This week we were lucky enough to have a fantastic repeat guest – Kathryn Burnett, the well-known New Zealand playwright and screenwriter. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Kathryn is chocka full of useful knowledge on the craft of writing as well as the mental game of staying focused and being productive. Today she talked us through doing an end-of-year Writing Audit, as a prequel to setting our goals in the new year. We found it hugely helpful to answer the questions she posed, and to look back on our year in order to critically assess what went right, and what went wrong, and why. If you’re wondering why on earth you’d want to look back in this way, just listen in… Kathryn also tells us how to use this kind of analysis to set us up for an awesome 2018!
“Celebrate the small wins – they give you resilience and remind you that you can do it!” ~ Kathryn Burnett
To help you stick to your goals, Kathryn offers a free Creative Writing Plan at www.CreativeWritingPlan.com
Her Writing Room Club is an in-person and online group for writers who want to write more often, stay inspired and achieve their writing goals with the company of other writers. Learn more here
Kathryn has significant film and television writing credits and has developed numerous television series for New Zealand’s major production companies.
She was the Executive Director of the New Zealand Writers Guild between 1997-2000 and the screenwriting tutor at South Seas Film and TV School between 2003 and 2007. She is also an in demand Script Consultant/Assessor who has worked with numerous writers and production companies.
Learn more about Kathryn’s workshops and writing advice here: www.Kathryn-Burnett.com
This week we give some of our best writer productivity hacks – ie a big ole list of tips to increase your productivity, based on things that we do each week to help us write more!
From exercise tips and the best writing apps to use, to setting routines and ways to stay in the flow, we give you the best tips that we could find to help keep you writing!
Preparing your mind and body
Wendy – She goes through the process every morning a routine getting her head ready by doing the things that need to be done.She uses a rake/piranha mat! Apparently helps her focus. Intense pain initially then a warm fuzzy feeling. (yeah, right)
Shar – Has also got the mat – WTH? Uses the Headspace App on her iPhone first thing in the morning for 10minutes guided meditation. Calms anxieties. Keeps her focused and makes getting on with work much easier.
Cheryl – Gets up and has breakfast, treadmill, stretches and then back to work for five days a week. If you sit a lot then you need to stretch a lot.
Trudi – No real regime but eats properly and does Karate to unwind.
Find things that you can use to move on and calm your busy mind.
Trudi – Followed Wendy’s lead by writing in the evenings by her husband with headphones on. Made her hugely productive and now they watch less TV. Also, now gets up early and find this is a better time of day to write. Is more productive.
Had an app for a year that measures how long you are on each program! ( Very big brother)
Cheryl – The queen of lists, she tries to schedule things that I can achieve in the time available. I find being flexible helps when you have more, or less, time that you thought.
I write at my PC in my office – sitting or standing. I edit at the kitchen table with a printed manuscript, a highlighter and pen plus a water bottle. It keeps me on the seat and off social media.
Shar – Likes to observe, so keeps track of how she is feeling when and where she writes. Turns out it’s anywhere but her desk is more creative for her.
Tried cafes and libraries with mixed results.
Different ways to write. Timed, working with other people in sprints, hand written, PC or Neo.
Broaden your horizons by trying something new.
Wendy – Needs a clear head – likes to be fresh so she can write anytime of the day. Will put away her work if it turns to rubbish. Writes better in the morning and edits in the afternoon.
Be aware of when you need to get off electronic devices so that you can relax before bedtime.
Experiment and find the best for you.
Just because something worked or works most of the time, doesn’t mean you can’t change.
Use a diary, post its or lists every day.
Shar – Justifies social media as it is part of her job so needs to turn of modem and stay away from social media. Uses an alpha smart Neo which is not connected and is battery operated.
Accept you need help to do this sometimes.
Trudi – Struggles to get off Social Media
Wendy – Her distraction is different to normal people – she has to force herself to stop writing (we hate her!) and spend time on social media and other aspects of the business.
Uses noise cancelling headphones, but could write at an airport!
Cheryl – Distractions come in many forms and Cheryl gets busy with the family. Grandchildren are huge time sucks, but enjoyable, therefore compromises must be made and occasionally the word no is used when it comes to babysitting.
Set Daily Priorities
Cheryl – Uses a Diary for daily work and checks the day before. It’s a good idea to get your bug bears done first thing in the morning. Has a list for absolutely everything! But keeps them all together.
Trudi – Has a list so that she doesn’t have to remember things from the day before.
Shar – Has outlook tasks set up but is overwhelmed by what she has to do, she writes about three things on a post it notes and if she does those priorities she’s a happy camper.
Wendy – Also uses lists and a diary.
Training Yourself to work anywhere in any mood
Cheryl – Can write in sprints with friends but can’t work in front of TV. Competitiveness.
Trudi – Prefers silence but is training herself to not use her headset. Believe s you can train yourself to write anywhere if you really need to.
Wendy – Uses music to fit her book but can and does write anywhere at any time.
Shar – Has worked in noisy offices and also believes you can write anywhere.
Planning what you are going to write each day
There’s nothing worse than looking at a blank page with no idea what to write next.
Setting Targets – Daily or weekly
Just set a target, any target. Word count, pages, a scene, a chapter anything that works.
Make it achievable but push yourself a little.
Book in edits or other deadlines so that you can break your work into
How to stay in the flow
No-one wants a saggy middle. 😉 Understand when you are most creative – that’s the time you’ll be in the flow. You may need to retrain yourself!
Use a sentence or a paragraph from the day before that sets you up for the next scene or chapter.
Use dragon dictation, Notes on your phone and at the very least a notebook and pen.
Write from start to finish.
‘The difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do.’
2k to 10K – Writing Efficiency
Rachel Aaron http://rachelaaron.net/series.php?SID=4
This week we get the show number wrong, yet again, and the sound quality is a little bit off, but we still manage to get out an episode talking about our goals for 2017 and how we’re going to achieve them.
It’s a fun, motivational episode that will get you started thinking about your self publishing goals, and how you’re going to make them happen in 2017!
Wendy – To learn Dragon Dictation – Recently purchased to preserve her hands and shoulders as she writes very quickly and consistently. A different mindset is required to sit in front of your computer and perhaps you might need some notes to get you started each session. (Not Wendy!)
A New Zealand accent does make this harder, and potentially works better on windows than Mac.
Learning – there is a Facebook group for Dragon learners as well as a couple of people listed here who are training there dragons well.
Monica Lionel http://monicaleonelle.com/
Scott baker https://scottbakerbooks.com/
Tip: Start with ten minutes and check how your Dragon is learning.
Cheryl – To learn Scrivener. Has had no time last year, but looking forward to getting into it in 2017. Had an earlier version of it on her PC but found it not so user friendly there and she lost interest. Now she has a Mac so hopes it will be as beneficial as other people have attested. Training has begun!
Shar – Using Headspace app every day to keep herself on track. Downloaded on to her phone. There is a free trial at the moment. Shar heard good things about it in the writing community. You can find all sorts that may be better for you than others, but she loves this.
Trudi – Active campaign. This is a new way of doing her newsletter and mailing list. This came about with her new website and the need to do this in another set-up. It looks different in that there is one list instead of multiple lists, using topics to keep people in the right area and only count them once. As it’s not cheap, she will need to make sure she uses it properly.
Main goal for 2017
Trudi wants to be narrowly focused on her newsletter and mailing list. She feels she needs better structure and auto-responders will help save time so that she can have more time to writing new books.
Wendy wants more consistency in her processes and income by advertising and marketing better. She feels that putting blinkers on and not taking note of what everyone else is doing, she might write less and more on the business side of things, although she loves the writing side of things and not so much the business side or at least the ones she enjoys least.
Words of wisdom – Create your job and do the things you like to do most and give the other things to someone else to do if possible. (not so easy for us control freaks!)
Cheryl – All about the business side of things. She is cutting down her part-time outside of the home to far less, and this will enable her to put more time into things. By having more time, learning scrivener, and becoming more savvy. A new routine to include updating books and better marketing plans.
Shar – Would like to publish four times this year. Has two in final edits so has her goal already on its way. By creating the habit of writing no matter what gets in her way every day, just as she does with journaling.
A theme of consistency seems to be apparent in all our goals and we will be working to achieve this.
What will yours be?
Welcome to the sixth episode of the SPA Girls Podcast! This podcast was our second challenge episode where we all reported back with the information that we’d found on our self publishing heroes.
We all think it’s important to have someone you aspire to be like in any career, and self publishing is no different, so we set the challenge in episode one to research someone who is successfully managing a self publishing career.
We talk about Lindsay Buroker, Joanna Penn, Marie Force and Courtney Milan. They’re all women, and they’re all trail blazing in different areas of the self publishing world. We can all learn a huge amount from them and the way they’re running their self publishing businesses.
We also set the next challenge which was to research the genre that you are writing in, and report back on the different conventions in that genre. It’s important to know the rules of your genre – even if you’re planning to break them. (although that’s not always a good idea. Just saying)
Trudi – Lindsay Buroker
She’s a very successful Indie writer of sci-fi and fantasy who makes being in unusual/cross genres work for her. She’s also a very good writer. She put her first book up in 2010, and has been making a full time living as an author since 2012. Lindsay has published approximately 29 books plus novellas and short stories.
Some quotes from Lindsay:
“The first book will always be hard to sell. You have to hustle and hand-sell to the first 1000 people. At that point, the Amazon algorithms start to pick you up. Then if the readers have enjoyed the book and signed up for your list, the numbers will improve. You can build a career if you keep putting out stories that people enjoy and slowly build a fan base.”
“This is the secret. Put out great books and build your audience slowly and you can make it. Patience is required though! I mention my interview with Donald Maass a while back and he talked about an author needing 3-5 books before making a good living and the same is true for indies. Lindsay tries to write a book every six months but also puts out a shorter work in between to keep the income boosted. I congratulate Lindsay as there is now a fan-fic site for her books, twitter accounts started for her characters and a real community around them. I think this is a huge mark of success for any author!”
“I lacked the patience for the traditional route, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve written and published more than twenty novels in the time that some of my colleagues who chose trad publishing have had 2-3 released (if they got deals at all–many didn’t). I’ve been making a living since 2012 (I published my first novel in December of 2010), and my income has continued to go up as I’ve grown my readership and published more books.”
“If I were starting now, I’d do what I did with my pen name last year (which I started anonymously). I wrote the first three books — science fiction romances — in a series and published them back-to-back, making the first book free so I could attract readers right out of the gate. Even though SFR is probably the least popular romance niche out there, I was able to do quite well with that tactic. I spent about $100 advertising that free book on sites that would plug new novels without a lot of reviews and ended up covering all of my expenses for editing and cover art and then some in the first few months. I talked about it in a lot more detail in this blog post: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/amazon-kindle-sales/pen-name-update-at-10-weeks/
Shar – Joanna Penn
Joanna Penn is a self publishing industry commentator and educator, non-fiction and fiction author. She has a terrific podcast and blog for authors with a wealth of knowledge available on her website including a free download of 11 ways to make money as an author.
She started off writing non-fiction in 2008 and in 2011 moved into fiction. She writes action adventure thrillers.
Because of her extensive knowledge in the industry Joanna Penn has been interviewed multiple times and it’s good to have the UK perspective, as often we see success in this industry as USA dominated.
Quotes by Joanna Penn
“You can’t make a living from your writing if you’re not actually writing.
And while writing may seem easy to some and it has its fun moments, it’s actually really hard work!
I think it’s the best job in the world (for me) but it’s certainly not for everyone.”
Shar’s Favorite quote – “Define what you mean by success, as that will shape your career as an author.”
Cheryl – Marie Force
Marie started out like so many of us, writing for pleasure, until she had to deal with her mother’s passing. After that tragedy the desire to publish became her focus.
She was published originally by Carina – Harlequin, but when they didn’t want any of her other work she tested the waters of self-publishing in 2010 with True North. And by 2012 had published 12 books, including the Gansett Island series.
She is now a New York Times Best Seller and has featured 11 times since March 2013. Marie has sold over 4 million books from 40 contemporary romances. Waiting for Love entered the NYT list at number 6! Her Romantic Suspense Fatal series even has its own Facebook page for fans.
She writes across genres and is successful in each. She is both traditionally and self-published and writes the stories that her fans crave.
Marie is a true entrepreneur, writing, savvy marketing, running virtual workshops and book formatting fairies, she has made her passion her career in ways we might all try to emulate.
The bio on her website is much more detailed and we have merely touched the surface with Marie’s achievements.
A few Q & A’s with Marie Force from Kobowritinglife.com
What’s your favorite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
‘Romance, romance, romance! And it’s not even a “guilty” pleasure. It’s what I love to read and what I love to write.’
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
My motto is that quality is job one—always. In the digital age, QUANTITY is job two. The more books you write and publish, the better you will do overall. A lot of people go into this looking for instant success, but for most of the authors I know it was a slow build over a number of years. Your single best promotional tool is your next book. That said, I’m a big fan of Facebook as the number one place to connect with readers in the digital age. I run more than twenty reader groups—one for each of my series and each of my books—where I’ve formed an online community around my books. The groups have been very beneficial to my efforts to remain connected to my readers.
Wendy – Courtney Milan
Originally traditionally published she self-published her first book in 2010 and since then her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and has achieved many other accomplishments.
She writes both historical and contemporary, with the historicals being set predominately in the late 19th century.
I think one of the things I love most about her writing is that she deals with the real challenges woman of that period faced. Like the fact that woman had no control over the money or bodies and often the relationships they made.
She quit her day job a year and half after her first self published book. When questioned as to why she went down the self-publishing route she said she wanted more creative control over the entire process. She wanted imput into what she writes, and how it’s presented to the market, and a greater royalty share.
I was fortunate enough to meet her when she came to Auckland for the Romance Writers of NZ conference in 2014. Courtney told us she wasn’t a quick writer, therefore she had to find ways to keep her name in front of readers. She’s involved in boxed sets, changes the prices on her books, writes novellas, does foreign translations and print books, when she does not have a new release. She is also very active with her blog, which is well worth a read.
What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when self-publishing?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should be writing the best book you can. I know that sounds flippant, but trust me, that’s the No. 1 thing. You can recover from any other mistakes. Prices, covers and key words can be changed. You cannot recover from writing a terrible book. Your first goal should be to look at the reader experience.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give newbies looking to self-pub?
If you’re new to this business, you should be spending 95 percent of your time writing, and 5 percent taking care of the other business. The most important thing is to write. The publishing part of this is not that bad or that time-consuming. The writing has to come first.