What To Do When You’re Lost With Your Writing

If you feel lost with your writing, know you’re not alone. It absolutely sucks to have a pile of half finished works laugh at your face. The scribbled sentences start to taunt you and the blank pages stare back with contempt.

Or maybe you are just starting out and you are paralyzed with indecision, afraid to start.

But the truth is, no writer on the planet has everything figured out, even if they act like they do (especially online).

Fear plays a very large role in the writing process.

Stories change as you write them. No writer writes the book they first envision in their head. It is common for your interests to change in a blink of an eye—especially if you spend too much time online. (Here are two simple ways to spend more time writing instead of spinning your wheels.)

The best writing advice in the world is really simple: just write.

But please allow me to elaborate—you have to be willing to suck. Even when every part of you wants to stop. Even when you start to hate every word you’ve written, you have to finish.

The perfectionist inside your head is your worst enemy. (Click to Tweet)

You do not really know until you finish something if a piece is good or not. But the inner critic acts as if you know how the puzzle looks before it is actually finished.

Ignore the inner critic and keep your head down. Put words on the page.

Don’t forget that 99.999% of all rough drafts absolutely suck. They do. Rewriting is what makes your stories shine. But no editor can help you with a story that is not finished. Complete the rough draft. You will make it better.

Clarity only comes with hard work. You must put in the work. There is no substitute. This could mean spending 8 hours on a blog post that gets no traction. Spending a month on a short story that is mediocre. Or even spending a year or two on a novel that never comes close to a best seller list.

Pull a page out of the pile and just finish the story.

You’ve got this. Just keep writing. Whatever you do, keep writing.

Need more help? I can help you by offering you practical, useful ways to finish your work and grow as a writer.

How To Find The Best Writing Tool For You

 

As writers, we want the best possible writing tool that allows us to put more words on the page and to create great work. I can’t speak for you, so I’m going to share my journey and list some of the pros and cons of the tools I’ve tried.

No matter what tool you choose, it must be a good fit for you. Kinda like how some people like skinny jeans and some people like MC Hammer pants, right.

1. A Writing Only Computer.

I’ve experimented off and on with the idea of having a “writing only” computer. This approach can work, for sure. My biggest problem is you likely have to be online to download updates and to save your work to the cloud. (This means the temptation is always there to do some research when you’re not sure about something or to hop on Twitter, Facebook or other social media). Yes, you can block those things, so it is really a writing only computer, but that is a bit of a pain.

You’re also limited by technology. If you have a desktop, you’re stuck writing in that one specific place. If you have an older laptop, you’re limited by the battery life of your computer. A writing only laptop computer plus a regular laptop computer is just a lot to carry.

My conclusion: This approach can work, but often you are limited by technology and location or battery life (or lack there of).

2. An Old-fashioned Typewriter

Looks pretty cool, doesn’t it? (And yes, it smells kind of musty.) I thought there was something really cool about having the same tool used by some of the all-time greats. But I soon realized that you have to hit the keys really, really hard for the ink to be dark enough on the page. The keys are also really high, so you have to push down each key several inches for the typewriter to work. At that point, mistakes are pretty much guaranteed. And when you make a mistake, you’re pretty much out of luck.

My conclusion: A typewriter is cool but more so in a historical way than for use as a writing tool today.

3. Paper Notebooks.

Even more old school than a typewriter is writing on actual paper with a pen or pencil. I know this works for Quentin Tarantino and many other writers. This method can absolutely work if you make it clear that one specific notebook is only for one project. I’ve made the silly mistake of buying a bunch of black composition notebooks and then I just confuse myself.

My conclusion: This can work well for someone with a lot of discipline. For me, I like to use notebooks for taking notes or jotting down ideas more than for writing.

4. The Best of Both Worlds.  

About a year ago, I came across something interesting that completely changed how I write. The AlphaSmart NEO. It looks like this.

 

What’s the AlphaSmart NEO? It’s a portable writing device that has a full keyboard and runs on three AA batteries. It’s only about a pound and a half in weight. This device is built like a tank. Best of all, there is an option to make the font bigger. When I use that option, my need to self-edit as I write goes out the window.

So what do you do when you’re done with some of your writing? I’m glad you asked. You just hook up a USB printer cable and export the text from the NEO to your word processor of choice. Most of the time, I move it over to Scrivener. (Once in Scrivener, then I can move the text around and organize it, however, I’d like.) I’ve used this approach extensively in my first novel.

You can pick up an AlphaSmart NEO on Amazon here for between 20-30 dollars. There is even a newer version available here that allows you to print directly from the NEO. (I assume an older printer would be required for this.)The USB/printer cable is available for three dollars here.

There is even an active Alphasmart community on Flickr. For me, the AlphaSmart is the ultimate writing tool. I love it so much I’ve even bought a spare just in case something happens to my original one.

While I know the AlphaSmart isn’t the right tool for everyone, you can use this approach to find the right writing tool for you. Don’t worry about being committed to a tool forever; just try a new tool for a week (or even the length of one project). I know I get more writing done when I’m not tempted by an internet browser or multiple applications.

If what you have is working well for you right now–if you are consistently putting words on the page–don’t change a thing. If you’re stuck and feeling distracted or find yourself procrastinating, a new tool can help you get back into a writing groove.

 

What do you use to write? Please share in the comments.

 

 

 

Note: some of the links found in this post are affiliate links.

5 Things To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

It’s not your fault.

There are days where you’ll want to just watch cat videos and Netflix instead of writing.

Feeling this way is completely normal.

Every single writer on the planet feels like this at times.

So what can you do about it? (I highly recommend not throwing your computer, even if you want to.)

1. Talk it out.

There are many voice dictation software apps you can use. One of the best is Dragon Dictation (free for iOS and Android). Is it perfect? No, it’s not. But it can be handy. I wrote a good portion of this book using this approach. It definitely works. So if you’ve got a commute, instead of listening to music, now you can listen to the sound of your own sweet voice fill the page.

If you have a Mac, there is a built-in voice to text feature.

Just go to System Preferences and click the Dictation & Speech option. (The OS here is El Capitan)

 

Then make sure it is set up like this.

 

Next, open your word processor and hit the Fn key twice. A little microphone should pop up and then…

Pretty awesome, right? To insert a period, just say, “period.” Give it a shot.

2. Hit the road.

A change of scenery can do wonders. Instead of working at your desk, go to the coffee shop. Go to the library. If the weather is nice, write outdoors. You need that vitamin D! This will also give you a mental energy boost. And it’s better for you than that 10th cup of coffee.

Writers–myself included–often spend too much time alone. You have to interact with other people in REAL life, not just the ones in your head.

If you’d like you can consider this permission to listen in to any conversations you hear. This is a great way to become better at writing dialogue.

3. Write anyways.

This is what separates the real writers from the amateurs. Maybe you feel you have nothing to say. In most of those cases, it is really just fear and you need to get your thoughts down on paper. Have an “inspiration file” or Spark File filled with prompts and ideas. Copy out a chapter or two of a book that you admire. There are a million ways to get the creative ball rolling.

Even just a few words on the page is better than nothing. Morning pages by Julia Cameron is a great way to get into the “write anyways” habit.

 

4. Watch a movie.

You have to be careful with this one, or you’ll find yourself spending hours on Netflix. Some writers are more visual, so watching a movie can be a good way to get the creative juices flowing. Here’s the catch: If you’re going to do this, you’ve GOT TO TAKE NOTES.

No mindless vegging on the couch. You must stay engaged and keep your mind moving, okay?

5. Listen to music.

There’s something incredible about music that can move you in ways that even words can’t express. Since creativity often leads to more creativity, why not give your favorite record a spin? It’s a simple way to find some inspiration.

But here’s the VERY BEST way…

In my experience, the BEST way to write when you don’t feel like it is to have some accountability.

Let’s face it–when you set a deadline, and there is no consequence for breaking it, you are much more likely to let the deadline slip.

This nasty habit completely destroys your confidence.

Soon you start to wonder if you can ever finish anything.

When you have rock-solid support and accountability, you suddenly have extra momentum around your writing.

To help with this, I offer my coaching services. But what is coaching, really? Is there a secret cheer, chant or handshake? Nope. None of those. I simply give you insight, feedback and steps you can take to keep moving forward. For example, I’ve been sending 5-minute writing assignments to one client and the results have been fantastic. Five minutes of writing is much, much better than zero minutes!

My coaching has one goal: to help you get words on the page so you can finish your writing project(s).

Do you have any tips for what you do when you don’t feel like writing? I’d love to hear them. Please share in the comments below.

 

30 Ways Netflix Binge Watching Makes You A Better Writer

You do it and the next morning you hang your head in shame. Your gut is filled with soul-crushing guilt. Next come the voices. Those darn voices that methodically rip apart your skills as a writer.

You just spent an entire evening binge watching on Netflix.

It’s all right. Just let go of the guilt. Believe it or not, you can take your all night streaming session and use it to make you into a better writer.

There is a really odd stigma that to be a writer you must only read books. But this isn’t true.

Storytellers learn from stories—plain and simple.

Here are some practical ways you can use your Netflix sessions to turn you into a better writer:

1. Analyze how stories are crafted.

Where is the conflict introduced, what is it? How is the conflict resolved? Wanna know more about story structure? Get this free ebook from Donald Miller or pick up the amazing book called Do The Work by Steven Pressfield.

2. Make your writing flow.

This means looking at each episode, each season and the overall series. If it is a movie, look at how the scenes go together. Then compare this to your writing. Does your writing (in your book or even your blog) actually flow together or are you all over the place? This is not to say you don’t have some creative freedom, but you must be sure your writing covers specific themes and has good flow throughout. Or you won’t have an audience.

3. Get better with dialogue.

You know good dialogue when you hear it. Bad dialogue is a lot like a Nickelback tune–it makes your ears hit the brakes. But yet writing good dialogue is often one of the biggest struggles for beginning writers. When you hear a great speech or an interesting conversation, take some notes. What was said? Why was it believable? How did it make you feel?

4. Improve character development.

When characters don’t face enough conflict, the audience is bored. A character must be continually growing and moving in a specific direction. Take a look at Walter White at the beginning of Breaking Bad and then compare it to Walter White at the end of the series. What choices led this character to be where he/she is now? 

5. Get ideas for characters in your stories.

When you need a working housewife on the verge of a breakdown, you could base your character on Skyler White. If you need a male protagonist who is extremely unsatisfied with the status quo, a character that is a spin-off of Tyler Durden could be a good fit.

6. Keep research entertaining.

Watching documentaries or interviews is better than browsing through a bunch of tabs or sorting through a big stack of books, right?

7. Stay relevant and connected with the audience. 

Almost every long-term show or movie franchise has a “jump the shark” moment. This is the moment where the believability of the story goes out the window. How did this happen? What lead to it? How can it be avoided? Does this happen at some point in your book or on your blog?

8. Create a new ending.

If the main character dies, ask what happens if the protagonist is alive? What happens if Tony Montana lives? Change things up completely and write it out. If you don’t want to change the ending, change the beginning or middle. Have fun with it. You can find a more in-depth spin on this approach here.

9. Fix the plot holes.

Take a movie with plot holes and fix it. This will allow you to flex new creative muscles you never knew existed. For a challenge, try applying this to the movie Dark Knight Rises. If you can fix the canyons in that movie, you can likely fix anything.

10. Implement the stories into your own blog.

Stories connect us like nothing else. Use a story from a movie or show to illustrate a point you are making on your own site. Don’t use a horror movie example to illustrate something about fear, that’s just lazy. Dig deeper than that. Find a way to thread together stories that on the surface do not seem related and it will be interesting for the reader.

11. Figure out why specifically you’re crying.

It’s okay. No shame in bawling like a baby when you watch Bambi or why you are smiling like a kid when Rocky triumphantly runs up the stairs. Figure out why you feel any emotions at all; why you’re nervous, excited or bored.

12. Dig deeper with your favorite characters.

What drives your favorite characters? Why do you connect with them? Are there common threads with these characters? There is a common thread there. And many times your favorite characters have a lot in common with what you write about. Even if you write non-fiction, your writing is likely heavily influenced by the characters in your favorite movies and shows.

13. Fuel yourself with good ideas.

For anyone who is a visual learner, watching film is as important as reading (if not more so). All writing starts with an idea. When you combine several together, then what you create will be even more original.

14. Do something no one else is doing.

Stay engaged while you watch and keep thinking as much as possible. Ask lots of questions. Approximately 99% of viewers completely unplug their brain while watching. Take notes and analyze what you watch. Whether you want to write a screenplay, book or a blog post, you have to think like a writer.

You’re a writer all the time, not just when you put words on the page. (<-Click to Tweet)

15. Build better hooks.

Your goal as a writer is to keep eyeballs on your content and leave the audience wanting more. Reverse engineer the shows that keep you wanting more. Then apply it to your writing.

16. Find new readers.

Talking with other fans of a movie or show can easily lead to new relationships. Go to fan forums and other places online where you can interact with others who love the same content you do.

17. Be more entertaining.

As a writer, you must be entertaining. Your writing is competing for attention. Figure out what it is that the shows are doing that entertains you and takes you to another world. What it is you enjoy the most about a great show or movie.

18. Watch the show or movie, then read the book.

Do you agree or disagree with how the story is told on paper? What would you change? How would you improve it? Write that down.

19. Keep your readers engaged

When you’re bored with a movie or show, figure out why that is the case. Too formulaic? Not enough conflict, etc. Maybe it is not realistic or it feels like there is no point to it. All of these challenges can be applied to your own content. Ask for help from your writing partner or editor if you struggle with this. If you are not sure how to find one, contact me. I promise to point you in the right direction.

20. Get more web traffic.

Use movie references and titles in headlines to grab attention. Try this with some of the upcoming blockbuster summer movies and watch your traffic surge.

21. Cleanse your palette.

Watch one show quick and fast. You’re wasting valuable mental energy when you watch 20 shows at once–whether you realize it or not.

22. Light a fire under your butt.

Maybe you need to quit your blog. If your blog is stale, watching a great movie or TV show can help get the creative juices flowing.

23. Recharge your batteries.

Mental energy is the most important thing you have as a writer. If you try to do too much mental energy work, you will burn yourself out. Here is a helpful book that will help you with this topic.

24. Get in touch with your ideal reader.

Ask your readers what their favorite shows/movies are. Then watch to connect more. Mention those shows and movies on your blog to engage in conversation about them. Not sure who your ideal reader is? This video is very helpful.

25. Sometimes procrastination is good.

If you keep watching instead of writing, maybe you’re not writing about the right topic. In those situations, your heart is telling you something that your head hasn’t quite figured out yet. Here is more info about the benefits of procrastination.

26. Get better with marketing.

Ads, teasers and trailers are great ways to help you improve your skills with marketing. Telling stories in very limited amount of time is a very important skill. What ads keep your attention? Which do you totally tune out?

27. Open your mind. 

This is a great way to learn more about opposing viewpoints, how people think, different characters and topics. Keeping your mind open ensures you can keep your content fresh.

28. All work and no play make you a dull writer.

Reward yourself with some screen time after writing. Make your favorite show or movie the dangling carrot in front of you.

29. You’re still learning from writing.

Writers are the ones who make shows and movies, so you can always pick up the screenplays or books if you’d like. Most of these writers are online too, so with a simple Google search you can likely find interviews and more.

30. Form an opinion.

Use your viewing time to figure out what you like and dislike. Readers ignore writers without opinions. Form an opinion and then let it be known to the world.

So Here’s Your Plan…

You have to be intentional with your viewing to actually make this work. Plan ahead and have a ¨Netflix night.¨ Develop good habits. Don’t just play it by ear or go with your emotions. If you keep watching Netflix instead of writing altogether, reassess and figure out what the problem is. Maybe you’re afraid. Fear is often the elephant in the room. Perhaps you are avoiding the hard work and honestly, you are just being lazy. The best way to deal with this is to write first.

Repeat with me: Writing first, Netflix later.

Don’t hesitate–just write. Know that most of it will be very rough in the early stages. This is completely normal. Good things take time; more time than you think they will. Happy writing (and watching).

Want some hands-on attention to improve your writing? I offer a service that will make you a better writer TODAY. Just fire me an email and let’s chat. Talk to you soon! 

5 Reasons Why Writing A Book Will Change Your Life Forever

So you want to write a book. I’ve been there. It is a great feeling, but it is also really scary. You’re unsure how it will happen. You’re already busy and overwhelmed, right?

For years, I wrote blog posts and had ideas for a book but couldn’t finish a book. The truth is I wasn’t sure how to write a book. There is A LOT of conflicting advice out there and honestly, the thought of doing it all was flat out overwhelming.

But what if there was someone to take you through the process and show you how to do things every step of the way? Suddenly writing a book isn’t so hard, is it? With some help, your confidence will soar, and you will know that you CAN (and will) write a book.

If this is you, sign up now for Write Publish Share. 

Make the commitment to becoming an author!

Maybe you’re not convinced. Maybe you just think you don’t have time to write a book. (Actually, you really do.) What are some reasons you should you write a book?

1. Writing a Book Helps Spread a message.

Nothing on the planet spreads a message like a book. Sure, you could argue for doing a video instead, but videos have scripts, so you have to plot out your idea anyways. Anyone can craft a great book because the costs are very low; the only true costs are your time, an editor and cover designer. With video, the costs are much, much more.

2. Move Past Your Fears.

Writing a book is challenging and requires effort. Four out of five people say they have a book in them, but very few people write a book. Going through the book writing process will cause you to grow in leaps and bounds.

Want to do something remarkable that helps you stand out? Then you have to do what other people are not doing.

You know you want more than the status quo.

It may sound crazy to some, but you know you want to change the world in some way, right?

3. Find New Career Opportunities.

When I wrote my first book, I was able to make new connections which quickly led to new opportunities. Start passing out your book at conferences and networking events and you WILL get a response.  When you write a book, others will look at you as one with experience and knowledge.

Wouldn’t it be nice in your next interview to say, “I’ve written a book about that topic,” instead of “I’ve written several blog posts about that topic,”?  If you were the hiring manager, who would you hire?

4. A Book Will Provide You With Additional Income. 

Writing one book likely won’t allow you to quit your day job altogether, but I was able to make additional payments on my mortgage. I owed over 30K more than my house was worth. My first ebook–combined with a refinancing–allowed me to get from under that debt and sell my house without paying anything but closing costs. Pretty amazing right? In my case, my ebook DID change my future forever.

Seriously, writing a book DID change my life (and future) forever.

While book sales always vary, if you write a really good book, with a great cover, a great title, a great description that shows how it helps customers with a specific need, you will sell some copies of your book.

5. Writing A Book Can Help Launch Your Business.

Writing a book is a great introduction to you and what you are about. It can be as short as a manifesto for free–which if done well can be shared and really make a mark. Jeff Goins made a dent in the blogging world with his Writer’s Manifesto. Dan Miller changed how careers are viewed with his great book 48 Days To The Work You Love. There are many, many more examples. Heck, my two books Ready Aim Fire and Focus Booster launched my writing career.

Once you figure out your core message, a book can help you stand out from the rest. (If you don’t know your core message, I’d be glad to help–just contact me.)

Don’t you think some of the 5-6 million people on Amazon might be interested in your business?

But here’s the thing…don’t wait any longer. Every day you wait, the market gets more crowded and more saturated.

The time to write a book is NOW. To help you with this process and to simplify it, I’m offering the ULTIMATE excuse remover titled Write Publish Share. This course gives you complete access to EVERYTHING you need to write your book. Best of all, in the course there are also exclusive interviews with New York Times Best Seller Jon Acuff, Kelsey Humphreys, Erik Fisher, Blake Atwood and Tam Hodge.

Need a great cover designer or editor? Write Publish Share has recommendations for great ones to fit any budget. Want some personal coaching? Level 2 of Write Publish Share even includes two coaching sessions with the package.

The only thing holding you back from writing a book is likely fear.

Let’s remove fear and uncertainty from the table. Write Publish Share makes the entire book writing process straightforward and simple.

 

Got an idea for something you would like to write about? Please tell me in the comments or even feel free to email me about it if you would prefer not to share your book idea as a comment.

 

Charades with Todd Foley

For today’s post I am thrilled to talk with my friend who is also one of my favorite authors, Todd Foley. He is a fun, super intelligent writer (and editor) who has really been a mentor to me. As I really think about it, I think it was after reading his first novel and having him tell me about self publishing that I decided to travel down this path myself.

Jim: First off, I have to say your latest book Charades really surprised me. I thought I knew what was coming, but I wasn’t close. I’ve been studying story structure a lot lately too. Regardless, I really was surprised. I read the ebook so I wasn’t aware how far into the book I was. Man, you totally got me!

Todd: Thanks Jim! It’s funny, the entire arc came to be all at once around four years ago, including the ending. But as excited as I was to draft that final chapter, I made myself write the rest of the story first. That was my main motivation to keep writing and developing the characters.

 

J: Todd, this is your second book. How was this book different for you than the first?

T: With my first book, Eastbound Sailing, I really wrote it blindly, not knowing where it was going, and I only had the protagonist and three supporting characters to develop. With Charades, I mapped out the whole story and character profiles all in advance but had to develop twice as many characters in half the word count. So it was a great exercise in learning to be concise.

 

J: I found that your book was really easy to read. That made me think of the quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne where he once said that easy reading is damn hard writing. Do you have any idea how many drafts you went through for the book? What did the rewriting process look like for you?

T: Oh man, I live by that quote, because it’s so true! I probably went through at least six drafts of each chapter, and then another three or four of the entire manuscript. I had to make myself wait several days before editing a chapter so that I could be a bit more removed from the text. That helped me say, “Wow, this is great, develop it more.” I also had to say, “Wow, this is terrible, cut it all out” far more times than I would have liked!

 

J: Is there a backstory for how you came up with the title Charades?

T: I’ve always been fascinated by the “lives of others” concept – observing people, watching how they interact with others, and wondering why they do what they do. Also, having grown up in a small town and worked in customer service, I love the interaction that comes with the “regular” customers. So that setting and theme came together, and I ended up with Charades as a fitting title.

 

J: What would you say for someone who is writing their first novel?

T: Read a lot and watch a lot of films and TV shows. Learn by consuming, allow yourself to be influenced, and then slowly discover your own voice.

 

J: Finishing a book is really, really hard. And I find it is even harder with fiction vs. nonfiction. How do you know when you’ve crossed the finish line?

T: That’s a really tough question to answer, because there’s always more that can be added. Stories really are just “snapshots” of a larger narrative that lives on beyond the pages. I’m a huge fan of ambiguous endings, so that inclination helped me make peace with how I finished this book.

 

J: A while ago you told me I had to read Requiem By A Dream by Hubert Selby Jr. The book not only wrecked me but also changed how I view all fiction really. Has that book stuck with you like it has me?

T: That book was a real game changer for me. I don’t think I had ever cried while reading, and I haven’t again since. What really got me is how Selby literally broke every single rule and convention – no quote marks, commas, attributions or paragraphs – but it was without a doubt the most visceral, physical reading experience I’d ever had. He really created a sense of chaos which brought the horrific subject matter to life.

 

J: Do you have any other books you highly recommend?

T: I’ve become a fan of more transgressive fiction – Less Than Zero, Requiem For A Dream, A Clockwork Orange, We Need To Talk About Kevin. But I also love commercial thrillers. J.K. Rowling’s crime series she wrote under a pseudonym – The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm – were delicious page-turners.

 

J: Any must-haves for you when you write?

T: Access to a power outlet in case the laptop battery is running low! Nothing like losing power when you’re on a good streak.

 

J: Lastly, it’s confession time. Do you have any writing quirks? It’s okay. You’re among friends here. Tell the truth.

T: I’d like to say something hip like writing with a craft beer in hand or at a cool urban cafe while listening to an indie playlist, but honestly I love sitting on the couch in my sweats next to a salty snack and in front my Netflix cue. I’m equally inspired to write while watching House Of Cards and Bloodline as I am with Gilmore Girls and Friends. I like to balance the grim with some grins. And yes, I am fully aware of that awful pun! All of those shows make me feel something, which is my ultimate goal as a writer.

A special thanks to Todd for sharing his thoughts. I highly recommend you pick up his new book Charades. You can pick up a copy on Amazon by clicking right here. If you’d like to connect with Todd (you should!) he’s @tiddy1234 on Twitter.

CharadesbyToddFoley

7 Ways To Write Faster TODAY

I have a confession to make. I have a friend who writes super fast. He writes about 10,000 words per day. Writing is like breathing to him. And I only crank out a few thousand words on most days. While writing is not a competition, I decided to try some different approaches to squeeze out more words on the page.

Here are seven ways to write faster starting today:

1. Use Dictation Software

You talk faster than you write. Use this to your advantage. I have used Dragon Dictation which is a free app for IOS. Keep in mind that not all dictation software is great. Some of it even sucks. But you don’t know until you try it out. If you are stuck, this is an absolute no-brainer to help you get unstuck.

2. Have a Writing Partner

This doesn’t have to be complicated—just set up a Google Doc with your word count on it each day and have a friend put their word count on it as well. This friendly competition pushes you to write more and also to write every day. A writers mastermind would be another way to go. (If you are interested in this, fire me an email and let’s chat.)

3. Have Some Ideas to Use (before you start)

Buy a cheap paper notebook and fill it with just phrases and ideas. Should you get stuck, just flip through it. Before you start writing, turn to it. Want to jump start your mind with some blog post ideas? You know where to go don’t you. If you don’t have a good idea to start with in the first place, you’re trying to have a baby when you’re not pregnant.

4. Embrace Technology-induced Shortcuts

99% of the time, I cannot spell entrepreneur right and it always slows me down. Whatever you are writing about, you can use an app like atext for Mac or PhraseExpress for PC to save you time. Then you can type in the phrase “ent” and the app places the word “entrepreneur” on the screen. Every bit of mental energy you save adds up. Use that energy wisely and you’ll have more words in your manuscript or blog post.

5. Work From a Template

All writing can work from a template. Don’t believe me? Think about it—books, blog posts, even screenplays have a formula.  In most cases, it is a three-act structure with a beginning (intro or lede), middle and then an end (call to action). If you don’t have a template, you will be wasting time—which leads to less words on the page. 

Here is a video about this topic and a summary of what to include in a blog post:

  • Write the headline first. If it is not enticing and interesting, no one will read your work.
  • Have a great first paragraph. This helps move the reader down the page.
  • Feature an interesting image. This can be difficult. I recommend this source if you are stuck.
  • Make the post easy to read. No one wants to read cluttered, confusing text.
  • Include some kind of story. Stories are the most powerful communication tool in the world.

6. Have a Writing-only Account on your computer.

Just go into account settings and create a new account “writing.” Then hide (or even delete) everything that is not writing. You can even enable settings like parental controls so you can’t get on the internet. Do whatever it takes to get more writing done without distraction. No chance of drifting over to Twitter when you don’t have a web browser. The only apps in my dock are Calendar, iTunes, Word and Scrivener.

7. Leave Yourself Breadcrumbs. 

You are likely working on SEVERAL projects, not just one. So leave yourself a simple way to pick up where you left off. This could be as simple as highlighting your last sentence, using a sticky note in your notebook, or even using a symbol or comment in your writing app to tell you what you have to do next. Earnest Hemingway would stop his writing mid-sentence so he knew where to pick up the next morning. Whatever you do, make sure you have a good place to pick up or you’ll waste valuable time and energy trying to just figure out where to start again.

Bonus tip: Get a cowriter. 

Two writing friends of mine Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt have this down to a science and used this approach to crank out over 5 million words in 2015. While this may not work for everyone, for those who decide to do it, this can be an invaluable step. When you find someone who just clicks with you, you’ll find yourself firing on all cylinders. You focus on your strengths, and your co-writer focuses on their strengths. Isn’t this the goal? With the right fit, you can turn into a well-oiled writing machine.

 

Which approach are you going to try? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

5 Marketing Ingredients That Make You A Better Writer

You push the publish button and you wait for it.

Wait for it.

Crickets.

Your audience isn’t growing; even your current audience is not very engaged with you.

But here’s the good news–in most cases, the problem is not your lack of writing talent.

The truth is you’re not just a writer. You’re also a marketer.

Most writers hate marketing and often view it as the younger brother of the aggressive sale (which is often done by a guy in an ugly plaid sport coat).

But that’s just one style of marketing.

You don’t have to do that.

Let’s say you sit down and watch Gigli, Glitter and Batman and Robin ( you know the one with Ah-nold as Mr. Freeze) all in a row.

First off, I’m sorry for you. Suddenly, you are talking about how much you hate movies, right?

You may even say, “I hate movies.”

But the real problem is you were watching bad movies.

You have a bad taste in your mouth from the negative experience, because, well, you’re human.

The same concept applies to marketing, but don’t let the bad examples discourage you.

Marketing is not optional. If you don’t like marketing, the problem is you have not found the right approach for you.

Whether you write books, blog posts, articles or social media updates you must be a good marketer to get the reader’s attention.

Marketing is the blood in your veins as a writer. It is that important.

So how can you apply this to your current writing?

Here are five essential elements of great marketing:

1. Be honest, authentic and sincere.

The world is full of highlight reels being presented as real life. Don’t add to that. Be human. Please allow me to give a shout out to my friend Sarah Mae. Both are just fantastic examples of this. In some ways, Sarah is my original marketing mentor. (See example here of how smart and real she is.)

2. Tell stories and invite people in. 

Good stories are extremely powerful. Do not ever overlook this. Good stories have a specific structure too. Don’t hesitate to get an editor to ensure your story is engaging. Outside perspective allows you to see things you normally don’t see on your own.

3. Focus on helping others.

Treat people like people. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sale–especially when you know what you have can help. Good marketing does not manipulate people. I’ll repeat that because it is so important: good marketing does not manipulate people. Instead, it serves people.

4. Clarity is absolutely essential. 

With the many choices out there, you have to make it very clear what it is you are about and what you stand for. Otherwise, people will get confused. So if you are writing a book, if it isn’t clear what the book is about, it will not sell. If you write a blog and it is all over the place topic wise, people won’t read it.

5. Be willing to be weird. 

Don’t think in terms of comparing yourself to others. Break all of the rules and do something others view as odd. Do something unique that no one else is doing. Being a copycat accomplishes nothing. In 2015, you must be willing to differentiate yourself from everyone else. You also must embrace failure as a part of the process. It will happen. But don’t view it as failure–you can call it the refining process. The more you fail, the more you win. A scientist doesn’t stop after one try–he keeps experimenting. Never stop innovating. You are much more creative than you think you are.

Lastly, write about something that is bigger than you or it will not spread. 

Marketing is NOT about self-promotion. Whatever you write about, it must connect with the reader. If you write fiction, it must keep the reader entertained and be enjoyable; take the reader on an adventure. Writing is not a selfish act. If you say you write only for yourself, that’s called journaling which is great, but very different than writing for an audience.

Write for a reason: to give hope, to inspire, to make others laugh or to entertain, etc. Figure out what your purpose for writing is and focus in on it. This will help make you a better writer and marketer too.

If you feel stuck with where you are as a writer or marketer, fire me an email or leave a comment below. Let’s chat about it so you can find clarity and form a plan.

You Probably Should Not Be Reading This.

Photo by Eugene Zemlyanskiy

Still reading huh? I see how it is.

Well, this is part of the problem. When you have a piece of interesting content nearby, you consume it.

You may even keep track of how many books you’re reading — you’ve got a certain goal you want to read this year.

You may even read a book (or more) a week. Or maybe you read countless blog posts.

It’s great that you love reading.

But if you are plowing through a lot of content at a rapid pace, you can’t really reflect on it or apply it to any part of your life can you?

In some cases, you may actually learn something.

But in most cases, you just get a slight variation on something you already know. Or maybe it goes in one ear and out the other.

This is especially the case with nonfiction.

Have you read ________ book? It’s great.

So you pick up the book.

Instead of doing your own work, you spend time consuming content.

The cycle continues.

Now I know my credibility is questionable at best and I am somewhat a hypocrite stating this as a nonfiction author myself. Heck, even writing this post makes me somewhat hypocritical. Just hear me out.

But not all content is created equal. Some books are absolutely filled with fluff. Some books are essentially blog post and then a hundred pages of padding. Some books are great. Some blog posts are great.

But don’t rationalize what you know is really procrastination as learning.

For the past three months, I’ve been on a nonfiction break.

This break has resulted in many great benefits:

  • I’m more creative.
  • I’m not remotely worried about what other people are doing.
  • My confidence has increased in shaping my own path.

And it feels very refreshing.

A friend of mine only reads books that are not popular. I love this approach, but even too much of that is a bad thing.

When you fill yourself with the same things everyone else is consuming, you will never reach your creative potential.

When you go to the buffet, you fill up your plate and probably even go back for seconds. Just keep filling the plate. Dessert? Sure, why not.

Afterwards you feel bloated and tired, right? You ate too much.

You can apply this concept toward the content you consume.

This is not to say stop reading altogether.

Or maybe you need to.

You have to be completely honest with yourself.

This means asking some really tough questions.

  • Are you really procrastinating?
  • Are you a content curator or a content creator?
  • Are you reading books about leadership instead of actually leading?

I don’t know about you, but it’s time to quit reading (or talking) about the work and start doing the work. It’s time to call out procrastination and not rationalize it away.

Don’t Worry About Platform. (Focus On THIS Instead.)

Over the last few years, there has been an unhealthy obsession with platform building.

No matter if you are big or small, it seems like everyone assumes that “you need a platform” or that you need “to grow your platform.”

But the truth is you don’t.

Not at all.

You don’t need your own self-hosted website.

You don’t need to be on Twitter or Facebook or whatever other social media platform, either.

You just have to create work that is either remarkable or great. (Preferably both.)

Good work won’t cut it.

And let’s face it—this is where the REAL pressure lies.

Ever heard of Sturgeon’s Law? It applies here.

Author and critic Theodore Sturgeon stated “90 percent of everything is crap.”

Sounds harsh, I know.

Not saying it is completely (or always) true, but let’s face it–we are flooded with content and information.

And most of it isn’t worth your time, right?

Use Sturgeon’s Law to your advantage.

Here’s how you can apply this concept to your own work.

If you want to create something great, 90% of the time it won’t happen on a whim.

90% of the time finishing something will take you much, much longer than you think it will.

So go ahead and be picky. Develop your sense of taste and be really, really honest with yourself.

Platforms don’t really come into the equation here, do they.

If anything, most of the time, platform building is a serious distraction (if not the number one distraction) from doing REAL work.

Focusing on platform before creating great work is the same as putting the cart before the horse.

Seriously, what matters is that you create great, remarkable work.

People will take notice, I promise.

Create more great work. And then more. And more.

This isn’t about building a Wizard of Oz-like platform filled with slick website plugins, amazing popups that convert, and demonstrating your social media prowess.

The person with the slickest website and the most Twitter followers doesn’t win.

Rather, it’s about shipping your work. And failing. And experimenting. And building again. And tweaking. And shipping more work.

When you create great work, you can share it however you’d like.

Great, remarkable work opens many different doors.

There are over a BILLION websites out there. Do you really think that you only have ONE approach for how you share your work with others?

It’s time to get creative. It’s time to move forward instead of copying what everyone else is doing.

Marketing strategy for a product is not something you cut and paste. (And neither is creativity for that matter.)

There is no perfect formula for everyone, despite what some say.

Pay attention to who is actually creating great work and support it.

Ignore those who spend the majority of their time talking about work.

Anything you do online can likely be justified as “platform building” but it is really just procrastination.

Talk is cheap. Hustling like crazy costs you something.

So what are you going to do?

There are three words that are a good indicator if you are on the right track.

Three simple words that separate the wannabes from the veterans.

“Real artists ship.” Steve Jobs

How do you feel about platform building? Is it a distraction from doing real work or a valuable tool that helps you? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.