This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adapting to Writing Under Contract

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Two years ago I attended a private Abingdon Press author retreat in PA. I was contracted for my debut novel, Highland Blessings, but not yet contracted for any other books. I was surrounded by first-time authors like myself and other experienced authors who were multi-published, meaning three or more published books. It was a weekend of spiritual awakening and lots of growth. I didn't know it then, but many things from that weekend would last with me until this day.

I was talking to one of the authors who had as many as 30 books in print. I was telling her how hard it was to spend a whole year writing a book and wait until it's finished before submitting it anywhere. She looked at me and said, "You're contracted now. You need to be working on as many proposals as possible and concentrate on submitting them. Don't wait until you're finished with any of them." 

While I knew this to be something multi-published authors could do, I didn't think it was something I could do without having several books in print with a sales record. Her piece of advice turned out to be the best thing I've followed and now I'm sharing it with you.

One of the reasons I hesitated to send in an unfinished proposal is that I had a full-time job and it scared me to commit to something with a deadline, knowing my available time would be limited to working on it. My deadlines would still be the same as a novelist who wrote full-time. I took the plunge anyway and I followed her advice.

The next four books and two novellas were all contracted on proposal. This meant I had a concept or a synopsis in mind, but the books still needed to be written, the characters created, the research conducted, the plot worked out--everything.

Writing under contract does bring a new set of pressures that I didn't experience before. These new circumstances are requiring me to re-prioritize my time, be flexible, set goals, and plan, plan, plan.

Here are a few examples of what has changed and how I've adapted:
1) Set Flexible Priorities  - Before I could work on whatever I chose as the muse hit me. If I wanted to work on a medieval for a few months and set my Regency aside, I could. Now I must work on the books with the upcoming contract due first. I must continue to promote my debut novel and build my platform while working on my upcoming contracts. Still, even promotion must take a back seat to meeting my writing deadlines. For this reason, I must constantly evaluate my goals, my progress, and adjust my daily activities accordingly.

2) Set a Flexible Writing Schedule - Before, if I was on a roll with a manuscript, I wouldn't let up until the momentum slowed down or I finished. Now my flexibility must be as durable and stretchable as elastic. This year I had a macro edit deadline on Highland Sanctuary due May 1st, the complete novella for Heart's Inheritance due June 1st, and the complete novella on New Garden's Hope due July 1st. Between Feb and March I wrote as much as possible on the first novella. In the middle of it, I received my macro edits. I had to stop writing the novella, switch gears to a different time period, setting, country, characters and plot and go full-swing in the other direction.

After I turned in my macro edits I went right back to finishing the novella. When I started working on the second novella, I received proof edits on the other one. These are due June 21st. I have one more chapter to write on this novella, then I'll set it to the side. Work on my proofs for the other novel and then go back to the novella and incorporate edits. See what I mean about flexibility? And yes, I still work a full-time job. 

3) Goals Must Be Set - Without my goals, I would lose sight of where I'm going, what I'm doing, and I'd probably lose myself in all the busy-ness of everything. I look at my work schedule, family time, other commitments and I cut what is possible. Hubby is now doing a lot of the house work and helping me with marketing and promotion. I know how many words I can realistically write each day. Based on my due date, I set a realistic word count goal for the week and I do my best to stick with it. I have short-term weekly goals, and long-term monthly goals. If I receive more edits or proofs from one of my editors, goals and priorities will shift as needed, thus the flexibility.

4) Plan, Plan, Plan - I'm a flexible planner. What I mean by this is I will set a plan, but it isn't the only plan. If the first plan falls through, I have Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D. It's the only way I can function. It's how I received my 4-year B.A. degree in only 3 short years. Even though I'm a planner, I'm well aware of life's little unexpected curve balls. Most of the time I'm prepared and can bounce back with one of my back-up plans. My hubby and everyone who knows me well, accuse me of analyzing everything. I can't help it.

Life is won inch-by-inch, by never giving up, and keeping my eyes on the light of God every step of the way.

Promotion must continue in spite of my full-time job and my writing and researching. Therefore, I set aside time each day for Twitter, Facebook, emails, and blogging. You will not catch me watching TV or playing games. I just don't have the time. I reserve all my down time for my family and much needed rest. It may seem like I'm not accomplishing much on social media and with blogging, but I'm moving inch-by-inch, and just like pennies, they all add up over time. 

For those of you waiting to be contracted and others who are already contracted and trying to navigate your way through, I hope this post gives you some ideas and encouragement. 

If you have other thoughts that would be helpful, please share.


Oh, Jennifer - this is an EXTREMELY helpful post. I have NO hints, as I don't even have a contract for my FIRST book - but I will treasure these for sure!

Wow. Found this blog through Joanne Sher's link and am BLOWN away by your thoughts, passion and STORIES!!!! First of all, may I express my excitement to read your work??? What a goldmine. And then, may I express my gratitude for your wisdom and inspiration? As a working mom with aspirations and WIPs out my ears, I was thrilled to hear that you have made it "inch by inch." PTL and keep going :)

Joanne, I'm glad you found it helpful. Thanks for sharing the link!

Diana, Thank you! Us working moms can write and publish books, but it will take persistence inch-by-inch. Don't give up!