by Harriet Hale
Three weeks ago I signed my first publishing contract.
I’m thrilled … seriously. I can’t say that sentence without grinning like a moron. However, it’s also daunting because now I’m a working writer. Suddenly this thing I do in my spare time while sitting on my sofa has a purpose. And I always knew that was my goal, but now it’s a little more real.
I have a publisher who’s willing to gamble on a new author. I have an editor, and a cover artist, and a new circle of writing colleagues. I also have marketing to learn (and do), edits to make, and deadlines to meet.
But I also have a day job. It comes with its own set of deadlines, projects, and skills. I have a boss, coworkers, and people who depend on me there, too.
And I have other manuscripts in various stages of completion, and now is the perfect time to start thinking about my “next” book.
But I also have family, friends, home, chores ….
See? Working writer. My brain is spinning with a whole new set of tasks (and plots) and how to manage my time. Here are the first five things I’ve learned:
1. Do what you say you’re going to do.
Early in your career, you have no reputation to fall back on. You’re creating it. Be honest, be realistic, and keep your word. Whether it’s to your day-job boss, your editor, or your colleagues.
2. Set Goals.
Make a to-do list for each day (or week) and mark the items off as you go. It’s great for focus. Find someone who will hold you accountable. List your writing goals, word count targets, day-job projects, personal goals … whatever. At the end of that day (or week), report back. There’s something motivating about accountability.
3. Make time.
Write when you can. Early in the morning, late at night, on your lunch break … dictate while you drive. Whatever works best for you, do that. First, you make progress. Second, I think better at my day job when the plot bunnies are quiet. Regular writing makes them happy.
4. Don’t multi-task.
It’s not possible to do two things well. Pick one, do it for a while, and then switch to something else. TV and writing don’t mix. For me, music and writing work much better.
5. Remember what’s important.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of opening your computer the minute you sit, but go back to #4. Don’t multi-task writing and your family.
Same with the day job. Someone’s paying you to do a good job (see #1 and #4).
Take a Saturday and do nothing with girlfriends, or get outside for research, or go for a walk to get exercise and clear your head.
It’s not all about you … pay attention to other people and what’s going on around you.
Those are my Top 5 new lessons as a working writer. What have you learned so far as you pursue your writing career? I can always use advice.
That’s it for this month. I hope everyone enjoys their weekend.
Oh, and when my book hits the shelf, please buy it. I’d like to have a few less things to worry about.