Saturday, August 13, 2016

Write-a-lution - Your Mindset


Over the years, I have spoken to a lot of people who have confessed in low, embarrassed tones, "I've always wanted to write a book... but... I just can't..."

Writing is HARD.  Listen, if writing was easy?  Everyone would do it.  But the big secret is that writing is just as hard for us folks cranking out the books as it is for you.  Let that sink in for just a moment.  If it is hard, it means you're normal.

You figuring out how to overcome these challenges will be the greatest gift you receive.  The tools you pick up to face the monumental task of writing a book will bleed into the rest of your life and the rest of your life will become more efficient, more effective, and more powerful.

This post is about how to silence all of the little voices in your head that are telling you that you can't do this.  This post  is about how to turn something you WANT to do into something you believe you CAN do.

The biggest roadblock I hear from frustrated writers is that they have no time.  I hear you.  But, to be fair, I wrote The Woodcutter and the first three Maggie books while I was juggling a full-time job and a full-time acting career and going to school to become an x-ray tech, while also taking care of my household.  

There is a great little book (and it's free on Kindle!) called How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.  It was written at the turn of the century.  The basic premise is that money comes and goes, but time?  Time is our most valuable commodity.  Prince or pauper, everyone only gets 24 hours a day and we each get to choose how to spend it.

So, how do you manage your time?  I, personally, am a BIG fan of lists.  I'll go into my own habits in a later blog post, but right now everyone I know is swearing by their Bullet Journal.  It is a way of organizing your life in bulleted lists and it is pretty cool.  There's a really nice video on that site and you can pick up a cheap journal at Michael's for a couple bucks and get started today.

I also found myself getting into the habit of getting up, getting a cup of coffee, slogging to my computer, and watching my life get sucked away by Facebook.  The rest of the day was doom and gloom as I mulled over all the horrible things happening in the world.  No matter how much I tried to change this habit, it always snuck back in.

So, I began a thing this week called The Miracle Morning and, I gotta say, it is pretty frickin' miraculous.  The premise is that if you start your morning off right, the rest of the day falls into place.  And what does starting your morning off right mean?  Ten minute chunks devoted to a little exercise (I use it to gently stretch), a little journaling, positive reading, some meditation (there's an app my sister introduced me to called Calm which is lovely), some affirming self-talk, and visualization.  You know, all the stuff that people say is good for us.  This idea is what sold me on starting:  

"Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become."  

But what has been THE most powerful tool for me?  It s a program called The Artist's Way (I recommend buying this particular book in paperback.  The Kindle version has some funky formatting issues that makes it hard to read.)  I TOTALLY thought it was stupid the first time I heard about it.  

And then I read an interview with the gal who played Pam in The Office.  She said that when she started doing The Artist's Way, that's when things changed for her.  Soooo... I picked up a copy.  I started doing it and things... just changed.  I can't explain why or how.  But by doing the exercises, I began trusting my instincts, began trusting my dreams, and I began honoring and protecting my artistic soul.  It's been close to a decade since I first picked it up, but I still go through the process several times a year.  The Artist's Way will unblock your blocks, it will address all of those things holding you back, and it will give you practical tools to walk boldly and bravely onto your road less traveled. 

Invest a little time in yourself.  Figure out your dreams and goals.  Take care of your brain and body.  Decide you're worth $9.99 for a paperback that will change your life.  It is in acknowledging the value and worth of your true self that you will find the strength to share your story. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Write-a-lution - Let's Begin at the Beginning

Hi.  My name is Kate.  And it's been 21 days since I published a book.

So, there's a reality to this indie publishing thing that most people don't like.  They don't like it one bit.  They will wail and gnash their teeth and shake their fist at the sky.  They will swear up and down that it effects quality and no one can really write that fast and produce good work and blah blah blah.

Doesn't change the truth.

The truth is you have to publish something on Amazon every 90-days or your sales go into the toilet.

At 30-days there is a cliff where your sales are cut in half.  The reason is that your book is dropped from the hot new releases list.  Your sales will be cut in half again at 60-days.  And then will be cut in half again at 90-days and go into free fall.  It happens overnight and there is no chilling fear quite like seeing that point on the sales chart drop by 100 sales while you slept.

Now, if I was a publisher publishing books by a lot of different authors, this would be no problem.  Shoot.  Most publish a book a week.

As an indie author, I'm a publisher.  I mean, just of me.  But just because I am a single, solitary writer cranking all of this out with my own ten little fingers doesn't mean I get magical rules to make it easier.  I have to have my product compete in the same market as the big dogs.  So.  Every ninety days.  Four times a year.  Whatever makes it less scary.  I gotta do that in order to maintain my status as a full-time writer.

And it is 21 days since I published my last book.

So, it is time to get cranking.

When I look back at my choices as an author, I chose to get distracted by the new and shiny, by the lure of opportunities and other worlds, instead of sticking with my main series.  I would say this was one of my mistakes from a business standpoint.  What other business would have people pounding at the door before opening, demanding more of that unique caramel ice cream, and then provide cheese?  And then be surprised when the audience grudgingly takes the cheese but keeps saying over and over that the reason they are here was for the caramel ice cream.

Give the people their caramel ice cream.

If you're just starting off, learn from my mistakes and write books in a series.  Release in that series regularly.  Keep focused on one world, young grasshopper.  And if, after three books, the series doesn't take off?  Wrap it up and move on. Wrapping things up and moving on is the about-face I made in my business this year.  I ended all of my other series, declined generous offers from lovely people whom I would love to work with but wanted me to bring their worlds to life instead of my own, and decided to devote my time to caramel ice cream... well... with a few other projects on the side for pure fun...

So, Maggie VIII must be conceived today!  The germ of the idea must take shape!  How the heck does a person do that?!

There are two methods writing - pantsing and plotting.  Plotting is just what it sounds like - you outline your ideas and spend about three mind melting days figuring out who your characters are and what happens chapter by chapter, but once you're done, you can write at amazing speeds.  It is a pure joy writing from plot point to plot point.  I think my best was about 8k words in a single day.  And when most of my books are between 50k - 65k words long, it's a GREAT way for chewing through that first draft like a wood chipper.  I wrote my O'Hare House and Dark of Twilight series that way.


I highly recommend, if you're interested in learning speed, to pick up the book 2k to 10k.  There are other books out there, but this is the one that helped me the most.  And I gotta say, too, don't be afraid to try different methods.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Back when I sang, one of the things my teacher would say is that you have to work out the limits of your upper range and your lower range, because it makes your normal range stronger.  The nice thing is that if it doesn't work for you?  You just ditch it.  And if it does work for you?  You have this magical new tool.

Maggie, though, is pantsed (insert the sound of all my UK friends tittering.)  "Pantsed" means writing by the seat of your pants.  You sit down at the keyboard and just let your fingers fly.  Maggie was my second published book and I wrote it before I knew about plotting, and I feel that it is important to stick with the recipe that has connected with readers.

My top speed as a pantser is about 4k words a day.  Usually I'm much closer to 2k... or 1,200... or 600...  and editing is slower...

But pantsing  means you cut a lot of words out.  A lot.  I usually cut 20k words from my first draft.  HUGE swathes of story are axed as I find out what the thread of the original story is.  But it isn't lost work!  I keep a file for future Maggie adventures and when it is time to begin the next book, I flip through that folder and see what I've got.  BOOM!  Insta-20k words.  Only 30k to go.  Okay, so it isn't really that easy, but I have a head start.

The next thing I do is I set up my goal calendar.  I decide when this book HAS to be done.  The ninety day mark is September 26th.  I write this down and work backwards.  My proofreader can turn things around in a week, but it is much kinder to give her two weeks.  My editor has turned things around for me in 48 hours, but if I want to maintain that friendship, it really is nicer if I give him two weeks, too.  So that means I need to have a finished draft by August 29th.  I usually do three drafts.  There is the big, ugly first draft, the second draft where I make all of the huge cuts and smooth out the plot lines.  And the third draft which is a final read for any glaring inconsistencies.

So knowing my habits, I need to start the 1st draft today.  I need to start the 2nd draft August 19th.  The 3rd draft by August 25th.  And have the final draft done by the 29th.  There are 33 days between now and August 19th.  Sounds scary?  That's three days more than NaNo speed!  (Yes, funny that you mention it, NaNo IS how Maggie came to be.  The next National Novel Writing Month begins in November and you should TOTALLY do it.)  I aim for 45k words in my first draft, knowing that I will expand and cut and shift things around and eventually end up at 55k to 60k words by the time I'm done.

SIDENOTE:  Industry Standard Lengths

Flash Fiction:  Under 3000 words
Short Story:  Under 7500 words
Novelette:  7500 - 17,500 words
Novella:  17,500 - 40,000 words
Novel:  40,000 words

/SIDENOTE

So, 45,000 words divided by 33 days gives me my daily wordcount goal of 1363 words.  That's not too scary.  The average page is 250 words, so that's about 5 1/2 pages a day.

I then open up my Excel word count spreadsheet and plug that in.


And then, this might seem a little silly, but you know those chore charts that kids have?  It turns out those methods work for adults, too.  I have a wall calendar and I write down what I should be doing each day.  If I make my goal, I highlight the task (and I color code it.  Maggie, for instance, is orange.  Plays are blue.  Acting is green.)  And then I circle if I've reached the end of a goal (and add little star shine squiggles if I finish it before it is due.)  If I don't make my goal (even if I work on it), I don't highlight it.  It's like giving myself a gold star.

But by color coding, it allows me to see at a glance what I'm spending my time on, if I've set reasonable goals (I reevaluate every Friday and reset goals for the week), and how much time I'm ACTUALLY working on something vs. the lies my brain will tell me.

 


And THEN I start filling my brain with inspiration.  But we'll tackle that in the next post...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Amazon Prime Day!

Hey Everyone!  Today is July 12 and marks the annual Amazon Prime day!  A bunch of us authors are giving away books at prices so low, you'd think it was a fire sale at a car dealership at the end of the month.

Off we go!

So, you can grab all three of my first in series for FREE today!

  

And then just a reminder that Maggie Book Seven: Maggie Reloaded is now available, too!



Already have all of these?  Of course you have!  That's because you're awesome.  So how about some deals from some of my best buddies in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy/and Sci-Fi world?






Grab some books!  Share the deals with friends!  Enjoy more from Amazon Prime Day than $1 off detergent!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Win Nine Free Books!


Love free books?  Win a stack of fantastic urban fantasy books by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Maggie Book Seven is HERE!!

The wait is over, my friends!  Maggie Reloaded (book seven in the Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker series) is HERE!


Maggie and Killian may have prevented Earth's destruction, but the Other Side is not looking too good. The queen of the elves is dying and when she goes, everyone goes. Even worse, Maggie's got to move in with Killian.

Time is running out to save the queen and the situation is serious enough for Maggie and Killian to start a ragtag resistance team with Father Killarney and Xiaoming. It's going to be one hellish ride through the Dark Dimension, especially since their mode of transportation is a horse whose riders tend to be of the more headless variety.

WARNING: This book contains cussing, brawling, and unladylike behavior. Proceed with caution.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Write-a-lution Manifesto

So, there's this great guy named Bruce Lazarus who heard me share at the Dramatists Guild National Convention on my self-publishing journey and he insists that what I'm doing as an indie author is pretty special.  I'm afraid I suffer from imposter syndrome, though, because the voices in my head shout things like, "Sure,things may be fine now, but it will all come CRASHING DOWN AROUND YOUR EARS ANY SECOND NOW.  ANY SECOND!"

But I took a look at the Author Earnings report the other day and it turns out (much to my surprise) you could fit all of the authors who are in my bracket in a large Broadway theater.  Say... Hamilton's theater... you know... if anyone is looking for ideas on where to hold a club meeting...

This truth finally made me acknowledge my head is full of idiots.  As such, I've decided to stop listening to them and start listening to the advocates and champions in my life who keep dragging me, kicking and screaming, into the light.

I am a successful author.  I consistently make six-figures.  I make more as a writer than I ever did in an office.  There were other authors ahead of me that shone the light and taught me how to do it and, you know, gosh darn it, it's time for me to return the favor.

This blog has been stagnant for awhile, but I'm going to start sharing more about how I do what I do so that YOU can do what you want to do.  The biggest joy I have as an author is watching other's grab a hold of their writing dreams.  I want you to do that.  I'm going to start taking time out of my writing day to share my journey so that YOU can start YOUR journey.  Take what works for you and leave the rest.  I am not the end-all-be-all, but I've done it and I hope my mistakes and victories can give you the courage to give your dreams a fair shake, too.  It is not an easy path.  The market is getting more and more complicated.  But it is possible.  As the old saying goes, "When you find a job you love, you never work a day in your life."  Welcome to the party.  Viva la Write-a-lution!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Maggie VII Coming at You Next Week!


Maggie VII will be coming at you next week!  One of the scenes is located in a kids' playground located in Orange County.  Here's a picture of the ACTUAL playground it is based upon.  And want more pictures?  Here you go!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eyduck/albums/72157623060621157/with/4264888088/

Available for Pre-Order: