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Managing Fear

A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Book Baby blog that struck pretty close to home. It was titled How to Conquer Your Fear of Putting Your Writing Out There and was based on an article written by Leo Babauta. Both articles centered around five tips for dealing with and overcoming fear.

Fear comes in many forms. Fear of failure. Fear of ridicule. Fear of looking silly or foolish. Fear of success (yes, really). I’ve wrestled with fear on many levels for most of my life.

So I read these two articles with interest.

Because I fear I’m not the only one who deals with fear, I then decided to share the five tips for dealing with fear with you.

Five things to remember

1. An audience of one. J. R. R. Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings for his son, Christopher. Everything about that story was written with Christopher in mind. When Tolkien faced a plotting decision, he asked, “What would Christopher like?” We all know how that turned out.

Whatever you write, whether blog post, novel, nonfiction book, or freelance article, imagine yourself talking face-to-face with one person. Has a reader of your blog asked a question? Answer that question as though you and your reader were face-to-face.

Has a fan of your novel wondered why you wrote what you wrote? Tell them and tailor your answer for that reader.

I like the idea of sitting down with a friend and telling about the amazing thing that happened to me that morning or the day before or the week before. That story will resonate with a lot more than one reader, but you have told it to one person and have thereby removed the burden of relating to all the rest.

2. An audience of a few. Don’t fret over having just a few readers at the start. You can improve skills and build audience at the same time, post by post or story by story.

Think of it like wading into the ocean one step at a time, gradually getting into deeper and deeper water. Few people fear water that’s ankle-deep. No one wants to jump into the deep end the first time they go swimming.

3. Pooh-pooh perfection. There is no such thing. It simply does not exist. Not on a Big Picture scale; not on a small scale. What’s more, the thing that looks imperfect to one can be exactly what someone else is looking for.

Not everything you write will be a masterpiece. Some stories or posts will be excellent, but others will be near misses. Sad to say, some will be barely mediocre. Don’t worry about that. Aim for those high moments, but don’t despair over the others.

4. Let learning motivate you. Another way to look at this is don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

I like Thomas A. Edison’s response to someone who asked him about his 2,000 failed attempts at creating a battery. Edison’s response was, quite simply, that he’d found 2,000 ways not to make a battery.

The takeaway? Every author finds a way to write a novel by working through all the ways not to write that novel. The sooner you get started finding the ways not to write a novel, the sooner you’ll find the way that works.

Beware! You will most likely have to go through the process with all or most of your novels! And you blog posts, freelance articles, et cetera., et cetera., et cetera.

5. Help others. The best way to learn something new is to teach what you already know to someone else. I know. I’ve been doing it for years. Some of the best lessons I ever learned were learned when I was looking for the answer to someone else’s question.

The icing on the cake is that these lessons are also usually the ones that stick with you best.

Conclusion

Are these five tips guaranteed to conquer your fears? No. But practice them daily and they are likely to help you work through your fears or overcome them.

Not matter what it is you fear.

Click here to read the full article on BookBaby dot.com. To read Leo Babauta’s article, How to Put Your Writing in Public, click here.

How To Use a Spreadsheet To Plan Daily Activities

Last week, Randy Ingermanson told us all about the need for white space in the writer’s life. I hope you enjoyed that article.

You may have been left wondering how you should incorporate a little bit of that white space and still be sure to get to the important things each day? What’s the best way to organize use of time.

Believe or not, a spreadsheet may be the single most effective weapon at your disposal.

I can hear the groans already! “A spread sheet? How lame is that?”

Let me show you how I used a spreadsheet to order my days. Then, if you don’t like it, you’re welcome to complain all you like!

What I Did

There are a certain number of activities I have to do every day. There is another set of activities that need to be done each week. I plugged them all into a simple spread sheet.

Because I can’t ignore the personal and household things, I divided my activities into business-related activities and personal activities. I included everything I’d like to do each day on both lists.

Here’s the list.
Daily activity worksheet screen shot

The column on the left is a brief description of each activity. The column on the right is the number of minutes I want to give to each activity.

Because I’m a big believer in the 15-minute method of organizing my time, most of the activities are allotted fifteen minutes.

The overall list gives me the total amount of time spent during the day on business activities and personal activities. Keep in mind that this is the ideal. The ideal rarely ever happen, so this list is more of a road map than a list of Must Do items.

The Breakdown

Some business activities are daily and some are monthly. To keep activities organized, I categorized them.

For example, I do a weekly post on three blogs, so each of those blogs are listed under Daily Activities and allotted 15 minutes per day. Two other blogs are published once a month. They are still allotted 15 minutes per day, but I know it’s not likely they’ll require 15 minutes every day. If I get the portrait blog post by the first week of the month, that activity is no longer necessary for the rest of the month.

Daily activity worksheet screen shot

Some activities need to be included in the schedule, but aren’t daily activities. For the most part, they can’t even be scheduled. I can’t, for example, know in advance when a portrait client is going to have questions that require a lengthy telephone call. Students also work at their own pace, not according to my schedule. So I’ve combined those two activities and allotted them an hour a day.

Special Projects is another “occasional” activity. There won’t always be a special project to work on, but having that half hour built into the schedule as a huge benefit for those times when there is a special project in the works.

Daily activity worksheet screen shot

I did the same thing for personal and household activities. The few things that do require a set amount of time each day are listed separately. “Household” covers everything else. I may not be able to handle every extra household activity in 30 minutes each day, but some things don’t have to be done every day. The total for the week is 2-1/2 hours and I can get pretty much everything done in that amount of time each week.

And The Worksheet Says…

I have 270 minutes (4.5 hours) of business time and 180 minutes (3 hours) of personal and household time budgeted each day. In other words, if I work this list, I can expect to have seven-and-a-half hours of the day accounted for.
Daily activity worksheet screen shot
That’s a reasonable expectation, especially given that a large portion of the business time is set aside for activities that will not happen on a daily basis (special projects, students, clients, and miscellaneous). In fact, without those three things, this worksheet requires very little time spent on business activities.

However, I know from experience that if I don’t make some allowance for the unexpected, my daily activities will be totally upended when it happens. It’s better for me to give it a place on the list. You may not need to.

Also, there’s plenty of room to add fiction writing and portrait painting when the time comes.

Conclusion

A spreadsheet is just one way to organize your time and efforts. The method I’ve described here is just one way to use a spreadsheet. There are as many methods as there are writers, so experiment. Find what works for you.

The secret isn’t that you find the Magic Bullet; the secret is that you use whatever method works best for you.

Book Review – The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide

Every once in a while, something comes along that’s so important, it needs to be shared.

Such is the case with a newly released book, The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide.

The focus of this blog is the writer’s journey. My goal has always been to encourage other writers by sharing something of my journey to publication. That includes tips on methods and tools that have helped me write and polish a publishable manuscript.

In that regard, The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide: Every Indie Author’s Essential Directory-To Help You Prepare, Publish, and Promote Professional Looking Books is something every writer can use, no matter how you intend to publish.

Why?

Because part of the publication process is writing. After all, if you have nothing written, you have nothing to publish. Right?

The book is organized like a well-stocked library into three categories: Prepare, Publish, and Promote. If you read no further, you know why I’m reviewing and recommending this book here.

Let’s Take a Look At Preparation

The Table of Contents for the Prepare section looks like this:

  • Content & Developmental Editors
  • Copyeditors & Proofreaders
  • Indexers
  • Cover & Interior Book Designers
  • Image Sources
  • Illustrators & Cartoonists
  • Translators
  • Writing Software
  • Writers’ Conferences & Workshops Offering Scholarships
  • Grants and Funding for Writers
  • Professional & Trade Associations
  • Best Books on Writing

A quick look at the section on writers’ conferences and workshops reveals conferences and workshops on all forms of writing and for writers of all ages. Big name conferences and local or regional conferences. Each entry includes a brief description and a link for more information.

All three categories and every sub-category are also jam-packed with information every writer can use. It’s a wealth of information that will save you a ton of time. Besides, it’s a great value at any price.

Yes, you can finish a book and get ready for publication without The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide, but why would you want to, even if you are planning to publish traditionally?

About the Book

The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide: Every Indie Author’s Essential Directory-To Help You Prepare, Publish, and Promote Professional Looking Books is the first and largest collection of curated and verified resources for independent authors who plan to publish their own books. Produced by a team with long experience in both traditional and independent publishing, the over 850 resources are listed in an easy-to-use format that includes live links, phone numbers, email addresses and brief descriptive copy. The Guide makes vendors and other resources easy to find by separating them into 33 distinct categories within the 3 main tasks the self-publisher must deal with. How to Prepare, Publish, and Promote their books.

The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide ebook version is updated regularly to provide current information and links in the fast-changing indie publishing world, and the authors are actively soliciting input to keep listings current and comprehensive.

The book is available at

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple

Smashwords | Txtr

 

About the Authors

The Self-Publisher's Ultimate Resource Guid Cover
Joel Friedlander is an award-winning book designer and blogger who has been launching the careers of self-publishers since 1994 from his book design and consulting practice at Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California. Joel is a self-published author and the blogger behind TheBookDesigner.com, a popular and award-winning blog on book design, book marketing, and the future of the book. Joel is also the founder of The Self-Publishing Roadmap, a training course for authors, and TheBookMakers.com and BookDesignTemplates.com, where he provides tools and services for authors who publish their own books. He speaks often at publishing industry events and is a past president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.

The Self-Publisher's Ultimate Resource Guid Cover
Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder of BookWorks, the Self-Publishers association, and the founder of The Educated Author, and writes a monthly column on self-publishing for Publishers Weekly. She is a member of the Independent Editors Group (EIG) and has spent more than 30 years in the traditional publishing business, most recently as editor-in-chief of William Morrow, where at one point she had three books on the New York Times best-seller list at once. She has also been executive editor at HarperCollins, executive editor at Delacorte Press, Fiction and Books editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, and book reviewer for CNN. She is the author of seven traditionally published books and one self-published book. She moderates panels and workshops in New York City and Los Angeles and is passionate about helping indie authors learn to navigate the ever-changing landscape of self-publishing.

Disclaimer

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate program. That means that if you click on the Amazon links in the body of this post (the book cover image or the text links) and purchase a book, I will receive a commission on the sale. If you make a purchase through these links, thank you.

If you prefer not to use the affiliate links, click on the Where to Buy links instead or go directly to Amazon.

For more information and disclaimers, click here.

Embracing the Creative Desert

It’s impossible to avoid creative deserts. They are as much a part of the creative life as creativity is.

I’ve been through quite a few writing slumps—just ask my closest writing friends. I’m sure you have, too.

But I’ve never been through a writing desert quite like what I’m currently experiencing.

Creative Ineffectiveness

I wrote nearly one million words in 2014, for example. Some of the words went into a first draft that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has some gaps, but it also has potential. I’ve just not been able to do anything with it.

That has been the rule of thumb for the last four or five years. Lots of ideas. A couple of first drafts. Then…. nothing.

For the longest time, I didn’t know what to do with the singular inability to finish anything in the fiction category that felt good enough to move to the next draft.

Now, despite lofty goals for 2015, I find myself in the position of knowing I’m supposed to write and feeling compelled to write, but having absolutely no idea how to write. Not only do all my first drafts look bad; I’ve now reached the point at which new ideas look pretty pitiful, too.

In actual fact, a new idea is a rather rare thing these days.

Notice I used the word “how”. I don’t know how to write; not, I don’t know what to write.

Amazing as it sounds to you and seems to me, that is the truth. I don’t know how to write fiction these days. Yes, I know all about prompts and free-writing and journaling. I’ve written about many of those creativity stimulants on this blog and elsewhere. I know the rules of writing. I know how to pre-plan and how to write by the seat-of-my-pants.

But knowledge isn’t translating to productivity.

At least right now.

And it’s been very frustrating.

A Ray of Light

Up until a few days ago, I was mired in frustration, as well as the desert. I wanted to write. I knew I should be writing. But writing was like beating my head against the wall. Not only was I not getting anything done; I was giving myself a headache!

Then I heard Alistair Begg talking about how God uses our limitations, handicaps, and shortcomings to make us more useful. He cited the Apostle Paul and that man’s prayers for relief from a thorn in the flesh. God said “no”. But God also used that thorn to make the apostle an effective minister of the gospel.

I’m no Apostle Paul, but I wondered at once if this dry spell might be God’s way of getting my attention. If I’ve been putting too much stock in my ability to come up with new ideas or produce high word counts, then I haven’t been giving credit where credit is due. After all, I wouldn’t be able to write at all without the gift of God in the first place. How like Him to play the part of a loving parent and ground me!

To some of you, that might seem like a hardline to take. It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I realized that I do want to accomplish things that are not my responsibility to accomplish. I also realized that until I get things into the right perspective, it may be a while before I can put two words of fiction together.

But there’s also the realization that this may be a time during which God is preparing me for something I can’t begin to imagine.

That puts the whole desert thing into a different perspective. It becomes not a curse but a blessing; maybe even a time of refreshment.

Conclusion

I can’t tell you how to deal with your own desert times. At this point, I don’t even know how I’ll deal with mine.

But I know that if I’m having this kind of desert experience right now, others of my fellow writers are also experiencing it, have experienced it, or will experience it. Maybe even you.

And maybe I can encourage you by sharing my desert. No two of us are alike, so no two of us will experience desert times in the same ways.

But there is hope. All you have to do is endure to the end.

Tweet It!

Daily Writing Exercises 2015

Drawing of Poinsettia

Most people know artists sketch, draw, and paint from life. It’s not uncommon to see artists sketching or painting scenes of all types, sometimes in all kinds of weather. Subjects are chosen because they present interesting compositions, color schemes, subjects or for some other reason that catches the artist’s eye.

Why not try something like that with writing?

A few weeks ago, good friend and fellow blogger at Indie Plot Twist, Danielle Hanna, ran an excellent series on Journaling to Become a Better Writer. Read the first post, Recognizing a Story Worth Telling  here.

One of the themes Danielle used throughout that four-part series was the idea of writers taking a page from the artist’s handbook by doing life sketches.

I’ve been a serious (as in getting-paid-for-what-I-do) artist for a lot longer than I’ve been a serious writer, but I’ve never made this connection before. It appealed to me immediately and when I was setting goals for 2015, I decided to give it a try.

With a twist.

For 15 minutes each day, I’m going to write a life sketch. The guidelines are pretty simple (I like simple).

  • 15 minutes—no more, no less
  • Emphasis on whatever’s going on around me

The last time I did something like this was in 2009. The primary difference then was that I had to write fiction of some sort each day and the minimum was 700 words. I ended up with a much higher daily average and some cool ideas, but I haven’t done anything like that since. I don’t know why.

This is one of my fun 2015 goals, but it’s also a bit scary. After all, it is a concrete, daily commitment. What happens the first time I sit down to write and there’s nothing there?

Ah, that’s the beauty of it. The sketch at the top of this post happened that way. I needed a daily sketch and didn’t know what to draw. I looked up and there was this poinsettia, so I drew it.

Problem solved, both for sketching and writing.

The goal—which is also a personal challenge—runs all year. I’ll keep you posted on the progress and maybe, just maybe, share some of the better “writing sketches” with you.

Do you have a personal challenge for 2015? If so, tell us about it.

Author Picks from 2014 Posts

2014 is over. We’ve had a great Christmas, including much awaited snow. Neal and I even took our first night-time walk in falling snow a few nights ago. It’s such a delight to walk outside during a snowfall and enjoy the outdoor Christmas decorations.

To wrap up the past year, I’m looking back on the posts published here in 2014. Following are five that mark personal milestones. They are listed in chronological order.

It’s Official! I’m Now a Published Author. What author doesn’t love announcing new books? Although the books weren’t fiction, they were still books and they were still published and that’s a noteworthy event. The first book was published in January. Now, at the end of the year, I have a total of 3 books published, all of them art how-to books. If you’re interested, you can learn about them here.

What is the Writer’s Biggest Hurdle? This subject is always close to my heart no matter what I’m talking about. Everyone faces at least one fear. For some, the fear is debilitating. This post is a good personal reminder as I look forward into a new year. I hope you’ll find it helpful, too.

Can You Write a Story Without Knowing the Story Question? Ah. One of the 64 million dollar questions in writing. What is the answer? Do you know?

Dianna T. Benson Talks Books. One of the best things about blogging about writing is noting the successes of fellow authors; especially those who are also friends. In this post, Dianna T. Benson talks about her second novel, Final Trimester.

Cover Reveal – Stranded: The Novel. And here’s another celebration for a fellow author and good friend. Steph Prichard and her husband, Don, put their heads together to write a great, debut novel that was published in November. This post is the cover reveal. You can also read my review here.

Those are my personal picks from the collection of posts for 2014. I hope you found some personal favorites, as well.

If not, let us know what post or posts you most enjoyed or learned the most from in 2014.

I hope you’ll also subscribe. You can subscribe to receive notification of new posts in your inbox if you like keeping up to date. If you prefer the occasional newsletter, you can subscribe to that, too. Of course, you can do both if you want all the news. Whatever your choice, subscription is fast and easy with MailChimp. It’s also free. Just click here to get started.

As always, thank you for reading Writing Well this year. I look forward to chatting with you next year and to sharing upcoming news and accomplishments with you! Stay tuned!

Book Review – Stranded: A Novel

Stranded: A Novel cover

All Marine Corps reservist Jake Chalmers wants is to give his dying wife a last, romantic cruise to the Philippines. Unable to save her in a mass murder aboard ship, he washes ashore a jungle island, where he discovers three other survivors. Heartbroken that he failed to save his wife, he is determined not to fail these helpless castaways. His search for food, water, and shelter proves more dangerous than he expected. But worse is one of the survivors, who badgers him to get them home at any cost.

Federal prosecutor Eve Eriksson rescues a young girl and her elderly great-aunt from the same ship. They badly need Jake’s survival skills, but why is he so maddeningly careful? She needs to hurry home to nail a significant career trial. And, please, before Jake learns her secret that she’s responsible for his wife’s death.

What would you do if you were stranded?

No electricity. No modern conveniences. Barely alive.

Nothing but your faith, the clothes on your back, your wits, and three companions.

Could you survive?

That’s the question Marine Corps Reservist, Jake Chalmers, and three others must answer after they wash ashore on a jungle island. Not only do they face the challenges and dangers of a deserted island; each deals with internal struggles and they all must learn to cope with interpersonal conflicts.

Stranded: A Novel is, by far, the best example of good, old-fashioned storytelling by a contemporary author that I’ve seen in a long time. Don and Steph Prichard have teamed up to write a story that rings true in every aspect and that explores the perils of people dropped into situations far beyond their normal lives.

If you’re not interested in high stakes situations, surviving primitive situations, life-and-death choices, and adventure, do Stranded: A Novel is not for you.

But if those things sound like a good read to you, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this novel. Just be warned: You may end up reading into the wee hours of the morning!

Yes. It’s that good.

In the interest of full disclosure, Steph is a long-time friend, a crit partner, and a beta reader. But she and Don have written a novel that’s everything I hope my novels will be.

You can’t go wrong by spending some time stranded with this novel…. Even if you are stranded in your favorite easy chair or sofa!

Get your copy of STRANDED: A Novel now at Amazon

About the Authors

Don Prichard is a Viet Nam veteran who served in the Marine Corps Reserves for thirty-two years before retiring as a colonel. He is also a career architect, whose specialty in government work includes the design of prisons, courthouses, and military facilities.

Stephanie is an army brat who enjoyed living in many countries before settling down with Don to raise their family. She and Don met in college, where she majored in English/Literature.

Disclaimer

I am a member of Amazon’s affiliate program. Any time you click the link for a recommended book or product and make a purchase, my affiliate code is included and I receive a commission on your purchase.

If you want the product but are uncomfortable with the affiliate program, don’t click the link I provide. Simply open another browser window, go to Amazon.com and search for the book or product.

For more information on recommendations and affiliate programs, see my disclaimer page. Thanks!

Get your copy of STRANDED: A Novel now at Amazon

Reader Top 10 for 2014

Top Ten Reader Posts for 2014

It’s that time of year again. The time when we stop our usual daily activities to spend time with friends and family and celebrate the Christmas season.

I hope you’re able to do likewise.

I want to thank you for your faithful follow-ship throughout this year of changes. This blog wouldn’t be what it is today without you. Changes will continue into 2015, but I’m planning a newsletter to detail those. To receive the newsletter, sign up for free by clicking here.

In the meantime, I’m sharing the top 10 posts published in 2014. This list is based on the number of views by readers, so this list is your list.

10. 2 Tips for Finding Story Question

9. Why Every Writer Should Hire An Editor

8. Writing Well News

7. 1 Very Important Tip For Managing Time Effectively

6. 3 Tips for Peak Writing Productivity

5. What is the Writer’s Biggest Hurdle?

4. Do You Want Help Writing a Single Sentence Summary?

3. Can You Write a Story Without Knowing the Story Question?

2. Dianna T. Benson Talks Books

1. Today on Mustard Seed Marketing: Getting Started as a Freelance Writer

Thank you so much for your continued loyalty. I hope you’ll continue the journey with me in 2015.

Cover Reveal – Stranded: The Novel

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, but I have exciting news to share today and I wanted you to know about it.

Fellow novelist and good friend, Steph Prichard has teamed up with her husband to write novels. Their debut novel is set to release digitally on November 1. The novel is Stranded: The Novel and it’s a good, old-fashioned adventure-on-a-stranded island story with a healthy dose of murder mystery thrown in.

Doesn’t that sound like a good read? Makes you want to dive in right now, doesn’t it?

The novel isn’t available yet, but the cover is official. It’s beautiful!

Steph has given me permission to share with you and that’s what this post is all about.

Are you ready to see it for yourself?

Drum roll please….

Here It Is… The Cover!

Stranded: A Novel cover

If that cover doesn’t make you hear the surf and smell the salt in the air, I don’t know what will.

Now that you’ve seen the cover, here’s a little bit about the book inside.

About Stranded: The Novel

All Marine Corps reservist Jake Chalmers wants is to give his dying wife a last, romantic cruise to the Philippines. Unable to save her in a mass murder aboard ship, he washes ashore a jungle island, where he discovers three other survivors. Heartbroken that he failed to save his wife, he is determined not to fail these helpless castaways. His search for food, water, and shelter proves more dangerous than he expected. But worse is one of the survivors, who badgers him to get them home at any cost.

Federal prosecutor Eve Eriksson rescues a young girl and her elderly great-aunt from the same ship. They badly need Jake’s survival skills, but why is he so maddeningly careful? She needs to hurry home to nail a significant career trial. And, please, before Jake learns her secret that she’s responsible for his wife’s death.

The novel is scheduled for release in eBook form on November 1 at Amazon.com.

About the Authors

Stranded: A Novel authors

Don Prichard is a Viet Nam veteran who served in the Marine Corps Reserves for thirty-two years before retiring as a colonel. He is also a career architect, whose specialty in government work includes the design of prisons, courthouses, and military facilities.

Stephanie is an army brat who enjoyed living in many countries before settling down with Don to raise their family. She and Don met in college, where she majored in English/Literature.

A Freebie

Every cover reveal has to have a freebie, right?

You can read Part 1 of Stranded: The Novel  in serial form by clicking here.

Did I mention that Stranded  will be available as an eBook from Amazon on November 1?

Congratulations to Don and Stephanie on the publication of their first novel. Best wishes on the success of this novel and on future work. Way to go!