by Megan Haskell
When I first started writing, I didn’t have any idea how long things would take. How long would it take me to write 80,000 words? No clue. And how long to get it edited and polished and ready to publish? <Shrug>
Sometimes it felt like never-ending tunnel. I couldn’t see the end and the darkness was overwhelming. Suffocating. I would find myself depressed by the mere thought of all the work I needed to accomplish.
I hate to say it, but it doesn’t really get better. After almost-six books, I have a better idea of how long things will take in the pre-writing, first draft, edit, and production stages, but I still frequently find myself overwhelmed by the never-ending to-do list. As I’ve gotten more ambitious with my writing and my business, that list has gotten longer and longer. I can almost physically feel it pressing down on my shoulders.
How do you eat a whale?
The only way I’ve found to combat the overwhelm is to look at your project or your to-do list and break it down into the absolute smallest pieces, then chew on one bite at a time. It’s why in my productivity courses I recommend setting minimum daily (or weekly) goals for word count, as well as stretch goals. What does this look like in practice?
During the first draft stage, it’s pretty easy. I want to make a daily habit of writing, so I set a low minimum number of words for each day. At first, this was as low as 50 words. As I’ve improved and developed better habits, I’ve increased that number until my absolute minimum daily word count is 500 words when actively writing the first draft. Then my ideal word count is 1,500 words, and my stretch goal is 2,000. Anything above that is amazing.
The editing stage can’t be broken down into word count, because sometimes you’ll need to write a whole new chapter, but sometimes you’ll mostly be reading and shifting things around. An easier way to break down this stage is by chapter. My minimum daily edit is one chapter.
(Side note: that might not mean the chapter is 100% polished and ready to go, but I’ve worked through one entire chapter from start to finish. I might need to read it again and tweak a few more things later with fresh eyes, but I’ve at least made one new full pass on it.)
For production, it’s harder to set daily minimums, but I still break down my to-do list into bite-sized chunks. I don’t have “Cover Design” on my to-do list, I have “email cover designer to schedule next project”, and “draft cover design brief”, and “send design brief to cover designer”. That’s right, three tasks. They have to be done in order, but they don’t have to be done all at once. And then I get to check three things off my list.
A Step Further
Now that I’m further along in my career, I’ve once again upped my game and gotten ambitious. Now, instead of working on one book, I’m planning for the year in advance, and setting up a once-a-month launch schedule that will hopefully increase my visibility in the market and improve my financial bottom line.
What does that look like?
- April- The Ragged Heroes Epic Fantasy Anthology, in which I have a short story
- May- The Sanyare Chronicles Box Set: Books 1 to 3
- June- Guardian: The Sanyare Chronicles Companion Novella
- July- Sanyare: The Winter Warrior (Book 4)
- August- Sanyare: The Last Descendant (Book 1) Audiobook
- September- Short Story 3 in the Early Adventures of Lord Garamaen Sanyaro (Free to Newsletter Subscribers)
I still have to figure out the end of the year, but I have an idea of the projects I’ll be working on between now and then, including Sanyare: Book 5 and the start of a super-secret new series.
OMG, I can feel the overwhelm cresting over my head. However, with that level of visibility, I know exactly what I need to be working on and when.
For example, right now some of the items on my to-do list include crafting three Amazon Ads, approving the paperback proof of Guardian, and sending an email to my copyeditor about Winter Warrior. The proof will take a little longer to review, but the ads and email are quick and easy. Guess what I’ll be doing tonight?
Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! I’m the Award-Winning author of the Amazon bestselling series, The Sanyare Chronicles, co-author of Aspiring to Author: A Guide for Your Publishing Career, and Program Director of O.C. Writers. You can find me on my website at www.meganhaskell.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
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