Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Numbered Irony

I love words.
I do not like numbers. 

Although simplistic, it's pretty much my life's philosophy. I'm the person who balks at budgets, doesn't bother looking at my bank statement, and feels physically sick when asked to fill out a form that requires anything more than my Social Insurance Number. Even in elementary school I gravitated to the humanities, but hated arithmetic. 

It makes perfect sense, then, that I love writing. I thrive on finding just the right turn of phrase; manipulating and man-handling words to get just the right effect. Thankfully, the ART of writing has nothing to do with numbers.

But, alas, the ironic truth is that beyond the ART, this writing gig is inundated with numbers. Take social media, for instance. Likes, followers, friends and fans are tallied up like calories. How many people are on your email mailing list? How many hits did you get on your latest blog post? What are your stats like for your website? How many reviews do you have on amazon? What's your book's rank? 

Argh! Even reader opinions are numbered! Gathering reviews is one thing but what's the average number of stars? 

So much of what we do as writers comes down to a numbers game. 

I suppose it's a good thing to a degree. I just finished gathering up all my files from 2014 in preparation for doing my income tax. My income on book sales and royalties was a number I was pleased with. Unfortunately, I spent some money foolishly on advertising which didn't exactly pay for itself, so I ended up with a deficit. Live and learn.

In the mean time I'm trying to reach 300 on my blog followers list. if you haven;t already, click the follow button on the sidebar! Thanks!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Resurrect Your Resolutions

The end of January is in sight. The 'newness ' of the new year has passed. Unfortunately for some, this also means the death of their new year's resolutions.

I'm here to tell you this doesn't have to be so! It's time to resurrect those resolutions.

Three common reasons people give up on their goals:

1. Goals are too vague. The more specific the goal the better.
2. No way to measure the goal. You need to be able to see progress if you are going to have the will to continue.
3. Unrealistic. I know it's good to set your sights high, but TOO high (a.k.a. unrealistic) is a set up for failure. Starting small and celebrating each step along the way is a much better way to go. Zechariah 4:10 says: Do not despise the day of small beginnings...

Don't give up! Philippians 3:12: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Time Management Tips

This is a continuation of my discussion of a very worthwhile book I've been reading called HOW TO MAKE A LIVING AS A WRITER by James Scott Bell. On Tuesday I gave a general overview of the book and listed Bell's 'Eight Essentials of a Writing Business'.

Today I would like to outline Bell's "20 Time Management Tips"

1. Plan your week in advance 
2. Prioritize your tasks
3. Take advantage of your 'best hour'
4. Do one thing at a time
5. Take breaks (50 minutes of work/ 10 minute break)
6. Take a 'rest day' once a week
7. Use Google Reader to go through material quickly
8. Schedule time for social media
9. Take power naps
10. Frequently ask yourself, "What is the best use of my time?"
11. Make TV your slave, not the other way around (PVR etc.)
12. Reward yourself when you reach a significant milestone
13. Eat a light lunch and drink plenty of water
14. Learn to skim books
15. Always have something to read handy during 'waiting' times
16. Master 80/20 thinking (identify the 20% that gives the 80% return)
17. Delegate if you can
18. Deal with correspondence once - immediately if possible
19. Use 'off' times productively
20. Live for a higher purpose

What a great list! Do any of these resonate with you? 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Writing For a Living

Can the average Joe (or Jane) really make a living as a writer? I've been reading some interesting books on the topic lately. Although I'm not about to quit teaching at the moment, I found some thought provoking ideas in HOW TO MAKE A LIVING AS A WRITER by James Scott Bell that I think are actually quite 'doable'.

Over and over again, Bell stresses the fact that writing is hard work. It is NOT a get rich quick scheme, and is not a guaranteed source of fame and fortune. However, he believes one can actually make a living as long as your writing is of high quality. In fact, this is the caveat throughout. Quality writing is the only way to sustain a career as a writer. People aren't going to buy the next book and the next if the first one stinks. Of course, he talks at length about critique groups, beta readers, professional editing and cover design, as well as becoming a student of your craft. Keep learning and growing.

Beyond the QUALITY aspect, he focuses a lot on the business of writing. If you are going to make a living you have to treat it as a business. Intrinsic to this is time management (which he goes into at length), setting goals that are measurable and action oriented, and creating a marketing plan.
Here is a brief overview of Bell's 'Eight Essentials of a Writing Business'

1. Entertain your readers first 
2. Develop multiple streams of writing income
3. Make a business plan
4. Define your unique selling proposition
5. Know how to handle finances
6. Be action oriented:
     - have a daily word count/ writing quota
     - limit social networking time (schedule it in) 
     - schedule in 'creativity' time to recharge
     - study your craft
7. Quality control! 
     - get feedback
     - hire professional editing
8. Have more than one project on the go

There is so much good information in this book that I highly recommend it to all authors, even if you aren't planning to write full time.

Friday, January 16, 2015

COLONY ZERO Series II - Duplicity

Colony Zero is still going strong! Book Two has been coming to you in instalments for a couple of months now, and I am thrilled to announce that my contribution, DUPLICITY - has just released. See what's happened to Renata and the rest of the colonists after the natural disaster that almost wiped out the planet.

Two years after a terrible natural disaster, the residents of Colony Zero are still reeling from the horrific death toll, injuries, and lack of supplies. Spiritual leader Renata has had to put personal difficulties aside while trying to maintain calm among the remaining colonists. She finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Lt. Matschke, an idealist young officer who has arrived with the Relocation Ministry convoy that has returned with its own agenda and has offered a partial solution. But before the compromise can be carried out, another insidious force from the past rises up to jeopardize all that they have worked for.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Day of Small Beginnings

Zechariah 4:10 - "Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin."

This verse has been an encouragement to me over the years, especially in terms of my writing life. I remember wondering - no lamenting - about my desire to write and to some day see something in print. Now that that day has come, I've moved on to wishing I had a broader audience; more sales; more time to focus on my writing... Like so many aspects of life, one never actually arrives.

Fortunately, I also recognize that it's less about arriving and more about the journey. Never look at the 'day of small beginnings' with discouragement or contempt. We all have to start somewhere. if we let the Almighty take charge, we know that the end goal in in good hands.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, and Try Try Again

By now many people may be feeling discouraged because they haven't been able to keep their new year's resolutions. Part of the problem may be that the goals were unrealistic to begin with. Here are a couple of ideas to help you succeed - even if you have already given up on those January 1 goals.

1. Be specific. Be measurable. When setting any kind of goal, keep in mind that the more specific it is, the more likely you will be to succeed. As well, your goals need to be measurable. For instance, to say, "I plan to lose weight,'" is a set up for failure. Instead, try something like, "I plan to lose five pounds in five weeks."

2. Plan to fail. That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it is unrealistic to think you won't slip. Just because you mess up once doesn't mean you should abandon the whole idea. When it happens (and it will) don't get discouraged. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself, and start again.

3. Celebrate your success. Sometimes people feel like they aren't making progress. Take the time to celebrate the small successes. Each small step forward is worth something. Next time you feel discouraged, take a moment to think about the things you HAVE accomplished. Write them down, if you must. You will be motivated to continue once you see that progress has been made.