At the WRWDC meeting in Bethesda this past Saturday, Mindy Klasky spoke at length about her current project — self-publishing 9 books in 8 months (I’ll be giving a full writeup of this meeting on Wednesday, it’s a full blog week here at Avian30!) — and the intense scheduling and time management systems she uses to keep herself on track.
Doing the Thing! often involves figuring out ways to do the part of the Thing that you’re shit at. In our cowriting team we have an advantage, because a) there are two of us to divvy up tasks between and b) we’re each good at different things. Racheline is in charge of our marketing and promotion, because she is very experienced and very good at it and because talking to people scares the hell out of me. I’m in charge of keeping track of our projects, schedules and deadlines because Racheline can’t calendar, and organizing spreadsheets is super soothing to me.
Of course, this magic division of labor isn’t always logistically possible, and there are plenty of things both of us struggle with (Don’t ask us to figure out the Bolt Bus website). So while we’re calendaring and marketing ourselves, we want to know the parts of the Thing that Are Hard for you, and that you could use some words of advice or encouragement on! Maybe we can help, maybe somebody else can, and as always, we’re all here to cheerlead.
You know what’s hard? Balancing my desire to deal with mental health stuff with my desire to have All The Hours in the Day.
Racheline knows this, but last summer I got out of a really bad living situation. I’ve been coming out of survival mode after a long time there, and slowly returning to feeling like a person instead of a pin that holds things together.
The upside is that this is good for me. The downside is that it’s difficult and fragile, and about a month ago my PTSD (hi, acknowledging this in public for the first time) got triggered very, very hard by a combo platter of suck.
So I haven’t really been sleeping. I’ve been pulling 4-6 hours/night max, usually either staying up late and waking up on time (4 am) or going to bed on time and waking up at 2 am.
These long mornings are so useful. I have so much freedom in them, and they attract me because being damaged feels so romantic sometimes because I’m totally conditioned to love the broken anti-hero. But I know that they’re not sustainable. That they will Need To Stop if I’m going to be okay.
So, you know, this is the big project of the moment. Keeping on doing the self care that will support the come-down, resting when I can, trying to make good choices about caffeine and such so that I can be a functional creative instead of losing another couple of weeks like I did in early April because I had zero spoons.
It’s hard. It’s worth it. I hate it. And it’s going to take a while.
Doing the thing anyway.
We’re clearly having a psychic thing,because I was like “Mmmmm, maybe this week’s DO the Thing! can be about like how to sleep enough. But since my advice is always go hard or go home, I was like “someone else is gonna have to bring that to the table.” And here we are.
I was about to say. You are the person I say “I miss sleep” to because nostalgia is entertaining.
My Thing That Is Hard is moving from Writing Manuscripts to Promoting a Novel (which comes out next January with Prizm) on the Internet. I can discuss and promote and gush just fine in reality, but I’m not sure I’m at the point where I can make structured posts about what I’m doing like you folks do! Obviously this will have to change, but my mind is just blank when it comes to “Talking about This Thing on Internet.”
Marketing is hard for lots of people for lots of different reasons. I have a huge advantage in that my father was in advertising. I grew up around it and learned a lot about it and don’t have a lot of the qualms people bring to it.
But it’s like telling a story (in the case of us writers, it’s either a teaser or trailer or a story about a story). It’s just discovering a new format — like going from sestinas to haiku.
Who’s your main character? Why are they different from other main characters like them? What are they trying to do? What’s their obstacle?
And that either gives you a summary of the book, or a short blog piece about your writing process, or a narrative about your novel that may not easily fit into a genre.
Hopefully that helps a little! I also recommend the bloghops and interviews that a lot of romance-related bloggers do. Their guided questions are a great place to start and can help you write your own stuff from scratch later.
Also, if you have a hilarious “Your mom!” story about your work, drop us an email, as we’d be happy to host you for that column.
That’s great advice! I’ll try to think of it as telling a story. That I can do…I think.
Okay! I will check this stuff out! Do you have any favorite links?
PS – I wanted to contribute something to “Your Mom!” series, but I hadn’t e-mailed you yet because I wasn’t sure how weird that would be, just dropping a line when you had no idea who I was! So I guess I will e-mail you.
Awesome, just received. We’ll make it happen.
Do you 2 have any writing related struggles? It sounds like all the Hard Things in the post are just life related o.o
I have trouble with a lot of things, but one I noticed recently is I have a hard time switching between dialogue heavy scenes and non-dialogue heavy scenes. I can do either, but if I’ve been doing one and then have to do the other one everything feels way too sparse or way too dense.
As an example from just this week, as a matter of fact: Racheline and I are currently working on a BDSM-themed short story. Racheline has experience in that lifestyle and writing all of those elements. Me? Not so much. I’m not embarrassed by the kink or any of the sex, but it is waaaaaay outside my zone of familiarity to suddenly have to write, say, flogging and then CBT (And first I had to learn what CBT even means. Word to the wise: Don’t Google that at work.)
Racheline’s a phenomenal resource, and answered all my questions, and sent me even more great resources, but it’s still nerve-wracking to sit down at my computer and try to absorb and process all that information and then put it into a scene that’s hot, is physiologically probable, and that makes sense for the characters and their lifestyle and this story I want to tell. So I cope by tilting the screen of my laptop forward far enough that I can’t see the words, and type blind. It’s a good way to stop myself from obsessing about the words or my self-consciousness and just focus on the scene.
Now, this is a pretty good trick. I recommend it. However: I am a decent typist. I’m not a super good typist. And I can touch-type only so long as I’m actually looking at the screen. Which meant that this past Friday I got an email from Racheline: “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR TYPOS BUT DEAR GOD AT LEAST REREAD WHAT YOU WROTE (I know when you haven’t) BECAUSE DESENSITIZATION.”
So I had to go do that. And then I wrote another scene, and read that. And then another one that I didn’t even have to tilt the screen for! So it’s getting better as I go. But yeah. There’s that. Writing BDSM: challenging! (But really damn rewarding, man.)
As far as the swapping between dialogue-heavy and non-dialogue heavy scenes thing goes: I’ve written massive scenes of dialogue where the only thing I wrote on the first pass was the actual dialogue, and then I went back in and added actions, dialogue tags, and everything else later. When things feel odd switching between scene types, write the words, let them be, and then come back to them on a reread. Out of the initial moment of writing, it will probably be much more apparent where you need more words or less words (and I add and subtract words — like, hundreds if not thousands of them, depending on the length of the story — right up to the bitter end of the editing process).
i’ve been thinking a lot about systems lately and how i can’t seem to find the one that works for me. my hard thing is schedule and maintaining a stable level of okayness in well… life. i seem to only be able to operate in all or nothing mode. it’s really hard to keep a healthy routine of small but steady progress. either i go full throttle on one thing and the others suffer, or i go full throttle and then crash and burn.
like i might do the thing, but my home slowly becomes a trash pit and i end eating scrambled eggs out of a cup (if i have any food at all), or i get buried in unanswered email, or i’m sleeping too little. this affects the doing of the thing, where i stop doing the thing at all, because my health suffers or there are fires to put out everywhere. basically, how do you moderation?! how do you keep a schedule?? how can anyone follow meal plans?!?!
i’m sure this a case of turn your bug into a feature, because fuck yeah i have intensity. but i can’t figure out how to not waste it. the times i can manage to get on top of things are amazing, but they are brief before things start going downhill. i’ve discussed this in therapy, but my therapist’s input seems to always be “don’t put so much pressure on yourself”. which yeah, but at the same time, how can i work with this?
at the moment having alarms for everything seems to help little.
*help a little.
This is a lot like me. I can do a lot until I can’t do anything, which is sort of right now as I was up until 5am last night for my day job and then for my column over at Romance at Random (which I should actually announce here, but I’m at my wall).
For me, what helps, other than having other humans around to stop the spiral at some point (Erin and her administrative goodness on writing; my partner Patty who deals with the bulk of our house stuff because I’m just fail at it), is letting myself have the non-functioning time.
Like, okay, we’re going into the zone where shit’s gonna happen. I’m allowed to skip lunch. I am totally not allowed to skip lunch at dinner. Paper all over the dining room table? Well sure, but it gets 72 hours and then is has to go. I can’t do stuff the way I perceive “normal” people do (the fact is plenty of people are like me, we’re just not supposed to admit it), but just because I can’t self-regulate to other people’s standards doesn’t mean I can’t self-regulate to standards that are, at least, moderately reasonable.
Also, sometimes I am like, well, I can skip this meal or I can eat Nutella out of a jar. I don’t try to be good. I try to be reasonable and do no harm. So I think your therapist has a point about putting less pressure on yourself, but for me that comes in the form of giving myself permission as opposed to giving myself gentler rules, if that makes sense.
(Which it might not because again, 3 hours of sleep!)
it does make sense and it’s soothing to imagine making choices without judgment instead of as a perpetual no-win situation. it is hard to break out from that thought pattern though, where every choice seems like an ultimatum. like i totally get the need to put less pressure on myself on an intellectual level, but it’s always easier said than done.
i like the shifting the focus from gentler rules to permission! i hadn’t thought of it like that.
i’ve been considering asking friends for help, or better, figure out some mutually beneficial skill exchange. but i’m not sure what i would need exactly (other than an assistive technology AI that cheers me on, like that ‘Her’ movie haha). need to figure that one out.
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