Guest Posts · Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writers' Week 2012 · Writing & Freelance

Writing a Book? Set Goals and Stay Motivated.

WriterBy Stacy Ennis

Once writers have a book idea that takes hold, the urge to write can be an unstoppable force. Many go into the book-writing process with a high amount of energy, ready to write until their fingers fall off. They envision their stories, ideas, or business concepts flowing gracefully and concisely onto the computer screen. Many make such claims as, “I don’t ever get writer’s block!” or “I don’t have trouble sitting down and writing every day.”

When I hear statements like these, I usually offer a knowing smile. And behind that smile is the knowledge of two things: 1) Most writers will hit a point when they just can’t write another word, and 2) Many aspiring authors never finish their book projects…and if they do, it’ll take them longer than they ever expected.

So, as you set out to write your best-selling cookbook or the next chart-topping young adult vampire novel, do some planning. A proactive approach to writing the first draft of your book will help you maintain focus and motivation as you accomplish a pretty impressive task. The following tips will help you overcome some of the major hurdles authors face:

#1: Choose a consistent time and space.

Figure out where you write best. Is it at a busy coffee shop? At the kitchen table, with a cup of tea and soft music playing? At the office, once your work is finished and colleagues have gone home? Wherever it is, make sure you have consistent access to that space.

Then, sit down with your calendar and determine how much time per week you have to devote to writing your book. Choose specific times each week that will be given exclusively to writing. If you keep a planner, schedule yourself out to write. Treat that time the same you would any other important appointment.

#2: Outline, outline, outline.

Now that you have your designated writing space and time set aside each week, it’s time to outline your book. Even if it’s just a loose outline, and even if you’re a fiction writer who likes to go with the literary flow, an outline can be a make-or-break thing. Proper planning can help save hours of rewriting, since the structure and main concepts (or story elements) are already established. You know all of those brilliant thoughts that strike you from time to time? How about those pages of notes you’ve been saving to eventually use when you write your book? An outline helps you place your notes, ideas, and research into the right places, as well as helps you visualize where you are in the book-writing process. It also helps you see that the end is in sight when you’re halfway through your draft.

#3: Set goals.

Goal setting isn’t just for losing weight and financial planning; it can be used while writing the first draft of your book, too. Do some research into the word count of typical books in your genre. Then, determine an approximate number of words you can write in the amount of time you have available per week (which you determined in step #1). For example, you might be writing a nonfiction business book and find that your specific niche tends to be in the 30,000-word range. Let’s say you have four hours available per week to write, split between two days, and you can write about 2,000 words in that amount of time, or 1,000 words per session (since you have two two-hour sessions per week). With our example above, it would take 15 weeks, or less than four months, to write a 30,000-word book. Not bad, right?

Next, look at your outline and assign loose word count totals for each chapter. The easiest way to do this is to divide evenly. In our example, let’s say there are eight chapters at 3,750 words each. So, it would take about two weeks to write the first draft of one chapter. Determining per-chapter word counts will help you gauge the approximate amount of time you should be spending on each chapter.

Finally, use these goals as you work on your book. Each writing day, set out to complete 1,000 words, or whatever goal you’ve set. Try to not spend more than the budgeted time on a chapter, unless you really need to. You can always go back later and expand, rework, or revise the chapter. The key is getting the first draft done. You can unleash your perfectionism in later drafts.

Setting small goals helps you accomplish little victories along the way—which can be very important in maintaining motivation to achieve the bigger goal: writing a book.

#4 Tell your friends and family.

Writing is a solo affair, but it’s rarely successful if the author works in absolute isolation. Accountability is one of the best motivators for success. Ask your friends and family to support you as you work on this big goal. Let them know that you need their help to stay motivated and focused, whether it’s verbal encouragement or helping with life tasks. The kids can do some extra chores for a little while, right? And your mom would be happy to help pick Foo Foo up from doggie day care once a week, now wouldn’t she? Just don’t forget to thank them in the acknowledgements section of your book once it’s published.

#5 Take it one bite at a time.

A colleague once told me that writing a book is like eating an elephant—you have to take it one bite at a time. Eat too much, too fast, and you’ll most likely find yourself getting overwhelmed. When you’re working on chapter 1, let it be the only thing in your writing world. Let yourself focus fully on developing that chapter, without getting distracted by the larger project ahead of you. On a smaller scale, focus on the daily writing goal. If you’re aiming for 1,000 words in two hours, then focus on finishing that goal.

#6 Sacrifice: get your butt in the chair.

You weren’t expecting that one, were you? Well, here’s the truth: Writing a book takes sacrifice. It won’t write itself…even if you ask really, really nicely. This sometimes means making personal sacrifices. Dinner with friends or monthly wine tasting may have to be put on hold until you accomplish your goal. But you can do anything for a few months, right? Stick with your goals, get your butt in that chair, and write your book.

#7 Remember: It’s not done.

Many writers make the mistake of believing that their first drafts have to be perfect. This tendency toward perfectionism can be crippling as new authors try to get the first drafts of their books finished. But the truth is that all books go through several drafts—heck, mine took six drafts over seven months! What you are writing now is just the beginning of what your book will eventually become. During later stages, your editor will help you take your book from good to great and transform your first-draft prose into the well-written book you envisioned when you set out on your book-writing endeavor. So don’t get so hung up on writing the perfect book that you never get done writing it.

Thomas Edison must have been talking about book writing when he said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” By setting goals and taking steps to stay motivated, you will be able to put in the work required to finish your book—and achieve a pretty awesome lifetime accomplishment.

[box border=”full”]Stacy EnnisStacy Ennis is a book and magazine editor, book coach, and speaker. Her book, The Editor’s Eye: A Practical Guide to Transforming Your Book from Good to Great, will be released in September 2012. Visit http://www.nightowlspress.com/e-book-store/the-editors-eye/ for more information.[/box]

Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writers' Week 2012 · Writing & Freelance

Fine Print of Self-Publishing Giveaway – Friday

Writing contest not your thing, but you still want to win? You’re in luck! Hillcrest Media CEO Mark Levine has donated 5 copies of his book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing to give away to a random participant every day of Writers’ Week! Use the widget below to enter to win today’s copy.

Sorry, this one’s open to U.S. residents only. (It’s a shipping thing.)

the fine print of self-publishing

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Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writers' Week 2012 · Writing & Freelance

The Writing of “10 Mississippi”

Stories Sold: 17
Total Raised: $67.53
writers week short storyA couple of months ago, I sent out a message on Twitter and Google+, asking if anyone out there was interested in collaborating on a short story for Writers’ Week. It wasn’t going to pay anything, but the goal was to put something together (round-robin style) that would raise money for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Four people—none of them from Wisconsin, by the way—volunteered within minutes. Each person was given two weeks with the short story to write what he or she could, and then pass the story off to the next person in line.

About the Authors of “10 Mississippi”

Johann Thorsson was born in Iceland but has lived in Israel, Croatia and London and once spent three months in Vermont tasting maple syrup. He has published short stories in various magazines and is working on his first book. He really likes reading in the bathtub. Find Johann at http://jthorsson.com.

Len Berry a lifelong resident of Missouri studied biology before turning his imagination toward writing. In his spare time, Len enjoys drawing, watching anime, and playing an occasional video game. He is the author of the dystopian e-book Vitamin F, and “Dreams of Freedom,” a short story featured in the anthology Dreams of Steam II: Brass and Bolts. Since Len is an active blogger, you can find out more about him and his projects at http://lentberry.wordpress.com.

Rachel Lynn Brody’s produced theater work includes one-act plays POST (1999 Write To Be Heard Award Winner), PLAYING IT COOL, STUCK UP A TREE, MOUSEWINGS and GREEN BEER AND BAGELS. She has also written and produced a number of short films. Her writing has appeared in publications including The Buffalo News, The Spectrum, Rogues & Vagabonds, and The British Theatre Guide. Rachel has experience in blogging, freelance copywriting, fashion writing and more. Her plays and fiction, including recent anthology HOT MESS: speculative fiction about climate change, are available on Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. She holds an MFA Dramatic Writing and a BA in Media Studies (Video Production). Rachel is currently based in New York City.

Claire Ryan is a graphic/web designer, all-round computer expert, programmer, data analyst, and aspiring writer. She currently lives in Vancouver, Canada, having escaped from the untamed wilderness that is the south of Ireland. Claire currently runs the Raynfall Agency, a publishing business that handles technical things for writers.

Buy “10 Mississippi Now”

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10 mississippi

“Ten Mississippi” $1.39

By Len Berry, Rachel Lynn Brody, Claire Ryan and Johann Thorsson

When Sebastian dares Tommy to knock on the door of a haunted house, Tommy is determined to impress the pretty new girl from school, Jo, and wait a full ten Mississippis on the front porch. While he waits, Tommy hears a strange voice coming from inside the house and decides it’s time to run. But Razor, the neighbor’s vicious dog, escapes chasing the trio inside the haunted house and forcing them to investigate.

 

 

 

 

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Why Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin?

Good question. In fact, on Tuesday an employee of the hospital sent me an email asking me just that question. She wrote:

Hi Emily,
I work at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and wondered how you came to be doing such a kind and generous act? What’s the connection to Children’s?

And I replied:

I ran Al’s Run last year, and signed up to run again this year (although I won’t be able to participate on Saturday). I had originally planned the short story in conjunction with my Writers’ Week program as a way to raise money for pledges for Al’s Run, and figured I’d just follow through with that even though I wouldn’t be running this year.

Here’s more about CHW taken from the hospital’s website:

Children’s Hospital and Health System is an independent health care system dedicated solely to the health and well-being of children. The 12 entities that make up the health system work to improve the lives of children everywhere through care giving, advocacy, research and education.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, serving Wisconsin, Northern Illinois and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and beyond through nationally-recognized programs.

Buy it Now

Using the buttons above, you can add “10 Mississippi” to your cart and checkout with PayPal. If you need technical help loading the file on your ereader, contact me. I’ll do my best to get you squared away. To learn more about where the money goes, read Monday’s post, “Writers’ Week Short Story to Support Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.”

Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writers' Week 2012 · Writing & Freelance

Fine Print of Self-Publishing Giveaway – Thursday

Writing contest not your thing, but you still want to win? You’re in luck! Hillcrest Media CEO Mark Levine has donated 5 copies of his book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing to give away to a random participant every day of Writers’ Week! Use the widget below to enter to win today’s copy.

Sorry, this one’s open to U.S. residents only. (It’s a shipping thing.)

the fine print of self-publishing

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guest Posts · Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writers' Week 2012 · Writing & Freelance

From First Draft to Finished Product: The Editorial Process

By Kelly O’Connor McNees

editorial process self-publishingYou’ve decided to publish your novel or nonfiction book independently, and that makes you more than just the author—you’re also the project manager. As a wise manager, you know that you can’t—and shouldn’t—try to do everything on your own. You need to recruit a team of experts who can help make your book shine, and an experienced, reputable editor should be at the top of your list.

But what, exactly, does an editor do?

As a way of answering that question, let’s examine the editorial process. A book begins as a first draft. Then you revise, revise, and revise some more. Then you ask some early readers—your friends, your mom, teachers or colleagues—to help you figure out what else might need work. You revise a little more. Then, finally, you have a draft you’re ready to share.

Phase One: Substantive/Developmental Editing

You might consider hiring an editor at this phase in the process to get focused, specific feedback based on your goals for the manuscript. Some editors call this substantive/developmental editing, or a manuscript evaluation. An experienced editor understands what makes a novel engaging for readers, and what makes a nonfiction book informative and compelling. She can provide an evaluation that outlines the steps you might take to get the manuscript closer to your goals: Engaging your reader and building an audience for future titles. Specifically, this kind of editing addresses things like organization, structure, plot, character development, pacing, and dialogue.

With this evaluation in hand, you can make one last revision. Now, after all this work, your manuscript reads just the way you want it to. Each chapter begins and ends with a bang. If your book is a novel, each scene is vivid, and the characters’ conflicting desires lead to conflicts that propel the story forward. If your book is nonfiction, your prose is concise but packed with the results of your careful research. This manuscript is ready to become a book! Well, almost.

Phase Two: Copyediting

An important, sometimes invisible last step is copyediting. I say invisible because it seems that we only notice copyediting when it has been done poorly or not at all. And nothing says amateur like an e-book full of grammatical errors, punctuation missteps, and cut-and-paste blunders. Copyediting clarifies meaning, eliminates jargon and repetition, and polishes word choice; it also addresses grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style so that your manuscript will be clean, professional, and ready to publish.

Finding the Right Editor

The abundance of freelance editors available online is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you have plenty to choose from. On the other hand, some of them don’t really have the skills to serve you well. Before you commit your time and money to this relationship, be sure to find out about a prospective editor’s level of experience, and what kinds of projects he or she has worked on in the past. Ask for testimonials from past clients because good editors will have plenty of happy customers ready to sing their praises. And don’t work with an editor who doesn’t put everything in writing up front: schedule, fees, and a detailed description of the services he or she will provide.

How long?

The editorial process can take a few weeks or a few months, depending on the editor’s schedule and the length and complexity of your manuscript. Be patient—good editorial work and revision take time. Focus on doing it well, not quickly. Besides, while you’re waiting to hear from your editor, you can get started on writing your next book!

[box border=”full”]Kelly - Word Bird EditsKelly O’Connor McNees is the founder of Word Bird Editorial Services, and along with colleague Kelly Harms Wimmer, edits traditionally and independently published books by writers of all stripes. She is also the author of two novels, In Need of a Good Wife and The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, published by Berkley/Penguin. Follow @wordbirdedits on Twitter.[/box]

Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writers' Week 2012 · Writing & Freelance

#WritersWeek Twitter Chat Tonight at 6 p.m.

writers week twitter chatTonight’s Twitter chat starts at 6:00 p.m. Eastern—so we’ve got plenty of time to chat about writerly things and I can still get to bed at a respectable hour. There’s no set end time, and there’s no penalty for showing up late. Come when you can.

Log on to Twitter this evening and use the #WritersWeek hashtag to talk about things important to our little, but growing, community. Things like the writing contest, self-publishing, blogging, and our current projects. I’ll probably toss out a few questions to get things started.

So set a reminder to Tweet with us tonight at 6:00 p.m., or leave a comment with your Twitter name if you want me to elbow you with an @mention right before the fun starts.

Old Writing Stuff · Self-Publishing · Writers' Week 2012 · Writing & Freelance

Fine Print of Self-Publishing Giveaway – Wednesday

Writing contest not your thing, but you still want to win? You’re in luck! Hillcrest Media CEO Mark Levine has donated 5 copies of his book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing to give away to a random participant every day of Writers’ Week! Use the widget below to enter to win today’s copy.

Sorry, this one’s open to U.S. residents only. (It’s a shipping thing.)

the fine print of self-publishing
a Rafflecopter giveaway