The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘writing exercises

 

I’ve been working on a Passion Project since the beginning of the year. In my January newsletter, I shared some thoughts about the joys of committing to a passion project. I have expanded the piece here:

In order to begin my PP, I had to do something pretty radical for me. On Jan 1, I stopped listening to writing podcasts, I stopped reading craft books and clicking on the columns of my favorite writing experts. I took a break from everyone else’s wonderful advice, knowledge, tips and went within. I got reconnected with my own CORE WRITING VOICE AND WISDOM.

This was hard to do! As you know I am a ‘resource maven’. I LOVE finding resources and sharing them with my community.

I, however, also believe it is super important to take breaks from the avalanche of others’ advice and guidance and deeply connect with our inner writing intelligence. That inner writing intelligence is always there, of course, but by the end of the year, it craves recognition and reconnection. It craves being in the center and having your undivided attention.

I also truly believe that whatever you focus on the first couple of days and weeks of the New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year. I decided to make room for a passion project that I’ve been dying to tackle. I am writing a creative nonfiction piece (maybe a memoir) about the year my mother left my abusive stepfather and we were almost homeless. I was ten and my sister was four.  Through a special state program, we wound up living in a Manhattan hotel on a floor designated for “battered women and their children”. This year changed my life and I’m investigating all the ways it shaped the woman I became.

A passion project is one that is both scary and ambitious and tugs at your heart. It’s one that has urgency. The one that has been trying to get your attention for all these years. The one where you don’t know if it will “pay off”, the one that is unruly and messy.

How do you make room for a passion project?

You look at your schedule and you notice what activities you do that are either draining, time-wasting, unnecessary or just take up space. We all have some of those. You look for slivers of 10-20% of activities that can be consolidated or cut to give you time. Then you get into the frame of mind where you get excited about your passion project (the one you would LOVE to do, but never seem to find the time). You imagine yourself working on the PP within the time that you have made for it.

To make room for a passion project in light of what’s already on your plate (and I’m assuming that could include, work, childcare, eldercare, exercise, life stuff, other writing projects, etc.) takes some effort. I know it’s not easy, but isn’t it also important to make space for a passion project that has been on your list for a LONG TIME that you intuitively know will bring you JOY, or at least make you feel really ALIVE?

I decided that I would write daily on the PP for 10-45 minutes beginning around 9:30 pm. This meant giving up and rearranging late night time with my partner (we moved our TV time up), ignoring work email (unless it was urgent),  not listening to podcasts, and shuffling other creative writing projects to earlier in the day. It has been challenging but also super rewarding. I began with a brief outline, but most writing sessions I started freewriting with, “I remember”. I now have about half of a journal or 65 handwritten pages.

As luck would have it, I also found my first diary which chronicles a few months of that year.

This was buried under many other journals.

It’s humbling to see what one decides to document when one is a ten-year old!

My handwriting was much neater at 10!

Today, I have begun to transfer these writings into Scrivener. It feels good to move this work from my journal into the computer.

Passion projects replenish our creative wells. They are also addictive. I now will do just about anything to keep this work going though I have other writing projects to finish. These, however, are good problems to have.

I encourage you to find a way to go deep into your work, be it a passion project or something you have already started. And, that might mean taking a break from the outside world for a bit. That was crucial for me. The first quarter of the year is a great time to mirror nature. Winter is about going within and metaphorically playing in the dark.

Do you have a passion project that you want to tackle this year? I’d love to know!

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Our writing life encompasses so much more than the actual writing. Here are some other important tasks besides writing that will help you sustain and deepen the quality of your writing life. Over this quarter, when you need a short break from writing, try a few items on this list.

-Check on and manage your money and intellectual property: Last year, authors and the mismanagement of their money and intellectual property assets by agents, accountants and publishing houses made the news:

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/palahniuk-795516

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/77656-agent-danielle-smith-s-former-clients-speak-out.html

These events constituted a wake-up call across the industry. It’s important for writers to both manage our money and our intellectual property.  Make it a point this quarter to collect any outstanding monies owed to you. Check your contracts with various venues that you’ve published with (e.g. anthologies, magazines, presses, etc.) and make sure you have received payment in a timely manner. Peruse royalty statements. In 2018, if you brought books to your readings at a local bookstore (often the case for writers with small presses), or made appearances at a conference, and had someone sell books on your behalf, make sure you have received the correct payment owed. I spent a good chunk of last year chasing down such monies. Furthermore, make sure you are keeping track of your intellectual property by knowing what rights you have with various publishers and when they are expiring, etc. I have really enjoyed author and entrepreneur Joanna Penn’s focus on her podcast encouraging writers to become savvy about understanding the value of our intellectual property. She has devoted several podcasts to this issue, here is a recent one.

Line up beta readers: You are going to finish something this year, right? If so, you will need some beta readers. Beta readers are people who read your work while it is in draft form. They could be people in your writing group, other writers, trusted friends, etc. It’s generally good to have a mix of non-writers and writers as beta readers. Want to know about beta reader etiquette? Check out author K.M. Weiland’s helpful post on this topic.

-Clean up your bio across your social media sites: Read your short bios that live on social media (e.g. FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.). Do they still reflect the writer that you are? Are they compelling? Do you need to add, subtract or tighten anything?

-Clean up digital clutter on your desktop: It’s coming to get you if you don’t.

-Volunteer to support and serve a published writer that you know: Several years ago, I was privileged to accompany one of my writing teachers, Marjorie Hudson, to several speaking events and workshops. I learned invaluable things watching a working writer deal with the public aspect of a writing life: speaking, promoting, coaching, and book signing.

Writers always need more support. If you have a friend or an acquaintance who has recently published a book, offer to help them promote it in some way. If you don’t know any published writers, this is a great way to connect with a local writer whose work that you admire.

Be a personal assistant, or driver, for a day. If they are scheduled to give readings, see if you can help carry books, set up a display, sell books, and assist with small tasks that would make their life easier. You can learn a lot from watching how other writers handle being in the public eye. There’s also nothing like the satisfying feeling of helping another writer on their path.

-Toss out old drafts: What do you do with drafts you’ve gotten back from your writing group? How long do you keep them? I have tendency to keep them way too long; they start to form into mountains on my desk. When you have integrated editorial comments into a completed story, toss the draft.

-Check the ergonomics of your writing space: What can be moved and realigned for maximum support of your body?

-Straighten up your submissions file: Update your 2018 submissions file and create the 2019 one. And, of course if you haven’t started a submissions file yet, correct that. Writers write and submit their work. See one of my tips for crafting a helpful submission strategy.

-Go through last year’s journals, classes and conference notes: If you took writing classes, attended conferences or workshops and/or kept a journal last year I bet there are still some nuggets to mine. Take time to honor that work.

-Update your writing accomplishments list and post it where you can see it: Smile at it from time to time. If you don’t have one, now is the time to make one!

 

When I originally signed up for Samantha Bryant’s ‘Finish Your Novel’ workshop, I thought I would either be working on a parallel novel set in my Reenu-You universe or the urban fantasy novel I’m co-writing with my sister. The workshop meets for five Saturdays for three hours. Samantha’s a great instructor and I’ve taken her classes before through CCCC’s Creative Writing Program. She is most well-known for her superhero menopausal series, which I adore. See my interview with her about Going through The Change, her first book in the series.

I loved when Samantha asked us to place ourselves as writers on the spectrum of Explorers (i.e. Discovery writers) and Architects (i.e. Plotters) in how we begin projects.

Everything changed last weekend when I attended Illogicon, the local sci-fi convention that I’ve been attending since 2015. I had scheduled a meeting with a publisher that I was hoping to get to know better.

Although I can’t release all the details yet, suffice it to say I pitched this publisher a horror novel idea that’s been rolling around in my psyche for a few years. They loved it. So much so, they are offering me a contract. I will have a soft deadline of turning in the novel by October and a hard deadline of January 2020.

I literally have only about six pages of notes on my horror novel idea. Getting published is often a mysterious processes defined by things both in and out of one’s control. As I have often said, there is no one route to publication. And, although I still have to write the book (no small feat!), the way this opportunity has unfolded has been marked by a wonderful feeling of synchronicity. I also believe that all the other pathways of the writing life that I have been contributing to (e.g. blogging and using social media, building relationships with other writers, and submitting work) has contributed to this moment of serendipity.

I’m still both gleeful and stunned at the ease of how everything unfolded. When I met with the publisher, I didn’t have the slightest intent on pitching this novel idea, but during the conversation it felt right. I had studied the company’s catalog and surmised that they might want to continue to develop their horror line.

After the conversation finished, I immediately thought—OK, WELL THIS CHANGES ALL MY WRITING PLANS FOR 2019! and, I NEED SOME SUPPORT IN GETTING THIS NOVEL WRITTEN! and, CLEARLY THIS STORY WANTS TO BE BORN!!! and, YIKES! AND, OMG, I’VE NEVER WRITTEN A HORROR NOVEL!!!!!

I took a deep breath and told myself that I would figure it out, as all writers do.

This brings me back to the Finish Your Novel workshop. We met yesterday and I think it’s going to provide a helpful model for accountability. Samantha will discuss key issues about novel structure and all the participants will have at least one opportunity to receive feedback on their work. My goal is to develop a detailed outline for our Feb meeting.

There is nothing like getting a new notebook when starting a project. My writing teacher got me hooked on these colorful and inexpensive composition books.

I can’t wait to share more details. I’ll do that once the contract has been signed, etc. I can tell you that my story will be set in North Carolina, in the present. I will be updating you right here about the joys, triumphs and struggles of writing this novel.

One question for the fiction writers:

What’s your favorite book on plotting and novel structure? I’d love to know!

One question for the horror lovers among us:

I haven’t read that many classic European and early American horror writers like Lovecraft, etc. What are some classics that I should read?

The last weeks of December were so hectic that I didn’t get a chance to post any reflection about my writing life in 2018. I wanted to take a moment and do that now I had an excellent year in terms of deepening writing relationships and sharing my work locally and regionally. I definitely was a public writer.

I had the good fortune to participate in several literary events where I talked about and/or read from Reenu-You, gave a craft talk about my writing influences and/or  discussed Afrofuturism. I loved connecting with potential readers and new audiences.

My reading at High Point University through the Creative Writing Program. I also gave a talk for the Creative Writing club.

Loved being on this panel with other Black women speculative fiction writers. Park Road Books was packed and everyone wanted to also talk about Black Panther’s release. Lots of energy was in the room.

The Movable Feast event, in Winston-Salem, is held by Bookmarks. Bookmarks is a literary a literary arts nonprofit whose mission is to connect readers with authors.
The event is basically like “speed dating with authors”! As an invited author, you visit a table for 10 minutes, talk about your book, etc., then rotate to a new table for another 10 minutes and repeat. I met with 10 tables and met many wonderful people in book clubs.

I organized this local event for spec fic writers which was a lot of fun.

I also gave my Charting Your Path to Publication workshop to several new audiences and developed a new workshop, “How to Level Up in Your Writing Life” that was very well-attended.

My efforts last year were focused on submitting my short story collection to various contests (that offer publication with the top prize) and submitting fiction to SFWA qualifying markets. I’m still waiting to hear about some of the contests. Fingers crossed, there will be good news. I submitted to a ton of places and I have gotten some really encouraging rejections and a request to send more work. Rejection still stings, but over time, if an editor likes your work and encourages you to submit, that’s the beginning of a working relationship.

One of my goals was to begin an author newsletter and I finally did so in August! I have a commitment to those in my writing community to share resources and inspire. I don’t know why I waited so long to start!

I also kept up my blog and interviewed some terrific writers.

Reenu You was eligible for the Hugo Award, the Nebulas and the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy which was pretty awesome.

Nussia, my novelette was released by Book Smugglers in July!

 

In terms of craft, one of the things that I learned was how to tighten the dramatic arc in every scene.

The things that didn’t get completed include:

a complete revision of my mystery

a first draft of the co-written novel that my sister and I are undertaking

There’s a lot on my plate for 2019.  I hope to share some really great news soon.

That’s a quick overview for me–what did you learn about yourself as a writer in 2018? What were some of your accomplishments?

 

 

Dear Creative Community,

I hope you are having a fantastic holiday week. Given all of the hustle and bustle at this time of year, I wanted to remind you about my two holiday gifts that are just for YOU. One is a FREE webinar TODAY and the other is the opportunity to work with me (e.g. my new e-course which includes a coaching session)–that gift is time sensitive and the price and bonus expires late on 12/31.  I am also offering a special half hour coaching for $49 (also expiring late tomorrow). All details are below.

FREE webinar: ‘Affirm the Writer in You 2019”. This webinar is designed to allow you time to reflect on your 2018 writing accomplishments and chart what’s next in 2019.

During the webinar we’ll explore:

-The sequence of success on the author journey
-Trends for authors in 2019
-Cultivating the “maker” and “manager” energy of the writing business
-Harnessing urgency in order to write in 2019

-How to supercharge your productivity and sustain your momentum
-How to get unstuck and approach the page with more ease
-Cultivating audiences that love your work

(we’ll be able to interact in real time!)

No need to signup—just bookmark the details below

DEC 30th-3-4:15 pm EST

Dial-in number (US): (605) 475-4081

Access code: 380339#

International dial-in numbers: https://fccdl.in/i/bergermichele2005

Online meeting ID: bergermichele2005

Join the online meeting: https://join.freeconferencecall.com/bergermichele2005

(copy and paste the above link–you’ll want to join the online meeting so you can see my slides!)

My second holiday offering to you is an opportunity work with me through my NEW e-course Charting Your Path to Publication NOW.

So many writers feel daunted navigating the submission process and often find themselves stymied by inevitable rejection and not making progress on the path of publication. I’ve been teaching this successful live workshop over the years and have taken all that wonderful content (and wisdom learned from what writers need) and created an amazing e-course.

This transformative course will empower you with the necessary tools and skills to move your writing forward in 2019

SPECIAL BONUS: If you sign-up by Dec 31st, you’ll receive a 30 minute coaching session with me!

Click here for the FULL DETAILS and see the fantastic price of this offering.

If you are interested in a short coaching session. I am offering a 1/2 hour coaching special for $49. Depending on your interests, we could focus on:

  • me as a a friendly first reader of your work (up to 5 double-spaced pages)
  • help you brainstorm where to submit your work/submission strategy
  • how to grow your social media strategies
  • how to create smack-dab in the midst of your busy life.
  • ways to harness both “maker and manager” energy for the writing life and business
  • creating a realistic action plan for your writing in 2019

If interested in coaching, please email me at mtb@creativetickle.com

Offer expires tomorrow at 11:59 pm.

I look forward to serving you in 2019!

Dear Creative Community,

I’ve spent the past two months creating two offerings that will SUPPORT your writing in 2019. They are my holiday gifts to you. As you know I am passionate about serving you! I am only offering these gifts to my special community of writers and that’s YOU. They are time sensitive!


The first is a FREE winter wonderland pop-up webinar called ‘Affirm the Writer in You 2019′. This webinar is designed to allow you time to reflect on your 2018 writing accomplishments and chart what’s next in 2019. I bet you are craving time to write and reflect before the year ends! If you don’t grab this time now, when will you?

During the webinar we’ll explore:
-The sequence of success on the author journey
-Trends for authors in 2019
-Cultivating the “maker” and “manager” energy of the writing life and business
-Harnessing urgency in order to write in 2019
-How to get unstuck and approach the page with more ease
-Cultivating audiences that love your work

No need to signup—just bookmark the details below and I will send a reminder the day before.
SUNDAY, DEC 30th-3-4:15 pm EST
Dial-in number (US): (605) 475-4081
Access code: 380339#
International dial-in numbers: https://fccdl.in/i/bergermichele2005
Online meeting ID: bergermichele2005
Join the online meeting: https://join.freeconferencecall.com/bergermichele2005
(copy and paste the above link–you’ll want to join the online meeting so you can see my slides!)

My second holiday gift to you is an opportunity work with me through my NEW e-course Charting Your Path to Publication NOW.

So many writers feel daunted navigating the submission process and often find themselves stymied by inevitable rejection and not making progress on the path of publication. I’ve been teaching this successful live workshop over the years and have taken all that wonderful content (and wisdom learned from what writers need) and created an amazing e-course.

This transformative course will empower you with the necessary tools and skills to move your writing forward in 2019.

SPECIAL BONUS: If you sign-up by Dec 31st, you’ll receive a 30 minute coaching session with me!

Click here for the FULL DETAILS and see the fantastic price of this offering. I hope you make the investment in your writing for 2019.

I am wishing you the healthiest and happiest of holiday seasons. Thank you for being a part of my community. I am inspired by your creative path.

Stay inspired,
Michele

P.S. Any questions about the e-course? Just shoot me an email at mtb@creativetickle.com

I’m thrilled that author and friend, Jessica Yinka Thomas has stopped by to share her recent, and super successful, crowdfunding experience for her forthcoming thriller, How Not to Make Friends, a sequel to How Not to Save the World. Crowdfunding is often an overlooked and underappreciated opportunity for authors to raise their profile, engage with an audience and raise money for their passion projects. I’m inspired by what Jessica has accomplished and excited to learn from her!

 Crowdfunding To Launch Your Next Novel

 “I will publish my second novel by the end of 2018.” That’s the goal I set for myself back in April of this year. I began thinking about the best way to raise funds to self-publish How Not to Make Friends and to publicize the book. After consulting with numerous friends, including fellow authors and entrepreneurs, I came to the conclusion that the two goals could be combined through a crowdfunding campaign. Running an effective crowdfunding campaign is a lot of work with many pitfalls along the way. But, I found it to be a very effective strategy to raise $8,000 in 30 days while strengthening my fan base.

My initial goal was $5,000, enough to break even, covering the costs of the campaign, professional editing, cover design and the initial print run. I was very fortunate to raise that goal several times over the course of the campaign. I think a huge part of my success was having an existing fan base and incredibly strong support network based on the success of my first novel. Knowing that I would be primarily speaking to existing fans and friends made it a lot easier to reach out and ask for support. If you’re considering putting together a crowdfunding campaign to launch your next book, here’s what I learned from the process.

Build your network

The platform that I used, iFundWomen, estimates that about 2% of your potential backers will actually make a contribution. When I combined my personal contacts who might be interested in the novel (500), the mailing list I built from publishing my first novel (800), personal social media contacts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (4300), social media contacts through my novel Facebook page (1000), I had about 6600 potential backers. The estimate of 132 backers was pretty accurate, particularly considering the overlap in the various contacts. Every last one of the 103 contributors to my campaign were friends, fans or friends of friends.

 

Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers. In my experience, very few, if any of your contributions are likely to come from strangers who are browsing the crowdfunding campaign platform that you select. Before getting started, make sure you’ve built a strong network of friends and fans on social media, through your blog or website and in your email distribution list. Give your network a heads up that you are planning to launch a campaign before it kicks off to begin to generate some excitement.

Select the right platform

Picking the right platform to launch your campaign is critical. Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding network out there but it has an all or nothing model. If you don’t raise your goal amount in the time frame you’ve set, all the funds are returned to the contributors. Kickstarter charges a 5 percent fee on projects that reach their goal. Indiegogo, one of the larger platforms gives you the option of all or nothing model or a flexible goal. Keep in mind that if you reach your goal, Indiegogo takes a 4 percent cut; if you don’t, the fee jumps to 9 percent. Most sites charge a credit card processing fee that’s around 3 percent.

I decided to go with iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women led startups and small businesses. iFundWomen provides a supportive platform with a rich set of free resources from expert coaching to in-depth campaign management tools. Not only can you make your goal flexible, but they have excellent customer service where you can change the closing date or even the goal amount of your campaign with a quick email. Every month the platform reinvests 20 percent of their standard fees back into live campaigns. I was fortunate to be one of a handful of campaigns to receive funding from the platform back in September. iFundWomen charges a 5 percent fee.

Pick engaging rewards

For a novel crowdfunding campaign, there is a pretty compelling reward, the actual book, once it’s published. I offered several different versions of my new novel at different price points: $10 for an EPUB version of the book, $25 for personalized autographed copies, and $50 for personalized autographed copies of my first and second novel. I was pleasantly surprised that the most popular reward was at the $100 level, an opportunity to be listed in the acknowledgement of the book along with autographed copies of both novels. I used the themes of friendship and international exploration from my novel, naming the reward levels after translations of the word “friend” in different languages represented in the novel.

 

 

One of the rewards was a book club bundle, 8 autographed copies for a $250. I was surprised that no one selected that reward, but later realized that it would be tough for a supporter to get their book club to agree to read the book during the brief campaign period.

The reward that I was most excited to try out was the opportunity to name a character in the novel. I was thrilled that 5 people select this option at the $500 level.

Market the heck out of your campaign

The crowdfunding campaign is your opportunity to tell your writing story. It’s an opportunity to share what motivates you to write and what you hope your readers take away from your novel as a way to engage and inspire your network. Once you’ve got your campaign in place, it’s helpful to send it out to a few close friends, both to get feedback and also to secure a few key initial donors. You want to demonstrate some initial momentum when you first share the campaign with your broader network.

After that, the challenge is finding creative ways to regularly reach out to your network via email, social media, text and yes, even phone calls, during the campaign period. iFundWomen has a comprehensive tool that is an end-to-end campaign planner from putting together your pitch, to mapping your network map, to laying out your campaign goals, to planning each week of the campaign. iFundWomen’s coaches playbook was essentially my business plan for the campaign.

Don’t’ discount the importance of the video as part of your campaign. I resisted putting together a video for several weeks, thinking it would be too much work and wondering who would watch it anyway. I spoke with several friends who had completed successful campaigns along with the coach from iFundWomen who stressed the importance of the video. Some people prefer to watch a brief 2 to 3 minute video, others will scroll through your campaign text. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I worked with a fantastic local videographer through Iron Worx Media, to pull together a series of photos capturing my writing journey, overlaid with an audio recording. I got some great feedback on the video during the campaign and now it lives on my author website.

Follow through

The campaign turned out to be a very effective commitment device. I had 103 people expecting to receive copies of my novel before the end of the year! The campaign also provided me with the funds to move forward with two rounds of professional editing to polish up my novel. I had the opportunity to work with The Book Smugglers on development editing and with Lystra Literary Services on content editing. I was able to work with the very talented Jen Rhoton on the cover design. And I’ve now published the novel on lulu.com, my favorite print-on-demand publishing company.

The result was a beautiful product I have now been able to share with all of my crowdfunding campaign supporters. Last weekend, I autographed almost 200 copies of my first and second novel, over a long weekend, in the middle of a snow storm. I’ve started to see posts on social media from delighted fans and friends who have now received their long-awaited rewards. I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Jessica Yinka Thomas

Like many superheroes Jessica Yinka Thomas leads a double life. By day, she teaches social innovation and sustainable business at the Poole College of Management at NC State University. By night, she is a social justice novelist, author of the How Not to Save the World series. Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures.

Jessica’s iFundWomen campaign: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/how-not-to-make-friends

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicayinkathomas/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jyinkathomas/

Website: www.jessicayinkathomas.com

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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