Between deadlines, releases, running AOAD, my gig as a VPA, and momming, I’ve had several author friends ask how I do it. How do I keep on top of everything?
First of all…I don’t. I am not superwoman or a magician. Things fall through the cracks on a regular basis. Plans don’t work out the way I set them. I get tired and cranky and have even been known to skip a day of doing just to give myself a break. And yes, I have a tendency to say YES to too many things. I get it done, but sometimes with a cost.
Part of what helps is that I’m blessed with an odd combination of stamina and ADD. Yeah. I said it. The ADD bit means that, to help me focus, I need tons to keep me busy. Sounds strange, but it’s true. I don’t sit and do one thing well, so it helps to have lots of things to do. The stamina helps because I can go non-stop from the second I get up until the second I go to bed, and not really stress about it. Helps that almost all of what I do during that time is stuff I love. If I was in a job I hated, that would be a different story. which means I need.
But here’s my real secret…I schedule. Everything.
Like everyone else, I schedule my life, my appointments, my kids’ activities, and so forth. But I also schedule reminders for monthly/quarterly/yearly tasks. I schedule my social media calendar and posts. And…I schedule my writing.
MAKING THE SCHEDULE
I have figured out how many words a day I can get in without feeling like I’m overloaded (for me this is 2-2.5k/day), and still get in my VPAing, my AOADing, my kids (of course!), and everything else. I take a deadline and everything I need to get done to hit it and back it up from there–at a weekly level. I include:
- Writing the first draft
- Writing/editing subsequent drafts
- Beta readers to read
- Me to apply beta readers’ comments
Post-deadline I include a guess at:
- 2 rounds of editing (1-2 weeks each)
- Copy-editing – a few days
- Galley reads – a few days
In my schedule, if I have books that aren’t contracted yet, but I have high hopes for, I’ll still include those books as placeholders. I also apply some extra rules. For example…
- I don’t schedule anything else (other than beta readers reading, which doesn’t require me to do anything) during the 1st two weeks and last week of a 1st draft.
- I block off holidays (Christmas, Spring Break, etc.)
- Anywhere that doesn’t have those blocked off I put a Secondary First Draft as optional.
- After I hit 2k words for the day for my main WIP, I give myself the option of getting in 500 words on a WIP scheduled later down the road.
- This allows me to get ahead, but with no pressure.
- I TRY (but usually doesn’t happen) to have the 2 weeks after finishing a first draft blocked off so I don’t start any new first drafts – giving my brain a break and letting me focus on 2nd/3rd drafts of that completed work.
My schedules are never set in stone (except contracted deadlines of course). I use them to both keep me on task (in order to hit those deadlines), but also to help determine where/when I can do more. That way, if new contracts come in, I can be honest and fairly accurate with what/when I can produce.
I will also adjust my schedule any time something major changes–I get way behind, any given step takes longer (or shorter) than anticipated, etc. Adjust the schedule. I live and breathe off this thing daily.
So that’s me. Like I said, I’m not perfect and I do miss things, mess things up, and collapse sometimes. But I will say that since implementing this calendar, I hit my deadlines with a lot less angst (and a lot less of a pile up of work at the end). Authors, what about you? How do you handle your deadlines and writing schedule?