Smart Tip: Set a Timer to Write

Making Time to WriteI just began to implement a new way to make sure I write for a certain number of minutes a day. There is a free downloadable timer you can use by clicking here: Online Stopwatch.

Set it for even 15 minutes to make sure you write with focus consistently every day.

When I set it for any length of time I can fully commit to, then I will not let myself be interrupted by emails, phone calls or other distractions. This keeps me on task and more productive.

If you find this helpful or have another strategy you use to keep yourself on a consistent writing schedule, then please comment and share.

Improve Your Writing with Chicken Soup

Write in a JournalThere are moments in our life where we are completely present and aware of all that is happening to us, and around us. Sometimes those moments are over a bowl of chicken soup, an American staple for nursing someone back to health, or warming your body on a cool day.

Either way, chicken soup, especially the homemade kind, can bring you into the moment and allow you to be in touch with all of your senses. Feel the warmth of the broth slide down your throat and reach the top of your belly, the taste of carrots melt away into your mouth, and the smell penetrating the kitchen, and causing your taste buds to salivate.  (Pass the crackers, please!)

During my own adventures of improving my writing and getting better at my trade, I’ve found that being present in the moment is a surefire way to write with real intention.

Most of us skip through our days without having a single thought that we can remember or a moment that we can hold on to. When we are present to the moments in our day, they become etched in our memory and allow us to recount those experiences on the page.

The woman sitting across from me intent on her computer, a pierced bottom lip, and a swirling tattoo on her left shoulder. I can see a character within her, I can imagine her life, I can see her magnificence. She then becomes an expression of creativity through me. Stopping along the way to find the moments, the pieces, or the seconds we can incorporate into our writing, we improve by becoming present to the things around us.

While you may not consider yourself a writer, being present can improve your life in all areas, not just with the pen.  Try it for yourself. Oh the pleasures of presence.

Tackling Your Muse – When it’s Time to Hunt for Inspiration

Writng Where is she? That wise, creative energy that is eluding me? Where is my muse? The one who gives me ideas and makes me jump out of bed in the middle of the night. The one who keeps me drinking cold tea, filling my head with ideas in the shower, or the one who keeps me from the shower when she’s around. She’s escaped me, she’s gone away. Muse – oh muse, come back here.

This may be exactly how you feel right now. Like your muse has temporarily left you. Life is busy, with holiday parties, obligations, commitments, the to-do list, laundry, shopping, and more laundry.

The muse has escaped.

Or maybe- just maybe she’s abandoned you, because you’ve abandoned HER.

This is more like it.

If your muse has left, and if you are itching to create, yet have a bazillion things to do and even more junk twirling around your head than you can even remember – now is the perfect time to bring out your big guns and go hunt that muse down.

You see, your muse is what keeps you writing. She (or he) is what keeps you creating. She’s the idea maker, the source of inspiration. She comes and goes and hardly ever when we need or want her – she’s usually on her own time and doing her own thing. She’ll swing by in the middle of a conversation with a friend, she loves to hang out in the shower, or even around the kitchen sink over a pile of dirty dishes. But she absolutely abhors the computer, or journal, or any other capturing device. How clever she is.

She’s elusive. She’s sneaky. Yet, she’s pure genius. It’s a love-hate relationship we have with our muse. More love than hate of course. Except when an impending deadline is looming and she’s nowhere to be found.

So I say it’s time to tackle her, sit her down and have a talking to with her. In order to do this, you may need to go for a long walk, take a hot bath, or visit an art gallery.

The key here is you must SEEK her to find her.

She’s a lot like Santa Claus. She knows when you’ve been creating or not, and she knows when you’ve been avoiding her too. She hides when you want to see her, and appears when you aren’t paying attention or after you’ve fallen asleep at night.
But enough is enough. Just go get her already.

Maybe it’s time to write her a note, and ask her to play more. Thank her for all of her hard work and dedication over the years. Perhaps buy her some flowers and chocolates, and turn on some of her favorite music.

Oh Muse- Come out, come out – wherever you are.

She loves attention, in fact she hates when she’s not the center of it. The more you ignore her, the more she’ll ignore you. Take THAT, she’ll say. Just when you need her the most.

She likes to play hard to get. She’s wants you to want her. And if she thinks you don’t care, she’ll move on, she’ll find someone else to entertain and inspire. She’ll sulk in a corner and give you the cold shoulder…until you beg her to come back.

So…are you asking your muse to come and play, or have you been wishing her away?

Leaving a Legacy Through Writing a Book

Mom and daughter reading a bookWriting and Publishing a book is one of the most satisfying goals I have achieved. I strive to make a difference in this world today but also leave a legacy when I am gone. My books and their messages will continue to be available not only for purchase but for impact and influence even when I am no longer living.

My first book, 8 Strategies For An Extraordinary Life, was published in 2005. It is a short 37 page book, which makes me laugh and wonder if it even qualifies as a book! But the simple act of writing it and completing it and publishing it was a huge step for me. I needed to start somewhere and finish it so it wasn’t just another dream that faded away.

The whole purpose of that first book was to leave my daughters something tangible that their mother completed and dedicated to them. For some that might be art, craft or collection of some sort. For me, I wanted a book. My daughters can say, if mom did it, I can too!

In fact, one of my daughters wrote a novel in her early teens with about 300 pages that is really good. When I read the draft, I thought to myself, where did a book like this come from? How did I raise a daughter that could write so well?

Then it hit me, she saw me writing as she grew up and so she wrote because she knew if I could do it, she could too. She has watched me write two more (much bigger) books since that first little one, and she now wants to co-author one with me. Wow, the ripple effect continues!

Even if you do not have children, your book can have a wonderful positive impact on readers. It is an amazing feeling when someone contacts me because of my story in Speaking Your Truth. I know I have touched a few others with the feeling that they are not alone.

If there is a feeling inside you that you have something to say, and if you want to hold a book in your hands that you wrote and published, then seize the moment and commit to writing that book! Andrea Costantine  and I have paved the way to making that happen even more quickly and smoothly than ever before with our guidebook, How To Bring Your Book to Life This Year.

You probably have more to say than 37 pages! Share your experience, entertain and uplift your audience and leave a lasting legacy to your family and friends and any reader that you touched. Let your book be a gift that can keep on giving during your lifetime and after you are gone.

Please comment and share your thoughts on leaving a legacy through writing.

When is the best time to market your book? Uh – Now!

Money and booksIt’s one of the most common questions I hear from my writers and authors that I meet – When should they start marketing their book?

My answer is always the same.

I hate to break it to you, but NOW, now, now, now. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only written the first paragraph or you are almost to print – if you haven’t started to market your book yet, then you need to start today.

Next, I get a load of buts.

But, I’m still six months out from being in print.

But, I’m still writing.

But, I need to finish this (chapter, cover design, my sister’s wedding) first.

But, I don’t know how.

But, I don’t have time.

Let me share this with you, there’s nothing worse than working on your book for a whole year (or more) and then launching it to VERY minimal results.

Now is the absolute best time to start, no matter where you are in the process – writing, editing, proofing, or printing.

People need and want to hear a buzz about the book. You want them drooling and clamoring over grabbing a copy on the release day. You want them waiting to whip out their credit card and make that order.

Next question I get asked….

But, how LONG of a time do I need to market my book?

That depends. Minimally I would say six months. Ideally even 9 months… absolute worst case scenario three months.

My question back to you is, how important is getting your book out there and having it be successful right off the get-go?

The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

If you’d like to know more about a book marketing plan, check out our book called How to Bring Your Book to Life This Year: An Exploratory Guidebook on Writing and Self-Publishing.  

The Author Bio: Six Important Components

Author BiographySo we’re writers, right? Which means throwing together a few sentences about ourselves should be no big deal, right?  No?

Damn.

So I’ve been working on that little thing called an author bio. You know, the thing that goes on your website/blog and eventually if you’re published, in your book. It’s only a few sentences but it’s supposed to tell your reader something about you and hopefully make you seem…well, that’s one of the issues.  How do you want to appear?  Likeable? Intelligent? Worldly? Funny? Mega-super-important?

What image are you going for? What best conveys who you actually are?

To start this process, I went and looked at some bios of other authors. For those that were multi-published, award-winning, well-established, the bios were often pretty dry. Mostly consisting of what they had published and the accolades attached to that. Well, if we’re not at that point yet, what exactly should we put in it?

Based on my very unscientific research, here are the things that stood out in the best bios:

1. The author seemed relatable.

This can be something simple–they drink a lot of coffee, have a pet, like 80s music, whatever. It makes you realize, oh they’re just another person like me.

2. A touch of humor

This is a biggy for me. I love an author to have a sense of humor in their bio. Now, if the person is writing serious literary fiction about genocide or something, maybe that’s not so fitting. But in general, I think a little wit and humor goes a long way.

3. Some personal history

I like to know what a person was doing before they became a writer. Did they have other careers? Where did they go to school? This gives me more of a sense of who they are. Someone who majored in math is probably going to be very different from someone who majored in art history.

4. Said where the author lives (even if that’s vaguely stated)

I don’t know why, but for me, this is something I want to know. For instance, if the person lives in Texas or Louisiana, I already feel a bit of kinship with them. Plus, people like to support local authors, so putting your state in there can alert readers in your area that you’re a native.

5. The person sounded interesting!

Every one of us has SOMETHING interesting about ourselves. Quirky jobs, strange talents, silly interests. Pick a few of those things to include. It doesn’t have to be anything major. In fact, I think the smaller, random things are usually best.

6. You got a sense of their voice.

Yes, I know, it always comes back to voice, doesn’t it? People who wrote serious stories tended to have serious bios. Young adult authors tended to have upbeat, funny bios that teens could relate too. Get the picture?

So, after taking all those things into account, here’s what I came up with for mine. Feel free to give me honest feedback since this is still a work in progress.

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. After earning a master’s degree in social work from Louisiana State University, she worked in a mental hospital, counseled birthmothers as an adoption coordinator, and did management recruiting in her PJs (thankfully, not all at the same time). But she always returned to writing.                  

Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son where the salsa’s better, but the seafood leaves a lot to be desired. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rock concerts.                                                                                                          

Visit her website at http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com/

Alright, so what do you like to see in an author bio? Do you read the bios in the back of books or on people’s blogs? Who has a great bio that stood out to you?

Can a book really be easy? Three So-Easy Strategies – They’re Just Silly

Happy womanIt’s hard to believe just a year ago I didn’t even have a book in the pipeline. At the time, it was just some pipe-dream. Little did I know that in less than twelve months I’d soon have two books on the market. It seems ironic since I had struggled for years to even commit to an idea for a book, but now the ideas are everywhere.

Why was my experience so easy? What was different or was I just plain lucky?  In reality it was none of those excuses that even I’d love to believe. If I happen to come across a page of luck, I’d surely share my secret formula, but it isn’t about luck at all.

Over the course of the year, there have been three-oh-so-easy strategies that supported this stellar growth. Besides only sleeping on Sundays, and cloning myself, – teasing –  these are the three things that I know can help bring your book to life too!

Drumroll p-uh-lease!?!

Collaboration. First, I didn’t go at it alone. Lone-ranger out – team player in! My book and business partner Lisa Shultz is my main collaborator; however, in our first book we had 47 other lovely ladies submit their chapters to us. Which made the writing process a whole-heck-of-a-lot easier. Imagine a book with your name on it and you just have to write a few chapters!?   When I went to take my first stab at writing a book, I failed, I barely got started, and the whole-darn process seemed overwhelming as all get out. I quit. Here’s where luck or serendipity did come in, Lisa asked me to join her on her book project, and I said yes!  Suddenly, I saw the light. If you want to do something big in your life, whether write a book or become president, you are not going to get their alone.

Goals. I know, this sounds elementary. But they work. Goals, deadlines, and a fire under your-you-know-what are seriously the key to just getting that book written and out into the world.  Trying to write a book without some looming deadline means that your book may, just may, be ready for print in 2025.  Clearly define your goals and figure it out from there. When Lisa and I partnered at the end of 2009, we picked late August for our launch date. We then worked backwards and timed out every step in between. It kept us on schedule and it kept the process moving along. We always knew where we had to be and when we had to be there by. Goals, however over-emphasized in our world, are a shortcut to accomplishment.

Accountability. If no one knows you are writing a book, or if you’ve locked up your work in a vault fearful of putting it out into the world – it’s never going to get out there. Accountability to others is one of the fastest ways to get your book done and out to market. Lisa and I checked in with each other so frequently during the writing and compilation of our books, that we never missed a beat. How are you on this? Where are you on that? How’s this coming along? What can I do to help you? Flailing along as a solo-aspiring-author is difficult, challenging, and lonely-as-the corner ice cream store in a February snowstorm. Don’t do it, do not, under any circumstances attempt to go at it alone. If you are writing a book as the sole author, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have an accountability partner, coach, friend, or mentor. Team up and you will find a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, filled with inspiration, encouragement, and motivation.

So really, as you can see – writing and getting two books complete in one year isn’t all that hard if you abide by these oh-so-easy-strategies. Don’t wait to get your book done. Get your book done this year!

And if you are ready to take the leap and write your book this year, then check out our book, How to Bring Your Book to Life This Year.

How Writing Can Elevate and Accelerate Your Business

Writing for businessWriting whether it be for blogs, articles, eBooks or paperback books can tremendously boost your exposure, credibility and expert status. Even writing comments in social media platforms and niche groups can rapidly move your business forward. Are you ready to spend your time more efficiently?

Traditional networking of going to actual events and groups to make new connections and share leads is still a valuable way to grow your business, but how many people did you reach personally at the last event you attended? If it was a typical networking event with 20-30 people in attendance, you may have walked away with a few good conversations that merit follow-up and a handful of business cards. You may or may not effectively use those business cards or even follow-up with the strong connections you made at the event. That all depends on whether or not you have developed a system for follow-up. Let’s consider driving time to and from the event. You may have spent four hours of your time invested in this event with only a small number of real, viable new connections. Was it worth it?

I am a big fan of networking events and face to face connecting with people. I even have my own networking organization. Sometimes that direct exposure is priceless, but I find that my reach is rather small compared to what I can do in four hours on the internet and with writing in particular.

The fact is that I am very disciplined in follow-up from events I attend. I do have a system in place and follow it diligently. But I am doing less in person networking with the exception of my own events and finding great benefit from that. First, it saves me gas and maintenance on my car. I am spending less in my networking budget for the fees to attend or join the live groups and events as well. When I write and work online, most of it is free.

So if I took that four hour allotment of time to go to a live event with questionable value, what could I do instead and how many people could I reach?

Here is an idea of what you could do for a trial of writing for four hours that done consistently might elevate and accelerate your business beyond your wildest dreams.

  1. Have a blog and write a new post 1-3 times a week. Feel free to use guest bloggers and article and video reviews on occasion, but write at least one a week yourself.
  2. Convert at least one of those posts into an article and submit it to 1-3 article sites. I recommend eZineArticles.com, GoArticles.com, and ArticlesBase.com.
  3. Visit other blogs and read them gaining new ideas, sharing and commenting on what you read. Engage conversations in the writing community.
  4. Utilize Linkedin Groups. Search for ones related to your industry and participate in the discussions. Ask questions, answer questions, make comments. Become known in the groups best suited to your line of work and direction.
  5. Begin to save and compile your best original blog posts into a possible eBook or real book. Consider a focus and become an expert. Your blogs and articles can easily be converted into book form over time.
  6. Dedicate an hour to actually writing your book. Having your own book out in public lifts your credibility immensely. Self-publishing has made this a viable option for the average person to achieve.
  7. You may also take one of your four hours and make is a power hour on social media. I have already written an article about that, which can be reviewed on http://ezinearticles.com/?Social-Media:-Power-Hour&id=5288355.

So let’s review how you could spend four hours writing and working on your business for no or low cost.

First hour-write for your blog and post. Convert this blog into an article and post to one of the three sites mentioned.

Second hour-blog tour and Linkedin group comments and interaction.

Third hour-write your book. Yes, get busy and just write!

Fourth hour-social media power hour.

How many people do you think you might reach in those four hours and how much progress might you make in getting your book done if you did that consistently even once a week? What if you did that every other day or if you are highly energized and motivated, every day for a trial of three months? You can still attend events live to have a reason to get out of your robe and slippers, but you will quickly realize how expansive and accelerating the internet can be with consistent application of this experiment.

I would love to receive your comments and feedback of your experiences should you elect to write more in the next three months.

Editing Tips: How to Edit Your Own Work

book editingIf you’ve ever wondered how to edit your own work, here are a few tips to get you going. However, I highly recommend hiring a professional editor for any work that will be printed or published. Nothing looks or feels worse than an obvious grammar or spelling mistake on paper.

When Lisa and I teamed up to create Speaking Your Truth, I followed the motto – good is good enough, although she pushed me for more perfectionism, I pushed back with letting go. Now – after it’s all said and done, I agree with her – when your work is in print, make it look pretty.

Prior to giving your work to a professional editor, here are a few ways you can get your work into tip-top shape.

First, give it some space. Reading a piece for edits just after you’ve written it is extremely difficult, for even the most experienced writers. A little time and space between writing and editing will guarantee that you have fresh eyes on your work. When you edit immediately after writing something your mind still knows what you were thinking and can easily miss glaringly obvious mistakes like using knot for not, or our for are, or there for their. Allow at least 24 hours between writing and editing; even better give it a full week.

Next, read your work out loud. While that may not sound fun or feasible – it works. There’s something about hearing it out loud that will trigger the editor to find the mistakes. It also forces your brain to see the words in order to speak them. You can also hear sentences that are run-ons, that don’t flow with the others in the body of work, or will simply sound choppy to the reader.

Lastly, read it backwards. Yep, that’s right. To me, nothing works better than reading your work backwards. Simply start at the end of your piece, chapter, or article and then read line by line starting with the last one.  Read one line, move to the previous line, then the one before that. It’s amazing the difference this makes. It allows you to see the work sentence by sentence instead of a conceptual viewpoint.

Here’s a bonus tip – write ahead of schedule. Writing under strict deadlines is a surefire way to editing nightmares.  The tighter you are on the deadline, the less likely you are to reread your work, look for errors, and fix them before sending it off to print, publish, or post.

Do you have an editing tips that works for you? We’d love to hear about it. Share your editing tips below.

Are you writing a book, or just considering it? Have you finished your manuscript and not sure where to go next? Are you thinking about self-publishing or looking for time-money-energy-saving tips? Check out services by Self-Publishing Experts in getting your work out into the world.

It is Time to Write; If Not Now, When?

Making Time to WriteWriting is probably one of the most important things I have added to my business life that really helped me explode into amazing new places. I do not consider myself a gifted writer. Instead, I simply developed the discipline of writing and let others help me improve with editing and feedback. Many people do not write much thinking they are not talented in writing or may even have grammar and spelling issues. That is what spell check and a good editor are for!

Having a blog and then a book completely changed how I viewed myself and how the public viewed me as well. WordPress and other sites have made blogging easy and accessible to everyone. The same can be said for self-publishing. There are still a few hold outs that think poorly of self-publishers, but I don’t hang out in that crowd, and the rest of the world has gotten over it.

I do not believe it behooves the world to try and make it so difficult to express ourselves in writing. There is so much talent and creativity in people that I believe should be allowed and encouraged to burst forth to a larger audience. If people don’t need or like it, they won’t buy it, but give the readers a chance to decide!

If you are not accustomed to writing much, start with a blog. The advantage to a blog is that it allows comments and interaction with your readers. You can even ask your audience a question that might help you know how to move forward with your business or what topic you might be able to focus on that everyone wants to know about. It can be a place to experiment. What draws the most feedback, and what is ignored? Sometimes what you think is the most interesting is not what your readers find important.

You can turn one blog post into an article that you can submit into places like eZine Articles, Articles Base or Go Articles. You may even take all the comments you receive from your post and integrate them into your article for more content and interest. Submitting articles is not difficult and can greatly increase your exposure to your website, your expertise and you as an authority.

I used to think that article writing was for academics. But with the boom of the internet and everyone googling their needs and questions, having an article on your niche can be incredibly beneficial. The first hurdle is to just go onto one of the article sites and just sign up and fill in your profile information. I found Articles Base to be the easiest to become a part of, and they rapidly approve articles after submission. eZine Articles is more prestigious and has more clout, but it also has a very long review time and they often ask for re-writes due to strict rules. The time spent on article writing can be valuable, and if you have not tried it yet, I encourage you to do so.

The next step might be to submit a story for publication into an anthology or magazine. You might be able to take an excerpt from your life that describes a pivotal moment and create a story around it. People love true, inspiring stories that give them hope during their difficult times. It also helps the reader or your audiences connect with you more deeply and see you as a human with flaws or challenges. Often times the very story you share will be the reason someone does business with you, but if you never told the story, they would not know that they could relate to you in that way.

Others have an entire book or two inside them just waiting to come out. According to a recent survey, over 80 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them that they would like to write. If you fall into that category, what holds you back? Do you perceive your schedule is too busy? Do you feel that the process is too daunting or difficult? Well, I suggest you set aside all your excuses real or imagined and simply begin to write. Create a schedule that works for you such as every Friday morning or a Sunday afternoon. The hardest part is just setting time aside and committing to it. Once you pass through that hurdle, you might find that the words just flow. You have probably bottled up years of ideas that once given the room to come forth, just cascade out of you.

Furthermore, after you actually publish that first book, you might find others in waiting that come out in half the time and effort as the first one. My first book was a gift to my daughters. A very short book entitled 8 Strategies For An Extraordinary Life that came out in 2005. It was a stepping stone to knowing I could write if I put my mind to it. And I did put my mind to it in 2010 because I wrote two books that year! The first was an anthology called Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories From Inspiring Women. A labor of love to bring together 49 amazing stories for inspiration and hope. The book came together in less than a year with subsequent volumes coming out in the future. This book was such an accomplishment in multiple ways, many of them mental blocks that I overcame, that I then completed my next book, How To Bring Your Book To Life This Year in about four months.

I have now begun to enjoy writing so much that I usually begin writing and planning the next book before the last book is fully printed. I would never have imagined that speed of writing a year ago. I set aside my excuses and craved out the time and then the words just flew out of me. If you have a deep yearning to write, I would encourage you to do it and know it is not nearly as hard as your mind wants you to believe!

Please share any writing blocks or hurdles you may be experiencing or that you have overcome.