Flexibility for Writers

I am bursting with good news! I just received my fully executed contract for a picture book to come out with Charlesbridge in 2018! It’s about SPRING, and that’s what I’ll call it here. I’ve been sharing my revision process (the revision is due to the editor on Monday) through video in my paid Picture Book Craft and Creation Facebook Group, which has been a blast. And I’ve wanted to work with this editor for a while.

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And I just got the go-ahead on two nonfiction picture book proposals I submitted for a large work-for-hire project. I wrote one nonfiction picture book for this project last year, and the editor is delightful, so I’m excited to have a couple more under commission now.

And I received an email last night from an editor about a poetry collection (NIGHT) she acquired more than three years ago! I now have editorial notes on the revision I did a year or so ago, and she is ready to send the manuscript to an illustrator! Squeal! This will be my first traditionally published picture book poetry collection since BookSpeak, and to say I’m ecstatic is understating it. I have been wanting to have this book in hand for ages. I love this publisher, who publishes many of my favorite poets, and this editor, who is so kind and so thoughtful and passionate about poetry.

Wheeee! I am so excited about all of these projects and have been happy dancing until my shoes have worn through.

But…

My schedule is now shot all to hell.

I was planning to create one big/involved video course for writers about work for hire writing and the educational market and try another less intense format (basically, a 45-minute to 1-hour talk about a particular publishing topic).

I was planning to finish tagging all of my poems.

I was planning to finish my assessment database, where I can track all the topics I’ve proposed, where and in what form I’ve written about them, what rights were sold, etc.

I was planning to revise my ROBOT manuscript based on some recent research.

And now I have other priorities.

This is the reality of being a working writer. If you are someone who likes goals and schedules and planning (in other words, if you are me), you will be constantly spun in different directions until you are a bewildered fool, trying to figure out what is really important.

So, here are my top five tips for being flexible.

  1. Celebrate the good news! A change in plan is usually because someone wants to share your work with the world. So even though your schedule suddenly changes, it’s for a great reason. It’s so that the thing you want MOST to happen actually CAN happen. Reminding myself of this helps calm the chaos in my brain.
  2. Make a list of what you have promised people. Yes, in order to be a successful, productive writer, you might set deadlines for yourself that you take very seriously. I do, too. But the promises I’ve made to publishers and clients always come first. If, for instance, I had pre-sold the course on writing for the educational market, then work on that would have to continue. Because I didn’t pre-sell it and haven’t promised to have it available by a certain date, it will go to the back burner for now. So list out all your obligations and their deadlines.
  3. Look at your original plan/schedule/calendar and start changing deadlines. I like to officially move things around on my lists and schedules, because otherwise, I start to feel like a failure when I don’t get to those original plans by their original deadlines (even when the deadlines were only set by me). Making changes to my priorities and schedules IN WRITING helps me remember that I’m not failing to accomplish something. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on something else right now because something wonderful has happened (refer to #1). A key to being successful in any field is being agile, flexible. Changing your plans in response to other things that happen. My family watches Cutthroat Kitchen, and we all groan when a chef gets a sabotage that totally contradicts his original plan, but he insists on sticking to that original plan. The winning chefs are almost always the ones who adjust their dishes depending on what challenges are thrown their way.
  4. Keep sleeping and working out and whatever else is necessary for you to stay healthy. In other words, just because you CAN meet all the deadlines (your own old ones and the new ones given to you by publishers) by giving up all your non-writing activities does not mean you should. Long-term, this will not work for you!
  5. Build flexibility into your schedule from the very beginning. I plan for a certain amount of time working on trade books, work for hire books, marketing stuff, etc. At the beginning of each month, I do choose WHICH trade book I’m focusing on that month. But it’s less unsettling for me to just change which trade book I’m working on but still know I’m sticking to my overall proportion of work, if that makes sense. It doesn’t work 100% of the time. There are periods where, due to circumstances I can’t control, I spend 2 weeks working on ONLY trade manuscripts and nothing else. Or work-for-hire work. Or school visits. But generally, my balance stays fairly steady, even though the particular works I’m working on might change on short notice.

I’d love to hear your tips for staying flexible but organized at the same time!

 

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About Laura Purdie Salas

children's writer, poet, reader, visiting author, speaker/teacher, mentor, copyeditor, freelance writer
This entry was posted in Laura's Writing Life, Your Writing Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Flexibility for Writers

  1. Angie says:

    Congratulations! And thanks for the tips!

  2. Congratulations on the wonderful book news and for the great tips!

  3. Hooray and congratulations on all your good news!! And thank you for your good advice!

  4. tinamcho says:

    Congratulations on all this good news!!

  5. Congrats on the new book contract and all of your other successes! I was sooo looking forward to your work-for-hire class. 😀 Maybe I need to start muddling through that process anyway. I need to make some money this year, get some things in the pipeline, and it doesn’t look like my current fiction and nonfiction projects are going to get me there anytime soon. I struggle with being flexible, even as my schedule continues to change daily. Sometimes, I feel a resentment building because my career aspirations fall victim to family needs. But then I think that most women struggle with this. Looking forward to taking your class whenever you have time to finish it! Cheers!

    • Oh, boy, do I hear you! I can’t remember whether I’ve already said this to you or not, but all the basics of getting work in the ed market are in my Writing for the Educational Market book. The video course, when I do it, will be even more in-depth, but the book has all you need to know to get started and send out intro packets, if you’re interested. (And maybe you’ve already read it–I apologize–my memory stinks!) Just in case, it’s at http://amzn.to/1TMDHMP – paperback and Kindle

  6. Pingback: Children’s Books and Self Publishing | Mentors for Rent

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