Tis the Season: Gifts for the Writer in Your Life & 2016 Resolutions

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

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After the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve had my mind filled with plans for Christmas and the holidays, like getting presents from stonefoot.de.
I’ve already got my house decorated. 2014 was a rough year for me, but 2015 feels like a rebirth – a time to enjoy the many blessings in my life. It’s a time to reflect on this year while keeping my eye on 2016 and the goals or resolutions that can move my writer career forward, but I’d like your help to open my mind to the notion of resolutions.

I’ve never been one to commit to New Year resolution(s) and make a big deal about stating them aloud. I secretly set goals throughout the year and push to make them happen – things like setting daily writing goals, visualizing my completed novels for the new year, and how many prepared proposals I’d like to get out. I consider this career planning, but what about you? Does it help to make a resolution and let it be known so you’re committed? What writer goals have you set in the past? What’s worked for you? I could really use your positive vibes and I’d like to hear your success stories.

I thought it would also be fun to look at gifts for the writers in your life. custom phone cases are always useful because you can tailor them to whoever you’re buying for. Online shopping is a great way to find the gifts you want and with so many discounts available from places such as PromoCodeWatch there’s bound to be something that will be perfect, and for a cheaper price too! Last year I treated myself to a severed arm that I keep in my freezer. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Here are a few that appealed to my weird humor:

Mr Write Tee

Mr Write T-shirt at AmazonFor Mr Obvious

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Cafe Press Mug – 12 Days of Christmas for WritersSome of these gifts would be very appreciated.

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Shower Writing PadI seriously need to get one of these, but It’s kinda freaky.

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Writers Clock – from Cafe Press – What? Only one PANIC!

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Cafe Press – Books Shower CurtainAgain with the shower theme.

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From Writer Store – Magnetic Movie Linesfor your fridge or white boards

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The Writers Store: Literary Action Figures – They have Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and Sherlock Holmes (Okay, why is Holmes in this group of authors?)

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The Writers Store: The StorymaticStory Ideas and Writers Prompts in a Box

Discussion Questions:
1.) What gifts would you like to receive (as a writer)? Or what will you give your writer friends this year?

2.) What resolution(s) will you make for 2016?

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The Last Victim available now. “When FBI profiler Ryker Townsend sleeps, the hunt begins.” Sale links HERE:

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Setting Goals

Nancy J. Cohen
As we begin the new year, it’s time to set our writing goals for 2014. Although this is a popular topic, here’s my take on it. I divide things into two categories: Creative and Business Goals.

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Under the Creative category, put your writing projects. Which story do you want to start? What book do you need to finish? Do you want to try something new and different? Have you started writing the synopsis for your WIP yet? Which projects have priority?

In the Business category, put down everything you need to do to bring those above projects to market. What steps do you need to take? How will you publicize your work? What new venture might you try that you haven’t done before (i.e. chats, podcasts, trailers, audio)?Or do you plan to accept the risks and lengthy learning process of self-publishing for the first time?

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Here are my goals for 2014. Whatever I don’t finish this year will get put off until 2015. I envision finishing my current WIP, doing the edits for my next romance, and then taking some time off to launch my self-publishing work. Then I can think about what to write next.

WRITING GOALS
Finish Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Do the edits for Warrior Lord, #3 in the Drift Lords series, when I get them from my editor.
Proofread the galleys until this project is done and in production.
Complete edits on my original mystery that I’m hoping to self-publish.

BUSINESS GOALS
Implement marketing plan for Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries due out in April.
Complete legal preparation for self-publishing enterprise.
Hire book cover designer and ebook formatter.
Self-Publish my writing instructional booklet in time for SleuthFest. Order postcards.
Consider print and audio versions of above.
Design marketing plan for Warrior Lord once I get a pub date.
Begin prep work for publishing my father’s book, a true adventure of his 1929 hitchhiking journey across the U.S. It’s one of those things on my bucket list.

What goals have you set for 2014? Are you trying anything different for the first time?

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New Year, New Goals!

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Happy New Year from all of us at TKZ and welcome to 2014! 

A new year for me means establishing new goals and, after two international moves in three years, I’m looking forward to setting goals that do not include packing or unpacking a house…Although, our renovations are nearly complete and in the next few weeks my family and I will be decamping from the basement and putting back all the living and kitchen room items, so my packing/unpacking days are not quite over yet… 

I am looking forward to regaining some lost productivity that arose, inevitably, from moves and renovations, and I have some reasonably ambitious plans for 2014. These include:

  • Completion of two new projects: I currently have one out on submission, and one in progress, but still, I feel I need to play catch up after a few slow years, so two additional new projects are in the hopper….ambitious…but, hopefully, achievable. As a birthday present to myself last year I purchased Scrivener and I’m enjoying using this software, especially as it now enables me to set clearer word count goals. Which brings me to my next goal….
  • Setting daily and weekly word count goals: I’ve never approached writing this way but I started toying with word count goals on Scrivener late last year (not that over the holidays I paid any attention to them:)). I’m thinking of using these goals as a means of keeping me more accountable to my writing. But more exciting than this is the….
  • Release of my third Ursula Marlow mystery: I’ll be blogging more about this in the coming weeks, but I’m excited to see this come out – and I can’t wait to show the new cover art for the book as it’s beautiful. 
  • Reworking my website: This is my final goal for 2014. I’ve neglected my website for far too long (ditto for much of my social networking and marketing) so I’m planning on using the release of the new Ursula book as a jumping off point for revitalizing my website and as an opportunity to expand my marketing/networking opportunities. 

So, TKZers, these are my top level writing goals for 2014. I’ll keep you posted on my progress but I’m excited to start off the year with these goals clearly in mind, and, thanks to my husband, a new fountain pen to use to get it all started (my collie, Hamish, ate my last one).

What have you resolved or planned for your writing this year???

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7 Things Writers Need to Do Right Now

James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell


Heraclitus, that old pre-Socratic philosopher who shuffled along the streets of Athens in 450 B.C. thinking deep thoughts, called reality a river, and famously noted, “You can’t step in the same river twice.”


He would not, therefore, have been surprised in the slightest by the changes in the publishing industry. For the only thing certain about the future of books is that none of it is certain. The flow of innovation continues apace and the river is filled with rocks, waterfalls and more than a few overturned kayaks.


But look at all the writers with life vests on. And some even shooting the rapids with a whoop and holler. If you want to survive and even thrive in the rush and spray of publishing today, you need to do the following:

1. Elevate your game

Here’s the deal for the rest of your life: you’re going to have to keep getting better as a writer. You have more competition. There’s a growing number of writers out there who know what they’re doing, and are hungry, and are after the same readers you are.
True, there’s an even larger number of writers who don’t have the stuff yet, and won’t put in the hard work to get it. They’ll eventually get frustrated and drop off the map. But, like a Hydra’s head, they’ll be replaced by nine more writers who areworking at this thing.


Be one of the workers. Write to a quota and set aside at least one hour per week to study the craft. Doing those two things consistently will get you further downstream than anything else. Every now and then go to a writer’s conference, or sign up for a specialized workshop like, ahem, this one. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest and at least scan every article. I always pick up a few things with each issue.

2. Understand publishing contracts

The traditional publishing world is still there. It’s big and it’s venerable. Sure it’s tight, but there are still deals being made. If you decide to go that route, learn what key contract terms mean. Especially understand non-compete clauses, option clauses, termination and reversion of rights. A good place to start is in the “Contracts” archive of The Passive Voice.
Have the attitude that many things are negotiable, but also understand your “leverage” depends on your track record (if any), the size of the publishing house and how much you desire to be traditionally published.
Strategize with your agent and determine: a) what you would LOVE to have in the contract; b) what would be NICE to have; and c) what you absolutely MUST have. Make sure your c) list is short and reasonable. Ask yourself if you are prepared to walk away from a deal if you don’t get your c) terms. If you’re not, make them b) terms.
Writers and publishers need to understand it’s more possible than ever to forge a win-win deal if the parties are flexible and creative.
3. Take more risks
Editors and agents all say they are looking for a “fresh voice.” What they mean is a fresh voice they can actually sell. Everyone wants to land in that sweet spot where originality and commerce meet to make that ka-ching sound.
You will grow as a writer, and get closer to that sweet spot, if you take more risks with your writing. Push yourself past comfortable limits. Deepen your style and character work. Especially if you’re doing genre books where we’ve seen just about everything many times over.
As I said when I made my own “risky” move (which has ultimately been worth it to me), don’t be afraid to “fail aggressively.”
4. Begin a self-publishing stream
There is absolutely no reason anymore for a writer not to have a stream of income from self-publishing. When approached the right way this will not only result in steady revenue, but also build that ever-loving “platform” everyone talks about. You will be making readers. Traditional publishers are starting to get that. There is no longer a stigma to self-publishing.
But, and I emphasize this, only if you approach it systematically and in a businesslike fashion.
Fortunately, the business fundamentals are not difficult to understand. I call these fundamentals The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for creating steady income as a self-publisher.
5. Set goals
Not everyone is a goal setter. Which is a little hard for me to understand, because I’ve been setting goals most of my life. Writers want to achieve. They want to publish, sell, make readers. To give yourself the best shot, you need to set goals that you can actually control, and work toward them every day.
Did you know that if you set down written goals and regularly work toward them, you immediately jump into the top 3% of achievers in any field? So why aren’t you?
There’s a Kindle article that fully and completely sets out the fundamentals of goal setting. It’s called How to Achieve Your Goals and Dreams. I had a goal to write it, so I did.
6. Work smarter
In addition to goals, there is the matter of using your time wisely. Do this: Look at the calendar of your upcoming week (I do this on Sunday). Fill in the places where you have obligations (job, soccer practice, appointments). Now look at the empty slots and start filling them with writing and studying time.
Anthony Trollope wrote almost 50 novels while working full time as a civil servant (of course, this was in the era before Twitter and Angry Birds. But I digress). He did it by finding the time to complete his quota of words. Day by week by month by year.
7. Stay cool
You can get yourself all tied up in knots about this crazy business. You can look at sales numbers and Amazon rankings and bad reviews and friends’ successes and your own perceived disappointments (though I maintain nothing is wasted in a writer’s life if he refuses to be defeated). There are going to be striking developments requiring fresh decisions, and those same decisions may look different to you a month later. 
But stay frosty. The way a writer does that, the best way, is to write, to have pages to work on every day. To be developing other projects even as you are working on your WIP. Here’s a favorite quote from Dennis Palumbo: “Every hour you spend writing is an hour not spent fretting about your writing.” (Writing from the Inside Out)
So don’t fret, type. Shoot the rapids. Live large.
I’ll see you downriver.

Anything else you would add to the list?  

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10 Things I Believe About Writing

With all the uncertainty in our economy and in the publishing industry, in particular, I thought it might be important to talk about the passion we all share. It’s the basic thing that drives us with such conviction. Whether you read books or create them, novels can lift our spirits, tug at our imaginations, make us believe in the impossible, and take us for a journey into the past. (Talk about a cheap vacation!) They dole out justice when it feels as if there’s none and they transcend international borders, making this a small world after all.
If you’re an aspiring author, I believe it’s harder to get noticed by traditional publishers these days, yet with the digital boom in e-books, I feel there is even greater potential for getting discovered in a whole new way that still feeds our addiction. So take heart. Below are my thoughts about writing and what I’ve learned on my journey.
1.      Tell YOUR story, your way. If you have enough drive, you will discover a unique story that you must tell. If you’re lucky, more stories will follow. Ideas for books can be a contagion worth embracing. Since you use your life’s experiences to filter through your characters, scenes and settings, only YOU can tell this story. How cool is that?!
2.      Develop a tough skin. There will always be negative people telling you that you can’t write or reviewers who think you should quit. Screw ‘em. If it matters to you, you will learn from your mistakes and keep doing what’s important to you. And if anyone thinks a book is easy to write, let them try. In fact, please be our guest.
3.      Be picky about your critique buddies. They can be invaluable if you find the right person or group, but too much of a good thing can dilute your voice. Whatever your story, this is your book. You must have a sense of who you are as a writer in order to push back on any advice that doesn’t fit you and only you can be the judge of that.
4.      Find the time to write regularly. Even if it’s only a few hundred words or a page a day, set attainable goals but don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way. Write because it matters to you.
5.      Focus on the basics. Writing is the only thing you can control. Selling your project, promoting it, dealing with proposals, these things are not in your hands and can become a mental road block. When things get tough, your writing is the backbone of your passion.
6.      Keep writing. While you have a proposal out, don’t wait by the phone or the mailbox. Get on to that next project and learn from your last one. Push the envelope of your craft, because you can. It’s great to find success in a trend, but why not BE the trend?
7.      Trust your talent. As human beings, we all have self-doubt. Some hide it better than others. We all deal with it, but the voice and talent you have shown with each new project will follow you. Trust your ability to tell a story. Your basic talent will sustain you.
8.      Make the words bleed. If the story is worth telling, it’s usually because of the emotion you have to convey. Write what you fear, what you love, what you hate. Man has been telling stories since drawing on cave walls and within those stories has been the thrill of the hunt, the profound sorrow of death, or the joy of good fortune. Emotion connects us all, regardless of any language barrier.
9.      Support other authors. This is your world. Our world. We’re not in competition with each other. We’re up against people who choose video games or movies over books. Make them see how powerful the written word can be, how it triggers the magic of our imaginations. Books are brain food.
10.  Find a way to deal with rejections. They will come, in one fashion or another, whether you’re published or not. Rejection comes in all forms. Create a ritual to dispel the negativity and move on, but if you don’t risk rejection, you’re not getting yourself out there enough. Find a happy balance and keep writing. Not many feel passion for what they do. Count yourself lucky to be one of us, TKZers.
Since we all share the love of books and writing on TKZ, please share any words of wisdom that gets you through the tough times. What keeps you going?
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