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Month: April 2017

GUEST POST: How to Market Yourself as a Writer and Build an Audience

Author MarketingSucceeding as an author on the internet is predicated on the ability to adequately market yourself and your work. You may write the best eBook on the market, yet lacking the ability to craft an equally compelling “pitch” will seriously hamper the likelihood of anyone reading or purchasing said eBook. All works must be compelling in both presentation (headline, cover, etc) and content (article, video, etc).

The quality of your presentation will determine whether someone picks up your book or clicks on your link. Terrible content with great presentation will attract curiosity but will not create or retain fans. Great content with terrible presentation (see: marketing) will struggle in obscurity but could still build a small loyal following.

In order to connect your work with potential readers and consumers, focus on three primary goals:

  1. Make a great impression
  2. Promote engagement
  3. Demonstrate long-term value

If you are an online publisher who writes articles or columns, your first impression to readers comes via an attractive headline. Great headlines attract views. Compelling content engages readers. Together, these components demonstrate value and results in social shares.

Attract an Audience

You only have a split second to make an impression. According to Copyblogger, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”

If you’re writing online, that great impression can be crafting a bold headline worth clicking on but don’t devolve into click-bait. This spammy practice damages your credibility and irritates readers when the content of the article is quite different than advertised. For novelists, making an impression can mean paying extra for truly eye-catching cover art or spending additional time perfecting the title or back cover synopsis.

It’s all about effective communication. Are you demonstrating that you’re worth time and effort? The same principle holds true when contacting potential partners or outreaching media outlets to gain coverage. Don’t waste the only chance you have to make a great first impression.

How many times have you received a spammy email asking for money or favors? Probably more times than you can count. For journalists, this spam problem is often multiplied by SEOs and well-meaning regular people who just don’t know how to communicate with them.

The key to increasing your email open rates lies in doing two things very well: writing great subject lines and establishing immediate relevance. Tell your audience (or email recipient) who are are, exactly what you want, and why you’re an expert.

What sounds more authoritative in an email?

Introducing the latest Afghanistan tell-all

from Medal of Honor recipient,

& Navy SEAL Bob Jones:

‘FURIOUS DESERT FURY’

Or…

“hey guys. I really like playing Call of Dooty

so I writed this book because its my pashion

and very cool. Plz read and friend me

on xbawks @ superwritersduty2005”

Promote Engagement

Engagement is all about encouraging an active conversation surrounding your content. The bottom line is that you need to create great content that people want to talk about and share. This can take many forms. Most successful websites possess some combination of:

  • Comments
  • Social media profiles
  • Customer surveys
  • Feedback pages

Not only do these create opportunities for readers to share opinions and commentary, but they also help your site’s search engine rankings by encouraging others to link to your pages. Increased engagement is the natural result of entertaining conversations surrounding worthwhile content.

Demonstrate Value

Your initial “pitch” via art or headline offered just enough value to gain an audience. Now you must demonstrate long-term value in order to keep their attention while avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump — the phenomenon of creating a smash-hit and then following it up with lesser quality work. Cementing your value means that you should continue to produce content of equally great quality.

It’s understandable why following success can be intimidating: there’s more pressure, and it can feel like you have less creative freedom. Stick to your guns and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Think about new ways you can demonstrate or market your expertise, and you can offer that knowledge as a way to diversify your cash flow. If your specialty is in written content, perhaps consider branching out into video or other visual ways of communicating. People are willing to spend their time (and money) with individuals they can trust to help resolve their problems.

People follow you for a reason. Appeal to that audience within your niche. Troy Lambert has built his content brand on teaching other writers how to live up to their fullest potential through expanding their skill-set. Regularly offering advice, tutorials, and anecdotes can provide readers with valuable resources to resolve their own problems within the industry.

Ultimately, you’re building upon why they came to you in the first place. You attracted an audience for a reason, and by engaging them in your content and community, it will demonstrate why you’re a continued resource for quality content. Your lasting value is in the quality content and engaging message that you share with others.

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Choosing a Domain Name for Your Blog

When it comes to creating a blog or a website, your domain name is extremely important. While there are a host of other factors involved, your website name is the first way people will find you.

Moment of truth? Most internet traffic comes from either search engines or social media, and your domain name affects both of those things. So as an author, or as a brand, you have a couple of choices when it comes to choosing a website name.

Who You Are

For some businesses or even authors, this is simple. For instance, troylambertwrites.com uses both my name and what I do: I am a writer, and the name of the site includes my name. However, this does immediately limit the number of subjects my blog can cover, and still makes sense.

It can talk about writing, publishing, books, and the business of writing, including choosing a blog name, but it is difficult for it to cover other topics about the environment, cycling, and my dogs, all things I am passionate about.

If you have a website about selling cars, you can easily link to blog posts about how best to use photographs to attract car buyers, and it makes perfect sense. The same post makes sense on a site about photography as well but makes no sense on a site about cycling. Be sure to choose a domain name that covers everything you want to write about and share.

What You Are About

Instead of your business name or your name, you can choose to start a blog that is more subject matter related. In this case, you also have a couple of choices. You can create a more general site made up of categories, or you can create a site that is more genre specific.

General Sites: This type of site allows you to write about a number of subjects and even encourage guest posts on a number of subjects from several different angles. This gives you the opportunity to gain traffic from a variety of sources and influencers.

The downside of this type of site is that it is about several things, rather than focused. This can be confusing for the user, and for Google and other search engines, who can find it difficult to put your website in any sort of category. Part of this decision is the overall goal of the site: do you have a product to sell, or are you trying to monetize your site with ad revenue? What are your long and short-term goals? Whether or not your site is one of the best-looking business websites out there, if it does not fulfill the mission you have designed it for, it is useless.

For instance, Unbound Northwest is designed to talk about all kinds of topics, but with a geographic focus on the northwestern United States. The site accepts guest posts and features a number of categories. The purpose of the site is not only to generate traffic, but to spark interest in the Northwest, its people, and the events and activities taking place there.

Specific Sites: Specific subject sites have the advantage of targeting a particular audience, and if you are selling a product, allows you to speak with authority to that audience while pointing them to your product or a type of product.

For example, skiingmag.com does not sell skis or ski equipment, but they sell ads to companies that do. They monetize their site by reaching a very specific and lucrative demographic. However, the downside is this does limit them to talking to skiers and about skiing and winter sports. Since their primary readership is in the United States, this limits the amount of time their posts are most relevant, unless they talk about trips to South America and off season training.

How to Choose

Choosing a domain name is clearly important, and you need to take a few simple steps.

  • Establish goals for your website.
  • Choose the type of blog you want to create.
  • Choose a name, and see if it is available. You can use online tools to see relevant domains that are not taken.

This may not be something you want to do entirely on your own. You need another set of eyes to be sure there are no typos in your domain name, it actually relates to what you want to talk about, and that it does not result in any embarrassing acronyms or inappropriate references you may not notice. For instance, the abbreviation for Antonin Scalia School of Law is ASSoL, not the best representation of a law program.

Once you have chosen your website or blog name, you can start creating great content to attract visitors. Have questions about how to choose a website name or want to hire me to do some other kind of work for you? Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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Why a Freelance Content Strategist Would Have Saved Pepsi

Brands are increasingly abandoning ad agencies or acquiring them and forming in-house marketing and content creation departments in the name of efficiency and speed.

Pepsi is no exception. At last year’s Cannes Lions Festival, president Brad Jakeman energetically talked up its decision to form a new in-house content creation arm, Creators League Studio.

“Instead of five pieces of content a year, a brand like Pepsi needs about 5,000 pieces of content a year. Instead of taking six months to develop an ad, we have six hours or six days. And instead of it costing $2 million, it needs to cost $20,000,” he explained, further complaining about complicated procedures and the time and cost involved with any campaign. “There is no infrastructure to advertisers to be able to quickly produce that content. You have to patch it together. Certainly, the traditional agencies can’t do it.”

Maybe not, but Jakeman might be eating (or drinking) his words now. One thing every writer and marketer knows is that you need a second set of eyes. However, not just any second set will do. You need an outside perspective, one with no stake in the outcome other than looking for errors and trying to create excellence.

This is why every author needs and editor, every athlete needs a PR spokesman and an agent, and why every brand needs a consultant of some sort. When something is totally in house, many sets of eyes can miss exactly the same thing.

The Story of the Pubic Restrooms

No, that isn’t a typo. But this story is about one. It is about a sidewalk sign that went through internal review at a museum where I worked. The eyes on the original copy were not dumb: they belonged to a copy editor and writer, a proofreader, a former military officer and accountant who was meticulous, and a former banking professional who consistently showed extreme attention to detail.

Every person made comments too, most related to layout, logo, and color. Not one of five sets of eyes internally caught the mistake before it went to the printers. Or when it came back, and before it went out onto the sidewalk.

A tourist came in and asked me if our sign was a sick joke. A quick look showed me it was. Our proudly created sign boasting of museum tours and public restrooms did indeed contain a tragic typo that had we left it uncorrected would have delighted teenage boys for days.

We needed an outside opinion, and unfortunately, we didn’t get in until the sign was, well, outside.

Making it Public

Not only did we pull the sign quickly and put in a rush order for the new one, corrected to “public restrooms” of course, but we did without a sign for a couple of days.

Luckily the mistake was caught early in the day, and our “focus group” on the sidewalk was small. Could we have prevented the disaster in the first place? Probably. Was it fortunate only a few early birds saw it? Yes.

Which is exactly the point. With an internal marketing or content department, you need someone outside, not related to your product who you can’t really fire for speaking the truth, and bold enough to be honest. A small group even, maybe a test market before you take something national.

Was Pepsi’s ad so time sensitive that another twelve hours would have killed its timing? Nope. And showing it to a small group or even an outside consultant would have taken only that long or less. Twelve hours, maybe even for someone to screen the idea before video shooting even happened.

Instead, the responsive, nimble internal department Jakeman wanted pushed the ad national right away. Resulting in embarrassment, an apology, and possible boycotts and business repercussions for an indeterminant amount of time.

The Nimble Workforce

So the traditional agencies don’t cut it for you? True, ad agencies have their own issues and sometimes get it wrong too. Just because you hire one is no guarantee that you won’t have an issue.

Still, bringing everything in house creates its own issues. If the CEO or CFO comes up with an idea, it’s hard for an employee to look them in the eye and tell them it doesn’t work. Also, when you live, eat, breathe and sleep a brand, you get internal blinders and the feeling that you and your brand can do no wrong.

There are alternatives, of course. There are smaller, newer agencies who can create the amount and kind of content you need at an affordable price. There are those who are combining creative content and more traditional approaches into a single agency to provide full service in an innovative way.

There are also freelancers. Those who specialize in helping small brands who can’t afford an agency or who even create and review content for marketing firms who need some supplemental talent or, <gulp here Pepsi> another set of eyes.

You don’t have to bring them in, give them an office, or even a permanent position. You can pay them a relatively small fee just to look at something and tell you if it looks okay or not.

The Honesty Factor

A freelance content strategist gets exposed to a lot of things. They don’t typically work for only one website or company. A freelancer can look at your web content or your campaign from a fairly objective point of view.

Because they have seen many well-done websites and campaigns, they can give you an idea of what will work, what won’t, and why. Without the expense of an agency, they can at least provide outside consulting and feedback.

The other advantage is that since they don’t work for you except on a tangential or contract basis, you’re more likely to get straight feedback. Whether you like their advice or not and whether or not you tell them to go pound sand doesn’t matter as much to them. You don’t hold the keys to their 401K, PTO, or even next week’s paycheck.

Freelancers want steady clients they can count on as much as possible. But they also want good clients with good websites. Bad advice or advice not followed reflects poorly on them as much as it does your brand, but unlike large agencies, they don’t have the bandwidth to deal with and mitigate that negativity.

A Finger on the Pulse of the Industry

A successful freelancer will be a busy one. Not only will they be dealing with regular and add on clients, but they will also be constantly learning more about the industry and networking. You can bet they know what trends are hot, what is working and what isn’t, and how to get results and quickly demonstrate ROI.

Your internal department can easily become siloed from the direction the industry is headed and the trend of brands overall. Marketing is about more than just your competition. It is about social and political trends and the overall consumer climate.

Yes, an agency can give you the same things, but probably won’t be as nimble and responsive. A few newer agencies are exceptions, but they are definitely harder to find, and not surprisingly they are busy as well.

Hey, Pepsi! Mr. Jakeman? Are you listening now? Did you get the point? It takes more than one perspective and another objective set of eyes to determine if a campaign will work or not. Your internal department let you down, and maybe it is time to ask why they weren’t listening. No one wants to end up with a sign for a pubic restroom.

Would you like to learn more about content strategy for your business, or even hire me in some capacity? Get in touch, and let me know what you think Pepsi could have done better in the comments below.

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GUEST POST: 5 Ways Zoho Projects Helped Me Grow My Wedding Business

All small businesses, including being an author or freelance writer, have many things in common. One is that you must learn to organize your projects. People use different kinds of software to do so. Fred Findley owns his own wedding business, and today shares how Zoho Projects has helped him grow.

While growing your business never ceases to present new challenges, I am sure most business owners can remember the early days. One hundred hour work weeks that begin before sunrise and end well past midnight. A few hours of sleep then start all over again.

In the beginning, everything is new and processes are constantly changing and developing. Eventually, these processes start becoming standard procedures, but everything is in the brain of the owner who is operating off memory. Even the best of us would forget the most minor of steps from time to time, or know that deep down each project you did wasn’t always being done 100% like the previous project.

Eventually, all small businesses have to organize their procedures; projects for clients, processing contracts, social media tasks, or other day-to-day operations. Until that happens, that small business owner suffers from inconsistencies, mistakes (small and large), and the inability to have assistance or employees help because all the processes are in the memory of the owner.

My Introduction to Lean Concepts and Operational Excellence

While I was getting my wedding business started ( www.FineLineWeddings.com ), I was also doing corporate photo and video work. I was incredibly fortunate that one of my earliest clients was an organization that provided operational excellence consulting to firms, manufacturers, and hospitals. If you’re unfamiliar with operational excellence, think of lean concepts, but on a much more iin-depthscale.

While I was photographing and recording their events and lectures, I begin to realize what the next steps were to growing my business: I needed to finally take a hard look at all my operations and outline the step by step processes and understand our process flow.

ZOHO and My Search for Online Project Management

Developing step by step processes for my procedures was only the first step. Once I did this, I knew I needed some kind of tool to track these processes. I began searching the web for an ‘online project management’ tool. Luckily, I came across Zoho, and specifically their ‘Projects’ application.

What is Zoho Projects?

As stated on their website at www.zoho.com/projects : “Projects is an online project management app that helps you plan your work and
keep track of your progress. It also lets the people in the project communicate easily, discuss ideas, and stay updated. This lets you deliver quality results on time.”

 

5 Ways Zoho Projects Helped Me Grow My Business

1. Eliminated working off memory
2. Perfected our process flow
3. Ensures same service for every customer
4. Enabled distribution of work
5. Centralized shared information among team
Above are the 5 ways in which Zoho Projects helped my wedding business. But let’s go ahead and break down each benefit.

Eliminated working off memory…

Someone who has never built a business from the ground up would never know the extreme amount of operational processes are jammed into the memory of a small business owner in the early days. I cannot tell you what a relief it was several months into using Zoho Projects. Day-to-day procedures and important tasks for client projects were finally something I could allow my brain to stop worrying about. Once all these tasks were broken down into standard procedures in our Zoho Projects it was such a ‘freeing’ experience. It was like my brain could actually be
used for other things again. I could also stop worrying about step by step tasks and start focusing on growing my business and adding new procedures, knowing that I wouldn’t have to store more and more procedures all in my memory banks… Zoho Projects had plenty of room for that.

Perfected our process flow…

Once you finally tackle your process flows and see all your tasks outlined step by step, you can finally improve these procedures. Perhaps one task doesn’t go far enough and during that stage you can do more. Or perhaps some tasks are redundant and can be eliminated. Perhaps you can take a group of tasks and use newer or better software to achieve better results during that stage. Once your process flow is figured out, you can easily work on constant improvement and THAT is a huge key to growing your business.

Ensures same service for every customer…

Zoho Projects allowed us to make sure that each of our customers received that exact same customer experience 100% of the time. As we proceeded with tasks such as processing a wedding contract, exporting images, importing video footage, etc. as long as we followed our outlined list of tasks for these processes step by step, we could make sure that each client received the same experience as every other client.

And when you consider my previously mentioned benefit of perfecting your process flow, this means that not only can you ensure results for your customer, you can continue to raise the bar higher and higher for those results.

Enabled distribution of work…

This is perhaps one of the most important steps in growing your business. Eventually, to grow your business past a certain point, you have to be able to replicate procedures with more people. With Zoho Projects, gone were the days of not being able to have employees do tasks because only I knew how to do things. Instead, all the tasks were outlined within Zoho Projects, and once trained, the employee only had to follow the same list of tasks for each project handed to him or her.

Centralized shared information among team…

When you are able to distribute work, you can suddenly have different team members working on different stages of a large project. But there are times when team members need data or files or information from another team member. To overcome this, we simply standardized steps for the team members working on early stages of a project to record the information that other team members would need later in the process. This kept the machine humming without constantly having slow downs.

 

Fred Findley is a wedding photographer in Pittsburgh, PA. His company, FineLine Weddings was established in 2007 and offers wedding services including photography, video, DJ, and photo booth rentals. FineLine also has a professional portrait studio located in Greensburg, PA.

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Business 101 for Writers: Production Part 3: Self-Editing

So many writers never reach even this point in production, or worse, they skip it. They get stuck on writing and never finish. But if you are among the lucky few who finish a story, you must move on to editing.

This post is titled self-editing, but before we even get to that, let me say it as loudly as I possibly can, to wake up those of you who might be sitting in the back of the classroom dozing.

You cannot skip the editing process, and publish something unedited. You cannot edit your own work. You need to hire an editor.

Let me say it again, just in case:

You cannot skip the editing process, and publish something unedited. You cannot edit your own work. You need to hire an editor.

Now stop. I can hear some of your arguments already, so I am just going to make a list for you here of the ones that are invalid:

  • I was an English Major.
  • My mom is an English teacher, she does it for me.
  • I have an MFA.
  • My spouse has an MFA.
  • I can edit my own stuff. I use method “x” with “x” software.
  • I took a course on self-editing at “x” writer’s conference.
  • My favorite indie author, “x” just uses beta readers, not an editor, and his/her stuff is pretty good.

Here’s the thing. Probably 99% of the population cannot edit or even proofread their own work effectively. The rest of us hate the 1% who can. Even if you are one of the rare authors who can proof or edit your own work, you should not. Just like you should probably not create your own covers even if you are a trained graphic designer, although we will cover that (pun intended) in another blog post.  

Here are some of the reasons why you should never be the sole creator and editor, or in other words, the sole producer of your work.

You become word blind.

What this means is that unless it has been a really long time since you have seen what you have written (and sometimes no length of time is enough to cure this) you see what you meant to write. You see those words whether those are really what is there or not.

Recently I read one of my own blog posts I had written two years ago and found a typo. A typo I did not see at the time, that grammar check did not catch, but that was glaring all that time later. No one noticed it either, or at least no one who did pointed it out to me. The thing is, in context, it almost looked right even after that much time had passed.

If you are writing quickly, as you should be, and editing shortly afterward, there is no way you will catch these things yourself. I promise you will miss at least one or two in a medium length work. In a novel, you might miss several.

You are in love with your own words.

Go ahead, tell me you aren’t. Then show me that clever phrase, that joke you think is hilarious, or that gorgeous description on page 53 of your self-published (or hopefully yet to be published) novel. Those are probably things you should cut out.

As Stephen King says, “Kill your darlings.” If you don’t believe me, take a journalism course and then write for a paper or magazine of any size. You will find that your editor and your readers do not love your precious words and phrases nearly as much as you do.

Here is the thing: as an author, you have built a fire with your story. The likelihood is that there is some damp wood in there, some moss, or some torn up cardboard. It makes for a lot of smoke. The job of an editor is to clear away the smoke so that everyone can see and enjoy the fire.

You cannot do this yourself effectively. Please, on this one point trust me. I can read a few chapters or maybe even pages in your book, and I can tell if you edited it yourself. There will be a whole lot of “you” in the way of the story.

Your project will feel narcissistic.

All of that you in the way will show through. Your book will feel like one of those body builders in the gym who spends as much time looking at himself in the mirror as he does pumping iron. It will probably feel like it is all about you. Because it is.

You need another set of eyes, another voice, one that is not close to you or at least can be objective about the way your work is presented. More on why you should not use relatives or those close to you in a moment.

A professional editor can see things you cannot: they see phrases you use too often, things you repeat often, and redundant descriptions you may miss. They can hear when your dialogue is stilted, and can offer advice about better word choices, sentence structure, and even point out when your plot has holes you may not notice, but that a reader will.

It is a good thing that you love your work. It is a good thing that you value your words. It is also good for you to be able to take critique and instruction from an editor at this phase in your journey. Hearing from an editor and changing things now is better than getting bad reviews on Amazon and damaging your reputation, which is your brand. (More on that later in our section on branding).

Note on Relatives: It is rare for a writer to have a relative that can honestly critique their work and make it better without also being word blind and leaving those phrases you love. It is also harder to argue with that person, as it can result in marital or family conflict.

If you are one of the rare people who has a relative who can edit your work objectively, thank your lucky stars and use them. However, I would encourage you to try something. Have your relative edit one of your short stories or novellas, something not too big. Then hire a professional editor to edit it, and compare the two.

If your relative does just as good or a better job than the editor, keep using them. If they do not, keep your eyes open.

Note on Revisions: A part of the writing (production) process we will talk about soon will be revisions. Revisions and rewrites are not a part of the editing process and are also not self-editing. You should revise and rewrite your work before an editor or anyone other than a writing critique partner or someone who reads your work as you go does.

Since we are on the subject, rewrites and revisions should be done quickly too, for the same reasons drafts are written quickly. You do not want your mind or heart to change during the process, or you will do a lot more rewriting than you need to.

Once you have started the editing process, do not do any more rewrites except those recommended by your editor to fix plot holes or other obvious issues. That is the point at which you have to let the story go: it is time to let someone else work on it at that point.

This is of course because we are talking about writing as a business. If your goal is not to sell lots of books, but rather to create a single literary masterpiece in your lifetime, you can revise and rewrite as much as you wish and take as long as you wish to produce drafts before letting anyone else see and edit them.

Exceptions to the Rules:

In the world of publishing and writing, there are exceptions to every rule. There are writers who can edit their own work. There are relatives who do a great job of editing their author brother/husband/son’s work.

There are also authors who can kill their darlings, and create work on their own that does not feel narcissistic. However, if you feel that you are one of these writers and have not tried professional editors, or had someone in the upper reaches of the field validate this truth for you, it probably is not true. If you send your work to a pro editor who hardly touches it, or says to you “You don’t need me, you just need a proofreader” or something along that line, go forth and do wonderful things.

Most of the time, this type of thinking is just self-delusion. If no one close to you is honest enough to tell you the truth about your writing, just try getting one professional, honest opinion. If I am wrong about you, in your case, please email me and let me know. I would love to meet someone who is so extraordinary.

In the next section, we will talk about money for a little bit. After all, this is the stage when you will invest more than just time. You will invest dollars, and a part of a business is working to get the best return on your investment. That does not mean always hiring whoever is the cheapest.

Have questions and can’t wait for the next section of this series? Want to hire me, or just need some coaching advice? Click here or email me at [email protected].

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Business 101 for Writers: A Note About Writer’s Block

So far in this series, you have been introduced to the principles behind writing as a business and we have talked a bit about the first part of the production process: writing some words and how to write more. What about those times when the creativity just doesn’t flow?

If you have heard me talk about writing at all, you have heard me say these words that seem to infuriate nearly every writer who hears them:

I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I’ll keep this post in the series short for two reasons. First, all of the other ones are long. Second, it’s really a simple principle I have shared dozens if not hundreds of times. The simple fact is this: by starting this series and reading along, you have at least entertained the idea of writing for a living.

You don’t get to be blocked in the thing you do for a living. A waiter does not get to have waiter’s block, nor does a teacher get to have teacher’s block. No one would go to a doctor who had doctor’s block.

In any other profession, if you are not able to work that day, you go home sick, your boss finds someone else who can do your job for you, or all of your work is waiting for you when you get back to the office, and you have to make it up.

The kicker is, you don’t get paid, or you use sick time. But as a writer, you don’t really have sick time unless you have set up a savings account just for that reason (which you should, but that comes later in the series on the business end of things). If you don’t work you don’t get paid.

No fairy comes behind you and does your work for you. It really is that simple. Does that mean there are not days when things are harder than others? Nope. Just like other jobs, some days you feel it more than others, and some days are more productive.

You can never have an extended bout of writer’s block, though. Any more than a couple of days, and you are really putting yourself in a poor position. So what do you do when you are just not feeling it? You either fight to get the feeling back, or you work anyway.

Trick Your Brain

You need to write every day. We covered that already, but what you are writing might vary. You may be writing a blog post, a technical article, or the next great American novel. You might even be editing your latest piece, or working with an editor on a project.

So trick your brain so it is ready for the work you are doing that day. Here is how it works for me:

  • I use Scrivener for creative writing, short stories, novellas, and novels.
  • I use Google docs for blog posts and some articles, depending on who I am writing them for.
  • I edit using Microsoft Word and do some technical writing in it.

I never use Scrivener for technical writing, and never use Word for the initial creation of a creative work, only for rewrites and editing. Why?

When I open up each interface, my brain knows what kind of writing we are going to do. I don’t have to stare at the blank page for long before my brain automatically goes into the proper writing mode.

You don’t have to use these programs the same way I do, or even the same programs, although I will make a big case for you using Scrivener for fiction writing (that will come later under what software you really need).

However, you can trick your brain by using certain software, writing in a certain location, or even using a different keyboard, location, or account login on your computer to write. For instance, I could have a Troy Lambert login and a Troy Lambert Author login with different backgrounds, programs, and that even limits access to the internet if that is a problem for you.

Whatever your method, your mind can be your greatest asset.

Write Something Else

I have also written dozens of times and on several writer sites about the need for more than one stream of income. So since you have already listened to that, and you are writing several things, you do have other projects you are working on, right?

So if you are stuck on one project, switch and write something else. Can’t get into the groove for the next scene in your novel? Write a blog post, article, or another short story. The point is when your butt is in the chair, and it is your scheduled time to write, write.

Writing does not include emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, or a letter to your long lost brother. It does include journals, plays, movie scripts, stories, articles, technical papers, ad copy, and dozens of other things, all of which can make you money.

Nearly every kind of writing you do is creating a story of one kind or another, from a blog post about digestive health to a brochure about your local furniture store. You just have to look harder to find the story arc (more on that in another post as well).

Writing one story usually sparks you to write another. And another. And another. One type of writing will give your brain time to process where you are stuck, and usually, when you go back there, things are flowing again.

Write Anyway

So you are stalled, and you only have one project at the moment, or one goal: to get this damn book/novel/story finished. Your brain will not let you get past this particular plot point.

Start writing anyway. Write gibberish at first if you have to. Your brain will kick in. Write another story about that character and how they got to this point in the story. The point is to write something anyway.

Remember, if your butt is in the chair and you are scheduled to be writing, write. No matter what, write. Even if it all has to be thrown away later. There are no wasted words except for those that remain unwritten. You cannot edit an empty page or the thoughts that are still in your head.

You may have heard that to become a proficient writer, you must put in 10,000 hours writing, or roughly one million words. Use your writing time to get some of the shitty words out to make room for better ones. Do not ever, under any circumstances, waste your writing time.

If you have to, start typing the phrase “I will always write during my writing time” and keep typing it until other words come. They will. But you must write to activate the writer inside you.

If you are going to write for a living, you are not allowed to have writer’s block. You need to work through it somehow. There are no sick days, and no one will come in the middle of the night and do your writing for you.

However you trick your brain, whether you write something else or just write anyway, you need to work when you are scheduled to work, and for those of us who are writers that means writing. Writer’s block is a sick day, and you can only take so many of those before you go broke.

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