Welcome to an entire month of Top 5 Tips for Authors!
Every day this month my friends and I will bring you a new set of Top 5 Tips to help you along on your author journey. 2017 was a year of change in the Indie author world for sure. So many happenings. So many new things to learn. So many old things that didn’t quite do what you’d hoped. Well, every day is a new day. And every year is a new year. So we hope that this month’s worth of tips will get you the kick start you need to make 2018 your best yet and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
Next up on the blog is my friend Blair Babylon. Blair is an award-winning, USA Today-bestselling author who used to publish literary fiction. Because professional reviews of her other fiction usually included the caveat that there was too much deviant sex and too much interesting plot, she decided to abandon all literary pretensions, let her freak flag fly, and write hot, sexy, suspenseful romance.
DON’T FORGET TO ENTER BLAIR’S GIVEAWAY ON HER BLOG HERE!
BE PRODUCTIVE DAILY
Merry Christmas if you celebrate, and Happy-Day-Off-For-No-Reason if you don’t! Julie asked me to write about being productive daily on this day, of all days, so here I go.
1 Pick a schedule and stick to it.
Stephan King says that he writes about 2000 words a day, and that he writes every day except his birthday and Christmas Day. He says that, if you stop writing on a work for even a day, your ardor for it begins to cool, and this is “the smooch of death.”
I completely believe this, except that I write on my birthday and Christmas, too, if I’m in the middle of a project. I edit what I wrote the day before, and then I write 1000-5000 new words, net.
Other very prolific writers whom I know do take weekends off, but they work hard on Monday through Friday. Some people need that psychic break for a few days every week, BUT:
2 If you need to break your schedule, do something.
I admit, there are days when I cannot. I just cannot.
Sometimes, I cannot because I’m releasing a book and have release-week stuff to do. Sometimes I have other promo things to do, like writing these four blog posts. (Actually, I finished a rough draft this morning with a net of 1800 words.) Sometimes my kid needs a lot of help. Sometimes, I get sick. Sometimes the Universe conspires against me.
But on those days, I keep my head in the game. At the very least, I read over the last 1 or 2 scenes that I wrote. I put in a comma. I take out a comma. I add a bit of description. I punch up a joke.
Keep your head in the game.
3 Don’t die.
Indie publishing is competitive as Hell. Amazon’s and other algos are vicious if you don’t produce. There’s the 10-day cliff, the 30-day cliff, and the 90-day cliff. You can write until you are strung out and your skin has ingrown into the fabric of your couch and still not keep up with all the algos.
But you need to not die.
When you die, your production goes way, way down.
Sitting on your butt for more than an hour is the physical equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes.
Every damn day, take a walk (maybe with the dog), play some golf, catch some Pokemon, go for a run or a swim, lift some weights, take a class, go to the gym, or jump over some stuff.
I know, you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, but I have a pre-order deadline.”
And then you realize that it’s been a month since you left your house, wore something other than pajamas, showered, or ate something that didn’t come in a cellophane bag.
Dude, I was at a writers’ retreat last year, and we were discussing how much weight we’d all gained since we started publishing (hint: it was all double-digits, high double-digits,) and how many autoimmune diseases we all had (a lot). We discussed other authors who had dropped out of sight, and how we hoped they weren’t dead. We discussed how many pharmaceuticals we were on and how coffee drinking should be an Olympic sport because we could all medal in it.
And then we realized that something had to change, because we were all going to die.
Eat good things, like plants. Since then, I’ve managed to take about half of my indie-twenty weight off. I do best on a very low-fat, mostly vegetarian diet. Some other people in that group have found that a ketogenic diet really helps them.
Move your butt. Some people have joined gyms or gotten trainers. I play Pokemon Go or golf every day, weather permitting. I’m going to start obstacle course training next month, like American Ninja Warror, as the weather cools off here in the Northeastern US. (LOL, yeah. Imma gonna die.) I also have a homemade treadmill desk.
And none of us have died.
4 Fill the well.
So, while drafting, I write every day.
But when I finish a book, I take a break before I start a new project.
Might be a week. Might be a couple of weeks.
I get some extra exercise in. I cook a lot of stuff and try to freeze some. I clean the house well. I pay some extra attention to the family.
And I read.
I read several books, in my genre, out of my genre, and in research for the next book. I read biography, autobiography, and poetry. I read books on writing and reread some of the best passages in old ones. I buy a new album or two. I watch some films. I go out with friends. I talk to other people. I sit in coffee shops and eavesdrop. (Oh, come on. You do it, too.) I listen to podcasts.
I do things. I suck stuff in so that I can write it out.
I will never again read a book about a writer (or an “English professor”) writing a book and writing and writing the book. It’s not post-modern and meta. It’s boring. It’s the sure sign that someone needs to get out of the damn house.
5 Respect your instrument.
A lot of writers, including myself, have a problem with a spell of depression at the end of finishing a project. It’s so common that it’s almost universal.
When you think about it, writing a book is like:
We dive into another person’s head and heart, and fall in love with them,
live with them through the very worst days of their life and how they finally triumph,
and then they break up with us and we never see them again.
Yeah. Sometimes, the insides of our heads are scary places.
So you have to respect your instrument. Your instrument is your soul, or your spirit, your pack of neurons, or whatever you want to call it.
Allow yourself to let the previous project go, fill the well (see above,) and just keep walking until you get through it.
If you’re going through a rough patch in your life, if external events are happening to you, respect that your instrument may not be capable of playing the music want. Sometimes, you have to play some spooky Theremin music and hack some characters to death with a hatchet. Surely they won’t look like anyone specific.