Tag: the writing life (page 1 of 7)

My Two Favourite Online Courses For Authors

I love learning. I’ve read tons of books on writing craft and marketing books, as well as taken several online courses. There are many good options out there, but to save on space (lest I overwhelm with too many good options) I’ve narrowed it down to my two absolute favourites.

  1. Learn Scrivener Fast by Joseph Michael

I’d been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing, but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener coach Joseph Michael. I realized there were so many more things Scrivener could do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more!

But, as a long time Scrivener user, I thought I should be able to figure things out for myself. The software comes with tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I tried to format a book. About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought. In desperation, I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course.

AND IT HAS BEEN THE BEST INVESTMENT I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MY WRITING CAREER!

I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the corkboard function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and – voila! Problem solved!

If you’re planning to delve into indie publishing, this is the course for you. It is worth every penny hundreds of times over!

  1. Your First 10k Readers by Nick Stephenson

I’m sad to list this course second, because it has also been such a good investment for me. Nick Stephenson has appeared on multiple podcasts with the likes of Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Joel Freidlander and others. He talks about ‘lead magnets’, permafree books, automations etc. all with step-by-step videos and very useful cheat sheets and other helpful resources. You can find many similar courses out there on creating ‘systems’ for writing and marketing, (like Shelley Hitz’s ‘Author Audience Academy”) but I happened to come across Nick’s back in the summer of 2015. I took the risk and signed up – my first time actually spending hard earned cash on an online course.

It has been worth the cost ten times over. It’s not that I’m now rolling in cash. Nick cautions students right up front that his system takes work. It is not a get rich quick scheme or a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants way to fool people into buying your books. What it is, is a really smart and well laid out system for growing your audience while offering value to your readers – all in a step-by-step format that keeps that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling from taking over.

I voraciously listened to the entire course in the first week or two upon receiving it, but there is so much content and so much detail that there is no way I could implement everything at once. Heck, I’m still taking baby steps two years later, but I’ve managed to make some significant inroads. Another wonderful thing about Nick’s course is that he continues to add new content and update old information without adding to the cost. Plus, he’s a very funny guy, so it’s quite entertaining to listen to him teach. You’ll see what I mean if you watch his free training videos. (Excellent, but the entire course is so much more in depth.)

Of course, there are many more valuable resources out there but these are my two all time favourites.

Football, Flurries, and Fifty-Thousand Words

Wow. November is drawing to a close and with it three milestones starting with the letter ‘F’:

  1. FOOTBALL! The CFL’s Grey Cup was played on Sunday, and although my team didn’t make it to the big game, I thoroughly enjoyed what will probably go down in history as one of the craziest upsets ever. The Toronto Argonauts came back in the final minutes to beat the highly favoured Calgary Stampeders in a wintery snow bowl. I felt bad for the Stamps, since the game was freakishly reminiscent of their loss last year, but on the other hand, kudos to Ricky Ray for becoming the first starting quarterback in CFL history to win four Grey Cups.

2. Fifty Thousand: Yes, I love football, but I also love writing and this year I finished ‘Nanowrimo’ for the seventh time. I clocked in my 50,000 words earlier today on a project I have loosely named ”Teaching Memoirs’ since it includes a large segment on my time teaching Drama as well as quite a bit on my time homeschooling. I’m not sure exactly where it will go from here, but I’m looking forward to editing it and seeing what happens. (Nanowrimo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month – where people from around the world sign up to write 50,000 words in the month of November.)

3. The final ‘F’ for this post – Flurries – lots of them! We have been locked into a snowy world for about three weeks now, and as you can see from the pictures of the Grey Cup game on Sunday, it looks like we’re not the only part of the country to be experiencing these above average snowfalls so early in the season. My husband has shovelled our driveway at least ten times (not exaggerating) and it isn’t letting up. A ‘White Christmas’ is a no-brainer around these parts!

Nano Time Again!

November is my favourite time of year for one simple reason: Nanowrimo. In case you’ve been living in a cave (or aren’t a writer), Nanowrimo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’. Writers of every genre and experience are encouraged to write 50,000 words during the month of November, cheering one another on via forums and other incentives. I missed last year’s Nano, but I have completed my required 50,000 words six consecutive times before that. Two published book came out of it (NEIGHBOURS 1 and KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS) as well as other works that I hope to publish some day.

This year I am breaking with tradition and trying my hand at non-fiction. Technically, I’m not writing a novel, but I figure 50,000 words is still 50,000 words, right? I’m excited about several memoir projects that are in my head, so that is the direction I plan to go this year. As a former homeschooler, I have lots to say on that topic. As a heart attack survivor I’ve got some revelations to share. As a drama teacher, I’ve got some advice on teaching theatre in the ‘boondocks’, and I recently was inspired by something a house guest said about ‘agism’ in our society. Where I actually end up will be anyone’s guess, but I have lots of inspiration. Stay tuned for more.

And now back to those 50,000 words…

Life of Fictitious Ink

In the summer of 2013, I started down the path of setting up my own publishing company, looking to the day when the rights to  some of my own novels would revert back to me. With baby steps, I went through the process of setting up my business, getting a licence, and registering my publishing company – FICTITIOUS INK.

In 2014 I published a little ‘test’ book called LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: ADVICE AND REFLECTIONS ON NAVIGATING THE ROAD OF LIFE.  The book was based on a speaking engagement I did at a women’s retreat, and I thought it would serve nicely as a giveaway.

I also decided to test myself further, and publish a children’s book – THE SLEEPYTOWN EXPRESS.  This was a very personal project, as I wanted to publish it as a tribute to my late mother, who often sang Haven Gillespie’s beloved song to us as children. I started painting the illustrations shortly after she passed away in 2007, but it took several years and much time getting copyright permission etc, before the book would be a reality.

In 2016, three years after getting my business licence, I decided it was time to publish something more substantial. I had learned a few things about formatting, various software options, and other best practices, and had the next perfect ‘test’ book in mind. I’d received the rights back to my NEIGHBOURS Series, so republished these as a  set of serialized ebooks along with a complete volume in both ebook format and paperback.  It was my biggest publishing effort to date. It basically took up most of that summer, but it was well worth the time and steep learning curve it took to get this book the way I wanted it.

Somehow, in the busyness of that summer, I also got the idea for a little prayer journal which I put together called THIRTY DAYS OF TARGETED PRAYER: A JOURNALING TOOL TO BOOST YOUR PRAYER COMMITMENT.  Again, my motivation was rather personal. I am a voracious ‘journaler’ and often ‘pray’ while doing so. I wanted a systematic way to pray for other people and this is what I came up with. (By the way, I’ve been using it myself ever since.)

The learning continues and in 2017  I reformatted and republished THE SLEEPYTOWN EXPRESS as a hardcover book, which is so much nicer than the paperback. I also published two children’s books as class projects, writing and illustrating the story books with my Art 7 and 8 students.  HOCKEY IN THE WILD and FIRE BEAR are the results.

The second in the NEIGHBOURS Series also came into being with another set of serialized novellas and a complete version called KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS.  And I finally got around to the impetus for this whole experiment, which was to republish my own work when I got the rights back. My first published novel got revised and republished under a new name: CONSPIRACY OF BONES (And the Beat Goes On)

 

When I actually take the time to write it all down, I feel pretty satisfied. Sometimes it is easy to feel like you aren’t getting anything accomplished, but I can see steady growth and forward movement. I have plenty of plans for Fictitious Ink for the coming years.

Check out the FI website here for more cool photos.

 

Work Your Writing Muscles!

There are some wonderful standbys when it comes to finding writing inspiration. Take a walk in nature. Reflect on a passage of scripture. Listen to music. And of course, always have that journal handy for when the muse strikes! Here are a few more that you might want to add to your arsenal.

At the spring WorDshop in Blackfalds, Alberta, instructor Susan Plett suggested using the following prompts:

  1. I remember/ I don’t remember…
  2. I want to write about / I don’t want to write about…

These are simple, yet surprisingly powerful, places to start. I was amazed at the depth that came out of such uncomplicated phrases.

At another workshop I went to a number of years ago, (also led by Susan), she chose a random line from a novel which we all had to use as our first line. Again, it was amazing how different everyone’s pieces were even though we started with the very same opening.

I’m a big fan of what used to be called ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. (It might have a different name nowadays, but I think the old term is quite descriptive.) Basically, one just writes whatever is in their mind at the moment – no self-editing, stopping to think things over, or choosing the best word allowed! The only rule to this exercise is, “Don’t stop writing!” I use this frequently in my high school English classes. I tell students to think of it as a ‘brain dump’. Unless you’re unconscious, there is something going on inside that head! Students can share their writing with me, or a peer, if they choose. If they don’t want to, they simply staple the page shut. This allows for privacy and eliminates the fear of someone reading something embarrassing.

Another idea I’ve used is writing from the point of view of an inanimate object. This can be fun and translates well into children’s fiction and poetry, but can be quite serious, too, depending on the object and the writers’ frame of mind.

Something I have not tried, but which I think sounds fascinating, is using the cards from a board game like ‘Trivial Pursuit’, “Balderdash’, or any other game that has a box of questions. Ready made writing prompts! Thus my title ‘Out of the Box Writing Ideas – Literally’.

For those who haven’t tried it, Inscribe offers ‘Word Challenges’ every month on the ‘Listserv’. (Thanks to Glynis Belec for tirelessly coming up with these prompts.) It’s a fun way for members to hone their writing skills and sometimes the pay-off is publication.

There are tons of writing prompt books and blogs out there to glean from. Writing from a prompt is great practice no matter what you ‘normally’ write. It gets the creative juices flowing and builds writing muscle. So… have fun and experiment with some new writing ideas.

This post originally appeared on Inscribe’s professional blog on August 10, 2017.

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