Tag Archives: writing

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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Taking Control

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Jon Tyson

For the past five years that I’ve ben self-publishing I have paid for zero marketing. I’ve paid for cover art and copy editing and that’s it. Everything amazing that’s happened to me and my books has been because of word of mouth. Sure, in the beginning of my career I spent hours planning a few blog tours for some of my earlier contemporary novels and the first book in my paranormal series. But at most I’d get about twenty reviews and never did those appearances translate into significant sales. For almost two years I’ve mostly just sat back in awe at how far my stories have travelled, watching silently while people talk about and share my books online.

But after two years of having to do absolutely nothing in order to generate sales (except write more books, of course) everything sort of fell off a cliff in January. According to other indies, the immediate drop-off in sales happened sooner–around November–when the world was in a state of panic, unable to concentrate on work, let alone reading for pleasure. There was too much to worry about. There still is. But at least the fear of falling into a “Handmaid’s Tale-like” dystopia has loosened its grip on the majority of us just enough for us to actually function. Not that it can’t happen, but even in the midst of resisting the rule of tyranny we also need to eat, and pay the mortgage, and do all of the other things necessary for survival, which means we need to make money, which means we need to work.

But how do you survive in a society on the precipice of total ruin when the product you sell is (for most people) not considered one of those essential elements of survival? Writers know the essential value of stories, but art, as well as the appreciation of art, is so incredibly subjective. This means that when the shit hits the fan no one is going to be concerned with reading more books. They’re just not.

But…we’re not totally there yet and there’s still hope that I can eke out a living a little while longer. But how? How, when people aren’t reading as voraciously as they used to? How, when people only have enough leftover energy to consume the news? How, when that news is so depressing that it makes “frivolous” activities like experiencing or creating art seem even more futile?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I can do is write more books–books about human beings who are learning how to cast out their demons and approach others with compassion–and take more control over how exactly my books find readers. Part of this means being willing to finally spend a little money on marketing, which I conceded to when applying for my first BookBub ad. I’m still monitoring the results, which I’ll be sharing on the blog in the coming days. But at the same time, there are still so many factors out of my control. And it’s scary. Not just as an artist but as a teacher and a daughter and a friend and a human being. But maybe I’ve been afraid of what’s next only because I’ve felt helpless to stop it. Maybe it’s time to stop being helpless.

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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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Disappointment

Every writer you know who has been shelving manuscript after manuscript; every writer you know who frantically checks their sales page every half hour; every writer you know who spends more time staring down a blank page than actually writing; every writer you know who is too afraid to even call themselves that isn’t actually afraid of not finishing. But of not being good enough. The fear of failure has crippled us all, and if we’re lucky we experience a little bit of success–enough to quell those fears for a while. But what no one tells you is that success fixes nothing. Because once you have a little bit of success, that fear of failure is quickly replaced by something else. The fear of being a disappointment.

While finishing TDOTN, every time I felt blocked, the words barely trickling out, I had the luxury of reminding myself that I had finished 6 other novels. I could finish this one too. I would. Success had leveled some of my doubt but it wasn’t the fear of running out of words that kept stopping me in my tracks. It was the fear of finishing, of coming to the end of the series, and it not being good enough. Not good enough for readers. Not good enough for the characters and the world I’d spent 5 years building.

I spent 2 years working on this novel–rewriting, revising, building it piece by piece and tearing it back down again. I came to a point when I realized that it would never be perfect–a moment of revelation I have with every novel–and that if I didn’t set some kind of deadline I would never be able to move on. I needed to move on. So that’s what I did. I set a deadline. I finished the novel. I published it. And then my worst fears came true. People were disappointed.

This blog post isn’t about me trying to explain the lesson in all of this. It’s still too fresh for me to find the value. I understand the mistakes I made and how I let down my readers who pre-ordered the novel by delivering a faulty file. I also understand how great of a risk it was to trust that Amazon would value its KDP authors enough to fix the mistakes they made as well. But I’m not talking about the disappointment surrounding how the book was delivered to customers. I’m talking about the disappointment people felt about the story. The story. My world. My characters. My ending. Right now…it’s way too painful to understand the lesson in all of that. But I will. One day soon I will wake up and not be so afraid to start again.

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The Indie Graveyard

When I first started blogging I followed every indie author I could find; every writer, poet, and book reviewer. I was a sponge, reading every blog post and soaking in every bit of information on building an author platform, formatting e-books, and contacting reviewers. For a while I was sucked into this black hole of anti-productivity surrounded by a bunch of people who seemed to write about writing more than actually…well, writing. It’s that way for a lot of us in the beginning. We blog constantly about our dreams not realizing that what we’re doing is actually counterproductive to reaching our end goal–being an author. We make the excuse that we’re learning from our peers but really all we’re doing is spending hours scouring their blogs and secretly comparing ourselves to them. And comparison is more than counter-productive, it’s toxic. So I retreated, avoiding my feeder, Facebook, and twitter and I finished two novels.

Since then I’ve realized that social media must be kept at an arm’s length and that the only connections worth having online are real ones. While planning my upcoming revisions I started reaching out to critique partners I hadn’t spoken to in almost an entire year, some even longer, and found that many of them were at a standstill with their own projects…or that they had given up writing altogether during the past twelve months that we hadn’t spoken. I found the same thing as I started weeding through all of the blogs I used to follow in an effort to make my return to the blogging/writing community more manageable.Blog after blog had either been deleted or frozen in time and people whose journeys I used to admire had disappeared. After removing all of the inactive blogs I whittled my list down from almost 2,000 to just 200. The majority of the deleted blogs were former indie authors, people whose websites were a formal and defiant declaration of their dreams. And now they’re just gone.

The internet isn’t just a place for us writers to declare our dreams, it can also be a graveyard for them. If we let it. Blogs and social media can be dangerous if we use them for the wrong reasons, especially if blogging and maintaining an online presence become more important than our actual writing. But blogs can also be powerful tools for holding ourselves accountable. That’s what I’m looking for as I return to the blogging community. Not a place to compare word counts and sales numbers but a place to connect with other writers who are in this for the long haul.

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