Monthly Archives: June 2013

Are You Meeting Your Writing Goals? Try These Productivity Tips For Writers

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from JOANNA PENN at The Creative Penn

Time seems to fly by and our writing goals can sometimes fall behind in the craziness of the day to day.

manage day to dayBalancing writing with ‘real life’ and business tasks as well as family and other commitments can become a strain.

But we need to step back now and then, assess the situation and reset our behaviors in order to achieve our goals.

I’m not a productivity geek, but I do have processes and systems and I love to learn about new ways to optimize my workflow. I recently read ‘Manage Your Day To Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind‘ from 99U, one of my favorite blogs.

It gave me plenty of pages of notes, but the significant changes for me are:

Do not check email or social before I have done my first creation block of the day

e.g. 1500 words on latest WIP. In order to achieve this, I have removed my email app from my mobile phone and am using Antisocial software to block access to those while still allowing me on the internet for research (which I often need as I write). I started doing this at the beginning of the year, but I fell off the wagon. Not firmly back on it.

Look strategically at personal and business goals and decide what I can get rid of and what I can streamline.

I’m still looking at this but I will be restructuring this site somehow, and making the process flow easier so I have more creation time. But don’t worry, it won’t be going anywhere!

have you made artI asked my email list about their tips for productivity

Here are some of the responses I received back (some paraphrasing). Perhaps they will help you, or you can add yours in the comment section below.

[By the way, you can join the email list by signing up and ownloading the Author 2.0 Blueprint here]

Benjamin Tiller: I get my writing done first thing in the morning before work – with no TV, no phone, no wifi on the laptop. Word count goals have been great. I utilize the full screen feature in Scrivener to limit other distractions.

Annemarie Slee: Try Easy for list making, but also very useful for outlining your ToC. You can set times and dates easily too.

Attention management, not time management

Grace Marshall: It might help to think of it as attention management rather than time management – gets you noticing and tracking the thing that you can actually manage – your attention, rather than time itself. And here’s how to beat writer’s procrastination.
Jon Jefferson: I use three things as a crutch to help me stay focused: The times I write, doing pre-writingto get all the extraneous out of my mind, and timed writing for set blocks of time to focus in.

Word count chart

My daily word count chart

Jean Reinhardt: I found that when I was stuck on my YA book, I could write if I switched genres (to a short story, now a novella). This means I am writing two books at the same time, but switching genres works for me and keeps things flowing.

Find what works for you – even if it is in the bathroom!

Stacie Whitney: I’m a mother of a young child who gets up and wants attention as soon as she hears me come out of the bathroom in the morning.  So on that first morning to get my book written, I went into the bathroom with my computer, locked the door, and got to work.  I wrote the entire outline and two chapters before breakfast!
After a week of early morning bathroom writing sessions, I was somehow able to sneak into the living room, and the rest of the book was written (mainly) in early morning hours before the rest of my family was awake.Basically, my tip is to find whatever space and rhythm work best for you and DO that! And be willing to alter it if circumstances change.

Jason Lewis: the only way that I can write effectively is to completely lock myself away (metaphorically) from social media. The best way I’ve found so far is to take a long train journey; get the netbook out and just write like there’s no tomorrow. Racked up six thousand words the other day (my single most productive day by a long distance) on a five hour journey. The reason being I cannot get a signal on my phone and I refuse to pay to access the internet on the train.

Karlene Cameron: When I write, I keep the computer turned off. That does it for me.

Lyle Nicholson: Set a block of time, and then use it.  If it’s one hour or three hours, close your door, or your external senses and write.  Even if you don’t write, and you just doodle on a pad, or write silly things for the hour or three hours, use that as your creative process time. The mind is an amazing instrument, if you give it space and time, it will take you in marvelous directions.

Write by hand – away from the computer

writing coffeeCarlie Van Amerongan: I’ve just started doing my writing by hand. I used to do everything on the computer, and I would easily get distracted, by all the other things I could do on the computer… and no amount of willpower would help! Since I’ve started doing it this way, I’m much more productive, even if the rate of words to page is a little slower. I’m enjoying the process more, and I think in the end I get more words out. Far from a productivity tip, this is a brand new practice for me… but so far it seems to be working.

Kathleen Heady: I carry an old-fashioned legal pad with me, or a notebook would do, and when I have time throughout the day, I work on whatever my current writing project is — longhand. I substitute teach so I often have downtime to do this, but sometimes it is easier to pick up a pad of paper than go on the computer with all the distractions it offers. Then later I can type up my work when I am in a less creative mood.

Sally Chippendale: 1000 words per day and don’t start later than 10am. If you are blocked move straight on to the next scene. If you have children put their favorite tv show on and neglect them for an hour and a half. I make one decent coffee beforehand; that is my only set up requirement/custom that I allow myself. I printed out and pinned above my desk one long excel spreadsheet detailing each scene in one sentence, headings included  day, characters, action, reason. Then highlight each line when complete, for satisfaction value.

Tom Evans:
1. Breathe in through alternate nostrils five times (use a finger to close each nostril off in turn)
2. Doodle or mind map what you are about to write about
3. Then meditate or go for a walk before you start writing
4. Resist the temptation to edit while writing
5. Have a treat lined up for when you finish each session (e.g. a cup of tea and digestive biscuit)
Tom is an author, bookwright and creative catalyst. His latest book is called The Zone and is an exploration of how to get in and stay in it. More details here …

Find a few good writing website/blogs and stick to them.

Don’t be distracted by a hundred updates inboxing you each day. This happened to me, for a few days I spent more time reading than writing.

Betty Halsey: disable the internet on my computer and leave my phone in a different room.

Francis Wade, author of Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure: In our age, improving your time management skills continually is a must, and it’s best done by slowly adapting new habits, practices and rituals, rather than chasing down the latest gadget, shortcut or trick. Deliberate practice anyone?
There are clearly a lot of similarities, and yes, I know the irony of blogging about this topic and distracting you from writing at the same time!

What do Self-Published Authors Need?

What do Self-Published Authors Need?

Interesting response from Hugh C. Howey, author of Wool.

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June 16th, 2013 | Hugh C. Howey

Jason asks:

Mr. Howey,

First of all, I’ve read the first four parts of Wool (you got me hooked with the first part, which was free!) and am loving it, it’s been a while since I’ve read a sci-fi novel that had truly original ideas, and I’ve felt compelled to stay up late to read.

However, I’m writing you, not to ask you about your specific motivations/inspirations, but hoping that you might be able to answer a few questions for me. I’m not exactly an aspiring author (though I suppose I am one at heart, I don’t have any specific book inside just waiting to get out), I’ve become somewhat disenchanted with the current publishing models that are available for those who are aspiring to write full time.

I love the self-publishing model, though, as I’m sure you’re aware, it does tend to lead to the mass-publishing of less than ideal literary works. I don’t necessarily think that there is anything wrong with this as certain gems occasionally achieve public recognition. I do, however, think that if aspiring authors were able to find more affordable and perhaps reliable help in editing, proofreading, illustrating and the like, that perhaps there would be an overall increase in the quality of self-published works and even less reliability on the current publisher model in the literary arena.

I was wondering what you consider to be the biggest barriers to the self-publishing of quality works (as someone who has done it himself). 

I have been thinking about trying my hand at an online solution specifically for aspiring authors involving an online community of sorts to help, and any advice you have would be much appreciated.

I’m not really expecting a reply (I’m sure you’re inundated!) but you miss every shot you don’t take!

This is a great question. I’d say the biggest barrier to releasing quality material is probably impatience. You have a work that feels pretty good; you’re exhausted; you want to move on; you might be a bit delusional about how good it really is; so you hit publish. Nobody steps in and tells you to make it better, to do another pass, to get a better cover, to write a better blurb, to hire or trade for some editing, to beg or trade for some beta reading. You simply jump the gun.

What the community of self-published authors needs is readers and reviewers. They can get this by publishing, watching the feedback, and attempting to fix and re-publish their work. If they are smart, they get a loved one or friend to do this before they publish. If they are smarter, they get beta readers. Smartest, they hire an editor.

What might be helpful, as a service, is a process whereby manuscripts are uploaded and read for a fee. A random reader is paid to get as far as they can into a manuscript before they lose interest (hopefully they read to the end). Let’s say the fee is $10. Here’s why it can be so inexpensive: If the reader is enjoying what they’re reading, they’ll want to keep reading! Hey, they are getting paid $10 to read something they like! A book they didn’t pay for!

But let’s say they get to a part they don’t like (this is good; remember we are hoping to make these stories better). It could be they get hung up on the first page. It could be in the second chapter. After this mild stumble, they push on, determined to see it get better. But it doesn’t, not quickly enough. This is where they would abandon the book had they paid $3.99 for it on Amazon. This is where they would throw in the towel. To earn their $10, they write a note to the author explaining that it was just too many typos, this or that sentence was clunky, not enough action, too many unicorns, whatever.

Of course, you’ll get some Hamiltons (that’s what we’ll call these $10 beta readers) who try to collect their $10, say they simply didn’t like it, and move on. They’ll game the system. But what if the author could rate the Hamilton right back? Like how eBay cuts down on scammers and how Amazon lets you rate third-party sellers. You would want to do a good job and give great feedback so you have more authors willing to hire you. You may even take pride in this skill. You may get addicted to the joy of reading indie works, shaping them to make them better, and getting paid in the process.

Let’s call the system The Slush Pile. Monetize it. Make it fun. For the writer, a $50 investment to get five honest opinions is a great deal. And I think writers will do MORE work before they even upload the manuscript, knowing they are paying someone to read it. The works that come out of this system will be vetted; they will have more polish; they will have reader feedback built-in; and they will have interested parties out there, hoping to see the work they helped shape do well.

On the other side, there are a lot of adventurous readers out there looking for the next great thing. Imagine the joy of getting paid to discover those reads (and even helping make them better). Imagine making an extra $30 on the weekend to read a few stories, highlight typos, and suggest that the love triangle look more square-ish. How cool would that be?

Anyway, that’s what I think self-publishing needs. And if I wasn’t knee-deep in writing my next book, I would build it myself. :)


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25 #Tweet Ideas To Help #Authors Fight Follower Fatigue

From Duolit, a helpful article by Toni (The Geek).

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I’ve developed a dangerous addiction.

There’s a local ice cream place that has stolen my heart. It’s called Cold Cow, and those magical folks give you a RIDICULOUS amount of the creamy, delicious treat for startlingly low prices.

For just $4, I get a HUGE bowl of vanilla ice cream piled high with cookie dough (straight out of the Toll House tub), Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and Oreos. 

Do your teeth hurt yet?

Now, I understand that Cold Cow is definitely an indulgence, but it’s one I fully commit to enjoying each and every time I sit down with my tanker-truck-sized bowl.

No matter my excitement, however, something strange happens after I dig in.

The first bite is ridiculously awesome.

The second bite is really good.

After the third bite or so, it still tastes wonderful, but each subsequent bite never lives up to the same level as the first.

It’s like my taste buds get fatigued from processing all the awesomeness.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

No matter how amazing something tastes, if you taste it over and over again the flavors will never live up to that first-bite magic.

Taking the analogy to book marketing, fans get the same way when it comes to your social media updates. If all they read are the same types of updates (even if those updates are ridiculously awesome) they will eventually lose interest.

I see this problem most often on Twitter. Authors alternate between one or two update types (most commonly a link to buy their book and an excerpt/review) which will tire out even the most ardent fan.

Honestly, though, this update repetition isn’t necessarily your fault. I get it: sometimes, it’s simply difficult to think of anything else to write about.

Well, I’m here to fix that (yay!) I’ve put on my thinking cap and come up with 25 different tweet ideas. That way, if you tweet 3 times a day, you won’t have to repeat a tweet type for over a week. Pretty awesome, right?

25 Types of Author Tweets (with examples!)

I know you’re eager to start changing up those tweetable topics so, without further ado, here is my mega-list of unique tweet ideas:

  1. A genuine recommendation of a fellow indie author’s work
    ex: “Just checked out Killer Shine by @ShanWrites and LOVED IT! My review:”
  2. favorite recipe or food-related advice
  3. fun photo (your workspace, pets, lunch, whatever!)
  4. link to a blog post on a topic both you and your readers find interesting (be sure to @mention the author if he/she’s on Twitter)
    ex: “Doing 1, 5 and 10! –> 25 Summer Decorating Ideas by @ShanWrites: http://link.y”
  5. personal shoutout to a (single) follower
    ex: “A big welcome to the gals at @Duolit — Mountain Dew is my fav, too!”
  6. An excerpt from a positive review of your book
  7. Your take on a trending topic
  8. thought-provoking question
    ex: “If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would you choose? #amreading”
  9. Live-tweeting during a TV show or event
  10. personal thank you for a fellow, reply or retweet
  11. link to sign up for your mailing list
    ex: “For exclusive excerpts and giveaways, join my Readers’ Club: http://link.y”
  12. Reply to someone’s tweet with your own thoughts
  13. Share a short, interesting musing from your day (if you have kids or pets, these practically write themselves!)
  14. Share the logline from your WIP
    ex: “What I’m working on: Single mom/waitress by day, time-travelling superhero by night. Sound interesting?”
  15. The link to your most recent blog post
  16. Share your #1 desert island book and why you chose it
  17. Start a conversation with someone using a relevant hashtag
    ex: “@SomeoneElse That dinner sounds amazing! How did it turn out? #amcooking”
  18. A link to download an excerpt of your book
  19. Take part in a Twitter chat (check out this mega-list of chats!)
  20. tantalizing quote from your book
  21. Thoughts on what you’re currently reading ( be sure to mention the author if he/she’s on Twitter)
    ex: “#AmReading Storm of Swords by @GeorgeRRMartin and just got to the Red Wedding. OMG!!!”
  22. Your favorite quote of all time
  23. link to a news story/blog post about you and your book
  24. Your thoughts on a topic of interest to you and your readers
    ex: “Hitchhiker’s Guide was WRONG?! I don’t buy it — what do you think? http://link.y”
  25. Give away a free copy of your book to a random follower

4 Terrific Twitter Tips (say that 5 times fast!)

Phew! Those topics should keep you busy for awhile, huh? Before you jump into crafting those tweets, however, I’d like to share a few general Twitter guidelines to keep in mind:

1. Keep Tweets Short

I know, I know, that’s kind of obvious, right? After all, you’re automatically limited to 140 characters when crafting your tweets. It’s actually in your best interest, however, to keep your tweets even shorter than that.

Limiting your tweets to just 120 characters makes it easy for your followers to retweet your updates without having to do any editing. Take 5 seconds to check the character count before tweeting to make sharing your content as easy as possible!

2. Don’t sound robotic

Take advantage of the fact that you’re in charge of your own promotion by making it clear that your tweets come from you — not a publisher or ghosttweeter (that’s a thing, right?)

Craft each and every one of your tweets to sound personal and engaging to your followers. For example, instead of sharing the title of a blog post, write (briefly) what it’s about before including the link (check out #4 and #24 in the list above).

3. Emulate, but stay true to yourself.

There are some awesome author-tweeters out there (not that I’m biased, but our own Shannon @ShanWrites does a great job) and you can certainly learn a lot by following them and checking out their tweets.

When it comes to planning your own, however, don’t be tempted to copy what you see. Make your tweets reflect your personality and appeal to your fanbase, not the fanbase of another author!

4. Reply to replies.

When you’re starting out on Twitter, make it a point to reply to every single (non-robotic) mention you receive.

This simple act can earn a new reader or make a connection that will benefit you in your author career. Aside from that, it’s just good manners to take the time to reply to someone who takes the time to mention you!


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5 Places to Find an Intern to Help with Your Book Marketing this Summer

Good post from – 30 Day Books – enjoy! First Edition Design Publishing

logo v2 600x124 02

Hello hello.

I’m on a mission this weekend – I’m looking for summer help with The Write Life Magazine. Interns in fact. Things have been ramping up with the publication (issue 2 is out today!) and it’s time to find excited, young writerly people to help with content, social media and PR.

And this gave me this great idea that authors could use a little help in those areas too, right? Who doesn’t want an extra pair of hands to help get the non-writing related stuff done?

I know that internships get a bad rap. The common view is that it’s going to be all coffee-making, photocopying and stuffing envelopes; in other words, cheap or free labor.

I actually experienced a completely different kind of internship a few years back that truly rocked my world.  3 months working for an organization that threw me in the deep end, gave me responsibilities that forced me to learn new skills fast, and taught me a lot about time management and professional relationships. Most importantly of all, it gave me a taste of what I did and didn’t want in a job, and funnily enough, it was during those 3 months that I discovered how much I loved writing.

I also walked away with something new and exciting to put on my resume, a fantastic reference, and some pretty amazing contacts. (people, not eyesight-correctors :))

I think that in an economy such as this, when many university students struggle to find  work during the summer holidays, hiring an intern is not only a great opportunity for you, it’s a brilliant experience and opportunity for them.

Authors can use a little help on their websites, social media, marketing as well as aspects of the writing process such as research and fact-checking. And students can learn more about self-publishing, marketing and careers in writing. All of which would make for a pretty exciting and fruitful internship methinks. Here are 5 places I am posting classifieds for help wanted – perhaps you might find a wonderful intern for your book marketing in one of these places, too.

intern sushi
1. Intern Sushi, Free.

Intern Sushi provides both interns and companies with a multimedia platform to find each other through. You have to sign up and answer a few question, but it’s free to post your listing.

2. Craigslist, Free – $75

Craigslist has a section ‘Gigs’, where you can post for an intern for free. If you don’t get much traction here, there is the option to post under the Jobs section. The cost of posting here varies between $10-$75 depending on your location. See here (US info only).

3. A university career site, Cost varies

I’m lucky to live in a city with several great universities, and I’ve been looking into the most prestigious one’s career website. The cost to post here is $25 for 30 days, and it allows you to choose the majors you want to hear from. For me, that’s English, Communications, and PR students. Look for something similar in your town or city.

4. Student newspaper, $10+

The same university I mentioned above has a daily newspaper that gets distributed around campus. It allows you to write a classified for about $10.

5. Fliers in local coffee shop, Cost of printing

If you want to get offline and catch students in their natural environment, there’s always a coffee shop, student union, or other hang out that students naturally gravitate to! Why not leave a flier or a poster with your email address asking them to get in touch with a resume and cover letter? Be sure to ask with the owner of the establishment before posting or leaving anything, as some places have strict rules about what can be displayed.

Internships are a great way to offer students meaningful, practical work experience that relates to their studies or career choice. Don’t forget though, to check out the criteria for the Department of Labor in your country. Here are the US guidelines: