One of the hardest challenges for a new writer is finishing a story. But once you master that you face two great challenges: the Muse and the emotional roller coaster of life.

I feel the Muse should be capitalized because it is a concept combining two things every writer needs: inspiration and drive. Like many writers before me (including the Greeks who took it to another level) I personify a lot of concepts. The Muse is genderless to me, but I do refer to it as Her sometimes (because the Greeks made them female) and faceless, formless.

I am lucky, I admit, in one way. Having ADHD my brain works much faster than a normal persons. The bonus to that is I never lack for ideas. The downside is ADHD is a rather awful disease you can;t really understand unless you have it. If you want to understand it better, check out the documentary ADD And Loving It? which features interviewers and interviewees that are not only experts in the disorder, but they also have either ADD or ADHD. I've tries to cover how to pull inspiration for you lucky normies in my Writing 101 Series.

The second component to the Muse is drive. Impetus, commitment, whatever you want to call it. I think of it like stamina, in that everyone lies about it. Established authors who've hit the best seller lists will tell you they write X amount of prose each and every day. Just the way every man trying to get laid or every person trying to impress at the gym will claim superhuman stamina. Look, we all lose it sometimes.

The main reason for losing it is life. Life happens. You get sick. You kid gets sick. Your car breaks down. You get demoted or laid off at work.You break your leg skiing. You watched that Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial with the sad music and backslid on your depression treatment. Something happens and you're shit outta luck.

So how do you cope? Is there any way to roll with the punches and not lose momentum? I believe there is, but it's not easy. I'm dealing with a four-alarm fire in my life right now and editing is impossible to focus on and writing is tough. So what do I do that I suggest you do to prepare for such fires in your own life? The answer is age old: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

You can't prevent life, but you can plan for it. Do you know how to use Microsoft Excel or similar spreadsheets? LEARN IT if you don't, this program is a godsend. I used it to make a calendar and I plot out projects. M-F I write and edit books for publication or contest entries, and Sa/Su I work on fun writing, like literotica stories. I also schedule out other goals on this, improving my diet, picking up new habits like regular walking and also mark important things like bill due dates. every morning over my first cup of coffee I check it as a to-do list, and every night before I shut the computer down to get ready for bed and relaxation and I carefully record anything not on that list I did. Anything I successfully completed I change to green, anything I didn't do I code red. Here's an example:


Click HERE to see it larger.

The yellow background on Saturday is how I mark publication dates. That means a day I am uploading a story to literotica, or turning in an edit to Red Sage, or sending a manuscript out to a publisher (or soon to an agent).

After making the calendar up I take an honest look at my goals. For example I prefer most of my books to be 100,000 words. I know I can write as much as 3,000 per day easily, but I try for less if I am also editing. So I divide my goal of 100,000 by 2,500, let's say that's my daily goal, then I plot out when I'm due to finish.

Now I always leave myself leeway. For example I give myself some time, say, a week or two, between writing a first draft and editing. This serves two purposes: one, I give myself downtime to take a break and then approach the project with rested and fresh eyes, and I also give myself some catch-up time if I fall behind.

There's also another trick for when you miss a day. Let's say you're due to write 1,000 words a day Monday through Friday. But Tuesday your car breaks down on your way home from work and you're stuck in the shop until you have to get dinner and by the time you get home you're exhausted. All right, you missed 1,000 words. Monday you hit your goal, so why not write 1,333 Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday?

Doing this allows you to play catch up and take a day off without guilt. But what do you do when you need a few days, not just one? What if you need a week off because you got the flu and then your kid got it and you became their slave for a few days, even sniffling and sneezing and vomiting yourself?

Here's the real trick: When you come back to your work, go to the spreadsheet. what's easiest for you? For me it's coming up with ideas and writing outlines. For you it could be writing. It could editing. It could be designing your cover for your self published book. It could be writing character bios. Whatever the enjoyable, relaxing part of the process is for you, when you have multiple days where you have time to write but not the right mindset, simply go to the spreadsheet, find the enjoyable stuff, and switch days around.

Of course you don't want to delay deadlines which is why I advise giving yourself a week of downtime after each goal. Say you're due to finish editing in a first pass by Friday the 9th, okay, don't schedule the second edit until Monday the 19th. Use the week in between to plan on writing double time another project. Then, if you fall behind you have a week to catch up on the edit, and just take the 10,000 words (say 2,000/day) you were writing and make it 5,000, then advertise the missing 5,000 over the next two or three weeks. 

It seems complex but if you know spreadsheets it's easier and once you get the hang of it with your first projects it becomes second nature. And right now as I have the four alarm fire to put out I am working on plotting outlines for Halloween contests and future Literotica short stories. Then next week I have my extra week to finish editing Secret Desires and writing the first draft of The Violin Case

Best of luck to you, and happy writing, editing, and reading, my friends!