Tag Archives: goal setting

I Finished an 8,500 Word Short Story


When sudden stroke or paralysis knocks a person off the track of life, it takes time and rehabilitation to re-order things. One starts walking again one baby step at a time.

In my recovery from my writing paralysis, it is similar. Time helps. Writing therapy (exercises) does, too. Finally, I reach the point where I decide I am going to finish a story I started two years ago, and I do. It feels good. A friend of mine, an avid reader, looks at it and says it works. That feels good, too. I like the story. That feels best.

Final editing and getting the story formatted for publication comes next. Baby steps. Each step gets me closer to my goal of professional author.

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The Mental War with Fear and Self-Doubt


As a writer, I have struggled with self-doubt throughout writing my first novel.  When I made the decision to create a book, I wrestled with selecting a story. My imagination had several threads that had been dreamed up over the years. I couldn’t settle on one because I doubted whether anyone would like the characters.

My friend Debbie decided she would push me a bit. She has always been an avid reader of murder mysteries, so she came to me with a cast of characters and insisted I write her story.

I want to thank Debbie for doing that. The psychology of writing someone else’s story erased the fear of starting. After all, this wasn’t my story or my characters. What was there to fear? My brain converted the assignment to the equivalent of classroom homework. The writing began.

By the end of the first chapter, all that was left of Debbie’s story were the main character names. My imagination kicked in. Debbie’s plot was replaced by one of my creation, and I was on my way to writing a book of my own.

Because I didn’t start the story with a preconceived plot, I would run into walls at times, not knowing where the story was going to go next. Sometimes it was days, while other times it was weeks or months between writing bursts. My characters were the ones writing the story, not me. I had to wait for them to tell me what was coming next.

Sometimes real life inspired a segment. A happening would get incorporated into the plot, which then led to the next tangent in the storyline. I was as enthralled as any reader in what was coming next because I didn’t know.

In the end, the story told itself and came together nicely. Looking back, I am amazed at how it got done.

Now what?

It has been roughly six months since I finished the first draft. This week I am wrapping up work on this book. Why has it taken so long? The only truthful explanation is me. My fear. My self-doubt. I am scared to put it out there.

My friend, and prolific author, Lauren Carr has taught me that I am my own worst enemy. In the time between finishing the novel’s first draft to the time it goes to press, Lauren has published TWO novels. She is my inspiration and role model.

She is already broadcasting news about my next novel in order to get me moving. The pressure is on. My new characters are percolating and throwing story parts at me. This time I have a grand storyline in my head already. I know the beginning and the end. The middle is still being created.

At the moment, I am not fearful. I am excited. That will change. The first bad review will crank up the self-doubt inside me. But I have a few defenses against my fears this time around.

First, I know I am still on a learning curve. Like any first, my novel will have beginner errors in it. I know that, and I will learn from my mistakes.

Second, I have written a complete book already. So there is no question about whether or not I can. I’ve already done it.

Third, I have set a goal. By this time next year, book two will be done. I will have cut the time it takes me to tell a story in half. Then I will write book three in six months. That’s my plan. With an end target in sight, I have something to aim for. The finish line is concrete. That is a motivator.

I hope telling my experience has been helpful to you. Maybe you see yourself or maybe light has been shed on the source of your own block. My wish for you is that you get a strangle hold on the neck of your own fear. Choke it, so that you, too, can make a breakthrough in your writing.

Time Is the Enemy


Kristen Lamb speaks truth when she says time is the enemy of the writer. If you have followed my blog, you know I have worked in fits and starts on my novel. The manuscript has collected dust for months between writing sessions.

Recently I chose to cloister myself away from life to finish my first novel. It has been a struggle for the exact reason Kristen warns about: loss of momentum, massive re-writing, and sometimes loss of interest in the story because time has passed.

My terrier-like persistence is what keeps me working. Setting a daily quota of words also helps. I set a goal–1,000 words per day–that isn’t too arduous, but makes completion likely within a month. (I don’t write on weekends.)

My advice? Read the following and heed the warning!

Time is the Enemy

When writing anything (but especially fiction) taking time off can kill momentum. We need to go back, reread, familiarize ourselves with the story and characters (since we’ve slept since that last bit we wrote). This can lead to editing the beginning to death and stalls forward progress. We get bogged down in the first part of the book.

Take too much time? Likely, you’ll have to start all over.

I did. Yes, even NF authors are vulnerable to time.

I spent more effort trying to retrofit work I’d done for my agent back in 2011 than I want to admit. Finally, I just tossed most of the writing and started over. 100 pages of wasted work all because I didn’t keep writing.

My mistake. Won’t happen again.

Guest Post From Lauren Carr–Never Say “Please Don’t”


Never Say PleaseDon’t: Three Books in Twelve Months

By Lauren Carr

A couple of weeks ago, Fay’s post, Three Books in Twelve Months, made me laugh and blush, both at the same time. The laughter came not so much because she mentioned my accomplishment of writing and publishing three books in the span of twelve months (Shades of Murder, Dead on Ice, Blast from the Past, not to mention Beauty to Die For & Other Mystery Shorts ,an anthology), but from embarrassment.

Ironically, less than two years ago, I wrote a blog post pleading with independent authors not to strive to release multiple books a year.

In that article, I had explained that the wonderful breakthrough for writers to easily and inexpensively publish their books has become a double-edge sword: No longer are we dependent on the gatekeepers in New York to make our books available to readers.

The other edge of the sword is that since anybody can slap together a book and publish it, the market has been hit with an avalanche of bad books. I define “bad books” as unedited books filled with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, poorly formatted (either ebook or print), and/or unprofessional cover design.

My post went on to explain the math: At the time of this article I was writing and publishing one, maybe two, books a year. I go through several drafts:

  1. Reviewed by a fellow author for flow of storyline and loose ends after no less than three rough drafts.
  2. Rewrite after said review.
  3. Edited by professional editor.
  4. Proofread
  5. Layout & formatting
  6. Proofread
  7. Corrections based on proofread
  8. Release

Let’s say I release two books in a year. In that same year, another author whips out five books without any review by someone who would give him honest feedback, nothing more than the benefit of his MS Word spell-checker as far as editing, and a cover slapped together by a twelve-year old neighbor.

Math: That is five bad books to two good ones. Let’s go further and multiply it by ten. Out of a total of seventy self-published books, we have fifty poorly done to twenty well done.

The result: Quote from one reviewer: “Looking for a good self-published book is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

I had written that blog post in response to recently releasing one of my books and discovering that some bloggers who had previously reviewed self-published books had only recently shut their doors to independent authors. One reviewer told me that the problem of new authors whipping out books without any review or editing had gotten worse in the last few years. Another blogger, who does accept self-published books, compared it to mining for a gem in a pile of rocks. It’s exciting to find a good book because there are so many bad ones.

As an author and publisher on a mission to change the perception of self-published authors as second-rate, I am horrified by this development. The marketplace has been hit with an avalanche of bad self-published books. As quickly as doors to publishing are being opened, doors to promoting us are being closed and it is the fault of some of our own members.

The message in my blog post: When one writer cuts corners in quality in order to rush to publish his book, he doesn’t hurt just himself, he hurts all self-published authors.

Yes, I released three books and an anthology in twelve months last year. I am at a new high in my career as an author. The reviews and sales on my books have been stupendous. I am thrilled every day to check my sales and author ranking on Amazon, where I am regularly listed in the top one-hundred of police procedural & cozy mysteries.

My previous post was not to tell authors to refrain from striving for the same goal, which is how some authors took it; nor am I being judgmental by saying that there are a lot of bad self-published books out there. That assessment is from reviewers and bloggers, not me.

Multi-book years can be done—but I do beg other self-published authors to please, for the sake of all independent authors, do it right. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

Get an editorial review done. This is extremely important. An editorial review provides feedback on your storyline, plot, and those elements that reviewers and readers are most likely to comment on: One-dimensional characters, loose ends in your plot, lack of research, bad ending.

Have this done by someone who knows the genre, reads books, and is not afraid to hurt your feelings. Don’t take your book to your grandmother who would never hurt your feelings. These reviewers are called perfect readers. Most published and successful authors have them. My publishing company Acorn Book Services provides editorial reviews for a fee, but if you know someone who meets this criterion, maybe someone in your writers’ group, then you can have it done for free. Author Cindy McDonald is my perfect reader.

Get a good editor. Getting a good editor is like looking for a good hair stylist. They are hard to find and when you find one that you can work with, don’t let them go. Every editor is different. Some are light editors who don’t make a lot of changes. Others are heavy-handed and make a ton of changes.

Proofread, proofread, and proofread!  For all the work that you put into your masterpiece, nothing can ruin the whole project more than typos that you would have caught if you had simply proofed it. It looks sloppy. You cannot proofread enough. (As a publisher, I say you can. There does come a point where I have to tell every author, “Let it go!”) As a self-published writer, I implore you, proof your book at every stage. Proof it in hardcopy at least twice. Proof it after it has been formatted. Stuff happens during formatting. If your book is in print, sit down with a pen, put yourself in the mind of the reader, and read through it.

Proofing Tip: If you have a friend who is willing, ask them to proof your book in the final stage. At this point, you will have seen and read through it so many times that you will be unable to see mistakes. A fresh pair of eyes at this point will prove invaluable.

Have a professional looking cover. Like typos, a cheesy cover can repel readers. If you cannot afford to hire a real graphic artist, then at least study tips on the Internet for what makes a professional looking cover. There are dozens of sites that offer these tips and they cost you nothing. Go to Amazon and study the covers of the top-selling books in your genre.

You may be asking, how is it possible for me to release so many books when I put so much into them, and do it well, in a course of twelve months?

As you can see on my list of tips, at many points, my book is off in someone else’s hands. While Cindy is reading one of my books for an editorial review, I’ll be working on the first draft of my next book. After a re-write of the first book, I’ll send it off to the editor. While that book is gone, I’m working on the second book. I am always working on a book but it is not always the same book.

Yep, it takes a lot of work, by a lot of trusted professionals, to publish a lot of books. Also consider this. Ten years ago, none of this was possible.

Isn’t it great?

Fay’s Note: HEY, LAUREN– YOU FORGOT “A GNARLY CHRISTMAS.” IT’S BEEN A GREAT YEAR! Keep up the good work.

Plodding Along


Mercury retrograde. That sinister time when computers go haywire. Sure enough, the day before yesterday, I got a virus and had to take my computer into the Geek Squad at Best Buy. The solution was easy. I bought new anti-virus software, a newer improved model.

So no writing time was lost. Still averaging 1,000 words per day in hammering out the rough draft. 40,000 total words is the goal–or thereabouts. I’ve got a ways to go. I’m working on Chapter 17.

Three Books in Twelve Months


My publisher Lauren Carr is also an author. In the past six months, she has released two books. Her birthday is coming up. Do you know what she is doing to celebrate? She is spending the day writing on her next novel. My bet is, that by summer, she releases another book. That means she will have written three books within a year.

Several successful authors are prolific–meaning they write more than the traditional one book per year. If the authors are managed by a traditional publishing house, they have to use pen names to put out the extra works.

The luxury of self-publishing or independent publishing is no one restricts your output under your own name except you.

Remember, the statistics say that momentum in book sales doesn’t kick in until the author has three to five titles published.

Do you want to wait three to five years to get that momentum going? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to speed that process along by writing and releasing more than one book per year.

Of course, I am not one to talk, given I have plodded along on my first novel for two years. I hope that my history of writing at a snail’s pace is about to change.

 

 

3 Days of Writing and 2,800 Words


It’s Day 3 of the writing getaway. I am realizing this was a great idea. My production dropped a bit on Day 3. I think it’s because the writing I did  was mostly dialogue. It’s slower going when I write dialogue. It takes up more page space, but yields less words.

Outside the window of the room where I am working there is an abundance of air traffic today: black unmarked helicopters, small planes, commercial jet aircraft, brightly painted helicopters. It’s noisy, so I am declaring my writing done for the day.