Unless the wheels have spectacularly come off my life in some way, people have a tendency to be amazed by how much I get done in a month. And every now and then, someone will ask me how I manage it.

After all, we writers have the same amount of hours in the day. So how do I stretch mine to get so much done?

Step 1: Set Goals and Break Them Into Smaller Chunks

How does that help a writer stretch time? you might ask. Well. One of my big secrets to getting stuff done is knowing what I want to do.

So I set myself some huge goals, and then I break them into progressively smaller chunks.

For example:

Goal 1: Make a living wage from writing books. 

  1. Write books.
    1. Write this one book.
      1. Write 1,000 words every day.
      2. Write 50,000 words.
    2. Write the next book.
      1. Write 1,000 words every day.
      2. Write 50,000 words.
  2. Edit books.
    1. Revisions
    2. Edits
    3. Proofread
  3. Publish books
    1. Format books.
    2. Upload them to retailers.

And so on. Now I not only have this big goal, but I also see the steps to get to that goal. (The ones that are in my control, anyway.)

I often break even the steps into smaller steps, until I have hundreds of little things I need to do.

Which might sound terrifying, but what sounds easier:

Make a living from writing? Or write 1,000 words today?

So what I’m doing is to break all of my goals into smaller, bite-sized chunks. And then I move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Set Your Priorities.

Once I know what I want and how I’m planning to get there, I can sit down and decide what’s the most important to me.

But here’s the important thing: I decide what’s important to me right now.

This bit is a trick to my success, because a lot of those big goals I set are pretty much equal when it comes to how important they are in my life.

I don’t have kids, but if I had, I wouldn’t be able to say writing is more important than my children. But I wouldn’t ever be able to call writing unimportant either.

So the thing is, if you’re sitting down to get going, there will be things on that specific day that’s more important. If you know you want to focus on that, then focus on that. But also know when you’ve neglected some other aspect, so you can temporarily bump that thing up your priority list in order to even everything out.

Step 3: Create a To-Do List.

Once I know all the things that are really important, I can quickly write down the 10 things that are weighing on me the most. (I like 10 for being a nice, even number, but pick whatever works for you.)

Next thing I do is to number the order in which I’d like to do those 10 things.

Why?

Because if I decide upfront what I want to do after I’ve finished the task at hand, I don’t have to waste time later trying to decide what I should be doing.

How do I pick the order?

This depends. Some days, it’s in order of the shortest deadline to the longest. Other days, it’s Writing first and everything else next. Today I’m not feeling a bit lethargic, so I’m making up for it by starting with something easy, then something hard, then easy, then hard etc.

Step 4: Start Doing

Yeah I know. Obvious, right? But sometimes, people underestimate how important it is to just get going. There’s a reason why, when it comes to the setting of my to-do list, I keep things simple. I don’t try to schedule anything because I know it takes longer for me to schedule and re-schedule as my day shifts. Time that I could actually be using to tick stuff off my to-do list.

So once I have my 10 things and I know in which order I’d like to do things. I start. If something happens to prevent me from completing one task, I move onto the next. (Writing this blog is task number 4. Number 3 is postponed because I’m waiting for information.) I might get back to it later. I might postpone to tomorrow.

And no, there’s nothing wrong with postponing as long as it’s not going to break a deadline. Because unless you set the bar really low, there’s no way you’re going to finish all the tasks you set for yourself.

So move the stuff you didn’t get to. Just as long as you get it done.

And My Big Secret?

I don’t multitask.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Yeah, I know. People usually act like multitasking is the way to go. Especially if you have as many and as varied goals as I do.

But here’s the thing. No one actually multitasks.

You’re just rapidly switching your focus from one thing to the next thing.

As I’m sitting here, I’m writing this post without looking at my twitter. When I’m doing my social networking stuff, I don’t do it while watching T.V. When I am doing something to relax, I try to do so without bringing “work” along. Unless you count crafting as work. But that’s a whole other story.

Point is: If I’m at task number 1, I focus on that task until it’s done, or until I take a break.

And then I focus on the next thing.

And the next thing.

And the next.

Why?

Because when I’m focusing, I’m making fewer mistakes. And I actually speed up. Because I don’t even have the smallest moment of thinking “what did I want to do here again?”

And so, things get done one little step at a time. And then at the end of the month, I take stock and actually realize how much I have achieved.

What about you? Are you a multitasker? Do you have a system for getting everything done? What tips do you have? 

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Update: Nooooooooo!

Still ahead of schedule… Just.
I know that second weeks of NaNoWriMo months are harsh. They’re kinda notorious for being as difficult to get through as swimming through molasses. That’s why all of the encouragement we get from the organizers in week two features some version of “Hey it’s okay to struggle. You’re far from the only one, so just keep chipping away and things will get easier.”

To be honest, though, I thought I’d skip the difficult second week. Not because week one was epic (and it was), but because I’m in the final sixth of my book. These are the final chapters leading up to the climactic point and the last ones to finish the book off.

They write themselves.

They always have.

Usually when I hit the last quarter of a book, I can easily write up to 6k words in a day. (My record is 10k in a single push.)

But what I didn’t count on was that, when I threw a huge curve ball at my characters, they would retaliate with a massive one in return.

You’d think, after having about six iterations of this same event in my draft novels without much of a dent, nothing would change when I let the same thing happen now.

Boy, was I wrong.

Because I hadn’t taken into account one major thing: Every time before, the thing happened early in the story. This time, it happened near the end.

And because of everything that had happened before the event, the characters were now armed with a set of information that pointed to something I hadn’t even looked at.

Et voila. 

Devastation.

I’ve been struggling to write even 1000 words a day since Tuesday. The moment I get to scenes around this event, my unwilling fingers slow down to a drag and I want to burst into tears.

But hey! Drama’s good. So I can’t complain too much.

I just have to get over this.

And hopefully my poor readers will cry just as hard when they hit this scene. I’m not going to say what it was, but… I think you’ll know when you see it.

How are you doing? Have you ever had a character spring a whole new world of pain on you? How did you recover?

The Importance of Stepping Back

Hey lovely people! My vlog post ended up coming a week late, because I caught the flu. Sigh. Really complicated everything. It’s finally done, though, so I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Going off of the comments I got last time, I decided to keep posting my script below the video for those of you who prefer to read.

I want to talk about a really understated bit of advice that can be vital to your survival as a writer. Namely: That sometimes, you just need to step back, take your foot off the gas pedal.

As you might know from my more recent vlog updates, things haven’t been going well with me lately. Basically, nothing has been quite going my way since 2014, but that was okay, because I was taught that old truism that we all get fed with mother’s milk:

If you work hard, everything will work out. 

Eh…

Turns out not so much.

See, in the years since 2014, I’d worked 16 hour days, often more in order to do more, and I’d do that until I was on the edge of breaking emotionally. I never stopped writing. Never stopped building at businesses and marketing and literally anything that I *knew* would get me ahead.

And it just kept feeling like everything was turning to dust under my feet.

The worst part? None of the hours I’d spent, of the health I’d risked, of the life I’d postponed… none of it actually meant anything.

Because there are always assholes out to get you. And they will steal your life and your hours of work and your very soul if they can, just to benefit themselves.

So yeah. After relentlessly pushing myself for almost four years, there came a point where I just…couldn’t. Not going to go into detail, but I came to the point where I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fight anymore.

I couldn’t keep acting like everything was okay and that it was business as usual, because it wasn’t.

And so, I pulled back. From as much as I could. Obviously there are some commitments you can’t avoid without incurring long-term damage, but if there was something I could leave with a cost I could tolerate, I did it.

This sadly included my writing, because the stresses of my life had basically drained my creativity. So instead of forcing myself to write, I forced myself not to. Instead, I spent my writing hours doing needlepoint or crocheting. Anything with an almost mindless, repetitive motion.

What this did was it allowed me to grieve. It allowed me to feel. It let me process my pain and frustration instead of allowing me to suppress them like I’d been doing for years. It put me in a place where I could regain some perspective. Where I could look at the problems and at least get to the point where I could see the value in the things I was doing again.

And that’s probably the most important thing about stepping back. When we’re writers, we basically take on an extra job, and when we’re published, marketing that book becomes another job. Which means that it’s go go go go all the time with no stopping, and when things aren’t going as well as they should, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s too easy to lose the meaning of what we’re doing in the mad rush to get it all done.

So it becomes imperative that we step back and breathe at least for a few days, just to regain a sense of balance before taking everything on again.

What do you do to recharge when you’re pulling back? 

My Short Story is Now with CPs.

I’m happy to say I managed to finish writing my IWSG short story in time to send it to the awesome people who’d volunteered to give it a read-over.

Most of them already sent back feedback. (I mean seriously. How’s that for speed?)

So now, I’m planning to sit down and do the critiques I owe them.

I have to say, though, I love my story. The character has been sticking in my head ever since I edited The Heir’s Choice, so I was happy to get a chance to write something for her. Fingers crossed that the judges also enjoy the story.

How are you doing? Sending in a short story for the IWSG competition too? 

On Word Targets

It’s the strangest thing how psychological this writing game is.

People (and by this, I mean non-writers) always assume that writing is such an easy thing. After all, they write hundreds of words every day with e-mails and texts, right?

Sure. The thing is… It’s easy to just jot a few words with no particular word-count goal in mind. Ten words here. Twenty words there.

Easy.

But get told to write a 1500 word article. Or a 3000 word to 6000 word short story. Or just think and realize that the novel you’re working on needs 150,000 words to get finished.

Suddenly, a task that seems simple becomes much more complicated. Especially when you’re starting out and wondering if the thing you’re writing will actually hit the word-count target.

Last night, I wrote an article, and about 700 words in, I couldn’t imagine where I would find the remaining 800.

When I started drafting my story for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group competition, I liked the idea, but I just felt like the word-limit was this insurmountable mountain to climb.

Odd to think it, but I find the 150k goal less intimidating, because if I come in under that, it’s not like there will be repercussions. And that is actually the reason why I don’t like setting a target for the length of any story I write. It just adds extra pressure I don’t like feeling. I mean, I already give myself some steep deadlines to chase.

The challenge is good for me, though. It’s nice to know that, yes, I could actually write to demand and actually hit those targets.

And you know the funny thing about my short story? I’m at 3500 words now, and wondering if I’ll be able to wrap the story up in 1500 words or less.

So that just goes to show you the importance of just writing. Even if we feel like we’ll never make a word-count target, we can always surprise ourselves if we try.

Are you writing a story for IWSG competition? How’s it going?