All Posts, Dreamweaver, My Writing

Unrealistic Goals and Rookie Mistakes

If you’ve been following my journey toward becoming a published author, you’ve probably noticed that my anticipated release for Dreamweaver didn’t quite happen and it wasn’t until I was staring down this impending deadline I had created that I realized I’d made a huge rookie mistake:

I set an anticipated publication time frame without understanding how long it’d actually take to research, outline, write, and polish my first novel.

The biggest eye-opener for me occurred when Spring came, and went, and I still wasn’t done writing my first draft. Like, not even remotely close. I’ve never written a book of any kind before, so everything I’ve done since ‘Day 1’ has been a part of my learning experience. How could I have known how long I’d need? I didn’t. And I set myself up for failure in that aspect because there is so much that goes into writing a novel. You don’t just sit and start with page one and write all the way to the end. It’s a labor of love, frustration, patience, and more coffee than any human should probably consume, and it is a chaotic, disorganized, daunting, and exhausting mess to navigate.

And then there was the extra stuff like learning my own unique style of organization, getting over how uncomfortable it feels to digitize everything for the sake of my poor hand, figuring out which program I’d use to compile my story in, and so much more. And on top of the learning curve I was already facing, I had to let an authentic, engaging story flow from a brain that was already rattled by other overwhelming details.

You know that dance of two steps forward and ten steps back? Yeah, that’s sort of what writing a novel is like. But in 20-inch stilettos…on ice.

This book requires more of me than I’ve ever given any other project and it’s terrifying to be under that kind of stress and pressure and know that you’re doing it to yourself. And then there’s the fact that being at home, especially with my kids, makes it so easy to just get lost in the day-to-day and let discipline slide. Sadly, the bank won’t do the same for my car loans…

Anyway, my takeaway from this has been pretty positive despite not hitting my original goal. I’ve come to understand what this process will actually entail and I have a great deal of newfound respect for those who have taken on this behemoth of a task and slayed it.

Coincidentally enough, I was scrolling through Facebook earlier and found an article titled, “10 Things Every Writer Should Do Before They Start Their First Book” and decided to give it a look since it aligned so perfectly with this post. It had some great information, but I found the first item to be especially important: manage your own expectations.

In it, the author stated, “Writing is a job, it’s a commitment. It involves long hours and painful moments, times where you feel as though you don’t know what you are doing, where you don’t feel like writing at all. You need to be realistic about what writing a book takes out of you – but then do it anyway because it’s still worth it in the end!”

And I think that will be what I leave you all with. Writing is a passion-driven and rewarding job, but it is still a job — one that requires fierce commitment and will probably provide you with some form of discomfort in one way or another.

But then you do it anyway because it’s worth it in the end.

 

All Posts, Monday Mantra

Monday Mantra

I stumbled upon a quote yesterday and it really resonated with me and my current writing headspace:

“I don_t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”

There is so much truth packed into this small collection of sentences. ❤

I am learning to stop waiting for the “right” mood or “right” time because I get far more accomplished when I just put butt to chair and pen to paper.

So, in an incredibly short post, I share with you my mantra for today: get down to work.

More to come tomorrow — stay tuned.

 

 

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Degree or No Degree…That is the Question

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A college degree is often seen as a beneficial and, depending on your career path, necessary requirement to have in your professional arsenal. And while you can do many jobs without this level of higher education, the experience it provides can still be incredibly advantageous.

That said, I want to touch on a debate I have seen going around the interwebs lately, especially in some of my writing groups.

Does an author need a degree or formal background in writing to be successful?

Short answer: No, they do not.

But, and I say this as a possibly biased English major, it does help to have that extra bit of knowledge under your belt. While I am still a year out from holding my degree in my hands, I have already seen the results of my education and how it has transformed my work. I have studied a wide range of topics within the realm of English and have learned a great deal on the origins and background of my craft that has influenced how I perceive my career choice and goals as I move forward.

I have also honed my critical thinking skills, sharpened my writing, gained knowledge from classmates that has been invaluable, and found new interests within the subject along the way. I’ve also taken classes centered around technology that have helped me as far as my author platform and web-based interaction goes, and my current classes are focusing on writing for professional publication and web authoring, which are again, incredibly helpful.

So why would I say writers don’t need a degree? Well, because you don’t NEED a degree to write. The knowledge you gain through education helps, but setting out to write without a writing-based degree doesn’t make you any less of a writer. Some authors choose to teach themselves what they need to know, and rely on their passion for writing to lead them the rest of the way.

As long as you have the drive and ambition to succeed as an author, that’s really all you need. If you choose the college route, that’s great, and while it might get you where you want to be faster by having that information, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful if you don’t have a specific degree that is related to writing.

The key is to simply persevere and continually push and improve. If you are doing that, you’re doing great, and a degree doesn’t supply you with that inherent desire. If you want to write, write. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must meet some sort of requirement in order to pen your story. As long as you are determined and plan to put in the work, that’s what matters. An education helps, but it’s not the be-all-end-all in the world of writing.

What do you think? Is a degree necessary, or just a bonus to have in your professional profile?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

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Literary Agents

I’ve seen a lot of discussion in my online writing groups regarding literary agents lately. People have been asking what exactly they do, how to find them, and whether they’re even necessary to have, and it really struck me when I realized how many authors were sort of in the dark on this topic.

I’ll admit, I didn’t always understand their full significance myself, but after perusing the Internet and interacting in groups with those who had all the good information on agents, I feel much better about my understanding of their imperative role in an author’s publishing journey.

So exactly does an agent do? Well, their biggest role is to work as a liaison between an author and a publishing house. Most medium to large scale publishing houses will refuse manuscripts that are sent by the actual author – they typically want only works that are sent by agents. If you submit a query to an agent and they agree to take you on as a client, their job is to find a publishing house that fits your manuscript. Different publishers look for different types of submissions, and agents have the insider knowledge that will help them put your work in the right hands.

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Now, if we’ve gotten this far and you’re wondering what a query letter is, don’t fret. It is essentially a letter that explains your story in order to capture the attention of the agent. It is a necessary component to acquiring an agent and is an important skill to hone if you wish to take the traditional publishing route. A well composed query letter also makes you stand out professionally and can give a great first impression with a kick of additional credibility. If an agent can see that you are serious and able to construct a well thought out letter, they will have more faith in you and your manuscript, provided the story stands out to them as well.

More information on drafting a killer query letter can be found at http://nybookeditors.com/2015/12/how-to-write-a-darn-good-query-letter/.

Of course, it is important to find an agent you’d like to submit to, or even a few of them, before you can get much further in the process. While there are many routes to take and plenty of agent directories online, you’ll want to make sure that the agents you’re looking into are legit, and a quick search of the Association of Author Representatives can help as well as taking a look at client lists.

Two directories I recommend include:

By now, you can probably gather that finding an agent to represent you is necessary if you plan to take the traditional publishing route. If you self-publish, it isn’t as necessary, and if you are planning to submit to smaller, regional publishing houses, they aren’t as much of a requirement either. But a trusted agent can definitely guide you in the right direction if you plan to submit to larger publishers.

Here are a few more links with great information on literary agents:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-find-a-literary-agent/

http://www.independentpublisher.com/article.php?page=1586

http://ingridsundberg.com/2010/04/15/the-dos-and-donts-of-submitting-to-a-literary-agent/

I hope you found this helpful, and if you have anything add, whether it’s advice, recommendations, or additional information, please leave a comment! I only scratched the surface here and would love more feedback from those who have gone through the process. 🙂

 

All Posts, Sunday Snippet

My Top 10 Tips for an Author Platform

Though I’m still building my author platform and my experience pales in comparison to most, I have learned a lot in the last year that I have been able to pass on to fellow authors and those who are hoping to set up their own site.

I actually didn’t realize how much I really knew until I started helping others, and it surprised me a little. It has all begun to feel so second nature, so I never gave it much thought on the actual amount of information and skills I had acquired.

That said, I thought it would be fun to give you guys a list of tips that I think are important, or I have found incredibly helpful throughout my journey. Some of these are pretty simple, but I think they serve as a good set of reminders of how to get started, or how to continue to build on what you have.

1) Domain. This is numero uno, most important. If you want an author platform, you need to scoop up a domain as soon as possible. There are people who will buy domains and then try to mark up the price, and that is a battle you don’t want to engage in. I struggled when I was deciding whether to use my full, legal name or a pen name, but when the domain with my full name was already taken, I realized I had to go with the latter. It wasn’t too bad, though, and since there is already an author of children’s books who shares my same legal name, I knew a pen name was the best choice for the sake of differentiation. That and the gal in Scotland who owns my original domain preference never emailed me back. 😛

You’ll also want to snag up Twitter and Facebook (and/or other social media accounts if you use those, too) handles and if you can’t use your name, make sure they are the same across social media pages or similar. Mine are all different, but they are similar and I make sure my cover and profile images are the same to pull it together.

2) Search Engine Optimization, better known in the tech world as SEO, is something that is important to put on your radar. SEO affects the visibility of a website in a search engine’s results and is a tool that will help to get more people on your page. I haven’t found it to be absolutely necessary at this early point in my journey, but I figure once I hit a certain number of followers (1000 or so) and Dreamweaver is finally published, I will delve more into learning about SEO.

3) Facebook Groups! These have been wonderful resources for me and I attribute a lot of my success to the information and advice I have received by being a member. I currently follow Jeff Goins and his group called Art of Work, Kate McKibbin in her Secret Blogger’s Society group, and I’m also a part of Where Authors Begin and Writers Unite. There are tons of groups to join and they have invaluable information from their creators and members. Not to mention the amazing networking! I have made a lot of great contacts that I wouldn’t have made if not for joining these groups.

4) I also think it is incredibly helpful to find at least three successful blogs in your same niche to follow. Not only will you find great ideas, techniques, and tools to implement on your own site, but the networking potential also increases. You may even end up in a position to guest post or be included in round-ups, which are great ways to get your name out there further. Mentor blogs are an invaluable resource.

5) PICTURES. This should probably be higher in the list because I think the use of images and graphics is so important. Most of what a mobile/web user reads is only in small snippets that are easy to skim, so attention-grabbing, sleek, and memorable graphics help draw the reader in and keep their attention. Canva is a great resource for a variety of graphics and images, both free and paid, and I use it on a daily basis.
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6) Another aspect of an author platform that I believe is key is a blog page. This is where your readers and potential audience learn more about you not only as an author, but as a relatable human being. Sharing your interests, your writing process, things you feel passionately about, and whatever your heart desires to share helps them to connect with you. It also hones your writing skills, contributes to your portfolio, and it can be a valuable way to help you find and develop your voice. I know blogging has done all of these for me!

7) Interacting with your followers is important as well. I try to make it a point to interact with each and every person who reaches out to me so that they know I see and appreciate them. My numbers are still such that I can do this, but even if I gained another two thousand followers, I’d still carve out time to comment and tweet to the people who reach out to me. I obviously couldn’t get to them all, but I’d make a dent. 😉 I know I smile when I get feedback from those I’ve reached out to, and I always want my followers to know how grateful I am to have them in my corner.

8) Investment. Again, this should probably be closer to the top, especially since this is something I have sadly seen a lot of people forget to do. I know that it’s hard to invest money into something you might not be seeing a return on, but if you take your work seriously enough to create an author platform for it, you need to be willing to spend the time and the money to spruce it up. I pay yearly for my domain and though I find great free resources, I do spend here and there when I can to improve my site. And if you’re in it to make a living, it will pay for itself in the long run.

9) Twitter hashtags seem like a funny thing to have on the list, right? I don’t think so, and here’s why. In the last two months, I have seen my list grow from 70 or so followers to 270 just by attaching hashtags like #writerslife and #amwriting to my tweets along with some of the trending ones. These work as searchable tools on Twitter, and if someone searches the hashtag you used, there’s a chance they’ll see your tweet. And if they are intrigued by you, they just might follow you. Boom – networking! I have been followed by other authors, agents, actors, producers, directors, publishing houses, and so many others and all of this new interaction is due, in part, to utilizing hashtags to increase my reach.

10) Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, return the love. I’m not just talking about interacting with your followers when they comment on your posts or social media, but engaging with fellow authors, bloggers, and other individuals or organizations within your niche. I have a small group of loyal bloggers and authors who constantly “like” my posts, “favorite” my tweets, and engage with me on my site and connected pages. So, I try to do the same for them! This is how little tribes are built, and it just strengthens that connection and networking amongst your fellow peers.

So, there it is, friends. Ten of my top to-do’s and pieces of advice for setting up, establishing, or running an author platform. I hope you’ve found it helpful!

Please feel free to leave any extra tips you feel are important in the comments! 🙂

All Posts, Dreamweaver, My Writing, Sunday Snippet

Analysis Paralysis

Guys.

My characters aren’t talking to me…

I’ve hit a creative wall with Dreamweaver. The pivot point I experienced with my plot a few weeks ago, which was awesome when it occurred, completely paralyzed my progress.

I started to second guess myself and wasn’t feeling confident at all. I was wildly unsure of where the story was going and I was so worried that I had gone in the wrong direction…

…and they stopped talking.

…which means no progress, and my nerves are shot.

Throughout the process, I’ve felt like I was actually writing what could be two separate stories, and I think this plays into my concern quite a bit.

Another part of me, though, that little voice that says, “Hey, stop questioning things and just write!” has been pushing me to believe in the story, move forward, and see what happens.

I’m in this horrible cycle of optimism, panic, and doubt, and it stinks!

What if I push forward and it seems forced?

Do I write in the other direction instead and see if it helps?

Do I lay it all out and organize what I have to better see the places where these “two” stories are running into one another?

Or do I just push down all of these negative connotations and accept that at some point, these seemingly separate pieces will come together?

I think a large part of this is also my hesitation to make progress. I want to sit down and write, but I get so caught up in wanting to make sure I’m doing it “right” and it just increases the uncertainty. I want this story to be written so perfectly that I get in my own way. I would hate to write it, publish it, and think, “Damn, I should have done _______ differently.”

Like I said, it’s a horrible cycle — one I’m sure many other writers can understand.

And I think all of these conflicting feelings within me are what has caused my characters to fall silent. I used to walk around with them chatting up a storm in my head, creating scenes, and words would flow across the page when I sat down to type them out.

Now, it’s crickets.

I did find a helpful post on a blog called Out Loud titled What to Do When Your Characters Stop Talking and loved what the author had to say. I fit into her “None of the Above” category which is, you guessed it, self-doubt.

I suppose I have found the answer to my own problem…

I just need to believe in what I’m doing, and trust the process.

Has this happened to you before? What did you do? What would you do? I’d love some feedback, and maybe to know I’m not alone.

All Posts, Dreamweaver, Monday Mantra, My Writing

Hello, 2017

Hey, guys! Happy New Year!

I’ve been reflecting a bit as we say goodbye to 2016, which I’ve now decided is the Voldemort of all years (we must not speak its name!) and I’ve come up with some thoughts that I think round out my intentions for the coming year pretty well.

However, I can’t go much further without first touching on the losses we felt toward the end of Year Voldemort. I know it’s rampant across the interwebs, but my heart is still broken over the passing of Carrie Fisher, and it broke even further for her family when her mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed a day later. I actually received a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas and put it toward purchasing Carrie’s new book, The Princess Diarist. I’ll admit it was hard to read periodically – she jumped all over the place at times – but it was a great book nonetheless. Even if you’re not into Star Wars, pick it up. It’s good stuff.

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We lost so many others, who I won’t list because I don’t want to create an unreal aura of sadness around this post, and their losses were felt deeply. May they all rest in peace.

Okay, on to business.

As I sat reflecting last night and throughout most of today, I found myself pouring over my current goals and projects and asking myself what I might choose as my resolution. I’ve never been one for the “new year, new me” sort of thing – mostly because I don’t find that it works – and I wanted to choose something that was meaningful to me. No cliché weight loss goal (already have that one going anyway), no daily FitBit goal, no “I’ll end this bad habit at 00:00 and never touch it again” goal. I wanted something I knew was something for me, deep down.

So I sat…and thought…and sat some more…and then I got up and walked a bit because I do already have a daily FitBit goal (haha!)…

And I came up with a pretty damn good resolution:

2017 will be the year that I live unapologetically.

And of course, I put this on Facebook and received some feedback. Good stuff, as always, because I have some kick-ass friends.

Anyway, back to deep and profound thoughts. I decided that this needed to be my resolution for a few reasons…

First, because I spend far too much of my time questioning my decisions and whether they are “right,” meaning, whether I think they appear “right.” Not whether they are right for me or my family, but whether they appear right to those who know me, follow me, or might be in either of those categories at some point in the future.

Second, because I don’t owe an explanation to anyone. Except my husband and my kids, of course, because they tend to be directly affected by choices I make. But anyone else? Psshh, nope. They can water their own side of the fence while I plant insanely bright flowers on mine.

Finally, I realized (and with great sadness) that I have been living this half-life of sorts, censoring who I am and not just putting out there the authentic bad-ass chick that is me. I spend so much time taming my inner-self and creating this false persona that I don’t let all of myself shine through, and that’s disheartening. Yeah? Yeah. And I’m done doing it!

If you haven’t committed to a resolution yet, feel free to join me, and if you do, leave a comment. I’d love to confab about how awesome this sense of freedom is.

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Anyway, on to businessier-business…

Dreamweaver. This tricky little project that I’ve got going on has been giving me a hard time and while I hoped for a Christmas update, I have nothing that I’m willing to share because, well, it isn’t ready. Plain and simple. And since I’m living unapologetically, well…it just is what it is. I do hope you understand and that you continue to have patience. I don’t want to put something out to the world that isn’t ready, and so far, it is telling me that it still isn’t ready. I have discovered so many additional pieces to this story that require more time and fine-tuning to get the details just right and even though it is frustrating as hell, I know they’re going to bring this whole thing together in a way I could never have imagined when I first came up with the idea for it.

Which brings me to another a-ha! moment I had in the last few days:

Not everything I write needs to be profound or insightful to be meaningful.

It doesn’t have to move mountains. What does matter is that I write. Period. It can be absolute crap or it can be a masterpiece. It doesn’t even matter what it is. All that matters is that it’s done, and done authentically. Writing is never done well when it is forced. End of story. Pun not intended.

Once I stopped trying to push myself to only write these philosophically-fueled pieces, for Dreamweaver or a brain dump or whatever, I felt this huge weight fall off my shoulders and found the words pouring out of me again. I don’t always have to create a work of art – that’s what editing is for anyway. 😉

Those are my thoughts for going into this new year. I will live unapologetically and authentically and I will write much the same.

Oh, and since it’s technically Monday, I do have a mantra befitting of the hashtag:

“Bitches get stuff done.”

I had posted a fairly pathetic goodbye to the year which shall not be named on Facebook and a family friend responded to it. She said,

“You’re a fighter and a doer. You’ve got this…we are all entitled to a little self-pity every once in a while. It’s human. Just have to brush yourself off and keep going which I know you always do. I’m a doer which sometimes makes me a bitch but bitches get stuff done.”

So there’s my #MondayMantra. Bitches get stuff done. And it is probably the best piece of advice I will receive all year.

Okay, that’s all for now. Check back or keep up with my social media for details alluding to an update on Dreamweaver, and kick the pants off of your Monday!