Saturday, January 18, 2020

My Writing Schedule or Lack Thereof

Schedule! DepositPhoto

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week involves our writing schedules – what’s our most productive time of day, when do we actually write, how much time each day, week, month, etc.

When I left the day job five years ago to be a fulltime author, one of my personal vows was to never set an alarm clock again unless I had to be at an airport or in an operating room that morning. No more scheduled meetings! No more scheduled reports! Freedom! All those years of rising way early in the day to commute to the office, with a week chockfull of meetings and tasks assigned to me by other people, OVER and done. WOOT!

Now having said that, I do have a personal routine I follow. I actually am a super annoying morning person with or without a job outside the home and somewhat to my surprise I find I still tend to get up around 4:30AM. I like having the day ahead of me, I love the feeling of being one jump ahead because I’m awake and bustling around before most of the still-sleeping world (well, still sleeping in California anyway) rises…there’s also the not unimportant fact Jake the Cat was used to having his breakfast around 4:30AM. He was quite resistant to having his food-in-the-bowl time shifted to later, although now after five years he’s a bit more mellow.

Or possibly resigned to the fact…

After breakfast I start my ‘work day’ in much the same fashion I used to follow at the old day job. I check my e mail and then I go to the internet and read certain news sites, catch up on my social media (I did not do the social media loop at the old office let me hasten to add)…and then I dive into the work. I blog on various platforms and I also do my weekly New Releases report every Wednesday, so I have tasks not related to the current creative work in progress (WIP). Most days I take care of those items before going to the WIP because they hang over my head and distract me.

When I first transitioned to this career versus the old day job, I had a hard time getting myself to see that these other tasks weren’t the actual work. They had deadlines, I owed them to people (even if only in the sense of not letting down my fellow bloggers)…so they looked more like ‘work’ to me in some sense than writing my novels did. Some of this was the lifelong fact that writing my stories was done in between everything else or after work or after the children went to bed or on a lunch hour or in study hall. So I had to overcome this unconscious perception I was carrying that the writing had to be fitted in around the other tasks.

Jake the Cat
There were a lot of things to deal with when I transitioned to fulltime author that did surprise me besides the issue of the affronted cat with an empty food dish! (Hey, he always has dry food available…)

Sometimes I prompt myself to switch my focus by reminding myself the books pay the rent. None of the other activities I might find myself doing directly contribute to paying the bills or buying the cat food. That usually helps clarify for me what I ought to be working on!

I’m organized in my own fashion – NO spreadsheets here though. Shudder. If I had to track anything to do with my writing in the form of a spreadsheet I. Would. Not. Write. That level of detail is so not me. Kudos to Jeffe, the queen of spreadsheets – I’m always in awe of her methodology but I think the idea of too much structure or tracking mechanisms applied to my own writing sends the rebel in me up the wall.

I do keep a weekly To Do list, which helps me focus on the most important non-writing tasks for the week but never when it comes to the writing. The closest I ever come to letting the To Do list touch my writing is if I need to request a new cover from the wonderful Fiona Jayde for example and I keep forgetting to search the stock photo databases for inspiration. Then I might add that as a bullet point on the messy list.

So, to circle back around to the topic at hand, the writing schedule, usually around 8:00AM I’m ready to dive into the current book. I might make a cup of tea to signal the change of pace to myself, I sit down here at the keyboard and I type.  I write until the Muse is tired, however long that may be in any given session. Sometimes it’s a few hundred words and other times it’s a few thousand. I use a timer to remind myself to take breaks because of the physical toll sitting here and typing for hours takes if I don’t.

Some days I only work on the book once. Other days I might go off and return two or three times. Some days I don’t get to the writing until the evening, if for instance I’ve gone to babysit my toddler grandson or if I had a day full of appointments or errands. Despite being a morning person to the core and winding down as the sun moves across the sky and sinks, taking my energy with it, I can do a burst of creative writing in the evening. I have to be firm with myself, come in here and sit, open the manuscript file and start typing on whatever scene comes next in the narrative, but I can do it.

The one rule I did make for myself was that I must do either one 25 minute timed session or 1000 words (which usually takes me about that much time). Last year at one point I found myself skipping days as a result of some family and health issues and I can’t afford to do that, hence the rule. Twenty five minutes slides by really fast if I’m caught up in writing and I usually end up doing more words but at least with a solid 1000 a day I’ll finish a first draft of a book in 5-7 weeks, depending on the length.

If I’m in the editing and revision phase, then obviously I don’t log too many new words, but I will enforce upon myself the 25 minute session rule to be sure I’ve made some progress for the day.

I only work on one book at a time. I may be thinking ahead a bit to the plot of the next one but I haven’t found it productive for me to try to divide my creative attention.

It’s my method, it works for me and I think it serves to illustrate that there’s no one rule for every author to follow! My output for last year was nine new novels, two re-releases and a box set, so I feel overall my system has proven itself for me.
6 of the 9 New Books I Released in 2019