The insanity starts innocuously with an idea, a thought of ‘what if’ or a snippet of a scene, or an imaginary person, or a place real or fictitious. It refuses to go away and knocks around in your head demanding release. So innocently, you start to scribble or type and the idea takes form and shape and becomes a story. It’s fun, fulfilling to put words on paper or computer screen. It draws you away from your other “hobbies,” like reading, watching TV, crocheting toilet paper cozies. There’s no pressure, no urgency, just satisfaction and story. You write when you feel inspired, fitting it around your day job, feeding the kids, helping hubby find his lost socks.
And maybe it happens while you’re still writing or maybe at the end of the story, but a little voice inside whispers, “you should try to publish this.”
And that voice gets louder and begins to sound like a “good idea.” So you polish up the book you wrote for your own amusement and query publishers. And the day arrives when someone says, “We’d like to read your manuscript.” And you get excited, and off you send it.
And then comes the email, the letter, the phone call with the news, “We’d like publish your book.”
“Yes! Yes!” you scream. You sign a contract.
Your first book is a gift of yourself to yourself that is produced with no urgency, expectation or demand. It’s a luxury you will never have again if you pursue writing as a career or even a part-time job. Writing and its subsequent promotional demands will rapidly consume your entire life.
In writing the first book, you have a single point of focus and no pressure. Writing comprises 100 percent of your “writing” time.
Then the book is published. And you begin promotion. If you’re savvy and smart, you start promotion before the actual release (but that’s another blog topic). You blog a little, you tell your friends on Facebook, you tweet, maybe send it out for review. And you start writing your next book. At this point, with one book published or about to be, writing/editing takes about 80-85 percent of your writing time, promotion maybe 15-20 percent.
And then your second book is accepted. Now you have one published book to promote, a second book in editing with a publisher and you’re trying to write your third book. Sales aren’t what you want on the first book, so you step up promotion. You blog more, tweet more, join blog hops and “reader” chat loops that turn out to be mostly frequented by authors promoting their own books. You search out more ways to get the word out. Your daily email has grown, requiring regular maintenance to keep it under control. You start to get invitations to join this or join that.
Family begins to grumble at this point. You’re spending a lot of time at the computer locked in your office or cubbyhole. They see you “chatting” on Facebook or Twitter and think you’re wasting time because they don’t realize how social social marketing is.
Go you! Now you’re two or three years into your writing career and have three or four books published, you’re in editing on your fourth or fifth and are writing your sixth. Promotion now consumes 50 percent of your “writing” work time, which has increased exponentially. Not only is social networking consuming a larger slice of the writing pie, the size of the pie has grown. Writing is no longer a hobby that you fit around other things. It’s become a thing in its own right.
You begin to feel overwhelmed by the promotion demands: blogging, guest blogging, reviews, contests, interviews, Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, blog hops, chat loops. Each of your published books demands equal time. You feel like a plate spinner on the Ed Sullivan Show, dashing from project to project, activity to activity, trying to keep everything spinning. You want to write, but you have to write a blog or do a board on Pinterest or visit other authors on a blog hop. You want to write, but you just got the edits from your publisher. You want to write, but the kids are killing each other in the next room. You want to write, but hubby is glaring at you because he rarely sees you anymore. You want to write but you still have your day job because you’re not yet earning enough by writing to support a family.
You begin to compare yourself to other authors. They seem to be writing more, publishing more, have better sales figures.
You feel like you’re not doing enough. You’re not producing enough. You’re not promoting enough. The total of what needs to be done has become a huge, hulking elephant.
If you start to feel like you might have handle on writing and publishing or might have a chance at success, life intrudes. Kids get sick. You get sick. A close relative dies. You’re trying to sell your house. You move. Hubby loses his job. Family visits. Holidays. Graduations. Birthdays. Soccer games.
But here’s the jewel of hope at the bottom of box: the worst day writing is better than the best day doing something else. Being an author offers personal fulfillment like nothing else. It’s worth every hair-pulling moment.
It will be stressful and pressure-inducing. But there are steps you can take to manage the hulking elephant:
- Set finite, obtainable writing goals, i.e. a daily or weekly word count. When in editing, do the same by setting a certain number of pages per day. Decide how many blogs you want to write, etc.
- With respect to promotion, don’t try to do it all. Pick three or four activities and focus on those. There will be trial and error at first as you learn what is most suitable for you and what is most effective.
- Don’t compare yourself to other authors. They might appear to be more successful (or may in fact be more successful), but you don’t know what their situation really is. Don’t mistake activity for success.
- Learn from other authors, but don’t mimic. Take note of what works and what doesn’t and act accordingly. Know that what works for one person may not work for another.
- Target your promotion activities to your audience. This sounds like a no-brainer, but writing a guest post on a blog that doesn’t draw your audience is a wasted effort. If you write bdsm fiction, having a guest interview on your friend’s “sweet romance” site isn’t going to do you any good. Likewise so is promoting your book on a “reader” chat loop attended only by other authors promoting their books. Your time is limited. Don’t waste it.
- Use your “windows of opportunity” to get ahead. When you experience short periods of reduced demands and activity slows, use your time wisely. Write a bunch of blogs. Schedule your tweets. Get your list of reviewers together and write some draft emails.
And finally, remember, you have achieved your dream. Enjoy it and revel in it because it is the best job in the world!
Questions for you: If you’re a published author, did your writing career turn out to be what you expected? What tips do you have for managing time and tasks?