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? 

This morning, I watched a vlog post by one of my favorite writing vloggers on YouTube. And to be honest, the post left me fuming.

The post was about ten types of writers that are “the worst,” as in people who suck.

And I did agree with nine out of the ten points, because they dealt with things like genre elitists, mansplainers, etc.

But one was basically a take-down of character-driven pantsers like me. And that ticked me off, because she basically lumped a perfectly valid approach to writing right in there with writers who want to write but never actually do and people who write comments on writing without understanding what writing is about.

Because apparently, having a character who doesn’t want to do something you wanted them to do isn’t a justifiable reason to be stuck.

Which, as someone who actually has been writing while giving my characters free rein for years and actually has about 25 finished rough drafts as a result, I find to be a ridiculous assertion for a plotter to make.

But to give you plotter dudes an idea, this little inclusion in her “the worst” list is like me calling you chickenshit for insisting on a comfort blanket that is your plot outline before starting out. Because pantsing is true creativity, y’all.

*Eye roll*

And insulting people for using a method just because you don’t use it, or just because you never thought to use it, is not cool.

Still, it did get me thinking about the things we do when giving and receiving advice and since I’m kinda in a mini-blog series about so-called “writing rules,” I thought I’d write them down as tips of my own.

1) Even if you have a big following (and especially then), it’s probably a bad idea to thoughtlessly mock roughly half of your following if you’re not qualified by personal experience to comment on their method. 

Hell, this is a stupid idea in general

2) Before you spout off on something, maybe consider if someone approaching writing in a certain way you disagree with actually helps that person write. 

Because if you’re going to discourage a natural pantser from pantsing, you’re not helping that person at all.

3) Keep in mind that people of various experience levels are consuming your advice. Tailor your information accordingly. 
4) Consider whether the limitations of your medium of choice allows you to do any statements you make justice. 

If you have under ten minutes in your vlog and you can’t take the time to justify your opinion with more than a few trite, bullshit witticisms about why half your following is wrong, maybe this vlog post isn’t the place to include this particular opinion.

5) If you’re out to make yourself look smarter and better by insulting those different from you, you’re doing it wrong

What about you? Have you ever seen or heard someone share writing advice that made your blood boil? 

4 Tips to Make Sense of Writing Tips

Hey all! Before I get into today’s post, I just wanted to remind you guys of my new Before and After feature. It could be a way for you to get your hands on a really inexpensive custom design, so if you haven’t yet, go check out my announcement.

Okay! Time to get into the post. This is last week’s vlog that went live a bit too late, which is why it’s only being put on my blog today. As always, the script follows the video, but if you choose that, you’re missing an awesome Vader impersonation…

Show don’t tell. Never stop writing. Only write when you’re feeling inspired. Never start with a dream sequence. Never use a narrator. Never use prologues. Always plan ahead of writing. Never plan ahead. Edit as you write. NEVER edit as you write.

That’s only a small sample of the writing rules that one can get out there. And as you can see, a lot of it is contradictory. So what’s a writer to do?

In my sixteen or so years of writing stories, I’ve managed to develop a way to approach writing rules that makes it all… well… make a bit more sense. And since I’m awesome, I thought I’d share the tips with you.

Yes, I’m aware that this is a tip vlog about understanding tips, but there you go.

Let’s just get into it.

Tip #1: Before you even start researching writing, it’s a good idea to develop your own set of best practices first. 

The truth is that it’s a mad, senseless writing world out there. It seems like every writer has “advice” out there, and as someone who’s been around the block, a lot of advice out there is patently bad.

Terrible. Terrible advice.

And if you go into your research armed with your own personalized knowledge of what already works for you, you’re not going to be confused into the dark side all that easily. *Insert Vader Breath Here.*

Seriously though. If you know what works and someone’s acting like you’re doing it wrong, you know to roll your eyes and disregard at will.

Which brings me to my next tip.


Tip #2: If someone’s trying to convince you that theirs is the only, best way… they’re giving you bad advice. 

I don’t care what they’re saying. If they start off from the point of view that there is no other way to succeed at writing, you can’t trust the rest of what they’re saying. The guys that seem a bit hesitant, usually prefacing with a disclaimer of “I know other people do things differently and it works for them, but I find that…” usually are the ones that are worth listening to.

In particular, and this is a sad thing, there are some big names out there that try to sell themselves and their writing by making themselves seem like these literary geniuses that have the soul true knowledge to writing success.

 
DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.

Another bonus rule of thumb: If someone sounds like they’re talking out their arse, they probably are.

Tip #3: Understand why something is considered to be a rule.

Despite everything, some writers have a real, legitimate desire to help others, but because they’re not that experienced yet, they don’t quite understand what they’re saying. So their response is to come across as being dead certain about absolutes.

Never use adverbs. 

Never start with dream sequences. 

Never open with prologues.

Always do this. 

Never do that. 

The problem with subscribing yourself to these absolutes is that you’re actually limiting your own writing. But at the same time, those “rules” are there for a reason. So if you know those reasons, you’ll also know when and how you can bend the rules.

And that neatly brings me to my final tip.

Tip #4: Treat writing rules not as the x number writing commandments, but rather as guidelines. 

As I said before, a lot of the “rules” out there are considered to be such for some really good reasons.

That does not mean you’re doomed to always follow them slavishly. You’re the writer. You’re literally the master of your own story.

And if you say that rule doesn’t apply to you, that rule doesn’t apply to you.

Just remember, though, that if veering off from the rules results in bad writing, your readers will kick your ass for it. So don’t be irresponsible either.



And that’s basically it for me. Next week, I’ll share my own list of off-the-beaten-path writing rules that you might find useful. In the comments, let everyone know, which writing rules do you often disregard? 

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? 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: It’s Never as Good as You Remember

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG is a monthly bloghop where writers can share their doubts, fears and insecurities. In supporting each other, we can then see that we’re really not alone.
You’re welcome to join. All you have to do is click here for more info and to sign up.

As I’ve been mentioning lately, I’m busy updating (and in a lot of ways, upgrading) my first two books in The War of Six Crowns. Since I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I couldn’t leave things at changing the covers and fonts. Oh no, I decided to give the books another proofreading pass.
After all, it’s a well-known fact that mistakes slip through the finest of nets. So it couldn’t hurt, right?
Well.
I finished reading through The Vanished Knight yesterday with a growing sense of insecurity. Not because it was bad, but because it was good. The characters’ voices sing in this story. There’s a sort of poetry to the way it’s written.
It’s just… amazing.
Almost to the point where it’s shocking to think that I wrote it.
And Book 3… just isn’t on that level.
And that got me down.
 
But then I gave myself a mental slap. 
 
See, I first published The Vanished Knight in 2013. And before that, I spent two years struggling to get through writing it and the sequel. In fact, it was such a pain in my ass that I almost quit writing altogether. Gasp! I know it’s hard to think that I’d seriously contemplate quitting.
But The Vanished Knight and The Heir’s Choice were so hard to write that it damn near convinced me I couldn’t write for shit.
Fortunately, I had a lot of awesome blogging buddies (including you guys in the IWSG) who could talk me down, and I didn’t give up.
After that, The Vanished Knight alone when through over 30 (count them. THIRTY) revision and editing rounds to get it into the shape it’s in now.
And I guess I forgot about all that because one doesn’t remember pain.
But the history is there.
The struggle was there.
And expecting myself to draft out the sequel to the books that almost made me quit while expecting it to look like The Vanished Knight looks now is lunacy.
So this is a reminder.
 
Don’t ever compare your drafts to books that have been published. (Be they your own or someone else’s.)
Those books look so good because of a huge amount of work that went into polishing them. Work that you still need to do, but that you can’t do if you’re crippled by the idea that you’re a bad writer.
So.
Stop moping because a book is soooooo much better than yours, and just write yours. Who knows? The book you’re working on right now might just be good enough to send someone else moping later.
Do you get down when comparing the quality of your writing to published works? 
 Before you go, the Mni Wiconi Bloghop in support of Standing Rock has been extended to 7 January, if you’d still like to sign up. There are prizes to be won too, so check it out. 🙂