Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuesday Talk-Time - Feeling Overwhelmed?

Pink Heart Society regular, Joss Wood, is talking about how she's planning on dealing with the multiple deadlines that are fast approaching...

Like so many working moms out there, I have busy life. Contrary to what some people think, the writing fairies do not come out every morning and sprinkle magical fairy dust on my keyboard and…poof! …words appear on the screen. I wish it were that easy. Strangely writing actually means writing and, because I am a mom and a wife and a friend as well as an author, I have to plan my time rather carefully. 
J.K. Rowling once said: 

Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have "essential" and "long overdue" meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.

I think all writers can relate to this; it’s essential to protect your writing time; from visits, from phone calls, from interruptions. My friends and family are really good about leaving me in peace most mornings and my mornings are generally peaceful. 

For me, completing a book is a matter of working in stages. The first stage is to write a wild and woolly first draft and, I promise you, it is ugly. Around 45k I have the very rough outline for a book and then I put it away for a couple of days before returning to it and stripping it down, turning it around and flipping it inside out. I relook at all the characters, their motivations and whether, if anything, makes sense. I toss thousands and thousands of words into a dump file. I rewrite and then rinse and repeat the whole process for the third draft. Then it might, if I am marginally happy, go off to my editor who will do essentially the same thing. 

It’s a fun process, I promise and no, I’m not being sarcastic. Okay, most of it is fun. 

But without planning I would be lost. I realised this last week when I got two offers from two different publishers for another three books. This is on top of the three books I am already contracted to do with Harlequin. Basically, I have four books to write by the end of March next year. I instantly went into a fat panic and felt utterly overwhelmed. I couldn’t do it! Four books in eight months, no way, no how. Not possible…

But I couldn’t miss the opportunity that was being offered to me. Panic, panic…inhale cookies. 

Break it down, hubby said. Make a list, hubby said. You can eat an elephant one bite at a time…he didn’t say that but the principal is the same. 

So I did, I worked out how many weeks I had until March (26)—I removed December from the equation as it’s our long summer holidays and my kids are home so I’m down to, eeek!, seven months— and how many words I had to produce (around 300 K). Using simple maths (the only type I can do), I have to produce 11.5 K in a five day week. That’s around 2300 words a day. 

2300 words a day? Really? No, maths has to be wrong. I redid the maths and, there it was again, 2300 K a day. 

Since I generally produce around 3k when I not trying too hard (5k when I push myself) I’m golden and my 4 books in seven months goal is suddenly doable. 

I can eat this elephant! 

I don’t believe in stress and I certainly don’t think that you have to be stressed to be successful. For me, that’s a load of phooey. I hate feeling overwhelmed and stressed and my writing suffers when I am. Protecting my time and breaking the problem down just makes my life simpler, clearer and less stressful. I am also a lot nicer….

If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out maybe this post will help. Or maybe you have your own coping mechanisms. I’d love to know what they are…

And, damn, if you find those writing fairies you’d better send them my way!

How do you juggle multiple deadlines?  And what do you do when you're overwhelmed?  Join us in the comments!

Joss's latest book, Claimed by the Warrior, is available for preorder now at Tule:

Bad boy Jed Hamilton is ex-special Forces and a current undercover recovery agent who's mentally and physically tough, a lone wolf and, above all, violently allergic to commitment, permanence, and anything wedding related. So when he learns, in the very sexy McKenna Dixon’s bridal salon, that his younger sister is getting married and wants him to be her “man of honor”, Jed wishes he was anywhere but in Cape Town. Especially now that he'll be spending more time around the one woman who makes him consider perilous phrases like “what if” and “maybe”… 

McKenna Dixon loves bad boys, but her past experience with the species has led to nothing but pain and heartbreak. Jed Hamilton is exactly the type of man she should avoid, but when a nasty incident threatens her and her daughter, Jed immediately appoints himself as their protector, even though it’s not a part of his job description.

McKenna is determined not to allow another bad boy to flip her life inside out, and Jed is determined to retain his bachelor status to keep travelling and working. But, as they both discover, love does its best work when busy making other plans…

To find out more about Joss Wood, you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. Great post! I am lucky to have wonderful writing friends who talk me back from the ledge when I'm feeling overwhelmed. There's a point with each story where it gets away from me and feels like just a mass of unconnected scenes. I set it aside for a day or two then print it out and sit down with a red pen or a mechanical pencil and dive in.

    Looking forward to Claimed By The Warrior.

  2. Love the quote from J.K. Rowling, and I completely agree with her about having to guard your writing time. I've been guilty of not guarding it like I should, and it has cost me years that I can't get back. I do my best not to beat myself up about it, but it's hard sometimes. Fortunately, my best friend is also my co-author, and with her help, I have been developing my backbone so that I can tell people, "No, I can't drive you to the grocery store (that's within walking distance of your house). I'm writing."

    As for feeling overwhelmed, usually it's the non-writing parts of my life that end up overwhelming me more than the writing parts. I have a tendency to hyperfocus, either on writing or things like email and YouTube (I'm mostly addicted to home organization videos--yeah, I'm weird like that). So when that happens, housework is usually the first thing that falls by the wayside. You haven't been overwhelmed until you've let your housework slide for an entire week or more. Then one day you realize you have no clean dishes or clothes to wear, and it's like your environment just smacks you hard in the face and screams "LOOK AT ME!" Yep. Been there, still there right now as a matter of fact. That's when the overwhelm really takes over.

    Sorry. I tend to hyperfocus on blog comments, too. lol

  3. I've just installed iStripper, so I can watch the best virtual strippers on my taskbar.