Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Dos and Don'ts of Taking Your Writing to a Career Level

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to either end up with ten mountains of paperwork, or you’re going to quit writing.  I’ve done both.  Luckily, I didn’t truly quit for long, and you shouldn’t either.

A couple of years ago, I decided to stop circle-jogging and set some career goals.  Since I did not set deadlines, I am still working on getting my act together.  That’s why you don’t want to do what I did.  Instead, do what I am telling you is better to do.  Otherwise, you’ll get some paper mountains made of the below:

  • Project Planning - Some projects planned to the end but never started; some projects never planned at all beyond a title; and some projects finished, but done so poorly because they were never planned they are now trash.
  • Project Deadlines - In notes and journals, and on walls and lamps.  Most of these are never met because they’re lost in the mess.
  • Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Goals - I took the trash out!  Most of the Goals were in it.
  • Note boards - I’m outnumbered by these monstrosities.
  • Notebooks - A billion.  All full.  All crap.  Some of them might be in another language.  Some of them look like a serial killer wrote them.  It’s okay if I’m crazy, I promise. But it’s not okay how many trees I’ve murdered.
  • Sticky notes - I LOVE THESE GUYS!!!  But when you have a thousand of them on the wall, you can’t read even one.
  • Sketches of Characters and Settings - This is cool...until you change your story idea and a picture that took 12 amazing hours to draw...is no longer applicable.  Yet you still hang on to the picture because it might inspire some other story.
  • Horrible Sketches of even more Horrible Ideas - Lots and Lots of These.
  • Research Folders filled with Nothing - I always plan to organize and give up the moment I finish labeling the stupid notebooks.  Too many.  Too much.  Why?!
  • Research Folders filled with Scraps of Everything - I love scraps.  I also hate scraps.
  • Research Folders filled with Too Much of Something - Every day of my life is now worthless.
  • Dishes - Because why not?

It’s hard to get through it all.  I have over 10,000 pages of books I have completed, and rewritten.  Some of them I started anew after realizing how bad they were.  All of those 10,000 pages are in one single series.  That single half-done series covered just four badly written, unplanned, horrible books.  My shelves are bowing. My devices are full. And I have made ZERO real progress. Just more mountains.

I would keep going, but not only do you likely now get the point, you are probably laughing at me enough to lose track of where I’m going with this post.  Where was I?  Ah.  What to do???  WHAT TO DO???!!!  A fire could have the power to free me, right?  But oh, the horror.  As I said before, if you’re like me, you’re probably going to either end up dead or...Wait.  I didn’t say that.

This is how you fix this determined circle of madness:

STOP.

For the love of God, your Soul, and your Sanity.  Please, I beg of you, STOP.

You need to make a decision right here in order to save yourself the agony of giving up what you love when you have an emotional breakdown someday in the future.  Answer a couple of questions. Get your North figured out.

Do you want to become a better writer?  If yes, keep reading.  If no, stop reading. ForeverDo you want to develop your already amazing talent into a money-paying hobby someday, or even a full-time career?  If yes, keep reading.  If not, nothing I say will be of any use to you whatsoever.  You can go make your Paper Mountains of Dead Trees and then change your mind when it’s too late.  (Like me!)

IF you want to get published by a traditional publisher or become self-published, you are going to need to start with being realistic.  Tell yourself you’re not likely to hit it big with just your first book, not unless you learn everything necessary to the industry, marketing, networking, platforming, editing (quiz: what’s a galley edit?), or the inside-out, know-hows of writing commercially publishable bestsellers’ material.

Now.  When you knock yourself down to the bottom step and you realize there is a lot you are going to need to learn, you might feel a little lost like I did.  Lucky for you, that’s what this post is for.  I’m giving you something no one else gave me.  An idea of where to frickin’ start.  Once you know where to start, with everything laid out in front of you like college course material in the instructor’s syllabus, you can begin to inch forward.

You create your career plan before you screw it up and get lost or quit. Meanwhile, you continue to practice writing between research sessions in order to hone your skillset.

Every goal that is met in your career plan serves as another victory under your belt.  And guess what?  If you do it right, you won’t have to go back to the beginning like I did.

My intent is to become a full-time author. Is yours?  I have had to put some of my writing to the side and only dabble as my soul demands in order to feed my inner beastie.  This has allowed me to get some perspective, do some research, and then get some real perspective.

Here is my horribly misshapen list of everything you need to look into before beginning your career / paying hobby.  If I find new stuff to look up along the way, I will add them.  If you think of a few, share them in the comments.

Turn this into a checklist, print it out, put it in with your Career Goals syllabus, and research the hell out of each topic.  Figure out what is best for you personally, and then adapt it.  Take detailed notes as you learn, and share what you learn as you go--it helps you understand what you are learning better.  And most importantly, always work toward completing the next step.

This is the order of business:

  • Research apps that help writers.
  • Research habits of successful, bestselling writers.
  • Research pitches, synopsis, plot structure, etc.
  • Research productivity tips for writers.  There are ways to reach 10,000 words a day, guys.  Familiarizing yourself with recording devices is one of them.  It is awkward at first, just like learning to type is, so I suggest using them for writing prompts first, to practice.
  • Research how to write commercial fiction: plot structure, character arcs, and other components of stories.
  • Research Trello and editorial calendars. You may use other systems, but Trello is the best in my opinion.  Editorial Calendars will give you deadlines and push you to achieve more by certain dates.  Trello is great for that, as I said.  I’ll repeat myself later.
  • Write a business plan. Where do you (as a writer) want to be in five years? Ten Years? How many books do you want to have published 2 years from now? How many books do you want to have published by the end of next year?
  • Research the editing process.
  • Research the marketing process
  • Research platform development - and get started NOW!!!  Even if you take baby steps. Having a single user ID across many social media platforms helps your searchability.  Mine is always 7bloodfire -- whether I am on Twitter, Facebook, Wattpad, or even Tumblr.  I even own the 7bloodfire.com domain name for 10$ a year through blogger.com)
  • Research how to create your own brand.  Think series books, or a specific type of fiction or memoir you are good at.  That’s what your brand will be from, and you need to figure out what it is and how to develop it.
  • Research how to make money from writing novels, how to set improve sales and traffic, etc.
  • Research what all goes into a self-published book: cover pages, ISBNs, marketing, costs for print, promotions, gift ideas as promotions, contest ideas as promotions, etc.
  • Research how to promote your book: conferences, tours, press releases, starting book clubs, etc.
  • Research Web Site Development and HTML.
  • Plan the focus and layout of your site, blog.
  • Create your site, blog.
  • Research networking and creating business partnerships. Implement as it comes up.
  • Start, join, or hire: Review Groups / Beta Readers / Book Clubs.
  • Attend Seminars / Conferences / Webinars / PodCasts, etc.
  • Research setting up Seminars / Conferences / Webinars / Podcasts
  • Set Up your own Appearances at Seminars / Conferences / Webinars / Podcasts later, when you are famous, too.  If this is a goal, it stays on the list.  Get used to the idea that writing is a business.  And businesses have training seminars and meetings.
  • Research and Develop Email Lists, Customer / Fan Bases, etc.
  • Research and then get paypal or other online banking methods of getting paid for ebooks and physical books
  • Research and keep up with Industry News.
  • Research genre types and how to write in them.  Same with looking up published books’ lengths.  This gives you idea on what is expected across the board.
  • Create a Career Journal and add to it: Projects, Goals, Syllabus, Scheduling, Tours, Travel, etc.
  • Improve your writing productivity one project at a time.  It’s probably best to start with dictation practice--use a recorder and speak the story. Then transcribe it later.)
  • Incorporate all research into one place for easy reference
  • Put the editorial calendar to use
  • Practice and incorporate anything new that works - dictation and transcribing? Yeah!
  • Research copyright laws, like Fair Use, Plagiarism, etc.
  • Research using social media for business use, like marketing campaigns, posting times and frequency, etc.
  • Research blog post types, like Round Up posts and other types.
  • Implement Deadlines, break down your project into stages, and strive to meet those deadlines.

I am almost halfway through my list.  And I HIGHLY recommend Trello for the Editorial Calendar.  If I didn’t say that before. I told you I would say it again. Here's a link to Trello, if you want to get started: Trello.com.  I will be covering the many uses of Trello as I continue my 'setting up for success' articles.

So, as you can see, if you’re like me and got the ball rolling before you knew where it was going to have to go in order to get commercial, you’ll have to put the writing addiction on the back burner in order to get your alphabet straight. You have to research what to research.  Having a good list to start with HELPS.

As for improving your skill at the craft? I always recommend Donald Maas’s Writing 21st Century Fiction.  It’s...AMAZING.

By the way, traditional publishers want you to already have a huge platform with a couple of thousand fans anyway.  You’ll be marketing your own material even if they sign you on, and after 6 months, whether your book sells or not, you become competition to the very company that signed you on.  (Better look up publishing contracts while you’re researching! There is a saving grace called a backlist.)

If you want to follow my process for getting everything straightened out, click on the Taking Writing to a Career Level link in the sidebar on the right.  I'll be posting updates on this kind of thing there.

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