This is something I’ve thought about writing, though I didn’t want to cover the well-trod paths that don’t help much. After reading fellow Superstars Writer Carolyn Stein’s blog I realized there was a need for something like this.

Because no one talks about any of these things. At least, not all in one place, and not for fiction writers.

And especially not for pantsers.

I’m going to publish this as a book, but you can read it here first.

1 Introduction

This is not going to be a typical time management book. If you’re like me, you’ve probably read all of them. Gurus cheerfully tell you to use A, B, and C to prioritize, hand off work to other people, and follow their system.

If you follow their system, all the pieces will fall into place.

We all know what a lie that actually is.

Fiction writing presents its own challenges because most of us are doing it on the side. We have to navigate around the job, maybe family, and even just taking the time to do something fun to refresh the batteries.

Being a pantser, a writer who doesn’t outline, has additional challenges. Certain pantser traits can create all kinds of headaches. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of practice with that one.

In one of my past jobs, I was fairly well known for being flexible. If you gave me something, I could pivot on a dime and jump right in. If you said “I’m giving this presentation in two hours,” I could get it done.

Then I changed jobs. We had a major reorganization, where we rearranged everyone. My workload instantly quadrupled.

My “flexibility” worked against me now. Everyone expected me to react as soon as their email dropped in my box.

All I could do was put out fires. But like a brush fire in California, new hot spots formed around me.

So what does this have to do with fiction writing?

I naively thought I could still write fiction and indie publish.  I even did two challenges. One was 10 Stories in 10 Weeks—all flash fiction around one thousand words. The other was Writing in Public. I did a handful of stories and a novella.

Then the workload fell on me. I was drowning and in danger of burning out. Still, being former army, I tried to accomplish the mission and finish stories. Realistically, I was still putting out fires. I’d tried to barrel through publishing or refreshes of existing books, get fried, and have to stop.

Some relief came from work. I got some help. The other person was astounded and said, “I don’t know how you kept up.”

Still, I struggled with managing everything. Indie publishing is about getting things out there. It was hard writing because I didn’t always have the energy. I wanted to get books in paper, but I didn’t have the mental energy to learn the complicated process of learning the tools. In 2019, I broke down and paid for two covers just to get books into paper.

Then COVID-19 hit. Overnight, the nature of my job shifted. It allowed me to step back and do something I hadn’t been able to do before: reassess how I was doing everything.

One of the key things I discovered was that everything filters into the writing and can knock it off balance.

The changes also enabled me to do a writing challenge where I wrote a story a week for an entire year. Then I finished a novel and a novella, both in the same year, another major accomplishment.

Then Draft to Digital and Smashwords announced they were merging. I have stories on both vendors. But I know from my day job that when you bring data from one system into another, there are big headaches.

I wanted to pick my battles rather than be a victim of them, so I decided to do an inventory refresh.

And I saw plainly how the work chaos had impacted my publishing. I could see where I didn’t have the mental energy to do basic things right like make sure I had all the files in one place. In one case, I published a story twice, and in another, had different covers on different platforms.

We don’t think how everything is connected, but they are. So, read on for all the lessons learned.