An obstacle that all authors, self published and agent driven alike, come across is the deadline. If you’re a traditional author, then you’ve got a publisher leaning on your agent, and your agent leaning on you to crank out those pages and hand in the chapters on time! And you have a paycheck riding on it, so that aids in your motivation. But self published authors have an entirely different dilemma when it comes to deadlines: not only do we create the deadlines ourselves, but we have to enforce them upon ourselves.
Now, I’m sure that there are a few self controlled indie authors out there who have no issue outlining their steps to publishing day. . .but I do! Now, although my first book took me ten years to publish, I can place the blame partially on that self publishing was not as easy as it is now. Once I heard how easy it is to self publish on Amazon, it only took me two years to complete and publish my first full length book. And I got married and had a baby during that time. So I think that’s pretty good in my personal opinion.
But on any given day, “Write,” is at the top of my to do list and most of the time, I get nary a word written down. However, in comparison, there are some nights where I can’t sleep and I get entire stories written out or edited. I just wish there were some middle ground so that I could successfully set goals for myself and have a good way to ensure that I meet those goals.
So here are my thoughts on fixing this. Let me issue my disclaimer first: I’m sure all of you reading this know, I am not a well known author. I’m not even a semi known author. I’m practically a completely unknown author. So please don’t take every suggestion I make as your to do list to success. Because I haven’t become successful yet. (I’d like you all to take note that at the moment my husband reads that “yet,” he will be rejoicing because I’m inferring that I intend to be successful in my writing and it’s only recently that I’ve allowed myself the determination and self esteem to believe that I truly can be) Okay. That said:
Step One. A good place to start, in my humble opinion, is to set realistic goals. If you are married, have two kids, a couple of pets, and can’t afford a cleaning service, you’re probably not going to crank out three novels a year. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Or if you work a full time job that monitors your computer usage as mine used to, you may not accomplish as much as you’d like to. So determine what’s reasonable. My goal for this year was to publish two full length books and several shorter stories. I’m one full length book short and unless something crazy happens, I don’t think Hollow Towns will be getting published until next year.
Step Two. Think about the steps you need to take prior to your publication date. I’m not even going to pretend to know your writing methodology, but mine is that I write a rough draft. I read it over once. . .get irritated with myself and assume it’s crap. Take a break from it. Re-read it and make changes. Agonize over the fact that I’m not JRR Tolkien. Then give in and send it to my editor who can take anywhere from one to two months depending on her work load. Then get it back, look over her suggestions and make changes accordingly. Read it again. Give it to my husband to read. Make final changes after discussing serious plot points with my husband (who doesn’t want to know anything about it prior to his reading) and then complete the cover, format and publish. Seriously. This is a LONG PROCESS. So consider this when setting deadlines, and remember to set a completion date for each step. Being able to cross something off of your list makes you feel accomplished and helps motivate you to completely finish the task!
Step Three. Don’t beat yourself up over missed deadlines. What’s the point? It’s done. Move on to the next one.
Step Four. Sometimes you just need to get words onto the page. So when writing your first draft, keep this in mind. It doesn’t have to be completely brilliant and perfect in the rough draft. Sometimes I can’t even remember words when I’m writing, so I simply insert the meaning of the word with a parenthesis saying “find better word here.” That’s what revision and editing is for. Perfecting and spit polishing.
Step Five. Allow yourselves some rewards for completing tasks on time. My husband and I designate a reward for each goal we set ourselves and our family. Sometimes it’s a nice dinner at our favorite restaurant. Sometimes it’s a mere bottle of sparkling white wine. Sometimes it’s a zero work movie night. Whatever suits your fancy. But make them feasible. We had to scale ours back to match our budget – we tend to aim a little too high.
To sum all of this up, consider your process, set realistic goals, be rational about the amount of time you give yourself to complete each goal, shrug off missed deadlines and vow to improve your procedure for the next one, sometimes you just need to get words onto the page – even if you’re not happy with those words – and finally, set up a reward system for yourself.
Regardless of what your methodology is, there is a system that will work for you. You just have to find your middle ground and make a few compromises with yourselves. It helps when you have a good support system as well. My husband is the big dreamer, he has lofty goals and ambitions, whereas I’m the more grounded, rational, and realistic of the team. Together we balance out fairly well.
If anyone has any other suggestions, please feel free to chime in!