The 9 to 5 lifestyle: go to the office, do your work; leave the office, leave work behind. In some ways it has its advantages, something I thought I could bring with me when I decided to work for myself.
A while back I found myself able to live my dream of becoming a full time writer. Excited at the possibility of putting my heart and soul into my new position, I created a cozy writing space in my home. I had the best of intentions, and readied my days for long hours of writing and editing, pouring my heart and my inspiration into everything I wrote. Then the challenges began.
I could stare at the screen for hours, never getting more than a word or two out at a time. Yet the moment I would leave my workspace and do something just for me, that’s when true inspiration would find me. Very quickly I realized that as a full time writer, I would never have a 9 to 5 job ever again.
Writing doesn’t work that way. Writing is a process that extends beyond the time you spend behind a computer screen, fingers touching the keys. To become a writer means always thinking about how your words will come together. It means cultivating ideas from every thing I do, watching stories grow and come together in my mind.
I have learned several things in my time as a writer; things that have helped me become more efficient with my writing process.
Limit my writing time
While I need creative time to write each day, its equally important to have time for other things. Health, wellness, relationships – they all have an equal place in my life.
Block time for more purpose
I value the time I spend on each area of my life each day. When its writing time, I write. When I spend time with family, I’m ever present. I believe in blocking my time into chunks for more purpose and more focus.
Build ideas from what inspires you
What inspires me? Travel. Cooking. Being the best I can be. And as I discover myself through all of my activities, I find I become more inspirational as a writer, with more to give to what I do.
Find what has meaning in your life
Some of my happiest times involved places and events that allowed me to discover the best of me. They continue to inspire me today, giving me viewpoints and perspectives that make my writing more real and more vivid.
No one can deny that ebook sales have changed the way we read. And while ebook sales are significantly less than hardcovers and paperbacks, they still rake in upwards of a half billion dollars a year in business for Amazon alone.
And yet the giant in the industry never sits still.
A year ago Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited, an ebook subscription service where readers pay $9.99 a month for access to hundreds of thousands of titles. Most of these titles come from self-published authors participating in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program. As of July 2015, they have made another change which significantly affects the way self-published authors receive royalties.
Before July, Amazon calculated these royalties based on either the number of downloads a book received, or how frequently Kindle Unlimited customers chose a book and read more than 10 percent of it.
As of July 1st, Amazon is switching how it calculates KDP royalties from the current selection of “qualified borrows” to instead paying completely based on the number of pages read.
Amazon’s reasoning is to better align payout with the length of books and how much a customer reads. Under the old system, reaching the 10 percent threshold was much easier and more likely with a short novella with 50 pages or less, when compared to a full length novel with 300 pages or more. This process encouraged writers to shorten their stories and produce more of them, which in effect flooded the ebook market with a heavy share of novellas.
Switching to a method where an author is paid by the number of actual pages read encourages the writer to think first about reader engagement throughout the novel.
While Amazon is not saying how many KDP Select pages are read each month, the pot of funds they are giving back to indie authors is substantial, currently at $11 million for July.
Yet when it comes to the business of writing books, it remains to be seen how authors will be impacted by this change. By their own calculations, Amazon shows how it is more advantageous to write longer books that are of the highest quality.
Will this new direction work? We can only wait and see. What it does prove is that Amazon is the giant in the industry, always thinking, always changing. They aren’t afraid to try new things, risk failure, and learn from their mistakes.
Will Amazon’s new program help or hinder profits for authors? Only time will tell. Yet one thing is certain. As the increasing popularity of ebooks makes self-publishing more common, there will be many more changes to come.
What do you think? How have the changes in Amazon’s program affected you?
Almost all of us have this raw desire to travel and see the world. We want to learn more about the people and the cultures around us. We want to see the history right before our eyes. For most people, travel is an important part of their lives. To a writer, it’s not just important; it’s vital.
Traveling even just a few hundred miles from home can give you a new outlook on the world. But when your journey takes you far beyond the borders of where you currently live, there’s something eye-opening that will inspire you in an entirely new way. Here are the things I love most about traveling.
Every country is filled with stories. Every country has unique myths and legends. Each country has stories that are passed down from generation to generation. They reveal the history and help each new generation understand how past generations lived. What better way to gain inspiration and to spark creativity than to see what a new country has to offer? To find the stories, you can do it through the best-loved resources available – museums, historical buildings, and events can all help you dive deeper into the culture and experience life from the people deep within.
New lands provide you with new landscapes. From the deserts to the seas, from the mountains to the valleys, every aspect of Mother Earth provides a visitor with a sense of awe. Whether you are in an urban city with millions of inhabitants, or are alone in a desert with no one in sight, the sheer vastness and beauty can leave you breathless. And inspire you well beyond anything you would achieve in the normalcy of home.
Learning a new culture gives you empathy. In many ways we don’t appreciate or empathize with things we don’t understand. By getting close and personal with people from other cultures and other lands, we learn that in as many ways as we are different, we’re also more alike then we realize. By viewing the world through another’s eyes, it provides a palette of characterization in which you can learn from. Mannerisms, accents, beliefs, even physical characteristics can all make you realize just how close we really are. (And give writers like me lots of ideas for new book characters.)
Traveling provides you with more depth. The simple acts of visiting a coffee shop, touring a historic monument, or even sampling the best restaurants in a town will give you more perspective than you could ever get by sitting at home. You can hear the sounds, smell the distinct aromas, and see in distinct detail what certain areas are like, and how the people from within live on a daily basis.
Planning is part of the process. Part of the fun of traveling is planning. It’s like creating a short story before you begin with the fully thought out manuscript. You do a little research, make a few decisions, all in anticipation of adding in the details in the near future. It leaves you filled with anticipation of what is to come.
Ahhh, a writer’s life. We’ve all imagined how the greatest writers of our time complete their projects. I envision them escaping to a house on the beach to watch a glorious sunrise as they type away, taking breaks to be inspired as they walk along the sands.
Even when I first had the desire to write, I could see myself rising in the morning and writing for a few hours, fully inspired by the story I held tight in my chest. After getting a few pages of copy, the day would be my own, and I could have fun doing the things I wanted to do.
Alas, dreams rarely match reality. And some of the tasks of being an author have actually surprised me. When I saw myself writing books, I imagined finishing a book, giving myself a much needed rest, then diving into writing the next book. I never imagined the process would have me marketing and promoting the book as well.
But as I learn more about sharing my story with the world, one thing has become a bigger part of my life than I would have ever anticipated —using social . I remember when Facebook and Twitter weren’t even companies. Now they are two of the major tools an author can use to connect with readers and fans.
While social media offers hundreds of thousands of different channels, the two most effective opportunities for an anthor are Twitter and Facebook. Why? Because that’s where readers hangout. That’s how I find a lot of information in today’s world, and I know that’s how my readers find theirs as well. So why fight the system; why not join it instead?
The key to being successful on social media is to remember it’s all about sharing, not selling. If you’re an author, of course you want people to buy your book. But it goes beyond that. You want people to see who you are, to be able to get into your mind and find out the secrets behind your book, to find out the secrets that allow you to write the way you do. And you can do that in so many ways.
Take, for example, my recent share about my anniversary dinner. I gave my readers a peek into my life, sharing the thrill of being in one of the trendiest restaurants in Atlanta with them. Not only did we have a fabulous time, we even spotted a celebrity as well! You’ll have to read the post to find out who!
That experience is now a part of who I am. Will I use it to sway the way I write when working on one of my next Pinnacle books? Maybe.
Yet the fun of it comes from being able to share all of those experiences with you—to give you, my readers, a taste of what I use every day to influence my writing.
Does social media work? Is it an effective way to promote a book? I would argue it’s more effective as a way to promote an author. Because as we build a relationship with the authors we enjoy, we want more. When they release a new book, we want to read it. Because we’ve developed a relationship with that person over time, and we’re ready to continue the relationship, through the stories they share.
That’s only one way to sell books, still employ other tools.
If you are thinking about writing a novel, it can be a daunting process.
What would people think of my writing?
Do I really write well enough to be published?
Do I have a great idea for a story?
Will my book sell?
Should I try to hire an agent?
And those are just a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I started the process.
But being a first time author has a lot more aspects than these. It’s a tough learning curve with no end in sight. Publishing takes a lot of work, but it doesn’t end with the writing process. From there, you have to edit it, design the pages and the cover, build your brand, market your book … the tasks create an endless supply on your to-do list.
I’m now deep into the writing phase of my second book, and if I could go back in time and give myself a little guidance before this whole process began, here are my words of wisdom.
Never skimp on the important stuff. If you’re a writer, writing is what you love most. I get it; that’s my first love too. But a potential reader won’t fall in love with your book and choose to read it if you don’t put just as much thought in the other things too. Never trust a cover design from a friend, or plug in your title and a photo into an online cover creator and get your cover for free. Your cover is what sells your book; make sure you invest in a quality cover design. With so many great options out there, to trust generic covers for your novel wouldn’t do your final book justice.
The same holds true with editing. When you write your novel, you are too close to the subject to look at the copy through critical eyes. A great editor can not only fix your grammatical mistakes, they can also provide you with guidance to tighten up the story line and make it even better. Bring them in early; they are well worth the investment.
Consider a mentor. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. I have professional coaches to help improve what I do. The more you surround yourself with professional great people that understand your goal, the more you’ll start achieving your dreams of becoming a published author. I would never be working on a trilogy if I hadn’t selected the right people to place around me and help me stay on this path I’ve designed for myself.
Think long term from the beginning. Have you ever asked yourself why you want to write a book? Is it to say you’ve written one? Is it to hold it in your hands and check off that task from your bucket list? Or is it to become a paid writer and have people read and love what you have to say?
If you want to be a well respected author, you have to do more than write a book. You have to think of it like a business. When you look at it as a business, you’ll start to see your writing in a different way. Your characters will take on a different life – why not a trilogy instead of a single novel? You’ll start to pay attention to things like reviews. The reason most first time authors struggle is they think too narrow from the beginning.
Being a writer isn’t just about writing; it’s about the entire process. It’s about getting your words on paper, all the way to placing a copy of your book into the hands of fans that love what you do. If you think from that aspect first, you’ll find success as a writer.
What makes a work of fiction actually fiction?
According to its definition, a work of fiction is derived from imagination, in addition to, or rather than from history or fact. Fiction is assumed to not represent characters who are actual people, or descriptions that are factually true. Yet those lines are blurred all the time.
Take, for instance, a historical fiction novel. Historical fiction places imaginary characters into real life historical events. While much about the event is correct – times, dates, geography, specific details – the characters themselves didn’t actually exist. Yet from thorough research, a writer can imagine how a person would have felt, who they were, how they acted, what they may have done. Would they closely resemble a person that actually existed? Possibly so.
The same occurs all the time with modern day fiction.
As a writer, I am constantly researching locations, events, specific details that make an area unique. I am a woman. I am a nurse. I’ve served in the military. I live life on a daily basis.
When I write about love, it’s through the eyes of someone who has experienced love. When I write about travel, it’s through the eyes of someone who has traveled extensively through different countries and cultures.
While my characters may be products of my imagination, they take on a life based on who I am, what I know, what I’ve learned and what I’ve researched. They are an extension of what I know from experiencing life around me, without pinpointing the particulars of any one thing.
Is that fiction? Is that reality?
Is there really any other way?
If someone had asked me ten years ago, where I saw my career heading in the next decade, “a writer,” would not have been the first thing to roll off my tongue.
Even as a small child, I knew that caring for people was my true passion—what I was built for. I remember running around my childhood home with my first toy stethoscope, blood pressure cuff and thermometer, which my family had rather reluctantly condensed into a small leather briefcase for me after tiring of my incessant begging. I practiced and practiced—on them, on my friends, and on any visitor who happened to linger at our house longer than five minutes. Looking back, their reluctance may have stemmed from a weariness of opening their mouths and sticking their tongues out, yet again, instead of a distaste for the gathering of toy medical supplies and leather briefcases for an overly eager child.
No matter, as I grew into adulthood, I followed the path I knew to be most true to myself. I poured my heart and my soul into my studies and eventually my profession. Sometimes the hospital felt more like home than home itself. The sense of order and cleanliness juxtaposed against chaos and distress—all set amidst a regular buzz of activity, soothed my soul in a way that I still find hard to describe with mere words.
Over time, nursing became second-nature. A profession that I loved, and that fundamentally shaped my personality, intellect and emotional development, had finally reached its peak. I knew it was time for a new challenge.
I began to give in to my desire to write.
What started as a hobby—a deviation from my daily work schedule, an imaginative escape into a fantasy world that I could shape and produce as I saw fit—has turned into so much more. A few pages here grew into a few chapters. A few chapters grew into more chapters and before I knew it I had an intricate story and an admirable heroine. I felt like I’d found my second calling.
As I dipped into creative writing, I also had to learn the business side and the logistics of publishing from scratch. As much as writing was a joy it also became a challenge with concrete goals—something that I could pour myself into, and something that I could aspire to, much like I did with my nursing career.
I hope you will enjoy following along with my blog, where I will talk about my story and my process, as much as I enjoy documenting it.
Best of wishes and Happy New Year,
I hope that everyone has a very festive holiday season!