Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Setting Goals to Get Your Book Finished

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing

I know how it can be hard to get your book done. You’ve got work, you have a family and/or pets that need your attention, you have to take care of the daily chores, and then, by the time that’s all done, you’re too pooped out to want to write. So how are you going to get your book finished by the time you want to? Setting goals and sticking to them, that’s how.

Going Too Big

One of the biggest downfalls of writers that I see is they put too much pressure on themselves to get their writing (or editing) done in a super short amount of time, but it turns out that it isn’t a realistic goal for them. 

There are some people who easily do NaNoWriMo every year and manage to write a full-fledged novel every single year, but if you struggle with those types of goals, recognize that you aren’t one of them. And that’s okay—not everyone is. I’m certainly not, and I’ve come to terms with that.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Another part of goal setting is when you don’t make your goals, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not going to make continuing on with your goals any easier; it will actually make it harder. 

We are how we talk about ourselves—if you fail to make a goal and you say something along the lines of, “this is never going to get done, I can’t write as much as X can,” or “this is never going to get done, I can’t write more than a page,” then you’re not going to make any progress.

Beating yourself is going to put a block in your confidence and ability to put words on the page. Don’t ever let anyone—including yourself!—discourage you from achieving your writing goals. 

Setting Achievable Goals

When you want to set goals for your writing, you need to make sure that they’re achievable. This means being honest with yourself and examining just how much time you actually have in your daily and weekly routines to make sure you can carve out time for writing. 

Put a number to it

There are a couple of different types of goals that you can make for your writing, one of them being a numerical number. So this could be writing three days a week, once a week, or even a specific number of words per day. The word count goal for each of your writing sessions can easily start to get out of hand, so make sure that you’re setting up goals that you can achieve. Someone you see on Twitter might say that they write 4K words a day—that works for them. Give it a try for yourself and see if you can, and if you can’t, set a smaller goal. Maybe it’s 1K a day, or even 500 words a day.

Put a time to it

Putting a time on your writing could mean a couple of different things. You could say you’re writing at 5:00 AM every day, no matter what, or if you’re a night owl, you could tell your family, “This is my writing time, don’t disturb me from 9:00–10:00 PM.”

What I like to do when I’m writing is to do it in bursts, or sprints as most people call it. If I put a very constrained amount of time, I don’t have time to pussyfoot around and worry about whether or not I’m putting down crappy words (which is one of my blocks for writing).

Make It a Habit

One of the most important things you can do in any goal-making process is to hold yourself accountable. Without any accountability, what’s the point of even making goals?

It takes about three months to make something a habit, which might surprise you. So the longer than you take keep putting it off in, the longer it’s going to take you to reach the end of your book. 

Reward Yourself

Lastly, when you’re holding yourself accountable, remember to reward yourself for keeping to your goals. This could be anything from watching your favorite show once you’ve finished your writing, or putting a dollop of whipped cream in your coffee. Find something that you’d be sad if you missed it to keep you motivated to stick to your writing goals. 

We hope this has been helpful to get started on your writing goals and sticking to them. Join us next week for our latest installment in our Misused Advice series where we talk about not using be verbs.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Combatting Self-Doubt

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Self-doubt is prevalent in every walk of life, but it can be especially true of the Writing Community. We bare our souls to the world and put so much of ourselves in our writing, whether we self insert as a character or not. Our words are our loves, hopes, and fears. So what do you do when self-doubt keeps you from writing?

Am I really doing this?

Let me first say, I wasn’t even sure I was going to go through with including this post in our year’s schedule, even though I was the one who said it would be a good post to have because, well, everyone suffers self-doubt. I was even less sure that I was going to be the one to write it because I’m not typically the type to reveal my emotions or fears to anyone, which very often frustrates my husband.
But, friends, I’m going to bare my soul to you and how I cope with my insecurities, and I hope that it helps you find your own ways of dealing with yours. Feel free in this post to go ahead and skip to the techniques at the bottom because this section is rather long, and you might not want to read about my struggles.
For those of you who might follow me on Twitter or have seen a tweet or two go out, I’ve talked a little bit about how I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD—though now referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder without Hyperactivity) and also having dyslexia. The latter is the one that affects me the most, and much of my struggle I’ll explain will focus on it. If you’re not familiar with dyslexia, there are several different types that affect everyone differently. My biggest struggles are flipping around letters and numbers (or even adding extra letters and seeing entirely different words), difficulty with pronouncing words (especially ones I’m not familiar with or are in a foreign language), and putting words out of order, both in writing and orally.
After reading that paragraph, you might be wondering how I got into writing, editing, and publishing business. 
Me too, girl. Me too. 
I wonder that daily, and the dark little voice in my head constantly tells me I can’t do it, and I’m too stupid to be an editor, and one day, someone is going to catch me doing something I shouldn’t be. That my bullies in school were right when they said I was an idiot because I couldn’t spell some simple four-to-five-letter words while working on group projects, and I should stay away from this profession altogether. 
There are days when my dyslexia is affecting me so much, I have to read a sentence five times in a row to understand it. Not because it’s a poorly written sentence, but because my brain reads it out of order every. single. time. Combine that with a gnat’s attention span, and I’m in for a very bad day. I have work to do, deadlines to meet, and it can pile up because I can’t get it together.
I want to tell you about something that happened the other day that really showcases just how far dyslexia permeates my day-to-day life. It’s humiliating, really, but I think it might help when we get to the section on how to combat your own self-doubt that these techniques can and do work when you need to pick yourself up and move on. 
The other day, I went to get the mail—big surprise, that happens every day. In our neighborhood, we have those metal boxes that house several residences’ mail in the same area, much like you would in an apartment building, with four parcel lockers split between each side. I found that we had a key to one of the parcel lockers in our little mail cubby, and I saw it was for box number four. I tried my damndest to get into the locker; I even bruised my fingers trying to turn this key. I went out three times to try to get this open, using my fingers to turn the key, WD-40, and pliers, and it wouldn’t budget. Clearly, the lock must have rusted, and it won’t move without more professional help. I even went as far as to ask on our neighborhood Facebook page who I needed to contact to get open so I could finally get my mail—it was maintenance, in case you were wondering.
It was the weekend, so I decided to wait until Monday when they’re open so I wouldn’t call the emergency line and keep someone from an actual emergent task. When my husband got home the next day, I asked if he would give it a try so we could potentially not bother maintenance.  We go out to the mailboxes equipped with WD-40 and pliers once more, and my husband grabs the parcel locker key. “It’s locker number four, honey,” I say while he walks in the opposite direction. 
It wasn’t. 
It wasn’t locker number four. It was locker number one and he held it up to show me. The clear keychain was labeled with a one on each side and neither lined up with each other and made almost an X shape. My brain formed this into a four, and I could see nothing else until he pointed it out to me. The locker easily opened, and he handed me my package while laughing. I laughed a little too. I couldn’t believe that between two days and four attempts, I still didn’t realize I was trying to open the wrong locker. 
And then the dark voice I thought I had beaten into submission rose.
Jeez, Becky. If you can’t even get your own mail without help, how can you edit for your authors?
I’m stupid. 
He thinks I’m stupid. He can’t stop laughing at me.
Who do you think you are to tell authors what issues you have with their writing? You can’t even read a number without being wrong.
No wonder you have to do so many editing passes.
You’re such a failure, you keep missing all these things.
No wonder people keep pointing out everything you missed; you’re too stupid to even find these errors.
You can’t even read a single number; why are you writing a book?
How did you get to be a publisher without anyone noticing how stupid you are?
I’m an idiot to ever think I could succeed in this business.
This isn’t meant to be a pity party by any means, and I’m certainly not telling the story or my innermost thoughts for someone to say, “But you do such a good job!” or “Look at all the things you’ve done!” 
That isn’t the point. 
The point is, I struggle regularly with self-doubt in my professional work and in my personal work, and I’ve got some coping mechanisms that might work for you in the same way they work for me.

Techniques to Combat Self Doubt

There are plenty of self-help books out there, other blog posts with how the authors have overcome their doubts, and advice from family members and friends who are all willing to help someone down in the dumps about themselves or their abilities. I want to share just a few of mine that really help me get back into the right frame of mind. 
Identify What Sets Off Your Self-Doubt
The first step to fixing a problem is identifying what sets off your self-doubt. For me, it was my husband being witness to such a humiliating mistake brought on by my dyslexia. When you know what sets it off, you can find ways to avoid being in that situation again. Or if that situation is unavoidable, have some mental preparation to not fall into a pit of self-doubt when it does happen.
Don’t Rely on Others’ Praise
This one is hard as a writer because we need people to like our work to get it published or for people to buy it, and keep buying other things we produce. I’m not saying that validation isn’t a good thing, but the more that you have to rely on others to tell you you’re doing a good job, the harder it is to recognize you’re doing a good job on your own. And you probably are. Learn to love what you do and give yourself compliments. It isn’t always self-congratulatory to say, “This is a really good scene.” It’s recognizing your own talent and seeing the good things you do.
See the Good
This goes in line with not relying on others’ praise, but you have to see the good of what you bring to the table. For me, being neurodiverse and being part of the neurodiverse community is a beautiful thing. We think very differently than those that are neurotypical, and that’s awesome because we can bring so much to the table and problem solve in different ways. I wouldn’t ever want to get rid of my ADD, even if it does take me a little longer to do things. One of our authors and one of our other founders both have ADHD as well, and we all compare it to having a built-in superpower because of the way our brains work. Find the good things that you bring, and embrace them. 
Tell Yourself to %&$^ Off
You might not be as explicit as I am, but I have to regularly tell myself to %&$^ off with this bull—–. I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I am today if I was actually stupid. I have difficulties, yes, but if I let them get me down, it wouldn’t do anyone any good, especially myself. So when you have the dark voice of self-doubt rear its ugly head, tell it to %&$^ off. It’s very empowering—and I’m not going to lie, it feels good to say it.
Realize It’s Okay to Fail
It’s okay to fail. Honestly, you’re going to fail. It’s unavoidable, but that’s okay. This was the hardest lesson that I had to learn because I’m a perfectionist. (Ironic with having dyslexia, I know.) Let’s take this out of the perspective of writing and put it in other wording: if you want to play the piano, you’re not going to be a Mozart or Beethoven right off the bat. You have to practice, you have to play the wrong notes, and you have to get better. And you’re going to have a few bad recitals before you’re proficient in your craft. It works the same way in writing and everything else in life. 

Don’t compare yourself to others

Above all else, you can’t compare yourself to other people. The most important thing you can do is your best, and that might be different than someone else’s best, and that’s okay. That’s more than okay. The important thing is that you’re trying and you’re doing. And by doing, you learn and you get better, and you succeed.

Join us next week when we talk about setting goals to get your book finished.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Importance of an Author Website

Do you really need one?
Rebecca Mikkelson, Authors 4 Authors Publishing
It’s hard to know exactly what you need when you’re starting out as an author, and an author website is one of the things I hear the most about in my writing groups and other social media: whether or not you really truly need one or if you can get away with only social media like Twitter and Facebook. We’re going to take a little time to explore why it’s so important that you have your own author website.
It’s a fundamental building block
Your author website is where, hopefully, your readers are going to go to get the most up-to-date information about what you’re doing and when your books are coming out. If they have to search all over Facebook and Twitter for that info, they might give up quicker than you want. 
And most importantly, you can control what information is on there. When you go onto sites like Twitter, you can’t control what’s going to happen there. I don’t just mean that someone can start a Twitter flame war with you there, but if for whatever reason you get a permaban (my guess is the Twitter Trolls got to you), every single bit of that information is gone. Poof. Bye-bye, you’re never going to see it again. 
With an author website, however, it’s always going to be there for readers to find out when the next book is coming and what you’re up to. 
It grows with you
Unlike a landing page where it’s just a single page that has one thing, a website can grow with you. Maybe you write more than one series, or maybe you write more than one genre. Whatever the reason may be, you’re going to need more than one page that’s going to reach readers where they can buy your books. You don’t want to be limited by something if you’re planning on making writing a long term career.
It’s how you can best market yourself
I hate to break it to you, but when you want to become an author, you’ve got to put yourself on a stage and dance for dollars. Well, not literally. But you, without fail, have to market yourself right along with your books.
One of the absolutely most important things that you need as an author that’s trying to market yourself is a mailing list. But how do you get people to sign up? Your author website, of course. It’s easy to insert a link or a widget for potential readers to sign up on every single page of that website.
You can show people how well you write
Not only can people get excited about your books by going to your website and seeing all the covers and blurbs you have on there, but you can give them experts of your book to entice them into wanting more. You can do that on your mailing list too, but more often than not, people are hesitant to get free samples through their email if they haven’t already seen a little bit of your work. 
You can host your blog through your website
Depending on the route you take on websites, you’re going to have a built-in page just for your blog. You don’t have to have a blog, and you certainly don’t have to write one daily, weekly, or even monthly, but if you do have one, people get to go on your writing journey with you. 
People like success stories. People like to know how hard the road has been for you. They want to know those extra little tidbits about how you came up with your world building, how your character’s background influenced their decisions before book one starts, or even just what your emotional reaction to writing the book. 
Or they just want to know you know what you’re talking about. 
I don’t know how to get started
That’s totally fine. 
I’m the first to admit—and usually without prompting!—that I’m technologically inept. I might as well be a five-year-old when it comes to technology, and that might be generous. 
There are dozens of websites out there that have pre-made sites where you can just pop in your information and go from there, and there is always YouTube for learning how to design things yourself where you won’t necessarily have to depend on someone else or a prefab site. Don’t let the fear of not knowing what you’re doing keep you from getting your author name out there.

The best part about an author website is that it’s going to bring attention to you as the author. The more attention and readers you get, the more book sales you’re going to make, and you can keep doing what you want to be doing, which is writing. 

Join us next week when we talk about combatting self-doubt!

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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

How To Overcome Writer's Block

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Writer’s block is the bane of every writer’s existence, and it happens far more often than we would like. So how do you get writer’s block, and how do you get over it?
Identify why you’ve got writer’s block
What do you mean, identify why I’ve got writer’s block? The words just won’t come, silly! 
Well, that’s true, but there’s usually a reason why you’ve got writer’s block. So what is it? I’ll cover three of the biggest reasons you and your fellow writers get writer’s block.
The idea that your work has to be perfect
I get it, writing is scary. I often suffer from this particular aspect of writer’s block; I want so much for the words to be perfect that instead of just writing, I freeze and stop writing altogether, and I can’t seem to move on.
Or when you’re starting a story, you’ve got the main idea down pat, but you don’t quite know how to get it out, and you’re scared it’s going to come out stupid, so you don’t put the words down. 
Or that even if you do write something and put it out there, that no one will like it, because your writing isn’t good enough, so you delay and delay writing this book.
Putting it off until you’re too tired
I fall victim to this one a lot. You’ve got a full day of adulting, and you’ve got to wait until your kids go to bed so you’ve got quiet time—provided you’ve got kids, and if you don’t and suddenly have children in your house, call the police. 
Now you’re so tired from your long day of whatever it is you’re doing, working, child-rearing, etc. that your brain is worn out, and all you want to do is be a blob and be entertained instead of having to create words…because words are hard.
You’ve got too much going on
This isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing that you’ve got a lot going on, but that isn’t always the best way to get writing done. This could be anything from someone pestering talking to you via text, social media, or in the room; someone watching a loud movie in the same room you’re trying to write in; finishing the next level in candy crush because you couldn’t beat it last night when you were supposed to be sleeping, and the list goes on and on and on.
Distractions are everywhere, man.
How to overcome your writer’s block
Now that we’ve talked about what causes your writer’s block, we can talk about the solutions for getting over those blocks. Unlike the last section, I’m going to five solutions that have worked for me in overcoming my writer’s block.
Take a walk
Those who know me know exactly how desperate I have to be to take a walk to overcome my writer’s block. Much like being creative, exercise can reduce stress and make you happy. If you don’t believe me, believe Elle Woods:
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't kill their husbands. They just don't.
You might not kill your husband after taking a walk, but you might just kill that character you need to get out of the way, and that’s a good thing. 
Go somewhere else
We’ve all seen the overplayed trope in movies of writers in a Starbucks with their scarves and topknots typing away madly while they’ve got their earbuds in and an undrunk (or in the case of movies, never filled) cups of coffee. There’s a reason this is a trope…writers do it all the time. 
Going somewhere else and putting yourself in a new surrounding can really open up whatever block you’re experiencing, and the words will just flow. I’ve written many a chapter in a coffee shop when my husband and I are visiting family and he wants to do activities that I don’t really want to. And by golly, it was the most productive I’ve ever been while writing because I didn’t have any other option but to write. 
What else was I going to do? Talk to a stranger?
That’s how you get murdered.
Work on a different project
Sometimes the best thing that you can do is put your current WIP aside and pick up a new one. We promise that your old WIP isn’t going to be the sad little orphan whose parent never comes back for them, but it will help you start writing again. Once words start to flow with a different project, it’ll be easier to go back to your first one. 
Alternatively, you can do another project that isn’t writing but just as creative to reduce your stress and make it easier to write, like coloring, sewing, or doing a DIY project. Anything that gets those creative juices flowing.
Write first thing in the morning
Gross, the sun isn’t even up yet!
I’ve seen all over Twitter the #5AMWritersClub hashtag and I thought these people were crazy to get up that early to do some writing, but writing first thing in the morning and making a habit of doing it at the same time every day really will break the dam down. The last thing writers need to be doing is waiting for inspiration to strike because writing takes work. It’s a little bit like planning on being rich by waiting for gold to fall out of the sky and hit you. 

Plan, plan, plan

The last tip that I want to give you is the simplest one: plan your novel.
If you know where you’re going in the story, and each chapter, it’s much easier to write toward that goal. For example, when I started writing my series, I knew exactly where the series was going to end, and where each book would end for the most impact. With that in mind, I could plan each chapter until I hit those goals. 
Writer’s block still happens, of course, but knowing where I’m going makes it a lot easier to get over the hump quicker. 

I hope this post has been helpful for you, and that you can get back to writing ASAP. Join us next week when we talk about the importance of an author website.

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