Tag Archives: the business of writing

Not Another Edit!

EditsMost non-writers, and many new writers, have no idea that finishing that manuscript and typing END is anything but the end. I know when I started writing, I couldn’t see beyond reaching that final scene. Of course, that first novel was a 300,000 word monstrosity that took me over two years to complete, but the principle is universal.

The first draft is not the final draft.

That truth is even more daunting when we consider how few wannabe writers actually reach the end of their first draft. Of those who do, many lack the determination to see the project to its full completion.

It’s easy to assume the tragic artiste pose and proclaim in an awful imitation of an accent from some European country, “This is my Art and the muse must be honored. The words were given to me like this for a reason.”

Not if you want to sell it and actually have someone read it.

This becomes the dividing line between those who like dabbling in writing as an enjoyable hobby and those who are serious about becoming a Writer as a career.

Some first drafts are pretty good, but pretty good isn’t enough. Every successful author I know recognizes they will need to make several editing passes through each novel before it’s ready. One of the reasons we’re encouraged to write what we love is because if we don’t LOVE our stories enough to work through them at least half a dozen times, we’re going to HATE them before the process is complete.

Many new authors don’t understand this and unfortunately in today’s ebook world, it’s all too easy to complete that first draft and throw the book right up on Amazon.

I for one have read some of those stories. After wading through the piles of novels that make me cringe when I look at the cover or read the first page, I’ve selected one that looked like it had real promise. Many times those ebooks turn out to be pretty decent, maybe have a great concept and tons of potential, but where the author wasn’t patient enough to really finish the work.

I find it tragic when I complete an ebook like that. When I think, “You know, that could have been a really good book. But it was only about 90% finished and needed more polishing.”

What a waste.

Not only of my time, but of the author’s time. They worked so hard bringing that novel to life, only to not put in the effort to get it that last 10%. It’s like Frankenstein stitching together the perfect monster only to not bother raising it up on the platform during the lightning storm. That last 10% is what infuses the story with it’s real life.

That’s one of my fears: that my novels won’t be ready.

I cringe when I think back to my first monstrous novel. With how little I knew about the industry, about editing, I was convinced it was a great work and totally ready to go. Had the ebook revolution already been underway, I probably would have self-published it.

I would have destroyed that story.

I’m glad I didn’t have that option and that the dozens of rejection letters finally clued me in that there was something missing. I’ve since thrown that novel away and rebuilt it from the ground up. The resulting story is ten times better and is one of the eight books I’m preparing for publication in my upcoming “Eight Books in Eight Months” publishing blitz.

Before I pull the trigger on those novels though, I’ve dedicated the time to rewrites, I’ve gathered honest feedback from beta readers, and I’ve worked with professional editors (including Joshua Essoe and Evan Braun) to make sure they’re really ready.

Even so, I still have to wonder, are they really?

This time I feel a lot more justified in saying, “Yes.”

Get Out of Your Own Head

Calving HeadI loved to write as a teen-ager. I even completed drafts of two novels by filling hundreds of pages of notebook paper with my cramped, almost illegible handwriting. I was going to be a writer, I just knew it. Then I got to college and got side-tracked into other things, including a computer programming career.

My decision to begin writing again years later came rather abruptly and I dove into the process with great enthusiasm. If I could go back and talk to myself as I pounded away on my first monstrous epic fantasy novel, I would applaud the enthusiasm and the tenacity.

I would also say, “Get out of your head.”

I wrote in a vacuum. It was just me and my imagination and my computer. I labored for what became years on revision after revision, with little input from anyone other than my wife until I completed a novel that could never be published. And still I wrote on.

That process did provide ample opportunity to write hundreds of thousands of words, to develop plot and character, and build the basic foundational skills of crafting sentences and chapters. I improved my writing technique, but I missed out on so much more.

Many aspects of writing are solitary, but not all of them. Sure, I have to sit down and type or take up my voice recorder and dictate. No one can do those things for me.

But the truth I wish I had known earlier was that we are not alone.

It was not until I attended my first professional-level writing seminar after years of writing that I began to see the truth. The knowledge gained there helped dispel long-held misconceptions about what it meant to be a professional writer, not just a hobby artist. The writing group the students formed after the seminar became a source of great support.

Since then I have attended many other seminars and conferences. Every time, I’ve met more great people. As my network has grown, so too has my confidence. At first I was usually on the receiving end of advice and wisdom, but that is slowly transitioning. Now I find myself sharing my own experiences and giving advice to newer authors, most of whom are a lot smarter about getting connected sooner that I did.

Writing may be a solitary art, but being a writer is not.

It Takes a Tribe

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We get it into our head that writing is a solitary art.When we first dreamed of being a writer, who saw themselves as sitting along in a cabin banging on a typewriter? Come on. I see you over there. Put your hand up. You know it’s true. Okay, put your hand down. If you were really advanced in your dreaming you’d have acknowledged on the edges that at some point other people come into the picture – an agent, a publisher, the reader. But that was way downstream. This whole creative gig. It could be done alone. Right?

Not.

It’s time we stopped kidding ourselves.

We lose writers – good writers – every day from the profession because they “go it alone.” While actually putting your butt in a chair and writing will almost always be a solo activity (even in a collaboration you are responsible for writing your part) the path that leads you to your keyboard and beyond is filled with other people. Spouses, significant others, and friends give us support, we may bounce ideas or our outline off them. We confer with experts to ensure our writing is accurate enough to be believable. We work with dozens of people to hone the story, the prose, the cover, the blurb, and all the lovely marketing bits. We need our readers.

But the biggest thing your writing tribe does is keep you going when you are in a low spot.

This past week I was in a low spot. I’d been rejected from two anthologies. Two of my stories had been rejected from different anthologies. I was sincerely happy for everyone who made it in but the rejection cut deep. Mostly though, I’ve had some stuff hanging over me for a while and it was coming to a head. I felt so alone. All my husband’s attempts to calm me put me into full-out panic attacks. (Sorry, honey.) So, I did what I’ve never done before. I asked my writing tribe, this tribe, for help. Now, I didn’t really tell them what was happening just that I was going to be facing a ton of adversity in the next 24 hours. The outpouring of support was humbling. Their words of encouragement, thoughts and prayers gave me the strength to go through that trial with grace and a sense of peace. My Tribe had my back. I wouldn’t have come through the crisis without them.

At the same time our Facebook group was discussing another writer the profession had lost because going alone had broken her spirit. She went so far as to announce the death of her pen name. She didn’t have a support group. It broke many of our hearts. It’s a huge loss.

It shouldn’t have happened.

The advice I’d give my younger writing self? Even more than “don’t listen to your high school English teacher. You absolutely can and did write the story that touched her heart.”? It’s this:

Surround yourself with like minded-people who are going through or have already gone through what you are going through.

With your Tribe you can accomplish anything you work for.

Ask for and accept help. This is not a a sign of weakness but of strength.

Know you aren’t alone.

 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

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Where did my “to do” list go, or how do I keep track of everything?

 

Lost Yet

So those of you who have read our posts over the years know I’m a mommy, writer and lawyer. My husband gets a bit put out that I don’t have “wife” in that list, but he knows I love him so he only snarls a little. It’s endearing. Really. Oh, and did I also mention we live on a 5 acre horse farm? Anyway, what all that multi-tasking means is I have a lot to do. I mean, A LOT. A “normal” to-to list across those different roles has over 70 items on it. Lawyers are an odd breed. Hal of us resist change and half of us embrace it. I’ve waffled back and forth between the high and low tech.

I’ve used a paper “to do” list. Often multiple lists would be scattered over my desk. These scraps of paper make for messy desks and the most urgent Post-it Note is always the one you look at last. The fully manual “system” didn’t last long. Then I moved to keeping that same “to do” list in a Word document. It works. Sort of. The problem with a “to do” list “system” is you track the tasks that lead to your goals but not actually your goals. The best thing about the passage of a decade is that technology has dramatically changed. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizational tools and goal trackers. If you lose track of your goals you can’t measure your progress. All motion is not progress.

Someone else is writing about goal setting this month so I’ll just assume you can set them with the help of our upcoming and awesome guest post. Once you know where you are heading you need to set milestones and make sure you hit them.

Here’s what I’m currently using:

https://www.Todolist.com This is a basic to do list. I use it to keep track of household tasks like laundry. The nice thing about this tool is you can share your lists with anyone. So both Matt (that’s the hubby in case you were wondering) and I can add and take items off it. This tool has greatly helped us coordinate tasks without having to track each other down. We can designate which child is responsible for what task. So Bobby usually gets loading and unloading the dishwasher and Mikey gets vacuuming the downstairs. Even better once someone is done a task that person can mark it off and see what else is left to do. I’ve found this to be a useful tool for task completion but not goal management.

Pipe Drive, https://app.pipedrive.com/pipeline. I’ve only recently started with this tool. Pipe Drive helps you keep track of “jobs” or “work” in your pipe line. A pipe line is the channel through which your prospective customers flow. Pipe Drive allows you to input an opportunity – say an open call for an anthology -, track how that opportunity moves through your process and, ultimately whether you won or lost the opportunity. Pipe Drive also allows you to attach a monetary value to the opportunity. Let’s take that anthology again. Submissions are limited to 7000 words and pay is “professional rate” which The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines as 5 cents or more a word. Let’s assume this anthology pays 5 cents a word. The maximum value for the opportunity is $350.

By forcing you to put a price to the opportunity Pipe Drive helps you can set priorities. If there is another anthology opportunity with the same deadline paying 6 cents a word for a maximum of 6000 words or $360 and you’re short on time, which opportunity do you pursue? The one with the higher value.

You can use Pipe Drive to track your networking contacts and your conversion rates to customer or business partner. Pipe Drive also emails me a daily “to do” list based on deadlines I’ve set and my opportunities. Pipe Drive charges a really nominal monthly fee. Seriously , two cups of designer coffee gets you this tool.

My next new favorite tool is InfusionSoft – http://infusionsoft.com. This online tool does amazing things. Ever wonder how to online market to get to your sales goals? Ever wonder if your online or email marketing efforts do you any good? Ever tried managing more than one marketing campaign at once? Then you NEED InfusionSoft. It’s new Snap application lets you import business cards directly into the management tool and your phone’s contact list. It has a calendar to keep all your events and templates for certain types of email and electronic (webinars, free consultation, and a host of other) campaigns. Again, I’ve only started using this tool so my current use barely scratches the surface.

I am using InfusionSoft for my part of the EWomen Succeeding Through Doubt Fear and Crisis book launch in August. InfusionSoft will create a landing page for people to sign up for my bonus “gifts” for pre-purchasing the books. When someone signs up InfusionSoft will capture their email for my mailing list. I’ll also use the system to run the webinar and track who actually attends or doesn’t. InfusionSoft will then auto send a thank you to people who attended and follow-up with the people who missed the presentation. It will send attendees the link to the ebook. Best yet, InfusionSoft will generate the metrics to tell me if the campaign actually accomplished what I wanted it to. Everything is automated through the software! Less of my time on administrative tasks and more time spent at tasks that earn me money and bring me closer to my goals.

“What are those goals?” you ask.

Like my life I have goals for the different aspects of my life that support a greater goal. One of the reason people introduce me as “not your typical lawyer” is I remember that my calling as a lawyer is to serve my clients. So where am I headed? My boys graduated from college and standing on their own . Minimum of two books published a year. Five paid speaking opportunities a year. A law firm of 10 attorneys and 3-4 staff members. These income streams will give me the opportunity to provide pro bono assistance to low-income or otherwise disadvantaged groups in setting up their business and making sure they have the legal structure in place to succeed in their callings.