Do you remember the childhood fable about the grasshopper, who played all summer and didn’t think much beyond the next sip of dew or bite of berry? Versus the ants who diligently and constantly labored 24/7 to build stockpiles? And then in the winter guess who kicks back in a cozy burrow with lots to eat, versus who is outside shivering and scratching in the snow? (Where do grasshoppers go in the winter anyway?)
Well, the family joke around my house was that my late husband was the Ant, because he was a very long term thinker and we definitely followed the very wise plan he came up with, as far as his military service, our college, our careers, buying the first car, the first house, having the first baby, etc. This freed me to be myself – I think of myself as more of a cheery butterfly than a Grasshopper actually. I am NOT, in any circumstance, a planner or long term thinker.
When he died in an accident, I had to step up and do my best for the family. I managed to be what I truly am NOT, which is to say someone who plans. If I tell you 2018 is the only calendar in my house or that I access on my computer, you get the picture, right? (And I typically stay in the current month, other than to notate dental appointments.)
Now in the old day job at NASA/JPL, I was involved with schedules and planning for various interplanetary missions. Those suckers are HUGE. Thousands of steps. Millions maybe on the big flagship missions. The planet or planets you’re trying to hit will only be in the spot you need for a certain window of time so you have to start literally years beforehand and know every single thing, including contingencies for the unforeseen, that has to happen. I didn’t develop such schedules but I have the utmost respect for those who can and do. I sat in probably hundreds of meetings where the discussion centered around the schedules and status. I had to give reports and take action items on my portions of those schedules.
The main thing I retained is the concept of the critical path, which is basically the sequence of tasks that will take the longest to complete to deliver the project. The critical path may change from time to time, based on other circumstances, but there always is going to be one. You can’t let yourself get distracted from keeping your eye on that path if you want to succeed.
Okay, so moving to the topic today, which deals with how you plan as an author, or how you plan future books while keeping up with current deadlines…do you hear me laughing? That is so not me! My critical path as an author is to write the books. Period. Full stop. Since I self-publish, any deadlines are my own and tend to be quite vague. “I’ll get this book out in April.” “I’d like to write four or five books this year.”
I had a taste of mixing self-pub and more traditional publishing back in my Carina Press days, and I have to say – lovely as they were to work with – I didn’t care for the experience. The idea of having a perfectly good book ready to publish that can’t be published for another six months or a year or whatever because it has to fit a publisher’s overall schedule gives me the most visceral reaction of NOOOOOO! I could never work as far in advance as Jeffe does, which she talked about in her post earlier this week. I admire what she does, but it’s not Butterfly Me.
I have lots of “tiny deadlines” but those are for my blog posts (“OMG is it Saturday again already???” Time for SFF7!) and other activities of that type. I do have a yearly schedule to work through with my friend Pauline B. Jones on our annual Pets In Space scifi romance anthologies (award winning and USA Today Best Selling, I might immodestly add).
And we've discussed many times in this space how I am superstitious about my writing process and my Muse and can't even do an outline or I won't write the book, much less know that I'm writing such-and-such a book in 2019 to publish in 2020!