Writer’s Journal: Sharing

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

WARNING: I will be mentioning my faith in this post. If you don’t want to read about it, you should consider moving on now.

Today I’m going to talk about something I’ve had on my mind a lot lately, and that is sharing other people’s work, regardless of genre. I’ve spent a large chunk of my time considering it, looking at it from all angles, and praying about it. In the end, I decided to go ahead and share books of all genres, and I’ll tell you why.

As you may already know, I am a woman of faith. I’m a Spirit-filled, born again believer in Jesus Christ who is learning to be Spirit-led. I’m also not at all legalistic, but I might talk more about that later. My point here is that I have spent a couple weeks now studying 1 Corinthians 13, and learning about love. God has shown me areas that I need to work on so he can increase my blessings, and love is a big one. Part of my problem has been that I’m afraid of doing the wrong thing, so I do nothing, and part of it has been worry that I’ll lose friends/readers/other people’s good opinion.

You know what, though? If I want those other authors to share my stuff so I can gain new readers, I have to play ball and share theirs, even if it’s gay romance. I don’t have to read it, and I don’t say, “You should read this” when I do share. I simply share without comment.

Also, I’m not supposed to be a people-pleaser. I’m supposed to be a God-pleaser. Sometimes, that means doing something that’s unpopular. Other writers (well, people in general) who are non-believers will not like all of my opinions and actions. Likewise, many Christians are not going to agree with or like things I say and do. The important thing to me is that I’m making God happy. I want everyone to like me, but in the end, it’s not important that some Christian with a checklist or some atheist, radical feminist doesn’t approve of me or my books or my behavior.

Then, too, who’s to say that my sharing something that I won’t or don’t read will not someday lead to that author coming to me and saying, “Hey, I know you’re a Christian but you still share my stuff and treat me well. Why is that?” If sharing a book release might open that door, I’d be in sin to refuse to share.

There’s this, as well: not all of my readers are believers in Jesus, and some have other tastes beyond what I write, and even beyond JAFF in general. Now, some of the more legalistic folks in JAFF, and I can right off the top of my head name three authors for sure and another who’s a probability, most likely have a problem with the idea of me sharing all manner of books. I’m guessing there are readers who share their dismay, as well. I don’t hold it against them, or condemn those people for their opinions, or for not sharing. That’s between them and God, just like my choice is between me and God.

In the end, though, I have prayed about this, and looked at what the Word says, and have come to the conclusion that God is okay with this. If I have missed it, He will tell me, and I can back up and try again.

I have peace about this, and I hope my readers will, as well.

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: Professional Development-Podcasts

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I did not leave Professional Development (PD) behind when I left the teaching field. First, I stared, as “WHAT!!!” clanged around in my brain for a while. Then, I deflated. Like a big, round balloon. Flat. Wilted. Heaving a great sigh, I picked myself back up, squared my shoulders, and cried, “Point me to it!” So began my journey to Writer’s PD.

The first PD I discovered was podcasts. This caused another groan, because I really don’t like videos and things. I get sucked into cat videos on Facebook and hate myself later. I just really love cats, and they get me every time. I finally, after decades, have a YouTube account. In my author name, not my real name. I discovered just last year that people actually go to that website, click a video, and just keep watching whatever comes next. I shake my head at these people, who apparently have no other form of entertainment. I don’t get it. But I digress. I don’t even watch many movies. The Nativity Story on Christmas Eve is often the only movie I watch all year. Except for a period of about twelve months in 2010/2011 in which I watched Pride & Prejudice ’05 every day and then a few months of daily Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens, I’ve never watched a lot of movies. It’s hard for something to hold my attention long enough to watch a movie. Now, a book I can spend hours reading. 😉

So, podcasts. The first one I discovered was The Creative Penn with Joanna Penn. I really like her and the information she shares. Not all of her podcasts apply to me, and even the ones that do are really long and frequently get cut off in the middle. *blush* However, I have learned a lot from her and her guests. I’d one day like to be as successful as she is.

The second podcast I discovered was the Self-Publishing Formula podcast with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. It seems like James is the one who does all the interviewing, but we get to see Mark at the beginning and the end. Again, the podcasts are very well done and very informative, and I have learned quite a bit.

Another podcast I have seen a few episodes of is Chris Fox’s. His show seems to be all on YouTube, and he covers everything from world building to outlining to things no one told you about being an author. His are blessedly short, which makes people like me very happy. 🙂

There are more podcasts out there, ones I have never tried. The Sell More Books Show comes highly recommended, and I think I should really try to listen to that one now and again. Another good one that I think I should try to catch more of is The Business of Writing. Craig Martelle is one of the guys on that show, and he always has good advice. Buffer, the social media scheduling site that I use, has a podcast. There are many, many more podcasts out there. It only takes a Google search to find them.

What are your favorite podcasts?

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: Self-care update

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

Here we are, at the end of January. Two days ago, I walked around the yard and noted the daffodils beginning to peek their heads out of the ground. Today, there’s something like six inches of snow. Needless to say, I’m unhappy about it, which leads me to this post.

A couple months ago, I wrote about taking care of ourselves, particularly as creative people. I, like many others, am susceptible to seasonal depression, and for the first time ever in my life, I have taken the bull by the horns and dealt with it instead of trying to ignore it, as I have done every other winter.

Here’s what I did, and how successful it’s been for me.

First, I recommitted to spending time with God every single day. Have I been successful? Largely, yes. I still find it impossible to spend that time before I go somewhere, but since I’m at home the majority of the time, I can get it in. For instance, I’ve been a week and a half getting that time in every day. This coming Saturday, I’m going to an RWA meeting, assuming it’s not snowing. So, Saturday, I will not get God time, because I have to leave my house at the butt crack of dawn to get to Cleveland before ten o’clock. However, I will pick it back up on Monday (I count church as God time on Sundays.)

Second, I began taking Vitamin D. Lots of Vitamin D. I started with one small dose, and when it didn’t seem to help, a friend suggested I do some research. Sure enough, I had to take big doses to get it to work. I currently take 2400 IU, 1200 in the morning and 1200 at supper. I was amazed at how well this worked. I feel very good most days, though I still have the down days. Often, I can tell if I have forgotten to take the D at supper. I always make sure I have gotten it in before bed, though.

Thirdly, I bought a diffuser and something like six kinds of essential oils. The diffuser runs via battery or USB. As I type this, it sits on top of the printer to my left, though it’s not currently running. This works pretty well, but not as dramatically as the Vitamin D. Also, the lavender scent, as much as I love it, plays a bit of havoc with my allergies, so I try to limit that one a bit.

Lastly, exercise. This is the one that has not been used much, sadly. As a matter of fact, I’ll even say it’s not been used nearly enough. I have a treadmill and paid for a tv upgrade to whole-home DVR.  I have not an excuse in the world for not getting on the thing, and yet, I don’t. sigh

In general, I can report that this has been the best winter season for me in years. Has it all been sunshine and roses? No. I have had hours and even days where I was paralyzed with depression. However, I now have a list of things that I can do to lift me out of it. I have trained myself to stop and think about that list instead of wallowing in my misery. It has made for a much easier and more productive season. 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: Updating Back Matter

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

In most books, mine included, there are “parts” to the book. I don’t know all the official names for things, if there are any, but I know they exist and where they belong. Front matter, story, and back matter are the three big parts I’m talking about. I want to focus on back matter today, because I spent hours updating it in two of my books.

The back matter is divided into four parts. One is a “call to action,” in my case, a note asking readers to consider leaving a review wherever they bought the book and giving a link to my mailing list sign-up form. The next is a short biography called “About the Author.” Then, I have contact information that’s over a page long. I make it super easy to find me. Haha. 😉 Finally, there’s a list of all my books.

Now, when I wrote I Promise To …, I had no other books, so the back matter consisted only of my bio and a couple contact links. When Lilacs and Lavender came out, my “more by” section was birthed. I played around with different formats for that with each successive book, but now I have settled on a format that I enjoy, and that doesn’t take up too much space. I have a list of all my books by category: Regency Single Titles, Westerns, The Darcy Marriage Series, Bundles, and Contemporary Settings. As I write more, I can simply add the new one to the bottom of the list in the appropriate category. And, should I write more series, or write sequels to books I already have, I can reorganize easily.

That being said, I have never updated the back matter, specifically the contact information and my list of previous titles (with links) in most of my books. Shameful, I know, but there you have it. Why not? Because it’s a big job. I could maybe make it easier by simply copying and pasting out of other books, but here is the problem I run into: when I make the new epub file, the last title in the lineup loses its centering and ends up left justified. I have no idea why or how to fix it, so I end up going to Books2Read and copying every universal link separately and then making a new hyperlink in my original document for each book … which requires adding “https://www.” to each one in order to make it work. I spent five hours today working on two books, so trust me: I know first-hand how time-consuming it is.

Some of you might be wondering why I need to update that stuff anyway. Here’s the reason: if a new reader buys a book, let’s say Promises Kept, and decides she wants more of my books, what does she see? Two measly titles, with no links. What if she would love to follow me on Instagram? I wasn’t on that social media site back then. If she didn’t know how to search the site or didn’t have time to search for me, or if she found a dozen Zoe Burtons, she might give it up, and I would have lost a follower. Since social media is a great way for me to stay in touch with my fans, I’d have lost out on an excellent opportunity to build a relationship.

Then, there are the book links. I had given them up for a year or more, because I didn’t know about universal links and didn’t want to take the time to make four or five different versions of my ebook to comply with vendor requirements of “no competitor links.” Since then, I have learned about and used universal links. I discovered today that all of them have been used recently, with a large number going to Apple or Barnes & Noble. That was a pleasant surprise, and I had to wonder how many sales I have missed out on in the last year or so by not having the links.

So, one of my projects this year is to update the back matter in every book. It’s the best way I have to be sure my fans can find both me and the rest of my books.

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: Making Covers, Part 2

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

The most important part of a good cover is, in my opinion, the image. It’s what draws a reader’s eye. The image a writer uses on his or her cover should match the genre in which he or she writes. If it doesn’t, a reader might reject the book, thinking it is not going to tell a story the reader is interested in. I know what you’re thinking. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This is true, but … it happens in bookstores every day. 🙂

Here’s an example: I prefer to read Regency romance. I read other romance sub-genres, but Regency is my favorite. If you go to Amazon or any other bookseller and look at the covers of Regency Romances, you’re going to see a lot of ladies in colorful gowns. Sometimes, she’s paired with a bare-chested man (sadly, none of those bare chests have hair; they don’t keep my interest for long 😉 ) and sometimes, her dress is falling off. However, she has a dress on that is reasonably close to a Regency-era gown. The ones that catch my eye are the purple ones, because that’s my favorite color. For someone else, it might be the ladies in the blue dresses, or the yellow ones, and for some, as long as that girl has a dress on, that reader is going to check the book out.

If you go to Amazon’s Kindle Store and look up Urban Fantasy, you see a bunch of covers that are colorful. Just about every one of them has one or more people, and the people look like paintings (for lack of a better word.) Most have the person or people doing something: holding orbs or a sword or something. If you are a reader of urban fantasy, you’re going to know just by looking which books you want to check out further, and which look like they don’t belong.

My own covers, as I’ve said before, are probably done all wrong. I’ve so far not gathered enough courage to ask for expert opinions, though I know of a Facebook group I could join to do that. I figure I’ll wait until it’s warmer out and I’m more sure of being able to handle the criticism. 🙂

My Regencies all have an image that is the shape of a heart made of something or other (feathers, flowers, etc.) with an empty center. My background is white, and my name is always purple and in a specific font. My titles are all in a specific font, but the color changes to match the heart.

My two contemporary books, my Pride & Prejudice & Racecars books, have that same white background, but they have a guy in a firesuit and carrying a helmet on them. On each book, there is an image of a different track, but they’re not real race tracks. They’re computer generated images that I purchased. My name is still at the bottom, in a white strip, in the same font and purple color as I use for my Regencies. The titles of the books are in the same font as my Regencies and have a color to match the image. I used the same guy for the first two books, because he’s at the center of both stories.

The cover for the Western that I hope to release this week is designed similarly to the contemporaries. I have an image of the town in the background, and a cowboy in front of it. The title is in the same font as always, in a matching color to the background image, and my name is in the same font as always and in purple.

But wait, you say. Go back and look at your first paragraph. Do all JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) covers look like yours? Nope, they don’t. There’s a huge variety of covers in my genre. Some people use Amazon’s Kindle cover thing to do their covers. Some people hire professionals. Some people use flowers on their covers. Lots of folks have people on theirs. Some folks use art from the Regency or Victorian eras. My first book, its sequel, and the bundle of the two that I put out last summer have images that came from a greeting card or something from long ago. The Victorian era, I think. And, my second book, the only all-purple cover I have, has an image of a pot laying on its side with lavender spilling out. (It was after my third book that I began doing my own covers.)

Does this variety mean that I can just slap whatever on my book and know it will sell? Absolutely not. There are books that I pass over even in my genre, because the covers do not attract my attention. I’m sure there are other JAFF readers who do the same, though admittedly, JAFF readers tend to be voracious and not care as much about what’s on the front of the book. 🙂

So, next time you go to buy a book, pay attention to the covers you’re drawn to and the ones that repel you. You might be surprised at what you discover. 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: Making Covers, Part 1

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

Covers are a vital part of a successful book. It’s always best to get a pro to make your covers, but some of us like to do things ourselves. 🙂 My covers break every rule of graphic design, I’m sure, but I like them. I get compliments on them quite often, and I have a clearly recognizable brand that allows readers to find my books easily.

There are lots of programs people use to make their covers. There’s Photoshop, of course. It might be the most popular. There’s a program called paint.net that I have, though I’ve not tried to make a cover in it. It’s a free download and is very similar to Photoshop, which I also have and am slowly learning to use. There’s a program called Gimp, and another Adobe product—at least, I think it’s an Adobe product—called InDesign. I know of people who make ebook covers in PowerPoint, and possibly some who make them in Word. There are online sites, like Canva, which is what I use for making ebook covers. Canva’s basic thing is free, though you have to pay for some of the “elements” that you might use. So far, I have always used my own images, ones I’ve found that are free for commercial use online or paid for, or, in some cases, taken myself, and the free elements in Canva. One of my friends has the paid version; I know that she can do a little more than I can with her version, but I’m not clear on what. I do know that she has started making her print covers in Canva, as well.

Speaking of print covers, there are a couple ways to do those, too. I have a Word document that I use, but the same basic options exist for print covers as for ebook covers. They can take a bit longer, and be more complex, because there are different things you have to consider, plus they’re like twice as big. If one uses Createspace to make their print books, they have a template you can use. My friend who has the paid version of Canva takes the template and uploads it, and makes all her covers in Canva now. I don’t like to wait until the book is finished to make the cover, so I keep on using the Word template. 😉

Like everything else involved with self-publishing, there are numerous aspects to cover-making. Today’s journal entry “covers” (see what I did there? 😉 ) just a small aspect of it. I had originally intended this to be the only journal entry about covers, but as I wrote, I realized that one post would be too long. So, keep an eye out for more! 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: Nurturing Creativity in Difficult Times

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

This is a difficult time of the year for many people, myself included. I made it past the anniversary of my mom’s death on December 7th and did well for a couple weeks, but the reality of Christmas then hit. I won’t go into the whys of it; the reasons don’t much matter, and I’m not certain they would make sense to anyone but me, anyway. 🙂

Difficult times like this often take a toll on creativity. You sit down at your computer or design table or sewing machine or what have you, and then freeze. You don’t know what to write/draw/sew/design. You try, but your efforts are half-hearted at best. The quality might still be there, but it’s a struggle to produce the little you manage. Neither your mind nor your heart is in it, and it frustrates you, because you know what you’re capable of, and it’s far more than you’re currently producing. Sound familiar to anyone?

In the past, before I was a full-time writer/author/entrepreneur, I would have just let the writing go for a few days. I suppose I have at this point, as well, but this time it’s only for a weekend. 😉

In a previous post about self-care, I shared my plans for the end of 2017 and the first eight months of 2018. Some of the things I intended to institute did, in fact, become a regular reality in my life. Some I’m still working toward making permanent, and some just flat out never got accomplished. At least, not yet. I get my God time now, though it still does get put aside if I have to go outside of my home on any given day. I often get exercise, though not as regularly as I need to. Sometimes I meet that writing goal of 1,700 words a day and other times I don’t.

I have added to this list in the last two or three weeks. It’s now winter, of course, with its accompanying short days and limited sunlight. We’re in our second or third snowfall of the season and I, for one, am thankful they weren’t worse than they were! With limited sunlight comes seasonal depression, and to combat it, I have added large amounts of Vitamin D to my diet. Surprisingly enough, it helped right away. This vitamin is fat soluble, so I have to be careful to eat enough fats while I take it. My friend told me “healthy” fats, but I figure fat is fat, right? 😉 Seriously, though, I am trying to eat good fats and not bad ones. I just had to tease. 🙂 

I have also begun teaching myself to type while on the treadmill. This will give me the exercise I need, both for general good health and muscle tone, and for uplifting my spirits and boosting my creativity. The slowest my treadmill will go is one mile per hour, but in five minutes, I was able to write 150 words. I was shocked about that! I hadn’t expected nearly so many. It’s my understanding that I can type on a book manuscript from within Google Drive, so I’m going to keep the tablet and tablet keyboard charged up and type on that. I’d use the laptop, but the R key doesn’t work anymore. Not sure why.

My final addition, at least so far, to my routine is the use of essential oils and a diffuser. I researched which oils help ease depression and boost creativity, and bought those. I haven’t tried them all yet, but I can tell you I love the scent of jasmine! <3

I am taking a weekend off. As I write this, it is Christmas Eve Day. I plan to finish this, schedule the post and the Thursday’s 300 one, and then pop The Nativity Story into the DVD player. (I’d normally watch in the living room, but I can’t see the dogs leaving me alone to watch down there, so I’ll probably watch it on the laptop. I’m hoping next year the baby will have settled down enough that we can all sit together on the couch without it being a big production. 😉 ) I’ll watch the movie, then read the story as told in Luke 2 and prep the turkey for the crockpot. Tomorrow, I’ll probably read a bit and then eat and surf the net for a while. I might do some work—work like this that’s not so creativity-intensive. Tuesday morning, I’m going to be back at work and giving it another go. 🙂 

I guess what I’ve tried to say with all this is that if you are struggling with being creative this month, know you’re not alone. Take it easy on yourself. Give some of my ideas a try, if you like. Just know that it’s not permanent, and soon you’ll wake up one day and churn out words like the world was going to end if you didn’t. 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: My 2018 Writing Goals

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

I hesitated to write this post. It took a lot of thought and a little persuasion from a friend to do it. I’ll tell you why after I share my goals.

One of my goals is to advertise more. I have applied to KOBO for a couple of their promotions, and I have a couple Amazon ads already running. I will add more Amazon ads, that’s a certainty. I also hope to be chosen for the KOBO promotions I have applied for, and to run at least one per month. I’m going to push other platforms hard, because, as I think I have said before, I don’t want to rely on one retailer to earn all my money from. I want to grow non-Amazon sales, and the best way to do that is to advertise on those sites. I’m going to look into promoting my books on iTunes, as well.

Another goal is to get my website up and running. Currently, I have a blog, though I did upgrade it, thanks in part to my Patreon patrons and in part due to a Black Friday web hosting sale. 🙂

A third goal is to increase traffic to my Gumroad store. I am currently running a 50% off sale with a coupon code and traffic is the highest it’s ever been. With traffic will come, hopefully, sales.

My main writing goal this year is to write a lot of books. This is the part I hesitated to share. Now that I have proven to myself via my NaNo participation that I can still write a novel in a month, I intend to do it every month for the rest of my life. So, my writing goal for 2018 is to write ten to twelve books. Now, to explain why I hesitated to share this part.

One of the criticisms of prolific writers is that they’re not good enough. “She should have taken more time to write it.” “It feels rushed, because she’s so prolific.” And my favorite: “You can’t write a good book in less than <insert favorite time period—a year, six months, a decade, etc.>”

Perhaps, if I were trying to write literary fiction, like Jodi Picoult or Margaret Atwood, then yes, a novel a month might be too fast. Then again, it’s not like I write them and no one sees the rough drafts. I have readers, and I have to edit just as much as anyone else does. My purpose, as I have stated ad nauseam, is to entertain people. I’m not out to win awards.

In order to put out a novel of 50,000 words, I have to write a minimum of 1,667 words a day. Some days, like Sundays, I can’t. My new word tracker allows me to weight some days more than others, and I have to. Sundays count as 25%. However, that makes my minimum number of required daily words to rise. Currently, it’s at around 1,870 words per day for the rest of the month, because I have not only had to count a few days as less, I didn’t make the minimum amount for several days.

Writing those 1,870 words might also take four or five hours, depending on how needy the dogs are. Now that it’s winter and we are getting snowed in (as I write this, we’re expected to get ten inches of snow in the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours,) they need my attention more because they can’t—or won’t—go outside for long. Feel free to imagine the look on my face, brow raised and one eye practically squinting, as I give the younger dog the evil eye while I wrote that last sentence. 😉 So, it’s not like I’m cranking out 10,000 words a day and my novels are epic. I work hard for every word written, and some days they come vvvveerrryyy ssssslllloooowwwwlllllyyyy.

Still, I know I can do it; I received verification that I can during NaNo, and I intend to do it. Who knows, maybe I will challenge myself to write longer novels in a month. 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: Lessons from NaNoWriMo

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo! And, I did it Thanksgiving weekend. Black Friday, to be specific. I’m pretty proud of me! 🙂 

I learned a few things this time around, and I thought I’d write them down here and share them, in case someone reading this post might find them helpful.

Lesson One: Rewards and a word tracker are highly motivating. The NaNo site has badges that a participant can earn, both for the number of days in a row you have updated, and for word count goals. The first day, as long as you have written at least 1,667 words, you get two badges: one for word count and one for posting your first update. As of the day of this writing, I have earned nine out of ten writing badges. I have earned all five available participation badges, and fifteen personal achievement badges. Most of those that I didn’t get were because they didn’t fit me (for example, I have had to do no secret novelling and am not a plotter) or they were for things I’d have attended if I didn’t live out in the middle of nowhere with no-one else around who was participating, but couldn’t attend because of time and/or distance. As I said, these badges motivate me. I have met the 50,000-word limit but am still writing and updating, partly because the story is not finished and partly because I want that last badge, the “updated for thirty days in a row” one.

The second part of this is the word count tracker. On the NaNo site, it’s a bar graph. As you can see from the screenshot, at the beginning of the month, I was behind. Then, about halfway through, I caught up. At that point, I was (please excuse the expression) balls to the wall and determined to finish early. You can see the results in the way my bars go over the line long about the 21st. The only thing about this is that, once you reach the 50,000 words, your lines are all the same length, they’re just above the line. 

So how did this motivate me? I have a huge competitive streak, though I generally keep it hidden. Situations and activities such as this bring it out in me, and I find myself unable to resist the pull of beating the line. That being said, I had begun keeping track of my words written (all of them, not just NaNo words) on a paper calendar. Then, I found, in a writer’s group, an Excel spreadsheet that goes from November 1, 2017 through the end of 2018 (pretty sure it goes all the way through). It adds up your words weekly and monthly. I love seeing those numbers, especially the weekly and monthly counts. I can probably turn that into a graph at some point, and I intend to try.

That being said, I did a search for word count trackers, and found several. Many are set up to share your progress on your website, but the one I found didn’t appear to be, which is fine. I have no pressing need to share that information with everyone. 😉

The one I went with was WriteTrack. You can create “challenges” there, and set the word counts and dates to what you want them to be. So, you can set it for 100,000 words and thirty days or 50,000 words and sixty days—or any other combination! You can also set it to use or not use NaNo word counts. You can make your challenges public or private, and can allow your friends to see or not see your progress. (I’m ZoeB there, in case you want to be my friend. 🙂 ) I have set a challenge for December. I’ll try to remember to update you all on my success. I’ll also look around and see if they have graph-making abilities in there.

This post is getting long, so I think I should move on to at least one other lesson I learned, and that is: writing sprints work! I had done sprints before, with mediocre results. I took a class last month (October) on how to write fast, and discovered that I already had most of the tools we learned about in place. Sprints, however, were not. When I began NaNo, I had a Christmas book to finish writing, and the NaNo one to write. I began to use sprints as a way to work on both books. I discovered right away that sprints are a fabulous tool! I mostly did 20-minute sprints the whole month of November, though to catch up, I did a few days of 30-minute sprints. Sprints help you focus, because you have only so much time to write and only a few minutes to do it in. I got variable results—depending on where I was in the story and how well I had visualized it in my mind, I wrote between 450 and 850 words per sprint—but I was able to schedule four to six of them per day, which landed me as many as 5,143 words in a single day. I didn’t get bogged down in “oh my word, I have two more hours to write!” and I could take time to do some quick research or jot down some story guidelines without guilt. I even got some social media time in there!

There were more things I learned from NaNo, probably enough for a whole second post, but I’m going to limit it to this for now. I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo as a way to jump-start a better method of managing my days, and it has worked wonders. My self-esteem is up, as well as my productivity, and it’s a good feeling.

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Writer’s Journal: A NaNo Update

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

I wrote last week about what NaNo is and how I’m participating. I can happily report that I am buzzing right along with it. I thought I’d journal a bit about how I managed it.

One of the big things I had to stop and do before I got very far into the story was to review my research. Not only that, I had to go a little deeper into the history of Bodie, California, the ghost town that is the setting for my NaNo story. I took an afternoon and immersed myself in a video about it, maps of the area, and images. Most of my research material comes from a friend who visited two years ago and shared her stuff with me. She also clued me into the video.

Now, I have looked at this stuff all before, or most of it, but some of it was two years ago, and the most recent was three months ago, when I used Google Earth and some more in-depth searching to locate the train station in the town. When one is pantsing it to begin with, one really does need a thorough and recent immersion in the research. Just sayin’.

Once I had taken those two or three hours to refresh my memory and add sticky notes to the map with various locations I intended to mention in the story, the words began to flow like water.

The second thing I learned is that writing sprints are incredibly helpful. I can’t really explain why. I have always enjoyed taking three or four hours, or even a whole day, and doing nothing but write, but here I was, a full-time author, and I had nothing to say. It was scary, let me tell you!

Oh! I forgot to clarify; let me do so now. A writing sprint is where a writer sets a timer (in my case 20 to 30 minutes) and types. He or she puts words out, without paying attention to spelling, grammar, word choice, etc. Here I must confess that I still pause to look things up on occasion. *blush* However, I don’t worry so much about most things. It will mean more editing later, and I hate that, because I’m a “do it right the first time” kinda girl, but I’m much more productive this way. So, I suck it up. I can write, in a 30 minutes sprint, more than 900 words. I’m easily reaching 3,000 words most days, and am nearly caught up to where I should be. I anticipate actually exceeding that point by the end of this week, and being finished with the book just before Thanksgiving. <3

I won’t stick to 30-minute sprints, I don’t think. At some point, probably once I catch up, I’ll go back to 20 minutes. I’m doing four to six of these a day, and that extra ten minutes, while incredibly helpful, also takes away from the chunks of time I need to perform other tasks.

The sprints have helped me make a better work schedule, as well. I’m able now to do “periods” like I did when I taught high school, and assign each period a task. I have included exercise in one period each day, and editing in one. There are others, of course, but those are the big ones on my mind right now. 🙂

Those are the two biggest things I have learned this time around doing NaNo. My timer has joined my research notebook as being my most valuable tools. 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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My Gumroad Store     Me at Austen Authors     My Patreon Page

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