Two mindsets collide: Writing vs Marketing

… and it’s Monday again. For some reason, I feel like Monday is everywhere nowadays. The weeks go by so fast it’s almost as if every other day is a Monday… and I don’t like it. Usually, my Monday routine is to sit down and plan my goals for the week. It’s always good to have an overview of your expectations and such, but it becomes a bit depressing when you’re not really meeting those expectations and you have to push some of them into the following week.

I have no idea what is doing this. Is it the weather? My overall mood? Something is killing my flow. Or at least, my writing flow. I’m still making one video per week for my channel, so at least I’m consistent there. I have talked before about my struggles when it comes to balancing marketing and writing, and I have to admit, it feels as though it’s only getting harder.

The funny thing is, I know I’m not alone in this, and that makes me all the more worried. I’ve seen other writers struggle with making Youtube and other social media secondary to their writing. I know this struggle, I feel it every day. It’s because you need to balance two very different mindsets and try to control your aptitude for them on any given hour of the day. If that sounds exhausting, it’s because it is.

The writing mindset is solitary, focused and creative, with emphasis on the word solitary. You, your imagination and your words are the only things that matter. The marketing/social media mindset is the opposite. That’s when you need to be outgoing, accessible, open-minded, the key word here being outgoing. That’s usually a lot more difficult for an introvert, and therefore requires more energy.

This is where we have the issue. I spend far too much energy on the marketing side of things, so much so that I barely have any left for my writing. I think I need to re-evaluate some of my time management this week. I will do a little experiment and focus on my writing – blogging and other social media like Instagram will be given little to no attention. The only exception is Youtube. I will still upload a video but that will basically be all the marketing I do this week.

So, we’ll see how this goes! Wish me luck!

Cheers everyone & have a great week!

Lost in Nanowrimo Land

Don’t get me wrong – I love the online writing community. I don’t think I’d be where I am today in my manuscript without it. It’s been a tremendous help, both in support and advice, and I’ve connected with some really lovely people.

But…

There’s something in the culture of the community that tends to get really obsessive sometimes. Especially now – it’s November, meaning Nanowrimo, short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal for anyone that participates is to write 50k words in the month of November, usually as a first draft for a novel. It’s a challenge, so to speak.

I’m generally on board with this premise. I’m not participating, but I can understand the appeal and why people would want to give it a try. What I find a little frustrating though is the insane hype about this all around social media. No matter where you look – on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube or even Facebook of all places, nothing else is discussed but Nanowrimo.

With the added hype of October, called Preptober (well isn’t that clever), that means two whole months where the online writing community is at a full stop on all things not related to Nano. I usually try to be a positive person, but I can’t help but being a little disappointed at this. The new thing is also about not making the writing process a solitary experience, now it’s all about live streaming writing sprints (?) and being part of a team to help “win” Nanowrimo. Not participating in this has become synonymous with being an outsider in a community supposedly full of introverts. It’s madness, truthfully.

I mean sure, if you’re into that then good for you. I just find it really strange, but that’s just my opinion. I’m going to continue working on editing my manuscript and hope that the obsessiveness goes down a bit in a couple of weeks.

The clues and crumbs that make up a satisfactory mid-point climax

I’ve taken a little break over the last few days from blogging and social media in general. I’m at a place in my manuscript that has given me a lot of grief recently; my mid-point. This might not be a big deal to all writers, it depends on the story. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but my story in particular, has a pretty important mid-point.

There are stories that have a slow build-up to the climax at the end, and then there are stories that have like a “lesser” climax in the middle. I’m quite fond of both versions. Like I said, it depends on the story. As a writer, no matter the path we choose there’s pressure in one way or another to get it just right.

Personally, I like stories that leave little breadcrumbs for the reader. Sometimes, these crumbs are noticeable and help the reader figure out part of the mystery before the great reveal, but other times, the crumbs are completely invisible if you don’t already know what they mean and where they lead.

Growing up, I loved reading the Harry Potter books. I read and re-read them as often as I could, and every time, I found new things that I hadn’t noticed before. It could be a tiny detail that didn’t really make much of a difference, but the fact that it was there made me feel like I was experiencing the story in a new way. J.K. Rowling is a master at crafting breadcrumbs. Everything is connected, and even if it doesn’t appear that way at first, you can find the connection several books later.

So how did I get from mid-points to… well, here? I suppose it’s because I try to learn from Rowlings’ expertise on this subject, and apply it to my own writing to the best of my ability. That is why I think the mid-point is so important – because that is where the clues will lead (as well as the end, of course, but we’ll get to that later). There’s a fine line between making it too obvious and making it too… out of nowhere. As writers, we shouldn’t underestimate nor overestimate the reader. I suppose the only way to learn this is by experience, by letting other people read our work and get feedback.

Naturally, every single chapter of a novel is important in its own way. If it’s not, then it shouldn’t be there. But I think the three most important ones are the beginning, the middle and the end. Writing these always brings some added pressure, because for some reason, long after we’re done reading, we tend to remember these the best.

New week, new goals!

It’s seriously troubling how fast the weeks go by. I had planned to have my book ready for beta reads around Christmas time/end of the year, but now I’m a little worried that I won’t be able to reach that goal. I’m still working on my second draft, and I wanted to give myself a third (or even fourth) before starting to look for beta readers. Some chapters are obviously more complicated than others and would, therefore, need a little extra love before the send-off.

Like I’ve said before, I’m that kind of person who likes to worry in advance. Trust me, I am painfully aware of this flaw/quirk/issue of mine. It’s because of this that I have to try and ignore some anxiety-inducing thoughts if I want to be able to do anything at all, instead of just worrying about it in en endless loop of what-ifs.

With that in mind, here’s what I hope to be able to achieve this week:

WRITING: I want to finish editing my mid-point, meaning chapter 13 and 14. It was only one chapter at first, but as I was editing it I realised it was far too cluttered and busy so I decided to split it. I’m already about half-way through chapter 13 so, hopefully, this won’t be too much.

YOUTUBE: I want to prepare, film and edit a video on my comparison between The Ladies’ Paradise – the novel – and The Paradise – the tv series. This will complete my video review of the book that I made last week. I’ve made some really interesting observations that I would like to share. After this however, it’s back to writing vlogs.

OTHER: I will try to stay on top of Instagram updates and some blogging, but I’m not pressuring myself too hard with that this week.

So – those were my goals for this week! It feels like quite a lot, I must say, and I might have to sacrifice some evenings as well. But I know it will be worth it in the end. In my point of view, there’s no greater satisfaction that the feeling of accomplishment.

Have a great Monday everyone!

The bravery and vulnerability of being a writer

Most writers that I talk to all seem to have one thing in common: we’re all incredibly self-conscious of anything that we create. We are our own worst critics, this is a hard truth indeed.

The reason behind this isn’t that we don’t enjoy our stories. We have, after all, crafted them carefully with the intent of them being good. We pour our hearts and souls into our work, and by doing so, it makes us all the more vulnerable. The mere thought of another person reading our work and finding it bad is the most terrifying thought.

Someone once said that it is only when facing our fears that we can truly be brave. I find that this resonates well with the idea of publishing a book. All authors, no matter their level of success, have gone through this act of bravery when publishing their books. And I dare say that all of them, again – no matter their level of success – must have found it utterly terrifying.

We have this intense hope within us that our books will speak to their readers. That we will be able to connect with other people through our stories. This is why we must open ourselves up to vulnerability, because if we don’t, then how are we supposed to achieve this? It’s a great risk for sure. There is no guarantee that success will follow just because you write with your heart and soul.

I haven’t published any books yet, but in my case, making the decision to self-publish was still quite scary. I know which road to take. It’s up to me now to continue down this road, to eventually take that leap of bravery – but without the affirmation of a traditional publisher in my corner. It’s amazing how you can both look forward to something as well as dread it. I suppose only time will tell what happens at the end of it.

What writers can learn from the classics

I recently finished reading The Ladies’ Paradise, written by Émile Zola, first published in 1883. To be fair, I hadn’t heard of this book before so I’m not sure how much of a cult classic it is, but I decided to give it a shot anyway.

I found it interesting, to say the least. There were a lot of issues of course, especially regarding the characters, and I will go through this in more detail in my upcoming review/discussion vlog that I’m filming today. I also had some issues with the pacing and such, but what I’d like to talk about here is that special little je ne sais quoi that this book has.

Firstly, it gives the reader an incredible insight into the inner workings of the 19th century Parisian department store. From a business perspective, it’s very interesting indeed. In a time before computers and digital currency, a business of this scale was like a clockwork of processes all depending on human diligence to function. I was very much intrigued by this.

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I always say that I don’t like it when historical fiction portrays a romanticised picture of the past – which brings me to my next point. As this is a Naturalist work of fiction, it is rather the opposite. The harsh reality of the 1800s is ever-present in this book. Most of the side characters, if not all of them, get unhappy or even tragic endings. The main character goes through some awful circumstances as well such as poverty and starvation. Never, not even once, is this portrayed as something romantic. It’s gritty and gruelling, and I absolutely love it.

Therefore, I find it difficult to say for sure what I thought about this book. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I find that the plot and the characters are the most important elements of any good book – and in this case, it didn’t really have any of that. What it did have though was an amazing setting and some interesting prose (unless it went completely nuts, which happened quite a lot).

All in all, I would say that anyone who’s interested in learning more about the developments of business and capitalism in 1800s Paris will have a fairly nice read, whereas if you want a nice period love story, you might get disappointed. I suppose that’s where my biggest problem was; I went in expecting something entirely different than what I ended up getting.

Monday, lovely Monday

I am determined to get back on track this week. I’ve already made a light start by tackling chapter 11, and hopefully I will finish editing it either today or tomorrow. I’m slightly apprehensive though, because I know what’s waiting around the corner…

The mid-climax.

I had so much trouble here when writing the first draft, it’s the only chapter in the manuscript that still has placeholders – I simply couldn’t figure it out the first time around! That’s usually a clear sign that it needs a lot of work. Perhaps even a complete renovation. We’ll see when I get there though, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Apart from moving along with my chapters, I will also try my best to get another writing vlog out this week. I’m sad that I couldn’t manage to film last week, but I know that the end result would have been terrible, so there was no point in even trying. Goodness, that sounded really bad. What I mean is that it wouldn’t have been entertaining enough for a fruit fly, much less my small yet distinguished audience.

I suppose I should get back to it then, if I actually want to reach my goals. I wish everyone a happy and productive week!

The pressures of impactful dialogue

I had a plan for this week that I don’t think I’ll be able to follow. It was my intent to make a new map for my world – which would include more countries and areas that I’m working on – but I simply can’t find the motivation to work on it. It’s rather frustrating, to be honest. I love maps and I want the map making process to be fun and exciting, not dreary and dull.

I think the reason behind that is because I’m slightly overwhelmed by where I’m currently at in my editing.

I’m on chapter 11 at the moment, still second draft. It’s getting harder though. I’ve been having some trouble creating impactful dialogue – the kind that really shows a character’s personality, gives hints of their weaknesses and strengths. This is especially important in some scenes, where something significant happens… for example… when a character meets a love interest for the first time.

It’s interesting how an entire novel can feel too short for what you want to say. It simply can’t go on forever if you want the end product to be good and keep the readers’ interest. Therefore, moments like the one I just mentioned become exceptionally important. It needs to be impactful, every spoken line has to be there for a reason, have a purpose. It’s a lot of pressure, that’s all!

Maybe I’m asking too much of myself for trying to achieve that on my second draft. But as I’ve said before, I’m a perfectionist, and that’s a difficult habit to break. I’ll have to try my best though, my story deserves better than me not finishing it because I get stuck and over-complicate things. Sometimes, we just have to move forward even if we’re not 100% pleased with the previous step – it leaves a bit of a sour aftertaste but we can always go back to it later.

There’s one major flaw concerning Plotters and Pantsers

There’s a lot of talk going on in the writing community about whether you identify as a Plotter or a Pantser. I know, apparently you need to keep up with the lingo if you want people to take your writing seriously.

In short, a Plotter is someone who plots a lot (obviously). They make an outline and spend a lot of time plotting what’s going to happen in the story before actually writing it. A Pantser is kind of the opposite. They make it up as they go along, letting their characters determine the direction of the story as they’re writing it.

There are clear benefits with both of them. A Plotter usually knows beforehand what the next step is and would therefore not get stuck as often. A Pantser, however, might be less constrained by too much planning and overthinking things.

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Sometimes, stories evolve by themselves as the characters and worlds we create become alive. That’s definitely something I’ve noticed as I was writing my first draft. I’m a Plotter – but I wish I could write like a Pantser at times. I’ve spent so much time making my outline, and in the end, I had to change a lot of things because it didn’t feel right anymore. As my story had evolved, it no longer fit my initial plan for it. Like I had created something… organic.

I’m too much of a control freak to let go and have my story take me to new places; I want to be in the driver’s seat. This means that I’m constantly fighting the natural progression of things. Kind of like shooting myself in the foot during a marathon. I might be stubborn enough to reach the end eventually, but I’ll do so on a painful limp just to prove a point. Or at least, I would have done before – but now I’ve realised that things don’t exactly work that way.

It’s difficult to know when to remain in control and when to let go. Sometimes when reading my manuscript I find little hints that weren’t put there intentionally. It could be foreshadowing to a completely different ending, perhaps, or a character acting in a way that goes against my initial portrait of them. That is when I have to decide whether to remedy this by going with my original plan – or to act upon these hints and make significant changes to the story. Each and every one of these hints means a new, major decision that no label can make for me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, whether you identify as a Plotter or a Pantser, be careful of putting labels on yourself and your writing. Whilst some people might feel safe knowing what works “best” for them, my experience is that it can also hold you and your story back from its true potential. Just a little something worth thinking about this fine Friday afternoon.

My Plan for the Week

I had a pretty good writing weekend – despite my nose having decided to make things difficult for me by ignoring the fact that I’m supposed to be recovered from my cold. I hate it when that happens. You get sick, you recover, you go about your life as usual, and BAM – it turns on you with an evil smirk on its face saying “did you really think it was going to be that easy?” and starts laughing this stereotypical villain-laugh. Or, you know, something less dramatic. It’s annoying, that’s what I’m trying to say.

But, life goes on, it’s Monday and that means a new week. Life won’t stop just because I have a cold, so I’m trying to make a little plan for what I want to accomplish this week.

WRITING GOAL: Finish editing chapter 9 of my WIP, and start chapter 10. (I’m keeping expectations low here, thereby making it easier to surpass it and subsequently making myself super proud. The creative process usually benefits from a little self-manipulation.)

YOUTUBE GOAL: Make a vlog about writing and editing chapters for Youtube, hopefully to be uploaded on Thursday.

OTHER: Start drawing my second map for my WIP, this time a world map including other countries. This would be in preparation for next weeks’ video.

I think this should be enough. I haven’t included other stuff like updating my blog or my Instagram, as those are obviously included somewhere in between the larger tasks. I feel quite pleased. Time to get started!

Let’s end this blog entry with a photo from my trip to Edinburgh.