Happy New Year. I hope you had a wonderful holiday.
This morning I woke up to a daunting historical fact. Five years ago, I made a rather strange decision or idea to publish a title a month for a year. I’ve spoken about this project several times over the past years. When I set out to do it, I had one main reason, to sell more books.
I heard the best way to gain readers and sell more books was to write more books. I also heard it was easier to do advertising with more than one book.
When 2016 started I had one full-length novel, a novella and a novelette. What I didn’t have was a completed series, or at least a duet. I now know that was a big mistake. If I were to ever do another challenge like that, it would center around one series.
I have learned a lot about writing and publishing books. I think I finally have a handle on my writing style and what my readers expect from me. I write books that aren’t necessarily written to market. In my books someone is always wrestling with their feelings, raging hormones and how they mix with their faith. I like to hook my reader with something a little sweet and sassy so they can get to know the characters. The heat levels grow as the series progresses. In my writing world, the characters need to read like real people. It should feel like you’re reading about someone the reader would actually know.
I have three series and two duets I need to tie up. I’m not saying I’m going to tie up all of these collections this year, but I’m going to try.
I’m also guilty of using cliffhangers…another thing I tried to sell books. I think it would have been successful if I’d immediately released the next book in the series.
Last year I didn’t release a book and my sales suffered as a result. What did I learn from this…no new book and a lack of marketing my backlist leads to no money. I did however, participate in some incredible free promotions which gave me awesome results. My book Unexpected Love was #1 in one of my categories on Amazon US and UK for three days. I was on the roof. Both of my other books peaked in the top ten of their categories.
These promotions yielded several thousand downloads and sales which I loved.
I take responsibility for my low sales, because I failed to do adequate marketing and advertising. I refuse to kick myself for not sticking to my production schedule. I was distracted by a little thing called COVID-19.
So what is my plan for this year? I’m not quite sure. I know I’ll be releasing a book in February. My goal is to release the next in that series approximately three months later. I’ll also be releasing new covers for my Alex series as well as another book.
The other thing on my list is the follow up to Unexpected Love. I have the cover, title and eleven thousand words. Seeing several free copies have been downloaded and it ends in a cliffhanger, I need to release the follow up asap.
Before I start any writing plan for 2021, I’m going to take a few days, clear my head and make a reachable and achievable plan.
So what’s your author plan for 2021?
My husband, Will Zeilinger and I are E. J. Williams and we co-write the INTERNATIONAL CRIME FILES, a hardboiled/thriller detective series that takes the reader from 1960s Southern California, then on to international locales. STONE PUB goes to Ireland and is our first book of the new series.
Every author has a unique way to begin writing a crime novel. In this new series, we asked ourselves, “What is at stake?” This question gives the reader something to look forward to as they delve into the story.
The nature of these stakes needs to be agreed upon when writing with a partner. All future books should have stakes of a similar or more intense level.
When we brainstormed about what would be at stake in our first story, we arrived at four great ideas. After talking about them and coming up with subplots for each one, we wrote them down and decided to meet again. Our second meeting focused on the pros and cons of each stake. After considering all of them, we chose the third stake. Once we had the stakes chosen, the story was ready to be outlined. We didn’t realize until much later that we had stakes for the next three novels, all ready to go!
Brainstorming is the best way for writing partners to set the stakes. Remember . . . the most crucial thing is to write a good story. So stay tuned . . . there is more to come.
STONE PUB will be published May 2021, it is the first in the series, and yes . . . we are still married!
Website: Janet Elizabeth Lynn
Website: Will Zeilinger
How to finish your book and keep your day job?
Protect your writing time like a mother protecting her young
Writing a book is a work of love. However, things get in the way, i.e. work. We all dream of the day when we can make enough money to survive by writing. Until that day comes (if it ever does), we need to keep our full time jobs. We wrote and published our first five books working full time.
Time management is nothing to joke about when trying to write and support yourself or family with a full time job. Find the gaps in your schedule or day and use them to the fullest. Guard them and don’t let anything get in the way of your writing time. This is why scheduling writing time works so well. You can plan around the time.
We write between 6:00- 8:00 every morning. The only thing that keeps us from not writing is a fever of over 102. For us this is the best time because our day has not yet begun and we can focus on writing after a good night’s sleep. Pick a time of day where interruptions are at its minimum and plan it. We also clear our desks and have everything we need to write (on the desk) so we don’t need to get up. So just plan ahead.
Keep up the good writing.
Janet and Will
Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn created “Chatting With Authors.” This channel features informal interviews with authors of varied genres, produced via Zoom, and aired every Friday. Head over to YouTube and listen.
Do you ever find yourself having a difficult time staying on task? Do you get overwhelmed by all the to-do’s on your list? Do you ever second guess the processes you use or even the planner you use?
You are not alone!
I struggle with all of these. But I’ve found that in amongst the chaos, I seem to be making progress (see last month’s post – Reflecting on your Accomplishments), and I hope to provide encouragement and inspiration to help you keep working toward your goals and dreams for 2020.
Start over with new goals. Pick a new word. Word harder. Or differently. Or more. Or less. I love getting a chance to open a new calendar and a new planner and start over. But sometimes I wonder if the planner I’ve chosen is the one I should be using. Anyone else do that?
I never realized I was such a commitmentphobe with planners until recently. See, I tended to second guess my choices every time I saw a new one or someone else using a different one (I had done this with writing processes too). I’ve had to have a major talk with myself. And accept the fact that there are TOO MANY choices out there and no one can use all of them. I have to just pick one and then dive in and use it.
I also see a big theme in planners for setting routines. Track this. Track that. Be consistent. Blah, blah, blah. Yes, I agree. They are important. They help immensely. They are what help us accomplish all we want to accomplish. And for the most part, I’m all for them. I do like routines, but I hate the confines of them too.
See, sometimes I struggle with the little person inside of me that screams “i don’t wanna!”
I am a dependable worker. I meet deadlines, stay committed to tasks, and follow through. But I have a little rebellious streak in me that gets frustrated with following specific formulas. I tend to want to create my own. Do it my way. Then I end up frustrated with the results. And not just with planners. I find I do this with my writing habits too.
First, I realize that some of this is that I’m human. Some of it is my own version of saving funds (don’t want to waste money on something I’m not sure I will use), as well as wanting the perfect set-up, the perfect amount of time to work on it, and the perfect way of using it throughout the year.
But as I’m writing this, I realize we only know what we know at the time we are taking action. And as our knowledge grows, our needs change or how we do things will change. We need to be adaptable. Waiting for the perfect moment is the opposite.
As I grow in wisdom over the years (aka age), I find I don’t care about everything being perfect as I once did, I want to accomplish much in my lifetime, and I want to be purposeful in what I do (purposeful was my word in 2019 and it was a great word). I’m tired of waiting.
Now, I try to just jump in where I am and work with what I got. Progress is progress. I can always change things later. In some ways, this is a process. It’s the one I’m currently using. I won’t be married to the process for fifty years or maybe I still will, all that matters is right now. It’s a very freeing thought. One I am constantly still trying to adapt to.
So, if you are struggling with staying on task, routine, and/or schedule, here are some suggestions to help you get over that hurdle daily so you can meet your goals.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful. I’m no expert. I’m in the middle of all this just like everyone else. But taking some time to learn about myself and why I do certain things and find out what I need to motivate and keep me focused, has helped me stay on task, which ultimately keeps me moving forward with my writing projects.
I’m a planner and an organizer. I like to know what to expect, how much time it will take, how much it will cost or earn me, and what I’ll need in order to get it done. I’m also big on reminders – remember to water the plants, take my vitamins, leave for the meeting on time.
In the past, I’ve juggled all sorts of ways to keep track of all the aspects of my life, and it usually involved several different methods at once. But last year I heard about author Susan May Warren‘s My Brilliant Writing Planner, so I ordered one. I love this planner! I can put everything from my whole life in one place – writing, appointments, To Do’s (including remembering when to water my plants 😂), tracking money spent and earned in writing, and personal stuff like a place to jot down weekly menus and track my weight and water consumption. Plus the 2020 one has STICKERS!! Need I say more?!
The 2020 planner is $20 off through this weekend as a NaNoWriMo special. If you’re reading this later, check it out anyway. There is so much more to the planner I haven’t mentioned. You may find it’s just about perfect for you.
I interviewed Susie May about planning and organizing for the new year on my podcast a few weeks ago. Look for the October 17, 2019 episode, #159, on your favorite podcast app, or listen to it on my website, or watch the video interview on YouTube. Good luck with your planning! 😀
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