Spotlighted Routines

Five years ago I walked away from a decades-long controlling, manipulative relationship. Each day holds new opportunities to discover and combat residual effects of that dysfunctional control. Slowly, I am analyzing and evaluating my thinking processes and choices, intentionally taking back true control of my own life.

One of my first independent choices (after the major one of “No more!”) was to go back to school to get a degree. This one decision enabled me to find a path toward orchestrating and controlling my own life. I worked hard and often spent way more time on projects with less spectacular results than my talented classmates. but I succeeded. (Take that, self-doubt!) I graduated with a 3.62 GPA. (I’m not listening to you, negative voices from my dysfunctional past!)

Just when you’d think I could cruise down this new Life Path of mine, I run smack dab into yet another road block. There is a part of me that craves being told what to do next. That dysfunctional thinking still needs reshaping. I need to own my own choices, not just do what comes naturally, or is the thing expected of me. If I do the expected thing, it needs to be because I chose to do it, because I want to do it, because I have specific reasons for doing it. Those last few semesters, I chose to jump through the hoops of the required course of study (even though I chafed at some of it) and get that degree. I finished well. Now it’s time to create my own hoops and expectations.

In this new life of of choices, I’m trying to start a business (SaRoseDesign) as I also create art and rediscover storytelling. I’m being pulled in many different directions. At the same time, my intense self-doubt melds with my natural procrastination to cause a disconnect in both my thinking and my productivity. I get stuck doing things that are the equivalent of a hamster wheel. Like journaling, but always saying the same things, never making any connections to the themes I journal. Or writing blog posts that never get posted. Or making business plans that never get enacted.

To break this trend of procrastination-fueled self-sabotage, I decided I needed some easily accomplished goals for each day that would build a foundation of success, which in turn would bolster my self-confidence and start me on the path toward my dreams . . . Or at least to the map that would help me choose which dream(s) to pursue.

    I chose two routines:

  1. making my bed each day (here’s an article similar to the one I read that inspired me to chose this habit); and
  2. writing 500 words in my journal. To keep from writing the same things over and over again, I set guidelines for choosing a different daily prompt. The journaling could serve two purposes, create a daily writing habit and maybe make progress on at least one of my project ideas.

I started on May 5. I have missed three days in three months. Success! It might be safe to declare that routine established. Out of that success, new paths are opening up. My imagination is tentatively coming back to life. Ideas are burgeoning and blossoming. My enthusiasm and motivation is overpowering that procrastination inertia. (Notice, two blog posts in as many weeks, both here and on my personal site.)

And that’s the next routine. Posting to Routines for Writers and Stephanie’s Musings. My goal: post a new blog post at least weekly on each blog. See you next week (or sooner!)

Marketing in the New Year

business planMy writing focus has changed a lot in the past year. Whereas before I was all about production and learning how to write a novel…and countless pep talks to stick with it, this year I’ve got to add marketing maven to my author resume.  (Because, YAY! I’ve got a book coming out in JUNE!)

Fortunately, I’ve been preparing! We here at Routines for Writers are all about setting routines to help make our writing—or marketing—easier.

For years I’ve been collecting book-marketing advice so that I would be ready once my time came. And my time came at the end of 2013.

As I work on my goals for this year, I’ve realized the first half of the year is pretty much laid out for me, give or take. I start with my release date and work backwards, filling in all the items I plan to do.

Toastmasters

Knowing that I will have a launch party June 3, I signed up for Toastmasters to help me take the edge off my nerves. By the time I get to my launch, I’ll have several speeches under my belt.

What I didn’t account for was being invited to participate in my local indie’s big YA event this month on the 25th! Fortunately, I’ll be one of 12 authors and I won’t have much “screen time.” It will be a nice easing-in to the local YA community. Note: This opportunity came about because I went in early to introduce myself to the children’s book buyer. I was nervous, but she was amazingly supportive–and set me to work right away ;). Marketing tip: don’t put off talking to your local bookstore people.

But, Hello! I’m going to need something to hand out!

Postcards

Since I don’t have any ARCs or even a sample chapter (my book is currently in editorial; I’m biting my fingernails down), I ordered postcards. 1000 of them. And 200 stickers inviting people to my release party. I was expecting to order these later, but it will be nice to have something in my purse to hand out when people find out I’m an author.

Newsletter

My first personal author newsletter goes out tonight. My subscriber base is small and loyal, aka—made up of a few of my friends. My goal is to get to 100 people by my launch date. I have no idea if this goal is too small or too large, but it’s the goal I set. (Help me get to 100! Go sign up at ShonnaSlayton.com.)

Videos

I write for YA, and not necessarily the adults who read YA, but the actual teens. If I want to catch their attention I need video. So far, my author blog has been aimed at fellow homeschool parents/ teachers because they are my current tribe. When I announced to my friends about my book deal—they were all adults! Granted, most are parents, and their kids are or will be my target market. Eventually, I’ll need to transition to my actual teen audience. I think video is the way to go. Here’s my first:

 
http://youtu.be/6es3hRXjCjo

Social Media

In the past few months I’ve joined Pinterest (Love it! I avoided it because I was afraid I’d get hooked, and I have.) For better or worse, I’ve made the decision to stick with a Facebook profile instead of creating a page. And, I’ve got an author photo in place of my statue-girl avatar!

The Other Marketing Plans

Other marketing plans will take shape as the months go by. I’ll be staying flexible and keeping my calender open. I believe my publisher has plans for a blog tour and some giveaways and there are some other things I’d like to try to engage with my audience.

How about you? What is your best tip for marketing? Planning for marketing? Or even setting up a routine for marketing?

Time and Project Management Class Starts Monday

j0227558Hello my friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s. I sure did. I’d planned since last Christmas to take two full weeks off and relax. Right up to the last minute, I was sure I wouldn’t “be able to” do it. But in the end, I did!

My workload piled up during the two weeks off, but I feel so much more relaxed and rested and ready for work! How did I manage to take so much vacation time when life has been battering me for the last couple of years? The primary reason is because last January I laid out a written plan for my year.

Granted, a LOT of things went wrong with the plan. I couldn’t have anticipated six months of unemployment for John. I made more money than I did in 2012, but it wasn’t enough to offset the costs of a few book-selling risks I took that didn’t pay off. Near the end of the year, I had to put my writing business on the back burner and work full-time at a temp job.

Calendar 2013But for the whole year, I could look at my writing plan and my calendar and I could figure out how each of my plans would be affected by the new turn life took. I could move the sticky notes on the calendar to change deadlines. I could cancel things that just couldn’t be accomplished now that the course of life had changed.

And I could do it all with more peace than usual because I had a written, changeable plan.

If you’d like to work with me over the next four weeks to get a plan in place for you this year, please sign up for my online class Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Due to popular demand, this is the fourth year I’ve taught this class, and there’s always something new to learn and share. I hope you’ll join us!

What do you want to accomplish this year?

Shonna’s Book Deal!

Shonna’s Cinderella's DressYA novel, CINDERELLA’S DRESS, is scheduled for publication June 3, 2014 with Entangled TEEN.

 

confetti cannon——–*confetti* *confetti* *confetti* *confetti* *confetti*

 

Entangled Publishing is a relatively new publishing company but they are taking the book world by storm. They love getting books into the hands of readers and they like to have a good time while doing so :). They are going to publish both a print and a digital version of my book. And they make me feel like I’m in a bit of a fairy tale myself, right now.

If you’ve been a long-time reader at RFW you know a bit about the backstory on this book. Because, yes, if I ever alluded to a novel’s journey, it was most likely about Cinderella’s Dress. Blood. Sweat. Tears.

I am grateful for the encouragement this blog gave me to persevere. I’m especially grateful for Kitty and Stephanie who introduced me to NaNoWriMo. At first I thought they were crazy to try to write 50,000 words in one month. Then I learned there were a WHOLE BUNCH of crazy people out there trying to write 50,000 words in a month. Then I became a crazy person myself. Thank you NaNoWriMo!

So, I know. Blah, blah, blah. Give us the numbers. You writers are so pushy. Here you go:

First Draft: November 2008 during NaNoWriMo.
Started Querying: August 2010—querying agents/revising/querying/revising…you get the idea
Total queries: 28 (this seems low to me; I think it was more, but since I stopped querying a year ago I’ve misplaced the master list. I’ll update if I find it. It sure felt like I was sending it to everyone and their dog.)
Total partials: 3
Total fulls: 3
Revise & Resubmits: 1
Total offers of rep: 0 (Yes, I am still unagented)
TOTAL PUBLISHING CONTRACTS: 1

Entangled Publishing path:
Learned
about their teen line at SCBWI-AZ conference Oct 2012
Submitted Oct 20, 2012
Got past the interns (Bless you interns!) and was put into their new “submitable” manuscript tracking software March 2013 (Where you are guaranteed a response within 30 days–yay/nay/need more time)
Request for more time April 2013
Offer extended June 2013 (Secret family celebration with ice-cream cake courtesy of supportive husband!)
Contract signed November 2013
Years from first draft to published novel: if all goes well, 5.5

Literary racehorse, I am not.

I don’t know if these stats will encourage you or depress you! It reminds me of when I was single and my girlfriends and I would insist we didn’t need a lot of men, we each needed only one good man! Well, my book needed one good publisher, and it has one now.

In conclusion, and in the spirit of all the pep talks I’ve written for this blog: Slow and steady wins the race. Or, for you sci-fi folks: Never give up. Never surrender.

Blog notes: Kitty and I keep going back and forth about keeping this blog running. We both have our own websites now and Stephanie is still busy with school. If you want to stay in-the-know with this book, you can follow my twitter feed https://twitter.com/ShonnaSlayton or sign up for my newsletter on my blog: shonnaslayton.com

Printing Books and Saying Goodbye

Hi friends! As you know, I’ve been working hard on getting more books written and self-published. Very exciting times for me! For the last year, I’ve expected to have to say goodbye to you here on Routines for Writers, and that goodbye is swiftly approaching. My last weekly post will be in two weeks.

But that just means you can visit me at a new location! Yay! My web site is at http://kittybucholtz.com/ and I’ll keep you updated on the new books I have coming out, as well as talk about funny things like what I’ve watched on Netflix, and interesting things like brain science. I hope you decide to come visit me there. (I’ll miss you if you don’t!)

This past week I’ve been working on the interior design of the print version of Little Miss Lovesick. At first, it was daunting to the point of not even wanting to start! Since it’s my first time putting a book into print, I was a bundle of nerves, afraid the whole process would be so time-consuming because of my learning curve that I would not only never finish it, but I would’ve wasted all that time I could’ve been writing. Funny what fear can do to you!

But my awesome husband sat me down at his computer where he has Quark Xpress and he opened the file he’d created for my book (he used to be a graphic designer). He showed me how to use a few key commands, and I started editing. I found a couple dozen punctuation changes I wanted to make, but only a few words that were missing or mistaken. After I finished the copy edit, I did a bunch of other little things like –

  • changing the justification to fully justified
  • making each chapter start on a new page, with the chapter heading partway down the page
  • deleting the headers from the first page of every chapter
  • making the first word of every chapter all caps
  • adding an icon to each scene break (a little fish since the heroine meets the hero on a fishing trip)
  • moving most of the hyphenated words to the next line so the pages look cleaner
  • updating the copyright page for the print version
  • and getting John’s help making the title page look attractive

If you’re doing any self-publishing, keep the above list as a starting place on formatting your print version. You may add some more items to your list, as I may over time. But it’s a helpful place to start.

Whew! It was a huge amount of work, but the inside of the book looks great! Now I just have to write the back cover copy and help John finish the full book cover. Then it will be ready to put up for sale at Amazon!! Woo-hooo!! I can’t wait!!

I’ll let you know when it’s available for sale in print. I’m trying to have it ready by Thanksgiving, but it may be the first week of December. (It’s already available as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and many more online retailers.) If I have any tips about the cover or any of the “getting your first book into print” issues, I’ll tell you about them over the next couple weeks. Meanwhile, have an awesome week! See you on my web site! 🙂

Gazelle Intensity

I almost can’t believe it, but I met four deadlines last month! I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my writing life. Maybe the only time I’ve accomplished so much in such a short space of time is for school/college. But the point is – I did it.

What I learned from that experience is that I can do more than I think I can. Past experience may tell me that I can’t – until I make an experience that tells me I can. What I have to be careful of is thinking I can always get this much work done. It would be foolish of me to think I can work 10-16 hours a day, six days a week, for an infinite amount of time. For one thing, there is no time for friends or family, little time for exercise or healthy habits, and almost no time for fun.

However, last month I reminded myself that I can work very intensely and accomplish a lot in short bursts. Life is a marathon, and the writing life is a marathon, but sprints are useful and appropriate. (In my half marathon training, I use short sprints in training.)

John and I are participating in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, a money management course designed to get you out of debt and keep you out forever. In one of the lessons, Dave shows a video of a leopard chasing a gazelle. Even though the leopard can run faster than the gazelle, the gazelle got away! Why? Because the gazelle could make quick leaps out of the leopard’s path faster than he could move to intercept. The gazelle only has to keep this up for a short intense period until the leopard gives up and looks for easier prey.

Dave suggests we use this method to get out of debt. A short, intense burst of effort to pay off everything from credit cards to student loans to the balance on your mortgage. I listen to his radio podcast and people call in saying they’ve just paid off their last debt. Dave asks them how much they paid off and how long it took, then they give their debt free scream. It’s very inspiring! People are getting out of debt to the tune of $20,000 to $158,000 (that I’ve heard) in 12-48 months. John and I will be right in that range, and it’s exciting to know it can be done.

That’s what I learned last month with my writing deadlines. I focused like I have rarely focused before on one project, then another, then another, then another. And I got them all done, on time. I had hoped that on November 2, I would be able to sleep in, read a little, take a deep breath, and go back to a more relaxed lifestyle. But I still have four more time-sensitive projects to finish. At first, that made me feel super tired just thinking about it. Then I remembered the gazelle intensity speech.

I can’t keep up this pace forever, but I can do it for four more weeks. As one friend reminded me on November 2 when I was trying to figure out if I could do all this, I can’t “catch up” on everything that didn’t get done over the last year. But I can pick the most important things to finish now, and re-schedule my other goals for 2013.

National Novel Writing Month is about gazelle intensity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are finding it can work for their writing life. But it works in every area of life. What do you really need to get done? Not just urgent things, but important things. Piles of paperwork? Haphazard, overcrowded home? Behind in something you could finish if you just really applied yourself for a few weeks?

Think about it and decide what you’re going to do about it. In the end, you’ll not only have accomplished something wonderful, and maybe done something about those monkeys on your back, but you’ll find pleasure in your own personal growth as self-discipline blooms in your life.

I’m nervous about failure, about exhaustion, about missing out on fun things other people are doing, but last month I proved that it can be done! So I’m going to keep it up for another month. See you at the finish line!

[Note: If you want more encouragement and direction in planning your goals for 2013, join me for my online class Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Here’s to a fabulous and productive new year!]

Frighteningly Real

Since it’s almost Halloween, John suggested I come up with a themed post. In that vein… 🙂

You may remember, I’ve been writing like mad to make two deadlines this month. I sent in the polished superhero romantic comedy, UNEXPECTED HERO, on October 14 to Harper Voyager. And last Thursday, I sent in the first chapter and synopsis of BELLA AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER to Love Inspired Suspense.

Talk about scary.

Who knew coming up with a romantic suspense would be so difficult?! Not me, obviously. It was easy to see the victim and what happened to her, and I had a fair idea of the ending. For those reasons, I gave it a shot. But figuring out the 200 pages in the middle…Sheesh.

A couple times, I nearly threw in the towel, but then friends would rally and encourage me to at least give it a try. After all, the worst thing that can happen is I’ll get rejected. Well, the worst thing would be to spend weeks and months on it and discover I stink at suspense and I wasted all that time. Actually, the worst thing would be for Love Inspired Suspense to give me a shot and then I find I am incapable of ever writing another suspense novel, and they kick me to the curb.

See? This is the frightening real life pre-Halloween I’ve been living!

ABDUCTED - On sale now!

Luckily, two great friends helped me with several plot details. My friend Dave is a deputy sheriff and he let me ask him a thousand questions over lunch. Then I called my friend Janice Cantore, novelist and retired police officer, and she took my stretched out, lumpy balloon knot and created a balloon man walking a balloon dog in a couple of deft twists. Wow. Impressive.

So now I have a month or two (I’ll write the first draft during NaNoWriMo) to see if I can write a story that feels both frighteningly real and believably romantic.

Then I’ll have to decide if I enjoyed it.

It is soooo much easier to write about superheroes! LOL!

Have you written any suspense? How’d it go for you? (If you’re good at it, give a girl some tips!) Or have you written something else that scared the crud out of you?

If you’re participating in NaNo, see you there! (I’m “Kitty Bucholtz”‘ if you want to be friends.) If not, keep writing!

And remember, I’ll be teaching my online class again on goal setting and time management for writers in January. Hope to see you there!

Submission Heaven

I just spent the last two weeks working 5-16 hours a day (yes, Saturday, I wrote for 16 hours not including food breaks!) to get my superhero book UNEXPECTED HERO polished and sent off to Harper Voyager. It’s done! Sent! YAY!!

I told you about this open submission window a couple times. Did any of you submit? Let me know so I can cheer for you!

Now I have to finish the polishing of a short story coming out in an anthology this year, then begin my submission to the Fast Track Event for Love Inspired Suspense. Then I’ll finally get back to my regularly scheduled writing and finish up LOVE AT THE FLUFF AND FOLD for you. Whew! What a month!

But if you’ll excuse me please, I have to go to bed! (I’m writing you at 10:30pm Sunday, having just sent off my submission a few minutes ago.) Monday I am only doing two things – making a desperately needed grocery run, and watching all the chick flicks I can in my queue on Netflix. Happy Sigh. And did I mention sleeping? Ahhh.

THANK YOU, GOD!! And thank you to all of you for being such great encouragers! Love and hugs to you all!

And happy writing! 🙂

For You

          Life is busy, busy, busy for all of us here at RFW. Shonna has decided to take a break and I’m struggling with a similar decision. I need to focus on my classes and studies. Even though the break would only be temporary (until December), I really want to continue contributing to RFW. I also don’t want to waste our readers’ time by not writing anything of use. Writing useful and helpful articles takes time. (See my dilemma?)

          Kitty has suggested that I repost (as is or updated) past posts I’ve written here. That’s a good idea. BUT! Finding the time to weed through my past posts is an issue. This week, I’m sending you to Tania Dakka’s blog for an article that is apropos for me. I hope it benefits you, too. In the coming weeks, my posts may be repeats or links to other places, but I will make sure they are of value to you as a growing writer and person.

          Happy Writing!

My Routines

          Routines. Routines for Writers. That’s who we are. That’s what we talk about. All the topics, all the discussions, everything we say comes back to routines. It is fitting, then, this September, our anniversary month, that we focus on routines, specifically those routines that help us succeed.

          Whether it pertains to creating, rewriting, editing or publishing, routines can hinder or help. Since I’m a hands-on learner and it helps me to have examples of how to apply theoretical knowledge, I’m going to share some of my own examples in the hope of helping those of you who are hands-on, too. I suspected, many years ago, that routines might make my life more manageable (theory). I had a lot of trial and error, though, before I found good routines that aided me in accomplishing my goals (practice). I’m still learning. 

          Life never stays the same. That change so often turns good routines into not-so-good routines. Example: When we started this blog, my posts went up on Mondays. I created routines that allowed me to have it finished and posted by Sunday night. When I moved to China, Sunday night became too difficult, but that didn’t matter. China is 12 hours ahead of the USA so even though I finished and posted, this blog on Monday mornings, from most of our readers’ perspectives, it was still Sunday night. Then I moved back to the US. And struggled to get the posts up on time. So we made the change to me posting on Wednesdays and Kitty on Mondays. Now my routines help me post on time (usually).

          Other routines in my life now are related to my school schedule. I am taking seven different classes for the semester. As you might imagine, I get overloaded sometimes. I’ve learned to not panic when those feelings of being overwhelmed descend on me every Tuesday and progressively get worse throughout Thursday. That feeling is deceptive. Yes, if I did not work on my projects and assignments or study for tests, I would certainly become overwhelmed and fail. However, the routines of my life at present usually allow me a few large blocks of study time. I have a work-study job at the college library. I am allowed, even encouraged, to study while I sit at the desk or do other library things. That means I often have a good portion of my four-hour shifts on Thursday and Friday to work on many of my assignments. Even though I often have Saturday completely free, many times I don’t need to use it for studying.

          There is a negative, though. If the library is busy, like it was last week, I don’t get that study time. I have to find other times to study. If I count on those times too much, I can get into trouble. Like last weekend when I had multiple assignments, projects and labs. (I got everything finished, but just barely.)

          I have found that I need to periodically review my routines. Sometimes all that is needed is to put them back into practice. I’m naturally a seat-of-the-pants type person. I tend to flex my routines a lot. Sometimes my problems are not that the routines don’t fit my current circumstances, but that I’m not utilizing them. Routines have to work for you. Or to paraphrase a great man, “Routines were created for you; You were not created for routines.”

          Are your routines helping or hindering? What do you need to do about it?