Monday, September 18, 2017

Silence

Last week, I didn't update anything. Mostly, it was because I had a mad week, including one day where I was sitting on a film set, pretending to watch tennis for about twelve hours.

But except for that, knowing that I would be doing that all day meant I had to squeeze everything else into the rest of my week. (And you guys know I'm snowed under in the best of circumstances.)

Honestly, though, I've been quiet last week for another reason: 911.

Monday came and I didn't know what to say. I remembered the day our lives all changed, but I couldn't find anything to say about it. It would have been good to say that it's brought us closer together, but recent events have all but proven that it has not.

So what do I say?

How sad it was? That's ridiculous, given the cost of life, both on the day and as a result of the aftermath. It's not a sad day. It was and still is a tragedy.

Do I talk about how the world has gotten up from this blow and became a better place because we refused to give in to fear, hatred and bigotry?

Do I say I'll remember? That I'll never forget? Again... pointless because that goes without saying. But what does "Never Forget" even mean? Last year, I thought of it as a call to remember the dead, the loss of innocence. Last week, it felt like recalling an old grudge.

So really. I'm at a loss. And I've been at a loss for days.

Friday, September 8, 2017

My Five Writing Rules

Hey everyone!

This video is a continuation of my vlog on making sense of writing advice. In the previous vlog, I had pointed out that not all rules suit all people, so this time I shared the rules I apply the most to my own writing.


Here's the script, for those of you who don't like the video thing...

My Five Writing Rules

I decided it’s time to get back to those writing rules. Previously, I talked about how no writing rule is ever hard and fast for every writer, but I thought it might be interesting to share my personal rules because those very much dictate the reading experience of my writing.
Man. I actually have a lot of them. But let’s start with 5.

1) In rough drafts, there are no rules.

For me, rough drafts are where my mind can really take wing and fly, so I try to write without worrying about anything. I write for me. What I find interesting. What I want to enjoy. And if that means breaking a million so-called writing rules, that’s fine. I rein it all back in later.

2) Always Rewrite.

Since I just let my words bleed onto the page, the end result is… Okay bad. It’s bad. Really. Really. Bad.

But I expected that and it’s okay. I really don’t believe in perfect first drafts. Because in between the million things that don’t work in the rough draft, there are the hundred things that do, and I wouldn’t have found them if I kept stressing about the quality of my output.

So I take those things I like and I build the story again from scratch, using those things as my foundation. And the result of that draft is miles better.

3) Wait for it…

My writing process is filled with stops and starts. I’ll do an intensive writing period where I’m rough drafting a book. As soon as it’s done, though, I set it aside for at least a month. Then I spend time furiously rewriting the same story. And another rest period. Then I revise. And wait. And edit. And wait… And so on.

Because when it comes to perfecting my work, I need distance from it. Distance means time away.

4) Edit and edit some more.

When it comes to getting the book ready for publishing, I’m a bit of an editing fiend. If drafting is for myself, editing is for my readers. So I’ll go over the manuscript again and again, doing my absolute best to make sure the readers have at least a little taste of my experience as I wrote it.

This is also the place where a story goes from meh to amazing, so I go over it again and again until I find nothing more to change. And then I bring outside help in to see if they can’t find anything I missed.

5) At some point, I have to stop.

This is probably the hardest rule for me to follow. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my work, so I could find better ways to do things and say things and better places for commas almost indefinitely, if I let this perfectionistic streak run amok.

So there’s a point where I know I’m satisfied enough and where any further tweaking is superfluous. That’s where I stop.

It’s hard, though. And that’s where I miss having a publisher who can come in and pull the manuscript from my grabby hands.

That’s it for today! What is your biggest writing rule?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: I'm Back and Boy Am I Feeling the Insecurity

Hey all!

Heads-up to everyone wanting to support Hurricane Harvey victims: There's a charity auction going on right now here

If you're planning to self-publish, you can bid on my ebook and paperback formatting offer.


I've been away from the Insecure Writers' Support Group for a while, but yesterday I decided to get right back onto that bandwagon.

For those of you who aren't familiar with IWSG, it's the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, where us writers can go to share our fears and insecurities once a month, on the first Wednesday. In addition, there is also an optional extra question for those of us who just don't feel that insecure at the time.

 

I have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge insecurity this month, but I stupidly made that my vlog post for last Friday. 

Lucky me, I also have another, smaller, niggling insecurity that I've been trying to ignore. And that big insecurity has just made that feeling much worse. 

In short, I feel like nothing's getting done. 

Which is a stupid feeling for me to have, as I literally have a list every day, where I'm checking off task after task that I've finished. 

But. 

There was once a time when I was capable of rough drafting, rewriting and editing a manuscript in six to eight months. 

That's a lovely pace to maintain. And I did it while having a day-job. 

But since then, all of my projects just seem to be stuck in mud. Book 3 in The War of Six Crowns has been two years (!!!) in the making and it's still not done. And now I'm having problems with another project that will be setting me back for some more months on that. (This is my big insecurity.) 

That's not the worst, though. 

The worst is that I've made the decision to become a full-time writer a year ago. Did that help me speed up? 

Nope. Because now that I have more time for writerly things, I somehow also have less time to actually write, because to be a writer who isn't also a starving writer, I have to do other writing-related jobs for money. This part is surprisingly successful. 

But actually writing? 

Uhm....

Uhm....

Uhm.....

I haven't been able to write in more than a month, now. Mainly because of the crippling insecurity around that other book. But also because I conveniently have a million other things to do, which makes it so easy to procrastinate. 

Sigh. 

Anyone else feel like they're stuck in mud with their writing? I'd ask how you get over that feeling, but I already know the only thing to do is actually stop moaning and start actually working on something again. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Hate My Internal Editor Because It's Right

Hey everyone! Before I get to today's vlog post, I just wanted to let you know that I signed up for a charity auction for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I'm offering to format a book for paperback and ebook, so if that's something you need, you might end you getting my services for a steal. You can click here for more information.

Okay! Time for today's vlog. As always, I left the script at the bottom for those of you who just can't get into the vlog thing. Enjoy!



If I was to think of one word to summarize how I am right now, it would be:

FRUSTRATED.

Why?

Because I have this brain that tells me things like “Hah. You really want to just edit and publish this shit?”

Sarcastic voice and all.

Which I tend to ignore because often, that voice is dead wrong. However, out of two books I’ve wanted to pick up for revision, this voice chimed in twice. And it was right… twice.

Not that this is really a bad thing. I’m taking a long-term view of self-publishing. Yes, I could be publishing once every three months right now, but would I be happy with the quality of my books? Eh…no.

Which isn’t to bash people who are able to do that.

I just can’t.

It’s hard enough to let go of a book as it is. Let’s not rush the process.

But the thing is, my method has always worked as follows: Rough draft by hand, rewrite to computer (with a plan), revise, edit a million times, proofread a few times more, and then I’m ready for formatting.

Except now it’s not working that way. Because now, when my inner editor takes a look at my rewritten draft, it’s seeing glaring weaknesses that would be better solved with yet another rewrite than with revisions.

The previous three times this inner editor chimed up, I could say, “Hey chill out. Yes, it’s not perfect. But a scene here and there would be all this needs to be perfect.”

The last two times, though, my inner editor helpfully pointed out that somewhere between a half and three quarters of my plot wasn’t written.

And that’s a rewrite-scope problem. How do I know? Because the first time it happened, it took me almost a years’ worth of rewrites and FOUR TIMES the amount of words to tell the story in the right way.

But at least there I had the excuse of wanting to split a book in two.

This time, no such luck. This time, I just let major plot points occur way before intro and build-up was done. And so it feels like at least the first third of a story is missing.
Can I fix it by inserting those scenes? Not this time. Because stuff that’s missing now will impact reactions later.

So it’s another rewrite for me. On a book that’s been rewritten four times already, over sixteen years.

Kill me now.

Have you ever prepared to edit, only to realize the underlying draft isn’t worth editing? Did you ignore that feeling or did you rewrite? How did it work out for you? 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Why Writers Need Critique Partners


On September 4th, 2016, I had decided to use my knowledge gained from about sixteen years of writing in order to stabilize my income. I started freelancing as an editor and critique partner on Fiverr and Upwork.

For the most part, I love this job, because it basically pays me to read. A lot. 

But there's a flip-side: I sometimes have to deal with a lot of writing by people learning the craft. Don't get me wrong. I love helping people. But the truth is that often, an editorial letter and comments written into the margins of a manuscript just aren't enough to explain exactly what I mean. 

The biggest reason for this is the huge disconnect in experience between me and my client. At the moment, probably close to two thirds of my clients for content edits are first-time writers. They paid for me to tell them how to improve their stories. 

But when it comes to things that I take for granted, they never even thought about it. Within this blogging community, we've formed a sort of short-hand. When someone's offering to exchange critiques with me, I know it's okay for us to use that short-hand, because we do share a common background when it comes to how and where we find our knowledge.

So in a lot of ways, the bloggosphere forms a sort of hive-mind. Although the transmission of information isn't perfect, I usually know, when I picked another blogger's work up to critique, more or less what the level is that I'm batting for. So when I say, "Your opening isn't really hooking me," I'm pretty dang sure the writer I'm critiquing either knows what I mean, or knows where to find the information they need to correct this issue. 

My belief that this is so is further reinforced by the general level of writing I've critiqued over the last seven years. You can see when someone has a concept of what's going on. 

I believe there are certain fundamentals to the plot and development of fiction (regardless of genre). And most of the time, people in my network get the majority of those fundamentals right. In this way, then, content editing is more about catching where the writer slipped than anything else. I think it's because we are a network that shares what we learned and often I would critique someone, who critiques someone else, who critiques someone else, etc. Because a large amount of us are connected in multiple degrees (I have 20 people or more in my network who are also in your network), it means that the information I share gets refined and then applied to my work again when one of you reads for me. And just so, if I learn something new because of something one of my critique partners (CPs) picked up, I can take that information, refine it, and apply it to that CP's work, and also the work of all my other CPs. 

And so, overall, the quality of our output increases. 

But when I'm freelancing, all those assumptions go out the window. I can't say "This opening isn't a good hook," because the writer has no idea what a hook is. 

And often, none of the fundamentals are there. 

Without any of the fundamentals in place, it's almost impossible to improve the writing without rewriting the whole thing first. And no matter how nicely I try to put it, that's an incredibly demoralizing thing for a new writer to find out.

I'm talking about things like character arcs. I'm talking about motivation. I'm talking about internal logic. I'm talking about obedience to the set-up. I'm talking about having the set-up be in the writing, in a way that's palpable to the reader. I'm talking about not having certain plot points in the writing because it's "done" in the genre, but have that be at the cost of believability. I'm talking about the ways to create tension and to keep the pacing at a reasonable clip. 

These things rarely come naturally to writers. They're learned by trial and error. And honestly, I don't think learning all that by paying an editor is the best way to do that. 

So my suggestion: Don't give up on writing. On the contrary, write more. Practice. But improve on your craft by learning from other writers. Get critique partners and learn both from the critiques you get and the ones you give. Read up to understand why your CPs are suggesting certain things. Learn.

That way, your developmental editor is there to help you perfect what you wrote and revised, instead of finding gaping holes that will make you want to write off your skill as a writer entirely. 

Also, it's easier for a content editor to write a thousand-word outline of why this one thing needs work. Not so much when all of your fundamentals are missing. It's simply too much knowledge for someone to impart in one go, and it's also too much for you, with your small amount of experience, to understand.

All of us had to start somewhere. But those of us who are here after ten years or more crawled before we ran. 

And if you're a new writer paying for an editor without having critique partners look at your writing first, you basically tried to skip to riding a unicycle. 

Do you have critique partners? If so, how did you find them? Any tips for finding and being an awesome critique partner?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Update Day: The End of Year 1

Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another update on the Got Goals Bloghop. For those of you unfamiliar with Update Day, a bunch of us set some crazy or just plain important goals and update each other on our progress once a month. If you would like more information or to just see who else is taking part, please click here.

PLEASE NOTE IF YOU ARE ALREADY A PARTICIPANT: The site hosting the linky sign-up is down, so please follow the link above to be taken to a blog post where you can leave your update link.


On 4 September, 2016, I had decided to reset my goals and approach writing as a full-time job, where I use my writing knowledge in various ways in order to make a sustainable income.

When I started out, a lot of people thought I was nuts. Heck. Some days, especially in November, I felt I was nuts.

But here I am.

I made it.

So I thought I'd share my thoughts on my progress.

I've been earning minimum wage pretty much consistently this year.

This is both a good and a bad thing. On the good side, the money I earned was enough to keep me and my family going during hard times. 

On the bad, I would have liked to earn more by now. 

The probable reason why I didn't? When I had started out, I had planned to use the money I make to market my books to sell more of them, which would have generated extra income aside from the freelancing I now do. 

But that money basically went into surviving for a large chunk of the year, and otherwise to keep my freelance side of the business afloat. So about 90% of my income is from freelancing, where I would have liked a more even split between my sources of income. And given that those other sources of income would have been passive, meaning I didn't need to do much myself to earn the money, I fell short of where I wanted to be.

That said, the fact that I've been generating pretty much an even income every month means that I should be able to use my freelance work as a spine as I spend next year preparing to publish more books again. 

I finally finished Book 3. 

Ah yes. Book 3. 

Number 1 reason why I didn't publish anything this year: My life went to hell in a handbasket starting around February. 

Number 2 reason: Book 3 itself. The War of Six Crowns is my major focus, writing-wise, so I've basically put all my available time into getting it publishing-ready. The problem is I completely underestimated the sheer size of this project. 

A lot of times this year, Book 3 felt like a bottomless, endless pit and, it wasn't only a case of not being able to finish it on schedule, but also the fact that I literally couldn't work on anything else all year. 

I finished rewriting Book 3 in August, about nine months after I had planned to publish it. Now I'm taking the approach of it's going to take as long as it's going to take, because after putting in this amount of work, I'm really not excited to rush it to market without being happy with the quality. 

Getting something done is like opening a nesting doll. 

Maybe it's because of the way I look at things, but sometimes it feels like everything is connected to everything else. And sometimes, it can be hard to see what needs to be done first. Do I finish writing a book or do I update my website? Do I update my covers and interior or do I set up the newsletter so I can include the newsletter sign-up? Do I spend the morning freelancing so I can get this job out of the way, or do I spend it writing so I can actually make progress on my own work? 

And so on. 

And if I do manage to finish one thing, I take another look and see a thousand more. This often makes it feel like I'm not really making a lot of progress, but as I sit here, looking back, I'm awed. 

And I know that I laid some groundwork for an astounding Year 2. 

How are you doing? Do you have any major goals you're working on?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Visiting Juneta

Hey lovely people! I just wanted to let you know that I'm visiting Juneta's blog today to talk about my writing journey thus far. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 14, 2017

How Writers Can Stretch Time, in Four Steps

Unless the wheels have spectacularly come off my life in some way, people have a tendency to be amazed by how much I get done in a month. And every now and then, someone will ask me how I manage it.

After all, we writers have the same amount of hours in the day. So how do I stretch mine to get so much done?

Step 1: Set Goals and Break Them Into Smaller Chunks

How does that help a writer stretch time? you might ask. Well. One of my big secrets to getting stuff done is knowing what I want to do.

So I set myself some huge goals, and then I break them into progressively smaller chunks.

For example:

Goal 1: Make a living wage from writing books. 
  1. Write books. 
    1. Write this one book. 
      1. Write 1,000 words every day.
      2. Write 50,000 words.
    2. Write the next book. 
      1. Write 1,000 words every day. 
      2. Write 50,000 words.
  2. Edit books. 
    1. Revisions
    2. Edits
    3. Proofread
  3. Publish books
    1. Format books.
    2. Upload them to retailers. 
And so on. Now I not only have this big goal, but I also see the steps to get to that goal. (The ones that are in my control, anyway.)

I often break even the steps into smaller steps, until I have hundreds of little things I need to do.

Which might sound terrifying, but what sounds easier:

Make a living from writing? Or write 1,000 words today?

So what I'm doing is to break all of my goals into smaller, bite-sized chunks. And then I move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Set Your Priorities. 

Once I know what I want and how I'm planning to get there, I can sit down and decide what's the most important to me. 

But here's the important thing: I decide what's important to me right now. 

This bit is a trick to my success, because a lot of those big goals I set are pretty much equal when it comes to how important they are in my life. 

I don't have kids, but if I had, I wouldn't be able to say writing is more important than my children. But I wouldn't ever be able to call writing unimportant either. 

So the thing is, if you're sitting down to get going, there will be things on that specific day that's more important. If you know you want to focus on that, then focus on that. But also know when you've neglected some other aspect, so you can temporarily bump that thing up your priority list in order to even everything out. 

Step 3: Create a To-Do List.

Once I know all the things that are really important, I can quickly write down the 10 things that are weighing on me the most. (I like 10 for being a nice, even number, but pick whatever works for you.) 

Next thing I do is to number the order in which I'd like to do those 10 things. 

Why? 

Because if I decide upfront what I want to do after I've finished the task at hand, I don't have to waste time later trying to decide what I should be doing. 

How do I pick the order? 

This depends. Some days, it's in order of the shortest deadline to the longest. Other days, it's Writing first and everything else next. Today I'm not feeling a bit lethargic, so I'm making up for it by starting with something easy, then something hard, then easy, then hard etc. 

Step 4: Start Doing

Yeah I know. Obvious, right? But sometimes, people underestimate how important it is to just get going. There's a reason why, when it comes to the setting of my to-do list, I keep things simple. I don't try to schedule anything because I know it takes longer for me to schedule and re-schedule as my day shifts. Time that I could actually be using to tick stuff off my to-do list. 

So once I have my 10 things and I know in which order I'd like to do things. I start. If something happens to prevent me from completing one task, I move onto the next. (Writing this blog is task number 4. Number 3 is postponed because I'm waiting for information.) I might get back to it later. I might postpone to tomorrow. 

And no, there's nothing wrong with postponing as long as it's not going to break a deadline. Because unless you set the bar really low, there's no way you're going to finish all the tasks you set for yourself. 

So move the stuff you didn't get to. Just as long as you get it done. 

And My Big Secret? 

I don't multitask. 

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? 

Yeah, I know. People usually act like multitasking is the way to go. Especially if you have as many and as varied goals as I do. 

But here's the thing. No one actually multitasks. 

You're just rapidly switching your focus from one thing to the next thing. 

As I'm sitting here, I'm writing this post without looking at my twitter. When I'm doing my social networking stuff, I don't do it while watching T.V. When I am doing something to relax, I try to do so without bringing "work" along. Unless you count crafting as work. But that's a whole other story. 

Point is: If I'm at task number 1, I focus on that task until it's done, or until I take a break. 

And then I focus on the next thing. 

And the next thing. 

And the next. 

Why? 

Because when I'm focusing, I'm making fewer mistakes. And I actually speed up. Because I don't even have the smallest moment of thinking "what did I want to do here again?" 

And so, things get done one little step at a time. And then at the end of the month, I take stock and actually realize how much I have achieved. 

What about you? Are you a multitasker? Do you have a system for getting everything done? What tips do you have? 


Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Things to Remember When Giving Writing Advice


This morning, I watched a vlog post by one of my favorite writing vloggers on YouTube. And to be honest, the post left me fuming.

The post was about ten types of writers that are "the worst," as in people who suck.

And I did agree with nine out of the ten points, because they dealt with things like genre elitists, mansplainers etc.

But one was basically a take-down of character-driven pantsers like me. And that ticked me off, because she basically lumped a perfectly valid approach to writing right in there with writers who want to write but never actually do and people who write comments on writing without understanding what writing is about.

Because apparently, having a character who doesn't want to do something you wanted them to do isn't a justifiable reason to be stuck.

Which, as someone who actually has been writing while giving my characters free rein for years and actually has about 25 finished rough drafts as a result, I find to be a ridiculous assertion for a plotter to make.

But to give you plotter dudes an idea, this little inclusion in her "the worst" list is like me calling you chickenshit for insisting on a comfort blanket that is your plot outline before starting out. Because pantsing is true creativity, y'all.

*Eye roll*

And insulting people for using a method just because you don't use it, or just because you never thought to use it, is not cool.

Still, it did get me thinking about the things we do when giving and receiving advice and since I'm kinda in a mini-blog series about so-called "writing rules," I thought I'd write them down as tips of my own.

1) Even if you have a big following (and especially then), it's probably a bad idea to thoughtlessly mock roughly half of your following if you're not qualified by personal experience to comment on their method. 

Hell, this is a stupid idea in general.

2) Before you spout off on something, maybe consider if someone approaching writing in a certain way you disagree with actually helps that person write. 

Because if you're going to discourage a natural pantser from pantsing, you're not helping that person at all.

3) Keep in mind that people of various experience levels are consuming your advice. Tailor your information accordingly. 

4) Consider whether the limitations of your medium of choice allows you to do any statements you make justice. 

If you have under ten minutes in your vlog and you can't take the time to justify your opinion with more than a few trite, bullshit witticisms about why half your following is wrong, maybe this vlog post isn't the place to include this particular opinion.

5) If you're out to make yourself look smarter and better by insulting those different from you, you're doing it wrong

What about you? Have you ever seen or heard someone share writing advice that made your blood boil? 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Update Day: Warning. This Is a Big One.

Hey everyone! Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, which means it was time for another Update Day. Sadly for me, I was forced to miss updating in time because the Internet went down.

For those of you wondering what on Earth I'm talking about, a few of us writers are taking part in a bloghop hosted by me and Jen Garrett, where we set crazy or just seriously important goals, and then post updates on the last Friday of the month.

A lot of stuff has happened though, which has solidified my priorities, so bewarned, this is going to be a long post as I set out and explain my major goals for the next few weeks and months ahead. Ready?

Okay strap in.


So How Did I Do? 

It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with a lot of fails mixed in with my success. 

The big thing is: 

I finished drafting Book 3! *sparkly confetti*

Everything else... Meh. 

Book 3 got done with about 20k words left to spare, and once I did that, I just couldn't keep the momentum going on another project. Used to be that I could easily switch between projects, but I'm out of practice because Book 3 has basically been taking up all my creative mind space for the past two years. 

So this Camp NaNo, despite me doing awesome for as long as I was writing, is going to be a lose for me. Oh well. 

And as for my social media... I tried to update my blog once a week on Fridays, which I mostly succeeded at, but I skipped last week because I was drained from finishing Book 3. (I did the last chapters in an eight-thousand-word marathon.)

Because of this and a whole lot of other stuff I'll get into in a bit, I also didn't get around to vlogging. I have recorded a video, but didn't edit it because I thought it would be better if my first update in a while was for this post... And then I got busy with this other thing and didn't record the video. 

*Sigh.*

I was active on twitter and I estimate I've gained close to 200 followers between my two accounts, so that's a win. 

Then, I also did two mammoth editing jobs for clients and am now working on a third, AND I've been working on the covers for The War of Six Crowns, the series. And man. The updated cover for The Vanished Knight is gorgeous. I think it might be my best yet, and the concept for the series of covers really has me excited, because it's a major challenges. 

Then I've also managed to do some reading. 

AND! Once I've wrapped up Book 3, I've started kicking my unhealthy lifestyle to the curb. 

Wow. Now that I'm listing everything I've achieved... I've actually had an epic month. 

What Would I Like to Do in the Next Few Months? 

Writing 

Because Book 3 needs to rest, I'm going to work on something else. And some of you guys, who've beta'ed for me in the past, will possibly be glad to know I've decided to do some work on Eden's Son, my Historical Romance. 

I just really need a change of pace from Book 3, and I though it could be nice if I managed to wrap up ES1 and publish it this year, since it's the second oldest story I've written and the oldest of my story concepts. (I've been working on various iterations of this story basically forever. In fact, the first novel I ever started to write is a book in this series, before I realized that there was a lot of story before that book that needed to be told first.) 

Also, at the risk of sounding really cynical, it would be nice if I have a romance out to help stabilize my writing income. But I freaking love this story, so it's going to be a pleasure to get it done after sixteen odd years.

Publishing and Marketing Stuff

There is soooooooooooo much I need to do that I haven't gotten around to before. I just couldn't focus on all this when I had Book 3 staring at me like a baleful child. But now it's done, So I can at least to do the following: 

1) Regular blog and vlog posts.
I at least want to get back to my Monday/Friday schedule, with Friday featuring a vlog post of some sort. For that, I'm probably going to start filming a whole lot of videos on writing topics that I can edit as needed so I have a bit more of a buffer for when I'm busy, and then I'm going to do my more personal vlog updates on the fly when I have the opportunity. I want my Monday blog posts to relate to my Friday posts in some way, so that's also going to help me get some content done in time. Although I love being all nice and personal, I also realize that adding value is something I haven't been able to do for years, so I need to fix that. 

2) Continue with my graphic design self-study. 
Believe it or not, I've gone from designing my own covers because it's cheaper to designing my own covers because I love them more than I do when someone else designs for me. So to save myself the pain and tears of having to learn things the hard way, I'm doing a graphic design course so I can get a better concept of what's going on and how to achieve what I want to achieve with my covers. 

I'm a terrible boss to myself. My whole feeling is that if I'm going to self publish, all aspects of the production of my book needs to be better than what anyone else would have done for me. That means I'm learning some mad skills. Helps that my freelancing activities are basically paying me to learn stuff. 

3) Update my website. 
This is another thing where my graphic design is going to come in handy. My old author website is so out of date that I don't even point people at it anymore. So that needs to be fixed. Before that can happen, though: 

4) Update the cover to The Heir's Choice. 
I need to implement the ideas I have brewing for that cover and as a bonus, do a few fixes on the cover to Endless while I'm at it. Once those are done, I can get into building the new site. (Which is another skill I'm having to learn. Insane, but makes sense given my other job... More on this later.) 

5) Set-up a newsletter (or three) with a signup page on my website. 
I've resisted the newsletter thing for a while because I didn't believe I had enough people interested in reading a newsletter. Thanks to Wattpad, this has now changed. The Vanished Knight now has close to 250k reads and a whole lot of people who keep contacting me for updates on Book 3. 

6) Update the front and back-matter of my books to point to the website and newsletter. 
And while I'm at it, I'm just going to reformat the whole shebang. I've learned a boatload of new stuff since self-publishing the first time. So I'm taking the books up to the next level. 

CEO Duties

You didn't read that wrong. For the first time since I've finished my degree and started working for the family business, my mom's let me be the boss. 

I think I mentioned that we were working on another business thing where we had some investors interested in the project... Well... that concept underlying the business was my idea, so my mom and I agreed that I need to be in charge of it, although she's the MD, which means she's going to be the one to do the actual day-to-day running of the business once it's up. 

But basically, where we are requires a prototype of a site to be built for coders and also potential investors. And since this is a monster project and I hate people telling me "can't do it," we're going to build the first prototype ourselves to help outsiders see what we're envisaging. 

Which is, again, where learning some site-building skills will come in. Fun fact, the site has so many working parts that I'm probably going to be able to build a seriously ambitious author site...as practice. 

Freelancing

Depending on how much time I'm going to spend on the monster site, this is probably going to be the thing that gets a down-grade on my priority list. I'm going to try and not down-scale my freelancing in favor of my site because I still want to be a full-time writer (and the owner of a monster site.) 

But. It it's going to come down to a choice between my writing/publishing, the site, and the freelancing, I think you can see why the freelancing will be the first to give. 

Hopefully, though, I'll be able to get everything done. And the amazing amount of stuff I pulled off in July without feeling on the verge of collapse gives me hope. 

My Health 

Here's something I haven't really brought up in a while. Mostly because it's embarrassing, how bad I am at taking care of myself. 

Why? Because I know how bad certain foods are to me. I know how important it is, especially to me, not to just sit on my butt day-in and day-out. I know that eating healthily and exercising actually give me the energy I need to tackle major projects without getting drained. I know that sixteen-hour work days invariably come back to bite me in the butt at some point. In some really ugly ways. Especially when I'm not eating healthily or exercising.

But did that have any impact at all on my refined sugar intake, exercise habits, water consumption or work hours? 

Not.
One.
Jot. 

But when I finished up Book 3, I felt like I could rule the world, and then just kinda thought I could start by not screwing myself in the long run. I'd like to actually have a functional body when I'm old, so this is actually a bit of a priority.

1) Diet
No, I don't mean this in the "starve-myself and get trim" kind of way. I'm talking about changing my diet permanently. Which means no refined carbs and sugars. I know a lot of people have a fit every time I mention not consuming carbs as a major part of my diet. But you know what? The only time I really feel normal, when I'm not feeling like I'm going to crash, or get a massive headache any moment now, or just feel like I don't have the strength to do something, or even, for that matter, that I'm constantly hungry, even when I'm getting up from the table, is when I'm on a high-fat, low-carb diet. So that's what I'm doing. 

I'm not completely giving up carbs. I'm just getting mine in by consuming vegetables, fruit and honey instead of starch. 

2) Weight
Yeah yeah, I'm beautiful as I am. Really I am. This isn't a self-confidence thing as I was blessed with an ability to tie my confidence to issues other than my body. 

But. 

Being at the heaviest weight I've ever been at the age of 28 is not good for my back, which is something I have injured in the past. (More on this in a bit.) Also, my family has a history of heart disease and diabetes, both of which are tied to unhealthy diets and obesity. And yes. I'm blessed with a body that evenly distributes fat when I gain weight, but I am, in fact obese. 

So to save myself a lot of heartache and pain now, I'm going to get the weight down and keep it down. And so you know, I had just short of 40 kg (88 lb) to lose when I started on Sunday. So far this week, I'm 2.5 kg (5 lb 8 oz) down. 

3) Water
People always get told that they need 2 liters (half a gallon) of water a day, but did you know your requirement is actually determined by your weight? The heavier you are, the more water you require. 

So when I decided to track my weight and fix my diet, I also got myself an app to track my intake and remind myself to drink water. This might seem extreme, but I tend to forget to drink water when I write. So now I don't. 

And just so you know, the goal for my current weight is 3.5 liters (7.4 liquid pints) per day. And if you think that's impossible to do. It's not.

4) Exercise
As I mentioned before, I have injured my back in the past, so being overweight really doesn't help. And the whole reason I got injured in the first place was because my core was weak. And all I've done in the years since is let my core weaken further. 

No more. 

I've signed up for an app called 30 Day Challenge. It has a variety of exercise challenges based on what you want to focus on and how fit you are. The exercises are really intensive, mostly body-weight-resistance exercises, which means that the five-minute sessions I'm currently on are really making a huge difference to my body. 

One wouldn't think that five minutes would help, but my core has gone from being able to support me for at most five seconds of plank to thirty seconds of plank in a week. And if you don't think that's impressive, I don't think you've done the plank before.

The exercises never give me that "no-pain-no-gain" feeling, because they seem to be designed to be *just* enough to challenge the participant without demoralizing them. But every single day is just a little bit more challenging than the day before. And I assume that eventually, almost without noticing, I'll be in a place where I'll be able to do hours of exercise if I want without actually finding it to be daunting or impossible. (Which I do now.) 

This is mostly weight training, though, so I've started dancing again to get some cardio in. This week, I went to my first ever line dancing class, but I have a huge hankering for ballroom again too, so I might take that as well. 

5) My lifestyle in general. 
Other than the eating, water drinking and exercise, I also really need to sort out a few other things. Firstly, my sleeping patterns. Because of my insane (and I don't mean this as a self-compliment) work-ethic, I often work until 3 a.m. in the morning and start my day between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. I take almost no breaks from my computer once I sit down. 

So. I have to institute a stricter work-hour rule, where I don't pass a certain time, and where I then have to at least do something to rest in the evening. This can be reading or even some sort of craft. Or the dancing classes. 

Point is, I know I'm going to burn out if I continue keeping the hours I'm keeping, so I'm going to adapt now before I'm forced to by my own exhaustion. 

Balance is the thing I'm going for here, so I'm going to literally schedule in time to rest because otherwise I'm just going to forget. (Same way I forget to drink water.) 

Whoa that's a lot, so I'm going to stop here for now. But how did you do? Anyone feel like joining me on the 30 Day Challenge? 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Update: Nooooooooo!

Still ahead of schedule... Just.

I know that second weeks of NaNoWriMo months are harsh. They're kinda notorious for being as difficult to get through as swimming through molasses. That's why all of the encouragement we get from the organizers in week two features some version of "Hey it's okay to struggle. You're far from the only one, so just keep chipping away and things will get easier." 
To be honest, though, I thought I'd skip the difficult second week. Not because week one was epic (and it was), but because I'm in the final sixth of my book. These are the final chapters leading up to the climactic point and the last ones to finish the book off. 

They write themselves. 

They always have. 

Usually when I hit the last quarter of a book, I can easily write up to 6k words in a day. (My record is 10k in a single push.) 

But what I didn't count on was that, when I threw a huge curve ball at my characters, they would retaliate with a massive one in return. 

You'd think, after having about six iterations of this same event in my draft novels without much of a dent, nothing would change when I let the same thing happen now. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

Because I hadn't taken into account one major thing: Every time before, the thing happened early in the story. This time, it happened near the end. 

And because of everything that had happened before the event, the characters were now armed with a set of information that pointed to something I hadn't even looked at. 

Et voila. 

Devastation. 

I've been struggling to write even 1000 words a day since Tuesday. The moment I get to scenes around this event, my unwilling fingers slow down to a drag and I want to burst into tears. 

But hey! Drama's good. So I can't complain too much. 

I just have to get over this. 

And hopefully my poor readers will cry just as hard when they hit this scene. I'm not going to say what it was, but... I think you'll know when you see it. 

How are you doing? Have you ever had a character spring a whole new world of pain on you? How did you recover?

Friday, July 7, 2017

CampNaNo Progress Update: Ugh I'm So Annoyed with Myself

Hey everyone!

I've had a bit of a whirlwind week since last Friday, which is why I've been so quiet. The truth is that I had a few minutes in which to whip up a post for the blog, but I felt bad to update when I know for a fact that I won't have the time to visit bloggers.

That said, I've made some epic progress this week.

It started on Saturday. See, I've been working on some huge editing projects, and the big one was waiting for me this week. 120 thousand words is nothing to sneeze at and the client was waiting. So I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get everything done and still write.

The solution, spend my off time on the weekend to write enough to make up for par on Friday. That way, anything I wrote in the week would basically be a nice extra instead of a cause for alarm because I wasn't making the daily word count goal.

I didn't quite make it, but I did write 8,000 words in two days. And then I wrote 4,000 more on Monday.

As of yesterday, I was at just under 17k words in total.

Which is... a bit insane, really.

Especially when you think I was writing that much while editing someone else's book.

But then yesterday went wrong.

I'm not going to go into it in detail, but my first writing block in the morning got knocked out without me being able to write. So I decided to sit down and push to finish the editing project.

The thought is that if I do that, I basically have today and the weekend to write.

Good thinking.

But I ignored the niggling head-achy feeling forming behind my eyeballs.

The result: I had to go sleep at 8 p.m. (which knocked out my second writing session for the day). With the mother of a headache. People who've had one of these will get it: burning eyes, burning neck and shoulders, nausea and please God just let me die in my sleep because it's night and I'm on a farm but the moonlight is too bright and it hurts. 

Luckily for me, the good Lord knows when I'm not completely serious.

Unluckily for me, I'm doing my best to type this without looking at my screen too much because after almost fourteen hours of sleep and three pain meds, I'm still feeling like it's there.

So.

I'm a bit angry at myself.

I've been on this ride before. I know the signs. There were things I should have done. For one thing, when I noticed the head-achy feeling starting to throb in my temples, I should have taken something. For another, I should have enlarged the text I was editing so it wouldn't stress my eyes so much. I should have dimmed my screen while I was at it. When I felt my shoulders, neck and jaw clenching, I should bloody well have stopped.

But I was just twenty pages out from being finished, so what harm would it do?

Some days, I'm a bloody fool.

Sigh.



How are you doing? Are you doing Camp NaNo? How's it going?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Update Day: Wait. Where'd June Go?

Hey everyone! It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for an update for my Got Goals? bloghop. More information and sign-up guidelines can be found here.


How I Did

Looking at my total income for the month, you'd think not that well, but that would brush aside the fact that I've had another surge of work coming in at the end of the month, which won't show until July. 

Besides that, I also did a lot of work that will hopefully have long-term pay-offs, which I won't see just yet. 

Writing-wise: I made my goal of a 10-minute average for the month. 
YouTube and Social Networking: ... Everything went well until last week Monday. I just haven't touched ground since then. To give you an idea, I'm writing this at 10:44 p.m. on Friday night. Because it's literally the first open moment I've had. I wanted to do this as a vlog post, but I didn't have the time to record, much less edit the video.

Goals for July

I did a crazy thing and signed up for Camp NaNo. So the goal is to write 50k words in July and hopefully finish Book 3. 

For me to do this, I really have to sort out my schedule so that I have at least two writing hours available every day, regardless of whether I have anything else to do. So this month I'll be aiming for a 2-hour daily average for my writing. 

If I don't make that, it's fine, but I think two hours a day is a nice amount that should be in the realm of possibility for me. So it'll definitely be something I want to strive towards. 

Here's the thing, though, I want to do that without disrupting my social networking and freelancing. And this is often where I falter. I get the feeling that one or the other will fall by the way-side as I'm trying to sort all this out, but I'm going to cut me some slack and say that I'm going to call any progress in July a win. 

What about you? Are you joining Camp NaNo? Do you manage to balance your life with your writing? HOW DO YOU DO IT? I HAVE TO KNOW!



Monday, June 19, 2017

4 Tips to Make Sense of Writing Tips

Hey all! Before I get into today's post, I just wanted to remind you guys of my new Before and After feature. It could be a way for you to get your hands on a really inexpensive custom design, so if you haven't yet, go check out my announcement.

Okay! Time to get into the post. This is last week's vlog that went live a bit too late, which is why it's only being put on my blog today. As always, the script follows the video, but if you choose that, you're missing an awesome Vader impersonation...



Show don’t tell. Never stop writing. Only write when you’re feeling inspired. Never start with a dream sequence. Never use a narrator. Never use prologues. Always plan ahead of writing. Never plan ahead. Edit as you write. NEVER edit as you write.

That’s only a small sample of the writing rules that one can get out there. And as you can see, a lot of it is contradictory. So what’s a writer to do?

In my sixteen or so years of writing stories, I’ve managed to develop a way to approach writing rules that makes it all… well… make a bit more sense. And since I’m awesome, I thought I’d share the tips with you.

Yes, I’m aware that this is a tip vlog about understanding tips, but there you go.

Let’s just get into it.


Tip #1: Before you even start researching writing, it’s a good idea to develop your own set of best practices first. 


The truth is that it’s a mad, senseless writing world out there. It seems like every writer has “advice” out there, and as someone who’s been around the block, a lot of advice out there is patently bad.

Terrible. Terrible advice.

And if you go into your research armed with your own personalized knowledge of what already works for you, you’re not going to be confused into the dark side all that easily. *Insert Vader Breath Here.*

Seriously though. If you know what works and someone’s acting like you’re doing it wrong, you know to roll your eyes and disregard at will.

Which brings me to my next tip.


Tip #2: If someone’s trying to convince you that theirs is the only, best way… they’re giving you bad advice. 


I don’t care what they’re saying. If they start off from the point of view that there is no other way to succeed at writing, you can’t trust the rest of what they’re saying. The guys that seem a bit hesitant, usually prefacing with a disclaimer of “I know other people do things differently and it works for them, but I find that…” usually are the ones that are worth listening to.

In particular, and this is a sad thing, there are some big names out there that try to sell themselves and their writing by making themselves seem like these literary geniuses that have the soul true knowledge to writing success.

DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.

Another bonus rule of thumb: If someone sounds like they’re talking out their arse, they probably are.

Tip #3: Understand why something is considered to be a rule.


Despite everything, some writers have a real, legitimate desire to help others, but because they’re not that experienced yet, they don’t quite understand what they’re saying. So their response is to come across as being dead certain about absolutes.

Never use adverbs. 
Never start with dream sequences. 
Never open with prologues.
Always do this. 
Never do that. 

The problem with subscribing yourself to these absolutes is that you’re actually limiting your own writing. But at the same time, those “rules” are there for a reason. So if you know those reasons, you’ll also know when and how you can bend the rules.

And that neatly brings me to my final tip.


Tip #4: Treat writing rules not as the x number writing commandments, but rather as guidelines. 


As I said before, a lot of the “rules” out there are considered to be such for some really good reasons.

That does not mean you’re doomed to always follow them slavishly. You’re the writer. You’re literally the master of your own story.

And if you say that rule doesn’t apply to you, that rule doesn’t apply to you.

Just remember, though, that if veering off from the rules results in bad writing, your readers will kick your ass for it. So don’t be irresponsible either.

And that’s basically it for me. Next week, I’ll share my own list of off-the-beaten-path writing rules that you might find useful. In the comments, let everyone know, which writing rules do you often disregard? 

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Bit of News

Hey Everyone!

Yeah, I know today is supposed to be a vlog update, but alas, everything is running late for me. (Refer to Wednesday's post for a deeper understanding.)

As it is, the fact that I had to shoot late meant that I had to do some heavy editing to make the video look good, which also means it's taking longer to render the edited video. Then I planned to upload render and upload early this morning, but Windows decided to update, which meant I'm now still waiting for the video to render. Sigh.

Anyhoodles. I thought I'd get some news and admin out of the way instead.

YouTube Posting Schedule for This Week

As a result of the delay, the YouTube post will go live for my Patreon patrons today, and everyone else tomorrow night. The blog post that includes the script will go live on Monday.

I Am Planning to Bring Before and After Back

For those of you wondering what the hay I'm talking about... Last year, I had a bit of a short-lived blog post series featuring me picking images and then turning them into something awesome using Photoshop, something like a cover image, excerpt banner or whatever. The idea originally was to post Before and Afters regularly in order to keep learning new things and also to keep my skills sharp, but then I thought... Why don't I open this up a little more? 

So this is what I'm thinking. Send me an email at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com and tell me what you want me to do. For example: 

Cover Image for a [insert genre here] book. It's about... [insert description here] and I'm thinking [insert what you think would look cool]. And then let me know what you want written on it.

Then (and this is the cool bit), I will put a price on the image and you can mail me to buy it with up to three adjustments. The price will be determined mostly by the cost of the images and partially by the amount of work I did, but my vision for now is to keep it more in line with pre-made cover costs than custom costs. 

Yes, that means you will get a custom cover in the pre-made price range. And if you buy it, it's yours. If not, I'm probably putting it on a pre-made list somewhere. 

Sounds good? Then do get in touch. 

What's up on your end of the world? 



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ever had one of those days?

You might have picked up that I'm starting to be more active on my social networks, including this blog. And the thing is that I've been wanting to get back to my usual MWF posting schedule again.

But man.

Today is just crap.

Have you ever felt like someone put your life on slow mo while time just marches on?

That's what my day was like today.

It seemed simple enough.

Wake up. Wash the floors. Move the horses. Write a vlog post. Write today's blog post. Record vlog post. Move horses back. Edit vlog post.

How did it go?

Woke up.

Wash floor, only to be told we have to move the horses now and oops! We and all the dogs are over the wet tiles.

Move the horses. Takes longer than usual.

Return to floor. Wash it a second time.

Brother and dogs walk over the floor again. So I hand him the mop.

Sit down to write vlog post. Get called to early lunch.

Sit down to write vlog post. Remember admin stuff I have to help my brother/assistant with.

Sit down to write vlog post.

It's time to move the horses back. But this time, they have to put on blankets, which they DO NOT LIKE. This takes two hours.

Return to record vlog post. 1) It's dinner time and 2) Battery's dead.

Charge battery.

Record video. Keep forgetting what I want to say, making me take twice as long to record because I keep having to check the script.

Download video.

"Open" video editing software. The program and the others in its suite need to update before I can open and use it.

It's 10 p.m.

*headdesk*

But at the same time... I have so much to be grateful for.

How is/was your day? 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Keep Calm and Chill Out: 4 Reasons Why Pushing Through Exhaustion Is a Bad Idea


My vlog post from last week has gotten me thinking a lot about why I almost always have to get to the point of burning out before I feel “okay” with taking a break.

In a lot of ways, I think it comes down to this whole mentality of Keep Calm and Carry On.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, carrying on despite adversity is often the best thing we can do. But sometimes, I think we’re carrying on a little bit too far. And this is why:


1) Forcing ourselves to keep going despite exhaustion only exhausts us more. 


Yeah yeah I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Obviously doing things when you’re already tired makes the tiredness worse. It’s common sense.

And yet, we ignore this common sense all the time.

What’s more, people expect it from us. They even praise use for doing it. Think I’m crazy? Take a look around at people who are positively bragging about the fact that they’re living off of coffee and pulling all-nighter after all-nighter. And then see the comments. Only a few “buzzkills” will think to say, “Five nights in a row already? This is really bad for you. Please go get some sleep.”

And sometimes, that’s fine. We often do need to push through exhaustion, because we quite simply are exhausted all the time. So if we don’t push ourselves, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

But as with my five-all-nighters-in-a-row example, there are limits, and we’re all but ignoring them all the time.

2) There’s so much more to exhaustion than being tired. 


So let me tell you a little story. I committed to writing because it was my lifeline after I had proverbially drowned myself in a study course I’d hated.

I knew in the first week of my studies (in 2007) that I wasn’t enjoying the course, but the Keep Calm and Carry On thing struck again. And I carried on. And on. Often giving up my sleep—all-nighters for the win, right? The faculty acted as if this wasn’t only normal, but to be expected as a prerequisite for success.

Half way through 2008, I seriously considered throwing myself in front of a car to be a valid alternative to going to class.

It wasn’t even that I was suicidal. I don’t think. But I was exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. And by ignoring my exhaustion for about 18 months, I had lost the capacity for normal emotions about a class. I had lost most of the capacity to think straight. I say “most,” because in the moment I was about to take that step, something in my mind went “WTF ARE YOU DOING?????!!!!!!!” and I had a moment of clarity.

I crossed the street and skipped class. Instead I went to administration and changed my degree.

But here’s the thing. The damage was done.

3) Medium term exhaustion leads to long term damage. 


So I had taken myself out of the nightmare degree and made sure to get more sleep. Did that make me feel better?

No more than quitting smoking after being diagnosed cures lung cancer.

My mom not-so-secretly thought I was taking drugs because, simply put, I was broken more than a year after leaving that degree.

I literally can’t remember the second semester of my second year (2008). I know I passed most of my subjects, but the one I failed... It’s like a hole in my brain. I can’t even remember sitting for the exam.

I had issues at fencing practice in 2009. Why? Because parrying and self-defense is important if you want to win. And my self-preservation instincts had been all but destroyed. I could literally see the hits coming in, but my brain just wouldn’t react defensively.

My short term memory was blown.

And worse, I, a trivia queen, couldn’t recall whole chunks of the knowledge I’ve gathered over my entire life.

In the end, the only thing that stopped me from being clinically diagnosed with depression in 2010 (I think. Kinda hazy on the date there.) was the fact that I had 3D awareness in the psychologist’s test.

Everything else was blown to hell, as a direct result of my exhaustion.

I knew something was wrong, but didn’t realize how bad it was until the psychologist gave me a four digit phrase that I couldn’t repeat back five seconds after I’d heard it.

When did I start to feel normal? 2013.

As in a whole five years after I had quit exhausting myself. 18 months of damage, five years of recovery.

4) Exhaustion is like boiling a frog.


Yeah, I know quite a few of you might be thinking Oh this would never be as bad for me. I’m in total control. 

The thing is, pushing yourself through exhaustion isn’t a once-off. It’s cumulative. You know the analogy of boiling frogs, right?

Toss a frog into boiling water and it jumps out. Put it in cold water and then put it to boil.

It’s the same thing with exhaustion. Every time we push through, we’re tiring ourselves out just a little bit more.

And you might be thinking Huh. This isn’t that bad. But that’s just you acclimating yourself to your new normal of exhaustion.

If there isn’t a finite, certain end to the causes of your exhaustion, your new normal might end up being the complete destruction of your health and mind.

So when it’s looking like the crap that’s exhausting you just isn’t ending, the logical reaction isn’t to carry on.

It’s to pace yourself. To take a step back and pare back to the absolute minimum so that you can get to the end with most of yourself intact. Life is hard enough as a marathon, without you doing repeated 100m sprints as you go.

What about you? Do you have a tendency to push yourself too far? How do you deal with exhaustion? 

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Importance of Stepping Back

Hey lovely people! My vlog post ended up coming a week late, because I caught the flu. Sigh. Really complicated everything. It's finally done, though, so I hope you enjoy it. :-)

Going off of the comments I got last time, I decided to keep posting my script below the video for those of you who prefer to read.

And if you're not a Blogger user who somehow got to this blog, you can find this same post on Wordpress here.


I want to talk about a really understated bit of advice that can be vital to your survival as a writer. Namely: That sometimes, you just need to step back, take your foot off the gas pedal.

As you might know from my more recent vlog updates, things haven’t been going well with me lately. Basically, nothing has been quite going my way since 2014, but that was okay, because I was taught that old truism that we all get fed with mother’s milk:

If you work hard, everything will work out. 


Eh…

Turns out not so much.

See, in the years since 2014, I’d worked 16 hour days, often more in order to do more, and I’d do that until I was on the edge of breaking emotionally. I never stopped writing. Never stopped building at businesses and marketing and literally anything that I *knew* would get me ahead.

And it just kept feeling like everything was turning to dust under my feet.

The worst part? None of the hours I’d spent, of the health I’d risked, of the life I’d postponed… none of it actually meant anything.

Because there are always assholes out to get you. And they will steal your life and your hours of work and your very soul if they can, just to benefit themselves.

So yeah. After relentlessly pushing myself for almost four years, there came a point where I just…couldn’t. Not going to go into detail, but I came to the point where I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fight anymore.

I couldn’t keep acting like everything was okay and that it was business as usual, because it wasn’t.

And so, I pulled back. From as much as I could. Obviously there are some commitments you can’t avoid without incurring long-term damage, but if there was something I could leave with a cost I could tolerate, I did it.

This sadly included my writing, because the stresses of my life had basically drained my creativity. So instead of forcing myself to write, I forced myself not to. Instead, I spent my writing hours doing needlepoint or crocheting. Anything with an almost mindless, repetitive motion.

What this did was it allowed me to grieve. It allowed me to feel. It let me process my pain and frustration instead of allowing me to suppress them like I’d been doing for years. It put me in a place where I could regain some perspective. Where I could look at the problems and at least get to the point where I could see the value in the things I was doing again.

And that’s probably the most important thing about stepping back. When we’re writers, we basically take on an extra job, and when we’re published, marketing that book becomes another job. Which means that it’s go go go go all the time with no stopping, and when things aren’t going as well as they should, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s too easy to lose the meaning of what we’re doing in the mad rush to get it all done.

So it becomes imperative that we step back and breathe at least for a few days, just to regain a sense of balance before taking everything on again.

What do you do to recharge when you're pulling back? 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Update Day, May 2017

Hey all! I decided I'm going to try something different today. As you know, I have been vlogging for a while, but I also realized that not everyone can watch the video whenever they visit my blog. 

So today, I decided to put the video up top, and then follow it with the script from which the video is based. Please let me know what you think of this format!


Gosh, I can’t believe how much time has been flying by lately. It seemed like a few days ago that I last posted a vlog update, so I was quite shocked to see that it was three months ago. But there you go. Sometimes life and time get in the way, and the next thing you know, it’s the end of May. Ugh. Untentional rhyme.

But because we’re now on the last Friday of May, it’s time for me to share an update for my GotGoals bloghop. In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about…

I’m co-hosting a bloghop with Jen and Brittney, where we set some crazy, big or just really important writerly goals. Then on the last Friday of the month, we post updates on the progress we’ve made.

I also find it useful to set smaller monthly goals, which I then use as stepping stones toward my bigger goals.



So how did I do? 

Well, for the fact that I somehow completely let time get away from me this month, surprisingly well. Okay so I have to say that I didn’t set the bar particularly high, because I was trying to find my feet after quite a lot of crap. But I did say I wanted to write an average of five minutes per day.

And you know what? I hit that average on day two. It’s funny how averages work that way.

That said, the one thing that did take a hit this month was my freelancing. I’ve basically been endlessly working on some job or the other for the past three months, then got a big job at the end of last month and then… crickets. The frustrating thing is that I got that job and it was supposed to take two weeks, but my client hit a snag with the content I’m supposed to format. It’s really not her fault or anything like that, but the net effect is that I’m stuck waiting for her to get back to me. I know eventually that’ll get done, though, so it’s nice to know the money is still hanging around somewhere, waiting for me.

Then I went from nothing to having three jobs to do, but they all only came in over this past weekend, so I will only be able to record the income in June.

So things are really not going badly, but the sudden three week silence really got to me, because I’ve let everything else fall by the way-side over the past few months. It’s really annoying when I wish I could say I spent my empty days writing, but no, they were all spent catching up on a huge admin backlog.

I just realized that if I want to make any progress to the next level, and… you know, actually have more than five minutes a day to write, I need to get some help in. Luckily for me, I have an awesome brother who wants some flexible part time hours while he studies, et voila. I now have an assistant who’s going to help me keep everything rolling on schedule.

Which means that I’ll be able to regularly update as well. Eh…hopefully.

So with that in mind, next month’s goals: 


1) Write an average of 10 minutes every day.
2) Earn $1000 of writing or publishing related income.
3) Weekly updates to my vlog.
4) Sort out the snarling mess that is my social networks as a whole.

That’s it from me for this month. Please do leave me a comment about today's post structure. And how did your month go? Got any crazy writing goals that you’re chasing down? If you'd like to join the bloghop, you can find more information here

Monday, May 22, 2017

Putting Your Memories into the Story by Yolanda Renée

Hey everyone! Today I want to welcome Yolanda Renée to the Five Year Project as part of her blog tour for her new book, The Snowman. Take it away, Yolanda!

Putting Your Memories into the Story


Write what you know, we’ve all been told to do this, and I do it consistently. No, I don’t know anything about killing a person, or catching the culprit, at least personally, but I have studied and researched the topic. However, I do know a little about Alaska since I’ve lived there, and thanks to Google maps I can explore new and interesting places that I haven’t visited. I described 4th Avenue, written as Fourth Avenue, in my story because I could see it from my bedroom window when I lived in Anchorage, and yes it held some very risqué establishments. I’ve also purchased Alaskan Pottery that’s featured in the Reincarnation Chapter. I’ve visited several of the parks, Stowy’s favorite body dumping sites, such as Earthquake Park, a park created after the 1964, 9.4 earthquake that caused a residential neighborhood to slid into the ocean.

One of my first introduction to the state was the immense size of the bears that greet you as you walk through the Anchorage airport. Polar Bears, Kodiak’s, and grizzlies all skillfully preserved by taxidermists, (Stowy’s chosen hobby) all very intimidating.

I do that with all my stories, put a little of my memories into the mix, even statements once made to me by unsuspecting friends, or co-workers. Like when I first told folks that I was visiting Alaska during vacation. “Why would you want to visit that forsaken iceberg?” A former boss asked. I couldn’t believe his ignorance about our 49th state, but I never forgot his statement and allowed Fern Jenkins to use it when describing where she’d rather spend Thanksgiving.

“Don’t be foolish. Home is where Thanksgiving happens. Here. Not some forsaken iceberg.”

Another interesting side note might be the story as to how Stowy Jenkins got his name, Stone. I took that from a story my father told me about his father. How he’d taken my dad out to learn how to swim in an old coal mining quarry and threw him in. It was sink or swim! He swam, of course, but Stowy claims to have sunk like a rock – hence his nickname, Stone. This is a family story that I allowed Stowy to appropriate. He needed a good lie, and I’m sure way back when, that learning to swim in West Virginia happened this way more than once. Yes, my family is originally from West Virginia, and the name Stowy, is a family name. Another of my writing habits, using family names. . .

Writing what you know isn’t that difficult and I think it makes fiction writing all the more real! What do you think? Do you use your life in your stories? Please share a story or two in the comments.

Thanks, Misha, for hosting The Snowman Tour!

About Yolanda Renée



At one time Alaska called to me, and I answered. I learned to sleep under the midnight sun, survive in below zero temperatures, and hike the Mountain Ranges. I've traveled from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, and the memories are some of my most valued. The wonders, mysteries and incredible beauty that is Alaska has never left me and thus now influence my writing.

Despite my adventurous spirit, I achieved my educational goals, married, and I have two handsome sons. Writing is now my focus, my newest adventure!

You can connect with me here:

Blog    *     Facebook     *     Twitter     *     Pinterest     *     Email


It takes a true artist to pursue his victims in the art of seduction, and Stowy Jenkins is no exception, especially with blood as his medium.

Stowy Jenkins, aka, Stone, and as Alaskans refer to him, the Snowman, is a true artist. His muse, Gigi, is the ultimate inspiration for his painting. Her rejection inspires him to use a very unusual medium…blood.

While art may be his passion, the taste for blood is his obsession, and multiple murders, the result.

Rookie, Detective Steven Quaid, is no fan of the Snowman’s murderous exhibitions. A twisted and deadly relationship bond the two men and neither knows who will come out of it alive.

Buy on Amazon

Thanks for visiting, Yolanda! It's always nice to have you stop by. :-) 

What about you, awesome readers? Do you include your memories in your writing?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Back, and I've brought back-up.

Hey lovely people.

So as I mentioned before, things are going better here, but I've still been quiet.

The reason for this is rather silly and kind of good, but annoying all the same.

The truth is, I've been so busy with freelancing jobs that I haven't been able to even so much as look at any of my social networks for almost two months. The only exception being my monthly update posts, and even that one I almost missed in April because I was so busy and exhausted.

In fact, it's come to the point where I didn't know how to get ahead again. I already had my first inkling back when I first hit my $500 goal.

I'd made it and that's *AMAZING*, but I only just made it. As in, I hardly had any time left after doing the work. But for the past few months, I've been doing month after month at around a $300 level, but unable to break through the barrier simply because I'm not ready to raise my rates to make more money per job, but I don't have more time to work either. And the worst is, it's not actually the work that's killing me. It's all the admin that comes with it.

But then I had a bright idea.

My brother was talking about how he wants a really nice and flexible part-time job while he studies, and I realized I could really offer him that. In exchange for a fixed percentage of my writing/editing income, he's going to start working for me for a month to see if we can make things work.

If it does work out and we can streamline the work, I might finally be able to do more, and finish my book, and actually have time to visit blogs etc. etc. And if that's the case, he can actually make a really nice income right along with me, all while studying at the same time.

I'm really excited about this, because it might be an excellent way to expand the overall publishing business that is me.

How are you guys doing?