I’m engaged! (And really excited about it!)
BUT… it’s also a bit of a surprise.
I’ve been dating my fiancé for a little over three years, so it wasn’t a surprise in the sense that we were both thinking about marriage. The timing, however, did come as a shock, so when he popped the question on New Year’s Eve, I felt so unprepared! I had just spent the entire month of December building elaborate plans for what I was going to accomplish in 2015, and all of a sudden, those plans were completely useless.
Wrenches come in all forms—a new child, an illness, an injury, a death in the family. So many things can derail our good intentions, and even when they are happy reasons (like planning a wedding!) they can still catch us completely off guard and without a backup plan!
I thought I’d share a little bit about the aftermath of the proposal in terms of how it’s affecting my business and work schedule. Because as happy as I was to seal the deal with my man, I definitely spent the first few days of the new year scrambling to rearrange my entire writing plan for 2015 (while simultaneously creating about 200 pins on Pinterest—hey, a girl’s gotta enjoy SOME parts of planning a wedding!).
Here’s what I did:
We Decided to Have a Small Wedding and Told Everyone Immediately
This may surprise some, but I’ve actually already been married once. That wedding was several hundred people large and all I can say is that I’ve learned my lesson since!
I love all the people from my life past and present, but this time around we’re just inviting close friends and family for the actual day. We’re happy to celebrate with everyone else throughout the year, and we definitely will—but throwing a huge, stressful party just didn’t seem like that much fun in the end.
Luckily, Patrick agreed, and while we did (seriously) consider eloping, I couldn’t be happier with the small, non-traditional party we settled on.
I Decided To Take 3 Months Off Around My Wedding
Writing as a career has its advantages and I almost never take advantage of them. I decided time off was a must if I was going to enjoy this period in my life. Realistically, I’m not going to be in the mindset for writing leading up to the wedding, so I wanted to plan ahead for the months around my wedding to keep readers happy without having the obligation of new releases.
I’m going to take off December 2015 – February 2016 (my wedding will be in January-ish), which means that I have a lot more work to do beforehand to get everything queued up, but that I can truly relax and enjoy our day when it comes around.
During those times, I had to figure out what I could schedule both before the break and during it so that I don’t fall off of readers’ radars. These are some ideas for things that wouldn’t add too much strain to the schedule:
- Bundle releases – I have a number of serials coming out next year, so this is the perfect time to create some bundles for them
- Wider releases – I’ll have a few series in KDP Select this year, so I picked January 2016 as the timeframe for when I’ll slowly pull them and filter those books to other platforms
- Anthology/Bundle releases – Pairing with other authors is always a good idea, but having just a few short stories or novellas as part of a larger promotion is a smart and easy way to limit your involvement. while still technically having a release.
- Different format releases – Print, Audio, and Foreign Rights are in the works this year, and I’ll be saving a few of these releases for my break months. Since basically all of this is done by others, it will be a huge load off my shoulders in terms of drafting work!
I also wanted to plan a HUGE promotion before wedding craziness took over. Promotional bursts can be far-reaching and long-lasting, plus you can almost keep promoting the same stuff over and over again to new audiences. My promotional burst is going to happen in October 2015 (sign up here to get the behind-the-scenes on it) and I expect the effects of it to last for several months afterward, taking me through the busy book season and deep into 2016.
I believe (though I haven’t verified yet) that momentum is going to be crucial to getting away with three months off. If I can start the momentum right before my break and then simply maintain it without too much additional work, then I should be okay.
I Decided To Focus on Creating Systems, Not 2015 Goals
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the type to bite off more than I can chew. I knew before the wedding wrench even came into the mix that I do best when I can focus on drafting my stories and leave the rest to others. I’m also a sucker for goals, but admit that they’ve rarely produced major results for me in the past.
As such, I’m turning to systems and getting everybody in my life on the same page as much as possible (nicely, of course :)). There are three systems I’m super focused on building and maintaining right now:
#1 – Systems with various teams to help me with all aspects, including my writing projects, my “day job(s)” projects (the money earners), and my wedding.
I’m working with a number of collaborators (that post is coming soon!) including several ghostwriters who will edit/clean-up my drafts and also, Sterling and Stone, who will be producing some of my work this year (so blessed and excited to have worked out this partnership). I’ve also got a long wedding to-do list, but I’ll be delegating as much of it as possible to family, friends, and the fiancé.
Additionally, I’ve gotten serious about Asana, because there are about five balls in the air that must move forward and see progress every week. I used to have basically just one project (writing) and one collaborator to work with. Now, I have five projects and several collaborators, ghostwriters, and service providers. The extra management layer gives me incredible peace of mind that things are moving forward!
Every week, I check in with each project and pull tasks for my written weekly to-do list (I love analog still), which is my bible for the week. Then, in the evenings I check in with Asana via mobile before bed to update task progress.
I can’t mix mindless tax with writing fiction, so I have Mondays for mindless tasks and Tuesday for non-fiction drafting (emails, copy, descriptions, etc.). The rest of the week is free so I can focus on my stories and word counts.
I’ve never done it this way before, but it’s going surprisingly well to batch like this. I’m loving the results so far… we’ll see how long it works for me!
#2 – Systems for getting all my drafting done: primarily, making it a priority and hitting specific word counts on a weekly basis.
I describe a lot of my system here, but the biggest thing I have to get serious about for this year is knowing that drafting MUST come first. Drafting is my area of genius, the place that only I can work, and everything else needs to come second as a result.
I use Evernote and Scrivener to manage all of this. I have a folder called “This Week” with everything I need to draft for the week (I’m using it right now to get this draft done!). Every item to draft has a “note” in the folder, and I can skip around as I want to get it all done.
I draft *everything* first—outlines, beats, blog posts, sales pages, emails, and more. I then spend the evenings or my Mondays and Tuesdays “posting” things to either my website, my social media accounts, my Scrivener files, or my Gmail account. This greatly keeps me in the right mindset and allows me to get through many more tasks then I would normally do if I was skipping around between the various systems I use.
The only thing I don’t draft in Evernote is books, which I draft in Scrivener instead due to its notecards and ability to organize larger projects in a way that Evernote is incapable of. So basically, after I’m done with Evernote for the week, I can switch to Scrivener and just continue to draft, draft, draft. I love it!
#3 – Systems for cutting to-dos, because I CAN’T do it all.
For example, I was planning on building my YouTube channel, starting a podcast, and working on my screenwriting skills this year, but all of those are cut now. Not going to lie—I’m sad, because I had some exciting plans in these areas. But with the wedding coming up I needed to prioritize, and I am a writer above all else. I had to pick the one thing I wanted to make significant progress on this year, one thing that would make me extremely happy, accomplished, and proud. The decision was easy—I want to build, build, build that backlist.
I’m also cutting basically all conferences I was planning on going to (aside from Sterling and Stone stuff), and nearly all the promotion I was hoping to do (blogging, social media, paid ads, etc.). I’ll maintain my Prose on Fire Thursday schedule the best I can, and post elsewhere when I get the chance, but I can’t generate all of that extra content and write and publish my books.
It’s not easy to let go of these mediums, because I genuinely enjoy creating things for them and the connections I’ve made through them. This is simply my reality right now. I’ve accepted that this is essentially going to be a “bridge” year of building my backlists and letting the books mostly speak for themselves. Yes, I have a few major promotions in the works, but most of the marketing still has to be baked in or serving multiple masters this year. Otherwise, I’m going to go crazy!
I Accepted That It’s Not Going To Go As Planned
The battle plan only lasts until the first shot is fired. Much of my writing plan for 2015 is set up so that I can cut or move large chunks of it if (when) necessary.
I did this by classifying each series as A list, B list, C list. It’s *really* difficult to cut a series once it has momentum (too many readers asking for the next release) but you can cut entire series at any time. My basic classification process is:
- A list – anything I’m working on with others, because their deadlines will keep me on track
- B list – anything that’s either high-leverage (serves multiple masters at once), high-earning (something “popular” or trending), or high-momentum (already started, has a growing fan-base)
- C list – anything else, including new projects I want to do but haven’t started, or current projects that don’t have huge readerships but could benefit from a few releases this year until I can clear the decks and spend more time on them in 2016
I fully expect to cut significant portions of my C list and maybe even some of my B list (or at least spread out the release dates a bit more). My A list series must go full steam ahead, and I’ve coordinated those so that they all serve multiple masters, including building relationships with other authors, creating popular “rising tide” series that will “lift all boats,” having regular releases under each pen name, paying the bills (especially with the upcoming wedding expenses!), and more.
For my task list and my non-fiction draft list, I essentially operate on a just-in-time schedule. Anything that I can punt on until next Monday or Tuesday, I’m going to. These are tough decisions, but going through the process of cutting or pushing items on my to-do list is really helping me focus on what MUST get done. A lot of book promotion and should-dos will slip through the cracks as a result… but again, I’m a mere mortal!
It’s not easy to be strategic like this, and I must say that before this year, I likely wouldn’t be able to hit my plan in any reasonable way. I’m very glad I’ve been working on my productivity skills and my writing skills for the last several years, because dedication, organization, and action are required right now.
Knowing that I have something to work toward (money for wedding expenses, a sweet 3-month vacation) is also spurring me on. I’ve never had such a big push in my life, but I love how it’s affecting my motivation and I’ll have to think about how to incorporate life events like this in the future, if this works well for me this year.
I’m so looking forward to 2015-2016 and so grateful and blessed to have a career that provides me flexibility to switch things around when life throws a curve ball. Thank you also to everyone who’s sent us congratulations and love; we appreciate it!
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