Photo: Diana G at home, Diana’s SM
I’ve given several updates on the status of Season 6 filming, (the latest: OutlanderBTS What’s New: Signs of Season 6 ). The other burning question in our minds is, what’s the update on Bees?? Below are my thoughts on the subject, with input from Diana, and she gives us more clues on the when, as well.
Diana has been working on Bees for a very long time now, probably since before Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, or MOBY, was published, on June 10, 2014. (I remember it well, my young family was headed on vacation to Cancún, Mexico, with my mom, on June 12th, and we scrambled to get our copies of the book before the trip. I remember the kids (then 8 and 11), complaining, “Why won’t Grammie come out of her room sometimes???” 😂😂).
Why is Bees taking so dang long? Well, let’s examine this question in some detail…
Diana doesn’t write in a straight line; she’s told us that many times. She’s also mentioned that she writes scenes that sometimes get moved around within a book, or get moved entirely out of one book and into a future book. It’s possible, maybe even likely, therefore, that parts of Bees existed even before MOBY was published. Diana also works on multiple projects at once, and she never really stops writing between books. My understanding is that for her, Outlander is really one big long story, that comes to her in scenes; she takes great pains to articulate the scenes she “sees” accurately and eloquently, creates the context for them, the bridges between them, and shapes all of that into individual books as she goes.
It’s amazing to me that she was even able to produce Outlander, at all. She started that book, as most of you know, on March 6, 1988, to practice writing a novel. She worked in her garage in the middle of the night, sleep deprived, with two full time jobs, a husband, and three small children, (all under the age of 6!!). But a mind like Diana’s cannot be tethered, clearly. It took her 18 months to write Outlander, she sold it, and it took another 18 months for it to be published. She published DIA within the next year, and Voyager in less than a year and a half after that, or so it would seem, but looks can be deceiving. When I finished writing this piece, I sent it to Diana for her review, and she sent me back some particulars…
“I started Dragonfly pretty much on the heels of selling Outlander in late 1989—there was no book out yet, no one had any idea who I was, there was no social media (bar my friends on a small private online group on CompuServe) or other promotion to do. So, basically, I was writing the bulk of Dragonfly before Outlander was even published.
That’s why Dragonfly was published a year following Outlander. It actually took me a bit more than two years to write, but I had that eighteen-month buffer of time between the sale of Outlander and its publication.
Likewise, I had six months of that time still in hand, with which to begin working on Voyager. Again, while writing Voyager—which took nearly three years to finish—nobody was pestering me, there was no promotion to do for the earlier books (nobody knew who I was, and there was no “platform” from which to do solo promotional stuff), etc.
I did have (very nice) fans at this point, and so I started a brief (printed) newsletter, which I distributed at any convention I went to (only one or two), and started asking people to sign up for a mailing list. I also started my own website—VoyagesoftheArtemis—and I believe that I was the first author ever to have one, as most people a) didn’t understand why a writer would need such a thing, and b) had no idea how to go about getting one.
So all this worked out pretty well—but it did leave readers with the completely mistaken idea that I could write (and was writing) a book a year. Which, if you look at the size and complexity of the books, is utter nonsense, but after all, people who aren’t writers and aren’t involved in publishing have no idea how it all works.
So Voyager hit the NYT list—my first NYT bestseller! Very exciting <g>. But
- a) now I was completely out of my original time buffer and was writing in real time, so to speak,
- b) the books were becoming longer and
- c) much more complex (one thing that readers don’t usually notice, let alone realize consciously, is that when you write a continuing series of books, you have to decide how to handle the fact that it is a series. I.e., do you do a preface in the front of each book, akin to the Outlander TV’s “Previously….”, explaining what-all happened in the last book? Or do you take the more artistically satisfying (but LOTS more time-consuming) path of picking up strands and mentions of the previous book and weaving them (more or less invisibly, we hope) into the current book?
I chose the second path, because I realized (now that I had an NYT bestseller) that a popular book (including the whole NYT list) shows up in places like airport bookstores, where travelers are rushing in in search of something to buy for their flight, snatch up something that looks substantial and interesting, and don’t have time to finger through the book and discover that this book is, in fact, the third (fourth, fifth, etc.) in a series. I also didn’t want them finding that out in an airport bookstore, where they might not (at that time) have been able to immediately get Outlander off the shelf. (Now they can; most airport bookstores keep my books on their regular shelves, but that’s a rare thing.)
This means that a good bit of the effort involved in writing one of these books is the invisible infrastructure (I call it “jacquard”—for the weaving technique where a raised pattern is woven in the same thread as the overall fabric, and thus is only dimly glimpsed until you turn the cloth sideways) that allows someone to pick up, say, MOBY (aka Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. “My Own Heart’s Blood” = MOHB = MOH-B = MOBY. Also, it’s big and white…) and enjoy it, even if they haven’t read the previous three million words.”
Courtney: Above is an example of a jacquard pattern.
“Most writers don’t do this, because it is difficult and time-consuming—and it grows more so with each volume, for obvious reasons: I’m juggling the entire 3-4 million words of the previous books, as well as constructing the (rather complex <cough>) structure and content of the current book [Bees].”
“Now, I did retire from my university job, and a good thing, too, or I’d be dead. But while that removed a large time constraint, my kids were getting older and much more interesting <g>…and my books were getting more popular. I began having to do book tours, and to keep the website current and to do independent events (outside of book tours, which really only happen during the month or two following publication; I mean, authors really don’t “tour” constantly, though a lot of readers seem to think they do, judging from the mail), and I got more (and more and more and..) fan mail—in itself, a Great Thing, and very much appreciated (it still is!)—but it does in fact take a LOT of time to answer people even in a very cursory fashion.”
Diana does not see the vast majority of messages sent to her on social media. We know she sees and responds to some, but she says,
“…there are so many that if I even started reading them, let alone replying, I’d never write another word of fiction. So I hope I’m not hurting anyone’s feelings by revealing this, but it’s not personal; it’s vital self-defense.
So, the lag between Voyager and Drums was now roughly the real time it takes to write a book that’s 400K words (bear in mind that a “normal” novel is 100K or less), everything else being equal.”
Courtney: Below is a list of the first 4 big books and their publishing dates. You can see the lag time between Voyager and Drums was almost exactly 3 years.
- Outlander (June 1, 1991)
- Dragonfly in Amber (July 1, 1992)
- Voyager (Dec 1, 1993)
- Drums of Autumn (Dec 30, 1996)
“But of course, everything isn’t equal. A writer naturally wants to talk to the readers, see them in person, sign their books, communicate, etc. This Takes Time. I had teenagers and young adults. This Takes Time. I also have a dearly-loved husband (our anniversary was last week: our 44th, though since we were together for five years before that, we have in fact been with each other for 49 years)—and he takes time, too, but he’s well worth it. <g>”
Now that we understand about this “jacquarding,” we can see why books take progressively longer as the series goes on. The Fiery Cross came out just under 5 years after Drums. ABOSAA, which is the longest book of all (so far), came out just under 4 years after The Fiery Cross, and An Echo In The Bone came out almost exactly 4 years after ABOSAA. MOBY, the last book published in the series, came out almost 5 years after Echo in the Bone.
Publication list of big books, continued:
- Drums of Autumn (Dec 30, 1996)
- The Fiery Cross (Nov 6, 2001)
- A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Sept 27, 2005)
- An Echo in the Bone (Sept 22, 2009)
- Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (June 10, 2014)
- Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone (2021 🤞)
The time between the publication of MOBY and that of Bees, will be the longest one yet (at 6 years and 8 months, and counting). But now, understanding Diana’s process, and considering all that’s happened in between these two books, I’d say that’s no surprise. Let’s take a look at what’s happened between 2014 and now, for Diana. But first, she gives a little more insight on her priorities and the demands on her time…
“People often ask, “How do you do it?” “It” meaning any of a number of things, personal and professional, but generally meaning either writing technique or time management. This isn’t the place to talk about writing techniques (though I love to do that!), and I do have work to do tonight so I don’t want to go on too long here—but basically, if you want to do a complex, interesting job and you want to have a happy marital/family relationship, you dang well better set your priorities. Mine are:
- Family. First, always.
- Writing (or whatever your chosen profession/avocation is)
- Secondary profession/avocation (cf., “TV show”)
- Church, friends, social life, pets, etc.
- Maintenance: body (exercise, food), house, travel arrangements, booking pest-control people and window-washers, etc.
I don’t list “Reading” as a separate line item because I do that all the time, everywhere, no matter what else I’m doing.”
Many fans may not know that the screen adaptation of Outlander was being negotiated by Diana and team back in 2011 and 2012. It’s a pretty complex process. For more details, go to: OUTLANDER TV Series FAQ, on Diana’s website. And then after the negotiations were complete and the multi pronged team was in place, the writing happened, the hiring, costumes, sets, more hiring, casting, etc. etc. and eventually filming. Diana was involved with negotiations and meetings every step of the way.
“The TV show did get underway pretty much simultaneously with the publication of MOBY. That means that a lot (not the majority, but a lot) of my work time was directed there.”
Courtney: She and Doug flew out and Diana toured the production studio during Season 1 gear up. They were there for about 10 days, during which she was fitted for her costume, learned her lines, and filmed her cameo for Episode 104, The Gathering.
Indeed, the show does add to Diana’s workload, in more than one way, on a continuing basis. For each new season of Outlander, Diana receives, reviews, and adds notes to all scripts…
“I do read all the scripts—and all the iterations of all the scripts. Each script goes through multiple versions (some involve major rewriting, the later ones usually just tweaks here and there)—up to seven or eight, in most cases. I also write the occasional script, and those naturally take some intense writing, but come on—a script is (normally) about 52 pages, and the pages have a LOT of white space. A script is a different challenge, and a lot of fun, but it’s nowhere near the level of effort that a novel requires on a daily basis.”
Courtney: Early on, Diana also advised actors on their characters, namely, Sam, on Jamie, as well as others via email or phone. In addition, she receives and reviews and gives her feedback on the “dailies.” Dailies are the footage shot on each production day, prior to editing. Filming (not including makeup, hair, costumes, transportation, etc.), is generally between 5 and 10 hours long each day.
I do look at each new set [of dailies], but most days, this takes maybe half an hour; only if it’s a very intense or detailed (or otherwise interesting) scene do I watch all the takes.
Courtney: As mentioned, when a new book gets published, Diana does (or did, pre-Covid-19), extensive press touring around the world. This takes up to two months following the publication of a new book. Her last book tour was in 2014, for MOBY. Diana did write an episode for Season 2: Episode 211, Vengeance Is Mine. As episode writers do, she traveled to Scotland to be on location for the two weeks this episode was being filmed.
Photo: Starz, Diana on location for Ep 211, Vengeance Is Mine
She also wrote an episode for Season 5, Ep 511, Journeycake, but she chose not to fly to Scotland to assist with that one, so as not to disrupt writing Bees.
There are also the press demands with accompanying travel that go along with the release of every new season of Outlander – especially the early seasons. In 2014, just after MOBY was released, Season 1 of Outlander premiered just two months later, on August 9th. Diana was required for a lot of press for that premiere, as the only known entity associated with Outlander at the time. For Season 1, there was a mid season break, and a whole new round of press for Season 1 Part 2, in March and April of 2015. She has done press for every season of Outlander, with twice for Season 1 – that’s 6 significant press tours over the last 7 years; 7 tours, if you include her press rounds for MOBY in 2014. These are all things she did not do before the advent of Outlander, the show.
Diana wrote and published The Outlandish Companion, Volume 2, which came out on October 27, 2015. She would’ve also done interviews for that. And on June 27, 2017, Diana’s Seven Stones To Stand Or Fall was published, including two original stories written since MOBY was published. Dang. This woman does a lot.
“Between MOBY and BEES (actually, while writing BEES), I wrote (and had published) FOUR other books: The Outlandish Companion, Volume II, The Outlandish Companion, Volume I (Revised Edition), Seven Stones to Stand or Fall (a collection of novellas, plus one actual short story <g>. And while several of the stories were previously published, one of the new ones written for the anthology (A Fugitive Green) is 75,000 words—i.e., the length of your average romance novel), and “I Give You My Body…” (How I Write Sex Scenes).
(I also edited (i.e., chose stories and wrote a Foreword) the 2020 edition of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, wrote Forewords for Outlander Kitchen (Volume I) and Clanlands, and the Reprint Library edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, a strange little historical thing called The Murder of Joaquin Murrieta, plus one that I can’t tell you about because the publisher wants to announce my Foreword as part of their general book announcement.)
And I write frequent pieces and #Daily Lines for my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
And, as Courtney notes, I am in fact writing bits and pieces of several other books—the Prequel (about Jamie’s parents), Master Raymond’s book, and a couple of other things you don’t need to know about right now.”
Courtney: My brain is exploding!
Let’s see, what else. Oh, Diana became a grandmother, in July of 2017, and went to help with the new baby 👶🏼 😊 (Santiago Douglas MacLeod Briongos), and has been back many times since.
Photo: Diana G, Twitter
Over the second half of December, 2018, she cared for her close canine companion of many years, JJ, and lost him on January 2nd, 2019. 😢
Photo: JJ and Homer curled up together
Santi’s little brother arrived in August of 2019… (LeÓn), more flying out to help.
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) August 31, 2019
A global pandemic hit the US in February of 2020, changing our lives, taking lives, and upping the general stress level for all of us. I’ve seen some comments online about how the pandemic should not be impacting Diana’s writing productivity. I know these statements really mean, “I’m having a rough time during this pandemic, and I need the next Outlander book ASAP!”
Diana has one daughter who is a working OR nurse, very stressful during a pandemic, I would imagine, as family comes first for her, always.
Photo: Diana’s Twitter, her elder daughter, an OR nurse working during Covid-19
All of these Outlander books come from her one mind, and everyone is impacted by what’s going on in our world. I would imagine she is no exception. And that’s not to mention what slow downs there may be with printing and publishing due to Covid-19 (more on that below).
In March of 2020, Diana and Doug got a new puppy, Lucie (new puppies are lots of work!)
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) March 14, 2020
And then(!!), in a Lucie and Homer related accident, Diana fell and broke her shoulder in April of 2020, rendering her unable to type!! (I can’t remember if she had to have surgery 🤔)…
Will be scarce for a bit. Had minor accident involving two dogs and a garden hose–broke my right shoulder. Ow. Bad typing. 😱
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) April 23, 2020
Photo: Diana does the End of Summer Series with Maril with her broken shoulder, Aug 23, 2020
I haven’t even mentioned the numerous live appearances Diana has made since June of 2014, unrelated to the show. She has done many, many book signings, speaking engagements, Comic Cons, conferences, charity events, interviews, etc. including christening a ship in France (March 25, 2015),
and practicing and throwing out the first pitch at the Yankees game, September 14, 2018. (Diana dreamed of playing for the Yankees as a child 😌).
Photo: Diana’s Twitter
— BigAppleOutlander (@NYCOutlander) September 14, 2018
I’m sure there’s lots more that has gone on, and continues to go on BTS for Diana Gabaldon, with her marriage, her three kids, and 2 grandkids, church, social life, friends, etc., the woman is a giver. In addition to these, the show and all that comes with it, she is constantly promoting other people’s work…
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) February 17, 2021
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) February 12, 2021
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) August 5, 2020
IF you're not busy this afternoon, join me and Theresa Carle-Sanders for a virtual "Lord John's Picnic", promoting the _second_ OUTLANDER KITCHEN cookbook.
2PM (PST) here:
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) June 27, 2020
If you've had enough plague for the moment, why not escape to a nice, warm…FIRE? My friend C.C. Humphreys has a nice promo this week for the ebook sequel to his wonderful PLAGUE–99 cents on Kindle Countdown! pic.twitter.com/nAuLXJaRs8
— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) April 2, 2020
and the list goes on… this is just the last year or so.
*I was reminded by several people that Diana also has mentored and continues to mentor many up-and-coming writers, along with promoting people’s work.
Considering all of this, I’d say she’s ahead of schedule if she’s anywhere close to getting this book out!!
In a May, 2020 Town and Country interview, Diana said,
“As my husband often says, ‘To a writer, finished is a relative term.’ And it really is. There’s finished—we type the end—but then you read it over again, and you find things that you want to add or take out, and so forth.”
This process, which thankfully for us, she will not be swayed from, even with the added pressure of clamoring Covid- weary readers, is what makes Diana’s books the works of art they are; it’s why we return to them, and immerse ourselves, over and over again. One thing I know for sure, is that Bees will be worth the wait.
Now, I believe we’ve answered the original question, “Why is Bees taking so dang long?” But, I know you guys, ’cause I’m one of you, so the real question is, “When will Bees be finished and on the shelves?”
In a recent interview with Diana by the San Miguel Writers’ Conference & Literary Festival, Diana gave some more clues, (as the reality is, she does not really know, herself).
Diana, Feb 13, 2021:
Diana said that Bees is 7/8th done, and that “…this [time] is a very intense forward push, but at the same time, I keep pausing and going through the lines to make sure everything hooks up properly. So, there’s really no telling exactly when it’ll be done, but you know, within the next two or three weeks, I hope.
But the thing is, once I’m done with it, then it goes to publisher, who have their own very complex system of production and so forth: copy editing, proof reading, galley proofs, etc etc., which takes them some amount of time. The other thing though, is that the pandemic has affected publishing as much as any other industry, people are laid off, etc. There were only a few printing companies that could handle book runs, especially of large books, and at the moment, I think there are only two back in business. Which means all of the publishers are trying to get room – press time for their books, so there’s a lot of jostling and so forth, and if you’re trying to put something in, a bit out of its proper point in the queue, you have to pay a lot, and they don’t want to do that, either.
So, with all these things in mind, I just can’t tell you when the actually pub date will be. You know, I would guess, I’m not sure, that it will be sometime this year, because as I say, the book itself, is just about fully in existence, so we’ll just have to wait and see how all the other things work out. But you know, once it’s written, it’s actually not in my control anymore. Once I’ve given it to them, I help out with the production and so forth, because I have to, but as far as scheduling press time, libraries, and distribution, warehouse space, and shipping and all that kind of stuff, I can’t contribute at all. So yeah, cross your fingers, hope for the best. It’s a good book though, I think you’ll enjoy it.”
Catch up on all my Season 6 posts in the new Featured Favorites Section, which I’ve just updated, and currently features posts about Diana. 😊
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*Update, post publishing
Source: Correspondence with Herself.
Source: Diana G’s website