Veronica Bale

MUSINGS, RAMBLINGS AND THE OTHER STUFF IN MY HEAD

Featured ImageHave you ever had so much on your plate, so much to do and so much you want to do, that you’re overwhelmed to the point of paralysis?

I never thought that would be me, but there it is—the explanation for why I’ve practically dropped off the face of the earth … or at least the digital version of the earth.

I’m a writer and a content marketer. I have tons of tips, tricks, advice and experience when it comes to cranking out manuscripts, articles, and being generally productive and prolific. So imagine my surprise when I realized that I’ve fallen victim to that dreaded Bitten-Off-More-Than-I-Can-Chew syndrome! Continue reading

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coffeeIf you were to put the question to the general writing community of whether you should be guest blogging or not, you are likely to get some very strong opinions on both sides of the spectrum. I certainly did. In a previous post, What to Do When You Just Can’t Get a Review, the comments I received from my blog readers were overwhelmingly in agreement that you should be guest posting. However, when I made the same suggestion to a few influential local bloggers in my sphere of acquaintanceship, their resounding response was “Oh, gawd no! That’s horrible for SEO!” Continue reading

Hello all! I’m so very pleased to have Cate from Romance Debuts with me today on my blog. Cate has profiled numerous first-time and multi-published authors, and I’m so proud to have here here today to tell us all what she’s learned in her time as a romance blogger. 

So then, without further ado … Cate, take it away!

7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing a Book

About six months ago I started Romance Debuts, a blog designed to help aspiring romance writers. I had resolved to finally move forward with at least one of my drafts and really give this romance writing thing “the old college try.”

Daunted by the process of writing and publishing a book, I wanted to track down writers who had gone through it for the first time to find out how they’d done it. Then I figured there were probably lots of other not-yet-published writers who’d like to know the same things.

That led to another thought. Newly published writers would probably appreciate another forum for connecting with readers. Thus, Romance Debuts was born:  A place for not-yet-published writers to learn from published writers, and for those newly-published writers to build an audience.

After about 45 interviews with newly published and multi-published authors, including Kristan Higgins and Robyn Carr, I’ve picked up invaluable advice. Here are seven bits of wisdom that have emerged:

  1. If you want to be a writer, you have to write and learn the craft. The only way to get better at writing is to write. A lot. Many authors aim for daily word counts, some modest, others grand. The point is that you have to keep working on your stories. Without practice, you won’t improve. And that very first draft? It may never get published, but it will help you learn how to write a good story.  
  2. The first draft is crappy for almost all of us. Even for bestselling authors. Kristan Higgins admitted that her first drafts are crappy, and Sonali Dev explained that she has to vomit out the first drafts of her books. Those two admissions made me feel so much better…not that I delight in other people’s pain or anything.
  3. You can find inspiration anywhere. I’m fascinated to learn what inspires an author’s book. For author Nancy Sartor, it was a voice she heard on her way to the bathroom in the middle of the night (creepy!). For Ryan Jo Summers it was a picture from a calendar that she held onto for years. For Marilyn Baxter it was a news article. It’s so important to keep your eyes and ears open and go where the muse takes you!
  4. You have to make time to write the book. There are so many things that battle for our time (the job, the kids, the pets, the house, etc.), but the authors who have published have figured out a way to make time for their books. Rebecca Brooks made finishing the book a birthday gift to herself. Taryn Taylor treats writing like a job; she reminds herself that she can’t flake out on work just because she doesn’t feel like doing it. Rachel Goodman writes in her head all day long. You do what you have to do.
  5. You need supportive people in your life. Those people can be writing friends, non-writing friends, or relatives who will read your stuff and give feedback. I love this quote from Nicole Leirin about her husband: “He knows that I have to write in order to keep some semblance of sanity in my brains, so he graciously sends me upstairs after dinner with the claim, ‘Time for you to write, isn’t it?’”
  6. Self-publishing is a great option for a lot of new writers. Many of the interviewees, including Veronica Bale, Jen Crane, Julie Cameron, Debi Matlack, Marian Lanouette, Melissa Rolka, Marina Adair, Juli Page Morgan, Margaret Locke, Adria Gaskins, and Jamie Farrell, have made a great case for self-publishing. For the right person, self-publishing really works.
  7. Life doesn’t change a whole lot after you publish a book. You just get busier. And the fear that you won’t be able to finish a book never goes away. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse about the whole thing!

To glean more wisdom from newly and multi-published writers, visit romancedebuts.wordpress.com. You can also find me on Facebook at Romance Debuts and Twitter @romancedebs. And if you’ve published a book, contact me at romancedebs@yahoo.com. I’d love to help you share your publishing experience and promote your debut!

Happy writing,

Cate

Hi Everyone,

Today I’m over at Romance Debuts with the lovely Cate. Find out about what I think the single-most important thing to do is for a self-published author, and learn more about my publishing journey.

Romance Debuts: Veronica Bale on Going Hybrid

Hugs for now,
Veronica.

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Blogging: if done right, it’s one of the best ways to attract and retain an audience, and to increase your sales. But to do it right takes a lot of work. Constantly developing fresh content and interacting with your growing audience is a time-consuming and energy-draining project. If you’re an author, you’re probably already drained from the effort you’re expending on your work in progress. So if you’re blogging, too, you want to make sure your posts are optimized to encourage maximum sharing.

This past summer I wrote about being findable on social media. I said, “We all know that social media is one of the best ways to increase your visibility. But simply having a Twitter account, or a blog, or a Facebook page, or all three and more, is wasted effort if you are not making yourself findable.” In this post, I talked broadly about various social media outlets.

Here, I’d like to focus in greater detail on Twitter.

In the battle of the social media platform, Twitter is statistically proven to be one of the most popular. When compared to other media like Facebook and Google+, Twitter is the most prolific method of reaching a widespread audience. In a post on Info Today, Curt Tagtmeier explains that “Twitter has been likened to a giant party where you know no one but wish to make many friends.”

Clearly, if you’re trying to maximize the visibility of the content you create, then Twitter is the fastest and most impactful way to do it. Garrett Moon, writing for CoSchedule, points out that, “In one of the more complete (but not scientific) studies on the value of social sharing buttons, blogger Joshua Benton concludes that many news organizations receive 20% of their Twitter traffic from Tweet buttons available on their page. That’s actually a pretty big deal!”

Why, then, do too many bloggers neglect to include “Tweet This” or “Share on Twitter” buttons?

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This was a question that circled back onto my radar as recently as last week. As the social media manager for my son’s local hockey league, I’m responsible for finding and sharing valuable content about youth sports and other sports-related points of interest. Unfortunately, I don’t always get my pre-scheduled tweets up on HootSuite as regularly as I’d like. In between back-to-back games this past weekend, I found myself at the rink, hurriedly looking on my smart phone for something — anything — to tweet about, just to stay current. Yet the first three interesting articles I found did not have tweet buttons!

Yes, I could have gone into my HootSuite app and uploaded the URL that way. Or I could have copied and pasted the link. But that’s a lot of fiddling, and quite frankly, not worth the effort. So it was on to the next for me, until I found an interesting piece that did have a tweet button.

What a missed opportunity for those bloggers. And it’s something that could easily have been avoided. If you’re using WordPress or Blogger, you can set your profile up to include social sharing buttons right at the bottom of the page. You can go directly to Twitter’s button page and, in a few easy clicks, get some simple code to add right into the body of your blog. Or, there are a number of other sites that do the same thing and give you cool graphics to add (I like ClickToTweet the best).

Whatever way you do it, make sure that a share button at least for Twitter is included in your blog posts. You’re working hard to create memorable content. Make sure you maximize your opportunity to be seen by making your posts easily sharable on Twitter.

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CONTEST ALERT: Comment on our post, like, or share anywhere on social media and you could have a chance to win one of 3 copies of Broken Vows! Don’t forget to use our contest hashtag #CTRIAF (For Facebook shares, remember to set your post to “Public” so we can find you).

In a place where death could strike at any moment, and a time when physical love is forbidden: Passion should be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Today on the Indie Author Feature with Coffee Time Romance and More, I’m pleased to welcome S. Turnbull, author of Broken Vows.

steveturnbull-close-300dpiA Note From the Author

I’ve always had stories in my head. When I was very young I expressed them in pictures, and acting them out with toys – usually great adventures. At school I loved the Sciences and, sadly, English was not my strong point. Until one day, as a bored teenager, I opened a book called “Cider with Rosie”, the first autobiography of the poet Laurie Lee. (And, if truth be told, it was because I knew there might be “naughty” bits in it.)

It was like getting hit between the eyes with beauty. I had never dreamed words could create such pictures and emotions.

The book took my life and turned it around. Within months I was top in English and I wrote two novels. They were awful. Subsequently I switched to poetry (that told stories) and then became a magazine journalist and editor.

It was only in the last couple of years, after training as a screenwriter, that I returned to prose and began to pound them out one after another. The ideas are unstoppable. Always female protagonists with agency, almost always dealing with minorities both racial and gender – but with a real story to tell, usually full of action, laughter, sorrow, and characters to love (and hate).

There’s nothing I like more than ripping out the reader’s heart on one page, and tearing a laugh from them in the next. And I hope you like that too.

BV_1800x2700_72Broken Vows

BARBARA FLYNN’s only skills are embroidery and being snob, and living in Victorian India that all she needs. But when she and her nagging mother find themselves in the middle of a terrible siege without even a change of clothes with the threat of painful death on all sides, she must fight for their survival.

Lieutenant ANGUS FERGUSON, the only survivor from a Scotsman regiment, has only one duty: keeping the civilians alive in desperate circumstances. The last thing he needs is the complication of a woman that he cares for.

In a place where death could strike at any moment, and a time when physical love is forbidden: Passion should be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.

Find S. Turnbull on the Web:

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DON’T FORGET: To win one of 3 copies of Broken Vows, comment on our post, like, or share it on social media! Don’t forget to use our contest hashtag #CTRIAF

Self-Published Authors: Want to be the next Indie Author Feature with Coffee Time Romance and More? Submit your novel for consideration here.

I was going to write a post about inspiration today. It was going to be full of tips from top writers about how they find inspiration for their work, and suggestions for how you can keep yours as you complete your work in progress. After doing a whole bunch of research, and coming across tons of suggestions that were, quite frankly, rather generic and of little actual help, I realized … I was absolutely not inspired to write this post at all.

Ironic, no?

It was in sourcing all these tips and tricks that I decided the word inspiration is misleading. By definition, it’s the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Too often, though, we use it the way we use the word “inspired”, which has a different connotation. If something is inspired, it is of extraordinary quality, as if arising from some external creative impulse.

The idea of inspiration as something divine is a romantic notion. So is Happily-Ever-After. The truth is that it takes a lot of hard graft to make it to Happily-Ever-After, just like it takes a lot of hard graft to get your novel done. Hanging onto the idea that you need inspiration in order to write is as damaging to the creative process as the idea that after you find the love of your life it will all turn out perfectly is to longevity in marriage.

They’re both work!

This is why many writers — especially new writers — have so many unfinished novels. One story gets started only to be abandoned because the author just wasn’t feeling it. In the end, there’s a graveyard of undeveloped stories, lost to the need for inspiration. And I am totally not above putting my hand up on that score!

Inspiration is like Prince Charming. His fictitious ass is not going to gallop by on his white steed and pull your damsel-in-distress-self from the mire of “I’m just not feeling this one.”

Believe it or not, that was pretty close to the pep talk I gave myself when I first started freelancing. I quickly realized that because I’d made a written agreement with my editor, that I’d been given a deadline and that I’d submitted a plot outline, I didn’t have the luxury of giving that piece up. The entity paying my cheque couldn’t give a damn if I “wasn’t feeling it.” I had to slog it out whether inspiration found me or not. Usually it was “not.”

That experience served me well in the end, though. It taught me that finishing my own novel would be just as hard. It also taught me that all I had to do was pick a plot and stick to it. I had to put the effort in to get that plot from start to finish. And inspiration had very little, if anything, to do with whether or not I succeeded.

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So let’s forget about inspiration. Let’s put it away in the same place Disney put the Prince Charming archetype when they realized modern women liked the heroine who could save herself better. Inspiration is overrated. If you want to get your manuscript across the finish line, there are far better pieces of advice out there than what I found when I Googled “how to stay inspired as a writer.” Here are my top three:

  1. Develop your ideas really, really well

Underdeveloped plots, underdeveloped characters, underdeveloped relationships — these things kill the creative writing process. They’re why we give up because we’re “just not feeling it.” After all, how can we write a 100,000 word novel if we’re not invested in the storyline we picked? Developing your ideas is what’s going to anchor your story to your desire to keep going. In essence, by developing your idea, you’re developing a relationship with your story.

Award-winning novelist Elizabeth Sims, in her article “How to Develop Any Idea Into a Great Story,” argues that “It’s not hard to get inspired by a great concept, to take it to your table or toolshed or cellar and do some brainstorming, and even to start putting the story on paper — but eventually, many of us lose traction. Why? Because development doesn’t happen on its own.”

  1. Plow forward, not backward

It’s probably appropriate for this piece of advice to be in here, considering it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo. The annual writing challenge that has authors everywhere scribbling their little hearts out says that you can finish a 50,000 word novel in a month. Notable word here is finish. With a daily average word count of 1,667, those who have accepted the challenge don’t have time to go back and start playing around with what they already wrote. And they certainly don’t have time to sit back and wait for inspiration to come knocking.

In a guest post on Writers Helping Writers, author Kelly Miller writes, “To avoid getting stuck in the middle of your story, stop looking back. Accept that your first draft will be crap. It’s meant to be; it’s inevitable. If you keep going back trying to perfect your earlier chapters, you’ll lose the flow of where your story is headed.”

  1. Momentum begets momentum

Writing is a habit. Whether you write every day, write at the same time every day, write in the same place every day … you have to write regularly. If you do this, your novel will gain momentum. The “inspiration” (note quotes) will find you because you’re making it happen. Or, probably a better way to say it is that you’re grabbing inspiration by the [insert vulgar description of your choice here] and stuffing it into your manuscript whether it wants to be there or not.

Novelist Chuck Wendig points out that “Writing is contagious madness a lot of the time. Even when it sucks, you wanna do it. And that, I think, is one of the things that separates the Aspiring Not-Really-Writers from the Really Real Writers — the latter group writes even when it’s hard, even when the motivation is a dry well, even when the inspiration seems like a dead or dying thing … Every day is an act of revivifying your own abilities and motivations … momentum begets momentum.”

Inspiration can be a dangerous word if we use it as an excuse not to write. For new writers especially, those that have aspirations of completing their first novel, it can be detrimental. Writers who have been in the game for a while know that abandoning a story is not an option. You only have so many of those ideas floating around up there, and not a single one of them is The Perfect One. They’re all good in their own way. Raw around the edges? Sure. Disjointed? Absolutely. But none of that matters. Give inspiration the old heave-ho, pick an idea, and get down to making it happen.

As Jack London famously said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

How do you stay motivated to write? Does inspiration find you or do you find it? What was it that finally got you to finish your first manuscript?

 

I never procrastinate. Said no writer ever.

We’re an unusual bunch, we writers, aren’t we? We’re highly creative and driven to succeed. We can turn a raw idea into a glorious paragraph of literary genius as magically as Rumpelstiltskin turns straw into gold. We create worlds, build cities, meddle with relationships and play God with our characters’ lives, all within the twenty- to one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand words of our manuscripts. In short, we writers are powerful with our proverbial mighty pens.

We are also, collectively, the worst procrastinators of any professional group on the planet.

At least we can laugh at ourselves about it though, right? Megan McArdle, columnist for The Atlantic, humorously wrote, “I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.’”

It’s all well and good to know we’re procrastinators. Even to laugh about it. But in all seriousness, the question remains: Why are we so acutely afflicted by this “I don’t wanna” mentality?

As a novelist, I’m actually not a procrastinator. I can dive in and out of my works-in-progress with ease. My problem is with all the promo pieces I do for my novels, and also with my dual work as a freelance content writer. The idea of turning rough research or transcribed interview notes into a finished piece with a start, an end, and a cohesive path between the two is about as palatable as going to the dentist for a filling.

Thankfully, after a lot of digging on the internet, I discovered that there may be a psychological reason for why we procrastinate. In my case, it’s not that I fear failure, nor do I fear success. And while I am at least a selective perfectionist, the need to turn out that perfect article or guest post is not as paralyzing for me as it might be for others. The possibility that applied to me was the idea that we procrastinate because we want to avoid pain.

Let me explain. Psychotherapists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, writing for Greatist.com. argue that, “The list of things we can procrastinate about is endless, but the list of reasons for why we procrastinate is not. We avoid every task for the same reason: Taking action will cause us a certain amount of pain. Think of an action you’ve been avoiding. Imagine yourself starting to take that action. You’re going to feel something unpleasant … No matter what you call it, that unpleasant feeling is a kind of pain.”

They have a point. The thought of having to sit down for an hour or more and turn a research draft into a finished piece is … yeah, painful. In an ass-affecting kind of way (as in ‘pain-in-the’). For me, it comes down to lack of motivation. I’m not motivated to endure that pain in order to turn out a finished piece. But apparently, according to an article published by Oregon State University, if I’m looking for motivation to get writing, then I’m doing it bass ackwards. The article asks, “How many folks do you imagine feel motivated and energized by the prospect of raking leaves, or changing the oil in the car, or doing taxes? These tasks are often seen as unpleasant and less than exciting.”

OSU goes on to say, “Often just taking the first step, regardless of how small, can serve as an inducement and thus a motivator for further action.”

Fair enough. And this might actually be a conclusion I reached without even realizing it. Over the past year, I have figured out that when I’m facing that first step of working rough notes into a first draft, all I have to do is force myself to take it one paragraph at a time. When I do that, and don’t worry about how each paragraph fits in with the others and with an overarching theme, it’s a more palatable task to get on with. A less overwhelming one. Eventually, I begin to see a pattern in the paragraphs that I’m taking one at a time, and I can start rearranging them into a loose order. From there, I have no problem polishing those paragraphs so that I have a fluid, finished article.

Incidentally, that is exactly how I buckled down to the task of putting this blog post together. And writing this piece has reminded me that we writers need to give ourselves a break. Procrastination is in our DNA, just like creativity is. Let us accept this unavoidable trait and take comfort in the fact that some of the most successful writers were also some of the most celebrated procrastinators. Who? How about Victor Hugo, Herman Melville, and Margaret Atwood.

And do you who was quoted as saying “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make when they go by.”? It was Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Are you a procrastinator? When is your tendency to procrastinate at its worst? What tips or tricks do you have to counteract your natural inclination to procrastinate?