Write Your Way to Success Writing About What You Love

Time and again, I have heard teachers say, “Write what you know”. Well, what if what I know is not that interesting? I know how to make ice, but I wouldn’t write a whole column with step-outs on how to make ice. I might be interested in an ice maker, though. I also might be interested in writing about the different types of ice makers, but that’s about as exciting as watching paint dry. While it has benefits for those who are interested in buying an ice maker – and I am one of them – I cannot imagine spending a whole day or even weeks writing about ice makers.

What I can imagine spending a whole day writing about is something that I love.

I have been fortunate enough to love cars, as well as write about them. The same is true for my trivia books and my jewelry books. I love puzzles and games, and I have written crossword puzzles, word search puzzles and fill in the blanks puzzles. Most of those puzzles have been used to market a product, but the end result is I was able to write about something I love.

The benefits of writing about what you love:

  • You’re never out of ideas
  • You never get tired of coming up with new copy
  • You can talk for hours to a client about why you should write their copy
  • You never have to fake your passion
  • It doesn’t take much to get you excited
  • You want to write and write and write

I am sure there are many more benefits, but these are the ones that I run into daily, so I thought I would share them with you. I hope find something that you are passionate about and can spend your time writing and writing and writing.

AWAI helps people get started writing copy that can lead to you writing about the things you love. Here is a link to give you an idea of the programs they have available. 

Writers: Outlining Stories Made Easy

Okay, who am I kidding; outlining can be hard. I am in the middle of outlining a new novel that I already started with a very basic seven step outline, but I now want to expand. In the middle of writing it, I decided to switch genres, which is good for the novel and bad for me.

I found that outlining can be overcomplicated. I analyze too much, so some of my previous outlines got out of control as I spun the ‘what if’ wheel that caused my outline to be longer than the novel. I knew there had to be a better way.

Outlines are great for my nonfiction books, but hard for me when it comes to fiction. So, I had to really simplify it to only a few things. Here is a simple story outline example that I used and am using for my current novel/short story/novella:

  1. Hook – Married couple with conflicts
  2. Plot turn 1 – conflicts escalate
  3. Pinch 1 – Money is an issue
  4. Midpoint – they decide to get more money
  5. Pinch 2 – Greed becomes a factor
  6. Plot Turn 2 – They reach a point of no return
  7. Resolution – Greed wins

I found it best to use a short story outline template in order to write this book. However, like I said, it took its own turn while writing it, so I will need to modify my short story outline into something a little longer. The finished book will be around 250 to 275 pages, which is roughly between 250 and 300 per page.

When it comes to outlining stories, I found that if I apply the “Keep ISimple Stupid” plan, I am a better writer.  Too big of an outline stops me from creating, but with no outline at all, I am all over the place.

Outlining stories is easy if you remember that every story is simply a reaction to an event followed by a conflict followed by a conclusion. You can break out any story into a manageable outline, even newspaper articles by asking yourself: Who, what, when, where, how and sometimes why.  

How to write a quick outline in three steps:

  1. Lay out the key scenes and what they mean to the story. They do not have to be in order.  Many people have done this on index cards or sticky notes.
  2. Then start adding details to each scene.
  3. Move them where you want them.

Once you have the basics, then you can go in and add the details. There is more to outlining than just this, but for some of us, the K.I.S.S. method works best. Hope this helps you write your first outline. If you need more help or want to delve deep into outlining, then K.M. Weiland has books that will help you plot your course. Start with this one:

Is Kindle Publishing Right for Me?

This topic has been done to death by every blogger in the universe. So, why one more post? Because I’ve used Kindle publishing to publish my books, and I like it. Besides, I get to call myself an Indie Publisher by using Kindle Create to publish my book.

Seriously though, my books are all non-fiction, so that makes a big difference in the scheme of things. As a non-fiction writer, I can drill down on publishers to find the ones that fit the niche for my book. For instance, I write trivia and have a series on music trivia covering the top hits of the decade, which is considered pop culture. A lot of publishers cover pop culture. Since my books are based on U.S. pop charts, then I stand a better chance of getting them published if I limit my searches to U.S.-based publishing houses.

Those who write fiction books need to find a publisher in the genre of their choice. This is a little easier when you realize that many authors in your genre thank their agents in the acknowledgments and the publisher is on the spine and front pages.  If you decide to go the way of traditional publishing, the leads are there for you to follow.

Pros of Self-Publishing
You have total control over the outcome
You have total control over the outcome
Cons of Self-Publishing
You have total control over the marketing
You have total control over the marketing

I am not kidding about the pros and cons. 

Total Control over the Outcome–It means that you control every aspect of the editing, printing, formatting, delivery, and cover creation of your finished work. That sounds great on paper, but it adds a lot of workload to writers who only want to write.

If you’re not well-versed in editing (possibly using the Chicago Manual of Style or Associated Press Stylebook), then you might want to hire an editor. I usually do hire someone to take a look at my final manuscript before releasing a book. I am amazed at how many errors I make in the simplest of texts and editing is not my strong suit, but I hope to get better.

I also use Grammarly (an AI add-on to Word with a free version) to do at least one once-over before turning it over to someone to edit. At least then my errors won’t be so embarrassing.

I hire editors from Upwork, and there are many freelance writers doing gig work on Fivver who edit manuscripts. I have hired folks from both places and have been happy with the results.

Here are some links that might help you with the editing phase of your book:

Cover design is another part of the publishing process that you may need to hire out if you’re not proficient in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or Gimp. I do my own covers, and I buy my art from Creative Market or use my own photos as I did on my hiking Yosemite book. Both of my trivia books have cover art from Creative Market by the same artist. 

I will make this post a part of a series on Kindle publishing because this is a BIG topic with a lot of parts to it.

1950s Music Trivia
Think you can answer these 1950s music trivia questions?
1960s music trivia
Music trivia from the 1960s

Total Control over the Marketing–This is one of the most difficult parts of writing and publishing a book. If you thought writing was tough, wait until you start to market your book! Amazon gives us the ability to create ads from our published works. All you have to do is give them money, and they will place your books all over Amazon where they will be seen by people interested in the subject you write about. While that’s all well and good, if you have a niche book, you want to go outside to find places to advertise.

Your book might do well being advertised in traditional print magazines and newspapers, or as banner ads on blogs and websites, and other affiliate marketing bloggers. It may also do well as ads on Facebook and newsgroups all over the internet.

You will need to do a lot of research to find the right place to advertise your book since you know the intended audience. My music books would advertise well on music-related blogs or newsgroups, and my jewelry design book would do well on arts and crafts sites. The upside to ensuring that your books are being seen by the right audience is to do it yourself.

Another big positive about doing it all yourself is that it’s on your schedule and not someone else’s. If your editor suggests edits, then you can do them when you have time.

A great big negative is that there is no advance on future royalties sitting in your bank account. You must live on whatever your royalties are for your current sales. They are paid in real-time, so there is no waiting, but if you want a steady income, you have to move on to your next book as soon as you send the first one to the editor.

There is no get-rich scheme here. It is all hard work, and it can take years to write a book, but there is no reason you have to wait years to find out if the one you did write will ever get published. There is no shame in being an indie publisher, and even the big authors find it useful for smaller projects.

We’ll chat about some of the other finer points of self-publishing in the future. Until then, keep writing and get your manuscript ready for the world to read. 

Want to know more about Kindle? This book is a good place to start.

Writer’s Block Prompts

As we’ve discussed in the last blog post about writer’s block, writer’s block is tough to get around, and it happens to all of us.

For fun, here are some quick prompts that may get your creative juices flowing:

  • She stopped suddenly and looked up when she heard the tornado sirens begin to wail.
  • He ducked as a large insect missed colliding with his forehead. “What was that?”
  • There is a story in the newspaper about someone vandalizing gravestones.
  • Her missing cousin showed up 13 years later and had a story that was unbelievable.
  • She hung up the phone in disbelief. Who knew that she was a relative of …
  • He stared at the painting on the wall of his best friend’s living room. It looked like the original Mona Lisa, but that was impossible.

For even more fun, here are some things to ponder:

  • You just found out that you won the lottery. What is the first thing you’re going to buy?
  • You got an invitation to your high school reunion. What memories or horrors does that prompt?
  • You were looking at the stars in your telescope, and then you saw a bright object that you didn’t recognize. Who do you call?
  • Your neighbor hasn’t been seen for weeks. When is the last time you remember seeing him/her?
  • You see a boat on the horizon, and then it disappears. What do you do?
  • Your best friend calls you up to ask a favor; a big favor. Do you help them?
  • When you unload your groceries, you notice that you have a bag that doesn’t belong to you. What do you do?

Hopefully, there is something in these prompts that spins off an exercise that banishes the writer’s block.

If you still are looking for prompts, here are some of my favs:

How to Boost Productivity During the Holidays

Working during the holidays is always a challenge no matter where you’re employed. It’s especially hard when you’re self-employed. There are several tricks that businesses use to keep employees engaged during the holidays, so let’s translate those into things for us self-employed folks.

Time Management

This is particularly hard for the freelancer if you have a lot of projects going on at once. It always comes down to doing your best to make your time valuable. I wrote about wasting time here.

Daytimers and calendars are always a great way to keep your To Do and Task List handy. When you have a list of tasks at hand, you find that your jobs get done; you have more time, and you have a lot less stress.

If you prioritize your projects by deadline, you can get them finished on time, so you can move on to the next one. 

Get Plenty of Rest

Exhaustion will play a big part in getting ready for the holidays (or even vacations), and when you get enough rest, you can concentrate on the tasks you need to finish. We’re supposed to get seven or more hours of sleep a night. If I get less than eight, I get very foggy and cannot concentrate, which makes me unproductive.

Eat Right

Your mother told you to eat your veggies, and whether you like it or not, veggies help play an important part in our productivity. Here are some veggies and other goodies that can help you with dealing with stress that can impede your productivity:

  • Avocadoes increase energy.
  • Bananas boost your energy levels.
  • Carrots help improve memory and reduce stress.
  • Spinach reduces stress and helps your immune system.
  • Eggs are high in protein.
  • Dark chocolate is not a vegie, but it does wonders to lower stress and anxiety.
  • Nuts increase your metabolism and sunflower seeds help eliminate grumpiness because they are packed with amino acids that create serotonin.  

Caffeine is a good way to boost your energy, but it also increases anxiety, so use it moderately. Drink green tea to improve your focus. Water is an absolute during stressful times.

Meditate

While meditation may not be a part of your routine, it will help you if take a few moments every day to do deep breathing. It will clear the thoughts from your head and fill up your lungs with much-needed oxygen. This is something you can even do at your desk between projects, paragraphs or even words. You didn’t see me take those five cleansing breaths between the words projects and paragraphs, did you?Tai Chi is a great stress reducer! I have a friend who has written a great book on the benefits of Tai Chi. I can hug a tree! 🙂  It’s available on Amazon, but it’s also a Kindle Unlimited read, so if you have Kindle Unlimited, you might be able to read it for free!

Exercise

We all know the benefits of exercising whether we do it or not. I have a treadmill right behind me but don’t get on it every day as I had planned. I mean, how hard is it to roll my chair over to my treadmill and walk on a moving walkway? Apparently, it is more difficult than brain surgery, so count me out.

Really, you should at least walk around the house, water the plants, pet the dog (another great stress-reducing activity) and go outside for a moment.

Exercise increases endorphins, which trigger happy feelings and positive outlooks. A positive outlook is always a plus when it comes to productivity.

Treats

Besides dark chocolate, you should treat yourself from time to time. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It can be a half-hour reading or a night watching a movie. Just something that lets your brain unwind and get ready to be productive.

If you really want to go all out in your planning, then take the time to forecast your next year’s goals. Maybe you want to take a class or go on vacation, by writing them down, it can be a motivator towards greater productivity.

No matter how you handle stress, maybe these ideas will help you reduce some of your stress and make you more productive during the holidays and anytime you need a boost. 

5 Ways to Waste Time

I wrote that like it was a goal.
How can I waste more time?
​Hmm, let me think. Oh yeah. Puppies!

5 Ways to Waste Time

As it turns out, I don’t need help wasting time. However, there are a few time wasters that are not as entertaining as puppies but can be as time-consuming. Time management is hard, but if you’re going to be successful at whatever job or task you are trying to accomplish, you must manage your time wisely.

It doesn’t matter if you have a home office or you go to a job every day, here are some problems that you might face.

Multitasking

There is no such thing as multitasking. It’s been proven that people cannot do two things at one time. What we can do is more than one job haphazardly to look as if we can accomplish more than we can. It’s just not true.

When you try to multitask, you release the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol raises your blood sugar, which in excess tends to upset your sleep pattern, raise your blood pressure and ruin your mood. It’s the fight or flight response that causes the heart to race and fear to fester.

No matter how small the task is, it still diverts your attention from something else, just like watching puppies for a few minutes stops me from finishing my project. That also means I start and stop a lot.

Since multitasking is just moving between two projects, select the priority project and complete it before starting the second project. You will be glad you can mark something off your ‘To Do’ list.

Email

Checking your email is hard to escape from since it contains messages from your boss or your clients, and it can contain new orders or projects that demand immediate attention.

This is a hard habit to break because bosses demand answers right away, and customers want order statuses as soon as they hit send. Unless your entire job is to sit and monitor email, you probably have a lot of other pressing tasks at hand that need attention.

The best thing you can do is schedule your email time during the day. If you have free time in the morning, check the emails and follow through with them at that time. You can do this a few times a day, and by the end of the day, your email will be handled, and you’ll have less stress.

For those bosses who demand an answer immediately, see if your email client lets you set up an alarm or popup for those email addresses that must be answered.

Social Networks

This goes without saying, but I will say it anyway; Facebook is a time suck, as is Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram and any other social media site. According to reports, 3.2 hours a day are wasted checking these sites.

Unless your job is social media director or poster for your company, you should be able to get through the day without the latest ‘news’.

When weaning yourself off social media, don’t prohibit yourself from using the sites. If you do, you’ll end up spending more time obsessing over it because you’re depriving yourself of it. It works best to either set a time for when you can check the sites or just delete the shortcuts on your bookmark bar.

The harder you make it to get to social media sites, the less likely you are to go there unless you’re done working for the day.

Repeating Mistakes

If you make a mistake, did you learn from it? If not, you’re going to make the same mistake and spend the same amount of time fixing it again.

While the mistake may not be yours, many mistakes come from miscommunication; you still need to deal with it. If the mistake is something that came from another person, you might be able to address it with them, so it doesn’t happen again. If they are not cooperative, you can make a note and watch for it in the future.

Whether it’s your mistake or not, unless you recognize it the next time it happens, you’ll have to spend time fixing it again.

Disorganization

This is true for the desk you sit at, the room you work in or the office that holds the room you work in. if you have to hunt through papers or step over boxes to do your job, you’re not going to be that productive.

By putting everything in a place and keeping your desk neat, even when the rest of the room or office is not, you will waste less time by having your immediate area organized.

At the end of the night, put together your plans for the next day and pick up your desk. First thing in the morning, check your plans for the day and start working.

Time management is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard, either. You’ll be most successful if you work to keep your disruptions down during the day. Then you have extra time to watch puppies!

If you want to explore some time management secrets, this book might help.