When I first started writing books, my wife must have been sick of me saying, "But I don't have enough time." I complained a lot. I worked full-time, we were raising two kids, there were chores to do, I wasn't getting enough sleep and I'd finish my book—only to realize that now the real work needed to get done. I had to figure out how to market the damn thing!
Well, years have passed and I have a good many books under my belt, but I still struggle with time management and a lack of time. Here are a few tips I discovered along the way that have helped keep me sane.
Use Lack of Time to Inspire You
In my 20s, I had all the time in the world. I just didn't know it. I didn't know what Parkinson's Law was or how precious those years were to me. I would go to work, come home and feel drained. I worked all day. Now I had to cook dinner and clean up. Of course I deserved to relax at night and do something fun. Why not?
I would do some writing (when I felt like it) and my projects would drag on and on. I wasted time. I just didn't know it. Now I'm in my 40s and it's a whole new ball game. With all that I'm juggling, I have set a schedule and put my butt in chair. I get up early and write before work.
Instead of complaining about how little time I have, I use the clock as a motivator. I have no time to mess around when I'm writing. I need to sit down and write. Instead of seeing time as my enemy, I use it to inspire me. It's all about mindset. If I perceive a struggle, then I resist. But if I look at the time in the morning as my own, then I can create. I'm allowing myself the freedom to be creative.
I have a tough time with this one. I am often juggling many different things. I'm finishing up my first nonfiction book, I need to start writing my next Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries novel, there is networking to be done, marketing strategy to plan and promotions to set. Oh, and there are my email newsletters to write. I used to be able to keep track of everything all in my head, but there are too many tasks and different streams of work.
I'm faltering. I make mistakes and forget. I'll wake up in the middle of the night and a thought comes to me—that's too much stress to deal with and I realize that I'm wasting time on making decisions.
To get my life in order, I'm working on an editorial calendar. I created a spreadsheet and I've started to plan out a month in advance. I love organization, but I've never been the type of person to plan out a schedule. I like to just take things as it comes (I've written novels that way—more on that in a bit), but I've found that I'm not being efficient and the stress is too much.
In my business plan, I've written up production schedules so that I can have a guideline on what to work on when. Not only does the schedule help ground me, but it keeps me accountable.
Plan the Plot
I've always been a pantser and the thought of switching to be a plotter frustrates me. One of my favorite parts of writing a book is sitting down to a blank page and just writing whatever comes to me. I just let my mind go. It's unstructured (unlike the rest of my life) and I often discover a creative place that I didn't know existed within me.
However, having no plot at all for a book has often slowed me down and gotten me in trouble. When I wrote Found, during a re-write I had to throw out about a third of the book and start over again.
Now for my next book, I'm going to take steps toward being a plotter. How? Well, I'm going to work on building out a chapter by chapter plot summary. My plan is to focus on the big beats of the story. The character start at place A, then something happens, conflict arises some more, characters get to the resolution and all is well. My intention is to capture the ideas for the main parts of the book.
I don't want to have everything single scene plotted out, but I'd like to have thought out the general premise of the book in advance. My intention is to have a better idea of what I'm doing when I sit down to write before work. I'll not have to worry about what comes next if I finish up a scene.
Indie Publishing Tip
Are you familiar with Pronoun? Macmillan Publishing purchased them back in May 2016. You can publish your books there, but you can also track you books on Amazon. You'll then receive weekly reports on how your book is doing and what it's ranked. But what I really like it for is the competitive analysis. When you go to create a book, you can use the category section on Pronoun to help you learn not only what category to select but to see rankings from Amazon.
What I like about this feature is that I can then take the information and tweak my categories on Amazon.
And a big "duh" moment for me happened recently: I took the information I learned from Pronoun and then went into my KDP dashboard to update my categories. But I realized that I couldn't select those categories because they didn't exist in the category menu. A big thank you to some fellow indie authors who taught me that if you want to have a specific category that's not list in the dashboard selections on Amazon that you then simply need to email Amazon's customer service and tell them what you'd like to change your categories to be.
That's really useful information. I am hoping that I can tweak over time by setting my categories to be in ones that have less books—rather than competing with 25,000 books.
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have, please sign up for my mailing list. You'll receive articles like this twice a month. Thanks and happy writing!
Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He's written the Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch's Coven series and just released book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles. His first nonfiction book, How to Be a Successful Author While Working Full-Time: The Secret to Work/Life Balance, will be published in Spring 2017. When not writing, Ron loves spending time with his kids even when they beat him in Kittens in a Blender.