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How to Do a Year in Review by Kitty Bucholtz

November 9, 2023 by in category It's Worth It by Kitty Bucholtz, Writing tagged as , , , ,

One thing we hear a lot of this time of year when we talk about annual planning is that we need to do a “year in review.” We’re told to make note of what worked this past year, what was more difficult than expected, and to decide what we’ll continue in the next year and what we’ll stop.

But what’s the best way to look at it?

If I sit here and think for a few seconds, I would say this past year has been tremendously difficult. (Just shy of “It sucked!”)

If I think about it for a minute, I remember than I got to travel three times this year – three times more than I have since the Covid pandemic began. That’s a win! But the rest of my life still sucked.

But if I get something to write with (pen and paper, computer file, phone note) and close my eyes and try to go through my whole year, looking at my calendar as well, I see something entirely different.

The root of my financial troubles was me not leaving any savings for slow months, but putting every dollar I earned against my credit card balance. Cash flow trouble. Something I can avoid in the future now that I understand it from first-hand experience. (It seemed like such a good idea to pay down my credit card as fast as possible…unless you get to a month where you don’t have enough for even the minimum payment. Oops.) While the short-term results were painful, the lesson learned for the future was invaluable.

My health was another big stressor this year. While I knew that I was learning how to heal from burnout the last few years, I hadn’t fully realized the impact of peri menopause in addition. I started out the year practically homicidal. But I was put on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) in mid-February and my symptoms quickly evened out. I wasn’t 100% back to myself, but at 80-95% (depending on the day), it was a huge relief!

Unfortunately, that 5-20% still bothered me with brain fog and fatigue, feeling like I couldn’t keep two thoughts in my head half the time. That doubled the amount of time it took me to do client work and my own work, which made me feel like I was getting further and further behind every month. Then after my half marathon, I caught a terrible respiratory infection that knocked me out for a couple weeks. A few weeks later, I caught Covid for the first time.

While between them it felt like I lost a good two months in trying to get healthy again, that time also made me think about how I’m living my life without much white space right now. That’s not what I want. I’ve had a half-finished puzzle on the table for a couple months because I keep telling myself I don’t have time to play right now. What’s that about? That’s something I want to actively plan to change next year.

These are only a few of things I came up with when I spent more than one minute thinking about the year. Turns out, there were a lot of good things in my business and personal life in 2023. In addition, of course, to a lot of lessons learned, and a lot of unfortunate things I couldn’t do much about. But once I could see these things written out, I could start seeing a much clearer picture of what the year truly was like.

That allowed me to start a list of what I wanted to change (quite a few things) in 2024, what I wanted to do more of, and a few things I needed to cut way back on. When I start my annual planning for the new year, I’m going to take this new, more complete, list and look at if from the standpoint of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). I’ll also compare my bigger life goals against the year – am I living my life with purpose and loving everyone as much as I can?

So how about your year in review? Can you take longer than a few minutes and really think it all through, write it down and take a solid look at it? I think you’ll find some really helpful information to make next year better.

And I bet you see a bunch of things to remind you that this past year was even better than what you remember!

I hope you take the time. It’s worth it.

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The Menopause Effect – It’s Real by Kitty Bucholtz

October 9, 2023 by in category It's Worth It by Kitty Bucholtz, Writing tagged as , , ,

This year has been <insert adjective here> for me! Which adjective to insert seems to depend upon both the hormones, or lack thereof, coursing through my body and how I’m managing my mindset during this phase of life. Some of the things I’ve said about the year include horrible, difficult, super tough, disastrous, a waste — all variations of “hard” but with a lot more emphasis and/or emotion coming through with some of them.

However, some of the other adjectives I’ve occasionally inserted have included a learning experience, eye-opening, difficult but with lessons I want to share with others. (Okay, not simple adjectives, but you get the picture.)

I’ve gone from being seriously pissed off at everyone, hating life, wishing it all away, and being seriously depressed to getting some hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches and finding my real self again! (I feel between 90% and 99.9% better most days.) I think my husband wants to give my doctor a Christmas present this year! Haha! Life was tough on him, too.

Now, I was raised in a time and place when women’s health, particularly reproductive health, was never discussed “in polite company,” meaning only to a doctor in the most dire cases. My mother didn’t say much more than she had to, and although as a teenager I knew all the angst was caused by hormones and it would eventually even out and go away, no one told me I’d have to go through it all over again!!

Even though I spent the first 50 years of my life allowing myself to be too embarrassed to ask any more questions than necessary, the next few years got increasingly difficult and confusing and I needed help. I finally talked about some of it to a friend, and then starting Googling anything I could find on this transition. The results were dismal, mostly articles by white, middle-aged, male, American doctors saying, yup, these are the symptoms but there’s nothing you can do about except wait it out, and don’t worry, it’ll go away in five to ten years. This is where I remember my always-near-the-surface rage hitting new heights.

When I spoke to a writers group a few months ago on a writing topic, but happened to mention the effects of peri menopause on my writing, I found that most of the comments in the chat were variations of “Thank you so much for talking about menopause!”

Shocker! Shocking enough for me to choose to get over being embarrassed!!

So here I am, along with a few friends, talking about menopause and hormones and all the crap that goes along with it…but also all the things we’re trying and what we’re each finding makes a positive difference. We’re recording our conversations and putting them on my YouTube channel. Here’s the first one. Please let me know in the comments here or, preferably, on YouTube if this is helpful and what else you want to talk about. Right now the calls are being recorded at 6:30am ET, 12:30pm CET, and 9:30 or 10:30pm in Sydney depending on when you read this and whether everyone has gone through the Daylight Savings Time changes. If you want to be on one of the live calls, let me know. We might be able to change the time at least sometimes. Meanwhile, I hope it helps and encourages you and the people around you. We’re not alone! 🙂

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And Then There Were Two by Kitty Bucholtz

July 22, 2023 by in category It's Worth It by Kitty Bucholtz, Writing tagged as , , ,

When I got married 33 years ago, I knew there would be a lot of combining things in our lives. John taught me to enjoy comic books and Dungeons & Dragons. I helped him discover a couple chick flicks he could watch multiple times.

What I didn’t expect to share was my identity as a writer.

At first, it was really difficult for me, a middle child, to share a place I’d carved out for me. (Middle children out there, I bet you understand.) But over time I not only got used to the fact that my animator husband had started writing middle grade superhero stories, I decided to help him get them published.

Insert long story here about sending the book out to agents. (Many of you know this story.) So John decided he’d follow me and self-publish.

And since I’m a book coach and help people not only finish their books, but self-publish their books…yup, I had another client! (This one pays with kisses and backrubs and…ah-hem…moving on!) So as we insert another long story here, I’m now officially a publisher since I publish two authors. Whoa!

Let me know if you’d like to know how that’s working and I’ll make a point of writing it all down and posting it here. Meanwhile, I’m doing the publisher thing and promoting a book! 😀

Life as a Teenage Superhero is free through the end of today, Saturday, July 22, 2023, on all Amazon stores that sell ebooks. (I never thought I’d have to add those last three words, but the new Amazon store in Sweden doesn’t sell ebooks yet!) If you enjoyed the Harry Potter books, you might love Life as a Teenage Superhero. And if you have kids or grandkids from about 8 years old and up, they may love it too! (Also available in Kindle Unlimited for the next 90 days.)

We’ve got John’s second book in the 11-book series, Get a Half-Life, up on pre-order on Amazon with new books in the series coming out every 2-4 months. One of the new things I’ll be doing this year is creating a second print edition that is specifically for dyslexic readers! It’s a busy and exciting time to be a writer — and a publisher!

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Self Publishing Show Live Recap by Kitty Bucholtz

July 9, 2023 by in category Writing tagged as , , , ,
Self Publishing Show Live 2023 with Mark Dawson and James Blatch

I was thrilled to attend Mark Dawson’s SPS Live last month in London! It was exactly the shot in the arm I needed to bring back my thrill for my career! I thought you might want to know what happened there because you can still buy the digital ticket and watch the recordings of all the presentations. You’ll be glad you did. Soooo many people — onstage and off — made a point of encouraging everyone else, urging us all to watch our mindset in order to help us reach new levels of success.

First up was Bella Andre talking about translations. She was generous and clear about exactly how it’s been working for her. If you have a long series, this is something you need to look into.

Damon Courtney from BookFunnel gave a great presentation about how to build a book funnel to find your perfect readers and grow your list. Of course, if you use BookFunnel, he gave some advice about group promos and author swaps.

Next was an interesting panel on writing regional crime novels. Whether you write in this genre or not, there was a lot to learn from these incredibly successful authors. One tip — focus on character and setting over the crime and the procedural portion. That’s what brings readers back for more.

Then Fictionary (writing software) gave a story structure presentation. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur shared tips on improving your Amazon sales page. Craig Martelle and Kate Pickford gave inspiring talks on perfectionism and getting in your own way. And we finished the first day with a panel discussing AI.

I was so fired up after the first day, my brain was bouncing off the walls of my skull! Hahaha!!

Marc Reklau began Day Two with a talk that was both inspiring and practical. Then Mark Dawson and Orna Ross of Alliance of Independent Authors shared the results of a survey about independent authors including income, sales, and trends. (I linked to the downloadable results. ^^)

TikTok shared an exciting presentation about TikTok Shop that was only disappointing at the end if you did not reside in the U.K., the U.S., or a few countries in Southeast Asia. (It’s not available outside these countries yet, and the TikTok app won’t show you the options outside these countries.)

Britt Andrews from ProWritingAid (writing software) gave a great presentation on building a fandom. Then the Kindle Storyteller Award winners took the stage for a group interview. And finishing out the conference, Mark Dawson and Emma Boyle (Written Word Media, the company that owns Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, etc.) gave tips on elevating ebook promo success. (Mark’s Hello Books has joined up with Written Word Media for ebook promos.)

And there it is — a very brief recap and a reminder that you can still buy the digital ticket for $99. When the videos are ready in August, Mark and team are going to do a little launch that includes a few extra live classes, so come join us! Being there live was electric and I’ve made a lot of changes already with more to come. I hope you find a similar excitement in watching the videos!

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What Do I Do with AI? by Kitty Bucholtz

May 9, 2023 by in category It's Worth It by Kitty Bucholtz, Writing tagged as , , , , ,

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been on our radar for years, and on our fiction radar for decades. But since OpenAI opened its doors for anyone and everyone to try out ChatGPT six months ago, it seems AI has exploded across the world and across industries.

If you haven’t played with it yet, you might be wondering — what can an author do with it anyway? (Besides ask it to write a book for you, which would actually take about as much work as writing it yourself to come up with something really good and not generic-sounding.) Turns out, there are lots of things.

  1. Back cover copy — My husband’s first book just released (yay!) and he used ChatGPT to help him write better back cover copy. He entered what he’d written himself and then asked for help to make it stronger.
  2. Your book description on the sales page — Same guy, same book. He then asked the AI to read the book descriptions of a couple competitive authors on Amazon and rewrite his book description to sound more like the ones on those sales pages.
  3. Brainstorming plot holes and writer’s block — I used ChatGPT to find out what a lawyer (the hero in my current chick lit) might do in this or that situation. I asked it to give me three ideas of what might happen after this or that event. I asked it for ten more ideas, then I asked for more details on one of them. Suddenly, my block was gone and I knew what I wanted to write next.
  4. Fictional poetry or song lyrics — Since we can’t legally use more than a small number of words in poetry and songs (it’s easier for me to just say “we can’t use it” and be done with it), what can you do if you’re not a poet? Give ChatGPT some guidelines and ask it to write x lines of poetry for you in this or that style. Voila!
  5. Actual poetry to give to someone — Say, in your spouse’s anniversary card! John and I just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary a few days ago and I was gobsmacked at the short but lovely poem he’d written inside. I asked him if he’d written it or just found someone’s poem and written it in. When he paused, not answering either way, I started laughing. “Did you use ChatGPT?!” He looked away, trying to hide a smile. “Maybe a little. But then *I* made it better!”

The free version of ChatGPT can do a lot, but don’t expect it to “get it right” on the first try. You need to understand how to ask it questions to get the best answers. And you need to know enough about the topic to know when it got something a little (or a lot) wrong, or when its answer is just too generic to be useful. The newer paid version is already miles ahead of the free one, but you still need to understand how to ask your questions.

I’m going to be showing my group coaching clients how to use the free ChatGPT for brainstorming, how it’s different from “Googling” something, and the specific and helpful ways it can make your writing life easier. And more fun!

If you’ve used it, what do you feel it has done well or poorly? If you haven’t used it, what makes you want to try it or makes you shy away from it?

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