Getting Back Into “The Zone”

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Hello, dear readers! I know, I’ve been away for a while. The last two weeks since I’ve posted have been an incredible whirlwind. I won’t bore you with the details of all my various projects, not the least of which was preparing for, executing, and marketing the launch of my Fantasy novel ‘Daughter of the Drackan’.

Being relatively new to the Indie Author side of publishing (as opposed to my editing work through KLH CreateWorks and two other traditional publishing companies), I’ve found in the last month alone some incredibly valuable resources and information. My journey has been fast, furious, and filled with revelations. I’d like to go into listing all the people responsible for helping me get to this point today, but I won’t. That’s not the point of this post today (though I do have future posts planned to share with all you Indie Authors out there about some of the other phenomenally helpful things I’ve found along the way).

Today, I wanted to take a little time to talk about making the shift back to writing after you’ve recently published a book. Getting back into “The Zone” of writing – my favorite place to be.

Yes, writing a novel is hard work, but we do it because we love it, and for a lot of us, because we have no other choice. All the preparations for self-publishing (or even traditional publishing, if that’s your route), including writing that entire book, can be pretty draining, to say the least. Revisions, editing, illustrations, cover design, teasers and book launch promos – not to mention all the marketing we feel compelled to execute afterwards. All while paying diligent attention to sales, ratings, reviews, and figuring out how the heck we can make it better.

Of course, it’s only been two weeks since I published ‘Daughter of the Drackan’, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the results so far. No, I’m not on the Best Sellers list already, but I know all that comes with time, dedication, and continuing to write. 

That’s the important thing I want to talk about today. It’s so easy to get caught up in the aftermath of publishing that sometimes we leave the mindset of being a writer for the mindset of being a marketer/promotion specialist. A lot of the time, that includes social media guru as well. It’s something I struggled with directly before and after launching my novel, and all the while I’ve had this nagging voice in the back of my head, reminding me every day that I have the sequel waiting for its last revision, and a work in progress that’s been calling my name from the “on-hold” shelf for the last three months.

It was easy for me to tell myself, “Hey, I have one book published, the other written and ready to go through lucky revision #13. I don’t need to work on any more actual writing for a while.” Well, that thought process didn’t last too long, for a few reasons.

The first reason was actually not of my own making. I’ve found the wonderful world of Susan Kaye Quinn, YA, Sci-fi, and Fantasy author, as well as a successfully mid-list, full-time writer, and the phenomenal mind behind the books ‘The Indie Author Survival Guide‘ and ‘For Love or Money‘. I found these books a few weeks before releasing ‘Daughter of the Drackan’, and found some seriously great ideas in ‘The Indie Author Survival Guide’ that led to some experiments (some successful and some not-so-much) with pre-marketing, teasers, and getting the word out about my new Fantasy child. Then, after publishing, I took about a whole 24 hours for a breather, and dove right back into marketing, promotions, and all the other projects I had going on. None of which included the “shelved” WiP I mentioned before.

Through reading more of Quinn’s books, I had a sudden revelation that a) I wanted to create a schedule for the releases of my books, including both the next book in the ‘Gyenona’s Children’ series and my Dystopian Sci-fi WiP, ‘Sleepwater Beat’ (there are some great chapters in her books about why spacing out a series within a certain time frame is so important, and why continuing to write through all of that is equally important). And then I realized that, in order to stick to these self-imposed deadlines for release, I actually had to finish ‘Sleepwater Beat’. You can’t publish a novel if it’s not written, right?

So I wondered how the heck I was going to accomplish this, biting my nails and pulling out my hair all the while, because this book terrifies me. It’s not easy for me to say, because most of the time storytelling and novel-writing come so easily to me (I like to think). ‘Sleepwater Beat’ is such a huge story, with so much to say and so many poignant ideas, and I want to do it justice so badly that, without thinking about it, I managed the complete opposite. I subconsciously chose to not write it.

I have a severe respect for some of my writing buddies who manage to pump out story after story after story. One of them wrote his last novel in just six months (it took me two years to write the two novels currently in the ‘Gyenona’s Children’ series). Then I looked at the portfolio of another Indie Author, who I stumbled upon within the throes of social networking, who had published 6 (count ’em, SIX) novels in 2014 alone. WHAT? And the one thing in common that I found with all these other writers, peers, friends, and acquaintances alike, was that they give themselves a “writing quota” to help push along the length and time frame of their work.

I am admittedly a pantser when it comes to writing. ‘Sleepwater Beat’ is also the only novel I’ve ever outlined in such detail (and even then, it doesn’t resemble anything like an actual outline), and that was only because it started out as a long short story…before it grew into a monster and possessed me to make it a novel. For a while, I used that as an excuse for my fear around writing it. “I wasn’t used to planning something like this.” But that wasn’t it. I’m in love with this work, and sometimes we tend to fear losing something more than loving it.

I reached out to a few of these writing friends, gave them chapters or samples from what I’d written of ‘Sleepwater Beat’, and asked them what they thought. The sharing and ensuing conversations definitely got my wheels turning, but it wasn’t until I realized that every one of them gave themselves a daily word quota for writing, and considered that maybe it would be helpful to me, that I finally managed to kick my own butt into gear and get going again.

Being a writer, as I’ve read and heard expressed countless times, is not just something fun on the side. For most of us, it’s a huge part of who we are, what defines us as people and gives us a purpose in the world. And for some of us who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity (or who struggle with making it real), writing is our career. I can say that I’m a part-time author and a part-time editor, because my days really are broken up between the two. I hope to one day be able to make a serious income from my fiction (though editing has such a special place in my heart, I may not ever stop). And in looking at both of these things as part of my “job” so to speak (though it’s not work if we really love it so), I realized it was necessary for me to create a schedule of writing, just as I do for editing.

With the wonderful support of friends who had already adopted this method, I began laying out a schedule. One fabulous person looked at me and said, “Do you know how easy it would be for you to just write 500 words a day?” Yes! Yes, it would be easy. And on that note, because I can never seem to put enough on my own plate, I called her 500 and raised her another 500. I will write 1,000 words a day! Ha!

So far, it’s been the only thing that has gotten me to pump out ‘Sleepwater Beat’ like nobody’s business, like never before. I made this goal a week ago, having counted out on my calendar that if I did this, I’d finish ‘Sleepwater Beat’ by the end of December. Just in time for the new year! So far, in the last week I’ve written just over 10K words, and I hit the 40K mark last night.

Being able to change my perspective on writing from something completely and solely “because I’m compelled to”, or “because it makes me happy” to “because it’s my career” seemed to click for me. I no longer have the option of being afraid, because this has to get done. I need to finish a novel in order to publish it, in order for anyone to read it in its entirety. And the misconception I’d previously held about the “schedule” of daily words “ruining my creative flow” was smashed to pieces. Forcing myself to write every day, any amount of words, has pushed me into “The Zone” when I never thought that was possible, and I’m having more fun writing ‘Sleepwater Beat’ now than I think I ever have up to this point.

Don’t get me wrong, marketing, promoting, and networking the heck out of my fiction is still on the priorities list, but all that won’t mean anything if I don’t keep up with my craft and do what I was put here to do – to write.

I’d love to hear what you do to keep yourself “on task” with your writing, any tricks of the trade, schedules, or quotas you make for yourself. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all kinda gig, and who knows? Maybe multiple “writing structures”, when combined, can create superwriters!

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