With the advent of Indie and e-pubbing, the luxury of spending time writing and revising well written novels has been sucked into the ether.  I feel the increased pressure to hurry up and write, but I've resisted it, for the most part, by assessing my strengths as a writer and coming up with a plan for the next five years. Sound OCD?  What do you think?  What's your plan?   

 

I'm blogging about getting organized around a career plan at www.marymcfarland.wordpress.com (see 2011 tab).  If you'd like to dig into this topic, I'm really interested in learning how you feel.  No SSP here: I'm serious about helping others get organized behind their writing and their careers (that's where my expertise lies).  Let's do it.  

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I get up early and Write First.

Me, too, Jack.  :-)   And my friends and tons of other writers. 

 

But do you start writing each day and then keep on until you're satisfied?  Or do you say, okay, I'm going to write fifteen sections, or one thousand words?   And what if you're under deadline? 

 

My CP and I discuss this a lot because she's a pantser and I'm not, although I'm learning to let go (freeing a lot of demons).  What I see often and repeatedly, though (regardless of whether writers are pantsers or planners), is no clear or defined plan for producing novels, so I'm trying to understand how writers do come up with plans and what--among the ones who have them and follow them--they are. 

I have set goals each day, and can't stop until they've been met. (Drafting is usually a single spaced page on work days, two on off days. When editing, it depends on what's being edited. It also helps that I outline the story in advance, so I know what's coming.)  I write every day that I dan, but also make every effort to take time off between Memorial Day and Labor Day. (End of May until Early September, for those outside the US.) I used to push all year, but I was spending too many days just putting in time because I was burning out. Now I only write nine months a year, but I work at it.

 

Bear in mind, I've stopped worrying about traditional publication and have set up my own tentative schedule for e-books, so deadlines are not an issue for me.

Dana, thanks.  Setting the daily goal is something I'm working on.  I have overall plans (Microsoft Project Manager plans including work breakdown studies) for entire novels and a year in advance, but on a daily basis I allow distractions to interfere with meeting my goals, and I wonder how many of us do the same thing.  So the fact that you bulldog your daily goal is really impressive.   

 

You also bring up something else that's not only impressive but sane: that's taking time off.  Again, I must work on this, but it seems to me that you've found a way to take the time off (headroom, I call it, to keep from burning out).  As you used to do, I now push all year, so I'm hoping to find a way (using documentation production processes I learned as a techical writer) to get to the place where you are now.  Nine months a year sounds rational and like a very desirable goal. 

 

I get your point about not worrying about traditional publication. e-pubbing is freeing us from those terrible deadline blues.   Cool, ain't it? 

 

A couple of questions:

  1. How do you bulldog our daily goals (avoid distractions, etc.)?
  2. Can you give me a link to your online e-pubbed novels? I'm very interested in reading them.

Mary,

I'm lucky with distractions in that I'm a middle-aged man with a 9-5 job and no small children. When I decide I'm going to write after supper, I just go upstairs and do it. My Beloved Spouse has her own activities, so we're happy as clams granting each other a couple of hours every day to do our own things.

 

I have no novels posted online yet, but several short stories and flashes. My first e-book is being formatted now and should be out in August.

Here are the links to a few of my stories, if you're interested:

634 at A Twist of Noir. (Story had to be exactly 634 words long.)

Blinded by the Brilliance of His Own Reflection

Hitter at a Twist of Noir. 

Evil, buwahaaaaaa!  Love it.  I dunno, honest: I'm just workin' on trying to get it.  Pot at end of rainbow?  Maybe, but I need a process for writing multiple novels at once because I'm going to do it for the next five years, and if I can't crank out twenty-five novels, I'm going to go work at McDonald's.  Kidding . . . I think.

 

I am seriously looking for a way to manage novel writing like a documentation project, 'cause I think that will work for me and other writers who organize before they write. So the responses I'm getting here are tremendously helpful, yours included.  My CP is like you, just an incredibly talented person who sits down and writes and the only plan she has (far as I can see) is inside her wickedly smart brain. 

I just wrote an article for Suspense magazine on Writing Time, about time management, and making time to write. Every writer is different and must find what works for him or her. For another good plan, pick up The Novelist Boot Camp by Todd Stone. It has some good writing drills on goal setting.

Stephen, have you been to Todd's Boot Camp?  It is superb!  I went a couple of years ago and, I have to say, that's when I got my poop together and really started kicking butt.  That workshop helped drag me out of my writerly fog, and I have to say I will be eternally grateful to Todd Stone.  I have my boot camp dog tags, too! 

 

(Okay, I confess: the kilt really motivated me, too, but don't tell Todd.  LOL! He's going to be at Killer Nashville this fall by the way - you coming?).

What is this "organize" that you speak of, stranger?

Minerva, hi!  I'm looking for a way to ID the phases and tasks in our writing process and then hook them to a production schedule so I can write four or five novels per year.  See my response to David DeLee's comment, which really gives a little more detail. I have an overall view of writing (from my background as a technical writer) that leads me to believe we can produce more novels and retain their quality. 

 

What's your process?  Give me some ideas to help guide my research into this topic.  

Great topic, Mary.
I used to have daily goals based on page counts and word counts, but I either didn't make them (sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not) or I reached my goals early and that gave me permission to quit for the day. I've switched gears now, and lay out my daily goals based on what next needs to get done: setup outline, create scene synopsises, write first draft, edit first draft, etc. And while I track my progress each day, wrote 25 pages, finished 2 chapters, etc. I don't quit having reached a minor goal like writing 2000 words, but quit when my day is done timewise. Dinnertime, most nights.
At the end of the day I evaluate how well I did by whether I was able to keep distractions to the task at hand to a minimum, was my writing time well spent, not on the number of words or pages finished. Lets face it, sometimes the words come easily, othertimes, not so much.

Thanks, David.  I have discovered like you--and many others--that time management and goal attainment are the ideal way to get more done with less stress and much more success.  As I noted somewhere, I'm looking for a way to manage my writing, and what you suggest is the closest to what I'm doing.  I've never been able to count my words each day because it seems like I'm just lost in some kind of word-count hell!  LOL! 

 

My objective is to ID the tasks we perform in each of the actual writing phases (using some kind of work breakdown software - probably MS Project Manager) and then hook those tasks to milestones as you suggest, i.e., the goals (daily, weekly, etc.).  Once I have the process identified and the inch and milestones timed, I believe I'll be able to multitask and write multiple novels at once.  That's my goal, anyway, David.  I anticipate having my process identified and documented by end of this year, at which point I'll gladly and freely share it. 

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