Keeping First Things First

Keeping “first things first” isn’t always easy. At least not for me.

Am I too easily distracted? Am I not disciplined enough? It’s these kind of questions that can send me into unwelcome, unproductive tail spins sometimes for days or weeks at a time.

Finally reaching the point of being satisfied with the novel I’ve been working on the past four and a half years (!!) is a momentous event. But lately I’ve been asking myself, Why did it take so damn long?

I suspect many writers, artists, entrepreneurs and project managers often ask themselves the same question. Now, as I’m simultaneously thrilled, scared and curious about the future, I also find myself looking back and trying to make sense of the journey.

This Friday is November 11, 2011, or 11/11/11. I’m hoping it will be the first day of life outside my hard drive for “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise”. I have my query letter already written and have met several agents and publishers at recent writer’s conferences that have expressed interest in the book. As the marketing phase of FRDP begins, I’m eager to complete the outlines for the second and third books in the hoped-for series.

I realize that I basically wrote FRDP three times. Most notably because my writing improved so much by virtue of writing practically every day for four years. However, in order to be able to write the sequels in less than a quarter of the time, I have to also look at other reasons why it took me so long to get where I am today.


My part-time work as a freelance journalist in Las Vegas requires keeping up with casino news, researching local history, new technology developments in solar and rail, and trying to keep up with new opportunities in social media. I’ve put a lot of work into the dozens of articles I’ve written and I’m proud of the two years I wrote steadily for Living Las Vegas and I’m proud of my ongoing tips on visiting and exploring Vegas for Las Vegas Getaways. Also, as a board member of the Writers of Southern Nevada (WSN) I helped organize and produce an excellent conference on Memoir Writing this past March with a team of other professional writers.

De-stemming our grapes!

For the past three years, Wine-making has been another big part of my life. From choosing the grapes, to de-stemming, crushing, turning the barrel, naming, bottling and designing labels for our blends, the process has been very rewarding in a variety of ways. For one thing, Laura and I have made some great new friends in a city where we started out knowing no one.

It’s an easy luxury to get lost in the internet also. Here are two great examples:

This video of a surfer girl and a couple of kayakers coming face to face with a whale in the waters off Santa Cruz.

Another is this one I just found today of a mountain lion and bear cub having a territorial dispute in the wilderness of Alberta, Canada.

Distractions are okay. They are part of being human in this hyper-connected world of ours and I have to:

1) allow
2) expect
and 3) rejoice in them.

Lesson Learned: Manage Distractions Better.

Many of the things that distracted me from working on FRDP made me a better writer and will end up in the proposed sequel: “For Rent: Dangerous Neon”, so some distractions will always be just part of the writing process.

(Admittedly, the animal videos fall squarely in the entertainment category, although even they led to setting up a You Tube account and publishing a few experimental clips – a learning curve that could prove useful in future online marketing.)


I spent three weeks outlining FRDP in May of 2007 while in-between jobs. When the “yours if you want it” return to CCH fell apart that summer, I proceeded to follow that outline and write myself into a nasty boondoggle. I based the outline on the exact number of units in my old Venice apartment building, twenty-one, which was FAR too many characters. After getting almost two-thirds of the first draft finished, I deleted six characters to trim the beast down. The spider web of personal intricacies I had woven together needed drastic re-invention.

When that hurdle was finally behind me and I had a complete first draft in the summer of 2009, I realized that moving from unit to unit in the building three times made the book WAY too long for a standard mystery. So I sped everything up by getting the police to the scene quicker and merging Section One with Section Two. Awesome. But it required another time-consuming re-invention of the spider web.

Lesson Learned: Update Outlines!

If during the process of writing something turns up that requires a substantial deviation from the original outline, SPEND THE TIME to go back and update that outline!


First things first requires commitment and versatility. Putting the butt in the chair everyday at the same time, though ideal, isn’t always possible. When it’s not, something else has to be sacrificed that day.

One of the speakers at the August meeting of the Las Vegas Writers Group, local freelance writer Carol Patton, made an excellent suggestion: set aside a specific time every week to focus on marketing. I have been practicing on expanding that suggestion to include news watch, social media and many of the “house chores” that too often consume an entire day.

Aside from setting aside Tuesday mornings for marketing, I’m testing a schedule for: keeping up with local and national publications, managing e-mail, sorting post office mail, paying bills, grocery shopping, cleaning up around the house, cooking, making Zazzy’s food and getting more exercise. So far, it’s working pretty well and I hope to have it fully implemented next week when this last polish of FRDP is over.

Lesson Learned: Put My Franklin Quest Daily Organizer to Use!

By admitting to the realities of life in the 21st century and the mistakes I made taking a less organized approach towards FRDP, I’m confident I will not only finish the “For Rent” sequels in record time, I will also be able to expand my horizons with local and national publications. Perhaps there will even be time to launch another video production enterprise.

But first, first things first…FRDP finished by the end of this week!

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