Organizing for the New Year: How do you do it, if you do it at all?

One of the most frequent questions we hear – after ‘where do you get your ideas’ – is ‘how do you manage to do all that? My response has always been to ask the questioner if they only work on one project or class or report at a time. 95% of the time the answer is ‘no.’ And there’s the answer right there – we multi-task the same way you do. But everyone does it a different way, proving once again that the proper way to write is What Works For You.

So, on this first Monday of the new year, for those of you who are trying to juggle work and life and writing, and starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, here’s a glimpse into how three members of BookView Cafe handle it.

Laura Anne Gilman: I realized a few moths ago that I was going to be writing three books in 2009. That means not only deadlines for the manuscript, but production schedules to be juggled as well. My old style of “get to it when I get to it” wasn’t going to work, not without a major emotional pileup somewhere around June. So I took all of my deadlines, my publication dates, my best-estimates of when I’d get production material back, and entered it into my personal calendar, along with the family events, holidays, conventions, etc. All out in front of me, driving me to drink….

Anne Harris: I find that blocking out a schedule helps me over the short run, say two or three weeks ahead, but when I try to look at everything at once, I just get freaked. Like right now, for instance. I’m turning in a manuscript on Monday and the proofs for the first in that series are due Friday. And I need to put together a proposal as soon as possible, and since it’s for an historical I need to do research.

Trying to do it all at once is just impossible, but during a week like this where I have a heavy schedule of the tedious type of editing, I really try to make a point to do some first draft writing, so I don’t lose track of the point of all of this.

LAG: Oh yeah, trying to do it all at once is just crazy-talk! But if you only block out your work a few weeks ahead of time, how do you keep track of what’s due when? I’d lose my mind….

AH: Oh, I post due dates on my calendar, I just don’t work out when/how I’ll do everything.

Pati Nagle: When I have multiple projects going on, I tend to use mornings for first-draft work, and afternoons (and evenings, when necessary) for revisions or reviewing proofs. Editing requires a different mind-set for me than composition, and it’s harder switching to composition from editing than vice-versa.

When there are time constraints for delivering a first draft, I look at the time until the deadline, cut off one month for polishing, and divide up the rest into weeks. If I have ten weeks to complete a 100k novel, I know I need to write 10k a week. The same principle applies to editing, except that I usually break the project into chapters per day or per half-day.


Pati Nagle recently shifted from historical fiction to fantasy with The Betrayal, coming from Del Rey in March 2009.

Anne Harris writes science fiction and fantasy and, as Jessica Freely, m/m romance.

Laura Anne Gilman writes urban fantasy caper novels – including the forthcoming BLOOD FROM STONE –for Luna, and is trying her hand at epic fantasy with THE VINEART WAR, coming from Pocket Books in October 2009.



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