Making sacrifices: the 80/20 rule and getting Blood Dawn back on track

This week, I made a radical shift in how I work to reclaim the weekend writing time that I’d maintained for 15 months, every week, while I was writing the draft for Blood Dawn. Ever since 2016 began, I’ve been struggling to find a routine that helps for the revisions ahead — revisions which will see me through a second draft, another round of in-depth beta reader input, then a final polished third draft. This is an enormous amount of work, about as much work as writing the first draft itself.

This week, looking at my progress and the amount of work I know lies ahead, I realized that unless I make some radical changes, it’s going to be at least a year before I have the polished third draft I require for Blood Dawn to be ready for production.

My funding period for Blood Dawn with Inkshares runs out this August, and I want to get my manuscript in not too long after this. So needless to say I had a frightening wake-up call and made some ruthless decisions. The result: I will be turning weekends into writing time and will be setting goals for each Monday to achieve necessary milestones, just like I did when I was part of Author Accelerator writing my first draft, knowing an editor was waiting for my weekly installation.

This means making some sacrifices.

When in the midst of overwhelm, which are the right sacrifices to make? I have learned (thanks to some of the great direction I’m receiving from being part of Dan Blank’s amazing mastermind group) the importance of saying “no” to the many things that will eat up my time, while saying “yes” the the few important things that will directly align with my vision. Tim Grahl, in his book Launch a Bestseller, talks about a similar concept called the 80/20 rule: we need to stop spending 80% of our time on the things that account for 20% of our success, and instead start spending 20% of our time on the things that account for 80% of our success. Then, with that remaining 80% of time left, there is room for growth, rejuvenation and important activities that we often overlook because we are inundated with being “busy” to no effect.

For me that looks like stopping work at 6:30 every day and having fun — playing video games, playing piano, reading, spending time with friends, a night out with my husband and often, ending our day with another installment of Star Trek (we’re presently finishing up Deep Space Nine); getting back to reading books at bedtime, instead of editing manuscripts in my office until my eyes are too grainy. During the day, instead of working until I’m frayed at the edges, better investing my energy means I can take that midday break where I go for a walk or read a book; it also means making sure I go to the gym for my routine of running and weight training.

I’ve been holding on to that idea for a few weeks now, but it hasn’t materialized. Instead, my work has been fulling not only weekday evenings, but weekends as well. The checklist for Blood Dawn revisions is getting tackled a spare hour here and there. What at first I thought would take 4 months is now looking like it will take more than a year. Writing time is becoming hobby time.

This is all very, very bad!

When the boat is sinking, what do you throw overboard without later coming to regret it?

The biggest realization for me, though it might sound counter-intuitive, is that much of what I’m doing to “promote” Blood Dawn needs to take a back seat. At the risk of not reaching my funding goal of 750 copies and receiving the publishing support I aspire toward, I’ve decided that this goal is actually meaningless if I don’t create the necessary writing time to ensure I have a polished third draft. In fact, this goal is counterproductive: I will expend so much energy to reach full funding which will lead to two different ends. One: I hit 750 copies. Two: I don’t hit 750 copies. In either case, I don’t have a finished draft because I have not prioritize the number one most important thing: producing a quality manuscript that will give to my readers the experience I have worked so so hard to give them.

Not all is lost, though. The important insight for me has been to gain some clarity in exactly what I’m trying to achieve with Blood Dawn on the Inkshares platform.

One thing that drives me to invest so much energy into the Inkshares community is my desire to help other authors. I am perceived as a leader, and I think that good leaders lead by example. So, shifting my energy to making Blood Dawn as good as it can will take away time from the things I do on Inkshares, but it will also give something more important: an example of what necessary things an author must do to create balance. It’s not all about funding your book and selling books. In my opinion, the number one most important thing for a writer is to make sure the writing you are doing is the absolute best you can put out, and that means no shortcuts. This is the motto I want to live by, and it’s the example I want to lead with.

Even if Blood Dawn doesn’t fully fund, I want to arrive at the end of my funding period with finished, polished work that’s the same as what I’d submit to an agent. It would be something I wouldn’t be ashamed to pitch to an editor at a company like Tor or Penguin or Daw. And in returning to these important roots, I am reminded of the core reason I opted to join Inkshares with Blood Dawn: to build a community of fans around the process of finishing Blood Dawn.

In gaining clarity around what I am doing when I “promote” Blood Dawn and what, exactly, comprises the 20% of my time that results in 80% of my success, I return to the importance of building and maintaining the relationships that have formed around my work. For me, this is the true value of being on Inkshares, and ultimately it is the true value of being a writer: it is one thing to put out the absolute best work I can for my readers, but without the relationships and community that form around the act of creating and sharing that work, the work itself is meaningless. It is just a hobby, something I’m doing for myself.

But that’s not why I write. I write to connect. And connection becomes, for me, a well toward deeper inspiration that augments the writing I do.

So I will be putting down firm boundaries on my time to make sure writing takes front and center stage and I arrive at the third polished draft by the end of this summer. There are going to be intense and difficult weekly goals to reach, but it doesn’t mean becoming a hermit. I will still be active on Inkshares, but instead of obsessing with ways to find more readers, I’ll be focusing on deepening relationships with those who have already connected with me around the work I do.

Growth will be slower, but growth will be meaningful. Most importantly, growth will happen and I will arrive at the important milestone I need to, without the need for compromises. Oh, and I will get to have fun playing some video games, read good books, and perhaps soon start recording my piano repertoire as a fun side project. That’s just as important too!

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One Response to Making sacrifices: the 80/20 rule and getting Blood Dawn back on track

  1. Pingback: My writing routine — creating a focus for days of the weeks | John Robins Blog

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