Schedules & Routines

Being More Efficient

I recently read a magazine article that said people who are successful in various fields spend no more than 4-5 hours a day doing their work.*  The idea is not how much you work, but how focused you are when you work.  This got me thinking about what we do as writers.  The most important thing we can do is write.  Without a book, we won’t have a product.

While I think social networking is good for building up a platform, establishing a brand, and making connections, I don’t think it’s the way you will sell the most books.  For more on why I believe this, read Kristen Lamb’s blog post “Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales”.  I see no reason to restate her main points.  Social networking in all its forms is about connecting with people.  I do think it’s important, but writing is way more important.  If all you’re doing is social networking, you’re missing out on the most crucial component of making money: your next book.   I see a lot of authors who write a book and all they do is promote that book.  They spend very little time writing their next one.  That is a huge mistake.

So in wondering, “How can we work more efficiently (instead of more) to get more books out there?” This is what I came up with after doing some research over the past couple months:

1.  Make a list of your priorities.

The things that are most important need to be first on the list.  I suggest making the daily list short.  That way, it’s not overwhelming.

You can make a list of things you want to do for the month and break that down across the days in the month.  For example, let’s say I want to edit my book.  I know some people are able to do this in 1-2 days.  I can only do 2 chapters a day.  So one of my monthly projects would be “edit Book X”.  Book X is 20 chapters.  What I’ll do is break down this task by marking down 2 chapters each day that I’ll edit.  (By the way, I do have other people edit my book, too.  To do it only by myself would drive me insane.)

A s a writer, the most important thing on your list should be writing one of your current projects.  Whatever the word count is, try to get something written that day.  Some people write on specific days.  Like, “I’ll write for 2 hours on Wednesday and Saturday”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Just make sure that is the priority for those days so it gets done before the other stuff.

I don’t write every single day.  I find if I push myself too hard, I end up shutting down, so I let myself take a break.  But I usually write six days a week.  If there’s a writer’s conference or family vacation, I obviously don’t write for longer spurts of time.  You need to find the best fit for you.  The key is to be consistent.  Train your mind to get into the writing zone at certain times.

I find it’s best to write first then do other things on my list (write a blog post, edit, answer emails, etc) come after I’m done writing. Why?  Because writing is the most important thing I’m doing. :D

2.  Learn to say no.

We can’t be everywhere and do everything.  This includes social networking.  We have to pick the most important things that will get us toward our goals.  I’m assuming people reading this post have writing as one of their prime goals.  So you need to say yes to writing your stories.  Things you might have to say no to could be stuff like making your house spic and span clean 24-7, watching TV, critiquing another person’s book, spending time on a forum, or playing a game.  This is where the list of priorities come in handy.  Anything that isn’t on that priority list are things you could say no to.

Regarding critiques, I have gotten emails requesting critiques.  The best way to handle this is by telling the person wanting a critique that there are local writing groups, online writing groups, and editors who do this for a living.  It’s in a writer’s best interest to find people who are qualified to do critiques.  Contacting a stranger is not in their best interest.  The best thing is to develop relationships with other writers so they can form groups and/or get referrals to quality editors.  Now, I have done edits for people I’m super-duper close to (that’s a very small list), and they have returned the favor.  This is a cooperative arrangement, not one where I do all the work all the time.  Sharing is wonderful.  But share with people you trust to give you honest input, and give them honest input in return.  Be nice but share your honest opinion.  Both is possible.

Another big area is strangers requesting reviews.  This is a no-win situation.  First, you’d have to give up time writing (making money) in order to read someone else’s book (one you might not even like).  I’m fine with reviewing books you want to review.  I still review books.  But there’s no reason to review books you don’t want to review.  This is a time suck.

Yes, it’s not a fun feeling saying no when someone wants us to do something, but it’s absolutely necessary at times.   And yes, there will be people who will be mad at us for not doing what they want.  But hey, you can’t please everyone all the time.  You have a right and a responsibility to do write your books.

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I was going to write more, but I’m almost at 1,000 words so I’ll end this post here. :D

*Article: “Do More, Faster!” from SUCCESS magazine, April 2014.

Categories: Business Plan, Schedules & Routines, Writing as a Business | Tags:

Developing a Strategy for What You Write and A Publishing Schedule

Your goals for writing should help you develop a strategy for what you write and establishing a publishing schedule.

If you are writing solely for yourself, then there’s no need for you to read further.  You are free to write whatever you want and publish anytime you want. :D

If, however, you are writing for yourself and others or for others, then this post is for you.

The first step is to figure out what you are going to write.

This depends on who you are writing for.  Who is your audience?  Pick some self-published and traditionally published books that are selling well in the area you want to write.  Then list down common things that are in all or most of the books.  For example, let’s look at romance.  The most basic element in a romance is the happy ending.  Dividing it down to Regencies, I’ve noticed scandals do pretty well or there is a rake who will be reformed before the book is over.  Those aren’t the only common elements in popular Regencies, but there is definitely a preference for those things that Regency lovers enjoy.  Another thing you might look at is heat level or violence level.  Is it PG, PG 13, R?  A Christian romance noted for its G or PG content will not appeal to the romance reader who prefers R content.  This is why you not only look at the overall genre but you break it down into subcategories within the genre and pick out similarities in those.

Once you have listed 3-5 common elements that you have noticed in the books you want to write, think of ways you can incorporate them into your book.  This is not taking someone else’s idea and rewriting it.  This is taking basic components that can’t be copyrighted and making a plot around them.

For example, if you decide to write a Regency, then you’ll want to pick out a couple of things that might make the story more likely to appeal to your target audience.  (Understand, of course, that doing this doesn’t guarantee a certain number of sales but it might help your book be more appealing to your audience.  There is never a guarantee of sales, no matter what you do.)  Anyway, back to the Regency example.  Let’s say the writer picks out 3 common things: a scandal, a rake who will be reformed, and a happy ending.  The writer then sits down and picks out, “What will be the scandal?” Then the writer decides, “Who is my rake?  What made him that way?  How will the heroine reform him?” And finally, “How will these two get a happy ending?”

All I did in the example above was take the common trends in popular books in a particular genre and apply elements in it that I could incorporate into my own story.  This way, I do have a unique story, but I am also keeping my audience in mind.  So I’m able to write for myself and for them.

The second step is to figure out a publishing schedule.

Write.

Unless you’re publishing books, you’re not going to have the chance to make money.  This doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality or skimp on editing.   What it means is you get serious about writing.  The only way a book is going to get written is for you to sit down and write.  And yes, I know this is easier said than done.  There are days when I don’t get much more than a couple sentences down.  Sometimes I have to sit down for 15 minutes and write down anything because writing is like pulling teeth and I have to force it.  It’s not fun.  But I’ve learned the muse is fickle and you can’t wait until you’re “in the mood” to do it.  This is why I reward myself for writing on those days with a something I like.

Write whenever you can.

I understand how hard it is to write when you have no set routine.  As much as I’ve tried to set a routine, I just haven’t been able to do it.  Just because I work at home, it doesn’t mean those around me leave me alone.  I am bombarded with stuff all the time.  Some people can do a routine and do very well at it.  Others just write whenever they have a moment to spare.  I am the “moment to spare” kind of writer.  I start first thing in the morning and stop in the early evening.  Throughout the day, I’m taking care of the family, doing the chores around the house, and trying to work in emails and blog posts.   Write however and whenever you can.

The next book is the best marketing tool you control.

Depending on how fast you can write and get a book edited, you may not be able to publish as often as another writer.  That’s fine.  Do the pacing that works best for you.  Just understand that if you’re not getting a book out, it’s going to be harder for people to remember you for when your next one comes out.  Social networking has its place, but I still think the best marketing tool an author has is the actual book.  The percentage of people who buy and read books is higher than the percentage who pal around with authors on a social networking site.

How often to publish depends on your situation but try to keep it consistent.

I read a blog post years ago that said you need to publish four books a year to maintain a living as a writer.  I don’t know if that’s true or not.  It would depend on how well your books sell.  A book that hits the top 100 paid in any store is going to go further than four books that only sell one copy a month.  But my thinking is that having a couple books out a year will increase your chances of getting noticed and retaining your current fan base than if you only did 0-1 book a year.  Something new helps remind people you are still out there and will keep them searching for new books.  Email lists are good for that, too.

I would suggest whatever publishing schedule you choose, that you make it as consistent as possible.  Some people write an entire trilogy and then publish one book a month.  Nothing’s wrong with that.  Some people publish every six months. That’s fine too.  I tend to publish whenever I have a book ready, and since my average is six books a year, that’s doable because of how many I have going out annually.  If you only publish once a year, maybe choose a particular month so your readers get used to looking for your newest book around that time of year.  Maybe you can send out teaser scenes or character interviews once a month to remind people you’re working on the next book in the meantime if you don’t publish frequently.

Categories: Book Promotion, Business Plan, General Writing, Genres, Schedules & Routines, Social Networking

Rewarding Yourself for Small Victories and Keep On Learning and A Couple Templates To Help With 2014

Reward Yourself for Small Victories

When I say reward yourself for small victories, I mean to reward yourself for things you can control.  While it’s fun to celebrate if you have a great month of sales or get on a bestseller’s list or win an award, these are things we can’t control.  We can’t make people buy our books and we can’t make judges vote on our books.  I think it’s important to celebrate those things because you want to enjoy the good times when they come, and it will help you appreciate the good things that happen. 

But I think rewarding ourselves when we accomplish the small victories is equally important.  I think when you do that, it’ll be easier to stay motivated.  If you’re relying on external sources to validate who you are as a writer, then you run the risk of wanting to give up.  If you’re focused on what you are doing, then it’s easier to keep going no matter what else is going on.

Below, I’m uploading some things that I hope can help track your progress this year.  Let’s say you get on a regular writing schedule and start making it a part of your daily/weekly habit.  That’s a small victory that should be rewarded.  Say you actually met your daily/weekly goal.  Reward yourself for that.  By breaking things up into smaller pieces, I think they become easier to attain.

Some examples of rewards might be watching a movie with a friend, drinking your favorite cup of tea/coffee, reading a book, or going out to your favorite restaurant.  These are unlimited possibilities with this one.  I think the small victories should be frequent and given small rewards.  The larger goals are the ones that should have larger rewards.  (For example, I finish a novel and publish it.  Great.  Now I can buy the dress I’ve been eyeing for a while.)  That’s what I mean by the larger the goal, the larger the reward.  :)

Keep on Learning

No matter how much you’ve learned, there’s always more to learn.  I know this sounds basic, but I think there’s a danger of thinking you’ve learned everything you can so you stop striving to improve.  This business is one that keeps changing, and it can be overwhelming.

There are various sources out there to choose from as you seek to increase your knowledge of the writing and business side of writing.  Pick up books from people in the business you admire.  Read blog posts.   Watch videos.  Listen to podcasts.  Read magazines.  Go to conferences.  You don’t have to do all of these.  Just do the ones you’re interested in.  You don’t need to be all over the place.

Some Resources I Am Using in 2014 To Keep Learning (if anyone wants some ideas):

I love magazine articles because they’re short and can be read when you only have several minutes to spare.  Some sitting on my desk are Entrepreneur, Fast CompanySuccess, and Writer’s Digest.  (The first three deal with business principles that can help you think like a small business owner instead of a “just a writer”.)  There are other magazines out there, but these were the ones that caught my interest when I was in Barnes and Noble the other day.  I also found Entrepreneur and Fast Company at Office Max.  You can also find articles to read online at the links I posted above with the mention of the magazines.

Two books I have on my desk are How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn and Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb.

Blogs I love to read are Kristen Kathryn RuschDean Wesley Smith, Kristen Lamb’s Blog, and The Creative Penn.  I have read and enjoyed their books for writers in the past.  I also see there are some online workshops that might be of interest.  (We no longer have to physically go to a conference if we don’t want to.)  I also enjoy The Creative Penn’s podcast which you can find on the link to The Creative Penn that I listed above.

If anyone has any favorite books, magazines, podcasts, blogs, etc to share, please do.  The more resources we know about, the better.  I know my list is a small one and that there is a ton of great resources out there.  :)

Some Templates To Help in 2014 With Keeping On a Routine

I am going to upload a Word (.doc) file and a pdf file.  With the Word one, you should be able to go in and tweak on it to fit your needs.  But with pdf one, you can’t.  I decided to also make a pdf because some people don’t have Word and I thought it’d be easier for them to get the pdf instead.

Now, I have word count goals, but you might have a time goal or project goal instead.  These templates aren’t meant to be set in stone.  They are just to give you an idea of what you can do.  And maybe they’ll give you some ideas of templates you can make up.   They are free to print out and use as you wish.

Routine Organizer for blog (Word document)

Routine Organizer for blog (PDF)

Daily Word Counts Template (Word document)

Daily Word Counts Template (PDF)

Weekly Word Counts Template (Word document)

Weekly Word Counts Template (PDF)

Book Publishing Planner in Word (this was modified from the one Stephannie Beman gave me)

Book Publishing Planner in PDF (modified from the one Stephannie Beman gave me)

*A quick shout out to Stephannie Beman who got me thinking about even making up templates to track my goals and progress to begin with.  Thanks!  :)

Categories: Business Plan, Schedules & Routines, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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