Should’a…Could’a…Would’a…

Today, I have a guest blogger.

Keri Kruspe, fellow writer and friend, writes this blog and shares with you her experiences as a first-time author and what she wished she had known beforehand. I wish I had known, too.

SHOULD’A…COULD’A…WOULD’A… 

What I wished I’d done differently

By Keri Kruspe

Now that I’ve gotten more than six months of being an indie author under my belt, I wanted to take a step back to see what (if anything) I would have done differently to start my publishing career.Keri Kruspe - what should I do list png

The short answer is yes…yes, I would do a couple of things differently if I could do it all over again. In order to give a clear reason as to why I say that, let’s take a look at where I was back in October of 2018 when I launched my first novel.

Back then, I had to start everything from scratch–

  • Website (you mean I need my own…?)
  • Media Presence (i.e. Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest – which ones – how do I use them?)
  • Author email
  • Author Brand (Brand…what in the world…)
  • Decide to go “wide” or “KU” (huh?)
  • What software to use to format for electronic readers as well as paperback (never heard of epub…mobi…again huh?)
  • Newsletter or blog
    • Create your newsletter subscribers (where in world would they come from?)
  • How do I find an editor who will work with me? What about a proofreader – do I need both or more?
  • Where do I find a good cover artist for my genre (heh…I read/write in a genre?)

More importantly – where in the world do I go to learn how to do all of this??

Instead of diving deep into each one, I thought I’d give an overview of what I strongly feel I’d like to do different if I could go back into time and have a do-over.

WIDE OR KU?

Ah, the ago-old question. In all of the training I’ve taken, the overwhelming answer you get is, “it’s up to you…it’s a personal decision.” A very nice, safe, gentle non-answer that doesn’t help much.

So, here’s my two cents worth: If I only had one book to release starting out – I’d do KU first.

Let me explain.

When I started as a new author, I had A LOT to learn (see above). I figured, no big deal, why not go wide and reach not only Amazon customers, but everyone else in the universe as well. Why get stuck for 90 days in only one vendor – I planned to release the other books right after the first.

Well, things didn’t work out quite that way. Because of my inexperience, I didn’t realize how much time it took to get each novel ready (and I’m talking about after I’ve written it and done my own “due diligence” in editing it on my own).

Because I had so much to learn and do – if I’d gone with Amazon exclusive with the first one, I would have gotten a little “boost” in launching my book – plus have a little extra “time” to learn the ropes while I got the other books ready. I could have stayed there for 90 days, and by then at least my second book would be ready and I might have gone wide then if I wanted to.

READER MAGNET  Keri Kruspe - reader magnet

In all the “noise” of trying to get advice on what makes a successful author (by noise I mean, training, websites, various advice on social media) the one that stands out the most is you have to have a healthy mailing list (okay, had to admit I didn’t know what a mailing list/reader magnet was until after I launched by first book). And in order to get that list, you need to over a “reader magnet.” Which, loosely defined is a prize your readers gets when they join your mailing list.

There were several suggestions on what to offer for a reader magnet: a book in a series (ack – only had one book…so this was a “no go”) or a short story or even something exclusive to what I was writing. So, I used my “writers bible”, something I created about the universe of my trilogy. It was a thirty-page “encyclopedia” with various info of my characters and the aliens (the trilogy is a sci-fi romance). Should work…right?

Wrong.

Seven months after my launch, I only have 40 subscribers on my list. If I could have this “do-over” I’d have a short story reader magnet ready to go before I launched my book. Because I thought my little catalog would be a good incentive, I waited until three months into my publishing career to rethink the whole thing.

So, taking a deep breath, I pulled out an old short story (around 35,000 words) I wrote ten years ago and gave it a complete overhaul. I’m hoping to release it in July and then start a mailing list campaign (fingers crossed). My goal is reaching at least 100 subscribers by the end of the year.

Wish me luck.

VARIOUS STUFF

Keri Kruspe - cluttered desk pngIn hindsight (don’t you love hindsight?…it’s always so spot on…), I wouldn’t have tried to learn everything at once. It’s so hard to figure out how to make a website from scratch while learning the ins-and-outs on how to create/maintain several social media business accounts. Add to that how to effectively create visual ads (Canva and BookBrush are my friends). Also, how do you make those ads profitable? What makes them profitable?

Let’s not mention that at the same time I had to learn how to polish my writing skills (this includes eliminating my unnecessary adverbs/filler words and creating an in-depth point of view for my characters).

What I should have done was finish learning my writing craft first. This may or may not include working with an editor. Then I would have mastered these skills one at a time (instead of trying to do them all at once) and I would do it in this order:

  • Hire a reputable cover artist
  • Find appropriate editors
  • Design and create my website
  • Sign up for an EMS (email mailing service) and produce a landing page with my reader magnet ready to go.
  • Learn how to upload/format my books (including paperback)
  • Discover how to upload formatted book onto the appropriate retailers (i.e. Amazon, Barns & Nobel, etc)
  • Marketing – this could include making ads (and how to determine if they’re viable). How to join/create a blog tour, and/or newsletter swaps. Let’s not forget social media. Learn when and how to use them.

WRAP UP  Keri Kruspe - Resuts Excuses

Okay..whew..got my frustrations out. Now that I’ve finished venting, what’s next?

Now it’s catch-up time. My trilogy is out in the world and it’s time to create a new story. I’m getting back into the habit of reaching my writing goal every day. As I mentioned before, I want to finish working on my reader magnet and start the campaign to increase my subscription list. Still trying to master making ads and monitoring them. I’m sure I’ll be working on that for the rest of my career.

As for the “should’a” part of this article, well, wallowing in regrets isn’t quite my style. I’d rather learn from my “mistakes” and move on. If my experience helps others, that makes me happy. Please keep in mind this disclaimer…what I’ve written is only my opinion. There’s no guarantee what I think should have worked better actually would. You know what they say about opinions…everyone has one!

*****

Keri Kruspe PicKeri Kruspe, author of Otherworldly Romantic Adventures – writing about feisty heroines who aren’t afraid to take chances in life or love.

Keri has been an author since the age of twelve and has always been fascinated with otherworldly stories that end in Happily Ever After. Her current sci-fi romance trilogy, An Alien Exchange (winner 2018 SPF Galaxy award) had its first release winter 2018. The story continues with D’zia’s Dilemma and concludes with Ki’s Redemption.

A native Nevadan, Keri resides with her family in the wilds of Northwest Michigan where she enjoys the stark change in seasons and the pleasures each one brings. An avid reader, Keri loves an enjoyable bottle of red wine, a variety of delicious foods and watching action/adventure movies…usually at the same time. You can find her most days immersed in her fantasy world on her latest novel while foot tappin’ to classic rock. When not absorbed in her writing, Keri works alongside her husband in building their dream home or discovering intelligent life in America in their RV. Join the fun and sign up for her mailing list at www.kerikruspe.com

 

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Posted in Guest Blogger, Inspiration, Persistance, Publishing, writing | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Failures – Part III

To continue my “Failures” series, this post was originally published on my Only for the Brave blog on January 9, 2018.  And now, I’ve added more thoughts.

Failure According to Sue Grafton

As I considered my next blog in this series, I came across this article in my mailbox and thought I would inject a small part of it here, between my writings, because Sue Grafton confirms what I wrote about in “Failures Part II,” in that we learn by failing.

Sue is the best-selling and award-winning author of the famous alphabet murder mystery series, with Kinsey Millhone as the protagonist: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse…

Here are Sue’s own words about what constitutes success and why failing is important. The source link for her quoted words is below.

What has made you so successful?

I hope it is because I try to be honest, and I try not to sell anything. I just try to let the work take care of itself….

What advice do you have for newer writers?

My big gripe about newer writers is they’re not willing to put the time in. Somebody’ll write one book and they’re asking me who my agent and my editor are, and I’m thinking, Don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’re not any good yet. Give yourself time to get better. Writing is really hard to master. You learn by failing over and over, but a lot of people don’t care for that, thanks. I always wish new writers the greatest good fortune. It’s a helluva journey—I’ll tell you that.

“You learn by failing over and over.”  She’s also confirming that if we write a good story, the writing will sell itself.

Reading her words, I’m being reminded once again, and again by an expert writer, that I need not focus on the selling but that I need to focus on the writing.

No amount of advertising can sell a mediocre book. However, a great story will sell itself because readers can’t help but tell others how great it is. There’s no advertising like word-of-mouth advertising. Recommendations are priceless.

Guest Column. “W Is for Writer: A 2010 interview with Sue Crafton (1940=2017).” Web blog post. There are No Rules. Writer’s Digest, 31 Dec. 2017. Web. 9 Jan 2018.

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/interviews/w-writer-2010-interview-sue-grafton-writers-digest

Posted in Failures, Persistance, writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Surprising Secret of Developing Characters

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

 The question this month is:  Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

 The Surprising Secret of Developing Characters

I’m such a plotter one would think that I’m never surprised. The truth is that with every story I’m always surprised. The words that come out of my characters’ mouths are smart, engaging, and laugh out loud funny. So much so, I’m usually laughing aloud while writing, with my laughter surprising those around me whether other writers at a write-in or strangers in a coffee shop.

Often, I find my characters’ banter doesn’t require tags because the characters each have a distinctive voice, so it’s easy to know who is talking. The advantage is because we know who is speaking tags aren’t required. Thus, the writing becomes action and dialogue, with some narrative now and then rather than all the time. Even then, I try to keep the narrative down to a minimum.

Once I know the bare-bones outline of a story—how it begins and how it ends—I spend a lot of time finding out who my characters are. Many writers will interview their characters wanting to know about their background: where they went to school, what’s their favorite color, favorite music, favorite TV program, and so forth.

To me, while I want to know my character’s physicalities—such as hair and eye color, height, their job, their tangible goal—it’s more important for me to know their pain, their wound(s), the deep dark secret they don’t want anyone knowing.

To discover this information, I become the character. I do so by writing character journals. I start out saying my (their) name, where they’re from, and so forth. These various details will take up half a page and then, suddenly, I (the character) will say something that begs a question of what do you mean by that, or what happened, or how did that make you feel? That’s when the character goes deep. By now, I’m talking (writing) in that character’s voice. My voice and my thoughts are no longer my own, but theirs. I’m seeing through their eyes, feeling their pain. And, the writing becomes a stream of consciousness in their desire to reveal everything that hurts. Everything that up until this moment, has remained a secret that they can’t live with anymore.

By the time they’ve run out words, I’m holding three-to-five single-spaced typed pages. I have their goals, their essence, their true character—not the one that others in the book get to see and have seen forever, but the one they struggle to overcome.

It’s that pain that drives the character, which in turn drives their response in word and deed, which then drives the plot forward. It’s these elements that then help me plot out the middle, the important emotional points that spin the story into different directions.

It’s that pain that becomes the character arc, the thing that the character must overcome in order to win the girl, get the job, get the prize, and to finally obtain self-respect. It’s the thing the character will no longer have to face in their future.

It’s character pain that attracts readers. They want to see how a character will resolve their wound because that wound could be their own.

It’s character pain that engages readers, that makes them turn the pages. The suffering, the action, the pain.

It’s the pain overcome that provides a satisfying end to any story regardless of how the story ends: happily ever after or bittersweet.

The secret of developing characters is much like an iceberg. It’s not about the ice we see above the surface, the ice a character has shown us up until now; it’s about the ice we don’t see, the ice below the surface, the ice we get to learn about. How deep that ice goes, how big of a problem the ice really is.

So, when it comes to developing characters, the secret I share with you is this: Go Deep.

 

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgePurpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Posted in Characters, Motivation, Plotting, writing | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Failures – Part II

This blog was originally published December 27, 2017, on my Only for the Brave blog, which is being eliminated as I decided to merge the two blogs. Because failure is an important part of succeeding for writers, I felt it was worthwhile reprinting the series about failure here.

*****

My last post provided a list of successful people who failed early in their careers. Did you see it? If not, you may want see it or revisit the list for inspiration. It’s quite an eye-opening list. (Failures: Part I)

But let’s focus on how we fail and how we need to fail in order to learn.

Consider babies learning to walk. They fall down a lot! No baby ever gets up and starts running. They practice.

Kids learn a sport through practice. After school, on weekends, during games, alone, with others.

Most anyone who plays a musical instrument, do so because they practiced. Same with dancers, painters, anyone learning an art, or a trade. They practice. (I say most because there can be the savant that amazes everyone.)

 Failure Is Part of Practice

We learn when we’re frustrated, when we’re unhappy.

Let that sink in for a moment.

We learn when something is hard, when it requires our full attention, our full determination.

We learn most when we fail.

In failure, we learn how to do it right. Edison said, “I learned 999 ways how not to create a light bulb.”

So, how does a writer move from failure to success?

  • Keep writing. Finished your first book? Great. Start writing a second one, while you edit the first. Finished your fifth? Great! Start writing the next one, while you edit, polish, submit, or consider making changes on the other three.
  • Be prepared to gets rejections. Maybe lots of them. I can paper the walls of my house with my rejections. Even the best writers still get them. Know that rejections are never personal. Your work just wasn’t a good match (think dating which leads to marriage) for that publication.
  • Enter contests. Placing in a contest is a sign that you’re writing is better than the average. However, different judges could have determined different results. Humbling, isn’t it?
  • Keep writing. Keep practicing.
  • Take classes. I’ve been writing for nearly forty years and I’m still taking class AND learning new things.
  • Get a degree in writing. Getting my BA in creative writing and then an MFA in drama were the best decisions I’ve ever made. One, because I was forced to embrace writers and readings I never would have chosen on my own, and second, the MFA allowed me to get a day job in my favorite passion and that job became fun! That education both broadened and deepened my writing skills.
  • Read everything, especially read outside your genre. Analyze what you read. Stop and think about that phrase you praise.
  • Write and experiment in different genres. If nothing else, try them just for the fun of it. I learned how to write better fiction by learning how to write scripts. I learned how to write better dialogue by writing plays.
  • Find your niche. Most find their niche in a single genre. I finally recognized that my niche is a variety of genres. When I began having success in romance writing, I became bored. I still write romance, but I write fantasy, nonfiction, and other genres, as well. Thus the romance writing is part of the spice again. Variety keeps all genres fun and interesting.
  • Keep writing. Keep practicing.
  • Learn about the business!!! I can’t stress this one enough. If you know the business, you’ll know when someone is trying to scam you.
  • Learn grammar. Yes, learn it. Find an expert who will teach you the rules. Otherwise, be prepared to spend lots of money to line editors who will fix your errors. It’s not a wasted skill. I wasn’t an expert when I began writing, but I became an expert by having to teach others. Seriously, the best way to learn something is to teach it.
  • Read articles, the how-to books, and then ask your questions. Don’t join a forum and ask questions that you could have easily found the answers to.
  • Join writing groups. If nothing else, find a few people and start your own group. There’s nothing more inspiring than meeting with people who talk your language.
  • Find beta readers. People who will read your work and provide honest feedback. Like finding a marriage partner, agent, or editor, it could take a while to find good beta readers. They shouldn’t be relatives or best friends, however, unless they have a degree in English.
  • Become a beta reader yourself. You’ll learn lots by reading the writings of others. You’ll see your mistakes in their work. And you’ll probably discover that you’re writing is better than you thought.

And above all, keep writing. Keep practicing.

If you still keep failing, remember Edison’s lesson of finding 999 ways not to do something. He had to keep changing his process 999 times until he found his success on his 1000th try. Nine hundred-ninety-nine times. Are you willing to go that distance?

Do you have the ability to change up what isn’t working? To put in the hours of practice?

If you do, then you’ll preserve your way to success . . . eventually.

Happy writing!

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Failures – Part I

This blog was originally published November 27, 2017, on my Only for the Brave blog, which is being eliminated as I decided to merge the two blogs. Because failure is an important part of succeeding for writers, I felt it was worthwhile reprinting the series about failure here.

*****

So many times, I’ve witnessed students and new writers exclaim that successful writers never failed.

That’s when I would share this list of successful people who failed early in their careers.

When I shared this list with my students, immediately I had their attention. I knew what they were thinking: well, if that person could fail and still be successful, then there’s hope for me!

Everyone, absolutely everyone, unless they are a savant, start their craft as a beginner and will encounter failures.

Yes, there are exceptions, but they are few, and more often than not they will experience failure somewhere else in their career. Or they’ll stop with that one huge successful book fearing failure if they continue. Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind, was one such person. Truman Capote, of In Cold Blood, was yet another.

Here’s a list of successful people who failed:

  • Dr. Seuss was rejected 23 times.
  • Michael Jordon was cut from high school basketball.
  • Henry Ford went broke 5 times.
  • Helen Keller graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, became a famous author & lecturer.
  • Albert Einstein was rejected by the University of Bern on his Ph.D. dissertation saying it was irrelevant and fanciful. (And if not for his wife who typed the papers and submitted them, he never would have been published.)
  • Richer Hooker worked 7 years on M*A*S*H and was rejected by 21 publishers.
  • Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times.
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lack of ideas.
  • Beethoven’s violin teacher declared him hopeless as a composer.
  • IBM, GE, RCA all rejected the Xerox machine.
  • Parker Brothers turned down Trivia Pursuit.
  • Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Maurice Chevalier, Shirley Temple, and Laurence Olivier all failed their screen tests.
  • Fred Astaire was cited in a memo by MGM executive after his first screen tests in 1933 that he “can’t act, slightly bald. Can dance a little.”
  • John Grisham’s book, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 28 publishers.
  • William Golding’s book, Lord of the Flies, was rejected 21 times.
  • Pearl Buck’s book, The Good Earth, was rejected 14 times.
  • George B. Shaw’s first five novels were rejected.
  • Mary Higgins Clark’s first short story was rejected 40 times.
  • Louis L’Armour’s first story was rejected 350 times.
  • Stephen King was rejected 41 times before his first manuscript was accepted.

Doesn’t this list give you hope? Sure did me!

Bottom line: The only ones who really fail are those who give up!

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Personal Traits and Deepening Characters

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

July question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

Personal Traits & Deepening Characters

Currently writing a romance series of seven novellas, I’m starting the first draft of the fourth novella, Buried Hearts.

The first one, Shattered Dreams, is already published, with first drafts for the second and third, Burning Desire and Arrested Pleasures respectively written.

Because I’m writing the last first drafts of the last six before any more are published, it meant plotting the stories and creating the characters all at the same time.

Seven couples, seven romances, seven stories, with either the hero or heroine, if not both, all went to school together. Most were in the same graduating class, with two of them a class ahead of the rest. Some are best friends, some dated in high school, some wanted to date the other in high school but didn’t.

In Buried Hearts, Clint Anderson, a life-long resident of Laurel Ridge where all the stories take place, is giving a fiftieth wedding anniversary party for his parents and has hired balloonist, Gabriella (Gabby) King. He gets to know Gabby during the flight with his parents, and he’s smitten.

A long time ago, I learned when developing strong and interesting characters, I need to go deep. Down into the dark where their secrets are hidden. Secrets they haven’t talked about and feel ashamed to let others learn.

I learned that those secrets, those wounds drive that character. That secret determines how they act, what they do, what they wish for. Because I know all these things before I write word one, I’ve become a monster plotter.

Because all seven novellas take place within the same time period, I’m now in the process of plotting out their events on a monster spreadsheet. Did I tell you how much I love spreadsheets?

Plotting spreadsheet

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgePurpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

 

Posted in Blogging, Characters, Inspiration, Laurel Ridge novellas, Motivation, Publishing books, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Making a Difference

Have you ever uttered, “Why bother? It won’t make a difference,” or something like that?

Yeah, I have. Lots of times.

When I started writing and putting my work out in the public forum, I figured few would read my writing, but make a difference? Nah.

Every now and then, a person here and there would contact me via the phone or USPS (pre-Internet), telling me how my published piece affected them that day. As a blessing. As something they needed to hear. As something that made them think. As a reminder. Or, as pure entertainment that took them away from their problem(s) for a bit of time.

I didn’t think too much of those incidences as they were few and far between, though they did make me smile, and I’d put them in my scrapbook. I still didn’t believe I was making a difference. Me? From small town U.S.A.? Who the heck was I to think I could make a difference?

Years later, I started teaching. I watched as students became unblocked. They told me how they were loving writing again or loved writing for the first time ever. That they now understood grammar and punctuation better. Or, how the teacher from grade school or high school who had told them that they’d never be a writer had done them a disservice.

Because of an earlier experience during my bachelor’s degree where I was shown that I was plagiarizing, despite what I had been taught in high school, I became more and more interested in the subject, discovering it was huge problem but little publicized. I started teaching my students on how to avoid plagiarism because I saw them making the same mistake I had made. I wanted plagiarism to never be an issue for them, because not knowing was never an accepted excuse; being accused of plagiarism had and still has dire consequences.

At the time, I had a co-worker who said about my focus on helping students avoid plagiarism and taking the concern university-wide, “Why are you trying to hard? It’s not like you’re going to change the world.”

I forged ahead anyway, because I cared.

My students showed me I was making a difference via their papers. They told me, too. At least, I was making a difference in a small area of the world: my classrooms.

And then later, I graduated with my last degree having written a dissertation, Teaching Students About Plagiarism: What It Looks Like and How It Is Measured, that I chose to make as a free publication, because of the research discovery I made regarding two major studies. One study was pre-Internet, the other post-Internet, where the percentage of actual plagiarism had not changed, which countered those who said the Internet was to blame. That discovery begged the question that became my book’s topic. In publishing the book, I asked to received a monthly summary of its activity.

The book was published in June 2013. To date it has been downloaded 1,499 times to 246 different educational, commercial, organizational, governmental, military, and library institutions in 81 different countries across both North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Had I not requested that monthly summary, I would have never known the extent of its reach.

Have I made a difference? I’d like to think so, both as a writer and as a scholar in this case.

Believe it or not, we all make a difference, regardless of our field of work or where we live: as parents, teachers, military, fire, police, utilities, clerks, assistants, medical, artists, entertainers, rescue, therapists, non-profits, neighbors, communities, and as citizens.

We ALL make a difference and in many different ways throughout our individual lifetimes.

One of the ways where I’ve made a difference just happens to show up on a world-wide map.

So, to those of you who have others trying to stomp on your dreams, your ambitions, your goals, your work…

Ignore the noise and follow your own path.

Posted in Blogging, Inspiration, Motivation, Persistance | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Down the Rabbit Hole a.k.a. Life’s Little Hiccups & Big Booms

I’m behind in my writing.

Again.

I wish I could say that I don’t know how it happens, but I do.

While I accuse Life of sticking out its foot and tripping me so that I’ll look funny with arms flailing as I attempt to regain my balance and where other times I just fall badly, needing time to get back up and recover, it’s a lie.

Small trip-ups have been flat tires, weather issues that mess up my plans, tripping over my feet and bruising my shin and skinning my knee, bumping into furniture corners, dropping dishes of food on the floor, forgetting to pay a bill on time…

Big Booms occur when there’s a huge life-event for someone close to me such as an illness or death, where my computer is having major issues that take days to fix, or being in a multi-car accident that totals my car.

One thing I do know is that Life loves to mess up my plans. No, that’s not true either. Life has no emotions, no feelings. Life has no purpose, no goal, no intention.

Life just is.

A rabbit hole where our time escapes us in a reality of unrealism.

During the last six weeks, I’ve been dealing with an illness of my own creation, the worst kind of rabbit hole. Because of allergies, I’m no longer able to eat dairy foods. Of. Any. Kind.

Goodbye pizza, my beloved. Goodbye favorite comfort foods of lasagna, spaghetti, macaroni & cheese.

Ice cream!?  NO! You can’t leave! How will I survive without you?

It was that love of ice cream that got me in trouble. I didn’t just eat it once. I ate it five days in a row! Feeling no consequences, I was safe, right?

Wrong.

After much consultation, blood tests, and journaling what I ate and reactions, my rabbit hole unreality now consists of avoiding foods that are processed; all foods that I’m allergic to (tomatoes, garlic, vanilla, pork, hazelnut, raspberries, blueberries, casein, cow’s milk, pineapple, cauliflower, coffee, cashew, lemon, salmon, pear, orange, peas, green pepper, kidney bean, paprika, cod, flounder, cola nut, peanut, pecan, and sesame); all sugar except raw honey and pure maple syrup; and all grains, first because of the gluten that I have to avoid, and because I believe our grains are saturated with poisons that have been eliminated in every other country except ours.

To sum it up, I have a leaky gut and six months ago, my body’s inflammation level was at 20%. Today, my inflammation is down to just over 4%. I suspect most of that inflammation was in my gut. And, I was feeling great.

Well, at least I did until I consumed that daily week-long ice cream agenda.

Stupid me.

So, how did these past six weeks become a rabbit hole because I ate ice cream? Quite simply, my body reacted, culminating from an allergic reaction to what I thought was bronchitis. Even the doctor thought so when I went in after four weeks trying to control an uncontrollable cough. The prescription was steroids.

Two weeks later, I went to my regular doctor and discovered it wasn’t bronchitis at all. It was an infected sinus that required an antibiotic, not steroids.

For that six weeks, day after day I lay there, a couch potato with no energy, not even for reading, just thinking about my writing, or rather the lack of it as I felt as if I had become a professional procrastinator.

No one could help me. Only I had the power to climb out of this rabbit hole.

Life isn’t going to rest on its laurels and leave me without trip-ups and big booms.

At the end of my rabbit-hole journey, I’ve learned two things:

First, good health can’t be taken for granted. If I choose to eat stupidly in the future, I will have a stupid outcome. There’s no more thinking that this will be a test. Maybe there’s a chance…  No! The results are in; the food is forbidden.

Second, my writing can’t be taken for granted either. That if I want to write, I have to choose to write. During those major rabbit-hole BOOMS!, I will consider what I learned during my rabbit-hole summer, which I originally posted last fall.

Overall, however, there is no white knight, er white rabbit that I can follow.

It’s all on me.

My Rabbit Hole Summer – originally published October 2, 2018, Only for the Brave blog

Where did the summer go?

Here it is, the beginning of October, solidly into fall, and as I look back at this past year, I feel that I have nothing to show for it. What did I do all that time?

More accurately, I know what I didn’t do. Writing.

I thought about writing a lot. I talked about it even more.  And, I took a number of classes to learn how to become a better writer.  So, I guess, there is that. I did learn a lot through the various classes. Rebecca (Becca) Syme’s class, Writing Better Faster was just what I needed to get me out of my slump.

In her class, I discovered the big reason why I wasn’t writing. I’ve learned that major life-events shut down my creative process.  While I can edit, polish, and get a manuscript formatted, it’s impossible for me to create new words on a new project, meaning getting a first draft done is extremely difficult.

When I think back over other life-events when I wasn’t writing, I remember my sister dying while I was writing my dissertation, which was technical, non-fiction writing, not creative by any means. Because the writing was non-creative and I had a deadline, I was able to bury myself into the task. At the time, I felt like she was always with me, looking over my shoulder as I worked because it as the type of writing she would have done, which were non-fiction journalism pieces. She was really good at it.

Becca’s class was a month-long class and included taking three psychological-type personality tests, which I had done two previously at work and the last through another recent class.  Using those results and meeting with Becca one-on-one through Skype, I discovered there was a logical reason for my so-called writing silence over the summer, in fact for the past year. Where I was activity driven to clean out files, both electronic and paper, clean out and reorganize my bookshelves, go through the stacks of magazines and read piles of articles I’d saved, and other such activities. Another life-event had occurred.

What made Becca’s class special is that she took these test results, which in business was used to see how I fit in with my peers, and she attached them toward my writing. She was able to tell me what my best writing styles and techniques were and how I should use them to become a better writer and/or a faster writer!

For someone who likes to know the why behind anything, I was hoping for some aha moments and I got them. Several in fact. The biggest aha moment was the one I shared above. When I learned that, I stopped beating myself up, and stopped thinking I had been lazy.

Now, I’m better able to plan my schedule based on my new-realized strengths and can easily deal with the other tasks that received major procrastination. I now know how to deal with them.

Are you interested in finding out how you can become a better and/or faster writer? Becca gives classes every other month.

To join the class, go here: https://www.margielawson.com/product/oct-2018-write-better-faster

If you’d rather be notified about an upcoming class, here’s that link: https://forms.aweber.com/form/54/2064782054.htm

Here’s the link to sign up for her newsletter: https://forms.aweber.com/form/83/26292183.htm

As to my writing: I’m happy to report that over the weekend I finished the first draft of Burning Desire, the second of my Laurel Ridge novellas. And I’m now developing the characters for Arrested Pleasures, the third story in the series.

Woohoo!

March 30, 2019 Update: Arrested Pleasure‘s first draft is written, and the characters and plots for the remaining four novellas in the series have been developed.

Looks like I might not be as behind as I thought. 🙂

Posted in Motivation, Persistance, Procrastination, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Year Means New Opportunities: But Wait It’s February Already!

Okay, I admit it, I’m a bit behind. But since there’s a meme on Facebook that says January was a practice month, that 2019 started with February, I’m on time!

Because it is the new year, it’s time to talk about goals. Or rather about goal-making.

Not successful at achieving your goals? Maybe I can help.

The SMART goal approach is becoming a hot item among writers; well, at least with two, Maris Soule and Diane Burton I know through my writer’s group, Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America (MMRWA). In fact, both recently blogged about making 2019 goals using the SMART method.

I learned about SMART goals when I taught English classes at Davenport University, a business college. Our students saw the SMART goals methodology used in most of their classes. All the committees I worked on used them, too. In those committees, spreadsheets were used to identify and then track our goals.

Is it any wonder I learned to love spreadsheets? Well, actually, no. I was already in love with spreadsheets before my academic employment. My love for spreadsheets occurred when I was working at W.K. Kellogg Institute for food & nutrition research, where I was a liaison between the cooks there and the procurement department at Kellogg headquarters. I had a wonderful supervisor who taught me how to create cell formulas and create pages that talked to each other. Some of those skills I was able to teach to my academic peers, and now I continue teaching those skills to my writer friends.

I’m big on goals. So are Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, and Norman Vincent Peale. These three men, through their books which I read in my 20s, showed me the value of having SMART goals, even though they weren’t called SMART back then. Well, at least, not in their books.

I’m a fan of making to-do lists, too. Daily ones. So, naturally, my goals end up on my daily to-do lists. I have a master lifetime list of goals, a yearly list, which then gets broken down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

Do I achieve all these goals? Heavens no. But, here’s the secret. Because of these lists, I achieve way more than I if I didn’t have goals or the lists.

Only when I start getting specific with the weekly and daily tasks is when I start crossing off items. The more items I cross off the list, the more I want to do. It’s truly addictive. And, there’s something magical about writing the goals down. If you’re already a list maker, you already know the best part of any list is crossing it off the items. It’s a rare day, though, when I cross off all tasks.

So, what is the SMART goal?  It’s an acronym for:

Specific

Measurable

Action Oriented

Realistic

Time Bound

SMART goals are why I love our writing group spreadsheet so much, because it’s a way to Measure the Specific, Time-Bound, Action-Oriented, Realistic, monthly, writing goals we individually set up. I use present tense verbs, or as infinitives (To + Verb) when writing the goals:

  • To finish editing [book title]
  • To clean out files
  • Research [book title]
  • Write one chapter of [book title]

I then take those goals and break them down into daily, sizeable chunks, doable in 10-15 minutes, others in an hour or so and place them in planner’s calendar. In the years I’ve been doing this, there’s only one month where I completed all the goals. Most of the time, I feel good to accomplished half of them.

Without the spreadsheet, without the SMART goals, I wouldn’t be doing much. Yup, I’m that lazy. That forgetful. Get that sidetracked. I refer to my list multiple times throughout the day.

Bottom line, it really doesn’t take a new year to create new opportunities. Each day is a new opportunity to start a SMART goal, even at 11:55 p.m.  After all, a lot can be done in five minutes. Such as creating a goals list for the year.

So, what are my goals for this year?

  • To republish two of my first three books published. The first one, Determined Hearts, is already published.
  • To plot out the four remaining novellas in my Laurel Ridge novella series. The first one, Shattered Dreams, is published. #2 & #3 have the first drafts written. Ideally, I’d like to write the first drafts for the remaining four, then start publishing them at the end of this year and next.
  • To edit 2-3 screenplays and publish them. My first screenplay, David & Goliath is already published.
  • To sort materials for writing how-to series
  • To plot out a historical (can’t decide if as a novel or a screenplay)
  • To write quarterly blogs (A huge improvement over last year’s few postings)
  • To schedule on calendar promotional days throughout the year. DONE!!! (On these days, I’ll spend creating Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest promotional posts and/or ads. During 2018, I recognized I was doing promotions 80% of the time, writing only 20%. I want to flip those percentages.)

Actually, I do have a few more goals, but you get the idea. And you can see how I cross them off and write DONE at the end of the line. It’s both thrilling and fulfilling to write DONE.

And, that’s what this blog is: DONE! One-quarter of the way done for this quarter’s blogs.

So, how about you? Do you use SMART goals? Does this blog make you want to try using them?

Posted in Goals, Inspiration, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

9 Tips to Creating Inspiration

Inspiration doesn’t just happen. Inspiration is the reaction of doing something else first. In all good stories, characters act and then react. In the same way, there are actions, you, as a writer, must act first. The inspiration will follow. Here are nine different actions, different ways of getting started with the writing so that the reaction of inspiration can follow:

 1. Create a regular workspace and/or workplace.

Some settings or locations will inspire you to write more than others. Find those locations that work best for you. I know one writer who prefers bookstores and coffee shops. Another prefers the backyard deck with her legs propped on a chair and the computer in his lap. The best locations are those where you can easily move into your zone. Quickly.

Caution: Don’t get so married to your inspired locations, though, that you can’t work anywhere else. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Learn to write anywhere.

I know some writers who say they can’t write where it’s noisy. Putting conditions on your surroundings will create limits of 1) when you can write, 2) where you can write, 3) what you can write.

I’ve been able to write in airports, playgrounds, on a bus, train, plane, or in a car. I’ve written in various restaurants and coffee shops. I’ve written while standing in line, while sitting in traffic at a long stop light, or while waiting for a long train.

If a place is particularly noisy or has annoying background music, use headphones and listen to your own preferred music. In fact, the mere action of listening to your music will put you in the zone more quickly than you can imagine.

Regardless of where I am, once I start writing, soon, the world around me disappears. Yes, I’m cognizant of what’s going on around me, but those people and the noise don’t disturb the bubble I’m in, the thought process, the writing.

3. Learn to write both by hand and by machine.

If you limit yourself to just one mode of writing, you limit opportunities to write.

By being flexible. I’ve been able to add pages by hand, which once I get home, I’d type up, editing as I typed, often doubling the word count.

4. Carry your work with you.

Never leave home without some kind of writing: outline, printouts of the pages that need editing, or a scrap of an idea of a scene that you can flesh out by hand.

I wrote an entire book in mere moments because I always carried the last pages completed or an outline with me everywhere. The bulk of writing time came from lunch hours, where I had a sandwich in one hand and my pencil in the other.

While driving, I can dictate dialogue. Then when I get home, I’m writing around that dialogue. With today’s electronics, dictating where the machine can write the text is the way to go. You can clean up its errors later.

I enjoy editing more when I’m not at my computer, when I’m waiting somewhere or for someone. I’m focused, and generally uninterrupted, on the task.

5. Write first, reward yourself after.

E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and our phones distract us. Write first, then check your media or e-mail. You’ll be surprised how much more you can get done in a day by writing first than if you wait until the end of the day to do the writing.

 6. Schedule writing & honor the appointment.

Too often, we treat writing like a task on our To-Do List. Then, we don’t write because we’re tired or it’s too difficult, having delayed the task all day. Before we know it, a whole week has passed with no writing.

Treat writing like an appointment. Don’t bump that appointment unless it’s for an extremely important, serious reason.

7. Write every day.

Cultivate the habit of regular writing. Every day or, at least, five days a week. Minimum. It means putting your butt in the chair and just doing it, whether you feel like it or not.

8. Be willing to write crap.

Give yourself permission to write garbage. Garbage is good. In fact, a first draft should not be about creating perfection. The second draft is where you’ll rewrite by moving paragraphs and sentences, deleting words that don’t fit, and adding words to clarify the meaning, to add missing scenes.

Following drafts will be about more rewriting, then revising, and then finally dealing with the errors, which is where the perfection phase is performed. Trying to write perfection from the beginning stop you in your tracks. Guaranteed. You’ll begin to feel uninspired because you’re not created that perfection you hear/see in your head.

Stop trying to edit while you write first drafts!

9. Just gut it out – just get the first draft done.

The best writers, the most successful writers don’t worry about or wait for inspiration. Nor, do they try for perfection in that first draft.

They just write. Day after day without analyzing or criticizing what they’ve already written.

They just do it. They gut it out and get it done. Only when it’s done, can the analyzing, the rewriting, the editing begin.

In summary:

  • Write that first draft without editing.
  • Write it fast!
  • Write regularly.
Posted in Inspiration, writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments