…listen up, Lads and Lassie of Blog Land… my pal, Rachel Amphlett has done a ton of WURK in pursuit of figuring out how we quill-scrapers can find that elusive and vital balance in all the stuff the modern day scribbler’s expected to get involved with… let her share it with yeez:
A Writer’s Toolkit
For most of us, writing is what we do in between a job, or raising kids, or a myriad of other responsibilities.
It’s a precarious balance at the best of times. When we do find those precious moments to indulge ourselves, it’s easy to fritter away the time, rather than use it to the best of our abilities.
About a year ago, I felt I was sinking – my writing time was getting used for marketing, my marketing was lacking direction, and I was getting more and more frustrated with my lack of progress.
I knew I had to take action. I wanted 2015 to be different – less stressful for a start. Being more productive, and seeing better results for it, was my goal. Since making that decision, I’ve noticed a dramatic difference. Here’s what helped me on my way.
1) A scheduling tool for marketing
Late last year, I sat down and worked out how much time social media took away from my writing time. It was scary. By the time I tried to work out which posts received most engagement, what didn’t work and how Facebook algorithms were about to wreck our author pages, I was going round in circles.
I knew there had to be an easier way. Enter scheduling tools. There are a few on the market, but for me (and this isn’t an endorsement, it’s simply what suits me at the moment), Buffer ticked all the boxes.
It was easy to set up, allowed me to share posts across Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and also allowed me to segment posts and ensure I was engaged across several time zones (most of my readers are in the UK and USA, some nine hours minimum behind my Brisbane life).
Now, I don’t rely on a scheduling tool alone – I’m too much of a social butterfly for that – but it has made things easier. Now I can spend 10-15 minutes in the morning and another 10-15 minutes in the evening scheduling some posts, then respond to comments and generally interact with people when I first get up in the morning. If I get a spare 5-10 minutes during the day, you’ll find me on Twitter, simply because that’s my favourite social media platform.
All in all, I’m a lot more organised.
2) Specific times for marketing (no writing allowed)
Again, the scheduling tool comes in handy here, but if I’m working ‘live’, then I’ll try to do this early in the morning when I get up at 5.15am, while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil before I go to work.
This time allows me to respond to comments on Facebook and Twitter, share other people’s posts and generally just relax while I’m trying to wake up. Once I’ve got a cup of coffee in my hand, I’ll respond to emails, maybe post some things on Facebook, and then switch off the computer and get ready for work.
During the day, I’ll check in on Twitter and Facebook, but most of the time I’ll have another flurry of activity during the evening once the UK and USA start to wake up.
If I need to do a ‘big’ marketing effort, such as finding images for book covers, or updating my website, I’ll leave this for a Saturday morning. I often wake up a couple of hours before everyone else, so this is my time to relax and play around with the book business side of things. After about 8am, it’s the weekend proper.
3) Specific times for writing (no marketing allowed)
About 18 months ago, I made the decision to write during my commute to work. I set myself a small target of about 200 words for the 30 minute journey, but I’m often hitting 700+ these days, simply because I do it every day, there and back, Monday to Friday. If the train carriage is noisy, I’ll put my headphones in. Eighteen months ago, I couldn’t even contemplate writing while listening to music, so it just shows how you can train your brain to accept new habits.
I very rarely write at weekends; I might do a bit of plotting, but I like the opportunity to let my brain relax for a day or two, just to recharge the batteries.
4) Making the most of writing time
Using Scrivener, which is the best writing package I’ve ever used, I’ll simply work on a scene that resonates with me rather than writing ‘in order’.
If I’m really struggling to get started, then I’ll daydream for a bit, and often come up with an idea for a blog post, or an idea for a plot for another book – as long as I’m doing something productive with that time, I’m happy. More often than not though, I’m tapping away at that laptop keyboard, churning out words – once that habit is formed, it’s hard to kick it.
6) Templates for emails
I love helping other writers. I’m an advocate for paying it forward, but sometimes I get swamped by the number of requests, most of which ask the same questions.
I’ve now got a suite of template emails that set out the basics of a response, which I can then embellish and personalise for the person who has contacted me. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, but it does mean I’ve given myself a head start on a response and can therefore continue to help others, rather than just have a blanket ‘no, sorry – too busy; can’t help’, which I couldn’t bear to do – it’s not in my personality to be like that, for a start!
I also have a couple of template emails for readers, especially for those having problems downloading my free book when they join the mailing list. Some of us aren’t tech savvy, so it’s useful to have a step-by-step guide I can send to readers who contact me saying they’re struggling. It saves me time, and it keeps them happy.
The above list is not meant to be a ‘one size fits all’ fix, but hopefully you can take some of these ideas and use them to find that elusive life/work/writing balance we all crave.
And if you have a particular trick that works well for you, why not share it in the comments here?
…Rachel has her latest offering on pre sale from now until June 30th… have a look at this fabulous cover :
…I did a wee bit of background research on the LUVLY Rachel, and yeez’ll be as impressed as I am to learn a bit more about her:
Before emigrating to Australia in 2005, Rachel helped run a pub, played lead guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.
After returning to writing, Rachel enjoyed publication success both in Australia and the United Kingdom with her short stories. Her first thriller White Gold was released in 2011, with the Italian foreign rights for the novel being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014.
She is currently working on the third in her Dan Taylor military thriller series, due for publication later this year, and plotting the next two books in that series.
In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, horse-riding, playing guitar, reading (of course), and writing (another no-brainer). She also has a great love of films, especially thrillers, rom-com, sci-fi and biopics. She doesn’t mind admitting she’s scared of horror films.
…and yeez can get linked up with m’Lady, Rachel, thus:
…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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