16 New Year’s Resolutions For Writers

When we look back on a year of writing, we can be filled with a feeling of guilt for not having done as much as we set out to do. Or we can be overcome with pride and gratitude for everything we’ve managed to accomplish. But with each new year comes a fresh press of the reset button, enabling us to turn to those things we’ve not yet tackled.

Here are 16 new year resolutions for writers to help you choose yours. Please leave a comment letting me know which you’re taking on, and how you’re going to tackle them. Good luck!

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If you need the text for those:

1. I resolve to call myself a writer
2. I resolve to make time to write
3. I resolve to complete that unfinished work
4. I resolve to write what I feel the calling to write
5. I resolve to read more, and to read more widely
6. I resolve to tell the world about the book I love the most
7. I resolve to find the perfect place to write
8. I resolve to try a new genre
9. I resolve to tell the truth
10. I resolve to break some rules
11. I resolve to overcome my writer’s block
12. I resolve to back-up my writing
13. I resolve to rectify my weaknesses
14. I resolve to tell people about what I’m writing
15. I resolve to publish my work
16. I resolve to be less critical of my writing

Here’s to an incredible 2016!

NaNoWriMo- Dealing With The Aftermath

Congratulations! You survived the month! With the immediate NaNoWriMo challenge out of the way for many the question remaining is what now? This blog is going to give you some options on what to do with your hard written efforts and getting back to a regular writing routine.

The Proof Read and Preliminary Edit

With any luck you now have a draft of a novel, even if it’s just a shadow of one. This is great! You can’t edit a blank page, and one of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it provides you with a building block to start constructing your novel.

The first thing you should do after NaNoWriMo (after a week break from your manuscript) is do a proof read and a basic edit. This is forging your draft into something readable while also shaping it into something that you can really work with. This is a good way to delete what you don’t need, add what you do, expand on events and descriptions, and make note of any plot holes or character building you need to do.

Your mind will automatically pick up the problems you need to fix but it might also surprise you on what you have written. Getting in the NaNoWriMo challenge zone means that you don’t have time to contemplate on whether or not you have written a good sentence or a bad one, so this first read through will allow you to stop and smell the literary roses. You wrote the first draft of a novel in a month, this is a HUGE achievement so celebrate what you like about your draft and fix what you don’t.2349632625_4eba371b56_z

Share If You Care To  

NaNoWriMo champions are legion. If you are lucky enough to have some writing pals or NaNoWriMo group of friends, why not take the opportunity to share your experiences, or even your drafts after an edit, with each other?

Showing your work to anyone can be an intimidating prospect but a fellow NaNoWriMo champion or a beta reader friend can help you move out of the first draft headspace and give you some valuable feedback.

You are still going to be very close to your project so a fresh set of eyes can help you find many of those pesky plot holes. It can also be a fun way of sharing your badly written sentences together over wine and laughs. It’s been a stressful time (especially if you have been juggling NaNoWriMo with a full time job and family) so celebrating your victory with other writers and friends will help with a much needed recharge.

Taking NaNoWriMo Lessons On Board  

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NaNoWriMo is about writing a novel in a month. But more importantly it is about cultivating a writing discipline. Now you know that you can write 1500 words a day. That is an impressive goal to maintain but what about 500 words a day? You had the writing chops to do triple that.

To be a writer you have to write every day. Picking an achievable daily goal goes a long way when working on a project. Setting out to write a novel is an intimidating undertaking. The average novel is about 80,000 words which is enough to unsettle even the most experienced writer. Yet if you are writing 500 words a day that means you will have hit your target in 160 days. Breaking it down to bite size chunks makes it a lot less daunting.

First drafts can often be the hardest and the most enjoyable part of writing a novel. By finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge you have achieved the first step in getting your novel finished. Giving your draft a good proof and edit, gathering feedback from your betas and maintaining your writing muscles will ensure you are well on your way to getting that first draft nailed down.

What lessons did you take away from your NaNoWriMo experience? Would you do it again? 

Three Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a writer’s version of blood sport. Fifty thousand words in a month, take no prisoners, a first draft heaven where anything goes. The goal is to get a novel together in a month and writers have a tendency to form a love-hate relationship with their manuscript and everything around them. This blog is going to touch on the top three things to do while preparing for NaNo so you get the most of it and not end up a wreck by the end of November.

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 Direction

Writing a book is like being dropped into the wildness, so it’s important to have a map and a compass. Finishing a first draft in a month is a huge and daunting task so it doesn’t matter if you are a plotter or a pantser, having a plan is essential. You are going to want to focus 100% on getting words on the page. Having a rough map will make sure you don’t waffle yourself into a corner and burn out. Here are some quick ideas, whether you are a strict planner or not:

  • Beat sheets– some writers hate these but they can work well to prompt you when you need to put your big events in.
  • Mind maps– grab a pen and create a scribbled mind map even if it’s to get your ideas down.
  • Chapter Plans– these can be as loose or rigid as you like. Try to view them as a suggested route but don’t forget you can move and change stuff about as you go.
  • Notebook– have a notebook designated just for your story. This is a place to jot down ideas, write snippets on the run and keep any research you will need.

Whether you plan chapter by chapter in Scrivener or jot down plot points on a wine stained napkin, you need to know where you want to go before you start. For more ideas and ways to plan go and check out Chuck Wendig’s blog, he offers some great ideas that any writer can adapt.

You Are an Island (in a Chain)

During NaNo your mind needs to be free to focus on your story and roll with all the emotions that go with it. Announcing to your friends and family that you are on a writing challenge will hopefully give them a pre-warning about respecting the space you will need. Writing is a tough, solitary business but remember; meeting up with other writers and NaNoWriMo sufferers can help refresh your mind, bounce feedback off of each other and get you a much needed break away from the keyboard.

It is going to be a busy month so setting extra reminders about birthdays, engagements or bills due dates isn’t a bad idea either. Knowing that everything is covered will free your mind of the mundane so your story can move about freely. Plan to connect so you don’t burn yourself out.

Know Thy Distractions

8583949219_f55657573e_z   Everybody has a weakness or an excuse not to write. Social Media and the ease of checking in while on your computer can seriously cut into your writing time. For 90% of us you have to fight for your writing time and protect it. Don’t waste it on Facebook updates and cat videos. If you have a Social Media weakness it’s a good idea to turn off your wifi before you start. “But I need it to research!”…No, you don’t. The point of NaNo is to write a first draft not a finished copy. If you need research then it should have been done before NaNo started (which is why it’s important to start with a rough plot idea). You can always go back and add the research information into it.

Turn the internet off, everything will be fine, I promise.

The same goes for TV and Netflix, if you know that it’s going to be a distraction, get rid of it. If you have kids or a loud flatmate then maybe head out to a café or for some quiet time at the local library. Libraries usually have quiet rooms you can book if the normal library is too loud. Know what your weaknesses are and prepare for them.

NaNoWriMo can be fun, exciting and productive, but remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Preparing your month by having a novel outlined, planning to step away from the computer to recharge, and minimising your distractions, will ensure you hit your word count and get the most out it.

What Are Your Survival Tips for NaNoWriMo?

The Top 5 To-Dos Of Successful Self-Published Authors

Today we are going to discuss the Top 5 things you need to do in order to work smarter and become a successful self-published author. There is a school of thought out there, an incorrect one, that says choosing the self published road is the ‘easy’ way to get a book out there and claim you are a WRITER. For those who are self publishing, and who are taking it seriously, you know that there is nothing easy about it.

The self publishing success stories you hear about- those in the Joanna Penn, Hugh Howie and Mark Dawson categories- you will find common habits and themes that ensured their success. They wrote amazing books because they also got into a strict routine that worked for them and they stuck to it. These are 5 things that will help you kick self-publishing ass:

200Back It Up

Okay, this one should be a no brainer in any business, and yet every writer has experienced it. My big number is 10,000 words but I know others who have lost 250k+. Writers live on their computers, we pour hours of love and blood into our works. The rule: Have one back up locally, and one back up off base (in case your house burns down).

With all of the Dropboxs, iClouds, USB hard drives and multiple server technology there is no excuse not to save your work in a secure location. If you are sticking to a writing goal everyday (as you should be) than the very last thing you want to have to do is fall to weeping in front of an IT guru when he tells you that your hard drive could not be saved.

Take the time, back it up so that you don’t have to do it all again.

Recommended back up platforms for writers:

Writing Time Is Sacred

Life is busy for everyone. Talk to any wanna-be-writer and the first excuse they will give you is “I would write but I just don’t seem to have the time.” If you want to be a writer you actually have to write. You have to carve out a space in the day that is for writing alone. Even if you sit there for an hour staring blankly at the screen you make that time yours. Know when your commitments are and when your optimal writing time is. Get up an hour earlier in the morning if you know you have stuff to do after work, utilise your lunch breaks, your commute home, the hour you get after you put the kids to bed. No excuses. Life will always be busy, there will always be something else that needs to be done. Find your time, dig your heels in and claim it for your writing everyday.

Block It Out

Once you have selected that time for writing, you have to block life’s distractions out. I use the Pomodoro method- work in 25 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks between. It’s been said that our attention spans can last around 2 hours. So 4 ‘pomodoro’s’ and then a half hour break. Because I have a dire Facebook habit, I use a Chrome plugin called Strict Workflow which blocks websites from me for 25 minutes- but only the ones choose. So if I need to research Wikipedia I won’t put that down.

This may mean turning your wifi off so you don’t check Facebook, getting your partner to take the kids for their daily walk to the park or closing the door to your flatmates and partner. The world has no place in your writing. Be selfish, use ear plugs or noise reducing headphones, whatever it takes for you to block it out and focus at the task at hand. You only have a certain amount of time allocated to writing don’t let yourself be distracted, the new episode of Game of Thrones can wait (ha ha).
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Read

To quote urban-fantasy writer Lev Grossman,

Read everything. If you haven’t read everything, you’ll never be able to write anything.”

He is hardly the first writer to present this sentiment because it is a universal truth, good readers make great writers. Reading as a writer feeds us, , you start to see the tricks and when you don’t see them immediately you go back and disseminate in order to find it. It is harder to pull a writer into a world without them turning over every rock. It is in the rock turning that we learn about our own writing and where it is lacking. Struggling with world building? Try Tolkien, the master world builder. Writing clever crime? Read Sherlock Holmes. Know what is out there and feed your own creativity, your work will thank you for it.

Check in with your Writer World

Writing is a solitary business. We are natural introverts but occasionally checking in with the real world can help refresh you and pull you out of a writing slump. Some writer’s really thrive in writing groups and for others they are the most destructive force. Writers need other writers. These are your people, your tribe, they understand your struggles, the one’s that won’t get offended when you bring out a notebook and pen at dinner. Writers brain storm you out of writers block, pour wine as you complain about character’s and plot holes and are the best resource when dealing with writer related questions. They give constructive feedback and encouragement when you need it most.

There is no secret formula for success in self-publishing. It is a job that takes a lot of work and commitment. The writer’s that have ‘made it’ are multitasking, writing entrepreneurial machines. What works for them may not work for you, but the things that all writer’s must do, the things that will give you a solid foundation in order to become successful, are the simple things. Tangible, every day things that have exponential returns.

So remember:

  1. Back up your work so you don’t lose it
  2. Carve out a writing time that is yours (and stick to it)
  3. Block out all the world’s distractions
  4. Reading is a writer’s water so drink deeply from multiple wells, and
  5. Make sure you touch base with other writers so that you don’t end up hanging around your gloomy writing cave like a starved, wordsmith Golum.

What are some of your tips to keep you writing focused?  

 

 

 

3 Things To Get You Writing Everyday

LisaAt times writers feel like gods looking at worlds that no one else can see, words flow out faster than nimble fingers can type and thousands of words can appear out of no where. Then there are the other times when you get the fear as writer Holly Black used to,

“I was scared I was doing something wrong, that I was leading the characters down the wrong path. I was scared of making choices. I had completely lost touch with the part of myself that thought of writing as play.”

This week’s blog is going to suggest three helpful ways to stop the fear and get you back to putting words down on the page.

The Sweet Spot to Stop

The great and often challenging Ernest Hemingway once stated in an article with the Paris Review;

“you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.”

This advice is true for all writers and possibly, if you can cultivate the habit, one of the most valuable pieces of writing advice you will ever receive. If you are writing and you know you are coming up to something exciting, stop for the day. That moment you are itching to keep going is your halt mark. That pick up point is the surest way of knowing a direction to head in next. Let it stew for the night and then when you wake up in the morning you will be so eager to start writing you won’t have time to listen to the voice of doubt.

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Out and About

Writers are observers of life. Sitting numbly staring at a blank screen is disheartening and doesn’t get you any where. Go for a walk, to the library or to your favouring cafe with a notebook and pen and write what you see. Writers have a habit of living behind desks and sometimes you need to get out like Haruki Murakami who swears that,

“Most of what I know about writing fiction I learned by running every day.”

Observing people when they don’t know they are being watched is some of the most interesting character building insights you will ever gain as a writer. It is when the masks are dropped that the characters, like people, reveal who they really are. It may seem counter intuitive and unrelated to the piece you are writing at the time but those observations will get you writing. The change of scenery may just be the thing to recharge your creative batteries and spark new stories.

Shut Up and Write

“Writing is contagious madness, a lot of the times. Even when it sucks, you wanna do it. And that, I think, is one of the things that separates the Aspiring Not-Really-Writers from the Really Real Writers — the latter group writes even when it’s hard, even when the motivation is a dry well,” says writer Chuck Wendig, and he is dead on.

Writers write. It is hard work and the people that are serious about it know that it is a skill that takes many hours to master. Writing is a muscle that needs to be worked every day even when it hurts and there is a million other things demanding your attention. Setting realistic daily word counts, slowly increasing them as you meet your target, is the ONLY way to get things written. As writers we have to carve out time, shut the door, set a goal and stick to it.

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The ultimate goal of a writer is to keep at it every day, to defeat the fear of the blank page altogether. Leaving stories at interesting points, getting out and watching the world around you will always help but at the end of the day only putting in the hours of hard work it will get it done.

 

 

What gets you writing in the day? What have you found that inspires you when you are stuck?

How Audio Books Work for Self-Published Authors

imagesFor thousands of years man has huddled by campfires, bards have recited in halls and children have clustered around grandmothers for the purpose of listening to a good story. It is comforting to know some rituals are so ingrained into the human psyche that even though story telling may change its media it never loses its appeal. In this blog we are going to talk about the audio book resurgence, how to get your book audio, how much it will cost you and how beneficial it can be.

Audio Revolution

An article in the NY Times last year stated, “In the first eight months of this year, (audio book) sales were up 28 percent over the same period last year, far outstripping the growth of e-books, which rose 6 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers.” Audio books aren’t considered an unprofitable extra to print but a medium now standing in its own right. Audio books are not limited in their audiences. People struggling with reading, or have difficulties such as dyslexia, can now take part in the joy of books. Commuters can catch up on their novels on their way home, grab their Kindle when they arrive and pick up where they left off. Author Max Brooks, stated in an interview with the Wall Street journal, “It’s one of the few times in history that technology has reinvigorated an art form rather than crushing it. Now, because there is such demand and the production value is so inexpensive, it opens the door for more creative storytelling.” So how do self-publishers get onboard?

 Where to get it done?

The strongest audio platform on the market is ACX, a subsidiary of Amazon. ACX is not restricted to Amazon’s Audible store so it can be sold through other avenues such as iTunes.

acxLogoNarrating Yourself

Like other self publishing platforms ACX gives you the option of narrating your own book. Doing the narration yourself provides the opportunity to tell your book in your own voice. You have the added benefit of not having to hire a narrator, or share royalties. ACX provides free Video Lessons and Resources detailing what equipment and software you will need in order to produce an appropriate submission. This equipment, if you don’t already own it, can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. The risk is you might not end up with something professional sounding at the end of it and its important to remember like ebooks and print books, audio books have a high set of standards.

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Hire a Producer or a Narrator

  • Create a Profile including a description of your book and the type of narrator you would think best suits it. You will also post a small excerpt of your book so potential narrators can use it as audition script.
  • Post your book profile so narrators and producers can view your work to see if they are interested. Alternatively you can do your own casting call, listen to sample narrations posted by actors and then send them an invite to audition. Audio artist Elizabeth Klett shares some great advice here on what to look for in a good narrator.
  • Decide on a producer and make an Offer. The first way you can make a deal on ACX, is to send a producer a Production Offer Page where you have the option to pay a fee (the minimum you can offer is $300 per finished hour) or you can agree to a Royalty Share deal.

Sell your Rights to a Producer

Producers can buy your rights from you for a royalty share or outright depending on the details of the offer and how you choose to negotiate.

Read the Offer and Acceptance Procedures before you make any offers as it is an official and binding agreement.  

Royalties

  • Depending on distribution deals made, the Rights Holders earn 40% royalties of all books sold through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. ACX also have a Bounty Program so every time some one joins Audible and purchases your book first you will receive an extra $50 on top of royalties.

Pricing

  • You can’t choose your pricing on ACX. Prices are calculated based on the length of your book, please click here for a price per hours breakdown.

Territories

  • Currently ACX is only available to UK and US writers but you can email ACX about the terms and conditions of becoming an International Partner . You can use a service such as Ebookit who will distribute through ACX for you for a fee. The good news is with the Australian Audible Store going live in January this year, ACX is bound to follow to maximise their demand for local authors.

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Other Options

Infinity Publishing– audio book service but will only do books up to 11,000 words.

CD Baby– a subsidiary of Book Baby. You need your own recording to load up however and it is a more music focused site.

As with book publishing it’s vital to know what you want and how much you are willing to spend when creating your audio book. The audio book market is expanding, providing indie authors a chance to deliver their works and reach audiences in creative and engaging ways.

 

Do you listen to Audio Books? Are they here to stay or just another fad?

5 steps to having a great life as a creative


The golden doors are open, self-publishing has given millions of authors the chance to turn their passion into a full time job. Are you someone who has taken a hold of the great chance to help other authors? We’re now seeing a boom in:

  • Editors
  • Formatters
  • Designers
  • Marketing experts
  • Social Media Managers
  • Publishers

They were 9-5’ers until recently and now they get the chance to live the life doing what they love. So if you want to be one of these people, or you are one and want to keep this snowball rolling, what are the most important things to keep in mind?

I’ve been running Scarlett Rugers Design since 2011, and I wanted to share with you what helps me. I’ve got a bit of experience under my belt, and there’s no use to having knowledge if you can’t share it and put it into practice. So let’s begin…

inner chaosStep 1: Get rid of the shit in your life

We all got shit in our lives, and now is the time to get it out. I’m talking mental shit, emotional shit, physical shit… as in… stuff on your desk.

ANYWAY, just like in our homes our brains get clogged up with old habits, beliefs, and narratives that make us feel like crap and slow us down. Now is the time to toss it. You don’t need it. No matter how much you think you need these thoughts:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I can’t do it
  • I’m too tired
  • There’s too much happening
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have the knowledge
  • I’ll just end up failing

Let me ask you- do these thoughts actually help you? They wear nice clothes and pretend to be your friend but honestly, what is the worst that could happen if you tell them to f**k off? You might… you might try and do things. You might try new things, or revisit old projects you haven’t finished. You might end up… accomplishing something. HELL YES.

You are allowed to be in control of your own mind, and your life.

trust yourselfStep 2: Trust yourself. Do things that help build your self confidence and self esteem

You got your own back. You’ve come into this business because you know you can do it, something inside you tells you that, so listen.

Being a creative means there will be a constant flow of feedback for your work, that’s what comes with working in this industry. You create something for someone, and get their feedback on whether they like it or not. You know what? Sometimes they aren’t, and that’s okay.

So you need to do things which will help you build more trust in yourself, and build your self confidence. When you wake up in the morning and have to face your clients you know you have everything under control, and whatever shit hits the fan you’ve got Captain America’s shield to protect you.

Get positive reinforcement from others in your industry, bounce ideas off friends and family, do things you enjoy and love. Tell yourself, in the mirror, that you are capable. Not just capable, but good at what you do, and always getting better.

Why do you love your jobStep 3: Remember why you love what you do, because there will be days you won’t.

There are two people who get into business:

1. Those that love business for business and find something to match it with to get things started.

2. Those that turn their hobby into a profession

Today I’m talking to all you 2’s. For the first 6-12 months you’re going to be on a high. You will come to your self-made office (dining table, home office, lounge room…) and get to work and be in total bliss. Then things will take a turn.

Not dramatically, but very very slowly the other portions of business will creep in. Admin, organization, customer service, marketing, budgeting. And then you may feel the pressure of dealing with constant feedback from clients, both good and bad, both brilliant and disastrous. Slowly what you loved to do now becomes just another job. You no longer run your own business, but you come to work and get through as much as you can, on 15 hour days, working through weekends, sacrificing family and friend time.

A lot of business don’t get past year 2, because the realities of what it takes to run a business set in. It’s really important to find ways to remind yourself why you love doing what you do. This might include:

  • Loving the process of creating something
  • Helping author’s being the best they can be
  • Setting your own work hours and rules.
  • Flexibility of running your own business
  • Learning new things

Whatever it is that helps you remember why you love what you do, write it down and revisit it often. Have gratitude for being able to earn money, and live, off what you love.

Step 4: Challenge yourself and learn new stuff. Do things that scare you.

There is nothing that will bring on a quicker death than stagnation. It is important as a business, and an individual, to keep learning, growing, and doing shit that scares the ever living daylights out of you. When you grow inside, everything will grow with you. When you accept was is and don’t attempt anything new, everything will be covered under dust.

Like attracts like, so get out there and start liking things!

Set goalsStep 5: Have goals.

If you don’t know where you’re going you won’t get there. Have short term and long term goals. There doesn’t have to be many, don’t worry, but at least 1 or 2. Now is the time for daydream, where do you want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years? Let the fantasies flow forth, and start figuring out how to get there. This life won’t just fall into your lap, you gotta go out and get it.

Each of these steps together create an awesome formula. Sometimes one step will be more important than another, sometimes you’ll neglect some entirely, but just circle back to them every few weeks or so. There’s no set way to approach these, just work through them in a way that you feel works best for you. That’s the beauty of running your own business, you get the final say.

What are some other things you think could be added to the list? What has worked best for you to having a great life as a creative?