Author Business & Publishing, Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

2017 Year-End Update

Kate on Golden GateLooking back on 2017, the year hasn’t been as much of a dumpster fire as I originally thought. Author-wise, I published my third Desertera novel, The Tyrant’s Heir, re-evaluated my writing and business goals, and strengthened connections with my amazing readers and author friends. On the personal side, I lost two beloved family members to chronic illnesses, moved from Connecticut to California (with a brief vacation at home in Kansas), and traveled to new places in the United States.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I accomplished far more than I did in 2016! My husband and I have a tradition of making one resolution per year we’ve been alive, so I made 24 goals for 2017. I never expect to achieve them all — but if I shoot for the moon, I still hit the stars. And I hit quite a few stars this year.

Writing & Publishing

Desertera books1. Create (write, edit, outline, or research) 5 days a week
My average ended up being four days per week, as I allowed myself extended breaks for my cross-country move and two bereavement periods.
2. Write Desertera #3
3. Edit Desertera #3 (C)
4. Publish Desertera #3 (C)
5. Write a second novel
While I didn’t start drafting, the world is built and ready to write for 2018!
6. Edit a second novel
7. Start Desertera #4
8. Make 2018 production schedule

Business

9. Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press
Just a little short!
10. Create freebie for Writing Newsletter subscribers 
11. Create freebie for Reader List subscribers
12. Blog 2x per month
13. Maintain social media schedule
14. Diversify existing products (audiobooks, box sets, etc.)
I’ll be focusing on this in 2018 instead!
15. Do one marketing/promotion task per month
Choosing to forgo marketing until I have a larger catalog is why I didn’t hit my income goal. While I’m disappointed with myself, I know playing the long game will pay off eventually.
16. Read 52 books
I read 40 books. Now that I don’t ride the train every morning, I need to find a new reading time!

Personal

Tommy travels17. Work on positivity
18. Exercise 3x per week
19. Break a bad habit
20. Recoup savings account post-Yale
21. Make post-Yale plan
22. Visit final NYC sites
23. Visit new state
24. Visit new country
I achieved ALL of my personal goals! Here’s to leaving 2017 a happier, healthier, and better-traveled human!

Overall, I’m pleased with how much I accomplished in 2017. I’ll be finalizing my 2018 New Year’s resolutions today, and I can’t wait to dive into them. Here’s to a fantastic year!

What did you accomplish in 2017? What goals are you setting for 2018? Share them in the comments!

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Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

My 2017 New Year’s Resolutions

champagneWelcome back to another episode of “Kate’s ambition and optimism give her temporary insanity and delusions of invincibility.” With my first full year as a published author tucked away in the history books, I’m ready to push forward into 2017. The first step? Announcing my New Year’s Resolutions.

As I’ve said in years past, I love planning, organizing, and dreaming BIG. So, crafting my annual resolutions is one of my favorite things. In my 2016 Year-End Reflection, I talked about my theme for this year (Growth) and my 2017 motto: Always Be Creating. You’ll see both reflected here.

Why so many resolutions? Longtime readers will know that my husband and I have a masochistic FUN tradition of making one resolution for every year we’ve been alive. I’ve added in personalized difficulty levels, based on the likelihood that I’ll hit each goal.

E – Easy
C – Challenging
DD – Damn Difficult
LOL – Yeah … probably not happening

You might wonder why I include ‘LOL’ goals at all. Well, I’m a “shoot for the stars and still hit the moon” type of person. I know I might not have the time, money, and strength to accomplish all of my resolutions. But if I try for all and only make half, I’m still miles beyond where I started.

Without further ado, here are my 2017 New Year’s resolutions:

Writing & Publishing

1. Create (write, edit, outline, or research) 5 days a week (DD)
2. Write Desertera #3 (E)
3. Publish Desertera #3 (C)
4. Write Desertera #4 (DD)
5. Write separate fiction book (LOL)
6. Publish a second fiction book (LOL)
7. Write nonfiction book (DD)
8. Publish nonfiction book (LOL)

Business

9. Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press (DD)
10. Create freebie for Writing Newsletter subscribers (E)
11. Create freebie for Reader List subscribers (DD)
12. Blog 2x per week (C)
13. Maintain social media schedule (DD)
14. Diversify existing products (audiobooks, box sets, etc.) (DD)
15. Do one marketing/promotion task per month (C)
16. Read 52 books (E)

Personal

17. Work on positivity (DD)
18. Exercise 3x per week (LOL)
19. Break a bad habit (DD)
20. Recoup savings account post-Yale (DD)
21. Make post-Yale plan (E)
22. Visit final NYC sites (E)
23. Visit new state (E)
24. Visit new country (DD)

As you can see, I have a lot to do this year! I’ll let you know how it goes with my monthly updates.

Share your resolutions in the comments so that I can cheer you on, too! Or, if you need a little help crafting your goals, check out this post on making attainable New Year’s resolutions. Just remember: do as I say, not as I do!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Writer Problems: 5 Mantras to Conquer Your Insecurity

Insecurity seems to be a fundamental trait that writers share. Whether the craft is fiction, poetry, screenwriting, essays, or even copy writing, writers worry about their writing. Is it good enough? Is it the right style? With others read and enjoy it? Will I be mocked? Is it worthy of publication?

Recently, a few of my writer friends have been particularly plagued by insecurity. For them, I try to be the cheerleader. I provide an optimistic, outside perspective and offer words of encouragement or tips for improvement. However, I would be the biggest liar on this planet if I said that I didn’t feel insecure from time to time (read: most of the time). But fretting over every detail and talking down to yourself won’t help you. In fact, if self-fulfilling prophecy has anything to say about it, it will probably make you a worse writer. Therefore, the next time you are feeling a bit shaky, try remembering these five mantras:

harry potter1.) You are probably not the next J.K. Rowling (and that’s okay!).

Feel free to substitute whichever hit-it-big, rich writer you choose (mine would be Nicholas Sparks). Look, more than likely, your work will not be an international, multi-million dollar, movie empire success. Could it be? Of course. But realistically speaking, most books sell under 500 copies in their lifetime, and the ones that are a huge success nowadays tend to be so more because of marketability than literary genius (Fifty Shades, anyone?). Your work is your work. You have your own, unique style and someone, somewhere will appreciate it. You don’t have to write the next Hunger Games to be a worthy, successful author. There are thousands of mid-list authors who achieve a full-time income and/or loyal fan bases without becoming a household name. There is no shame in this.

2.) You are probably not the next Hemingway, either (and that is STILL okay!)

Again, feel free to substitute the critically-acclaimed author of your choice (mine would be Faulkner). Just as your work will probably not make you ridiculously rich, you probably won’t go down in history as one of the greatest writers of all time. Could you? Of course. But again, realistically speaking, you’re probably not one of the greats, and that is fine. Literature is subjective. You could have a million readers who believe you are the best writer in the known universe, and someone will still hate your work. In someone’s estimation, there will always be a book better than yours, and there will always be a book worse than yours. As long as you are happy with and proud of your writing, that is all that matters.

snowflake3.) No one else can write like you.

In regards to rules one and two, you may not be like other writers, because every writer is unique. You have your own voice, your own perspective, and no one can take those away from you. It is useless to compare your writing to others’ work, because it is like comparing apples and oranges (or Whitman and Shakespeare). Sure, it can be done, but you can never account for the billion little idiosyncrasies that make you unique as a writer and an individual. As long as you stay true to your voice and write from your authentic self, you will be the writer that you are meant to be.

4.) There are no rules.

This is my favorite. Grammar lovers, cut me a little slack on this one. Seriously, you can write your book or poem or essay however you like. Do you want to divide your novel by parts instead of chapters? Fine. Do you want to exclude all punctuation from your poetry? Fine. Do you want to write an essay entirely in the second person? Fine. While there are some established guidelines necessary to win over a traditional publisher (or achieve success as a self-published author), if all you want to do is express yourself creatively and experiment with new forms, then just do it! For real, what’s stopping you?

freedom-102409_6405.) You can do whatever you want with your writing.

If all else fails, remember: your writing is your intellectual property, and you can do with it what you will. Do you want to try your luck with agents and publishers? Great! Do you want to build your own author-entrepreneur business and independently publish? Nifty! Do you want to let a few friends, family members, or random internet strangers read it? Awesome! Do you want to crumple it in a ball, set it on fire, and release the ashes in international waters? Cool! At all times, you are in complete, creative control of your writing. Do with it whatever makes you happy.

As unofficial sixth point, let me reiterate: you are not alone. All writers face insecurity in some form at some time. And sure, 99.9% of us won’t be insanely rich or achieve literary acclaim. But we all have a unique voice, the right to determine our own style, and complete control over our creativity. So pick up your pen or put your fingers on your keyboard, shove that little ball of terror or self-loathing in your desk drawer, and write what you want. You have a story worth telling inside you, you deserve to write it, and the world deserves to receive it.


If you’re working on your first novel and worry that it will suck, read this. And, as always, leave your comments, fears, and encouragements below!

 

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

On Blank Journals and Self-Doubt

Forget what they say about diamonds and dogs: when it comes to writers, journals are man’s best friend.

Okay, okay, maybe dogs, too.

Like most writers, I love journals. (I’m talking inspiration journals, although, writers should consider the diary kind, too.) Whenever I get a new one, I admire the artistic cover, run my fingertip down the unbroken spine, flip through those beautiful, blank pages and let their virgin paper aroma fill my nostrils. If the journal has a ribbon as a placemarker, I fling it out of my way. Then, I move to the first page, pick up my pen, and…freeze.

blank journalHere it is before me: a gorgeous, unsoiled journal with over 100 blank pages waiting to receive my brilliance. Only, I can’t help but wonder, do I have any brilliance to give them? Who am I to dirty these clean manila pages with combinations of words that I deem “creative”? Are the words I write worth the death of a tree, worth a lifetime on paper?

Once the ink marks the page, it is there forever. Even if I use pencil, the ghost of the lead will stain the pages with half letters and smudges for life of the paper. There is no going back.

Okay, I’ll scale back the drama, but hopefully you get my point. And even more hopefully, you’ll tell me that I’m not alone in this. For whatever reason, writing in a blank journal is a million times more difficult for me than writing in a word processor. The few real-life writer friends I have echo these sentiments. They, too, recognize the confidence-shattering object that is the blank journal. But, surely, we cannot be the only few who feel this way.

So what is it about the blank journal that is so intimidating? Here are my theories:

1. Symbolism

As humans, we apply a great deal of symbolic meaning to objects. When faced with a new journal, a writer does not see it as merely a journal — it is a vessel of creativity, a primitive draft of a novel, a piece of posterity for grandchildren to discover and leaf through in 30 years. That’s a lot of pressure.

2. Self-Doubt

While I don’t necessarily agree with traditional writer “stereotypes,” I will concede that many (though not all) artists are inflicted with disproportionate amounts of self-doubt and self-criticism. Therefore, when faced with an empty journal, all the ugly heads of “writer’s block” rear. Seeing these blank pages give you a glimpse into your soul: you are not worthy of soiling them with your unexceptional thoughts.

3. Perfectionism

Once your writing utensil hits that virgin page, the mark can never be undone. Why ruin the journal — it’s so pretty! What if your handwriting is messy? What if you make a mistake and have to cross something out or create eraser smudge? Should this journal be all for its own project, or can you divide it into sections? What if you run out of genius and can never fill the entire journal?

new journal
The beautiful journal I got for Christmas, which inspired this post, and which I vow to use fearlessly!

This is not an exhaustive list. And the next one isn’t either. However, if these, or any other thoughts, haunt your new journal, try reminding yourself of these things:

1. It’s just paper.

Seriously, it’s just a bound set of paper pages. It’s not some sacred vessel. In fact, even with your words scrawled in it, it’s still just a journal. Calm down.

2. You can get another one.

If you “ruin” your pretty new journal with “uncreative” thoughts, you can always get a new one. There is no ration on paper at this time in human history.

3. No one else will read it.

Your journal may not be filled with brilliance, but that is okay! It is a place for inspiration, random thoughts, and plot bunnies. No one has to see it, and even if they do, no one will judge it as harshly as you will.

4. Stop de-valuing yourself.

Your words, your creative thoughts, are worth writing down. Trust me, even if you think they are rubbish, they’re not. Besides, as number one says, a journal is just paper. Without your human touch, it will be wasted paper. So put it to use.

5. Just have fun.

A journal is a writer’s playground. In our technological age, you will not publish anything that comes directly from the pages of your journal. At the very least, you must type them into a word processor, which will give you a chance to edit. With that in mind, just brainstorm and experiment and play. Save your genius for Scrivener.

Perhaps my writer friends and I are alone in this phenomenon. However, whenever I receive a new journal, I feel a deadly combination of excitement, nervousness, and insecurity. I know I need to take it less seriously, and perhaps an unofficial new year’s resolution of mine should become to allow journals to be a playground rather than a breeding ground for my self-doubt.

In fact, I am going to combat that this week by using a new journal to hold the story beats for my next manuscript. What about you?


How do you feel about writing in inspiration journals? Do blank journals intimidate you or bring out your creative best? Share your experiences and tips below!

 

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

It’s that time of year again. As the new year approaches, we begin to think ahead to what it may have in store for us and what we want to accomplish for ourselves. The television is flooded with commercials for dieting products, nicotine patches, and storage crates. The air is buzzing and hope begins to balloon in your chest. Even though January 1st is just another day, we have given it social and psychological meaning, and it marks an almost-tangible transition. You have goals, resolutions, and you will keep them.

new yearAnd then the magic dissipates, the champagne goes flat, mid-January or early February hits, and you suddenly do not care about those resolutions. And even if you do care, you convince yourself that you do not have the time, energy, or resolve to stay committed. Is this just the hectic reality of life? Maybe. But it may also be that you simply did not set the right kind of resolutions.

If you want to make new year’s resolutions that you truly will keep, follow the steps below. I’m using these with my own resolutions, and they have proven to work for me in years past.

Step One: Dream BIG

The dawn of a new year is the perfect symbolic time for refocusing on your dreams. However, most people stop at this step. They say to themselves, “I will be healthy this year.” That’s a great dream! But if that is the resolution you use to represent that dream, you aren’t going to get very far in achieving it.

Step Two: Get Specific

Okay, so you want to “be healthy.” Awesome! Now, what does that mean for you? There are several kinds of health: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, psychological, financial, etc. Whatever your resolution is, make sure you know exactly what it is you plan to accomplish. Without a clear picture of what your dream looks like, you won’t be able to make it a reality.

Step Three: Get Real

Let’s say your dream is to “get rich.” Okay, fine. And you specify that to be “make one million dollars.” That’s all good and well, but is that goal actually realistic for your current and projected situations over the next twelve months? Chances are, it’s not. A few more realistic ways to work toward your dream of riches would be to receive a raise, find a higher paying job, invest, or create multiple streams of income. While it may take you longer to reach your dream, I guarantee this approach of small realistic goals over big unrealistic goals will help you stay motivated and get you much farther in the long run.

Step Four: Get Quantifiable

So, you have your dream and your specific goal, and you’ve made sure they are realistic. Great. Now it is time to make your goal(s) measurable. Going back to the “be healthy” example, let’s say you decide that means to have better nutrition. Lovely. Make that into one or two even more specific goals that you can quantify. These could be: eat one serving of vegetables every day at lunch, only eat one serving of junk food per day, or drink less than five sodas a week. The choice is yours, of course, but make sure that you can track your successes and failures clearly and without negotiation.

Step Five: Get Tough

But not too tough. If you set a goal for yourself that is too easy or too difficult, you are bound to fail. For example, I drink maybe one soda a month. Tops. So, if my healthy resolution was to cut out soda altogether, that is a healthy decision, but it would not be difficult for me at all. However, I LOVE chocolate, so if my goal was to cut out chocolate completely, I would fail within a week. There has to be a balance. If your goal is not challenging, you are deceiving yourself into believing you are moving farther than you are. Likewise, if your goal is too challenging, you will never reach it and feel like a failure.

Step Six: Get Honest

Selecting your new year’s resolution(s) is a deeply personal decision. However, so many people choose their resolutions based on what others do. Is this a product of social groupthink, social pressure, or just a lack of creativity? No matter which way, make sure you are only taking on resolutions that you actually want to try and that you truly believe will benefit you. Don’t feel like losing 10 pounds? Don’t resolve to lose weight. Don’t want to record every second of your life? Don’t resolve to keep a journal. It’s that simple.

In the end, the keys to making new year’s resolutions you will actually keep are these: know yourself, your situation, and your dreams. Be smart, be logical, and be entirely honest.

And remember: the only judge and the only victor is you.


What are your new year’s resolutions? What factors do you consider when choosing your goals? Share your advice below!