In less than four months time, I’ll be taking a year away from dayjobbery and seeing how close I can get to generating a full time freelance writing career. For the next few months I’ve the luxury of preparation time, trying to figure out how to make it work and putting some things in place that will pay off down the line (maybe). Then, at the end of September, I’ll take the leap, put all of this into practice, and see if I’m right about any of it. You can browse previous entries here.
Last week, I asked how self-employed people ever manage to take holidays. The response here, on FB, and on Twitter can be effectively summarised as ‘be more organised than you are’. Vacations have to happen, or you go mad. Making them happen is a thing of pre-planning and force of will.
This is disappointing. I was hoping for a magic trick, or possibly an app, that would make everything stop until I got back.
I suppose that scheduling a vacation two weeks before a book is due to launch was asking for trouble. In a perfect world, I should have waited a month, until the book was out and the initial round of telling people that it exists was complete. I’ll let myself off with unrealistic scheduling this time, as the vacation is actually tied to the final stages of buying a house, so the timing wasn’t within my control.
All of which is my making excuses for having to work, even while I’m in Scotland relaxing. I don’t really mind, although it makes me feel a little antisocial. Philippa and Lorraine are lovely and undemanding hosts, and gracious about my slipping away every now and again to achieve a thing.
Although things are being achieved in a random sort of way, much of this week has been about planning what’s coming. With Craven Place almost launched, I can start looking at how the following weeks and months prior to September are going to be spent. As soon as I get back, my first job is to finish off The December Book (also known as The Flesh Market), a project that stalled when it became more personal than it was ever intended to be, but which I think I can now look at squarely in the face again. That’s going to be my weekday project, to be finished off after dayjobbery. I’ve only given myself until July 26th to get the job done, which is six weeks from when I get home.
The photo at the top of this post is my Mac calendar, which combined with a brilliant task manager called Omnifocus is what I use to plan ahead. It looks very rigid, but writing things down like this – booking slots of time to squeeze things into – keeps me focused. Weekdays are for novels, with Saturdays for the novella in progress, and Sundays reserved for short stories. I can’t pretend that I stick to this schedule, which you will notice leaves no time at all for real life to happen in, but I do my best. I’ve got a reasonable idea of what I can get done in the time I’ve tried to put aside, which is why I can estimate that The December Book will be done by July 26th, but you’ll note there’s a buffer week between it and the next novel (which is tentatively called Asylum, and which I think will be complete at the end of my last week of dayjobbery in September, and which may be the first in a series of novels about one group of characters). If things finish on time, the next project can be bumped forward into the buffer week. If they don’t, then I’ve a little extra time to get things done before I’m over-running.
After Asylum, I have time aside to possibly write a novel for a publisher, if they like the pitch I’ll be sending them when I get back to India. If they don’t, then the next project can be pulled forward into that gap (if they go for it, then that novel will be the first project I do as a full time writer!). At the moment, I’ve planned further ahead to December – three novels, two novellas, and time for short stories too. We’ll see how close I get to the aspirational calendar when this break comes to an end. It’s going to be a lot of work, especially in the months before I’m doing this full time, but I’m looking forward to the sheer challenge of it.
This level of detailed planning is new to me, but I’m determined not to let this coming year devolve into a chaotic and aimless mess (left to its own device, this would definitely happen). Mapping things out in this way will, I hope, help me keep control of it.