I’m sorry. What?

I’m sorry. What?

Welp, that didn’t go how I thought it would. I heard back from 4 of the 5 publishing pros on Reedsy that I contacted yesterday, and the quotes I received ranged from $60 to $500.

What?

They all got the same project summary from me, requesting a query letter review, but only one of them didn’t change the project scope in their proposal, and I’m frustrated.

One of them started proofreading my writing sample in their reply. While I appreciate the extra labor and the helpful intent, that’s a completely separate process.

Thanks, but no.

One of them told me, “I normally charge $325, but for you $225” and I felt like I was buying art off a poorly-lit boat from some character named Redd (or purchasing a used car from some dude with a combover wearing a leisure suit if you don’t play Animal Crossing).

And I’m sorry. What is happening right now?

And another was like, “I’ll write the query myself, and you can use it or not.” (That was the one that cost $500 because it required reading my entire manuscript.)

What? No.

No no no no no.

Suddenly there are four new carts in front of one poor, befuddled horse.

I’ll think about what to do, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I was hoping to pay for help simplifying the query process, and now it’s exponentially more complicated to me. Do. Not. Want.

Should I query agents without feedback on my pitch first? Do I not know how to do this, or do I lack confidence? Both? Publishing could be rewarding, but it’s sounding pretty costly to me in terms of energy expenditures.

Even if I managed to find a self-publishing company I trusted (y’all know I have battle scars there), I don’t really want to manage the process.

Sometimes it’s easier not to have goals.

A Funny Thing Happened

A Funny Thing Happened

Not that long ago, I said I was letting Who You Gonna Believe go. I was tired of treating myself to the trauma. But then a funny thing happened.

My website was doing some serious numbers.* And that got me thinking maybe I should try to do something with this memoir I spent so much time on. Maybe I should try to make something of it. For the traffic gods.

I updated the digital cover, started promoting links and using excerpts to garner interest, and the next thing I know I was reading and proofreading the damn thing. Without angst, without feeling like I was waterboarding myself with toilet water.

I even thought to myself a couple of times that maybe I can write. I was barrelling through chapters like they were well-composed. Or at least well-enough composed. Maybe letting the work stagnate was a bad idea.

Then last night, I had a dream where instead of my ex-husband refusing to leave, he just walked away when I told him to piss off. That never happens!

I was laughing at parts of the story and remembering how much joy and laughter entered my life when Dan showed up.

I think I’m healed?

I’d still like to actually reach people with it. Have someone edit it. Format it for ebook. Turn it into an audiobook. But I’m not really in a position healthwise where I can accomplish any of that, let alone all of it. So I’ll just let those dreams simmer.

Anyhoo, I’m going to continue proofing today and think about how I can get more people to read it. I really do think there’s a there there, if I can just clarify the vision a little.

* Another funny thing happened. Turns out my search numbers were inflated by 4/20, and after everyone was good and high, things settled down some.

An Epilogue for Closure

An Epilogue for Closure

To celebrate last night’s insomnia, I updated the cover image for WHO YOU GONNA BELIEVE and posted an epilogue for closure.

It’s funny, because I remember when Hank Green was promoting his first book, he said in a video something like, “You can just end a book wherever you want.”

It seemed kind of obvious to me at the time. Like, of course you can end a book however and whenever you want. But then I also stressed over wrapping up this memoir for months. So it’s also an epiphany. I get it now.

I couldn’t just say “the end” and wave my proverbial wand at everything. I had to come to terms with being done, I suppose.

Because, I don’t know, I have a brain tumor? Because finishing might mean I can go ahead and die now?

I almost included that Hank Green anecdote in the epilogue, but since I name dropped the other Vlogbrother in the preface, I opted to not be that kind of weird.

Shut up. Name dropping here is different. It isn’t weird.

While I was checking WYGB links, formatting chapters, and double-checking the Table of Contents page last night, I also realized I stopped writing in an okay—maybe even artsy—place anyway.

So read it. It’s free. It’s sorta funny. It’s my revenge or something.

In other news, congratulations to me for getting 500 pageviews yesterday! And after just hoping for that very thing on Monday!

I’m not going to repeat that success today, unfortunately, but it was fun to watch my counter go up after someone big apparently shared my How to Make Cannabutter article on Facebook.

Facebook is good for being seen, but it’s not great for sustained traffic. Once your link slides down the news feed, you’re basically just a hunk of Velveeta in someone’s lactose-intolerant colon.

At the risk of being (more) annoying, I gotta plug this GoFundMe crap again too. I got bills. They’re multiplyin’.

Disunion Station by Emily Suess

Disunion Station by Emily Suess

Disunion Station

by Emily Suess

There’s a white man in a dark suit. He’s immaculately dressed, wearing the finest silk tie, a matching pocket square, and hand-tooled wingtips. In one hand he holds a pipe, and in the other hand a pocketwatch.

He’s resting in a fancy leather chair with feet propped on a matching ottoman. The chair and ottoman straddle the crossties of a railroad track.

At the train depot platform several feet from the track, a little boy holding his mother’s hand pulls her attention away from the arrival schedule she’s reading. The boy points to the man and asks, “Mommy, why is he on the railroad track?”

The boy’s concern causes his mother some alarm too. She feels uncomfortable as a picture of a the train pulling into the station crosses her mind. “The train is not due for another hour, Love,” she soothes her young son and herself too.

It’s true. The next train isn’t scheduled to arrive from the west for another 60 minutes, but the boy doesn’t really know what an hour feels like, so he walks to the edge of the platform and looks as far down the track as he can in both directions.

With no train in sight, he resumes his place by his mother’s side, fidgeting as children do. He pulls at a loose thread on his trousers, swings his legs exaggeratedly, pokes at a knot in the arm of the bench following swirls of wood grain with his index finger.

Fifteen minutes pass. It feels like an eternity has passed to the boy. “Mommy,” he tugs her shirt sleeve. “Is the train still coming? Why is the man on the track?”

The woman replies with great patience, “Let’s ask the conductor.”

“Mr. Conductor,” she calls him over. “My son would like to know why that man is on the railroad track. He looks very comfortable, doesn’t he?” She subtly signals her concern without making her son more anxious.

The conductor chuckles, “That’s Mr. Whitebeard. He’s been sitting on the track for several hours and nothing has happened.” Then he leans in and jovially explains to the boy, “See his fine suit and his pocketwatch? He must be very wise and we would be silly to worry about him.”

The boy leans closer to his mother, turning his body toward her but keeping his eyes fixed on the conductor.

Exhausted by the waiting, the boy briefly naps. He is eventually startled awake as the platform buzzes with activity. It’s now just ten minutes until the train arrives, and a crowd of non-passengers has gathered with the travelers—some to say hello to new arrivals and some to say goodbye to those about to depart.

Mr. Whitebeard is still sitting in his chair. The chair is still straddling the track.

“Mommy!” the boy cries.

“Shhh, Mr. Whitebeard knows what he’s doing.”

The boy’s shout causes everyone at the station to notice the man on the track.

The ticket clerk whispers, “Seems a little foolhardy to be sitting on a train track like that right now.”

“You think?” a woman snaps in reply. She rushes to the edge of the platform and yells. “Hey, mister! The train will be here soon. You should move your chair off the track. If you need help, I will grab the ottoman, and my husband will help you with your chair!”

“No need for hysteria here,” Mr. Whitebeard dismisses her. “I’m in total control.”

“But the train is coming!” she shouts. She points down the track to the west where a small black dot emerges on the horizon.

Mr. Whitebeard glances at his watch, puffs on his pipe, and stands up. The woman sighs, relieved. Then Mr. Whitebeard turns his chair 180 degrees so it faces east, moves the ottoman in front of it, and sits back down.

“You’re a goddamn fool. Do you have a fucking death wish!?” the woman screams. The conductor approaches her and grabs her by the elbow. “Ma’am your language is unacceptable, and there are children present. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Many people in the crowd tut-tut the woman as she is escorted out of the station by the conductor. A young preacher says a prayer for her to be delivered from the bonds of Satan. The woman yells, “I just want Mr. Whitebeard to live!”

A school teacher in the crowd expecting her aunt and uncle to arrive on the train soon clutches her necklace and says—to no one in particular—“Can you imagine being bold enough to attack Mr. Whitebeard like that? Just yesterday I saw her sitting in a chair on her own porch!”

The crowd divides itself as the train approaches, and Mr. Whitebeard casually blows smoke rings into the air. The people on the left half of the platform are shouting, “Get off the track! The train is coming! This is dangerous! You will die!”

The people on the right side of the platform are shouting, “The real danger is telling Mr. Whitebeard he doesn’t have the right to sit in his own chair. Last I checked, this was still a free train station.”

A befuddled group in the middle begins writing a speech about the dangers of sitting on railroad tracks and asks the ticket clerk if he would read it aloud when they finish, probably in time for tomorrow’s train to arrive.

Meanwhile, on the train…

“Mr. Whitebeard doesn’t think you can even drive a train,” the engineer whispers to Mr. Quinn, an apprentice standing beside him in the cab. Then he moves through all the passenger cars announcing, “Mr. Whitebeard doesn’t think Mr. Quinn should be able to drive this train.” He yells after his first proclamation is largely ignored and the passengers gaze out the window at the passing landscape. “You’ll never be able to travel again!”

Back at the station, the people on the right side of the platform are pulling knives on station employees. Amid the chaos, the depot’s clocksmith jumps down from his ladder and runs out to the track, knocking Mr. Whitebeard out of harms way at the last second. The chair and ottoman are destroyed. The conductor and the ticket clerk call the clocksmith a hero.

The following morning, Mr. Whitebeard buys a new chair just like the old chair and sets it back on the train track. The town newspaper reports that the train’s engineer knew Mr. Whitebeard would be on the track yesterday. He had a chance to pull the brakes, but instead handed the controls over to Mr. Whitebeard’s long-time and well-known nemesis, Mr. Quinn.

A town meeting is called. “We need to give every passenger on trains a parachute so this never happens again,” the conductor announces.

“That’s ridiculous,” the owner of the town’s bakery says. “We need to stop buying tickets that pay the engineer’s salary until his license is revoked.”

“Train passengers are not the enemy, here,” the conductor says smugly, as people line up to buy tickets for the next train.”

Did you enjoy this piece? You may also like my webserial memoir, Who You Gonna Believe. Read the first chapter free.

Emily’s Christmas Ghosts Meet at Starbucks

Emily’s Christmas Ghosts Meet at Starbucks

Note: The post “Emily’s Christmas Ghosts Meet at Starbucks” is a response to Rubber Ducky Copywriter’s Writing Prompt Friday for December 20.

Tammy nudged Bart, who set his Eggnog Latte on the table and struggled to twist in his futuristic suit. “What?” Bart asked, annoyed. “I can’t see anything when I turn my head except the sidewall of this damn helmet.”

“Nick’s here,” Tammy said, gesturing toward the counter where a masculine figure in a white linen jacket and unbuttoned pink Henley ordered a Venti Caffe Americano. Tammy waved her arm above her head as Nick scanned the tables for his party. When he saw her, he nodded coolly and headed over to them.

The Starbucks on Neil Street was packed on the Monday before Christmas, but luckily Tammy had managed to secure a table near the entrance. Nick stepped sideways to avoid bumping into a bearded man pushing a stroller and then high-stepped over a young woman’s laptop bag before reaching them.

His chair scraped the floor loudly, momentarily drowning out the frenetic chatter of the over-caffeinated crowd and a festive Trans Siberian Orchestra track. “What’s with the get up?” Nick asked peeking over his RayBans. He nodded slightly in Bart’s direction, but it was Tammy who spoke.

“Don’t pick on him, Nick. It’s kind of a sore spot. By the way the 1980s called. Even they don’t want that suit.” Bart ignored his colleagues’ banter and sniffed his latte. He couldn’t take a sip without removing the entire Mylar onesie he wore, but if he lifted a panel on the helmet he could at least get a satisfying whiff of nutmeg and cinnamon.

“Very funny,” Nick made a face at her. “You do realize that in my capacity as Ghost of Emily’s Past Christmases, I am permanently attached to 1985? The first Christmas she remembers? The year she got her fist Cabbage Patch doll? It was either this”—he lifted his sunglasses and looked down at his white pants—“or the Rainbow Brite suit again. And those moon boots make my feet sweat.” He turned to Bart, “The future looks exciting though.”

“You know HR’s still got me on probation for the causality loop I created in ’08” Bart, the Ghost of Emily’s Future Christmases, said through his open helmet panel. “All I can safely say is that I forgot to double check 2019 climate conditions before I left the house.”

“Everyone looks fine,” Tammy said, hoping to avoid discussing why she was always wearing the same pair of pajamas to these things. It always brought everyone down. “Let’s get started. It’d be nice to finish this up before Christmas.” She opened a notebook and clicked the end of a ballpoint pen three times. “We’ll just focus on this year unless you guys have any objections. I know it’s the end of a decade and all, but rehashing the—”

Bart cut her off. “Actually, there was no year zero, so technically 2020 is not the start of a new decade.”

Tammy looked up with an incredulous expression. “You’re the only ghost I know who gives a shit about this stuff, Bart. Anyway…Emily doesn’t seem to be at risk of an Ebenezer Demerit this year, but there are a couple of items here that concern me—she missed Christmas cards for the second year in a row. Or is it the third now? And she bought four gift cards instead of real presents this year.”

Nick winced and sucked air through his teeth. “Yikes. I didn’t realize. Sounds like she’s phoning in the gift giving. Not good.”

Bart jumped in to defend Emily. He was a pedant for sure, but he was also the most sympathetic of the three ghosts. “You guys know Lincoln Financial Group still isn’t paying her right? They paid that Hartner douche instead. To pretend she was fine. She’s been broke and depressed since March.”

“Put that in her permanent record, Tammy.” Nick jabbed his index finger on the form she was filling out. “Also, that fucker’s ghosts better be recommending him for a lifetime achievement demerit this year.” Nick slouched back in his chair, holding his paper cup between his widely spread legs and throwing his right arm over the chair back.

“I’ll bring it up with whats-his-face at the treasury, too,” Tammy assured them. “I heard they were running low on lifetime demerits this year, but if they know there’s a need they might dump a few million more into circulation.”

Bart grunted his agreement.

“The rest of her 2019 looks to be as charitable as it can be, considering,” Tammy said before passing the form around for signatures. “Shall I call her in to give her the results and discuss next year’s goals and areas of improvement?”

“Yep,” said Bart.

“Let’s do it,” said Nick as he threw back the last of his coffee.

So My Ex Wants to Read My Memoir

So My Ex Wants to Read My Memoir

On the night of November 1, I couldn’t sleep. So I grabbed my cell phone from my nightstand, thinking I’d play a mindless game until I eventually crashed. Before I could open the game app, though, an email notification popped up. I had a new message from Patreon. Normally, I’m excited to acquire a new patron, but on that night my mouth turned dry and my heartbeat became irregular. My large intestine seized and the acid in my stomach sloshed in waves.

“New $1 Patron! Meet [Rodney]” the subject line read.

My wants to read my memoir on Patreon

Yup. My ex-husband had signed up to read my memoir. Only he used his real name and his real email address to do it, not the pseudonym I’ve given him. I know he still stalks me online and don’t usually give it a second thought, but that night I started to fill with rage. It began in my toes and had worked itself up to about my collarbone before I recognized it for the resurfacing trauma it was.

Writing the memoir can also trigger such a response, but I’m aware of what I’m doing to myself and can mentally prepare to deal with the feelings before they morph into physical malady. Being triggered unexpectedly by someone else—the asshole ex no less—well, that required time to gather my wits.

In the middle of defending myself to myself in my head (don’t pretend you don’t do it too), I stopped abruptly, letting the amateur therapist in my brain take over.

“It’s my story to tell. If he doesn’t like—” Me-Me was saying.

“Didn’t you tell yourself he would probably pull a stunt like this when you started the project?” Therapist-Me interjected.

“Huh? Oh. Yes.”

“And what was your conclusion at that time?” Therapist-Me prodded.

“Fuck him. Who cares?” Me-Me replied, somewhat unsure.

“Right. And what’s different now?”

“Nothing,” I said. “His existence literally doesn’t matter to me anymore.”

Therapist-Me paused, waiting to see if Me-Me had anything to add. I did. “OMG! This is absolutely hilarious! Is he trying to intimidate me by paying me $1? I have to tell Melanie. I have to blog about this. But first I have to block him from commenting on Patreon. He doesn’t get to make MY story about him. Do you remember when he hijacked the comment threads on my old blog? Narcissist gonna…narcissist?”

My thoughts trailed off as I opened the Patreon app to block my ex-husband’s account. The app notified me that the requested action couldn’t be completed because the account had been deleted.

Heh.

I don’t honestly know whether “Rodney” meant to pop in for a minute to intimidate me and thought giving me a dollar was the best way to do it, or if he just couldn’t help himself. Maybe his curiosity got the better of him and he just had to have a look. Maybe he didn’t realize the name and email he used to create his patron account would be sent to me. (In which case, what a dipshit! Next time use an alias and a burner email, you twit.)

Either way?

LMFAO.

I don’t know if Rodney had enough time to read all the published chapters of Who You Gonna Believe before he bailed, but there’s plenty of time for YOU to catch up before a new chapter drops on November 30. Your patronage gets you all the juicy details AND it helps me keep the lights on.

Think about it!

Become a Patron!

FREE Web Conference for Authors: IndieReCon

Hat tip to Kim Bookless for this info.

I’m all about putting information in the hands of the people that need it, so I wanted to draw your attention to a free conference for indie writers. If you’re interested in getting program details and updates on the conference—which runs February 12 – 14, 2013—click through and add yourself to the mailing list. (It’s just below the big “REGISTER HERE!” button in the sidebar.)

It looks like they’ll have something for everyone. The schedule promises coverage of the following topics:

  • Getting started
  • Creating quality products
  • Writing big sellers
  • Marketing
  • Going forward

Here’s a brief description from IndieReCon.org:

INDIE ReCon is a FREE, ONLINE conference inspired by WriteOnCon. It is designed to help any writer or author who is curious about the ins and outs of Indie publishing. You’ll find everything from the pros and cons of Indie publishing, essential aspects in creating a high-quality book, successful online marketing, and expanding into international markets.

5 Things Publishers Care about More than Good Writing

Brooke is giving away 2 copies of What’s Your Book? this week. Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway at the end of this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Friday, October 26, 2012. Open to residents of US & Canada.

by Brooke Warner

Many aspiring authors are naïve about what it takes to get published in today’s publishing climate. I know, this is a harsh way to start a post, but over the course of my 13 years in book publishing, I’ve found this to be true.

Recently, a reader told me my new book, What’s Your Book?, was sobering when it came to the part about getting published. And that’s because I want writers to be armed with the right information so that they have a shot at getting traditionally published if that’s what they want.

Being savvy about getting published, for better or for worse, means becoming a bit dispassionate. The relationship you’ll eventually have with your publisher is not one in which they do (or want to do) a whole lot of hand-holding. Publishers (understandably) want to work with authors who bring to the table not just a good manuscript, but marketing and publicity ideas and initiative. You don’t have to be a marketing expert, by any means, but you do need to understand how much it matters.

So, in the spirit of dispassion, here are 5 things publishers care about more than good writing.

  1. Your platform. I have an entire chapter of my book dedicated to platform because it’s central to getting a publishing deal. It means having a great website complete with a blog and being active on social media—with a decent number of followers (at least 500 for Facebook and 1,000 for Twitter to make an impact). Your platform is about increasing your visibility, and because, as an author, you’re up against a lot of competition in the marketplace, you must grow your visibility, and you must do it before you start shopping your book to agents or publishers.
  2. Your connections. If you don’t have a database, start one now. The number of people you’re connected to or have the capacity to reach should be a highlight of your book proposal if you’re writing nonfiction, or your pitch letter if you’re writing fiction. Your connections are more than your social media following. These are people you can sell to, who will be the shoo-in buyers of your book when the time comes. If you know the only shoo-ins you have are you’re friends and family, you need to start tending to your database.
  3. Your can-do attitude. You can showcase this in your pitch, in your proposal, and in the simple existence of a strong online presence. You need to come to the table with enthusiasm, but be realistic. Hype-y language will not get you very far with agents and editors who know the world of books. A can-do attitude is expressed on the page by writing about your willingness to try new things, to reach out to everyone you know, and to think outside the box. For a good example of this, see the sample marketing ideas proposed in the Marketing/Publicity section of “Create a Winning Nonfiction Book Proposal.”
  4. Your professionalism. Do a lot of heavy-lifting before you start shopping your book. Get an assessment. Work with a professional. Spend money to be edited, multiple times. Many authors will work with a developmental editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader before they shop their work to an agent. Does this cost money? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
  5. Your ability to be collaborative. Again, you can showcase this in writing by talking about how collaborative you are in your proposal or your pitch, and the energy behind what you say will go a long way. Think of it this way: no one wants to work with someone who’s going to be a hassle. Prepare yourself to be a good partner on the journey that is getting your book published. You need to look out for your interests, of course, but the notion that some writers still harbor, that the publisher is somehow getting an asset when they sign a new author, is off-base. A book is a liability until it sells well (at least until it earns out its advance)—and all parties, but most especially the author, have to work their butts off to make it an asset.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jen Molander Photography

Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.     Find Brooke online: www.warnercoaching.comwww.shewritespress.comFacebookTwitterPinterest

5 Unavoidable Creative Writing Quirks

By Megan Harris

Writers are notoriously peculiar people. We have different ways of telling the same story and a variety of characters to help us. We might write for clients that appreciate our vision and appetite for the written word. Here are some quirks writers have a hard time escaping. Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in these quirks!

Talking to Yourself

Writers might not admit it, but creative writing often involves speaking out loud. I find that I do this not only in my fiction writing, but writing for my freelance clients as well.

People around me might think writers are crazy when we do this, especially when working in public around strangers, but it helps in many ways. Not only can you find better ways to write, but you can change awkward wording you didn’t realize was there from the beginning. Try it! It might be a quirk you come to love.

Writing Out of Order

It’s very rare that I can start writing from beginning to end. Usually, I begin writing from the middle and fill in the gaps as I go. I’m sure other writers do the same thing…right?

Writing out of order makes sense to me and to other writers as well. I don’t think in a linear fashion when it comes to writing articles, so working from the middle outwards makes perfect sense. Whatever I happen to be writing works better if I wait to write the beginning. Plus, getting too attached to the beginning of a story makes it difficult to move forward. Beginning with the body paragraphs can help you develop your introduction and entice writers to read the rest of your story or article.

Continuous Revisions

Maybe it’s just a quirk specific to me as a writer, but I find myself constantly changing dialogue or reworking scenes when I write. Same with blog posts; I write, revise, and repeat. It’s a hard habit to break, but the editor in me likes to correct as I go. Same with my freelance articles for clients; what I begin with is not often the same as the end result, but that is a good thing.

Scrapping the Story

Have you ever written a story, only to completely scrap it? That was me last year during NaNoWriMo. I wrote about 20,000 words before I realized my story was going nowhere, so I abandoned the idea. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve done it! Writers are usually critical of their writing, and even the good ones can judge their work harshly.

It might be a weird quirk, but sometimes writers just have to realize when a story is going nowhere.

Commiserating with Other Writers

Writers everywhere often find themselves in conversation with other writers about their ideas. This might include talking about the progress with our current manuscripts and articles, and the scenes we’re trying to write. It’s a quirk that goes back well before social media, but it’s one that writers are likely to keep going for a long time.

Writers and their controlled chaos may not always make sense, but it helps the creative process and leads to better writing. So what if we’re quirky? We embrace it!

Megan Harris is a freelance copywriter, editor and social media manager. She writes about the freelance life at MeganWrites.com and likes to motivate others with her story of how she became an independent writer. When she’s not writing, she researches her family tree in her spare time and is earning her Masters in Public Administration at University of Illinois-Springfield. You can also connect with Megan on Twitter or her Facebook page.

Writing a Book? Set Goals and Stay Motivated.

By 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.

Stacy 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.

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