how do you make your writing goals stick?

img_0009Making writing goals and plans can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s even a bigger challenge to follow through with them.

As writers, we are challenged with having two parts of our lives– the writing part, and the other part. The balance can be a nightmare sometimes, and other times we wonder why others complain about not having the time to do what they love.

It’s understandable. That’s life, after all.

But what happens during those times that feel like we’ve stepped into a horror film? Those times that the plans you wrote down for the day (or the week, or the month) slip away and we find ourselves wordless and feeling lousy?

MAKE SACRIFICES

Oftentimes we don’t write because we feel like something else is more important, or it’s just distracting us. If that pile of laundry in the corner is laughing at you as you try to hash out a scene, tell it to shut-up and keep going.

It’s OK to let the laundry sit for a day so you can write, or the dishes, or the dusting– or whatever it is.

If it’s not house work, and you think your distraction is far more important– it’s up to you to decide what to sacrifice so you can get your writing time in.

PLAN AHEAD

Not good at making sacrifices? Plan ahead. Get that project done before the due date so you have time to enjoy your own writing. Make some freezer meals (or even order a pizza) to have the troops fed so you can snuggle in without interruptions (maybe). Know when you’re writing time is and make sure to prep for it.

You might never have all your bases covered, but you can come as close as possible with a little planning.

TAKE IT ONE WORD AT A TIME

Goals can be scary. And if they’re not scary, that usually means they’re not “big enough”… or so I’ve been told. The thing is, you don’t want to make your goals so outrageous that you feel overwhelmed just thinking about them.

Take your goals one word at a time. If your goal is to write 5k words in one week and you only make 3k, that’s OK! Pick up the slack the next week, or by the end of the month. The great thing about it all is you are your worst critic.

Don’t want to miss out on those 2k words? Enlist a Critique Partner or Writing Buddy that will keep you accountable. Just remember that sometimes the words come slower at times of stress and busy-ness than they do when the other part of your world is all rainbows and unicorns.

It’s so important to make our writing a priority and meeting those goals. Not only for ourselves, but for our future readers as well. But it’s never going to be easy (unless you’re a full time writer, and even then that’s debatable), and it’s always going to take work. What makes you different is you’re already halfway there– because you’ve started, you’re making the time!

You’re not just saying, I want to write a book

you’re actually doing it.

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how to face BIG changes

big-changesFollow-Up to Having an Open Mind to BIG Changes

When going through my first true round of edits, I was not the ideal writer. The manuscript was very near and dear to my heart, and I did not want to face the fact that it required a lot of work to make it the best it could be. Thankfully, my editor (the wonderful Katelyn) stuck it out with me, along with my fabulous critique partner (read more here) and neither of them took any of my tantrums personally.

Now, after completing my first round of edits with my agent on a manuscript, and anxiously awaiting more for another project, I feel I have grown immensely.

It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when I have to cut a favorite scene. It doesn’t mean I agree with every suggestion or cut. It just means that I have learned to face the big changes with the end result in mind.

But oh how it took some learning.

You may recall I previously shared about having an open mind to big changes, in fact that post started out quite a bit like this one. Even if you have an open mind, though, how do you go about doing the big changes?  After all, they aren’t easy. You might be cutting out some love between two characters to make opening the door to a later romance easier. You might be combining characters into one because all the characters start getting confusing to your readers.

Or you might have to change the story of your book entirely because of plot holes or a more exciting direction edits took you.

Whatever the case, having an open mind doesn’t make it easy. Easier, maybe. But not easy.

READ IT

The easiest way to start your changes is to reread your manuscript with those changes/edits at hand.  Make notes where you know you’ll need to change things, but it read it through FIRST, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve done so. If you read your words with new changes in mind, it will (hopefully) open your mind to them more and spark some inspiration. It will also (hopefully) make the changes easier.

WRITE IT OUT

Now write it out…. Whether you want to actually write it or walk it out, you need to sit down and come up with a sort of new timeline of events thanks to the new change.

You might need to rearrange some chapters, or find every part those characters are in so you can cut or combine them, or cut some of the love tension and make it a completely different feel. Whatever the case, make notes while you’re reading and then get down to business. Don’t do the two unilaterally. Read, then write. Even if this is a challenge for you, it’s going to make it better/easier in the end.

TAKE YOUR TIME

(Unless you’re on a tight deadline)

You don’t want to rush big changes. They are, after all, BIG. You want to take your time and find all the places where you need to fix your manuscript so the changes work. If you’re not scrapping your project and rewriting the whole thing, you’re bound to miss a beat if you rush.

DO NOT RUSH.

Your editor, agent, publisher, friends, family—they’ll wait for you. The exception to this, of course, is if you’re professional other has given you a deadline—then stick to that deadline. But take deep breaths and don’t let the stress sink in.

 

Your manuscript is amazing. The changes will be amazing. But above all, YOU are amazing.

 

when you have to write & you’re not at your best

imageLife is hectic.

My life is very hectic right now.

In my personal and professional life, I have quite a bit going on. And to me, that’s putting it lightly, but I’m trying so hard not to make this completely about me…ish.

When life is doing its thing, sometimes your writing schedule gets shifted around. Sure, you can schedule time all you like for certain times of day to make sure you get your editing and word counts in, but you are not guaranteed that time is going to fall when you’re at your “best.”

If you recall, I posted previously about writing during your best time of day. Morning, afternoon, evening, middle of the night– everyone is wired differently. And, if you remember, I told you I was a morning person.

However, lately, I haven’t been able to write at my designated “best” time.

I used to be able to rise at the crack of dawn, make a cup of coffee, and sit down ready to face the world of my creation before dealing with the real one.

That’s not my reality right now, though. And that happens. Life happens.

So what do you do?

Just. Keep. Writing.

This past week I’ve been working on edits, which is incredibly exciting, intimidating, and exhausting. After my day has finally come to a close and I sit down to start my writer’s life routine, I stare at the beverage of my choice and debate if I should bite the bullet and make it caffeinated.

I have such an old soul that if I drink caffeine late, I’m up all night– and I’m not a “spring chicken” who can do that anymore because I have other little lives to take care of during the day. But I also know that if I don’t have something, I’m not going to hit my goals for the day.

Fine a new strategy.

Caffeine isn’t always the answer (although it does usually help). But finding a new way to look at things, or work, can be very useful. For example, if I’m writing in the morning my favorite spot in the house is the nursery/guest room. It gets the most light, and I can get comfy on the guest bed with the sunlight streaming in and feel so inspired.

My writing lately, though, is at night. So if I were to cozy up in the bed, odds are I’d fall asleep. So I sit at our kitchen table in our straight-back chairs and try to tone out the white noise coming over the baby monitor as my fingers move. I’ll walk around often, to keep the blood flowing and my eyelids open, and I do my very best to keep the lights nice and bright so I’m alert.

Know when to keep going and when to stop.

There comes a point with writing and editing where you know if you’re doing poorly. Whether it’s because you’re tired or hopelessly distracted, if you find that you’re mind is constantly being pulled from what you’re making yourself do, take a breather. Pushing through might seem like a good plan, but if you don’t stop you might be making extra work for yourself in the end– and you could be losing some valuable sleep, play, cleaning– whatever– time.

I’m not trying to contradict myself.

Yes, you need to keep writing. Just because you have a schedule shift does not mean you should forego writing until it’s back the way you want it. BUT if you’re pushing the words to come out unnaturally, better to take a breath, find a distraction, and get back to it in a few minutes, or an hour, or the next day. Whatever is going to work best for you.

As authors, we deal with timelines. Our writing, editing, querying, publishing– they’re all going to involve times when we have to buckle down and DO IT, and it’s not always going to be ideal.

But when has being a writer ever been EASY?

 

 

having an open mind to big changes

You’ve done it. You’ve finished writing your book.

Whether that book is 500 words or over 100k, you deserve to celebrate. So do just that.

Celebrate. Now. Go. DO IT.

After that first celebration, don’t start sending that baby to everyone just yet. As you know, revisions are necessary. I’m not sure of the statistics of authors who got published o their first draft, but I’m guessing the stats don’t work in our favor. You see, you have to get into a new mindset.

Because, what comes after writing?

Editing. Revising. Editing. Revising. And editing some more.

Yes, I realize that was repetitive.

As you may remember, I shared how working with an editor changed the way I write. I also shared with you how you should face changes in your book: whether to do them or not. But now I felt like it was important to mention something else.

The big ones.

imageThe big changes, that is.

What happens when there’s a plot hole, or what happens when characters are confusing, or what happens when there’s, well, nothing going on?

You’re going to have to use that ‘delete’ button. It’s going to take a lot more typing. But above all else:

You’re going to have to have an open mind.

The first book I wrote was incredibly personal. (By ‘first book’, I mean the first book I really finished that felt like it could go the distance.) So I hired an editor, and was pacing and biting my nails as I prepared to see what she had to say. And, as you may remember, I wasn’t exactly ready or open to the possibilities of big changes.

Instead of blabbing some more, here’s the deal:

 

Changes are going to happen

Even if your book is absolutely amazing, there is going to be a change. Maybe it’s just some words, or chapters, or cuts, oorrrr additions. But the thing is, it’s going to happen. So instead of swearing up and down you won’t change your book, pick the parts you really don’t think you’re willing to sacrifice. Those are the parts that will get you through your changes.

Big changes are usually amazing changes

The beginning of my first book was, admittedly, slow. For someone who didn’t know the story, and obviously wouldn’t really know my characters, they’d be lucky to get through it. But I didn’t see that. I saw this beautiful story that was a part of my life that I thought everyone would love. But when I got some feedback suggest I twist things from my true story, it took me a while to realize that was the way to do it. Now the book, so different from that first draft, can definitely stand on its own two feet instead of needing some crutches (or more backstory).

If you just can’t do it, get another opinion

Before you whip out that red marker or get in a fight with the DELETE button, make sure you really think it through. You want to have an open mind to changes, but you also don’t want to start making a ton of changes off of one person’s suggestion.

Granted, if that one person is your editor/agent/publisher, you should obviously listen. That’s the exception.

But the RULE is to always have more than one person read it. Have a few critique partners or beta readers handy so you can get more than one opinion. After all, this is your baby. You wouldn’t take it to the doctor unless it was TRULY sick.

Proceed with caution, but not too much caution. You want to have an open mind so you can make that book the best it’s meant to be.

paperback writer

I have a confession: I’m in a stalemate with my current project. Every time I sit down to write, I can’t seem to get into the groove.

My characters sound like they’re verbally constipated.

My descriptions have lost their senses.

My attitude is leaning toward obligation rather than passion.

Sometimes, writing is this way. We can’t get around it. There are times when we stare at our project and want to walk away and just start something new in order to avoid this feeling all together.

(Which I would never do… or maybe I’ve already done just that? Temporarily, of course.)

But if we never finish the project, we will never continue down the road of “success” as authors. And that road is paved differently for everyone.

Have you ever heard the song “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles? I’m pretty terrible with my music knowledge, but my dad used to play it for me nonstop because he was certain it was my future.

At least, to be a writer.

I don’t think he meant that I was going to be begging to sell my soul with the rights to my book to make a million overnight. Which isn’t entirely the point of my song, but you catch my drift.

The point is, sometimes you have to accept the mood you’re in and find a way to push through. It’s hardest to take my own advice, but if I don’t I’m going to end up like the song– just wishing and thinking I’ll add more in a week or two, never reaching the end of the manuscript and wasting my dreams away.

Yikes. That sounded like a TERRIBLE rain cloud.

This is why I’m blogging right now instead of writing. Because I have no idea where my characters are. I know the story, but man…my poor MC is going through hell and I just don’t think I’m doing her justice.

Now I’m word vomiting while my characters sound stuck.

I think I’ll stop here and leave you wondering….

 

Maybe not.

 

I started a new project, plotted another, and now I’m back to working on the WIP. Sometimes, you have to empty your mind of what you see as distractions in order to get back to where you are really needed.

The life of the writer. Sometimes, it sounds more like a psychiatrist (er, or psychopath?) than anything else.

 

 

changes: when to do it & when to stay true to your story

As writers, we have to learn to go with the flow. Sometimes the best ideas don’t translate on paper, and we learn to be open minded and not bitter when others point this out. Whether it’s critique printers, beta readers, or editors–we tend I learn that our first draft is just that: first. Odds are, there’s almost always going to be a second. And potentially a third, fourth, fifth, sixth….

When I was working on my first manuscript with Katelyn (of Stark Contrast Editing), I ran into a lot of places with the book that I wasn’t sure I wanted to change. It was so near and dear to my heart, loosely based on something I had been through myself, that I didn’t know how to take her suggestions. At first I wasn’t open to them, and she handled it with grace. However, as time grew, I knew she was only trying to help me. The manuscript took on a new life, one it never would’ve had if I hadn’t opened my mind to changes.

This was a good type of change.

Recently I got some feedback on another manuscript and i wasn’t sure what to do. Thankfully, I have an agent who believes in me and this manuscript and we decided to make changes not to the book itself but to how we were presenting it. I went through maybe a week of stressing and trying to find things to move around and chapters to cut and more things to add, but in the end I just knew I didn’t WANT to change it. Going in with an open mind to what my agent was going to say, it was the biggest relief when we ended up on the same page.

The feedback was solid, but what someone has to remember with feedback is that it’s all so subjective. Everyone has a different opinion, and just like we don’t all love every book we read, so it is with everyone else. Not everyone will think your manuscript is the bees-knees– and that’s ok.

So how do you balance between being open to change and sticking to your original art?

STICK TO THE HEART

Are the changes going to stick to the heart of the story? If they’re going to make the feel of the story even stronger, odds are they’re good suggestions. Take time to think about the possible changes. Sometimes they won’t be easy, but if you are avoiding the changes because of how difficult it could be or how much work it will take, you might want to rethink what you’re getting yourself into as an author.

 

DON’T SACRIFICE FAVORITES

Sacrifices are always necessary, but if there is a certain line or phrase or moment that you don’t want to let go, then don’t. Sure, it might need to be moved or tweaked as your manuscript goes through edit, but you don’t HAVE to cut something because someone says so.

 

GO WITH THE FLOW

In the end, I can’t say more than this:

Every manuscript is different. Every author is unique. Every editor, agent, publisher works differently. All you can do is go with your gut. Sometimes you might be ‘wrong’ to everyone else, but overall the most important person that matters with YOUR writing, is you, the author.

 

how working with an editor changed the way i write

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I was never good with criticism, good or bad. I have never been good with rejection, and I have never been good with someone telling me how to do something.

This sounds like a, “DON’T WORK WITH ME” advertisement as an author. BUT I PROMISE THIS WAS IN THE PAST!

After I finished my first true novel, one that had been years in the making, I sat down and was excited and ready to query. I wanted to start sending out my amazingness and have everyone faun over my words.

This was the dream. Isn’t it everyone’s?

Luckily, at this point in my writing I was blessed with a wonder CP who gently suggested that maybe I should consider working with an editor to work through some slow parts and make my manuscript the best it could be. While I wasn’t sure of cost and the idea of someone openly criticizing and making suggestions with my book-baby, I decided to give it a shot.

After e-mailing and going over some details back and forth, I began working with Katelyn from Stark Contrast Editing. I am blessed because I was basically her first client, and I think this is one thing that really made it easier on me to be open to criticism. She was patient and quick to respond, and understanding of many things I didn’t want to change at the time.

I can’t review Katelyn’s services justly, because she completely changed the way I write. She opened my mind to little things (action, not description) that I was pretty terrible at. Words or phrases that I overused (“sigh” and “that” and descriptive actions of the eyes), and so much more.

Though my first book was unsuccessful in scoring me an agent, I was confident that Katelyn had given me the tools to do even better. Once more, she encouraged me to start writing what I really wanted to write. I had worked with her on a YA Contemporary, but Historical Fiction was my passion, and ultimately I think my calling with writing.

I took her advice to heart and worked hard on my next manuscript. When consulting the very same CP who introduced me to Katelyn, she raved how much better this first draft was, and it was only off of her suggestions that I worked, queried, and scored an agent. Although I didn’t work with Katelyn on this one, I cannot deny that she didn’t completely makeover my writing process.

Yes, your book may be that good to begin with, but it seems to me there is no writer that has never had a typo or even just a sentence that didn’t make sense.

I would always suggest working with an editor over not– even if you don’t think you need one. Everyone needs an editor, and every writer is not an editor. Whether you hire someone or work with another writer in a personal way, it needs to be a trusted relationship that can help develop your story into a true masterpiece.

 

While I didn’t write this as a plug for Katelyn’s services, if you are looking for an editor I cannot recommend her more. She and Nikki (aka my wonderful CP I talked about) at Stark Contrast Editing are masters at what they do, and you couldn’t ask for better people to work with.

 

 

how twitter can get you published

twitter marketing_ehdunnWriting a book is hard enough, but now that you’ve got that (almost, completely, halfway) done, it’s time to start increasing your Internet footprint as an author (or dare I say brand).

Blog? If you can, but we will get to that later.

Right now we are going to talk about Twitter.

I’ll be honest, I had no clue what the point of Twitter was. I thought it was somewhere people shared that they were eating their food or watching a show or in general sending updates into the void that no one cared about.

As I started getting into the writing arena, a very good friend introduced me to the Twitter universe and all I could do to get plugged in. Slowly I was entering pitch contests and using hashtags to connect with other writers. I began exploring the literary world that I had no idea existed through bursts of 140 characters.

So don’t roll your eyes at me when I tell you that Twitter is an amazing tool. USE IT.

It can be overwhelming. You want to create your own hashtags and get the perfect mood of a tweet in so few characters, and you aren’t sure if you should follow your dream agent or ::gasp:: tweet him/her. Take a deep breath. I’ve got a few tips that I have learned over the years, some of which come from professionals.

First, if you’re looking for some handy hashtags for writers, check out THIS LINK and THIS LINK. They have a lot of good suggestions.

Second, follow your favorite people. An agent might tweet about a project they’re looking for that matches your manuscript, (#MSWL = manuscript wish list and it’s SO helpful), or an editor might let everyone know if she or he is open to new clients.

I’ll say it again: Twitter is your friend. USE IT.

Third, don’t tweet too much. Less isn’t exactly more with Twitter but you don’t want to annoy your followers so much that they decide to stop following you.  Using apps like Hootsuite can come in hand because it lets you schedule tweets ahead. If you’re doing a pitch contest, taking part in #1linewed, or just trying to capture people’s attention in general—tweet with purpose. Sometimes that takes planning.

Fourth, and last on my list—stay professional. It can be so easy to slip into an Internet battle or have someone send you something nasty off of an innocent tweet. But this is supposed to be a tool. You don’t want your future agent to remember a heated battle you had with someone over different authors, politics, or current events and decide you’re not worth the drama. Remember that you are using your author Twitter account to build your brand.

Over all, there is an amazing writing community just waiting on Twitter. It’s how I met my agent, through #PitMad, and it’s how many can get connected with the publishing industry.

Sign up. Explore. Learn. And USE IT. Twitter might just be the outlet that leads to your book’s publication. 

 

Are you on Twitter? Let’s connect! You can find me here or #writerslifeapparel here.

 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!

building your marketing platform

imageWe have all faced a form of rejection. Recently, I faced one that was a big shot. As in, a pop-up wall…like a giant jack-in-the-box.

I imagine you take my meaning.

What I learned from the rejection was that my Internet footprint wasn’t sufficient.

It was scary, intimidating, and if I’m being honest, heartbreaking. 

It was such a shock because I felt like I had worked very hard on my online presence since before I started truly dedicating myself to writing my books. I put a part of me out there that was vulnerable and fun. And I had hoped it was creative enough to stand out.

If you’re wondering how to make yourself marketable, I am not a professional in this department. However, I have learned a thing or two recently, so I thought I’d share my knowledge with you.

 

FIGURE OUT YOUR TARGET

You need to know who you’re writing for and what you’re writing topic or theme is before you start a blog. If you’re an author, you need to make your blog relatable to the potential audience of your books. Whether that’s the writing community, teens, or little kids, make your online presence relatable to your future book readers.

 

BE CONSISTENT

The last thing you want when turning yourself into your own brand is to be wishy-washy. Whether you’re posting once a month, a week, or daily, always schedule your posts for the same time. This way your audience knows what to expect, and it will make it easier for them to depend on you. This helps with your image.

 

BE ACTIVE

Marketing yourself takes work. Posting on your own blog and sending out some tweets is not going to be enough. Reach out to those who are in similar boats as you; visit their sites or respond to their tweets, and eventually you’ll find others doing the same for you. This is a give-and-gain scenario. You will not be marketable or able to grow your brand if you aren’t proactive. Period. Give at least ten minutes a day to your online presence. Your activeness will eventually have a snowball effect and will pay off.

 

BE PATIENT

Creating a platform for yourself takes time. Once you decide what your platform is, it’s up to you (and eventually your agent and publisher) to build it plank by plank. But you are the front-runner in making sure it is supported so that it can grow.

 

Everything in the publishing business takes time, no matter what route you take. But every day you spend working on your platform is one more follower, one more re-tweeter, one more reader.

The publishing world is cutthroat, and publishers want to see that you know how to navigate the marketing waters. The time to start building your platform is right now! Design a blog, make a website, Tweet and Follow and Friend and Post, and do it every day.

 

 

my author Twitter account is: @emily_hdunn

#writerslifeapparel Twitter account is: @writerslifeapp

my Facebook page is: Emily Herring Dunn

my IG is: @emilyherringdunn

#writerslifeapparel IG is: @writerslifeapparel

 

Share yours in the comments! I’d love to connect and help each other out :).

 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!

when life & writing overwhelm you

It is very easy for life to get the best of you.

And when I say you, I mean me.

Oftentimes life does not go as you wish. Days produce nothing but a longer to-do list for tomorrow, and months seem pointless when you haven’t reached that writing goal that’s been pushed to the back burner  because of family, or your daytime job, or personal reasons.

Believe me, I get it.

More than not, I find myself at war with my to-do list. Instead of cleaning my kitchen, I sit down to write for thirty minutes. The next morning, I’ll sometimes regret it. I mean, who can work when the kitchen is a mess? Not me. Or instead of writing, I’ll zone out in front of Netflix when the day is done and I’ll tell myself, “I’ll write twice as much tomorrow.”

If you remember a few past posts of mine, you know this is typical for me.

But the thing is, your writing is yours.

Sure, you may be stressed out about edits or deadlines. You may be stressed out over questions, blog posts, interviews, reviews–whatever. When it comes down to it, though: your writing is yours. Even if you signed away the rights for the movie, or for a translation, or any of that– your writing will always be yours.

And that shouldn’t overwhelm you.

I don’t want to be one to tell you what should and shouldn’t overwhelm you, how you should and shouldn’t feel. Everything in this life comes with a balance, and you have to find yours.

So here’s what I do when life & writing start getting to me and stressing me out, when really, they shouldn’t.

DO A LITTLE DANCEgiphy

Put on your favorite dancing music and shake it. There is nothing like movement to help you feel better.

 

EAT SOME CHOCOLATE

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Chocolate is actually proven to raise your spirits. Seriously. I read it somewhere. Just a hershey kiss could be what it takes.

 

TAKE A NAP OR GO TO BED EARLIER

giphyKids aren’t the only ones who get cranky when they don’t get enough sleep. While you might think another cup of coffee and burning the midnight oil is the way to go, sometimes you do just need to slow down.

 

JOURNAL

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Your feelings, fears, excitement, dreams– get it all out so you can clear your head. It’s amazing how much better you feel after you put into words what’s overwhelming you and driving you crazy.

 

What I’m still learning– and probably will always be learning– is when things are getting to me… it’s usually best to clean the closet and let go of things that aren’t necessary. It’s hard to put yourself first sometimes, but especially when you get to a breaking point, it’s a necessity. You can’t give to others if you’re running on empty.