In Your Corner: Battling Burnout

What is burnout? I love this definition from Merriam Webster, which draws inescapable comparisons to combustion engines:

burnout definition

But chances are, if you’re a writer, you’re already well-acquainted with burnout–its symptoms, and its effects. This is because the act of writing is itself exhausting, even when it is also necessary and therapeutic and good for us. Writing saps a person’s physical and emotional energy reserves, tapping into both left and right brain by requiring both creative and analytical thinking … simultaneously.

Writing is work. It can be fun and wild and wonderful, but writing is work.

Luckily, there are ways to combat burnout and to write past the sticking point. Emmy Award winning Gene Perret, in a 2011 interview with Psychology Today‘s Carolyn Kaufman, says that writers are “not people who can be superb 24 hours a day. We must allow ourselves to be mediocre at times…maybe even semi-terrible at times.” He cites Shakespeare as an example of a famous author who was still constrained by the same laws of time and energy–and self-criticism. “Burnout,” he says, “is a real phenomenon. Writers get weary of turning out so much similar material. The best cure I’ve found for this situation is to retreat to some sort of vacation. Get away from it all.” He continues with an anecdote:

However, I’m talking more about a brief vacation. Get away from your desk and take a walk, watch something on television, read a chapter or two of a book, take a brief nap. Then come back to your task refreshed. Many times my partner and I would struggle to get a new sketch idea. It would be so hard that we would often have words with one another and sometimes partners almost came to blows. Then we go to lunch, tell each other a few stories, trade insults, pay our bill, come back to work, and discover that one or the other had come up with a great idea for a sketch. – Gene Perret

And look, we’re not all Gene Perret. We’re all going to require different means of getting over the hump and back into a place where we can write comfortably. But taking our cue from Perret’s suggestion of taking a break or a short “vacation,” here are five tips for combating burnout:

  1. Know the signs. Burnout can present differently from person to person, but generally it shows up as a constellation of symptoms: exhaustion, lack of motivation, an unfocused general negative attitude towards people and situations you normally enjoy or tolerate, memory and perception troubles, poor health, and quality fade in your writing. There are plenty of other things which might cause these symptoms, of course, so it’s well worth reaching out to a professional to help verify that your problems stem from burnout and not depression, chronic fatique, Lyme’s, or any of the other possibilities.
  2. Accept that this is burnout, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone runs out of gas sometimes, and it’s not a sign that you’re in the wrong profession or somehow otherwise “messing up.” It’s a sign that you need a break–nothing more or less.
  3. Unplug. You won’t truly ever get away from your writing unless you make a couple of big changes and physically distance yourself from the act of writing for a while. But you’ll also need to distance yourself from those sources of frustration and inspiration which remind you of writing, so it’s best to unplug not just the computer you type on but the smartphone or tablet you use to browse Twitter and Facebook and Instagram … and read New York Times Book Review and other works of literary criticism. A break means a break. A total distancing of yourself from the act of writing.
  4. Do something you’ve been putting off. For me, this is usually cleaning the house. I know, it’s disgusting. But I find cleaning does a good job of getting me out of my head and back into my body where I belong, and it also … well, it cleans the house. And having a clean, uncluttered workspace is vital to my own mental health, I’ve discovered. But maybe cleaning isn’t something you put off–maybe it’s going to the doctor, or the vet, or meeting up with friends. Maybe it’s a camping trip you’ve always wanted to go on but haven’t ever found the time for. Do the thing you never have time for when you’re chained to your writing desk!
  5. Remember your audience. As Pettit tells us in his interview, “Writing is a solitary profession. Many of us sit in a quiet room with only a keyboard for company. But to be a good writer, you must remember that there are readers out there. They’re waiting for what comes out of your printer. Keep them in mind and your writing will be all the better for it.” And your readers are why you do what you do, so don’t forget as you return from your break that you’re not just combating burnout because it feels bad and lowers your productivity–you’re in the battle because burnout alters your relationship to your readers, and they are a precious part of what you do.

burnout matchsticks

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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: How to Rewrite WITHOUT Going Off the Deep End

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? FAcing the manuscript, the first draft, with the question “What’s next?” dying on our lips, and a growing realization sitting like a lead weight in our bellies: Rewriting. That’s what comes next. The Elysium Fields of publication seem to hurtle themselves back into the distance, once so close we could almost touch them, and that’s how we find ourselves staring at our computer screens at six in the morning, wondering how not to tear out our hair over the rewrite process.

I have some thoughts on that.

  • Take a clue from your normal writing habits.

This is assuming you have writing habits, of course. I’m an extremely disorganized writer, which means I’m writing at all times of days, usually in my pajamas with a cup of tea, but sometimes with a bowl of pretzels. Still, take a clue. Rewriting is often a point of contention because it doesn’t feel like “real writing”–it feels more like butchering something you produced while doing “real writing.” So put yourself in the same creative space, frame of mind, and habitual place as you would if you were generating new material–and make the leap to recognizing rewriting as an opportunity for creativity, too. Maybe if you feel the way you do about “real writing,” you can trick yourself into resenting it less! That’s my theory, anyway.

  • Pay attention to your body.

Some of the writers I went through school with ascribed to the “starving artist” stereotype, churning out reams of paper on old-school typewriters at 3 AM fueled solely by cigarettes and certain controlled substances. These authors were incredibly productive–to a point. They were also complete emotional wrecks who could do nothing else with their days than write (often disorganized) manuscripts. But you and I? We can’t afford to burn the candle at both ends, to let ourselves be eaten up by life-destroying fuels like these. We have lives and families to take care of, that we delight in taking care of, when we’re not writing. So writing, of course, has to take its place among an ever-changing, always difficult to manage, list of priorities … and the only way to manage them all is not to go off the deep end. So: pay attention to your body. You will produce your best work, and leave the most room for life outside of writing too, if you take care of this collection of bones and blood vessels and brain cells to the best of your ability. Write healthy, with a full meal under your belt and a full night’s sleep just over with. Don’t rely on anything that’s not good for you to be your brain fuel–even the seemingly harmless caffeine, which in point of fact is a strong bowel irritant and likely to break up your concentration with a half dozen bathroom breaks each writing session. (It also, naturally, will dehydrate you–even if you’re constantly chugging caffeinated liquids.)

  • Alternate between a “GET-UR-DONE” attitude & a more forgiving one.

Look, for some people, it’s never going to be fun, this rewrite thing. But constantly punishing yourself for not getting it done is counter-productive, and will leave you feeling more and more dissatisfied with the whole process over time, just as constantly forgiving yourself for not working on it will also snowball into a giant lump of self-loathing and regret. So: set yourself some deadlines, and carve out some time just to slam away at that keyboard. But also: establish some boundaries within which you can forgive yourself for not being as productive as you’d like, and etc. Always remember that rewriting, like “real writing,” requires moderation in all things. So alternate between those driven and those relaxed modes of working, and you’ll find yourself chipping away at the monolithic manuscript, despite your fear of the thing.

  • Accept change.

Duh, right? Only … no. This is actually the hardest part: reconciling your original vision for a book with what’s coming off of the page before you. There’s no more obvious place or time for this to happen than during the rewrite, when your analytical mind is hard at work trying to sew up loose ends and fix flaws. But producing something with a mind of its own isn’t a flaw–it’s a natural consequence of creating interesting characters who evolve past your original vision and into something greater, more complex, and … different. If you can, take a step back and admire the reality of what you’ve written instead of wasting time and energy bemoaning the departure from your intent. Then approach your book the way a professional editor might, from a mindset of: “This is what I’ve been given to work with, so how can I make it the best possible version of itself?” instead of feeling cheated of something different. You’re your own harshest critic, remember? And whatever you’ve put on the page, predicted or not, changed or not, is magnificent and wonderful–and we’re proud of you for it. Work with and not against this new and wonderful thing! You won’t regret it.

rewriting

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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: What is Criticism & What Can It Do For Me?

The latent question lurking under the title of this post is perhaps a more honest one, but we’ll talk about honesty versus insight in a moment. You might say we’re going to spend this post looking at:

Can Criticism Be Anything Other Than A Tool Of The Snob & A Misery For Everyone Else?

But as you can see, that title is a bit too long to fit, despite feeling more accurate (to me, anyway. I suppose I’m projecting some of my fears here. Apologies if that doesn’t hold true for you!).

The last time I was in a setting where I was exposed to criticism of my writing from multiple points of view was during my last stint as a student. For many of you, that will also be true, but some of you are lucky enough to have stumbled across writing clubs and manuscript exchanges where you can get some of the same experiences outside of academia. This post is geared towards any author who is looking to develop some serious skills in giving and taking constructive criticism, however, not just those in structured group environments.

Here’s a truth:

No matter how well-prepared you are to receive it, any kind of correction or less-than-enthusiastic take on your writing can fall like a blow. The only times where this hasn’t felt true to me were when I was completely wiped out from pulling all-nighters and didn’t have the emotional capacity to take in what I was hearing. (Don’t be that person. Don’t stay up all night to get this effect! It comes with other problems. It’s not an admirable skill to cultivate.) Accept that it’s going to hurt, or feel uncomfortable, or at the very least come awkwardly.

If you relax too much, you might fall into the trap of being honest instead of insightful.

What do I mean by this? I mean that not everything is useful to hear. I’m being serious here. Not everything is useful to hear. The key to giving constructive criticism is in paying attention to both your own personal needs and to the expressed needs and wishes of your fellow writers. Don’t, for example, spend a lot of time breaking down spelling errors and grammatical issues if the author whose manuscript you’re reviewing has asked you to pay attention to plot holes and characterization. Maybe the spelling stuff can be dealt with later, or will naturally resolve itself as the author moves into his or her next draft. But it’s not something that will help that author right now, so it’s best to focus on what will.

Pro tip: when you’re the one receiving the criticism, you can’t always get people to act this way toward you … but you should always be free to lay some ground rules and boundaries for what sort of feedback you want. I’ve had professors give caveats at the beginning of every semester about how to respect and support other authors, so it’s worth approaching whoever is facilitating your group meetings and requesting this, or if you’re doing it digitally you can store some guidelines as a file on Dropbox.com or Google Docs for easy access. If your consortium is a little more casual than this, maybe take a line from Christopher Nolan’s movie, Interstellar:

 

Cooper: Hey TARS, what’s your honesty parameter?
TARS: 90 percent.
Cooper: 90 percent?
TARS: Absolute honesty isn’t always the most diplomatic nor the safest form of communication with emotional beings.
Cooper: Okay, 90 percent it is.

But look, you’re not a robot or a space-farer (probably), and you are in need of the support and guidance of your fellow authors. So how do you take part in that community in a way that produces construction (the building of something good and new) rather than a cataclysm of doubt?

Simplicity is the enemy.

Seriously, though. Saying “this story was badly written and I dislike it” is definitely critical, but it leaves no room for construction. Along the same lines, unabashed praise–“I loved it! It’s great!”–creates a similar vacuum of opportunity. A few small compliments throughout a critique may be helpful for keeping morale high, but they’re not your stock and trade. They can’t be your bread and butter, or no work will get done.

So complicate it. And ask for people to complicate their feedback, if it’s too simple.

Giving is as good as receiving, if not better.

Okay, maybe not better. But it’s important, this giving thing. Honing your critical capacities on someone else’s work–and seeing how other authors receive specific kinds of insights–will help you understand what to do with criticism when you’re on the receiving end of it … and it will also help you spot flaws in your own work before anyone else even looks at it. As other, wiser people have said: It’s one thing to develop a nagging sense that something is wrong with a work, but to be able to figure out where that sense of wrongness is coming from–character, language, plot, or something else–and then act to address it is what differentiates good authors from great authors.

 

It’s not personal.

It’s not, we promise, but it will sure feel like it is–especially if, as we mentioned earlier, someone takes a snobby approach (they’re no doubt working on some personal crisis of identity or insecurity of their own). Still, try to put aside your personal feelings, and bring an objective lens to what you’re looking at. Your manuscript and the manuscripts of others are mysteries waiting to be deconstructed and reconstructed. And even if you’re not a fan of the genre of manuscript you’re reading, you can still be useful to the author by putting your personal tastes aside and looking at the bricks and mortar of what makes for universally good storytelling.

Take notes.

Many workshops limit the author being critiqued from responding during the main critique session, but every group looks different. I’ve found that even without that restriction, simply watching and observing is more useful than trying to guide the conversation myself–if I do, I end up missing out on really useful advice I didn’t even think to consider asking for! So … take notes. It will distract you when the criticism is too pointed or your feelings too close under the surface, and it’s also just good advice for retaining detailed memories of the event. You can dispense with any advice that isn’t useful once you’re out and away from the session, or some advice might leap out to you later that didn’t in the moment. Time and distance is a great healer, no?

Lead with the positive.

Choose a handful of things the author did well–specific things–before diving into the rest of your critique. It’s also a good idea to end with a positive, for mood boosting effects. You can’t control how others do this on your work, of course, unless you make it a part of your collectively-agreed-upon rules for critiquing, as mentioned earlier. But remember, specific is vital. If you liked a character, what did you love about her? Was it her snappy dialogue, her peculiar tics and traits, or her back story as a mathematician during the Space Race that fascinated you?

Find your ideal reader(s).

Every workshop has one or two people who really know how to give good, useful, smart, and insightful constructive criticism. Latch on to those people and never let them go. Some of the people who were ideal readers while I was in college are still in touch today, and we still do good work together. There’s something symbiotic about it, of course–they get my work, and I get theirs, so the feedback goes both ways–but these people have become something more than just workshop fellows. They’ve become friends.

 

Joining a critique session is anxiety-inducing, there’s no mistake. But when everyone participates in good faith, it can be one of the most enriching experiences of your life as a writer.

“Don’t trust a mirror that only tells you how wonderful you look.”

― Matshona Dhliwayo

criticism

 

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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: How Does One Stay Creative in the Midst of the Doldrums?

Have you ever struggled to figure out just how to keep generating good new material, as an author? Have you ever tangled with the doldrums when it comes to dredging up new ideas for marketing your self-publishing book?

Staying creative is hard.

Perhaps this is self-explanatory, or the sort of statement which prompts a “duh” reaction in some of our readers, but it’s worth saying nonetheless. Recognizing and honoring a difficulty like this is paramount in moving forward to address it. Denial is not a friend to productivity, on any level.

In all of my years working alongside self-publishing authors, one of the most common questions I receive is simply: “What else can I try?” The unspoken statement, uttered in the silences between words, is this: “I’ve run out of ideas, but I know I need to try something different since what I’m currently doing is not working or somehow not enough.” And perhaps that’s part of the difficulty; when authors go looking for just “enough,” they are hoping creativity will do what dogged persistence and dedication to craft won’t. They’re hoping creativity will level up their book’s success.

But that’s not strictly true. Creativity is a part of the whole, just as dogged persistence and dedication are. Creativity, however, differs greatly from those other two things, which can be counted on to produce measurable and reliable results. Generally speaking, if you put time and energy into something with persistence and dedication, you’ll be guaranteed to see results. Creativity, on the other hand, is fickle. It’s hard to qualify what it is, much less quantify what it does. I think of it as part of your navigation system; alone, it won’t get you anywhere, but it can certainly help you find your destination … but I don’t know, I think my metaphors tend to break down sooner than I can pin them down in pixels or on paper.

Instead of digging myself a deeper hole to step in, I thought I might shift gears a little bit, and talk about some of the tried-and-true methods to coax creativity out of hiding. What are some ways we can boost our creativity in at least a semi-reliable fashion?*

creativity listening

Ten Starter Tips to Summon Creativity

  1. Sleep (& walk to work) with a notebook and pen. The best ideas crop up when we least expect them, which is why it’s important to … well, expect them. Put yourself in the best possible position to jot down those nuggets of dream-time wisdom (at night) and kinetic inspiration (while you’re on the move) and contemplative excellence (when you’re at work, or eating dinner). And just as important as writing them down is the need to do something with them … so schedule a half hour or more every day to expand one of your jotspirations into something that later might fit into your larger project. Don’t put too much pressure on the individual pieces to become anything; they’ll assemble into something larger or inform your work as you go.
  2. Change your project. This is the scariest item on the list, perhaps. But it’s important to be open to changing directions mid-stream, no matter how far along in your project you are. I’ve known artists to destroy eight or nine of every ten artworks because they weren’t what they wanted, and I’ve known authors to strike one of every two pages during the editing stage, or delete entire drafts and start over from scratch. This might be a bit extreme for you, and there’s no need to go that far if it doesn’t fit your feeling for what’s right, but you should pay attention to your intuition. Is your current manuscript headed where you want it to? Has what you want changed? Should it?
  3. Steal like an artist. Beg, borrow, steal. You know how it goes: we are what we read, what we see, what we witness. Instead of feeling shame or repugnance at stealing from others whose work you admire, consider instead a system by which you acknowledge, pay homage to, honor, and celebrate these influences. I guarantee you that you already have a number of influences that are bleeding into your work; it’s simply a matter of recognizing them and working with them as a feature rather than a distraction.
  4. Get up earlier, don’t stay up later. Quite a few items on this list could have been taken up with “self-care” instructions, but use this item as the lynchpin of a body-friendly, healthy writing strategy. Studies show that getting up earlier (and going to bed earlier to account for the difference) and eating well, getting out and about, and seeking out friendly company are all significant physiological boosters for creativity and productivity both. You won’t be able to pin down your inspiration if you can’t even concentrate, so take the time and set a schedule which allows you to inhabit the best, healthiest possible body–and therefore create the best possible work you can.
  5. Read, read, read. Books are food for the soul, friends for the lonely, and so many other things. They’re also the raw material we chew up in our heads and turn into fuel for inspiration. Don’t shut down the assembly line which delivers this vital ingredient of your work! Spend as much time reading as you do watching television or scrolling through your Facebook timeline, and I guarantee your work will benefit.
  6. Diagram it. Not all brains work the same way, but many brains benefit from branching out and trying out some of the tried-and-true methods of people who might be gifted in other ways. Case in point? I am terrible at math. Or at least, I wasn’t a fond student of the subject. I’m a rather predictable writer in that I love words, words, always words–but once in a great while, when I get stuck, I find I really benefit from posing the question: “What would my friend A. do?” A. is an engineer and gifted mathematician. And what would she do? She’d diagram the thing. She’d figure out how to visually represent the component parts of an ongoing project: inputs, outputs, time and energy budgets, and the architecture of the piece itself. Seeing it laid out in this way helps me grasp where the holes are, and where to spend (or “budget”) my next writing session.
  7. Sing in the shower. No, seriously. Get up out of your chair if you’re struggling and go take a shower. Eat a piece of fruit. Pears are great for this, as are apples. Did you know a single apple contains more caffeine than a shot of espresso? True fact. I heard that one from my family doctor. Kick up your heels; put the radio on for a minute and go for a drive, just because. Belt out one of your favorite songs as if no one was listening. (If they are and don’t like it, well they can go lump it.) Get your blood moving, and vary your activities every fifteen or thirty minutes while writing.
  8. Clean your work space. Ha. Yeah, I know, I’m not doing too good on this front myself right now. But it’s a fact that most people operate best, focus best, when their work spaces are organized and cleared of clutter. Also, the act of cleaning often knocks out some of the cobwebs, maybe even knocks some new ideas loose. Don’t underestimate the power of those bubbling shower cleansers and elbow grease in prompting creativity to scuttle out of some dark corner.
  9. Finish something. And by this I mean: “If you can’t finish the big project, finish a little one.” It can be something related to your piece, as in, a chapter or a paragraph. And reward yourself for this! Or it can be something completely unrelated to your writing, like cleaning the bathroom or writing a thank-you letter to your niece for that lovely Christmas gift you forgot to mention earlier. (Oops.) Some people call this procrastination–but if you recognize the need to vary your tasks, and turn it into a productive deviation, one that you can reward yourself for finishing, your morale will spike. Just make sure you do get back around to writing again afterward.
  10. Count the ways. Count the ways you’re doing well. More than anything, struggling with creativity can sap your self-confidence, your morale, and your sense of your work’s value. But you’ve done so much good work already! Make a list, maybe, but no matter how you count the ways, make sure you celebrate each and every accomplishment!

*PLEASE NOTE: These tips are tricky, and the object elusive. If you’re struggling to make any one of them work (that is, you’re struggling to summon that spirit of creativity), there’s nothing at all wrong with you or with your methods, necessarily. There are no failures in the pursuit of creativity, merely delays. And as always, if you’re facing a daunting prospect, remember that we’re here for you, both to commiserate and offer up all of the expertise we collectively have on offer.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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.

From the Archives: “4 Things NaNoWriMo Authors Should Never Do”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: November 7th, 2012 ]

It’s hard to believe the first week of NanoWriMo is behind us already! How are you doing so far? I hope you are enjoying the challenge and that your manuscript is coming along. As you’ve been writing your draft, you may have noticed that it is easy to get distracted or discouraged, but a few simple changes can help you succeed. Here are four things you should never do if you want to finish NaNoWriMo (and maybe even self publish your book someday).

1. Skip a writing session. Unless it is an emergency, you must always stick to your writing schedule. If you must miss a writing session for an important reason, make sure you reschedule it. Ideally, you should reschedule it for another time that day or week. You don’t want to have to play catch up at the end of the challenge because you missed too many writing sessions.

2. Become jealous. Connecting with other writers is a great a way to find encouragement and inspiration during NaNoWriMo, but don’t let their progress discourage you. Some people write faster or have more time to commit. Try not to compare word counts. Focus on your success, and trust that your approach to writing is best for you.

3. Worry about editing. As you write your first draft, it is tempting to think about all the things you need to go back and fix. You should not be worrying about editing right now. You need to focus on writing. There will be plenty of time to worry about editing later. If the thought of editing really discourages you, treat yourself to professional editing services  after you achieve your goal.

4. Give up. There will be days when you become frustrated and consider giving up. Don’t do it! You can and will succeed as long as you keep trying. If you need some motivation, talk to people who believe in you, read about other successful authors, or take some time to relax and come back refreshed.

Remember, your goal isn’t just writing 50,000 words this month. Your ultimate goal is to write a novel (and self publish it). That goal takes time, dedication, and possibly hundreds of cups of coffee, but it is an achievable goal. Stay focused and trust yourself, and you will succeed.

I’d love to know, what habits are interfering with your NaNoWriMo goals?

– by Kelly Schuknecht

 

nanowrimo

This post goes live the first day of the second week of NaNoWriMo, and I’m willing to bet that those of you who have decided to participate this year are beginning to find the cold hard facts of extended writing sessions unbearable. Or, perhaps, you’re the opposite: you feed on pressure, and deadlines. But no matter where you’re at and what perspective you take of NaNoWriMo—participant or abstainer—one thing certainly remains true:

Writing is Hard.

If you need any proof, just look at what some of our most respected writers have to say on the matter:

And:
writing is hard ernest hemingway

No literary blog is complete without a reference to Ernest Hemingway, right?

My point isn’t to make you feel depressed over the inevitability of struggles cropping up during NaNoWriMo and all other writing projects, but instead to remind you that even the great All Stars of creative writing face the same challenges, and they struggled too. Which means that you’re not doing anything wrong, even if the worst happens and you make one of the four mistakes I first wrote about back in 2012.

There is always a way forward, and we’re here to help you find it! Clue us in on where you’re at with NaNoWriMo and your other projects, and we’ll pull out all the stops to find you resources, advice, and those tangible actionable ways forward!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

From the Archives: “5 Online Tasks for Self Publishing Authors to Complete Before NanoWriMo”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: October 22nd, 2012 ]

There is a little more than a week until NanoWriMo begins! If you’re like many self publishing authors, you’ve been spending the month of October preparing for the challenge. You’ve probably started brainstorming and outline and cleaning off your desk, but there are a few online tasks that you should complete before the official beginning of NanoWriMo. Here is your to-do list.

1) Make sure you are registered.

Before you start all the fun tasks below, make sure you are registered for the event. You can do so by visiting NanoWriMo.org. This will ensure that you have access to all the benefits and resources the challenge has to offer.

2) Create social media pages.

Social media is a great way to market yourself and your book, and many readers, agents, and publishers expect you to take advantage of this marketing tool. You could create social media pages for yourself, your book, or your characters. Be creative, and have fun with social media. This is also a great time to start a blog.

3) Connect with other authors.

Of the greatest benefits of  NanoWriMo is the opportunity to connect with other authors. They can encourage and support you during this project. You can connect with authors by visiting the NanoWriMo website as well as by searching social media sites for people who are participating.

4) Download some music.

Music is a great way to become inspired. Download a few songs that you can listen to when you need some inspiration. Listen to songs that your characters would be interested, or search for music that reminds you of your setting or plot.

5) Play on Pinterest.

Pinterest is a great way to find inspiration as well as promote your book. Create boards for your characters, setting, or plot. Be creative, and have fun with this. What outfits would your character wear? What food would your character eat?

I’d love to know, what are you doing to prepare for NanoWriMo?

– by Wendy Statina

Most of the time, we like writing.

Or don’t we?

Sometimes, writing feels like writing. And sometimes—not just because of Halloween, but for other reasons too—writing feels like one long protracted scream into the void. (My scream? “WHY ARE WRITING OUTLINES SO DARN HARD??” Yours might be different.) It’s realistic to expect that at some point during an intensive writing spree—whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not—you’ll face insurmountable obstacles and unstoppable forces and immovable objects. Or at least, you’ll face challenges that seem like all of the above: Writer’s Block, characters gone haywire, plot holes, inconsistencies, and that one thing you really really want to edit but shouldn’t yet because it’ll totally torch your forward momentum. You know, those things.

nanowrimo inkygirl will write for chocolate

If I’ve learned anything from my many attempts at NaNoWriMo—mostly unsuccessful insofar as word count is concerned—it’s that preparation and a little foresight goes a long way towards keeping November (or, again, any intensive writing spree—especially if you have to meet some sort of deadline) fun. Thus, I thought it worth reviving Wendy’s wonderful 2012 blog for both your benefit and mine. Her suggestions still hold true today, four years and many gray hairs later, even though social media and even relationship-building is a moving target (So long, Vine. You’ll be missed*sob*).

Better still, the principle underlying Wendy’s post holds true:

Think ahead.

Spend a day or two setting yourself up for success and you’ll not need to spend thirty-odd days obsessing over the details. Look for your inspiration and put together that inspiration board on Pinterest. Spend a few hours building an architecture for your piece. Take a moment to either hop on social media and give warning that you’ll be scaling back your presence to help with focus—or to lay the groundwork for increased involvement, predicated on the knowledge that doing this thing in community is so much nicer than doing it solo. Register with NaNoWriMo if you think that might give you a little extra motivation, or register with a local writer’s club for something in your own backyard. Swing on by your libraries for writing sprints! (Those things are wonderful.)

Whatever you do, don’t wait to do it! This post goes live the morning that NaNoWriMo gets started, but it’s worth doing all these things even if it takes away from one day’s word total. After all, you’re laying the groundwork for everything that follows.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing News: 10.31.2016

And now for the news!

This week in the world of self-publishing:

Just a quick reminder: It’s NaNoWriMo time! As we mentioned last week, you’ll be seeing the buzz over this annual tradition–National Novel Writing Month–begin to cascade through your literary networks, then build to a crescendo over the month of November. We’ll be following its progress–and your progress–here on Self Publishing Advisor, in hopes that we can provide yet another resource to assist you in reaching your writing goals, even if they have nothing at all to do with NaNoWriMo itself and the nonprofit organization which has brought it to such international acclaim. After all, the same tips and tricks which help NaNoWriMo participants are the same tips and tricks that all authors need to brush up on every now and again!

Did you ever think you’d be getting serious writing advice from Bustle? I sure didn’t—but I’m very, very glad to have stumbled across this excellent October 24th piece by Bustle contributor Stephanie Topacio Long. Says Long, “The countdown to National Novel Writing Month is now down to single digits”—or in our case, less than twenty-four hours—”so it’s understandable if your excitement or anxiety about the annual writing challenge is off the charts already. Luckily, there’s still time for last-minute NaNoWriMo prep. Taking certain steps in the lead-up to November could make for a more successful month of writing.” While we’ve written about this subject here on Self-Publishing Advisor before, it’s always good to hear affirmation (and perhaps, receive more fleshed-out advice) from other writers whom we admire. Like Faulkner and Eisenberg, Long emphasizes the importance of preparatory tips like setting a schedule and establishing a support system (my personal favorite), but she goes a bit further in pushing for authors to get pumped up for the days to come. (And her well-selected gifs to illustrate each point definitely don’t hurt her argument.) As Long says, “Get psyched for NaNoWriMo now. Win or lose, the experience will be valuable for you. You’ll either come out the other side with the first draft of a novel (fingers crossed!), or you’ll learn a host of valuable lessons.” Hear, hear, Ms. Long! For the rest of her fabulous piece, click here.

Look, everybody needs a little humor headed into a long hard project, right? And right at the perfect moment, along comes Adam Forsgren with this glorious October 29th article for East Idaho News! “This will be my sixth year participating in NaNoWriMo, and over the years, I’ve noticed that the whole experience can be broken into different stages of dealing with the ‘burden’ of writing a 50,000 word narrative in 30 days,” he begins: “Think of it kind of like the stages of dealing with death, only with more caffeine and less crushing despondency.” First off, I’d like to take all of our collective hats off to Forsgren. SIX years of NaNoWriMo? That’s incredible. Secondly, he’s in a privileged place to deliver to us his theory of the 5 Phases of Dealing With NaNoWriMo:

  1. “Total Stokage” (AKA enthusiasm)
  2. “The Weight Hits” (oh no)
  3. “The Drag” (it doesn’t get worse than this, does it?)
  4. “The Despondency” (oh … it does ….)
  5. “The Glorious Morning!!”

As you might have guessed from the double exclamation point, Forsgren is a huge advocate for sticking it out through thick and thin to finish your writing projects (“It feels like I’ve actually accomplished something. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to fatherhood. And what’s crazy is that once you feel that feeling, you can’t wait to do it all over again.”) and he’s incredibly persuasive. If you needed the combination of realism (he does face up to the incredible challenges this project entails) and a powerful pep talk, this is the article for you. Read the full thing online at EastIdahoNews.com!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.