Always Back Yourself For The Better

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out the Be A Guest Blogger page.

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Al. Thanks, Al!

Ever been stuck in a situation where you feel you have no control and no way out…?

When I first contacted Rachel about doing a guest post on her blog, my plan was to write about my journey into self-publishing. For the A to Z Challenge in April, I wrote a series of survival guides for a post-apocalypse zombie world… in haiku. Such a cliché, I know! As I was writing the posts, I had half a mind on potentially publishing them, depending on the reaction from my blog followers.

The reaction was positive. From some, REALLY positive!

Writing the haiku was the easy bit. I love writing poetry and short stories, mixing up a bit of humour with some darker themes, and throwing in some wider commentary on society and where civilisation is heading. (Following the best traditions of zombie writing, I used them as a cipher for a host of wider themes relating to man’s inhumanity to man, the environment, celebrity culture… anything really!) Looking back on them now, I’m really proud of some. Others may need a little tweaking 🙂

Then came a perfect storm of complications. I walked away from a (reasonably well-paid) job at the end of April. I left with immediate effect. No payoff. No income. No clue what to do next.

All thoughts of self-publishing went on the backburner. I had to focus on finding another job and poured my efforts into scouring the internet for potential work, completing applications, and following up leads.

It was exhausting, mentally. The way I had left my job meant that I was unsure how I would be received by future employers. I worried (incessantly) about the poor reference I’d be given, about finding another job before our limited savings were gone.

It also proved exhausting physically, as I became a full-time parent. Fortunately, my wife was able to extend her work hours to bring in some extra income, but it left me ferrying two young monkeys around on foot, to and from school and nursery, every day and entertaining them between times. I loved it, and loved the extra time with them, but without a car, it did involve a lot of walking around. (On days when I had to sign on at the Jobcentre, and pick both of them up, I would be out walking for the best part of a three hour stretch. On the bright side, I lost weight!)

When I did try and spend some time on self-publishing, I got completely lost in the question of how to format my manuscript. I had a clear idea of how I wanted it laid out, and wanted something high quality that I would be proud of, but my knowledge and skills were not up to the task.

It drifted. It’s still drifting.

I will get back to it at some point. I’ve installed Scrivener on my laptop and have saved a bunch of links to help me orientate with that software when the time’s right.

The job search paid off. I started back at work this last week. This job will be challenging, emotionally and personally, but the work is much more “me” than what I was doing previously. I have a chance to make a real difference to people’s lives. That’s what motivates me. This comes through in some of my poetry too, I think.

So, for those who have taken the time to indulge me here, what are the key takeaways from this? I’d suggest two things.

  • For your first self-publishing project, choose something you like, but don’t love. Use it as practice, so you don’t get bogged down trying to perfect something you don’t yet have the skills for. Learn, learn, learn!
  • Always back yourself for better. When I walked out of that last job, I had very real fears of losing everything… income, career, house… but I couldn’t mentally and emotionally handle what was going on, even if I had been able to survive the various plottings. Sometimes you need to have faith in your own abilities and do the best thing for your own emotional health. I got through it. You can too. You owe it to yourself. Always back yourself for better.

I’d love it if you stopped by to check out my work. You can find me blogging poems and short stories most days at https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/ . I plan on writing longer articles on blogging / writing on my website, along with my Dirty Dozen interview feature: http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/

I’m also on twitter @AlistairLane and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlistairLaneWrites 🙂

An Unorthodox Guide to Sparking Your Creative Juices

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out the Be A Guest Blogger page.

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Aidan Reid. Thanks, Aidan!

Inspiration can be found in the strangest of places, striking like a thunderbolt when you least expect it.

I was a self-help junkie when I was growing up. Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer – I listened to them all. I was also manic when it came to writing lists. While I was still a fledgling author with grand ambitions (not much has changed), I read from one such guru that you should carry a small notepad with you, ready to jot down a flash of insight at any moment.

It could be a new novel idea. It could be a clever analogy. It could be peculiar attributes of a character in your head inspired by the guy sitting across from you on the train. Yeah, the one picking his nose. Yeah. That’s him. Don’t stare!

The problem with our memories is that we have inbuilt erasers, unable to hold the information for very long before the practicalities of life soon seep in.

The famous inventor Thomas Edison, found a novel way for inviting more of these fleeting insights. During his frequent naps, he would sit upright and hold a steel ball in his hand. Directly below the ball would be a silver plate. Inevitably when he would drift off to sleep, his grip on the ball would relax and it would clang against the plate and wake him up.

Apart from annoying his long suffering wife with these strange habits, there was a method to the madness. Ideas could be reached when the conscious, critical mind was bypassed – reaching a place where ideas manifest in the subconscious.

I value my sleep FAR too much to consider this option. However, there have been moments where I’ve received flashes which have catapulted my own writing career into new territories.

The inspiration for my debut novel Pathfinders came when I read a book about Lucid Dreaming. Simply stated, LD is the ability to wake up inside your own dreams, and be aware of it. Suddenly the dream world takes on an exciting realism which mirrors your own day-to-day. Some dream pioneers (oneironauts) even suggest that the dream world feels even more colorful and exciting than anything we could even imagine.

I had my first lucid dream at twenty-two, shortly after reading the book, and it scared the hell out of me. So disturbed was I by this frightening vision that I began a decade long process of writing my novel which explored the danger of being sucked permanently into this state and not wanting to return.

Other avenues I’ve used for exploration when it comes to finding new ideas has been reading books across a wide range of genres. I’m working my way through the BBC Big Read Top 100 Books of all Time list. Ordinarily, I’d steer clear of anything to do with Romance, Westerns or Chick Lit, but because they are on the list and I’m determined to complete all the books in my lifetime, I’m being introduced to finer nuances and styles that don’t pigeon-hole me to a certain voice.

I’m also a big fan of getting outside of my comfort zone. I emigrated to Colombia from Ireland almost a year ago. Now 33, I’ve spent probably four years of my adult life traveling (usually solo) across the world. Visiting over fifty countries and interacting with thousands of backpackers en route, the stories I’ve heard will stay with me for life, fodder for new books and adventures still to be written.

A humdrum, corporate citizen for most of my twenties, sometimes the only thrills I could find between travel breaks would be to do something a little bit off the wall – bungees, skydives par for the course. Firing up my creative juices. Whether this unlocks parts of my brain that had perhaps hardened because of the monotony of the daily grind, I’m not sure.

But I’m certain that I couldn’t convincingly write about one of my character’s taking an ancient shamanic medicine in a Peruvian jungle, without having done so myself.

While inspiration can strike us at any stage – in the mall, at work, in bed at night – you have to be prepared to listen and act. Without taking action, there’s little reason for that voice to speak up again.

It could be calling and you don’t even know it.

Can you hear it? What’s it telling you?

AIDAN J. REID is a writer and freelance blogger originally from Cloughmills, Northern Ireland. His debut sci-fi thriller, PATHFINDERS, was released on March 1st 2016. Advance reviewers describe it as ‘Inception’ meets ’28 Days Later’.

Connect with Aidan

Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Writers Platform: Know Your Plan

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out the Be A Guest Blogger page.

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Charli Mills, which she discusses various plans for your writing career. Thanks, Charli!

A writer’s platform is a presence you create around your name as a writer and what you produce as a writer. It includes your name, what you write, how you write and who reads your work. Think of your platform as both a billboard and a launching pad. It advertises who you are and promotes what you do.

Why Bother with a Plan?

If a writer’s platform focuses on your name and writing, for what purpose do you want that publicity? Because that’s what it is – your platform brings media attention to what you do or who you are. It’s promotion for what you write or sell. Before you build, plan.

We all know that a goal is something we want to attain. Typically a plan maps out the journey with our goal as the destination. However, ask a writer, “Why do you write?” and you will likely hear responses beyond an observable and measurable goal.

I write because I have a story to tell.

I have a book in me.

I’ve always wanted to write.

I can’t not write.

I want to be the Hemingway of my era.

I love words. I really, really love words. And cats. But especially words.

For these kinds of reasons, writers believe they don’t need a plan. They simply need to write. Plans are for the writers who want to earn a living, sell books and develop a career. Yet, often even these writers don’t plan because it seems simple – write, revise, publish, sell, repeat.

However, any writer who builds a writer’s platform needs a plan in order for that platform to work. It’s like having all the components in a box that make up a bike. If you don’t follow a plan, you’ll have metal bars, screws, tires and handles that take you nowhere. Why do you have a writer’s platform? What is your plan?

Different Plans for Different Reasons

Writers need to know three plans: a business plan is for a product or service; a marketing plan is for promoting a product or service; and a strategic plan is for clarifying purpose or establishing priorities. These plans can help you build a writer’s platform to fit your needs, and you can have one or all three.

First, know the differences.

If you think of your writing as a profession, then think of it as a business. Your books will be the products. If you freelance, your writing contracts become your services. A business plan quantifies what you have to sell and how you will earn money. It’s what a bank would ask for if you took out a business loan. They’d want to know how you would pay it back.

Marketing is more than flying the “buy me” flag over your book or writing services. A marketing plan shows how the business plan will work (make money). If the business plan is based on you earning a specified amount of money per book sold or contract gained, then the marketing plan shows how you will be profitable.

The classic marketing plan is based on an ongoing cycle:

  1. Define your market (who will read your writing or hire you to write?)
  2. Query your market (ask what readers want or what companies need from a freelancer)
  3. Innovate (improve upon what exists in your market based on your queries)
  4. Set your price (what do readers or companies typically pay for what you write?)
  5. Distribute and promote (understand the marketing channels and promote within them)
  6. Evaluate (evaluate your writing, your books, your plans and understand market changes)

Your overall strategy, and your reason for having a writer’s platform, can be defined in a strategic plan. This is your map to the stars. A strategic plan requires a vision. Think of your vision as your northern star and use it to guide your planning over time. Businesses will often use a strategic plan to predict and adjust to a changing market. A writer can use it to give purpose to writing, to flesh out what that answer to “why write” means to you.

Take Time to Imagine Your Plan

While many businesses start with the business plan, I suggest writers begin with a strategy. Just like you need to daydream about what you write, you need to imagine your northern star – your vision. You’re a writer, so you can imagine with flourish. Go ahead. Think big.

Write about what success looks like to you in your vision. 100 different writers will each have different visions. Some see success as a packed book-signing. Others see it as satisfaction with a byline on a cover. Many picture a series. What else might your vision include? Teaching workshops? Living in a remote cabin? Traveling? Never having to leave home? Be detailed in your vision. Have fun with it.

Whatever you do, hold it up to this vision. Walk backwards from the dream outcome to find the path that becomes reality – the steps you need to take. Your strategic plan includes building a writer’s platform  that will connect you to your vision. If you see yourself successful with a published book and teaching classes, then start volunteering to tutor, or lead a local writers group. Build up experience that will take you to your north star. Make decisions based on how it fits your long-term strategy.

If you want to sell books, you need at least a marketing plan. If you are interested in crowd-sourcing or seeking a literary grant you need a business plan.

You can find templates online or through your local Small Business Administration. Now that you know what these plans are and why they are important to you, you can also alter any templates to fit what you are doing as a writer. Start with your vision. Hold onto that dream. Always.

You can visit Charli Mills on her social media:

Blog | Twitter 

Guest Bloggers Wanted

For the past two months now I’ve been saying that I have a lot of new ideas and features in the works for 2016.

I’m not going to reveal any of these features until January 1, 2016. However, I’m going to give you guys a sneak peek of one thing that’s to come only because I need your help with it.

Guest Bloggers Wanted

I would love to have some of you on my blog. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through WordPress. I probably have more friends on WordPress than I do in real life. What better way to showcase you guys other than through a guest blog post?

If any of you are willing, I would love to have people start guest blogging on here. If I can get enough people to guest blog, I would love to have it be a regular monthly feature for 2016 and the years to come after that. My plan is to have it be once or twice a month on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays.

Guidelines

1. Topics for guest posts may include, but are not limited to:

–Writing
–Editing
–Publishing
–Marketing
–Reading
–Blogging

2. Each article length is recommended to be between 300 words and 1,000 words. Be sure to give your article an appropriate title.

3. With your article, send me links to your blog and social media. Recommended, but optional: you may send a brief bio of yourself as well.

If you’re interested, please contact me using the form below. Thank you!