Posts tagged Writing
Digging Out of Distraction: The Chunk Schedule Solution

I’m a hybrid author who is transitioning to a full independent published career. I like the control I have over my time as well as ascertaining if my marketing efforts are generating results. However, the more I move into indie publishing, the more I have to do to get my books into people e-readers.

And there is a lot of competition for those readers. Reaching them takes time, money, and creative skills. So, in addition to writing, revising, and publishing my novels, I also have to create ads, connect with readers on social media, maintain a newsletter for my followers, and keep track of all the expenses, results, non-results… the list is endless. Plus, I am also a freelance content editor which means generating contracts, editing my clients’ work, coordinating payments to my co-editor and keep track of all the information and finances. Layer in two critique partners who need my eagle eye in exchange for their input and I’ve got a lot on my to-do list.

Too much. I’ve been attempting to find a way to schedule it all in all the time. End result? Didn’t work for me and my focus scattered. If I am marketing, concentrating on my writing goes to hell. Period. And if I’m editing someone’s work, my own work takes a hit. Some of this stuff has to happen when it occurs: client contacts us and we have to respond with a yes/no, here’s the contract, etc.

During the summer, I discovered something about my work style: I do better if I can focus on the task at hand 100%. Around the same time, New York Times Bestselling author, Skye Warren, shared her four hour day workday method. Four hours of dedicated time in the chair writing or marketing or whatever task you need to do for your business until you complete the task. You can read more about her methods by subscribing to her newsletter. I do and it’s a great resource.

Rather than work four hours in a row, I sometimes tell myself 4 hours in the chair and you’re done. I workout in the mornings, then I come home and put my time in for whatever I am focusing on. I also put the bulk of all my efforts into the project while devoting less time after I’ve completed my task to other activities such as checking emails, popping into my social media sites, or checking sales figures.

The writing does come first. Repeat after me: books sell more books. That’s the number one marketing tool I have in my arsenal. Everything else is next. So how does my Chunk Schedule work?

Let’s take a look at my recent month of writing and work. I had a first draft to wrap up and send to my critique partners, Carmen Falcone and Pam Mantovani. My four hour day was devoted to completing that task. Period. Once I sent the manuscript to my CPs, I used my four hour day to develop AMS ads and experiment with them to see if I could reach readers. I spent about two or three days handling that only, then I devoted all my four hour days to revising another story which I sent off last week.

Now my four hour day is dedicated to catching up on all my marketing, social media, and composing my blogs. Once those tasks are completed, I will begin pre-planning the second novel in my brand new series. This includes character development, story/plot points mapped out, writing back cover copy and setting up my beat sheet. All of these tasks are very portable as I have the resources online and ebook versions of my print craft books on my reading apps. This will begin while I’m traveling to see my daughter.

By telling myself it’s okay to put all my energy into blogging now, I am liberating myself from twin monsters: guilt and pressure. That’s a win-win for me!

I’ve liberated myself from the twin monsters guilt and pressure by scheduling my work and writing life in manageable chunks.

I’ve liberated myself from the twin monsters guilt and pressure by scheduling my work and writing life in manageable chunks.

I keep a calendar at home along with an Erin Condren vertical planner that doesn’t have stickers, but is filled with my project deadlines and more. This is my traveling schedule. I use it for everything. Seeing on paper is more immediate and keeps me on task. This doesn’t mean things don’t slide to the following week, but I tend to accomplish most of what I intend to do.

I really like this way of working and writing. You can adjust this type of schedule easily based on whether you have a dreaded day job or little ones to take care of or BOTH.

Plus, in all of this is a thing called having a life. All work and writing and stressing about marketing makes for an extremely dull life. I have a full one with friends, family, travel, dining out, reading, going to movies, binge watching Hallmark Channel movies and more. I don’t want to live in a box. How can I write about people who are real and 3 dimensional if I don’t get out and play? I need social interactions, quality ones, and time to regenerate my creative soul.

I finally feel like I have a handle on how to organize my schedule in a manageable and realistic way. If you’re feeling stressed out by trying to do it all, maybe my chunk schedule solution is something that’ll liberate you too.

Happy Writing and keep Digging Out of Distraction!

Digging Out of Distraction: Quality Over Quantity

The Physicist & I have been participating in a program called Naturally Slim. Frankly, this is the first time I've been completely happy with a lifestyle change because it's not about counting points, carbs, or calories. It's about learning how to eat like a True Thin and how to live a fit and full life. This has been revolutionizing the way we think about ourselves and our future. We're not just losing weight, we're gaining valuable insights about ourselves. 

In addition to the Naturally Slim program, I've been involved in a new Life Makeover Journey. Many years ago, I and a few close friends decided to go on the journey together. That journey led to my writing my first novel and now, all these years later, I'm published and continuing to write books, edit, and present workshops to other writers about how to stay focused and in the chair. I figured I had the program locked in place, but a new friend propelled me to revisit the Life Makeover with her. I'm so glad I did. I'd forgotten some of the valuable lessons within the program and I needed a mental and emotional reboot. 

Both programs, along with really good articles I've read in the Romance Writers of America's monthly magazine RWR by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, have reinforced my desire to live a quality life over chasing a life filled with quantity. 

My desire to have a quality life has given me a brand new perspective on the choices I make as an author, a wife, a friend, a mother, and for me. I believe that as I lost the weight I gained and as I rebuilt my fitness, I also discovered my spirit needed a little help. I'd smothered her in a pile of fat and frustration. I'd allowed negative words to creep back into my vocabulary. I started to believe I might be a failure because I didn't excel at marketing my books and I wasn't taking on enough projects and I didn't get everything completed on my to-do lists.

But my best friend gave me a wake-up call in January 2017 that began my transformation physically, emotionally and spiritually. I needed this wake-up call. Then the hard work began both physically and mentally. First, I identified what my spirit didn't need.

Just as my body doesn't need to stuff itself with food to bury her negative emotions, my spirit doesn't have time for pettiness, mean words, or people using her confidences as weapons against her. My spirit doesn't want to be attacked when she can't or won't say yes to other people. My spirit doesn't want negativity in her life. 

My spirit doesn't chase dollars or write twenty books in a year in an effort to remain relevant. My spirit doesn't need to eat food that isn't delicious and special. My spirit craves physical activity. My spirit yearns for quality one  on one time with quality people who edify her and make her stronger. 

In searching for the things that fill my spirit, I've actively been gathering strong and supportive people in my life. I've focused on building the relationships that matter to me. Some I've had for decades, others are new and special too. And in focusing on the positive, I've been given a fabulous new treasure trove of stories to write in my time and in my way and with the support of people who believe in my ability to do so. This brings me so much joy! Now my spirit is full, happy and determined to live a centered, quality life.

Doing something I love in the time I want while nurturing special relationships and bringing others support and encouragement is my passion. My sincere wish is for all the people in my corner of the world to find their passion too.

 

Digging Out of Distraction: Learning to Pivot in Author World

Romancelandia has been very noisy during the last several weeks. Many negative things have happened which have made sitting down to write words difficult. Romance authors have taken a lot of hits, myself included, and I bet most of us are questioning why we're even doing this anymore. I know I have questioned sitting down for hours alone in a room to write stories which, quite frankly, are part of an ocean of romances that are underpriced and many of us are struggling to sell a book for less than a high priced mocha latte. 

The biggest hit to my career was Amazon's sudden announcement that they were closing down Kindle Worlds in July 2018. This came out of nowhere (I had just blogged about how much I loved writing romantic suspense in this world less than a month ago) and the World Author owners along with the many writers who contributed to these worlds are still trying to figure out what to do. I was ready to start working on my third story for Elle James' Brotherhood Protectors' Kindle World, but decided to park until my wonderful leader, Elle, made some decisions about what to do next. We all love the world. We all adore Elle. There is good news on the horizon, but that's a blog post for another day.

I had to pivot away from my stories that I'd planned and refocus my energy in a new direction. What would I work on after I finished my current boxset novella for the Royal & Reckless Boxset? And where did I want to put my energy for the next several years to come if Romancelandia continues to become more difficult to navigate? 

The first thing I did was reevaluate my strengths and what I loved doing the most. I love writing, editing, and encouraging/motivating people. Deep content editing as a Drill Sargeant at Bootcamp Edits along with story coaching gives me the opportunity to encourage and motivate romance novelists to improve their craft and stories. Writing my romances fulfills me and I love creating new worlds with new people. Exploring how two people grow to be the perfect people for each other despite their flaws and developing their journey toward their happily ever afters is something I enjoy despite how much work goes into the process.

Because these stories aren't easy to write. They're hard work. Every book presents a different challenge. The same process goes into developing a well-crafted long romance as into a short romance. The only difference is the number of words required to complete the story. Add to that I have become 100% independently published. I'm all Indie all the way. This means getting my own work to editors, hiring cover artists, formatting, and uploading every book I write myself along with marketing the books prior to and after publishing. I wear a LOT of hats. I say NO to a lot of things because I wear a lot of hats. 

Every cut into my income stream impacts how and when and what I can do for my stories. I also want to deliver quality love stories to my readers. To be honest, I'd love some help with marketing these books because it's not really in my wheelhouse to check algorithms and make perfect Facebook Ads (I don't even try anymore where that's concerned) and doing the marketing stuff kills my creative brain as quick as a person stepping on a bug.

I'm pivoting and dancing along the writing road to my own beat with my own rules. 

I'm pivoting and dancing along the writing road to my own beat with my own rules. 

But I am trying some new things, out of the box things, that might reach readers in a different way. Hopefully, these methods will translate into more sales and more reach via using a strength that is in my wheelhouse: connecting one-on-one with people in real life and via other media outlets. 

However, for now, I have to get back to where do I need to focus my energy today so I can sustain a lifelong career as an author? First, I gave myself a little Royal Wedding Break, then gave myself permission to take a break from writing romances during the month of July. I've got a non-fiction project I want to work on instead. My dad's memoir about his life which includes being interred in a Japanese Concentration camp during most of his adolescence. So that's what I'm going to do and I'm thrilled to dig into this project. And, fun fact, I alluded to this memoir in TEMPTING THE HEARTBREAKER: Hollywood Heartbreakers Book 1.

Then, as I waited to hear about what would happen regarding my Kindle World books' future, I continued working on my fun, sexy Reckless & Royal story and made plans to revise another story for an October/November release this year. I also dusted off a story I'd written last year that was going to be part of a small town series I had in mind for future publication. 

A funny thing happened along the Brainstorming Trail. An older idea I had for the small town series began bubbling to the surface and wouldn't stop pinging me. I let the idea continue to germinate and opened my mind to ALL the possibilities. Voila! A new, different, fun, exciting series is being discovered. This is GOLD! Platinum. The best part is I don't have to rush it. Because I've decided to pivot in another way which is the polar opposite of what I'm "supposed" to do in Indie Romancelandia.

I'm taking my time. I'm not rushing this series. I'm thinking long term. I'm still writing some standalone romance novels and going to participate in other cool romance writing projects, but this series is going to carry me through a lot of years if I remain focused on the end game. Best of all, I'm very excited to work on this ongoing project/series.

I'm not pivoting to chase the next "this is what's hot in romance now" stories. I'm pivoting to create a series that'll sustain my creativity and my writing soul while actively pursuing other projects and enjoying my personal life too.

 

 

Digging Out of Distraction: Rediscovering the Fun in Writing

Long ago, in The Land Before Publication, I blogged regularly about my writing life. The ups, downs, in-betweens... conquering the demons of Doubt & Despair despite ongoing rejections and a host of other roadblocks to selling my first novel. I wrote about craft, developing stories, my daily life. I also celebrated the writers who sold their first books in a regular feature. DIGGING OUT OF DISTRACTION kept me going, brought me friends from all over the world, and eventually, after I sold my first novel THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION to Entangled Publishing, I compiled many of those posts and self-published them in a book by the same title along with developing an interactive workshop that I've presented to local writing chapters, at regional conferences and at the Romance Writers of America's annual conference. You could say... "you've come a long way, Christine." BUT... I haven't. I still struggle with the same distractions, the same doubts and fears, and battle the ongoing noise in my post-publication world. 

Photo by  Nick Morrison  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Fast forward from what we in writerly world like to say THE CALL. Or in my case, THE EMAIL from my future editor at Entangled Publishing. I sold! Woohoo! I freaked out about delivering my first ever novella after that but I did it! I wrote more words, but I wasn't gaining traction. THERE WAS SO MUCH TO LEARN about publishing after I published. Before I published was a lot like before I had the Career Girl. Exciting. A time to plan. Decorating a baby's room. Baby showers. Reading How To Books. Then along came my girl... and it was a whole new world and a lot of what I thought I knew about raising a child had to be revamped. Personally, I think she raised me... forced me to grow and change in so many ways. And I'm so glad! 

That's what selling and publishing a book is like to me. It hasn't been a Jackpot score at the casino experience. It's more like pulling the slot lever at a penny arcade and not getting too many lucky sevens in a row. The first two years out were tough. But I learned. I grew. I discovered marketing and how much I totally stink at it LOL. But I keep trying to learn how to do it. I self-published a few books, then decided to go all Indie to gain control over my time two years ago. 

I busted my tush. But you know... I started feeling like it wasn't fun. The constant chasing of the trends, the evaporating money (that's a blog for another day), and the loss of real connections with people I trusted in real time began to take a toll on my happy writer heart.

I wanted to have fun again! Writing was a chore, not a passion I pursued. Yes. I know... this is my career... really, it's a business without a real business model because who knows why some people have breakout hits while most of us keep plodding along? At first, I thought I'd missed the friends I'd made along the way. We're all busy, most of us are published which means we're working even harder now than before, and the opportunities to gather and meet have dwindled. But it wasn't just that... I missed the fun of crafting stories because I was too busy figuring out where they'd fit and who might actually spend money to read them.

Then I got invited into a cool Kindle World featuring bodyguards and suspense and everything changed thanks to Elle James and THE BROTHERHOOD PROTECTORS. I stepped out of my comfort zone. My critique partners, Pam Mantovani and Carmen Falcone, helped me get through the struggle of finessing a suspense plot into a romance.

I'd never done that kind of writing before. The challenge was daunting, scary... could I pull out a bodyguard story with a suspense hook all in under 30,000 words? And you know what happened as I finagled this story and wrestled with the problems I had crafting it? I rediscovered the fun in writing! 

I released my first romantic suspense FALLING FOR HER BODYGUARD January 11, 2018. It's my 10th book and a milestone for me. But more than that, it's a book that saved my writing soul. Truly saved it. What's my takeaway? Well, if you want to have fun writing in this crazy business, try something new and don't worry about marketing and all the other competitive, ugly noises out there. I'm definitely going to write more bodyguard stories. 

I'm also revamping DIGGING OUT OF DISTRACTION. This will primarily be for my writer peeps, but I know there are readers out there who might be curious about what goes on in a writer's head... well at least this writer's head.

XX 

Christine