Introducing our new editor, Lewis Pollak

Lewis photoRock Your Writing is growing! We’re bringing on a new editor, the fantastic Lewis Pollak. He’s an experienced developmental and line editor, working with Entangled Publishing during its explosive growth in the past few years. I’ve worked with him, myself, and can vouch for his editorial prowess. (The guy’s got a gift!)

I’ll let him tell you a bit more about himself, in his own words. Welcome, Lewis!

Danger: Puns ahead. You have been warned.

Hey there, all you folks out in Writerland. Cathy asked me to write a blog post introducing myself, but before I do that, let me start by saying what a pleasure it is to be joining the team at Rock Your Writing. Cathy and I have known each other for several years now, and I am excited about bringing a new element to the team so that we can all serve you better. The best part is, I get to do more of what I love: editing.

I have worn quite a few hats over the years, from med student to game designer to Toyota salesman. Oh, and Realtor. Not to mention husband, father, and general layabout. Editor is definitely a favorite. The thing about being an editor that appeals to me is that I have the chance to shape stories and help make them better. If all I was interested in was nitpicking stuff to death, I could just write reviews.

Speaking of which, I’ve always been puzzled by book, movie, and game reviews. Why do so many reviewers insist on telling me whether or not they like the thing they are writing about? Frankly, I don’t care if they like it or not. I won’t even go into the number of reviews I have seen where the reviewer clearly doesn’t even like the genre of work and then criticizes it for being exactly what it purported itself to be. As a person trying to make a purchasing decision, I want a review to help me figure out if I’m going to like it and whether it is going to be a good purchase for me. It’s all about me, right?

For most of the editors I have spoken to, the same holds true for them when they are reviewing a proposal. They want not only to love it, but to be in love with it. Wanting to be in love with a story makes a certain amount of sense if you have to go into an editorial meeting and convince others in the room that a particular project should be acquired. I suppose that’s one reason I don’t particularly care for being involved in acquisitions.

As a freelance editor, it doesn’t matter to me if I like a book when I am asked to edit it, any more than I care whether a reviewer likes a product.  When I am editing a book, it isn’t about me at all. It’s all about the story and making it the best story it can possibly be, whether the author hopes it will be a bestseller or it is the book of their heart and a story they simply need to tell. So what if “Planet of the Grapes” doesn’t have a market? If that’s the story that keeps you awake at night, you must believe me when I say I won’t be wining about it.

Wine puns… Sorry, but I did warn you.

You see, I know that when I begin working on a story, the object before me is a precious thing, even if it doesn’t look like it yet. Just as nature requires incredible amounts of heat and pressure to create diamonds, I have great respect for the blood, the sweat, the heart and soul that each author puts into their work. And every single time I take on a project, I am humbled to find myself in the remarkable position of having people share their work with me. Like a gemcutter, an editor can help bring out the best shape in a story, give it facets, and polish it until it sparkles, but none of that would be possible without the astonishing amount of effort that goes into the not-so-simple act of putting those words down on (digital) paper.

When I have done my part, it is my hope that two things are true: that the story is better for having gone through the process and that it is still a story the author wants to tell. That last part is of critical importance to me. I can come up with the best ideas in the world to make a story better, but if it no longer remains a story that the author wants to tell, if the characters no longer feel like theirs, then those ideas are worthless to the author. Being told by an author that they love the direction a story is taking, that they have renewed excitement for working on it—those are the greatest compliments I will ever receive.

Above all, I get to work with talented people, participate in the creative process alongside them, and help them progress toward completion, knowing I had a hand in making their work better. And I can do all that without having to tell an author that the thing they have worked so hard to create isn’t good enough because I’m not in love with it, needing to convince anyone it should be published, or worrying about whether post-apocalyptic varietals are hot right now.

 

How to Rock Your Resolutions

New year
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/cydcor/

Every year millions of people make New Year’s resolutions on January first. And by January thirty-first have completely forgotten what those resolutions were.

I’ve been guilty of this.  As the new year rings in, I create this “wish list” of things I want, only to shamefully admit failure within a few weeks.

If I even remember what those resolutions were a few weeks later.

But why do we do this?  It’s estimated that somewhere between 80 and 90% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within a couple of months at the most.  I mean, if we want something badly enough to put it on a list of things we want (Lose weight!  Get more exercise!  Write a book!), why is it so hard to stick with it?

Here’s what I think:  when we come up with these resolutions, we don’t often give thought to whether we are willing to do what is necessary to accomplish them.

For example, I can say I want to lose 25 pounds and it sounds great!  Until I realize what I will have to do to lose those 25 pounds.  Dessert every night?  Nope.  Dinners out every Saturday at my favorite Mexican restaurant?  Nope.  The ability to binge eat through a Netflix marathon every weekend?  Nope.

Suddenly, I’m not nearly as motivated to lose weight as I was when I so naively added it to my list of resolutions.  Simply because I’m not willing to do what’s necessary to accomplish that 25 pounds of weight loss.

Writer’s Resolutions

Is one of your resolutions to write a book this year?  To be successful, you need to decide if you’re willing to do what’s needed to get that book written.

It might mean turning down social engagements on weekends, so that you can write, because you have a full-time job, a family with lots of activities, and don’t have time to write during the week.

It might mean that writing a chapter each week becomes more important than vegging in front of the TV every night.

It might mean choosing to write in your car during your lunch hour rather than going out with your coworkers every day (which might actually also help that 25-pound weight loss goal, coincidentally!).

What if your resolution is even loftier than one book?  What if you resolution is that you’re going to quit your day job and become a full-time writer by the end of this year?

Goals like this one, which are huge and life-changing, require even more thought and planning to ensure that you have even the slightest shot at success.  You’re going to have to know where your income will come from (the writing or somewhere else?), how much time you’ll devote to writing, whether you’ll solely write fiction, or will you write nonfiction or do some other kind of work to supplement your income?  But the #1 question is:  Am I willing to do what is necessary to fulfill this resolution?

Ask Yourself These Questions

So how can you tell if you are committed to doing what is necessary to accomplish the resolutions you make?  Ask  yourself the following questions…and be honest.  If you try to play Mr. or Ms. Committed when you really aren’t, the only person you’re hurting is yourself.

  • Is this resolution something I really want, or something I feel is expected of me? While your best writing friend may write full time, if you’re honest with yourself, you might find that you don’t really want to write full time.  Perhaps you love your day job or enjoy the social aspects of working outside the home.  Don’t make resolutions based on what others tell you you should want or what you think is expected of you.
  • Am I really willing to do what is required to accomplish this resolution? Starting a Twitter account and Facebook author page might be a great resolution if you’re working to build your tribe.  But if you don’t know a tweet from a hole in the ground and hate Facebook and aren’t willing to put in the time to maintain it and interact with others, they will just grow stagnant when you get tired of them.
  • What’s my motivation regarding this resolution? If you’re not “all-in” in terms of being driven to follow through with your writing resolution, you’re going to end up forgetting all about it within a month or so.  If your resolution is to write an erotic novel this year and your motivation is purely the idea that erotica sells, but you can’t stand the genre, you can almost guarantee your failure to keep this resolution.
  • Is the timing right for this resolution?  If you’re a tax accountant, setting a resolution on January 1 to complete a 100,000-word draft of your novel during the first quarter of the year might be really bad timing.  Think about your other commitments before rattling off resolutions that are destined to fail because you simply don’t have enough time in a day.
  • What am I willing to give up and not give up in order to accomplish this goal/resolution?  This one is pretty self explanatory.  Really consider what you might have to give up to be successful. You may run into something you’re not willing to give up that will make your particular resolution impossible.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.

By asking yourself  these questions and really being honest about the answers, you can vet those resolutions up front and have better chance of success by picking resolutions you are truly committed to.

What if You Already Made Resolutions This Year?

I get that it’s nearly mid-January already, and you could very well have named your obligatory resolutions a few weeks ago.  Are you still going strong?  Maybe these are the right resolutions for you.  Have they already started petering out like a forgotten gym membership?   Go through the above questions and see which resolutions might fit and be worth salvaging (or revamping) and which you just aren’t willing to do the work on.

Don’t worry if you discover that you’ve made a  mistake with a few of your resolutions (or all of them!).  You’re armed now with more knowledge about what makes resolutions worthy of your time and efforts! As far as I’m concerned, resolutions aren’t just for January 1. A good resolution works any time of year.

So, readers, are your resolutions rockin’? Or do they need some revisions?  Let us know in your comments!

Rock Your Writing!

~Shannon McKelden

Is Writing Full Time a Viable Option?

Is writing full time a viable option?Note: this originally was run in my newsletter, but given the responses, I thought I’d post it here on the blog as well.

Is writing full time a viable option?

Around 80% of the people I work with have mentioned that, ideally,eventually,  they want to be able to write full time.

At the same time, all over the internet and among the publishing community, they talk about how publishing has to be a labor of love, because nobody’s making money except the old school publishing heavy weights, the six figure debut gambles, and the self-publishing outliers like Bella Andre or Hugh Howey.

Let’s face it: it’s discouraging.

I’ve already blogged about approaching your writing career like a business if you ever hope to make a living.  That said, let’s look at some actual numbers and see what the likelihood is of “making a living.”

*Trigger warning: I will be using math.*

What would it take to make a gross income of $30,000 USD in a year?

Notice I did not pick an opulent “six figure” income.  What would it take to make $30,000?

The traditional route:

The first time advance is, on average, around $5,000 to $15,000.

Since an advance is against earnings, you won’t see another cent until after publication… which, in traditional, can be up to a year or more after you sign the contract.

Then, they need to do accounting  They hold what’s called “reserves against returns”, which means “yeah, you made $1,000, but we’re going to hold onto it, because we have to give some of that money back if copies get returned.”

You don’t generally see any money until the book has been out for a year or so, which could be two years after you’ve signed the contract and gotten that advance.

You also need to “earn out” — meaning you don’t get any more money until you’ve sold enough copies, and made enough royalties, to “pay off” the money they fronted you.

Let’s say you made 7% royalty on a $14.99 trade paperback.  That’s around $1/book.  So you’d need to sell anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 copies before you saw any additional earnings.

Granted, there’s a higher royalty rate for digital, around 25% at least and as high as 40%, but the cost would (should) be a bit lower, as well. In this case, say $9.99 at 25%. That’s $2.50 a book. You’d only need to sell 6,000 digital copies to earn out a $15,000 advance.

Basically, you’ve been paid $15,000 at the top end of the scale, and you won’t see any more for two more years. If at all.

Oh, and with traditional, you’re probably working with an agent who helped land the deal (and hopefully negotiated for the best advance possible), who will take 15% of the advance and any future earnings.  So that $15,000 advance is really $12,750.  And the $1 per book is only 85 cents.

The other thing — if you don’t earn out in around 12 months from publication, the publisher is going to have serious qualms about offering you another contract. They can’t afford to shell out the up front costs of editorial, publishing and marketing on a low earner.

The self-publishing route:

Compared to the “sad 7” of traditional publishing, you’re making 70% of royalty digitally self-publishing. Even if you’re selling your digital copies for only $2.99 a book, that means $2 per copy — double what you’d be making with a traditional publisher at $14.99 a book.

And you get paid monthly (on a two month lag), not quarterly or twice a year like traditional authors. There’s no wait on returns.  Best of all, you don’t have to worry about earning out to keep publishing. You can publish as often as your heart desires (and your output allows.)

That said, you’re no longer just a writer. You’re a publisher.

That means you’re now responsible for editorial, including developmental editing, line editing, proofreading. You need formatting. You need to get a cover.  You need to create a marketing plan, you need to figure out pricing, you need to write the book description and choose the categories and keywords.

Some average costs:  developmental editing can be anywhere from $3-10 per page, and substantive or line editing is higher (because of the degree of detail and increased time necessary), so $5-25 page.  Formatting, if you outsource it, can cost around $25-50 per book. A cover can cost $100-500, depending.

So for an 85,000 word novel — around 340 pages — the cost at the low end of the scale would be would be:

Developmental editing —  $1,020
Copy editing — $1,700
Formatting — $25
Cover — $100

Total cost:  $2,845

(Before anybody jumps on me and says “that’s ludicrous!”, these are ballpark averages. I’m sure there are plenty cheaper places out there… although many may be overcharging at a cut-rate, if you get what I mean, so be wary.)

Many authors forgo this, simply because they can’t afford it.  Self-publishing is a bastion of DIY (Do It Yourself) and, alas, it often shows.  Many times, this is due to cost-cutting (“I don’t need an editor, I was a proofreader in college”), rush to publication (“I want to make money now“), as well as a lack of perspective (“my book is brilliant the way it is — why would I pay somebody to tell me to make it different?”)

While I feel it’s definitely been improving, it is a large reason why self publishing still carries a stigma, reasonable or not.

If you’re making $2 per copy, then you would need to sell 15,000 copies to make that goal number of $30,000.  Another often quoted statistic:  93% of all self published books sell less than 100 copies a year, and make less than $500.

At that rate,it would take you 60 years to earn your target amount.

So should we all just pack it in?

In my opinion…. no.

Not if you’ve got an entrepreneurial mindset, and you’re open to risk.  There are authors who are making this humble average, just from writing.  They don’t make headlines, but they are making money.

What we do need to stop doing is idealizing publishing,or maintaining an artist’s mindset to make a financial goal.

If these numbers made you blanch, then really consider what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.  It’s okay to write out of pure passion, with a more relaxed pace, only because this book must get out or it’ll kill you. In fact, that’s why most of us started writing in the first place.  It’s perfectly acceptable to approach it as a pursuit that might bring you money, but that’s not the reason you’re in it.

If you know this, if you accept it, it will save you heartache. It will also buffer you against the clamoring “but you have to make money!” talking heads that will batter against you with well-meaning but otherwise stressful advice.

But if you do want to make a living, you’re going to have to work your ass off.  That’s a given.  It’s more than just the writing itself. It’s going to be your attitude, learning the business, making strategic decisions.

It means looking at things like series potential. It could mean going for traditional publishing on a multi-book contract.  Right now, publishers are leery of this, so it may take a while for you to earn your keep and prove your credibility.

It means considering “hybrid” publishing — working with a publisher on some titles, self-publishing others.

It means learning all the ins-and-outs of self-publishing.

It means looking seriously at your writing speed: the more books you produce, the more the risk is spread out, and the fewer copies per title you have to sell to hit your target.  It also gives new readers a back list to purchase, making more sales with less effort.

If you write slowly, then it means working with someone to create not just great, but stellar, unusual, and marketable books, and working with a top-line agent who will get you the biggest advances possible.  It also means accepting the fact that you’re playing roulette — you could win big, but the odds are slim.

It also means looking at the long game. It will take years of consistent effort, with little to no pay out, before you create a long-tail back list that will help generate enough passive income to generate momentum.  Also, you’re going to have some out-and-out failures, and it’ll probably take a while to settle into your groove.

Finally: don’t do it alone.

I’ve been a traditionally published author since 2000, putting out eighteen novels with Big 6 publishers.  I shifted to self-publishing when I started up Rock Your Writing, putting out my own titles, Rock Your Plot, Rock Your Revisions, and Write Every Day, among others.  There was definitely a learning curve.

Now, I’m putting this all to use, self-publishing my own fiction series starting in December.  I’ve spent the past two years building up RYW, and now I’m going to turn my attention back to my own fiction.

That said, I’d love some company on the way, as I experiment with my own work in what I’ve usually only done with other clients.

I’m thinking of opening up a private membership group for writers interested in self-publishing or hybrid publishing, and definitely in writing full time.  I was wondering — would anyone be interested in that?  If you could email me, I’d appreciate it.

Writers, suit up. Your game is on.

Writers, suit up. Your game is on. | Rock Your WritingMany authors I meet are in what I call practice mode.

What does practice mode look like?

It can be the writer who is endlessly polishing his writing skills, but hasn’t completed a draft.

Or the author who is plotting an intricate series, but hasn’t written a word.

Or even the novelist who abandons her third partial draft, seduced by the next idea, certain that this one, this one finally, will be the one that takes her from obscurity to the pantheon of writing greatness.

All of them are preparing, so when their time comes — when they’re finally on stage, presenting a finished work to the world — they will be ready. They’re not sure when that moment will be, but they’re fairly certain they will know it when they see it.

You know you’re in practice mode when…

  • You don’t let anyone see your work.  This doesn’t mean you’re not querying, or self-publishing. It means just that: you’re not sharing your work with anyone. If it’s a rough draft, that makes sense. But if you’re on your third revision and you’ve gotten no feedback — you’re probably in practice mode.
  • You don’t complete a single project.  If you’re on your third or fourth manuscript, and you’ve never completed one draft and one revision on any of them, you may be in practice mode. Or you may have technically completed a project, but you keep fiddling with it, polishing it, revising it, rewriting it, with no subconscious intention of letting it go.
  • You have a grand plan, but not an action plan.  If you’ve got a double-trilogy in your head that you’d love to write, but you aren’t carving out time in your schedule to write it beyond “I’ll write every day!” –then you’ve got the dream, but no practical way of executing it. That’s practice.

Sometimes, it makes sense to be in practice mode.

I took a year-long sabbatical from fiction writing last year, because I knew I was burned out. How’d I know? Because I was in a year-long “practice mode” plateau the year prior. I’d start things, then decide they weren’t working.  I’d fiddle endlessly with plot outlines. I’d develop whole series arcs and backstories and then ditch the lot.

I was the Queen of Waffling, the Princess of Practice Mode.  I was also tapped out, completely drained. I needed to shift focus — and more importantly, I needed to give myself specific and clear permission to shift from practice mode into replenishment hibernation. Otherwise, I was going to keep plugging away ineffectively, doomed to failure because I lacked the fuel to get to my goal — and resenting myself for failing, because I didn’t recognize that fact.

Other valid reasons to be in practice mode:

1.  You have no idea what you’re doing.  You’ve just started this whole writing thing, and you’re still  raw and vulnerable.  Practice is just what you need, so that tiny seed of an idea doesn’t get stomped to death by well meaning professionals.

2. You have your own issues to work through beyond writing. This could mean big personal stress factors (death in the family, illness, move, or other major life changes) or it could mean massive writing factors (you’ve been dropped by your publisher, you are trying to change genres, you’re feeling insecure and confused).  Practice mode is your re-training and rehabilitation ground. (Extreme cases can require rehabilitation mode.)

3. You’re scared.  For any reason.  Fear needs to be acknowledged and treated with care.

Everybody’s ready at different times, at their own pace. The trick is to be aware of where you are — and why you’re there.

The problem most authors have: they’re in practice mode, but they think they’re not.  They think they’re “in it to win it” when, in actuality, they haven’t even left the locker room.

Successful authors take the field.

It’s not that they aren’t honing their craft, or plotting larger projects, or deciding which project will best suit their careers.  They may still have plenty to learn. Big issues.  And, yes, they still have fears.

But they’re in motion. Their game is on. The clock is ticking, and they’ve got to play or forfeit their dreams.

They are willing to make mistakes in front of other people. They put their entire hearts into their pursuit. They might be scared, but it’s a bit late for that. They’re in it until the game’s over.

For some, that might be a period of a year. Or a novel, however long that takes. But they know that the time for waffling is over. Whatever their objective is, they’ve burned their boats: there’s no going back.

What would you do if you were totally committed?

I don’t mean “I’d quit my job, move to a shack in Montana and write twenty hours a day, subsisting on only dandelion greens and spring water” committed.  Generally speaking, that’s not commitment, that’s fantasy.  (Or insanity.)

I mean, given the other obstacles you’re facing — negotiating the needs of a day job and a family and your own personal well-being — if you were told “if you write your book this year, there’s a good chance we’ll publish it”, what would you do?

Or what if you were told, “if you promote yourself, build your platform a bit, there’s an excellent chance you’ll have a shot at a life-long career”, what would you do?

Would you go for it? Or would you let it pass you by, think “maybe next year?”

Showing up doesn’t mean winning.

Some might argue that they wouldn’t unless “good chance” got bumped up to “guarantee.”

Sure, if they absolutely knew that there was no way they could fail, they would somehow carve out time to write every day. They’d figure out a strategy for promoting themselves, and diligently, day by day, build up their platform. They’d go to superhuman lengths — if they knew there was no way they could fail.

Successful authors know there are no guarantees. They make the commitment anyway. They create the plan, set aside the time, get the training and support, and go for it.

Sometimes, they pay a harsh price. Rejection, criticism, financial hardship.  Some drop back into practice mode for a while.

They also know one thing that unsuccessful authors don’t:  there is always another season.  They just need to keep playing.

So tell me, in the comments: are you in practice mode? Or are you in the game?

 

 

 

How to Achieve Your Writing Goals This Year

How to Achieve Your Writing Goals This YearThis is the year. The year you’re finally going to:

  • Finish that book.
  • Write that book.
  • Stick to a writing schedule.
  • Get an agent.
  • Self publish.
  • (Fill in the blank.)

You get the idea. It’s New Year’s, the time of resolutions. We resolve that this year will be different — not like last year, where we made up a list and didn’t follow through.

Or the year before that. Or the few years before that, really. 

The definition of insanity.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, but expecting different results.  In other words, saying this year will be different, but approaching it the exact same way (with a list and a lot of resolve)… which has almost no chance of succeeding, because the process itself is flawed.

That doesn’t mean “don’t make resolutions”, mind you.

It means change your approach. 

What do you want?

First off, you’ll want to tighten your resolution up and create a specific goal, one with a clear marker of accomplishment.  Saying you’ll finally write a book this year is good, but also vague.  Pick a project. If you don’t have a project, might say you’ll want to write one type of book, in rough draft, by the end of the year.  So instead of “I’ll write a book this year” you can say “I will write one Epic Fantasy novel, in rough draft, by December 31, 2015.”

Then… WRITE. IT. DOWN.

Seriously. Written plans are twice as likely to succeed as unwritten ones. Putting it somewhere you’ll see it (and actually register it and refer to it) would be even more helpful, but the act of writing it down is a crucial first step. 

Why do you want it?

The next question (the Motivation to your Goal, for my fellow GMC fans!) is:  why do you want it?  And what’s the why behind the why?

Knowing what motivates you — why the goal is truly important — is often the key to what’s standing in your way. The more important it is to you, the scarier it is. The more afraid you are, the more you’ll find yourself sabotaging yourself, actively or passively, to try and escape the perceived pain of the achievement (or failure).  On the other hand, if it isn’t that important to you (or if you haven’t identified why it is), the more likely you are to get sidetracked by other shiny objects.

So why do you want to write?  Don’t just think about it.  Write that down, as well.

What are your pain points and obstacles?

You don’t sit down and write a book in one clip. (At least, no writer I know does!)  Books are made of chapters, which are made of scenes, which are made of sentences, which are made of words. It’s a cumulative effort. If you’re the planning sort, outline. If you’re not, at least have a rough idea of how many words you’ll need to complete by the end of the year to get a ballpark estimate. (I would also strongly recommend at least sketching out preliminary plot points, so you know where you’re heading.)

Then, look at the last year. What stopped you from writing? What do you know is a stumbling block? For me, writing fiction after lunch is a crap shoot: my natural energy is low until about 5 pm. I’m more likely to get that scene written first thing in the morning or after 8 pm.  Also, if I’ve got more than three calls scheduled in a day, I’m usually too brain dead to accomplish anything… so if I didn’t get writing done first thing in the morning, it just isn’t getting done.

What’s stopping you?  Lack of plans?  Lack of energy?  The dreaded inertia, where you know you “should” write but you either find something more fun to do, or convince yourself that something unimportant “must happen now”? 

What’s your plan?

If you know you self-sabotage, for example, when you’re about to say “yes” to a pointless project in order to avoid writing, make sure you say NO. Write down: “if so-and-so asks me to run the PTA walkathon, I will say no.  If Carol Sueann says they need me to be treasurer for the RWA chapter, I will say thank you, but I can’t this year.  If Bob from accounting asks me to join the bowling league, I will say I’m already booked evenings.”  Writing down your plan, again, will make you more likely to actually pull it off when the moment arises.

More than how you’ll avoid problems, write down your plan to actually execute your resolution.  Want to write a book this year?  What will that take?  Let’s say you’re writing a 100,000 word high fantasy novel rough draft.  Will you need to write an outline or do research?  How long will that take?  You’re looking at around 400 pages of rough draft.  Will you have a daily word count?  Do you have time to rest and replenish?  When and where will you get writing (and rest! Don’t forget to schedule rest!) done?

Who is on your team?

I know, I know… I always say this. But I will keep saying it until it’s etched in your brain.

All writers write alone. No writer succeeds that way.

If you really want to pull off your writing resolution, you need a support network.  That can mean a critique partner, or group.  Beta readers, if need be. But most importantly, it means people who believe in you, and who hold you accountable.  These do not need to be the same people, but it helps if they are.

In Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habitthey discuss the need for belief.  That does not mean faith or metaphysics. It simply means that you accomplish the habit because you believe that it can be accomplished, and that you have what it takes to do so.  If you don’t, you can establish the routine, and then keep it up if you’ve surrounded yourself with key people that you trust who do believe.  In essence, they believe in you until you do.  These are people whose opinions you trust. Much as you may love your mother, if she says “well, of course you can write a book!” and you feel like she’s just saying that because she has to, the belief will have a lot less weight with your subconscious than a fellow writer whose work you admire, even if she is unpublished.  Find online writers or face-to-face meet ups, but be sure you have a network. 

When will you reach out?

Having the team won’t help if you’re not communicating.

Since many writers are introverts, what often happens is, the writing will get rough, we’ll suddenly become convinced that what we’ve got is utter crap, and by God, we’ll just retreat into our hamster balls and isolate.  Telling someone we’re in trouble is tantamount to admitting we’re impostors: that our writing truly is crap, and the people who we admire and respect will suddenly realize that, as well.

Write down a list of “I have lost complete perspective when…” signs.  Set regular check-in dates with your support network.  And show someone your work sooner than you think you should if you find yourself getting stuck and falling way off track.

Which leads us to the final point… 

If you want to change it, you have to track it.

If you want to write that book by the end of the year, then you need milestones.  You need to set some smaller goals — those “one bite at a time” chunks that time management pros keep nattering on about — and then set some deadlines.  You’ll also want to check in every week.  (Yes, every week.)  Avoid the very nasty habit of falling behind for a week, and then saying “I’ll write twice as much next week.”  Give yourself plenty of buffer room, and make the goals manageable (and then maybe double the time, especially if this is your first book.)

The key is to start giving your subconscious some “wins.”  Meet your admittedly easy goal a few weeks in a row, and suddenly, your subconscious will start thinking “I am a person who meets her goals.”  It generates momentum.

If you aren’t meeting your goals, checking in weekly will help you figure out how you got off course. That examination will also help you discover how to get back on course: whether it’s talking to a mentor or critique partner, doing a little more research, or getting a little more replenishment (and adjusting your timelines accordingly.) 

You can do it.

Count me among those who believe in you.  I think next year is going to be an amazing year for writers.

So… what’s your resolution for the upcoming year — and what are you going to do about it?