Grains of salt out, please.
I read a lot of writers’ blogs. There’s a ton of good advice out there from a ton of good writers, all at varying stages of “made it” (or “haven’t made it yet, as the case may be).
But it’s almost always presented in a monolithic sense of “writers can” and “writers should” and “writers do,” as if we all had the same habits and creative processes, which is just silly.
So please don’t let me do that to you. I thought I’d take a look at how I’m trying to schedule my creative writing these days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you.
What I do think is generally applicable to all writers, or as close to it as we’re going to get, is that everyone who wants to be serious does need a system or a schedule of some kind. Writing that’s going to happen “whenever” has a tendency to happen “never.” Self-published means self-everything-a-publisher-would-do, and that includes getting on your own ass about deadlines.
To try and help myself with that, I’ve moved to a “Once a Month, Once a Week; Once a Day” schedule:
Once a Month: Publish an E-Book
This was the schedule I set for myself when I put my first e-book out in February, and I promptly blew the deadline in March.
There is lots I could say in my defense there! I am a paid writer outside of my pornographic dabblings, and when big contracts come my way other things tend to fall by the wayside.
But they shouldn’t, and they can’t for anyone looking to build a serious, long-term career.
E-book publishing and e-book pricing has dramatically increased the number of titles an “unknown” author needs to pump out to stay in business. Time was you were a prolific hack if you churned out two or three books a year; now it’s more like two or three a month for the pros.
The word count of those has crept correspondingly downward, so the actual amount of writing done in a year might end up being similar. But you’ve got to be getting titles out pretty steadily, and for my other work/sexy work balance, once a month is a goal that’s both achievable and at least scratching the surface of professional (though more would obviously be better).
Once a Week: Update the Blog
I was not very good about that in March either, was I? I am already referring to it as a “lost month” in my conversations with friends. Things just didn’t get done.
And again, there were a lot of other responsibilities there, including several blogs that I am paid to update. But if I’m not doing this every Monday, am I realistically going to get to it other times? No, probably not.
I suspect most readers don’t actually care that much when I update, or how often (we’ve all got RSS feeds anyway these days, right?), but if I don’t have a schedule I’m never going to get it done.
Sometimes it doesn’t get done anyway — witness last month.
But a schedule means I feel bad about that, and feeling bad about it means I’m less likely to make the same mistake again. Never underestimate the positive effect of shame in your life! Humiliation is not just for sexy-times.
Once a Day: Writing and Writer Maintenance
I haven’t had trouble with the “write every day” advice that everyone gives for a long time. It’s my living; if I don’t do it I don’t eat. That’s usually pretty good motivation.
Unfortunately, having so much writing work also makes it easy to justify not working on any one particular writing project. “I already did like 10,000 words today for my corporate client! I think I can give myself the rest of the evening off on sexy writings” seems very reasonable at the finger-aching time.
And that’s fine to a point, but what I try to do is to make myself do something else that sustains my porn-writing career on the days when I’m not actually, you know, writing porn.
There’s always plenty to do: social networking (which mostly consists of “Oh god, how do I sound like an interesting person on Twitter when I’m not at all?”), editing, website maintenance, account hassles with Amazon, PayPal, et. al. — all the little things that, like scheduling and motivating your publishing, writers used to have editors and publishers and agents to help with.
I find if I’m not dealing with those or writing porn for a couple days in a row, I stop thinking of myself as an erotica writer. Not good for someone that wants to succeed in the biz, eh?
So: once a month, once a week; once a day. It works well enough for me, for now.
I suppose I need something to do “once a year” as well, for consistency’s sake. Maybe get Vegas-married in a drunken stupor? Open to suggestions, here.