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Month: November 2016

GUEST POST: Treat Your Writing Career Like A Small Business

david-kirby-quote

Aspiring writers are a dime a dozen. As a writer myself I meet many like-minded individuals with dreams of pursuing a career writing full-time. Instead of treating it like a career, they instead view it as a far-off event that may or may not ever arrive. People like this aren’t convinced that they can make it happen, and might be living a self-fulfilling prophecy of literary underachievement. Today is the day to change that.

Fake It Till You Make It

If you want to become an Olympic sprinter then you need to run practically every day. It takes copious amounts of time, blood, sweat, and self belief. Writing is the same way. Don’t just aspire to become a successful writer – write consistently and fake it till you make it. There’s nothing wrong with being casually committed to the craft like most writers, but if you ever plan on living off your writing…being like most writers isn’t good enough. A better mindset to have is to treat your career like a small business

Once more with feeling: Treat your writing career like a small business. You’re the face of your company and your own best advocate. Do yourself a favor and take the steps that will enable you to succeed. That means consistency, documentation, and professionalism.

You Deserve To Be Paid

Try to recognize that your words are your product and worth payment in exchange for others reading them. A sort of culture has developed where people taking writing for granted. We consume news, editorials, reviews, and all manner of written content online constantly and for free. Somewhere along the line the public decided that since they consume it for free, it wasn’t worth anything. There are too many online publications that refuse to give their regular contributors a dollar, choosing instead to repeat the tired refrain of ‘publicity’ when there’s very little of that too.

Over time I’ve come to see that our writing only has as much value as we place on it. From the first moment you plant yourself in front of the keyboard you should keep the frame of mind that your writing is worthwhile and worth being compensated for. If your goal is to get publicity, then by all means accept it as payment. Otherwise remember that free content has its purposes but alone doesn’t put bread on your table. Getting paid does.

Get Help From Your Friends

It’s important to surround yourself with allies who are actively pursuing similar goals. Small business conferences and writing seminars are both great environments to cultivate your fighting spirit. You’ll need it for the road ahead – the name ‘small business’ already tells you what you can expect. It’s small and it will take time to grow. Seek out mentors that can help you gain a foothold in your niche. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes as long as you keep trying. Successful friends and teachers are guide posts that light your way. You won’t be able to duplicate their success immediately and that’s OK. I know quitting your day job tomorrow to pursue a life of pure bliss writing reviews of Bonanza re-runs sounds great, but that’s a long ways off. You have to earn it first. Writing as a business is not and has never been a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. This is a multifaceted process that requires your full effort. Don’t forget that you have friends that can help you on your journey.

Master Many Skills

Recognize that as a jack or jane-of-all-trades, your business is never just writing. You’re responsible for writing, sure, but you’re also responsible for promoting yourself and managing the small yet important financial details. You have to factor in the accounting side of running a small business or working as a 1099 freelancer. Navigating tax laws as a small business owner can be tricky, especially when taking into consideration tax credits and deductions. Small businesses often have narrow margins and you must take care to save money at every opportunity possible. Along the way perhaps you’ll also design your own logo or even design your office space. Having friends to help is good but you must also develop your own skills.

Believe In Yourself First

I think it all begins with a fundamental mindset shift from freelancer to business owner. Viewing yourself as a freelancer only can feel too much like being an employee or a tumbleweed that rolls from town to town in search of work. Instead, think of and treat yourself as a sole proprietor that sells quality goods (your words) and services (your expertise) to customers, no matter how big or small. It’s all part of how you market your work and it begins with empowering yourself. You’re the baddest in the west and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

You’re not the drifting gunfighter that roams from saloon to saloon in search of work. Give yourself more credit, because in many ways you’re the saloon itself. Gunfighters, wranglers, and farmers from all across the state come to your establishment in search of opportunities and a good drink. You’re a jack or jane-of-all-trades: tough, skilled, and with friends to boot. Seize your writing career today by treating it like the business it’s always been. 

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Becoming the Bertmores

It’s a simple thing that happens every day. People get married, and when they do, one party takes the other one’s last name, symbolizing their family unity. Sometimes people choose to do things differently though. Some women keep their maiden name, while others retain it while hyphenating it with their new last name.

My wife Abby and I decided to do something a little different and come up with an entirely new last name, The conversation went something like this:

H: “We should come up with a new last name, and combine ours.”

M: “That’s a great idea. What did you have in mind?”

H: “I don’t know. Let’s try some.”

Then the hilarity began. I mean, how do you combine Lambert and Morehouse without making something that sounds, well, awful?

H: “Lambhouse?  Nope, sounds like a slaughterhouse.”

slaughterhouse-5

M: “I like it.” (Thriller author, cool ass name, bro, Plus, Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut? What could be better?)

H: “No, our last name should not be scary. Morebert?”

M: “Just ew. How about Berthouse?”

berthouse

H: “Sounds like a Sesame Street spin off.”

M: “Morelamb. That one makes me hungry.”

H: “Our name is not going to be a dinner request. How about Bertmore?”

M: “Not too bad. Bertmore. I like it.”

So we kicked it around, and it stuck. However, life also happened. Our July wedding moved to March, Abby had an emergency surgery in February, and we were frazzled, financially strapped, and stressed out. So we really didn’t clearly research of think through HOW to change both of our names.

See, here’s the deal. Either party can change their last name to that of the person they are marrying, provided at least one of those names is on the marriage certificate. But you can’t both change your name to something else without going through the legal name change. Ideally one of us would have changed our names before the wedding, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and we certainly didn’t have the bandwidth or the finances to take care of it either.

So we discovered how much it would cost. Court filings, $160. Each. Running your ad in the legals to tell the world (and any creditors or anyone else who would object to the name change) that you are changing your name for good? $130. Each. Both of us having a new name all our own? Priceless.

On November 15th, we stood before a judge, and became officially the Bertmores, about 8 months after our wedding, which is perhaps another story for another day.

It’s a different feeling, having a new last name. Standing in front of the judge felt good, peaceful. We both feel even more united, more solid as a couple.

Or course now begins the process of changing our names on literally everything. Social Security Card, Driver’s License, debit cards, payroll, car registrations.

I’ll be keeping Lambert as my nom de plume for writing, so my books will not be changing, and you may see me sporting the hyphen some places, just so people are not confused too much.

We’ve become the Bertmores. The process started in March, and is now complete. So if you see us slowing down to sign our names that’s why.

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Writing from the Heart

I often get a chance to talk to other authors, those just starting out or getting back in the saddle like I am now. I also get a chance to talk to those who write all the time, and one thing is true of nearly all of them: they write from the heart.

It doesn’t matter your genre, or how much or how little you write. From memoirs to nearly any other story, writers write from their heart. Most of us simply cannot help us. A little bit of who we are becomes a part of every story we put words too, whether it is in our journal and never sees the light of day or it becomes a bestseller everyone is reading on Amazon.

It’s pretty scary to put your heart out there. That is the reason almost every negative review affects an author so deeply—so deeply as a matter of fact that many of my author friends never read reviews of their own work. Sure it is courteous to thank every reviewer good or bad for at least taking the time to read your work, but sometimes the negative ones can send you into a tailspin it’s harder to pull out of than the flat spin Goose and Maverick were stuck in.

True it might be healthier to face those fears and overcome what other people might think of your work, and realize it isn’t personal and your type of writing may not be for everyone. Those words are easier to write than to live by, and although I say them I have a harder time swallowing them when the one-star review is next to one of my own titles.

However the fact that writing from the heart is so essential for writing to be genuine and reach others where they live, there are a few things I have said before, but that hold true for every work of fiction.

First drafts should be written quickly.

A first draft of a novel should be written within six to nine months maximum. Why? Think of who you were just a year ago, now two years. If you are a healthy person, you are growing and maturing, and as you do your heart changes.

If it takes you too long to write a draft, your heart changes in the middle, and when you go back to read and edit it, you will see that change. So will your reader if you do not fix things in the revision process, which leads to my second point.

Edits and Revisions should be completed quickly.

Three passes with an editor and one with a proofreader will catch most of the errors in your books. In some cases, mistakes will slip through, and although it is ideal to have an error free manuscript, doing so is almost impossible. Even the best authors and editors working as a team let errors get past them.

A perfect book is probably a dead book. If the grammar, spelling, and every other aspect is perfect, your author voice has probably been silenced and the story is likely pretty dull. People read your work to hear your voice, to get a new perspective on life in general. An over edited book probably lacks the very things readers are looking for.

This is not to say that you should not hire a professional editor and have your work proofread thoroughly. It just means than if there are a few mistakes, but the story is still excellent, readers will be more forgiving.

Let your book go after a reasonable effort. No book is ever done, it is just released into the world. If you hold it too long, your heart will change, and you will revise your work to reflect that change. Then realistically the editing process must be started over again.

Writer’s block is a heart problem.

writers-block

I often get booed when I am around writers and tell them I don’t believe in writer’s block. If you write for a living, that is like a waiter having waiter’s block. If a waiter cannot wait tables that day, they go home and do not get paid. Pretty quickly they have to get over that issue and do their job.

You are a writer. Putting words together is your job. You can choose to work on other projects, do another type of writing, but you are not allowed to stop. If you are experiencing writer’s block, or what you think is writer’s block, check your heart. What is keeping your mind from communicating well with your heart? What is between them?

As a writer, you must work to remove these things. There are a few things that work for me, and might for you as well:

  • Exercise: Get out and run, ride your bike, hike, or lift weights. Let your mind focus on your body and what it needs to do for a while. It may just help reset your muse.
  • Meditation: Meditation is much like exercise. You cannot do it well unless you practice. So practice. Whether you use guided meditation or are advanced enough you can reach an empty minded state on your own, work at setting the conscious things weighing your mind down to the side. Concentrate on now rather than the past or future, This will help your heart reset so you can write effectively again.
  • Talk to Someone: Every writer goes through more productive and less productive periods, and each has their own form of motivation and resetting their heart. Ask someone more experienced than you what they do, and try different things.
  • Keep writing: By moving to a different project or journaling, you allow your muse to tap into and empty your heart, making room for it to be filled again. Journaling can be especially helpful in this case.

Writer’s block is only a problem if you let it be one, and is really a heart problem, so when you try to combat it, check your heart first.

No matter what you write and when you write it, you write from the heart. Before your heart changes, get that draft down on paper. Get the words out. And before you heart changes again, get your work revised and share it. Don’t use writer’s block as an excuse: fix your heart and move on.

Your readers will thank you. So will all of those who have to deal with you every day.

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