If you are like the millions like me right now, you’re stuck at home far more than you’ve ever been before. Many of us are finding we have leagues more time on our hands than we know what to do with. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in. Those who find you have less time on your hands than before probably have children, like me.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of perks to having kids. Having free time isn’t one of them.
Many of you might be trying your hand at new skills. If you haven’t gotten a good handle on cooking essentially all your meals and are still trying to live on ramen, try adding a spoonful of peanut butter to it for some instant Thai food! If you’re feeling fancy, add a boiled egg. If you don’t know how to boil an egg allow me to introduce you to my my good friend Google and her twin sister YouTube. If you came to this blog for cooking advice, do I dare ask what you searched to get here?
There is this an grow belief that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it. I like this belief. It helps people feel brave enough to try things at least once. However, there is a far cry between learning something, and mastering it. I’ve heard quoted that it takes 10,000 hours of work to achieve mastery of any given discipline.
That sounds about right when it comes to a handful of fields, like coed underwater basket weaving in shark infested waters, or perhaps getting orchids to rebloom. But I digress. If you do the math – and why would you, that’s what I’m here for – that’s over twenty-seven years of spending on hour a day learning a skill.
Now that you are all sufficiently daunted by that number, allow me to propose a different formula.
100 hours of work to reach a goal.
That’s three months working an hour each day, twenty weeks if you work only weekdays, and a year if you work only weekends. Either way, you have to choose how to spend your time and what works for your schedule
The whole idea here is that if you aren’t willing to spend at least 100 hours toward a goal, then you probably won’t be willing to spend five hours, or even one.
Want to write a book? Plan on spending around 100 hours to create the first draft. If you get it done faster, great. For reference, it takes me about 80 hours to write the first draft of a 100,000 word book. Are all those words good, nope. I’m still in the part of my career where I still find myself rewriting way more than I expect.
Want to lose weight? I’ll bet you if you you commit to spending 100 hours spread between planning meals, exercising, and researching the best way for you to work with your body’s needs, that you’ll probably do great.
Want to run a marathon? Spending 100 hours building up strength and endurance will see you all the way to the end.
The list goes on and on and it can be applied to literally anything.
Back in December I wrote, in super dramatic terms, about bringing my first book into the world and how it was way more like being a first-time mom than I ever expected. Looking back, I agree with every word.
It’s been almost six months since the release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal and the roller coaster of emotion is now more like a carousel. There are still ups and downs, but they don’t make me scream and I only get motion sick if I close my eyes for too long. Each turn is predictable with each next step already planned. Each tiny up has its own tiny down.
It’s all very manageable and to be honest – a little boring. It’s work. Plain and simple. I create goals to complete. Some are big, like finishing 2000 minutes of editing each month to finish Stonebearer’s #2. Some are tiny, like making sure my email stays under control. Some can be tedious, like ensuring my social media presence stays solid. (By the way, my Instagram is fabulous.) Some are fun, like attending conferences and signings.
I find myself hoarding time like a miser. Each minute I can work in peace while the kids are at school is measured and optimized. The hours of the day are sliced and diced into focused chunks, 45 minutes here to write today’s blog post, 10 minutes there to fold the laundry, 15 minutes here to answer an email, another hour there to edit another scene.
Right in the beginning, when the world of possibilities was wide open, I lost focus on my big goal, to earn my success by creating great novels, and instead spent way too much time chasing micro opportunities down rabbit holes. Whole days were eaten in the search for podcasts and book review sites willing to even look at me. I didn’t write or edit a word of fiction for months.
I turned into a crazy person. I collected every bit of data and studied each analytic hoping to see an upturn that said I’d won the author lottery and the mainstream market had noticed my little book. After months of working and watching, I realized the only way to continue growing my fan base would be to keep writing more books for people to enjoy.
So here I am. Working. Hard. Everyday.
I don’t regret my weeks and months spent being a little crazy and obsessive – it comes with the whole becoming an author package and needs to be experienced to be understood.
I’m all better now. Here, have a smiling potato.
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!) Here’s a handy link to Amazon to learn more.
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I believe I’ve said it here before, but creating a book is a lot like having a baby, morning sickness and all.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had several people want to hear about my journey of what it’s been like to publish a book. Last year, I wrote a post about my experience with querying and finding a publisher. Ironically, that post was immediately preceded by one talking about rejection and accepting yourself as you are, proving that this industry is indeed a roller-coaster ride of emotion.
What a year it’s been!
If my book “pregnancy” officially began the day I signed the contract, then the morning sickness set in when I started work with my editor. Women suffering from morning sickness will tell themselves it will all be worth it in the end as a way to cope with the misery. During the editing process, I kept telling myself that the nauseating discomfort of learning about all the weak parts of my book had to be a good thing as well. My editor at one point in the process may, or may not, have compared my main character to Bella Swan from Twilight. Ouch.
Editing is hard work. Each chapter, sometimes each page, takes long hours of intense focused thought to bring it to the next level. When I’ve done my own rounds of polishing and editing it’s taken months to work from cover to cover. Under contract, I’m given thirty days to complete an editing pass. Fun fact – if I spend one hour per page, editing the book would take over 300 hours. That’s THIRTY ten hour work days back-to-back with no breaks. Which is why it really wasn’t fair for my kids to be off-track during the first crucial editing pass as I transformed my main character Katira away from being a passive Bella and into a strong, capable protagonist.
Deadlines are aptly named. If you aren’t feeling half-dead with exhaustion as you slide your edited manuscript back, you probably have better time management practices in place than I do. In the first pass, we cut away almost 15,000 words of dead weight and replaced them with hundreds of small additions sprinkled through the book like salt. I learned quickly that one of my writing weaknesses (besides poor Bella) was not tagging dialogue in a way that added motion and life into a scene. After spending days of work inserting more action into my dialogue sequences, I think I’ve learned my lesson.
This process is repeated until both editor and author agree the book is as good as it can get, or can’t stand to look at it again. I’m still not sure which. Morning sickness fades into a period of waiting, preparation, and sheer terror contemplating the vastness of all that should be done. There’s waiting for the proofreader to finish, waiting for the cover artist, waiting for formatting, waiting for proofs, waiting for digital copies, waiting for early reviewers – so much waiting.
At this point self-publishing starts to look good. While I’ve loved having the support of a company to help me through this process, especially since it’s my first time, the waiting and not knowing what’s happening – or if anything is happening – can drive anyone a little nuts.
Just like a first-time mom, a first-time author (despite all their research, and best efforts, and fellow author friends who try to show them the way) experiences so much uncertainty with the whole process that the stress is unbelievable. Looking back, I could have done so much more with this waiting period to prepare for the books release, but I was naive. Now I’ve been through it I know what really needs to be done, and when I go through this again I’ll have a much better plan.
Launch day is literally a book’s birthday. It is pushed out into the world and is on display for all to see, warts and all. All the early teasers, quotes, articles, and efforts that happen before the launch are the same as showing people ultrasounds. As the author, I can see the cute little nose and the tiny precious fingers, and all that amazing potential inside because I’ve studied it – but to everyone else it’s just another static filled picture.
There’s no way to feel truly prepared for launch day. Some authors do hundreds of hours of prep and set up and marketing and a blog tour – the options are dizzying. Some moms fill their freezer with weeks’ worth of meals and create and fill a schedule for people to come help them.
The results are the same. The book still comes, the baby is born. The family and friends that planned on supporting and helping the author still show up. Sometimes friends of friends are dragged in as well.
Unlike a baby who demands care, feeding, and endless love and attention, a book won’t demand anything and immediately starts fading into obscurity unless the author continues to push and work to keep it in the public eye.
This is where I am now. My book has entered its infancy where it still doesn’t know its place in the world. I’m working everyday, trying hard just to keep it alive until it can start building momentum on its own. Just like a real infant, the work keeps me awake at night and requires a steady stream of care and feeding for it to thrive.
It’s exhausting, but worth it.
My family will tell you that this process has changed me. I believe it. I’m a stronger more confident person than I was before. I’ve learned how to squeeze the most out of short periods of time, and utilize every moment – especially when I’m under a deadline. These skills have transferred into home life as well. Putting off doing something I don’t like doing, like creating a meal plan, only serves to prolong stress. Get it over with. Having a messy house won’t kill me, but it doesn’t help me find peace either. It’s important to seek out ways to feel centered, even when lots of crazy is going on.
While I wrote the book because it was one of my life goals, it has helped my kids see that they can reach hard goals as well and that anything worth doing takes real work. I love hearing the pride in their voices as they tell their teachers and friends that their mom is an author.
Hopefully they don’t mind too much that this book baby might be expecting a little brother in 2020…!
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!)