Managing Myself

Whenever I find myself filling any kind of survey on “what field of work you’re in” I have trouble finding what fits. Ultimately, I default to “entertainment.”

I know as I fill it in that it’s not what they think it is. But I also know it’s true. Sure, I’m not up on stage, singing and dancing and clip clopping on high heels. And I don’t tell stories on the stage.

But I do tell stories. And I’m aware what people have to be entertained by those stories, or they won’t give me any money.

Now, for most of my life, I have been writing whatever was accepted. I’m now, for the first time in 35 years back to my first world, created in 1976. Now, it’s not that I didn’t want to write it before — though I don’t think I could write it before. I mean, I had the entire world, and had worked it out to the nth degree. I have a genealogy of the rulers going back two thousand years, I know what industries are thriving and from what. I know a hundred side characters. My last attempts at it were lost in knowing too much about the country, and having no clue how to bridge it for the new reader. But that wasn’t the whole thing. The more important thing was that no one would buy the world. And not all of it was because of how it was written but because of what the world is.

I’m still not absolutely sure there’s a market for it, but I’m writing it to the best of my understanding, and it will either sink or swim. It is what it is.

However, writing it and releasing it has to fit in a schedule. It is part of the Schrodinger universe, (So is Rhodes, btw) but I don’t want the universe to be known for it, because I have a dozen other (finite) series set in it. Like Winter Prince — 4 books — or well, Rhodes — 20 but they’re short books — or the Valhalla trilogy — 3 books. Or–

So, everything working out, it will be released towards the end of the year. As a 6 book series. (Almost for sure. Unless one in the middle flakes on me.)

But in the mean time I need to feed other series: Dyce. Darkships. Shifters…

Because I have fans who love those.

It’s a balance, walking the tight rope between what I desire to write — it is important to write what I need to, or the writing shuts down hard. I’ve seen it in some stuff I wrote at the end of 2019 — and what sells.

Because in the end I’m an entertainer. I can sing and dance to an empty auditorium, but it won’t feel right. This is part of the reason I joke I should have written for the drawer then brought it out indie when it was possible. But the truth is that I’d never have been able to just write for the drawer for year after year. I tell stories. I need someone to hear them. And the sign they hear and appreciate it is the tinkling of coins in the storyteller’s bowl.

However, it didn’t occur to me till today, when I was discussing the schedule and the balance to a friend that I’m going to need to manage something very thoroughly and carefully: my assets.

Stop giggling. I don’t mean that. It’s not that kind of entertainment.

What are a writers’ assets? Well, a writer in my position with series started, somewhat of a reputation, some fans?

Like any other business, my business has monetary assets.

I’ve never had those before. The money I made from writing, which wasn’t a ton, went normal living expenses, form my own, to looking after/helping the kids, to stuff we needed like house or car repairs. (We had two houses in a row that smelled when I had just got an advance, and throw a problem of the exact size of the money that had come in. From the enclosure of a shower collapsing, to a porch that needed rebuilding, to re-roofing, to–) Had I had the money say 20 years ago, to promote my work, I could have made something go big: there were things you could do, from tours to attending a lot of cons. But I didn’t.

I have some money now, because I ran a blog fundraiser with the intent of using the money to help me write more and promote my work. I’ve got some help, and I’m moving into figuring out how to promote (which is different for indie, of course.)

That’s one asset. I do need to figure out how to promote, because I don’t want to use the money wantonly or waste it.

But there are other assets. My blog, of course, and my work at instapundit. I need to keep both of those up, which is a time investment.

Then there’s my fans. while it’s very cute to say “Author name is not your bitch” and it’s even true to an extent, your fans are an asset. They won’t walk away en masse, but you can offend them and drive them nuts. And you can alienate if not all of them a majority of them.

In my case, I have fans for various series, more than my fans, which is odd. But it means that as I promote and resume series, I need to keep an eye out for how large that asset is, and how active.


Well, because my biggest asset — other than my craft and the years of learning — is my time. I have a limited quantity of time. Not just the unknowable amount of time I have left in life, but the time I can give it every day or every week. It can’t be every minute I’m awake, and there’s no point trying to make it so.

I have a marriage I can’t entirely neglect. Nor do I want to. I have children, now grown and on their own, with whom I need to spend some time. And want to.

More importantly, I have hobbies that aren’t writing — and which have been grossly neglected — from sewing to gardening, to reading, to spending time petting my cats. All of it feeds into the writing too.

Used to be that writers had someone else in charge of deciding when your novel series were done. “I’m sorry, your books aren’t selling. Do you want to start a different series?” (Okay, usually I was told I had to do a different series and what the genre and name I’d use, but never mind.”

No, I’ll need to manage my time as an asset. In the absence of a series selling extraordinarily well (So far Darkship Thieves is about it) or my feeling a driving need to continue writing it, I will phase it out, fast or slowly.

For instance, Shifters will get a couple more books, and some promo, but absent a pick up in sales, it will probably become a once a year thing for the fans.

I’d like to do one more of the Musketeer Mysteries, as much as it’s going to eat my time, because the last one is half a book. BUT barring it selling like gangbusters, it’s not going to continue after that.

The Shakespeare series, at this point, I’d only consider “finishing” (It was originally planned at 5 books) with a kickstarter and serious money on the line.

Meanwhile I have a lot of other series I want to write that have been waiting (admittedly less than 46 years) which I’ll have to put to the same test. We’ll see how it does, and if it doesn’t, it gets de-emphasized or stopped.

Because my time is an asset and I have to learn to manage it.

Honestly, it’s not easy. My boss is a b*tch, and my employee is a pain.

But it is a business, as well as anything else.

I’m in the entertaiment business. And I have to use my assets and learn to tap dance.

17 thoughts on “Managing Myself

  1. Today is a day to write. To write, not plot. To write else naught.
    Today is a day to write, because it won’t stop banging on the inside of my skull like a giant sized toddler with wooden blocks. Today is a day to unsnarl the threads, to scribble a dribble, to un-screw the screw-ups, to fiat the lux, and to quit worrying over the incredibly horrendous dialogue and just write it all down.

    And not frown while doing so, because that causes wrinkles.

    Today is a day to write and worry about editing later. Today is also the day I found out one of my old stories is on a top 100 list somewhere, even thought it hasn’t had an update in three freaking months (boggled, I did). Today is a day to avoid thinking about the thing that really, really wants a plot thread, and a villain(s- I think they’re a whole faction, not just A Villain)fleshed out.

    Today is a day to write because I think the headache from yesterday that stuck around and is still going today is related to not writing for too long. Today is a day to write because there’s going to be chaos, there’s going to be scifi, there’s going to be tech geekyness, and there’s going to be introspection and renewed focus.

    Also today is a day to write because I have an actual, guaranteed, ironclad promise of a day without having to work any of the other three jobs. Let the scribbles commence!

  2. Still here waiting patiently for when I’m needed oh digital niece of mine.
    BTW just finished the first of the Station Noir books, loved it, and thanks for the pointer. I did come away feeling as though it had some undefined connection with your Rhodes universe. May have just been some similarities in the story telling that my wacky back brain thought it saw.

  3. For promotion, I hear good things about facebook ads, but am not on that platform, so don’t have more information.

    Amazon ads, the rule of thumb I read about was one click per thousand impressions and one sale per four clicks meant you were doing more or less everything right. Not enough impressions? Wrong keyword or wrong bid for keyword. Not enough clicks? Tag line or cover art needs work. Not enough sales? Blurb or opening needs work.

    Bookbub ads (the ones that work kind of like Amazon ads): rule of thumb I read about was to look for authors writing stuff similar(ish) to yours, and zero in on ones who had 12k-15k followers on bookbub; run short, high-burn ads to test which ones (and which ad art) would work for you, and try to get the best click through rate you could (recommended was IIRC 10-20%, which I never achieved.) I liked them because the data was more granular than Amazon for a long time, and the interface was and is still easier.

  4. I know what you mean. The last few months I’ve been pushing and pushing and pushing (like a boulder uphill, in the snow, during a heatwave, barefoot) and yesterday, I just sat back and said, enough. I watched a movie I had been wanting to watch. And did the minimum to keep the house running. My brain needed it. But, time/motivation/pain balance is so hard to maintain, so I’m working to fine tune it, in some way, that the projects fit the ability present at the time. So many hobbies, so much volunteer work, so many paid commitments, and family, pets and friends…all gotta fit there somewhere. So, yeah, I know where you are coming from, and I’m trying to get to the same place following a similar map.

  5. Your time matters more than anything, closely followed by your health. If you drive yourself too hard, you’ll collapse and then you can’t write at all.
    You have to have down time to rest your brain.
    You have to go outside everyday and recharge by walking in the sun.
    You have to write for yourself because those are the books that need to come out.
    You have to find an audience, which is so, so, so hard.

    Best wishes on good time management!
    When you learn the secrets, be sure to tell the rest of us.

  6. In terms of time management, I was obsessive about noveling to the detriment of friendships and family, for a few years after I finished my first novel (no, not published, no not gonna be). After that I tried to take the attitude that if my people were available to hang out with, I was going to do that and find some other time to write when peeps were not available to hang out. Somehow or other it has generally worked out; my problem with the book currently in revisions (started first draft in November 2020, IIRC) was more about loss of interest in that particular book and not being sure where I was going with it.

  7. There’s a reason why I have a “scratch” file for all of my blog ideas and I’m going for more formal story plotting for future writing.

    It feels a lot less like “massive piece of work that I can’t finish because I don’t know where to start” than my usual “checkpoint” style of writing.

    Time management sucks as well. My best writing time is almost opposite “time for dealing with Life(TM),” and it’s hard to be motivated to bleed on the keyboard after you’ve done a full day’s work.

    1. You’re probably familiar with Rachel Aaron’s Time-Knowledge-Enthusiasm triangle, but it remains the most helpful piece of writing process advice I’ve ever gotten:
      Didn’t increase my words per hour output (stubbornly sitting at 800-1000 words per hour forever LOL), but did give me more situations where I knew what I wanted to write, and therefore more productive writing time.

  8. Finally managed to get some writing in today. I’d been trying to write after work, but to much stuff has been going on in the evenings.

    Today I set the alarm about 30m early and wrote before I started my day. Still don’t know how to resolve the structure of the story, but I’ve got at least two more or complete scenes I need to get out of my head and onto paper (the laser duel and why she hates vinyl).

    A journey of a thousand steps, and all that.

  9. Oh yes. I’m fighting delayed January Doldrums, and trying to balance Day Job with family with writing with blog. I’d planned on something else, but a Merchant book attacked, and I know that there are people who like that series a great deal. So it shifted to research, then writing that one. When everything else balances out. It is coming along, just slower than I think it “should.”

  10. “Honestly, it’s not easy. My boss is a b*tch, and my employee is a pain.”

    A variation on this, which I mentioned elsewhere on the internet, is Right Now MD vs Future MD. Right Now MD hates Future MD and will go out of his way to screw that guy over. It’s difficult keeping a reign on him, especially when things need to be done, and I often find myself looking back and thinking how much more I could have gotten done. My discipline has gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but I’m not perfect…

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