Tag Archives: indie publishing

My Writing Process

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Yesterday’s post got me thinking about the value of indie authors being transparent about the diversity of their experiences and how seeing that every writer life is different can help us alleviate so much stress, envy, and anxiety from the creative process.

I don’t post about my personal experience as a writer because I think it should be the blueprint for all other indies. I try to be transparent about the ups and downs of my own writer life in order to show that I’m still just trying to figure things out and that I can still be “trying to figure things out” while also making good money from writing, which is proof that there is no perfect formula for self-publishing success.

This is good news. This means that despite what advice is floating around online, despite what other indies are doing (including me) there is no right way to do this writing thing. There is only your way, and as long as your way honors your beliefs and values and safeguards your health and well being, then your way is the best way. Keep doing it.

I think after reading about my own writing process, you’ll also begin to see that sometimes the best way actually means no way and that’s still okay too.

My writing process looks different during the school year than it does in the summer and for the purpose of full transparency, last year while I was teaching there were many months when it was pretty much nonexistent (hence why I’m still working on a novel that was supposed to come out in April).

Summer 2017:

7:00 AM–> Wake up *hey, I’m sleeping in a little*
*check KDP & Draft2Digital to calculate revenue for the past 24 hours and make sure nothing catastrophic has happened that will drastically change my projections for that month
*I’ve also been checking Tapas, which so far has not turned out to be as lucrative as I thought it would be *make a note to revisit Wattpad presence*
*Check email
*I should also be honest and say that I’m also simultaneously scrolling through Twitter while doing most of these other things

8:30 AM–> Writing time OR working out (it depends what time my Pure Barre class is that day *yes, I’ve joined the cult*)
*Right now, writing for me is writing this blog post but sometimes it means re-reading what I wrote the day before, making a few notes, and then getting back to work

12:00 PM –> Lunch, which is usually guacamole
*I’m lucky if I can hold my creative focus for this long. Sometimes I’ll write straight through, which usually leaves me with a HUGE writer hangover the next day, which I must recover from with the help of even more guacamole and a bunch of mindless shit on Bravo. But usually the three and a half hours between the beginning of my writing time and lunch are a combination of writing sprints and more Twitter checking

1:00 PM –> Writing Time Part II
*I try to grind out as many words as I can before my boyfriend gets home so I’m not glued to the computer screen while he’s trying to tell me about his day (sometimes this works but sometimes I’m nearing the end of a project–like now–and it’s more difficult to wrap things up, especially if I’ve finally found a bit of momentum)
*If my brain starts getting tired I’ll switch to blogging or reading (either my library books or blog posts/articles online). I’ve also started listening to podcasts a lot more lately

3:00 PM –> Try to relax *emphasis on TRY*

*Evenings* –> These are constantly changing…
*If my boyfriend wants to spend a couple of hours working on music before dinner I’ll try to get some more writing done
*If he’s doing live sound that night I’ll definitely make myself get some more writing done (I’ve felt guilty this summer taking writing breaks while he’s at work all day)
*If he’s exhausted from work I let myself be too and we watch TV until it’s time to go to bed, which for me is embarrassingly early *usually, 9 PM*

The next day…
*Sometimes I can get up and do it all again
*Sometimes I can’t
*When I was really in the meat of my novel this summer I found myself only able to write new material every other day and the days in between my brain only had enough energy for revisions. Sometimes I needed a break from both but anxiety over my looming deadline would force me to at least have the laptop open and my MS pulled up while I picked at it like a zombie

School Year 16/17:

August-October–> I was waking up every morning at 5:30 AM to spend a few hours working on The Daughter of the Night. It was miserable and I probably won’t ever do it again

November-December–> I hardly wrote at all and took a much needed break after all those early mornings and then people didn’t even like it and it really sucked and made me sad…

January-March–> Tried to write on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes that meant writing on Saturdays and revising on Sundays. Sometimes that meant writing on one of those days and sleeping on the other

April-May–> Pushed back my deadline to June; continued my weekend routine

June–> Pushed back my deadline to July; continued my weekend routine until school let out. Gave myself a week to recharge and then began my summer routine

July–> Even with my new summer routine of writing almost every day I still had to push my deadline back ONCE AGAIN to August

13 days in…and I’m praying I won’t have to push it back to September.

As you can see, I sort of need structure but I also need the flexibility to be kind to myself. What isn’t as visible from my descriptions above is how often I’ve actually been letting myself take breaks. Sometimes that means taking a 2-hour lunch in front of the TV before getting back to writing and sometimes that means doing no writing at all. It just depends on what my brain and body are telling me, which I think I’ve gotten much better at interpreting through the course of writing this novel.

What’s wrong with this way of doing things? Well, the novel still isn’t finished yet and it’s the only one I plan on putting out this year, mostly because I can’t produce anything at a faster rate. But because I know that about myself it’s not a huge disappointment. This means that instead of beating myself up every time I need to take a break I can just take a freaking break. After almost 8 novels I’m no longer trying to prove to myself that I can finish. I’m no longer trying to prove anything to anyone at all, except maybe to you. That YOU can come up with a routine that works for YOU and still achieve success. And the best part? It doesn’t have to be grueling. It can be kind. You can be kind to yourself and still reach the finish line, possibly more refreshed and more in love with writing than when you started.

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Long-term

dan-carlson-141263I’ve been pretty committed to my resolution to stay in my lane. When I first started this indie journey I was a sponge, absorbing every blog, tweet, and news article related to self-publishing and not just the useful bits of information but the toxic jealousy inducing stuff too. It wasn’t long before this started to get in the way of my writing.

First it just felt impossible to start and then in the midst of writing it would be harder to keep going. I was doubting myself at every turn and eventually I had to stop. I had to stop watching what other people were doing, I had to stop comparing my sales to theirs, I had to stop thinking that I was supposed to be anyone other than myself.

Today, I only check-in with a few of my favorite indie authors and bloggers like Joanna Penn, J.A. Konrath, Nick Stephenson, and Lindsey Buroker. Not only do they provide excellent resources for other indie authors but they also offer an excellent perspective on indie publishing as a whole, which seems to be formulated around the idea that there is more than enough room for everyone. I share in this belief, which is why I only try to expose myself to likeminded creatives online.

This summer (my first since becoming a teacher), as I’ve been slugging through the emotional fatigue of finishing my 8th novel, I’ve had a lot more “free” time (i.e. brain breaks between writing/revisions) and have found myself dipping my toe back into the online indie world mostly out of curiosity but also out of my desire to stay semi-plugged in to the changes that are happening in self-publishing. What I’ve discovered is that not only are there more ways to reach success as an indie author these days there are also a lot more definitions of what that success actually looks like.

I used to think the only goal for an author was to be able to write full time. Turns out, plenty of people have day jobs they love and enjoy writing on the side for a little extra income. Speaking of income, I used to think that an author had to be making at least as much as that day job in order to make the transition. In actuality, people are leaving their jobs for a lot more and a lot less in order to pursue their dreams. For some writers, a couple thousand dollars a month is plenty. For others they won’t be satisfied until they reach six figures. For some authors freedom means having the time and flexibility to write 10 books a year and for others it means being able to squeeze in writing time between a full-time job and a family without having to worry about their creativity being the sole means of paying the bills.

Everyone’s writer life is different.

We work and reach milestones at a different pace and the milestones we reach are totally unique to our needs and goals. And that’s okay.

Listening to other writer’s stories over the past few months has gotten me thinking about my own goals–not the short-term yearly goals that I discussed in this post (speaking of which, I’ve got 2 down, 1 to go, 2 to be postponed until 2018)–but my vision. What do I want life to look like in the future? How am I building something for the long-term?

At first this vision was contaminated by all of the things I’d been reading and listening to from other indies. I have to be making six figures, become a public speaker, teach self-publishing workshops, create a podcast, become Instagram famous, become friends with all of the big name indies on Twitter, buy a huge mansion, and eventually become a multi-millionaire.

And how was I going to get there? Don’t worry, other authors online had plenty of advice for that too. From what I gathered…

I need to write 5-15 books a year, I need to pump up my mailing list to 10K, I need to blog 2-3 times a week, I need to find an agent and become a hybrid author, I need to wake up every morning at 5AM to write before work and then I need to forgo personal time and stay up writing until 1AM, I need to buy FB ads and Amazon ads and BookBub ads, and I need…I need…I need…

What I needed to do was stop focusing on what others are doing and stay in my lane. Not only because most of those things are not humanly possible for me (who writes 15 quality books a year?) but also because they have absolutely nothing to do with my vision.

Which is, very simply, to make enough money not to worry about having a bad writing day.

Over the past four years I’ve learned so much about the importance of my mental health and now all of my writing goals–short-term and long-term–revolve around taking care of me first. So even though I still get a twinge of envy when I see other authors who aren’t so crippled by their own anxiety that they can quit their day jobs after making only twenty thousand…thirty thousand a year from writing, I know that my path requires patience for a reason. That reason being my mind and my body’s inability to deal with the pressure of putting all of my eggs in one basket. So even though some people might think I’m crazy for pursuing a totally different career and sticking with it despite the fact that I’m on track to make almost fifty thousand dollars this year…I just don’t think I’m in a place yet where I can take the plunge.

And, like I said before, that’s okay. Because I’m not thinking about the fifteen books I could write next year if I’d just quit my day job. I’m thinking about the books I’ll be writing over the next fifteen years that will be so much stronger thanks to the fact that I’m not constantly worried about whether or not they’ll make me money.

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Seeking CPs!

It took me years to find a core group of critique partners who I felt like I could really trust. It’s the closest experience I’ve ever had to online dating and the thought of having to relive all of those awkward introductions and “first dates” has led to me putting off finding new CPs altogether.

In the past few years most of my CPs have either gotten agents or the all elusive book deal, meaning they don’t have time to read for me anymore. Others have decided to take a break from writing and some even switched careers. And when it comes to the few CPs I can still rely on, I feel so guilty asking them to read something new from me every 6 months, which means that it’s probably time for me to meet some new people.

It feels like I’ve been out of the self-publishing world for a while, even though it was just last October that I published the last book in my paranormal romance series. Still, it’s been a long time since I was in a routine and drafting one manuscript while revising another. I miss that routine and I’m hopeful that the summer break will help me find my way back. And now that I know what to expect once the new school year starts, I can do a better job of avoiding burnout and staying committed to my creative practice.

Obviously, the title of this post says it all. I’m in the market for new critique partners and I’m open to other indies, traditionally published authors, or any advice on where I might find quality CPs.

A little about me, in case you just stumbled upon this blog by accident–>

*At this point in my self-publishing career my books have been downloaded over half a million times and I have a loyal readership that’s almost 4,000 strong.

*I tend to genre hop and write everything from historical fiction, to contemporary young adult, to paranormal romance.

When it comes to a critique partner, I’m not necessarily looking for someone with similar sales numbers. I remember what it was like to only sell a couple copies of my books a month and how hard it was to make connections with other writers who were more successful. Because of that, my main goal is to connect with CPs whose writing skills are equal to or better than my own. In other words, I want to connect with people who I can learn from and who will push me to become a better writer. Not only will I try to offer that as well but I will also be excited to introduce my CPs to my readers and hopefully grow their audience in the process.

There are excerpts of my novels all over this blog and the first book in my paranormal romance series is perma-free for those wanting to check out my writing quality and style. FYI, I’m currently working on a contemporary YA romance that I would love to get feedback on in June. If you think we’d be a good fit, feel free to email me at lzkbooks@gmail.com or on twitter @laekanzeakemp.

Let me know what genres you write in, what you’re currently working on, what you’re looking for in a critique partner, and what you think you can offer as a CP. A short writing sample will also be helpful, whether that’s personal writing on a blog or an excerpt from a novel. If I think we’d be a good match I’ll definitely be in touch! If you don’t hear from me, it will either be due to differences in quality/style or because I’ve already found what I’m looking for.

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WIP Wednesday

It’s August, which means that I am teetering on the edge of panic mode, which means that I will be traveling at lightning speed for the next…sixteen weeks. In two months I will be publishing my first novel in exactly one year and even though I’ve already accomplished so much in the past twelve months, suddenly it feels like there is still so much left to do.

Book 1 is OFFICIALLY DONE! YES! FINALLY! It has been copy edited and now all that’s left to do is format this baby, approve the final covert art, and hit publish! EEK! EEK again! That’s actually feigned excitement because the truth is, at this point I am completely numb. I’ve already written almost 400,000 words in this series and even though I know I’ll be nervous once I actually send the first book to reviewers, I also have this euphoric defiance about the whole thing and am too exhausted to care whether people hate it or not. But I’m sure this feeling is only temporary and as soon as the first reviews roll in I’ll either be crying with joy and relief or crying in absolute horror.

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The final read-through for book 2 feels like it has literally taken MONTHS and…I’m still not quite done. In fact, I’m only about half way, which is a sure sign that this past month I accidentally fell into some kind of wormhole where time works in reverse. But since August is all about reaching maximum speed and defying the laws of physics I will, I REPEAT, I WILL get this read-through finished by the end of next week and then it will be off for it’s final copy edit.

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I’ve had to push back edits for book 3 several times over the past two months but hopefully I’ll get notes back from my beta reader soon and I can get to work on the next draft. If all goes well I should have the fourth draft done by September and the fifth draft done by October, which means a late fall release date is still possible!

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As for the last book in the series, I’ve finally broken the 50K mark. Progress is still moving slow but the entire month of August will be devoted to getting this first (practically second) draft in good shape. I know what I want the finale to look and feel like but translating that is harder than I anticipated. But I can’t slack off on this one because I know once the first book is out in the world it will be way too easy to get distracted by sales (or lack-there-of) and reviews and book tours and everything else that goes along with publishing a novel. So this is it. I have to figure out a way to make it happen and I have to do it now before anyone else’s opinions can get in the way.

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Speaking of other people’s opinions, writing isn’t the only thing on my agenda this month. Now that I’m steadily approaching the publication date of my next novel there is so much to do! First things first, I’ve got to finalize the blurbs for the first two books, then I have to finalize the cover art, then I have to format the first two books for all the major online retailers, then I have to send out hundreds and hundreds of emails to bloggers begging them to read my book, followed by hours and days and, possibly, weeks of agonizing over their responses, and then I have to get promo and prizes ready for giveaways and interviews and teasers. And oh my gosh I totally forgot about teasers! This will mean one more quick skim of my favorite chapters before plucking out a few gems that have to be powerful enough to make people want to keep reading. And on top of all of that I have to stay focused on finishing the third book in the series as well as getting the fourth to a semi-okay place. And I have to do all of it blindfolded while juggling chainsaws!!!! Just kidding, but you get the idea. Basically what I’m trying to say is that August is make or break for me and I hope, with everything in me, that it’s the former.

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Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs

I know I spent the majority of July blogging about the harsh reality of being an indie author but after exposing you to the awful truth, I thought I’d expose you  to another truth, this one sweeter and, believe or not, just as possible. I haven’t sold enough books to make writing my full-time gig just yet. In fact, on top of writing every day I also work sixty hours a week between my two jobs. It’s exhausting and I long for the day when I can give it all up and just live in my yoga pants in front of my laptop. But even though that might sound like a pipe dream coming from someone who has sold less than a hundred books in the past two years, the truth is it’s not. The truth is being a successful mid-list writer isn’t just attainable, but if I continue to put out quality books and build my readership one person at a time, it’s actually inevitable.

If you’re a follower of The Passive Voice then you’re probably already aware of their popular post, Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs. It’s pretty infamous among aspiring and experienced writers alike because it’s a running list of indie writers who have had the pleasure of leaving the drudgery of nine to five behind. More than 500 comments have accumulated just in the past couple of months from indie authors who not only make a living wage from their writing but from writers who were able to pay off their mortgage, or bless their spouse with an early retirement, or build their dream home, or get out of debt all because they took a risk. Because they had the guts to publish their work on their own. Because they had the guts to believe in themselves.

I know I’ve often warned those new to self-publishing not to let their expectations get out of control or to craft a dream that relies more on luck than hard work but I also don’t want any of us to stop hoping. Because this is what can happen when we hope. When we believe in something so strongly that we’re willing to risk everything in order to make it happen. Not all of these indie authors are mega-rich. In fact, most of them don’t make much more than what’s required to pay their bills. But whether they’re selling thousands of copies a month or just a few hundred, these authors are still living the dream. Because they’re writing every day and no one is telling them what they should write about or how or when or to hurry or slow down or change this or change that. They are in control of their words and because they’ve stayed so true to them, they are in control of their lives.

Creative and financial freedom can go hand in hand, all it takes is a lot of drive and a lot of patience. For some of these authors it took years to build their readership, their backlists in the double digits before they finally started generating steady sales. For others it took even longer. But they kept going, hoping for success but never wishing for it. And then it happened. It can happen for us too. If we just keep writing, every single day, it can happen for us too.

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