This is the year I’m putting together a business plan for my writing. I began with this Plan on a Page from Jane Friedman’s website. I spent four morning hours filling it out, and finished just in time for my new planner to arrive so I could transfer my goals schedule and deadlines accordingly. So far I’m staying on track. In the past, however, I’ve had a notorious pattern of setting internal writing deadlines that I then proceed to blow, so what perfect timing that the first LERA program of the year was a panel of published authors on goal setting and productivity.
Here are the highlights.
The LERA panel, from left to right
Jeffe Kennedy, Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance
Darynda Jones, Paranormal Mystery, Young Adult
Robin Perini, Romantic Suspense
Tamra Baumann, Contemporary Romance
Shea Berkley, Young Adult and Fantasy
Tools of the Trade
Jeffe uses an Excel spreadsheet to schedule her writing deadlines and track progress. As soon as she pulled out her laptop to show us her spreadsheet, Darynda said, “I’m breaking out in hives just looking at it.”
Darynda’s favorite productivity tool is Freedom, a software that allows you to block access to the Internet or certain Internet sites so that you aren’t tempted to go online and then suck away your writing time.
Robin also uses Freedom, though she will set it so that she can still get to her online Thesaurus while writing.
Tamra uses a desk calendar for scheduling (yes!) and Excel for financials.
Shea’s main tool is Microsoft Word. “I’m a pantser. I just go–I just write.”
Everyone on the panel has their own schedule. The key is to find what works best for your temperament and energy flow and stick to it.
Jeffe completes her morning workout and then writes to her daily word count in one hour sprints. She spends no more than an hour a day on financials and sets a timer to ensure she doesn’t go over that.
Darynda works out and then spends the morning on business stuff. She usually doesn’t start writing until two in the afternoon. Upon hearing this Jeffe said, “Now you’re giving me hives. My goal is to be done writing by two.”
Robin writes for an hour and a half in the mornings before leaving for her day job, and works out after work. On her days off, she writes off and on throughout the day. She gets her word count in by doing writing sprints.
Tamra gets up in morning and gets rid of all the paperwork and business stuff. Then she works out. She is more creative in the afternoons, so after lunch she starts writing, and writes until dinner.
Shea gets up early, works out, and then writes, and has gotten skilled at tuning out the occasional interruption from family members.
How to Deal with Paralysis or Writer’s Block
Every writer encounters this at one point or another: the dreaded writer’s block, or just not being able to get through the next scene.
Jeffe writes for discovery, so for her, if the writing is getting hard, it usually means it’s getting really good. If she’s hitting a wall, she pushes through it, just keeps writing it.
Darynda will take a break by going for a walk or taking a shower. (The inspiration in the shower phenomenon is a real thing—I can personally attest to that.)
Robin is the type of person who does not ask for help easily, but if she’s hitting a plot wall, she will call up one of her friends to talk through it.
Tamra watches rom coms, if for no other reason than to see that those plots are not super sophisticated or serious, so why is she stressing out about her own plot? Also, romantic comedies are very close to what she writes.
Shea’s cure for paralysis is to read a book outside her genre. That’s just a good rule, period, for improving your craft.
It’s important to balance your work and personal lives, Robin says, and in order to do that you have to know yourself.
Part of that, says Shea, is having the courage to say no to a schedule that won’t work.
Finally, says Tamra, “Don’t compare yourself to other writers.”
In other words, you do you.