The Business Side of Things

No Sunday Sample this week, I’m afraid. While I’ve been continuously writing Sovereign of Shadow, with its projected publication in August 2014, I’ve been spending a lot of time working out things on the business end these last few weeks. Getting the company name filed, the website set up, branding decisions, all that stuff. I have a very clear idea of how I want to put myself out there as an author, and with that in mind I’ll be making some changes to my blog this upcoming week. I’ll be switching URLs, and though I will leave btinsleywrites.com up as a way to archive my old stuff, I will no longer be updating it. All of my new posts will be going to the new blog. But I’ll make an official announcement when all of that stuff’s squared away, and I’ll leave a link to the new place.

As far as branding goes, this is something that’s been on my mind for quite some time. It’s extremely important to me – as I feel it should be for any writer – to consider how you want to portray your author identity. How will you let your readers know who you are and what you write about? Will you use a pen name, and why or why not? Is it important to you to stay anonymous, completely unveil yourself, or aim for something in between? These are the types of questions I’ve been mulling over.

After a discussion with another author, one who had some great advice for me on branding myself (thank you, Ali Cross!), I have decided that the most important thing to me personally, the thing I am most passionate about, is authenticity. Honesty and openness, and being true to myself. In the spirit of this, I will not be using a pen name. I’ll be writing under my name – Beka Tinsley – and have dedicated myself to being completely open with readers, through my writing and beyond.

More on this to come. Just wanted to give a heads up to those who have followed my journey thus far. Thanks to each and every one of you who has visited me here. Your support means the world.

 

Beka

Heinlein’s Rules of Writing

Though they’ve been around for some time, I’ve only recently discovered this set of writing rules suggested by author Robert Heinlein. When I found them, it was a game-changing moment for me. I had already been beyond excited about the prospects of taking my publishing into my own hands, and then I found these “rules.” Though I would be more inclined to call them guidelines, as I don’t really feel that any form of art or creativity should have a steadfast list of rules. In any case, my motivation and determination after familiarizing myself with the rules were sky high. Now that I’ve been able to take a little time to reflect on the rules and what they mean to me personally, I can better apply them to my writing habits.

And so, here are the rules (guidelines!) that further changed the way I approach my writing, and the way I view them.

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Heinlein’s Rules of Writing

1. You must write.

Well, now. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? It should have been obvious to me that the only way to write and publish novels would be to… you know… write. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that what I was doing was avoiding writing. I would sit down during my allotted writing time and plan, or plot, or world build, or brainstorm on characters, or read over what I had written in the past, or read about writing. Sure, that’s all good, but unless I actually wrote something – produced an actual word count toward my story – none of that extra stuff was going to do me any good.

Luckily, deciding to go full indie had destroyed the anxiety and fear that had been blocking me from actually creating anything. This to me is the only real rule that every writer must follow. How can a writer expect to succeed without writing?

I’ve always had issues with allowing myself to worry about what others are going to think of my stories, and I end up dwelling on it so much that my creative process shuts down completely. The way I have to make this rule work for me is by always keeping in mind a quote from author Hugh Howey:  “Write as if nobody will read it; publish as if everyone will read it.”

2. You must finish what you write.

This is another important one that has always been rough for me. I firmly believe that seeing a project through to the end (unless said project is making you absolutely miserable) is an essential part of learning to be a successful writer. Now, this is not to say that every single story you attempt must be drafted, edited, polished, and published. Some stories just aren’t meant to be. Some need more time to percolate in your mind. Some are better used as a practice story. And some are written just for us, a private story or world where we can go to play anytime we want without having to share it.

What I believe is imperative for every story a writer starts, however, is completing the first draft from beginning to end. If all you write is beginnings, never practicing middles and ends, then your craft will never be as well rounded as it needs to be. Same goes for only writing endings or random scenes and never bothering with the rest of it.

To truly get a feel for an entire story, a writer must write the entire story. That is really the only way you’ll be able to figure out what needs to be changed or rewritten, and what needs to be added or removed. Having the entire idea out there on paper (or screen!) lets your mind see the entire scope of your story, and the writer’s mind will automatically begin piecing it together properly. It’s something I think all writers can do – I truly believe we all develop this natural ability to see exactly how a story must go to be the exciting journey we want it to be. But without that completed first draft, the initial outburst of ideas for our story, I believe this ability becomes hindered and is never allowed to really bloom.

3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

I’ve done a lot of reading on Heinlein’s rules, and this is by far the Point that receives the most attention. There’s a lot of debate revolving around this one little statement, and I have to say that I can clearly understand the opposing opinions.

Some writers believe that the first draft is where the creative magic happens, particularly if you have learned to shut off your inner editor while writing it. They believe that the initial spark of imagination, the words that flow while writing something as raw as a rough draft, is where the story should stay. Rewriting and fiddling around with your story after this point, other than to repair glaring errors or contradictions, is only going to hurt your creativity.

Now, that is not to say that the writers on this side of the fence refrain from editing their work. In fact, I don’t recall once seeing a writer that mentioned they submitted or published immediately after the first draft. Most go on to proofread and lightly edit for spelling, grammatical, and continuity errors.

I tend toward the other side of things. While I can see the magic of the above viewpoint, I can say that for me personally this would never work. And that’s exactly why I disagree with this rule.

All the other guidelines are something that every writer must do in order to gain success. Except, perhaps, for rule #5, which I’ll mention later on. These are simple, concrete goals. “You must write. You must finish what you write. You must put the work on the market.”

But rule #3 seems out of place almost, going so far as to tell writers how to attain their goals. Every writer out there is different, and every writer has to develop their own way of doing things. Anyone can tell you that writers write and sell their work. It’s what they do. But a writer’s process is a very personal thing. Refraining from rewriting, “except to editorial order” … now, that’s a “how.” Though some writers might love this, not everyone will be successful by following this advice. Not only do some writers do the opposite, but others might even change up their process from story to story. It’s an intimate thing, a writer’s process.

I’m a firm believer that we must develop our own path through our own stories.

4. You must put the work on the market.

Yes, get it out there! Do it in the way you are most comfortable, the way that brings you the most excitement. Want to go the traditional publishing route? Send the manuscript out. If it’s rejected, send it out again immediately. Rinse, repeat, until you land the sale or an editor makes rewriting suggestions you agree with. But don’t stop writing while the manuscript is out there – get to work on the next one.

Self-publishing? Then get to work on your cover and your formatting, and publish that sucker! Forget about the fear. Just do it.

If you’re anything like me, you’re dying to find readers who love your characters and stories as much as you do. So, get those stories circulating.

5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

This I agree with to a certain extent. By all means, if you’ve polished a story up all nice and shiny and you love it, make sure you get it out there. And keep it out there. If you’ve ever attempted to sell a story, you know that this part’s not easy. It’s discouraging to get continuous rejections or bad reviews, and it can shake your confidence in the story itself.

But think about it this way – if you absolutely love your story and characters, then there’s bound to be someone else out there who loves them too, right? Keep trying, and keep searching. Give your creative masterpiece a fighting chance out there in the world!

Now, here’s that “certain extent” I mentioned above. Some stories may not be ready for the world yet. It’s difficult to see what’s wrong in a novel you’ve worked so hard on. Sometimes the story should be seen by a fresh pair of eyes, whether that be an agent, editor, or reader who bought your story on Amazon. And some of those readers might just deliver the missing piece to your story’s puzzle in the form of a review or a letter of constructive criticism from an editor. When you receive the right advice, the suggestions that make sense and that resonate with you, then you’ll know what to fix.

Once you’ve fixed it, send that manuscript out again!

Getting A Grip On Life

So far, I’ve tried to keep my posts limited to the topic of writing. But I realized there’s a lot more to my journey than just the act of writing stories. It’s about all aspects of my life – kids and family, paying bills, hobbies, mental health, etc. – and learning how to balance them all to get where I want to be. Its about getting my entire life under control and being who I want to be.

On that note, I’ve learned a few things since quitting my job. First, and perhaps most important, I miss medical transcription. More than that, I miss making money. It might sound superficial, but I do. I miss making good money. I hate budgets. I hate scrimping month after month. I hate asking for help with my bills, and I hate that I can’t pay those loans back. I hate that I can’t spend money on my kids. And I hate that I can’t support my family anymore.

I don’t miss the company I left, not in the slightest. But I do miss the company that left me. I want that job back. I want my training and experience to mean something again. I don’t want to spend every moment of my spare time going back and forth on various at-will transcription sites only to be paid a few bucks for my efforts. I’m worth so much more than that.

After I understood that this wasn’t going to work for me, I started asking around and applying, looking for a hospital or clinic that still had an in-house transcription department. Had no luck for a while. But then I get an email out of the blue from my old supervisor, the one from the job I loved. She’s now heading the transcription department for another local hospital. The in-house transcription department. She emailed to let me know that there was a position available.

Long story short, I applied, interviewed, and was hired for a full time medical transcription position. Benefits and excellent pay. I only have to put up with a few more weeks of poverty, then things will start improving for us. I’ll be forever grateful to my supervisor for putting the word out there and letting me know specifically that there was an opening.

She pretty much saved us. Saved our finances, our lifestyle, and in a way, she saved my dream.

Now I can relax. I feel relieved. My free time can once again be used for what it should be… Writing.

I’m behind on my goals and the publications I’d scheduled for this year. That sucks. But at least now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Once I reach it, I can get myself back on track.

I haven’t had much time to write, but I finally started to fiddle around with my domain and website. Check it out if you like. I’m not very good at things like that, so I’d love some feedback.

Quillcraft Publishing

Thanks for listening to me ramble! :)

Beka

Getting Used to the Writing Life

It’s been a month now since I quit my job. At first it was weird. I just kind of floated around, enjoying the lack of a schedule I had to adhere to and spending the morning napping with my baby after my son went off to school. I’ve had some time to adjust and attempt to work out a routine that gives me plenty of time to write, and a little bit of extra time in the evenings to do some freelance work to help pay the bills. I’ve had to enforce the “writing is my job” rule, reminding both myself and my husband that I need to take it seriously and treat it like work, regardless of whether or not I’m being paid for it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that writing at home is hard, especially before I implemented a schedule for it. I’m often distracted, and almost every time I plan to sit down and write I end up laying down for a “short nap” instead, only to wake up three hours later feeling like a failure. I tried writing in the evenings, but I prefer to do my freelance transcription work during that time, as I tend to be more productive. Plus, I don’t want my novel to be interrupted by a baby waking during the night to be fed. So I’ve decided on mornings for writing. This past week I’ve started going to the library a couple days a week somewhere around 9 to 10 a.m., staying until it’s time to pick my son up from school at 2:30. His school is right down the street from the library, so it gives me that extra push to stay until then. On the days I write at home – which, when it comes down to it, is a lot more comfortable for a lazy house cat like me who wears pajamas until 3 p.m. – I have to find a way to zone out and pull myself away from my Real Life surroundings. Sometimes I sit out on the porch, but I’m not much of an outdoors person, so I do prefer to sit at the dining room table. Plus, I love easy kitchen access. I’ve had a lot of success with music and a pair of headphones. The Epic Soundtracks channel on Pandora has lent a hand in quite a few epic scenes.

Writing for several hours at a time is difficult, too. I’d gotten used to having little-to-no spare time and getting short spurts of writing in here and there, chunks of no more than 1 to 2 hours. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to write full time before now. Although I’m thrilled to have this time, it’s certainly going to take another adjustment on my part to train my mind to focus for the entire time. I have “Oooh, shiny!” tendencies, and if my little baby bear starts making adorable noises in the next room, forget about it. I’m there.

But that’s the beauty of writing full time, isn’t it? I’m here in my home, with my kids and husband, in charge of my own schedule and productivity. Although quitting my job was scary, it feels empowering to finally take control of my life.

Though I have to admit I’m worried. (Am I ever not worried?) Having self-imposed publishing deadlines is brand new to me. I’ve dealt with submission deadlines for anthologies and contests, but publishing? I think the thought is still incredibly daunting for me. I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that I have set an actual deadline to publish my novel in January. Meaning, if I can get my ass moving and finish it, the book will be out there. My story will be available, and people will read it. People that aren’t my husband or my sister. Exciting and terrifying at the same time, and I can’t wait to experience it.

I do expect that I’ll have to push the deadline back. Trying to get enough sleep, planning my son’s birthday party, and preparing financially and emotionally for the upcoming holidays have caused a concerning spike in my anxiety. I’m tearing through my Disaronno here, trying to get a handle on things. Not to mention, I’ve had some issues with the book cover, the details of which I’ll divulge in another post. But I’m not stating this officially yet. I’m still giving myself a chance to finish it on time. Not giving up on that yet!

This is still only the very beginning of my journey, but at least now I’ve stepped foot on the right path.

 

~Beka

Paving My Own Road

I’ve never felt more sure of myself and my decisions. Ever. It’s a wonderful feeling, and one I’m going to cling to as if my life depended on it. Because in a way, it does.

And so, since making the decision to forgo traditional publishing in favor of becoming a full-blown Indie Writer, I’ve been spending my last few weeks constructing my plans and goals for the next year. The first important thing I needed to figure out was whether or not I wanted to set up a publishing company name or do everything by my own name. I’ve decided on the publishing company, for a few different reasons. For me personally, having the company rather than just my own name will put me in a more professional mindset – and having failed at treating my writing as my job and my business in the past, I need this badly. I have set up a publishing schedule for most of this next year, starting with a fantasy novel that I have given myself until the end of December to complete. And yes, by “complete” I mean drafted, revised, beta read, and cover complete, with the intent of publishing it in January 2014.

At first, as I was talking about my future publications with my husband, I was referring to my set dates as “tentative,” using the excuse that I needed some time to work out how long each project type was going to take me. But I realized even saying that was detrimental to any progress I wanted to make. It showed me that I have a real fear of setting and sticking to actual goals involving my writing. So the “tentative” was stripped away and the dates are set. These dates are realistic for me, as I have a good grasp of how fast I can work (participating in Nano has certainly helped), particularly when I’m having fun with my story and have somehow managed to get past the stress and worry that was eating away at my mind whenever I tried to sit down and write.

My schedule will be three novels a year, as well as a short story per month, focusing on fantasy for the year 2014. Yes, that’s a lot compared to what I do now… but when I made the decision to jump in head-first, I meant it. I’m also in the process of securing my DBA (Doing Business As) name for my publishing company, and have already snagged the domain as well. I plan to have my site up and running by the time my first fantasy novel is complete, and announced in January 2014.

Here we go :)

~Beka