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Time Management for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 11, 2013

How do you balance writing with online promotion? Marketing efforts take hours on the Internet. How can you keep up with tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest, and more?

I am always asked this question whenever I give talks. It’s not easy to strike a balance. Often the online business takes over. But here are my Four Rules to guide you.

(1) Writing Comes First.

writing

Set yourself a daily writing or revision quota. When I am writing, I must complete 5 pages a day or 25 pages per week. When I’m doing self-edits, I try for a chapter a day but that doesn’t always work out. Either way, I must move forward with my current project.

Finish at least half of your quota before allowing yourself to check email. Or if you must, do a quick email check first to get it off your mind.

Limit your time online or you’ll get sucked into cyberspace. Go offline after the allotted time and return to your writing. Finish your daily quota. Then you can have the rest of the day free for social networking, meeting friends, or whatever suits your fancy.

(2) If things get too hectic, take Time Out.

Planning a blog tour, tweeting about a new release, guest blogging on another website, and running a contest? Does this make you nuts? Does it make your breathing come short and your pulse race? Time to calm down. Do something fun for thirty minutes. Take a walk, polish your nails, read a cooking magazine, play with your pet, listen to music. When you feel calmer, go back to work.

Pet

(3) Set aside time just for marketing.

If things are building to an intolerable level, you may need to take a few days off to focus solely on promotion. Prioritize your projects. What needs to get done first? Tackle one thing at a time. Do you have to get your next email newsletter ready to go? Do it. Need to plan a Rafflecopter contest? Fill out the form. Have two weeks of blogs to write for an upcoming virtual tour? Decide upon your topics and write drafts for each one. Accomplishing a few of the items on your promotional campaign list will help you feel more in control.

person

(4) Realize that life interferes. It’s going to happen, so take the time you need to deal with strife, and don’t feel guilty about being away from the computer. It happens to everyone. You’ll get your mojo back when the time comes. If not, you’ll find something else to bring your life meaning. We follow different paths throughout life. Yours may take you in another direction.

beach walker

Today is an example of how I work these rules. I did a few pages of revision this morning for about an hour. Then I allowed myself to scan my email. I answered the few items that needed a personal reply, and then shut off my Outlook program. I took a walk. Did more pages. Went on the exercise bike. Line edited some more. Peeked at email again. Back to the chapter. Finally, I finished my page quota for the day. It’s only 12:30 pm, but I started at 4:30 am. And now I’m writing this blog. Oops, the lawn guy is here and I need to talk to him. Big distraction. Go out, have discussion, back to work on blog. And so on through the afternoon. I could work, or I could go out with friends or my husband and take time off without any guilt. Because the writing comes first. When that’s done, all the rest is gravy.

Remember to visit our site over at Booklover’s Bench where I’ve joined with several other writers to offer contests, excerpts, and more.

Booklovers Bench

Also, please sign up for my quarterly email newsletter. I’ve an issue coming out April 26 and there’s a bonus subscriber drawing for some free books by my fellow BB authors. Look in the left sidebar on my Website for the sign-up form.

How do you balance your writing time with promotion?

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18 Responses to “Time Management for Writers”

  1. When things get rough, I order a week’s worth of 30 hour days! If only… Your points are excellent. You have to understand your own daily rhythms, too. I know my brain isn’t at its creative best in the early morning hours, so I take care of emails, basic social networking, etc., first thing, usually over coffee. I even take some time to play a few challenges of Mahjong solitaire. For writing, I usually don’t start until after lunch, but I have my word count goals and try to hit them. Since I edit as I go, I’m also revising the scene I wrote the day(s) before. I’ll also get/give feedback to my critique groups. Marketing seems to be the monkey wrench. There’s always something unexpected that pops up–maybe a review, or something you discover that needs attention, be it updating a website, a FB post, or Twitter, Google+ … the list seems endless. Right now, the new Nook Press that’s phasing out Pubit! was something I hadn’t expected.

    • You’re right in that there’s always something unexpected that comes along. That is where we have to prioritize. Reading all my listserve emails is last on my daily chores. I learn a lot from them, but they aren’t essential. And that’s true about our own rhythms, too. My creative juices are drained by lunchtime so I spend my afternoons on promo activities.

  2. Great post, Nancy. Like Terry, I tend to write best in the afternoon. And I agree with you both that marketing and PR takes up a lot of time. The only good thing I can say about it is that it has me communicating with people I like.

  3. This is a timely post for me, I have recently finished my first novel and before I start the re-writes I was advised to start marketing and networking to get a jump start. This was helpful and any insight is appreciated.

  4. Hi, Nancy,

    I agree with you–time management is crucial. Like you, I have to discipline myself. I start writing early each morning before I even think about breakfast.

    • Despite my best intentions, I still manage to waste a lot of time online. As long as the writing gets done, marketing can take up the rest of the day but I attempt to get certain tasks done. Like now I’m working on one of the posts for my upcoming blog tour instead of trolling online and tweeting.

  5. Sally Carpenter said

    Excellent post. When my book came out, I spent so much time with promotion I wasn’t writing and suddenly all my friends had another book out and I didn’t. Now I’m learning to put the writing first. I also learned what kinds of marketing work for me and what doesn’t so I won’t waste time with the non-effective means. And yes, I probably need to take more breaks! Thanks again. PS I work a full-time job so finding time for it all is even more challenging.

  6. Bam! Thanks, I needed that. With my first book coming out in July, I’m a little nutso. This week I found myself getting more and more cranky as the week wore on. Now I know why! I kept putting off working on my WIP. I’m putting your suggestions where I can see them.

    • I understand the nutso part. I have a romance release April 26 and my latest mystery just came out unexpectedly in ebook format. So I have to promote both titles now. And I’ve yet to write the blogs for my upcoming blog tour. But every morning I work on my chapter first. That’s what you have to do. Whatever part of the day is more productive for you, focus on your WIP. Then pick one aspect of promo to work on at a time.

  7. Another way to help feel some sense of control over your promo is to create a marketing plan for each title. Spell out exactly what you are going to do for that book and then work on those items. Start when you sell the book, not right before its release.

  8. Outstanding post and great tips! Thanks for sharing it!

  9. wordwan said

    I’m just some person figuring out my next move. I have not written or published any books yet, so I’m simply offering worldview advice.

    Find an internet mode you like. (I use gmail, for example.) Use it exclusively. Get OVER the fascination of email. I bet you already have. Get OVER the fascination of writing. What I mean by THAT is, believe in yourself and know, at the drop of a hat, you CAN sit down and write. SOMETHING. ALWAYS.

    Can’t you? *grin*

    If you ‘equalized’ everything you did in your life. (Imagine being fascinated with going to the bathroom!), you’d make room for anything you wanna do, at any time.

    Cos you’re NOT stressing it.

    If you’ve written ONE successful book and replied to ONE customer and made them happy…then REMEMBER that feeling don’t stress doing it again.

    Hope that makes sense.

    You always find a way to make stuff dovetail when you look at it from a quieter mind. Just an idea.

    Heather
    wordwan

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