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This month’s achievements

New-Year-Celebration-Pictures

For the month of June I participated in a blogging challenge created by the awesome Michelle Goode from WriteSoFluid.com.  You can check out my interview about the challenge on her site HERE.

Overall the challenge was amazing.  I did end up missing a couple of days, but I managed to nail down most of them and I’m pretty happy with the outcome.  I loved having the daily inspiration and I definitely hope she creates another challenge like this so I can participate again.

Looking back on the month a lot has happened (it always surprises me how much can change in a month).  I had a couple of goals that I outlined when I started the challenge this month and I thought it would be good to take another look at them to see how they worked out…

1) To finish my novel to the point of sending it to beta readers.

Holy cow!  I did it!  I’ve sent my novel out to around ten people and I’m so nervous about it, but now that it’s out there I can’t take it back!

2) To get at least one more client for my burgeoning freelance corporate copywriting career.

I have one in the works, not set in stone, but definitely a good possibility.

3) To finish my query letter for my novel and find at least five agents to query when the novel is ready to go.

I have definitely finished a rough draft of my query letter, it still needs a bit of tweaking and some more personality, but overall, it’s getting there.

4) To decide on my next novel (at least a basic story).

Ben and I have started plotting out my next novel, this one is going forward with more of a pre-defined structure as an experiment in how I work best (to outline or not to outline).

5) To maintain the highest possible level of awesomeness.

Always.

Wow!  I honestly didn’t think I would have achieved all my goals.  Some are a little up in the air, it’s true, but most of them are rock solid.  Sweet.

So what have I learned?
Setting goals it cool, kind of like making lists where you can look back and tick them off and it’s super satisfying.  I’ve also been inspired by my month to stick to blogging more.  I definitely won’t be able to do it everyday, but it’s good to know I have enough to say to be able to blog almost everyday for a month.  Very promising.

So a big thank you to Michelle Goode for being my muse this month!
How about you, what were your goals this month?  Did you achieve them?

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Self-promotion & networking

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Writing is a business.

Whether you’re penning the next bestseller or writing copy for websites about car parts, writing is a business and you (as a writer) are a business person.

So this means you have to sell, sell, sell yourself.  Self-promotion is the other half of writing.  Once the document is closed or the pen is down (or in the case of freelancing before you even start) you have to find a way to get your words out there.

Since deciding to be a writer (for reals) I’ve done a bunch of research on the subject of how to break into the world of writing.  There are (obviously) different rules for freelancing than there are for being a novelist, but the idea is the same.  Here’s some knowledge on the subject I have accumulated whilst researching.

Platform

Agents like a platform, so do readers.  A platform is basically a soapbox upon which you stand to blast your message out into the virtual world.  It could involve a blog, twitter feed, facebook page and linkedin profile, ideally with thousands of followers who are super interested in the words you have to say.  A lot of writers write about writing (like this blog for example) and themselves, they write about their books and engage with fans.  If you are an unpublished writer like myself (for the moment) it is a good place to get your voice out there and say stuff.  For self-publishers, a platform is a good way to sell people on your writing and get yourself out to the public, it also allows you a place to sell your books and build your brand.  For freelancers, a platform is sweet because it allows you a place to send potential clients to give them a taste of how you write and also link them to your portfolio.  Having a well rounded platform is a launch pad for greatness in the future and gives you a place online to send all your adoring fans as they pile up after you publish your first book.

Why not?  Start a blog about your life and interests.  Make yourself a twitter feed for short, but sweet messages to the world.  Start a facebook page and invite your friends to ‘like’ you.

Talk your face off

Gone are the days of being a reclusive writer, shunning the world and swooning alone in the darkness to your own sweet prose.  It’s a self-promotional world out there and even if you’re not super net-savvy you should still be getting out there and meeting people.  Conferences and writing festivals are awesome ways to get your face out there, shake hands and take numbers.  Lots of agents and publishers go to conferences and festivals to check out the new blood and it’s always good to make yourself known (agents might be more likely to look at the work of someone they meet in person).  There are also local events you can take part in, reading nights, writing groups etc…where you can get loads of information on what’s happening in the writing world.  Get out there and get involved.  Also, if you are a published author a book tour/signing or at the very least a launch party is always a good thing.  People want to see the writer who wrote the words they love.  For freelancers, get to know your market.  If you’re a medical writer, get out there to conferences and meet some doctors, talk shop and keep on top of updating your language and voice.  Shaking hands is always more memorable than e-mail.

Why not?  Look up some conferences and festivals nearby and make a plan to head out to one.  Find a local writing group and join.  Find local readings and see if you can sign up.

Look good doing it

This is a personal preference of course, but I find it’s easier to be memorable if you look good at whatever you are doing.  If you’re rocking a medical conference, dress the part, don’t walk around in your old raggedy jeans and expect people to want to do business with you.  Same goes for being an author.  If you are a romance writer, put a little oomph into your outfit.  Sci-fi writers, would a dash of silver really hurt?  Overall your presentation should match how you want people to see you and the best impressions are always made when you give it some effort.  Just because you spend 99% of your time behind a computer doesn’t mean your style can’t be snappy folks.

Why not?  Put together a couple of stellar outfits to wear to conferences and book signings.  Choose a style that reflects the type of writing you do.  Create your own personal look that is distinct and creative.

Discuss

There are loads of writing forums and blogs out there that you can get involved in.  They offer basic writing discussion as well as feedback opportunities for your work.  Forums can be a great way to meet other writers and get your name out there.  Be careful though because they can also be a time sink for your creativity.  Always remember your own writing should come first before all your pals on the boards!

Why not?  Check out some writing forums and join in the conversation.

Don’t just promote

A lot of people think social media is about promoting yourself non-stop.  You see them all the time on twitter, tweeting the same links over and over and generally driving you crazy with in-your-face promotion.  Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason.  It’s a place to discuss and engage, not shove your product into someone’s face.  You want to learn to be part of the conversation, otherwise people will just tune you out.  Saying something relevant and helpful is good, commenting on other posts or tweets is good and not overdoing the links to your books is also good.  Just think of it like a normal conversation in real life, if you just sit there repeating the same sentence over and over at people they will eventually get bored and walk away.

Why not?  Find some way to engage your community with helpful hints or personal anecdotes.  Stop tweeting the same message over and over.  Join in the conversation.

If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all

I was at a writing talk at Ryerson the other day and there was an agent there.  After all the talk of social networking and self-promotion she made sure to add in that sometimes saying something poorly is worse than not saying anything at all.  Ain’t it the truth?  Maybe you just have a knack for writing fiction and really suck at self-promotion, if that’s the case that’s okay.  There’s still the more traditional route of publishing for those who don’t want to get out there online and yammer away.  So take heart if none of the above sound like you, you can still write your heart out, get it published and be a bestseller.  At some point you may be invited to talk at conferences with or without self-promotion and at that point, the talk your face off and look good doing it points will still apply to you.

Why not? Stick to what you’re good at and just keep writing.

Anything to add?  Did I miss anything?  Let me know!

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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The Business of Counting Words

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When I first started out doing the writing thing I never thought I would care about word count.  I thought it was mundane and technical and overall irrelevant to the art of writing.

Now I know better.

It’s not so much it’s relevance to the art that matters, but more to the business, and being a writer is indeed a business.  I find the process of trying to become a published writer not so different from my job as a producer for our video company, Happy Creations.  Although you have to have an undeniable passion for the art, you must also be a freelancer at heart.
The first thing I did when I decided I would be a writer officially was, of course, write.  I wrote a whole novel (around 150,000 words) and then a series of short stories (from 2000-5000 words each).  Then I did the research.  I have a spreadsheet full of lists of magazines, publishers, agents, contests and opportunities and what I began to learn from looking at the business side of things (that part where they pay you to write stuff) is that word count matters.

Some magazines have word count limits, contests too.  Some agents don’t want to read query letters beyond a certain length and even more to the point, a book can be classified as a novel or a novella based on word count alone.

I am currently working on a piece that started out as a short story and then turned into a novella.  Now at 15,000 words and counting, I’m wondering if it won’t go ahead and turn itself into a novel.

So I started out with a reluctance to count words, thinking the process of keeping track and trying to fit more (or less) words into a story would separate me from the art, but I realized that there is more to being a writer than simply art.  It is a business and in business, numbers matter.  So now I count with panache and excitement.  How many words can I write in an hour?  How many words can I get out in a day?

How does counting words effect you?

Do you view your writing as an art, a business or both?

Also, just so you know, this article is 383 words.