IWmadness (1)2015 was the first year I scheduled. Up to now, I’d always set tasks for myself in the abstract (next on my list, I want to finish A Thing, then write Another Thing when A Thing is done-ish, or when I am sick enough of A Thing to need a break, and if I should happen to find myself with a new release, then whee! Go me).

This year, I made a real plan.

I scheduled “Huntress” so that the end of the series would coincide with the release of the Feral Ones (aka my children) from their pen (aka school). Summer was planned out to be free of writing deadlines or the need to produce much new content. I could still slip some promotional work, editing, tweaking, and housekeeping into it via the release of the bundles and tweaking my book descriptions, prettying up my back matter links, and just generally resting on the laurels of my accomplishments of the first half of the year (or if not laurels, at least on a cushion at the pool without guilt).

What I found, however, was that my “vacation” wasn’t much of a vacation. I┬ástill had something to knock off the task list every week. I still took a tablet or notebook to the pool half the time, or gave up valuable sleep-in time to sweat bullets over teaser copy or write an article for a book blog or website. And I didn’t do this in a vacuum. In the midst of “not writing” I came across not one, but two different opportunities to stretch my writing chops and keep the ol’ story engine churning.

At the end of summer, with the rush to get the kids back to school, I managed to write a short for a video game universe. Immediately afterward, I landed a sweet box set with seven other talented authors for a holiday novella. Putting that together reawakened my love for my Winterjacked series (if you lost track, that’s my paranormal chick-lit featuring a male protagonist second-adult with-romantic-elements contemporary fantasy. Genre, I laugh at thee).

The weird thing was that I didn’t spend my usual zillion years noodling around in my WIPs for these opportunities. I knew what I had to accomplish with these works, and I knew I had a set amount of time in which to do them. Now, the last time I tried this with a self-imposed deadline, I self-sabotaged to such a degree that the work for which I set the deadline still isn’t finished (I was that opposed to a deadline–you aren’t the boss of me, brain, so nyah!). Now it turns out that particular work turned out to be two nearly-discrete storylines which really ought to be two separate books in themselves, but it took me a little time and distance to understand what the Girls In The Basement were trying to tell me.

These two WIPs that I completed this fall, though, were different. A deadline (with a reason for its existence), combined with a finite goal each of the works needed to accomplish, set me on a path where I could prioritize the job without the rest of my life falling apart (cities burning, children crying, dogs and cats living together…), and get the (finite) work done in the time I alloted. I think I have my yearly plan to thank for that.

The moral of this story is that I have learned a few things:

  • Optimization is a process, not an event. There’s always something you can be doing to improve your current titles.
  • Awareness of your process allows you to know your capabilities. Knowing what you can and can’t do in a set amount of time (and when it’s possible to push through them) will free you up to take the right kinds of opportunities.
  • Planning is okay. It doesn’t have to be a challenge to creativity, or downward pressure on a story, as long as a deadline isn’t imposed before the right part in the process.

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