Jun 12

Final Origin Book Trailer

I am SO excited to release the Final Origin book trailer!

This project had to take a several-months long hiatus, and I’m thrilled to be back on track. The book is due out at the end of the summer!

For more details about the book, head over to www.mnemonicsindustries.com!

I’m also launching a crowdfunding campaign for this project, and I would be so grateful for your support! If you’d like to get involved in supporting the project, my Pubslush campaign is launching next Friday (June 16)! You can head to finalorigin.pubslush.com for more information!

And now…the video!!!

Peace,

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Feb 21

Welcome to Up Close!

This is going to be a new feature on the SisterMuses blog. Every Friday, we’ll feature a behind-the-scenes peek into our current works in progress! We have three projects underway right now — J. Leigh is madly working on Scion (Madness Method 2), I’m kicking off a brand-new series with Final Origin, and we’re collaborating on an exciting episodic fiction project! We hope you enjoy what we have in store for you!

We’ll feature character “interviews” and profiles, concept work, plotting drama, and general reality-show-quality meltdowns  perspectives on our work. We’re so excited to bring you this fresh new part of our SisterMuses site!

We’ll also have podcasts and videos on occasion, where you can watch us as we work through the slumps and bumps and madness that accompany any kind of creative venture!

If you want to just read fan posts like these, be sure to click the “Up Close” category!

Happy reading!

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Oct 01

Dealing with Distraction

In a recent post, J. Leigh talked about reasons why we distract ourselves from our work — why do we waste time when we know we should be productive? The root of self-distraction tends to be fear: fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear period. Sometimes, self-distraction happens because we’re overwhelmed and we just don’t want to face the fact that we don’t have a freaking clue how to accomplish our goals. But what about those times when you are all set to focus and can’t because your environment isn’t supportive? How do you effectively deal with these distractions so that you can be productive?

1. Control Your External Environment

I got an email from Rebecca Matter of AWAI this morning that spurred me to write this post. She cites to an article in The Wall Street Journal and notes this:

According to The Wall Street Journal, creative workers can be interrupted or interrupt themselves as often as every 3 minutes. …

The article then went on to say it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on task.

If this is you, you’re losing about 40% of your productive brain power just dealing with interruptions.

I’m extraordinarily familiar with writing under the duress of distraction. (I’ve called myself a “spare moment author”, and that’s really the truth). I’m a homeschooling mother of six kids. It’s a very busy life…and full of noise and activity pretty much constantly. Carving out quiet space for creative work is often a huge struggle, and many times I can only manage tiny chunks of time — it’s rare when I have an entire hour to myself to focus on my writing. And even when I get the time, I’m often so buzzed from the frenetic pace of my life that I can’t focusIt takes me 10-15 minutes just to clear my head enough to get down to the work I’ve set for myself.

Serenity!

Serenity!

Here’s how I try to protect those chunks of time by controlling my external environment:

  • Keep my office space ready to go — laptop charged, desk decluttered as much as possible
  • Turn off the internet (or go somewhere where access to WiFi is a challenge)
  • Use natural quiet times in the rhythm of my family’s life as much as I can — afternoon nap time, early morning, etc.
  • Deal with other environmental issues before I sit down. I have a hard time working if my kitchen isn’t clean. That’s just me. So I try to address this before I get to work.
  • Get out of the house and work elsewhere when I really need to focus. There are just some things that, right now, won’t change. If I need more than 45 minutes – 1 hour for a project, I have to go somewhere else.

Interestingly, when I leave my “home office” to work somewhere else, my productivity easily triples. It’s just a fact. I’m spending more and more of my writing time out of the house now because I can get so much more done. Sometimes the best way to control your external environment is to completely change it!

Bottom line: you have to know yourself before you can make changes in your environment that will support productivity. Understand what distracts you and find ways to limit its impact.

2. Control Your Internal Environment

Your external environment can impact your productivity, but in many ways your inner landscape is even more important. Go back and read J. Leigh’s post if you haven’t done so already and you’ll see what I mean! Here are a few ways to make sure that your inner environment is optimized for creative work:

  • Know what you’re going to write when you get the chance. Have a plan. Jot down a few notes as you end your writing session about what you’ll do during your work time the next day.
  • Deal with inner issues like lack of confidence or other stressful situations before you sit down to write
  • Get 30 minutes of exercise (or at least go outside and breathe fresh air and soak in some sun)
  • Nourish yourself with a good diet, high in protein, and drink lots of water

We joke a lot around here about the “Muse” — but there’s something to this. Your inner environment needs to be free to be creative. If you’re shackled by emotional stress, sluggish brain fog, or some other internal distraction, your productivity will crater. Know what your internal triggers are and find healthy ways of coping with them so that you can be free to let creativity take the wheel!

3. Go with the Flow

Beating your head against the wall won’t get you anywhere ultimately. Make peace with things in your environment that you can’t change. I don’t have a writing space like some of the gorgeous ones on my Pinterest board (which you can check out here if you’re interested)…at least, not yet.

A lovely writing space!

A lovely writing space!

Since I’m a very visual person, that’s not actually as trivial as it seems. I feed off of beauty and order in my environment…but I have had to learn to deal with the fact that much of my life is just chaos. No matter how hard I try to fight for order, I live on the ragged edge. And I’m constantly working on accepting that.

Learn what you can change and what you can control, and learn to leave the rest alone. Make small changes now that will have a big impact and keep a watchful eye on the rest. Sometimes timing is everything, and giving circumstances a few weeks or a few months will open up possibilities for real change.

And change can be a scary thing sometimes. We don’t want to let go of the status quo because our fear of the unknown makes us want to just hold on. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right? Wrong. Not always. Not when you can make measured changes that are consistent with who you are, with your goals, and with your individual life circumstances…and that will be positive for your life and your happiness.

So, if you’re a distracted creative type and you’re not sure how to focus, do one thing today to make a positive change. Take a walk. Shut off the internet when you sit down to work. Make a plan for the next day’s work. Small changes can shift your entire universe!

Let us know in the comments what changes you’re going to make to help you be more creative!

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Sep 23

3 Reasons Every Business Should Hire an Editor

If you’re a business owner and don’t have an editor on call, it’s time to think about retaining one, even if it’s just on a freelance basis. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. If you produce any kind of written material — whether it’s a menu, a website, a newsletter, a flyer, or a training manual — it is critical to make sure that it’s vetted by a professional before it’s released. Here are three reasons why.

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1. DIY vs. Professional Work

Since we all use words all the time for various things, and since most of us have a fairly competent grasp of the language, it’s easy to think that editing written material is a DIY project. Here’s the thing, though. Writing’s about more than just the words on the page. It’s about more than what spell-check can catch for you. An editor is trained to use all the tools the language has to offer to achieve the desired goals of the project.

In many ways, hiring an editor is like hiring a professional contractor to install your kitchen for you.  Are you competent with a hammer and drill? Quite possibly. Does that mean you should rip out your kitchen and install a new one yourself? Probably not. Most of the time, people will be able to spot the difference between something that’s been installed by the homeowner himself and something that’s professionally done. There’s something about the quality of the work, the attention to detail, that makes all the difference to the finished product.

It’s the same with any written project. People notice the flaws. Excellent writing is almost invisible — it’s unassuming, and lets the subject matter shine through. Poor quality writing only draws attention to itself…and that’s distracting for the reader.

2. Image and Impression

If your writing is calling attention to itself in a bad way, it can damage your business’s image. Customers expect professional quality work, and when your flyers contain errors or your business letters contain basic grammatical mistakes, it creates the impression that your business is sloppy in other areas, too. Again, it comes down to attention to detail.

Certain industries need to be especially diligent about professional quality writing. Educational institutions and service providers, tutors, authors, and writing professionals all need to make sure that they deliver the highest quality in their promotional materials. Why? Because this is the very area in which you are asking for your customers’ trust: in education, and, specifically, in writing. When you fail to deliver, it creates the impression that you’re not worthy of that level of trust.

When I was working in the healthcare industry as an independent educator and service provider, I remember clearly being taught during our training that sending emails to clients that were poorly composed and full of typos and grammatical errors would create an impression that my work generally was unprofessional. People really do judge your business by the words you use and the way you present yourself.

3. No Excuses

There is no good reason for a business to produce poorly composed and edited written materials. Hiring a freelance editor to go over your materials with a fine-toothed comb will be well worth any expense, because, like it or not, sloppy writing will cost your company customers. People expect excellence, and they don’t have patience for either mistakes or excuses.

In many ways, good writing is like good style. When you go to a business meeting to discuss a project with a new client, how do you dress? Do you spend a little extra time making sure you look professional? Do you make sure your makeup is on properly, that your shirt is ironed, that your shoes match and your bag is neat and organized? Or do you slouch into your prospective client’s office, pull out a notebook full of tattered pages and proceed to take notes with a chewed up pen? If you wouldn’t present yourself physically in this way, then don’t let your writing give this impression to your customers.

Hire an editor. Hire a good editor.

I promise…it won’t be money wasted.

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P.S. In our next post, we’ll give you some tips on what to look for in an editor.

 

Photo credit: GollyGforce – Living My Worst Nightmare / Foter / CC BY

Jul 16

Why We Waste Time

This is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately while I’ve, well, been wasting time.  I feel like I haven’t done any significant writing for almost a year. (Heck, I haven’t even been blogging!)  Some of that was unavoidable — personal issues to deal with, classes and a full time job that I have to actually be present for, etc.  But some was self-inflicted, unnecessary procrastination.

And while I’ve read some great blog posts about effective time-management, they all seemed to fall short in one crucial way.

None of them talked about why we waste time.

To me, that seems like the most important question to ask.  After all, just trying to apply remedies without knowing the root cause is like prescribing medication without a diagnosis.  Treating the symptoms, not the disease.

And it’s something that a lot of writers (and folks in general!) struggle with.  I mean, we all want to believe that we’re the most driven, passionate and over-achieving people we know, especially when we’re bombarded by all these success stories of writers who’ve already churned out 20 books this year and are planning 50 for next month before they retire with their 16-digit royalty payouts on their own private Caribbean island resort.

Okay.  Maybe not quite, but you know what I mean.  You know those stories, the ones that make you feel inadequate if you’ve only written a measly 5,000 words in one day.

6801535904_0e2bde16dc_nBut let’s face it.  Most of us are only human.  We write what we can, when we can, and just trudge along trying to do our best. Sometimes, though, we just. don’t. do. anything.  We have precious few hours to devote to our craft each day, and we fritter them away.  We know that wasting time just cripples our productivity, so why do we insist on doing it?

Maybe the first question should be — do we even realize we’re doing it?  (First step to fixing a problem, mate…)

So, I’ll use myself as an example.  What does wasting time look like for me?  I’ll give you one word.

Internet

Oh yes, that soul-sucking, time-devouring destroyer of serenity, the internet.  That is, by far, my #1 time sink.

  • Facebook.  Don’t even get me started on FB.  I tell myself, “Oh, I’m not really that active on FB.  I hardly ever post anything.”  “Oh, really, self?” say I.  “Then why do you obsessively load and reload that cursed bane of your existence throughout the day?”  And I realize that, even if I’m not posting much, if I added up all the seconds I spend scrolling mindlessly through an endless news feed, taking inane Buzzfeed quizzes (don’t laugh — you know you want to know what flavor of cupcake you are, too), feeding trolls who lurk in the quagmire of political and religious posts…yeah.  It’s a huge waste of time.
  • Twitter.  Twitter is less of a problem for me.  I get on to see if I’ve got notifications, scan through the last, oh, 5 seconds of stories (i.e., the last 75,023 stories), try desperately to come up with something witty to say in 140 characters or less, fail epically, and close the window.  But still.  I repeat this process several times a day.  Why?  Glutton for punishment?  I don’t know.
  • Puzzles.  Puzzles, you say?  Oh, dear Lord, yes.  Puzzles are the evil.  I’m a sucker for anything puzzling, whether numbers or jigsaws or those stupid little FB games that are way too addictive.  I usually give the excuse that it’s a passive thing to do while I’m thinking over a scene or a plot or how to take over the world, or whatever.  Truth is, I just like puzzles.  And more often than not, I’m not thinking about much of anything except pretty shapes and colors and why oh WHY dear God can’t I ever get any writing done???
  • Obsessing over reviews.  Yeeahh…if I took all the time in the day that I spend loading Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc. to see if I’ve gotten any new reviews (nope, still no new ones in the last three minutes, or… months), I could probably write a solid chapter of exciting new story, and edit it (twice).

Non-internet Time-Sinks

  • Video games.  Okay, I don’t waste as much time gaming as I used to, but still.  I might play half an hour here, an hour there over the course of a week, but that’s pretty significant when you add it up (and especially when you have a penchant for lamenting that you never ever have any time for anything).
  • Sleep.  Yeah, okay, sleep isn’t really a waste of time.  But sometimes it feels like it is.  Because, you know.  Sleep.

There you have it.  As you can see, most of my wasted time is swallowed by the internet…and I’d say 95% of it is swallowed by digital activities of some sort or another.

Now the question is, why am I doing it?  Because believe me, I’m well aware (and thoroughly lament the fact) that while I’m scrolling through FB for the thousandth time this morning, I could be writing.  And yet…I don’t.

Fear

Fear is a strong word, but sometimes it’s the right word.  Sometimes we waste time because we’re afraid to take the leap and tackle some project.  This is a big one for me.  These are the top reasons I might be afraid to apply myself to a task:

  • Fear of failure.  Yeah, I may be afraid that whatever I try to do will suck like a black hole.  I’ve been writing a long time, and I’ve got four books out, and yet I still fear that when I start a new book, it will be the worst piece of literary detritus ever conceived by the mind of man.  What if I can’t finish?  What if my ideas are all totally lame, and I just don’t know it?  What if I embarrass everyone who knows me with my utter and overwhelming lameness?
  • Fear of disappointment.  Slightly different than fear of failure, this is the fear that after I’ve invested long hard hours and blood, sweat and tears for a novel, I just won’t care.  I won’t like it.  And, if no one else likes it either, I will have wasted all that energy for nothing.  I won’t even make any money for consolation.
  • Fear of disappointing readers.  Now that I actually have some readers who are interested in my books and who encourage me and cheer me on, I’m dead scared of disappointing them.  What if the next book I write is SO BAD, that they can’t believe they ever liked anything I wrote?  What if I’m just another wannabe who fizzles out fast and leaves nothing for anyone to care about?  What if, what if?

Those are the biggies for fear, for me.  What are some other reasons I waste time?

Uncertainty

  • Lack of Clarity. Sometimes I waste time when I just have no clear picture where I’m going to take a story.  As if browsing FB for the billionth time this hour is going to miraculously shower me with wisdom and insight into my current plot (or lack thereof).  Because that makes perfect sense.  But when I’m really unclear about my project, I will avoid it at all costs.
  • Lack of Confidence. This goes back to some of those fear issues.  I may just feel like I’m not up to the task.  Maybe I’m not as good a writer as I deluded myself into believing.  Maybe no one really cares.  Maybe I shouldn’t even bother.
  • Lack of Understanding. Sometimes a project is so immense that I feel unequal to the task of writing it.  I feel like, if only I had the psychological insight of a Dostoevsky, my characters would be brilliant.  If only I had as much life experience as, say, David Farland or Brian Jacques, I would know how to write this plot better.  If only I’d actually had a chance to get shipwrecked in an icy sea on some jagged rocks, this scene would be so easy to write.  (Okay, maybe not….)
  • General Life Uncertainty. Let’s be honest.  Sometimes wasting time instead of writing has nothing to do with writing per se.  Maybe it’s because I’m facing a general sort of fuzziness about what the heck I’m doing with my life, in the grand scheme of things.  That kind of uncertainty is enough to paralyze most of my endeavors, and quite frankly, wasting time becomes a way to try to stave off depression.  However, instead of confronting the problem, I end up exacerbating it because all I can see myself doing is wasting more of the life that I’m…worried I’m wasting.

In fact, that’s the thing about wasting time — for any of the reasons I listed, or for any other reasons people might have.  It. Doesn’t. Solve. Problems.

Let me say that again.

Wasting time doesn’t solve problems.

In fact, it can turn into a vicious cycle.  I’m afraid I’ll be a failure, so I don’t write, which makes me less successful, which makes me more afraid I’ll be a failure, which makes me waste more time.  I lack clarity about the story, so I waste time, which means I don’t think about the story, which means I still lack clarity.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, all these reasons might not be true for every given instance of time-wasting-behavior.  So, while you can pore over articles and checklists and how-to’s to get your life organized, if you don’t stop and think about why you’re wasting time right now, those efforts — no matter how well-intentioned — are not going to help in the long term.

Instead, try to pick one particular way — a small goal, if you will — to help confront whatever problem you’re facing.

Unsure where your current WIP is going?  Write a “letter to a friend” describing the story.  Don’t worry about contradicting yourself, about being grammatically correct or stylistically polished.  Don’t worry if you write complete and utter garbage.  Just start writing.  Write about the characters, who their enemies are, what they ate for breakfast, whatever.  Sometimes that can be a great help.

Or, write an outline!  For me, I feel like if I don’t start out knowing exactly all the plot points in my story, I shouldn’t bother outlining it.  After all, you write an outline after you know all the information, right?  Well, no.  Sometimes you need the outline to see where the holes are.  So don’t be afraid to write an outline that looks like this:

  1. Howard goes to the castle
  2. Howard meets the princess
  3. The princess tries to stab Howard (how rude!)
  4. Blah blah blah.
  5. Stuff happens.
  6. Howard maybe runs away???  Does the princess chase him or maybe did she get trapped in an oubliette??
  7. Blah blahh blahhhhhh.
  8. Awesome dramatic climax where Howard discovers the princess is under a terrible curse and breaks her free!
  9. Blah blah.
  10. Howard is now under the curse.  The end.

Then just start brainstorming where all the filler stuff is.  Write the wackiest things you can think of, if you can’t think of anything sensible.  Just….WRITE.

394251637_ce03fdeaef_mOr…and this is the one that I always get stuck on…write something else. I always think, “But I can’t! I have readers waiting for X!  I can’t work on Y!”  So, instead of writing on a new project, I desperately try to reach level 431 of Tetris.  Not helpful.  When I try to calculate how much I could have written on a new novel while I had “writer’s block” for the novel I was “supposed” to be working on (notice the excessive use of “quotes”), it’s a bit depressing.

Feeling uncertain about your life?  Sit down with a trusted friend and just talk about your uncertainties, your fears, your goals.  Figure out why you aren’t happy where you are, and what accomplishments you want to remember when you’re older.  Make a bucket list.  Make a goals poster.  And if writing figures at all into those things, ABC (apply butt to chair) and write something, anything, good, bad, short, long, whatever.  Just. Get. Writing.

So, whatever your issue is, focus on finding just one way to inch back in the right direction.  You don’t have to solve all your problems all at once.  You don’t have to write a masterpiece overnight and plan 60 new novels for the next week.  Just turn off your wi-fi, or grab a pen and notebook and go to the park, and do something — anything — that you can count as progress in your writing.  Maybe it’s character sketches.  Maybe you want to write out descriptions of every outfit in your main character’s wardrobe.  Maybe you want to write a vignette about your character’s crazy old neighbor who gets all of one mention in the novel.  It doesn’t matter.

You’re writing.  You’re working on your craft.  You’re improving.  You’re succeeding.

You’re not wasting time.

 

What are the biggest reasons you waste time?  What are your best ways to break through them?  Leave a comment below!

 

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Photo credit: Valokuvaaja Joonas Tikkanen / FoterCreative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Photo credit: @joefoodie / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Mar 19

Empathy – The Key to Writing Deep Emotion

A reader recently sent me this question, after reading The Madness Project:

I find that it’s difficult to convey strong emotion or culminate events without being drippy…How were you able to stay deep and involved without going overly sentimental?

The question took me a bit by surprise.  I’d never really thought about it before…although I can smell over-sentamentalized writing a mile away.  You see, as writers, we are expected to take our readers on a deeply emotional journey, subjecting them to  trauma, tragedy, joy, chaos, danger, excitement, happiness, loss, anger and fear — all in a safely controlled sort of way.  Our goal is to stir up reader empathy for the characters.  We want our readers to experience what our characters experience as if they were those characters.

I think that, in order to do that, we have to start by having empathy ourselves.  And quite frankly, I think this is something that goes far beyond the word processor.  We need to have empathy as human beings first and foremost, before we can ever expect to have empathy as writers.

Having empathy means “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings” or “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” When we have empathy for someone, we are taking their sufferings on ourselves — even if we cannot know exactly what someone is feeling, we use our imagination to project ourselves into the other person’s place, and try to answer the question, “What would I be feeling if this were me?”

Not everyone is naturally empathetic, but I firmly believe that everyone can develop that capacity.  In fact, I also firmly believe that it’s necessary for living a humane life.  Empathy goes beyond great tragedies and terrible fears.  It impacts us on a daily basis, in all the little things.  And it’s not the same thing as pity.

It’s more like — when I see that woman with the ugly clothes and the unkempt hair and the circles under her eyes, I don’t make fun of her (even in my own mind), but I also don’t look down on her with a superior, condescending kind of pity either.  It means I try to put myself into her life and try to see the world through her eyes.  

There’s a wonderful way that the word “compassionate” can be used as a verb (making the in ate long)…for instance, “to compassionate the pains of another” and it means to “suffer with.”  To take a musical example of this, have you ever heard of the Norwegian fiddle called the hardanger or hardingfele?  These remarkable instruments have not only the normal violin strings, but a set of sympathetic strings that run beneath the regular strings, and vibrate when the upper strings are bowed.

The result is remarkable — you have strings vibrating in harmony with the played notes, without the musician ever touching them.  Empathy is a lot like that.  Without the event or circumstances ever touching you, your heartstrings (for lack of a better term) move in harmony with those of the person being shaken by the event.

Now, back to writing.  As writers, I think we have to have this ability in order to use it in how we approach our characters.  If we don’t feel empathy ourselves, how can we ever expect to stir up empathy in our readers?  In real life, we are the sympathetic strings that move with the sufferings of others.  In writing, we are the bow that strikes our characters, making the readers compassionate them.  But we can’t do that well if we aren’t attuned to experiencing it ourselves.

I think it’s fairly easy to spot when a writer tries to write tragedy or fear or trauma…or even deep love…without empathy.  In order to artificially make the reader empathize with the characters, they adorn their prose with over-the-top descriptions of grief and pain.  Everything is spelled out.  It slaps the reader in the face and expects an emotional reaction.  If we as writers can’t enter into the sufferings of our characters as if they were our own tragedies, how can we ever expect our readers to empathize with them?

Next time around I’m going to write about how exactly we use empathy to create empathy in our readers from page 1…and some practical does and don’ts for how to write emotionally charged scenes without going over the top in either sentimentality or the macabre.

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Mar 03

Thanks to Our Participants!

We just want to say thank you to all the people who participated in our first SisterMuses giveaway!  We think you guys are more awesome than Chuck Norris on a plane…or two.

This kind of awesome

 

And epic congratulations to Andrew H. who won the three autographed paperbacks.

Stay tuned — we will be having more giveaways of books and awesome swag in the coming months.  Be sure to sign up for our newsletter if you want to be the first to hear about all the fun stuff we’ve got planned!

Feb 19

Failing Gracefully as a Writer

No one wants to talk about failure. Writing bloggers and how-to authors everywhere make their livings by promising success — follow this strategy, take these classes, Tweet this many times/day, Facebook with your fans…and you’ll sell thousands of books and readers will love you. The strategies are as numerous as there are bloggers…or would-be writers.

And yet, the cold, hard truth of the matter is that the chance of failing in this business is very real. And the reason is pretty simple: some things are just not within your control as a writer. Some things are in your control. The quality of your writing. Your cover art. Your formatting. Your platform. Your book blurb. Your social media presence. But ultimately, your success lies in the hands of your readers…and sometimes readers just don’t like what you have to offer. And there’s nothing you can do about that…except write something new.

Reality Check

There has been a flurry of discussion recently over Hugh Howey’s author earnings report (and new AuthorEarnings site), which demonstrated, if nothing else, that Indie publishing is finally coming into its own. In his article “Do Hugh Howey’s AuthorEarnings Add Up?”, Porter Anderson brings a bit of healthy skepticism to the findings, encouraging authors to weigh the information to make informed decisions. And he quotes from an article by author David Kazzie to reinforce the point. Kazzie responds to Hugh Howey’s glowing optimism with this:

The reason that I argue that Hugh’s contention is wrong is simple, and it is this: there is one thing I’ve done in self-publishing that Hugh really hasn’t. And that is fail spectacularly.

If you read the rest of Kazzie’s article (which I strongly recommend), he chronicles his heartbreak over watching his book languish for eight months on Amazon…something that many self-published authors who are not Hugh Howey can certainly relate to. Kazzie credits his ultimate success to a strategy for using KDP Select that is now defunct — reinforcing the point that many vogue book marketing strategies are often already behind the times.

Ultimately, when it comes to self-publishing success, both Kazzie and Howey have to tip their hats, at least in part, to Lady Luck.

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Some books hit the jackpot. They strike just the right nerve in the audience at exactly the right moment — the stars align, and success is born. And after that, success comes easier.

But what if the stars don’t align?

You put in hundreds of hours on a book. You pour your heart and soul into it, holding nothing back. You may even spend a small fortune to do the cover right and get a professional editor to ensure a quality product. And then it sits there, and you watch it, as Kazzie says, “wither away on the vine.” You know in the core of your being that it’s good. But no one cares.

Very few have the courage to admit it, but it is shatteringly difficult to put yourself back together again when your hopes and expectations have been obliterated by negative reviews and less than meager sales. Saying you need a thick skin as a writer doesn’t even begin to approach the truth.

Kazzie concludes his post with this well-articulated gem:

I agree, Hugh. Self-publishing is just as legitimate a way to succeed as a writer as traditional publishing. And it’s just as legitimate a way to fail.

Finally, someone’s talking about the reality of failing as a writer.

Where Do We Go from Here?

When you fail spectacularly, you have a choice. Do you pick up the shards of your dreams and crawl back to your desk and write your next book? Or do you chunk them in the wastebasket and move on to a new dream?

I think the Olympics can teach us a valuable lesson here. I love watching the Olympics. These athletes are at the absolute top of their game. They train for hours a day, they sweat, they bleed, they fall and get back up…fall and get back up…fall and get back up. They try again, and again, and again…until one day they are standing on the Olympic stage, in front of the world, taking their one shot at gold.

And sometimes they fall.

Many of these athletes will come back. They will collect themselves and work for four more years to up their game. And then they will try again. But some don’t. And it’s the same for writers.

We work for a year (more or less) on a project, perfecting it and polishing it. And then we publish. We take that mad gamble and put it all on the line. And sometimes we succeed…but sometimes we fail, and all those hopes and dreams are shattered.

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When you fail, what will you do?

It comes down to why you started writing in the first place, I think. If you write because it’s in your blood and you could no sooner stop writing than you could stop breathing, then you’ll drag your broken self back into that chair and begin again. You let the past be the past. You don’t forget the pain of falling, but you don’t let it scare you away from the slopes. You become wiser. You adapt and try something new. And you coax that spark of belief in yourself and in your writing back into a little blaze.

But whatever you do, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that there’s some magic formula out there that will guarantee success. It’s just not true. You can write a brilliant novel with perfect cover art and flawless editing that sees all of 100 total sales and garners three 1-star reviews (out of a total of 6 reviews) from readers who just don’t like that kind of book and feel passionately enough about it to share it with the world. It happens.

But is that the end of your story?

Bottom Line

If you don’t want failing to destroy your writing career, you have to get clear about your goals as a writer…and you have to get clear about why you are writing in the first place. (I hate to break it to you, but if you’re in this because you think it’s glamorous or an easy way to make a million, you’re in the wrong career.)

Once you’re clear about your goals, you need to dispassionately and critically consider your options for reaching your goal. Are you best served by self-publishing? Are you best served by finding an agent and pursuing a traditional deal? Or are you best served by a hybrid of the two?

And there’s one other thing you must understand.

Writing books is one thing. Selling books is something altogether different. Writing is an art. Selling is a business. And for most of us, that’s where we run into trouble. We don’t treat this like a business. We don’t market like a business. We often look for what seems like the easiest formula for success and try that, rather than cultivating the business skills and savvy that will make us successful long-term. And when that formula fails, we’re in a tailspin until the next scheme comes along.

Get off the roller coaster and roll up your sleeves. Invest the time in teaching yourself about marketing and the ins and outs of this business, just like you would if you were opening up a coffee shop or a bookstore. You’re an author and an entrepreneur, and you have to have a long-term vision of your career and your success.

With that perspective, failure is just another bend in the road we travel…not the end.

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Photo Credits:

Four Leaf Clover 068: cygnus921 / Foter / CC BY

broken glass: davetoaster / Foter / CC BY

Feb 16

Our First SisterMuses Giveaway!

Hey everyone!

We are so excited to offer our first giveaway! From February 16th until the 28th, you can enter to win an autographed set of SisterMuses Firsts — The Outworlder (Book I of the Silesia Trilogy), Down a Lost Road (Book I of the Lost Road Chronicles), and The Madness Project (Book I of the Madness Method)!

We’ll notify you by email if you’ve won! And if you love giveaways (who doesn’t?)…don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter! We’ll have a giveaway every quarter — and we love our advance reviewers, who always score a free copy of our latest releases!

The Outworlder (Silesia #1)

Giveaway 1

Sahara should never have survived when her transport ship crashed into the desert world of Silesia. Virtuoso assassin and convict, Sahara carries the weight of a past she only wants to forget, but can never seem to escape.  Rescued from the desert by Jared Alareth, a man with as many secrets as her, Sahara discovers that not all is as it seems in the city of Albadir.  As Jared’s people face a new danger, will Sahara’s past destroy them all, or is it the key to their survival?

 

Down a Lost Road (Lost Road Chronicles #1)

Giveaway 2

Every family has its secrets.  For Merelin Lindon, the only secret she knew about was the reason behind her father’s disappearance. When she finds herself swept into the strange world of Arah Byen, she discovers that not only is its past tied to Earth’s…it is also somehow linked to her own. When she and a mysterious boy named Yatol set out to solve the mystery of her father’s fate, they realize that uncovering the truth may cost more than they ever imagined…

 

The Madness Project (The Madness Method #1)

Giveaway 3

Tarik Trabinis is the Crown Prince of Cavnal, and a mage in a world that despises magic. After keeping his gift a secret for sixteen years, he must now use it to infiltrate a secret society that may be plotting revolution. On the streets he meets Hayli, a mage who, like him, feels lost between worlds.  Tarik knows she is key to his mission’s success, but how far will he go to learn the truth?  In a world of crime and violent ambition, trust is sacred…but trust is a lot to ask when everything you do is a lie.

 

 

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