Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Forward Planning for 2017 #IWSG

It’s the first Wednesday of the month when all IWSGers post about their writing insecurities and/or offer encouragement to others. If the IWSG is new to you, please visit the IWSG Sign-up tab here. A big thank you to our December co-hosts: Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

We've made the IWSG Day more fun and interactive by asking a question each writer can answer, so here goes:

In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Now on to today's post:

Forward Planning for 2017

It feels like only a few months have gone by since it was January, however, the reality is eleven months have swept by since the start of 2016.

This time of year is great for assessment—looking at what worked, didn't work, and charting a path forward.  Some of the questions I ask myself every December are:

What have I achieved this year?

I look at what I've published and list the books I plan to write the following year. My son tells me I take on too many projects and I ought to cut back. Sensibly though, I'd say 3-4 books is a good target for the average writer and more for those who are writing machines.

What things didn't I complete?

Inevitably, I have some carryovers because I'm an overachiever. These get first pick as it pertains to new mountains to climb, and keep me focused on where I'm going in the New Year.

What can I do differently on my writing journey in the coming year?

Life and work become overwhelming at times and scheduling too much can cause burnout. To avoid this, I look back at what did not get done and scale back or decide how I can achieve greater efficiency.

Did I create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based) goals?

It's all well and good to throw a list of things together, but without a plan projects can and do go awry. It is the wise writer who plots the steps he/she will take and puts a time frame in place to achieve his/her goals.

What questions do you ask yourself at this time of year? Have you started planning your publication schedule for 2017? Any exciting plans or new direction on the horizon?

We have a special treat!
Audio book narrator Michael Burnette is graciously giving away five copies of his book - The Independent Author's Guide to Audiobook Production: A Professional Narrator's Secrets for Success on ACX.

This is perfect for authors who want to turn their books into audio.

See Rafflecopter for entries – open until December 13.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 28, 2016

High Stakes? Death. Always Death - An Interview with James Scott Bell

Today the Insecure Writer’s Support Group would like to welcome James Scott Bell, the author of several books on the craft of writing, including Just Write, a Writer’s Digest Book. We’re discussing high stakes in a novel and how to manage writing time. Welcome, James!

1. What is one thing all writers can do today to help manage their time?

Learn to prioritize. Not all tasks are of equal importance. Everything you do should be according to the ABCs.

Tasks that MUST be done label with an A. These are tasks fundamental to contributing to your long-term success. Further, those A tasks should also be prioritized by 1, 2, 3, etc.

Set about to do A1 first....then A2...etc.

B tasks are important, but should not be handled until the A tasks are done. Prioritize these as well. B1, B2 ....

C tasks can wait. Do these only if you get some spare time.

Also, put a time estimate by each task.

I prioritize my tasks by the week. Sunday is a good day to plan out your week.

2. We often hear that the stakes in a novel should be high. How high do you think those stakes should be?

Death. Always death. Physical, professional, or psychological.

Physical death is what you have in a thriller. Someone, or a whole lot of someones, are going to die if the bad guys get their way. The Hunger Games.

Professional death means that the character’s job or vocation (e.g., cop, lawyer, mother) is one the line. If they fail in the novel, that aspect of their life is effectively over, or damaged greatly. The Verdict.

If the novel is mainly about a character on the inside, on their becoming a whole human being, that’s psychological death. If the character cannot overcome the challenge, they will “die inside.” The Catcher in the Rye.

3. What is one of the biggest writing blunders you’ve seen writers make and how can they avoid it?

I have a book called 27 Fiction Writing Blunders – And How Not To Make Them. If I had to pick just one, right now I’d say it’s writing the “expected.” Our minds tend to jump to what’s been done before, not just in characterization and plotting, but in every scene we write. We have to consciously set out to find the unexpected. Which can be in something as subtle as a dialogue exchange. This is what makes writing seem fresh.

4. How can a writer work on several projects at once? Is it possible?

My method is to think of myself as a movie studio. I always have a green-lighted project (my work-in-progress, or WIP). I have several projects “in development.” That means I’ve started making notes on character and plot, and perhaps a preliminary story board (I use Scrivener’s index card view for this). Projects in development go into a file I call “Front Burner.”

Then I have a file of hundreds of ideas I’ve come up with over the years. These are usually summarized in one or two lines. Sometimes just a title. I scan these ideas from time to time, looking for the ones that catch my fancy and, if they do, I make a few more notes. If I start to like something, I move it to the Front Burner.

In this way, my “boys in the basement” are always at work, even when I’m concentrating on my WIP.

5. Why should writers study classic novels?

Depends on what you mean by “study” and “classic.” For me, a classic is The Maltese Falcon or Farewell, My Lovely.  I study these for various purposes related to my own writing.

So it depends on your goals.

If I want to study characterization, I might turn to a Dickens. Or a Stephen King.

If I want to study dialogue, it could be John O’Hara ... or Elmore Leonard.

For emotional impact: Hemingway short stories or To Kill a Mockingbird.

It’s good for writers to design self-study programs on each of the seven critical success factors of fiction: plot, structure, characters, scenes, dialogue, voice, meaning (theme). Get some good craft books on the subject and select some novels you’ve read where the writer has done that thing well. Or get recommendations of same. Then read, study, and practice what you learn.

This is called growing as a writer. And it should never stop.

Author Bio:

JAMES SCOTT BELL is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure, and numerous thrillers, including, Romeo’s Rules, Try Dying and Don't Leave Me. In addition to his traditional novels, Jim has self-published in a variety of genres. His novella One More Lie was the first self-published work to be nominated for an International Thriller Writers Award. He served as the fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magazine and has written highly popular craft books including: Just Write, Write Your Novel From the Middle, Super Structure, The Art of War for Writers and Conflict & Suspense. Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and at numerous writers conferences in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He and London.attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver, and graduated with honors from the University of Southern California Law Center.

Visit his website 

Question to Readers: How do you manage writing time and multiple projects?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mason Canyon Tours

There may come a time in your professional career as a novelist when you'll wonder whether you need a literary publicist. Maybe you have a 40 hour a week job. Or you've got small children at home. Or you're in the midst of trying to sell your home, as I am. 

As the author of two published novels, I certainly understood what was needed before, during and after my novel Mâtowak: Woman Who Cries was due for release. But just thinking about it left me in a brain-fog. While I'm not great at delegating chores, nor am I good at relinquishing control, even I knew I was exhausted and needed help. They say a woman asking for help is an anomaly. I'm so glad happy I broke that cycle. 

At the end of a month long virtual book tour, I'm sitting here grinning from ear to ear because I had Mason Book Tours campaigning on my behalf. While I sat back and enjoyed the process, MBT did the work. 

Want to know what they did?

Here's just a few of the things:

  1. MC produced the tour page with all the pertinent information: bio, blurb, photo, book cover, and calendar. 
  2. MC created the Rafflecopter. 
  3. MC designed the tour banners and graphics and promoted the event on Facebook and Twitter. 
  4. MC served as a middle man between all hosts and myself, so that I had only ONE person to interact with. 
  5. MC provided books for the reviewers and collected questions from the hosts. 
  6. MC gathered the answers to all the questions and returned them to the designated hosts. 
  7. MC put together the tour package with the essential material. 
  8. MC chose the excerpts and sent them out to the right hosts in chronological order to match the calendar. 
  9. MC coordinated the hosts within the calendar month, making certain they had everything they needed before their day.
  10. MC updated the author's tour page each morning and sent out individual emails to those hosts. Q&A, guest posts, and excerpts. 
  11. MC visited every single site, left a comment, and shared their links with her networks.
  12. MC sent a final thank you to all hosts and a wrap up to me with a complete list of all host bloggers and their blog links.
  13. ...
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Mason Canyon Tours did what would have taken me a few extra months of prep work. MC took the pressure off and made the release of my third novel a joy. 

Circumstances change and as authors we adjust and we cope. It only takes one published novel to understand that writing the book is the easy part. 

Happy Reading.