How to Avoid Writer’s Panic

dog

Your face when you look at your to do list.

What is Writer’s Panic, you may ask? Well, it starts when you realize you haven’t been writing as much as you should. Then it deepens when you realize you’re falling behind. Next you’re neglecting your side projects to the point where they don’t exist, and something completely unrelated to writing completely monopolizes your time.

Now, it might be a happy thing. You could have a baby or adopt a kitten or go on vacation, or there could be a death in the family or a stressful move to another city. Either way, once you settle back in, all you can do is sit there and think about how very, very far behind you are.

Having just had a quarter-life crisis of sorts, I am there. I have an unedited novel from two years ago that still needs finishing, for god’s sake. Follow these steps and you will be up and running in no time.

Step One:

Get over your Writer’s Block. I have a post on that here, and it basically boils down to forcing yourself to write. The easiest way I’ve found is to just write whatever I feel like it whether or not it’s any good. Just sit down in front of the computer and make words happen in some sort of logical order.

Step Two:

Create a list of everything you’ve been working on in the last year or so (or shorter/longer, depending on how long you’ve been away from things). Organize the list in groups of things that are nearly finished, things that you’ve just started, and things you absolutely want to finish.

Step Three:

Decide on what to start on first. Have a short story that just needs editing? The choice is clear. Do you have five half-finished novels and no idea which to start? Think of which one is going to be the easiest to write and which ones you would weep to see go unfinished.

Step Four:

Don’t set any hard deadlines. Until you’re back into the swing of things, deadlines will only make you worry more. You can maybe set goals such as “finish novel B this year” or “write every other day at least” but you have to find a relaxed balance where you can stretch your wings, as it were. It might take time for some people to get back into the groove of things and there’s no use in stressing yourself out when you don’t have to, especially when returning from any kind of stressful break. 

Ask family members and friends help for motivation if you need to. Activities like NaNoWriMo or writing groups can help motivate you without putting any real pressure on you. You just need to remember that writing is supposed to be fun, no matter how much the opposite can seem true sometimes.

To celebrate my return to blogging, I’ve put my book Wildflower Crown for free on Amazon! Click here to claim your copy for Kindle. (It will work on a regular computer too, just download the app!)

Thanks for reading 🙂

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How To Be The BEST Author Ever

So I’ve been an author for six months now and I think I can say without a doubt that I know everything there is to know about being an author. Since there is literally nothing left for me to learn, I’ve decided to be generous and share my vast knowledge with my lowly followers.

1. Stop reading!

Seriously, a lot of people will tell you to do the exact opposite, but don’t listen to them! Reading will only cloud your judgment and make your own novel worse. Do you want that to happen? NO. Not only that, but you might accidentally lift elements of that story and end up PLAGERIZING. You SERIOUSLY don’t want to do that, do you? And you waste so much time reading when you SHOULD be using that time for WRITING.

2. Make sure EVERYONE knows about your book!

Marketing is very important! If it’s not obvious that you have a book out when people visit your blog, you’re not going to sell any books! Make sure that there are AT LEAST three links to your book on every blog post, otherwise it’s like you don’t even have a book out. You should always ALWAYS always tell new followers/ commenters of your book and where you can find it. I like to use a copy/paste message with a link to my book on Amazon that I send to everyone who comments on, likes, or follows my blog! This is also a good idea on Twitter, to immediately tell new followers where to buy your book!

3.  Never accept a bad review!

Like I said, marketing is very important! If your book has bad reviews, no one is going to want to read them! You have to be aggressive and go after the bad reviewers, explaining how they’re wrong and telling them to either remove their bad review or change it to AT LEAST a four star review. NEVER accept a one or two star review. That’s career suicide!

4. Make up some Frequently Asked Questions to post an FAQ on your blog!

I understand that many of you starting out may not have enough fans to put together an FAQ, so you can just make some up! By acting like the questions you’re answering are asked a lot it will make it look like you’re more popular than you actually are and get people interested in you and your work!

5.  Always write for the market.

Being an author is a JOB. You’re in it for the money! If you write a book no one wants to read, you’ll end up under a bridge! ALWAYS write about whatever is currently trending. Right now, I’d suggest a vampire BDSM book!

6.  Make sure readers know what your main character looks like!

What is a story without a main character? NOTHING! Your readers NEED to know what your main character looks like, from the color of their eyes to that birthmark on their left buttock. The best way to do this is to open your book with your character looking in the mirror and describing everything they see! It’s both comprehensive and immediate, so your readers will start off knowing just what they look like down to the smallest details!

7. Don’t worry about consistency!

All you need is a good story. If your character loves lemons in chapter one but hates them in chapter ten, no one is going to notice! As long as the story goes on, it doesn’t matter if things are consistent as long as there is lots of action!

8. Make sure your story has an agenda!

You aren’t writing JUST to make money; your book has to SAY something! Whether it be about gay rights or abortion or feminist issues, make sure your book has a hidden agenda! Your book is useless if it just tells a story; it also needs an important lesson that will stick with your readers!

9. Don’t worry about your book cover!

You know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? It’s completely true! Readers don’t care what your covers look like, they’re only reading your description! Just look at these covers, and these books are published! [1] [2] [3] [4]

Alright, but in all seriousness, don’t listen to any of this advice. (Also, to be fair, books with terrible covers can sell [1] [2] but only if you already have a huge fan base and a bunch of books already out.)

Are you writing the right story?

Being part of a writing community is fantastic. Whether it be a writers’ group on Facebook (like I’m in) or a close group of friends, it’s nice to know that you can share your passion with someone who understands and get feedback on your work.

Lately, I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions.

“Would you hate this character if he did X?”

“Does this scene come off too creepy?”

“Is this typical for erotica, or should I take it out because it’s not really that sexy?”

While it’s great to have feedback, I realized that I was asking too much. If I asked a question every time I had a doubt about something in my novel, it’d be a list of questions as long as the novel itself. It’s nice to hear that yes, your character Bob does come off as being sensitive and edgy, as you wanted, but if you rely too much on what others say, you’re going to lose your writing voice.

On the same group I started asking too many question to, I see a girl who posts something almost every single day.

“Will this sell even though my character is a strong female who talks back?”

“Will people still buy this even though the romance happened a little too fast?”

“Would you buy a story about a prince and princess if the princess is really smart?”

Basically, this woman is obsessed with what will make her book marketable and what other people want her to write. You should write for your fans, yes, but you HAVE to write for yourself. If you’re not, then you’re going to be miserable.

When you ask yourself whether something is working out or not, you don’t need to ask someone else’s opinion. Analyze the scene in relation to the story at large. Go with your first instinct when writing it all in the first draft, then agonize over those little details in the second or third. The time for getting opinions is during editing, when you have an editor or beta readers looking over your work.

Sometimes you may ask yourself “Am I writing the right story?” If it’s a story you feel needs to be told about characters with strong voices that you’re proud of, then the answer is yes, and you don’t need anyone else’s confirmation to tell you that.

What have you written that you’re most proud of?

Grammar Tips for Editing

Now, I am not an English major. I’ve never really paid attention in English class. I have no formal editing training (or writing training, for that matter) but I consider myself a pretty good editor. (Better when editing something I haven’t written, but I believe that’s true for us all).

How did I get good? Practice, the same as anything else. Google is one of my best friends while editing, not only for fact-checking, but for grammar-checking. Here are some of the most common mistakes I make, listed in no particular order.

Farther verses Further

Farther refers to physical distance, like the car was farther away, while further refers to a more abstract concept, like her orgasm can’t be much further.

Lie verses Lay

You lie down next to your lover. You lay down a blanket first (if you wanna get laid). (More here, because I still mess this up.)

Faze verses Phase

Your two-year-old is going through a phase, but the phases of the moon do not faze him because he is not a werewolf. Phase is like a transition, faze means to be affected by something.

Effect verses Affect

The computer was affected by the lightening, though that had no effect on the student’s final essay because he was a fucking hipster who wrote it all out by candle-light. Affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Affect can be a noun, but very rarely, and I’ve only seen it used like that in a psychology journal, so typically you can ignore that exception.

Assent verses Ascent

The mother signed the permission slip as assent for her son’s ascent of Mount Everest. I think this is a mistake people make not realizing that it’s a mistake they could make. If that makes sense.

Wary verses Weary

The owner was weary of how wary the dog was of everyone. Weary is tired and wary is cautious. Again, I think this follows under the same category as the pairing above.

Rein verses Reign

The peasant pulled on the reins in the rain during the reign of King Charles the Butt. If you mess this up in a fantasy novel, your readers will notice. Probably. (A historical novel, too.)

Again, these are either mistakes I make or mistakes I am paranoid about and Google each time I use them. (I’m looking at you, lie verses lay.)

What mistakes do you most commonly make?

 

Author Dos

To accompany my previous post, Author Don’ts, I’ve compiled a list of things you, as a new author, should do.

  1. Be nice to everyone you come in contact with. I’m not talking about every John Doe you bump into on the street, but anyone you contact through your blog/Twitter/review requests, whatever. Always make an effort to sound polite and well-meaning, even if someone is being a twit.
  2. Unplug for a while. Always set aside time to just sit down and do what it is you need to do, whether it’s editing, rewriting, writing, outlining… whatever. Procrastination is your enemy, and Facebook and Twitter are leading the attack.
  3. Write something new. I’m not talking a new manuscript, but a new idea. Relying on cliches and old tropes might get you sales, but you can’t be afraid to be an innovative author!
  4. Keep organized! This applies to everything, from editing notes to review requests. Everything saved on your computer should have smart titles and everything in a physical copy should be together in one place. Keep track of who leaves good reviews and which blogs you come across who offer to do reviews for your genre. Also keep track of your sales and expenses down to the cent, so you can finally celebrate when you’re out of the red and know what your next novel will take.
  5. Edit, edit like the wind! … or something. You don’t want to publish a first draft, or a second draft, or a third draft. Maybe a fourth or fifth draft, depending on how things are going. You want to make your novel perfect to stand out from other novels. Literally anyone can self-publish these days, so you need to establish yourself as a serious author.
  6. Keep your feet on the ground. Most likely, your first novel isn’t going to sell enough copies to allow you to quit your day job. Don’t expect your first book to be a runaway success. Or your second. Or your third. Just keep writing until you build an audience, and watch as that audience grows. It may take some time, but if you try hard, good writing will stand out.
  7. Write a good author bio. Wherever your book is, there will be an author page. You want it to stand out, not read like a formula, 3 kids + cats + Michigan = author. Mine mentions pugs because they are my one true love. If people think of me and say, “Oh, she’s the pug author who wrote that romance book” I’ve succeeded. Don’t forget to link your blog to your page, which I know for a fact can be done both on Amazon and Goodreads.
  8. Keep learning. Not all of us writers majored in English. Even for those of you who did, you don’t know everything. If you’re uncertain about a certain aspect of grammar, look it up. Read essays on character development and the precision of language. It’s important to continue growing as a writer.
  9. Read like your life depends on it, because it does. Your life as a writer, that is. Reading is the best tool we have for increasing literacy, and that’s just what you need to do to be a competent writer.
  10. Help other authors! Without the help of fellow bloggers, I wouldn’t know how to number pages properly on Microsoft Word. For someone formatting their own book, that was an issue. You can build a vast network of reviewers, cover artists, and editors just by connecting with your fellow authors, and having friends who also know your craft is invaluable.

On the topic of number ten, Marigold over on Verses Blurb is giving away free copies of her book. Just click the picture to go to Smashwords, and you can download a free copy in honor of her awesome new cover!

the-black-swan-inheritance-final-cover

Also as a bonus, 21 Tips from Famous Authors.

Author Don’ts

As with anything, being a new author means making a few mistakes. With the help of the people in the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook, I’ve compiled a list of things new authors shouldn’t do.

  1. Publish a book too soon. Just because you want to get something out there doesn’t mean you should rush. If self-publishing, take the time to make sure that your story is ready. If putting out a sequel, make sure that it’s really at it’s best, and that you’re not just pushing it out there to appease fans.
  2. Never talk religion or politics on social media unless it directly relates to what you write. There is a fine line between supporting gay rights and posting incendiary comments and arguing with people. You don’t want to turn people off from your story just from some stupid comment on Twitter that they disagreed with.
  3. Another one on that front, never respond to a one-star review. Or a two-star review. Or any reviews, unless it’s to say thank you for the review. Never get into an argument with a reader over your book, even in private. You don’t want to be accused of attacking a reader, because that will inevitably turn readers off from your work. If someone gives you a bad review you don’t deserve, rant to your loved ones in private and keep it at that.
  4. Don’t criticize other authors. I have broken this one by ranting against Stephanie Meyer and E. L. James, but Stephanie Meyer will never see my posts again The Host and E. L. James is a bitch to her fans. If you must speak out, make sure it’s something you can stand behind. You don’t like their book? Do not slam them over it. They plagiarize and bash fans who give one-star reviews? I personally would not engage, but if you must say something, be sure to stress the fact that you don’t condone their actions.
  5. Never describe eyes as “orbs” unless they’ve been removed from the person’s head.
  6. Never beg people to buy your book. If people know you have a book out, don’t shove it down their throat. People will be annoyed if you see them as a dollar sign.
  7. Don’t follow every blog you come across. Sure, some of them might follow you back, but does that matter? Sure, follow writing blogs, author blogs, publishing blogs… but fashion blogs? Gardening blogs? These kinds of blogs follow me all the time, and that’s the end of their interaction with my blog. I don’t care about followers, I care about the people who actually read what I post and talk with me. I care about the people who also post relevant posts that I can continue the conversation with.
  8. Do not start or end the book with a dream sequence. That’s lazy.
  9. Don’t let yourself get distracted by talking writing. You can blog and hype your book all you want, but unless you actually write it, nothing is gonna get done.
  10. Don’t give up. Never put yourself down. No one can tell a story like you can, so be motivated! The world needs your story!

How to Keep Track of Reviews

Alright, so you’ve just published a book. You’re looking for reviews. You just go out and ask everyone you can to review it, right?

Wrong. Well, sort of.

I made the mistake of failing to be organized enough in my quest for reviews. I should have kept note of EVERYONE I contacted for a review, but I ended up losing track and someone was contacted twice… oops.

What you need to do is use some spreadsheet program to keep track of everyone you contact. It should look something like this:

excellThe important things to keep track of are name, where you found them, where/if they reviewed, how to contact them, and if they liked it.

When you’re ready to publish your second book, you can look at the list, copy it to another sheet, and just remove all the entries for people who never got around to reviewing your first book. With Genie out of the picture, you can now contact Aladin, Jasmine, and Dat Tiger for reviews. Only… Jasmine rated your book 2 stars, so she probably won’t be a fan of your second book, so you can take her off the list too.

Each time you see a new review and add it to the list, it’s important to note if the person liked it and mentioned wanting to read more (in which case they’ll probably be happy to get another free book) or if it wasn’t really their thing.

This might seem silly and an anal way of going about things, but I contacted a LOT of people about my book. I wish I would’ve made a list of them all so I don’t end up bugging someone who I already bothered about the first book.

When you publish your second book (or third or fourth) you’re still going to have to do some footwork to, but this will make it a lot easier. It will also give you an idea of how much work to expect. In reality, the example above would be three no responses to every one review.

Just remember, NEVER get into an argument with someone over their review of your book. If they post a racist rant calling you a cunt on Amazon, contact Amazon to have it taken down. If they say “I didn’t understand why the butler killed the maid. There was no motivation there!” don’t reply with the page numbers that spelled that out. Just let it go. No good can come from arguing with critics. Learning to accept bad reviews is part of being an author.

End of November

Alright, now that November is over I need to actually finish my novel still. It doesn’t even seem half done, so there is going to be a lot of work and then a LOT of editing to do. Here is my to-do list:

  • Pass all my classes
  • Finish Colors of The Sky (or whatever I decide to call it)
  • Print out Only in Whispers with my school’s print credits (put that tuition money to good use)
  • Make Kiss of The Fey free for KDP
  • Read all the books I’ve stored up on my Kindle app
  • Get foot surgery
  • Actually edit Only in Whispers
  • Decide what to write next, another Fairy Curse Novel or my new urban fantasy series.
  • Go to Florida.

So yeah, I’m going to be trying to get a lot done over the holidays. The hardest part about writing is wanting to write all the ideas at once.