Monday, November 30, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 6

My guest today is Ann Charles. She writes part-time while working full-time and raising her family. I asked Ann how she organizes her time. This is what she shared with me:

"Per day, that depends, but I probably average the following per week:
Writing--I write one book a year currently, from Jan to June, and devote a good 20 hours a week to writing during that time.
Editing--Probably 10 hours editing per week during that Jan to June timeframe.
Networking--About 4 hours a week networking from Jan to June. From July to December (when I'm wearing my marketing/promo hat), probably more like 10 hours a week in networking-related things.
Marketing--Again, from Jan to June, maybe 3-4 hours; from July to Dec, more like 20-30 hours a week.
Queries--For the past few years, I have had an agent so I haven't spent much time at all querying.
Research--About 3 hours a week while writing my books.

"I determine how much time I devote to them based on how much time I can manage to round up in between work, kids, and my husband and life."

I also asked Ann what she thinks it means to be an organized writer.

"It seems like part of being an organized writer has to be a character trait. I'm a big-time right-brain pantser when it comes to plotting and writing my books, but when it comes to marketing/promo and goal setting, I'm disgustingly organized and left-brained. I have a five-year plan, a career plan, yearly goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals; and I keep a post-it note of "to dos" next to my keyboard that I update almost daily. I didn't always used to be this organized when it came to non-writing writing-related tasks, but I learned a couple of years ago that I work best when I have written goals to meet. Also, the more I learned and dabbled in the marketing and promo side of writing, the more messy my desk and files became. Soon, I was forced to be organized or risk losing crucial information or missing important meetings/deadlines.

"So, for me, it seems to be partly my character trait (I am a Virgo, after all) to be organized, but it's also a learned trait after wading deeper into the fiction-writing business.

"How do you get to the point of being an organized writer? Since writers these days have to wear three hats (writing hat, promo/marketing hat, socializing hat), it seems the business forces you to become more organized to succeed. OR you can just hire an assistant and be as messy as you like."

Ann Charles

Ann, thanks for stopping by today and helping me to understand more about organizing the writing life.


  1. Hi Penny! Thanks for having me today.

    Since you interviewed me on my time management, I've created a website with a writing friend ( that really made me have to reshuffle my time priorities and become even more organized and disciplined. Finding time to write fiction now is even tougher, but increasingly important. I can't emphasize the value of my every-day To-Do lists. These list are more than just a task-master for me, they are also where I keep notes of important things I HAVE to remember (especially since we have 28 writers on staff now at this 6-month-old website who are counting on me to hold up my end of the bargain).

    This all being said, I love to hear more time management tips and examples from other busy authors. So, if anyone has advice, I'm all ears.

    Ann Charles

  2. Wow. You pack a lot into a day. I admire writers who manage to do what you do as well as raising a family. I love the whole right-brain writer, left-brain organizer thing!

  3. OK, so I'll be posting that want ad, "assistant needed for compulsively disorganized Gemini author". Probably lots of takers, especially given the salary (not)!

    Thank you for giving me lots to work on, and much to envy, esp. your updated to do lists, productive time frame, and focused business efforts.

    Continued good luck with all your projects.

  4. Hi, Ann! Wow you are so organized! I don't think I could break it down what I do, even if I tried. :P I just do what I gotta do. Though an assistant sounds lovely... (dreaming now)

  5. Ann, thanks for letting me know about your new web site project. I'll be checking it out. Laurie, Lise and Shelli, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I also admire how organized some writers can be, Ann, being one of them.

  6. Laurie, it's hard to balance family and the fiction business. My husband has come to understand that this is a business I'm building, so he's very accepting of me dedicating so much 'home' time to it, but every now and then, I get what I like to call 'the look.' Then I put my computer away and play 'mom' for awhile. But I'm back at the keys as soon as I can grab another chunk of time.

    I really would LOVE an assistant I'm hoping that one of my kids grows up wanting to help Mom with her work--it's a nice daydream. ;)

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!
    Ann Charles

  7. Lise,
    If you find a pool of assistants who want to help aspiring authors, let me know! I'll beg and bribe. ;)

    I always feel like my brain is a dresser drawer stuffed so full of clothes that when I open it up just a little, things pop out and fall all over the place.

    Thanks for the good luck wish. You know, there is a way to make weekly or daily goal lists fun--find a career coach (aka goal buddy). You make a list of goals for a day or week, then email each other on how you're doing, and encourage each other. I have such a buddy. I also am part of a weekly goals group where we touch base weekly. It really helps you be accountable if others are watching. Plus, it's uplifting to have such friends when the business gets you down.

    If you find a new way to help me keep organized, send it my way. I am in constant need with all of the plate spinning I do.

    Thanks for making me smile today (I love the Gemini comment),
    Ann Charles

  8. Shelli, you're doing great with your current system. I remember a few years back, riding to a Christmas party with you, and you saying, "I think I'm going to try to write and publish an e-book." Now look at you! Wow!!

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Ann Charles

  9. Ann, thanks for stopping back and answering everyone's questions. Your additional tips are worth remembering.

  10. I'm in constant amazement that anyone can have a writing career with toddlers, no matter how supportive your spouse is. Three cheers for you!

    Question: how do you use your promo writing in multiple venues? In other words, when you agree to guest on a blog, do you have other plans for that column you plan to write?

  11. I keep hoping that some little elves will vacuum and clean the bathrooms during the night so that I won't ever have to do it. Or go buy groceries. Either way, an assistant would be great, but first I should be published.

  12. Jacquie, I agree. I never could get much writing done my kids were young.

    Barb, oooh, little elves, excellent idea!

    Thank you both for stopping by.

  13. Hi Penny, back again. I'm taking a break in writing a scene, thinking.

    Anyway, to answer Jacquie's question about using promo writing in multiple venues: Well, a smart writer would have multiple venues all planned out. But I'm not that smart...yet, although I have managed to use some of the same articles in various places without them sounding like an old record (at least I don't think they do). An old friend of mine has told me several times (trying to beat it into me, I think) that if you can't use an article in at least three places, it's not worth the time it takes to write it. While I haven't put that into practice myself, it's something to consider in this age of never-enough-time and ultra-recycling (go green, right?). I guess that I look at this as getting good mileage out of your writing; or work smarter, not harder.

    Thanks for the question, Jacquie. And thanks again Penny and all for having me.

    Back to the story...
    Ann Charles

  14. Thanks for the great ideas. I also keep lots of lists. One suggestion for our colleagues with small children--it's okay to break it into little chunks. Maybe you have twenty minutes to brainstorm while your child is bouncing around in gymnastics class. That counts as writing time too!

  15. Penny, thanks so much for doing this 'series' of articles. I love it! So much good advice from all of your guest writers.

  16. Hi Ann. A day late, but I enjoyed reading your interview and I so agree that all of us have to be both organized. Some days I get too caught up in promo and forget that the best part of being an author is writing!

    Good luck with all your endeavors!

  17. No lie, I have problems organizing my life. So I ditch the "house" stuff and write all day and then when my kids come home, that's when I become a tornado and clean as much as I can before I collapse. Now that I look at it, that's not exactly being organized, but it is a system, I guess. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Thank you all for stopping by and commenting. Ann, I'm glad you've been able to return to answer the questions people have posted. This certainly has been a popular topic and the ideas shared by all are appreciated.