Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest Post: Balancing Writing, Life, and Multiple Projects

What aspiring or fledgling author doesn't wish for more time to write? The reality is, achieving the dream of publication only means that you'll have more responsibilities, deadlines, and people counting on you -- and less time to do everything!

Now is the time to figure out that writing-life balance, and here to talk about her experiences is debut author Holly Schindler. A BLUE SO DARK comes out this May, and she has two other novels scheduled for 2011!

A Few Words On Juggling Multiple Projects
By: Holly Schindler

…To start off with, I have to say I am THRILLED to be able to write on this subject.  And I mean.  THRILLED.

A bit of background: when I obtained my master’s degree in ’01, I decided to devote myself to my writing full-time.  After wearing out half a dozen or so keyboards drafting too many manuscripts to count, I sold my first book, a YA novel, to Flux last year.  I was also lucky enough to then sell a second YA to Flux (which is tentatively being called PLAYING HURT, due out in ’11), and my first adult novel (FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS—also a tentative title—to Blooming Tree Press, also due out in ’11).  Yep—in one year, I went from being a writer ACHING to sell her first book to a writer who had sold three!

While ’09 was The Year Of Intense Celebration, ’10 is gearing up to be The Year Holly Wears Her Nose Off On The Old Grindstone…Yay!

Anyway, here’s where I’m at right now: A BLUE SO DARK is due out May 1, 2010…over the winter holidays, I read the proofs for A BLUE SO DARK and sent my comments to the production manager at Flux.  I hadn’t any more than pressed “send” on the email when I received the editorial letter from my editor at Flux for PLAYING HURT.  I also, in the first week of January, met my publicist at Flux for the first time (publicity is now in swing for A BLUE SO DARK). So, right now, I’m juggling global revisions for PLAYING HURT along with a little bit of preliminary publicity for A BLUE SO DARK.  (I have to admit—I was anticipating publicity to be much more work for me than it is.  Flux is taking care of a LOT of it…the publicity director actually told me on the phone, “We want you to focus on your craft.”  Double yay!)  I’m also anticipating that revisions for FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS will be coming down the pike soon, too…AND I’m dying to get back to the YA novel I was writing (a book the acquisitions editor at Flux expressed interest in) before I received the editorial letter on PLAYING HURT…WHEW!

Seems to me, most people have this preconceived notion that writers lead leisurely lives.  But writing’s rough!  It doesn’t get any easier once you make that first sale, either.  The work load just keeps piling up!

So how do I personally keep up?  First, I gotta admit, I have a cheat.  I’ve got some incredible financial support from my family…so my full-time job right now is my writing.  I know—how lucky can a girl get?  Very ROOM OF ONE’S OWN.

That having been said, though, life still intrudes: you know how it goes—the sink decides to spew, the computer crashes, the dog’s sick, there’s a strange layer of condensation in the attic…or it’s your best friend’s birthday, or it’s Christmas, or you’ve got the WHOLE family coming over for dinner.  Life doesn’t wait because you’ve got a deadline.

SO—how do I manage to balance it all?  In the first place, I PUT NOTHING ASIDE UNTIL TOMORROW.  NOTHING.  The instant I got the letter from my editor for PLAYING HURT, I attacked the manuscript.  I had a plan of action before I even went to bed that night.  And I work on it every day.  Sundays, too.  I NEVER take a day off—I’m doing my best to try to get the rewrite of PLAYING HURT finished before the March deadline.  I strive to do my best work as quickly as I can, because I’ve learned that another project and another deadline is ALWAYS coming…

Also, as soon as I understand what I need to do to a manuscript overall—once I see the big picture—I toss that big picture aside and I DEAL ONLY WITH SMALL, TACKLEABLE CHUNKS.  That way, I’m not thinking, “Expletive, expletive, expletive!  I’ve got to rewrite this entire expletive book in two expletive months!”  I just think (in a breezy, relaxed manner), “I need to rewrite this chapter today.  That I can do.”

I also USE LIFE’S DISTRACTIONS TO MY ADVANTAGE.  I get some of my best ideas doing something physical—I swear, nothing brings on more epiphanies than painting windows—it’s true!  I allow physical work, whatever it may be—vacuuming, driving, disassembling a carport—to be my think time.  I NEVER turn off the writer.  I mean, so much of writing is thinking.  So I think my revision or draft out while my hands are busy.  Then I scribble (or type) everything I’ve thought of all at once—kind of like a free write.

This practice allows me to NEVER, NEVER LET THE BLINKING CURSOR GET THE BEST OF ME.  Essentially, what I’ve thought out while my hands are busy is my plan of attack (character sketches, chapter outlines, dialogue fragments).  I lay those jotted-down plans next to my keyboard when I start typing.  That way, I don’t feel like I’m starting from absolute zero when I sit at my computer.

…Of course, when A BLUE SO DARK officially hits the shelves, I know I’ll have a bit more to do as far as publicity is concerned.  But here’s the thing: I really did learn to integrate my writing into my life during those LONG years before any of my work was accepted.  My family got used to listening to me scream, “Shut-up a sec!  Let me finish this chapter!”  As a result, once I started to get those acceptance letters (and those deadlines that go along with them), life just kind of moved forward seamlessly.  I have no doubt, once I start to do a little publicity, that I’ll still be able to move forward with my writing.  Any publicity work I do won’t UPSTAGE my writing…because I’ve learned to write while life goes on around me.

…Sometimes, though, I still find it hard to believe I’ve got three projects to juggle!  When things change, man, do they change…

I just wanted to wish everyone the best with their writing.  I personally can’t wait to read your own published work!

Thanks, Holly! This is great advice from someone right in the thick of the action!

Ok, your turn:
When do you find time to write? How do you balance your writing life with the rest of life?

For more Holly:
Check out her BLOG. Visit her WEBSITE. Pre-order A BLUE SO DARK.

Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, Grace, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura's dad left them. Convinced that creative equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked---and together offer an escape from her fears.


  1. THis was great. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for the advice. I try to find a sitter so I can write. Thanks!

  3. This was a blast! Thanks so much for having me on The First Novels Club!

  4. How do I balance? Not very well. Thanks for the insights, Holly.

  5. I adore that cover! It's really eye-catching. I saw it from a distance at ALA and was like... ohhhh, what's that? Very nice!

  6. Thanks Holly! You gave great insight into the real-life difficulties of the writer career I'm aiming for... plus confidence that I, too, can handle it. Can't wait for your debut!

  7. Wow! Everyone struggles with this so much, thanks for sharing Holly!

  8. Wow, great advice (and perspective on a writer's life). Thanks for sharing this!

  9. If I could find a way to schedule myself to live a 36 hour day I think that would be much better. Lol.

    Anyway, I can't imagine what it's like to have three projects to work on. My life becomes consumed just by working on the one project I have at a time. One thing I do wonder, is how do you find time to work on your newest project in the middle of all the insanity?

  10. That's a great question, Ryan! One that I'm still learning the answer to...Right now, I'm focusing on getting the current rewrites for PLAYING HURT (my second YA novel) back to my soon as I do that, I can dive back into my current NEW project (yay!) and work on it like a fiend, until the NEXT deadline hits me...

    Although that 36-hr. day sounds fantastic...

  11. I read one suggestion for juggling multiple writing projects: organise them into different baskets, one for each project and throw in all the drafts, articles, post-it notes etc... related to each project


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