This takes several of the operatives outside of the Network. By posing as new neighbors, they’re able to protect key witnesses. Book 3, Bounty on the Rebel’s Heart, continued that basic story (though it very much stands on its own) with an operative going undercover to bring out the second witness who’d been in hiding for many years.
“At that point, I really wanted to show life inside the Network, rebuilding after the situation that almost destroyed them from the inside out, since all the stories up to this point and been set pretty far outside. The hero in Dead Drop, Roan Emory, was first introduced in Until Death Do Us Part, but also had a role in Bounty on the Rebel’s Heart.
“For… Under the Spell, I took the Network Communications and Systems Analyst, Justine Fielding, who’s had bit roles in all of the previous books, and I thrust her into a situation where she has to return to her old life as Gina Calhoun, spoiled daughter of a ranch owner in my made-up cowboy town, Fever, Texas. Alex Lynch’s dream of owning the Triple Aces Ranch has finally come true when Gina drops back out of nowhere (literally, from his point of view). Little does he know the woman he’s falling under the spell of all over again is there to stop the men who killed her father—and Alex is her chief suspect.
“Right now, I’m working on the sixth book in the series, Renegade’s Rose (coming March 2008), which sends Network’s 5th in Command, Hunter Savage—nearly at death’s door and turned renegade to save his sister kidnapped by the Black Pope, Rex Kovac, leader of the covert terrorist organization R.E.D.—to Mexico. Hunter’s only means of saving Celine? Steal Kovac’s most prized possession—his wife. Renowned belly dancer, ‘the Spanish Rose’, Tanya Kovac is nowhere near as innocent as she seems...and Hunter is nowhere near as indifferent to deep-cover operative Tanya’s charms as he wants and needs to be to save his sister.”
As busy as she is, you might guess Karen to be an early riser and she admitted that she’s seldom up and about at midnight. In fact, when I asked her what she was doing at midnight the night before, she confessed, “I’d like to tell you something interesting, but I can barely make it past 10:30 I’m usually so tired. So I was sleeping or trying to sleep. The older I get, the harder it is to sleep through the night. This is true of my husband, as well, and I often tease him about how wonderful it is (the way you would a newborn) when he actually sleeps through the night.”
A little known fact about Karen: “When I was little, my sister and I used to eat the soft brown parts at the top of a pine tree bough. I don’t know why. I think I’d get sick now. We also chewed the needles for good breath.”
For more information about Karen and her work, visit her websites at http://www.karenwiesner.com, http://www.falconsbend.com, http://www.firstdraftin30days.com, and http://www.JewelsoftheQuill.com. If you would like to receive Karen’s free e-mail newsletter, Karen’s Quill, send a blank message to KarensQuillfirstname.lastname@example.org.