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5 Lies Authors Need to Stop Believing

5 Lies Authors Need to Stop Believing

As writers we all doubt ourselves from time to time.  Writing stories is hard, messy, overwhelming and overall insane.  Imagine if pregnant moms had to piece their babies together by hand, every cell, every bone, every organ and get it all in the right place – that is essentially what we as authors do.  I would totally go for growing a book in my belly and having it come out perfectly formed 9 months later.  Hmmm….interesting alternative universe idea right there.

Anyways……

Because the writing process is so difficult we start to doubt ourselves.  Can we really do this?  Are we good enough?  And we begin to believe lies about ourselves and our writing.  I am here to tell you these lies need to stop!  You, dear author, are amazing.  Your story is amazing and you can do this.  

Here are the five doubts and lies you need to stop believing so you can start loving yourself and your writing.

1.) You’re Only a Real Author/Writer if You are Published:  This lie could not be farther from the truth.  Listen to me.  If you write (once a year or once an hour) then you are a writer.  You are an author if you write.  Even the dictionary says so.  

 Stop saying you are an “aspiring author”, stop putting down your stories.  Be proud of who you are, what you write, and where you are in the writing process.

 2.) To be a successful writer you need a degree:  This is a real insecurity for me.  I don’t have any formal education in writing, and sometimes that creates a lot of self-doubt.  After all, I’m competing against other authors who have master’s degrees in creative writing, and others who know all the grammar, structure, and styling rules inside and out.  I was educated on the taxonomy of invertebrates #lifeskills.    The only way to combat this self-doubt is with a serious reality check.  You do not need to be formally educated in something to be successful at it.  Were your parents formally educated in raising you?  No?  You turned out pretty okay (I mean I assume so since you are reading my blog).  Was Oprah formally educated in running a talk show?  Was George Washington formally educated about how to start a new country?  Was your cat formally educated on how to be the cutest thing in the whole wide world?  No, no, and no!  A formal education is great, but it doesn’t equal success.  Do you know how many writers have a formal degree but spend their days sitting at a desk job?  Me neither, but I bet it’s a lot.  More important than education is drive.  If you have the drive, determination, and grit you’ll make it.  The skills will come.  What matters more than your knowledge is your character. NOT the characters you create, but you.  Beautiful, wonderful, amazing you!  If you want this you won’t let anything stand in your way.  Still don’t believe me?  Check out these successful authors who all made it in the publishing world without writing degrees: Harper Lee, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

3.) You’ll Never Finish:  As I’ve mentioned before, writing books is a lot of work.  It can feel like an insurmountable hill.  There will always be edits to make, things to improve.  It can start to feel like you won’t ever be done with your story.  This isn’t a lie I permanently believe, but it is one that can really discourage me in moments of weariness.  The finish line can seem so far away that I can’t see the path that will lead me there.  The good news is we don’t need the whole path right now.  We just need our next step.  Not the big next step, the small one.  If I write this sentence, what sentence comes next.  That is it.  Word by word, line by line, page by page you will build your book and you will finish.  It might take 1 year, it might take a lifetime.  I promise it will be worth it, don’t give up.  You’re almost there.

4.) You can’t write because your writing isn’t good enough:  This lie is similar to the lie we tell ourselves about a degree, but can be so much more crippling.  That feeling of fear you get as you stare at the blank page, hating every word you try to put down, comes from this lie.  Every writer experiences this, and do you know what that means?  Every writer hates the way they write.  We are all in the same boat with this one and I have three notes of encouragement for you.  

  • The more you write the better you’ll get.  You might have a 6th-grade education and an idea to completely rip off your favorite novel.  Write that.  Write it terribly, write it shamefully, write it so awfully that it doesn’t even make sense when you reread it.  Then, keep writing, the next story you attempt will be better.  You will start at the bottom, but it will get better from there.  The only way to get better is to practice.
  • You don’t have to do this alone.  Do you ever read the acknowledgments section of books?  I always love reading that part, because it reminds me that every author needs a team.  No author writes, “I’d like to thank myself because I did all this on my own, oh and maybe my cat, she’s cute.”  No, often they have so many people to thank they can’t include all the names.  They have editors, beta readers, cheerleaders, mentors, publicists, and so much more.  You don’t have to bring your story to the finish line on your own.  Find your team.
  • You have a biased viewpoint about writing.  You can only read books written by other writers.  It is physically impossible to read something that wasn’t written by someone. That’s hard.  This means that we are only exposed to the champions of our field.  We read these completed works and think there is no way I can ever do that.  But, reading published books and thinking you are terrible in comparison is like these Olympic swimmers thinking they are awful compared to Katie Ledecky.swimming    We see that they are in the pool at the Olympics, they just see the bubbles from Katie’s feet. We need to remember that most of the people who read our books don’t also write.  They are just readers, on the sidelines.  As writers we are all in the Olympic pool, and that’s pretty darn amazing.

5.) My Story Doesn’t Matter:  Sometimes it can be hard to see how one story in a sea of books could actually be worth writing.  There is no book shortage, there aren’t even any truly original ideas for stories out there anymore.  Why spend so much time and effort just to add one more story to all the noise?  This lie and the following train of thought steals the joy you get from writing, and all the hope your story possesses.  Even in a world full of stories, yours matters.  You are a unique individual and even if you wrote the exact same plot as another thousand stories, you would tell it differently and your version would have value.  Your story might struggle to make it farther than your computer, it still has value.  You might be the next J.K. Rowling, that story matters too.  You might write a serious piece about the political climate of our world, that matters.  You might write werewolf romance novels full of bad puns and teen drama, that matters too.   Your story matters because you matter.  

Writing is hard, but it’s your passion and mine.  So, we soldier on, stop believing the lies, and write write write.

Do you have any lies about writing you are sick of hearing?  How do you boost your writer confidence?  This feels like a place to insert a sappy quote, but I think this post is sappy enough.

Stay amazing my friends,

Books & Beer

Books & Beer

There’s an old writing maxim, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, that will forever wed the worlds of beer and books: Write drunk, Edit sober. 

A recent Twin Cities event dared to re-imagine that old quote: Write sober….Market drunk.

Ladies and gents, may I introduce you to the Books & Beer Pop-up Bookstore. Love books? Love beer? Love meeting local authors? This is the event for you.

Mid-May I popped in to see the pop-up (hey, you’ve read this blog long enough to know some amount of shameless word play is to be expected) and an impressive line up of Minnesota authors were in attendance. Now, most (not all) writers of literature are painful introverts but the authors at this event were chatting happily over their pints, promoting books, and acting unnaturally extroverted. I think the beer had something to do with it. Hence the new maxim: Write sober, Market drunk

Some Kayla trivia of the day, my favorite things start with B. Baths, bikes, books, blog, beer, baby, oh yeah and Brooke of course. I could go on (but I won’t, you’re welcome). This seemingly incongruous event combined three of my favorite B’s in one awesome literary evening: Books, Beer, and Baby.

The baby was, of course, optional. Husband and I both wanted a beer, and a babysitter – yes, another favorite B – could not be obtained on this particular evening.  But we were not the only parents desperate enough for a creative book-beer pairing to venture out of doors with an infant/toddler. No indeed. Three tiny humans under the age of two were in attendance and Lake Monster Brewing  had a child play area set up. Way to be inclusive Lake Monster! Sweet babies, please take from this experience a love of books and do not grow up to be drunks.

With dark beer in hand and husband/baby in tow, I browsed the long tables and mingled with  Minnesota authors who had set up shop. It was an awesome experience and I took home an important lesson: Drinking local is fun, reading local is awesome.

Our  community is home to so many talented folks. I met fantasy novelists with epic trilogies for sale, youthful poets, and writers of every genre imaginable. I was duly impressed. It was inspiring to see local authors, many self-published or published with small, local presses, confidently promote their books. Many offered friendly words of encouragement when they found out I too was a writer. I am happy to know that when my book is ready I have a warm, open-hearted community to share it with.

Readers and writers connecting, personally and intimately over a brewksi, is not a common occurrence. We often connect over the internet while remaining isolated in reality. But for most of human history storytellers were part of the village. They were community members, just like their listeners. They weren’t celebrity stars who lived far away in a Manhattan tower – inaccessible, unknowable, glamorous – they were your neighbors, regaling you with tales over fermented beverages. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Human nature hasn’t changed. We still love connecting over fermented beverages. We still love stories, particularly when we know the teller.

Go to Paris, Rome, St. Petersburg, New York or any other literary hub and you’ll find café bars where great writers, past and present, started their day with a caffeine hit and moved on to something stronger. Perhaps Lake Monster is destined to be the next Les Deux Magots. I for one hope beer and books become regular and happy bedfellows in our literature community.

The Books & Beer Pop-up Bookstore created an atmosphere where writers and readers could enjoy good books, good drinks, and the company of fellow booklovers and I can’t wait for the next event later this summer. Stay tuned on SS Press and I’ll let you know when it’s happening.

If you’re in need of a book to pair with your favorite beer, check out the local authors who participated in the Pop-Up:

PARTICIPATING AUTHORS:
Kimberlee Ann Bastian
Kate Bitters
Julien Bradley
Scott Burtness
W.S. Datko
J.D.Delzer
Anthony Eichenlaub
Jeff Falkingham
William Fietzer
Angeline Fortin
Kara Jorges
Kim Kane
Briana Lawrence
Catherine Lundoff
Patrick W. Marsh
Annie Meehan
Kenneth E. Olson
Dave Oppegaard
Marcie Rendon
Sam Richard
Ozgur K. Sahin
Jeff Smieding
P.V. Tkach
Tony Writ

Indie First! Buy Books Local

Indie First! Buy Books Local

Independent Bookstore Day is a one day national party celebrating indie bookstores and local book culture. Every year on the last Saturday in April indie bookstores open early and play host to author appearances, live music, doughnuts, costume contests, readings, temporary tattoos, and…literary condoms. That last one is a real thing.

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Yep, the Indie Bookstore scene in the Twin Cities sure is virile. For the second year in a row the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association has printed an Indie Bookstore Passport for the big day. This year 18 booksellers signed up to be included and book lovers like yours truly spent the day collecting stamps, earning coupons, entering drawings, participating in events, and eating free doughnuts.

Everyone who collected five stamps won a limited edition Twin Cities bookstore map created by Kevin Cannon. Check out this beauty:5e41d9c335802ffc7f0736c8f3da5465

I scored an artsy map, was entered into some pretty sweet drawings, and collected eleven stamps for my passport. That means 11 bookstores in one day with baby in tow. It was a marathon but baby loved it and so did I. We visited many of my favorite shops – Magers & Quinn, Once Upon a Crime, Dreamhaven, Moon Palace Books – and had a blast with face painting, folk dancing, door prizes, bookshop bingo, A Wrinkle in Time read-a-thon (baby loved this especially, that a girl), temporary tattoos, and tasty treats. Besides visiting my favorite places I also discovered a few shops I’d never heard of – Birchbark, Addendum, and Paperback Exchange.

Indie Bookstores aren’t just for in the know hipsters. They stock all the mainstream, pop culture, and YA novel dorkiness you crave. Speaking of which, young adult lovers must check out Addendum. Get this, it’s a bookshop solely devoted to the awesomeness of YA!

If you can believe it all eleven of the shops I visited were within a six mile radius of my house. I am so spoiled. We really do have one of the best literary scenes in the world. Next year baby will be a lot sturdier and I’m hoping to bike us between the shops.

There’s growing public awareness and support for independent businesses. The buzz around buying local is loud and getting louder, but are we being loud enough? Not many among us are willing to call out the biggest threat to local bookstores – Amazon.

Amazon is the evil Empire to the Independent Bookstores Luke Skywalker.

Amazon.com is responsible for a third of online sales, and that number is growing every day. This triumphant success is owed to unfair business and labor practices. I’ve attached an infographic at the end of this post if you want more details.

Melville House was one of the first independent publishers to confront Amazon  over predatory and escalating fees assigned to small publishers, as well as the clandestine war on the publisher Hachette, which it carried out by deliberately delaying shipments and hiking prices. Not cool, Amazon. Melville House is now speaking out against Amazon’s  new physical bookstores, which they take issue with because they don’t employ booksellers. I find Amazon’s aggressive efforts to dodge the collection of sales tax particularly distasteful.

Amazon isn’t your buddy. It’s a giant monopoly that will stoop real low to make a profit.

To avoid sounding overly negative I’d like to be fair and point out some of Amazon’s redeeming qualities. It is the biggest book retailer in the world and they get books to places that people used to not be able to get books. I’m all about books getting into hands! And almost every indie author over the past three years has gone into business online, where they can cheaply and easily publish their work as e-books. I’m all about the empowerment of self publishing! (Shameless plug to please support SS Press’s own indie author Brooke Stewart on Amazon!)

I’m not saying NEVER shop at amazon, I’m just saying shop at indie bookstores MORE. Amazon is wreaking havoc on the book industry and local book culture. It’s a challenging economic climate. If we book lovers don’t support the bookstores than they’re going to disappear.

Independent bookstores are not just stores, they’re community centers run by passionate book lovers who want nothing more than to spread the joy of reading. When you enter an indie bookshop you enter a carefully tended universe of ideas, adventure, and serendipity. They are lively performance spaces, with our Twin Cities shops offering weekly readings, signings, live music, children’s storytime, and family games. Indie bookstores connect authors and readers and foster a book-loving community in a way that Amazon never can and never will.

If we support the local shops then they will flourish, grow, expand, multiply. And that’s the kind of world I want to live in. That’s the world I’ll be voting for with my money.

If you’re journeying into the wild waters of self-publishing consider other options besides Amazon. Did you know that you can buy eBooks at your favorite indie shop? All you need is a Kobo eReading app on your device and you can buy eBooks through many independent bookstores in Minnesota. And when you self publish on Kobo your readers can support an indie shop when they buy. In my experience indie shops are also very open to physical copies. I’ve approached local Moon Palace Books and Boneshaker Books and they’re both willing to take on a short comic or story (in the form of a zine) on a consignment deal. Small peanuts, I know, but it will get my stuff out there and gain me connections with local booksellers, a valuable ally.

Choose local whenever possible. You can bypass big business in favor of local entrepreneurs by: choosing farmers market over target, local cafe over caribou, and family bookstore over amazon.

You don’t have to do it every time, but a little effort from all of us will go a long way.

If you’re tempted by the price at Amazon, check with your local shop, their prices are competitive too. In my experience the local place is never more than a dollar or two over what Amazon is offering. A few extra bucks  from your wallet is worth it when you think of the local jobs provided and the awesomeness of having a corner shop in your hood. And if your local place doesn’t have a book in stock they’ll order it for you. I’m on a first name basis with a few shops and I love that. They treat me like family and I return the favor.

“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

― Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books, an Independent Bookstore for Independent People

I’d love to hear about your favorite bookstores, shoot me a comment with any recommendations both here and abroad. If you’re not sure where to find a store near you check out the Indie Bookstore Finder

Here’s that infographic I promised about the evilness of Amazon:
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An Hour a Day is Better than No Hours a Day

An Hour a Day is Better than No Hours a Day

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Brooke and I are big NaNoWriMo enthusiasts and we write about it a lot here at SS Press…so if you’re sick of reading about NaNo then this isn’t the post for you. Because I’m going to talk about Camp NaNo like the happy little camper I am. Ok, you’ve been warned.

It is day 30 of Camp NaNoWriMo and I just hit the validate project button. Boo-ya.

More than any other NaNo, this Camp helped me start and maintain a daily writing habit. And, yeah, I know I should have developed such an obviously useful and wonderful habitude before now, but hey, better late than never.

I got a lot done this month and the only thing that changed is that I shifted my focus from writing a lot (word count) to writing often (hour count).

My goal was to write one hour a day, everyday in April. That might not seem like much, but that’s the point! One hour a day is only .0416% of the month. The thought was if worst came to worst on a busy day I could always just stay up an extra hour after the family went to bed. One hour of sleep isn’t a lot to sacrifice. I mean, in college I would do anything for an extra hour of sleep but I’ve evolved since then.

Not only did I write everyday, but something magical happened, as something magical ought to do when you plunge into the ocean of imagination, sometimes when I sat down to write an hour…I ended up writing 2…or 3…or 6! Yep, sometimes all you need to do is show up and let the magic happen. And of course there were days when I forced an hour and quit as soon as the timer hit 60 minutes, but more days than not I got on a roll and just kept rolling.

Here’s how it worked. By showing up everyday I developed discipline. When developing a new skill or ability the key is not how much you do it, it’s how often. If you start out spending an exorbitant number of hours in one sitting you’re going to burnout. When a person goes to the gym for the the first couple times, should they A) Workout all day pumping the iron, or B) Do several short workouts a week. B, of course. If this gym newbie gives their wimpy virgin muscles time to heal and grow they’re going to see results, and if they hit the gym a couple times a week and keep that up for a month or two they’ve got a habit. And pretty soon they’re going to be working out for longer stretches and then, voila, you’ve got a Hulk look-a-like.

Here’s advice for those of you struggling to build discipline and form habits:

Don’t write a lot. Just write often. 

Habits practiced once a week aren’t habits. They’re obligations. Like calling your mom. And if you only do something once a week it’s likely only a matter of time before you stop doing it altogether. Unfortunately writing isn’t like your mom. It’s not going to hunt you down and mercilessly attack with disappointed mom face until you are sufficiently guilt ridden and ready to give her as much quality time as her majesty demands. (Mom, in case you are reading this you are an angel and this paragraph is pure FICTION)

Show up, do the work. It’s that simple.

And yeah, it’s also that hard. But I did some amazing stuff this month, and trust me you’ve got an hour per day. It’s only .0416% remember.

Peace & Love, Kayla

 

Life is a Juggling Act and Sometimes You Drop the Ball

Life is a Juggling Act and Sometimes You Drop the Ball

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Life is a juggling act. At work and at home we have things to manage, priorities to balance, and too many balls to keep in the air.

Sometimes  I’m on the ball, pun intended, all areas of my life get some attention, and things revolve perfectly as I toss-catch-throw without a stumble.  Other times…I drop the ball.

I’m a busy lady with a lot on my plate. Big, luxurious blocks of time to write just aren’t possible right now. I can’t quit my job, force my mom to babysit, or stop cleaning/eating/showering/doing life like a passably normal adult. The amount of free time I have now is not likely to increase so I’ve been training myself to take advantage of little snippets of time to write. It feels good to fit writing into my hectic life – even if it’s only 45 minutes every other day.

I was on a roll for a couple weeks as I balanced a full schedule with productive bouts of writing. But then…I dropped the writing ball and I got pretty frustrated with myself.

Which got me thinking, if life in my time-strapped, chaotic world requires juggling, then shouldn’t I learn how to be a better juggler? Instead of complaining maybe I should practice. Afterall, it’s juggling – it’s supposed to be fun!

For some juggling advice I turned to a pro, check out the TED talk. Michael Moschen is arguably the world’s greatest juggler. He’s redefined the art of juggling and it’s been said that calling Michael Moschen a juggler is like calling Michelangelo a stonecutter or Mozart a piano player. Moschen has proven that juggling can be an art.

Anyone can learn to juggle. The odd thing about juggling is that it’s so damn frustrating when you can’t do it and then, when you finally can, you can’t understand why you couldn’t always do it….People always put obstacles in the way of their learning. My job is to help them confront their fear — of hurting themselves, of failure, or of just looking stupid.” – Michael Moschen

So the master of juggling says anyone can do it! But we need to practice and, more importantly, we need to get comfortable with failure. If you expect to do it perfectly every time, right out of the gate, then you are going to get frustrated when you inevitably screw up. We have to first deal with our expectations so that we can loosen up and have fun. Dropping a ball here and there is part of the process.

Balance is essential to juggling — as well as to life. But balance is not an unchanging state of perfection. It’s the ability to respond to an unexpected change. Tiny movements that create a perfect, but temporary, equilibrium. So the key to successfully juggling your priorities is the ability to shift and re-focus. At times, one area of your life will need more attention than the others.f3310d917de4083334075af00dc00a80

I had a great juggling sequence going before I dropped the writing ball. I’d been trying a variety of approaches to scheduling; taking advantage of the hour after baby went to bed, lunch break sprints, and I even did a few words at the co-op cafe before picking up groceries. I was doing great, but then life happened.

I won’t bore you with the details, but something came up at work and then a minor family crisis had me running nervously to and from my hometown. Once the smoke cleared I was a long way from reaching my monthly writing goal, but I didn’t regret taking care of the other areas of my life when they needed it. Becoming a master juggler means learning to prioritize, and learning when to drop a ball or two to keep the others in the air.

So I can’t drop the baby or my health, but writing…for a day or two, or even a week, if I need to drop it to take care of things then I will, and life will go on.

This week I put my affairs in order, finished this blog post, picked up the fallen ball, and started again. I didn’t waste a week. I spent a week caring for things that needed tending.

We’re all jugglers in some way or another, balancing our careers and our families, our passions and our laundry lists.

There is an art to juggling priorities, just as there’s an art to living. Take a look at your time and set your goals. Hold yourself accountable to a deadline BUT don’t sweat it when you need to prioritize life before writing. Try a variety of approaches to scheduling, but keep your mind open and your heart forgiving, because inevitably a variety of emergencies at work and home will conspire to pause your progress.

Try to have fun juggling your priorities, it will make life more enjoyable! It’s not about work-life balance, it’s about work-life flexibility. Be flexible enough to let the rubber ball drop so you can spend time caring for the fragile parts of your life. Beware extremes and respect all priorities.

I had a bad week, but life goes on, and everyday I’m getting better at juggling.

I’d love to hear about how you keep the balls in the air, or manage the fallout after they drop. Stay positive, writing buddies! And stay tuned to hear about our plans for taking on Camp NaNoWriMo as well as some super secret super exciting news about SS Press.

Peace & Love, Kayla

How to Get Stuff Done

How to Get Stuff Done

Last time I talked to you all about being intentional with your writing time.  How have things been going?  Good, great, terrible, all of the above?  After my extremely insensitive teaser, it’s time for the big reveal!  The most effective tool I know for stopping the editing spiral in its tracks and staying intentional in your writing time is…

– DEADLINES!

Whoa, sorry guys all caps is not the best look for any word that starts with “dead” but, far from killing you DEADLINES are what will save your story and keep you in the writing habit.

If you are a fan of any big name author (like James Patterson, Janet Evanovich or Stephen King) you might have noticed something kind of crazy incredible about them.  They publish books EVERY year!  Some of them even publish multiple books a year.  

Now, there are different strategies that help authors accomplish this feat such as ghost writers, or co-writing a novel, but still, how do they make awesome books so quickly?

You guessed it DEADLINES!  These authors have a whole crew of people holding them accountable to their DEADLINES (sorry, can’t stop won’t stop) and keeping them focused on getting their books published.

Wow, that would be amazing.  New life goal right there.  Sadly, for those of us on our first books, who still have full-time jobs and full-time lives this just isn’t our reality.  It can be hard to stay on track with writing because our desire to write is the only thing motivating us to push forward.

But what happens when we have a rough day at work, or when our kids will not go to bed, or when a new season of Fuller House comes out on Netflix, or when we just don’t feel like writing some days?  Yep, zero writing gets done.

DEADLINES are a source of external motivation that can help you push through those writing slumps, overcome the busyness of life and finally finish your novel! Ready to make some life changing goals with me?

To create good DEADLINES there are four types of goals you will need: Short-Term, Mid-Term, Long-Term and Ultimate

Short term:  These are goals that you want accomplished within a month’s time or less.  Maybe you have a daily goal of 15 minutes of writing time or a weekly goal of 2000 words.   Or maybe you have a short term goal of 50,000 words in one month (Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner guys).  Whatever the case these short term goals are the baby steps towards accomplishing your larger goals, or to mix metaphors, the individual bricks that are creating your pyramid.

Mid-Term:  These goals are the middle ground achievements, the big steps towards completing your ultimate and long-term goals.   Things like finish the first draft, or revise Chapter 6, fit into this category.  It might take you some more time to achieve these goals, but when combined with your short-term goals they don’t feel too overwhelming yet.

Long-Term:  Your long-term goals are the broader strokes of your story.  Finish your novel, build a successful blogging empire, publish some short stories, etc.  These are big things that without the more bite-sized steps of the short and mid-term goals would easily overwhelm you.  These are the things you are focusing to achieve when you set your smaller goals and the things that will feel SO GOOD when you can check them off of your to-do list.

Ultimate:  The Ultimate goal is your finish line.  It’s what you want to accomplish as a writer.  For me, this is get my novel published!  It could be something else for you.  Maybe your ultimate goal is just to write a complete story for yourself, or perhaps you want to make a living as a full-time writer.  Whatever the Ultimate goal, you use that to create your own set of DEADLINES

Woo, we have some goals now, but a goal does not a DEADLINE make.  To turn goals into DEADLINES, you have to take each goal and give it a “due date”.  Essentially, you’re putting all of your goals into one really big, crazy detailed timeline. Let’s break this down.

To start making your timeline, you start with your Ultimate goal.  Ask yourself “When do I want to achieve my Ultimate goal?” Now ask yourself “When can I realistically achieve my ultimate goal?”  Combine the two answers together, skewed towards the realistic end, and you have your ultimate DEADLINE!

 Example:  Ultimate Goal = Publish Novel  Deadline = 12/31/2019

Now that you’ve given your ultimate goal a DEADLINE, you need to plug in your long-term goals on the calendar.  Think of it in terms of “What do I have left to do before I can achieve my goal?”  Some of these goals can be assigned vague dates, as odds are they are still pretty far away.

Example:  To publish by Dec 31st 2019 you need:

  • Two more rounds of editing – 6/1/2019
  • Knowledge about the publishing process  – 8/1/2019
  • A Decision on self-publishing vs. traditional – 1/1/2019
  • A ready made audience of people waiting to read my book (optional) – 12/1/2019

 

The long-term goals are still far away, so there are lots of stopping points along the way to be filled in with your mid-term goals.  Again ask “What do I need to do to reach my long-term goal?

Example:

Goal= 2 Rounds of Editing

-First Round edits – 12/31/17

-Second Round edits – 12/31/18 (leaves 6 month buffer)

Goal = Learn about the publishing process

-Begin researching 2/1/2019

Continue down your list of long-term goals until you’ve given them all a start doing date, or broken them down into smaller jobs that you’ll start working towards right away.  Now you need to do the final step and make those short-term goal DEADLINES.  

I like to break these down by month, it’s enough time to get things done, but no so much that I can procrastinate and self-sabotage.  You might have to do some basic math to calculate good short-term goals

Example:  Finish first editing round

Total scenes = 72 Total Time =12 months

72 scenes divided by 12 months = 6 scenes per month

Deadlines

Revise scenes 1-6 by 1/31/17

7-12 by 2/28/17

13-18 by 3/31/17

…and so on and so forth.

The key to short-term DEADLINES is to make them concrete, and manageable.  With this strategy each month you’ll be crossing goals off your list!  Visually seeing that progress will keep you motivated and spur you on towards writing greatness!

The one caveat to all of this is DEADLINES only work if you stick to them.  My recommendation is to share your ultimate and short-term DEADLINES with everyone you can.  The more people you’ve told, the more reason you will have to stick to them.

Those are my tips and tricks to creating DEADLINES to get stuff done.  What are your ultimate goals, for writing, or just for life?  Do you have any life-hacks for how you turn your long term goals into bite sized pieces?  Let us know in the comments below!
Stay Amazing My Friends,

Sorry Kids, Mama’s Got a Hot Date with her Novel

Sorry Kids, Mama’s Got a Hot Date with her Novel

One of the hardest things I have to keep re-learning in life is that to get anything done you have to be intentional about it.  Things don’t just happen.  If I want to spend more time with my husband – I have to be intentional about setting up date nights.  If I want to have more money in my bank account I have to be intentional about budgeting each month.  And if I want to write a book, I have to be intentional about my writing.

Sigh…that all sounds like a lot of work.  

Sometimes goals that seem difficult can have simple solutions.  To spend more time with my husband I took my 2017 kitten a day calendar (I know awesome right) and I systematically scheduled one date night a month before anything else could vie for my time.  My husband is numero uno in my life so why not make him numero uno on my calendar.  

If only scheduling my writing time was that easy.

The problem with writing is before you are published, and sometimes even after, your writing doesn’t hold a value that is easy to define.  Right now, my writing does not bring income into our household, does not get shared with many (if any) people, cannot be given as a gift, and is over all not necessary to the general day to day function of my life.  All it really does is make me happy – which is awesome – but lots of other things also make me happy so…oops it’s been three days and I haven’t thought about writing.

Thankfully, I do not have to justify the time I spend writing to anybody but myself.  I am surrounded by amazing people who believe in me (probably more than I believe in myself) and help me to seek out my writing goals.

Despite that awesome advantage – often times I still struggle to justify my writing time to myself.  Oh, it’d be great to write today, but Lizzy is coming over at 6:00 and we usually eat around 5:15 and I have to walk the dog so I’ll only have like ten minutes and I’ll just write tomorrow because my story will still be there, Lizzy doesn’t come over every day.  Tomorrow I’m volunteering and that’s going to eat up most of my night, when I get home I could write, but I know I’ll be too worn out and I’ll choose watching television or maybe reading.  Wednesday looks promising but after being busy two nights in a row the house will be a disaster and it’ll stress me out too much to find my writing zen and then it’s suddenly Saturday and I haven’t written a single word all week.

The thought is always there – but with making time for writing the thought just isn’t enough.  I can’t only intend to spend time writing every day (or most days) I need to plan my day around my writing time.  

This sounds a little hard core.  Sorry mom, I can’t talk to you right now because I’m writing, I’ll call back later.  Kids make your own pb&J’s tonight because mama’s gotta hot date with her novel.  Thanks for understanding that the house is a mess Lizzy, I was focusing on writing instead of cleaning.

It feels strange, saying no to people – saying no to things that you enjoy to do your writing.  After all, your writing will always be there, but you only get so many opportunities to go out for lattes with Lizzy.  

That’s sort of the problem though – unless you get your butt in gear and finish your story your writing will ALWAYS be there.  You won’t ever finish because you keep putting other things that feel more important, more urgent or more fun ahead of it.

If you want to publish your book nothing is more important than your writing time.  It is sacred, it is holy, it is the only thing standing between a rough draft and a finished novel.  As much as I wish little writing elves would come and work on my book every night, that doesn’t happen.  I need to write it, revise it, edit it finish it.  And all that takes time.  Like a lot of time.

It takes so much time that it feels overwhelming, impossible even.  But you can do it, because if you remember my last post your writing only needs 3 things: To make sense, be complete and have something that’s special.  To get those three things you need to be intentional about creating space for your writing.  So here’s some tips to help you do that.

  1. Do it early:  I prefer to write around 7-8 at night, but that’s a terrible scheduling choice.  It’s easy for one little thing to take more time than I think and then bam it’s 9:00 and I haven’t written yet and I’ll decide to go to bed instead of write.  If I write earlier, like 5-6 before I start doing other things with my night I get it done!
  2. Schedule it: If you keep a day planner, block out your writing time.  If you like writing fewer days but bigger chunks put that time on your calendar, reserve it, be intentional about refusing to make plans during that time.  It will feel strange at first, telling your friends you can’t do something because of your “hobby” or calling a babysitter for your kids so you can stay home and write, but you’ll be so glad you made those choices once you have a published book on your hands
  3. Remind yourself why you write: If you are a writer then you need to write, you can’t deny the urge forever, put up frequent reminders everywhere that tell you why your story is more important than the new season of Project Runway Junior (But OMG have you watched it though?!?!)
  4. Don’t overschedule yourself:  the end of 2016 was really crazy for my, I overscheduled myself and was running on fumes for far too long.  Even though I wanted to write, I did not have the energy because the rest of my life was wearing me out.  To write well we need to be well first.  Make sure you are giving yourself time to relax along with write.  One thing I’m doing (which who knows if it will work) is reserving one weekend a month as off limits for making social plans.  This will give me a chance to have 2 days to reset my life and get back on track with things so I have the mental strength to write.
  5. Check out my next blog post:  This tip will be your biggest battle against procrastination, and slacking on intentionality about your writing time, but it needs a whole post to explain so you’ll have to be on the lookout for it in a few weeks (mwahahahaha – but trust me it’s worth it).

With the start of a new year (you know like two months ago) I love the opportunity to pause, and reset my priorities in life.  If writing is one of yours you owe it to yourself to start being intentional (or keep being intentional) with your writing time.  It’s going to take a lot of hours, some tears, some long days, some long nights and a whole lot of imagination but I fully believe that we will all get there!
Stay Amazing My Friends,

Plunging into Editing

Plunging into Editing

Every winter hundreds of people all over the world willingly dive into a frozen body of water. Insane, right? It’s called the polar bear plunge and it’s done in the name of charity.  I admire these brave and generous souls. It must be scary, not to mention extremely uncomfortable, to strip down to your skivvies and run full tilt into an icy lake.

This winter I will be taking a different sort of plunge. Instead of diving into frigid water, I will be plunging into the wild, wild world of editing a novel.

In a previous post I revealed how long it took me to finish my first draft – too long! I don’t want to repeat that same mistake with editing. Polar plungers know by instinct not to stay too long in the cold water. I mean, you don’t want to end up like Leonardo di Caprio in the Titanic, am I right? A quick icy plunge is all fun adrenaline and happy games, a too long submersion is death by hypothermia.

Brooke recently warned us about getting lost in the editing spiral and I am determined to make my editing journey efficient and mercifully quick. T0 do that I need to get my act together in a major way. So I am making a plan and sticking to it! Here are my five steps to a complete second a draft:

Step 1: Take a break

I’ve already completed this step. I haven’t looked at my story since August, yeesh that’s a long time, whoopsie! I can hardly remember what I wrote, but that’s a good thing for one important reason: I’m coming back to my story with fresh eyes. Fresh eyes are important because if you begin the revision process immediately you are still too familiar with your work. To edit effectively, you need to possess objectivity, which means you need time to forget. I’ve been hiding from my draft for five months so now I’m ready to tackle it with cold, objective clarity. Though I probably shouldn’t have waited longer than three months. It’s hard not to disconnect from your work after nearly half a year off. Oh well, lesson learned.

Step 2: Double check the map

When you find yourself facing a long and arduous journey through confusing, uncertain territory, it’s best to pack a map. The map of your story is an outline. I’m going to put in a lot of time up front in the editing process making sure my plot is airtight. The plan is to spend the month of February combing my draft for plot holes, timeline errors, unanswered questions, and incomplete scenes. These are the problems that cannot go unattended. As Brooke told us in her last post, a story needs to be complete and make sense. I do not want to enter the second draft without a sensical and complete plot. Knowing exactly where the story is going and how it gets there, step by step will save me a ton of editing effort down the road. Plus, a thorough read through will identify the problems that need fixing.

Step 3: Plunge into Editing

Once I have my airtight plot ironed out I’m planning to take that icy cold plunge and jump right into revising. I’ve never attempted this before and I’m a little nervous. I want to do a good job but I don’t want to spend too much time in the icy water. I don’t want hypothermia, I want to finish a second draft! The name of the game is discipline. I’m not yet sure how I will be fitting editing into my busy life but ideally I’d like to commit to two hours a day, five days a week. Stay tuned for an update on my progress.

Step 4: Contact the Beta Readers

Other human beings are indispensable to the editing process. Beta readers can be literary minded friends and family or they can be paid professionals. While they aren’t editors, they are essential. Like in step one, you need fresh eyes on the story. If you don’t get other eyes on your story then you are operating in a vacuum and your story will suffer for it. Another human is going to see things that you will not. Face it, as writers we are in love with our characters and our stories, and love, as they say, is blind. Beta readers will see flaws in your favorite character’s development and they will point out when your descriptions aren’t clear. I’m excited to have a second draft that makes enough sense to share, and I have a few literary lovers in my life who are excited to receive.

Step 5: Make it Shiny & Pretty

I’m not going to worry about step number five until I have a second draft that I can be proud of. While working on draft two I will correct and polish as I go but I’m not going to focus on nit-picking my grammar, word choice, or punctuation. I’m going to save that joyful task for later. After the first round of revisions and beta readers I’ll polish up my sentences and make my story shine. Anyway, it’s for the best if I don’t get too far ahead of myself right now.

“The best writing is re-writing.” -E.B. White

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Well, here I go, deep breath, time to edit. Wish me luck! Excuse me while I go stock up on red pens.

 

Another Year, Another Dream

Another Year, Another Dream

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January has arrived! Cue the resolution making, SMART goal setting, and freezing rain (at least in Minnesota).

Freezing rain aside, I love January. After surviving the holidays and end of year busyness I like to treat myself to a month of indoor activities like books, hot cocoa, cozy blankets, and naps. Oh yeah, and writing of course.

As a writer, January fills me with the excitement of the blank page waiting to be filled. It marks a new chapter wherein fresh beginnings can be made, perfect do-overs seem possible, and anything at all could happen.

There’s a mountain of inspirational blog posts out there that will walk you through realistic goal setting. Typical resolution making fosters an all or nothing attitude. But that’s not really my resolution style. Not that I totally disagree with all those rules and regulations telling you exactly how to plan goals that are achievable, measurable, divisible by prime numbers, etc, etc… Ok, I sort of disagree with that last one. Beating a goal to death just so it fits in some sort of measurable box isn’t my thing. It’s not that I think having a plan is bad, I just choose to focus on a different part of the resolution game, the part that is less pressure and more fun!

The fun part is dreaming up the goal. All goals start out as dreams, and it’s fun to dream.  That’s why resolution making is so popular. Humans love to imagine a better future and a better self. We all like the thought of goal setting, but very few actually do set them and even fewer are still working on them by the time mid-February rolls around.

I think that resolutions start out bright and shiny happy dreams but become dull drudgery when we kill the fun with rules, spreadsheets, and all or nothing mindsets.

I’ve been making resolutions since I was sixteen and I used to make them the boring way, and guess what? I never achieved a single goal until I loosened up the rules and started having fun.

Now when I get to the end of a year instead of lamenting what went unachieved I look forward to reviewing my resolutions and making new ones. My log of dream based resolutions is my way of tracking what’s important to me. As I compare last year’s goals to this year’s I get to see what matches, what contradicts, what I’ve accomplished, and how I’ve grown and changed as a person.  Perhaps what is most telling are the goals that remain the same. These are the goals that I am committed to enough to come back to year after year. These are the goals I desire passionately, the dreams that I refuse to let go.

Don’t make it a game of all or nothing this year, because in that game the only winner is nothing, that’s just human nature folks. Until we transcend our mortal shortcomings that rule out perfection I suggest making your 2017 goal setting more of a soul searching. Don’t make your goals boring, and by boring I mean SMART – specific, measurable, blah blah blah. Just kidding, go ahead and make them SMART, but don’t forget the fun part, which is the dreaming up of a new passion or a new life. The dream is what will drive you. Write down your dream and pin it on the fridge. Look at it everyday and keep the dream alive.

As I’ve gotten older my resolutions change very little from year to year. My dreams for 2017 are nearly identical to those I made for 2016. And I can proudly say that I made strides toward all of my 2016 goals and achieved two of the big writing goals: 1) Finish first draft of After the Empire manuscript, and 2) Start and finish a new story in NANOWRIMO 2016.

2016 was a good year and I’m hoping for more of the same in 2017. What are your thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions? I’d love to hear about your dreams and goals for the new year.

Stay tuned for 2017 lit events!

Peace, Love, & A Very Happy New Year to all!

 

The End: Killing the First Draft

The End: Killing the First Draft

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Guess what? I finished the first draft of my first novel!!!! I have 90,00 words of a somewhat coherent story. How does it feel you ask? It feels flippin’ great.

But it took forever. 1.5 years to be exact.

One of the hardest things about being a writer is actually finishing that first draft. We often linger on the details, editing as we go, which in many cases causes us to burn out and quit. That’s what almost happened to me! I almost never finished the dang thing.

So how did I kill the first draft once and for all?

I recognized my perfectionism as a stalling tendency.

The first draft is not the final product, and the goal isn’t to produce carefully thought out and polished pages. Giving up perfectionism allows you to embrace discovery. As Terry Pratchett said, the first draft is just you telling yourself the story. It doesn’t have to be pretty, correctly punctuated, or even sensical. Just have fun with the first draft and don’t let perfectionism get in the way of the story.

I stopped obsessively reworking, rewriting, and researching.

Drafting is not editing, nor is it researching. Don’t do one when you should be doing the other. Instead of wasting time with google searches I noted the idea that needed researching and simply pressed on. Likewise, when I noticed that a passage needed edits I made note of it and reminded myself that I can always fix it later. When I stopped sweating the mistakes I started making progress.

I sent my inner critic on vacation and gave myself permission to write badly.

As soon as I silenced my inner critic I began writing faster, and as I wrote faster, believe it or not, my story improved. When I freed myself from the tyranny of my inner critic my imagination came out to play and I came up with some pretty great ideas on the fly. Sometimes creativity and criticism are mutually exclusive.

I learned a lot on the  journey from beginning to end. Foremost of which, the first draft needn’t (and shouldn’t) take an excessive amount of time. So this NaNoWriMo I was determined to take on a new story and finish the first draft in one month. And I did it! The NaNoWriMo draft was shorter and sloppier than the draft I labored over for a year and a half, but the NaNoWriMo draft was better. It possessed better ideas, was fresh and off the cuff, and unburdened by perfectionism or even proper punctuation.

Both drafts need work but the NaNoWriMo draft was much more fun.  In the future I’m going to write my first drafts quickly instead of slowly. For me at least, it doesn’t matter how much time I invest in a first draft –  it’s still going to need a whole lot of revision. I do believe that there are rare talents out there who can produce a first draft worth reading but for the rest of us mere mortals the first draft is going to suck. I’m sure you’ve come across the perennial words of Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is sh*t.”

To everyone out there struggling with a first draft. Good luck! I’d love to hear about your novel writing adventure. Stay tuned for an update on lit events in the Twin Cities!