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Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

It’s the start of the new calendar year. Are you going into it wondering if you are ready to publish? Convinced you are definitely ready? On the fence?

 

Wherever you are sitting on that question, moving from writing and editing to publishing is a big step. So, what if you are ready? What do you do now?

 

First, is to make sure you really are ready to take that next big leap.

 

 

 

If you are writing shorter projects: articles, short or flash fiction/nonfiction, poetry, etc.; you will likely find the rules on readiness for publishing less strict for some publications. Check their requirements before sending your piece in. And if it does not say otherwise, assume they want articles that are complete and edited to perfection, although that does not mean they won’t ask for revisions. Fiction submissions usually need to be completed work.

 

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

If you are writing a full length book, it’s going to take more work to make it ready for publication.

 

Pitching to a publisher with a book idea in the expectation of getting an advance to then write the book is almost certainly going to leave you lying flat in the depths of rejection. Unless you are Paul Sheldon (author of the Misery series in Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery, made into a movie of the same name), or some other movie or book character, this is unlikely to result in a contract.  Big name authors with a track record of best sellers may score that advance based on an idea they haven’t written yet, but for the rest of us this is not how it’s going to work.

 

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your best option is to send that advance-seeking pitch to an agent, not a publisher. A small publisher may indulge you with a smile and nod, but they are unlikely to sign a contract for an unseen unwritten manuscript by an author whose work they don’t know. And, if you want to get in with the big publishers, you need an agent.

 

As an unknown or little known talent, your best option is to write the book first, perfect it, get it edited, and then pitch it. This way potential publishers and agents can see the quality of your writing.

 

 

Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

You wrote a book, but is it ready to publish? The answer to that is the answer to this question: is it edited to perfection? It is not enough to write a book. It needs to be written well, to hook and pull the reader in, make them yearn for more with the ending of each page. Editing and developmental errors can ruin this and your chance of being signed on with the publisher.

 

The book market is rife with editing mistakes from the big name authors at biggest publishing houses down to the smallest self-published author. They happen. People edit and people are fallible and let’s be real here, writing and editing a book are huge undertakings. You also don’t really know how much that publisher is actually investing in paid editing, so you want your book as perfect as you can make it before you submit it. Heck, I was published with a small press who claimed to have a paid editor. I suspect their editor was more fictitious than my characters; at least they have some form of life breathed into them through the pages of the books.

 

What kind of editing do you need?  All of them.

 

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

The four main types of book editing are (in the order they should be done):

 

1) Developmental Editing: This is a structural and developmental edit of . . . everything; including a critique of the essential elements of the story: plot, story structure, setting, timeline, characterization, pacing, and of course, presentation and marketability. You may have already rewritten your manuscript in whole or parts before this, but be prepared to have it stripped down to basics. You may do so again after the beta readers have read it and given you feedback. This is where you might find yourself re-ordering or rewriting events and chapters, reimagining characters, tweaking your story arc, and other major revisions. This will include line editing, copy editing, and proofreading, but does not replace those necessary steps afterwards. With the revisions that will be done, you will still need the following editing steps.

 

Note: at this point you should have or be enlisting beta readers to give you feedback on your story. You may have to go back to the developmental editing on parts or all of your book after their input.

 

2) Line Editing: Line by line edit focusing on the flow, tone, and style of writing. The goal is to clean up unnecessary verbosity, tighten sentences, and fix awkward sentences and paragraphs for readability.

 

3) Copy Editing: Essentially it is text editing. This is a word by word edit to find and correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, language, syntax, typos, etc. This should be done after you are satisfied with the story structure, plot, settings, characterization, and so forth, and have no further changes to the story.

 

4) Proofreading:  The final editing of the book ‘proof’. This is the last look at the print ready book proof before publication to catch any missed typos and formatting gaffes.

 

 

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Your book is perfect. Now what? Now that you have let beta readers at your book and have done further revisions and had all the forms of editing done and maybe done again, your book is ready to publish. Now you need to decide how you want to publish. For some, the old school large publishing house is the only way they want to go. Others prefer the total control of self-publishing. There are also the in-betweens; small publishers, Indy presses, and hybrid options.

 

1) Large publishers. These are the ‘you need an agent’ publishers. They typically do not take unsolicited manuscripts, and by solicited that means coming from an agent who has already vetted the author and their book as something that publisher might be interested in looking at. They also are more likely to expect an instant best seller and less likely to settle for anything less. You write the book, and they put in all the expenses to publish it and take the risks of whether or not it will make money.

 

2) Independent presses are publishing companies that operate solo. They are not part of or operating under the umbrella of a large multinational or conglomerate corporation. These can be large or small publishing companies.

 

3) Small press. The title basically describes what they are. These are smaller independent publishing businesses. They don’t have the large finances behind them, which also increases the risk of them going out of business in the tough world of book publishing. They are unlikely to offer an advance and that’s okay, because an advance is borrowing against future royalties you have not yet earned. It also means they don’t have the same corporate weight in getting your books into bookstores as the larger presses do. The good news is that you don’t generally need an agent to query them on your behalf. Small presses are usually quite happy to discuss publishing contracts directly with the author and are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author or book that does not fall neatly into the mainstream popular market. Like the bigger publishers, they pay the expenses and take the risks, but you are likely to sell fewer books.

 

4) Hybrid publishing occupies the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It runs in various models and is called by different names. Hybrid publishing is a newer variation on the publishing business and can involve a larger publisher, independent or not, or smaller publisher. Whatever you want to call it, the premise is that it is a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing; a cooperative agreement between the author and publisher that involves some financial investment from the author. The author has to pay for some of the services to get their book published, generally in exchange for a higher percent of the royalties. The author will also have more control over their book than under a traditional publishing model. This should not be confused with a ‘vanity press’, a term for a predatory company preying on the author’s need to be published (considered ‘vanity’ long before modern marvels like computers and typewriters made being a writer easier).

 

5) Self-publishing is the do-it-yourself of publishing. This is all on you. The author is solely responsible for all the costs and risks of getting that book published. You are your own publisher. There are a lot of services out there available for everything from the four types of editing to typesetting and formatting your files for uploading both to print book and eBook. There are artists and stock photos, and the cover designers to make them into your book cover for you. You are also on your own to market your book or hire a company to market your book for you. Self-publishing authors often utilize POD (print on demand) tools and/or eBook publishing. Self-publishing is your most costly option as far as monetary investments go. It is also probably the hardest to find success at, since you don’t have the name of a known publishing house behind you.

 

 

Whatever publishing route you choose, make sure your manuscript is one hundred percent perfect and do your homework. Research the publisher or service you are planning to use. Look for reviews, Better Business Bureau complaints, and anything good or bad online. Check out the covers of their other books to make sure they look like professional quality covers. How easily found are their books? Are they professional in their dealings with you? And above all, never sign a contract without being one hundred and ten percent sure of it. If you are unsure of the publisher or the wording or a contract in general, the online writing community is an invaluable source of help. So is hiring a publishing contract lawyer.

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You’ve likely heard it, that you must build your platform. While a lot of us know what that is, not everyone does. In its simplest description, your platform is your (mainly digital now) imprint on the world. Don’t think of it as your ‘popularity points’. It is not you (and not literally, I hope) standing there waving your arms and shouting for attention. What it is, is what kind of a following you have.

 

Some will argue a platform simply is, but really it could also be argued that it takes multiple forms. Like weaving story threads together, all of these things and more come together to build your author platform. Each part of your author platform gives and takes support from each other.

 

When a potential agent or publisher looks at you, your platform is the likelihood of your book selling in the mass quantities that make it worth their while.

 

Your digital platform is your presence online and how likely new and existing readers are to come across your name or go out of their way to follow you. It is everything from your Facebook author page, Twitter, and Instagram, to your Amazon author page, Goodreads, your name appearing in Google searches, and your blog posts and website. Every like, share, and comment online is building your author brand.

 

Your product platform is the work itself that you do, your writing regardless of its form, or whatever services you are offering. This includes public speaking engagements.

 

Your professional platform is your level of professionalism and the quality of your work you put out there, and that doesn’t just mean your writing, editing, and book cover or the services you provide, although a high level of professionalism in those areas is a necessity. It is also the level of professionalism you show at every stage and in every face. It is how professional you come across online, in person, letters, socially, and, yes, in your actual work. This is also memberships in organizations.

 

Building a platform involves creating your author brand. It is what people think of you. Your contacts: who they are and how many. It is you connecting with your audience, both existing and building it larger.

 

Everything is an opportunity to build your brand and platform. If you are doing the circuit of craft markets and genre events (ie poetry slams, SciFi, fantasy, and other genre conventions … the list is endless), use every chance you have to schmooze. Meet people, talk business, be sociable and friendly, mention what you do, make connections both professionally and with your potential fan base. Have a stack of business cards with your social media author links that you can hand out to potential peers and fans so they can connect with and follow you. You can get cards made up for a very reasonable price with Vistaprint (they constantly have coupon codes for deals!) and other print on demand business product printers.

 

Hint: When you are making your own business cards, remember to increase the brightness and contrast if there is a picture. Like book covers, it will print darker than it shows on your computer screen.

 

 

Think before you post. One wrong rant can derail your reputation as a writer and a person. In social media groups and on your professional pages be courteous, kind, and respectful. The impression you give when you communicate in social media is your online brand.

 

 

 

Think about the ways you can build your author platform (this list is not inclusive of every means):

  • Figure out your target audience and cater to them
  • Blog
  • Build an email list and send out newsletters (but don’t SPAM them!)
  • Social networking / social media
  • Write articles or columns
  • Do guest contributions to others’ blogs and websites
  • Public speaking appearances and readings
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Visit book clubs
  • Find places to do book signings (craft markets, conventions, libraries, stores, etc)
  • Schmooze and hand out your social media links business cards
  • Book readings
  • Put out more work. This is probably the most important. Keep working and putting it out there.

 

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Photo by Olivier Guillard on Unsplash

For some reason, NaNoWriMo entirely aside, November seems to be the busiest month every year for me. It’s the season of winter craft sales for those doing that circuit. If anything goes sideways at work it is always November (for me, at least). At home it’s the beginning of Christmas planning, decorating, gift lists, baking, and trying to figure out how to make that Christmas budget stretch farther than humanly possible. Even notwithstanding that, November just seems busier at work, home, and everywhere.

 

And then, just to make a busy month more so, we have NaNoWriMo. I hope you fared better than me. With working Monday to Friday at the ‘pays the bills’ job, my commitments to the Manitoba Writer’s Guild, and working doing book events and playing catch-up on the weekends, my NaNo time amounted to a random hour or so, dwindling to that in a week if I’m lucky.

 

Yet we writers persevere and push on, counting those words and plugging in five minutes here and ten minutes there of writing. The stress builds as our word counts rise, perhaps falling above or below the curve of 1667 words per day of the NaNo arc.

 

By November 30th you feel like you need to decompress or your will implode, or maybe explode, with that self-imposed pressure. It can be hard to put it down after obsessing over that project for thirty straight days. So, how do you do that?

 

As a general rule, I don’t let myself look at or even think about that NaNo book for two months. (This year will be different since I split it between multiple works in progress and essentially had to give up the ghost mid-November and accept failure). But this does not mean I take a months long break from writing.

 

 

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

First, breath! It’s over. You did it! You survived National Novel Writing Month. Let yourself take a well-deserved breather. Take a bubble bath with a glass of wine or binge watch something cringe-worthy. Whatever your go to relaxation method is, you deserve it.

 

Focus on another writing project. Whether it is outlining a new project, editing a finished one, working on an existing one, poetry, short or flash fiction, articles, it does not matter. While you are backing off the manic pace of NaNovember, put some of that drive and habit you gained into keeping a writing routine going.

 

Accept that your NaNo project may be junk and move on. It’s okay to feel like you wrote trash and you won’t be alone in that feeling. Heck, a lot of first drafts will incite that even with meticulous time and care put into them. And that is exactly what it is, a first draft. Do not dwell on it (yet). It’s not a waste of time or of writing. Editing fixes all (usually).

 

Think on what you learned through NaNoWriMo. What did you discover about yourself and your writing strengths and weaknesses? What will make next year’s challenge more survivable? How can you use it to improve your daily life and writing?

 

Through December put that compulsive drive into family and the holidays. After all, it is the season and a very busy month too, and you probably neglected them just a little through NaNovember.

 

January is the month of … Exactly! You will have made your New Years resolutions and maybe even meant it when you said them. You are probably already thinking of how you will get out of them, am I right? Keep that writing routine going. Life marches on.

 

Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

 

March is when I traditionally revisit my NaNoStory. This is when I finally let myself look at it. First with an editing savagery that would do my Celtic/Viking ancestors proud. No sentence is safe. Over time that will work into the more finely detailed edits of spiffing the story up all pretty and cultured from developmental and structural edits to copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. Whether March comes in and out like a lion or a lamb, it’s editing madness month! Why do I wait two full months? For the same reason I will put a manuscript aside for months or longer – to come at it with a fresh eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online articles for writers:

https://thewritepractice.com/after-nanowrimo/

https://prowritingaid.com/art/294/Life-After-NaNoWriMo%3a-Facing-the-Technical-Edit-Like-a-Pro.aspx

https://thewritepractice.com/nanowrimo-over/

https://justwriterlythings.com/blog/a-writers-guide-to-life-after-nanowrimo/

 

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Photo by Ryan Sepulveda on Unsplash

November. Are you ready? Will you spill yourself heart and soul out onto the written or virtual pages this month?

It’s November. That month where the world grows gloomy and cold, commuters begin their winter trek in the dim twilight or somber darkness, seeing little of daylight in their false indoor lights, and the long shadow of winter is upon us. Some of us are wallowing in regret from eating all that sweet Halloween candy bliss we had to panic re-buy last minute before we get tricks for not treating the ghouls, princesses, prancing unicorn ponies, and Ninja Turtles racing door to door October 31st.

Leaves have turned shades of yellows, oranges, and reds, like a burned effigy to summer, and fallen crisp and dry to the ground to house the creatures surviving the winter outside. Soon, tangled strings of mostly working lights will be pulled out to create a carnival of Christmas color.

November is the month of remembering those lost to us in forgotten wars of the past and the sacrifices made by both the living and departed veterans of yesterday’s and today’s battlegrounds.

It is also the month of awareness for too many causes to list; Movember (men’s health issues including prostate cancer), pancreatic and other cancers, crohn’s and colitis awareness, national domestic violence awareness, fall prevention, … let’s stop there.

What else is November? For some us it is the month of mad writing spurts, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you ready for it?

 

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

For those unfamiliar with that strange term “NaNoWriMo”, it is an acronym of the first few letters of each word for this wordy month: National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is about writing and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s about putting aside meticulously plotting and thinking out each word and sentence carefully before committing it to literary art.

The month long writeathon pits participants (Wrimos) against their own inner doubts with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s on the short end for a novel, and it doesn’t actually have to be a novel. It can be anything so long as you meet that goal of 50,000 words. You could be finishing a work in progress or starting something new; writing any genre or type: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories. There is also a youth version of NaNo. The kids set their own word goals.

 

It’s free to participate and is a worldwide massive internet-based writing competition. If you win, you get to download virtual badges. If you lose, you can boast participation badges. There are no monetary awards and no magic publishing button at the end of the rabbit hole. Wins are awarded on a self-declaration basis. That is, you upload words to a counter that determines if you won or lost. So, yes cheating is easy and is done; but, who are you really cheating?

 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

NaNo is about challenging yourself to put aside thought and free your inner muse. Write. That’s it, just write. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be planned or outlined. It’s an exercise in freedom to write without constraint, to simply let the words flow. You might be surprised at what you learn about your own writing ability if you have never done this before.

 

More importantly, NaNoWriMo is about encouragement, support, and awareness. Yes, and having fun in a weird writerly way that non-writers will probably never understand.

 

From the NaNo Org:

“NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that supports writing fluency and education. But it’s also a social network for writers like LinkedIn is for job professionals, or DeviantArt is for artists, or Facebook is for moms whose kids accept their friend requests only to provide them with “limited profile” access. It tracks words for writers like Fitbit tracks steps for the ambulatory. It’s a real-world event, during which 900+ volunteers in places like Mexico City, Seoul, and Milwaukee coordinate communal writing sessions in thousands of partnering libraries, coffee shops, and community centers like… well, like nothing else.

 

It’s internet-famous. It’s a community-powered fandom (before there was the Beyhive, or Nerdfighters, there were Wrimos). It’s a start-up incubator for novels (books like Water for Elephants, Fangirl, and WOOL began as rough drafts in November!). It’s a teaching tool, it’s a curriculum, and its programs run year-round.

 

Whatever you thought NaNoWriMo was, it is more than that.”

 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

How the heck do you survive NaNovember?

 

50,000 words in 30 days is daunting. It’s the mountain of incomprehensible impossibility. The molehill the ant could not imagine to build. It is also only 1,667 words per day (rounded off). That’s only 69 1/2 words an hour. You got this! Okay, accounting for the need to sleep, eat, go to work/school, and all that, you might get two or three or four hours a day in, so realistically 417 to around 830 words an hour.

 

But hey, who really needs that eating and sleeping thing, right?

 

The NaNo community is very supportive of their fellow Wrimos. There are groups online and off to find encouragement in. You can get endless writing prompts and cues for NaNo sprints. A sympathetic shoulder to lean on, you go girls/guys/theys, and even encouraging articles from known authors. You can buy self-affirming posters, coffee and travel mugs, shirts, buttons, and other swag to litter your writing space with reminders.

 

The trick is not to let yourself feel overwhelmed. Give yourself a daily goal. If you can exceed that, great, you have a buffer for those days that will invariably come where you flop or cannot write at all. Life does have a habit of getting in the way of best intentions sometimes. The more wordy buildup you can get early on, the better you stand later. (I usually flop around the three-quarter mark of the month.)

 

Every word adds up.  If I get half a dozen words in before racing out the door in the morning, it’s a win. Write a scene on your phone notepad, or a real notepad, while your bus or ride trundles along through traffic. I strongly recommend against that if you are in the driver seat. Nope, no, not a good idea. And, it’s likely illegal wherever you are. (It definitely is illegal here in Manitoba!) Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, waiting for that ride home; every bit of scene, dialogue, and drama adds up. I will write in bits and spurts in the evening too, between supper, house stuff, fur babies, other commitments, and family.

 

Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

Find local NaNo gatherings where they encourage sitting quietly and writing, offer writing prompts and tips, and muse support. Hide away in a quiet corner in a coffee shop where you can disappear from family and friends (although you might want to let them know where you are so they don’t call the cops when they don’t hear from you for hours), focus, and unplug from the constant buzzing bleeping of your phone alerts to every post and picture of your extended online life.

 

The other trick is to ignore that inner editor. They can have at it later to wreak havoc on whatever you write. Don’t let yourself question or second guess the words spilling out. There is no going back to edit, revise, or fix anything, not even spelling. You can run it through the dreaded Spellcheck later, that nefarious creation which I’m sure was spawned with evil intentions and purposely tries to make you sound like an eighteenth century professor who hasn’t a wit about what half the words in existence now mean, or how people actually talk. You can rip, revise, and edit to your heart’s content – after the sun sets on November 30th and dawns on the crisp road gunk dulled snow of December 1.

 

If you’ve never tried it, don’t be afraid to give it a go. No one in the NaNo community will denigrate you for failing to reach that 50,000 word mark. You have nothing to lose, except maybe your sanity to the NaNo muse.

 

Don’t forget to join your local NaNo chapter!

https://nanowrimo.org/

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Hands up introverts! Let’s get a hand-count here.

Is it just me, or do writers seem to have a disproportionate demographic of introverts compared to the general population? And what is scarier for an introvert, and even many extroverts, than having to put yourself out there front and center for the world? Writing, by nature a past-time of solitude and, the thing we embrace, is also our bane. It forces us to step out of our semi-isolated comfort zones into a place that leaves us exposed, where the world can stare at us, judge us, and even criticize us.

Stepping out of your comfort zone. Those words are enough to send a shiver of icy dread coursing down many an introvert’s spine. I, for one, am guilty of being an introvert, if ‘guilty’ can correctly be used here.  I don’t feel guilty or embarrassed about being an introvert, however it will cause me to be embarrassed by situations. Embarrassed, mortified, uncomfortable, awkward; they all fit as symptoms of introvertedness. (The making up of random words is another thing entirely). As a kid I was absolutely terrified of talking to anyone.

Like many new writers I’ve met over the course of my writing career, I wrote in secret for years before ever admitting to anyone it was a thing. I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. They would tell me how stupid I am being even thinking that me, me of all people, could be a writer. They would demand that I was wasting my time. I’m just nobody, right?

With some coaxing from an author friend I met online, I slowly crawled out of the dark and dusty world inside my laptop as a wanna be writer. “No,” she sternly reprimanded me. “You are a writer, not a wanna be.” It took years before I stopped feeling guilty admitting to anyone other than myself that I am a writer, to stop feeling like I was somehow a pretender, giving claim to a lie. That they would see through me, that my writing is crap no one would ever read, even after having first one and then another book published. (I now have nine under two pen names with another coming soon).

Calling myself a writer was stepping out of my comfort zone in a big way. It opened me to possible ridicule and denouncement. Certainly, there were a few who tried to blanket me in their negativity with the over-used clichés that I was wasting my time, would never ‘get rich’ or famous, would never amount to anything, yada yada yada. The joke is on them, though, because I am still writing and never wrote for any of those reasons.

Writing Tip – Step Out of Your Comfort Zone:

The comfort zone is by nature a very limited space in an introvert; small, solitary, and with limited room to grow; like hiding under your blanket in the dark as a kid. For extroverts that space perhaps is less solitary.

An inability to escape the comfort zone can hinder both your writing and your writing career. First and foremost is the simple act of admitting, to others, that you are a writer.

Whether you write openly or in secret, there can also be the ingrained fear that someone will not approve of your writing. It’s not good enough, it’s not up to snuff for the genre, it’s too this or too little that. Someone won’t approve if you use a few swear words, describe a sex scene, or write about real people and events (especially when it’s your own life).

How we each get through that is as unique as each of us are.  I spent years reminding myself that my friends and family aren’t even going to read anything I write, and I am mostly correct on that. I’m also okay with it. It’s actually quite liberating, really.

One of my biggest introvert challenges is public speaking; any kind of public speaking, even with people I’ve known my whole life. I panic. I freeze. Even with a speech written down my mind goes blank and I am completely incapable of thought or reading the cues. I stutter and make an absolute fool of myself, then feel utterly ridiculous for every word that managed to fall in a jumble out of my mouth. I can talk individually and in twos and threes to a long line of people about my books, but put just two or three people in a staring at me as a speaker setting and forget it. I have managed to read to middle grade kids, and totally bombed at trying to read my story at the St Valentines Horror Con a few years ago (I was so terrified I couldn’t even look at the scattered bodies among the mostly empty chairs).

Writing is stepping out of your comfort zone. It is about experimenting and learning. Not being afraid to try new things and getting over that fear of trying to be published. It is about talking to total strangers about why you think you are good enough to be published, doing readings and book signings, talking about your stories and writing habits. Letting other people actually read what you write, that can be a big hurdle when you are insecure about your writing. It is about realizing that it is okay to say, “I am a writer,” and not letting anything stop you from that dream. It is letting yourself write new things you didn’t think you could, being okay with it if it sucks, and working to make it better.

It does get easier, getting out of that comfort zone, with practice. Anything that takes you out of that comfort zone is practice; facing anxiety at having to return that item to the store, that job interview, and submitting stories and articles for possible publication and to contests. Even if you are certain you will fail, you are facing that fear and that makes you a winner.

What else makes you anxious that you could face? This summer we took the kids and stepped out of all our comfort zones. They have only ever gone ‘glamping’ in a campground with full amenities including a pool and hot tub and other people. For the first time in their lives we stepped out with tents and sleeping bag to real back woods in the bush with nobody but us around, not but a bucket for a latrine, no electricity or running water, if you want hot food you are cooking over the fire, oh my gosh there are bears and wolves and coyotes (and the beaver which was the only actual animal we saw more than just scat and prints of), and swimming in a gravel pit water hole, camping.

They were hesitant to put it mildly, but faced it like troopers. They stepped out of their comfort zone, realized it didn’t kill or mortally injure them, and I think they even had a little fun amid the, “I’m bored, I need Netflix,” complaints. They unplugged, learned new card games, hiked and teased each other, wanted photos, and even suggested they might be willing to do it again if there is a toilet and someone other than us to talk to. They faced it and are stronger for it. One of them is also a budding writer, while the other is an artist. Having not done real back woods camping ever, or even tenting in a campground since a kid, it was stepping out of our comfort zone too. It was a little scary, but fun. Or maybe that’s just the horror writer in me.

Every time you step out of your comfort zone makes you stronger and braver. It makes it easier to step out in other ways doing other things. It makes trying new things, in your writing and writing career and out of it, less scary. Just taking on doing this newsletter is stepping out of my comfort zone.

Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and let your writing flourish.

Online articles for writers:

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

 

We’ve all heard the age old trope, “Back up your work.” This has been repeated as long as computers existed in the writers’ world.

It’s so easy to say, “Yeah, I know.” It’s just as easy to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Especially with today’s beyond busy lifestyles.

We all get it. We’ve all been there, busy as all heck. As a writer, you are probably juggling the “paying job”, school, family, kids, pets, friends, other activities, and all (or many of) the things that make your house function day to day (you know, the dreaded laundry list of cleaning, cooking, shopping, and other chores). And all this is in addition to trying to put that precious time into writing, editing, revising, more revising, schmoozing, and promoting yourself.

Nothing brings home that reminder to back up your work like having a sudden unexpected computer emergency.

 

 

 

I have been dealing with this for the past weeks. I even have a dedicated external hard drive that exists for just that very purpose – to back up my work. It used to be a dual purpose drive, until one of my kids decided to ‘borrow’ it and dropped it. Everything on the drive was irretrievably lost, but luckily the important stuff, writerly stuff and family photos, were only backed up on it and not the only copy.

So, I bought a new external hard drive and declared it a, “Keep your hands off my frigging hard drive this is for writing and photos backup only!” drive. I dutifully backed up all my important stuff.

Once. Like a year ago. (Or was it longer?) Okay, it was definitely longer.

 

Photo by FuYong Hua on Unsplash

Photo by FuYong Hua on Unsplash

Flash forward to yesterweek, when my laptop decided to die an unplanned and untimely death. I faced the loss of more than a year of my life. Three books that I completely redid, spiffing them up better than before, after getting my rights back, plus the completion of the fourth in the series. Three other books finished and published since I backed up, and another book on the verge of publication.  Plus the hours spent on other writing projects and my writing bookkeeping files, among so much more.

At least it was better than completely and totally losing everything, my entire writing library and my self. I still had the older stuff from when I backed up, however long ago that was.

I was lucky this time. It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last time I am caught unprepared and un-backed up. Once again, my work was saved. My awesome fantastic can fix and make anything better mechanic (yeah, I know, that is not a professional computer person) came to my rescue and was able to retrieve all my files. It looks like it wasn’t the laptop hard drive that quit, thank goodness. The bad news is the laptop itself is un-repairable.

Once again, I have everything backed up. I swore to back up every day. I’ll probably push for backing up every week once I am back up and fully functional again, and hopefully between life and everything I can keep to that.

 

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

And so, I will leave you with this extremely very don’t lose yourself and everything you are by losing all your writing files important piece of advice: BACK UP YOUR WORK! REGULARLY! PLEASE.

Not just once. One backup copy is great. Two is better. Best, is to have those all important backup, backup’s backup, and your backup’s backup’s backup. But, what if your house burns down? An offsite backup is good too and maybe another, and … okay, we might be going overboard now, maybe.

 

 

 

But there are alternatives. There are the now getting bigger and better thumb drives. But in my world those are much too easily lost. External hard drives are bigger and harder to lose.

How regularly you back up your work depends on how much time you put into writing. If you do a spattering of words here or there, you probably don’t need to back it up so often.  However, if you write daily or near to daily, I would recommend a weekly backup. Or more. More is better. If you just put in hours writing voraciously, I would suggest backing up at the end of your writing session. Trust me on that.

 

Now, let’s talk backup drives.

There are basically two classifications of hard drives:

HDD: Hard Disk Drive: These drives have more capacity and are cheaper. They are basically a bunch of magnetic discs spinning like a CD with a head that reads and writes data on the magnetic surface of the disks. They are slower and require the head to be reset to a new location every time you want to read or write data. If you drop these they are probably now a paperweight! Moving parts = it breaks if it is jarred too hard or dropped, particularly when the head is not parked off the disc. Think of a vinyl record needle skipping across, only it’s a much more fragile CD disk instead of a more durable vinyl record.

SSD: Solid State Drives: These are probably your better option for a hard drive. Too bad you will probably only find it as an option for an internal drive, but I do strongly recommend it if you are working on a laptop. Data is stored in memory (flash) chips, so there are no moving parts to damage. They also cost more and are faster, but don’t come in the capacities of HDDs.

However, backing up means external backup drives.

There are two main types of external hard drives:

Both are based on SATA drives (the most common connectors used in laptops) and external drives are of the HDD type.

2.5″ magnetic drives: These are smaller drives powered by the port they are connected to, so they are more portable external hard drives. They mostly connect using USB 2.0 (480 Mbps) or USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)

3.5″ drives: These are a larger version of the 2.5”, but require their own power supply. So, instead of being powered through the USB plugged into your computer, there is a second power cord.

While the 2.5″ is more convenient, portable, and easily stored, the 3.5″ is typically more heavy duty and reliable, and tends to be faster because of the dedicated power supply. If you could find an SSD external hard drive, you would be golden! JUST DON’T DROP IT! (Like I said, paperweight. Just ask my kid.)

But now if you want a backup to your backup, something protected from break-in thefts, fire, you name it, you are looking at offsite storage. While you could keep a backup drive at a friend’s or relative’s house, it’s not very convenient for doing those regular back ups.

Luckily for us writers, there is a Cloud for that.

There are options that are free, available for minimal costs, and the pricier options, all depending what meets your needs. Once I am fully up and running again, I will definitely be looking into the cloud backup option in addition to my external hard drive backup. The downside to backing up on the Cloud is it requires internet to access it.

Here is PC Mag’s list of The Best Cloud Storage and File-Sharing Services for 2019:
https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/306323/the-best-cloud-storage-providers-and-file-syncing-services

Some of you probably use an online writing platform, so you don’t have the fear of losing everything when and if your computer or other device decides to die an untimely and unplanned death.

Even users of online writing programs and platforms need to back up their writing files somewhere else in addition to having it there. I have seen people in writing groups online desperately seeking ways to retrieve lost files when something went wrong on those sites and their writing project was lost.

So, no matter how or where you write, back up your files. Back up your back up. And, maybe even back up that too. You will thank yourself some day, probably.

 

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

The search for a new laptop is entirely another thing. 

I researched any and every use I could possibly use it for and the recommended specs, which is quit different from the minimum specs.  Minimum specs are the minimum it needs to function, and that’s about all you will get. It will function. Barely.  The “recommended specs” is what it needs to function properly and usably. And then I looked for something a little better than that for a cheap price because I’m a writer and I’m broke.

DO NOT buy the first “affordable” computer you find that meets your specs. No. Nope. Bad idea.

DO thoroughly seek out reviews on the computer you are considering purchasing and ask questions. Like, “What is an ‘unfriendly keyboard’?” I saw that on a review and it sent a chill down my back even a Stephen King novel cannot elicit.

Further reviews on that particular item included a lot of complaints like, “I have to use Cortana to do anything because the keyboard is crap!” A laptop with a useless glitchy non-responsive keyboard. For a writer. The thought is more terrifying than any story I can write.

Another laptop that had a mix of both a lot of glowing reviews and bad reviews included a few reviews warning that they were offering a FREE $100 headset to anyone who gives them a glowing five-star review. I ignored every single good review after that and read only the bad ones. And they were bad. And a lot.

We finally found one that ran me $1121 CAD after taxes with free shipping to the store. The only bad reviews were the pad on the laptop not working. I don’t use the pad. I don’t like the pad. That I can live with. It’s only been a few days, but so far the pad works. Hopefully it keeps working for those rare moments my mouse dies an untimely and unplanned death, leaving me mouse-less and forced to use that horrid pad.

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via Where the Winter Wind Howls by L.V. Gaudet

Where the Winter Wind Howls

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