Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Reviewer’s Dilemma

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

This month isn’t about a writing insecurity per se, but more… an insecurity surrounding being a writer online.

Recently, I changed my posting strategy both for my blog and for my YouTube Channel. I realized that my blog content was more suitable for seasoned writers, while I could use my YouTube Channel to draw in new readers by posting tips for new writers (most are readers, no?) and by talking about books I’ve enjoyed reading.

The latter does have the extra benefit of encouraging me to read more, but it’s coming with a huge potential landmine:

 
What if I don’t like the book? 

In all the years I’ve been blogging (eight this year, btw), I’ve consistently refused to post reviews, simply because I never know what to do in the event of having a meh reaction to a book, or worse. I can’t lie and call it okay, because meh is not okay to me. Especially if I paid for said book.

Also, if people requested me to review the book, especially if we’ve built a relationship over the years, I could foresee that me just not being subjectively into their book would do damage to said relationship.

All in all, the issue of a writer reviewing other writers’ books felt like swimming in shark infested waters, and I had always refused to wade in.

Until now.

So why did I change my mind?

Short answer is I want to attract readers and grow my following, and my lurking for two years on YouTube and Tumblr has revealed that talking about books to readers is the way into their hearts. Also… really… I just really want to talk about the books I’ve read. Especially when I liked them. And since this year I have a goal of reading every day, knowing I need to whip up some content around my reading is doing a lot to act as an incentive so I don’t move my reading down my priority list the way I’ve done lately.

And I guess I thought that it’ll be okay. I read so many books that I love that I didn’t really think I would bump into one I didn’t enjoy.

And of course, I did just that in this first week after deciding to post my opinion on books I read.

Which means I’m firmly in chum-filled waters now. Do pretend I didn’t read it? Do I acknowledge reading it with a meh, moving on attitude?

I’m kinda thinking of going with the latter. Especially for this book. It wasn’t bad. It just had flaws. Explaining those flaws would make readers cry with boredom, though, so that’s not an option. Writing a post about those flaws for this blog without naming names, however, is.

Thing is, I still don’t know if acknowledging a book as being mediocre is a good idea. So maybe if I did a quick “what I liked, what I didn’t like” segment on it…

Sigh. 

I need to stew on it. Three more weeks before I have to make a call.

Any suggestions? Do you review the books you read? What do you do with the ones you don’t enjoy?

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Eef Lenaerts on Writing a Book About Traveling through Africa

One of my first freelance jobs was to do the editing, formatting, and cover design for a book about traveling through Africa from Egypt to South Africa. It was a great book for me to read, because the idea of traveling over Africa has always intrigued me. (Although I’d do it in reverse from how the writers Eef and Dries did it, seeing as I am in South Africa already.)

But because I enjoyed working on the book so much, I thought I’d invite Eef to do a guest post about what it was like for her to write it.

Hi all,

Like many of you here, we wrote a book! But we’re no writers, we’re travelers and we had absolutely had no idea how the hell to write a book, so we got some help from Misha.

The book is finally finished (thanks to Misha) and she asked us to write a guest post about the process of writing a book while traveling, so here we go!

Four years ago, we left Belgium with our car. Two years later, we reached South Africa. It was an adventure, with many ups and downs. We loved it, but at times we hated it. It was hot, it was cold, it was amazing, it was dreadful…but it was the adventure of a lifetime that no-one can take away from us.

We left as total dummies with our Toyota Landcruiser. We drove from Belgium to Turkey and took a ferry to Egypt to start our way down along the East Coast of Africa, with South Africa as our end goal.

We were total dummies. Young and eager to go, we couldn’t wait. We packed up our house, sold our belongings, and bought a 4×4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime!

We didn’t take enough preparations, so of course we ran in problems along the way, getting stuck in the dessert with a hi-lift jack, but no points to use the jack, having a spare battery for the fridge, but having a warm fridge, applying for a visa, but no USD to pay for it…

These were all small things that we could sort out, and they make some great stories now, but we could easily have avoided these issues. So after the umpteenth time of thinking “Oh really? Wish we knew this before!’ I decided to write a book for the other dummies in the world!

With a good mood, I started writing down things that were important to prepare before you leave home, ways to act in certain countries, hidden treasures along the road, etc. Gathering this information was easy, but making it into a book was way more difficult than I thought.

It took me two years to finish the book. One reason was because we were still traveling, so we had a lot going on. The other reason was simply that things change constantly in Africa! So the information about a border crossing from two years ago was absolutely out of date. This meant that apart from the actual writing, the book required A LOT of research. In the end, I had read the content so many times, I just couldn’t cope anymore.

So for me, it was a horrible experience. 😛

I don’t think I’ll do it again in the near future, but the book is finished and I’m very proud of it!

So if you’re interested to have a look at what I made of it, or just need the final push to start an adventure (the big aim of this book is to give the people that push they need to get out the house and go and see the world), feel free to look it up! Part of this book’s profits will also go to the Rhino Fund Uganda, so the rhinos will thank you.

All the best,

Eef

Two years ago, Dries and Eef decided to throw caution to the wind. They packed up their house, sold their belongings and bought a 4×4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling over the African continent. It was a life-changing experience, filled with amazing sights and wonderful people, but it was also challenging because when they started, they had no idea about what they were letting themselves in for.

So to help others who want to share in this amazing adventure, Eef and Dries decided to share their experiences and advice learned the hard way, just to make things a little easier for new adventurers.

The tips range from what you should wear to what you should bring along, how to get through the borders to where you should camp and what you should do while you’re there.

Which means that Into Africa is a fun read for armchair travelers, but especially useful as a guide for adventurers out to experience Africa for themselves.

A portion of proceeds from the sales of this book will go toward The Rhino Fund Uganda, an organization focused on saving rhinos from extinction.

Available on Amazon

Anyone else ever dream of traveling through Africa? 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: …….. Already?!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a monthly bloghop where writers can share their doubts, fears and insecurities with each other. It’s a nice way to vent, but also to realize you’re not alone. If you’d like to sign up, click here.

You know, you’d think that starting fresh for the New Year would leave me fresh and renewed and at least a little less insecure than usual, but alas… No.

What’s the problem? Oh, it’s an old one. I have it frequently…

Namely, the sheer staggering amount of items I have on my to-do list. Except this year is worse. Why?

Last year, I kept track of my list with a diary and pens, which meant that I had at most 20 tasks on a given day. But I switched to Trello last year, which is the same thing, except digital, which means I can set myself an unlimited amount of tasks.

And it seems like my life has taken it upon itself to meet that challenge.

On January 1st, I cleaned up all my lists, starting from scratch with only my goals as a starting point.

Then I started adding the little tasks I have to do from day to day. And added… and added.

And in two days, my list of things I need to do today shot up from 0 to 30. Count them. 30 items.

*Cue maniacal laughter*

To be fair, I can shift a lot of them out to other days, but for some reason, I’m just not getting to the ones I deem to be essential, like having to spend at least 20 minutes today on editing my book. I literally can’t figure out where I’m going to squish that in yet.

And this is supposed to be a day off.

Whelp!

How are you doing? Do you also feel like 2018 is starting like an avalanche?

Got Goals? Bloghop Pt 2: My Goals for 2018

This blog post is part of my update for the Got Goals? Bloghop. For those of you who are wondering, a bunch of us have set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and once a month, we post updates on our progress toward those goals. For more information or to join in the fun, click here.

In Part 1, I shared how I did with my 2017 goals, but today, I want to take a look at what I want to achieve in 2018.

I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around goals this year for some reason. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m hopelessly behind on everything, or maybe it’s because everything feels like it’s up in the air, which makes planning ahead for a year a bit difficult.

But… I do feel like I get more done if I do have a goal frame-work in my life, so I’m going to try.

Okay. So. My goal is to make a living as a writer (which also includes using my writing and publishing knowledge), but for that to work, I need to sort my life out in general. (Again. *Eye roll.*)

So I’m going to go back to categories this year.

Five-Year Goal: Make a Living Off My Writing

Technically I achieved this last year, but I’m going to keep the goal as is, because I’m still far from the number I want to reach. Also, I do want to change the way in which I’m reaching this goal.

So, my goals towards my Five-Year Goal are:

1) Earn $2,500 per month by the end of this year.
2) Change the profile of my earnings so a third of my income comes from publishing and/or selling my own work. 

This brings me to the next break down of my goals:

Writing/Publishing Goals

First, I really need to write more, but I also really need to publish something. I can’t keep skipping publishing years.

1) Write or edit something of my own every day. 
2) Finish and publish Wo6C3.
3) Publish the sequel to Endless and/or
4) Publish my historical romance. 

This brings me to the next heading, since it’s no use to publish without marketing:

Marketing Goals

These are a bit more varied, but somewhat more involved than you’d think.

1) Update my website. Yes, I have a website, for which I pay hosting, but it’s so out of date, like before-I-split-with-my-publisher old, so I never link to it, which I find to be sad. 
2) Create a newsletter. Finally have a big enough readership to justify this. 
3) Update The Vanished Knight, The Heir’s Choice and Endless to reflect everything I’ve learned in the past two years. (Like better formatting, since I’m way more experienced now than I was when I started self-publishing.)
4) Be more active on my social networks. (Which includes figuring a content strategy I can actually stick to.) 
5) Ramp up marketing for Wo6C3 as I prepare to publish it. 

And then I have some more goals regarding my life, since being of sound mind and in good health actually helps me get more done.

Life Goals

1) Be more healthy. Yeah yeah I know this one always gets up there, but this one is always the first goal to go when the wheels fall off, so I need to sort my shit out here. I only have to lose like 66 pounds or something now. Sigh.
2) Read for at least 15 minutes every day.
3) Rest from computer screens from sunrise to sunset on at least one day a week. 
4) Finish the needlepoint tapestry I started like two years ago.
5) Finish the oil painting I definitely started two years ago.

Okay those are the big ones I can think of right now. I’ll probably add and deduct goals as I go, depending on how my year goes, but I feel like I hit all the important things.

What about you? What goals did you set for 2018? Don’t forget to sign up if you want to join the Got Goals? Bloghop. 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!

Hey everyone. On the first Wednesday of the month, it’s time to post updates to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The point of this bloghop is to share your writing insecurities, but also to encourage others. There’s also a monthly question you can answer if you’re not feeling all that insecure. For more information, just click the link.

So right in time for Halloween, I think my current WiP is cursed.

Why? Well. It was the first concept I ever started writing when I first decided to be serious about writing books. In other words, I’ve been working on it for sixteen years.

The first time I started it I saved it to a floppy disk that malfunctioned. (Yes, it’s that old.)

The second time, I saved it to my computer. And then one day, my grandmother (the writer) had a computer malfunction and needed another computer to save her work. So while I was at school (yes, it’s that old), my mom ripped the insides out of my computer and installed my grandmother’s. And also, because she thought I was only playing minesweeper (that. old.) on my computer, she just trashed the insides.

The third time I tried this book, I finished the rough draft. This time, because I made the point of saving it to Dropbox. It had been written on Ywriter (which is relevant, bear with me.) and I got into the rewrites. I wrote all of the rewrites. And when I finished it and did my final backup, something went wrong, and the entirety of my rewrite disappeared as if I had never written it.

Fourth time I wrote it on Scrivener and finished the rewrite. Yay! Then I discovered I had to rewrite it again. Awe.

And now, on the fifth try, after sixteen years, Scrivener lost me everything I had written on the weekend. Which doesn’t sound that bad, but oooooooohhhhh is it bad. Because I had shifted the focus this time, and this chapter had been the moment where the momentum picked up. And Scrivener has successfully gutted it.

And yes, it’s them. I save the file to my computer, and then save a copy to my dropbox. So the original file on my hard drive should be stable. And if you’re wondering why I don’t just get the back-up file Scrivener backed up for me… Did you know that Scrivener’s default is to back up only five versions? And did you know that back-up happens every time it autosaves? Yuuuuuuup. In the time it took me to figure out that no, it didn’t back up to my dropbox either, Scrivener had overwritten the back-ups from the day.

So yeah.

Cursed.

Have you ever worked on a cursed project? Did you ever manage to finish it?

I Hate My Internal Editor Because It’s Right

Hey everyone! Before I get to today’s vlog post, I just wanted to let you know that I signed up for a charity auction for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I’m offering to format a book for paperback and ebook, so if that’s something you need, you might end you getting my services for a steal. You can click here for more information.

Okay! Time for today’s vlog. As always, I left the script at the bottom for those of you who just can’t get into the vlog thing. Enjoy!

If I was to think of one word to summarize how I am right now, it would be:

FRUSTRATED.

Why?

Because I have this brain that tells me things like “Hah. You really want to just edit and publish this shit?”

Sarcastic voice and all.

Which I tend to ignore because often, that voice is dead wrong. However, out of two books I’ve wanted to pick up for revision, this voice chimed in twice. And it was right… twice.

Not that this is really a bad thing. I’m taking a long-term view of self-publishing. Yes, I could be publishing once every three months right now, but would I be happy with the quality of my books? Eh…no.

Which isn’t to bash people who are able to do that.

I just can’t.

It’s hard enough to let go of a book as it is. Let’s not rush the process.

But the thing is, my method has always worked as follows: Rough draft by hand, rewrite to computer (with a plan), revise, edit a million times, proofread a few times more, and then I’m ready for formatting.

Except now it’s not working that way. Because now, when my inner editor takes a look at my rewritten draft, it’s seeing glaring weaknesses that would be better solved with yet another rewrite than with revisions.

The previous three times this inner editor chimed up, I could say, “Hey chill out. Yes, it’s not perfect. But a scene here and there would be all this needs to be perfect.”

The last two times, though, my inner editor helpfully pointed out that somewhere between a half and three quarters of my plot wasn’t written.

And that’s a rewrite-scope problem. How do I know? Because the first time it happened, it took me almost a years’ worth of rewrites and FOUR TIMES the amount of words to tell the story in the right way.

But at least there I had the excuse of wanting to split a book in two.

This time, no such luck. This time, I just let major plot points occur way before intro and build-up was done. And so it feels like at least the first third of a story is missing.

Can I fix it by inserting those scenes? Not this time. Because stuff that’s missing now will impact reactions later.

So it’s another rewrite for me. On a book that’s been rewritten four times already, over sixteen years.

Kill me now.

Have you ever prepared to edit, only to realize the underlying draft isn’t worth editing? Did you ignore that feeling or did you rewrite? How did it work out for you?

Unless the wheels have spectacularly come off my life in some way, people have a tendency to be amazed by how much I get done in a month. And every now and then, someone will ask me how I manage it.

After all, we writers have the same amount of hours in the day. So how do I stretch mine to get so much done?

Step 1: Set Goals and Break Them Into Smaller Chunks

How does that help a writer stretch time? you might ask. Well. One of my big secrets to getting stuff done is knowing what I want to do.

So I set myself some huge goals, and then I break them into progressively smaller chunks.

For example:

Goal 1: Make a living wage from writing books. 

  1. Write books.
    1. Write this one book.
      1. Write 1,000 words every day.
      2. Write 50,000 words.
    2. Write the next book.
      1. Write 1,000 words every day.
      2. Write 50,000 words.
  2. Edit books.
    1. Revisions
    2. Edits
    3. Proofread
  3. Publish books
    1. Format books.
    2. Upload them to retailers.

And so on. Now I not only have this big goal, but I also see the steps to get to that goal. (The ones that are in my control, anyway.)

I often break even the steps into smaller steps, until I have hundreds of little things I need to do.

Which might sound terrifying, but what sounds easier:

Make a living from writing? Or write 1,000 words today?

So what I’m doing is to break all of my goals into smaller, bite-sized chunks. And then I move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Set Your Priorities.

Once I know what I want and how I’m planning to get there, I can sit down and decide what’s the most important to me.

But here’s the important thing: I decide what’s important to me right now.

This bit is a trick to my success, because a lot of those big goals I set are pretty much equal when it comes to how important they are in my life.

I don’t have kids, but if I had, I wouldn’t be able to say writing is more important than my children. But I wouldn’t ever be able to call writing unimportant either.

So the thing is, if you’re sitting down to get going, there will be things on that specific day that’s more important. If you know you want to focus on that, then focus on that. But also know when you’ve neglected some other aspect, so you can temporarily bump that thing up your priority list in order to even everything out.

Step 3: Create a To-Do List.

Once I know all the things that are really important, I can quickly write down the 10 things that are weighing on me the most. (I like 10 for being a nice, even number, but pick whatever works for you.)

Next thing I do is to number the order in which I’d like to do those 10 things.

Why?

Because if I decide upfront what I want to do after I’ve finished the task at hand, I don’t have to waste time later trying to decide what I should be doing.

How do I pick the order?

This depends. Some days, it’s in order of the shortest deadline to the longest. Other days, it’s Writing first and everything else next. Today I’m not feeling a bit lethargic, so I’m making up for it by starting with something easy, then something hard, then easy, then hard etc.

Step 4: Start Doing

Yeah I know. Obvious, right? But sometimes, people underestimate how important it is to just get going. There’s a reason why, when it comes to the setting of my to-do list, I keep things simple. I don’t try to schedule anything because I know it takes longer for me to schedule and re-schedule as my day shifts. Time that I could actually be using to tick stuff off my to-do list.

So once I have my 10 things and I know in which order I’d like to do things. I start. If something happens to prevent me from completing one task, I move onto the next. (Writing this blog is task number 4. Number 3 is postponed because I’m waiting for information.) I might get back to it later. I might postpone to tomorrow.

And no, there’s nothing wrong with postponing as long as it’s not going to break a deadline. Because unless you set the bar really low, there’s no way you’re going to finish all the tasks you set for yourself.

So move the stuff you didn’t get to. Just as long as you get it done.

And My Big Secret?

I don’t multitask.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Yeah, I know. People usually act like multitasking is the way to go. Especially if you have as many and as varied goals as I do.

But here’s the thing. No one actually multitasks.

You’re just rapidly switching your focus from one thing to the next thing.

As I’m sitting here, I’m writing this post without looking at my twitter. When I’m doing my social networking stuff, I don’t do it while watching T.V. When I am doing something to relax, I try to do so without bringing “work” along. Unless you count crafting as work. But that’s a whole other story.

Point is: If I’m at task number 1, I focus on that task until it’s done, or until I take a break.

And then I focus on the next thing.

And the next thing.

And the next.

Why?

Because when I’m focusing, I’m making fewer mistakes. And I actually speed up. Because I don’t even have the smallest moment of thinking “what did I want to do here again?”

And so, things get done one little step at a time. And then at the end of the month, I take stock and actually realize how much I have achieved.

What about you? Are you a multitasker? Do you have a system for getting everything done? What tips do you have?