Have you ever done something out of turn? Just you – where you had to depend on yourself completely? Step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself?
Not necessarily with your writing, but with yourself.
Possibly going on a trip, or learning a new hobby.
Over the fourth of July, I got this opportunity.
I traveled for six hours by myself, driving to meet my sister to go camping. It’s been a long time since I have been in a car by myself for that much time.
What I found out about myself, was that at first it was uncomfortable. I wasn’t necessarily worried, but it didn’t feel natural. Since Covid hit, my husband and I have run errands or picked up food together. Most of the time, he drives. Rarely have I gone out by myself.
So it felt a little strange and exciting to be loading up and heading out all on my own.
There were moments on my drive where I felt unsure and maybe a little weak.
But as I kept driving, those unsure moments turned into empowering moments. I sang at the top of my lungs to music I love, and found my mind swelling with creative ideas and thoughts related to my writing and other things I haven’t thought of in a long time.
It was such the confidence boost I needed.
I found it interesting to have the freedom to allow my thoughts to grow and flourish. Because I wasn’t reacting to anyone else or anyone else reacting to me, I could do that. The time was my own the entire time.
Which I found very interesting.
When was the last time, I could finish a thought for myself and see where it led?
The rest of the weekend was much of the same. Camping, hiking, biking and enjoying nature. I allowed myself to experience as much as possible and when it was time to drive back another six hours, there was more confidence, more thoughts, and more positive emotions coming out of the experience.
So many great rewards reaped from the entire experience.
Much like I have gained from this writing experience I’ve embarked on all these years.
And a thought occured to me that much like the emotions I experienced on this trip, it was not dissimilar to my writing journey.
There are many times I feel scared or unsure of what I’m writing or doing with my writing. Where will it all lead? Am I cut out for this? Should I stay or should I go? But like embarking on a new experience, trying something new, builds confidence and empowers us to do more. I have definitely felt that with each blog post I’ve posted, contest I’ve entered, goal or milestone I’ve achieved.
This year I have mostly stopped writing on a regular basis. This is due to the full time day work I’ve been doing, juggling my family, and trying to find balance. Mentally, my creative side was spent. But in stopping, I’m not moving forward and the scary, unsure, and weak moments (i.e. doubts) have popped up again.
And a correlation appeared. Similar to each mile I drove onward during this trip, I need to keep moving forward with my writing so that I can once again be empowered and confident in what I am doing.
So I asked myself…
One of the things I liked about the journey was getting from one position to another. Moving forward. I also liked knowing the rules.
And last but not least:
I hope you can be encouraged to keep going on your writing journey. I know after this trip, I’m jumping back in and enjoying where I’m at and what I can still accomplish.
I have found writing book reviews a little intimidating. Even though I know as a expectant published author they are important and help with book sales. I’m not one to share my opinion on something unless asked. And I tend to stress over the words I choose for explaining what I mean. I mean, what if what I say misses the mark? Or offends someone? And I’m not as eloquent as someone else. Have you read some great reviews on a story and wish you could phrase things like that?
Yet, a book review is just that.
And someone might be interested to hear about it from my point of vew.
I have to remember that.
And then when I decided I would try, my kindle only lets me select a star count, not write words, so I’d have to go downstairs to my computer, log-in and find the purchase and write the review. It makes an already reluctant book review writer want to scream.
Yet, don’t I read reviews when making purchases to see if it’s something that fits my interests? I need to at least try.
So now I have a notebook on my ottomon so that when I finish a story I can practice writing a review.
I recently took the time to type up one of them and post it.
I also see that sometimes people review books in blog posts, and that’s a new challenge for me.
So, in the essence of practice, I wanted to post a review in a blog post as well.
Here I go;
This is book 2 in her Chaparral Hearts series, published by Wild Heart Books (and yes I’ve read book 1 and looking forward to book #3). The historical setting is in California, mostly in the San Diego area.
Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly is a special story of love, kindness, & patience.
I loved the characters, their interactions with each other, and the way God’s words were woven throughout the story naturally.
The historical context was rich with details and I felt right there in the story.
The struggles of doubt and longing and the lies we believe were very easy to identify with.
It’s amazing what can happen when one continuously seeks God’s wisdom and stays on the path of doing what’s right. I want to be a better person after reading this.
I wanted to disclose that I received a free copy from the author but was not required to review it. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share.
It’s not a large review, but it came from the heart. Maybe I will get more comfortable with this and learn to expand a bit more.
Are you comfortable writing book reviews? For those more experienced, any words of wisdom?
Did you know that using an Blog SEO Checklist can help you streamline the time it takes you to build your blog posts?
We all know it takes time to figure out what we even want to write about, but then we also need to figure out all the SEO parts that support that particular blog post.
If we were to build the SEO as part of the blog post step, we’d save ourselves a lot of time and be more strategic and purposeful with what we are posting.
I don’t know about you, but it seems every month I forget how much time it takes to organize my SEO because I think about it AFTER I write the post. Sometimes it takes longer figuring out the SEO then it does to write the post and pull graphics together. And then because I’m entering it all last minute, I don’t think it through as much as I would like.
I’m working on changing that and thought it would be helpful to pull together a checklist for all of us.
Figuring out this first—even before you start writing the post—will help save you time in the long run. What do you want your focus word to be? Everything else should stem from this.
Knowing your categories and tags before you develop your blog posts help you be more strategic and set up an organization within your posts. In my classes I help you brainstorm and build out potential ideas for your blog.
Make sure to put your focus keyword in your title and the first paragraph of your post.
This is a summary in a small one-to-two sentence structure. Some use the first paragraph, some change it up. Make sure it includes your focus keyword, and remember this is the summary someone sees if they are searching the topic and your post appears on the search results.
The Alt Text should have your keyword in it. If you pick your keyword last and already uploaded your graphics (see my three-part blog post about graphics and SEO) you might miss this opportunity to connect your graphics with stronger SEO.
Think of one link within the blog website that supports your current blog post. Don’t forget to use Anchor Text. I did this in the slug section and the graphics alt text above.
I highly recommend creating a spreadsheet to keep track of what you use for SEO every post. It’s important that you don’t repeat the same words and phrases each time, yet build out synonyms and similar themes with your SEO to help establish your authority on certain topics.
If you have a notebook, you can download this sheet to write in the blanks.
Short on time? Take a screen shot of the data, or write it on a post-it note. Anything to help you keep track of your SEO. It’s all about building your brand, and your SEO strategy is a part of that. And using a blog SEO checklist is one way to help you develop this strategy.
We all have created a box for our writing, whether we know it or not. It’s our map, so to speak. And detours can either help or hinder our writing journey. So how big is your writing box? And how do you adjust when potential opportunities or detours appear?
We all have a game plan when we first start writing. We sort of need to in order to reach our goals. But is your writing anything like you originally planned out when you first started?
I get asked a lot by friends who know I’m writing a book “When will your book be published?” “Have you finished that book yet?” Well, I can understand their questions, since I’ve been working on my book for over eight years now. (I’ll be honest, I’m not focused on it full time, since I’ve had other commitments, including jobs & volunteer positions for my kids schools).
I still plan to publish, but after some amazing side journeys, I now wonder if my book(s) are not the entire piece of my writing journey?
My experience has been awesome, overall. Sure, there have been high points (winning a contest, learning, making friends) and low points (getting hard feedback from a contest, not figuring out a scene, everything taking too long), All of it has helped me learn so much about myself. From putting my work out there, to learning from so many fantastic workshops I feel like I’ve gained a second degree, to making great friends and joining some amazing writing groups.
But I’m finding as I complete this latest round of edits and share my MS with a few additional people, I’m curious to see what will come next. And I’m willing to step out of my original writing box to see where it can go. Which is very different than having the focused expectation of how the next step will happen.
See, In the beginning, my book was the main goal. Now I’m not so sure.
We all have to start somewhere. But, if we are too rigid with our plans, we may miss opportunities that help us with the bigger picture. For me, I needed to explore other areas of writing to help me figure out what I could and couldn’t do. Some of these side journeys have helped me continue on this writing journey.
I wrote magazine articles, which took time away from my book, but I found the deadlines, working with an editor, and seeing my writing in print, helped to keep me motivated, and help me be a stronger writer.
Blog posts and being a part of this blog has helped me gain confidence in putting my work “out there” and learn that the sky won’t cave in, I do have something to share, and how to respond to comments (and experience the thrill of connecting with a reader). Some of my first blog posts covered topics of hard-learned lessons (Let Me Tell You Something, Face Your Fear) and sharing what I was doing and testing out theories (What is Alt Text and How To Use It), which lent to the next step…
When I made connections between my day job (Marketing) and this author thing and realized I had expertise to share. I felt a nudging to teach (at writing conferences, and in blog posts, and a training course in the works) and establish my Marketing for Authors newsletter. Now I find I love teaching and helping other authors figure out their brand and creating additional content and how this all ties together.
With all that, I really don’t know if my book is the end all goal now. Or it may still be and all of this will support it in ways I can’t explain yet.
Am I going to finish it and publish it? Yes. Do I have more stories in the works? Yes. But by allowing my writing box to get bigger, I’m seeing infinitely more ways to connect and be a part of this publishing world.
What do I want my brand to be?
Our Author Brand is our Author Name and pieces of who we are (and who we decide to share with the world). How we explore and expand as our writing grows and expands. It takes time to develop what our voice is going to be about. And it should continue to evolve.
I have found that by being flexible with my writing box I see a bigger picture. And I’ve learned to trust my instincts and take some side journeys.
I know I’ve talked about this in snippets in my classes, but here’s a deeper dive into how this came about and became an aha moment for me. And why I believe my branding brainstorm I teach in my classes can help you figure out your brand and new and different ways, which can in turn help you to connect with your readers.
I love journaling. Whether it’s a prayer journal, or a travel journal, or what I’ve now started as my Word of the Year Journal, capturing thoughts and writing them out help me process things.
When I started writing my novel, I wanted to have an element of a journal in my story. I didn’t know how I would do it, but wanted my heroine to have a diary that turned into prayer journal. Something which helped show her journey throughout the story.
I wasn’t even completed with my first round of edits when I had a nudge to create a website page about starting a prayer journal. And I argued with myself for taking away precious time to work on my book, etc… But in the end I decided doing so would be good practice for putting something “out there” on my website. So I created the page 7 Steps to Creating a Prayer Journal.
And by flushing this page out, it helped me see more clearly how to implement what I wanted to do. This little detour actually has helped me write my book. And I think it is something I can tie into when my book is published.
Side note: Something else that has come out of all this is the desire to design a line of journals as well. Who would’ve thought that something I love and hold dear, would become a large part of my story and brand?
If I hadn’t take then the time to flush it out and do it, I would’ve limited the potential of offering more than just my story.
So am I the only one to experience this?
Do you have a side journey that has helped your writing career?
I’d love to hear about it.
I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too many books. I’m sure that’s a quote I’ve seen somewhere. Maybe I should get a t-shirt with that specific phrase on it!
My To-Be-Read-Pile is ever growing, is yours?
I have books on my Kindle, books under my bed, books on my nightstand, and in the special pieces of furniture that I purchased specifically to hold books.
And yet, I still love to go to the library and peruse possibilities or hunt for treasures at used book or garage sales, or add to my Kindle list through all the different newsletters I receive from the many authors I follow.
Am I the only one who does this?
Any suggestions for how to manage them all?
As I’ve made new writer friends in the different groups I’m a part of, I seem to have added a whole slew of authors to the list of books I want to read. It’s fun and exciting, but it can be overwhelming sometimes too.
I’m just curious to know if anyone shares in this same quandary?
My desire to add to my pile seems to ebb and flow, sometimes based on how overwhelmed I am with where to put everything. But mostly, I do tend to just accept and enjoy this desire to continuously add to my pile.
Of course, many books become favorites and I find it difficult to add them to the donate pile. Anyone have that habit as well?
Some days it feels like book overload. But other days, I just smile and look forward to the new set of friends I’m going to meet in the next book I read.
I’m hoping I’m not the only one who suffers from this malady!
Do you, too?
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