I thought long and hard about how to categorize this post. It really could have quite easily fit into the business, writing, and the productivity category.
I settled on productivity, because though I have dozens of lessons learned over the course of my career, in every category, it’s the process-related items that have had the biggest impact over the long-haul.
—One. Organizing my book-related files and assets.
I know. You were probably hoping for something a little sexier than file structure, right? But I can honestly stay that since it’s when I finally started getting strategic and consistent in my digital organization that I was finally able to get the mental space (and time) to really level-up my career.
What do I mean by organization? I mean that I am ruthless and uncompromising when it comes to making sure that every single book I write has its own folder, and that every folder is tidy and comprehensive.
You can name any book title and ask me for the final PDF document for that book, and I know exactly where it is. Need a .doc version? I’ve got that too. Epub? Yep. I can literally visualize where every single file format for every single book lives. Name a book cover and the format you want it in, and I’ll have it to your inbox in 2 seconds.
This all may sound like a pointless display of anal retentive perfectionism, but it’s this diligent structure that’s allowed me to easily and quickly get my books into the hands of film agents, to expand into the interactive book world, to get mainstream media coverage, to explode my Pinterest traffic, to know which opportunities to say yes/no to based on data, not guesswork.
And, perhaps most importantly, all this ensures that the business side of Lauren Layne runs like a well-oiled machine so that the creative side of Lauren Layne gets my time and attention.
—Two. Ask yourself why
Get in the habit of asking yourself why you’re doing something, like, all the time, all day long.
- Why am I writing a fourth book in this series?
- Why am I on Twitter?
- Why do I write in Microsoft Word even though it crashes constantly?
- Why am I thinking about starting a second Facebook group?
- Why do I care about Instagram followers?
- Why do I want an invitation to that book signing?
- Why am I considering signing that contract?
- Why am I obsessing over reviews?
- Why am I continuing to follow/engage with Fellow Author So&So even though they’re always negative and make me feel bad.
Important note: don’t judge your answers to any of these questions, or think you have to have some scientific rationale for why you do what you do.
“Because it’s fun!” or “because I like it!” are a 100% acceptable answers—they’re maybe even the best answer.
But I found that by getting in the habit of exploring why on a regular basis, I often discovered the most disturbing answer of all:
There were some items that were simply fun (Instagram). Other items that were totally not fun, but necessary (copyedits). And then there were a whole lot, where I realized, “I have no idea why I’m spending time or mental energy on that.” Axe.
To say that I got a lot of time and joy back from asking myself why at every corner is an understatement.
—Three. Developed a process for revisions as well as “first drafting”
Oh look, there she goes again talking about process.
Look, I’m a process gal. I’m an organized beast, and I’m proud of it. It’s how I work, and it doesn’t have to be how you work!
But I will say that my writing life and deadline process got a lot easier when I started giving my rewrite/revision process the same care I gave my first draft process.
I know plenty of authors who give workshops on setting up Scrivener, on how they outline, on using Trello to plot their story, on storyboards, and style sheets, and beat sheets, GMC and a ton of other juicy stuff I can geek out on for hours.
Discussed much less often is what happens after you’ve done all the planning, written the book, sent it to your editor …
And then your editor sends it back to you. With notes. Sometimes lots of notes.
Early on, I’d just sort of … dive in. I’d open Chapter One and army crawl my way through every sentence while trying to juggle the inline comments in the manuscript, the editorial letter, the cover letter (email) from my editor, plus my own mental notes.
I remember one moment very clearly while working on significant rewrites for To Have and to Hold, where I felt like I was trying to hold 80,000 words up in the air while removing some, adding some, improving others, and I legit felt like I couldn’t breathe.
And then it hit me—how is it that I have a rather tidy system for prepping a book that zero words to manage, but I have no system for revising 300 pages worth of content?
Since then, that approach with revisions has gotten a lot more deliberate. No more reading the editorial letter, then opening the manuscript and hoping for the best. I’m not going to go into my entire process here, because it’s robust, always changing, and to be honest, probably has enough content for an entire master class, but I will say this: I know before I start how much new content I’ll need to write, and where it goes, I know which scenes if any will get cut, and I have a list of character changes, plot changes, and timeline changes already listed out by chapter.