People have funny ideas about what it means to be a writer. Here are some common ones I’ve heard from fellow authors, publishers, editors, and professionals in the field.
1) You must be rich if you published a book
The chance to make money and become ‘rich’ on a book is 1 in a million. It’s no different than any creative art or business venture. A few make it big, some can manage a semblance of living wage, many are starving for their calling.
2) Publishing is a get rich quick scheme
Oh boy is this a delusion. I blame the popular media lens where the one in a million get held up in celebrity culture and normalized as rich and famous. It all looks so easy, so desirable, so flawless, so very very fake.
Writers put countless hours into their work and promoting it, even if conventionally published. Also, publishers (self or conventional/traditional) make almost nothing on the published product.
3) You do nothing all day but write about day dreams (Fiction Authors)
Okay, this one isn’t that far from the truth, but, let’s look at the complete truth of the matter.
Ever heard of a man named Tolkein? He created his own languages with grammar rules, pronunciations, and slang. So did Sci-Fi author Gene Roddenberry. Ever seen a specs manual of one of the famous Enterprise ships or alien ships? SO. MUCH. WORK. With a lot of structure, science, and academics behind them. Authors spend countless hours preparing before writing the book. Mapping out complex social systems and structures, hundreds of character sketches, and outlining are just some of the work authors can put into a book. They do this to make it believable, enriching, and immersive for you, the reader.
For those of us that don’t character sketch or map or graph or whiteboard everything — “Discovery Authors”— we can sometimes end up rewriting dozens of times or more. And I’m not talking about the standard four or so revisions a completed manuscript goes through. This is rewriting by deleting tens or hundreds of thousands of words, and spending long hours every day writing again and again and again. Just to get it right.
4) Your work is done after you write the book
All a first draft has to do is exist – Jane Smith.
After that first draft? Edits. Revisions. Marketability. Publishing. Cover artists and designers. Formatters. ISBNs. CIP data. ONIX data. Meta data. Laws and copyrights. Beta Readers. Revisions. Edits. Printing. Distribution. Sales. Marketing. Availability. Author Events. Book Events. More Events. Advertising. Marketing. Bleeding. Crying. Hair pulling. Networking. Blog posting. Social Media. Driving around selling books from the trunk of your car. Explaining over and over what your book is about. Agents. Websites and content. News releases. Interviews. Business. Accounting. Numbers. Contracts. Contractors. Sub-Contractors. Bills. Business laws. Your first born. Taxes…
Should I go on?
5) Publishing with a conventional publisher means I hand them my manuscript and they take care of things
Again, I blame the media/celebrity culture. Publishing has been significantly impacted by the economic concerns of the modern world. They don’t have teams of editors to spend hours on your manuscript. They often hire contractors. They don’t know your book as well as you do. They know the market. And they know how to edit, expect revisions. Oh, and marketing your book? That’s mostly up to you, dear writer. Yep, even if you’re conventionally published. There are no freebies, you’ll be pulling from your own pocket and working your behind off. That advance, you often have to pay it back.
6) It’s not a real job
If you took that arts or humanities degree or that degree someone didn’t understand and got the “what on earth will you do with that education?”. It doesn’t stop when you turn it into a profession they don’t understand. Don’t believe it’s a real job? Can you do 16 hour days every day of your life to make four dollars a year? Sorry… I’m ranting a bit. But seriously. It’s a real job. It’s a really difficult job. Anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying. Don’t believe me? As a few freelancers or authors or communications professionals, see what they say.
7) “I can’t do it” and other self-doubt lines
It’s work. It’s a hell of a lot of work. But you can. Believe me. You can do it. What does it take? Walk away from those doubtful words. Focus. Finish a manuscript. Then another. Learning. Dedication. Laughing at yourself. Forgiving yourself. Not comparing yourself to others. Hard work. But, if you want to do it enough, or, if like me you can’t stop doing it because you might suffocate to death and drown in untold stories, then you’ll do it.
Visitors, thank you for coming to the new and improved Inglenook, a Catherine Milos website. Author Spotlights were a regular feature on CatherineMilos.com and the tradition will continue here on this author-geared webpage.
Our most recent guest is author and speaker, Adam Dreece. Adam Dreece is the best-selling author of The Yellow Hoods series, The Wizard Killer Episodes, and The Man of Cloud 9. He’s seen enormous success as a self-published author in just a few years.
Thanks for being with us here today Adam!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a run of the mill dyslexic, severe asthmatic, chronic pain ‘enjoying’, prolific author. There are few incentives more great that pain on one side, and knowing that you’re “not supposed to be doing this”, to get you writing and building your author career and every day.
What is your favorite movie, comic, or book?
There are two recent movies that I feel capture two sides of me: Mr. Right and John Wick. I’ve been a HUGE comic book fan ever since I was about 7 years old. My favorites would shift depending on the writing, though my first favorites were Spider-Man, Iron Man, Superman, and Batman.
What are you most grateful for?
Despite my health challenges, I’m able to enjoy my family and do something I’m deeply passionate about. Every book has a “HOLY CRAP, I DID IT! I DID IT!” moment.
What is your favorite food?
Dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free pizza. My wife makes the most amazing crust, and we turn it into a true marvel like few others.
What does storytelling mean to you?
Storytelling for me is about creating a world, tale, and characters that the reader can really experience. I’m told that I write video, that people feel like they are standing right there in the room with the characters, and that’s what I’m after. It’s the oldest of human traditions, and in my mind, one of the most sacred. Without our stories, we are lost. Stories bring hope, warning, sorrow, joy, and more. There’s nothing like being a weaver of all that. Nothing.
It’s all carpe diem, seize the day. After twenty-five years of doing nothing with my writing, I had two medical events in 2009/2010 that flipped my life upside down. I decided that I would not dream of being an author, but I would start now. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was committed to trying to learn as I go and outrun my mistakes.
What are some of the challenges of self-publishing?
There are many, so let’s look at three:
1. You are the everything department. From selecting an editor and cover, formatting and production, never mind MARKETING MARKETING MARKETING of the book. You have to make all of the decisions and everything is reliant on you. When I started, I knew nothing and had a mammoth amount to learn.
2. Echo-chamber. It’s very easy to isolate yourself from getting real feedback about what you’re writing. In particular, this is dangerous when you’re writing something that’s very unclear in terms of its audience. I’ve seen some works that were intended for a blur between two audiences however it had natural turn offs for both audiences. The net result? A lot of effort went into putting out a book that couldn’t be appreciated and was hammered in reviews. Getting some real feedback or hiring a development editor could have avoided the issue.
3. Time. On top of the writing, there’s social media engagement, newsletters, and all of those tasks that I mentioned in #1. Where’s the time? You’ve got to become ruthless with your time as well as make sure that you don’t severe the tie with those that support you the most. What’s the point of “succeeding” if it means you scorched the soil from which you grew it?
Which of your books do you love the most? Why?
I had to stop and think about this question. Right now, I’d say it’s the fifth and final installment in The Yellow Hoods. There’s some much emotion and power in that book, so many gets wrapped up, all the while so much new fertile ground is laid for where things are going. In particular, what happens with Tee and Elly gets me emotional just thinking about it.
Which of your books do you feel the least affection towards? Why?
It’s one thing to say that all of my books are my children, and I love all of them, but honestly there’s not one that I love less. I put my heart and soul in each and every one of them. Take The Man of Cloud 9, for example. To date, it’s my book that has sold the least, however I know that as a sci-fi thriller novel I’m building a nearly entirely new audience and that’s going to have a longer burn to build up a level of audience like The Wizard Killer did quickly. However, there’s is so much me in that book on so many levels, as well as so much misunderstanding of me in that book, that it will forever have a special place in my heart. It’s also a goodbye to my software career in many ways.
So what about the first book of the Yellow Hoods, Along Came a Wolf? That was me not just taking down the dream of being a writer off the shelf, taking it apart, and doing something about it, but it has a tenderness and sophistication that I know if I try to touch it, I will dispel the most important part of what enchants so many readers. Never mind that it was my daughter’s nudge, and a silly bedtime story that I told her, that created a crack in the damn of excuses which was that book, and it caused a best-selling series to gush out.
At the end of the day, maybe it’s because I leave nothing emotionally, intellectually, or imaginatively on the table when I write a book. I truly love each out and could go into details as to why.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve drafted my first non-fiction book which is about hand-selling books. It’s based on a popular seminar I’ve given a number of times. I’m also writing my first fantasy space-opera, Tilruna. Season One will launch in September and I’m going to bringing a whole universe into people’s lives.
There’s an extra-special part to Tilruna for me, which was a world and tale that I created for Dungeons and Dragons eons ago. I still have the duo-tang of notes for it. While what I’m doing uses in a limited way, the essence and mythos I created, are there. I’m SO excited about it.
You ran into a bit of a stumbling block by going Amazon exclusive. Can you offer a bit about what happened and where people can learn more from your experience?
For those that would like to know the full story, here’s my blog post and the YouTube videos (One, Two).
But in brief, I put my Yellow Hoods books into the KDP Select program around December 9th. I thought I’d see if I could get more readers from Kindle Unlimited. I did a hard push on promotions, and one of those came back to bite me. Whether its because they are directly associated with scammers, or because scammers are looking for victims through those that advertise with this particular service, I saw an unbelievable spike in my page read count (Amazon pays per page read). One day I had an extra 25k, the next day 0, then day three had 10k. All of those page reads were accounted for by the time I got up in the morning.
I reported it to Amazon, and they told me that there was nothing weird or wrong. Around January 12th, I was informed that my account was being terminated. All of my books vanished.
They ended up restoring my books and apologizing. The department that had told me everything was fine was supposed to have shared my emails with the anti-fraud department as a matter of protocol, but didn’t. Well, the fraud folks defected bots reading my books.
Scammers will upload their fake books (i.e. nonsense books or books with the same page 1000 times or whatever) and will use bots to read them, generating money for them. However, to make those bots harder to detect, the scammers will make them read other peoples books. Amazon assumes that if someone is benefiting from it, i.e. the innocent author who would potentially get 5 cents from the reads, is in on it. Then wham, author gets shutdown hard. In Amazon’s defense, this is an extremely hard problem to resolve, and I believe they’re looking at ways to get better at determining those that are in on it versus those who are innocent victims.
You have developed significant success in such a short period of time. How did you do it? How do you feel about it?
One of the things that I’m notoriously bad at is recognizing what I’ve actually accomplished and appreciating it. I feel like I’m in a kayak looking at the rapids ahead and getting all tense, not realizing how far down the river I’ve gone. It’s by spending time helping out other authors, which I try to make sure I do each and every week, that helps me realize I have things to offer that I picked up along the way.
How did I do it? Sacrificing 90%+ of my TV time and all of my video game time was one of the things. Another was by giving myself deadlines that were hard but achievable, and sticking to them.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I wasn’t willing to let that stop me.
What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
Give yourself permission to make a mess. Also, if anyone’s discouraging you or trying to help you by telling you “the hard truth,” find a way to block them out.
What do you want to know from readers?
I love hearing what touched them, what moments or characters did they connect with.
Also, you can get ISBNs and other details to order them from your favorite store here.
There’s also my blog.
AND lastly, if anyone would like an “Adam Dreece 3 book sampler”, go here.
Catherine: Hello Readers, Writers, everyone. Today we have author Andris Bear joining us to tell us a bit about her paranormal fiction (with angels) Angel Unborn. It is part of a series by the way. Thank you Andris for being here, it is an honor to be able to interview you.
Andris: Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for having me.
- Tell us a bit about Angel Unborn.
Angel Unborn is a paranormal romance about a woman, Joey Benton, who thinks her life is falling apart when, in reality, it’s finally coming together. Her assigned protector is even less enthused about their pairing than she is, and she fights him at every turn, but destiny will not be denied. And hers is to stand in defense of humanity against the darkest being ever created.
- Who is your favorite character from the first book?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one—I have so many for so many different reasons. If I had to choose just one, I’d say Devi, the Angel of Destiny. She is meddlesome, conniving, and half crazy. Not to mention the life of the party. She is a lot of fun to write.
- What can’t that character live without?
Purpose. Her greatest satisfaction comes from a soul meeting its destiny, and she will manipulate whoever and whatever to make sure that happens. Whether said soul likes it or not.
- What do you love most about being an author?
I love the creativity and the fact that only I can bring these stories to life as they are in my head—there is no right or wrong, just what comes out on the page. It’s freeing to create worlds and characters and guide them to their fate. But the best part is sharing my stories with others and hearing from them that they loved them. That anyone else loves my characters as much as I do is such a joy.
- What do you dislike most about being an author?
I’m a control freak. Lol. I have writer friends who can write a full length novel in two months—it takes me eight months to a year because it must be just right! I stress and fret over every stinking detail that it’s a miracle I haven’t given myself a stroke yet.
- What is the most important piece of advice you have for other writers and authors?
I don’t have to follow my own advice, do I? Because I’m not good at that. Lol. I think the best advice is to give up control (See?! Can’t do it!) and take it one step at a time. All the details that seem overwhelming at the beginning will fall in line little by little, and the next thing you know, it’s a done deal. And then you can have a nice, stiff drink.
- If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I’d love to see Scotland and The Vatican, but I’m a homebody, so the idea of putting on a bra and pants to leave the house holds little appeal to me. I know, I know, I’m terrible!
- What is your favorite TV show or movie?
My favorite TV show would have to be Supernatural because Dean. Just Dean. I love me some him. My favorite movie is Clue. Tim Curry makes me happy on every level.
- How can readers get their hands on your book(s)?
All of my books are available across all major e-book retailers (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and Kobo), and the first in my Deadly Sins, Angel Unborn, is free, so you can try it without risk.
- I hope you folks caught that – her first book is free. Did you know, many of the authors featured on this blog have free works to introduce you to their story? Andris, what is the best way for folks to get in touch with you?
- Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or novel-doubt?
Only with every breath. 😉
- If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be?
Lucille Ball. She was strong, classy, and determined. She was beautiful, but I love that she was admired for her work ethic and willingness to make people laugh, often at her own expense.
- Is there anything you would like to add?
Other than thank you for having me, nope!
Well thank you for your time Andris and hope future readers will pick up your books, all of them. Right now!
Okay, maybe you aren’t all that confused about Alpha and Beta Readers. Maybe you’ve got an awesome team behind you. Great! But a quick internet survey clearly indicates there is confusion abundant for new and veteran authors and those readers who might be interested in such a role.
What is an Alpha or a Beta Reader?
Well, the short of it is:
Alpha Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript after an initial draft. The manuscript often has not been edited. It’s not uncommon for an Alpha to read before the author edits the first draft.
Beta Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript which has been edited and is shortly due for publication.
What do they do?
They read. The main goal is to provide feedback to the author to help them gauge audience reception, improve and catch last-minute plot/story holes, and catch embarrassing errors that can easily occur after review after review and hour after hour an author and their professional editor put into a work.
How are they different?
Alphas look at a book for general issues in the story, they don’t concentrate on grammar or punctuation or syntax. They do focus on abhorrent characterization, missing dialogue, missing description and general appeal of the work.
Betas look at a book for appeal to an audience, they catch plot holes, grammar, punctuation, spelling issues, characterization issues, and focus on reader experience including why they loved sections or were thrown out of the book by something.
What’s so great about them?
For the Readers
Alpha/Beta Reading offers the reader sneak peaks into upcoming books, or gives them an opportunity to get goodies from the writers they love before anyone else does (alphas usually get the work even before the editor). It’s a pretty awesome gig for the bibliophile.
For the Authors
Alpha and Beta Readers offer invaluable perspectives from different walks of life. Some authors seek out Alpha and Beta Readers for their experience, cultural awareness, profession, and genre likes to ensure their work is on the mark with facts, industry, and reader perspectives. They’re a first or last line of defense against the never-ending edit stream, helping to stop major problems and minor annoyances.
What isn’t so great about them?
For the Readers
Good Alpha and Beta Readers can also end up spending time on a manuscript they despise or by an author who is ‘precious’ about their work – as my communications consultant has described. Authors who are precious about their work, who struggle with criticism can be a big turn-off for great readers. As with all art, which is a very personal creative endeavor, it makes sense for authors to hold their works close to their hearts. As a professional artist who seeks to make a living off of their talent, it doesn’t make sense to let that care and investment create a barrier to growth and connection with fans. The impact on reputation is strong. Adam Dreece offers a great example for how to handle criticism point blank from a fan (and Alpha and Beta Readers are fans).
For the Authors
Good Alpha and Beta Readers are hard to find. Authors need constructive criticism, keen eyes, and willing hearts. The reader who just reads works to offer an ‘it’s good’ or ‘it was okay’ is a hindrance on a team of professionals. This is why I advocate that Alpha and Beta Readers be compensated for their time. Good ones are working for the author. They deserve to be paid or somehow appreciated for the time and energy they’re going to put into a work.
There is a great deal of contention in the community about this. Some readers and authors believe whole-heartedly they should not charge or pay for these services. Others won’t waste the time on readers who aren’t professionals. Why? Professional Beta Readers tend to offer higher quality works, are often other authors and editors and reviewers with industry experience, and can deliver constructive criticism. But not always. There can be a great number of fee charging individuals who also just don’t cut it.
How Do I Become an Alpha or Beta Reader?
It’s all about networking, and how you present yourself. But first, you have to decide if you’re going to do it for free, or professionally. If professionally, you may have to set up an actual business. Check with your local municipal, provincial/state, and federal offices regarding a home-based business.
You’ll need to decide if you’re Alpha or Beta Reading or both.
Next, decide how much time you’re willing to dedicate. Make sure you’re willing to offer constructive feedback by deadlines. A little research can go a long way – find question sheets or checklists online to help identify key issues to look for.
Know any authors? Ask them if they need one.
Another great resource is Goodreads.com. There are many groups set up just for readers and authors to connect. Find an author’s post seeking a reader, or put a post in the right group/topic indicating your favorite genres, themes, topics and authors and that you’re available to Alpha or Beta Read.
There are some online groups and community groups set up as well. Check your local library, writing association and guilds to see if they have any connections you can tap into.
Not a professional? Don’t worry. Audience readers who enjoy the genres they read in still have a lot to offer. If there are sections you hate or love, the authors need to know that.
How Do I Get an Alpha or Beta Reader on My Team?
Ask supportive friends and family who can offer truthful, constructive feedback. Or check out Goodreads.com (which you should be on already if you’re a published author). There are many groups set up just for readers and authors to connect.
A google search or inquiry to your author community might yield professional reader groups or editors willing to Alpha or Beta read for a nominal fee. An editor Alpha/Beta reader is good, they’ll catch a lot of things audience readers won’t. Have both on your team, audience and professionals, but make sure you offer compensation to both. You’ll create a team of loyal supporters who can help bring magic to your manuscripts for years to come. Not to mention, you have a small group to tap into for reviews. I recommend you have no less than 5 and no more than 15 for a manuscript. Integrating comments can be a real challenge from more than 15. If you have more than 15, split the group. Have two phases of read through with two different Alpha/Beta teams. Alternatively, ask some to offer reviews online shortly after/before the book is published and some to Alpha or Beta Read. While reading the reviews, you should take notes on areas for improvement and success.
Want to know more or want Catherine on your team (she’s an editor/Alpha/Beta Reader too!)? Contact her.
Nine ways to conquer your writing stress from thesis to novel to essay and everything in between. Come to think of it, these nine things apply to just about all types of stress…
1. Retrain Your Brain
You obsess about not writing and are riddled with guilt because you should be writing.
Stop it. Silence those unhealthy, intrusive thoughts. If you are obsessing about ‘shoulds,’ you won’t be able to write when you actually sit down to do it. You burn out your brain and body by expending energy worrying instead of actually writing. Focus on Whatever You are Doing Right Now. Breathe. Count to Three. Focus on what you are doing right now. Are you sitting still? What is around you? Walking? What do you hear? Staring at a computer screen? What do the keyboard and mouse feel like beneath your hands? When you are done, do the same for whatever comes next. Stop wasting time on ‘shoulds’. Live in right now. You will write. You will finish the project. It’s more important that you be mindful. If you are having trouble breaking the obsession cycle, reach out to a professional therapist or doctor in your community. Workplaces, universities and schools, health programs and clinics often have free or low-cost resources.
2. Create a Schedule and Stick to It
Writing is a project: Conception – Composition – Completion. You have deadlines. Set milestones and reachable goals. One day you may dedicate six hours to researching and the next two hours to outlining. You may do a lot of prep work. You might not actually write anything for a while, but it’s still writing work. Don’t know where to start? Try AuthorMedia.com. Make your schedule achievable. We all want to finish and move on to what is next. It’s human nature. It’s natural. Don’t fight it, it’s part of the driving force behind your creativity and creation, but DO set it aside.
DON’T allot 10-16 hours to work. You will turn into an exhausted, angry, caffeine fueled ball of chaos with anxiety so tangible you will pixelate before your friends’ very eyes. A human mind can only focus for so long (anywhere from 8 seconds to 20 minutes according to various sources). The body can only be in one position for so long. You will do your best work in shorter, focused bursts when you are rested and healthy.
3. Take Breaks
You know the negative effects of sitting too long. You start to shift after 20 minutes. You perch on the edge of your chair, unaware of or ignoring your need to get up. Move.
You are torturing your body. You are working against yourself. Move. Not only will your body thank you, your mind will to. And, your project will get done faster. Author James Patterson takes breaks during his writing routine. Put these in your schedule and stick to them. Take them when you need, but remember, this is work. Keep your breaks under control. They are not an excuse to procrastinate.
4. This is Work
Treat writing like work. A thesis, a novel, a short story, a poem, a blog, they are all work. They require research, time, and effort. Make and keep a schedule, set goals within reasonable time frames, and reward your successes. Stop making excuses, stop torturing yourself. Stop avoiding and stop overworking. Be present and be focused. Act like this is a professional task. Get the resources and materials you need. Consult experts. Operate with professionalism. Do your job.
5. Have a Sacred Space
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Dedicate a box, a table space, a library or café, or an office to your writing. You don’t have to have an entire room, but a room or space designated solely for writing will make you more productive and help your focus. Appreciate the space you choose, settle in, and blaze ahead. Lock the door to your mind and ignore distractions. Find inspiration from Writing Spaces: Where 9 Famous Creatives Do Their Best Work. The work you are doing is important. Treat it so.
Creativity and focus are yours when you are healthy. Exercise is a need. Stop avoiding it. You want to do it. Your body sends signals of stress through muscle tension, stiffness, feeling cold, nausea, headaches, blurred vision and itchy eyes. Fidgeting? When was the last time you went for a walk, to the gym, or ran through yoga or martial art poses? An exercised body is an exercised mind. Sitting for extended period of time can restrict circulation, causing lapses in memory and cognition. Get up and go.
7. Eat Properly
You want that comfort food. You need that comfort food. You crave it. You might even rage until you get it. Having a complete meal feeds your brain and body – your most important writing tools. Skipping meals or grabbing quick fixes increases your costs and adds empty calories, which drives you to eat more. They also deprive you of the nutrients you need to keep your work flowing. Invest in yourself. You are the only way this project of yours is getting done. That novel won’t write itself. That brain and body won’t write without food.
8. Get a Life
Take care of all of your needs. Your brain is built to do more than one thing. So is your body. Dedicate your time and energy to other areas of your life and watch your creativity spark and stamina grow. Walk away from that computer and socialize. Take a shower or a bubble bath. Take care of those other to-dos. Go on a mini-vacation, or even a real vacation. Get enough sleep. Most importantly, have fun. And lots of it. It can help inform your writing. It’s the best way to overcome that writer’s block. There are a number of models in psychology regarding the dimensions of wellness/well-being. Check out eight of them here: http://campusrec.eku.edu/eight-dimensions-wellness
9. Reward Yourself
You are working hard. Compensate yourself for it. Spend time in your favorite place, go out to your favorite restaurant with friends. Go on a date (with yourself, significant other, a friend). Read a book for pleasure. Do nothing for a bit. Reward that hard work and dedication. You deserve it.
Juggling multiple jobs, family life, and additional responsibilities (school, charity, elder-care, etc) on top of being self-employed as an author, editor, and consultant means a regular balancing act. I am no expert, but I have achieved a working peace with the Work-Life balance I have in my life now. The thing is, it keeps changing on me.
Many of us have long days that end in being overwhelmed. A typical day in the life of the average indie author may include: kids (sleep schedules, extracurricular activities, daycare, homework, health care, education, recreation, feeding, clothing, cleaning), parents and extended family (care for the elderly, errands, family get-togethers), ourselves (exercise, eating, sleep schedules, recreation), our partners (coordinating schedules, building relationships, quality time, emotional and psychological support), piled on to that are education, friends, errands, volunteering, repairing and maintaining dwellings, finances, pets, commuting, vehicle maintenance, work (deadlines, changes, restrictions, conflict, networking), self-publishing, writing, editing, working as our own publicist and accountant and not to mention the hundreds of passwords, pins, names, faces, emails, tasks, dates, events we need to remember. We feel at a loss as time passes us by.
Declutter. Our lives are filled with clutter that throw off our author work-life balance: thoughts, noise, stuff, schedules as full as possible in fear of missing out on something. Declutter your work space, declutter your home, your mind, heart and spirit. Let go of anything that is not serving you, anything that collects dust in the corners, that creates unnecessary work or that you are not willing to dedicate your time to. Check out Becoming Minimalist’s Blog for 10 Creative Ways to Declutter.
Set reasonable boundaries for your time. In the words of a wise comedian Bob Newhart, STOP it! Take a deep breath, exhale. Focus on what you are doing right now. Stop worrying about what is to come. Be aware of what you are looking at, doing, and saying fully, mindfully. In a world of multitasking mayhem, the art of focusing and finishing one thing at a time has been lost. Stop working through breaks and lunches, or skipping meals. If you are on a phone call, focus completely on that phone call. Slow down and become immersed in what you are experiencing right now. Set clear boundaries and don’t compromise yourself or your time for anything that isn’t a priority. Oprah offers great guidance about beginning to set personal boundaries. A lack of reasonable boundaries around your time is a sure-fire way to undermine work-life balance and increase your stress. It can be especially difficult for self-published authors who wear a dozen or more hats to get the job done, but trust me when I say your creativity and writing will thank you.
Plan and Prioritize. Take your days one at a time, but plan ahead. This may sound contradictory, and it is in a way. It’s a difficult practice. Plan and prioritize a strict sleep schedule, more time in the morning or evening for yourself, and quality time for your family and you. Plan meals in advance, this also helps save money and time on groceries. Plan and prioritize going outdoors and exercise. Prioritize and plan fun. But be open and flexible to changes. Stick to what is important and necessary at work, and at home. Mike Robbins offers 3 Ways to Re-Prioritize Your Life. Stuck on prioritizing at work when everything seems to be important? LiquidPlanner has a solution for you.
Learn to say NO without feeling guilty. To truly declutter our lives, we must learn to say no gently, but firmly. We can only handle so much in life. Is it healthy? Is the stress it brings manageable? Is it enjoyable? If it isn’t absolutely and truly necessary or important just say no. Don’t know how? Start with 11 steps from Wiki-How. Saying yes to too many things both at work and home is one of the biggest reasons people become off-balance.
Acceptance. Accept and respect that you have limits. Accept that there are things that you cannot change, that you cannot control (especially other people). Balance is a practice whether you are at work or home, accept that you will never achieve perfect balance. Adjust your focus, effort, and time that as your boundaries and priorities change and don’t feel guilt over it. Working yourself to exhaustion will lead to worse consequences down the road; not to mention, it will deprive your creative brain of the space it needs. GoodLifeCoaching Blog – Living the Creative Life offers a great article about accepting your limitations.
Author Becca Andre joins me today. She has an interesting history: chemist, mother, wife and author. Ms. Andre recently released The Catalyst of Corruption, the fourth book of her wildly exciting, alchemy filled paranormal fantasy series.
Let me start by thanking you for this opportunity. Your series, The Final Formula has been inspirational and so much fun to read.
I understand The Final Formula series arose out of an exercise to write what you know. Your website offered a bit about your history, and it sounds like you have been writing for quite a while. Could you tell me a bit more about some of the key moments that helped you mature as a writer?
Becca: Yes, I have been writing for quite a while. Decades, actually. But for most of that time, writing was just a hobby. Something I did to amuse myself with no serious thoughts toward publication. Sure, I entertained the occasional fantasy about being a full-time writer, but I never pursued it—until I wrote The Final Formula.
As you mentioned, The Final Formula arose from a write-what-you-know exercise where I took my everyday world and gave it a magical twist. I’m a chemist, so I made my main character an alchemist, and set my story in our modern world. I really liked the finished product and for the first time, I wanted to share what I had written.
Since I live in a small town and didn’t know anyone else who wrote, I joined an online workshop. I would credit that as the best thing I did on my journey to becoming an author. By getting feedback on what I had written and learning to critique other writers, I began to see what worked and what didn’t. I also made some great friends who I still rely on to beta-read for me.
All your characters are so interesting and well crafted. What process do you follow to create them?
I’m not the kind of writer who uses character sheets or writes loads of backstory about their characters before starting a story. My characters are my story, and the two come into being by playing off each other. Often, I’ll start with a character in a situation, or a pair of characters and build the story from there. The key is to work in conflict right from the start. If I start with two characters, they’re going to be on opposite sides of an issue, or their personality types will naturally conflict. Take Addie and Rowan for example. She’s headstrong and confident, and he’s a control freak. Throw them in a situation where they both think they’re right and…fireworks!
I do think there are some necessary skills that every writer should to develop in order to create believable characters that come to life on the page. Two key components are natural sounding dialogue and portraying emotions honestly (no melodrama!). The easiest way I find to do this is to put my characters in a situation and let them react. When it feels like I’m just the scribe and they’re telling the story, I know it’s working.
How many more books can we expect in The Final Formula series?
The plan for The Final Formula Series is five novels with a novella between each. This is a slightly different take on the typical series format. The novellas are part of the overall story, but they are told from a different point of view than the main novels. Unfortunately, shorter works aren’t as popular with readers, so I can’t do as much with the novellas as I would like.
Published works require more than just an author. What sort of team members do you have to help you reach the final point of publishing a work?
Once I complete the first draft, I send it out for a couple rounds of beta-reads. The first readers are fellow writers (whose work I beta-read in turn). As writers themselves, they’re great at spotting problems with plot, pacing, and other places where I fall short in the craft department. I address their concerns, then send the draft out to a second group of beta readers. These folks tend to be avid readers and/or grammar junkies. They’re great at catching my mistakes with story details, logic, and general grammatical shortcomings. Once I fix all those problems, the book goes to my awesome editor, Shelley Holloway who fixes everything that’s left. Finally, the gang over at Streetlight Graphics does my formatting and cover art (they also designed my website).
It sounds like you have quite a team! What do you love most about being an author?
Not having to leave the house? 😉 Seriously, my favorite part is interacting with readers. It’s so cool that other people enjoy hanging out with my imaginary friends as much as I do.
What is the most important piece of advice you have for other writers and authors?
Write every day and once you feel comfortable with sharing what you’ve written, seek out feedback. And by feedback, I mean from someone other than your mom or significant other. Preferably other writers who are serious about their craft
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Do I have to pick just one place? I love to travel. It’s been our family goal to visit all fifty states here in the USA. So far, Hubby and I have 48, and the kids have 46. Outside mown country, I would love to see some of the famous landmarks/cities the world over. Places that are geographically interesting or places that are steeped in history. The list is endless.
What is your favorite TV show or movie?
I don’t watch much TV, although my son and I watch Ghost Adventures most weekends. My favorite movie would have to be Pride & Prejudice – the 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries. It’s a great adaptation of my favorite novel.
How can readers get their hands on The Final Formula series?
The Final Formula Series is available at most online retailers. The first book, The Final Formula is free.
Last question. What is the best way for folks to get in touch with you?
Thank you Becca. It has been a pleasure getting to know you!
Thanks for having me, Catherine!
Well, that is all for now folks. I seriously recommend Becca’s books. I could not put them down. Take care out there!
A recent article by the Encyclopædia Britannica identified 6 fictional languages. As a nerd, my reaction was How cool! But why learn an additional language, fictional or not? And for that matter, what does it take for masters like Tolkien to create languages? While I don’t have a linguistics background like Tolkien, I did do some research.
According to the Telegraph , several different psychological studies have investigated and identified the benefits of learning an additional language. These included not only the obvious social perks, but also improvements in thought processing and memory, intelligence levels, and observational and decision making skills. As well, by learning another language’s mechanics -tense, grammar, punctuation, phrasing, slang, pronunciations- individuals improve their first or initial language skills. After all, language learners can compare structures and gain a better understanding of mechanics between new and older languages. The article also claims that additional language learning improves multitasking development and can add an average of 4 years before a person’s onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia related disease.
I would guess that benefits aren’t exclusive to fictional, pictorial, and alphabet based languages. Numerical languages, like computer programming languages and mathematics offer the ability to communicate with machines, manipulate, and understand our world in alternative manners, for example.
Languages have been created or altered for as long as humans have existed for many reasons such as alleviate isolation, oppression, or communicate secretly like cryptic languages and codes or Nushu the women’s writing developed in China. Another unique linguistic development is sign languages and other non-verbal languages like body language.
Fictionally, creating a language adds a sense of reality or quality to the work. A language can solidify a new culture or race – like Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek or Tolkien did in his Middle Earth.
If you’re curious as to the how part, we live in a world now where there is a wiki how for that.
In case you were wondering, I have created a language. It was done as an exercise for education not for an actual piece of fiction I have worked on or published yet. Here is the process I followed.
- Create a character or two.
- Consider: culture, origin, location, birth, family, setting (modern, ancient, fictional), sound, values of the culture and character(s), what does the character or culture communicate about? Maybe the character is an animal – consider how animals communicate now – body language, noises, chemically, psychically?
- Decide if your language is pictorial, alphabetical, or numerical.
- Create an alphabet.
- If you are using phonetics, grammar, special phrasing, tense, suffixes, pluralization, and conjugation – decide on some of the rules. If you want/have to – create a dictionary.
- Write a journal from the character’s point of view, in the new language for a few days, weeks, or even years.
- Further develop.
Additional steps could include grabbing friends who are nerdy and teach them the language, talk in the language, then work things out further. Store it in a special folder, book, or document. Season to taste.
Writing is not an easy task. Especially for those of us writers with such an intense calling to the profession that to deny its call means physical discomfort, emotional turmoil, and psychological strain. You think raw talent, storytelling, and the imaginings inside your head are enough to make you a successful writer? Think again.
Let us start with the basics. The foundation of any writing endeavor is the language in which it is written. Language holds very technical components that are not always easy to navigate, from syntax and grammar, to rhythm and flow, to word choice or meaning, to placement and sound. Those terms you learned (or were supposed to learn) in school like plot, antagonist, protagonist, denouement, and tense are critical to a successful story. If you don’t have a grasp of your language’s structures and tools, you won’t be able to learn to manipulate them to create meaning, capture audiences, or take artistic licence. Which brings us to the second must-have for any aspiring writer: Creativity.
The majority of humans imagine from an early age. Children imagine invisible friends and invent stories. Imagination is part of the human condition and it is good for the development and conditioning of the mind. But creativity is so much more than imagination. Creativity is what grasps the seed of imagination and cares for it, shapes it, and guides it to grow into something more. Creativity is a process of careful consideration, discipline, and the utilization of tools developed over time. It is the artist’s goals and community coming together to solidify, communicate, and unify ideas and emotions.
Where creativity is the process which hones the spark of imagination, drive is what ensures you actually start and finish what you set out to do. Without drive or will power, you can’t overcome those lonely moments where self-doubt creeps in and you are tempted to destroy the work you’ve done or just give up. Writing requires commitment and something deeper than just creativity to keep you going in the darkness. Often this will be a message that must be shared, a calling, or a curiosity to see it through.
Perhaps the most important aspect of writing is the company a writer keeps. Community – those you surround yourself with before, during, and after the writing process – is what ensures the success of your writing. The people who support and encourage you, who offer honest feedback, who inspire and guide your work, will be the people that ensure the success of anything you write. Without community, your writing is never as good as it could be. Errors are missed that affect your story’s message and appeal. Your work never reaches its audience. Without a strong community, your work will could be limited to the confines of your own imagination.
And those are only the basics. Then you have to develop and refine these basics through years of study, practice, and mistakes before you reach success. Writing includes character construction, exposition, setting, and structure. It includes learning how to engage with your audience, how to market and sell your work and your skills as a writer. It includes using your own experiences to inform your writing. It requires research, revisions, and determining how you measure success. It requires self-awareness and a willingness to learn. It includes an understanding the publishing industry and knowing the rights, regulations, and risks of a writer in your country. Writing is hundreds of hours of review, revision, and rewriting.
In professional writing there are no quick wins or easy paths to success. There is an unending supply of trial and error. It isn’t an anybody-can-do-it profession, contrary to what the cheap e-books or blogs or online magazines would have you believe. A successful career as a writer is difficult; it is work. It can also be a great deal of fun, but only if you are willing to put in the effort required to succeed. Yes, it is possible. Yes, it is absolutely amazing to be able to create stories out of your imagination. No, it is not easy to be a writer. But if you believe the work is worth it, it can be a very rewarding profession.