Time. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? We each get the same twenty-four hours in a day and once it’s gone, it’s gone. So if you really want to have a stab at becoming a successful author, you have to make the most of the time that you have. We’ve all got differing demands on our time – some might have a day job that takes up most of their daylight hours, some might have a young family or other caring responsibilities. Or you might have both! Anyway, the point is that if you’re going to get a decent amount of writing done, you need to become more efficient at actually doing it.
There’s no system that can substitute for actually sitting your bum down in a chair and getting those words down on paper or computer, but there are ways to streamline the process and help you make the most of the limited time that you have to write. So read on for my top five systems that should help you write more efficiently.
A PUBLISHING SCHEDULE
If you’re just writing as a hobby, you might not want to bother with this one but if you’re hoping to make a career out of writing, a publishing schedule will be your best friend! You can use an online calendar, such as Google, or a paper version that you stick to a noticeboard. Personally, I use an Excel spreadsheet divided up into months.
Work out what you want to publish and when and fill in your calendar. By having your plans written down and when you’re able to take in the entire year in a glance, you’ll be able to pre-plan your publishing schedule, set up your book launches and work out when you need to schedule sending out review copies and advertising slots. It’s a tool that’s also invaluable for reminding you of what you’ve already written! That sounds ridiculous but if you write a long running series, or more than one, it’s handy to be able to look back and see that you’ve last published something in a particular series, say, three months ago and really need to start thinking about getting the next book in that series up and running.
One extra tip: colour code your entries! I have different colours for advertising, pre-orders, publication and writing. It makes it much easier to see at a glance if I’ve booked too many promotions in one month and not enough in another, for example.
No matter how many times you publish, there comes a point in the process when you think ‘oh God, what do I do now?’ (or is that just me?) Anyway, when it’s early days for you in your publishing career, it can be difficult to put the steps of the process together in the right order and even if you’ve used Amazon KDP, for example, once or twice, there’s still a process of reacquainting yourself with what you have to do when you upload a new book.
The solution? Take the stress out of it and create a checklist of the things you need to do. Whether that’s for publication of an eBook, print book or audio book, or booking a specific promotion or whatever you want. If you want a ready-made checklist for self-publishing a book from start to finish, check out my workbook from First Draft to First Sale here.
Setting up your workspace so that it’s comfortable, accessible and welcoming will be a big help in making you a more productive writer. Writing in the same place every time assists in creating a good writing habit which can only help you in getting the words down. Check out my blog post which goes into creating the creating the perfect workspace in much more detail.
A WRITING ROUTINE
Getting into a writing routine is key in getting a lot of writing done and the easiest way to establish a routine is to find one that suits you. When do you write best? First thing in the morning or are you a night owl? Can you write best in utter silence or do you need background noise around you? How long can you write for before your concentration starts waning?
It’s impossible to proscribe the type of routine you ought to have because what works for one writer will be utterly unhelpful for another. Understand what works best for you and put whatever you can in place to help you achieve your writing goals.
One thing that does work for everyone is reward! Make sure you celebrate and reward yourself when you’ve reached the day’s writing goal or you’ve hit your word count (personally I like a ten-minute sit down with my feet up, a cup of coffee and a Jammie Dodger or five).
FRONT AND BACK MATTER
Now this is a little productivity hack that you’ll thank me for! When you publish an eBook, you’ll need both front and back matter in the manuscript to make it look professional. Front matter usually means the title and author name and copyright notice, although some enterprising souls have also used it to include a sign up link to their website and mailing list. Your back matter should include the following:
- A polite request for a review and a link to where the reader can leave one (i.e. your Amazon product page for the book)
- The title, blurb and link to your other books (this is really easy marketing which everyone should be doing)
- A request to join your reader team if you have one
- The dedication, thanks and acknowledgements (I know that in print books, the dedication normally goes at the front. With eBooks, you want to maximise the amount of actual book at the front of your novel, so as to take full advantage of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature)
Save yourself a HEAP of time by saving all this information into a separate file. Then whenever you publish a new book, you can just copy and paste the front and back matter straight into the manuscript.
Make sure you add all your new books to the back matter and ensure that the links are all live and working properly. Draft 2 Digital has made this even easier with their recent introduction of universal book links for your books, and you don’t even have to be a member to use them! (Did I mention I love Draft 2 Digital?) You can read more about their universal book links here.
So, there we go – five ways you can make yourself a more efficient writer. I hope you’ve found them useful and I’d love to hear from you if you have any more.