In Your Corner: An Unstoppable Summer

I promise not to get too Shakespearean in this post.

Promise!

This morning, I was puttering around in my basement watering some seedlings I’m getting ready for hardening off, and my cat started to get reaaaaally interested in one of the window wells on the side of the house. These are the sort that are lined in corrugated steel and are covered with metal bars for security (and to keep pets, etc. from falling in!). Like this:

This is not my basement. There’s no way I’m showing off all the boxes down there.

My seedlings are stacked on rising shelves by the window well receiving the most sunshine each day (in this house, it faces roughly east––just a quirk of the landscape around the house), and I have my work desk by another. A third is more or less inaccessible because someone (I won’t name who … but that person knows how I feel about it!) keeps every single cardboard box ever to hit our front porch. The fourth window well belongs to the cat. She will sit on the windowsill for hours at a time, looking up through those bars. I’m trying not to think too hard about the symbolism.

Small, scared kitten in a shelter cage. I promise my cat isn’t this sad, even if she sometimes looks like it. Why are cats so good at looking sad?

Now that I’ve set the scene (me, with watering can/repurposed juice pitcher; cat, at window) here’s what happened. My cat started getting that look about her (you know the one! it always spells trouble) and making those chirping noises cats make when they see birds. So I puttered on over and followed her line of sight–and it was a hummingbird!

Friends, I love hummingbirds. They were my mother’s favorite bird, and in the running for mine as well. (Also, there’s this scene in the new David Attenborough documentary on Netflix, Life in Color, where a male hummingbird is showing off for his lady friend that is just … shockingly good. As in, the quality of the filmmaking and the technology used for that documentary is wild. You can see individual hummingbird feathers! Up close! Amazing.) And this is how I discovered that a hummingbird is nesting in our basement window well, on a little ledge created by the window frame, just out of sight.

It’s also how I discovered the reason my cat is obsessed with that window.

The world is waking up around us for real, now. The evening news brings with it weather reports of increasingly unruly spring-summer weather out on the plains, the hummingbirds are out, and seedlings are up. High schoolers are on the cusp of graduation. Summer is, quite literally, just around the corner.

With summer comes new plans and changes to rhythms. It’s time to start thinking about big projects, both in and around the home as well as creative projects of the mind. What will you be writing this spring? How will you motivate yourself to sit down and plug away at the computer (or notepad, if you’re classy and not me) on a beautiful cloudless day? How will you schedule your goals and prep for publication?

What will you write? I think I’ll write about my mother, and hummingbirds.

I’d love to hear from you! What do you have going on this summer?

Thinking of you always. ♣︎

Elizabeth
Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Summer Goals (Pt 2)

A Question of Energy

Last week, I started this blog series on summer goals by revealing mine (to write, and to structure my writing … loosely at least).  Everyone has different needs and goals in the summer, however, because every author’s life looks radically different from the next person’s.  One thing remains constant, however:

It takes energy to write.

And in the summertime, that energy is a complicated thing to channel.  On the one hand, the days are longer.  More daylight means more time to write (or the illusion of more time) because there are more hours in the day to take care of the basic what-have-yous of summer life, including mowing the lawn and going for an evening ramble through the neighborhood.  More time outside in that daylight equates to more Vitamin D (or so my family doctor tells me), and more Vitamin D means an uptick in mood and–you guessed it–energy!

welding energy

So far, so good.

But there’s trouble in paradise.  (There always is.  Ask John Milton.)  Just because we have more energy and (the illusion of) more time in summer, we also have an increase in demands.  You heard me: the myth of a languid summer is one we absorb from a literary canon in which people go for long vacations, long walks on the beach, languid soaks in the hot tub, or whatever else they can dream up.  The problem with this is: most of us have to work.  The world looked a little different when we were still in school (and when resumes for college didn’t mandate packing our high school schedules with summer programs), and the world still looks rather different for people of means.  But the fact of the matter is, most self-publishing authors aren’t middle schoolers or millionaires.

Statistically speaking, most self-publishing authors (that we know of, at least) are of an age and demographic that they both work and have families to wrangle.  And while jobs are as diverse as the people who work them, I can safely say that my own job is busiest in summer–by far.  And with school out for the summer, wrangling kids to and from various social activities, sporting events, and so forth occupies a lot of my (supposedly languorous) time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this:

Protect Your Time. Treat Energy as a Finite, Precious Resource.

What does your energy budget look like?  When are you at your absolute best?  That’s the time you want to set aside to write.  For me, it’s the early morning hours.  Now, I know my basic instinct is to try and knock out everything on my to-do list first thing as soon as I wake up, to leave “more time for things I love later,” but the problems with this theory are that–

  1. the to-do list never ends;
  2. I burn myself out by midday; and
  3. I never feel like starting something new at the end of the day, when everything is quiet at last.

If I’m not careful, my best hours are over and gone before I know it.  Even worse, if I start prioritizing a to-do list instead of my writing, I end up being not much of a writer.  Luckily, my family understands this and they want to support me in my writing, so every evening as we negotiate the details for the next day, we make sure to set aside a little time first thing in the morning for me to do the thing I love–so that I can better be the person they love (and let’s face it, be a more happy and loving person in general).  I also have to remember that sleeping and eating well are vital components to feeling well and retaining energy throughout the day.  I know we all feel the pull towards strong coffee and starch after the lunch hour when our blood sugar is crashing–but I’m here to tell you we can do better, together.  More on that later!

You are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Summer Goals (Pt 1)

Summer is a time for kicking back, for putting your feet up, for drinking that sweet ice tea, and for avoiding responsibilities.  But it’s also an opportunity to knock out some of those projects which you can’t tackle at any other time of year.  The long daylight hours, the relaxed atmosphere, and the constant barrage of creative inspiration both on- and offline make for a potent mix–one you should take advantage of, albeit while still giving yourself the time and space to recover from another frenetic year, another long winter.

This is why I love goals.  Goals keep ups focused, and on point, and help us prioritize.  Without goals, everything hits us all at once: every responsibility, every task, every responsibility.  But with a well-defined goal or two, we know exactly what the core of our mission for the month or week or day is, and everything else–well, everything else, we can forgive or forget or allow ourselves to do “just enough.”  It’s really important not to be a perfectionist in everything, if your goal is to relax and still be productive.

goals

So, goals!  What should they be?  Of course, you’re the only one who can and should decide upon your own goals.  In lieu of telling you what yours should or could be, here are mine:

Write.

Summer is a deceptive time.  I say “deceptive” because while it is in fact true that it tends to be a calm, rich, slow time of year … it is also busy.  So very busy.  Especially if you have a family, enjoy sports, and also have to go to work every day.  There are car rides to manage, kids to keep tabs on, meals to prepare as always–and the list goes on.  Because I’m the sort of person whose first instinct is to knock out all of these necessities first and put everything else on hold until they’re all done, I often find myself approaching the end of the day having done no writing at all … and exhausted.  I never do my best writing in the afternoon, much less the evening.  So my personal goal is to write, to write every day (even if it’s just a short paragraph), and to write first thing in the morning after I wake up.  Quantity doesn’t matter so much, as long as I’m constantly generating new material, and carving out a set time in the day when I’m at my best is a decision I have to make–or else it will never happen.

Structure my Writing … Loosely.

There are a lot of ways to do this, and I use several of them myself.  I have heard of several authors who leave off every writing session mid-sentence, just so that when they come back to that page they are forced to finish a thought before beginning a new paragraph or page–and they often say that this is somehow less daunting than facing that proverbial blank page at the beginning of every writing session.  I’ve tried this, and it works!  Or at least I should say: It works for me.  I recommend giving it an attempt, just to see if it works for you.

Another idea to try is the prompt.  I’ll write more about this next week, but don’t underestimate the creative potential to a writing prompt!  I love them because–if I find just the right one–the hard work of coming up with a place to start is already taken care of.  All I have to do is respond.  And on some busy mornings (and afternoons and evenings) that’s all I can muster: response.  They are the first and most consistently reliable way of conquering the dreaded Writer’s Block in my little world of constant struggle.

***

Look, it’s not important that you adopt any specific one of my own personal goals.  If I’ve learned anything over my years of dealing with the writing process, it’s that every writer has to take ownership of it before it feels right.  Before it feels authentic.  But I think the core message holds true: Summer is a natural time for writing goals, every bit as much as it’s a time for hitting the beach or the trails.  Writing is never easy in this frenetically busy world, and that’s okay.  Goals help us move forward, despite everything.

You are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Resolutions for 2016 That Every Aspiring Author Should Make (pt 3)

Two weeks ago, I kicked off a new series for Self Publishing Advisor geared toward addressing a single and seemingly simple question:

What’s your goal for 2016?

Many of you probably have a few goals already lined up, consciously or unconsciously.  I know I do.  But you might also be of a similar strain to mine in that many of your goals, historically, have been doomed by a perfect storm of ambition, short-sightedness, and limitations of time, energy, and other resources.  When it comes to your books, however, failure is not an option.  Your book needs to be written, and your book needs to be read!  So how do we make this happen?  Over the last two weeks, I’ve covered the first seven steps to turning your New Year’s literary resolutions into reality:

  1. Set goals.
  2. Facilitate goals.
  3. Make writing a priority, and
  4. Read, read, read.
  5. Master at least the basics of social media.
  6. Research deeply, and
  7. Connect with other authors.

Today, I’d like to look at the next four steps:

  1. Embrace a good critique.
  2. Learn to love rewrites.
  3. Try something new, and
  4. Stop comparing your achievements with others.

collaboration

Let’s take a closer look at these points!

What does it mean to “embrace” a good critique?  We all want to improve our craft but find it difficult to be objective about our work without fixating on the flaws, large and small, that we as authors are bound to spot.  You may be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t obsess over these cracks in the pavement, but if you are, I can’t begin to recommend joining a critique group highly enough.  (Check out my comments last week about using social media to find your fellow writers.)  Not only is constructive criticism a writer’s best friend, but it’s the bedrock foundation of the rewrite!

And what’s this I’m hearing about rewrites?  On the scale of editing to revising to rewriting, editing involves a great deal of “tweaking” but rewriting involves the most intensive kind of substantial alterations.  Many people who self-identify as “pantsers”––authors who write the first draft quickly and without a lot of research or reference to an outline and so on––are the most in need of rewrites … but that doesn’t mean that a careful planner and strategic author can’t benefit from the freedom that only radical changes can offer!  No matter what kind of author you are, you must make rewrites, edits, and revisions a normal part of your writing process.  It helps to set your work aside for a few weeks before tackling revisions, but trust me … it’s worth doing.

rewrites

So I guess it’s time to try something new.  Are you feeling uninspired by the space opera novel you’re working on?  How about that Western or that crime novella?  If you find yourself facing the dreaded Writer’s Block and your love for writing endangered by boredom or frustration with how things are turning out with your current project, it’s time to mix things up and experiment with writing in other genres.  Doing so may reignite your passion for that romance novel or that book of poems … and stretching your creative wings is never a waste of time!

And lastly (for this week), it’s time to stop comparing your achievements with the achievements of others.  Every writer wants to be a published author, but each author’s journey is unique.  You must concentrate on your own goals, and your own personal definition of “success,” and remember what Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

theodore roosevelt comparison is the thief of joy

Only once we lay aside our insecurities and our fear of failure can we truly thrive as authors, rediscovering day after day what it is that drives us to do what we do––write!

Always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Resolutions for 2016 That Every Aspiring Author Should Make (pt 2)

 

Last week, I opened a new series of blog posts with a simple question:

What’s your goal for 2016?

To steal a line from Spiderman’s playbook, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and with great optimism I think you’ll find a great capacity for willpower and determination to see your New Year’s resolutions through.  When it comes to self-publishing, I realize that I have a bit of a vested interest––alright, I definitely have an extremely vested interest––in that I both work professionally as an advisor within the parameters of the self-publishing industry and I personally believe in the mission of self-publishing, and in recapturing the rights and privileges that come with calling the shots on your own manuscript.  But despite my proximity to the issue, I think I’m being fully objective when I say that self-publishing this year is not “too much” or somehow “beyond” your ability to make happen.  You can publish in 2016, and I hope to provide you with some resources here in this series that will help you make that happen.

Last week, I examined four goals to get you started down the path to self-publishing this year.  They were to:

  1. Set goals.
  2. Facilitate goals.
  3. Make writing a priority, and
  4. Read, read, read.

parkour goals

This week, I’m going to take a close look at three additional goals, and challenge you to:

  1. Master at least the basics of social media.
  2. Research deeply, and
  3. Connect with other authors.

 

So, how does one become a social media guru overnight?  Well the short answer is, you can’t.  Or I should rather say, I couldn’t.  Not easily, anyway.  As with so many tips and tricks of the trade, mastery of social media platforms doesn’t just require proficiency––it requires significance.  Because social media is selling a product and that product is you, self-publishing authors have to be careful to create extensive social media presences without sacrificing what makes platforms like Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads so attractive in the first place: personality, presence, and authenticity.  (And a side note: it’s always better to pick up new social media skills slowly and incorporate them into a sustainable long-term strategy rather than burning yourself out on producing new content at a breakneck pace all of the time.)  Given all of the hassle of setting up a dozen separate accounts with their own quirks and password combinations, is it really worth going through the trouble?  Short answer: YES.  If you want to publish your book, you need to connect with your readers, and you need to stay up-to-date on the ways in which they discover and respond to their favorite stories.  If you’re strapped for time, you can always turn to a hybrid self-publishing company like mine, Outskirts Press, to take care of this part of the process for you.

And what’s this about “research”?  I thought I’d left all that behind when I graduated from school.  But research, when push comes to shove, is what elevates a book from being “interesting in theory” to “convincing and immersive.”  This isn’t to say you should stifle your impulse towards creative license, but it is to say that you should always be intentional about your digressions from fact––you should alter reality, not out of ignorance, but rather out of ambition, curiosity, and cleverness.  Says author Robert McKee,

“Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliche, it’s the key to victory over fear and it’s cousin, depression.”

But “research” can look like many things, including visits to your local library to grill the staff on duty or, yes, even the occasional perusal of Wikipedia pages.  These are not the only options, however!  As Roman Payne writes,

“Who’s to say what a ‘literary life’ is? As long as you are writing often, and writing well, you don’t need to be hanging-out in libraries all the time.  Nightclubs are great literary research centers. So is Ibiza!”

Speaking from my own personal experience, boots-on-the-ground research is every bit as invaluable for the writing process as is amassing a databank of all of the relevant facts which circle your piece like electrons around the nucleus of an atom.  Research is not, however, the end goal: The end goal is to write and publish your book.  Never forget, in the immortal words of Dune author Frank Herbert:

“Highly organized research is guaranteed to produce nothing new.”

Which is to say, research alone won’t write your book for you.  Only you can actually bring a world to life on the page!

And while there are many ways to motivate yourself to leap (back) into the writing process, none has proven so valuable as the chance to connect with other writers.  Ultimately, no one knows the internal life––and struggles, and strengths, and successful strategies––of a writer than … you guessed it! … another writer.  This year, I recommend that each and every one of us involved in the indie, hybrid, and self-publishing industry should resolve to use social media or in-person or even online writing groups to connect with these rare global citizens, these other writers.  The relationships we build will prove invaluable, and provide us with opportunities to share publishing tips, encourage and inspire each other, and transform the “solitary life” of a writer into a journey that feels less lonely and more part of a greater collective effort to move forward.

Always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.