The Learning Curve

Where has the time gone?

Time
Time

It’s hard to believe, but this week celebrates 3-year anniversary of the release of my first book! I thought I’d write a quick little blog about what I’ve learned from the beginning. Well, the first thing I need to tell you be; I’m no expert and I have tons more to learn, I’ve barely skim the surface.

When I first started my first book it was a challenge, I never expected to do another one, or another one (etcetera), but as anyone who writes knows, once you start you can’t stop. Writing becomes part of who you are.

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 I think the most surprising lesson I learned is writing a book is just the beginning. It’s  a business and if you want to succeed, you need to address the business end of the craft. Like any business, there are tools  you need to use to be successful, so I thought I’d let you know a few of the tools I use day-to-day. As I’ve grown in my writing, I found I can’t go without them.

Foremost is Scrivener. It is a writing program which helps you organize and keep your thoughts clear.   Plotter or Pantser– scrivener will work for you.

I also use MS Word because most documents need to be put into word and it’s easy. there’s no fussing. Word will allow you to add in editing programs, and these aids are essential for my writing process.  I work with 2 programs; ProWriting Aid or Grammerly. Either one of them will work. You need these programs to help you catch the many mistakes  your eyes will miss, know no matter how good you are.

I also use a dictation program called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I can’t tell you how my writing has changed using this program. The idea is to get the thoughts down on paper, and this works great. There is a learning curve to using it, but worth the time and effort you put into it.

Two other items  I use every day, without fail, and would be lost without them are Dropbox and Evernote.

Dropbox holds all my documents off-line. After losing major files because of a glitch in either my equipment or my backup practices, I found  this is the smartest thing I could have ever done. I wish I’d done it years ago, not only for my writing for my business. I use Evernote to help me to make quick notes from the thoughts racing through my mind as I go through my day-to-day routine. I can dictate into the program which is great for me. I can organize the notes into notebooks so  I can make notes on different books and projects  I’m working developing. Evernote is a good tool to use with Scrivener, too.

I’ve also found, whether I like it or not, social media plays big part in the writing. Facebook (www.facebook.com/CitrusBeachMysteryseries ), Twitter (Victoria LK Williams@CitrusBeachMyst), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-lk-williams), Instagram (vickilkw), and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/vlkwcbm) are the ones  I actively use, some more than others. A word of caution about the social media sites; learn to turn them off and concentrate on your writing. It is best to set a  time that you allow yourself for social media so  you don’t waste writing time. Because, believe me, you can.

One important aspect not to overlook is an Author Website.(VictoriaLKWilliams.com) Give your readers another option to find you, to find out about your books; where to buy them and about your upcoming works. Personalize your website so  it sounds like you; don’t make it so professional that the readers are not intrigued. This is your opportunity to introduce your personality and maybe some hints about how you write and why you write it’s also a great place to post about upcoming books and their progress.

If, after all that work, you still have some creative juices left, try Blogging. It’s one more way for your readers to find out about you on a more personal level and for those search engines to find you. I have two blogs: this one and Gossip From the Southern Garden (gossipfromthesoutherngarden.cordpress.com)

Classwork

It’s been said loneliness comes along with writing, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t seclude yourself, talk to other writers, if not in person than online. There’s many forums out there where writers share ideas, tips, and encourage each other.  Even if you don’t participate at first, there’s a lot to read about. Find yourself a Writing Buddy either online or in person. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold. When you’re celebrating, your writing buddy can be there for you.They’ll understand you in ways  no one else can, because they’re going through the  same thing  you are.

The other word of advice I can give is have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry to push the publish button.  Invest in a good cover and an editor. Even if you need to hang on to your book for a couple of months until you can raise the funds to do so.There’s good editors out there and bad ones; make sure you send them a sample chapter. Ask them to look it over and tell you if it’s something they are interested in pursuing. You’ll get a chance to see their work, too. I would recommend you go with an editor who likes the type of books you write. If you’re writing a series of books, make sure your cover tie together so  readers can find them easier.

Keep track of your promotions. a book that isn’t out there for people to find will not get read. Even the best authors fall off to the charts with some of their older books.

And my last bit of advice it to take care of yourself, your family and friendships. Get up and walk around, eat healthy, drink lots of liquids and, if you can, take breaks to get some exercise. Don’t neglect your family or friends. Nourish those relationships, they’re the most important thing in your life. Besides, you might find inspiration from these same people.

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So here is my little tidbits of knowledge   I’ve learned over the last three years. It’s by no means is a complete, because I’m learning more every day. I make mistakes every day too.

The trick is to learn from your mistakes and keep writing!

Please note any programs or sites  I  mentioned,  I’m not endorsing them for any type of payment;  I’m simply stating what works for me.

Rituals of Writing

Every job has a set of tasks that need to be done to complete the job to your satisfaction. You have a goal to accomplish, often with a time frame in mind. You need to have your work tools ready at hand to be used, you need to be at the right location, and you might have to have some help lined up in case you run into any problems. Once you have all this lined up, you are ready to start. Hopefully all will go as you planned and your results will be everything you hoped for.
 thQA9LL7NIFor an author, writing is a job just like any other job. Our tools are just a little different, that’s all. We need our writing medium, be it paper or computer. Pens are always on hand for jotting notes as we compose. Some of us may use more technical items like a voice recorder or even a voice computer program where we can speak our words out loud and they “magically” appear on the screen.
But the most important tool that we need is our imagination. Somehow our thought have to be reigned in and put into some kind of logical order so that we can express them to others. There are some authors out there who can just sit down and start composing coherent thoughts and get their story easily down.
Then there are others, like me, who need to go through a warm up processes.
Some may do a quick bit of exercise to get the juices flowing. Or maybe a spot of peaceful meditation before they pick up their pen. For me, I need to make sure that all of my other day-to-day tasks are either done or out of sight to insure that I am not distracted.

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I think that if you asked most authors, you would find that there are certain items that they need to have within easy reach to help them with their work. It might be a cup  of hot coffee, or a glass of wine. A plate of healthy snacks might need to be on desk next to them. After all writing can be hard work, and we need to keep up our strength. My must have for writing time is a cup of coffee or a large ice tea (depending on the weather) and a dish of M&Ms (preferably dark chocolate).
Then there is the atmosphere. For some there needs to be quite, no outside distractions.  There are those who write only in a strict office setting in front of a desk, in a comfortable office chair.   Other’s thrive in chaos, and get their best work done amongst the sounds of TV & kids. Most seem to need some kind of background music. My taste run towards new age or instrumentals with nature sounds in the background. I actually do my best writing in my car, parked along the river, or on a towel by the beach.

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But not matter what the tools, what the setting, what necessary fortifications, or even what the atmosphere; the author has a job to do.  That job is to create a story that will keep the reader’s attention and give enjoyment for as long as they read along.

Big Words, Little Words

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Writers have a job to do, and words are our tools.  Words that can create a world away from our day-to-day life, words that can teach us, words that will make us laugh or cry, words that will make us wonder.

As a writer it is not just about stringing random words together.  We have a story to tell and we need to understand our reader to insure that they enjoy what we are creating with our pen (or keyboard).  Personally, when I am reading a cozy mystery (like the ones I write), a romantic comedy or “Chick Lit” I do not want to be bombarded with scientific mumbo-jumbo while I’m trying to enjoy the author’s words.  I want the words of the story to match the mood of the book, and so do most readers.

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On the other had, there are times when details and technical terms are a necessary part of the story.  Would you believe in a medical drama that used the words boo-boo?  Of course not.  The words need to not only tell the story, but build the suspense and the back story and these details make the difference.  Research or life experiences will give the author the confidence to weave a story that will keep you interested from the opening page to the ending page.

No matter what type of book you read, the type of words will set the mood for your enjoyment.  From the mother reading  her child’s favorite book, to the adult catching some private time out in the garden with the newest block buster; the words matter.6d563d64f75ad087e4fe43e1957876c2

So big words (medical suspense) to little words (children’s books) just read….

Remember Dr. Seuss has sold millions of books all based on rhyming little words! 

I Won The Lottery (NOT)

We’ve all wanted to yell those words at the top of our lungs. Who won’t wait to go to work and say either I quit or I’m buying you out?? Well last night was the Power Ball  Lottery and the winning ticket was worth 425 million.  Needless to say, I didn’t win.

But those kind of numbers would make anyone start to think…What would you do with all that money?

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Are you the type who would buy your own private island to live in luxury, away from all of the frustrations and annoyances of daily life?  Or maybe you would be more of a philanthropist and would you try to help as many of the wonderful and worthy charities out there in need?  Maybe you would splurge and go on an all out shopping spree, or run away on an exotic vacation?

As a writer, I have to be honest and tell you that the private island sounds wonderful.  I could finally have time to do all the writing I want, uninterrupted.  But then I would want to go and experience as much adventure as I could: so that I could go back and write some more.

No matter where what your secret desires are, with this type of money you are sure to be thinking of how to spend it.

Imagination is a writers tool…and wouldn’t it be fun to use this tool to create the most outlandish adventure?