Episode # 182 – The Power of Good Organisation with Jim Heskett

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell10 Comments

jimcovernewWhen we first met thriller author Jim Heskett two years ago, he already had an impressive six titles out. Since then, Jim has been turning out books at a lightning-fast pace (20+ titles and counting!) all while juggling family, friends, and a full-time job. This week I catch up with Jim to find out how he does it.


Links:

Jim Heskett’s Author Website

Jim Heskett’s Amazon Author Profile

The Juggling Author: How To Write Four Books a Year While Balancing Family, Friends, and a Full-Time Job by Jim Heskett

Nailgun Messiah Podcast

Mentions:

RSP #93 – “The Brave New World of Fiction with Jim Heskett”

RSP #179 – “Mastering Collaborations with J. Thorn”

American Demon Hunters – Denver, Colorado (An American Demon Hunters Novella)

Extended Imagery (Book Covers)

JA Konrath

Zach Bohannon

Grammarly

Pro Writing Aid

Trello

MailMunch

BookBub

Instafreebie

Show notes:

Background:

When we last spoke with Jim back in Episode #93, he had six titles out, including his Dystopian Espionage trilogy, the Five Suns Sagaand his stand-alone thriller Reagan’s Ashes.

Today, two years later, Jim’s got over 20 titles, including his Whistleblower trilogy and his Micah Reed series. In fact, just in 2016 alone, he published 325,000 words, consisting of five books, one short story, and one collaborative novella (with J. Thorn)…while maintaining a full-time day job and enjoying life with his wife and toddler son.

Jim says it took him two years to write his first book, one year to write his second, and then only six months to write his third. And he keeps getting better, as evidenced by his now sprawling catalog.

Nowadays, he takes about three months to prepare a book from first draft to market using a system he’s developed, which allows him to publish five books a year. Awesomely, he’s shared that system in a book for indie authors called The Juggling Author: How To Write Four Books a Year While Balancing Family, Friends, and a Full-Time Job.

The Juggling Author

Burning Through Drafts

A critical component to Jim’s high level of production as an author is planning and organization. Pre-writing and outlining the story in its entirety before starting the first draft allows him to work out the story and decide what scenes will go in, as well as what proposed scenes should not go in. This allows him to cut out unnecessary scenes he would have otherwise written and would later have to cut. Also, knowing what he needs to write makes it easy for him to burn through the first draft of a 60K-word novel in a month’s time.

Jim focuses on drafting only one project at a time and not getting distracted by new ideas and other projects during the drafting process. This helps him get to the end fast.

“When I’m in the first draft of something, I’m totally faithful. I take it out to dinner. I tell it I would never cheat on it, I would never look at another manuscript…”

He also notes that he writes short, preferring to flesh out the scenes after he’s gotten a basic draft down. His first drafts tend to run 30-35K words long for a 60K novel. Not only does writing short help him finish the first draft much more quickly, it saves him time and words if he does have to make cuts down the road.

Jim does three drafts of each book, focusing on filling in the scenes on the second draft and a spit-shine polish for the third draft. The first draft gets sent to a trusted alpha reader to help him identify plot holes and structural problems. The second drafts gets seen by trusted beta readers. After the third draft, it goes to his editor for a final pass.

In between drafts, he works on his book description, noting that often writers will need to write dozens of drafts on their book description to get it just right.

Once his third draft goes to the editor, he finishes the book description, sends it to a cover designer, and starts scheduling social media content, reaching out to podcasters for interviews, and other promotional activities.

Good Organization is Critical

Jim likes to use Trello, a Kanban board-based activity tracker that works as a visual to-do list, allowing him to easily keep track of the multitude of moving pieces involved in publishing a book. He tracks his lists through boards labeled “DO SOMEDAY,” “DO LATER,” “DO NEXT,” “DO NOW,” and “DONE DID IT ALREADY.” By keeping up with it and focusing each day on the “DO NOW,” he’s able to drag each task through the various boards until they finally land in the “DONE DID IT ALREADY.”

“Thinking about writing is also productive time.”

Since Jim is as pressed for time as most indie authors are, he likes to think ahead on the next writing session or marketing task that’s coming up whenever he can. In order to keep the production process moving and books shipping out to market, it’s necessary to make use of any and all time, whether that means thinking about his story on his commute or utilizing his lunch hour to write.

Next Big Thing

Jim’s book The Juggling Author: How To Write Four Books a Year While Balancing Family, Friends, and a Full-Time Job recently came out this year, amid new titles and box sets in all of his series, with more and more books to come as he continues to juggle. Check out Jim’s Amazon page to see his growing catalog.

Action Tips:

  • In order to make sure he delivers the cleanest manuscript to his editor — thus, making his editor’s job easier and avoiding any unnecessary delays — after he finishes spit-shining the third draft, Jim listens to his third draft using his Mac’s text-to-speech app at the slowest pace he can stand to catch as many little errors as he can.
  • If he has time, Jim will also run his manuscript through the Grammarly and/or Pro Writing Aid apps as well, using them as another filter to catch errors.

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Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 182 – The Power of Good Organisation with Jim Heskett
  • Sorry to hear you’re going on extended hiatus, Simon, but I’m honored to be your (maybe) final guest…

  • Carla Baku

    Bummer! RSP was an early listen for me as a new indie author and has continued to be a kick in the creative backside. Your interviews and archives have been excellent, Simon. Thanks for being my conduit to Domi’s wonderful cover design, too. Wishing you all good things moving forward. Catch you on the flip side. 🙂

  • I will definitely miss the Rocking Self Publishing podcast. All the best for your future endeavours, and thanks for introducing us to Inspired Cover Designs. I’m thrilled with the cover I got.

  • plainlyspoken

    Shock! No more RSP Podcast? I cut my new-author teeth on this podcast! Hope whatever the future brings, it is exactly what you dream for yourself. Thanks for all the great hours and the information, Simon.

  • WFMeyer

    Hey Simon, sorry to see the RSPP go. I found it both a very informative and entertaining resource. I will keep following, and looking forward to what else you produce. Best of Success!

  • Sad to see this podcast going on hiatus but I’m grateful that you gave us so much information over the years. Pleas add links to your website and your current projects to this site so that we can find you again. All the best to you!

    • Simon Whistler

      Everything @ simonwhistler.com

  • Simon,

    You are the best. You and this show have been an inspiration to all of us. The self publishing community thanks you. Quite literally in this case. These are just a few of the people you’ve touched, but we wanted you to know we’ll miss you and are incredibly grateful for all that you’ve done. Best wishes from all of us! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ymwJqI-Hkqg5Z9DughHFkLqzI_dBl2AJU9VrTI36Lh0/edit?usp=sharing

    • Simon Whistler

      Wow, thank you so much! I’m truly touched by this. Thank you to everyone who wrote something there, it means a lot to me that each of you were affected in some way by the podcast :). And thank you Nathan for putting that together :).

  • Sherwyn Jellico

    How dare you? What am I supposed to listen to when I do the vacuuming now? This is a human rights abuse!
    Bah I’m just kidding.
    Thanks for all the shows. I hope you’ll return, although it sounded kind of final. Nobody does it better!
    In the meantime, I reckon Angela is the obvious choice for steward to the throne. She’s got a good radio voice and is naturally hilarious. She already knows the ropes and has an interest in the subject. I bet you already asked her.