When it snows in the South, it’s a big deal, y’all. My Northern friends get a good laugh at us because it’s such a big to do around here. We buy up all the milk and bread, gas up our cars, and start calling our friends to see who is the most well-stocked with provisions.
I get it’s funny when our world shuts down with three inches of snow, and our neighbors to the North don’t bat an eye with a foot of powder. But let me tell you something.
I LOVE THE SNOW.
There’s something about it that cleanses my soul. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a blank sheet of paper, therefore giving me a boost of creativity. I’m not sure. But we just had a surprise five inches of snow and it has more or less shut the city down for two days and I couldn’t be happier. I took some pictures, but since I’m unwilling totally incapable of leaving my house, they’re all around my apartment, so not terribly impressive…but they’re all I have to share.
Also, this is a picture I took after our last snow in December. I totally slacked on doing another book photo shoot, but I do want to share what my babies look like when they’re playing in the snow:
I swear I’ve done more than just stare at the white fluffy stuff…though I’ve done quite a bit of that.
I’ve written. (And wrote some more, then a little more, then I cut out about 1000 words because it was shit, so then I wrote some more.) I’ve cleaned. (I’m talking I cleaned out my pantry, my refrigerator, and my cabinets.) I’ve watched a couple of movies. I’ve taken walks outside in the snow, I’ve delighted in watching my dogs play in some fluffy stuff. This suits my introverted personality quite well, being snowed in.
Truthfully, the roads are probably clear enough I could go to the grocery if needed, maybe Target or the Haywood Mall. But, I much prefer using this wintry wonderland as an excuse to stay in and cook comfort food and stay in my slippers all day.
That’s the long-winded way of saying I’ve been kicking ass at self-care these past two days.
Which is what I had originally scheduled to blog about today…then snow happened.
Self-care is something I wanted to take a lot more seriously this year, for a variety of reasons; the most important of which is that I matter. My happiness matters. My mental-health matters. So, I’m making this a priority.
Not only is it a priority, but I got myself a “Self-Care Accountabilibuddy,” a term coined by my dear friend, Jewel E. Leonard. [Jewel’s Twitter | Website | Interview] She and I decided we would help each other by being self-care cheerleaders for one another. Just the other day we agreed that if I would get take-out and spend some time healing myself (horrible, lingering headache), that she would go attempt a nap. It instantly made me feel a little better knowing that she was doing what she needed to do for herself because I know she’s had a rough go of it lately.
It’s also just a nice boost having someone to remind you that you matter and to insist you take care of yourself. (Thank you, Jewel! I appreciate you for telling me to make myself a priority!)
Self-care means a variety of things to different people, but I thought I’d share a few items from my list if you’re looking for ways to make yourself a priority. Remember, some of these are probably unique to me, but feel free to adopt whatever looks good to you!
Buying a fellow Indie’s eBook
Reading for at least a half-hour
Dancing as silly as I please to music from my teen years
A relaxing foot bath with Epsom salts and essential oils
Buying a new shampoo
A ride in the mountains
A short hike
Playing with my dogs until they, I, or all three of us are tuckered out
Play around with a new recipe
A husband-provided neck and back massage
Going out for sushi
Watch a movie
Meditate for ten minutes (I try to do this nightly!)
Buy an essential oil I’ve never tried. (I use Piping Rock)
Order take out instead of cooking dinner
Talk to my 4-year old nephew on the phone
Go on a fun date with the husband (think arcade games and miniature golf)
Doodle or color one of those zen coloring pages
Make something out of clay
Search Pinterest for pyrography ideas, then burn some wood
Watch Dirty Dancing (I know this may seem redundant because I already listed watching a movie…but this is Dirty Dancing, and deserves its own bullet point.)
Enjoy the whole process of crafting a cup of coffee with my French press
Enjoy a cup of hot tea
Scour through a thrift store
This list is fluid and growing. Since I’ve really made caring for myself a priority, I’ve noticed a huge shift in my mindset. I’m happier and these acts, even the simplest ones, recharge me.
I urge you to make time for yourself. Even five minutes where you put yourself above everyone else can make all the difference in the world for your psyche. It’s difficult, especially if little ones are in your charge–or big ones, if you’re a caregiver to a parent or spouse…hell, it must be, because it’s still difficult for me and all I have is a husband and two dogs, the former capable of tending to himself, and the latter prefer to burrow under blankets all day.
We’re trained to think that putting ourselves first, even for just a few minutes, is selfish and wrong. That somehow we’re supposed to be everything to everyone except ourselves. Like all things in life worth pursuing, it’ll take practice, but the benefits you reap will be amazing, I promise.
How do you self-care? What is on your list that I might like to try? Please share in the comments!
I’m going to go gaze at this snow before it all melts away.
“That’s the thing about introverts; we wear our chaos on the inside where no one can see it.” -Michaela Chung
We’re two weeks into the new year! How are you doing on your goals so far? I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve been writing every day—just not always on the right project. But, I’ve managed to stay on track with my goals for Alabama Rain anyway, though ideally I’d like to be ahead of the game. Which I’m not.
As for my other goals, I’m really pleased with how I’m keeping up with my personal goals. Things are happening and it’s nice. With my author goals, I’m pacing myself. I’ve learned I’ll burn out quickly if I do everything now, now, now. I’m still daydreaming, though, of new things to try. Different avenues of reaching readers and new writer friends.
The other day at work I shared some of these lofty new ideas with one of my employees, along with a general update on how I’m tackling some of my current, active goals. And she posed this question to me:
“How will you react if your dreams come true?”
Listen, if you’re an extrovert (or even an ambivert—which, by the way, lucky you!) who hasn’t a single issue with public speaking, or hell, even speaking one-on-one, who is visibly happy around people, who never gets sweaty palms, who is bubbly and bright in every situation, and has never met a stranger…this post is probably, most definitely not going to mean much to you. I encourage you to read on so you know what the rest of us go through.
Guys. I’m so introverted (not to mention some social anxiety) that sometimes I need a vacation from myself. And while being a successful author might not mean I’d have to be in front of people as often as if I were a, say, actress, attaining even a modicum of success will put me in situations far outside my comfort zone.
I tried to reconcile this by saying that I’m good at what I do in my current field and that I’m no longer scared to death to speak during meetings. I interview people, do performance reviews, and I even have to tell people no who are otherwise not used to hearing no—and I do it with relative ease now. So, for a few seconds I thought this might segue nicely in my writing journey.
Being an introvert isn’t going to stop me, though. It doesn’t stop me in my current job, so why should it stop me at reaching high on a path I truly love?
The answer: It won’t. You and I are going to prepare right now! Here are five ways introverts can prepare for meeting new people and public speaking engagements.
1.| Shun the notion that being an introvert is a character flaw. It isn’t. It isn’t a crutch, either. We are just as capable and just as deserving of success as our extroverted friends. Being an introvert isn’t something you can fix because it doesn’t need to be fixed. We’re perfectly fine just the way we are. It may mean we have to prepare in different ways, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t apologize for being introverted—to yourself or anyone else.
2.| Start small, but push your boundaries. It’s called reaching for success for a reason. If success was just sitting around at arm’s length, everyone would have it. But maybe don’t send out press kits to your local TV stations before you’ve been interviewed by someone for their blog. Growth should always be a goal. One of the ways I’ve begun working on this step has been simply to tell people in my personal and professional life that I am a writer. This has garnered lots of questions, some I was prepared for, some I wasn’t. But each time I have told someone new, I’ve gained a little confidence and it has become less difficult each time.
3.| The 12.12.12 rule.Have you heard of this? I’m fairly certain I’ve also heard this referred to as the executive presence rule. This is something you can, and should, practice if you’re going to present yourself to the world when your natural inclination is to hide from it.
This is all about first impressions.
Get a friend or a loved one who doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable and ask them for help. How do you look from twelve feet away? As writers, we aren’t usually found in the wild in business attire, but do you look clean and presentable? Most importantly—does your body language make you approachable? What are the first twelve words you say in response to common questions? And finally, what tone do you give off in the first twelve seconds of conversation?
4.| Right along side #3, Distinguish between introversion and a lack of confidence.
The two are not mutually exclusive. You can be an introvert and also hella confident in yourself!
You want to present yourself as someone who is confident in their abilities, you want a certain degree of authority when you speak—without sounding arrogant, of course. So say, for instance, you’re seeking out small speaking engagements like I am: know the gist of what you want to say and research the hell out of it. You can’t bury your nose in your note cards, so you will want to know what you’re talking about without having to sound rehearsed. Don’t sign on to speak at an event on how to pitch to agents and publishing houses if you’re an indie writer who doesn’t know anything about traditional publishing. Don’t go to speak at a technology conference about [insert something impressive here] if your area of expertise is [insert something equally impressive, but not in the same ballpark here.] Yeah, shows you how much I know about technology, huh? But you get what I’m saying.
A lot of times introverts think no one will want to listen to what they have to say. We may feel we sound less impassioned than our extroverted friends, and often times the world thinks of us as geeks or nerds. But have you ever asked a geek or nerd who their favorite Doctor is and why, or what they’re doing these days with Raspberry Pi? You’ll get some of the most impassioned answers you’ll ever hear, most likely. (By the way, guess which Doctor is my favorite.)
Your dreams are probably something you feel quite passionate about, and it’s perfectly fine to exude it. (And stop apologizing for it!)
5.| Use your introversion to your advantage. In most situations, you don’t have to be the first one to speak. If you’re in the position to let others speak first, do it. Gauge the room. Listen to what others are saying and how they say it. This isn’t for you to mimic them, but it’s for you to strategize. Did someone leave a vital piece of information out, that you can now offer? It isn’t that you want to make someone else feel stupid—you should never, ever do that—but it may help you to listen first. One of the traits of an introverted person is that we sometimes feel other people won’t want to hear what we have to say, so why bother? But if you listen, you’ll often times find you have more than plenty valuable thoughts and ideas to bring to the discussion.
If you find yourself in a one-on-one situation where the other person isn’t likely to drone on and on, you can still use this listening strategy by asking broad, open ended questions that will give you time to listen and gauge the trajectory of the conversation.
Use those listening skills to your benefit!
Bonus Tip: If you haven’t checked out my blog post from last week, we discussed setting goals using the SMART method, which I believe is also a handy-dandy way for us introverts to prepare for success. Especially the part about acknowledging the hurdles between specific steps in your process and achieving them. So give it a glance.
If you have any tips for introverts I didn’t cover, leave’em in the comments below!
“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” – Ray Goforth
We’ve survived a full-week of 2018, ya’ll. 🙂 I hope it’s shaping up to be a good one for you—so far it has personally been 1000x better than 2017’s first week for me.
Last week I divulged some of my #WriterGoals2018 with you and already I’ve added a couple of projects I’m going to hold close to my chest…my to-do list grows! So, this week we’re going to talk about setting ourselves up for success this year by making our goal setting and goal chasing a little less scary.
I touched on this last week when I said that saying you’re going to write 80,000 words in X number of days is a lot scarier than saying you’re going to write 500 words per day. Taking any lofty goal—writing or no—and breaking it down into simpler terms will significantly increase your chances of turning that goal into a reality.
This is where the SMART method comes in to play. Sure, it’s simple enough to say your goal is to grow your business. That’s a perfectly sound goal to have, but it’s extremely vague. Wouldn’t you agree? Growth can mean all sorts of things.
Seeing as how I’m a writer, we’re going to use growing an author platform as our example but the SMART method can be applied to literally any goal. Let’s dive in!
Those are just some of the words associated with the acronym SMART you’re likely to find if you choose to search the web for the SMART method of goal-setting. This concept is not a new one to me, though it is one I haven’t put into practice nearly enough in my life, and thus is probably one of the reasons I’ve fallen short on some of my goals.
I’ve chosen to apply Sensible, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely as my focus words for goal-setting this year, for reasons I hope become clear as we apply this to the example of growing an author platform.
Goal: Growing An Author Platform
Looking at the goal, what is the logical next step? If you don’t explore that, then you’ll be all over the place, not applying focus to any one direction. When you don’t see the arbitrary marks of platform growth, you’ll likely count your goal as failed. You will not have set yourself up for success. Growing an author platform should be viewed as the broad goal, or the ultimate goal. Now it’s time to break it down sensibly.
Sensible: You can break your ultimate goal into as many sensible goals as you find necessary. At this stage, you’re really brainstorming impactful ways to make your ultimate goal a reality. I’m going to break our example into two sensible goals.
1.) Grow blog’s reach 2.) Grow Instagram following
Measurable: Here is where you want to define tangible results, as we’re still a little vague. Often people will combine these two steps together without even thinking about it, but sometimes this step is forgotten altogether, but it is very important.
1.) Grow blog subscribers to 500 2.) Grow Instagram following to 1000
Attainable: Do you currently have the tools for obtaining the goal? If not, can you readily obtain them? What do you need to make this attainable?
1.) Creating useful content and tools, hold more frequent giveaways, better visuals
2.) Utilize Instagram more often, create stunning visuals, use Instagram to get blog visits
Realistic: Are these goals feasible for you at this time? Do you need monetary funds to accomplish these goals? Education?
1.) Set a budget for giveaways, do not forget to include shipping costs.
2.) Research photography, photo editing, and shop around for fonts–keep in mind licensing for visuals and fonts.
Timely: When should you start working toward this goal? Do you have a target date for completion? How can you track progress to keep yourself on track?
1&2.) Start immediately. Track monthly progress using built-in analytics. Target date for completion is December 31, 2018.
Applying the SMART focus words will help you discover the feasibility of your goals. Let’s face it, sometimes we bite off more than we can chew—and that shit is disheartening. So I encourage you to take a few minutes and run each of your goals through the SMART method and set yourselves up for a more focused, successful 2018…
And I’m here to help! I’ve created some free, printable guides I hope will help you turn your goals into success stories.
Please excuse my horrible handwriting. Also, don’t feel obligated to try and make me feel better about it. I’m 32, I’ve accepted the fact my penmanship is sorely lacking.
In this document, my intention is for you to start with your ultimate goal. Your main goal. The over-reaching goal.
Then I want you to begin breaking it down with the SMART method.
Once you’ve broken down your main goal into more sensible goals, I’ve got you covered with the tools to turn that goal into a success. Give yourself a deadline, define your baby steps, acknowledge the barriers between the task and success, and brainstorm solutions.
Track your monthly progress so you can see if what you are doing is working or if you need to tweak things somewhere.
Focus on why you’re doing this by giving yourself a reminder as to what you stand to gain. Motivate yourself. And give yourself a reward if you complete it on time.
Do you need to stick to a daily or semi-daily habit in order to make these goals into realities? Got you covered there, too. I’ve seen weekly habit trackers, but I want to see my year as a whole as I progress, so I created a perpetual habit tracker with a reward sidebar. Brainstorm reward ideas for yourself to keep you motivated.
In my tracker X’s mean I’ve worked on my blog in some fashion, and I’m going a step further by highlighting my posting days.
Why these printables when there are so many organizational apps out there to help you stay on top of things? (I’ll let you know my favorite organization app in a few)
Because research shows that when you write something out by hand it will stick with you far better than if you type something out. Your brain and your hand have to coordinate on a different level than when you do everything digitally. Maybe it’s hogwash, but it certainly seems to work for me and I think it will work for you.
I sincerely hope these will be of help to you. I updated the borders to allow more writing room as well as I just think it’s a cleaner presentation.
For those of you who participated in the poll I did on Twitter to decide my second color, I say a fond thank you!
So, you’ve downloaded, printed, and started using those guides. What now? Now it’s time to get digital. There are countless organizational apps for every smartphone—how the hell do you choose which one to use? It may take some time and experimenting before you find the one that works just right for you, and there is no way possible for me to cover each and every one of them…I do have a novel to finish writing, after all. 😉 So instead, I’m just going to tell you about the one that is working super, awesome, amazing, wonderfully, perfectly for me right now.
The beautiful thing about Trello is that the website and the app communicate so flawlessly. As soon as you update something in one, it is immediately available in the other, unlike some of the apps I’ve tried where there is a weird lag and pieces of information go missing.
As you can see, I have a board for each of my writing projects, one for social media, and one for blogging and newsletters. Each one of those boards is a hub for ideas, pieces of inspiration, resources, etc.
When you enter a board, you can add categorize your cards, and they can easily be shuffled around by the touch of your finger—dragged and dropped so things are just right.
I can’t show you the scenes for Alabama Rain, but this drag-and-drop-move-em-where-you-please feature is helping me execute this novel with ease.
Even if you aren’t planning a novel, this will help you prioritize and re-prioritize as things change.
Want to collaborate with someone on a project? Trello makes this super easy by inviting collaborators to certain boards, while allowing you to make other boards private. Couldn’t be easier!
See those little green rectangles with dates in them? That’s because I assigned those cards deadlines, and I have it set to give me a reminder the day before so I have no excuses for not completing my goals.
What about clicking on a blogging date? What good will that do? I’ve given myself blogging topics to alleviate the stress of always having to figure out what to write about. Not only that, but I can add in websites that will come in handy for researching that particular topic. I can attach pictures so I’m never without a blog graphic, and it doesn’t matter if I add it from my desktop or phone, because it syncs immediately: and if you use Instagram, you can probably imagine how valuable this can be.
As I complete a deadline, I virtually check it off and I get the happy green rectangle as a visual reminder that I have completed a task. This makes me a very happy girl.
Now that you’ve downloaded those free printables and properly broken down your ultimate goal(s) into manageable pieces, this will help you greatly when you start setting up your Trello boards…so what are you waiting for?
Oh, yeah. You’ve got to finish reading this blog post first. There’s something sorta, kinda special coming up. Maybe. It is to me, anyway.
You’ve done the aforementioned things! Fantastic! On paper, both analog and digital, you’re set up for a very successful year, no matter what your dream happens to be. That’s all there is to it, right?
Not even in the slightest. But what could possibly be next?
Doing the work, of course! You can plan and plot a novel and never write it. You can join a gym and never go. You can get an education and never use it. But that’s not what you’re going to do this year, is it?
This is the part where I can’t hold your hand. I can be your virtual cheerleader, but I cannot join you at your desk and help you crank out your best-seller, nor can I run your miles, lift your weights, or get you that promotion you’re vying for. This part you have to do on your own. And there are literally hundreds of thousands of websites, blogs, vlogs, etc. that will tell you how to coax yourself into being more productive and shake off that decade-old case of the lazies. I’m here to tell you, this will take a metric-ton of trial and error. It will be hard and frustrating. You will have to give up certain things in order to make your fantasies realities. Instead of spouting every conceivable way to boost your productivity, I’ll tell you a few of the things I have done.
This may seem extreme, but I got rid of my cable television. Years back, actually. It doesn’t keep me from sitting down to binge-watch something on Netflix from time-to-time, but I sure as shit can’t get mired in mindless channel surfing. If I watch something it is a conscious effort. If I do make the decision to forego writing in one of my WIPs for watching a movie or bingeing Californication for the fifteenth time, I will still use this “downtime” for working on my various social media platforms, making blog visuals, or even researching blogging topics. I rarely ever use my television time as an excuse not to work on my author platform in some fashion.
No matter what you do, there will only ever be twenty-four hours in a day, so you have to get creative on how to score some extra time to work toward your goals. I’ve taken back an hour or two each week by ordering my groceries online. This option isn’t available to everyone, depending on where you live. But if you can, try this for yourself and see if it will work for you. Several grocery stores have this option, but the two I use are either Walmart or Lowe’s Foods. (Lowe’s Foods charges $4.95 for this time-saver, but for me it is well worth it! I love their meats and fresh vegetables!) This small change gives me so much more time to write and it can really help your budget by keeping you from impulse shopping!
Positive reinforcement is wonderful, so I created a reward system. You’ve seen a hint of what might be on my list of rewards. Give yourself a good mix of rewards. Cheap and easy, mid-level, and high-end. This will vary for everyone based on your financial means, but for me a cheap reward might be doing a special face mask or treating myself to my favorite smoothie. Mid-level might be going out for sushi, or getting that sweater I’ve been eyeing. High-end would be a new purse, a special day-trip. You’re catching my drift…I know you are.
If positive reinforcement is wonderful, negative reinforcement is painful. Which is why I’m utilizing that as well. I laid out my goals for you guys, and I’m going to have to fess up if I fail. If I fail, you’ll lose faith in me. It’ll be that much harder for me to gain your respect as an author and human being…I could let this spiral out of control if I wanted.
And I suppose it wouldn’t be a blog post on goal-setting and productivity if I didn’t toss this old chestnut at you: Show up and do the damn work.
So, I said something special was coming at the end of this blog post, didn’t I? Well, if you liked those free printable pages up there, I am offering additional free printables to my newsletter subscribers that are specifically tailored to growing your social media audiences. If you’re interested, you’ll need to subscribe here. The form is at the bottom of the page. (That’s right—I don’t annoy you with pop-ups!)
But wait! That’s not all! (I did that in my very best infomercial voice!)
I’d love to see you using the sheets I created. If you use them and like them, please snap a picture of how they’re helping you and tweet them (Or Instagram them!) using #WriterGoals2018 and don’t forget to tag me, @AilaStephens. In anticipation of these beauties helping you buckle down on your goals, I’m doing a little giveaway! I’m calling it the “Be Successful” toolkit.
What might you win, you ask?
A paperback copy of Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit
A really awesome book of motivational stickers for your planner
(not pictured) A super-helpful journal
(not pictured) A pack of my favorite writing pens
+ Other little prizes to help make achieving your dreams fun!
“Besides, don’t God’ner the devil want me. I reckon I’m fine right where I am.”
– Corrie Bryant, Alabama Rain
Is it lame to say Happy New Year to you again? I don’t think so. Is it? I’m thinking it’s perfectly all right to pass on this wish throughout the first week. After that it might be somewhat overkill. But we’re only on day four of 2018, so what the hell: HAPPY NEW YEAR, YOU!
I hope you’re all busy working toward your goals for the year, whatever they might be. Unless it’s world domination. (Looking at you, Don.) Be it weight loss, a promotion, saving for a house, writing your first novel or your second, third, or twentieth—I am rooting for you!
As you’ll recall from my last post, I mentioned my new WIP: Alabama Rain. AR first came to me while as I dozed off one night while I was still writing Technicalities. I read once that you never have to erase what you get up to write—which is exactly what I did. The line of dialogue underneath the image up top is the exact line I heard just before the Sandman got the better of me, and my eyes flashed open as the rough plot unfolded in my mind. I sprang from the bed and grabbed a pen because I didn’t want to forget anything.
An affliction many writers suffer from, known as the shiny new idea syndrome, had bitten me and made it all but impossible for me to concentrate on finishing Technicalities, then made it difficult to start Formalities. I had no choice but to write a little here and there, and my husband can attest that it took me a long time to shut up about it—but now that it is my official WIP and not just a lovely idea flirting with me in the dark reaches of my messed up writer brain…I don’t really have to shut up about it.
So, what’s the gist? A part of me would happily sit here and divulge every secret because I am all kinds of excited about this story, but I will resist. Here’s a blurb-in-progress, instead:
Alabama Rain follows the enigmatic life story of Corrie Bryant, an elderly lady who hasn’t had a filter for her thoughts in years and who has recently been accused of the brutal murder of her husband, Jed. In order to sort out what actually happened to her father, Sarah Johansen, a lawyer from Columbus, Georgia, comes home to Dry Creek to spearhead her own investigation. Of all the things she’s seen during her practice she isn’t prepared for the secrets she uncovers, and isn’t sure finally getting to know her mother is the silver lining around the dark cloud as she hoped.
This story I’ve tasked myself with is stretching me, forcing me to grow as a writer. While the investigation takes place in 1994, Corrie’s story takes us all the way back to The Great Depression. This is a brand new challenge for myself, as I’ve always worked lineraly, and in modern times.
I don’t know about you but sometimes it is hard for me to imagine a world without easy access to the internet—though I can remember not having it. The same applies to cell phones and GPS, satellite radio and high-definition television…see where I’m going here? In 1994 it is estimated only 10,000 websites existed, and only 2 million people were readily connected to the internet. (Compare that to today’s ~50 billion websites and 4 billion people addicted to using the internet!)
So I can’t give my character a GPS, or even have them download and print directions from MapQuest. (You remember MapQuest, right?) I’ll have to reorient myself with primitive objects like paper maps that never fold correctly and bulky landline phones that hang on the kitchen wall. Payphones instead of cellular, and libraries with backlogs of newspapers instead of sitting down at a computer and having any bit of information at my character’s fingertips.
I look forward to sharing snippets from this book here and there, as well as some of the struggles and triumphs. I’m sure I’ll learn a slew of new tricks of the trade both with writing and self-publishing.
If you’d care to join me during the gestation of Alabama Rain, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and especially don’t miss out on subscribing to my newsletter—when you sign up for my newsletter you’ll receive a welcome aboard email that contains the first, raw chapter of Alabama Rain and you can expect chapters two and three to float into your inbox before you know it. Sign up at my website, submission form is at the bottom of the page.
All that said, I’ve got some writing to do. 🙂 Take care and see you on Monday when I examine some ways to make that crazy-long list of writing goals less scary, more manageable, and easier to cross off.
One day, it will be over. There will be two dates, either side of a dash—make sure that dash is not empty. Make sure it is full of life.
– Quote from a Fearless Motivation motivational speech, full speech below.
Remember back in 2016 when everyone was so excited for that horrible, crappy year to end, and how hopeful we were that 2017 was sure to be full of success and happiness?
I hope it was for you.
For me, not so much. I was certain 2016 had been so bad that 2017 would surely glisten, but instead 2017 turned around and said to 2016, “Hold my beer, kid.” Yes, last year wasn’t much better, if at all, than its predecessor.
So, just like last week’s post, this *should* be a writerly advice post. But, alas, it falls on yet another major holiday. So, instead, I thought today would be a great day, if not cliche, to talk about planning for the coming year.
I have been brainstorming what I’d like 2018 to look like for some time now, and I’ve really spent the last few days narrowing it down as best I can before I spread it all out in my Erin Condren LifePlanner…because it pains me to scratch things out. As I was mapping things out in my head, then began scribbling them down in a list, the amount of stuff I want to accomplish in the next 365 days isseems seemed incredibly daunting. I’ll admit, I’m still afraid I’ve given myself more than I’m likely to accomplish. But, if I don’t push myself, I’ll never grow. So I’m not backing down. I’m just breaking it down.
For instance, and I’m aware this isn’t new advice, but saying I want to write 85,000 words by mid-April sounds a lot worse than if I say I want to write 5000 words per week, which gives me a rough daily goal of 714 words per day. Considering that I can average between 1500-3000 words per day when I’m able to shut out all other distractions, now my goal feels more attainable.
When I said a while back that I wanted to write a blog post every Monday and an additional one every other Thursday, I realized that was a much tougher blogging schedule than I’d ever attempted before. I mean, well, let’s face it: I never attempted to keep to a blogging schedule before. But it’s important. I know that. So, I sat down for a few hours with Trello and a notebook and I started brainstorming ideas for what I’d like to blog about. Very vague ideas. But, now that I know what I’m blogging about throughout quarter one of this year, I’m not really afraid of my schedule. I’ve even got a sizable chunk of quarter two fleshed out, and I’m confident those posts will segue into ideas for quarters three and four.
Another goal I’d like to accomplish is a monthly newsletter. That’s 12-15 emails per year, if I add one for the occasional special event or book release. That doesn’t sound so daunting. So, I’ve been studying other indie authors’ newsletters making note of what I like and what I’m not so fond of, so I can make mine something I’ll be proud of. (Edited to add: I have officially launched a newsletter! Score one for Aila. Sign up at my website! Newsletters go out the last Friday of every month–but new subscribers will get a welcome email containing the first, raw chapter of my current WIP, Alabma Rain.)
Some of my goals are simple enough, but either slightly time-consuming or they cost money—which I don’t part with easily. For instance, I want need to print business cards, but I keep fiddling with the design…even though everyone I’ve shown them to thinks they’re lovely. My website is in horrible need of updating. I really should schedule in a day every single month to update my website. I should, so I shall.
In an effort to keep myself accountable to my goals, I’m going to start each quarter by listing the things I’d like to accomplish, and going forward, I’ll also recap how I did for the previous quarter. Here goes nothing:
| Print business cards
| Print bookmarks
| Get signed copies of Technicalities and Formalities for sale
| Write 65,000 words of Alabama Rain (at 5,000 words per week)
| Update the website at least once per month
| Send three newsletters
| Keep up with the blogging schedule
| Utilize Instagram no less than 5x per week
| Update both cover and interior of Sex, Love, and Formalities
| Attend the writing/book festival in Dahlonega, GA
Those are just for the first three months of the year. I’ll let you know how I do on March 29th. To be honest, if I accomplish 8 out of those 10 goals, I’ll consider it a successful quarter, because I have a ton of personal goals as well, including health goals—and not just weight loss. For those of you who don’t know, I suffer from frequent headaches. Some are mild, but some are crippling, so this year I want to do whatever it takes to get a handle on them without having to chew up fistfuls of painkillers.
As you can see, I’m going to be a busy girl. I figured if I had such a lengthy list of goals, that surely other writers were feeling a bit bogged down by everything they wanted to accomplish too. Thus, #WriterGoals2018 was born on Twitter. If you haven’t checked it out, I hope it will become a jumping off point for encouragement between authors as we step off of the invisible milestone of a New Year. With any luck, I look forward to seeing you there.
Whether in the hashtag, or the comments below, I am genuinely interested in how your goals are shaping up for the year. Younger me would choke on these words: but I make a pretty good cheerleader! Happy New Year, my friends! I wish you all the best and nothing but success!
Per my new blogging schedule, this is supposed to be some sort of writing advice blog. But it’s also Christmas day, a day slap bang in the center of a massive holiday season encompassing many significant days across many religions and spiritualities, so, I thought there’s a chance you’re enjoying the day with families and friends. Hence the post’s title. I can’t take full credit for it, though. I’ll explain it later. No authorly advice, though. I don’t think. Who knows? We’ll just see where the holiday spirit takes me.
Some years it is terribly difficult for me to get into the spirit of things. This year, not so much. We got a tree earlier than usual this year, and unless I am an absolute grump next year’s holiday season, I’d like to get a tree even earlier.
I’ve been watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music on the radio, I hummed along to whatever was playing in the stores while I went shopping. I’ve been generally happy this year. Which is surprising because this year has basically sucked. Maybe I’m just glad it’s about to be over. Whatever the reason, I’m just trying to fully appreciate this festive feeling of exuberance.
Instead of getting all sappy, though, I thought I’d tell you some of my favorite Christmas stuff. So, here goes.
Cookie: I love snickerdoodles this time of year, especially these cream cheese filled ones, but then there are the fruit cake cookies my husband’s grandmother makes every year. I’ve never had fruit cake cookies before I met her, and I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone else make them. And screw actual fruit cake…but those cookies? Fruit cake cookies, FTW!
2nd Place: Those snickerdoodles.
3rd Place: English Butter Cookies
Song: Carol of the Bells. It’s always been my favorite. It both creeps me out and gets me excited for the season. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s a little dark. Haunting. It’s not bubbly. While I love most interpretations of it, the one that springs to mind is by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If somehow this eargasmic score has eluded you, here. Take a listen.
2nd Place: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Perry Como
Movie: This one is tough. I am going to name National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as my favorite because my husband and I sit down and watch this one together every year. I don’t think I have to list my reasons for loving this, so I’ll spend more time on second place.
2nd Place: Dolly Parton’s A Smoky Mountain Christmas. It was made for TV a long time ago. No one, except maybe CMT, plays it anymore. (Wouldn’t really know, as I haven’t had cable in nearly five years.) But this movie makes me feel so peaceful, and it is set in my absolute favorite place on earth. It’s simple. I love Christmas decor that leans on the simplistic, rustic side. So, this is most definitely not a popular choice of movie, and I watch it alone every year because my husband doesn’t care for it, but for me, Christmas doesn’t start without it.
3rd Place: A Christmas Story.
Childhood: Decorating the Christmas tree. My mother despised having just colored balls hanging on a tree, so our family tree was filled with ornaments that had meaning. And we often discussed that meaning every year when the ornament was taken out of the box. Some ornaments had written histories with them, but I would often times see my mom in deep reflection as she selected an ornament from the box.
My brother and I also had this rather odd tradition of creating a “Christmas village” of ornaments we specifically hung on the underside of the tree. Often lying under the tree like mechanics meticulously arranging them and rearranging them, and of course fixing them when gifts would knock them down.
Bonus Childhood Memory: Actually, this isn’t a memory of mine, but it is a story that gets retold every year. Apparently when I was a youngster I had no interest in getting up early. Not uncommon. But, this extended to Christmas morning. The story goes that my brother, somewhere around 9 or 10 at the time, woke before everyone else and spied the bounty under the tree—but wasn’t allowed to touch anything until I, aged 4 or 5, also awoke. My parents eventually gave into his pleas to wake me up, and followed him into my room. They say it was so sweet and went something like this:
Brother: “Hey, sis, it’s time to wake up.”
Brother: *gently shakes me* “Come on, get up. Look. Santa Claus came!”
Me: *rolling over and looking out the window* “Nuh-uh, Cwiss (Chris), Santa Claus ain’t come yet, it’s still dark outside.” *proceeds to close eyes and go back to sleep*
Brother and Parents: *Jaws drop collectively*
Yep. That story gets shared every year, just like fruit cake…only it’s more enjoyable, methinks.
Adulthood: My third married Christmas. We were still blissfully young, but we had our own house (big mistake, but we didn’t know it at the time) and we invited my family over for Christmas morning. We’d decorated the house beautifully…I spent an insane amount of time on the mantle. We had a fire going. I made a huge breakfast. (My family has always been big on breakfast.) It was wonderful. Peaceful. My brother was so grateful that I’d remembered to buy him pulp-free orange juice that it is still sometimes brought up nearly a decade later. Dad’s health wasn’t the best, by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now. That was an exceptionally great Christmas.
Childhood: So many to choose from. We weren’t rich by any measure, but my parents always made sure my brother and I had a good Christmas. I will always treasure the story behind one particular present, though. Does anyone remember something called Fingernail Fun? I was 10, and I wanted this so badly, and apparently lots of other little girls did, because my folks had a hard time finding it.
One fateful night, very close to Christmas, my brother found one and I forget the particulars, but for some reason he had to get down on his belly to reach underneath a display to procure the very last box. For that reason, Fingernail Fun will always be a special memory for me.
Adulthood: I honestly don’t know. I never know what I want for Christmas anymore. I’m good with socks. This year my husband did surprise me with something I’ve wanted for a long, long time and that is a set of All Clad pots and pans. I haven’t talked about them in a few years, so it meant a lot to me that he remembered. Last year, however, my mom was browsing a thrift store local to her and had an impossible find, which I suppose takes it for sentimentality’s sake. She found a teapot that once belonged to my grandmother. Now, you may think that it might have just looked like a teapot that once belonged to my grandmother, but no. This one really did belong to her. She’d broken it, and repaired it. And it was very obviously hers. It had been lost after my grandmother died in 2003, and my mom found it randomly and gave it to me. That’s going to be a hard one to top.
This is my last post of the year! When we reconvene on January 1st, we will be talking about setting goals and resolutions for the New Year, and I’ll list mine. We’re going to try some public accountability. Woo-hoo!
I’m going to end this here and get back to spending time with my nearest and dearest, but I’ll leave you with the story behind the blog title.
Many moons ago, I worked in retail management…not pleasant around this time of year. One lady had just berated one of my employees and myself because the cashier said “Happy Holidays” rather than Merry Christmas. Another lady happened to hear the exchange, and very loudly said “HAPPY MERRY WHATEVER! I’ve never seen someone get so upset because someone wished them well! You should be ashamed!”
I so loved that second lady. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Whatever you celebrate, I hope it has been the most joyous it can be. If you’d care to share some of your own holiday favorites and memories, I would love to see them in the comments below!
“I don’t want to say a word against brains – I’ve a great respect for brains – I often wish I had some myself…” — Jewel’s favorite quote. From Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe
Jewel was one of the first people I idolized when I first decided to take the Indie Author route seriously—and for good reason: she’s crazy talented, super sweet, and approaches her role as an indie author with a profound level of professionalism. It’s no wonder I often find myself trying to emulate her as I grow as an author.
I fell in love with Mrs. Leonard’s novel Tales by Rales and could not put it down until I finished it. I’ve been a fan of her work ever since. As both a fan of hers, and as her friend, I have anxiously been awaiting the arrival of Alight…and it’s here!
Maeve lives a charmed life in the small desert town of Redington in Arizona Territory–where spousal prospects are sorely lacking, career choices are shamefully limited to the saloon, and Death himself has a vendetta against her.
All Maeve wants is her independence but 1883 society has decidedly different expectations for her.
Enter Shadow Wolf: notorious for his dark reputation and grotesque mechanical arm. The gunslinger, a suspiciously werewolf-esque man whose social situation bears some obnoxious similarities to Maeve’s, has found his place among the masses by walking on the wrong side of the law.
When Maeve stumbles upon Shadow Wolf’s scheme to rob a stagecoach, he forces her to choose between her life or breaking the witches’ Golden Rule. Despite certain karmic retribution, Maeve relies on her wit and a sprinkling of magic to survive the heist. When nothing goes according to plan, she finds herself not just on the ride of a lifetime, but also roped into an unanticipated romance with a sexy bandit at the reins.
It sounds GREAT, doesn’t it? In celebration of this momentous occasion, I jumped at the chance to sit down and ask Jewel some questions in hopes to help you get to know her as a person and author as well as some insights into THE WITCHES’ REDE: ALIGHT.
Without further adieu, let’s dive right in to this fascinating mind.
1.) I think when someone “becomes” a reader or a writer, it’s a lot like falling in love. Sometimes it’s a gradual thing, other times it’s an instant attraction. Do you remember what book made you fall in love with the written word? If so, what was it, and has any other book ever given you that same smitten feeling?
I don’t remember any particular book that made me fall in love with the written word. I was, however, greatly inspired by The Baby-Sitters Club series. I remember reading them, loving them, and very firmly believing, “I can do this, too!” I think one of the books that really changed the way I looked at the craft (from the standpoint of emotionally breaking me into shards of my former self) was the last book of LJ Smith’s Forbidden Game trilogy. I loved all her books, but it was the 3rd book in that series which did me in. I’ve definitely been touched and influenced by other books since then (that’d be a heck of a dry spell if I didn’t!) but I don’t think anything has wrecked me quite the same way since and I’m perfectly fine with that! I like reading fluff for darn good reason.
2.) Do you keep everything you write? Do you look back on it to see how far you’ve come, and would you care to share a personal favorite line or passage from something you wrote long ago that you’ve never published?
I do keep everything, and that almost changed when I wrote Possession for NaNoWriMo a few years ago. Hubby had to come to its rescue (and in retrospect, I’m so grateful he did!) … There are a few old stories I revisit from time to time, not so much to see how far I’ve come (although oh boy, have I!) but because despite that writing being atrocious at best, the characters are old friends and being back in that setting is a bit like returning to the place you grew up, only better—it hasn’t changed. My hometown is nothing like how I remember it. A passage from something old that I’ve never published? I vacillated between sharing one of two options—The Immortal’s Caveat and The Carriers. The Carriers is a departure from my usual genre, so I’m opting to share an excerpt from it rather than the former. This writing is over 6 years old and unedited (so please be gentle!) and the idea came about after a shockingly explicit dream I had that I felt was worth pursuing. To this day I remember it quite vividly and stepping back into these words (all 1600 of them) was a bit like being doused with cold water. The excerpt itself isn’t anything wild, but I remember clearly where this goes. I didn’t have the chops to get very far with it at the time, as it’s a genre I was not well-versed in (unlike, say, paranormal romance) … but it’s an idea I think is worth pursuing sometime down the road. Well, without further ado, here it is:
From his position behind them, Jeremy introduced her to the panel. “This is Meredith Healey. Among the top of her class at the CBP School for Girls. She is the one I selected.”
The members of the panel exchanged glances, sizing the girl up carefully. At the far end of the table, grey-haired and wrinkled Audrey Malone stood and approached Meredith, walking a circle around her. “Hold out your arms.”
Meredith did as instructed. Not only was she docile on a typical day, but fear caused her to be doubly so under the circumstances.
“She’s got the proper proportions. Obedient, too. Good traits, excellent traits.” Audrey nodded decisively. “She’s up-to-date on her vaccinations?”
Another member of the panel nodded from his seat. “We’ve got her medical records updated and ready for transference.” He was a lanky man in the medical profession judging by the scrubs he wore, holding a small vial up with slender fingers. “I’ve the microchip ready.”
“And this will be a suitable candidate for Pom E’Turi?” Audrey asked. To Meredith, she said, “Please put your arms down. Thank you.”
Jeremy nodded as Meredith lowered her arms. “She’s the one. The ship departs at dawn tomorrow.”
He put a hand on the woman standing beside him. “This is Darien. She’s Meredith’s porter.”
Darien was a well-fed young woman, with cheerful eyes and a wide smile. Had Meredith any clue what was happening, she might have been comforted by the friendly-looking woman who was charged with her care.
“Then if there are no objections, I’m going to install Meredith’s medical records,” said the doctor.
“Who agrees to this transfer?” Audrey asked of the panel.
Everyone in the room raised a right hand, save Meredith.
“Then it’s done.” Audrey nodded to the doctor. “She’ll have one last physical here, and you can install her medical records. Darien will take her from there and assure her safe arrival at Murth.”
Jeremy smiled. “Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.”
Audrey went to him in the back of the room, shaking his hand. “Give Pom E’Turi our regards. I’d love a progress report in a few months.”
“I will,” replied Jeremy. “And I’d be remiss if I didn’t provide you a status update when they have news.”
Audrey gave him a forced smile. “That, you would.” She returned to Meredith. “Congratulations!” she announced with that same forced smile. “You’ve been chosen to be the ambassador for our biological exchange program! You will be apprised of your duties on your trip to Murth.”
“I’m—I’m sorry, but you must be mistaken.” Meredith blurted. “Headmaster Bolton!” she cried in an uncharacteristic outburst.
Jeremy, who’d been on his way out of the panel, paused at the door. He turned. “Yes, Miss Healey?”
“I’m honored you’d select me for such an . . . important sounding position . . . But . . . I must contest. I’m a mathematician, not a biologist!”
“Can you multiply?” asked Jeremy.
“What does that have to do with—well, yes.” Meredith frowned. She was an expert in advanced Calculus and certainly, if he knew how well she did in school, it must be assumed, then, that she knew the most elementary of mathematical concepts. “Of course, I can.”
He smiled. “Then you are the right woman for the position. My decision stands. Safe travels and much luck.” Without another word, he left the room.
“That was not so obedient,” Audrey chastised Meredith. “We’ll just be thankful he was good-natured about that indiscretion. Now, no more protests; off to your final exam.”
:shudders: I can see any number of things I’d fix in that. Well, maybe someday!
3.) Where and when are you most likely to be inspired by your next project?
Always when it is least opportune. For instance, when I’m driving and can’t stop to jot notes, or just as I’m falling asleep. I can trust the little lying voice in my head that promises I’ll remember it tomorrow, or get up, write, and then have trouble falling asleep when I’m done several hours later.
4.) If the main character from your first novel were to hang out with the main character from your current novel, what do you imagine that would be like?
My main characters from my first novel and my current one are actually very closely related and I imagine if they were to hang out, it would be really awkward. And, surprisingly, I don’t think they’d get along very well at all. (First novel MC, in retrospect, was a loner and had difficulty establishing friendships, especially with other women. Current MC has many close friends and tends to easily befriend those who don’t, like, assault her when they first meet. The former doesn’t forgive, the latter does—to a fault.)
5.) Why do you self-publish versus going the traditional route?
I initially sought an agent for Alight … I felt like it was the only way to be validated. I felt like it was the only chance I’d have for getting my work out there (because agents and publishers TOTALLY market for you and don’t expect you to do any of it, LOLOLOL). I felt like certain people in my life would take me seriously only when I had the approval of professionals in the industry. And I think (IMHO) those are all the wrong reasons for seeking an agent/publisher. I know some people consider indie publishing a consolation prize, especially if it follows failed querying … (“Oh, you couldn’t hack it traditionally, huh? Your writing must suck. So you’re just gonna take that loser MS nobody wanted and slop it up on Amazon with a cover you did in ten minutes using MS Paint, right?”) In my case, when I finally opened my eyes to reality, indie-publishing wasn’t second place. It was a better fit for my passion and my personality (I’m a teensy bit of a control freak and the thought of a character on my front cover who doesn’t match my description could make my fine hair curl!), and this is something I wish had occurred to me much sooner. And hey, since I’d be expected to market every bit as much as an agented author as I must as an indie, might as well go indie and keep all my hard-earned profits, right? I’m currently drafting a blog post to go into more detail about this decision. I hope to have it done sometime around Alight’s release date … but maybe don’t hold your breath waiting.
6.) The antagonist from the last book you read is your new main character, the setting is the last place you went on vacation, their weapon of choice is the first blue object you spy, and their superpower is your biggest fear. Describe this book and give it a title!
Oh my good lord this question! LOL! OK. So Jack Torrance goes to Walt Disney World brandishing a Christmas stocking. He suddenly, for some reason, has the ability to transform into — ok you know what? as I go, this is actually becoming a really fun little writing prompt! — so he suddenly has the ability to transform into a human-sized scorpion. Flying scorpion, let’s really up the ante here, shall we? OK, so flying scorpion Jack Torrance swoops into Disney World with blue Christmas stocking in han—claw—in claw. Hijinks and merriment ensue. I’m pretty sure it’d be called Jack Scorpance and the Christmas Stocking of Fate. Maybe this is next year’s NaNo project! ^__^
7.) Where did the inspiration for Alight come from? When did you first begin writing this story?
Well, for reasons, that’s classified information. I’ll say this: I was writing a series of stories for many years that I could not get published even if I took it upon myself to do so. For … reasons. Despite those reasons and the quality of my work, I had several lovely people encouraging me to make the changes necessary to legitimately publish this behemoth I’d spent almost a decade and a half playing with. (I’m not belittling myself or the work by saying I was playing with it; it was play. I learned a lot through it, but it was play, nonetheless.) It was Christina Olson, one of my few ultra-close friends, to say the magic word that fateful afternoon in 2013: Steampunk. She found that little bridge I needed to get my silly self-indulgent stories from where they were to the beautiful book coming out on December 21, 2017. Anyway, I think I wrote rather eloquently about that day in an interview I did with Christina on my blog, here. The rest is history … Wonderful, romanticized, magical and fantastical, alternative-Victorian/Wild West history.
8.) What has been your biggest hurdle to clear when writing Alight?
It’s kind of a toss-up between knowing where to start, knowing when to back away, and knowing when to let it go. Alight was a pretty significant learning experience in so many ways.
9.) The cover for Alight is AMAZING! How involved were you in the design process, and how did you go about accomplishing such a masterpiece?
Thank you so much! I was actually involved fairly little in the design process (oh, hubby’s gonna kill me dead for sayin’ that!). Hubby’s my design guy. He’s done it professionally and had very clear ideas for the cover of not just Alight but each book in The Witches’ Rede series. The hardest part was finding the perfect artist. We solicited many … and some were either well beyond our budget, weren’t accepting new work, weren’t interested in this project (just the one book cover or the series),or … well, weren’t good enough. And then I lucked upon the artist we chose, Ryuutsu Art, when I saw her commissions for fellow author Errin Krystal appear in my Facebook feed. (Thank goodness for that!!!) It was a glorious day when she agreed to do the commissions for us. Working with Ryuutsu has been an absolute joy from beginning to end. Her artwork is gorgeous, she’s a genuinely sweet person, and has even helped me check the ebook formatting of Alight (my Kindle is old, pathetic, and I don’t trust it’s providing an accurate view of my document). I adore the book covers she’s done for me so far and look forward to getting the next set done this coming year. They definitely act as motivation to get more writing done!
10.) What can your fans hope to see in 2018?
Well, books 2 and 3 of The Witches’ Rede are scheduled for release in summer and winter of 2018! Beyond that, I’m aiming at expanding and improving my website, and blogging more regularly. Step back, world, here I come!
Obligatory Question: What writing advice would you give to a budding indie author?
When you’ve convinced yourself no one will read your work … when you think the only reviews you’ll get (if you get them) are going to be 1-stars … You’ve got to remember you’re doing this for yourself, first and foremost. At the end of the day, you’re the only one you can guarantee will read (and, I sure hope, enjoy!) your work. Also, please do yourself a favor and remove “aspiring” from your bios. You are not an aspiring writer if you’re writing. You’re a writer. Embrace it! Don’t wait as long as I did to finally figure that out. You’re just wasting time and hurting yourself. This is a fantastic journey if you grant yourself that enjoyment.
I’d like to thank Jewel for the opportunity to get to know her a little better—this was such a great interview!
Want to get to know her even more? Check out her site: http://www.jeweleleonard.com/
To recap our discussion last week, we went over the general trajectory of social media sites for the coming year to hopefully pinpoint where to devote your social media time…but what do we do while we’re there?
Before we dive into the particulars today, let me make a statement on how I feel about social media—be forewarned, my opinions are not always popular.
Social media can be, and often is, a huge waste of time. It is also hard to avoid and even harder to avoid when you’re trying to promote yourself and your work: so it is almost a necessity. Sure some authors manage to get by without finding themselves shackled to tweets, posts, likes, and pins…but even well-established, traditionally published authors use social media to connect with their readers.
That said, as indie authors we can’t afford to lose any of our precious writing time. Our editing time. Our research time. Our revising time. Our design time. Our formatting time. Our educational time. (If you don’t think becoming a successful indie author requires some sort of education, I fear for you.) If you’re following my train of thought here, pursuing this passion requires an indie to wear a lot of hats. Each particular hat requires a lot of time…and social media isn’t the best of bedfellows with productivity. Always keep that in mind.
If you’re content with your writing journey remaining a hobby, then perhaps this advice does not apply to you…but if you want writing to replace some or all of your income at some point, then I urge you to think of social media in a new way: as yet another tool. Tools should be used when necessary, put away when not, and you should always know how to use them.
And that is what I want to explore today. You’ll notice I will make some confessions along the way about mistakes I have made, and my own personal goals for this platform in the coming year. You should also know the majority of these findings come from my own personal experiences. Yours will probably vary. To find and follow me on any of these platforms, click the icons below.
Facebook | Of the social media sites I used prior to two weeks ago, Facebook is my least favorite for marketing purposes. I think it is safe to say that Facebook is mostly used to keep track of family and friends. I took a quick poll of my own friends and family and next to no one said they use this platform for anything else: more than one of these people volunteered the fact they never click the ads that pop up in their feed.
For an indie author, breaking that barrier is difficult. Your family and friends will likely share posts you make, comment on them, etc. but will that cross the even more daunting barrier of getting what I call outside engagement? (By this I mean you’re attracting the attention of new people, those outside your established circle. I.E. Not your mom or best friend.) Getting attention, in this manner, on Facebook can be like threading a needle with your eyes closed, one handed.
Perhaps this is why I find Facebook to be so stupidly tedious. There’s so little return on the time investment. It’s disheartening to look through the analytics. So, I’m here to admit: I suck at using Facebook. I’ve been trying to read a little here and there about how to improve my FaBo game, and I was surprised by a few things I read.
It seems when it comes to other social media outlets, hashtags are the name of the game…not so much when it comes to the Book of Face. According to PostPlanner, hashtags may be crippling our posts! Now I’m not sure what sampling of posts they used for this study, but here goes:
Posts with 1 or 2 hashtags averaged 593 interactions
Posts with 3 to 5 hashtags averaged 416 interactions
Posts with 6 to 10 hashtags averaged 307 interactions
Posts with more than 10 hashtags averaged 188 interactions
Ian Cleary from Razor Social says using pointless hashtags on Facebook is, and I am paraphrasing, a turn off. Don’t do it. Stick to only relevant hashtags and only use two.
Peg Fitzpatrick from Canva (I LOVE CANVA!) reminds us that even though using too many hashtags on Facebook can oddly limit a post’s reach, we should still embrace them as they are one of the only ways to expand your reach without paid advertisements. (Which, by the way, I know next to nothing about, therefore I don’t feel qualified to give any advice on the subject. Perhaps another time.)
I guess the moral of the story is: Hashtag wisely, folks.
Cons: Hard to find legitimately new followers, unless you have some degree of notoriety and people will already be searching for your name. If you want to be seen by fresh eyes, you’ll almost certainly have to pay for ads, and there are no guarantees at all you’ll see any clicks. The analytics page isn’t as easy to decipher as Twitter’s.
Pros: Your family and friends will likely share your work for you with their family and friends.
My Facebook goals for 2018: Post consistently while also experimenting with what content works. I’d like to have a minimum 300 FaBo followers by the end of 2018. I have a lot of work to do.
Twitter | I have had much more luck navigating Twitter. The use of hashtags on Twitter is much more user-friendly than it is with Facebook, and used much more often which is great! And not so great. It’s the very definition of a catch-22. You can’t be seen if you don’t use the popular hashtags…and sometimes you can’t be seen when you use the popular hashtags. Why? Because everyone else is using them too, and the most popular way to view them is to view the latest tweets at the top. Meaning your tweet from thirty-seconds ago with the hashtag AmWriting is now probably 20-30 tweets down, if not further.
One of the things Twitter does amazingly is their analytical tools. You can easily monitor your most popular tweets and when your best times of day are. If Twitter is something you’re looking to get serious about as a tool, you really need to familiarize yourself with the analytics. This will help your impressions and your follower count blossom.
My favorite thing about Twitter is the ease of finding other writers.
My least favorite thing about Twitter is it can be really damn difficult to find readers.
The writing community on Twitter is vast. Ever expanding, really. We’re everywhere, sharing our work and hashtagging like it’ll save the world! But, as for people who are just seeking to find a new author or a really good book…I’ve yet to really find the magic formula for this. Sorry.
You can, and probably will, sell a few books to people you meet on Twitter. After all, writers are readers. Just really freaking busy ones with their own stories to write. I went on an Indie diet in 2016 and part of 2017, and every book I bought was found on Twitter. So, don’t give up…just don’t get discouraged, either.
I think the best possible way to utilize Twitter as a writing tool is to use it to network with other writers. Find people to share in this journey with you. Learn from them. Teach them. Read other indie work. Befriend and be involved. This is where I have found 95% of my beta readers. In that sense, Twitter has been invaluable.
But never forget that you aren’t writing your novel if you participate in every single writer’s chat and hashtag game. Do these things, fine, but sparingly.
Cons: Can be hard to find readers seeking out Indie authors, therefore not the best way to make sales. Because the writing community is so vast and there is always some sort of chat, event, or game going within it making getting lost and inadvertently wasting time is easy to do.
Pros: Such a vast and active writer community. It’s easy to find help, guidance, support, inspiration, beta readers and critique partners.
My Twitter goals for 2018: Learn even more from Twitter’s analytics tools, and use the data to increase impressions, interactions, and up my followers by 25%.
GoodReads | You want to find readers? GoodReads. This website is a reader’s delight. It’s easy to find new books and new authors, more finely tuned than on any other social media outlet. It’s a beautiful relationship. There are really only two reasons for a person to be on GoodReads at all: either they’re a reader or a writer. It’s the best site for a captive audience.
But…well…GoodReads has made a controversial move in the indie author arena. One of the things that has been so gosh darn attractive about GoodReads has been their giveaway platform. It was so easy for readers to find great, new material this way because it was a free service to authors, and allowed readers to participate in giveaways with peace of mind. Now, GoodReads is going to charge out the proverbial ass for hosting a giveaway. If you’re an indie author PAY REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS:
A Standard Giveaway will cost authors/publishers $119, per book. There’s not a lot included with the standard giveaway, except for paying an awful lot of money to give something away.
A Premium Giveaway will cost authors/publishers $599, per book. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS to give something away for free. What do you get for this exorbitant fee? Special placement. That’s literally the only difference. Both packages also offer an email to contest winners reminding them to leave a review for your book.
I don’t know about you, but this new change doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies. My pragmatism dictates that GoodReads is providing a service, and they should be able to charge people for that service if they want to. I’m fine with that part. But I am not so fine with the amounts being charged. I think it’s grossly excessive and really doesn’t allow indie authors a shot at a competitive edge.
My advice for using GoodReads going forward is to make the most out of your page, utilizing the interview questions, trivia questions, etc. etc. but, I don’t recommend shelling out that much money for a giveaway. The odds are really stacked against indies for a ROI in this giveaway arena. Run your own giveaways and save yourself the money. Look at books in your genre, see who is reading and enjoying them. GoodReads is a great tool to learn and study your key demographic!
Cons: Giveaways are no longer free, and the fees are astronomical.
Pros: Users are usually dedicated readers who seek out new material. There are ways to interact with fresh faces. GoodReads is more powerful than it may seem at first glance.
My GoodReads goals for 2018: Jazz up my page, and try to initiate more interaction with readers, utilizing their message boards and browsing books related to mine and finding out all I can about my key demographic. (Which might help with other social media sites in the long run.)
Instagram | I do not know very much about Instagram, to be honest. I’ve avoided it for a long time, and it is going to take a lot of diligence and practice for me to make using it a habit. What I do know about IG is that it continues to grow and gain momentum at a rate I never imagined.
For those that don’t know, Instagram is all about posting images with engaging captions and multiple hashtags. Hashtags are very important in Instagram, as people do scroll tags in order to find content relative to their interests, unlike most of Facebook users–Facebook being IG’s big papa.
Instagram Stories is apparently the hit new thing, though it really isn’t a new thing. New doesn’t last very long on the internet. Basically, Stories is a way to share multiple images on IG that tell, well, a story. As a writer, you might like to compile some pictures that show your habits during a full day of writing. Your coffee, your desk, your computer screen (if yours looks like mine, it’s framed in a myriad of post-its), the sandwich you have for lunch, a sneak peek into your day planner, a close up of your editing notes…you get where I’m going here? Stories seems to be a way to give even more of a glimpse into what goes on behind the curtains.
Cons: I’m not certain it will be the easiest place to sell books, as I think people skim for images more than they will click buy-links. Time will tell me if my prediction is correct.
Pros: It’s the hip place to be on the internet, apparently. It’s growth is expanding, and the experts at Entrepreneur.com believe it will be the best social media site for marketing in 2018—time will tell if that proves true for the Indie author community.
My Instagram Goals for 2018: Learn to use it and make a point to use it more frequently. I’d like to gain 1000 followers by EOY.
Pinterest: I am a habitual Pinterest browser…rarely do I ever post things. I’d like to do a better job with this. Currently I use private inspiration boards, but I’d like public ones. Also, I fully intend on making shareable and printable documents that are so popular on this platform—which I think is more viable than trying to find book buyers.
Google+: Use for hangouts if you’d like to have group discussions, otherwise it’s currently a waste of time in my humblest opinion. I am still holding onto hope, however, that the geniuses at Google will someday figure out how to revolutionize their social media side…until then, I won’t utilize this platform.
YouTube: If you’re braver than I am, starting a YouTube channel might be a great idea. Don’t do it if you aren’t 100% sure, however. Nothing comes across worse than someone trying to force themselves to be comfortable in front of the camera, or worse yet, professing expertise on a subject they know nothing about. While I technically do have a YouTube channel, I only have two videos posted: my book trailers. Creating book trailers isn’t a surefire way to sell books, but it can’t hurt. In fact, I noticed after posting my most recent trailer, I did sell a few copies of my eBook for Sex, Love, and Technicalities.
If you do decide to make a trailer for your book, as with everything else you publish, make it to the absolute best of your ability…which might mean hiring someone to do it for you if you lack the skill or are unwilling to learn the skill. (I will be doing a more thorough blog post in Quarter 2 of 2018 on producing a quality book trailer.)
My BIGGEST pieces of social media advice:
Be authentic, whatever platform(s) you use. Don’t be someone you’re not, because that is a tough act to keep up for long. We all fall back into our old habits before too long. If you’re not a naturally comedic person, don’t try to be, because…
We’ve talked a lot about selling books…but don’t sell your books. You’re selling you.
Follow etiquette. Don’t spam people. Don’t invade established hashtags with the intent of some sort of coup. Give credit where credit is due, always.
Social media is only a piece of the author platform puzzle: don’t neglect the other parts.
The old adage “you catch more flies with honey” always applies.
It is absolutely fine to start building your author platform while working on your debut work…just don’t forget to also work on your novel. The interest you’re building in yourself and your book needs to actually go somewhere.
That’s all I have for you today. When we reconvene on Thursday, I’ve got a special interview I know you’re just going to love!
Until then: Happy reading and writing, my friends!
Are you a fan of Women’s Fiction? Find my novels on Amazon in eBook and paperback.
Both eBooks are free with Amazon’s KindleUnlimited.
We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it. -Erik Qualman
There are two words that quickly come to mind when I think of social media. Imperative and obnoxious.
If you’re a writer, it is hard to get anywhere if you aren’t on social media. Hell, it’s hard to get somewhere even when you are on social media—but without it, it’s next to impossible. So, you create accounts across the smorgasbord of platforms and you post and tweet and hashtag and scour and repeat. It is a daunting task to build and maintain a social media presence.
But it isn’t enough to create an account and tweet. Millions of people are doing that. You’re trying to market yourself, your books…it goes beyond bragging about what you had for lunch. (Though I am quick to post sushi porn!)
Paying attention to your analytics is one thing. It’s pretty much been my go-to method for raking in followers and post engagement. But what I have found is even going that extra step isn’t really enough. It’s a reactive way of handling social media. I post something, I do my best to get the hashtags right, I wait, I check the analytics, and I sigh.
That post should have been more popular, I often think.
So why wasn’t it?
Truthfully, I haven’t put the information set before me to good use. I’m busy. Sometimes social media is more of a chore than something I enjoy—but that’s okay. I should change my mindset about it because as much as I do actually enjoy making friends and interacting on social media…as a part of an author platform, it is also a part of the job. An enormously important part, actually. It’s how people find us, connect with us, learn our style, see our work, etc. Like the quote at the top said, it’s not so much an option of whether we participate, but what we’re willing to put into it.
As I began laying out how I wanted my writerly year to look, I started making some social media goals. Once I started making these goals, I decided to see what the experts expect the social media climate to look like for the coming year and I was legitimately surprised by what I read. (Again, up until recently, I wasn’t paying close enough attention.)
Hopefully this information will be as useful to you as I am hoping it is for me. I really want to push my boundaries and venture from my comfort zone—and according to the data, I have a lot of adapting to do. Do you?
According to Entrepreneur, here are a few items we can expect to see on the social horizon soon:
1.| Augmented Reality. Why not start off the list with the one that floors me the most. When I first read that augmented reality was going to be playing a huge part in social media in the coming year, I scoffed. Honestly, it’s 2018, not 3018. Surely we’re not there yet, I thought. But, then almost as soon as my eyes scanned the words, I recalled how augmented reality is, well, a reality readily available on the new iPhone…which means it will definitely be coming to a social media platform near you sooner than I ever would have dreamed.
How will this play a role in social media marketing for writers? Honestly, I had no clue. So, I read a Forbes article on the subject, and I began to see some possibilities. The first thing that came to mind is a tech savvy Fantasy or Science Fiction writer might be able to create a virtual snippet of their literary worlds which would allow readers to experience a haunted wood, or the surface of a faraway planet. I can see that having a massive impact, especially while augmented reality is still a relatively new concept for the world of marketing. (Before you rush me with alternative facts, yes, I’m aware that the technology has been around in some form for over twenty years.)
How do you think this might help authors market themselves and build our platforms?
2.| Twitter v. Everyone Else. Anyone who knows me knows that Twitter is my favorite of all the social media platforms. So imagine my dismay when Entrepreneur says that Twitter is floundering compared to every other social media outlet. I don’t think Twitter is going the way of the Dodo bird anytime soon, but its usefulness as a marketing engine seems to be in a bit of a decline.
I realize I may be in the minority on this one, but I have always felt Facebook was more for family and friends. I have an author page on Facebook, but I am really bad at utilizing it. (One of the things I want to work on in the coming year.) So Twitter was where I found a home, so to speak, as an author. It, for me, was the polar opposite of Facebook. It has been my comfort zone.
What are your thoughts on Twitter? Do you think there is a noticeable decline in its usefulness, and will you shift your social media efforts elsewhere in the coming year?
So, who is apparently the top dog for personal branding and marketing in 2018?
3.| Instagram, Instagram, Instagram. I don’t know what my aversion to Instagram has been over the years. Well, that’s not necessarily true. When I first learned of Instagram, I found it was mostly where people posted selfie after selfie after selfie. And I rarely ever take selfies, even more seldom do I share them.
As Instagram evolved into what it is now, I wasn’t paying attention. I sort of continually, subconsciously wrote it off as the place for vanity and showing off the perfect winged eyeliner. But it has surpassed Snapchat in usage BY 50 MILLION— yet another platform I do not use—and is expected to overtake Twitter very soon…if it hasn’t already by the time I researched this to the time I post this.
When I first read that Instagram was where everyone needed to be to gain a footing, I again scoffed…but then I remembered my goals and the above quote. It doesn’t matter if I have avoided any particular platform for whatever reason…if I am unwilling to adapt, I may as well give up. It’s a tough pill to swallow, so I guess I’ll just have to drink more water.
I had created an account a while back and never used it, so I dusted it off and got to work figuring it out. It’s going to take me a while to get used to it, but I am determined to figure it out, to master it. First things first, like me, if you aren’t familiar with Instagram Stories, get familiar. At less than a year old, it is estimated that over half of all users will be utilizing this by the end of 2018—the very name of which sounds exactly like something we, as writers, should take advantage of.
These were just three points made in the list, and I strongly urge you to read through the others. Research social media further. But don’t just memorize a few facts and then wait another ten years to read more on the subject like I did. Social media outlets are always evolving. Ever changing. That is their job and their nature. It is our job as indie authors to keep up. Play a proactive role in your author adventure, because if you don’t no one will.
Do you have social media goals for the coming year? If so, would you care to share with the class?
In my next blog post, we will continue the discussion of utilizing social media, going more in depth with the different features, pros, and cons of GoodReads, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. (With honorable mentions of Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+).
Until then, my lovelies, happy writing + happy reading!
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. -Sylvia Plath
First things first! Congratulations to Rebecca Yelland for winning the giveaway hosted by Vania Rheault! Let me tell you what she won:
Signed copies of Sex, Love, & Technicalities and Sex, Love, & Formalities.
A cute notebook
A shawl perfect for snuggling up with a book on a cool night
An inspirational mug
A full-sized bag of *delicious* micro-roasted coffee (Dirty Nekkid Lady!)
Three samples of my favorite loose-leaf teas from my favorite little tea shop…and…
A $25 Amazon Giftcard
This subject came up recently after introducing a real, live person to one of my paperbacks. After a few minutes of questioning me on things like how does an author even come up with an idea they can turn into an entire novel, to how the heck does someone even know where to find a printing company (the answer to everything, kids, is Google) she asked me if I always wanted to self-publish or if I’d ever want to “go the other way.”
I’m going to be completely honest with you:
I HAVE NO IDEA.
If someone came to me and said: “Aila, that idea you have there is top shelf, and we like the words you wrote, so here’s a check, now go write something else!” That would be hard to turn down. But, that shit ain’t easy.
I’m not saying that the sheer amount of work involved in getting traditionally published would keep me from trying. I’m just not sure I’m patient enough to wait years upon years to find out if someone is that interested in one of my book babies.
See, I’m not one of those people who think that a self-published book is only self-published because it’s “not good enough to warrant traditional publishing.” I’ve read some amazing self-published pieces of work. I would like to think that the work I add to the self-published community only adds to its validity, not diminishes it.
That said…getting paid up front for something would be nice. Maybe I’ll give it a go. With my upcoming project, Alabama Rain, an immense amount of work is going into it. It is Historical Fiction meets Women’s Fiction, set as far back as The Great Depression. Research is critical. There is a very particular feel and mood I am going for each scene and for the book as a whole that will require me to stretch my writing skills farther than I have done to date. (Which by the way, I think should be the goal of each new project) By the time I am finished with it, I very well might cast my line into the traditional publishing waters and see if I get a nibble.
If I do, I do. If I don’t, I don’t.
But, Aila, how long will you go fishing? I dunno. I’m not sure how long to give it before I go ahead and self-publish the story. Six months doesn’t seem long enough at all. A year would probably feel like an entire lifetime. Hell, I’m already itching to share the story with the world and it’s nowhere near ready yet.
So, I suppose this was the most pointless blog post of mine to date. I started with a question, and I’m leaving it mostly unanswered. I’d love to hear from you, though. Which publishing avenue tickles your fancy, and have you ever dreamt of crossing paths? (I’ve heard of a few trad-published authors who longed for more autonomy and say-so in their book baby’s journey.)
In other news: I’ve actually mapped out an entire year’s worth of blogging dates and even pending blogging topics! Every Monday I’ll discuss tips or pertinent news about writing, publishing, or marketing, and every other Thursday will be more of a personal blog post where I post my writing goals, update you on previous goals, share a new recipe I’ve concocted…whatever is happening with me in that week.
I had so much fun with the launch and Vania’s giveaway for Sex, Love, and Formalities that I’ve decided I want to do more giveaways in 2018, so be on the lookout, because some of them may be quickies! xoxo
What do I have in store for Monday? We’re looking ahead to expanding our writer platforms in 2018 and examining the Social Media climate for the coming year. Spoiler: It ain’t looking good for me unless I make some changes. How will you do?