Self-Publishing Class – Sample Lectures

I thought you might want to know more about the self-publishing class that I’ll be teaching starting Monday. So here are some samples from some of my class lectures.

From Lecture 1

Welcome to my class on self-publishing your book! I’m glad you’re here. There are a lot of ways to get your book out into the world, and I’m going to present only a few. Then you’ll be able to take what you learn here, continue to research and learn more about your other options, and make changes (if you choose) in the future with more confidence.

The first things you’ll need to decide are:

  • do you want to publish in ebook only, print only, or both?
  • what software will you use?
  • what distributors will you use?

Starting today, if you haven’t already started a notebook or computer file to save all the information you collect on self-publishing, do it now.

I use an ARC notebook from Staples to save everything that is already printed, or that I print out.

http://www.staples.com/M-by-Staples-Arc-Customizable-Durable-Poly-Notebook-System-Black-9-3/product_886237

I prefer these because I like how easy it is to pull a piece of paper from one section and press it into another without having to open and close a 3-ring binder all the time. But whatever you like and will find easy to organize is what you should use.

I save different information – my house style guide, some how-to blogs that I’ve saved, a list of passwords and links to the distributors I use, and much more – in a Scrivener file.

Screen shot - Style guide

From that Scrivener file, I can cut and paste links I need easier than if they were in a printed file, and I can continually update my style guide, add new books or formats (like audiobooks), and organize other information that I don’t feel the need to print.

From Lecture 2

In addition to the big choices – will I publish in ebook, print, or both formats? what software will I use? – you have a lot of detailed choices as well. This lesson will help familiarize you with some of those choices, and provide web sites where you can look up more information and/or sign up for the service.

Business Type

When you sign up for an account to publish your book with a distributor (KDP, Smashwords, etc.), you will need to provide your legal name (if you write with a pen name) and/or your business name. I chose to register a DBA (Doing Business As, also known as a Fictitious Business Name) so I could have a company name without the expense of setting up a corporation or LLC. You will have to do your own research on this, ask your accountant and/or attorney what is best for you because I am not qualified to give legal or financial advice.

If you live in California, here is a link to the state web site explaining the minimum tax if you set up a corporation or LLC. Google “[my state] minimum tax” to find out more about the tax consequences of setting up a corporation/LLC in your state.

https://www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/faq/beMinTax.shtml

CHOICE: How will I set up my distributor accounts, and what do I need to do before I can sign up for those accounts?

Tax Identification Numbers

When you sign up with a distributor, you need to provide banking information and a tax ID number so you can get paid and so your earnings can be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

If you run your business as a sole proprietor, with or without a DBA, you can use your social security number or you can apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). While I can’t give you legal or financial advice, here are some articles that may help you decide.

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Employer-ID-Numbers-EINs

http://legal.answers.com/definitions/should-you-use-an-ein-or-your-social-security-number

http://info.legalzoom.com/need-ein-am-dba-23281.html

Depending on your bank and your business type, you may be able to set up a business checking account. (Your bank can tell you if they require an EIN for a sole proprietorship with or without a DBA, or if they will allow you to use your social security number.) Your royalties/earnings can be deposited there instead of your personal account to make accounting and taxes easier. Or your bank may only let you set up a separate personal checking account. Either way, you need to decide where you want your money deposited.

If you use PayPal, you may want to research how you can set up a separate PayPal account connected to your business checking so you can keep your business and personal finances separate.

CHOICE: How will I set up my banking for receiving payments and paying expenses?

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION: How will changing from one business type now (sole prop/DBA) to another later (corporation/LLC) affect my business? How will it affect my sales, sales rank, tax reporting, sales reporting, etc. from the vendors and distributors I’ve signed up with?

From Lecture 5

This lecture is not going to be an exhaustive how-to on using InDesign. You’ve either decided to learn it and you plan to use additional resources to do so, or you are already familiar with it to some degree. This will also help you get your book set up in InDesign if you have used Quark Xpress or Pagemaker or another desktop publishing program. There are enough similarities among the programs that knowing how to do this or that in one program gives you an idea of how to do it in another.

I’ll tell you what I do, and you can follow my directions, or just use them as a jumping off point to decide how you want to design your book’s interior. (You can also read along and ask yourself if this seems easy enough to learn. I think you’ll find it is.)

What I Do

Following are directions for creating a new file, making it into a template so you have all your settings saved for future books, and then adding your current manuscript to the template to create a new document.

Open InDesign
Go to File, New, Document
Under Intent on the popup screen, leave it as Print (the default)
Under Pages, make it a few more pages than you think it needs to be

Example: My superhero story is 100,000 words and came in at about 325 pages with the manuscript, the front and back matter, and the short excerpt of the next book at the end; my 8,000-word short story is about 36 pages with front and back matter and short excerpt

Under Page Size, choose Custom, then you’ll create a custom preset for all of your books

Adjust the width and height to the sizes you want for your print book (this won’t affect your EPUB if you create one from InDesign), and type in a name for the Custom Page Size.

Example: You could create one that is 4 1/8” x 6 7/8” and call it “Mass Market,” and create one that is 5” x 8” and call it “Trade Size.” Then you only need to choose which Custom Page Size you want to use this time.

Screen shot InD New Doc 1

Click on the Add button to save the name of the Custom Page Size. If you created more than one, click on the one you want and hit OK.

Screen shot InD New Doc 2

Leave the columns section as is if you are creating a novel template. Adjust your margins according to the CreateSpace guidelines. (You may have to click on the “chain” icon next to the top and bottom margins in order for your changes to save.)

Example: I use 0.75” for the top, bottom, and inside margins, and 0.5” on the outside margin

Sign Up Today!

These are just a few examples of what you’ll learn in my 4-week online class, Your How-to Guide to Self-Publishing. You will receive 8 lectures with 92 pages of information, including screen shots, to help you get your book up for sale as an ebook and/or in print by the end of the class. Everyone will be encouraged to ask questions and offer suggestions to each other so that everyone can avoid or solve problems, and gain the newest information in an ever-changing industry.

Manuscript not ready? No problem. You can go through the lectures and practice with a dummy manuscript. This will give you an opportunity to ask questions about anything you don’t understand so you can be ready when your manuscript is complete.

Check out my Classes page and sign up for the class. It starts Monday, January 12, 2015.

Assembling a Self-Published Book

Over the next two months, I’ll be assembling my newest book, Superhero in the Making, book two in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke series. (“Superhero Books for Her!”) This will be the fourth time I’ve put a book together to self-publish, so I’m finding patterns and creating checklists.

whyWhere Will You Distribute?

I’ve found that one of the important things you need to know before you begin is which distributors you will use. For instance, while Scrivener (where I write my books) has the capability to create an EPUB file, Smashwords still required a Word document the last time I uploaded a book there in May 2013. Since I want my ebooks to be absolutely identical on any device, and because as of May 2013 all the distributors I used accepted Word files, I found it was easier to create just one file and then make the necessary changes on the copyright page. (As opposed to having a Scrivener EPUB file, a Word file, and an InDesign file and having to remember to make any little edits to all three files, at least this way I only had to remember to make the same edits in two files. We’ll see if I do it differently this time to take advantage of Scrivener creating the EPUB and mobi – for Kindle – files for me. When I created my ebook-only short story, “Superhero in Disguise,” Scrivener helped me format the files fast.)

One thing to love about the free Smashwords Style Guide is that if you are meticulous in following the instructions there, your completed Word file will upload to any of the other distributors as well on the first try. (As of May 2013, I uploaded to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords – who distributed to “everyone else.” I had no problems with B&N’s original “PubIt!” program, but its new NOOK Press messes up my books now, every time. So I now let Smashwords distribute there for me. That will change when I decide to spend the money hiring out my formatting or figure out my NOOK Press problem.)

Incompatible Upgrades

Another thing to consider is whether one of the programs you use has been very recently upgraded and other programs will not work well with it until they upgrade as well. This happened to me in May 2013 with Unexpected Superhero. Between Scrivener, NOOK Press, and an EPUB validator I was using, the Scrivener EPUB file had errors I couldn’t fix when I tried to upload it to NOOK Press. It was frustrating and time-consuming tracking down the problem, trying potential solutions, and eventually having to abandon my upload and have Smashwords distribute it. But these things happen and you need to go with the flow. (Again, unless you hire a professional formatter.)

Since my husband used to be a graphic designer and owns several professional programs, and I’ve done some newsletters using Quark Xpress, I decided to go that route for my print books. My husband and I created a template in Quark for my first book, Little Miss Lovesick, and I uploaded the final file as a PDF to CreateSpace. Again, plan for the unexpected. I couldn’t get Quark to create the PDF even though it was an option for the software. Turns out a lot of people were having the same problem. I finally had to send the file out to have it converted. Of course, then I had a PDF that I couldn’t change. Why was that a problem if my book was already printed?

A Professional Print Version

Yup, found a few typos. When I created the ebook files, I corrected any little things I saw as they came up – without thinking about it. Meaning, I didn’t make identical changes to the Quark file, which is why I mentioned above, be aware of how many separate files you have to change if you find a typo. And now, because I couldn’t get Quark to create a PDF for me, I could make my edits but would have to send the file out to be converted to PDF every time, forever. My husband and I started talking about upgrades and – voila! I got an email from Adobe about their Creative Cloud suite. Instead of purchasing the software and upgrading every year or two, you could pay a monthly subscription fee and always have access to the latest version. Not only that, you have access to every piece of Adobe software (that I’m aware of). Because my husband and I both use more than one piece of Adobe software, the monthly Creative Cloud membership seemed perfect for us.

So for my second book, I used Adobe InDesign. LOVE. IT. I sent out my Little Miss Lovesick Quark file to Nick Davies at Tinstar Design and he quickly converted it to InDesign for me for a very reasonable price. I made my minor edits in the new file and it was ready to re-upload. I also took that Lovesick file and created a master template for my future books, which I then used for Unexpected Superhero. Now my print books all have the same look every time. Definitely the professional way to go.

Writing SmileyChecklists Save Time

During the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve continued to make notes about what I do, how I do it, and what order to do it. For instance, in your print version, if you add the header in the master section so that it appears on every page, then manually delete the header from the first pages of chapters, then go through every line of the book taking out words that are split/hyphenated to the next line, it will change the way the text flows and…wait for it…your manually deleted headers will sometimes be on the wrong page. Sigh. Then you have to re-do the header.

Yes, I learned that by doing it. 😉

So now with Superhero in the Making, I’ll take my newest checklist and begin working down it in order. Any time I find something not working right, I’ll make a note of how to fix it and, if necessary, change the order of steps in my checklist. Until I decide to send out my book files to a professional formatter, this is an effective way to get my books printed so that they look absolutely professional, and I’m not re-inventing the process every time. I haven’t looked into the prices of professional formatters or know who’s the best at a reasonable price because I genuinely enjoy the book-building process. But someday I may have to let go of this part in order to get more writing done and more books out.

I hope this has been helpful to you. If so, let me know and I’ll try to post more on this topic in the future. I’ll be teaching a self-publishing how-to class online in September that you may find useful as well. I’ll let you know the details soon. Happy Self-Publishing!

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?

Thankful for Writing

As Thanksgiving draws near and my time at Routines for Writers draws to a close, I have so very much to be thankful for. When we started this blog just over four years ago, Shonna and Stephanie and I didn’t know anything about WordPress, very little about blogging, and nothing about how to build an audience. We’ve learned a lot over the years – and that’s why we went on this adventure. We wanted to learn how to professionally promote ourselves and our work.

That’s not the only thing I’m grateful for, though. I’m grateful –

  • for making new friends
  • for learning new things about writing routines
  • for having someplace to share what I learned
  • for making new friends (did I say that already?)
  • for learning great writing tips from Stephanie and Shonna and you
  • for raising the bar on my writing
  • for realizing I can do more than I thought I could
  • for learning how to stick to something even if I’m busy or sick or moving around the world
  • for having a safe place to find encouragement when the writing life got rough
  • for sharing the first news of my published work with you

I hope you are grateful for some of what we’ve shared here over the years. And I hope that you are finding plenty of things to be grateful for this holiday season!

God bless you! Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 

Making Sense of Revisions

Since I’ve just run through an intensive two-week editing and revision sprint to get my superhero book off to Harper Voyager, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about revisions. Regardless of whether you are sending your work out to a publisher or preparing to self-publish your book, you need to have an editing system. You’ve probably learned a lot about story structure and how a good book reads by virtue of years of reading. You may have a natural feel for it. (I think I do.) But you can also learn a lot about solid story structure.

There are numerous books available telling you various ways to go about revising (my favorites are Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King), but the best way is the way that works for you. For me, the best way is a combination of using Scrivener and sticky notes.

The many-times-changed sticky note outline of UNEXPECTED HERO

This particular book, UNEXPECTED HERO, turned into what I hope to be the worst editing experience of my life. After working on this book in several drafts over seven years (ugh, that pains me even to say it), I hope I never ever EVER have such a difficult time editing again. It started easily enough with one draft and a clear vision. That vision wasn’t shared by my agent, and I did a page-one rewrite using her notes. In the end, she didn’t like that version either and the book was never sent to publishers. (I learned a lot from that experience alone, and I am grateful that she and I remained friends.)

Now I had two complete books (not drafts) with the same characters, similar plots, and a different time frame. That meant that I couldn’t use them both as the first two books in the series. I had to choose. Problem was, my agent made some good points about things that I improved in the second book, but other elements I liked better from the first book. I decided the best choice was to roll up my sleeves and completely rewrite the book again, taking the best elements and putting them together for the best possible story.

This was not easy.

In fact, it was so difficult, and I had so many other things going on in life – like grad school – that I didn’t finish the third draft. What I did “complete” (for lack of a better word) was creating a document I called “UH Prototype” in my “Hero” Scrivener file. I cut and pasted the scenes from the previous versions along with new scenes I’d written into a Frankenstein document. The final story would look something like this one in terms of story, but most of the scenes needed to be rewritten to some extent. (My heroine had been married for three years in the first version, was unmarried in the second version, and starts out as a newlywed in the final version.)

Then a month or so ago, I heard about Harper Voyager’s open submission window and thought this could be a great opportunity for UNEXPECTED HERO. So I printed out the UH Prototype file and found a printed copy of the last completed “draft” and read them through, making notes. I’d thought I was at least three-quarters of the way through the final draft, but as I read the printouts, I found I was closer to half done. And I only had two weeks to get the book in.

In grad school, I worked on a few of the scenes for school assignments, and even then the overwhelming number of words to get through was difficult to handle. At that point, I had the insight to number my revisions like software. The original book became Hero 1.1. The version based on my agent’s notes became version 1.2. The new version was Hero 1.3, but in the course of many confusing ideas on how to fix it, it also became 1.4 and 1.5. (The first two were original, complete “books” ready to go, and separate from each other. But after that everything else was a draft of the third version of book one.) I also started a file called Hero 2.1 with notes on the new villain taken from Hero 1.1; that will become book two in the series.

Three weeks ago, when I took time off to do nothing but finish this book, everything I needed was in the Scrivener file, and I was getting confused trying to edit such large (90,000 words) documents. So I needed more than what Scrivener was doing. (I now create each scene as a separate document in Scrivener so I can easily move them around if necessary, and compile them into one document when I’m done by pressing a button. Love it!) So I pulled out my box of sticky notes and wrote a one-sentence description of each scene in the order I currently had it, and lined them up (first on the glass of a framed picture at the timeshare – LOL!, then on my white board at home).

Between years of reading, learning story structure in my screenwriting program, and learning how to be an editor in one of my grad school classes, I had a feel for where the story was going wrong. But I needed to be able to visualize the whole thing in one glance. And I needed to move the scenes around and see if it worked better this way or that way. The one-sentence sticky notes allowed me to finalize the structure as I worked through the story. I’d get to a point in the actual writing/editing, and think, but wait… I’d go back to my sticky notes and realize a piece was missing – she had to tell him before they could argue about it. Or I’d be getting along toward the end when I realized she’d told the superhero but not his alter ego, so I had to write in a way that either the alter ego had to pretend he didn’t know or he had to make a mistake and let it slip that he did.

Sheesh!

In a strange, wonderfully sick writerly way, I actually had a lot of fun! 🙂

A reminder to track my timeline

Again, at about the three-quarters point, I was getting lost as to “when” I was. Was the story going too slow or too fast? Was I missing any major obvious events? So I pulled up a calendar that had the date the book started on the day of the week I wanted it to start, and I started writing on the bottom of my stickies – Monday the 18th, Tuesday the 19th, etc. Two scenes had to be reversed because one had to happen at lunch time and the other at dinner time. And somewhere around here I had the ah-ha moment for how I would end the book simply based on the date that the story ended.

It was a difficult process but for some reason it wasn’t as painful this time. Maybe because I’ve been rehashing this story in my mind for seven years. In fact, several times I spent an hour or more looking for a scene I was sure I wrote only to come to the conclusion that I must’ve just developed it with striking clarity in my head! One scene I did eventually find in my grad school homework. (Whew!) In any case, I know this is the best version of this book by far, and exactly what I meant to write. Some of the scenes even surprised me with how good they became. LOL! Definitely my best work to date.

So if you’re trying to figure out how to edit a monster, try some or all of the things I used:

  • printouts and a pen,
  • Scrivener or multiple open Word documents,
  • a calendar,
  • sticky notes,
  • and a white board or wall.

You can tame the monster, but it may take looking at your story in several different ways at the same time.

Good luck! You can do it!

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!

Do You See the Big Picture or the Details?

The question says it all – are you a big picture person or a detail person? Which one comes more naturally to you?

I don’t know about you, but for me, it depends on where I am in the process. When I’m starting a project, I’m totally a big picture person. Planning a trip? I’m all about where we can go and when, comparing how much it will cost to drive or fly, thinking through all the options from the top down.

But once I’ve started a course of action, I love getting immersed in the details. I love spreadsheets and numbers and formulas. I love balancing my checkbook! LOL! If I find a discrepancy, I find it hard to stop until I’ve cleared it up. I can’t sleep if I’m in the middle of a Sudoku puzzle at bedtime.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve not been the best employee at times when I had to be able to go back and forth between the big picture and the details. I get so focused on details that I find it hard to pull back if there isn’t a lot of time.

On the other hand, I also hate to admit that I find it difficult to delegate to people unless I know they are detail-oriented. I tend to have high standards when it comes to details and I get cranky if people don’t follow through in the same way I would.

Okay, so there are some of the areas I’m weak in, but what am I good at? Which area am I best at? I’ve not read about the psychology of this topic, and I haven’t taken a test that I remember tested me in this area, but in my opinion I’m good at both. I think that’s what helps me to be a good writer. I start at the top with the big picture and work my way down to the details of writing and editing the book, even focusing in the end on punctuation.

What about you? Are you better at one than the other? How do you think that helps or hurts your writing? Let me know. I’m really curious about how other people think. 🙂

When Shouldn’t I Write?

There are so many writers out there telling us what we should/must do in order to be successful. I am grateful to everyone who is willing to share in order to help others find their way. But I am somewhat less grateful to those who couch their advice in terms of “should” and “must.”

I believe that all of us find our own best path when it comes to how we get things done. For some people, their best path is one that takes more time – seemingly wasting time to others who appear more efficient. For instance, some writers write multiple versions of scenes before they decide which direction they want to go. Other writers decide first and write one draft. Who has the best path? Sometimes the easiest way to understand this concept of finding your own path is to use something you don’t do well as an example.

I don’t cook very well. I have a few dishes that I can make pretty tasty every time – I just made John and Doug bacon-wrapped meatloaf for dinner – but mostly I despise cooking only a little more than I hate cleaning up. I would LOVE to be wealthy enough to have someone cook and clean for me every day for the rest of my life!

So when I do cook, if someone or something convinces me to try something new, I have found that I should double the prep time. One time, it took me 2 1/2 hours to prepare lasagna wraps out of the “easy” Betty Crocker cookbook. The prep time in the cookbook was 45 minutes.  John was pretty starving hungry by the time we ate that night.

Looking at something I don’t do well and rarely enjoy, it’s easier to see how to adjust other people’s “should’s” to work for me, easier than trying to apply it to something I do pretty well and enjoy, like writing. Following me so far?

Stephanie and I were on a writing retreat once where she did all the cooking and I did all the grocery shopping. I ate like a Queen that week! Steph laughed at me so many times when I gushed about how good her food was, and she kept insisting it was so easy. She eventually learned that cooking is not easy for me.

Now compare all the writing advice you’ve heard. I’d guess that over 90% of the advice you hear works for the person who said it. (I suspect that some people tell you what they believe to be the best way to do something even though they haven’t been able to be completely successful doing it that way.) But just because it works for someone, or lots of someones, doesn’t mean it will work for me or for you.

Take writing every day for example. I do believe that working consistently is the best way to build structure and habits and routines that will get you through the hard times when you don’t know what to write, or when life keeps you from writing as much as you used to. But I don’t believe every writer needs to write 5 or 6 or 7 days a week, rain or shine or Christmas or funeral, in order to be successful.

I’ve found that a menu system works better for me. I work every day, 4-7 days a week, but I don’t write every day. Some days I’ll write for 8 or 10 hours, other days I’ll do other “business of writing” work for the whole day. My brain works smoother and more fully when I do only one or two major tasks a day. I’ll spend an entire day doing a week’s worth or a month’s worth of accounting rather than take a few minutes every day. That’s the menu item I chose on that day. On another day, I’ll choose to write all my blogs for the next week or two. On a different day, I’ll spend most of the day researching, reading, and journaling to get my thoughts stirred up or organized.

So how do I know when I “should” write if I don’t have a specific schedule? Well, first let me say I’m curing myself of the “should’s.” But how do I know if I’m choosing what Stephanie calls creative procrastination or if I’m really procrastinating or being lazy? That’s a tough question. I don’t have the answer for me, let alone you. But I will say that asking yourself the question in the first place will often give you a gut feeling as to which one you’re in now.

Most of you know I’ve had a pretty tough year. Several funerals, several periods of unemployment, financial hardship, two moves, it’s been all I can do to keep from wallowing in self-pity let alone try to keep to a writing schedule. On the one hand, I have the feeling that I haven’t gotten much done this year. On the other hand, I wrote stories for two anthologies that will be out later this year, brainstormed a new series of books, worked on getting Little Miss Lovesick into print, and attended two writing retreats and a national conference. I’ve also been learning how to run a publishing company since I’m self-publishing my books.

Under the circumstances, I feel pretty good about what has been accomplished! I’m working on getting more of a schedule going, creating a printed menu of work for each month, and in general getting more done starting this week. But I’m still not going to force myself to write every day because that’s not how I work best.

What should you do this week? Begin by tossing the word “should” out the window. (I’m not saying you definitely “should” but I think you’ll find it helpful.) Then look back over your writing life and your regular life and look for patterns when you felt like you achieved the most and were happiest. That’s where you’re going to find the answers for you.

I need to find some time each week for silly fun, some time for TV and movies, some time for reading fiction and nonfiction, some time alone, and some time with other people. Some varying amount of each of these help me to get the most work done during the week.

Looking over your life, what do you think will work best for you?

Guest blog . . . Kathy Tyers and Jamie Upschulte

Kathy Tyers is one of my (Stephanie) all-time favorite authors. When I learned about her latest book, I invited her to guest blog with us.

Editing Survival Tips
Author: Kathy Tyers & Jamie Upschulte

Amongst authors, editing is sometimes a dirty word. Many of us enjoy the brainstorming, the writing, and even the feedback from peers, but editing requires hard work that can quickly become meticulous and repetitious. Especially the last round of changes that’s requested by the person who means to publish your masterpiece!

How do you survive final edits without losing your sanity—especially when pressed up against a looming deadline? As we worked on Kathy’s upcoming release of Daystar with Marcher Lord Press, there were many things that made the process far easier and bearable. Among them:

Set a reasonable schedule
—The moment Kathy received her edits, she calculated how many chapters per day she had to complete to reach her deadline, while also allowing time for a final read through and polish. For this latest project, the daily budget was 2-3 chapters daily for 23 days, then 6-7 chapters each day for the last week’s final push, including two rounds of proofreading. It was a rigorous schedule to be sure—but because she had a schedule and knew what she was up against, she could clear her calendar and plan accordingly.

Take care of yourself
—Set up a work station where you will be able to sit comfortably for hours with short breaks. Better yet, set up several stations and rotate among them. This time around, the big discovery was sliding manuscript pages into a cookbook holder on the dining room table. And those “short breaks” are vital. They can save your back, neck, and sanity. Longer breaks are vital, too. In between saving the world and crafting character development, do some gardening. Take your dog for a walk. Or borrow your neighbor and his dog and take them both for a walk (provided you have permission.) You can do absolutely anything, but do something other than stare at your computer screen or galley proofs all day. Physical activity refreshes the mind, and it will renew your mental clarity for editing well.

Plan fun things
—Much as we want to be lean, mean editing machines, all work without play makes our once-loved stories tedious. After you’ve set your daily schedule (see step 1), fit in weekly times of leisure to refresh your spirit. Just like physical activity keeps your mind sharp (see step 2), social fun with friends or loved ones will recharge that other important battery—your heart. Kathy and I made time for a weekly viewing of a popular BBC television series, Downtown Abbey, to make our time together enjoyable as well as productive. Remember, readers are reading your work for an emotional experience as well—so make sure you’re keeping your heart recharged in order to give them the very best.

Avoid listening to musi
c—Music can be a wonderful part of the writing process. It can unclog the mind to get a rough draft up and running. However, when in the midst of editing, you need to ensure that your work is standing on its own emotional merit. The best novels are an experience, so make sure that the story itself is providing the experience—not that favorite Russian romantic composer—especially as you conclude your novel.

These are just a few of the methods that Kathy and I used when evaluating her latest novel, but I’m sure there are plenty of others. What other techniques have you used under deadline? What works for you? What doesn’t work?

(Kathy Tyers has published over ten novels with the general and Christian presses, and has been listed in the New York Times for her work on Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura, and Star Wars: Balance Point. Her upcoming release, Daystar, with Marcher Lord Press will be the final novel in her Firebird series.

Jamie Upschulte is a freelance literary assistant at Jamie Words and greatly enjoys helping authors bring their works to life.)

Interrupted Routines

Whether you are writing for publication or for yourself, for a traditional publisher or blazing your own trail, routines will help smooth your way. Babies and small children love routines because there is a sense of security in knowing what will happen and when. Our brains work well when they know what kind of brainwork needs to be done, and doing it at the expected time, in the expected way. That doesn’t mean we should always stick to our routines because we might get stuck in a rut. It doesn’t mean that the pantser isn’t as productive as the plotter, or that the plotter isn’t as creative as the pantser. It’s a simple statement:

Routines add value.

I haven’t had very many consistent routines over the last few years, and particularly not in the last few months. Today is no exception – we’re moving into our new apartment today! Woo-hooo!! I’m very excited! But just when I was sort of getting caught up and thinking about what kinds of routines were really working for me as I tried to write in my friend’s guest room, I’m back to moving again. Tomorrow, the moving company will deliver all the stuff they took away in Sydney. (I’m very excited to wear some different clothes than those I packed in my suitcases in November!) I have to be careful not to spend too much time creating the perfect work and home environment, though. My husband’s contract is only for nine months. So while I need to unpack, I also need to focus on getting some working writing routines up and running as soon as possible.

You don’t have to choose difficult or time intensive routines in order to add value to your writing time. Little things like writing 300 words before you allow yourself to check email in the morning will go a long way. In fact, for some people, the little things are what add up to great changes. That’s what I think is going to happen with me over the next year. I’ll start with a couple small changes, and let it grow naturally. Kaizen, the art of continuous improvement, is behind many of the largest, most competitive businesses in the world today. Why not let it work for us?

Happy Easter! I hope this spring is a new beginning for you in some way that brings you joy!