Jeanne: Planning for Success

Sometime next spring, I plan to self-publish a trilogy of paranormal romances. The Eight Ladies have graciously agreed to let me do a monthly post about the self-publishing process and what I learn along the way.

There are a lot of things to learn:

  • How to build a brand
  • How to find and hire editors, proofreaders and formatters
  • How to find the right cover designer
  • How to promote and market my books
  • And just the nuts and bolts of how to physically get the book onto Amazon (and other distributors, if you choose to go wide).

With so much work to do, I’m going to need a project plan. Fortunately, in my past life I managed a lot of software development projects, so that’s something I already know how to do. Continue reading

Nancy: First Monday Accountability Thread

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” ~ Henry Ford

Welcome to the First Monday Accountability Thread, a new feature here on the 8LW blog. The first Monday of each month, we’ll invite you to share your plans and goals for the upcoming month. As this is a writing blog, of course there will be lots of focus on creative and writing goals, but feel free to share other important life goals as well. Training for a 5k, learning to crochet, reading a book a day? Tell us about whatever it is you hope to achieve by June 30, 2017.

You can pop into the comments on this post any time throughout the month to share your progress or ask for encouragement. And be sure to come back the first Monday in July to report your progress!

To get the ball rolling, here are my top goals for the month.

1) Submit Act I of Take the Money and Run to my writing coach, address her feedback, and prepare to write Act II (in July).

2) Finish the second ginormous revision (yes, that’s a technical term) of my Victorian Romance novella (which got a major overhaul based on excellent critique feedback as well as lessons learned in my Story Genius master class) and submit to final beta readers.

3) Read two books per week, every week.

4) Sign up for ongoing Krav Maga classes to work toward my yellow belt.

See how easy that was? Now it’s your turn. Tell us your plans for June 2017. How will you keep your eyes on your goals and avoid those pesky obstacles this month?

Nancy: Can Creativity Be Scheduled?

Week 1 of My 12-Week Year Creativity Schedule. I might have gotten a little carried away…Note that I did not schedule transition time between major activities. Or  lunch time.

There many, many schools of thought regarding creativity, grasshopper. Looking specifically at writing, there are pantsers and plotters, planners and wingers, outline enthusiasts, outline eschewers, thumbnail sketch makers, muse-seeking free spirits, spreadsheet weirdos (raises hand). It seems creativity refuses to be contained. You can’t put creativity in a corner!

But can you put creativity in a time block on a calendar?

Ever willing to be a cautionary tale, I threw myself on the sword of research with an intense productivity system, called the 12-Week Year, so I can report my findings. For more information about this system and how to implement it, there are books, courses, and seminars. Boiling it down for you, the idea is based on data that suggest companies (and individual employees), when aligning to their annual plans, see a burst of productivity and forward progress during the last three months of their fiscal years. Why? Continue reading

Michaeline: Turn, turn, turn.

Ukiyo-e of samurai and various servants doing housecleaning

A samurai’s home being turned upside down by the annual cleaning. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, the equinox is rapidly approaching, and no matter where you live, the seasons are ready to turn. The southern hemisphere will enjoy the second harvest, and in my little corner of the northern hemisphere, mud season has officially begun! Mud doesn’t sound all that pleasant, but believe me, after a long white winter, the mud is looking very good.

The turn of the seasons is a great time for revitalization. In Japan, spring equinox is a public holiday, so I’ll have an extra day this weekend to declutter and get ready for spring break – the end of the school year, and when I’ll be able to use up all my leftover holidays.

A good turn depends on good balance. If you are overloaded and try to corner the season, there’s a good chance you’ll flip over into the ditch. I’m going to get rid of some of the stuff that’s holding me back, on several levels.

First, let’s start at the purely physical plane. My writing desk is unusable. It’s covered in fabric, unread books, and mystery odds and ends. It’s got to go, and by next Saturday, I want to have a flat level playing area. Continue reading

Jilly: Time Lock

time-lockDo you set yourself long-term goals? Do they inspire you?

In my personal and professional life, I’ve always been a pantser rather than a planner. I have a set of psychometric evaluation reports written about me more than 25 years ago that resulted in my setting a personal mission statement: to enjoy life and seek challenges. If I could track down the coach that helped me write that statement, I’d shake her hand. It’s as valid now as it was in 1990.

I don’t think I’ve ever set myself a concrete, specific long-term goal. I do think I’ve been good at recognizing—and grabbing—special opportunities when they’ve crossed my path. Continue reading

Nancy: WU UnConference Lesson 2: The Decoder Ring

Portals of the Past, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA

Portals of the Past, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA

Last week, when sharing some of the great wisdom imparted to me during the early November Writers Unboxed UnConference, I discussed the importance of theme as the heart of your book. This week, I’m going to discuss another essential element of your story: the decoder ring. Heart and a decoder ring. Makes sense, right? Er, perhaps I need to elaborate.

As Lisa Cron said many times during her workshops at the UnConference, when it comes to the story you are writing – the story your main character is telling – the character’s past is the decoder ring to the story. Quoting William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” OK, he wasn’t talking about your story or mine, in that case, but the famous line has been applied to the craft of writing by many writing teachers.

So how does this idea of the character’s past being part of the present-day story jibe with the admonition to stay in the now and not bog down your book with the dreaded backstory? Paraphrasing Lisa Cron, it’s not backstory that’s the problem; it’s poor usage of backstory. In fact, she argues, we not only want the pertinent parts of your characters’ backstories, we need them to understand who the characters are and why they react and behave the way they do. But how do you include backstory without throwing the reader (or the contest judge, in Jilly’s case) out of the story? Continue reading

Nancy: WU UnConference Lesson 1: Theme

There's an important theme in Law and Order SVU season 12, episode 3. Can you spot it?

There’s an important theme in Law and Order SVU season 12, episode 3. Can you spot it?

Okay, admit it. Your eyes rolled back in your head when you saw the word ‘theme’ in this post’s title, didn’t they? If so, it’s not surprising. Many writers, genre writers in particular – of which many of us here are – are often taught to disregard theme, at least in the early drafts. We’re told a story’s theme will emerge as we revise and dig deeper on later drafts, if indeed it need ever emerge. Who really needs theme anyway, other than your boring high school English teacher? After all, who wants a heavy-handed moral lesson or the author’s worldview shoved down her throat when she’s just trying to immerse herself in good fiction?

According to Lisa Cron, probably everyone.

As Cron discusses in Wired for Story, Story Genius, and workshops (for those of us lucky enough to attend one!), our brains are hardwired for story because story helps us decipher the world around us, and to discover ‘what would happen if’ without physically putting ourselves in harm’s way. In that way, stories are tied to our very survival as a species (sounds pretty cool to be a writer nerd now, doesn’t it?). Other cool things that happen to our brains on fiction are an increased capacity for empathy (through bonding with a protagonist and walking several miles in her shoes) and a willingness to challenge our own world views. And all that cool stuff happens because somewhere under all the scenes and character arcs and plot points and cause and effect trajectory, a story has a specific way of looking at the world, a message, a theme.

Instead of thinking about theme as some sort of moral imperative or high-brow statement to be made at the expense of good story, what if we think about theme as the beating heart of our story? Sound more appealing now? Continue reading