The Secret to Writing Books and Staying Focused

The Secret to Writing Books and Staying Focused

Writing a book is bloody hard. 

No, that’s wrong. Writing a draft is easy. Easy-ish anyway. Thoughts flow like water and the words magically appear on the page. (A solid outline helps.) 

After a time, the draft emerges from the drawer for a fresh look. The masterpiece that Reese Witherspoon will have on her book club list is finally revealed. You can’t wait to read what you’ve got. Coffee is poured, eyeglasses sparkling clean, and you begin to read in horror the hot mess that’s supposed to take you to the best seller list. 

Here is where the real work begins. Everything that comes after writing the first draft is hard. Revise and polish. Repeat. Repeat until your eyes burn, and your fingers bleed. Revise and polish until you’re so sick of the story you want to poke your eyes out with your red marker. But finally, a work is produced that you are proud of. 

Then comes the harder part. You have to sell the book to keep the lights on and the dream alive.

So why the hell do I put myself through this? And how do I stay sane? That’s probably the more important question. 

Being an author is an invigorating, stressful, frustrating, exciting, emotional rollercoaster.

Within one year, I will have published two novels plus a short story epilogue for one of those books. Some writers can churn out multiple books in a year. I’m not sure I would even try to do that. Finding balance is a serious enough challenge for me. 

When I published Camino Wandering in December 2020, I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d put out Beneath the Surface nine months later. Nine months… yes, it does feel like I’ve given birth!

Want to know how I did it?  

I created a solid book outline and stuck to a publishing timeline. 

As an Indie Author/Publisher, I’m always juggling multiple balls at once. Staying focused is paramount. It’s been a roundabout journey for me to discover that I’m deadline driven. I have the flexibility to set my own publishing dates. But with that flexibility, comes, well, temptation. A pile of books to read, a garden to potter in, a lovely state that itches to be explored… Ironically, my kryptonite is social media, which can be a total time suck, but I rely on it to spread the word about my stories. See? Juggling while performing a high wire act is hard!

If I know I have to get something finished by x date, I’ll stay focused. Without that, I’m jumping in the car and disappearing for a few days. Anything to avoid the editing process. I would rather clean a toilet than edit my own writing. Oh! But I love editing other writer’s work. But my own? Hate it. 

But I know it has to be done. So, I build it into my process, knowing there are days or weeks when I will want to storm away from it. And I do initially. After that first draft is done, I put it away for a few weeks or a month, then come back to it. But THAT is built into my timeline, knowing I need to do that. Giving me that space revs me up and gives me distance so I can look at the work objectively. 

So, what does this publishing timeline look like?  

Well, it’s an excel spreadsheet. Yeah… sexy, right? 

Listed on this spreadsheet are things like:

  • Creating characters.
  • Creating the world they live in, if it doesn’t already exist (like for Camino Wandering). 
  • Time to write the first draft, then leave it for a while. 
  • Providing enough time for the editor to red-line it. Then time for me to review their suggestions, make changes and send it back to them again. 
  • Remembering the other tasks I have to complete, like writing the blurb, the acknowledgements, and various marketing tasks. 
  • Giving myself enough creative time to create a compelling cover.
  • Providing time for the beta readers, then advanced readers to read the book and provide their feedback or reviews. 
  • Setting pre-ordering timeframes. 
  • Setting up marketing pre-release and post.

That’s just a rough idea. 

I picked up the idea somewhere when I was looking for some guidance. I’d love to give credit to the person I borrowed the idea from, but I honestly don’t remember the source. The timeline has been butchered and revised many times since. I tweak these things to fit my work style. (But if you are the original creator, please let me know. I’m HAPPY to give the well-deserved credit!)

This is the document that keeps me on track. The document that holds me accountable. 

The best part, when I’ve accomplished every task on my timeline, I can take time for that road trip…. Or, when the pandemic is over, maybe I’ll return to the Camino.

If you’d like a copy of my publishing timeline, click here

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