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Talk Your Way to Success – the Power of Positive Affirmations

Who are you? What do you want to be? A “real” writer? A published writer? A NY Times Best Selling author? I’m going to teach you (or remind you) about a secret power that you have. The power of the positive affirmation.

 

Repeat after me – “I am a successful writer.” Say it out loud in the mirror. Repeat twice a day.

 

This is a positive affirmation and watch out – it’s VERY powerful. An affirmation is a statement, repeated either verbally, mentally, and/or through writing. When we review the words, it makes our body and mind believe they are real. And when we believe, we realign our world around that truth. Of course, we can’t bring back the dead, cure incurable diseases, or win the lottery just by saying positive affirmations – but they can do a lot of good.

We’ve all seen the horrific impact of negative affirmations on people. People can be their own worst enemies by mentally or verbally telling themselves they are failures or worse. This is self-sabotage. If you berate yourself, try talking to yourself as you would to a friend or even an acquaintance. Chances are you’ll speak kinder to yourself.

Next step is to come up with some positive affirmations. Be careful to do this part correctly. You don’t want to inadvertently make things more negative.

  1. The statement should be specific and about something you are not yet, but want to be. Don’t feel like you’re lying. It is supposed to be something that is NOT true – yet (or that you don’t feel is true).
  2. It must be in present tense. If you say “I will be a successful writer” that describes the future and you won’t get there because the future is always out of reach. Replace “will be” with “am”.
  3. Use ONLY positive words. If you say “I never stop writing” your psyche will hear “stop” and leave out the “never”. Rephrase to take out “never” “not” “won’t” and any of those reverse words. “I write everyday,” works better.

At one time I had ten stickies stuck to my bathroom mirror with affirmations. I recommend starting with just a few so it doesn’t seem like a chore. Some people put them in their cars so that every time they get in they repeat the affirmations.

Bk 1 of The Dragonfly Chronicles

You may want to warn spouses or people who share the area with you. When I was trying to get pregnant I wrote “I am pregnant” so obviously I had to tell my husband what I was up to (BTW – I got pregnant : ).

Bk 2 of The Dragonfly Chronicles

Right around the time I submitted my manuscript that was a finalist in the 2009 Golden Hearts I was writing and saying “I am a published writer.” Before I even found out that I was a finalist I sold two manuscripts.

When I was fighting ovarian cancer with fifteen months of grueling chemo and surgery, I said a list of thirty positive affirmations at least twice a day. I wrote new ones each night. “My body is full of health.” “My stomach is calm.” “I sleep deeply and peacefully through the night.” They served me well, helping me to calm down and shift my focus from panic to determined survival (I’m a 6-year survivor).

Positive affirmations. They are simple. They work. With conference season coming up, it is the perfect time to write some out and start saying them. “I love to pitch my book ideas.” “I am confident and love to meet new people.” “I am a talented writer.” “I am a NY Times Best Seller.” You get the idea.

Feel free to send me some positive affirmations if you’d like to bounce around some ideas. 

http://www.HeatherMcCollum.com

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Not So Fast…

The idea for this blog post on writing speed came after reading some responses our readers made to Shelley Coriell’s 1/25/17 blog post, Write on 2017! Strengths and Weaknesses. (Awesome series! Check it out.) In retrospect, writing speed has been on my radar since the Ruby Blog’s early days, when I jokingly called Ruby Sister Darynda Jones and me “The Tortoise and the Hare.” (Make no mistake, I’m the tortoise.) While reading comments people posted to Shelley’s blog, it didn’t take long to notice a distinct theme starting to emerge: writers were identifying their writing pace as “slow,” and further identifying this pace as a weakness they wanted to overcome.

I’m here to say…not so fast.

What follows are a few snippets from that conversation, all from published Rubies. First, Elizabeth Langston, who’d identified her writing speed as a weakness earlier in the thread: 

I need to let the comparison thing go. But it’s been bothering more than usual since I attended an RWA chapter meeting in November. The speaker is completely indie. I think she said that she releases 4+ books a year. I have another author friend who averages 6 books per year (which is insane). I can’t sustain either pace.

Jamie Michele weighed in:

Damn it, I’m all done with the cult of productivity within our community!! Like most of us, I’m not in a position to perform at that level, so I will not tolerate any career plans that include producing four books a year!!

I think of one of my favorite books — The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It took her ten YEARS to write that thing, and it was worth every second she slaved over it. I’m grateful to her for that book, even if she never writes another.

YAAASSS – and for what it’s worth, I feel the same way about Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks.  And here’s my reply:

Beth and Jamie, my sisters! I have the same issues and concerns. An admission: Over the last year or so, I’ve pulled away from some corners of the romance writing community out of sheer self-preservation, because the focus on pace of production just clobbers my self-confidence. My ‘natural’ writing pace right now is one book per year. Compared to most writers in our genre, I will always come up short in comparison. Always. I think my stories would start to suffer if I tried to pick up the pace. My health, and my work/life balance, would certainly take a hit.

Only in Romancelandia is writing one book per year considered “slow.”  Regardless of writing pace, I’d like us all to stop beating ourselves up. 

Seriously, when did pace of production become the dominant metric by which romance authors measure success? And what does this mean for those of us who can’t measure up? 

What it means is that some of us pull away from our writing communities out of sheer self-preservation. It means we come home from conferences and RWA chapter meetings feeling inadequate rather than energized. It means we too often compare ourselves to others, and always come up short.

Needless to say, this mindset is not great for one’s creativity.

As someone who used to design processes for a living, I’ll be the first to say that work methods can improve, evolve and change over time – but I’ve been writing for a decade now, and one piece of self-awareness I’ve gained is that  I’m a slow food writer. I like to focus on the individual ingredients, and careful and precise preparations. I revise. I refine. I need things to simmer and cook, testing – tasting – as I go along.

I BUILD WORLDS. This takes time.  It takes me time, at any rate. I don’t produce my best work quickly. If I tried to write faster, quality would suffer. I’m not willing to make that trade-off, and I’m tired of feeling guilty about it.

As Ruby Sis Hope Ramsey so wisely says later in the thread, we each need to accept our process for what it is, and set our personal goals accordingly. One size does NOT fit all. 

So, I’m here to say: I reject the Cult of Productivity. I reject it utterly and completely. The Cult of Productivity won’t help me produce my strongest, most satisfying work. It certainly won’t preserve my joy in the process, which is the most important thing about this wacky business that’s under my direct control. 

Ultimately, we each need to find our own, right rhythm. Our own optimal pace.

Me? I’m a happy tortoise. I’ll be back here, taking in the scenery. Marching to slow and steady the beat of my own drum. 😛

Q:  Any thoughts about the Cult of Productivity? How satisfied are you with your writing pace? I look forward to your opinions and insights.

-tammy

P.S. And speaking of slow food…

I recently got publication rights back to Taste Me and Chase Me, the first two books in my award-winning Underbelly Chronicles series. After a light revision pass on all four books, I just reissued the entire series on Kindle/KDP. (More on that process in my next blog post.)  But I wanted to give our readers a peek at my pretty new covers!! and supply some Kindle links if you’re inclined to Buy or borrow.

Taste Me Chase Me Touch Me Tempt Me

Tamara Hogan is the award-winning author of The Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series. An English major by education and a software developer/process engineer by trade, she recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. Tamara loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her husband and two naughty cats.

Her debut, TASTE ME, won a Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense, was nominated for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award®, and won Prism Awards for Best Dark Paranormal, Best First Book, and Best of the Best. Catch her on line at www.tamarahogan.com, or on Twitter, @TamaraHogan1.

Happy Tortoise by digitalart at freedigitalart.net

Tips For Writing Faster

Happy Monday! And Happy Release Day to the first book in my new Scottish Historical Romance, Highland Isles series! THE BEAST OF AROS CASTLE is about 65K words, and I wrote it in two months. I wrote the sequel in two months also, with Christmas thrown into the schedule.

Do I live alone, with only a fish to feed once a day, and eat frozen meals? No. I have three very busy kids, a hubby who works late, so I do all the cooking, and six animals that the kids said they’d look after. (Yeah, right!) I feed, walk, clean and love (okay, they help with the love) all six of those fuzzy creatures.

So how did I get 65K words written in two months without locking myself away?

One word at a time.

I’m not here to tell you it’s easy, although it is for some. I’m not here to tell you it’s crazy hard either. What works for me, may not work for you. As writers, we each must tap into our creative process in our own unique way. Although, there are some strategies that can help across the board. Here are my top five.

1. Identify if you are a long-stretch writer or a small-chunk writer. Do you like to go hours without interruption to get your words in? Or do you like to write in thirty minute increments and prefer taking breaks?

You would think that the long stretch writer would be the one who gets the most words in, but that’s not always the case. Often, the long stretch writers can’t get any words down because they can’t find an uninterrupted stretch of time. Whereas the small chunk writers will take every 15 minutes they can find.

I am very fortunate to not have to work outside the home, so theoretically I have large stretches of time to write. But I have found that I do better writing in small chunks, thirty minutes to an hour, and then I check FB or my e-mail or walk the dog. My mind and muse need a breather, even if it’s just two minutes.

Collage for CRIMSON HEART – 3rd book in the Highland Hearts series

2. Keep inspiration and information front and center. I’m terrible at remembering details like character eye color, the heroine’s horse’s name or where exactly the hero has that sexy scar. If I have to look it up in my manuscript, I lose at least five to ten minutes, searching, reading, editing, instead of getting those words down. So, I keep my book information close by, either pasted into a collage with notes written in, or on Notebook on my computer. I jot down those important details, knowing I’ll forget and need them again.

I also write out the theme of the book and the ultimate destination for the hero and heroine on a sticky note. It sits stuck to my desk where I can see it every day to help keep me on the right track. Otherwise, being more of a pantser than a plotter, I would wander.

3. Have a goal. Some days the words just don’t want to come. It’s like my muse has gone AWOL. A part of me wants to throw my hands up in disgust and yell “If my muse won’t show up, I’m not showing up,” and walk away. But I set myself a goal of 2,000 words minimum per day during the week. It helps me keep my butt in the chair. I took the advice of Roxanne St. Clair and decided I would not eat lunch until I had at least 1K words written.

If I’m editing, I set a goal of 2 hours minimum per day. I check it off in my tracking log when I make it, which is very satisfying to me. Now, if you are more of a free spirit, then set other goals like two days of brainstorming, one day of plotting, one day of writing, etc. But to get the words down, I find shooting for a certain number of words per day gets you there faster, whether it’s 500 words or 4K words.

Tracking word goals in my bullet journal

4. Think Ahead. If you know there will be a snow day, and your kids will be clamoring for hot cocoa and playdates instead of leaving the house quiet to go to school, get up at the normal time and write while they sleep in. If you have to take kids to sports practice or you have doctors’ appointments or a long hair appointment, take your lap top or notebook and write during the waiting times. If you are not a short-chunk writer, just jot down notes about plot or characters, or a snippet of dialogue to use when you have a longer stretch of time to write. But use the short bits of time wisely.

5. Write every day. I read a fabulous quote:

“Write until not writing makes you anxious.” During NaNoWriMo, I made sure to write every single day. After two weeks, I noticed I was writing faster. I was emerged into the world of my book so that I could hop back in each morning. By the end of the first month, I was able to reach my daily 2K goal before lunch. And sure enough, on certain days when writing was impossible with holiday happenings, I felt…off, like I hadn’t had my morning cup of tea or hadn’t done my daily yoga. Something that was part of my happy, normal routine was missing. So, the next day, I sat down to my book and relaxed back into it.

Those are my top 5 tips for reaching THE END as quickly as possible, without losing your mind. Of course, I still needed to edit, but as Nora Roberts once said at a conference I attended – “You can’t fix a blank page.” So, get the words down first, and then go back and mold them into a masterpiece.

Do you have any tips for getting your books finished?

For more information about me or my new release, here are places where I can be found. Have a fantastic day! Heather

Website: www.HeatherMcCollum.com

Face book: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherMcCollumAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HMcCollumAuthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hmccollumauthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heathermccollumauthor/

P.S. I’ll be taking part in the It’s Raining Dukes and Earls Release Party on FB tomorrow, Tuesday 2/21. Stop by for fun and prizes! 

 

 

 

Write On 2017! – Goal Setting

Today we’re getting to the heart of any writing plan: Goals. Goals drive us, inspire us, frustrate us, but ultimately transform us from dreamers into doers.

If you’ve joined us for the past three Wednesdays for the Ruby’s Write On 2017! series, you developed an inspiring mission, created a forward-focused vision, and took a candid look at your strengths and weaknesses. You are now ready for the serious and empowering work of goal setting. 

Up first, SMART Goals. These are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  YOU control these goals. In the bookish world, there is so much we can’t control: rejections from agents and editors, bad reviews, Amazon algorithms. With SMART goals you have the power. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Use it! Some examples:

Not-So Smart Goal: Get an agent.

SMART Goal: Send out five agent queries every month. 

Not-So Smart Goal: Make $10,000 with my self-published series.

SMART Goal: Make the first book in my self-pub series perma-free.

Now on to Long-Term Goals. For our purposes, these are Big Dreams or goals that spark or fuel your writerly fire. They do not have to be SMART or within your control. They are often lofty and speak to people, places, and ideas beyond the writerly self. An example of a long-term goal: Be a keynote speaker at a major writing conference or reader event. 

Your #1 Assignment: Determine your SMART goals for 2017.

We’re not looking at weekly word count goals or to-do lists. With this assignment I want you to put some serious brain cells into determining what you want to accomplish by the end of the year. For some of you, that might be a single line:

  •  Finish MY NOVEL (70,000 words)

Those of you who like check boxes and are motivated by completing tasks might have gloriously long lists that address everything from productivity to promotion to professional affiliations. Your lists might look something like:

  • Revise NOVEL #3 (80,000 word historical)
  • Query NOVEL #3 to 10 first-tier agents
  • Write and self-pub NOVELLA #1 (35,000 word cozy mystery)
  • Write short story and sub to online magazine
  • Fast draft NOVEL #4 (60,000-word young adult) during NaNoWriMo
  • Hire development editor to edit NOVEL #2
  • Renew writer association memberships: RWA, Sisters in Crime; SCBWI
  • Blog once a month on group blog
  • Enter NOVEL #3 in two writing contests
  • Attend San Diego State University’s Writers Conference  or RWA National (writer event)
  • Attend Tucson Festival of Books or Romantic Times Convention (reader event)
  • Take on-line class on How To Write Believable Characters
  • Give mini program at local RWA meeting
  • Read and apply one craft book: Donald Maass’s THE FIRE IN FICTION
  • Revamp website to make mobile responsive
  • Increase newsletter subscribers by 10 percent
  • Go on writing retreat with critique partner
  • Find three beta readers
  • Create marketing plan for NOVELLA #1
  • Whew…but you get the idea!

Regardless of the number of SMART goals, these goals must SERVE you. To that end, review them at least quarterly. In addition, don’t be afraid to tweak or obliterate your goals, especially if you have significant personal or professional shifts.

Your #2 Assignment: Determine your long-term “goals”.

Have some fun with this one. Dream and plan big. Unlike SMART goals, long-term goals might not change every year, if ever. Here are a few examples taken from my personal Long-Term Goal list:

  • Use my writing to travel and meet new people and go new places
  • Support my editor and agent in pursuit of their professional goals
  • Inspire my three daughters to follow and fight for their dreams

In the comment section below, list some of your writing goals for 2017. I’d LOVE to see some of your lofty, dreamy Long-Term Goals. Write on!

This is Part 5 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! Your Mission

Picture of frog

Have you heard the phrase, Eat the frog first? It references Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” When  I worked in the corporate world, this phrase essentially meant do your toughest work first, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.

Today I’m here to help you craft a writing plan that will help you stay on course and on fire about your writing throughout 2017 (Write On 2017! Worksheet). And it all begins with the Mission Statement. I’ll be honest, IMO, this is the single hardest task we’ll cover in the next seven weeks as we craft writing plans. It took me a week-long retreat in Mexico with some writing friends and a couple of margaritas before I finally got my head around my mission statement.

Simply put, a mission statement is a formal summary of your aims and values. It’s the heart of who you are and what you do. Above all, your mission should INSPIRE you.

Missions are short, about twenty-five words or less. Management guru Peter Drucker suggests your mission be short enough to fit on a T-shirt. Missions are broad; they don’t box you in.  Missions should withstand the test of time and changes in your writing and the industry. Finally, missions are realistic (practical and workable) and easily understood.

Corporate America has spent millions of dollars crafting mission statements to inspire and guide. Here are some good ones:

  • To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. (GOOGLE)
  • To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (NIKE)
  • To make the world a more caring place by helping people laugh, love, heal, say thanks, reach out and make meaningful connections with others. (HALLMARK)
  • To spread ideas. (TED)

Your Assignment: Craft your mission statement.

As I mentioned, crafting my mission statement took me a couple of whacks. The task felt so big…so important. But when I reminded myself that missions are about that little nugget, the heart of who I was as a writer, the task got much more manageable. So what’s at the heart? You, your product, your aims, and your audience. Here is a quick exercise to get you thinking about these factors.

  1. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your writing
  2. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from READERS’ POV
  3. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from YOUR POV

With these words/phrases in mind, take a crack at writing a mission statement for your writing. Start with MY MISSION IS TO…

Here’s mine: My mission is to tell great stories…that capture the hearts and entertainment dollars of a loyal and ever-growing reader bse.

Feel free to post the above exercise and/or your mission in the comment section below. Write on!

This is Part 2 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Organizing from the Inside Out

Happy Monday! Okay, so we don’t always celebrate Mondays (unless it’s a holiday). But often Mondays are beginnings. The beginning of a new job, or a new project or even a new healthy way of life. There are many avenues to a healthy life. Today I’m going to touch on the mental health that comes with an organized work space.

pigs-in-hats
I am definitely not the most organized person, not even close. I really don’t stand a chance living with three kids, three guinea pigs (lots of cavy paraphernalia), two sugar gliders, a crazy golden retriever who spreads her toys about the house, and a husband who means well but has no problem sitting amongst dirty dishes and clutter. But what I’ve found is that if I can organize a part of my world, I am a more productive person, which makes me a much happier person.
Notice that I did not say clean. I said organized. They are two different things. You don’t have to love cleaning to organize. I love Julie Morgenstern’s description in her book, ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT. She says that the goal is to be able to know where something is right away. As long as you have a system where you can retrieve something quickly, without wasting precious time hunting (which is what I did this morning to find her book under my bed), then you have organization.

organizing
So what makes Julie’s way of organizing different and effective? She analyzes first before plunging in and wasting money buying organizational paraphilia that doesn’t fit your space or life style. I’m a plunge-in type of person, but Julie made me stop and think first. And it works!

Here are a few basic steps and how I implemented them. I suggest starting with your writing area or business area. Not a whole room at first but just your desk.

1. Analyze – look at how you have things set up currently. What works? What doesn’t work? Write it down (really, write it down – it helps).
What works for me:
I always know where my passwords are written down. It’s a small brightly colored phone book I keep in a little drawer of my desk.
Lamp, white board with pens and calendar are within reach.

What didn’t work:
Too much clutter – knickknacks that remind me of my books are cute, but too many becomes just clutter, too many stacks of paper, things piled on floor since my desk is small, poorly utilized filing cabinet.

2. Strategize – Create a plan of action for wading through and transforming your space. It takes time so work that into the plan. Either a Saturday or plan to do a little each day, but be realistic on how long it will take (my small desk area took about 6 hours which I broke up over several days).

3. Attack – Julie uses the SPACE formula which is:
Sort
Purge
Assign a Home
Containerize
Equalize

Sort – Julie says it is critical to pick up every single piece in the area. Don’t ignore the pile in the corner. Sort it all. Identify what is important to you and that space. Does it belong there? Does it help you do the function in that area? If not, it goes somewhere else. Also, group similar things so you can containerize properly later.

Purge – have bins for trash, donate, or relocate within your house. This can be difficult and Julie writes more on the psychology of purging. It can be the hardest part for some and the easiest and most liberating for others. I fall somewhere in the middle, but I do feel “lighter” when I get things out of my house.

Assign a Home – Julie talks about the Kindergarten model of organization. Every space should be set up like a Kindergarten classroom. The teacher has specific locations for different activities (art, reading, computers, etc). It is pretty easy for the kids to know what activity should happen in each area based on what is stored there (crayons and glue in the art area, books in the reading area). Every location in our homes and offices should be set up the same way. If you want the top of your desk to be for writing, the pile of bills needs to find a new home.

Containerize – How many of you have bought containers to organize and then ended up not using them because they didn’t fit or work? I have several in a stack in my bedroom. Ugh! But I’ve now learned to measure areas and look at what I’m going to store there. THEN I go to the dollar store and buy bins and baskets. Julie uses the Kindergarten example again. Teachers will have a bin just the right size for 20 pencils, not 10 pencils because there are 20 pencils to live there. A too small bin brings on overflow and frustration. And if a system is frustrating or difficult to use, neither a kid nor an adult will use it.

Equalize – About 2 weeks after you’ve organized your space, take a lunch break to evaluate how things are working. Are you following your new system? Is something frustrating, time consuming or difficult? It’s important to smooth the rough spots and adjust. Our lives are dynamic and our spaces need to be too. If things change, the system may need to flex to that change. So make sure to include “tune-ups” in your quest to keep an organized area running smoothly.

I’ve organized my desk according to Julie’s plan. And yes, it works better, however I need to keep using the system for it to continue to work. When life gets busy I find myself dropping things next to my desk instead of placing them in the nice file folder I created that’s sitting just two steps away. After a week of dumping I have to step over piles when I stand up from my desk. Sigh… But I’ve found that with my systems in place, I can usually clean things up within a half hour. All in all, I think organization is possible, even for someone scattered like me.eleri-organized

Do you have any tips for creating and maintaining an organized space? Do you think clearer in an organized space or do you prefer the creative chaos of clutter?

Ready to take an organization test? Choose one of the items below and see how long it takes you to find it. How well did you do?

1. Recipe for a dish you cut out of a magazine but haven’t tried yet.
2. Your child’s vaccination record.
3. A pair of garden gloves.
4. Notes from the last conference call you had with your editor or agent.
5. Your aunt’s phone number.
6. Needle and thread.

Get Organized with a Bullet Journal

Are you a list maker? Do you get a little giddy when you find a calendar with stickers in the back to mark the dates with things like “doctor’s appointment,” “Don’t forget!” and “Birthday”?

Or on the other hand, do you desperately need a way to organize your schedule but can’t find a planner that works for you?

Either side of the coin, this post is for you. Behold the BULLET JOURNAL…

My very first Bullet Journal!

My very first Bullet Journal!

“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above.” Bulletjournal.com

You start with a blank notebook and set it up exactly how you want. You can track ANYTHING in the specific increments that you want. It is totally up to you. There is a whole system of symbols and tags (triangle for appointment, circle for event, etc.) that you can use, or you can make up your own. Color code it and use your best cursive handwriting or go minimalistic with dots and quickly jotted notes.

I know, it sounds time consuming, and it can be if you let it. But once I set up a few pages to start, it has saved me time. Really.

I’ve only been bullet journaling for two weeks, but already my stress level has come down. No more wasting time hunting for my little sticky-note lists and back-of-envelopes brainstorming. I have it all in my bullet journal, and there’s plenty of room to add more.

In the evenings I review what I did and didn’t do, and I decide what should move to the next day or come off the list. I review my monthly goals and figure out what I should start. On Sundays I set up the next week’s spread and write in the healthy things I want to track: Yoga, getting my 10K steps in, drinking water. I also attempt to decide on dinners for the week ahead, leaving some days blank until I figure out the menu.

But the most important (IMHO) are the weekly goals. What do I hope to accomplish in the coming week? This is über important for those of us who work alone and may not have anyone to push us to get the words down or the pages edited.

IMG_5452 IMG_5451 You can custom make any type of page. I have movies to see and books to read. I found a Gratitude spread that looks like a sun and have started a bucket list page. For more ideas, google bullet journal, and you’ll be amazed at all the pictures out there – both artistic and straight-forward.

IMG_5453

Gratitude Page

Experiment with different spreads from week to week to see what works for you. I’ve also discovered that I’m not as bad an artist as I thought. I just find clip art of things and try to draw it. If it doesn’t come out how I want, I can always put a sticker or washi tape over it.

I first saw Sarra Cannon’s (fabulous Indie YA Paranormal author) bullet journal on FB as we were discussing goals for the week. I asked her about it, and she pointed me in the right direction with wonderful advice.

You can start with any notebook, but the preferred one for bullet journals is the medium A5 dot grid Leuchtturm 1917 journal ( Leuchtturm Journal on Amazon )that measures a little bigger than 5½ by 8 inches with 249 pages (I thought it was going to be much bigger when I ordered it, but it is just the right size to slip into my purse). You will also want some pens and colored pencils and a ruler. I also use a small compass to help me draw circles. I tried Sharpie pens but they bled through the pages too easily. So I bought a Pigma Micron 01 pen (because it was in clearance) and found that it doesn’t bleed through. You will want archival quality pens and paper if possible so you can keep your journals (they might be worth thousands when you become huge like JK Rowling).

There are many posts out there for how to set up your bullet journal. Here are the basics.

1. Index – the Leuchtturm 1917 journal has several blank index pages at the beginning, but you can leave room at the beginning or end of any notebook. Each time you fill out a new page or spread, just flip to the index and fill in the page numbers so you can find things easily.

2. Key – I followed the advice of some sites and listed a key of symbols and colors, but I haven’t used it too much yet. I tend to make little squares for all my to-dos.  

3. Monthly Spread – Fill out a month-at-a-glance spread so you can see a bigger picture. Some people also have a year spread to put in upcoming appointments, etc. I’ll probably make one of those next.

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Monthly Spread with Monthly Goals

4. Monthly Memories – I love the monthly memories page! You can put it in at the beginning of the month or at the end (mine is in the middle). I drew out important things that happened in that month (kids starting school, release of your book, 25th anniversary, etc). I think this page will be wonderful to have when looking back years from now.

One side shows how many words I still need to write in my WIP. The other side is my Memories Page.

One side shows how many words I still need to write in my WIP. The other side is my Memories Page.

5. Weekly spread – there are so many different types of weekly spreads. So far this one is working for me, but I might try one where each day is broken out in chunks going down the page instead of across. Make sure to add your goals for the week. I’ve also added a tracker of things I hope to do each day. Filling in the little completion box is an amazingly motivating technique to get things done.

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My Weekly Spread

daily spread

A Weekly Spread I might try

 

Those pages are the basics. After that, track whatever you’d like. If something stops working for you, switch it up, but always keep those goals where you can see them.

Anyone else out there keep Bullet Journals or something similar? What pages or tracking techniques do you find helpful? 

Business Plans for Writers

(The bulk of this post was first published on the Not Your Usual Suspects blog on August 1, 2016.)

Most writers long to spend their time writing, not thinking about the business side of, well, the business. But in this day and age, spending all of our time dreaming up worlds and characters isn’t an option. There are a plethora of other things to wrangle, manage, and deal with, from marketing to social media to creating an indie book to finding agents or editors to shop in a traditional market. And everything in between.

At the RWbusinessplanA conference last month, the first workshop I attended was one I had hoped would get my head back in the business of writing. It was entitled “Plan for Success: Create a Motivational Business Plan for Your Writing Career” and was presented by author Stephanie Bond. Sitting in that workshop brought back memories of a chapter workshop I attended a couple years ago with a similar topic: “Dream, Dare, Do!” presented by Ruby sister Shelley Coriell

And it reminded me that I never sat down to finish that business plan that was begun that day.

And I certainly hadn’t updated my scrawled notes in the intervening years. In fact, a quick search on our Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog shows another Ruby, Laurie DeSalvo, posted on the same topic way back in 2009. But here I am in 2016, finally getting around to writing down my plans.

Since I’ve been looking for focus lately, I made creating a business plan my priority when I returned home from conference a couple weeks ago. I started by exploring more about business plans online, and integrated a lot of that fabulous information here.

First, Jami Gold says, “no one will ever care about our success as much as we do.” And therefore, we must have a business mindset. If we have clear goals and a personal definition of success, we can make better business decisions. Amy Atwell says it’s important to think of writing as a “career,” which is why a business plan is helpful. On her “Author E.M.S.” website, she refers to other sources, where one can use worksheets to come up with her business plan. She also reminds us the plan isn’t set in stone, and should be revised or updated regularly.

Second, before creating your document, Angela Ackerman recommends brainstorming what you want to accomplish, identifying themes, and then grouping together areas of focus. Then, try to step back and see the big picture, assigning importance to what you need to accomplish.

When you’ve done some big picture and small picture thinking, put them together into one handy document that summarizes your career plans and goals for the coming year:

 

Royalty-free clipart picture of a 3d red and white business plan word collage, on a shaded background.

 

THE BASICS of a BUSINESS PLAN

OBJECTIVES (a.k.a., Dreams!)

What do you want out of this business? Do you simply want to see your name on a book? Do you want to hit a bestseller list? Win a RITA award? Do you want to make enough money to quit your day job or put your kids through college?

This is where you put anything you want out of your writing career. Dream big!

MISSION

A mission statement is often brief, and for writers it can be as lofty as “to encourage people to grow through my writing,” or as generic as “to entertain.”

PRODUCTS (or Product Plan) & BRAND

Here’s where you think about what you are creating, which of course, includes your books. Also think about what makes them different/unique, and what formats they’ll be available in, and whether you plan to publish via traditional publishers, indie, or both. Don’t forget about audio, film, and even nonfiction items such as series-related coloring books.

Kimberley Grabas also suggests delineating your “ideal reader” as you create your business plan, as well as your “brand personality and culture.” This includes the vibe you want to give off when people land on your website or other social media pages, or when you speak at events. How do you want to be perceived by the public/readers?

Think about what makes you different, and what makes you the same. Everything from business cards to website design to the font and your name placement on your covers should reflect what/how you write.

GOALS (a.k.a., the things I can control!)

This is where we get down to the nitty gritty.

Keeping your dreams and objectives in mind, what can you actively and reasonably DO to make those dreams come true in the short term? This can include such things as attending a signing or conference, submitting to agents, finding a critique partner, researching your next series, etc.

For instance, one of my dreams is to win a RITA. I obviously need to enter the contest to even have a chance of making that goal happen, so entering the contest is listed under my goals and has been added to my calendar. Similarly, to hit a bestseller list, I’ll need to write books and increase my audience, which led to my current annual goals of building my newsletter list and increasing advertising and amount of time spent on social media.

MARKET ANALYSIS (or Competitive Analysis) & SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

What do you need to do/change to achieve your dreams? Do you have the necessary equipment, time, and energy? What is the state of the market in your genre/subgenre? How crowded is it?

This includes looking at your “competitors’” or fellow authors’ bodies of work and how they’re advertising them. What are their price points? What things are they doing well, in your opinion? Is it something that should be added to your goal list?

For me, one of the items in this category is to read several top-selling romantic suspense novellas, as I have not written one before but hope to this year. I want to study how the character arcs and plots differ from full-length books, so that I know what novella readers expect.

STRATEGY & IMPLEMENTATION SUMMARY (or Development Plan)

This includes setting up your calendar. Will the amount of writing you do this year be increasing/decreasing from the previous year? What publishers or agents do you want to target and how are you most likely to get your work in front of them? Do you need to register for some conferences or enter contests?

The first item on this list, for me, was writing a business plan. The second item was transferring my task list to my planner/calendar.

FINANCIAL PLAN

How do you plan to support yourself while you implement these other plans? When would it be a good time to incorporate? To meet with an estate planner or tax consultant?

For me, I plan to create a “Body of Work” document that contains all of my books and information my husband would need to access them, should something happen to me. I also have a note to consider drawing on savings to create audio versions of my new series, but have yet to make a decision on whether that’s a wise investment. But it’s something I can revisit next July, when I update my business plan.

Have you written a business plan? Do you update it regularly? What things do you make sure to include on your plan?

 

 

AnneMarieBeckerAnne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  

She writes to reclaim her sanity.

Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com. There, sign up for her newsletter to receive the latest information regarding books, appearances, and giveaways.

 

This or that – dream or goal?

Earlier this year, I went on a writing retreat with 5 Rubies. (Well, 4 Ruby sisters and 1 honorary Ruby!) One evening, I was listening to 2 of the authors discuss their goals for their careers–and it struck me that their goals had never even entered my thinking. Hitting a bestseller list? Earning enough money to replace the income from my day job? These felt more like impossible dreams than achievable goals.

So, for July’s This or That, let’s talk about our aspirations. What are your dreams or goals?

Finding the Aha Moments

Last week, for about the twelfth time, I found myself befuddled up to my eyeballs over a romantic suspense work in progress. Whether you’re a panster, like myself, or a plotter, at some point you could find fresh ideas hiding in the deepest, darkness recesses of your mind amongst a pile of crappy overused ideas. When this happened to me in the past, I’d walked around for days mulling over my problem, my plot’s direction, which is perfectly fine, if you don’t have a deadline and or have time to waste. This time I purchased a few books (Snap: Seizing Your AHA Moments by Katherine Ramsland and Your Creative Brain by Shelly Carson, PHD) and learned for one that mulling is an acceptable process to release your muse. What I also learned, so far, that the more tricks you use to open the gates the faster that will happen.

We’re like the grains of sand on a pearly white beach. Besides having the potential to be stuck in places we really don’t want to go, we’re totally awesome and unique and we all learn in different ways. And in combination of ways.

It’s alleged that we have seven mind-sets (seven ways of learning and using our minds): Absorb Brainset, Envision Brainset, Connect Brainset, Reason Brainset, Evaluate Brainset, Transform Brainset, and Stream Brainset. I’m not going to divulge every detail I’ve learned from these books so far. I suggest you check them out for yourself.  However, I will share a concise description of each mindset and an exercise you can use that key to unlock your mind’s muse.

Absorb Mindset: Ability to absorb new information in a non-judgmental way to be stored for use later when you can use say information to see associations between objects and to remain open to your subconscious.  

Exercise: Pick a space, indoor or outside. For five minutes, really absorb your surroundings. Notice the colors, textures, lines and shadows.  Then touch, listen, smell and taste. Next pick an object and think of a new way use for it. We’ve all seen the Knorr Side Dish commercial where a cork screw is used as a coat nail and a fork is used a cabinet handle. That is the same idea.

Envision Mindset:  In this mindset we deliberately imagine ways to solve problems, using absorb information. This mindset is well known to creative people.  The exercise below will help you increase your mental imagery. It turns off the stream of unwanted thoughts.

Exercise: Close your eyes and take three deep cleansing breathes. Now image your happy place. Where you feel the most relax? Picture yourself there. Allow yourself to feel the surroundings. If your recliner, feel the texture of the material against your skin, the firmness of the cushion surrounding you, the angle of your body as you relax. Are there sounds around you? Soft music or maybe a ball game on the T.V., or your children playing at your feet.  How about smells, tastes.  Allow yourself to enjoy your happy place for a few minutes.

Connect Mindset:  This mindset allows you to spawn many ideas without concerns to how they will play out. You’ll think out of the box. Successful use of this mindset could lead you to become overwhelmed with creative possible ideas. You’ll become energized and excited about your work.

Exercise: Set a timer for three minutes. On a piece of paper write down as many uses for a shoe you can think of. Then set the timer again and write down all the things you can do with a shoelace. Set the timer again and jot down the consequences of a torn shoelace.

Reason Brainset: This brainset solves problems logically, using all your storage memories and knowledge. It allows you to control what thoughts occupy your mind. It is deliberate and necessary as you complete your creative project. It is the perfect mindset to flesh out a whimsical idea and make it realistic. It helps you motivate action, manage time, increases chances for success, strengthens self-confidence and heightens sense of control over your life. It’s one mindset I’ve consciously worked on every single day, several times a day, over the last several months.

Exercise: You will stop particular unwanted thoughts or train of thoughts as soon as they enter you mind by simply saying, “Don’t go there.” Or “Thinking of this is not my on my hour’s agenda.”

Evaluate Mindset: Coming up with fresh ideas is vital is our line of work, but judging whether those ideas are indeed worth spending time one is also essential. This is where this mindset comes in. Three factors are necessary: active judgement, focused attention and impersonality. We need to judge our work against others of which it’s competing. Not us against them. This is about our work, not ourselves. In order to do that, we need to get some distance from our work, judge it with respect, don’t toss the work mid-project, look at each of its parts and evaluate their merits, and look at the work from the point of view of your audience. Be flexible. Consult others. Be hard on your work and not yourself!

Exercise: On a sheet of paper write the titles of your top ten books of all time.  Imagine they’re no longer available anywhere or ever again. Now, ( I know you’re going to hate me)  cross off five. Behind them, write why you crossed them off.

Transform Mindset:  Is all about emotion. Our emotion. Our negative emotions and how they affect our memories and visions. It’s important we know this mindset and how it disturbs our creativity. It is a what-if state, just like the envision mindset, but unlike the purposeful imaginings of the later, this mindset’s themes are worry, anxiety, self-pity or regret.  But this mindset can help with your creative project. Our characters are an extension of humanity.  People have flaws, negative thoughts, regrets. We can use this mindset to write timeless characters if only we draw on the transform mindset.

Exercise: Pick three things in your home that you feel best represents you: personality, taste, qualities. Now write a paragraph about each and how they relate to you. Did you learn anything about yourself? Was there a negative or positive view of yourself?

The Stream Mindset: We refer to this mindset as being in ‘the zone.’ It is the unique melding of self and action. You lose your sense of self and focus on the world at hand. But how do we achieve this mindset.

First, you need the expertise to enter the stream mindset. Second, you need to be engaged in an activity that intrinsically motivating you. (Intrinsic motivation means that you’re involved in an activity because of an internal award and not an external one.) Do you write for the joy of writing?

Exercise: On a piece of paper jot down five activities that had your blood surging and your mind whirling. These activities are your passion.

 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’ve only touched on the information contained in these two books. In fact, I’m not finished with either of them, but what I’ve learned so far has helped me to be more productive, to think out of the box on my wip, and be more acceptable of the amount of work I can accomplish in a day.

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The Latest Comments

  • Rita Henuber: Love this. Thanks Heather. Great words and encouragement to do our best.
  • Jacie Floyd: Powerful words!
  • Jamie Michele: I am awake! I am clear-headed! I am excited to work today!
  • Anne Marie Becker: Fabulous post, Heather. Thanks for the reminder to be kind to ourselves, as well as to pump...
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: I’m a big fan of positive thinking though I’ve never tried affirmations. I...

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