Is Blogging and Social Media Affecting Your Ability to Write What You Want?

Juggling BallsIf you’ve been following my blog, you may have seen my earlier post about Write First, Sell Later where I express how I feel it’s important to separate your promotional time from your writing time.

One of the things that I’ve found is that a timer isn’t “enough” to discipline me to get off of social media or blogging channels to write, write, write. Why? Well, blogging requires one mindset for me; social media requires another. In many ways, blogging requires a “voice” which may vary depending upon the blog. Here? I typically use my “professional voice” which doesn’t include all the random creative bits that tend to float around in my head. I’m much more random when I use Twitter, partially because it doesn’t take me any time at all to shoot off a thought. Blogging, on the other hand, can take me a bit, especially if I’m feeling particularly coherent. Fiction is a lot different than blogging, because I try not to worry about that coherency as much when I’m writing the first draft. Rather, I’m more concerned with having a cohesive plot or consistent characters. Subsequently, I’ve learned that blogging + writing stories = a recipe for disaster. If I’m not careful, blogging can actually hurt my writing because I spend more time on the first draft than I normally do. Like every writer knows — you can’t edit a blank page.

This month, I started using a different method of assessing what projects I want to complete. As geeky as it may sound, I set up a project management plan and assigned blocks of time (Yes, just like you did when you were in college) to different writing styles. Then I prioritized these chunks into what I needed to get done first. What I’m finding, is that this prioritization method is helping my mindset stay where it needs to be. I don’t feel as pressured to get something done, because I’ve got a crystal clear picture of what is important to me based on its intrinsic or financial value. Obviously, paying gigs come first, which is one of the reasons why my novel revisions are a lower priority during the first half of this month. I also add in my free time, to ensure that I’m not killing myself with work, and I bump “new” or “unpaid” opportunities to the bottom of the list.

It may sound strange, but this form of organization is what is working for me on several levels because I know that I have to cater my language to the audience I’m writing to. To help keep me focused on where my priorities lie, I am becoming the mistress of mini-tasking which, in turn, is also helping me to pace myself and manage my work load.

It’s no secret that I’m working on a hefty round of revisions for a novel, but what you may not know is that I’m also planning ahead. “If” the novel sells and “if” I’m able to write another one, I’ll probably have to manage writing a new novel while working for my day job. In my mind, establishing discipline is really important to a writer’s life, regardless of how busy or how successful you are. This is just my way of doing just that.

What about you? How do you juggle blogging with social media and your writing?

Family Games 100: Essay List Announced

Hey folks, FAMILY GAMES: THE 100 BEST just left the printer and I’m pleased to share with you the full list of authors, games and essays. The game that I talked about was GLOOM, which is one of my favorite card games. How many of these games have you played or can recognize?

    Foreword by Mike Gray
    Introduction by James Lowder
    Afterword by Wil Wheaton
    Appendix A: Games and Education by David Millians
    Appendix B: Family Games in Hobby Games: The 100 Best by James Lowder

List of Family Games and Essayists

    Carrie Bebris on 10 Days in the USA
    Steven E. Schend on 1960: The Making of the President
    Dominic Crapuchettes on Apples to Apples
    Mike Breault on The Awful Green Things from Outer Space
    Jeff Tidball on Balderdash
    Keith Baker on Bang!
    Bruce Harlick on Battleship
    James Wallis on Bausack
    Paul Jaquays on Black Box
    Lewis Pulsipher on Blokus
    Teeuwynn Woodruff on Boggle
    Fred Hicks on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    James Ernest on Candy Land
    Ian Livingstone on Can’t Stop
    Bruce Whitehill on Careers
    Jared Sorensen on Cat
    Wolfgang Baur on Cathedral
    John Scott Tynes on Clue
    Alessio Cavatore on Condottiere
    Elaine Cunningham on Connect Four
    Will Hindmarch on Cranium
    Erik Mona on Crossbows and Catapults
    William W. Connors on Dark Tower
    John D. Rateliff on Dogfight
    Robert J. Schwalb on Dungeon!
    jim pinto on Dvonn
    Gav Thorpe on Easter Island
    Jeff Grubb on Eurorails
    Kenneth Hite on Faery’s Tale Deluxe
    Richard Dansky on Family Business
    Warren Spector on Focus
    Corey Konieczka on For Sale
    James M. Ward on Fortress America
    Stan! on Frank’s Zoo
    Bruce C. Shelley on The Game of Life
    Phil Orbanes on A Gamut of Games
    Monica Valentinelli on Gloom
    Matt Leacock on Go Away Monster!
    Steve Jackson on The Great Dalmuti
    David “Zeb” Cook on Guillotine
    Jason Matthews on Gulo Gulo
    Joshua Howard on Halli Galli
    Bruce Nesmith on Hare & Tortoise
    Mike Pondsmith on HeroClix
    Anthony J. Gallela on HeroQuest
    Chris Pramas on HeroScape
    Ed Greenwood on Hey! That’s My Fish!
    Colin McComb on Hive
    Alan R. Moon on Hoity Toity
    Jon Leitheusser on Ingenious
    Uli Blennemann on Java
    Luke Crane on Jungle Speed
    Monte Cook on Kill Doctor Lucky
    Emiliano Sciarra on Knightmare Chess
    Todd A. Breitenstein on Liar’s Dice
    Marc Gascoigne on Loopin’ Louie
    Andrew Parks on Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
    Seth Johnson on Lost Cities
    John Yianni on Magi-Nation
    Bill Bodden on Master Labyrinth
    Andrew Greenberg on Mastermind
    Ken Levine on Memoir ’44
    Scott Haring on Mille Bornes
    Steve Jackson on Monopoly
    Sheri Graner Ray on Mouse Trap
    Kevin G. Nunn on Mystery Rummy: Murders in the Rue Morgue
    Dale Donovan on The Omega Virus
    Darren Watts on Othello
    Charles Ryan on Pandemic
    Michelle Lyons on Pente
    Thomas M. Reid on Pictionary
    Nicole Lindroos on Pieces of Eight
    John Wick on Pit
    Matt Forbeck on Pokémon
    Robin D. Laws on Prince Valiant
    Stephen Glenn on Qwirkle
    Sébastien Pauchon on Ricochet Robots
    Peter Olotka on Risk
    Richard Breese on Rummikub
    Jesse Scoble on Scotland Yard
    Richard Garfield on Scrabble
    Mike Selinker on Set
    Rob Heinsoo on Small World
    Hal Mangold on Sorry!
    Jess Lebow on Stratego
    Eric Goldberg on Strat-O-Matic Baseball
    Andrea Angiolino on Survive!
    Karl Deckard on Thebes
    Dan Tibbles on Time’s Up!
    Tom Wham on Trade Winds
    Susan McKinley Ross on TransAmerica
    Ray Winninger on Trivial Pursuit
    Leo Colovini on Twixt
    Matthew Kirby on Uno
    David Parlett on Upwords
    Lester Smith on Werewolf
    John Kovalic on Wits & Wagers
    Philip Reed on Yahtzee
    Kevin Wilson on Zendo
    Jess Hartley on Zooloretto

Writer’s Block? Maybe it’s “Writer’s Avoidance” Behavior

I was fortunate to attend a presentation given by author Kathy Steffen, who talked about ways to overcome writer’s block. One of the things she talked about was how writer’s block isn’t always a “block” of creativity, but you’re actually engaging in something she called “writer’s avoidance behavior.”

I feel that this is especially true for writers in today’s challenging market, because there are a lot of discussions that distract an author (or a potential author) from staying on the keyboard and writing. From conventions to a metric ton of posts about how often you should blog to developing a writer’s platform, there are often more discussions about how to market yourself than how to actually write. For a new author, that can be very confusing. After all, they don’t see what all the other published authors go through before they get online and start marketing themselves. They don’t see how many hours it takes to write a novel, then revise it and go through the editing, submission, approval, proofreading, etc. process. Of course, even though the experiences are different, the distractions are still the same and for authors that need to stick to a deadline, it can be very easy to lose yourself in a sea of babble.

Often, I receive a lot of questions about how I balance full-time job, part-time writing, and my marketing efforts. First and foremost, I spent a number of years focusing on “how to write” not “how to market.” When I was younger, I focused a lot on the mechanics of writing so the business portion of it wasn’t as prevalent and — as a result — the opportunities just weren’t there. As I got older, I entered the gaming industry and was able to transfer a lot of my experiences to a number of opportunities, but I was so heavily focused on learning how to fit my writing into another world (or game system) that I didn’t really care about the marketing aspect of this. Was I writing all the time? No, but I feel that I was writing more often. When I didn’t write, it was because there were other challenges that came up like dealing with contracts, rejection or issues with scheduling and payment. In a way, those challenges became roadblocks to writing and affected my creativity, but not for lack of trying.

This year, I’ve taken a hard look at why it’s been so difficult for me to get my third round of revisions done for my novel. I realized that I was avoiding the revisions because I felt I needed to keep active, to have a vibrant persona that allows me to attract and retain people interested in my work. Well, sure…that may (or may not be) important…but when it comes down to it — all the followers, friends, devotees, etc. in the world don’t matter unless you have something to show for it. Even with a platform, you can’t “sell” a blank page.

After jury-rigging my schedule and figuring out what was important, I realized that it is possible to be active, to use your existing platforms, etc. provided I schedule my time better. Sure, I might not be as “active” as I was, but if I get online at night…I’m probably engaging in some form of “writer’s avoidance” behavior.

I understand that other authors have the same challenges that I do. Sometimes, an interruption that takes the form of two loads of laundry can lead to an evening of a poor word count. However, I also feel that scheduling challenges isn’t the only reason why an author engages in “writer’s avoidance” behavior. Often, an author’s insecurities can manifest in any number of different ways and there are a lot of “writer’s avoidance” behaviors that can result from that. One trend that I’m seeing, are a number of “new” authors that really, really want to write…but spend most of their time following other authors online or talking “about” writing. In my mind, someone can talk about the state-of-publishing and how to be a writer all they want — but if they never actually sit down and do it…then they’ll never “be” a writer. In many ways, it’s easier to talk about something you want to do from a theoretical or a hopeful perspective, because you’re trying to boost yourself up. Sometimes, though, you just have to disappear for a while and ignore all the naysayers and/or the cheerleaders. Sometimes, you just gotta focus on YOUR work and forget about everything else.

Be sure to check out Kathy’s article about battling writer’s block. If you have any insight or additional thoughts to share, I invite you to comment below.

What Other Writers Can Learn from Romance Authors

HeartI joined a local romance writer’s group last year and, admittedly, I was a bit nervous at first because I knew nothing about that arm of the publishing industry.

Well, here we are months later and I’m very happy with my involvement with this group for several reasons, the biggest one being that they are definitely a very supportive group of people regardless of where you are in your career or what genre you write. While it does have a focus on romance, since that’s what many of the members write, there’s a lot of discussion around topics that appeal to all writers.

Since joining this group I’ve learned that…

    1. The RWA is a well-oiled machine that offers a lot of support for both new-and-experienced authors. Also, there’s quite a bit of community support on the author side as well.
    2. The publishing side of romance is very well-defined, to the point where publishers may have expectations for certain types of novels based on how they fit into their business. (e.g. single-parent vs. historical, etc.)
    3. There are a lot of technical similarities between writing romance novels and writing other genres. After all, every novelist — regardless of genre — wants to tell a good story. Many of the elements (plot, characters, etc.) are still the same.

Now, as many of you know, I enjoy writing horror, dark fantasy and dark science fiction. However, that does not mean that a romantic relationship or a love interest won’t ever appear in one of my stories. A lot of times, romance (or infatuation, etc.) can provide excellent tension between two characters and it can also humanize a terrifying monster like Dracula, “The Hulk,” etc. Also, those relationships can give readers something to relate to, especially if you have a very complex setting.

Of course, the opposite is also true — that romance authors can learn a lot from different genres as well. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why paranormal romance is so popular?

Either way, I now have a profound respect for romance authors that I wasn’t sure I had before. Even though my tastes run dark, I’m finding some romance authors are not all that different than I am.

Guest SFWA Blog Post on Website Usability and Design

Hop on over to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website to read my latest guest post entitled, Authors! 8 Tips For Your Website’s Usability and Design.

Here’s a quote from the article:

In today’s article, I’d like to share with you some tips to consider when you’re reviewing your current website or when you’re thinking about creating one. Let’s take a look at these tips for your website’s design and usability.

1. Structure Your Theme Around Your Update Frequency – First and foremost, I believe that you have to make a decision, up front, about how often you plan on updating your website. If you’re not going to blog or update very often, you can simply choose a different website theme that’s a little more static than a blog, but still attractive and professional. — SOURCE: Authors! 8 Tips For Your Website’s Usability and Design

Enjoy!

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