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Wish you could fast track the writing life of your dreams?
Here’s the secret.
Success in writing comes through navigating many processes: writing, editing, publishing, marketing. The journey is different for every writer, but there’s one strategy that works better than any other:
Build your writing community.
When you surround yourself with a community of fellow writers and experts you trust, your odds of success go up. The biggest influence on your life is the people you spend time with. This anonymous quote sums it up:
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
You can use this to your advantage. Seek out people who resonate with the life you want. You might have to search for a while until you find them, but it’s worth it. Travelling together is truly the secret to getting there faster.
She hosts a number of events including Words Count. Words Count writing sessions are free for Prolific Writers Life members. It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the writers and experts in the Prolific Writers Life community.
Why don't people get what I'm trying to say?
As a writer, your job is to guide your reader through an experience. This is simple to say, but to do it well is the study of a lifetime.
If people aren’t understanding your writing, it’s probably because what they’re experiencing is different from what you think they’re experiencing. To fix this, the most useful skill you can develop is to put yourself in the reader’s perspective. Here’s a small tip that will help you develop this skill. It will also instantly make your writing clearer and kinder to your reader.
Do this: Reveal images in the order you want your reader to experience them.
Usually this is the order that a person would experience them in real life, because that is the least confusing order. This principle is easiest to understand in the context of giving directions. For example, let’s say I’m telling you where to find a certain book in a bookstore. I’ll give you the out-of-order example first so you can experience it as a reader: “The book is at the top of the first shelf in the second row in the poetry section, which is on the left after you enter the store.”
How easy do these instructions seem?
You can probably still find this book, but you will have to think quite a bit and reverse the directions. It’s natural to write something like this in a first draft, and it’s easy to think it makes sense when you’re revising, because you know where the book is and can see the store in your mind’s eye. But the reader has no idea where the book is, so the store in their mind is constructed backwards as they read your sentence: first the book is at the top of an unknown space, then the unknown space turns out to be a first shelf in another unknown space. This unknown space turns out to be in a second row of yet another unknown space, which we later find out is the poetry section, but we don’t know where that is. Then we find out it’s on the left of something, and finally we find out it’s on your left after you enter the store. Whew!
It is much kinder to your reader to write the instructions in the order the reader will execute them: “After you enter the store, the poetry section is on your left. Find the second row. The book will be on the top shelf.” Rewriting in this way doesn’t require you to learn any new skills, so all you have to do is to remember to check for this type of situation, and your writing will instantly become more effective.
This advice applies to all types of writing, not just instructions. For example, in fiction, you would probably want to introduce each image in the order the character experiences them, or in the order a viewer would see them if they were watching the scene in real life. For example,
George peeked out the window by lifting up the edge of the curtain.
George lifted up the edge of the curtain and peeked out the window.
In the first example, the reader imagines George peeking out the window first, and then has to go back and fill in the fact that he lifted up the edge of the curtain. If the reader has already imagined the window without curtains, or with blinds that are raised, they must now go back and revise the scene they have imagined. Even if this happens in an instant, your text has given the reader the experience of making a mistake and having to correct it. Is this the experience you want your text to create? In the second sentence, the actions are presented in the order they occur, so the reader probably won’t make a mistake and can continue unimpeded to your next sentence.
Sometimes this tip will make the difference between a very confused reader and a reader who knows what’s going on. I think it’s worth doing for just those cases. But even in the rest of the cases, you are still reducing the amount of attention your reader has to pay in order to understand what’s happening. That leaves more attention available for them to become immersed in your writing, to completely release control and allow themselves to be carried along by the experience you are creating. And that means you’re a better writer.
If your creative life is stuck, Keiko O’Leary can help. As an editor, publisher, master wordsmith, and expert at getting good at anything, Keiko works with writers to bring their creative dreams to life. She offers workshops, classes, and private consulting on Prolific Writers Life.
How do I select the right narrator(s) for my audiobook?
You know you want to produce an audiobook, but you’re worried you’ll end up with a recording you don’t like. Choosing the right narrator(s) will help you love your finished audiobook.
Here are some guidelines for selecting your narrators:
Do you feel confident that your narrator(s) understand your vision for each character?
During the audition phase, while there might not be time for your narrator(s) to read your whole manuscript, they should at least have a solid understanding of the plot and who the characters are. At Squeaky Cheese Productions, we record sample dialogue that gives you one or more interpretations of each character, so you can choose the one that most reflects your vision for the character. Not every audiobook producer works this way. But whatever approach is used, make sure you feel confident your narrator(s) understand your vision for each character.
Are your narrators passionate about your writing?
If you’re going to get a faithful interpretation of the characters in your story, you want to look for narrators who are into your story. During recording, the microphone will transparently capture how your narrator(s) feel about the characters and the storyline. If your narrator is bored, the lack of enthusiasm will show up clearly in the final audiobook. You must hire narrator(s) who are engaged with your writing.
Can your narrator deliver the best narration structure for your project?
Historically, audiobooks have been performed by one narrator. More modern approaches use two or more actors to portray multiple characters. You want your narration structure to deliver the best experience for the listener.
Listen to audiobooks in your genre to get a sense of what’s out there. Your narrator(s) may be able to help you decide on the best structure for your project.
Do you know what to expect?
Ask prospective narrators to describe their process. Some narrators take your manuscript and, three months later, hand you the finished audiobook. Some, like us, involve you throughout the process. While you won’t be present in the recording studio, we send periodic updates so you can hear how the project is progressing. Make sure you understand your narrator’s approach to creating your audiobook.
Squeaky Cheese Productions is on the ‘cutting wedge’ of everything audiobooks. Want to introduce your published or unpublished book to the exploding audiobook market? This husband-and-wife audiobook team brings your story to life with male narration, female narration, or a combination of both.
Stop Writing (For Now)
Take a look around the internet and on store bookshelves, and you can find plenty of advice for how to write better—faster, more concisely, more to market, more consistently, with more confidence, etc., etc., etc. This kind of advice is great when you are looking to be fast, concise, to market, consistent, and confident. But what if you’re a writer who is having a hard time writing? What if you’re a writer who loves writing but currently can’t get a word out?
Here are some words of wisdom which may come as a surprise: stop writing (for now).
More often than not, when we as creators find ourselves in the midst of writer’s block, we get sad, frustrated, or even angry about it. We might force ourselves to write despite feeling off our game and end up unhappy with the result (and ourselves). The more we fight against it, the more it feels like the block is never going to go away.
And therein lies the magic of this bit of advice—stop writing (for now). Give yourself some space to feel cruddy, grant permission for your brain to not want to create. You are, after all, human, with all of a human’s complexities and flaws. Sometimes we have bad days, or weeks, or months; the key is to be okay with that. Being compassionate with yourself has the remarkable effect of helping you see that, no matter how it feels, the writer’s block isn’t permanent. It can’t be, because nothing is.
The more compassion you give yourself when you are in a bad or non-creative place, the faster you’ll find your way out the other side of whatever is holding you back. So when you feel like you should be writing, but the urge to write just isn’t there—take a deep breath, set down your pen (or slide away from your keyboard), and stop writing (for now).
This too shall pass.
And when it does, you’ll be ready to take in that advice on how to be a better writer. Faster. More concise. More to market. More consistent. And with loads more confidence.
Maya Carlyle, Development Coach for The Quill & Anvil: Creative Development, is as passionate about self-care as she is about writing. Which is to say, very.
She has helped writers achieve their passions since 2017–and wants to do the same for you. An avid consumer and creator of science fiction and fantasy, she nonetheless has helped people toward their success in romance (the genre), mystery, nonfiction, and blogging. Book a private session where your mire of ideas will be worked through to get to your core goal, followed by measurable, realistic steps toward your success. Or attend a work session to work on goals and accountability with a group, and gain insight into specific aspects of writing–feedback, tropes, and pacing, to name a few.
Keeping Clear on Your Marketing Goals
Do you have beagle syndrome? I’ve published a book and yet I find myself wondering where to go? What should I do next? Should I go here? No, there? No, where?
Do you feel more like a squirrel some days? Maybe I’ll jump here or there or in your gutters or across the street, unexpectedly, with no purpose.
Or has the shiny new object syndrome caught your eye? It’s so bright and full of potential. Surely, I must do what everyone else is doing, right now, even if I know nothing about it and it’s not in alignment with my goals.
Or you are a lover of spaghetti throwing. Those noodles are so enticing. I’ll just keep tossing them to see what will stick, only to find that nothing is.
While I love animals (and beagles), I don’t want you running around aimlessly. Squirrels are cute but they are not animals to look up to in my humble opinion. Shiny may seem like it’s synonymous with sparkly, but it’s usually not. That shine will fade. And a delicious spaghetti dinner may be lovely occasionally, but you may find that you shouldn’t be throwing spaghetti at all… maybe you should be throwing chicken or veggies instead.
Writing a book isn’t easy. Marketing that book isn’t easy either. And I find, time after time, that many authors haven’t a clue what the next right step is to ensure that the book they wrote is one others find and opt to read.
Perspective is the underlying thread on how I see the world, how I run my business and how I see marketing.
It’s deep within my first book. It’s a part of how I see the world. And it’s at the cornerstone of how I see marketing, too. If you focus on your perspective… on what your why is… it will open doors on what you NEED to do versus what everyone else is doing.
Do you know your author why? Do you know why you chose to write a book over another path to share a message? Do you know why you need to share this message and to whom? This is pivotal in unlocking your next right step, and it will take out a lot of unsuccessful spaghetti throwing for you, too.
In Make Your Author emPact, I uncover the next right step in book marketing. And, you guessed it, it hinges on your why. Your why helps you map out your goals and objectives and it keeps you on the right path. For most authors, their whys likely fall into one of three buckets: share a message, make an emPact or increase revenue.
- If you want to share a message, you have to write a marketable book and sell it.
- If you want to make an emPact, you have to write a marketable book and build or grow a business alongside.
- If you want to increase revenue, you have to write a marketable book and ensure you are selling it and building and growing a business too.
When marketing your book, it’s important to focus on the most impactful actions, not just doing ALL the things to see what works. Join Stephanie in her workshops more insights into how to stay focused on your goal.
The emPower PR Group is a boutique book marketing solution for nonfiction authors, helping them write marketable books that sell; promote their books to those who need them, want them, and will buy them; and build meaningful businesses around their emPowering messages. Together with her team, Stephanie Feger develops customized marketing strategies and associated tactics to ensure those who need to hear of a message, a product, a book or a brand, do. When is the best time to pull in marketing? Today. No joke. It’s never too early or too late!