How I Learned to Beat Writer’s Block

Image Credit: Studio-Annika / http://www.istockphoto.com/user_view.php?id=773765My first year as a soon-to-be-published author was nothing less than a baptism of fire.

When I received my contract to write How To Do Everything with HTML, I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.

Oh, I knew I was going to write a computer book.

What I didn’t know was that the whole process would be done at a pace that bordered on insane.

Because technology changes so quickly, computer books are produced on a much faster timetable than other books. Otherwise, they can be obsolete before they ever hit bookstore shelves. The ink on my contract had barely dried when my editor e-mailed me and asked me to develop a chapter delivery schedule.

I had 20 weeks to write a 600+ page book.

If that weren’t stressful enough, I discovered that the entire writing, editing, rewrite, and proofing process would take place simultaneously.

It went something like this: For week number one, I had to write my first chapter. That included more than just writing the text. I also had to develop the HTML code. And I had to design and create all my own illustrations. After I turned in chapter one, the next week I turned my attention to the second chapter.

Like chapter one, I had to write the text, code, and illustrations. But I also had an additional task.

I had to incorporate tech edits for chapter one.

The publisher had graciously hired a technical editor who went through my HTML code and found all the bugs. Then he kicked the file back to me so that I could fix it. Thus, in the second week I had to write a 20-30 page chapter, create the computer code, design and produce my own illustrations, and incorporate the tech edits from chapter one.

Then things got even more challenging.

By about the fifth week I began to receive copy edits. So now my weekly workload involved writing a new chapter, developing the HTML code, designing and creating my own illustrations, incorporating tech edits from previous chapters, and reviewing copy edits from previous chapters.

I didn’t think it could get any worse.

It did.

About three quarters of the way through the project, page proofs began to come in, chapter by chapter. So in the last month or so, every week I had to write a new chapter, develop code, design illustrations, fix bugs, review copy edits, and correct page proofs.

It was like running down a railroad track with a mountain on one side, a cliff on the other and a locomotive breathing down my neck.

By the time I reviewed my last page proof, I felt like I’d just finished the writer’s version of the Ironman triathlon. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I sent off that final file.

A sinking feeling followed that sigh of relief.

I was ready for a long rest, but that would have to wait. About halfway through the project I’d suggested an idea for a follow-up book on Cascading Style Sheets (a related language that works hand-in-hand with HTML). The publisher liked the idea, gave me a new contract, and told me to get started right away.

For another 20 weeks, I kept running down that railroad track.

It was an exhausting process, but I’m thankful that my first books were produced this way. The schedule was brutal, particularly for a brand new writer. But I learned a valuable lesson.

I learned that I never need to let writer’s block defeat me and that I can produce consistently every week. There were many days when I didn’t feel like writing. However, because of the breakneck pace and tight production schedule, I didn’t have time to wallow in self-pity or give in to writer’s block.

I had to produce.

If I gave in to writer’s block, then the next week I would have twice as much work.

And so I wrote.

For me, writing two computer books in the space of nine months was like boot camp. The publisher put me through the wringer.

But in the process, I learned how to deal with writer’s block.

I sit down and write.

Do you struggle with writer’s block? Or have you developed a way to deal with it?

A Day in the Life of an Intern

Yesterday, Mandy Hubbard held #agentday on Twitter. All day long agents (and interns) tweeted the tasks that they were completing throughout the day. Many aspiring authors began to understand why queries were sometimes the last item to which an agent is able to attend.

I liked Mandy’s idea, and I thought that you might be interested in what a day in the life of an associate agent looks like. However, I would like to add the caveat that not every day looks the same. Some days I have off-site meetings, so on those days I make myself get up earlier or stay up a bit later (or both) so that I can accomplish the same amount.

Morning

From about 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., I’m an introvert. I focus on completing big editing projects, reading full or partial manuscripts, working on various projects that Greg and Barbara send my way–anything with which I can be quiet and not have to interact with people. I try not to answer email, tweets, or Facebook posts before 11 or 12. In the morning, I work here:

Normally, my lap top would be found here, but at this moment I am working from the couch. šŸ™‚

Afternoon

In the afternoon, I am more social. I begin answering emails, including queries, posting comments on various blogs such as the WaterCooler, as well as continuing any projects that I started in the morning. In the afternoon, I work here (or sometimes I go to Starbucks):

Necessary items for afternoon work include: Pepsi, ice water, snacks, Kindle, paper, various pens, highlighter, cell phone, lap top, red blanket and comfy pillows.

Evening

My husband works one of those real jobs where he has to GO to work and then come home, so I usually stop working around 5:30 to get dinner ready and pick up my afternoon “nest”. I make it a point to spend at least an hour and a half with him before I go back to editing/project/email world which usually lasts until bed time (unless NCIS or Grey’s Anatomy are on). In the evening, Brewster the Query Bird helps me find new writers:

Query Bird helps me find new amazing writers.

Okay, writers, what do your writing days look like? Do you have a day job that you have to go to before you start writing? If you do not have an alternative job, do you find that you are more flexible with your schedule, or do you prefer to keep to a rigid 9-5 type of writing schedule?

Do you have a writing pet?