Wednesday Writing Tip – Be Your Own Boss, At Your Own Risk

Being a writer is one of the best jobs in the world. It’s my dream career, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. But there are pros and cons to being your own boss in the Indie-writing world, all which can make or break ya.

Here’s my Top 20 list of Pros and Cons of Being Your Own Boss. Enjoy it with coffee, if you’d like. Or vodka. I won’t judge.


TOP 20 PROS

  • No Supervisor (unless your editor is waiting for the manuscript)
  • No Commute (unless you write away from home often)
  • No formal work schedule, or clocking in and out
  • No penalties for being late or calling in sick
  • No uniforms required. Or washed hair. Or makeup. Or clothes at all, for that matter.
  • No formal degrees needed
  • Introverts welcome
  • Procrastinators welcome
  • Multi-tasking dragon trainers, unicorn riders and Middle Earth trail guides always needed
  • Ego inflation automatically included for all book awards won
  • Tax write-offs for travel. And coffee. And printer ink.
  • Knowledge gained in spelling, editing, formatting and marketing
  • Mastering of ‘Internet Research’. Followed by, Mastering of panic-mode ‘Clear Browsing History’
  • Constant practice in the Art of Humility
  • Expansive knowledge gained in caffeinated coffee and tea products. Also in chocolate. Or hard liquor.
  • Paying bills with writing income
  • Feeling accomplished and successful
  • Making friends within the writing community
  • Being stalked online by readers
  • Spending more time at home with family and pets.

TOP 20 CONS

  • No Supervisor (you’re on your own to figure everything out)
  • No Days Off (if not writing, you’re thinking about writing – 24/7)
  • No formal work schedule
  • No employee benefits (health insurance, dental insurance, office romance possibilities or water cooler gossip)
  • Showering may become so sporadic that the neighbors notice
  • Introverts welcome (being alone full-time does bad things to the mind)
  • Procrastinators welcome (an Achilles Heel for some writers)
  • Insomnia
  • Ego inflation can reach dangerously high levels. Friends might be lost. Family might move out. The dog might even run away.
  • Self-Employment tax
  • Knowledge gained on spelling, editing, formatting and marketing can create madness. And broken laptops due to constant head-banging.
  • Weight Gain. Also, Flat-Ass Syndrome
  • Bad reviews are guaranteed
  • Hearing at every social event for the rest of eternity, ‘You’re a writer? Have I read anything of yours?’
  • Addiction to any, or all of the following is expected: Social Media, checking email at least ten times a day, hard alcohol, chocolate, junk food in general, really comfortable pens, notebooks and Forensic Files
  • Constantly checking online for pirated work. And laptop sales.
  • Feeling accomplished and successful is almost always followed by moments of self-loathing and self-doubt
  • Meeting crazy people within the writing community
  • Being stalked online (or in person) by readers
  • Spending less time with family and pets because writing consumes everything

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Wednesday Writing Tip – Speed It Up

I’m not the fastest of writers, but I’m not as slow as I used to be. And I don’t mean the speed of my typing (which for a book, averages about 1.5 – 2 thousand words per uninterrupted hour) I’m talking about the entire process, here.

After high school I started so many ‘projects’ that it’s almost embarrassing to go back and look at all the unfinished WIP’s hanging out in my file cabinet which are now birthing millions of little dust bunnies. But as I work on the eleventh book to be published, I now understand why it is I didn’t finish those stories when I was younger.

I got hung up on the little things.

Seriously. I freaked myself out about the process: the spelling, the grammar, the type of comma I should use, the plot, the outline, the spacing and paragraph settings on the computer or the paper I was writing on, the pen I picked, etc… Basically, the entire project seemed like one red flag after another the more I thought about it. My mess of scattered thoughts and worries destroyed the projects – every time.

All the little things strangled the starving artist inside me. I became a creativity killer.

Fast-forward almost two decades (relax, I’m not that old) to my first ‘completed’ full-length project that I started in 2011 and published just over six months later, I HOPE YOU FIND ME. I didn’t worry about any of the things I mentioned above because I just started typing, in fact, the only thing I changed in the Word document initially was the line spacing (I made it 1.5 because at the time, single spacing made me feel ‘cramped’ and double spacing made me feel like there was no end whatsoever). Now, IHYFM isn’t the best written book, I know this. I mean, it was my first. But I learned so much from that book about how I’d write the rest after it. The process itself is of course different for everyone, but when starting something new, especially a book, the more you try and figure it out before hand, the harder you make it on yourself.

So here are my tips for writing faster

  • What do you do before you start writing? If you’re the outlining type, keep it simple and to the point, and save the creative time for the actual writing. If you aren’t using an outline, still take a moment to jot down a few words about the characters, beginning, middle, end and a few climatic moments you’ve already thought of so you have some direction to go. Eventually, the characters take on a life of their own anyway.
  • If you are typing in a Word document (or equivalent) take one minute to adjust your paragraph settings and styles. Seriously, only one minute. Anything more than that might drag you over to the OCD side. Like I mentioned before, I prefer to write with  1 or 1.5 spacing, the first line indented or hanging at about .3, no extra spaces before or after paragraphs. All other formatting options can (and probably should) wait till the end.
  • Simplify. While writing a first draft, the font you use is NOT important as long as you can read it without distraction. Setting up all your headers ahead of time isn’t important (unless you want your chapter headings to all look the same right out of the gate). Times New Roman or something similar (I’m using Liberation Serif size 12 for my current WIP) are perfectly suitable fonts. Boring? Yep, but if you’re actually writing and not worrying about these things, the font becomes a teeny-tiny issue. Seriously – don’t overthink. Keep it simple in the beginning.
  • Use page breaks between your chapters. After you hit the last enter/return of your current chapter, insert a ‘page break’ so you are automatically moved to the next page. It’s a lot easier than hitting the enter/return button 100 times to move to the next page. That gets old REALLY fast while editing through the first draft. Plus, extra spaces are something you’ll have to remove anyway if you create an ebook.
  • Ignore the ‘page’ numbers of your document and pay attention only to the word count. Mine is displayed at the bottom of every document (currently using LibreOffice) but in some programs you might have to seek out your word count from the Tools section (or equivalent). The page numbers don’t matter for a few reasons: If you are writing double spaced, single space or something in between, the page number of your document will not be an accurate indicator of the length. Font type, paragraph styles and size of your text impact the length of your document. Telling yourself you want to write one more page might be deceiving if down the road you change any of the above things. Telling yourself you want to write 500 words (or 5,000) is the most reliable way to look at it. You can change everything about your document’s looks with a few clicks, but the word count will still be the same.
  • Don’t let grammar or spelling bog you down while you write. There’s a reason why editing your first draft takes time. But if you stress about the little things, then edit later. I see writing and editing as two totally different jobs, which take up different sides of your brain. You’ve got the analytical side for editing and the creative side for writing. Trying to cram both processes together for your first book might make your brain explode. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but seriously, you’ll write faster if you concentrate on writing first. If you come across a word, phrase or paragraph you aren’t ‘sure’ of, then highlight it and move on. If you stop the creative flow to constantly edit as you write, you’ll slow yourself down. Think of a snail towing a tractor trailer. Don’t let that be you. Spelling and grammar skills are expected from a writer, but it’s totally okay to have Thesaurus.com up in the background while you write (or a nifty diagram like THIS from Pinterest – check out my Writing Love board for more awesome writing tips). Use whatever tools will make you a better writer, so that editing is not as painful. For me, because there are gaps in my writing sessions (I have kids, my entire life is one big interruption) I’ll go back and read either the previous chapter, or the last few paragraphs I wrote before I start the next to refresh my thoughts, but that’s it. I never stop writing in the middle of a chapter unless it can’t be helped. That’s a personal style, but it sure makes it easier for my brain to flip the right switch when I sit back down at the computer.
  • Just write. If you’ve been a writer for a little while, you’ve read this and heard this elsewhere probably 100 times before today, but it’s so totally true. Just write – every day and every hour that’s available. If you have a story to tell, then for the love of chocolate, tell it. You can edit the manuscript and play with the fonts and format the paragraph styles and create your cover page after you’ve finished the story. That’s called editing and formatting and they are entirely different monsters, which leads me to the next suggestion…
  • Outsource what you can’t or don’t want to do. If you are self-publishing your book, chances are you need help with editing, formatting, cover design, etc…so outsource for it. There are a ton of writer groups online (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) where it’s easy to seek out the people that can do what you can’t or don’t have time for. Check references always, to make sure your investment in these people will produce a polished final project. And, before you release your work to the general public, have a few trusted people beta read for you (beta readers read the unpublished work first). They’ll be able to spot errors you might have missed, and any plot issues that might need clarifying. Beta readers rock.

So, there you have it, folks. If you follow those tips above, or even just tweak a few, chances are pretty high you’ll speed up the writing process and maybe even avoid a few bouts of writer’s block.

Writing can bleed a person dry, but you know what, it’s totally worth it in the end.

Happy Writing, y’all!


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Wednesday Writing Tip

WWT


Stumbled upon this via Pinterest – what a fabulous writing prompt/story plot!

Thanks, Writers Write, love this one.

Check out my Writing Love board on Pinterest for more fun writing tips!

And the name of the 4th Station book is…

DtKnow

I’ll Share Yours, if You Share Mine…

After getting my second private message on Facebook last night about doing a “review exchange” from an author I don’t know, I got rather pissy. Not with anyone in particular, but with this overall competition for book reviews us Indies have and how getting lost in that haze to be better than the next turns us into mindless drones.

I admit, I like positive reviews myself, but I’ve never paid for one, or bugged a stranger via their inbox for one. I wait patiently (or impatiently, depending on whether or not I have chocolate in the house) for reviews to come in organically. I ask for them after book releases – yes. I want my readers to know I appreciate their thoughts. And I expect honest reviews – which means they aren’t all favorable. But I don’t ‘trade’ reviews with strangers to boost the numbers. I mean, why? Are we so desperate to reach that magic review number, that we forget how to be polite to people we don’t know online? Where’s the tact? The respect for the craft? Pffft.

Let me point something interesting out: the two messages I got last night were from people I’m not ‘friends’ with online who saw one of the freebie posts I put up in about 20+ free book promotion sites on FB. I had no clue who these two people were, let alone know anything about their books when they reached out to me. There was no, ‘Hey! Nice to meet you! I’m an Indie Author, too! We should talk books sometime!’ It was straight on – I saw your free book. Take mine and let’s spit out reviews ASAP. Ugh. This is a turn-off, I won’t lie. I’ve heard about scammers claiming they will buy your book IF you buy theirs, then of course they don’t. I’ve heard of similar stories with review exchanges. I know that shiz happens. I’m not into shady, y’all. I want REAL reviews from people who REALLY read my book and ENJOYED it. Or, hated it. There are those out there too. lol

So, what is there to do about those who think a good way to promote their books is to seek out authors they don’t know and offer up the highly suspect ‘exchange’ to boost their sales or number of reviews as quickly as possible? I mean, surely, eventually, they’ll learn, right? Probably not. Instead, let’s stop competing. Let’s keep writing. Publishing. Marketing and promoting the hard way, and making REAL friends. Let’s not waste our time on the ones who could care less about us as people, or about our writing. It’s an annoyance most writers I know don’t have time for. Facebook has this nifty BLOCK button for these very reasons.

And for those who don’t know HOW to get real reviews, in the back of your book, kindly ask for one! A simple reminder online every so often works too! “Hey, did you enjoy (insert book title)? Please leave an honest and spoiler-free review when you have time!” Some readers simply don’t THINK about doing this. Some don’t want to. And that’s totally okay. Because if the book is worth reading, the readers will want to tell others about it.

Unless you have a ginormous die-hard following when you release a new book, chances are your reviews will take time to come in. And this is TOTALLY okay. Just write the best book you can, get the best cover you can, and put that baby out there. Make friends with other authors so you can both learn, share books, reviews, etc…with people you trust. This is much better than pissing off potential writer-friends by filling up their inbox’s with ‘I’ll share yours, if you share mine’ requests. Use your manners online, friends, use your manners.

Happy Reading, Everyone!