The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: October 2014

3 tips to make your NaNoWriMo a success

NaNoWriMo is upon us once again and lunatics (read: writers) everywhere are gearing up for a crazy, breakneck, 50,000 word month. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran of the challenge, here’s some tips to help you reach the finish line with a minimal amount of stress and writer’s block.

Out Of Track1. Outline, outline, outline

While it might be easy to wing it the first few days of November, unless you’re a world-class pantser, you’re likely going to run smack dab into a black hole if you haven’t given some thought about where you’re headed with your novel. While everyone varies in their degrees of plotting, even writing simple bullet points for each major scene in your story will make a big difference. It’s much easier to face the dreaded blank screen when you know where you’re headed. Make no mistake, Nanowrimo is a race against time and test of your writing ability — it’s a heck of a lot easier to stay confident and reach the finish line when you know where you’re headed. On top of that, you’ll have a better book overall.

2. Write with Scrivenerhighres-scrivener-logo

If you aren’t already using it, chances are you’ve heard of the mythical word processor for writers that we mortals call Scrivener. Although it won’t write your novel for you, Scrivener’s handy features do just about everything else. I’m not going to get into a lot of details here because the time for learning how to get fancy is in December, when your rough draft is done. There IS an awesome little feature called project targets that allows you to set an overall word count goal as well as a goal for each writing session, that I would highly recommend. It’s always nice to see that little word count bar grow. After Nanowrimo is over and you’re moving into the editing and revising stages of your novel, you’ll be glad to know that Scrivener makes swapping scenes, compiling ebooks and formatting manuscripts a breeze. Don’t want to commit until you’ve taken a test drive? No problem. Scrivener offers a free 30 day trial period. Best of all, the trial is based on 30 uses, not days. Do yourself a favor and give Scrivener a try. You won’t regret it.

businessman working3. Sit down and WRITE

This may seem pretty obvious, but no matter how great your outline or writing program is, you won’t get anywhere if you can’t be disciplined enough to sit down in your chair and do work. Set a realistic daily goal, break your writing periods down into manageable chunks and then get to it. Know ahead of time that distractions, emergencies and days when you don’t feel like you can string a sentence together are unavoidable. Don’t despair — this happens to all of us at every stage of the game. Successful writers get over it and don’t worry about how bad the rough draft reads. Is your time limited? Squeeze in little writing blocks whenever you can make a few uninterrupted minutes — even if you aren’t a morning person, getting up early and writing while the world is quiet can make a world of difference. Most important, however, is to not look back. Even if you’re a neat freak, save those typos, punctuation mistakes and run on sentences for next month. All that matters is getting words on the page.

What writing tactics do you use to conquer Nanowrimo? Share below!

 wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913 Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.

Author Origins: Ben Galley

Ben ProfileBen Galley is a young  author from sunny England. Ben has been writing since he was old enough to be trusted with a pencil, which, and if you know Ben personally you’ll know why, was somewhere in his early teens. Now of course, he’s much more responsible, and has moved from the pencil to the self-publishing world. He is the author of the epic fantasy trilogy – The Emaneska Series. He has released four books to date, and doesn’t intend to stop writing any time soon.

As a proud indie author, Ben does everything by himself. He writes, edits, sketches the maps, manages tours, does the marketing… even this website was crafted by his very hands. Ben regularly tours the country doing signings and workshops, allowing him to meet a great many interesting people on his journeys. He is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer on the subject of self-publishing, and is incredibly zealous about helping other authors and writers.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I worked my backside off for several years, until I had a book I could self-publish.

My name is Ben Galley, and I’m an author of dark fantasy and tall tales. I decided to become an author from the very moment I could hold a pencil. My imagination has always run wild – a by-product of being force-fed JRR Tolkien and mythology from a very young age! Writing stories and dreaming up worlds seemed to come easily to me. It was an escape as well as something I could share with other people.

I wrote my first novel aged 11, and that passion for writing never died. It only got stronger. When I’d finished university I decided it was time to take the plunge and achieve that dream of being an author. I worked my backside off for several years, until I had a book I could self-publish. My debut – The Written.

I’m now 26, with 4 fantasy books and a self-publishing guide on the shelves. I now also run a consultancy business that helps other authors self-publish, and over the last year, I’ve also opened my own eBook store Libiro.com, with co-founder Teague Fullick. I like to think the aged 11 me would be pretty pleased!

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

For me, it was hard to get the time to write and actually finish a book that I could then publish. I worked full-time whilst writing The Written and the rest of the Emaneska Series, and there were never enough hours in the day. However the dream drove me on, and I would work all day at my job, then come home and work into the morning at my writing. It was tough, and stressful, but it’s paid off in the long run.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

It’s important to keep the ideas fresh, to keep your head in the game, and to keep your skills sharp.

One way of getting around the long hours spent behind bars, serving tables, and generally despairing at my lack of opportunities, was to write The Written and Pale Kings on my mobile phone between customers and on breaks. That way I didn’t have to tear my hair out waiting to get home, and could keep the workflow steady. However, The Written still took 18 months to write this way!

To this day, when I’m in the middle of writing a novel, I strive for 2000 words a day minimum. It’s important to keep the ideas fresh, to keep your head in the game, and to keep your skills sharp.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

It’s a scary decision, that’s for sure – book sales can be fickle, especially seasonally. And of course, you can’t ride the success of one book forever: you need to keep coming out with product. Once I had enough books on the shelves, the income was consistent and knew my other projects were taking off, that’s when I knew I could do it.

Put simply, the feeling was euphoric.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

Good question! I’m pretty open on social media and the web, though I wonder if people knew what sorts of music drove my words sometimes. I do have a strong passion for metal…

My other hobbies outside of writing, when I have the time, include a spot of cooking, hitting the gym, gaming, and rat-keeping.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Two things!

There is no better marketing than your next book.

Writing. Day in and day out, and every day. There is no better marketing than your next book, and as that’s the element that sells, the more the merrier. You will also benefit from the practise too – the more you write the better you will get, and that again is very important.

The second piece of advice is professionalism. When publishing, quality and a professional standard are paramount to standing out from the crowd, and to making sales. This means a great cover, spotless editing, and good formatting for eBooks and paperbacks.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

Just that it was a pleasure to be part of this series, and to tell any other authors or budding writers reading that there has never been a better time to be an author. We now have the means, the technology, and the support to make it on our own, and be our own author-preneurs. It’s a tough job with a steep learning curve, and it can be hard at times, but please do persevere, because it’s also the best job on the planet.

The mindset every author should have

If only it were as simple as writing a book, hitting publish and watching the reviews, royalties and film adaptations roll in.

We’ve all been there — you finish your book and you’re on top of the world. And then that world comes crashing down in an apocalyptic meteor shower of editing, revising, cover design, web hosting, newsletter building, marketing, free promotions, blogging…the list goes on and on.

The end goal is the same: to make a living doing what we love.

There are a lot of strategies authors can take when building their platform.  For most of us, however, the end goal is the same: to make a living doing what we love. That means writing and selling a lot of books and building a loyal readership.

You should be thinking like you’re already a bestseller — and acting accordingly.

Here’s the thing that many authors don’t realize. The time to prepare for success is now. While you’re only making enough money from your books to fund a trip to the vending machine, you should be building a foundation. You should be thinking like you’re already a bestseller — and acting accordingly.

Does your email list only have four subscribers, three of which are your spouse, Aunt Betty and Grandma Doris? That’s okay — put out awesome content, stick to a schedule and over deliver. Listen to Tim Grahl. Once you’ve got subscribers, take care of your tribe. If someone emails you, make an effort to reply. Your fans — especially the early ones — deserve your best.

How does your website look? Even if you’re not a web designer, you can still craft an engaging site with Blogger or WordPress themes (and you do need a virtual home). Pick one thing to improve on your website each week, whether that’s learning a new feature, trying out a new plugin or tweaking your content.  Is it easy for people to join your mailing list or buy your books? If you had thousands of visitors a day, would they want to stay and look around? Would they come back for more?

From day one, approach your writing career with the mindset that you’re already in the big time.

Instead of biting off more than you can chew and spreading yourself too thin, pick a few things and tackle those tasks them with the mindset that everyone is watching. Never forget that depth is better than breadth. From day one, approach your writing career with the mindset that you’re already in the big time.

I’ve released a few books but I’m still very much in the beginning stages of my author career. Even so, I treat my writing and revising as if hundreds of thousands of people will read my words when I publish. I set deadlines as if I’ve got hordes of fans after my head if I’m late to publish. When I work with a designer, I’m not satisfied until I’ve got a cover that I’d be proud to see on the front table at every Barnes and Noble across America.  Whenever I sit down to write, I do so with purpose and urgency — like I’m already depending on it to pay the bills and put food on the table.

One day, I’ll be there.  But until then, I’m going to fake it ’til I make it.

What you’re building is the foundation for the future. Don’t cheat yourself. You can’t build an architectural marvel on unstable footings. You can’t do it overnight, either.

Everyone has days when they pound their head against a wall and think they must be insane to chase this dream.

As cliche as it sounds, don’t forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Even the Great Wall of China started with a single stone block. The important thing to remember is that everyone began in the same place. Everyone has days when they pound their head against a wall and think they must be insane to chase this dream.

There are thousands of authors already making it who have paved the road for us. Learn from them. Pay attention to what they’re doing. When you’re tempted to cut corners, ask yourself what would Hugh Howey, Joanna Penn, Sean Platt, David Wright, Johnny Truant and countless others do?

Remember, we’re in this for the long haul. Don’t sell yourself short.  Develop a system that works for you and trust it. Your author platform deserves the best you have to offer right now, not in some distant future.

What are you doing to become a bestseller? Comment below and share your strategies.

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913 Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com

Author Origins: Rysa Walker

Rysa Walker author profileRysa Walker grew up on a cattle ranch in the South, where she read every chance she got. On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light.

Timebound, the first book in the CHRONOS Files series, was the Young Adult and Grand Prize winner in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. A CHRONOS Files novella, Time’s Echo, is now available exclusively on Kindle and Audible.Time’s Edge, the second book in the series, will release on October 21st, with the final book and novella coming in 2015.

For news and updates, visit her at rysa.com.  She tweets @rysawalker and if you see her there or on Facebook, please remind her that she should be writing!

Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

Hi, I’m Rysa Walker, author of Timebound and The CHRONOS Files series.  The second book in the series, Time’s Edge will debut on October 21st.  I’ve always been a writer in some fashion, but much of my focus was academic and nonfiction writing until a few years back.  I wrote Timebound (originally self-published as Time’s Twisted Arrow) in my spare time between teaching history and government online.  I’m now a full-time author, currently working on the final book in my series, scheduled for publication with Skyscape in the fall of 2015.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

It can be hard for me to write when the kids are running about, the dog is barking, or the phone is ringing.  And this is still an issue as a full-time writer, except that I now have the other duties of being a writer to distract me as well.

Getting into the “groove” so that I can write.  That was never an issue when I was writing lectures or academic articles, although even then, I had better luck writing late at night when there were fewer distractions.  It can be hard for me to write when the kids are running about, the dog is barking, or the phone is ringing.  And this is still an issue as a full-time writer, except that I now have the other duties of being a writer to distract me as well.  I have to “unplug” except for my writing software and music, and go into the “writing cave.”  And the kids have almost learned that it’s a very bad idea to interrupt Mom when the headphones are on and her fingers are flying across the keyboard.   (The dog, not so much.)

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

I still write in bursts.  I try to get in at least 1000 words a day, but it doesn’t always happen.  More likely, I’ll have four days with 500 words and three where I hit 4-5k.

I take care of the side tasks of being a writer — answering emails, posting to social media, interviews, etc. — when my brain is not quite to the point of dealing with time travel conundrums.  I’m still more likely to get a lot written if the house is quiet, especially late at night, but the kids have to be at school by 7:15 so I don’t get as many late night sessions as I’d like.  As a result, I still write in bursts.  I try to get in at least 1000 words a day, but it doesn’t always happen.  More likely, I’ll have four days with 500 words and three where I hit 4-5k.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

That decision was much easier thanks to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  I entered the contest in December, after self-publishing Time’s Twisted Arrow in October of 2012.  My primary hope was to get to the stage where you get the free Publisher’s Weekly review, thinking that maybe there would at least be a nice tagline in the review that I could tweet.  There was—”Kate is the Katniss Everdeen of time travel” made me very happy—but then the book kept going. It took the YA prize and then the Grand Prize, which meant a $50K advance on royalties and a contract with Skyscape.  That was almost exactly my salary for a year, so it made quitting the day job much easier.  I also have a husband with a solid job, so I wasn’t worried about the kids starving or the mortgage going unpaid.  It was still a decision that would have been difficult to make if I’d only won the YA Prize, since the advance would have been $15K.  That’s still a really nice advance in these days where debut authors often don’t get any advance at all, but I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to leave behind a regular paycheck if I didn’t know that a full year’s salary was in the bank.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

That I’m actually a hybrid author—some works self-published, some traditionally published.  I had always envisioned The CHRONOS Files as a three-novel series with two shorter novellas in between, written from the perspective of other characters.  Skyscape wasn’t too keen on the idea of novellas, having had less-than-stellar luck publishing a few for other series.  They contracted only for the two remaining novels (Time’s Edge and the still-untitled third book), but they agreed to let me self-publish the novellas.  That’s unusual for publishers, who usually don’t like to give up control.  The first novella, Time’s Echo, was self-published for Kindle and Audible earlier this year, and it has been a very nice additional income stream.  I also love the fact that it lets me keep one foot in the very supportive world on indie authors, who understand that we really are NOT competitors, but colleagues.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Find ways of getting your name out there before you publish your first book.

Whether you end up going traditional (increasingly rare for debut authors) or self-publishing, you will need a solid marketing platform.  I’m still unagented (and happily so), but many of my colleagues swear their agent earn every bit of the 15% they pay, and most agents will not even look at a new author who doesn’t have a blog and an active presence in social media.  Find a social media outlet that works for you and build up a core group of followers.  That will, in many cases, be fellow authors at the beginning.  That’s okay — remember that authors read, too.  In fact, we read a lot.

Also, finding places where you can publish short fiction is still a very good idea.  Even though there are few magazines that publish short stories these days, there are online outlets, including a few that pay.  One example is Kindle Worlds, which is a paid fan-fiction site that Amazon set up a while back.  I’ve been poking around there a good bit lately, since I’m in negotiations to set up a “world” for The CHRONOS Files.  They’ve got worlds ranging from Pretty Little Liars and the Vampire Diaries to Kurt Vonnegut, Hugh Howey, and dozens more. Find a world that you want to “play” in and publish a few short works within that universe — and if there is a world similar to the genre you’ll be writing in, that’s even better.  There are several advantages for a new author.  First, you start making money on your writing, which can be a huge incentive to keep writing.  Second, you learn the tricks of the self-publishing trade in terms of formatting, marketing, etc.  But most importantly, when you finally get your book into the hands of agents, editors, or straight to the readers, you’ll show up not as a first-time author, but as a seasoned writer, with several works already selling.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

I’d like to add that it’s important to find a routine that works for you.  And don’t give up.

You’ll see a lot of authors who insist that you must have the discipline to meet that minimum word count each and every day.  That might work for some, but for those juggling work and family, that advice can be disheartening.

There were occasionally weeks when I managed to crank out a few hundred words each day while writing Timebound, but there were also entire months where my schedule was so hectic that I barely even looked at the manuscript.  If you really want to be a writer, you’ll eventually finish that book — and it might even be better for having “marinated” a few years.

What You Should Write About

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE ABOUT?

 The standard advice and answer to this question is to “Write what you know.” Easy right? You do know that there are only 7 basic plots in literature…right? And there are 36 dramatic situations to fill out those plots. Every story is composed of one or more of these situations to tell a tale.

You have been observing human interaction and byplay from the first glimmer of your consciousness. You likely have whole scenes of dramatic dialog and action stored in that creative brain of yours. Ever been in a blizzard, a hurricane, or tornado? How about a car accident or been thrown from a horse? Every bit of experience that you have had in your life can serve as grist for your writing mill.

I people watch. There is a story in every trip to the mall. Sit in a quiet corner and let your eyes roam the flow of shoppers passing you by. A friend and I watched pretty woman and her boyfriend in a restaurant. They were holding hands across the table and whispering softly face to face when, out of the blue, her right hand jerked loose from his and she slapped him soundly across the face.

“CRAACK! The woman stands quickly and leans over the shocked man who is clutching his face—bright red welts are already forming. “Married! You’re married?! You bastard!” the woman shrieks as she turns, gathers up her purse and runs out of the restaurant. The stricken man jumps to his feet and starts after her, “Wait! Wait up! Let me explain…my wife doesn’t…I’m almost divorced…wait.” His lame explanations drop off to silence as he realizes that she is gone.”  (Excerpt from Tailgunner on a Barstool© Michael D. LeFevre)

I used this scene in a story as a tension break in an intense scene between the main characters. It allowed them to have a breather from the discussion they were having. Situations like this play out every day, in every place. They are fair game to a writer like you.

What else should you write about? How about personal events? Have you ever had a broken heart? Broken one? What I am trying to say here: if you write about the things you know, you likely know more than you think you do.

How do you write about the things you don’t know? Well, that is where the fun parts of a writing life begin. You have to learn about them. Research is the mainstay of a successful book. If you are writing a story of medieval warfare, shouldn’t you learn how knights fought on the battlefield? How they used sword, lance, shield, axe, or lance? How heavy is chain mail armor? Can you run in full plate armor? How do you mount a horse in armor? There are so many skills you should have at least a passing knowledge of when you write stories that are out of your life experience. Tom Clancy had to learn about submarines, undersea warfare, Soviet military practices, foreign policy, spy-craft, etc. when writing “The Hunt for Red October”.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA good practice exercise for any type of writing is to describe your surroundings. If you are constructing a world for your latest YA Fantasy novel or a modern ghost story starring Ichabod Crane, you will have to construct a world for your story to exist in. Practice by describing what’s around you, progress onto the fantasy. Tell your reader how the grass grows, the trees leaf, and which way the wind blows in the evening. Descriptions like these will make your story richer and more real for your audience.

Describe your characters in your research notes, include a picture of someone that looks like the person you have in mind. You can find pictures of actors, models, or friends and relatives who will flesh out these characters in your mind allowing you to write them as realistic individuals who act and speak in a believable way.

You should be writing practice dialogue. Nothing is more distracting than formulaic or stilted dialogue. You should be able to hear the characters voice as you read the dialogue aloud. Remember their voice; Sir Galahad won’t be rapping and cowboys won’t be swearing in mixed company. They just don’t, unless they are modern wannabe’s who have never learned the Cowboy Code.

Above all, you should be writing everyday. Why you write, how you write, and what you write are for you to determine. I can tell you how easy it is to write about people in the mall, or learn to write medieval fight scenes, but it really is up to you. Do you really want to be an Everyday Author? Is it your dream to be a full-time writer, quit your day-job, create the Great American Novel?

Then, write, my friend–write all of the time. Write what you know; write what you don’t know. Write from your heart. But, by all means, write.

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