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By Sandra Rea
I am asked frequently how I keep writing every day or how an author can get un-stuck when they hit a creative roadblock when writing. The answer might be a little simpler than you think. Just write SOMETHING, I tell them. In all honesty, I get stuck, too, sometimes. At that point, I turn to something else and write a little bit on that other piece, which helps to stimulate the creative process and always seems to help me when I’ve returned to the first piece I’ve been writing. But that is not the only tactic I use.
One surprising thing I recommend for a stuck writer is to get up from her computer and get out of her head for a bit. Take a shower or bath, read a book, sit outside in the sunshine, take a drive, get a couple of errands done or just put her feet up and relax. Watch a favorite show on TV. All of these activities seem counterintuitive to the creative process, but they aren’t. In fact, while doing any of these things, a writer should keep a pen and notebook handy… especially when driving alone in the car. I get some of my BEST ideas during those drives.
Why does getting away from the computer help the brain be more creative? It needs rest, too. I’m blown away sometimes by how I can be sitting at the computer trying unproductively to come up with points for an article or trying to massage interview points into a business profile that is cohesive and makes sense only to find myself staring blankly at the screen, my fingers unwillingly to move. Then I get up and do something. Just for 30 minutes. I sit outside, water the lawn, plant some flowers, do laundry, clean the kitchen or run to the store. When I sit back down at the computer, my creative juices have been recharged and I get through the piece I am writing.
Okay, you say, that might be good for when you’re writing short pieces, but what about my book? How can I get un-stuck when coming up against a wall when writing my book? With every wall, there is a way around the wall. You just have to find it.
First, a book is an ongoing process. It’s mighty rare to hear that an author sat down and wrote an entire book in one sitting. I won’t say that for short books this isn’t possible, but it’s improbable. Otherwise, wouldn’t we all just do that? Second, writing a book starts with a plan, a story outline, character development, etc. A lot of writers type out their outlines and notes so they can refer to them when they get stuck in the writing process. Conversely, some very successful authors I know have a free-flow way of doing things. While they have their basic ideas about the plot, setting(s) and characters, they sort of just let the story happen over time. Sometimes they admit to being just as surprised as the reader is about twists and turns in the plots and the development of characters over the span of the manuscript. If you ask me, that’s sort of like life. One never really knows what’s around the next corner. Hopefully it will be exciting and memorable… and not too heart wrenching. However, there’s plenty of heartache in life. It’s all part of the grand story of our lives, right? Wouldn’t life be a bit boring without some of those up’s and down’s?
When you are writing a book, you’ll hit a few stuck points, especially when you have limited time every day in which to write it. The good news is that you live with your story in your head at all times. Your brain is working on the book even when you are not aware of it! When you sit down at the computer every day, read through your last few pages. That will help jog your creative mind toward taking the next steps. Then start typing. A lot of writing and being successful as a writer is in simply taking action. That’s like everything in life if you think about it. Nothing will happen if you don’t take action steps. As you’ve heard all your adult life, every journey begins with your first step. Baby steps, big steps and giant leaps. I guess what I’m saying is that if you want to have a finished manuscript, you need to keep taking action. Keep writing. Keep jotting down notes about your story and characters. Keep a notepad with you wherever you go, and keep one at your bedside. (I frequently wake with thoughts for a story that I want to remember, so I write the thoughts down.)
If you get stuck in your writing and none of the tactics I’ve presented help you, there’s one more thing you can try. You can play a few creative mind games. Word games are great. And there are some interesting creativity-enhancing card-based programs available to you online that might help get your brain on track. For my money, however, a short drive does the trick!
By Sandra Rea
Recently an author announced to me that she was going to start an online magazine just for the sake of exposure for her not-yet-written book. I immediately asked WHY? Why in the world would she start and then have to manage a magazine in hopes of getting noticed vs. contributing articles and interviews to other people's magazines, blogs, websites and publications? In a vast sea of online everything around books and writing, there are almost unlimited opportunities to be seen. For my time investment I would rather seek out appropriate and fitting online publications, blogs and social media platforms to which I could contribute my information vs. starting a magazine, which might sound to some like an easy task with today’s user-friendly software. They would be wrong.
Running a magazine, even if it doesn’t run off of advertising dollars, is a challenge. Ask my friend Andrew who runs a wonderful online publication for divorced parents. Oddly enough, the title is Divorced Parents online digital magazine (http://www.divorcedparents.co.uk/). If you are divorced and have something to share with the rest of the class, and you have writing skills, Andrew might just use your contributions. I contribute to his publication from time to time. I do not sell my books in an obvious way there, but I do get to include my book titles in my bio. I do not get paid to write for this publication, but I like the message of the magazine, and I will always contribute when I have the time. I wrote a book on divorce, so this is a fitting publication to which I should contribute.
That’s what I’m talking about here… contributing where it is fitting to what you have to say. But before you enter that realm, sit down with pen and paper. Answer the following questions before seeking to contribute to any publication (in no particular order):
If you ask yourself these questions and decide that you want to gain exposure through contributing to various publications, you will likely receive no pay for your efforts, but that’s okay. The exposure is pay enough if the publication allows you a little blip of a bio at the end. Do the editor and publisher a favor. Proofread your articles before submitting. Yes, the editor will catch things, but give them a leg up and cut back on the typos. I am sometimes bad at the final proofing, so I hired a third party to proof longer works for me.
As for WHERE you should contribute… that is up to you. Do your homework. You should at least be familiar with the publications, blogs and posting arenas. That way you will know the style of writing the editors want. I write in a friendly, forward manner, so my style wouldn’t fit well with a higher-level academic publication. I already figured this part out. I only contribute where it makes most sense and usually in response at this point in my life and career to an invitation.
Are you a busy executive, a business coach, life coach, business owner that serves a niche or a medical professional who has a lot of information in your head that would help general consumers, people in your industry, business owners and executives? Do you have an idea for a book that would help you reach your marketing objective? For example, you have climbed to the top of your profession and want to mentor those starting out in your business, passing on information that you wish you had known early on in your career? Or maybe you work with medical patients, providing them with a much-needed service or product. Sharing your story with them helps them and your business at the same time.
Would the book be a great gift to your new clients or customers? Would it help spread the word about your business, products and/or services? If you own a franchise, is the book something that could help you expand more easily, and could be something you would include in the buy-in and ongoing marketing for each and every one of your franchisees? (For example, they may have to buy a certain number of these books to give to their clients/customers.)
Truth is that a book can help boost your business in a lot of ways. Once you understand the objective with the book, you need to find the right story to share and hire a good ghostwriter to help you complete the book. If you are a decent writer and have a clear outline of what you want the book to achieve, you can write it yourself. However, if you are busy running your company, it’s often best to have someone else write it. The review and editing process will eat enough time as the book comes together. You will be plenty involved. Your opinion matters. Your input in needed.
If you are stubborn and like to burn the midnight oil, you can write your book, but for Heaven’s sake, be wise and hire a professional editor and a separate proofreader (or ask the editor to find a proofreader). Why you want the proofreader is because we all make mistakes. Even the best editors can miss things. The time to find those typos is before the book goes to the printer.
Printing costs can be high, dependent upon the number of pages, the type of cover, the colors used in the book, the paper stock and so on. You will also need a good designer. We offer all the services you need and will walk you through the self-publishing maze. In short, there are two ways to self-publish. Do you know what they are?
You also need the book to be in downloadable e-book format. There are a variety of ways to self-publish an e-book. In fact, doing so takes little time. Smashwords is an excellent resource for online publishing, and you can’t beat the price. It is free to publish, but you need the book in the right format. Smashwords gives you a wonderful tutorial. At the time of writing this, Smashwords does not support Amazon’s Kindle. They are working on it, and they do support Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Smashwords also supports other platforms. For Kindle, go directly to Amazon and publish through the Amazon system. Again, the price is zero, and your book needs to be in the right format. The system tutors you on what to do. You want your book downloadable from your website and any social media pages you have, too. Otherwise, it’s not a very good marketing device. Rather you aren’t getting all you can from it as a marketing device. We can guide your in self-publishing your e-boor or do it for you for a fee (dependent upon the type and size of your book).
Gather stories from clients, customers, other professionals in your field, people in your company and your own personal stories to help support what you say in your book. Nothing works better as a marketing device than strong testimonials. In this case long testimonials or shared tales of the effectiveness of your strategies. Testimonials in brief are wonderful mechanisms for your website and social media pages, too. Use them as graphic components. It is advisable not to have a separate testimonials page. That can be irritating to site visitors. For your website, try getting video testimonials.
This is just a taste of what you might do to expand your company’s brand. The purpose is to get your brain percolating a little bit more about a book you might write or have written by a ghost that will help you in your professional marketing goals. There are nontraditional means by which to market, and a book can be part of that effort. Ask us how!