Tag Archives: writers

In Defense of Small Word Counts

Let me let you in on a little secret. I don’t write a lot of words per day.

My daily word counts vary from 350 to 700 on a good day, but I almost never break 1,000 words unless I’m at the very end the book because the resolution is often easy for me to write since all the major strings have been tied.

On social media, it’s common for people to post their word counts after a writing sprint or just as a daily thing they do to hold themselves accountable. When I see people post that they wrote 4,000 words in a few hours, I feel sick. That’s more than I write in a week sometimes, most times. Seeing giant word counts is something that bothers me on and off. When my writing is flowing well, I don’t really care. When I’m struggling, all I see are other people’s numbers and I begin to feel inadequate.

When I’m writing consistently, it’s easy say to myself, “Why do you care? You’ve published 5 books. It isn’t like your words don’t add up to a full book.” And my books aren’t exactly tiny. Most are over 90,000 words. So what if it takes me 6-9 months to write it? I’d like to blame capitalism for that. Everything we do is measured in productivity and inevitably we tie our self-worth to the outcomes of our labor. How many words per day is merely a metric by which I measure my self-worth when things aren’t going well.

Someone might say, “Ditch the word count. Just write.” I tried that last year when my mental health was rather shitty, and it did the opposite of help because without something to push me, I wrote nothing for a few months. When writing is a form of self-care, you understand how this can cause a downward spiral. My small daily word count goal of 350 words is like saying I’m going to meditate for 15 minutes every day. It’s something I have to push myself to do because my brain, when it’s feeling low, resists doing it even though it’s good for me. A small, doable goal gives me the push I need to get it done.

Once I hit my 350, I can stop and go to bed. Most of the time I keep going. Days I don’t write because I just don’t have mental or physical spoons to do so, I make up for it the next day. I have a word count tracker that I use to chart my progress and hold myself accountable. Days I don’t write, I don’t put a zero in. Some may think it’s cheating, but zeroes made it harder to write when I was down. Now I just fill in 350 and make up for it the next day by writing 700 words or as I tell myself 2 350s.

We do what we must to trick ourselves into taking our medicine.

For years, I’ve dreaded things like NaNoWriMo where you write 50,000 words in a month or 1,667 words a day. Before I made friends with other writers, I thought you had to be a pro to accomplish such a massive daily word count or be on speed. It never seemed possible. Then I made friends with writers who seemed to do it without a lot of trouble and my confidence cracked. I couldn’t do it. I tried to do NaNo and gave up within the first week. Despite all the hype and support of other writers, I stared at that word count like it was Mt. Everest. Only the strongest and best could do it, and I couldn’t.

What I failed to notice is how many writers do NaNo and don’t publish or shop the book after. Plenty of books grow out of NaNo, but most don’t or they need to be heavily revised. That’s far from my usual process. Until last year, I had never had to totally rewrite a book. My books need editing, but most of it is fact-checking, copy edits, and cleaning up/beefing up descriptions. What I start, I finish, even if it takes the better part of a year.

I guess the point of all this is that you have to do what works for you. If writing a lot and then editing a lot is what comes naturally, then do it. If you write a little at a time, that’s fine too. There’s no one way to write even if there are plenty of books that try to teach you how to boost your productivity. At some point, you have to come to terms with what your process is and embrace it as best you can.

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5 Tips for Beating Writers Block

Sorry for not blogging sooner, but I have been under the weather for the past week.  Today’s post will be about the dreaded writers block.

Writers block can be one of the most crippling experiences for a writer, and after experiencing a bout of this recently myself, I thought I would post a few tips that may help to get through it.

  1. Ask, “Would your characters actually do this?”  Sometimes being stuck is caused by something as simple as trying to force a scene. Step back for a minute and think about how the scene can be reworked. Is your character doing something out of character? This can be the bane of a plotter’s existence because they have their outline and want to stick to it, but at times, a character can be whispering to you that they don’t want to or wouldn’t do what you are intending them to do.
  2. Free write.  Is another story knocking at your brain but you’re 2/3 into another one and don’t want to give up on it or throw yourself into a new project? Take a few minutes to let the scene out. Save the file in a separate folder of scraps or future projects and let it go. You can always revisit it when you’re finished with your current project, but for now, it’s out of your brain and on paper for later.
  3. Make an outline. Sometimes you need to see it on paper to get going. It’s often a case of where have I come from and where am I going? Draw out what you have thus far and then where you know you have to go. Typically, I use a blank sheet of printer paper and a brightly colored pen to stimulate ideas and remove constraints (no idea why it works but it seems to). Don’t put the future points too close together, leave space to fill-in with ideas. What do your characters need to do and how do we get them there?
  4. Look for visual inspiration. You have ideas, you know what you need to do, but the spark just isn’t there. Try going onto sites like Pinterest or Tumblr and looking for pictures that have to do with your story. If it’s set in the Victorian era, look up historical photos or vintage clothing. Is there a celebrity who looks like your characters? Look them up. Throughout the writing process, I create a Pinterest board of inspiration and look to it when I’m feeling stuck or meh about my writing.
  5. Read. One of the best pieces of writing advice I have ever gotten is to read. Reading will not only stimulate ideas, but it will be a refresher for craft. How does the author get to the climax? How are the characters built with depth and how do we find out about them? Read authors who inspire you and see how they did it. Learn from the masters, and let their words power yours.

Hopefully this helps you in your writing. The block is often caused by stress or fatigue and not laziness on the author’s part, but when you feel stuck, try some of the tips mentioned above and see if they help get you through. If nothing else, go for a walk and clear your head.


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My Literary Lineage

literary lineageI noticed something interesting the other day while I was compiling my bibliography for my masters thesis.  It has to do with a writing lineage.

What authors inspire your work? Who are the authors you devour? Who do you read and go, “Wow, I wish I wrote that”?

Part of my “spiritual” beliefs and my writing beliefs, is that we are all interconnected, and every time we read something, the words, techniques, themes, and images are digested and seep into us.  They become part of who we are as writers and manifest in our writing.  Continue reading

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Checking Those Boxes

Become-a-writer

Often my posts mention my dealings with academia, and the stark contrasts between the “normal” world and the academic domain.  These differences have sparked an interest in figuring out the psychology of not only some professors but the world they are enmeshed in.  One of the things I have noticed during my time as a graduate student in an MFA program is the difference in publishing goals and how the professors treat their writing versus how most authors deal with their work and how they market it.

To be hired as a professor, one must publish at some point, and it seems for some that the only reason they have published anything is to able to put it on their resumes.  Maybe I’m naive and idealistic, but to write a novel or short stories to check off a box seems disingenuous.  If you have a passion for writing, why would you only write one book or a handful of short stories?  Most writers have a hard time stopping or getting other work done when the writing bug bites, so how can one instruct and inspire young writers when they haven’t really done it themselves?  Can you really consider yourself a writer or author when you only write to further your career goals?  It most definitely is not my motivation for writing, but I cannot say why others do it. Continue reading

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The Importance of Being an Earnest Reviewer

five stars

Ah, book reviews.  The all too important yet dreaded rituals all authors dread.  Will they love it?  Will they hate it?  Will the reviewer absolute eviscerate me for seemingly no reason?

The thought of reviews for any author can be daunting, but to an indie author, reviews are one of the most important aspects of marketing our writing.  Currently, I am an unknown, a bit of krill in a ocean of whales and sharks.  Reviews are what often convince readers to take a chance on a newbie author, especially if they are more in depth than “OMG! IT WAS THE BEST BOOK EVER!”  Yes, I can convince my mom and ten of my friends to write puffy five star reviews, but does that do anything for me and what does that say about me as a writer? Continue reading

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The Overeager Author and Creating Buzz

I am incredibly guilty of being overeager when it comes to my writing and events I am going to do months from now (an example being posting and tweeting about the Steampunk Worlds Fair I’m speaking at next May). 

Once I began editing The Earl of Brass, I was dead-set on self-publishing it as soon as possible, so I read up on self-publishing, how to format books for ebook and paperback, and how to run your author page on Facebook.  Somehow despite all my reading, I forgot about marketing.  Of course the basics were taken care of, telling everyone I know I published and making a website, but that doesn’t bring in book sales very well.  What authors need is buzz beforehand.  To do this, there are several things authors should do:

1. Even when you finish your edits and formatting, do not publish it immediately.  This is the time when you need to create some buzz and begin a countdown.  Get readers eager to buy your book and to read it for that matter.  Two to three months may seem like an agonizing amount of time to wait even though your book is ready, but it’s worth it if you want to build a following.

2. During these two to three months of free time, send your book to reviewers.  I sent out dozens of query emails to various book bloggers and am still having reviews trickle in.  Reviewers usually take weeks to months to get to your book depending on their load, but if you tell them it is an ARC (pre-publication but perfected), they will often try to get your review out near the time your book is to be released.  Some writers get upset that they need to send free copies of their ebook to bloggers, but it’s worth it and sending an ebook doesn’t cost you anything (Smashword’s “meat grinder” feature can generate epub and mobi files for your book).  Reviews expose your work to that blogger’s audience and also build buzz. If a book is on Amazon or Goodreads and it has reviews, people are more willing to give it a chance.

3. Have a cover reveal a few months ahead of the release.  If you have a Facebook or a blog, make a big deal out of it.  You should have a cover you are proud of and be willing to show it off.  Do a countdown for the reveal.  If you have a summary read to go for that book, I would suggest putting it up on Goodreads as a to-be-released book to also build some buzz.

4. Create an author page on Goodreads as well as Amazon.  This way, people will run across your face on both sites and hopefully become interested in your books. On Goodreads, you have an audience of readers at the ready.  Join clubs and discussion boards.  Obviously, don’t just talk about your book, but if you get involved with people who have similar interests, you will become enmeshed in your target audience. If they like you and are interested in what you have to say, they will be more likely to check out your work in the future. As a side note, you may not be able to create your Amazon author page until you are ready to publish your book because you are not yet “an author” but with Goodreads, it’s much easier to join their author program.

5. A few weeks before your book is ready to be released, create event on Facebook.  Invite everyone and tell them to invite everyone they know.  If you know other authors on Facebook, Goodreads, writing groups, or in real life, invite them to have giveaways during your event (like paperbacks or ebooks of their novels or even random goodies if they are somehow related to your novel). Build relationships with other authors as well as your readers.  During the event, give away a few ebooks and maybe a paperback or two.  Have fun with it, it’s your party.

Hopefully, this is helpful.  As a first time indie author, this has been a learning curve, and I would love if my mistakes actually help others.  Just remember the importance of creating buzz and interest as well as making connections with other authors and your readers.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell You’re an Indie Writer

books lined up

When you are an indie or self-published writer, you come across a strange phenomena.  Should you tell people you are not traditionally published unless they ask?

 

For several decades, self-publishing was referred to as “vanity publishing.”  Vanity publishing was when a writer would pay to have their books printed in limited runs, and they would then try to sell them.  The vanity aspect comes from the stereotype that self-published authors were people who were not good enough to be published by a major publishing house or were hipsters who were too good for the publishing world and wanted only limited copies of their books. 

 

Modern self-publishing is quite different.  Self-published authors are not under contract with a publishing house, but now, this is mainly because they choose not to be.  By self-publishing authors maintain all artistic control over their work from the cover, to the formatting of the book, to the content.  There is no interference from editors or agents telling them what to write next or what to stay away from.  Some writers do fit the stereotype and self-publish because they have been rejected repeatedly by the industry, but most authors choose it for the freedom and the profit margin, which is often better than what the major publishing houses are willing to give.

 

Sadly the stigma of self-publishing being an act of vanity still exists mainly because most people don’t realize how common self-publishing is with sites like Amazon, Lulu, or Lightning Source.  After publishing The Earl of Brass, I have found myself holding back when someone mentions the publishing process.  I’ll skate around it by nodding and saying that it was a lot of work and took a while to get ready.  When I have mentioned it was self-published, people who were enthusiastic suddenly deflate, as if the book lost its worth because it wasn’t chosen by a major publisher to be printed.  Because I am new to this phenomena, I am still unsure how to respond to it, but I think the best way is to have people read it, hopefully enjoy it, and then say it was self-published.  That way, they realize it wasn’t self-published because the quality was poor but because I wanted to do it that way.  As I explore my experiences in this endeavor, I will create blog posts about what the process was in publishing in paperback and ebook form and how I prep my books for publication.  If there is ever a topic anyone wants me to explore, just leave a comment or message, and I will try to write a hopefully helpful post.

The Earl of Brass is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Book Depository

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