In the past, I’ve written about how there is a difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career. While the fundamentals of craft don’t necessarily change between the two, their approach to creating saleable stories on a consistent timetable at a high quality does. In order to make the transition to writing as a career, or to better manage your time as a professional writer, it is important to find techniques and organizational tips that help you properly manage your writing with all the other elements of being a writer.
My biggest surprise, when I first transitioned to a professional writing career, was just how much time I spend not writing. This is a necessary evil—marketing, promotion, interacting with fans and running the business element of your writing are fundamental to your career. But it is also important to find a healthy, sustainable balance between the business and creative sides of your work, or you can find yourself wasting a lot of precious time on to-do items with low ROI.
So where do you begin?
Well, everyone has a different technique for managing their writing and promotional time. I’m a compulsive to-do list writer, which helps me feel more on top of my projects, because I’m not trying to mentally juggle all I need to do.
My to-do lists are a combination of writing and marketing requirements. For instance, I’ll spend my Monday morning working on several blog posts, writing, posting and marketing them, then I’ll design and schedule my email newsletters for the week. If I’ve made good time, I can then move into the afternoon by focusing on works in progress and editing projects on my desk, thus splitting my time into things that have to get done in a quantitative way and ongoing projects, which can be very overwhelming in the abstract.
Finding a balance between the marketing or business part of writing with the creative part of writing is key to success. Of course, what this balance is depends entirely on you, as an individual, but whatever form it takes, balance is necessary.
After that balance, though, then what? How do you stay on track with your writing when the idea of starting the next book or the next chapter can be overwhelming? How do you keep from procrastinating with projects from “across the fence” when in reality you need to be moving forward on the creative side instead?
Here are some techniques that work for me, when a project gets a little sticky. For more notes on what to do when you get writer’s block, stop here!
Look at the story from a different angle:
Consider utilizing an alternate perspective to give new life or clarity to the plot. If you write multi-POV books, switching perspective might be the key, but if you don’t there are other ways to shed new light on your story, down to even imagining the way a scene might look from another character’s POV and then changing it to fit your hero.
Rework the plot:
If you’re having trouble moving forward on a writing project, chances are you don’t know the plot very well, or you don’t find it all that interesting. It’s difficult to move forward on a story when you don’t actually know where the story is headed, so figure out where it’s headed. It may change later down the line, but at least you’ll have forward motion.
Organize your story:
Sometimes we’re hesitant to continue a project because we feel overwhelmed by the work ahead of us. Sitting down with an outline, a character list, a storyboard or research is a great way to help narrow down the details and elements of the piece so you don’t have to keep as much information in your mind as you go ahead with your writing, which is the most important part at the end of the day.
It might be easier than you think to get excited about your story again. Headed over to Pinterest or wherever you were storyboarding your book and research photographs of your setting, your characters, whatever got you excited about the book in the first place. For instance, I’m working on a book set in Amsterdam right now, and when it’s tough to continue through a specific scene, I’ll research photography of the city and the setting—my heroine’s amazing apartment in the city—and I’ll get a new jolt of energy to write.
Set goals with friends:
If you’re self-motivated and willing to be held accountable to yourself, then go ahead and do it alone, that’s perfectly fine. For most of us, however, it’s a lot easier to accomplish a task when someone is waiting for you to do it. Find like-minded writers or storytellers in your area or online and consider setting up weekly or monthly goals. Knowing you’ll have to own up to another person might make the difference, and a writing partner is also a great resource for editing and writing help!
Cross the fence:
Sometimes it is a good idea to cross back into marketing a promotion. Not every balance is going to be half a day marketing and a half-day writing, that’s just not how this industry works. Some days are going to be all about marketing and some will be all about writing—again, it comes down to the balance that you decide, and that might include marketing on days when writing just ain’t gonna cut it.
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No one has all the answers when it comes to balancing their writing with the rest of the work that goes into being a writer.
There are some days where the writing and the sales will come easier and some days when working on your book feels like pushing the toothpaste back into the tube. That’s all part of the process. But the more organized and prepared you are for any eventuality, most especially a lack of motivation, the better off you are. Motivation to write is short-lived, and you’ll need to constantly find new and exciting ways to draw you back to the desk every day. These are just some potential fixes. The rest is up to you. ♦