I have a confession to make. I’m writing this post the night before it’s due to go up. That’s not quite as bad as it sounds, bearing in mind the 12 hour time difference between Western Australia and New York, but it’s not good either. Ideally, I like to give myself a few days to iron out errors and glitches. But sometimes the rest of my writing work, or indeed the rest of my life, gets in the way, and that makes me uncomfortable. Like the White Rabbit, I hate being late. I prefer to be in control: of my work, of my situation, of myself. It’s no surprise that on the planner to pantser spectrum, I’m right at the planner end.
So what got in the way this time, leaving me on the verge of offering one of those ”I am Juliet’s dog and she asked me to write this post” pieces? Deadlines. Most of us have them, and it’s in their nature to sneak up on us. The deadline for my current novel, Harp of Kings, is four days after this post goes up.
It would be nice to have a manuscript finished and polished around six weeks before the deadline. I used to do that. Then it could be put away for a while and checked over with fresh eyes later, in time for final tweaking. I wasn’t so efficient this time around, but I do have a complete, revised, and carefully checked ms ready to go. Revisions included cutting around 16,000 words to get the ms closer to the required length of 125-130K. I don’t think those cuts did the novel any harm, though it’s always painful to delete hard-won words. Gone are the days when I could get away with a 200K-word doorstop.
So to priorities – I wonder how other writers determine which tasks come first and which can wait? While on the last frenetic gallop to get this book finished, my online presence dwindled. I visited my Facebook author page daily and responded as quickly as I could to posts; I answered questions on Goodreads, but not always promptly; I responded to emails from readers, again with quite a delay. But my blog, linked to my website, was completely neglected, and various snail mails from readers sat on my desk for far too long unanswered. That was bad. Readers are an author’s lifeblood, and those who make the effort to send handwritten letters deserve quick and considerate responses. Readers who don’t use Facebook, and there are plenty, missed out on months of news about the forthcoming series and other projects. But the novel had to be written. And finished on time, not only because of a contract, but because there’s another contract and another deadline coming up in (ulp!) just over two months, for a work not yet finished.
Don’t get me wrong; I love having work to do, and not only because it pays the bills. But I’d like a magic formula for managing writing, editing, revision, promotional activities, social media and the demands of the non-writing life, which in my case includes looking after my crew of needy little dogs, being a mother and grandmother, and the standard range of domestic tasks. Failing magic, maybe a useful list would help. Where do we start?
I have some suggestions. I’m hoping your comments will expand the list.
Start with self care. It’s too easy to set that aside when the pressure is on. Get enough rest. Find time to relax with friends and family. Read an old favourite book. Do some exercise you enjoy. Listen to music. It can be hard to make time for those things when it feels as if every moment you spend away from your desk is adding to the looming pile of tasks to be done. But looking after your mental and physical health is key to being able to cope.
Write down your tasks. [Read more…]