Friday, March 8, 2013

Countdown to a Book 6: From Writer to Author

During the twelve years I’ve been preparing to publish my fiction, I have not spent every waking hour mooning over what publication may hold in my future. Instead, around the theme of writing, I created a rich, fulfilling life that has fed me in so many ways.

Too many ways, it would seem, to fit my current circumstance. I have arrived at the threshold of my dream; all is about to unfold.

photo credit: DavidTurnbull via photopin cc

And I can’t find the time to write.

Oops.

Now that I finally have a book deal, I haven’t been able to maintain focus on my work-in-progress for more than a day or two at a time for months now. Editing jobs I've promised in two weeks are stretching to three+. I’m not keeping up. I live in fear of letting someone—especially myself—down.

Here were the components of my life pre-book deal. All are still in full swing, in demand, and not ready to release their grip on my life:
  • writing
  • developmental editing for clients
  • leading my Craftwriting workshop series
  • hosting two four-day writing retreats for women in June and Sept.
  • completing board work for Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, conference work for The Write Stuff, loop moderator for the new Women’s Fiction Writers Association
  • conducting a book club (I’ll let this represent the all-important notion of continuing to read)
  • participating in various church activities that help remind me that not everyone in the world is writing a novel
  • engaging with social media
  • caregiving for mother with dementia who lives one hour away
  • maintaining self (cleaning, groceries, appointments)
  • working out daily to keep butt from spreading
  • minimally acting as grandmother (my husband is downstairs playing with two cuties right now)
  • giving/attending talks, readings, and other writing events
  • blogging

So what? I’m busy. I love it! To heck with the old-fashioned notions of reclusiveness and focus—such is the life of the modern writer as she builds skills and platform. Many writers keep even more plates spinning, and make it look easy!

But over the past month, transitioning from “writer” to “author” as the countdown to my release continues, I added in the following—you know, in my spare time:
  • developing platform: update and increase social media contacts
  • obtaining mailing list info for targeted readership for Sourcebooks publicist
  • making list of potential blurbers for Sourcebooks; contacting those with whom I have a connection
  • writing the Reading Guide questions and Conversation with the Author for back of book/publisher website
  • pouncing on unexpected opportunities to make connections that can support my book

Reality: since I have no spare time, these have continually hijacked my writing—even while knowing that the best way to sell your first book is to write a great follow-up book. It’s a real problem! And it’s not just because I prefer well-defined tasks on firm deadline as opposed to the nebulous “The End” I am reaching for with my WIP. These activities are new, sparkly trinkets—I must try them on immediately! Look at me now, this is so fun! Just what I wanted!

Until I realized I was no longer writing. Which occurred to me last week here at the BRP, when I read multiply-published Maryann Miller say of her “Seasons” series, “I am working on the third book. It is still early in the process, so I really need to buckle down and concentrate on finishing,” I’m thinking, Maryann: Show me how!

Turns out that for an author, writing isn't optional. I will have to give up some of my "writing life" to be an "author." The multi-tasking is already nuts, but by all accounts, it only gets worse as release day approaches.

So change is a-coming, because something’s gotta give.

What have you given up for your writing? All time management advice welcome—go!

Just catching up? Here are links to the other posts in this series:
Countdown to a Book 1: Joining Hands
Countdown to a Book 2: Pitching
Countdown to a Book 3: Getting My Agent
Countdown to a Book 4: Developmental Editing
Countdown to a Book 5: All About Image



Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her women's fiction and memoir are represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

22 comments:

  1. Kathryn,

    "Turns out that for an author, writing isn't optional." This is exactly brilliant and quote worthy.

    I, for one, am very grateful that you've carved space in your days to write this series you are posting here. And this post, in particular, serves as a clarion call for me. Thank you.

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  2. Alison: Thank you so much for your comment. Sharing a personal truth—especially of the "personal downfall" variety—always makes my gut quiver a bit. (I'll set aside parenthetically that this may be because I'm not doing enough the that working out stuff.) I've come to trust my discomfort as an indication that this is the real stuff I need to be writing about, uncomfortable as it is. So it means a lot that, in kind, you are willing to publicly relate. How do we get so pulled astray from that which we love?

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  3. Hi Catherine. When I first discovered the importance of social media, I spent way more trying trying to learn everything I could about it than I did about writing. One night I had a dream. I was drinking "something that had no substance" a glass of water. I woke up and knew I was spending too much time on something that was not THE thing. I still struggle with it.

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  4. Wow, you are busy! But, isn't it fun. I guess you could say I am still a writer, but I'm working on getting my work published - someday!

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  5. Linda, I hear you. I read an amazing interview with Gillian Flynn's agent about the significant role social media played in creating buzz for her bestseller Gone Girl. But it's not because Flynn hung out on social media pimping her work; it was because she wrote a book that people wanted to discuss on social media. Big difference.

    Right now, though, I could tell you about five different huge opportunities for my novel that would have passed me by if I wasn't tuned in to social media. And, of course, increasing my social media platform is one of my tasks as I ready for publication. So while it's a time suck, right now it feels necessary.

    As with anything, it's all about that elusive balance.

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  6. Janet: Yes it is fun! I wouldn't trade this experience for anything; all of my efforts over the past twelve years, indeed over my whole life, have brought me to this point. But the meaning is in having the opportunity to share my stories, and in order to continue to create those, I can see that I'll need new strategies to maintain focus. But I will! It's all good.

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  7. When I'm busy, I just order a month's worth of the 30 hour days.

    I don't spend much time on Social Media. Maybe 30 minutes, all told. NEVER set any device to alert you to incoming anything. And I tend to do most of it in the early hours, over coffee, when my writing brain isn't working anyway.

    I don't have nearly as many obstacles to writing since I'm moving away from 'traditional' publishers. My deadlines are flexible, but that requires discipline.

    I've cut out most television. Love the DVR so I can watch "fast". But no matter what, I have that "write 1000 words" on my to do list, and it's not so daunting that I can't find the time to get close. My rock-bottom goal is 5000 words a week.

    Then again, I'm not working a day job, no kids at home, and a husband who doesn't mind if I say, "I need to get more words done--dinner's on your own."

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  8. Kathryn, way too many things on your plate ... and deadlines? Avoid deadlines like the plague ... okay, here's my advice ... cut down the to-do list, take more naps ... and write when you feel like it.

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  9. Kathryn,

    "How do we get so pulled astray from that which we love?"

    I'm definitely the wrong person to ask that question of (even if it is rhetorical). One of my favorite hymn lines, because it cuts deeply into my marrow, is: "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love ." I figure, if I so easily wander from Him, steadfastness and consistency in anything else is bound to take a mighty effort. (Though, thankfully, there is great joy in the journey.)

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  10. Kathryn, love your honesty here! And your to-do list is waaaay too long indeed. :) I look forward to seeing what you cut from your writer's life to write...(hoping for inspiration!. I'm sure you realize that what you cut now will be part of a fluid plan and subject to change, again and again. I'm privileged to follow you on your rocky and smooth road to publication!

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  11. Terry, thanks for the tips! I definitely will invoke the "no alerts to anything" notion. I'm the type of person whose brain can frazzle, so knowing, this, I should just leave e-mail turned off until I get my writing done for the day. Once I start answering e-mil, 2-1/2 hours have sometimes flown past, my brain is cranking on "highmulti-task," and all hopes of writing is shot because I now have to cram in everything else.

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  12. Chris—"Take more naps" I feel you are channeling the spirit of my father, lol. No time (and luckily, no need) for that right now.

    Alison—wow, that's a powerful lyric.

    Donna, I know that you too used to write resumes; I always used to tell my clients to write a new resume at least every five years to assess your progress. You're right, the plan is fluid, and each stage of the game will foster different choices. Good reason not to burn any bridges, right?

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  13. Kathryn, it's been a fair treat following your real-life story with these monthly posts! Have you thought about adding an e-book based on these to your writing schedule? A free Kindle book about the journey during your novel promotion might be fascinating for lots of writers out there. Okay, I'll go back to my bad girl corner now. LOL.

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  14. Dani you are always full of great ideas! Pick and choose, pick and choose, so many beautiful colors on this palette called life!

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  15. I love how you have created such a dynamic and fulfilling writing life with so many activities. Making writing a sort of lifestyle is certainly the way to love it best, I think. And it helps us focus on what we gain from writing, rather than what we have to give up to write.

    My only suggestion for time spent is to concentrate on as few outlets as possible to reach your goals. For example, for social media I concentrate on one, Twitter. For platform, I concentrate on one, my blog. My novel is not yet published, so this may be naive of me :) But I would go crazy trying to robustly cover several social media outlets at the same time.

    Best of luck with your continued writing and publishing!
    Fictional Planet

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  16. J.A. I am with you on the social media concentration. I do use a combination of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn because they reach such different types of audiences, but as my friends add Pinterest and Google+ and others I dig in and hold my ground. One can only handle so much incoming stimulation, after all!

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  17. I feel your pain. All of our pursuits--writing, editing, marketing--should be full-time jobs (not to mention home & hearth!) We just plug away and do what we can! Congrats on your contract.

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  18. Thanks Heidi. I will take the pain of an overfull, passionate life over inertia and despondency any day. Balance is my lifelong challenge. Apparently I still need practice!

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  19. Ah, yes, that wonderful change to the writing life. I can hardly wait to say, "What do I do? I'm an author!" :-)

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  20. Linda, that part is fun! Whining on a whole new level, lol.

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  21. Unfortunately, I've put writing on the back burner way too often. Things like taxes and family matters have a way of taking precedence whether I like it or not.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  22. Morgan, I hear you about real life getting in the way—but then again we're writing about life, so our experiences are important! I always say, in the manner of Ecclesiastes in which to every thing there is a season, that there's a time to record life and a time to live it.

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