As most of us scribblers out there know (scribblers – I love that term for writers … courtesy of Stephen King, as an aside) the publishing industry has changed. Whether you’re a self-published author or you’ve landed a traditional publishing contract, marketing, to a large degree (if not entirely) is in your hands. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, Tsu, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube … crikey, how many are there?
With all this networking and self-promotion, it’s easy to allow your social media time to encroach upon your writing time. “Let me just send out a few tweets,” you might say, or “just one post on Facebook.”
… Usually that one post or those few tweets morph into an hour of social media maintenance and platform building.
No bones about it, marketing and self-promotion are important. And they’re not just important to self-published authors. In today’s hyper-connected society, traditionally published authors need to be out there, putting in the digital face-time, too.
What’s hard to keep sight of sometime is that, first and foremost, we’re writers. Getting that next manuscript drafted, and putting out books with some degree of regularity is the most important part of our careers.
Where does one find the time?!
I admit, I am no less notorious than the next person for spending too much time on social media at the expense of my writing. And even though I don’t seem to have gotten the balance quite right just yet, there are some tips and tricks I use to help me stay focussed on piling up my word count of whatever my current WIP happens to be. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Give in to the itch to tweet/pin/post/share
Whether I like it or not, social media is an important part of my career – and I do like it … to a degree. I recognize that spending time on my active Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest accounts, not to mention my blog, are essential to getting my name out there. But I don’t have to spend all day at it – which I could easily do, believe me! Instead, I try to set aside dedicated “digital” time. I give myself until X o’clock to work on posting, tweeting, pinning, and what ever else I may need to do. It’s a great strategy, I find, for two reasons. First, I give myself permission to indulge in social media without feeling guilty. Second, it keeps me focussed. If I only have an hour to play around on social media, I tend to get more important things done than just “playing around.” I end up using my social media time more efficiently when I know it’s limited.
2. Schedule your writing time
Just like with social media, I set a timer for my writing time, too. I say, “Okay, Veronica. You’re going to sit down from now until X o’clock, and you’re going to write. NO SOCIAL MEDIA!” I even write it into my daily planner, and set up a reminder in my Outlook with a start and stop time. By treating my writing time like an appointment, I tend to think of it as an unbreakable contract with myself.
3. Bring your laptop everywhere!
And I mean everywhere. It’s such a hassle to carry a bulky laptop bag everywhere, but it’s worth it. If I find I’m running 20 or 30 minutes ahead of schedule, and there’s a coffee shop on the corner, that’s 20 or 30 minutes of writing time (or, if said coffee shop has WiFi, then there’s my social media playtime). Where I used to work, I had a 45 minute train ride, and then a 25 minute walk to the office. I dragged my laptop back and forth every day (despite the constantly sore shoulder where the strap of my bag sits) because it meant I had an hour and a half each day to write.
4. Draft by hand
I wrote before on the benefits of writing your first draft by hand, and I stand by that post. By keeping a dedicated 8.5 x 11 standard-lined workbook handy, I find myself writing down a paragraph or two here and there throughout the day. It never seems like much each time, but by the end of the day I’m always amazed to see that I’ve got five or six full pages of writing. True, I then have to type those handwritten pages into a Word document, but I don’t mind that so much (menial typing without much thinking doesn’t seem to be one of those things I procrastinate over). Besides, I probably wouldn’t have spent the same kind of time typing out my first draft as I did hand-writing it.
So, those are my tricks. They’re not many, but they’re effective. Do you have any tricks to keep your writing at (or near) the top of your priority list? I’d love to hear about it!