Category Archives: indie publishing

Welcome new readers!

I see that I’ve recently gotten a lot of traffic from people who have recently discovered I Wish and the Witches of Desire world. That’s awesome! Hi, guys!

Looking at the search terms that brought some of you here I can see that there are a couple of questions that people are wondering about so I thought I’d make a post to address those things.

What ages is I Wish appropriate for? – I Wish is a book with some dark themes of betrayal, obsession, and murder. It’s filtered through the 1st person POV of Thistle Nettlebottom who tries to keep a sense of humor about things. There is one scene in the book that features a little bit of heavy petting and a reference to her “down there”.

Depending on your comfort level with those topics, the book is probably suitable for readers 13 years and up. But again, it’s ultimately a personal choice about what your let your kids read.

I will say now that I’m struggling with the sequel. As it’s outlined now there will be some sex scenes. They will be “closed door”, meaning that it will be mentioned in passing, rather than a blow by blow description, but those scenes will be referenced in terms that make it clear that sex is happening because it’s important to the plot. The references will not be written to titillate, but it might change your view on whether the book is acceptable for your young readers.

At this time I am planning to have a censored version available, but I’m unsure as to whether I’m going to post it for sale because I’m afraid it might cause confusion. It’s still early to plan for it since my outline isn’t finalized yet so those scenes might be cut anyway. But I will address the details closer to the release date.

When will Your Word is My Bond (book 2 of the Witches of Desire trilogy) be released? – I’m an indie published author. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. On the plus side, I don’t have to wait on an arbitrary publishing schedule, I can release my stories as soon as they are written. The bad news is that I don’t have a set in stone deadline I have to meet. Which is why I ended up taking time off from writing mainstream fiction to focus on other projects and so the sequel to I Wish hasn’t been written yet.

Now having confessed that, I am committed to getting the sequel out as soon as possible while still delivering a great story. Fortunately, I already know what happens. Nothing that happens in book 2 or 3 of this series is a surprise to me. I plotted the series arcs before I wrote word of I Wish. At this point I’m just working out the details. I hope to start writing by this weekend. My anticipated release date is mid April at the latest. Because the main focus of this blog is my writing process, you can check back here from time to time to find out how the book is progressing and for “behind the scenes” peeks at my creative process.

What other stories take place in the Witches of Desire universe? – I’m just going to steal this list I posted on my Facebook page:

I Wish – A full length YA novel which follows the story of Thistle Nettlebottom, a teen who returns to a hometown she doesn’t remember only to discover that she’s a witch from a town full of them. She has to learn to navigate the complex matriarchal society dominated by women who inexplicably hate her while learning to use her newly discovered powers.
As if high school isn’t hard enough, throw in a tough choice between two hot guys, a best friend who refuses to talk to you in public, but won’t explain why, and dodging attacks from someone who wants you dead. She always wanted a place to call home, but now that she’s got it, she’s learned that it’s best to be careful what you wish for.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
The Second Daughter’s Second Daughter – A stand alone short story that is both a prequel and sequel to I Wish (as in it covers things that happen before the events of I Wish, but really makes more sense if you read it afterwards). It’s best if it’s read after I Wish, but shouldn’t spoil things if you read it first. It’s in the anthology The Glass Heart Chronicles. It’s the story of a young girl’s first love and the tragic aftermath.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
The Hazards of Desire – A stand alone short story that delves into some of the reasons that falling in love in Desire isn’t a very good for your health. It’s included in the anthology Every Witch Way but Wicked. The proceeds of that anthology go to Kids Need to Read.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
The Lies We Tell Ourselves – This micro short story can be read alone, but adds some character development to one of my favorite characters from I Wish, Zane Littlebury. He’s hiding a secret from everyone in Desire, including himself.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Your Word is My Bond – The sequel to I Wish. It’s should be available for purchase around April 2012.

I read I Wish and loved it. I’m a huge fan now. Is there anything I can do to help spread the love? – YES! A hundred times yes. Word of mouth is the single biggest factor in a reader’s choice to read a new book. You might be thinking that you are only one person, what can you do? Believe it or not, you have the power to make a career. If you love a book, not just mine, any book at all- tell people about it. Tell your friends, blog about it, tweet about it. I’m going to copy myself again (I’m a dirty plagiarizer today. Sorry!) and use this list that I published in May around the same time that I published I Wish:

So you read my book, I Wish… and you loved it. How can you help my fledgling indie writing career and show your support of my book? Let me give you a list of ways.

  • Word of mouth- The best thing you can do for any product you love is tell your friends. Tell them in forums, on your blog, Twitter, in person. Any way you can communicate your love for something works great.
  • Write a review- Reviews are like currency for indie writers. It let’s other potential readers know that people are reading and enjoying the book and makes it easier for them to decide to buy the book. You can post a review on your blog, the book seller’s site (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc…), reading sites like GoodReads. Or cross post your review on all of them. It’s an awesome gesture and so so SO helpful.
  • Rate, tag, and like my book on Amazon- Amazon has a bizarre way of ranking books that nobody seems to really understand, but doing things like tagging or rating a book only takes a second of your time, but helps get the book into the hands of the people who will most enjoy that type of book.
  • Give me feedback- If the book doesn’t work for you and you don’t want to hurt my sales with negative feedback, but you don’t feel like you can give honest positive feedback, please know that I’m open to hearing whatever it is that you want to say about it. I want to know what’s working or not. I am not the temperamental artist type so don’t fear my crazy wrath. And if you have nothing but good things to say, feel free to let me know that too. I’ll never turn down a little feel good.
  • Offer to host me on your blog- If you really love the book and you feel like I might be a good fit for your blog readership, ask me to do a guest post or an interview. I won’t say no and we both get something from the partnership- I get access to your readers and it’s a day that you don’t have to come up with a post of your own. Wins all around! Yay!
  • Put an excerpt of my book in the back of yours- Have a new book coming out and think that the first scene or two of I Wish would appeal to your readers? Shoot me a note and we’ll work something out.
  • Recommend the book- This goes along with the whole word of mouth thing from way up the list, but it bears repeating. If you see an opportunity to recommend I Wish… to someone who will enjoy it, it would help get the word out. Book bloggers, reading groups, friends and family members. A sincere recommendation can sell a book to almost anyone.
  • Read books by other indie authors- If you like my book then buy books by other indie authors. We’re all in the same boat as we struggle to promote our books. Buying a book from an indie not only helps them pay the bills, but it gives them a sense of validation to know that someone wants to read what they’ve taken the time to write. Buying indie helps to support our little community and without my indie writing friends, I might not have even heard about indie publishing.
  • Buy the book- If you truly loved the book and want to show support, buying the book would help out a lot. Of course there is the money that I’ll see from your purchase which is awesome and appreciated, but buying the book has the additional benefit of raising my rankings on site where you buy it, which will increase my visibility to other buyers.
  • Gift the book to your friends and family- Gifting the book not only counts as a sale (which benefits me as stated above), but it also introduces my book to a new potential fan who can then do all the things in this list.

How can I keep on top of updates to the series? – The easiest way would be to subscribe to this blog. Yeah, a lot of it is about writing, but sometimes I write embarrassing posts about myself. And zombies. Klout has told me that I’m kind of an authority on the subject of zombies. But only because it’s true.

I am also putting together a mailing list for updates on new books and stories that come out in the upcoming months. If you’re interested in being added, just send me an email at wrenemerson(at)gmail(dot)com with the subject line “mailing list”, no text necessary and I’ll make sure that you’re added. I won’t spam or sell your email so no worries there. I hate marketing, folks. So I’m especially uninclined to do something like that. 😉

How can I contact you? – I am ridiculously accessible. I have accounts at Pininterest, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Instagram and probably 10 other sites I can’t think of off the top of my head. I use the name wrenemerson or Wren Emerson everywhere I join. If you have an account some place and you want to be friends with me, search for one of those names and you’ll find me. I love meeting new people so don’t be shy. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter (@wrenem) or email me at wrenemerson(at)gmail(dot)com. And, of course, you can always comment on this blog.

Where can I buy vomit stickers for scrapbooking? – Ok, this was just for one person. I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s cool that I was even on the list of relevant sites? I believe I was something like 3rd or 4th. But even cooler is the fact that I’m the number one search if you’re looking for “zombie herpes badger”. Maybe it’s a silly thing to be proud of, but then again I’m the girl who was pleased as punch to find out someone was googling “Wren Emerson bikini” even if I do think that’s a terribly misguided search. Trust me folks, you don’t want to see that. I’m pretty much an escapee of a National Geographic magazine from the neck down. I blame the minions.


Leave a comment

Filed under indie publishing

I Wish gets a new cover

The blog post contains major spoilers. I did finally commission a new cover for I Wish… after months of talking about it. I originally talked to someone a couple of months after I released I Wish… but that fell through. Being that I’m exceptionally lazy, I never pursued it again. What I did do was whine about it. Incessantly.

Finally it happened the other day that I was complaining that with my new price (I raised the price to $4.99 around the first) I really need to get serious about getting a cover that better conveys that my book isn’t a fluff coming of age story, but an edgier, darker YA paranormal.

My love, who is much more patient than I am and has been hiding some amazing photoshop skills like a ninja, offered to take a crack at it. We looked at a bunch of the covers of books in the genre that have been released this year and then he found a blog entry that compared a trend of girls in pretty dresses on covers this year. I know it was more to point out that it was done to death, but instead I said, “Squee! I want a girl in a pretty dress on my cover now too!” Because I’m a sheep.

Unrelated to the proceeding paragraph I thought I’d mention that while I was looking for that link, which I couldn’t suss out via Google and finally had to go through hundreds of entries in my browser history (you’re welcome!), I found a very interesting blog about the literal darkness of YA covers in 2010. You should check it out. It’s really cool, actually.

So anyway, that’s the backstory about how I came up with this particular vision for the cover that has almost nothing to do with my actual story (there are woods in my story and the cover model has long dark hair, at least). But my love gets all the credit for making what I think is a lovely cover. I picked the image and when he wanted to add ornamentation, I asked him to stick with the dandelion-puff-represents-wishing thing I had going in the original version. Other than that, it’s all him. It should go up sometime in the next few days.



Filed under I wish, indie publishing

The most interesting job in the world

I’ve spent a lot of time this week working on the outline for my upcoming project, known at this time as F My Afterlife- although that name was chosen when I was going for a more playful tone. Things have gotten downright macabre in ghost-land during the course of plotting so I’m not sure if that title will fit anymore.

When I say “some time” I mean every day for a week and a half from 8am when I wake up to 9 or 10 o clock at night. I bought some books* on the craft that I’ve been reading while I plot, literally reading for a few minutes and then stopping to add or rewrite scenes accordingly. I’ve been learning a lot this time around. I have been making liberal use of post it notes on my wall to remind me of things like prior to the midpoint the characters are reacting, it’s only after that point that they finally start to take action. Just simple reminders, but they help me keep things on track.

I can’t imagine spending as much time doing any other job. I never thought that I’d find something to do with myself that would literally have me wanting to spend my every waking moment thinking about it. Granted, it becomes more of a grind once the planning stage is over, but there’s no part of writing that I actually hate or even dislike. Well, maybe promotion, but I’m out to find out if that step is even necessary.

What really made me consider my opinion that writing is clearly the most interesting way to earn a living ever is the nature of some of the conversations I’ve had because of it. I IM with my love most of the day, especially when something in my plotting has really caught my imagination. At that point it’s an invitation to send him an elaborate run down of the plot so far, how the characters tie together, and why this new idea is solid gold. I’m guessing that for him none of this is nearly as fascinating as I think it is, but the fact that I’m literally creating something that didn’t exist until I thought of it is heady stuff.

If you are someone who is sitting on the fence about indie publishing, I’d highly recommend you give it a try. Based on my highly scientific presentation of why writing rocks.

Unrelated, but worth reading, I found another article about the KDP Select program. I know Mark Coker isn’t unbiased, but he makes such good points. The one thing I hope will come from this is that for the 90 days that the authors who opted in are tied to Amazon exclusively, those of us who didn’t will see more sales on our books in other places.

*book list courtesy of Ecto’s awesome Amazon feature:

“Story Engineering” (Larry Brooks)

“Story Structure Architect: A Writer’s Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters” (Victoria Lynn Schmidt)

“How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense” (Carolyn Wheat) (I literally bought this one out of desperation the other day when I realized my story was taking on some mystery tones)

“Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time” (Jordan Rosenfeld)

1 Comment

Filed under indie publishing, the daily grind

Creating a production schedule

I’m not sure if there are other terms that apply to what I refer to as my production schedule. But my definition is my plan for upcoming writing projects mapped out through 2012.

My schedule hinges on my ability to write 2k words toward my novels per day, every day. I’m not giving myself any planned days off because I don’t really feel like I need them. Writing is not a chore for me. It’s something I enjoy doing and I can knock out 2000 words without too much effort. If I do miss a day due to life getting in the way, I’ll just add those missed days onto another day. It’s the end result that counts. I did this with I Wish… with great results.

I used the Curio software to set up my schedule. It allows me to assign due dates to lists. So this is what my schedule looks like for 2012.

Screen Shot 2011-12-13 at 11.21.05 AM.png

This plan hinges on me being able to do several things at once. I’ll always have something in either a 2 week pre-writing stage or actually being written. Then there will be edits happening as well. At which point I’ll find a pro to give my drafts a final polish. I haven’t factored in hiring a cover artist, this only covers the things I’ll be doing myself. I’ll probably work with someone while I’m writing the story since I’ll know from my outlining what will happen in the story. Depending on the turn around time with the editor, I should have these books up within a few weeks after I finish my round of edits.

As you can see, you can expect the Witches of Desire trilogy to be done by next January. I figure that should give me some breathing room in between projects to keep up my enthusiasm for the project. This is a tentative schedule. I plan to keep flexible on what projects I tackle. If I’m not feeling it when it comes time to work on something, I’ll either swap it with something due later in the year or take on a new project altogether. This schedule isn’t meant to stifle me, just hold me account able to a certain level of productivity.

The novels aren’t the only thing I’ll be working on. I have my short fiction under my pen name that I’ll be writing simultaneously. Also at a pace of 2k words a day. Each story averages about 4.5k words. My plan is to write 3 stories a week that I’ll upload on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Saturdays I’ll spend some time coming up with story ideas for the week and creating the covers so when it’s time to upload them, all I have to do is format and go.

This is a pretty ambitious year. I do expect that I’ll come up short on the stories because there’s not much room for error and my life is full of socializing with the other girls on the derby team, as well as more serious commitments to the team. On top of that, I have a family which includes my young minions. Summer vacation will play havoc with my carefully structured schedule, I have no doubt. The novels I feel a little bit better about. Since I work from strict outlines, there’s not a lot of on the spot creative thinking necessary. I can do that with kids arguing in the background. I’ve done it before.

So you want to know how I came up with this schedule so you can make your own?

Come up with a daily/weekly word goal

What’s reasonable for you? I went with 4k on a daily basis because I feel like it’s not much of a strain. I don’t work outside the home. Writing IS my job so it’s not unreasonable to expect myself to put in a full day’s work doing it. It’s enough to challenge me, which I think is a good thing to strive for, but I don’t run much of a risk of burn out since I’ll be working across several projects at a time. Figure out what a good number is for you. Challenge yourself, but don’t make it impossible to achieve.

Determine the length of your projects

My shorts are ~4.5k words each and my novels are being planned at 90k each. 90k/2k = 45 days. Or about 6 weeks. 2 weeks of outlining seems reasonable to me since I’ll be working on that unofficially during the time leading up to them. I LOVE that part of writing, so I’ll think about it for fun. By the time I’m ready to start a project I’ll already have a really good idea of what I’m looking at.

Mark it on your calendar

Screen Shot 2011-12-13 at 12.00.51 PM.png

This is what my February is going to look like. It seems pretty chaotic in the overview, but by taking it day by day, I don’t think it’ll seem so overwhelming. Other things to add would be any anthologies to which you contribute, contest dates, submissions to traditional agents/publishers (if that’s your thing), and other writing projects. Write it down and then live by your calendar.

Hold yourself accountable

When I wrote I Wish… I kept a daily word tracking log. It told me exactly how many words I’d written that day, how many words I’d written total, and how many I had left to meet my goal. It was motivating to watch my word count slowly grow. I’m still debating about how I plan to keep track this time around. I’ll probably just start a couple of lists with Curio and add the date and the number of words I wrote that day for each project. I won’t stress about daily totals as long as I’m good about finishing my weekly goals (4k a day or 28k a week).

Don’t go easy on yourself. When you are an indie writer you don’t answer to anybody but yourself. Oh sure, your fans are going to want to know when they can expect the next book, but believe me, no matter how much you want to give it to them, if you aren’t motivated internally, it’s not going to happen. You won’t be fired if you don’t finish your manuscript by a certain date. These are your goals so you need to be the one making sure you meet them.

Stick with it

This is going to be the hard part. It’s easy to make goals, but something else all together to stick with it until you get the results you want. If you fail to meet your goal one day, or a week, or even a month, don’t just throw in the towel and give it up as a lost cause. Either reevaluate your goals since maybe you were being too ambitious or, if you’re sure your goals are reasonable and it was a just a weak moment on your part, pick it up again and carry on. Don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes. Self loathing isn’t going to get your books written. Put it behind you and try again.

Are you planning to set up a production schedule for 2012? Let me know and we can try to help each other stay motivated to stick it out.

Leave a comment

Filed under indie publishing

Pricing a novel and some links

Dean Wesley Smith has an interesting post that covers pretty much exactly what I was saying yesterday. Of course he speaks from volumes of experience so it’s worthwhile to read his blog.

David Gaughran and Mark Coker both address Amazon’s KDP Select. I’ve opted not to do it at this time, although not for the listed reasons so much as I think that an exclusivity contract would bone my non-Kindle using readers. I’m not willing to do that, although if David is right and the reading world is heading toward subscription based services for reading, I might not have a lot of choice since Amazon pulls in the lion’s share of my sales.

Actually, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more debate about the KDP Select program. It seems like it would be one of those things that polarize the indie community, but if it’s being discussed, it’s not on the blogs I follow.

In unrelated news, I’ll be raising the price of I Wish… to $4.99 sometime in January. It’s my personal belief that a novel should be priced higher than $3 or, god forbid, a dollar. It might hurt my sales numbers, but I’ve done some changing in the year that I’ve been at this.

When I first started last January I came into indie publishing with no prior knowledge. I hadn’t even *heard* of it before then. I fell in love with the concept of being my own boss and threw myself into the process with a lot of enthusiasm, but no real idea of what I was doing. I read everything I could find on indie publishing, of course, but 99% of what you find is based on conjecture and guesswork. It’s impossible to do exactly what someone else does and expect the same results. No two authors have the exact same path to success. Hell, an author can have two books and not expect them to sell exactly the same.

I felt pressured to price I Wish… at $99 when I first published it. I felt like that’s what every other paranormal YA author was doing and that I HAD to in order to compete. I tried that for a month before I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. My sales were better than a lot of indies have the first month, I’ll grant you that, but they weren’t so great that I could justify the price. I priced it at $2.99 and that’s where it’s been sitting ever since.

The thing I’ve come to realize is, much as I don’t believe self promotion is a necessary evil that every indie must spend countless hours working at, I don’t think you need to price your books incredibly low in the hopes of moving huge numbers in a short period of time. I’d rather price my books at point that I feel is fair market value for my work and wait for them to find their audience.

When I first published I Wish… I was obsessed with checking my sales numbers. I mean I’d do it every 20 minutes. Now, I think it’s been 3 months or more since I’ve looked at any of my numbers. If I were to try a new method of promotion I’d be a lot more proactive so I could determine if it was having any effect, but otherwise, there’s not a lot of point to it. I should probably check at least once or twice a month to make sure the sales are matching what I’m being paid for, but so far I haven’t bothered.

There’s a pretty common saying in the indie world “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”, but until you’ve been doing it for awhile you won’t believe it. It’s true though. It’s tempting to spend all your time trying to turn your one novel into a best seller. And why not? Writing a novel is tough. It’s easier to focus all your attention on the one you’ve written than to write another one.

As for me, I’ve worked through that stage. I don’t care about having best selling numbers, although that would be incredible, don’t get me wrong. What I want to do is create a sustainable livable income by writing. I’m well on my way thanks to the short fiction I write under my pen name, but in 2012 I’m going to add significantly to my novel length works of fiction. I’ve set up a production schedule, which I think I’m going to blog about tomorrow. By doing that I have a good idea of what projects I’ll be working on and when they should be done. According to schedule I should have 6 novels written by the end of 2012. That’s 8 titles total with I Wish… and the omnibus edition of the Witches of Desire trilogy. All priced at $4.99 (except the omnibus which I’ll probably price at $9.99 to take advantage of the 70% royalties, but what a good deal for my readers). I might have a livable income from my novels alone by the end of next year, but if I keep that pace up for a few years (6 books a year), I’d have 30 new titles in 5 years. All earning $3.50 a sale. Even if I don’t sell thousands of copies per title per month, I’ll still have a pretty nice chunk of money coming in.

The alternative, which is the route I was heading down, was to spend all my time marketing my one book which I sell for a dollar or two. And then where would I be in 5 years? Maybe I wrote 1 book a year for all those years so I end up with 5 titles that I sell for a buck each in the hopes of securing high sales ranks. Or maybe I’d price the later books at $2.99. And maybe I’d sell more copies per book, but a huge amount of my time would be spent promoting my books instead of writing new ones. Lots of people would know who I was, but I wouldn’t have very many books to sell them so my marketing wouldn’t do very much good in the big picture because they’d run out of things to buy and soon forget me while they move onto other things to read. So when I do finally get a new title out there, I’d have to REmarket it to those same people who haven’t thought about me in the last year.

Neither approach is right or wrong. I’m not judging anyone, nor do I expect to be judged for my choices. I’m just sharing the conclusions I’ve reached based on my own personal experience. This is why I plan to price my books higher than most and why I won’t be doing the same level of promotion that I did with I Wish…


Filed under indie publishing, promotion

Some thoughts on promotion

I go back and forth in my mind about the need to promote my books. When I was first getting started, it seemed like every indie out there stressed the importance of promoting your books extensively. A lot of times to the exclusion of writing more books.

I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I think a lot of people are trying to apply traditional publishing logic to the indie publishing world. It’s my understanding that traditional publishers expect a certain number of sales in a ridiculously short time frame (6 weeks, I think I’ve heard) and once that time has come and gone, you’re old news. It puts a lot of pressure on a writer to work their asses off trying to generate as much publicity for their books as possible to move as many copies as they can during that period of time.

As an indie, I’m not under any of those time restraints. Unless the self publishing market changes radically, it’s possible that every single story I post will sit there for sale until I die and hopefully beyond. At some point interested readers will find my books and buy them. In fact, they’ll buy up every title I have for sale. They’ll tell their like minded friends and I’ll find success.

In theory aggressive promotion speeds up that process and you can start building up a fan base much sooner, maybe even within weeks of publishing your first book. The problem with that theory is that there’s no sure way to make that happen. For every Amanda Hocking who says it was mostly luck that got her books reviewed by some important book bloggers, there are who knows how many hundreds or thousands of aspiring writers who will never get any recognition for all their efforts.

However if you were to spend the time you’d invest with promoting your books writing new ones, you’d have something tangible to show for your efforts. Something with a monetary value.

With that in mind, I think I’ve decided to skip promotional efforts. I’ll do the things that I enjoy like blogging and twitter, but any marketing I do will be a consequence of that, not a reason for it. I’ll still do anthologies and guest posts when asked because I’m still a huge believer in indies supporting each other whenever possible, but I won’t seek out those opportunities. I’d rather focus on things that have a measurable reward.

I can definitely appreciate the reasoning behind those who do heavy marketing. A lot of people do see an increase in sales from those pushes and I do go back and forth in my mind about it. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. This isn’t something that’s set in stone for me. I’m always willing to entertain new tactics, but at this point, I figure I’ve only got so many hours in a day and it’s too easy to lose them in a world of nearly limitless marketing options.

What are your thoughts on marketing? Are you a promotional addict? Any promotional tactics you swear by? I’m honestly really curious about different perspectives on this topic.


Filed under indie publishing, promotion

Dealing with writer’s block

I’ve never really thought of myself as having writer’s block. For as long as I’ve been writing, which has been since I was a kid, any time I’ve sat down to write, there have always been words. I’ve never felt blocked in a traditional sense. I’ve been reconsidering my views on writer’s block recently.

When I wrote I Wish, I was excited to move onto the sequel immediately. Until I tried to start plotting it out. Suddenly I wasn’t excited anymore. Even though I knew before writing I Wish the overall plot of Your Word Is My Bond, when I sat down to finish outlining the details I kept getting stymied.

For the longest time I’ve just chalked that up to an overall lack of excitement towards writing. I turned my energy to writing other things that paid the bills and just stopped writing the fiction for me. Every so often I’d sit down again, determined this time to write that sequel, only to give up after a day or two of half hearted attempts to come up with an outline.

I miss writing fun, just for me, fiction. So this time when I sat down to write I decided to scrap my plans of working on YWIMB for right now. I’ve been really digging American Horror Story lately. It’s got a gothic, dark vibe to it that I really enjoy. It inspired me to pick up an idea I had earlier this year to write a ghost story about a young woman who was murdered years ago and has finally pulled herself together in ghost form only to find that the world has moved on without her. Her toddler has grown up to be a rebellious teenager, everyone believes that she abandoned her family when she disappeared, and the only living person who can see her is her ex husband who may have been the one who killed her.

I love the premise, but originally my plan was to execute it as a 1st person POV as told by the ghost and play it more as a comedy. After watching AHS, I started thinking about what would happen if I tried to get that same eerie tone and made it a 3rd person POV instead, with several viewpoint characters. Suddenly the concept took off. I’ve recaptured the excitement that I originally felt when I was working on I Wish.

My tips for dealing with writer’s block:

Learn to recognize it:

I chalked up my lack of progress to changes in my life. Within a short period I moved halfway across the country, joined the local roller derby team, and switched from a Windows machine to a Mac- which included steep learning curves as I struggled to find alternatives to all my favorite writing and planning software.

If I had realized what was going on sooner, I could have taken steps to break out of the cycle.

Figure out what’s causing your block:

For me, it wasn’t all writing that was an issue, it was one particular project. I got a lot of positive feedback on I Wish, including the very flattering, “When can we expect the sequel”. I was optimistic and thought that it was just a matter of putting in the time and it would roll out as easily as I Wish had. I didn’t have a plan B. The idea of working on anything else before I finished YWIMB made me feel guilty. I dealt with the guilt and lack of excitement for the project by focusing on other aspects of my life and just abandoning writing altogether.

It’s a really counterintuitive way to deal with the issue. Not only did the sequel not get written, but neither did anything else, wasting all that time.

Work on something else:

Of course I want to deliver the sequel to the people who have invested themselves in my series. Since that isn’t working for me right now, I’m giving myself permission to write something else that I do feel passionate about. Writing anything is beneficial to me as a writer and to my career. Not only does it grow my body of work and thus my “shelf space” at sites like Amazon, but it teaches me more about writing than reading any number of books or articles about the craft. And I think my fans would rather read an unrelated novel that I’ve written than have nothing from me until the sequel is released.

Look at ideas from new angles:

When I originally came up with the idea for the ghost story, I liked it a lot. I could see how it would play out. I think it would have been fun to write and fun to read. Now I’m convinced that with this new approach it’s going to be a stronger story than it would have been before. It also had the added benefit of renewing my interest in the project. Now I can’t wait to start getting words on paper.

Set goals:

I sat down yesterday and spent several hours creating a production schedule based on a personal goal I’ve created for myself to write 4k words a day (2k for my fun stuff and 2k for my other projects). This is a very doable goal for me, challenging, but nowhere near unachievable. It hinges on treating my writing like it’s a full time job, which is something I should have started doing earlier this year when I decided this is what I want to do with myself.

My production schedule hinges on having several projects going on at a time, including writing one novel while simultaneously editing the last one. I have mapped out a projected 6 novels that I expect to have written by the end of the year. By planning them in advance, I can start the outlining and prewriting process for later books right now, which will give me almost an entire year to plot out the last book, which should take off a lot of the pressure to come up with something workable right now. It also gives me the ability to direct my attention to just a handful of projects instead of wanting to run with every new idea that pops into my head.

Start a “daily 5” list:

Speaking of ideas… one thing I swear by is having a daily 5 list where you write down ideas you can use in your writing. Anything is game for these lists as long as you find it inspiring. When I’m asked to contribute to an anthology, the first thing I do is scan my idea lists to see if I have anything that could be worked into a short story. Since I write down everything from character sketches, to lyrics and quotes, to entire plot summaries, I can usually find something that gives me a jumping off point. Your lists are also helpful when you get stuck in your writing. It’s almost like playing with a random generator except every idea you come across is going to be something that spoke to you at one point, which is guaranteed to make it more interesting.

The other benefit to keeping a daily 5 is that you never have to worry about forgetting an idea. You can write it down in as much detail as you care to and mark it so that you can find it again easily later. It’s really helped to curb my impulses to drop everything and run with a new idea. I know it’ll be there waiting for me when I have time to address it.

Outlining is your friend:

The one thing I can say is that once I start writing, I have never gotten hung up. Because I’ve already worked out the plot in advance through an outline, I always know exactly what needs to happen in a scene. I also don’t do any editing during the first draft, even if I’m convinced a scene is painful to read. My first draft is 100% putting words on a page. A finished novel can be reworked, one that hasn’t been finished isn’t doing anybody any good, even if the 4 chapters you have finished are solid gold. Turn off the inner critic, follow your outline, and finish that first draft.

Butt to chair, everyday:

The last thing I’d recommend making writing a priority. You’ll never write anything if you aren’t putting in the time. That’s something I keep saying, but not practicing. I haven’t been treating my writing like a job and it shows… I could be a prolific writer due to the time I have available to focus on it and the ease with which the words come to me. Instead, I have 1 rather short novel and a handful of short stories to show for an entire year. This is unacceptable to me and, sadly, totally avoidable. This is the one thing that every writer can control. If you aren’t writing, you’re missing out on the opportunity to improve your craft and your income stream.

I did some math the other day. This is something I’ve seen other places, Dean Wesley Smith preaches it regularly on his blog. There are two ways to make money as a writer: have one blockbuster release or have a large body of mildly successful titles. Clearly the second option is the more realistic option for the majority of us.

I think almost everyone can assume that they’ll sell at least 10 books per title a month. The more titles you have, the more they’ll all sell overall as it increases your shelf space, but even my lowest selling titles will move at least 10 copies per month. If you do the math based on 10 copies a month times the amount you know you could have been writing if you’d only put in the time, it becomes really eye opening. Even if all you have time for is one title a year, that’s still 120*$3.50 (the payout on a $4.99 novel)= ~$420. The next year if you write a second novel that’s another $420. After a few years you can start paying for a nice vacation with the money you earn for work you did years ago. I think most people can push themselves harder than that though and a lot will sell significantly higher than 120 copies a year.

I sort of went off on a tangent for a minute there, but the point is that it’s all moot if you aren’t writing. You can’t sell something that doesn’t exist. I think that making writing a habit will do more to cure yourself of writer’s block than anything else. If you aren’t letting yourself off easy, “Well, looks like I can’t think of anything to write. Oh well, I’ll go watch that Law and Order SVU marathon instead.”, I believe you’ll find a way to work through it because it becomes a habit. The human brain is constantly seeking ways to entertain itself. If you sit there staring at a blank page long enough, your mind is finally going to come up with something to say because it can’t stand it any longer.

The one good thing to come out of my brush with writer’s block is that it taught me things about myself as a writer that I didn’t know before. I feel more prepared to deal with this situation in the future now that I can more easily recognize what’s going on with myself the next time I start getting all cagey.

1 Comment

Filed under indie publishing, writing