Okay, so today I’m going back to time management for writers. Previously, I gave you my two best tips – learn to say ‘no’ and do a little something every day. Today I’ll give you some other tips that work for me.
One. Draw up a schedule for your manuscripts. Every six months I make two tables. On the left side of one I write down the names of the manuscripts I’m working on or which I hope to start and then under the headings of First Draft, Second Draft, Third Draft, Critique Group, I write my proposed dates. As an example, let’s say I’m working on a novella - Neptune’s Treasure Box – I might want the finish the fist draft by 30th October, the Second Draft by 1st December, the Third Draft by 30th January, and get it to my Critique Group by 15th February.
My second table will have the names of manuscripts that have been critiqued and amended as per any suggestions I felt were warranted and then the headings of the different publishing houses I want to send them to. Under each heading I’ll put the date I received any correspondence from the houses and the outcome. The schedules help to keep me focused and to know where I need to be with any particular manuscript. Do my schedules get screwed up? Sure, they do. One of my children gets sick, I have to pinch-hit for a co-worker, relatives drop in from out of town and, despite points one and two above, I have to revise the schedules. That’s life. It’s like an exercise program – because I can’t go running for a week or two doesn’t mean I give up and stop altogether – it means I just have to work a bit harder when I come back to it.
Two. Buy an Alpha Smart. I’d been reading about these great little machines on yahoo groups for a long time before I gave in and bought one and what a difference it made! I went away on a business trip that required me to spend a long time in airports and by the time I got back home I was about halfway through the manuscript I’d begun when I left. The Alpha Smart is just a word processor – it doesn’t have the internet and it doesn’t allow you to see more than a few line of script at a time so you’re not constantly double-guessing yourself so it’s just you and your writing. Now I’m not a pantser – I outline everything before I write – and, if the work requires it, I do ton loads of research so by the time I whip out the Alphie, the story is pretty much there in my head. I hear from other writers, however, that Alphie is just as super for pantsers – they can do that whole stream of narrative thing without worrying about whether it’s really coming together on the page. The best thing about the Alphie is it runs on three AA batteries which last and last so you can use it anywhere – even during a blackout.