Monday, September 10, 2012

Time Management For Writers or How to Herd Cats – Part 2

by Sarah A. Hoyt
Originally posted on her blog “According to Hoyt” on July 30, 2012

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I've been pleased to have famous author Sarah Hoyt as my guest last week and this on Comet Tales! Last month she wrote an excellent blog on time management for authors, and the psychological struggles thereof. I asked permission to reblog, and she graciously and enthusiastically gave it. But since her blogs tend to be very lengthy, much more so than mine, I chose – again, with her permission – to break it into two installments. Here is part 2.
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To make things worse, for the last two years my time management has gone haywire by… Freedom. In a way, I’m back to the initial stage, where I had all this freedom and therefore nothing got done. The difference is that now I DO get paid for my writing, and therefore that is a huge incentive to write.

However, it’s not a huge incentive to write on a specific project.

Structure used to be lent to my writing by two things – what my agent chose to green light to send to editors, so if I approached her with a project and she said “Sarah, I can’t sell that” I didn’t bother to write the proposal. OTOH if I approached her and she said, “Yes, ASAP” I worked on that proposal – unless I had a book on deadline. Between those two I was more or less always running (and often not doing anything I wanted to do, but that’s something else again.)

Now I do have my books under contract with Baen. But unless a book roars out with force – and somehow, books under contract never seem to – it’s too easy to hit a snag. And when I hit a snag, there are books I’m doing for indie publishing, or short stories to edit, or work for Naked Reader Press, or the short stories I need to write, like, you know Nuns in Space is selling like crazy, and if I do three more short stories, I can do a five story antho, and then…


The problem is that I can manage to be insanely busy and not get anything FINISHED while at the same time wearing myself down.

Now, I don’t know how much of that was the health issues – which are, fortunately, not fully gone but on the wane.

However, it’s becoming obvious it’s time to start a new attempt at control. I do have a planner – virgin, since January. And a calendar, ditto. (Part of it being it’s too far from my desk, so I keep forgetting it exists.) I do have a write on board which at this point is permanently etched with the November deadlines (I met the first, then I got sick.)

I won’t survive by my wits alone.

So, here is what I’m going to try: I’m going to try the timed thing again, nine to five, no deviation, start with Noah’s boy, because I could use the money. Work on it till finished. Start on another one.

Next: I need a planner that will work. The problem is the planner I have is depressing because it assumes I am in a corporate job. The writers’ planners I’ve bought seem to be for literary writers and designed to do a book every three years or so. They have “inspirational poetry” on the side, and make me want to gag. What I think I need is a project-based planner, with the option of setting deadlines, then setting phases of the project. If any other writer has found something that works, I’d appreciate a tip. If you don’t have one, I might end up designing one. Eh. I can then sell it, so all is not lost.

And then I’m going to try the two groups so I have someone I’m accountable to.

Will this work? I don’t know. But I hope so. With no deadlines and no boundaries it’s too easy to get lost in dolce far niente, with the twist that it’s not even sweet and it’s definitely not far niente (do nothing) but more wasting myself in myriad little pursuits that don’t come to anything.

I shall report. And those of you who have had the same issue and have perhaps found something that works, chime in. We will figure this out.

If it makes you feel better, with more and more of the people who still have a job finding themselves working at home or self-defined jobs, we might be on the vanguard of the way of the future.

Poor future.