Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Writer's Wednesday: When Time is at a Premium

This Writer's Wednesday, PHS editor Donna Alward talks about dealing with the crunch....

When I handed in a book on November 30, I made a promise to myself to take it a bit easier in December.  After 2 years of January deadlines, both of which were interfered with for varying reasons (one being breaking my wrist), I was thrilled to be off the hook so to speak.  Oh, I still worked.  I revised a manuscript and sent it to my editor at Samhain.  I held my annual Christmas contest, did up blog posts, etc.  Revisions hit just before Christmas.  I actually worked pretty hard.  But I also did Christmas baking.  Watched movies.  Finished my shopping.  Hung out with the fam.

I did know however that January was fast approaching.  And with it - crunch time.

My next deadline is Feb 28, which gives me 8 weeks to put this book together.  Now, I have done a lot of the research and also character exploration which helps a lot.  But 8 weeks is less time than I usually take so the word of the day is focus.

And writing this book is not the only thing on the agenda.  I also have the first book of a duet hitting the shelves this month - that means promotion.  I have edits due to arrive at any moment and then author alterations that will demand my attention.  Just my luck - tomorrow I'm also attending Jury selection as I am one of those lucky random few to be picked.  And as any working mum knows - there is laundry.  Cleaning and cooking.  Chauffeuring kids.

If I let it, it would be easy to get overwhelmed.  So what I need to do is break it down into chunks.

8 weeks of 5 days a week is 1250 words a day.  But I don't REALLY have 8 weeks.  Because I need a week of that to edit and polish.  I could factor in weekends, but I don't because that is when the family is all home.  Unless I absolutely have to, I don't work weekends.  For one, I like relative quiet when I work and having everyone home doesn't lend itself well to that.  And for another, if I don't take time away, I get very grumpy.  I'm just as productive by giving myself evenings and weekends to recharge.  That is the time I spend with my family, and I guard it fiercely.

So - 7 weeks.  That would be just over 1400 words a day.  If nothing goes wrong.  But things always go wrong and often I go over the 50,000 word mark.  So let's give myself a word count daily goal of 1500-2000.  A weekly goal of 7500 to 10000.  TOTALLY doable.

One of the main things to avoid is distraction (aka word count procrastination).  Promotion is big with this so at the beginning of the month I check the schedule, see where I'm blogging etc. and do up all those posts in advance, sending them to the proper people.  I also, on that day, do up my monthly newsletter and update my website.  Then I don't need to look at it again for the month.

Another thing you can do is combine errands.  If I need to go to the post office to mail a prize etc. then I will wait until I have to run to the grocery store for milk and bread or I have to run the kids somewhere, and I'll go then. 

And finally, focus goes hand in hand with prioritizing.  If I really focus and put making word count first, I can get my 1500 words in a morning.  That leaves me 2 hours in the afternoon to do things like work on Pink Heart Society work, answer e-mail, and the zillion other things that somehow seem to crop up during the day.  I might even manage to feed my family.

It's not foolproof, but having a plan of attack goes a long way to alleviating crunch stress with me.

Do you have any tips for dealing with a full plate of work?

Donna's newest release is One Dance With The Cowboy, book 1 in her Cowboys and Confetti duet set in Larch Valley.  It's available at eharlequin and Mills and Boon now and hits store shelves on the 12th.


  1. Phew - it all sounds pretty daunting doesn't it? But breaking it down into managable chunks is doable. I try to do 1000 words a day - when I am at work - then 2000 words at the weekend. I do work weekends as I don't have children. It's easy for me to type away with the laptop on my lap sitting next to DH2B whilst he watches TV. Luckily I can switch off.

    Good luck with the promotion! The book is great! Take care. Caroline x

  2. Okay a good critque partner is useful.
    Remember you can do it. I have faith.

  3. oh, how could I have left out fab cp? ;-) Of course! Critique partners crack the whip when necessary, give uber-helpful feedback and talk you off the ledge when you're close to losing it!

  4. I think the main thing is to break everything done into chunks. I try to clean a different room every day, rather than an all-on spree on a weekend. Then I find it easier to keep on top of which gives me more writing time.

    I like to break it down into chunks too. I aim to have a partial off by the end of March and so have given myself a target of 6000 words a week.

    Happy writing!

  5. To complete nanowrimo in November, I had a target of 1666 a day to get, and found that if I did well one day and passed target, I eased up on another day (and did some washing!) Good luck with it!

  6. Hi Donna!

    This blog is the perfect answer to a question I was asked this weekend: Why are you always so busy?

    Even aspiring writers tend to view us as sitting at the computer all day, with nothing else going on. You have to wear a lot of hats in this business!

  7. You sure do Deb! I get the same looks from my husband. LOL

    Cleaning - let's not go there. Cleaning is for Saturday mornings. Otherwise it becomes too easy to procrastinate.

    Speaking of - I have to go put dinner on so it can start cooking...