Saturday, June 4, 2016
Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day: Writerly tips for productivity #bookgiveaway
-->HALLIE EPHRON: We know she gets up early! And she's incredibly prolific and productive and a terrific writer and a great pal to the Jungle Reds. Today we're welcoming Edith Maxwell, back again to the front of the blog. She has news... and some smart insider tips for those who want to try to match her output.
And... she's giving away a book each to two commenters.
EDITH MAXWELL: Wait, wasn’t I just a guest here? Yes, but I have two more new books out: Murder Most Fowl, book four in the Local Foods Mysteries, and Grilled for Murder, book two in the Country Store Mysteries. That’s what happens when you have three contracts with two different publishers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m living my dream. It’s just tricky to manage sometimes, and Hallie was nice enough to ask me back to my favorite blog.
More than one person has asked me how I’m able to be so productive. How do I meet three book deadlines a year without going nuts? The first thing I say, only partly in jest, is that panic is a great motivator. I have deadlines! I have three deadlines, and it isn’t only the release dates that bump up against each other. This year I had books due January 1, March 1, and May 1. Yikes!
So Hallie suggested I offer my top ten tips for getting and staying productive. These tips work for me, and I hope they will for anyone. Mind you, I left my day job as a tech writer three years ago, so writing fiction is now my full-time job. Some of the tips might be a little harder if you’re writing around the edges of gainful employment elsewhere.
Ten - Make lists. Every day I jot down a list of the things I want to accomplish for today. The first thing (every day but Sunday) is always, Write. The long-term-goals list is on my white board: stuff I want to be sure I don’t forget but that I don’t have to do today.
Nine – Sprint. Every morning Ramona DeFelice Long posts a sprint thread on her Facebook page before seven AM. Bunches of us from all over grab our first, or next, cup of coffee and check in, then we all ignore each other, turn off the internet and the phone, and work steadily for an hour. It’s a writing club, a mutual support group, and a fabulous technique for working without interruption. I take a break at eight, and then do another sprint, and often another before I meet my word count goal for the day.
Eight – Work on one series at a time. I try my best to immerse myself in one setting, one set of characters, one story, whether I’m in first draft or revising said draft.
Seven – Finish what’s due first. Except #8 blows up sometimes. I’ll be in first draft mode on the organic farm and copyedits will come in from 1888. Or I’ll be revising a Rose Carroll mystery and page proofs will arrive from southern Indiana. So then I operate on the First Due principle. I knock off the proofs or the copy edits, because they are due in a week or two, so I can get back to the longer work. The problem with doing that, of course, is that I have to reread the whole work in progress up to where I left off so I can re-immerse myself in that world. But that’s a good exercise, anyway.
Six – Take time away from the desk. By about eleven I’m toast for creative work, so I usually go for what I call my plotting walk, especially if I’m writing a first draft. I talk out loud to myself, ask questions about my characters, and soon enough the next scene or the plot problem has become clear. I happily dictate an email to myself and keep walking.
Five – Separate creative time from admin time. I’m most creative in the early morning, so I do my writing then. A corollary is, Keep creative time sacred. I don’t schedule anything else for mornings – not exercise classes, not doctor appointments, nothing. I try to keep writing blog posts, scheduling author events, book-keeping, and all the other businessy stuff for the afternoons.
Four – Work ahead. Per my comment about deadlines colliding (and in 2017 I have books due January 1 and February 1, gulp): I work ahead. I started to write my January-deadline book this week. I’ll have the first draft done by the end of summer, then I’ll start the February-due book.
Three – Outsource what I can’t do. I’m miserable with art and graphics, so I barter with a friend who is an artist and has not only Photoshop but an eye for color. She makes my bookmarks, I give her a book. I hire someone to do my taxes. Why waste time on things it would take me forever to do and rob me of the hours I need to do what I’m good at – writing stories? And even though I love growing food, my little organic garden out back is getting smaller and smaller, and we have three fabulous farm stands within a couple of miles.
Two – Stay healthy. I always have a full Amesbury Police Department mug of water on my desk. Fluids in, fluids out makes me get up and move around every hour or even more often. I try to eat lean fresh foods, and I get regular exercise even if it isn’t the hearty gym workout I really need. And the exercise doubles as creative time - see #6!
One – Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. This is really the most important one. If I get distracted, schedule other things, or simply don’t do the writing, then...I’m not doing the writing. And that’s my job. Of all the varied jobs I’ve held (pump jock, teacher, farmer, doula, tech writer), I’m lucky and blessed to have this last one be the one I love the most (well, besides my favorite job – being a mom). And I am staying sane, mostly.
Readers: Add your tips! What works for you, in whatever your endeavor is? Edith is giving away a copy of each of her new books to two commenters today, so if you think she doesn’t know how to find you, please add your email address.
Agatha-nominated and Amazon best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day). A former farmer and doula, she also writes award-winning short crime fiction. Maxwell lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs