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
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