Making the Most of What You've Got

This is a subject that's been weighing on my mind quite a bit lately. The words "I don't have time" have been coming out of my mouth with alarming frequency. The truth is I probably have more time than I think I do, but between Ye Olde Day Job™, trying to write, doing the design projects I want and/or have been asked to do, trying to take care of a rambunctious dog while simultaneously squeezing in a pitiful amount of exercise for myself, etc., I have to be careful about how I manage my time. And yes, sometimes I do make poor time-management choices, like spending my entire Sunday evening slumped on the couch watching Breaking Bad instead of being productive. Time management means I have to pick and choose what I'm working on at any given time, which always means I have to forego something else. That means certain things don't get done as soon as I'd like them to, and it means I have to be cautious when committing to projects. Progress is made, but sometimes it's so slow that I can't actually tell that I'm getting anything done unless I look back at what the project looked like before I started.

That's one of the reasons I've really loved using Critique Circle's word meters for tracking my writing progress. I'm a very visual person, so it helps me to be able to physically see how far I'm getting. It's especially exciting when the colored bar finally starts to overtake the text on the meter; before that, when it's still moving through the blank space, it's harder to tell exactly how much it has changed. But while I've been fairly pleased with the amount of progress I've been making on both Fracture and Embers, it still sucks, quite frankly, that I'm not able to write whenever I want. 

But alas, such is life.

So right now, my two priorities are 1) writing, and 2) promoting what I've already written. Obviously I'm the only person who can actually do the writing, but if I play my cards correctly, I can find ways to make other people or things do the promotion work for me. The former is more effective, but the latter is more reliable (because as easy as it seems to share information or tell someone else about a book, it seems like very few people actually do it...but that's a rant for another time). I've been doing this in a variety of ways:

1) Planning ahead of time

I've had my little 1-2-3 promo running this month for Dakiti's upcoming anniversary (reminder: you can still get it for just $0.99, and Nexus and Ronan will both be $0.99 as well starting this Sunday), and because I'd rather not have to worry about remembering to make new posts for each stage (which, with everything I've got going on, is harder than you might think), I've made a lot of use of Facebook's post-scheduling functionality for fan pages. Now if only that was available for profiles! But still, it's not that hard to log in with my regular profile and share a post that's already been made. Saves me the time of having to re-type everything. I can also do this on Twitter to an extent with TweetDeck's scheduler, but if there's a way to insert images in TweetDeck, I have yet to figure it out. But I did create the various images for each stage of the promotion all at once, so they've just been sitting there ready to go for almost a month already. The basic iPhone reminder app has come in extremely handy as well for making sure I get prices changed and whatnot. Setting everything up ahead of time so that I only need to hit a couple of buttons at the right moment has really helped.

2) Book reviews

I would by no means call myself a book reviewer or book blogger. I'm merely a writer-who-also-reads-books-during-her-lunch-breaks-and-writes-reviews-for-them-afterwards. Half the book reviews I write are practically as long as the books themselves, so I decided I might as well post them on my blog, since they were already getting written on Amazon and/or Goodreads anyway. At first, this was just going to be a way to 1) support other authors, and 2) keep my blog at least slightly updated because I felt bad for never writing anything. But I've now discovered that by helping other people out in this way, I'm also helping myself. According to site metrics, the majority of the page views for this site (aside from when I've posted something new and plastered it all over social media) are from people who Googled one of the books/authors I've reviewed and were led here. They end up getting the information they're looking for, but they also might stick around and look at my stuff too. And according to Google Analytics, they sometimes do. Even if they don't, at least now they've heard of me

                                          No I have not been watching too much of this show.

                                         No I have not been watching too much of this show.

Basically it's just another way to drive traffic to my site, and I'm simultaneously helping both the author of whatever book I reviewed and the reader who's interested in reading it. I get the most traffic on the day I post the review, though it's mostly from people I already know who have just seen the link on social media. But out of the random site visits I get on a daily basis, I'd say probably 75% of them are people looking at book reviews.

3) Shameless advertising at work

As I stated before, people and/or physical word-of-mouth are the most effective means of book-related communication but also one of the least-reliable. Exchanges usually go something like this:

Person: "Hey I finished your book! It was great!"
Me: "Oh yay I'm glad you enjoyed it! It would be really awesome if you could leave a review on Amazon so that other people can see your opinion."
Person: "Oh yeah totally! I'll be sure to do that as soon as I get home!"

And then weeks have gone by and they still haven't left a review. And maybe I'm just being self-conscious but I never want to pester people about it either because I feel like I'll come across as being desperate.

But it's not always like that. As much trouble as people apparently have remembering to write reviews, talking about the books themselves doesn't seem to be that hard, based on what I've seen over the past couple of months at the clinic where I work. Some of you have probably seen pictures of my office -- one wall is almost completely covered by posters of my book covers and other series-related artwork. I've got a stack of business cards and bookmarks, as well as a set of paperbacks, on the edge of my bookshelf in plain sight. One or the other of these things has sparked many a conversation with curious coworkers, some of whom have bought and read the books. The medical director was actually the first person to pick up copies (he's a self-proclaimed sci fi nerd -- he's got a poster in his office that says "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a......") and I know other people have heard of them through him. The COO ordered two sets of paperbacks for his son and nephew as Christmas presents. The CFO and billing supervisor each bought a set as well; the former actually ended up buying them on Kindle too and still has the paperbacks on display in her office, so whenever anyone has a meeting with her, they always end up hearing about them. She also confessed to me that Ziva was in one of her dreams recently and I laughed so hard. My office mate has also read all three of them and liked Ronan best, just as I had hoped. We're in the process of expanding the clinic to include an on-site pharmacy, so the new pharmacist we hired poked her head in one day and said "So I hear you're an author." She stopped by again just a couple of days ago to tell me that she had finished Dakiti and absolutely loved it. The clinic is also participating in Relay for Life this summer and they're asking people who "make things" outside of work to donate some of those things for an auction to raise money. I was asked to donate a couple of sets of my books, so that might also help generate some interest.

I also have my Star Wars posters up, and sometimes conversations start with something like "Oh I see you like Star Wars! I love it too. But what's this series? I've never heard of it!" and I say "Let me explain you a thing." Some people have even thought my Forged From the Stars "movie" poster was for an actual movie, and then when I explain what it is, I get to tell them a little about G.S. Jennsen and Tammy Salyer too. 

So it's been really cool to have everyone be so supportive, and it's absolutely amazing how fast information can spread in a place like this. I just have to sit here and let everyone else do all the talking.


When it comes to actually writing, I just do it whenever I can. I think back to a year ago when I was so close to being done with school and just about a month away from completing Ronan. I thought I had it bad back then, furiously scrawling notes or actual prose on scraps of paper when I should have been paying attention in class. Now I wish I had that much time to write. But like I've said, I'm making progress. It's probably just as well that I'm moving this slow because I haven't done nearly as much planning as I need to. Fracture is in pretty good shape, but Embers is iffy. I know the gist of it, but it's basically the equivalent of saying The Martian is about "a guy stuck on Mars." There are a lot of smaller details I need to figure out. But there was a time when I was just as nervous about Fracture too, and now I've got it pretty much mapped out. It'll come to me. 

This time around, I'm doing all of my drafting with Google Docs. *dodges flying tomatoes* I know, I know, it's not the prettiest platform, but I usually just use Word anyway, not Scrivener or something. *dodges more tomatoes* But it's working out well, because I've been doing pretty much all of my writing on the go, and using a cloud-based platform means I can access my stuff from any device and work on it wherever I am without worrying about forgetting or losing my flash drive. At work waiting for a report to run? Write. At home with a few minutes to spare before Arrow or The Blacklist starts? Pick up right where I left off. Sitting in the car waiting to pick sister up from class? Keep writing. I'm honestly fairly impressed with the iOS Docs app. This is the first time I've ever used it, and it's fairly comprehensive. It's a little more tedious to use than the regular web version, but that's the case with just about any mobile app.

While looking for general stock photos to enhance this post on Pixabay, I stumbled across this picture here on the left, and something about it struck me. So many of those words -- at least the big ones that are immediately visible -- apply to my exact situation. I found it by searching for "project" in hopes of finding something like that image back at the beginning of the post, but then I read through all the corresponding keywords at the bottom of the page. Hands. Action. Busy. Activity. Purpose. Doing. Performing. Creating. Acting. Response. Work. Contributing. Pursuit. Occupation. Interest. Hobby. Undertaking. Project. Influence. Act on. Impact. Transform. Strategy. Improvement. For some strange reason, reading through all of them made me feel better.

My problem is that I tend to fixate on the things I don't this case, time. And regardless of how well I manage my time, I'm probably still not going to have as much as I want or need. But the important thing here is to remember the things I do have, or at least understand that I'm capable of acquiring them, even if that means making something else lower-priority. I may not have time, and I may not have any shortage of projects to fit into my non-existent time, but I do have: 

  • skills and technology to help me organize things and speed up the distribution of information
  • a method of capturing the attention of new readers while simultaneously supporting other authors
  • awesome, supportive people (whether they be my coworkers, friends, Twitter followers, etc.) who can help me spread the word about my books
  • technology that allows me to write whenever and wherever I am and saves my spot every time (we don't really think about it because cloud tech is so mundane, but really, how cool is that?)

The situation is still not what I would classify as "ideal," but if I make the most of these things, I'll certainly be a lot better off.