Reading time: Just over 4 minutes (but very skimmable)
Here are my 10 favourite articles or posts from last month, focusing on the most useful, helpful and healthful pieces for writers.
While my Texan friends are digging out from the snow and trying to re-establish their essential connections, I’m reminded once again of the wonders of electricity. Some years ago, my house was subject to frequent outages – the result of a faulty repeater in the neighbourhood, that had been damaged in a storm. Now, however, it’s been years since we had an outage and — knock on wood — I hope we can keep it that way.
Without electricity, it’s impossible to make yourself a cup of tea, listen to music, or surf the internet. And without surfing you would have missed the 10 following blog posts, offering insight, entertainment and wise advice for writers.
Here are my 10 favourite, most motivating posts from the last month…
Worry more productively
Are you the type of person who worries? A lot? Check out some terrific advice from productivity expert Chris Bailey (@Chris_Bailey). He suggests you put all of your worries in writing, on a list. Then, he wants you to categorize all these worries into two groups: those you have control over, and those you don’t. Finally, plan for those items you can have any sort of impact upon — and follow that plan. For those beyond your control, designate a short amount of time each day when you allow yourself to worry over them.
As Bailey says: “Right now, there’s a lot on our minds to worry about. If you’re anything like me, creating a worry list will help. Especially in overanxious times like these, thought patterns of worry only ever obscure what’s important.”
Use an app for invoicing
When you’re a freelancer, every moment you’re not writing, you’re not earning money. As a result, you’re probably looking for ways to lighten your administrative load. I know from experience that invoicing is a royal pain in the you-know-what. My webmaster has helped me by setting up forms that allow people to create their own invoices for my products and services. But if you don’t have the benefit of a webmaster, consider a recent post from Elna Cain (@ecainwrites), summarizing a healthy list of invoicing apps.
As Elna says, “No matter what freelancer invoicing app or software you choose, be sure that it does what you need it to do. There are a ton of different apps out there that have a wide variety of features. So be sure to do your research and pick one that you are comfortable with that fits all of your needs.”
Rest easy with your book title
Have you ever anguished over what to title your book, only to discover that someone else had already beat you to the punch with it? Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) has an important piece of advice for you. **YOU CANNOT COPYRIGHT A TITLE.**
In a recent post on the subject of book titles, Gardner points out there are countless books sharing the same name. Titles are uncopyrightable so they are not on the list of problems you should ever worry about.
Keep your goals to yourself
I know it’s tempting to share your goals with others. Many of us buy into the notion that, somehow, this goal-sharing will make us become more accountable. But Derek Sivers (@sivers) argues emphatically that we’re wrong about this idea.
Sivers rose to fame as the founder of CD Baby — the largest seller of independent music on the web, with more than a hundred million in sales for more than 150,000 musicians. In a succinct three-minute TED talk he says that telling others our goals simply makes our brains feel satisfied by the simple act of telling. In other words, it causes us to lose the impetus to do the work.
I’m convinced this is why so many authors refuse to talk about their works in progress. They don’t want to make it easier not to write.
Finish your novel faster
Speaking of making it easier to write, Demi LeJune (@DemiAuthor) offers some terrific advice in a recent post on the Write Practice (@write_practice) blog.
Here’s how she pushed herself to finish her latest novel in record time:
- She pushed herself to accomplish more each day, even when her energy was low and she felt uninspired.
- She guessed her way through story blocks, instead of obsessing on getting the one “right” answer.
- She lowered her expectations, understanding that all she was writing was a first draft.
- She set deadlines with consequences — for example, a $100 donation to a political party she didn’t want to support.
Tackle writer’s block
I’d always seen David Duchovny as a moderately good looking, moderately competent actor without much else going for him. It turns out, however, that he’s a well-educated published author and he has some interesting and thoughtful opinions to share. For example, check out his recent essay in The Atlantic.
Duchovny (@davidduchovny) has recently published his fourth novel, which explains the recent spate of publicity, but I particularly appreciated a clever comment he shared on the LitHub (@lithub) website. He said: “I tackle writer’s block from behind.” Love that! (And be sure to scroll down to the “comments” section to read an insightful expansion on the writer’s block point by reader Derek Luis.)
Consider your characters’ quirks
If you’re writing a novel, you’ll want to create interesting, memorable characters. One of the ways to do that is to give them some interesting quirks. What’s a quirk? According to Barrie Davenport (@CoachBarrie) on a recent post on the Authority Pub blog, quirks “make them stand out in some way from the crowd. Those quirks can be physical (e.g., spiky blue hair or brightly-colored scarves) or tied to their personality or their strengths and weaknesses. One character’s signature quirk could save their lives or the lives of their friends. Another’s quirk could bring about the apocalypse.”
But the real pay-dirt in this post is a list of 105 quirks ranging from constant fidgeting to always seeing the good in others, even when it costs them. If you’re looking to beef up any of your characters, check out this list and see if something resonates.
Ensure a successful media appearance
If you’re lucky enough to land a media appearance to promote your blog or your book, make sure you’re ready for it! A recent post by author A.G. Billig (@AGBillig) on the Build Book Buzz website (@sandrabeckwith) walks you through everything you need to do to succeed. As Billig puts it, “a high-impact appearance on a podcast, a radio or TV show, or even on an online summit, will grow your fan base and book sales.
Billig suggests five steps:
- Sharpen your core messages and talking points
- Become familiar with the show and host
- Test your equipment and setting
- Show up as the best version of yourself
- Be yourself
I heartily endorse all of her advice, most particularly point 3. It is so easy for equipment to fail — and that’s just going to make you look like a fool. Always test, re-test and test again.
Make your blog posts more shareable
As a blogger and author who retweets dozens of blog posts by others every day, Elizabeth Spann Craig (@elizabethscraig) truly understands the specifics of what makes posts more shareable. Here are five tips she offers in a recent blog post of her own.
- Keep posts to a single subject
- Create a headline/post title that truly indicates what the post is about
- Link to your social media platforms on your site so others know who to attribute the post to
- Make main points in bold or use lists to help with post readability and skimming
- Consider social sharing buttons or plugins like Click to Tweet
Self-publish rather than look for an agent
I’m saddened and astonished by the number of people who reject the idea of self-publishing out of hand. If you fall into this category, check out a recent and informative post by James Hall on the seven reasons to self-publish on the Write to Done website (@writetodone).
Here are those reasons:
- Your book will be released faster
- You get a better royalty rate
- You enjoy complete creative freedom
- You don’t have the pressure of an advance
- You can work in a way that fits around your lifestyle
- You can still enjoy the same levels of quality
- You retain full rights over your work
I have just one additional piece of advice: Be wary of so-called hybrid publishers who will want to charge you a large fee for “coordinating” your self-publishing venture. Some of them even have an “application” process that convinces writers they are traditional publishers, even though they are not. Read my 2018 post on the perils of hybrid publishing, before you consider such a deal.
Need some help developing a sustainable writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. The group is now full but there is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.
My video podcast last week described how to deal with anxiety about publishing. Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.
What are the best blog posts you’ve seen in the last month? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Feb. 28/21 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!