The Stats: I write four to six books per year in two different genres with varying page counts. Combined it adds up to approximately 2,000 pages or 487,000 words annually. I write three hundred and sixty-five days per year -- even weekends and holidays. Yes, I’m a badass or crazy or a crazy badass. LOL! So, who wants to go for beers with me? I’m just kidding, I don’t have time. Again, I’m kidding! It’s all smoke and mirrors, because when you do the math out a little further, I only have to write five pages per day to reach my goal. Easy peasy!
Now the full disclosure: I don’t actually write five pages a day. I write ten pages most days, as in Monday through Friday, and then I revise and edit on the weekend. If I don’t write every day, I start to go a little sideways. It’s sort of like brushing my teeth – I’m a compulsive brusher to combat all of the sugar I eat – I feel weird, out of sorts, off-kilter and otherwise all around wrong if I don’t brush my teeth every morning and night. Writing is the same way for me. I have all the same off balance feelings if I don’t write every day. Truly, it’s a compulsion but I didn’t start here from the get go. My style of working is years in the making. So, where did I begin?
I started writing with a specific goal in mind -- finish the book -- in 1995. I sold my first book in 2001. I was on deadline for four years, writing romantic comedies for Harlequin, until the market dried up with my last book coming out in 2005. I didn’t sell again, mysteries this time, until 2008. Afraid the market would vanish again (it has – but that’s another post), I decided writing five series at a time was a great idea. It was. I hit the New York Times, I made a nice living and was able to leave my part-time job behind to be a full-time writer. Yay...and ugh!
When the Hooligans were little, I got up two hours earlier than they did and wrote before I was in full on Mom mode. I also wrote when they napped, and if I could manage it, I wrote after they went to bed. Things I didn’t do were watch television, surf the Internet, or read (gasp!). I know. It is shocking but when you have finite time to achieve your goals, adjustments (hard ones) must be made. I have zero recall on what shows, movies, and books were popular during the aughts. Seriously, if Sesame Street didn’t cover it, I was lost.
Now even with the hooligans older and in school, the time management is still a challenge but that’s because multiple deadlines breathe fire like a many headed dragon and you can’t mess around while slaying them or they will eat you alive, so I still don’t watch regular television or aimlessly surf the Internet, but I do have time to read again, and I read everything, for which I am so grateful. In fact, that is my reward when the work is done for the day. I get to read. Big happy sigh here.
So, that is the journey that carved out the following time management rules by which I live. I hope they help.
1. Writing time is sacred. There are no errands or appointments to be made during writing time. None.
2. Figure out your most creatively productive time of day (mine is late morning through early afternoon and again in the evening) and make that your sacred time and guard it fiercely with a sword at the ready if need be.
3. If you can’t work during your best time, make another time your sacred time. Seriously, I hated getting up at 5 AM to write but it was the only time I had. If being a writer is truly important to you, you will make the time.
4. Set a realistic page count to hit each day. Do not call it a day until the page count is done. I have fallen asleep and drooled all over my keyboard, trying to get to my page count. Seems daunting? Think of it this way, a 75,000 wd book can be accomplished in less than a year (approx. 325 days) by writing one page per day. ONE PAGE! Come on, you got this!
5. Stop watching TV. Stop cleaning stuff that doesn’t need it (I used to clean my oven – a lot). Stop looking at other people’s phony lives on Fakebook. You’re a novelist! In a year, they’ll be looking at your book – and it will be real! If you can’t control your Internet surf time, install a Waste No Time app on your computer. Mine kicks me out of all social media after 30 minutes. Here’s a link to help you out: http://www.businessinsider.com/13-best-apps-to-stop-wasting-time-2015-10
6. Find a buddy to encourage you along your way. There’s nothing like accountability to others to motivate. Try to find a pal that is firm but gentle or a mean one, if you really need it. You can also go full tilt and try to write your novel in one month by joining NaNoWriMo: http://nanowrimo.org
Those people make me look like a slacker!
7. And this one isn’t time management so much as writing advice but it factors into time management, so here it is – lose yourself in your story. If your characters are scared, you should be twitching with nerves. If they are sad, you had better be crying. The opposite is true, too. If you find your characters are boring or the scene you are trying to write is boring – guess what? It’s boring. Flip it on its head until it’s interesting to you and it will be interesting to your readers, too. For me, after so many years, writing is like falling down a rabbit hole. I have worked through dinners, school pickups, and doctors’ appointments because I got swept up in the story and forgot where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. Oops!
Pro tip: Forgiveness can usually be had for a signed book or a chocolate milkshake.
So, how about you, Reds? What’s your best time management advice?