At the end of each year it’s good to do a recap of what I’ve learned and make resolutions about my writing in the next 12 months.
If I don’t, there’s a tendency to drift onto the next without taking stock and make the same mistakes over
2015 has been a growth year for my writing and the result is pleasing although the process has often been painful.
1. I’ve learned that Pro Writing Aid is better than Grammarly – and cheaper.
It finds the things I need it to, like un-closed quote marks and repeated words. It doesn’t invade every application on my computer like Grammarly did, which burst into my emails and crashed my computer every five minutes. I can save as I edit with PWA, which I couldn’t with Grammarly, which then liked to crash my computer and lose all my edits. Grammarly cost me $140 US until I complained that another author got a year’s subscription for $70 and then they refunded $70 back. PWA don’t play games like that. It’s $35 for a year. The tech support is as rubbish as Grammarly’s. It’s always the user’s fault and they have the management speak, ‘I hear what you’re saying,’ whilst not hearing what you’re saying. That’s the only thing that disappoints me about PWA actually; their tech doesn’t know how to speak to people and when I say I have my very own live-in-tech, he doesn’t believe me and still treats me like an idiot and tells me to do things we’ve already tried. Par for the course, I’m afraid, but still the best application I’ve found. You want to download the Word add-in.
2. I’ve learned that social media is not always my friend.
At the start of 2015 I helped run a sprawling group of aspiring writers on Facebook and was part of numerous read and review groups. I wore myself out chasing spam like a zombie hunter and refereeing pointless, pathetic arguments about the Oxford comma and controlling personality clashes which got out of hand. After spending 8 hours in one weekend performing admin roles, I quit. The silence was deafening and the busyness stopped so over a period of a month, I backed out of all my groups without fuss and put my energies into writing and engaging with the people who matter, my readers. The sense of relief has been huge. I’m a member of 1 critique group now with a requirement of 1 read per month. The relief is tremendous and the feedback and help I’ve received is worth the effort.
3. Other authors do not always say what they mean.
Writers speak out of both sides of their mouths without realising it. ‘Yes please, I’d love some feedback,’ actually means, ‘Just love my book. I don’t want to hear anything else.’ It’s rare to find someone who wants you to go at it like you’re devouring a Sunday roast and spit out the bones. When you want to talk to them about what you enjoyed most, they’re all ears but when you inform them their Yorkshire puddings didn’t rise because they added too much milk, they’re off and running in the other direction. Occasionally they’re shouting awful things on social media while you stand with your hands on your hips with a look of bemusement.
2015 has been about surrounding myself with other hardened weirdoes who like to see their stuff pulled apart and stuck back together differently. ‘Let’s put ice cream in the Yorkshire puddings instead of gravy perhaps?’
Yorkshire people look away and Lancastrians, stop laughing!
4. I needed a business plan.
I’ve muddled along quite happily for a couple of years just writing and publishing, writing and repeating. I didn’t know I needed a business plan, but I did. The turning point for me was an article about my writing in That’s Life Magazine which began as a snippet and turned into a 2 page spread. Brought up to understand that pride comes before a fall, I didn’t think there was enough worth saying about me and my writing to fill that much space so it was a shock to see the finished article. Friend and fellow author, Terry Maggert said something pivotal to the sudden change in my attitude, pitching me from casual hobbyist to serious author.
“Surely you planned for success.”
I think my reaction was astonishment. Plan for success? Of course I didn’t. I shoved my books into the ether and was thrilled to get messages of support. I had no idea how many downloads I accrued per month, what the click through rate was on my short book links or how much I could expect to earn in a year. I only allow myself to check my Amazon accounts on a Sunday or I’d be in there all the time and my mood would depend on the number of books sold. Nobody wants to live like that, least of all a compulsive like me with an addictive personality. I never planned for success.
So I got me a business plan, named my publisher and built me a logo. I already had a brand; I just hadn’t realised it was me. I’ve got spreadsheets coming out of my ears and I know what most of them do, I’ve organised my time and my writing, I’ve got mission and vision statements and goals to work towards. I’m a proper writer and run my own little company and the best bit? I’m the boss.
5. I need to measure my success.
I made spreadsheets. I hate numbers. I’ve talked heaps about my dyscalculia and number reversal and my hatred of all things numerical, even a game of Pontoon which requires simple addition. So opening Microsoft Excel was a bit like diving off the high board at the swimming pools just after they drained the water for a code brown. Thank goodness for Husband, who with the help of the gorgeous and talented Demelza Carlton, is in the process of providing me with a spreadsheet which even a moron can’t screw up; even a short-sighted moron who does strange things with numbers involving zero.
The tool below is great. You can link it to your Amazon Author Reports Page and it will tally the number of downloads, sales and dollars earned across set periods. The daily tally will only work for me at night unfortunately, because I’m in a different time zone to everyone else, but it’s pretty cool to see how my books are doing without having to add up all the points on the sales graph and isolate each book. This app does it for you.
6. I learned I need to protect myself.
Ghostery has been a pretty useful gizmo and I’ve been pleased with it. What it does is block the trackers which follow your browsing habits and until I downloaded this app, I had no idea just how many there were. I use Firefox and Chrome so have it installed on both. I like it because it stops all the crap attaching to me and coupled with Webroot, makes surfing the internet looking for ways to kill people with common garden plants, a much safer experience. I once clicked on a Facebook link to a friend’s house which was for sale because I promised I’d share it. My little blue ghost in the corner stopped 15 trackers following my clicks!
I also need to protect myself and my family from those who wish to engage with me, but aren’t really interested in my books. I’ve stopped accepting every friend request on my Facebook page and vet people first. No, I’m not desperate enough for fans to reply to the seedy messages of men purporting to be in the US navy in uniforms which don’t look quite genuine. I’m happily married and staying that way so thanks all the same, but no.
7. I’ve learned it’s ok to be me.
I’ve released myself to write as I want, create who and what I want and enjoy the special world I belong to. I’ve never been happier or felt more fulfilled. I’ve stopped worrying quite so much about what people think and I’m more open about declaring myself to be an author. Sometimes people are interested and sometimes they’re not. I remember being stumped a few years ago when I tentatively whispered the word author in the same kind of wide-eyed tone that I might have used for pole dancer or G-string tester. The woman paused mid-sandwich and fixed me with a beady eye. “Would I have heard of you?” she asked and I gaped like a stunned mullet. Then I shook my head and wandered off to lick my wounds. Now I’d hold my head high and smile. Everything about who I am as a creator has changed and I might say, “I don’t know. But a lot of other people have.”
8. I need to stop apologising.
I’m not sorry I’m a bible believing Christian. I won’t keep slapping you round the face with my faith every 5 sentences but I am one of ‘those’ people.
I’m not sorry I’m a writer. It might be a conversation stopper but that’s your problem, not mine.
I won’t be shy that fame and fortune will come knocking on my door. I’d love a tummy tuck but don’t have the cash so if you want a photo, just give me time to suck it in.
I promise not to run away this time if I look over your shoulder for a sneak peek at what is interesting you on your phone and discover it’s one of my books. Mainly because it made me look like a weirdo and you didn’t know I wrote it anyway.
I will not preface all conversations concerning my work with, “I know it’s probably not as good as so and so’s.” I’m working hard to make it that good and am currently quite pleased with it.
9. I need to recognise when done is done.
I’ve struggled with this the most. I’ve talked before about feeling like my skirt is permanently tucked in my knickers because despite my best efforts, there are things wrong with my work. I swear typos breed in there because with so many pairs of eyes going across it, how can there still be things wrong? I love perfection. I strive for a show home, show kids, a perfect employment record and a good job done. I want to be the shiny couple with the golden family. I would happily dedicate my life to that one line of scripture which says,
‘Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, the place where you will eventually go.’ Eclesiastes 9:10
There is nothing there which dictates that the thing I find to do should be done to perfection, only with all my heart and soul. I do it with all of that and more, but I’ll never achieve perfection in the way my personality requires. Done must be done. But if a reader finds a typo or problem I will gladly correct it but endeavor not to put the whole thing through a re-edit chapter by chapter and then feel bad until I’ve done every single one of my novels on the market.
There be the way of weirdoes and strangely psychotic people, of which I am only sometimes a club member.
10. In 2016 I will do more things which frighten me.
The magazine article I did was terrifying because it put me out ‘there’ to be judged. I am naturally afraid of judgement, like all self-respecting perfectionists. I need a thicker skin. The local library carries the first 3 of my Hana books. I’ve been asked to do a talk about them in person, with real people. I’ve said yes on the premise that it’s not a big town and there won’t be more than 3 real people. I shall take cue cards and wing it. I will pretend I’m talking about somebody else’s work and I shall be fine. I survived the birth of twins and decided that nothing will ever be as bewildering or painful again. Good or bad I will blog about it and tell partial truths about how great it was. I will find other scary author things to do and blog about those too.
I’ll be fine.
I’ll be really fine.
I will be.