#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: How to beat comparisonitis

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Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2 Hi folks! Today I’m participating in the first #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a blog hop for writers who want to learn from each other and build a community. This month I’ve decided tackle one of the most common personal struggles writers face: comparisonitis, the tendency to make yourself feel like crap by comparing yourself to other, more successful/wealthier/happier/more in love people.

Are your goals actually serving you?

Sort-of Transcript:

We’re exactly one week into 2018. Some of us have already started on our 2018 goals. Others are returning from vacation to begin their 2018 work today. Either way, the year is officially kicking into gear and it’s time to dive headfirst into achieving our goals.

Or is it?

I want to encourage you to stop for a moment. Take a look at the goals you’ve created, and ask yourself an important question: are these goals really serving you?

Most people wait until one, three, or six months into the year to re-evaluate their goals, but by then we’ve often already wasted weeks on goals that aren’t helping us. Some of those goals might even actively harm us.

Checking in with ourselves more often, especially at the beginning of the year, helps us avoid wasting time and keeps us on track as we work towards the life we want.

How do you figure out if your goals are serving you? Take a look at your goals list and ask yourself three questions:

1. Do all of your goals lead to your own personalized definition of success?

In other words, are you pursuing your dreams or someone else’s?

If you haven’t already established a solid definition of success, do this first using these journaling exercises. Make your definition as specific as possible.

Once you’ve created your personal definition of success, return to your goal list. Take a look at every item on the list and ask how this will lead to your ideal life. If you can’t come up with an answer, scrap the goal. There’s no reason to pursue anything that doesn’t actively serve you.

2. Are you acting out of passion or obligation?

This is similar to the first one, but not always connected. For example, I can’t stand Instagram. As a young adult author, Instagram is one of the best ways to connect with my target audience, so I felt obligated to create a presence there. I spent half a year actively trying to make it work, even though it massively drained my energy.

But here’s the thing: no social media platform is absolutely essential. If you have the money for consistent advertising campaigns a social media presence isn’t necessarily essential at all. The people who tell us that we absolutely need a specific platform are usually trying to sell something to help you use that platform.

So I have, at least for now, given up on Instagram and returned my energy to marketing efforts I actually enjoy.

Pursuing your goals should light you up. It should make you excited. If it isn’t, those goals need to change. And there’s always an alternative route to your dream life – you just have to find it.

3. Are your goals measurable and achievable?

We often create goals that set ourselves up to fail, especially at the beginning of a New Year. We tend to do this in one of two ways: by creating nebulous goals that can’t be measured, or by creating goals that simply cannot be achieved.

Goals that can’t be measured, like the generic ‘be healthier’ many people commit to on January first, are in many ways also impossible to achieve. If it’s not specific enough to measure, how can you track your progress? How do you know when you’ve accomplished it, or even when you’ve had a small win? These goals will bog you down throughout the year, and when you inevitably ‘fail’, you’ll be discouraged from trying anything similar in the future.

Goals that can’t be achieved are things that are physically impossible based on our existing limits (and yes, we all have them). These end up on our lists because we either a) overestimate our abilities or b) underestimate our other responsibilities. A couple of these manage to get on my list every year because I perpetually overestimate how much I can accomplish in a week. If I continued pursuing these goals each year, I would inevitably fail and become discouraged. My depression would then take that failure as a sign of my complete failure as a human being, creating a terrible feedback loop.

These types of goals often need to be altered rather than scrapped. For example, my goal to edit 70 pages of Moonshadow’s Guardian in the first week of January didn’t leave room for the lovely cold I got to ring in the New Year. So I’ve changed my final editing deadline to January 20th. I’m healthy again now and expect to finish by the fifteenth, but this gives me some wiggle room. I also altered the schedule of several other goals, because I realized I didn’t account for sickness/unexpected issues AT ALL in my timeline.

Checking in with yourself now allows you to make similar course corrections before you feel like a disappointment and a failure.

Final Advice

This check in will set you on the right path for the rest of the year, but it certainly shouldn’t be the last one you do. At least once a month, take some time to reflect on your progress and re-assess your goals. Make sure they’re still serving you, that you’re still on the right path. The occasional course correction will save you many days, maybe even weeks or months, of work.

How often do you re-assess your goals? Let me know about it in the comments section below!

18 Articles to make 2018 your best writing year yet

18 Articles to make 2018the best year ofYOUR writing life2017 is officially over! I’ve accomplished a lot of great things and written many wonderful words. Now I’m gearing up to make 2018 the best year of my writing life – and I’ve compiled 18 of my best articles to help you do the same.

Articles to improve your writing practice

1. 5 Tips for working with beta readers, critique partners, and editors – Based on everything I learned preparing Keeper of the Dawn for publication.

3. How to be a good beta reader or critique partner – Lessons from my own time as a beta reader/critique partner.

4. Evening Pages – A night owl’s take on the concept of “morning pages”.

5. How to push through when you hate your novel – I did this one for Nanowrimo participants in the second week slump, but it’s applicable to all of us at some point, no matter how we’re writing our novels.

6. How to boost your creativity even when you’re exhausted – I’m a night owl and an insomniac. Over the years I’ve learned how to stay creative despite those things – and now I’m sharing my best strategies with you.

7. Using Twitter chats to connect with other writers – An extensive guide, including a list of Twitter chats I love.

8. How to reap the rewards of the Nanowrimo community all year long – How to keep the community momentum going after Nanowrimo.

9. Letters to explore character – How letters have become my most powerful character development exercises – and how you can use them too.

Articles to improve your overall life

This year I also started writing a lot about mental health, something I plan to explore more deeply in 2018. These articles are just the beginning:

10. Learning to be honest about (my) mental illness – If we want it to get better, first we must talk about it.

11. Writing to yourself – I wrote a letter to myself in my new book. Here’s why – and why you might want to do the same.

12. Why you should never feel guilty about taking the time to write – The guilt monster is the ultimate enemy of productivity.

13. Your personalized definition to success – Why it matters and how to create one (bonus video on this topic coming this week!)

14. 5 FREE self care activities to help you survive the winter – Self care doesn’t have to cost money when you use these strategies.

15. Hold on to the light and shine it into the darkness of our minds – My contribution to the #Holdontothelight 2018 campaign, a series of blog posts from over 100 science fiction and fantasy authors raising awareness about mental illness.

16. The physical side of self care for writers – Your physical health is essential to your mental health – and your writing practice.

17. 3 Simple strategies for fighting imposter syndrome – Imposter syndrome is one of the most common problems for writers. These strategies will help you kick its butt once and for all.

18. A writer’s (or artist’s) holiday survival guide – All right, so it will be a while before you need this one, but I promise these strategies will bring you plenty of holiday joy come 2018.

Now get out there and make 2018 amazing!

Phenomenal Female Character Book Tag

Sort of Transcript:

This week I’m doing the Phenomenal Female Character Book Tag created by Nicole Pierman. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite women in fiction with you, then passing this along to some other authors I love.

1. Your Favorite: Who is your favorite female lead in bookish history?

I hate being asked to pick favorites. HOW DO YOU WANT ME TO CHOOSE ONE?

But at this moment I’ll go with Oree Shoth from The Broken Kingdoms, the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin. Oree is a fascinating character in large part because she’s blind. The only thing she can see is magic. The book is written in first person, and her blindness makes her one of the most interesting narrators I’ve ever read. She’s also forthright, strong, and all around awesome.

2. The Scariest: Who is the scariest female character you’ve ever read? (She doesn’t have to be a villain or evil.)

Haha this is a tough one, I don’t scare easy. But Immacolata from Weaveworld terrified me. She’s a witch whose main weapons happen to be the souls of her dead sisters. Did I mention that those sisters were her triplets? And it gets even worse: she strangled those sisters in the womb. She’s been walking around with them ever since, performing all kinds of evil deeds.

3. Oh-so-sassy: Who’s your favorite sassy female character?

Isabelle from The Mortal Instruments (link to book one). She’s the embodiment of sassy, kickass confidence, and there’s one book (I don’t remember which) where she basically reams EVERYONE out, including Clary’s mom, in the best way possible.

4. The Kindest: Which female character is the kindest female character you’ve come across in literature?

Actually stumped on this one. I rarely remember characters because of their kindness. I hate to do this, but SKIP.

5. Best Character Development: The female lead that’s changed the most throughout a book series?

Lirael from the Old Kingdom Series. She starts out in the second book, Lirael as a massively introverted girl struggling with depression. By the end of the third book she’s in, Goldenhand, she’s a powerful and (mostly) confident warrior mage.

6. Sidekicks ROCK: The best female sidekick?

This one has to go to Hermione Granger. Those boys, and the entire wizarding world, would have been doomed without her.

7. Your BFF: The one female character you’d love to have as a best friend?

Kelsea from the Tearling Trilogy (link to book one) would be a great best friend. We have a lot of common, including temper problems and a love of books.

8. Misunderstood: Which female character is the MOST misunderstood?

Cersei Lannister. When we judge her based on our modern ethics and sensibilities she seems all kinds of awful. But she’s a woman in Westeros, and that only leaves her with so many options. Most of her ‘evil’ decisions are really the only choices she can make to stay alive. This is shown a lot better in the books than it is in the show.

9. Save The Day: Who is the one female character you think would always save the day, no matter what she’s up against?

I really want to cheat here and say Buffy. She was in GRAPHIC novels, that counts right 😉
TOTALLY counts. Sticking with Buffy.

10. I Need More: Finally, which female character do you want to see more of in literature?

I’d like to see more female characters who are strong in the same way as Sansa Stark in the current seasons Game of Thrones. Quiet, dignified, very much feminine, but also very capable and strong in her character and morals.

Who are your favorite female characters? Let me know in the comments section below!

A writer’s (or artist’s) holiday survival guide

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The holidays are a wonderful time for many people, but for us artsy types they can be an emotional minefield. Even if we have a good relationship with our families, the sheer amount of exposure to people in such a short period of time can be exhausting. And that’s without getting into all the awkward questions well meaning relatives like to ask about our creative hobbies.

I can’t make your family more pleasant, or their questions less awkward, but I can give you some strategies to survive the holidays with your sanity more or less intact.

How to build a permanent writing habit out of Nanowrimo

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Nanowrimo officially ended last week, and whether you won or not, I hope you took a break over this weekend. Nanowrimo is a massive challenge with a lot of pressure, and it’s as exhausting as it is fun. You earned a weekend off, and you needed it if you want to avoid burnout (if you didn’t take this past weekend off, take the coming weekend off instead).

But the weekend is gone, and if you take any more days off you will lose the momentum you built during Nanowrimo. So today I’m asking you to get back to work, and to set a new goal for December: create a regular writing habit you can maintain year round.
How Nanowrimo helps you build experiene

What do I mean by a regular writing habit?

A regular writing habit can be writing 1,667 words a day, or it can be writing a sentence every day. It doesn’t even have to be every day–but it does have to be at least once a week.

It definitely doesn’t have to be a novel, short story, article, or blog post. It can be pages in your journal. The only thing that matters is that you’re writing on a regular basis.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to maintain a daily writing habit forever, but it’s easier if you start writing every day. You’ll fall into the habit more easily. When you eventually do need to take a few days off, you’ll be itching to get back to your writing.

Why is a regular writing habit so important?

Most people could benefit from a regular writing habit. Journalling provides an excellent emotional and creative release. It can even help people re-evaluate their lives and commit to improving them. If you’re already making changes, a journal can track how those changes affect your life on a daily basis. It’s a private place where you can be completely honest about your thoughts and your life. Nobody will judge you, because nobody will ever read it.

Fiction can serve many of these same benefits. There’s something cathartic about examining humanity through a fictional lens. I work hard to avoid blatant self inserts, but my characters do live through some of the same struggles I have. Helping them conquer those struggles shows me how to conquer my own. When I reread my own work I can see how my own trauma influenced those words, for better and for worse. And if I write something a little too cathartic I don’t ever need to share it.

In other words, a regular writing habit is good for the soul.

For those of us who want to become successful authors, it’s also something more: the foundation of our careers. You might be able to write a single great book without one, but it will take a lot longer. And a single book doesn’t make a successful career, even if you sell a million copies. So you need to develop habits that will see you through not just one book, but many books.

Those habits must also be built around your normal life, because you can’t expect to quit your day job any time soon. It is possible to make a living as a writer, but it’s not easy, and it’s not a quick process.

The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll achieve the career of your dreams.

How to reap the rewards of the Nanowrimo community all year long

Watch my top 3 strategies for building a year-round writing community through Nanowrimo instead!

Nanowrimo is almost over and amazing things are happening. People all over the world are verifying their word counts and watching their green bars turn purple. Thousands more are buckling down to finish their novels–or at least their 50K–in the next few days. Many of those thousands are scrambling to push out an insane amount of words. Some are even using the crazy word count building tricks I shared here last week.

There’s something incredible, magical even, about all these people mutually achieving a common goal. A deep camaraderie that comes from sharing the same trials and tribulations and eventually the same success. It’s the deepest sense of community I’ve ever felt.

And in a few days it will all go away. Everyone in your Nanowrimo community will return to their regularly scheduled lives. Regional Nanowrimo groups will host their final events of the year and separate for 11 months. The forums will die. If Nanowrimo is your only writing community you will find yourself suddenly and desperately alone. You might only be halfway through your novel, but the rest of the community is completely done with Nanowrimo. Nobody will be around to cheer you on when that book hits 60K, 70K, 80K, “The End”.

I struggled with this problem myself for three years. When Nano ended, so did my community. I still wrote during the rest of the year, but at a much slower pace. Staying motivated proved difficult without anyone around to support me.

At the end of my fourth Nanowrimo I decided that this wasn’t going to happen again. I couldn’t keep the Nanowrimo community active, but I could make friends who would stick around all year. And I did–many friends who served as my best cheerleaders and eventually my first critique partners.

Today I’m going to walk you through how you can do the same.

How to write a massive amount of words in the last 10 days of Nanowrimo

Watch the best of these tips – then scroll to the bottom to read the CRAZIEST thing I’ve ever done to win Nanowrimo.

There are only 10 days left in Nanowrimo! The pressure is on, especially for those of you who have fallen behind.

I’m here to tell you that there’s still hope, even if you’re behind. Even if you’ve barely started.  I’ve written 50,000 words in three days before, and you have a whole ten days left! You can get there–or at least give your novel a final massive push towards completion. Today I’m going to show you the best tips and tricks I’ve used to achieve massive word counts, ranging from the simple and practical to the completely deranged.

But first, a note about “failure”

In this article I’m exploring all the ways to push out a massive word count because that kind of challenge is good for some people. Some people want to–and can–write 25,000 or 30,000 or even 50,000 in ten days. Some want to hit those word counts in even less time. This article is designed to help those people.

You don’t have to write a massive amount of words. You don’t have to hit 50K in ten days or even in the whole month. And you shouldn’t feel bad about slowing your pace to protect your physical or mental health. Your path to success is valid. The only way to truly fail is to stop writing.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into it!

Strategies for pushing through when you hate your novel

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Hello folks! As I’m writing this, it’s about to become November ninth. That means we’re almost a full third of the way through Nanowrimo. And at some point–in either the past few days or the next few days–you’re going to hit what us veterans call the second week slump.  You hate, or are going to hate, your novel.

I am here to help! In my thirteen years of writing books I’ve hated all of them at some point, but I’ve (almost) always pushed through and finished the damn manuscript. I might have metaphorically burned the manuscripts afterwards (actually printing and burning it would be a waste of paper), but the things always got written. Today I’m going to share some of the strategies I used to get to “The End”, even when I hated my novels.

The physical side of self care for writers

NaNo-2017-Participant-BadgeWriters all over the world are gearing up for Nanowrimo and everyone’s talking about how you can make the time to write 1,667 words a day, but I’m thinking about something entirely different: how to fit self care in around an intense writing schedule.

I’m the first to admit that I tend to let self care slide when I’m deep into a creative project. I’ll get so caught up in my stories that I forget to eat for extended periods of time, and burning the midnight oil to finish my projects. I struggle with truly relaxing, because I’ve always got one book or another on the brain. And I definitely don’t get enough exercise.

All of this gets worse whenever I have a creative challenge or deadline. And if you’ve ever done Nanowrimo–or any other significant creative challenge–this probably sounds familiar. So today I’d like to talk about how to make time for self care, specifically physical self care, even during your most intense periods of creative productivity.