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Develop Strong Decision Making Skills as a Writer

August 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

It’s important to develop strong decision-making skills when writing a novel. As a writer we have many decisions to make when writing our stories. For our characters we have to figure out names, color of hair and eyes, and flaws and strengths. We also have to figure out where they live, where they work, who they will clash with and whom they will love. Do they have a large family or small? And what was their family life like?

Blog banner with the title Develop Strong Decision Making Skills as a Writer by Denise M. Colby which discusses why it's important to be a strong decision maker

Many important pieces that, like a puzzle, connect together to create a strong story. And portray characters our readers can relate to. So, it’s very important for us to get it ‘right’.

But what does right, mean?

And what can we do if we get it wrong?

See, in the past, my own fear of getting it wrong, prevented me from moving forward. And I had a hard time making decisions, especially not knowing if they would work or not. And not having answers made it difficult to write my story.

When I first started this novel-writing journey, I would save every word cut and paste it in another file. I was terrified to erase an idea or phrase. What if I couldn’t come up with something better? Or I forgot the idea I originally came up with? I found myself unable to know how to make the right decisions.

And then I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted my heroine to be sassy or shy. Or what she even should look like.

Part of this was because I had never done this before. Another part of it was my own lack of decision-making skills. I needed to figure out how to become a strong decision maker and fast.

Who knew that to become a good writer, I needed strong decision making skills?

I’ve since learned I just have to make decisions, but that they can change if I need them to. It’s better to have a direction, than no direction at all.

Also taking workshops from other writers has helped me learn a variety of ways to approach the writing process. Yes, some of the decisions are still pulled out of thin air. You have to start somewhere! But I’ve since learned how to think through these points when writing.

I’ve also learned that I don’t have to save the words. Now I can trust myself to come up with new content that still fits my story. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s better to start over with a new way of writing a scene. This decision has helped me try different approaches rather than adding patches and bandaids. And the practice has allowed me to apply new techniques I’ve learned in recent classes.

Now I can say with pride that I can rewrite my opening a 7th time and still survive!

A word that comes to mind when I think about this – everything we do in writing our stories is redeemable. 

Redeemable—able to be recovered or saved from faults or bad aspects.

Did you know all the other words linked to redeemable in the thesaurus?

Rectifiable, improvable, restorable, fixable, reparable

Do you know what this means? Our writing is not permanent and frozen with the first things we write. It can evolve and grow and improve.

That’s huge encouragement to me.

So I can decide away, and then redeem what works. I don’t have to make ALL the decisions final each step of the way. There’s room for change and room for me to make strong decisions with each layer of edits I do.

This change in mindset has allowed me to change scenes completely and try them in a new way. Because, if I didn’t like it, I can change it back, or try again. It might mean more work, but that’s okay.

This is because the hard work isn’t what scares me, it’s the fear of not getting it right. There are so many different ways to put a phrase together!

I wrote a post Facing your Fear and I think I need to reread it every once in a while. I’ve come a long way in my writing, but my fears still can get in the way of my goals. And I’m not about to let my fears stop me now.

That’s why I wrote my blog post on Listing out Your Accomplishments. When I track the things I have accomplished, it helps me face my fear. Which in turn helps me make better decisions going forward. It’s like each decision I make, encourages me to make more.

Making decisions makes me a stronger decision maker

I’ve come a long way from saving every word I cut and not knowing what I want for my characters. Now I sometimes try out a scene a completely different way just to see it from a distinct angle. And then I can redeem the words that work the best from either version.

Do you have areas that are difficult for you to decide on?

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Find Motivation to Accomplish Goals, and Hang On To It

July 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

There are just some days I find it really hard to sit down and work on my manuscript. But, I have goals to reach. And somewhere, somehow, I have to find motivation to accomplish those goals. Otherwise I get frustrated and want to give up.

Blog Banner by Denise M. Colby Titled Find Motivation to Accomplish Your Goals; includes a line that goes A to B; wood panel background

Writing a book is a longggg process. I’ve been working on mine for over seven years. Granted, I have a day job. I have a family. And I have volunteer requirements. And in the beginning I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t know what were realistic measurements or tasks I could expect myself to accomplish.

But I’ve learned a lot in the past seven years, including what works for me to keep moving forward.

Here’s how I motivate myself to accomplish goals:

Break up tasks into manageable chunks.

Photo of planner page to highlight daily tracking for writing by Denise M. Colby
Tracking my daily goal of touching my manuscript is fun and helps keep me on track

Choose to track word counts or time. Sometimes just spending 15 minutes (Flylady anyone?) is enough to move forward and keep my mind in my story. My planner I use has little images in the front of each month. If I touched my MS that day, I color in the image. Didn’t matter how long or what I did. It sure helps take away the feeling of being stagnant.

Write out specific tasks that can be checked off.

showing example of how to accomplish writing goals by Denise M. Colby
Writing out actionable goals and checking them off motivates me

Back in March when all of sudden my home became work and school central for the four other people in my family, I had to get really specific with the tasks I wanted to accomplish each week. Part of that was to show my family what I was working on, and part of it was for me to stay on task when there was a lot going on around me.

I was editing my MS and wanted to get through four chapters a week. So on an index card, I wrote out each week’s dates and which chapter numbers were assigned that week, and then I stuck it to my little bulletin board, where I could see it. 

I’ll tell you, being able to check off each week when I accomplished those chapters was so encouraging. Yes, I will need to go through my MS again. But I’m not focusing that far ahead. I would derail myself if I did. Instead I focused on what I needed to accomplish that day (one scene or two) for that week. This makes it way more manageable. 

And for full disclosure, I had to change some of the dates. There were a few weeks where I just couldn’t get it done. The chapters needed more work, and we had family birthdays to celebrate. So I adjusted and kept going.

Figure out time blocks that work for you.

Simple clock on wood plank background, choosing the time you work to accomplish goals, matters
Adjust time to work when most effective

Are you a morning person or a night person? I’ve learned that editing in the afternoon right now doesn’t work for me. I get too caught up with work and everyone else is up and making noise, having conversations, and it’s challenging to focus uninterrupted. I enjoy the morning when it’s more quiet.

Although with 7 and 7:30am conference call meetings recently, I don’t get to start my day working on my MS, before I jump into work. I try, but realize that it’s not realistic five days a week. Instead, for now, I’ve adjusted my hours and try to work only 1/2 day on Friday and then work on my MS the rest of the day.  

This has given me momentum heading into the weekend to still accomplish goals. Sometimes our family dynamics make it hard to work on things all weekend, but by telling my husband I need some time to work on my book, it’s helped set up the expectation.

Take a moment to catch your breath.

Photo of My Brilliant Writing Planner page where there's a place to reflect and reset each day, which helps focus to accomplish goals
Taking moments to reset helps me focus on the task for the day

I find when life is crazy busy, I can’t slow down to focus on just one task. Too many things are screaming at me to get it all done, NOW. In my handy dayplanner each week, are two pages of daily inspiration. Some days I can only think of writing one word in the daily square – my word of the year. This year it’s courage and writing it out reminds me why I chose that word. Courage to keep going when it’s hard, courage to take risks, courage to trust God’s plan for my writing. 

Other days I write other things in the daily spots, whether it’s a Bible verse, quote, thoughts, or recently I’ve been focusing on 5 things I’m grateful for each day. It’s amazing how taking a few minutes to slow down and pause helps my mental state and allows me to refocus my brain on the next task I’m preparing for. (And I’ll admit, some days it’s toward the end of the day and I hadn’t written anything down yet. I still pick it up then and recenter myself).

Sometimes I need to just create without thinking. With Washi tape I add color and design to my planner pages. Maybe not everyone is like this, but I find it really helps center me and I get to see something for my efforts. 

Find something that causes excitement.

caption: motivating words helps me accomplish goals, screen shots of words emailed back to Denise M. Colby from the class she's teaching.
Positive words encourage and motivate me

I’m teaching an online course this month through ACFW on SEO Marketing. I love this topic. And so many people have responded to participate. As I reply to each one and read their comments of what they wanted to learn and their answers, I’ve gotten really excited. I get to share this topic with other writers, help them, and make a difference. With each email, I’m more motivated to keep doing what I’m doing.

There’s something to be said about having little wins in your corner that can help motivate. Interacting, helping and teaching other writers seem to be one of mine. 

wood panel background with the words Yay! Celebrate accomplished goals
Wins motivate!

I could keep going, but I’m off to participate in a virtual writing conference. It seems talking and sharing with other writers is another motivator for me. 

I hope one of these ideas helps encourage you to accomplish goals in your writing. When I set out to decide on my topic for this month, this one came to mind. I wanted to capture the positive energy that I’m feeling right now, so in those times when I don’t feel it, I can remind myself of what I can do to help myself through the more challenging times.

If you have other ways to motivate yourself to accomplish goals, I’d love to hear it. Write it in the comments below. We can all use new ideas to help motivate us to accomplish our goals!



If you are interested in more, I wrote a post in January for this blog, that talked about staying on task. And over at my own blog, I post monthly on various topics related to encouragement, writing, and anything Disney

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Do or Do Not, There is no Try When it Comes to Building your Brand

May 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

Since May is all about Star Wars, I thought I’d start with a famous Yoda quote and apply it to a building your brand message:

“Do or Do Not, There is no Try”


How does this apply to your author platform?

  • We write or we do not write.
  • We post social media or we do not post social media.
  • We start building a brand or we do not. 

When it comes to building your brand, there’s this fear of getting things wrong.

And sometimes this fear prevents us from doing anything about it.

But that’s exactly what I want to encourage you to do. Do something! Don’t just say you will try. And know, whatever you do, it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect. It’s most important for you to do.

Yes, I know, all the different variables to building your author brand can be stressful. But keep in mind, I’ve seen several small businesses evolve and grow in their online presence. It has opened my eyes to the fact that they did not get to their current place overnight. There’s not a magic switch that turns on everything perfectly. Most sites have evolved over time, trying things that work and don’t work and making adjustments as they work out the kinks.

Our author websites and social media are just like this.

We need to do some things first before we figure out if it works or not. 

That’s what happened with my Marketing for Authors newsletter. I saw a graphic I liked and wanted to make it into the brand for Marketing for Authors. But no matter what I did, it wasn’t working the way I pictured it. And so I put off sending out my newsletter, or doing anything else for that matter. Not very business-minded, was it? So, I too am right in the thick of it, challenging myself with starting over and moving forward.

I’ve since chosen a simple design (thanks Canva!) and color scheme that I can incorporate into my training materials easily. And if I need to change some things as I go, I’m okay with that.

Here’s my new logo.

Building your brand one step at a time blog topic includes Marketing for Authors Logo - Teal, black and white text with a light bulb and MfA over it. By Denise M. Colby

What do you think?

I’m super excited about it. I didn’t overthink it like I usually do, and I can incorporate the colors into my training materials. The only issue is when I print it on my home printer, the color comes out a little more blue than what it looks like on the screen. Since most of my stuff will be digital anyway, I’m moving forward with it. And boy does that feel freeing.

I understand how much establishing brand and building content is complicated and time-consuming. That’s where I want to help you in figuring out what works and to offer encouragement.

As a writer and a small business person, every little action can help propel your brand forward.

For myself, I’ve written my first newsletter and I’m ready to send it out (you can sign up for my free newsletter here). I’m also preparing to teach my first online class and give my first zoom interview. I’m trying not to over think things, but just take baby steps, one step at a time.

I hope to encourage you in the same way.

If interested in learning more about brand and SEO, take a look at some of my past posts:

Why it’s Important to Have a Blog and What to Write About

Why Link Building on Your Website and Blog is Important

Why SEO Should Matter To An Author

Or you can visit my website by clicking on the button below.

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Why it’s Important to Have a Blog and What to Write About

April 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as ,

Writing a blog takes time away from writing your books, but a blog is something an author shouldn’t go without. Why is it important to have a blog and what do you write about? I’ll go over both of those questions in this post. 

Blog Header titled Why It's Important to Have a Blog by Denise M. Colby Marketing for Authors

Just know, the most important reason for a blog, is your brand. 

If done correctly, blog posts can help build your brand.

And your brand will thank you for it.

Here are four ways a blog helps build your brand:

1. You choose what your write about.

All of the parts in your stories build brand because this is what your books are about. Readers choose your books because of the genre, setting, characters, era, and other details, so why wouldn’t they be interested in learning more about those things in blog posts?

Don’t share where your book is being sold (unless it is a new release), but you can share about research, or why a character likes the color blue, or even a theme of your book (When the Plan Does Not Go According to Plan) which all relates back to your books. It might even help new readers to go search for your book and buy it.

2. Build relationship with your readers.

It takes a long time for a new book to hit the market, so connecting with your readers frequently keeps you in their minds.

Build excitement for the next book by sharing a little about your characters or other topics (see point #1) in your books.

You can also connect with your readers about topics that are near and dear to you. Being a Disney fan, I’m working on building blog posts related to my favorite things about Disney.

3. Build interest in your new books as well as your previous ones.

By connecting with readers, they can learn more about you and your books. A blog post about a past book and how much a specific character was your favorite to write about, or a trip you took to conduct research and your favorite sites, might encourage a reader to buy that book and read it.

In my post from this blog, It’s a Short & Sweet Mother’s Day I wrote about my first Mother’s Day without my mom and then the tribute article that was printed in a book titled Short & Sweet Family Album.

4. It adds new SEO onto your website

One of the only ways to add SEO to your website is NEW content. Even a monthly blog allows the internet to see your website is not stagnent. But more than that, having a planned out strategy for your categories and tags, allows you to build your brand within your SEO. 

In theory, readers who are interested in stories that include one-room schoolhouses, would be able to search and find web site pages related to one-room schoolhouses (It’s the One-Room Schoolhouse’s Fault), which in turn might lead them to my book. Or a post related to bookmarks (For the Love of Bookmarks), might connect with a reader who also collects bookmarks. That connection may encourage them to follow you and purchase your books in the future.

I don’t have published books, yet. But I’m building these concepts into my content on my website and blog now.

Screen shot of search with the words I love Bookmarks Denise to find Bookmark blog post
A search for ‘I Love Bookmarks Denise’ brings up my blog post and photos that went with it.

Once you brainstorm ideas, the choices of what to write about is unlimited. And provides another way to find new readers and connect and build a following with existing ones.

So don’t turn away from writing a blog. Embrance it. And consider writing for an outside blog as well. See last month’s post on Why Link Building On Your Website and Blog is Important to learn why I make this suggestion.

I love the topic of Brand and SEO and helping authors develop both. If you are interested in learning more, sign up for my Marketing for Authors newsletter.

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Why Link Building on Your Website and Blog is Important

March 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

Link building on your website and blog posts is important because it helps build your SEO (search engine optimization). Google uses links to measure the quality of a page. The more links there are that go back to that page from good sources, the higher the SEO. Link building is only one part of the bigger SEO picture, but for this post, I’m discussing link building only.

Linking between other websites and/or pages is important

Why is it important to have other pages link to your page and vice versa?

It’s a vote of confidence that what you’ve written is worth reading. Similar to a recommendation for say a plumber, car repair, or a restaurant. 

There are other benefits to link building as well:

  • Relationships between websites
  • Referral Traffic
  • Building your brand

The algorithm Google uses changes constantly, so no one truly knows specifically how much link building is appropriate, but in my research there are things you should and should not do. Do not submit your website to a web directory in order to get a link in return.

True organic links work best 

Denise m. Colby

This means links should be complementary to the content that the blog post is written about. Adding links is also a great way to provide extra content to your readers.

But what if you don’t have anything to link?

I have found some web pages and blog posts I write have links that naturally fit, and then with other pages and blog posts, I draw a blank. I especially found it difficult when my website and blog were brand new.

Potential content ideas that include link building:

  • Your welcome page can introduce your other pages with links to those pages (even if you have a menu).
  • Create a page for each book you’ve written and then talk about each one in a separate blog post and put the link to the book page in it.
  • If you are unpublished, you could write a blog post about setting, clothes, animals or any other topic that connects with your manuscript and include links to a pinterest page with sample photos.
  • Review other writers’ books and include links to where the book can be purchased.
  • Write a blog post about craft and include a link to the website or person where you learned about that topic.

Whatever you do, don’t despair. As you add content to your website and/or blog, you are building content. That content may be linkable material later. Just keep building your content.

For example, I have written several blog posts about SEO both on my own blog (Why the M), and here on A Slice of Orange (What is Alt Text and How To Use it).

And, my Marketing for Authors program now has a newsletter (where you can sign up and receive a free booklet of SEO help), with the plan to have training courses available this year.

Did you see what I did there? I added several links to previous blog posts as well as actual pages on my website, all in some way related to the topic I am writing about – SEO and link building.

Screen shot of the SEO results for Link building in a blog post. The green dots shows you have enough links in your post
The goal is to show green dots in the Yoast SEO Plug-in

Remember, SEO looks at both internal and external linking, which leads me to my next tip.

Write guest blogs so that you can link back to your website.

Another way to add links to your blog post is to add your social media links. These would count for outside links.

This can be done at the bottom of your post with a phrase such as: If you’d like to connect with me on social media, you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

You could even link to a specific post on your social media. Since this post is about SEO, I’m linking two separate tweets here and here I’ve posted related to SEO.

You can go back and add in links, however, it is BETTER to REWRITE a new post with a little different angle or side-topic (SEO does not like duplicate content) so it reads differently, then add a link to your old post.

Remember, links can include other pages or posts on your website. Circling in a loop is okay. And you can add links to both words (Anchor Text) or photos. The goal would be for every blog post to have at least two links in it (one internal and one external).

There are many other things to learn about link building, but I will save those tips for another post. For now this is enough to get your started.

Give it time. You won’t have enough content in the beginning to do this right away. But in time you will be able to add link building into your SEO plans.

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