A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a class of fifth graders about my writing process. They are in the middle of their first research paper project and were full of questions. Tons of questions! While I tried to make sure to draw parallels to their project in brainstorming, research, outlining, drafting, editing, and polishing the final product to turn in to their teacher, I couldn’t let them believe that the not-so-simple act of writing was all that I did. So, I’m offering you what I gave them, a glimpse into a day in the life of an author.
My day starts in mom-mode as I get the kids up, pack lunches, and shoo them out the door for school. Then, it’s time to prime the pump and shift my thinking toward work. Time in my Bible to remind me why I do this. A large dose of caffeine along with a protein-packed breakfast for energy. Often a walk to get the blood pumping and ideas flowing. Then, I head to my office and turn on the laptop. (I’m blessed that my husband’s job supports our family and while I’ve had a day job working from home, those projects have been infrequent lately giving me more “typical” days as an author.)
First up, progress on a new project. I might brainstorm scenes or develop character backstories or write a synopsis to make sure the story works. Or I could be take those previous notes and fast-draft to get the story out of my head and onto paper. I could also be at the revision stage where I fill in the gaps, fix inconsistencies, or strengthen the writing itself with better word choices. If I get mentally stuck on one project, I have several other ideas on the back burner and jump over to work on those for a day or two. About once a week, I spend this creative time on posts for this blog or others. The main thing for me is measurable progress on something even if I only spend an hour or two.
After a quick break to get a healthy snack, walk around, or fold the laundry, it’s time to shift my mental focus toward the business and marketing aspects of being an author. These tasks don’t require the concentrated effort of creating and are generally shorter as far as the time required so I can start and stop work on my long list of things to do at any time. What’s on this list?
- Email. Read, answer, process, and delete as needed. Generally only about fifteen minutes a day max but I try once a week to get the inbox cleared.
- Social media interactions and updates. Once a week, I schedule posts ahead, but daily I pop in to my accounts to comment, like, share, and retweet.
- Financial and other record-keeping to keep the IRS happy. Royalty statements, credit card bills, receipts, balancing the checkbook, recording my daily tasks on a small calendar, filing submission and rejection slips to prove I’m working, and more.
- Search out guest blog opportunities and schedule them.
- Put a current title on sale and then notify my email list and social media followers.
- Investigate, create, and follow-up on the results of advertising.
- Write a newsletter for my email list.
- Collect great quotes from my books and turn them into memes to share.
- Update my website widgets and banner.
- Update the covers and interior content of my current titles.
- Listen to podcasts and read books on marketing to glean new ideas to add to my list.
- Finalize my list of influencers to include in the marketing information form my publisher wants.
- Collect giveaway items for my book launch.
Whew! After a bit of marketing work (usually with a ticking timer in the background to keep me moving forward rather than getting sucked into the time-wasting trap of the Internet), I take a longer break for lunch and often even a nap thanks to lingering chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. As the kids arrive back home from school, my focus shifts back to family and dinner and often evening sports activities.
However, even as I’m pulled away from my desk, my mind is busy filtering through the tasks still to be done and the next scene to be written. I jot down notes to myself to jump start the next day. Some evenings, I am able to curl up with a good book on the craft of writing or watch a webinar so I can keep growing as a writer. From time to time, I also have chapters from my critique partner to go over and usually schedule these for an evening when the family is watching television or after they’ve gone to bed. Other times, I indulge in a good movie or novel to refuel my passion for stories.
My life as an author is a bunch of collective baby steps. Right foot, create something new. Left foot, market what I’ve written. All while continuing to grow.
What about you? What do you think authors do all day? Any surprises on my list? What about authors who have full-time jobs and still get all this stuff done?