Personal Tidbits, Self Publishing

NaNoWriMo Newbie Here!

NaNo-2015-Participant-Banner

Today was a special day for me because I became a NaNoWriMoer!

I first heard about this event last year when I started learning the ins and outs of self-publishing. Of course, I had to look it up to find out what NaNoWriMo stands for. (Psst…It stands for National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who might be encountering the term for the first time right now!) After I found out what it means, I wondered two things: What’s the point? and Why do people participate?

The point of NaNoWriMo is simple. Write a 50,000-word novel in one month! If you’re like me, not only is writing that many words in one month not so simple, it’s downright scary. But wait, there’s more. According to NaNoWriMo.org, the process is supposed to be fun and approached by the seat of your pants. Okay, so maybe trying to have fun and not editing after writing every other sentence might make the task less laughable and more doable. It’s worth a try, right?

But can’t writers attempt to write a 50,000-word novel for fun and by the seat of their pants during any month of the year? Of course they can, but the majority don’t. And even those who say they’re going to (ME, for example) often end up falling short. So why make an attempt during NaNoWriMo?

First of all, there’s something magical about setting a goal like this along with hundreds of thousands of other people. Within minutes of creating my account, I looked up friends who were participating and added them to my list of writing buddies. I also joined an accountability group on Facebook. I can’t even begin to explain the camaraderie I feel with fellow nanowrimoers. So I won’t. 🙂 But trust me, it feels great to share a common goal with so many other writers.

Second, making such a huge commitment in front of the hundreds of thousands of participants I’ve already mentioned lit a fire under me. I want to succeed, not just for myself, but for the entire community. Does it have anything to do with saving face? Yeah, okay, maybe a little. But I also want to be an inspiration to my writing buddies. Today, when I noticed that one of my buddies wrote 3,000+ words, not only was I proud of her, but it got me moving!

Third, I have my very own dashboard on the NaNoWriMo site that includes nifty progress trackers, such as a graph that reports my daily average and fun little badges to keep me motivated. For someone like me who’s driven by data and reaching milestones, it’s just plain cool. Today I wrote 2,182 words, which puts my required daily average at 1,091. I hope to decrease that average as the month progresses.

nanowrimo dashboardMy Dashboard

nanowrimo progressMy Progress Tracker

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, are you a newbie too? What’s your favorite thing about being a nanowrimoer?

Personal Tidbits, Self Publishing

Am I Really “Livin’ the Life”?

The other day, an acquaintance asked me how things are going.

I replied the way I typically do when I engage in small talk. I smiled and said things are great. Sure, I get stressed out from time to time (on a daily basis actually), and life with three kids is hectic as hell, but people don’t really want to hear about all that.

She responded to my upbeat answer with a nod and a grin followed by, “Just livin’ the life, huh?”

For some reason, I sensed a bit of negativity in her tone. So instead of continuing with the exchange, I ignored her comment and pretended to be in a hurry. Unfortunately, the comment continued to nag at me for the rest of the week. What really bothered me was that I didn’t know why it bothered me. I mean, isn’t it a good thing if people think you’re “livin’ the life”?

Then I came to this conclusion. It’s a good thing only if they’re happy for you. In this case, I feel as though this particular person has the wrong impression of what the life I’m livin’ is actually like. It seems she might be under the impression that I sit around leisurely typing novels when the mood strikes me (while my children raise themselves), and I’m rewarded with large sums of money from Amazon. Um, no. Here’s a rundown of what my life as a work-at-home writer is really like.

Like other stay-at-home moms, I take care of most of the household duties. Laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc. I also take point on caring for our three children, which involves scheduling and providing transportation for extracurricular activities, making doctor and dentist appointments, dealing with correspondence from school, making my boys’ lunches for school, and making sure they all have clothing, outerwear and shoes that fit properly. While my boys are at school, I keep my 3-year-old occupied with daily preschool activities, music class, gymnastics, general play and LOTS of conversation. (The one and only thing I do for myself is participate in a group exercise class at the YMCA three days a week, during which my little one goes to the daycare. Oh, and I occasionally squeeze in a shower.) After I’m done cleaning up lunch dishes, my little one may or may not take a short nap. Either way, I have a limited amount of time to get a small bit of work done before my boys get home from school. When that time rolls around, I help with homework for about an hour after which I start dinner. Making, eating and cleaning up dinner typically takes anywhere from one to two hours, depending on whether we eat leftovers.

Mix in my boys’ extracurricular activities (soccer, karate, gymnastics and piano) and most nights we’re pushing 8:00 by the time everyone is getting ready for bed, which involves showers/baths, brushing teeth, stories and tucking in. It isn’t until at least 9:00 that I really get a chance to work. And if there’s one word I would associate with novel writing, it’s work. A hell of a lot of work. But my work isn’t limited to novel writing (which includes marketing and social media maintenance, by the way). I’m also a freelance editor because I have to do something to earn enough money to pay for everything that goes into publishing and marketing my novels. They certainly don’t pay for themselves!

Bedtime for me is typically between one and two a.m. every night, including weekends. Then I wake up with my children and do it all over again. Day after day.

So, to the acquaintance who thinks I’m “just livin’ the life,” why yes, yes I am. I love being able to stay home with my children, and I love being able to write novels. I also happen to be a night owl, so I don’t mind the late shifts. But none of it is easy, and I make very little money compared to the number of hours I spend tapping away at my keyboard. (To be honest, my monthly royalties typically aren’t even enough to cover our cable bill.)

My point is, being a work-at-home mom who’s a writer probably isn’t what most people would choose if they knew what it was really like. But I happen to LOVE IT. That’s why I gave up a secure, salaried teaching position to do it.

So, yes, I’m “livin’ the life.” But I work my ass off, and there’s not one bit of glamour involved. Regardless, *smiles* things are great!

Ask KJ, Self Publishing

Quick and Easy Ways to Support an Author

thumbs up

If you have a friend or family member who’s an author (or even if you’ve enjoyed a book so much that you wished you knew the author), there are several ways for you to show your support or appreciation for his/her work.

Doing just one of the things on this list is guaranteed to put a smile on the targeted author’s face. And making it a habit to do several or all of these things consistently could lead to increased success for the author.

Become a Facebook Fan

Liking an author’s Facebook page is probably the easiest way to show your support. However, if you really want to make an impact, be an engaged fan. What does this mean? Like, share and/or comment on the author’s posts.

A lot of Facebook users aren’t aware of how restrictive the site is when it comes to fan pages. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Posts aren’t shown to every fan of a particular page. I’m not certain how Facebook determines whose feed a post initially pops up in, but it is said that for every ‘like’ a post receives, 10 additional fans will see it.
  • Posts are also boosted when they are commented on and shared.
  • If an author mentions the words ‘share’ or ‘like’ in a post, Facebook downgrades the post and won’t give it the usual boost.

Follow the Author’s Blog

In order to follow an author’s blog, all you have to do is click ‘follow’ or type in your email address to subscribe. Then you’ll receive automatic updates when your friend or family member posts new content. If you have time, comment on a post every once in a while or share a post on social media.

Follow the Author on Goodreads

Goodreads is the perfect outlet for increasing an author’s visibility. If you aren’t familiar with the site, it’s a Facebook-like platform for book lovers. When a user follows an author, the action shows up in her feed, which is shown to all of her friends (just like a Facebook wall post). Goodreads also allows users to categorize books by placing them on different shelves, the most common being the ‘to-read’ shelf. Categorizing a book is another action that shows up in a user’s feed, so adding an author’s books to your to-read shelf is another great way to introduce her work to others.

Promote the Author

It isn’t easy for authors to promote themselves or their work, but it’s a necessity. Help by telling co-workers, fellow book lovers or even random strangers about your author friend’s work. You could even suggest your friend’s book to your book club. Ask for promotional items (such as bookmarks, business cards and pens) to distribute.

Attend a Signing

I know it might seem weird to attend a book signing event for your friend when you probably already own her book and when she most likely won’t have a lot of time to socialize with you. But trust me, your presence will mean the world to her. Plus, a book signing is the perfect place to spend some time promoting your friend’s books!

Purchase the Author’s Books

I have no desire to make money off friends and family, so I typically offer free copies of my book to anyone I personally know who expresses interest in my work. The other day, a friend of mine refused to take a free copy of my new YA novel. I can’t tell you how much it touched my heart.

If your author friend somehow slips you a free copy of her book (which I’ve successfully done a few times), consider purchasing an additional copy in a different format or as a gift for someone else.

Read the Author’s Books and Write Honest Reviews

Whenever I discover a new review, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Whether they’re long or short (good or bad) I appreciate each and every review that my books receive. Keep in mind, reviews don’t have to be lengthy – a line or two expressing your opinion is sufficient. Also, it is extremely helpful if reviews are cross-posted on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and/or LibraryThing.

What other things have you done to support an author?