Monday, January 30, 2017

Managing Madness: Meeting 8 Deadlines in 12 Months

with guest Susanne Dietze.

 


One of the best Christmas presents a writer can get is her first novel contract, which is what I received in late 2015. Around that time I also received three novella contracts, and WOW, was I deliriously happy.

Then I got even happier. I received a contract for a novel which required revision, and subsequently three more opportunities to join proposals which turned into novella contracts—and with one exception, which is due in a few weeks, they were all due in 2016. 

Some authors are incredibly prolific and creative. Maybe you’re one of those and could give me advice. I’d be grateful! Because happy as I was by the work, opportunity, and the gift of contracts, I was so scared about meeting eight deadlines in a year’s time that I couldn’t sleep. How could I write eight stories well, without sacrificing family time, sanity, or a grateful perspective?

They key for me was organization. If you ever find yourself facing the unexpected blessing of several deadlines and you’re not sure how to manage your work, here’s what worked for me. And although I did lose sleep, it was from fretting, never from pulling an all-nighter. 

Maybe a few of these tips will work for you, too.


  • Before you do anything else, determine your average daily word count. Average is the key word. How many words can you write when you are living everyday life (working a day job, shuttling kids, etc.)? Write that number on a paper and surround it with stars. It is your magic number. 


  • Use that magic number to determine how long it will take to write your contracted books. It’s time for math, folks. Over the phone, my agent and I got out our calculators. We added up the total word count I needed to meet with all of my contracts (Book 1 Word Count + Book 2 Word Count, and so on). Then we divided that total by my average daily word count. The quotient is the number of days it will take to meet the total word count. Write down that number.


  • Appreciate that number, but you will not meet it. You are not a robot. You will get sick, your kid will graduate high school and you will be a basket case (ahem), your oven will break—so you need to pad your writing schedule. Add a few weeks per book for these types of days, plus vacation. 



  • Get out the calendar and block off the allotted time to be spent on each project. I also used an Excel spreadsheet to show me what I needed to work on month by month. 

  • Ready to write? Not yet. Add time for plotting each story. A few days, a week? You know best how long it takes you to plot. 


  • “But I’m a pantster,” you protest. Alas, I suggest you plot. Yes, it’s normal to learn more about your story and characters as you go along, which requires adaptation, but all I can say is, the deeper I plotted before I started writing, the faster the writing itself went—and below, I’ll give you another good reason to plot.



  • While you’re plotting, organize your characters. Eight books meant eight heroes and eight heroines, plus villains, best friends, children, brothers, horses, and pets—all with distinct personalities. I created story boards on Pinterest for each book to help me keep these characters separate, but you can do whatever works best for you. 



  • Here’s why I suggest you plot and organize your characters: you will likely have to set your current project aside midstream to work on revisions or edits for another. I call this Writer’s Whiplash because it’s jarring to bounce between story universes. In the span of thirty-one days this past autumn, I had two deadlines, and then received edits for a third story. That’s three story universes I had to dash between in a month’s time. My plot outlines reminded me where I was in a story and where I was headed when I was tugged away; my Pinterest boards offered a quick, visual way to become reacquainted with my characters.



  • Now you can write. Shannon Hale likens first drafts to shoveling sand into the sandbox so that later you can build a castle with it. I so agree. While the writing is easy some days, other days I struggle, but there’s no time to procrastinate. If I must, I write down what the scene will be about, move ahead, and come back later. Just keep writing.



  • Be good to your critique partners, your family, and everyone who is helping you in this season of busy blessings.



  • Take care of yourself. Ask friends to pray for you. Read to relax, renew, and absorb good writing so you can be inspired to produce good writing. You’ve scheduled in a few mental health days, too, so take advantage of them. 



  • Be grateful for your blessings. Remember when you all you wanted was a contract? I worked for over seven years on my new release before it was accepted. Having a contract—or eight—is a remarkable thing to rejoice over! So celebrate!






What about you? Do you have any tips to write a lot, fast?

Susanne is generously giving away a copy of The Reluctant Guardian to one commenter! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of a dozen new and upcoming historical romances. A pastor's wife and mom of two, she loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com, and sign up for her newsletter for an occasional cheery hello: http://eepurl.com/bieza5





Pre-order your copy here.
The Reluctant Guardian 

When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she's rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her… 

Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he'd be.

Links:
Twitter @SusanneDietzee

136 comments :

  1. Welcome to Seekerville! On behalf of the NIGHT WRITERS of the WORLD, the coffee is hot and the croissants are warm! Great to have you.

    Now seriously, Jonny Lee Miller on the cover of your book???

    Congrats on your debut release with Love Inspired Historical and your what...7 other releases!

    After I finished gasping..I realized what a valuable post this was Susanne! I made my own spreadsheet using my editorial calendar. Wow, it was really usefully to see the deadlines and writing time overlap each other! So thank you, X 12!

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    1. I don't know who Jonny Lee Miller is, but I thought Tavin was rather dashing on the cover ;-) And in person, if you will...he had me whipping my fan about my face at a rapid rate of speed throughout the story!

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    2. Thanks so much for having me, Tina! It's a joy to come hang out on Seekerville.

      As for Jonny Lee Miller...how amazing that Harlequin got him for the cover shoot! LOL. Isn't that wild, how much the hero looks like him?

      I'm so glad the post helped you. I am still learning as I go, but without that excel spreadsheet, I'd have been a wreck.

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    3. Hello Trixi! So good to see you here! Wait, I see you're below, too, so I'll say more there, but Jonny Lee Miller is a British actor. He played Mr. Knightly in a version of Emma, but right now he plays Sherlock in CBS' Elementary.

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    4. Oh, I see, that explains it....I've never watched Elementary! :-/ Or Emma. I had to Google Jonny, and I do see the similarities, but yet subtle differences too. I guess I don't like to imagine my characters looking like celebrities...i know, strange 'eh?

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  2. Welcome Susanne. I have no idea how you writers cram so much into a small amount of time, I'd be pulling my hair out! And trying to keep track of more than one story (characters, storyline,plot, scenes, etc)...I'm getting dizzy thinking about it, lol! I really like your break down, it shows your hard work & effort. And as a reader, I appreciate it!

    As you know, I've already read/enjoyed/reviewed "A Reluctant Guardian" so no need to place my name in the hat today!

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    1. Hi again, Trixi! :) So many authors are naturally gifted at writing quickly and keeping things organized in their heads. I envy them, as I desperately needed my Pinterest boards and spreadsheets. This was a remarkable season, however, and I don't expect to ever be blessed with so many contracts at once again.

      I'm so pleased you enjoyed TRG. Thank you for reviewing it!

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  3. Congratulations, Susie! I didn't realize you sold eight stories, one right after the other. What a way to start your career. I'm thrilled for you! As a slow writer, I'm also in awe of all you've accomplished. Thanks for the tips you shared on how to juggle. You must be a pro at that by now.

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    1. Thank you, Keli! I am a verrrry slow writer, so this has been challenging for me. I've learned a lot through this process and it's been a good discipline regime! I am in awe of authors who consistently write such high quality stories quickly.

      I'm so glad you came by to say hi! I can't wait for your March release! Thanks for the encouragement you offer authors. I love how bright and caring you are!

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  4. Hi Susanne:

    You have to plot!

    That's like saying your new diet requires lots of exercise. Of course it works! But... if I would exercise, I wouldn't be over weight in the first place.

    The key is: How to get people to plot?

    I thought I was a plotter until I read that James Patterson spends three to four months on his plot outlines. He describes each scene in the book and what has to happen in that scene. Each scene is its own chapter. He writes many books a year, too.

    I'm going to do all the things you mentioned plus I'm going to create my outlines just like Patterson's. But can you tell me this: How do you know when you really cannot take on any more work? How can you prevent yourself from setting your self up of failure?

    When you do creative work, a thousand words may be great and useable or they may rubbish! How can you trust your word counts?

    Well, I'll give it all a try.

    Would you please tell what years your story,
    "The Reluctant Guardian", takes place? Is it a Regency? I'm hungry for a good Regency. Please place me in the drawing.

    Vince

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    1. I cannot imagine plotting like that. I can see Patterson doing it, but not all authors work that way. The suspense aspect adds a new ratio to the mix, or maybe it's just his way of working?

      I work a lot like Susie, I go to the simple math of the equation and factor it out. And sure, we've got to delete things sometimes, but I've also found that what one editor will love, another will give you two pages of revisions asking for the very thing one loves to be deleted... so part of the art is recognizing who you're working with and what their preferences/goals are.

      I think that's the science behind the creativity.

      I don't think we all need to plot per se... And maybe like someone suggested last week, that first draft is our plot! We just write the book while we do it!!!

      #fiendishlyclever
      :)

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    2. I agree, Ruthy! If I spent 3 months plotting a story in such minute detail, I would lose all interest in actually writing it! I always know the general direction a story will take and a few major plot points. The rest? It happens as it happens. I wouldn't want it otherwise!

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    3. Good morning, Vince! Yes, the story is a Regency, set in 1817!

      Great question about how to know when I've taken on too much work. The last things I would ever want to do is write a substandard story or break a contract, so you're absolutely right: it's imperative to know before signing a contract if I can keep the deadline and keep it well.

      When my agent and I got out our calculators and calendars, we determined that my goals were reasonable. If another contract had been offered, however, I might have had to have a serious conversation with my agent about realistically meeting another deadline. At that point, we might have negotiated for a later deadline, but it never came to that.

      That said, other authors I know write like amazing machines. I have a few friends who've churned out 10K words a day, and there are probably many on Seekerville who are just as productive. I'm not one of those.

      By the way, I always have to get rid of large chunks I've written. I wake up one day and realize that yesterday's 2500 words were not worth a nickel and I have to chuck. I also usually write way over word count and edit like crazy at the end. That's just me, though. Everyone is different.

      I wish you the very best in your writing!

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    4. Hi Ruthy! Excellent point about knowing who you're working with and how they like things. That's crucial advice.

      I could never plot out like Patterson does. Three months? I don't have three weeks for that, much less three days... stories unfold and we have to stay flexible, but for me, I need to at least note the big plot points: Point of no return, Black Moment, etc. It keeps me focused, especially when I'm bouncing between stories.

      My first drafts are terrible, IMO! Maybe I will get to the point someday where they are how I work out my plot!

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    5. Hi Myra! I couldn't take three months to plot, either. I find I have to be writing the actual story for some aspects to unfold, like a part of a character's personality or a twist to the plot. I still like having a framework, though--and I should have made it clearer that my excel sheets are not dripping in details. They block off the chapters and what happens in each of the H/H POVs. There's always room for adaptation and change! But we all have different styles and have to do what works for us!

      Thanks for coming by today!

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    6. Hi MYRA:

      When Patterson said he takes three to four months to create his outline, I thought the same thing as you that he wrote "in such minute detail" but he doesn't! I saw the whole outline for his "Honeymoon" and it was a chapter by chapter summary of what happens in that chapter, what the chapter had to achieve, and what the mood of the chapter needs to be. These descriptions run about 60 words. It's like telling a good writer, "here's your assignment. Write this scene." You can pantser like crazy within that scene. You can write it several ways to see what POV best meets the objective of that scene. Patterson even says that more than half his stories do not end as they did in the outline.

      The difference: Patterson wants each book he writes to be a mega best seller (maybe this is why he has sold more fiction than any other writer). This takes lots of planning. He's not working so hard for three to four months because he can't figure out the story. He's working to make the book so rewarding to read that the 'pages turn themsevles'.

      Here's the question: what would it be like if romance writers had the same attitude? That is to make their next book not just good enough to get published, but so good they become huge best sellers? Aim High!


      Hi RUTH:

      No doubt you are exactly right about what you are saying but don't you think you might be an pantser-enabler? Have you noticed in the last year how many of the on-a-roll, successful, guest writers advise plotting? Has even one such guest advised pantsering? I can't think of one and I look! I think pantsering is like doing a high wire act without a safety net. How many new writers fall off the wire when their novels hit a sagging middle or they can't come up with an acceptable ending? A plot is a safety net and an indication that the novel is structurally sound. Pantsering is like not even knowing if the wire is safe to walk across!

      Just think of all the professionals on TV who often say, "This is difficult. Don't try this at home."

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    7. The thing of it is, Vince, that most pantsers probably WISH they were able to plot better in advance. But those of us who are die-hard pantsers just can't make that transition without going insane.

      Also, don't make the assumption that we do NO plotting in advance. As I have said here many times, before I start writing, I ALWAYS know the beginning, the ending, and at least a few major turning points. It's what happens in between, and especially scene by scene and chapter by chapter, that I MUST let unfold as my characters reveal the story to me. I absolutely cannot visualize the story any other way.

      And by the way, I do very little rewriting. My "first" drafts may be slow in coming, but they are pretty clean and usually don't require extensive revisions.

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    8. Hi Myra:

      Given what you wrote: "As I have said here many times, before I start writing, I ALWAYS know the beginning, the ending, and at least a few major turning points." I'd be willing to claim you as a plotter.

      I don't think one has to create a spreadsheet to be a plotter. I don't even think the plot has to be written down at all. It just has to be created. How you write is perfectly fine.

      I guess it gets down to determining at what point in one's advance planning one should be called a plotter.

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  5. Wow! And you're still sane? I admire you. Excellent post and I love the excel spreadsheet idea. I'm going to try that. Thanks for the advice. Congratulations on your EIGHT books.

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    1. Thanks, Terri! Not sure how sane I am--my family may have a strong opinion on that. I hope the spreadsheet idea works for you. Everyone will find something that works for them, but this helped me a lot. Blessings on your writing!

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  6. Congratulations on all eight contracts. That is fantastic and I can imagine a little overwhelming at times.

    Thank you for the great post too! A lot of sound advice. This is a post for my keeper book.

    I would love to be entered to win a copy of your book. The cover is beautiful.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Hi Cindy! Thanks for the good wishes! I agree with you about the cover. The team did an amazing job, and it was important for the characters to be dressed exactly as they are...and the team got it just right!

      I hope the organization tips are a help!

      Have a great day.

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  7. Welcome, Susanne! Congratulations on all of your contracts. Talk about starting out with a bang...wow!
    Thank you for sharing your tips. One thing that helps me to writer faster is my Alphasmart Neo...thanks Debby G!

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    1. Hi Jill! Thanks for the congratulations! Ok, I need to look into an Alphasmart Neo. I don't even know what it is, but I'm intrigued! Thanks for the tip!

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  8. WOW, Susie! God has truly blessed your writing...and threw you into the fire! A good fire. :)

    But you did it, girlfriend! Fantastic organizational skills. Loved your blog.

    The process is so important. Seems you learned "how" you write a story early on. It took me a lot longer.

    Agreeing with Jill's comment. My AlphaSmart is my friend when I need to get words on the page. Plus, like you, I write a rough first draft. It's the frame on which I build my story.

    The second book in Amish Protectors series is due today so I'm grabbing a cup of coffee and heading back to do a final review.

    I'm so proud of you. Plus, I love you to pieces! Hope we can connect at a writing conference this year.

    Hugs!

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    1. I love you to pieces, too, Debby! I've missed seeing you! I hope we can connect sometime soon.

      I'm so excited for your next Amish Protectors book, so you go go go! Happy reviewing!

      Oh, the Alphasmart! I really must look into this!

      Hugs!

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  9. Dashing in before work to say CONGRATULATIONS, Susie. I'm so excited for you and I can't wait to read The Reluctant Guardian. It sound so fabulous!

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    1. Hi Cate! Thanks so much for the warm wishes and for saying hi before work! I love your writing and am sending a hug. Have a great day!

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  10. Congratulations Susie for fulfilling eight contracts in a year. Wow. I know it can be done, and you are so right. Organization is the key. And commitment. And determination. And prayer. smile Thanks for sharing this with us in Seekerville today. It is always a joy to see your smiling face. I'm so happy for you. Have fun today and thanks again for sharing.

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    1. Hello, my friend! Now I'm thinking of hanging out with you on the balcony of my hotel room at RWA. So relaxing and fun! You're such an encouragement. Thanks for your good wishes and friendship! Have a super day, my friend.

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  11. Hi Susie,

    You didn't seemed stressed at all at RWA in July! Congratulations on meeting your deadlines and for all of your hard work to pay off in eight contracts!

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    1. Hi Rose! I'm glad I didn't seem stressed! I totally was! LOL. I was in the thick of deadlines, although I'd already met several. One nice thing, though, was I could attend workshops and filter through the lens of my current novel WIP. Literally, my workshop notes contain the actual notes and then starred notes that told me "every character talks differently! X sounds too much like Y! Change it!"

      It was so nice meeting you at RWA. Looking forward to connecting again!

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  12. Replies
    1. You're such a dear to have me on, Tina. This is so much fun and such a joy! My system won't work for everyone, but maybe it will help someone, and by posting, I've received some tips, too. I really must look into an AlphaSmart!

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    2. I've learned a ton from this post and have already passed on your technique to many others.

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    3. I'm so glad it was helpful, Tina! I love when we help each other. You and Seekerville have helped me over and over and over again. I'm so grateful for you!

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  13. SUSANNE, What a fabulous system! I think I'll try it. I don't have a contract yet, but I am working on several projects at once: one book I'm rewriting with my crit partner, one sequel I'm rewriting in case the first book sells, and my from-scratch WIP. I'm a multiple-projects person, I work on one, let it rest, work on another and go back to it, so I'm already juggling, but I could do it a lot better, enter your system.
    I've waited a LOOOONNNNNNGGGGGGG time for this and I'm pretty good at meeting deadlines after working for newspapers all my life, so I think I could do it if I had to, but HOW I would meet the deadlines is up for grabs. I don't want to cheat my family or my church, after they've been so supportive, and I don't want to be crabby or frazzled. I am hopeful the day job will be gone by then, which will give me more white space and more flexible time.
    One thing Seekerville is good at, besides Craft, Encouragement and Cool Prizes, is showing the underside of the writing life. The Seekers are brutally honest about what happens after The Call and how life is on The Other Side. (Publication, not death.) I'm anticipating some hassles, but they will be happy hassles. As the RUTHY one often says, it's a privilege to do this.
    Back later I hope,
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Hi Kathy! Congratulations on your projects! I think it's awesome that you have several going at once. I find that sometimes when I let something sit for a while, at some point I'll have a random thought about how to improve the plot or a character. Usually when I'm in the shower (nothing to take notes with).

      I worked and waited a LOOOOOONNNNG time too, so I can relate to what you're saying and I encourage you to keep at it! We are all on different journeys, but my journey took several twists before I got The Call. Looking back, though, I wouldn't change a thing. It was all in God's timing and I learned so much in those years of writing and waiting.

      I hear what you're saying about writing without going nuts, too. Every family dynamic is different, but what works for my house is for me to not write in the evenings if I can help it. (Besides, I get so pumped up I can't sleep.) The dynamics may change at some point, but that's where I am right now. We all have to figure out what blocks of time work best for our writing, and how we right best, too.

      It is indeed a privilege! Blessings on your writing projects!

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  14. Hi Susanne,

    Congratulations! What a glorious, and scary, year 2016 must have been. Eight contracts! Wow, God is amazing.

    Organization is not my strong suit, so I really appreciate your tips. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Jackie! Thanks for the congrats! Yes, it was overwhelming, humbling and a little scary!

      Organization is a mixed bag for me. I like to be organized, but my house doesn't exactly reflect that... LOL. Housekeeping has been lackluster this past year!

      Thanks for coming by today!

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    2. Whew. Thank you for being real here. WE CANNOT DO IT ALL!

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    3. Oh Tina, if you could only see my desk right now. Or the pantry. Or my closet. I have let a lot of things go this past year. I truly want to declutter for many many reasons, and it's way past time.

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  15. I love contracts, and I'm a huge fan of the numbers game... I project out what I know I can do over 2 years... and then I factor in what I'd like to do (those surprise phone calls or messages and opportunities...) and I keep a two-year calendar showing when everything is due, when it releases and that way I can do the simple math of 1K/day and stay on top of it...

    But then I challenge myself to get ahead of the game, and for five months of Jan-May, I can get a much higher word count/day. So then I put words in the bank, so to speak, and move ahead... that way when life does interrupt with birth, death, regular crazy... I'm not behind.

    I love being ahead of the game, so Susie, I like a lot of your points here! And congrats on your success and opportunities!

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    1. Ruthy, I love your idea of a two year plan! That's amazing! You are so prolific, and I'm in awe of all you accomplish. I am going to try your idea! Thank you!

      And thanks for the good wishes, too!

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  16. Susanne
    WOW! Just the thought of so many contracts due within one year would've floored me. I am so happy for you. I guess God knew what you could handle. I like how you've laid out what worked for you. It looks/sounds simple and logical, but I'll bet it was a bit tougher with the implementation. Thanks so much for sharing what you learned with Seekerville.
    I love the cover of The Reluctant Guardian. I would enjoy a chance to win it. I'll need to add it to my wishList (which gets longer daily it seems :| )
    Thanks again for sharing. I know it will definitely help me moving forward.

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    1. Hi DebH! So good to see you--I'm waving! LOL. Yes, no plan ever runs smoothly, does it? I find that I don't get as much done at certain times of the year. May, for instance, is full of school activities. Last year when my daughter graduated, I was an emotional cliche. It helped me to recognize that I wouldn't be as productive, however, and I could plan accordingly.

      I love the cover, too. The team at Harlequin did an amazing job. I couldn't be happier. It was imperative that the characters be dressed just as they were, and the team did an amazing job!

      So good to see you!

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  17. I love this. I printed it out so I will have it for when this time comes for me.

    Congratulation on your books I will be looking for them.

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    1. Thanks, Wilani! I hope some of the tips are helpful. They aren't One Size Fits All but maybe some of them might be useful.

      Blessings on your writing! And thanks for the warm wishes.

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  18. WOW, my head is spinning.. Huge congratulations, SUSIE! What a great way to kick off a career!

    I can only imagine that as wonderful as multiple contracts can be, there would naturally be some stress attached to the process. You broke it down for us today with excellent tips. THANK YOU!

    Pinterest has been a great writing tool. Sure, it's fun and who doesn't love the pretty eye-candy, but I also create secret boards for my stories, and the visuals are SO helpful. And as for pantsers... I think many start off that way, but we quickly learn the value of plotting or at least detailed notes if we're to get any work done.

    Congrats, again! Looking forward to all your new stories. :-)

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    1. Hi Cynthia! You are so sweet! Yes, I'd be lying if I said there was no stress. I did lose some sleep, but that's just because I'm a worry wort.

      Pinterest is such an amazing tool. And a time-suck, lol. I'm a visual person, so the pics of scenery and characters truly helps me. I also sometimes pin things like the covers of reference books in case I need to go back and revisit some research.

      Secret boards are a great idea!

      I will look for you over there! Thanks for the warm wishes!

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  19. Susie, this is fantastic! I love that it all happened so quick. (No, I'm not being cruel.)You have learned a thousand things in the 2015.

    So....inquiring minds want to know. How many words did you need to write a day/week? Is your first draft pretty solid or do you spend just as much time on the second and third drafts. 4th draft? 5th draft?

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    1. Hi Connie! Great questions. I find that my average daily word count, for an average day, is 2000 words, five days a week, but I needed to do 2500+ for *some* of these deadlines and/or write 6-7 days a week. Some days I didn't meet the daily word count so I would need to make it up on other days.

      The most words I ever wrote in one day is 5500. It took my all day. I am a big fan of crock pot dinners.

      My first drafts, IMO, are stinky. Sometimes when I come back for round #2, though, I'll be surprised and think, huh, this part doesn't stink as badly as I thought! Other times, I think, oh yeah, this is r-o-u-g-h.

      I do not spend as much time on revisions, though, because I enjoy the revising/editing process more than first drafts, so the writing is easier and faster. Other people are the opposite, but sometimes, first drafts are literally like shoveling sand. However, in those first drafts, my plot is pretty solid, so my revisions generally have to do with writing/layering/tweaking/deepening character development, rather than altering the plot.

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  20. Coming in on Prairie time to echo what everyone else has said Susie! What a year you've had and good for you for keeping all the balls in the air and getting those books out. The great thing about having a lot of projects "ready-ish" when you get a contract (which I don't have yet, just to be real here) is that fans are going to see a lot of you on the shelves and be able to enjoy one book/novella after the other. Thank you for your breakdown and Excel tips. Please put me in the draw for your debut Regency. And what gave you the spark of the idea for that story? How much research did you have to do? It's a wonderful time period.

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    1. Hi Laurie! Thanks so much! You brought up a great point: keep your ideas handy, even if they don't fly right away. One of my upcoming novellas (out in July) was an idea I had a few years ago and didn't know what to do with. I'm so glad I had it on hand!

      As for the idea for The Reluctant Guardian, well... the hero was a secondary character in the first inspy romance I attempted to write. He had a different name. This was over eight years ago, by the way. I was driving and all of a sudden I saw this guy standing outside at night, in the rain, watching a window. Boom! Why was he out in the rain like that? Wearing all black? Answering those questions about him led to this book!

      I've been reading Regencies since I was about 13 or 14, but I still did a lot of research into smuggling and other things. It was fun!

      Thank you for visiting today!

      Delete
  21. Welcome, Susanne! When it rains, it pours, huh? But how exciting! I am so impressed--managing 8 book deadlines in a year!!! I thought I was really stretching myself the year I was faced with three overlapping deadlines. You are spot-on with those organization techniques!

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    1. Hi Myra! Thanks for the good wishes! Three deadlines is indeed a lot...and my eight weren't all novels. Six are novellas. That makes a huge difference in the writing time!

      Have a fabulous day!

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  22. I'm here to say, Susie is coming! We just dished about Victoria and Albert's first kiss as she was trying to get her son off to school and over here. And basically I bring that up, because she's not just stringing you along here. She remained completely focused on what she had to accomplish day by day. I was AMAZED at how she did it all. And oh my the story whiplash kills me. It takes me a couple weeks to get into storyland and my characters' heads so this is the hardest part for me. Susie's a pro at it now. And you are going to love her new LIH release! sigh...

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    1. DEB!!! Oh my that kiss between Albert and Victoria was a zinger. Spoiler Alert if anyone hasn't seen last night's Victoria! Yowza!

      Deb, your support during this past year has been unparalleled, patient, and very much appreciated. You are such an encouragement to me. Thank you! <3

      Story whiplash...ugh. You've had a lot of that lately, but you're managing it well. I don't know how much of a pro I am. I admit that in one novella I caught myself calling the hero by the previous hero's name. Just once. But it happened! Yikes!

      Have a fabulous day, dear Deb. Thanks for your prayers and help this past year!

      Delete
    2. Debra! Great to see you here. I am waiting to binge watch Victoria and The Crown.

      Delete
  23. Great post with so many helpful and practical tips. Thank you so much!
    By the way, CONGRATS on such a wonderful year, Susanne! That's awesome. You are an inspiration.

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    1. Thanks, Amber! I hope the tips help in some small way. Everyone works differently, that's for sure.

      Blessings on your writing! Have a fabulous day.

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  24. SUSANNE, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!! Thank you for the truly inspirational post!

    "Writer’s Whiplash."

    LOL ... LOVE this because it's SO true!!

    Fortunately -- or unfortunately, however one views it -- I never have that many deadlines looming at once, mostly because I have gone completely indie, so I set my own pace and love it. But I can definitely see how an Excel spread sheet could work. I would LOVE to see a sample of your spread sheet, Susanne!! But first, I'll have to learn how to use Excel ... :|

    SUPER CONGRATS on all the contracts, girl -- that's AMAZING!!

    LOVE the blurb for your new book AND the cover!! Didn't know who Jonny Miller was, but I looked him up and he does look like the cover model. :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Thank you, Julie! Oh boy, I am not well versed in Excel. I pretty much know how to make my little chart. If I had to do something fancy on it, like math, I'd be toast.

      I'd be happy to show you my little spreadsheets! They're a mess, since they're notes to myself, but I will try to take a pic and post on FB, maybe..?

      I must admit the photos I sent into the art department for the hero inspiration were NOT Jonny Lee Miller. But who cares? He looks pretty fine to me! LOL

      Hugs!

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  25. I am so with you on the Writer's Whiplash. I suffer from that to a dizzying degree.

    Loved this advice!

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    1. Writer's Whiplash is so horrible. Literally, my brain blanks out. Then I feel like I've lost everything. Who are these people in my head, again?

      It also happens to me when I'm deep in writing and someone asks me a question, but maybe that's just my advancing age, LOL.

      We suffer together! Nice to know I'm not alone!

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  26. Hello Suzie! Congratulations on your release of The Reluctant Guardian! It's great seeing you here at Seekerville! ((((HUGS))))

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    1. Hi Caryl! Thanks so much! So good to see you, too! Sending hugs right back. Have a fabulous week!

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  27. Do I dare ask what you're working on now?? :)

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    1. You may dare! LOL.

      I finished edits for my July novella, and am now engaging fully in a novella for November's The Regency Brides Collection coming from Barbour (called "Three Little Matchmakers"). I am expecting galley edits any moment for May's My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho. And I just submitted something (not one of the eight) but we'll see...

      Once this current novella is in, I have no more contracts to meet. Proposal time!

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    2. Break time too. Do you plan to hit any conferences this year?

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    3. LOL, yes I think a nap is in order.

      I am praying about ACFW this year. You know how it is. Money is probably the #1 thing that keeps many of us from going every year. Will you be there?

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    4. Same thing. Praying about any conference this year.

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  28. Susanne, I love this advice. It's such a blessing to sell multiple books, to have editors want you work. You're given real concrete, practical advice on how to get it all done.
    The one thing I'd say instead of figuring out how many words you write in a day and applying that to the contracted book....instead I'd take the contract and then figure out how many words I had to write to meet it.
    So if I write 1000 words a day, but have 60 days to write a 75,000 word book I'd do the math and dig in.

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    1. Great point, Mary. And to be truthful, that's what I ended up doing when I fell a little behind. I'd realize I had so many days left to meet a deadline, then I'd pad a few days for edits/appointments/whatever, do the math you suggested, and say, Yikes, I need to not move out of this chair so I can meet my new word count!

      Thanks for the kind words. It is humbling to be working at something I've wanted to do forever. I don't think that will ever go away!

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  29. At a conference, I once went up to the only other author I knew who'd gotten as many contracts as I has. I had 11 one year. MOSTLY books already written, but in need of revision. But still all that revision, plus I'd say three full length books and six shorter, but still full length books.
    I asked her how she was handling it and frankly your advice is a lot more solid and helpful.
    She advised me to pray and put it in God's hands.
    Well, I had but God was telling me to GET TO WORK.

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    1. Mary, I remember hearing about your 11 contracts in one year. So exciting, and I've enjoyed every one of those, and all the ones since! (Six of my eight this year are novellas, not novels, which is totally different! I don't know how you did it that year!)

      Prayer is absolutely essential, but you're right, we have to sit down and type too.

      I struggle sometimes with anxiety, and I find it empowering and helpful to have a plan of some sort. Organization helps me with that, and it even carries over to things like meal prep when I'm very busy with writing. The Crockpot is my friend.

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    2. Yes, Crockpots help! (And so does Papa John's and Dominos). :) And now I have a wonderful new electric pressure cooker!

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    3. Missy, maybe we should have a Facebook group where we all share crockpot recipes for Big Writing Days. My family would appreciate some variety!

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  30. Thanks for hosting me today, Tina! What fun! I've appreciated the chats and the tips...I really must investigate an AlphaSmart.

    Is there anymore coffee?

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    1. Coffee coming up and Havarti cheese and Black Forest Ham with avocado on croissants for the lunch crowd.

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    2. Oh my goodness I really want that sandwich.

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  31. Wow, Suzie! Truly a blessing to have so many contracts! My organization-loving heart loves your suggestions. I'm definitely a plotter, and I'll say a hearty, "Amen!" to the truth that when I know where the story is going I can write so much faster. :)

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    1. Hi Jeanne! Thanks! I am right with you: when I know where I'm going, the writing goes faster. It's not romantic sounding, but sometimes I need to remember to work up to something; I need to inject moments or developments to get my characters somewhere.

      Happy writing!

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  32. What a great post, Susie! Thanks for sharing your tips. I love the divide and conquer theory. :)

    Congrats on your busy year! Your LI sounds like a great story. I can't wait to read it!

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    1. Thank you, Missy! If I don't divide and conquer, I get even more overwhelmed.

      I hope you enjoy the story! Have a fabulous day.

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  33. Out of curiosity..once you sold, did you have the pleasure of pulling a few stories out from under the best to dust off and revise? Sometimes after they sit a while and our skills as a writer improve those stories get a new life. Sometimes they need to be buried permanently.

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    1. Yes, Tina, I did! One was a novella that sold, and the other is a novel that I revised. (It definitely needed it.) No word yet on whether that book will sell or not, but I was glad to fix it up. Who knows. Maybe it'll be a go, and maybe it won't. Either way, I'm sure learning a lot through the process.

      Delete
    2. bed not best. I see you know fluent typo.

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  34. I am a reader, not a writer, but you have offered some great tips to the reviewer in me. I sometimes get in too deep with my reviews and this will help me immensely. Congrats in your success!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Connie! I'm glad you found a few tips that might help with your reviews! Thanks for the good wishes, too.

      I hope your week is off to a great start!

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  35. Great post of valuable info, Susie. So very happy to see you getting the recognition for your wonderful stories. Definitely a fan. :)

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    1. Hi Anita! Hugs!!!! I'm your fan, too. Thanks for encouraging me these past few years! Your support and friendship mean the world to me!

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    2. hi Anita!!!!
      Hugs to you. hope you got my reply to your email. Cool to "see" you and your support of Susanne.

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    3. Isn't her new 'do cute? Love it!

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  36. Wonderful tips! I've been there as have several Seekers and Seeker Villagers.

    All of this is spot on, but I'd say the best advice here is to keep writing no matter what. Don't waste time letting fear paralyze you. Just dump that sand and keep dumping until it's time to start building. (I'm speaking to myself here!!)

    Also, when scheduling, schedule some really heavy writing days early on in the project. try to push yourself to do more than you ever thought possible in some of those earlier days/weeks. (Shovel that sand!!!) These few days just might be your ace in the hole when crunch time comes.

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    1. Oooh, excellent advice, Pam. Keep on writing--ignore the fear of wasteful writing--and push yourself up front! I am going to put that advice into practice right away as I meet my last of the deadlines!

      Thanks for sharing these tips with us! I need all the help I can get!

      It's nice to know we're shoveling sand together. :)

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  37. Hi Susanne:

    I'm curious. Why would you pick a Regency for your debut novel? Have you been a big Regency fan for a long time? Regency fans are said to be the most demanding in romance. If you make any mistakes, you'll hear about them! I started out with Jane Austen and found I could really enjoy Regency romances. (I even took a J.L. Austin course in Philosophy because he wrote "Sense and Sensibilia".)

    I read Regency romances almost exclusively. I just liked the milieu and the customs. I really liked the idea that an innocent 18 year old heroine could save her whole family from destruction with a good marriage. Does a young heroine have that much power in any other subgenre romance outside of paranormal? Today such a young heroine would likely be put in YA or New Adult. Besides in Regency a very high premium is placed on the heroine being virtuous.

    One observation: while it is said that romance fans want 'the same, only different'... with Regency even doing 'the same' is hard to get right.

    No problem. If I notice any mistakes in, "The Reluctant Guardian", I won't write you...or as Ruth likes to add, 'mostly'. : )

    BTW: I don't know who Jonny Lee Miller is but that heroine is not going to stay on shelf very long either.

    Vince

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    1. Vince, I agree with you--the heroine on the cover is lovely!

      So nice to chat with a fellow Regency lover. I have been reading Regencies since I was about 13 or 14 years old, so I'm pretty much a life long fan.

      I am sure there will be unintended mistakes in my book, but I did take a few deliberate liberties, too. For instance, the children in my story go to the British Museum to view the Elgin Marbles along with the hero and heroine (and other adult chaperones). One contemporary source (a London guidebook) says children weren't allowed inside the museum, but an 1808 Ackermann's illustration shows what looks suspiciously like a child at the museum. In the end, I handled it by making "special arrangements" for the children to come along. If you're curious, you can see the illustration on my Pinterest page for the book: https://www.pinterest.com/susannedietze/the-reluctant-guardian-~-novel-coming-in-february-/

      I also enjoy westerns, and currently I am blessed to write both. (I have a Regency novella coming out from Barbour in November, but the rest are western-set.)

      The Reluctant Guardian is my debut novel and something I've been working with off-and-on for literal years now, but it's actually not the first novel contract I signed. A few months earlier, I was offered a contract for My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho, which will release in May. Very different settings, of course. It all happened to be a matter of timing for me.

      So nice to chat with a Regency fan!

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    2. Hi Susanne:

      I visited your Pinterest link and was overwhelmed. I've never been to Pinterest so they made me signup to view your full page. It was so large I could not take it all in at one time. I also checked the Ruby City board and now I'm very interested in reading that book as well. I'm following both those boards though I'm not sure what that means.

      When you release "My Heart Belongs in Ruby City Idaho", I hope you can come back to Seekerville. Mary and myself have read most, if not all, the Louis L'Amour books -- some several times. (I read most of mine as they were being released. About three times a year. It was something to look forward to. )

      Regencies and Westerns -- not the normal fit but I'm a big fan. Did you know Oscar Wilde made a lecture tour of the American west in 1882? I keep waiting for him to show up in a Western.

      About Regency mistakes, fans are most interested in the social norms, dresses, ranks, types of carriages, that sort of thing. I doubt anyone will even notice a thing about children in the museum. After seeing your Pinterest Board on your Regency, I feel already at home with the setting. Good show.

      Vince

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  38. SUSANNE, thanks for the excellent tips for managing multiple contracts. I'm impressed. Meeting eight deadlines in one year mind blows my mind! I plot my novels but I'd like to know even more. By plotting deeper, do you mean you plot in more detail or are you referring to plotting more scenes than the major turning points?

    The Reluctant Guardian sounds great!

    Janet

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    1. Hi Janet!

      I generally plot all the scenes to an extent--not in minute detail, but enough to remind me what needs to happen in case I am tugged away to work on edits for something else. There's not a lot of room on a spreadsheet, and to be honest I've been known to write paragraph style in a word doc, too.

      It's more like taking notes than getting down to the nitty gritty, and how much I write completely depends on the situation. Sometimes one word is enough to trigger an emotional context and set me on the right path. For example, for my May novel, My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, my excel spreadsheet offers three words in the column for Chapter 1, one word for each of the three big events that happen in it that I'd share now, but it would require a spoiler alert. ;)

      Not much detail at all, but I can reference the syllabus if I need more. However--

      That's an unusual example. In the novella I'm currently working on, I have more details down on paper. Here's how that one starts: "C POV. Arrival at Hall, near where she grew up. J marches up. H awkward." There are a few more sentences to it, but for this one, I needed to start the project, and then stop to work on other edits, so I knew I might need a little more reminding when I came back. Right there, I've reminded myself the scene is in Caroline's POV ("C POV), there is emotional context, because I know how she feels about being back where she grew up even if I didn't include it in the spreadsheet, and I know what Jane ("J") is like marching up to Henry ("H") and why it's awkward. Clearly, the notes aren't detailed, but they work for me to tell me what I need. Others might need more.

      I also tell myself how much time has passed between scenes, if any. For example: "next morning" or "same day."

      Sometimes, though, I just have something like "Need a scene to work up to Halfway point/point of no return"). Then I keep thinking and jot it down with a pen later.

      I also have a spreadsheet of projects. I organize the months by columns, and the rows offer places to include things like: working on for Editor X, Blog posts due, Edits due, etc. That saved my bacon during this busy writing period.

      Delete
  39. Susanne, I appreciate the practical advice you give here. I am always in need of organizational skills and this helps tremendously. My favorite? Your excel spreadsheet. Love that. I seriously enjoy making spreadsheets and databases and use both in my writing life.

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    1. I'm glad you use spreadsheets, Sharee! You could probably teach me a lot! How do you use databases? I'd love to learn more!

      Delete
  40. Wow, I admire you for getting your eight stories done in one year! This year my goal is to write two books and a short story, and I am definitely going to take your advice to organize (even if I am not the most organized person) and see if that works.

    Thanks for the tips and I would like to be entered into the drawing for your book. It looks really interesting.

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    1. Thanks, Nicky! I know you can write those two books! I admire you! Of my eight, only two were novels, and one was written but in need of revision, so it's apples and oranges. I am so excited for you and your goals!

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  41. Susanne...wow....your one year accomplishments are amazing! Congrats on all of it! I love trying to get organized and can...but then, that old curve ball rips my best laid plans into shreds!!

    I think an excel spreadsheet would be terrific if I knew how to use excel!!

    One question...it may have been answered previously...I haven't had time to read comments. How do you handle social media, your website and a blog or newsletter with this kind of schedule?

    Thanks.

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    1. Hi Kathryn! Great question. The answer is... argh, I probably don't do as well as I should with social media. That's an area I definitely need to improve in.

      But I did make an excel spreadsheet of my projects. The columns designate months, and the rows tell me if I have a project in a certain category, like Edits, Working On, Blog Appearances, etc. Under "January" I had a row telling me when this post was due to Tina for Seekerville, and that I should expect edits for one of my novellas, and that I need to be working on another novella.

      I can't use excel beyond these little charts. If I had to do math, I'd be sunk.

      I also print them out, most of the time, because then I take notes on them.

      Back to social media, though... I have learned to use breaks in my schedule to pre-write newsletters, make memes, and stuff like that. But I do need to improve.

      Thanks for asking! Blessings on your writing!

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  42. I love how you use Pinterest to create storyboards. I think one of my struggles is keeping those characters straight. I really need to implement this. I am not a spreadsheet person, but I believe it is time to get serious.

    Thanks Susanne!

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    1. I hope Pinterest works for you! One thing I like about it is that I have a ready made picture to consult when it comes to descriptions. It is great for finding setting pics, local flora and fauna, and more.

      I hope it helps you!

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  43. Susanne, Thank you for your post. Congratulations on your contracts, and thank you for sharing what worked for you so that you are fulfilling those contracts. For me, a huge factor is family. My husband is supportive, and that makes a big difference. I do keep an Excel spreadsheet so I can see how many words I either wrote or how many pages I edited and adjust future calendars. And yes, I get much more written during the school year so I try to make sure I'm doing more editing in those summer months. Thanks for your hints.

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    1. Hi Tanya! What a blessing to have such a supportive husband! My husband is supportive, too, and I couldn't do it without his encouragement.

      I also get more done during the school year, although this past summer I stuck to pretty much my regular writing schedule. I factored in family vacation, RWA and other things, and it worked out ok. :) My kids aren't little anymore, though. That makes a huge difference!

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  44. Wow, Susanne, what a year! Congratulations!! Thank you for sharing a behind-the-scenes look at your organizational process. Love the cover of The Reluctant Guardian!

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    1. Thanks, Laura! My system may not work for everyone, but I hope it helps someone out there!

      I love the cover, too. <3

      Thanks for coming by today!

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  45. Susanne, I loved this post! I recently started creating Pinterest boards for each of my major writing projects, too. Some I keep secret (a great feature of Pinterest!) and others, like the one for my poetry chapbook, are public. You can even make a widget to put on a web site (can be challenging for me. . .). Thanks for the organizational tips, and congrats on your contracts and hard work!
    https://www.pinterest.com/amydavisballard/landlocked-poems-by-amy-ballard/

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    1. Hi Amy! I will go find you on Pinterest! I am so impressed by your widget making! I need to figure that one out. Sigh. It's a great looking tool. Thank you for the help!

      Hope you're having a fabulous start to your week!

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    2. Wow, Amy, first, thrilled to have you in Seekerville and I too cannot wait to check out your Pinterest stuff. Thanks for sharing.

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  46. You had quite a year! Thank you for sharing how you managed. Congratulations on your sales -- and best wishes for ALL those books.

    Nancy C

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    1. Thanks so much, Nancy! I appreciate your kind words! I hope you're having a fabulous day.

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  47. Wow, Susanne! Really...wow! I can't even imagine keeping 8 sets of characters/plots/settings straight at the same time. You have officially earned my Superwoman Award.If it were me, I'd have a total breakdown and be committed. lol Congratulations on your success!!!

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    1. Hi Barbara! I love your Superwoman award! But between you and I, I have had more than one moment of lunacy this past year, LOL. I was blessed to have a supportive family.

      Thanks for the kind words!

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  48. Oh my...what a year! I love it when God pours out blessings upon blessings on people, and he certainly poured out on you! Congratulations on all your accomplishments. I think I might have crumpled in fear with all those deadlines! lol

    Your books sounds amazing and the cover is just lovely!

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    1. Thanks, Sherrinda! I have many many a moment where I crumpled. Many! But I'm mindful of the blessings and I am so grateful for them!

      I love the cover, too! The art department did a fabulous job.

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  49. Susanne, I LOVED your post! :) Wow, when you received blessings, you received a LOT of blessings - - how wonderful! I am so happy for you, and cannot wait to read your LIH story (I plan to purchase it). CONGRATULATIONS, and thank you SO much for sharing your tips with us - - this is going into my Keeper File and I know I'll be re-reading. :)
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

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    1. Hi Patti Jo! Thanks so much for wanting to read my book and for the kind words! I truly hope something in the post is helpful for someone out there. I'm honored to be going into your Keeper Pile!

      Have a great evening! Waving hi to GA!

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  50. Hi. Congratulations on your book. I am not a writer per se, I am a reviewer and do write on my blog. I like the days when the words come easily, that is when I can write fast. Please enter me. Thanks.

    sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

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    1. I love those days when words come easily, too. Those days are delightful! Most of the time, those are the days when I look back and don't need to do much editing, either.

      So nice of you to come by today. Have a fabulous evening!

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  51. I can't imagine meeting 8 deadlines in a year. Makes my head spin. You are super organized. Great tips. Please put me in the drawing.

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  52. Hi Susanne. Thanks so much for this post. It reminds me that organization is such a big part of writing. It's not my favorite part, but once the basics are in place...you're right, I am much more productive. (sigh!) I think it's time to invest in a good-sized bulletin board. (Oh...love your book cover...very nice!)

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  53. Well done, Susanne! Great tips!

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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  54. Hi, Susanne. I can't imagine trying to write/edit 8 stories at once! You're one dedicated writer ;) I think your new Love Inspired historical sounds wonderful and would love to be in the drawing. Thanks!

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  55. Hi, Susanne. I can't imagine trying to write/edit 8 stories at once! You're one dedicated writer ;) I think your new Love Inspired historical sounds wonderful and would love to be in the drawing. Thanks!

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  56. Hi, Susanne. I can't imagine trying to write/edit 8 stories at once! You're one dedicated writer ;) I think your new Love Inspired historical sounds wonderful and would love to be in the drawing. Thanks!

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  57. Wow. So which story is the first one to be contracted?

    You'd have to be super organized to handle 8 stories. That's wonderful. Congratulations.

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  58. Your new book looks fabulous! I love Regency books. :-) Impressive management. Thanks for the great tips.
    Becky B

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