April 27, 2022 - The Reset

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

While working on The Case of the Pirate’s Puzzle this month, I found myself repeating a pattern. A not very satisfactory pattern. I had set up a production schedule for this book, like I usually do, by working backwards from my desired release date. I then work backwards from there, putting in dates for formatting the book, proofreading, revisions based on beta reader feedback, date to get the book to beta readers, dates to finish revisions, and finally, dates left for writing. I then calculate word count goals based on how many words I want to be in the book (usually 50-60,000) divided by the number of writing days. Most of the time, I’ll realize my schedule is too ambitious and have to change the release date and rework all the rest to give me a reasonable number of words to write each day.

What has happened every single time (except for the first books I wrote when I didn’t have the concept of deadlines) is that I almost immediately fall behind. Plotting, research, character development, and writing all take a lot longer than I planned for. I react by doing two opposite things: writing for more hours than I’m comfortable with on some days and not writing at all on others because I’m sick of spending all my time sitting at my computer. Meanwhile, other things, like blogging, writing newsletters, advertising, designing covers, etc., don’t get done either.

So at the beginning of last week, I spent significant time thinking about what I wanted from my writing. That quickly became a broader question: What do I want from my life? And, after much soul-searching and prayer, I knew what I wanted in my life was Balance. I’ve already put in 60-70 hours a week when I had a day job. I don’t really want to spend my “retirement” working that way.

That was all well and good, but I didn’t change my habits. I was still largely driven by word count goals. It was only yesterday that I realized that instead of budgeting how many words I would write every day, I would budget my time and track how many hours I spent writing. In other words, I’m going to try to use what Elana Johnson calls “time blocks.” I’ll spend two hours per day writing (which also includes planning, research, “cycling”, and whatever else goes into making a story) and when the two hours are up, I’m done with writing for the day no matter how many—or how few—words I’ve written.

I’ll next take a break, then attack a different task, like updating my website, allowing a specific amount of time for that and then, when the time is up, stop. If I’ve only completed half of what I wanted to do in that time, so be it. Because if I get hung up on finishing every task on my list no matter how long it takes, I’ll need forty-eight hour days. And at my age, time is precious.

If I do this right, instead of being behind on everything, I mean seriously behind because I haven’t even started some tasks that are past their deadline, I’ll at least have made some progress on most, if not all, of them.

So The Case of the Pirate’s Puzzle probably won’t be published in June. And it will take longer for me to publish the second book in my Rainbow Ranch Mysteries. But I’m not going to worry about that for now. I’m going to try not to fume and fret over my writing and try to enjoy it again instead.

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