When we start a new year, we always have a ton of plans. In the past two years, a lot of those plans have been derailed by COVID, but we’ve (hopefully) made the best of it.
I’ve been struggling lately to figure out how I want my publishing schedule to go moving forward. I’ve read a lot about consistency, not only what (sub)genre you write in, or how long your books are, but also when you release them. I’ve seen firsthand with this blog how posting consistently can build a readership, and I don’t think it’s any different for books. So, I’ve been trying to figure out what will work for me and create a schedule that I can maintain going forward for years to come.
The problem is, you need to know a lot about yourself before you can plan out something like that. Here’s what I’ve learned by taking a look at how I’ve worked and how I’ve spent my time in the last two years, which, to be fair, isn’t as accurate as it could have been because of the pandemic, and I know others are in the same situation. Still, I’ve been working from home for the past year, and my health issue aside, things have calmed into a lifestyle that will be constant for the foreseeable future. This is a list of discoveries I’ve put together that will hopefully help me develop good work habits that I can keep going.
- I have to shower and do my hair and makeup for the day–even if I’m not going anywhere. When I started working from home, it took me a week or two to realize that I can’t get anything done in my pajamas or skip taking a shower. To feel professional, I need to look somewhat professional. My kids make fun of me and my sister teases me, but I just feel better. I don’t have a desk and do a lot of my writing on my bed (space and privacy are hard to come by in our tiny little apartment) but I’m more productive and not prone to take a nap, either, which can be a time suck because when I nap, I nap. I’ve stopped trying to figure this out and I just go with it. The first thing I do after I take my daughter to school is shower, and I always get ready for work as if I’m going into the office, even though I’m just logging into my computer in the bedroom.
- I don’t like writing fiction in the morning. Not because I can’t function before noon, but because I find my creative spark in the evenings. I’ve learned, over time, that if I didn’t have to get up in the mornings for anything, I’d probably write from about 8pm until 2am, and sleep in the next morning. Because I can’t do that, I have to work around it. I usually write in the afternoons from noon to 3pm, and this is when I get a lot of my writing done on my days off. I also write as soon as dinner is over (in the winter, this works especially well as it’s already dark by 5pm–I love to write in the dark!) until I have to go to bed around 10pm. Knowing this is helpful because I can use the mornings after I get my daughter to school and shower to blog, create ads, and submit my books for promos. I can do administration stuff before noon and turn on my creative brain for the rest of the day.
- I can write a 85k book in about six to eight weeks. That’s not bad (some authors are a lot faster), but I’ve never timed how long it takes me to do the rest. And by “the rest” I mean edit it, get the feedback from betas I need to feel good about the story, format it, create the cover, and load everything (ebook, paperback, large print) into KDP. In the years I’ve been publishing, I have come to the frustrating realization that editing will always take longer than I think it will, and creating the cover always takes a long time because I need to research what’s trending in the market, find the stock photos I would need, and experiment with fonts, placement, etc. I don’t want to hire out, and I will avoid it for as long as possible. So, I can write a book in six weeks, but the editing and the rest of the production can also take another six weeks. This is something I definitely need to know so I never miss a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, or a preorder date.
- I have no problem getting things done, but giving myself daily to-do list is always going to be a waste of time. I’m good with things I need to get done on a macro-level. “Finish writing the book this month” is a good example of how I can put something huge on my to-do list and get it done, but breaking things down into micro-level daily tasks will never work. This is why I’ve never been able to work with planners. This was actually a huge revelation for me. Like today, I didn’t plan on doing a blog post. I was going to write on my book all day, but this idea popped into my head, and I decided to write the core of it down for Monday. I think I can work around this mental block, and I’m going to plan weekly and monthly goals. I’ll plan out what I want to do for the week, say write 20,000 words on my WIP, do a blog post, and search for stock photo models, and then, instead of trying to force myself into a daily schedule, write down at night before I go to bed what I’ve managed to accomplish. Hopefully, if I plan Monday to Monday, by Sunday night I’ll have everything crossed off my list and I can start a new list for the following week.
- I will always write before anything else. This is a such a big pro that I hate to turn it into a con. I mean, if you don’t have books, you can’t do the rest, so I’ve always given myself a pass when it comes to getting other things done. I don’t like writing blurbs. I like creating covers, but I don’t like having to put together the full wrap for a paperback, or creating a separate full wrap for IngramSpark, or loading to either KDP or IngramSpark. Vellum makes formatting easy, but it’s still not writing and passing it off to a formatter would only cause more work because I need to be able access to my files to change back matter when necessary. On the other hand, if you’re not willing to suck it up and do the parts you don’t like, no one will ever be able to read your books because they’ll be held captive on your computer. What this means going forward is I’m going to have to start rewarding myself for the non-writing tasks that get done when a book is in production and after it’s published. I don’t take time to celebrate, and because I love the writing part of it so much, I don’t take much of a break between projects, either.
- My tunnel vision will always make things harder. I work on one book and one book only. I know how much faster my schedule could go if I could edit one book in the early afternoon and write on a different WIP in the evening. Tunnel vision is another area where it’s too good of a pro to be considered a con. I never EVER get distracted by shiny object syndrome. Yes, I can get antsy toward the end of writing a book, look forward to new characters and a new plot, especially if I’m writing a series, but I have never abandoned a WIP to write something new. I will finish a book and edit it and only then move on to the next set of characters. Unfortunately, like I said, this can slow me down, and I’ll have to make peace with that.
It’s all fine and good to have goals, but if you don’t understand your own processes and personal limitations, it will be difficult for you to reach those goals. You might have noticed I don’t have many external obstacles. My children are older (my son is 22 and still lives with me and does the bulk of the chores around the apartment, and my daughter is 16 and self-sufficient) so they don’t take up much time. I’m divorced. I work from home now which has eliminated driving time to and from work. I don’t have much stress. I like my job, and I don’t have many commitments besides movie night with my sister on Tuesdays. If you have little kids or you have a demanding day job, you’ll have to adjust your goals accordingly. I don’t watch much TV. If you’re juggling three or four different shows, you’ll have to work around that lost writing time. Looking at your daily schedule, your weekly schedule, and your monthly schedule can give you an idea of where your time goes and how you can create attainable goals for yourself.
I did buy a planner for myself, and what prompted me to take a look at what I have going on internally that could interfere with a writing/producing/publishing schedule is Elana Johnson’s book, Writing and Marketing Systems.
I had to buy the planner, it was just too cute not to. While I’ve tried to use planners before, I’ve never succeeded, but hopefully using it in a different way will help.
It’s frustrating to work so hard and not feel like you’re going anywhere. I want to climb out of my rut and start making some things happen. What are you going to do for 2022 to dig yourself out of your own rut? Let me know!
Until next time!