More Tips for Writing Success

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Managing to get it all done
Preventing and dealing with problems
Self-Publishing Tips
Office Tips
Writer's Block
Writers Conferences
Handling Rejection

Fitting it all into a day, a week . . . a career

How to decide which writing books, courses, seminars, and conferences to invest money and time in:

1. Set three objectives or goals relative to your writing, such as

    a. a specific number of magazine or web sales during the next year, or
    b. sales to certain magazines or websites, or
    c. specific book project(s) completed and published, or
    d. a certain dollar income from your writing business, or
    e. entering a new writing field, or
    f. adding a specific number of new clients.

2. Then, when considering books, courses, groups, seminars, conferences, ask, "Will it help achieve one of these goals?" If it will, go ahead with it.

3. If, because of time or money restraints, you must decide on only one of several qualifying books or conferences, determine which will give you the most value per hour and/or dollar invested.

OK, you've set your writing, business, and personal goals for the next year, and you're really trying to reach them, but there's a problem: too much to do, too many goals; not enough time, not enough money. Which projects, purchases, ideas should you pursue? Answer the following questions about each possibility to help you set priorities:

    Will it help achieve one of my high priority goals?
    Will it contribute significantly (at least 20%) to my income?
    Will it cut costs significantly?
    Will it contribute significantly to better time management?
    Will it negatively affect my income in large amount if not done?
    Will people suffer significantly if not done?
    Will it have a large negative impact on my business position if not done?

If you're serious about getting that book written or published during the next year, or earning a certain amount of money through your writing business, Mark Ellwood says you should take a new approach to reach your goals and ensure success.  Among his suggestions, Mark says:

  • Plan your time every day.  Block off 30% of your writing time on high priority, long-term activities, and don't allow interruptions to interfere.
  • Share your deadlines with others.
  • Overcome procrastination by breaking that big project into smaller pieces.
  • Give yourself rewards for successfully completing the tough parts.
  • Visualize success when fear of failure gets in the way.
    Source: A Complete Waste of Time — Tales & Tips About Getting More Done by Mark Ellwood.

If you spend all your time reading books on how to write — and never put to use what you learn — then the books are doing more harm than good to your writing career. The trick is to balance your reading/study time and your writing time. If you're getting involved in a new writing field, you will probably read more. But for routine days, try reading two writing-business-related chapters a day. And consider reading those chapters first thing in your business day; they can be an excellent warm-up, motivating exercise.

To improve your productivity:

  • Use a stopwatch or timer to track exactly how much time you spend on looking for items in your files or on your desk, running errands, getting started in the morning, and on other non-production or non-marketing tasks. Then brainstorm how you can streamline or organize to shorten some of that time.
  • Because it's sometimes difficult for an established writer to improve productivity in the production area, it may make more sense to improve productivity in your marketing. If you've been working on assignments that pay as low as $350, decide to take on only those assignments that pay more than $450 and negotiate with your regular clients/editors for a raise in fees to $450 or more.

Productive people set and meet deadlines. Without a deadline, the motivation to do a task is small to nonexistent. Tasks without assigned deadlines automatically go to the bottom of your priority list. After all, if you have two projects on your "to do" list — and one is due a week from Thursday, and the other is due "whenever you can get to it" — which do you suppose will get written first?
Source: 101 Ways To Make Every Second Count by Robert W. Bly (a book worth reading if you want to accomplish more)

Our added tip: If that project on your to-do list is an internal project (such as Chapter 3 of your novel), with no editor or client waiting for it by a certain date, assign it a deadline, then tell someone when your deadline is. And make sure that person is someone to whom you will be embarrassed to have to admit you didn't meet your deadline.

Solo entrepreneurs (a.k.a. Freelancers) must learn to say no. The hardest part about being in business for yourself, and by yourself, can be learning to turn down assignments and reject clients or editors.  Accepting the wrong business or taking on the wrong assignments saps not only your time and energy, but your profits, too.

Reaching your goals: It's difficult to stick to a writing or marketing plan when your ultimate goal — a completed novel or 250 queries mailed this next year — is a long way off, and all you see in the meantime is work, work, work. Instead of rewarding yourself when you reach this long-term goal, try rewarding yourself frequently for the behavior, not the result. For example, if you decide to write 5 pages of your novel every week, reward yourself when you write 5 pages this week. Or when you send out 5 queries this week

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Problems, problems, problems

Problem clients: You probably already use a ghostwriting agreement that outlines provisions for the unhappy situation when the client doesn't like the finished product: what happens with the final payment, the manuscript, the rights, and so on. But what about a problem early on?  One of our members had an apparently happy client suddenly turn hostile and want that writer out of the process when only a couple chapters had been completed. Their agreement had no provisions for such early cancellation. Tip: Specify in any agreement what happens if either party is unhappy after the initial chapters are submitted, or at other significant points during the project, plus at completion.

Spell it out. Whether you´re writing for a publisher or for a business client, if there is no contract involved, it´s a good idea to provide a letter of agreement. You can write it in standard business letter format. In it, you want to spell out in clear language at least the following:

  • What you are responsible for providing and doing. (Don´t promise anything extra you haven´t already agreed to, or anything you aren´t absolutely positive you can do.)
  • When you will have the project completed.
  • Anything the editor or client has agreed to furnish (and when): list of sources, press credentials, office help, etc.
  • Amount of payment you are to receive and when payment is due in full or when incremental payments are due.

By writing the agreement as a business letter, you will have your name, address, phone on your letterhead; and the editor/publishing company´s or client´s name on the inside address and salutation.

At the bottom of the letter sign your name as in a regular letter (affirming your agreement to do this). Then below your signature, type "Agreed to by," with a signature space and line below that. Under the signature line, type in "Title:" and "Company:" so the person agreeing to the assignment can fill in that information.

If you have a business or family attorney, it is a good idea to run it by the attorney to be sure you have not put in a problem phrase.

An agreement letter can protect you any number of ways. Over the years we´ve listened to writers who have run into problems with editors and clients they never suspected would present a problem.

Bonus Tip: One writer adds this paragraph at the end of the letter: "Upon receipt of a signed copy of this Letter of Agreement, I will begin the project."

When you're offered a lengthy job that will take weeks or months, or a job that pays $2,000 or more, always ask for money up front. Why? Disasters can happen; clients can become ill; companies do go out of business. Call the up-front fee a retainer, an advance, or whatever name you feel comfortable with. How much should you ask for? I'd ask for at least one-third of total job up-front, or half if you think you can get it.
From Start and Run a Profitable Freelance Writing Business by Christine Adamec.

Working on Spec — Sometimes a new editor or client will want you to write on spec — to produce something without guarantee of payment. Be careful.  True, working on spec might get your foot in the door, but you also have no promise of future paid work.  The spec job takes time and effort away from any paid work that might come along in the meantime.  The spec client may even be more demanding than a paying client/editor because he or she has the luxury of your free labor — until deciding whether to pay you. In fact, you may be perceived as less than professional because you are working for free.  Source: Small Office-Home Office Tips,

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Self-Publishing Tips

Charlotte Hardwick of Pale Horse Publishing, sends along this tip for book authors and independent publishers: "We are a small publisher and have acquired some vary salable books from authors. The problem was that there were no ISBN or bar codes on the books. We secured the ISBN numbers, but had difficulty locating a printer to make ISBN Bar Coded labels. We found a wonderful resource in Aaron Graphics at 1-800-345-8944 or They offer short run, expedited service at a very reasonable price."


To enhance your creativity:

  • Several times a week schedule in mentally challenging activities that require creative thought — math puzzles, brain puzzles, crossword puzzles, and spatial or geometric puzzles, such as Rubik´s Cube.
  • Each week read a magazine that covers a subject you wouldn´t normally be reading about. Set up a file called "Special Topics" so you can clip and save articles from these new magazines that intrigue you. Think about how you can use this new information in your writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction.


Office Tips

  • If your desk is cluttered, organize the papers into piles: to be filed, to read, to handle today, to handle later, to toss (then toss these).
  • If you need more filing space, but can't fit in another cabinet, file papers in 3-ring binders, which can be color-coded and lined up across bookcases or on top of existing filing cabinets.
  • Use the final 10-15 minutes of your workday to file or throw away all the stray papers you've accumulated during the day. Not only will it cut the clutter, it will help you wind down at the end of a hectic day and ease your transition from work space to home place.
  • Use color to help you identify file contents immediately, such as blue folders for correspondence, green folders for contracts, yellow folders for research, and red folders for manuscripts.  You'll be able to locate them faster if you tend to keep files on your desk.
  • Musty books: Once wet books get dried out, it is possible to remove the musty smell by storing several books in a box of kitty litter.  I have recovered some old, long-stored books that way from time to time. Even stored too long in a dry environment, books often pick up a musty smell. Written by Joan Cowan, long-time school librarian, Canaan, Vermont 
  • Best tool I've found to get that important work done and meet deadlines, yet not miss an important phone call from a family member or a client, is Caller ID - usually automatic on a smartphone, but may be an extra on a landline. It lets you see the phone number of the person calling and usually the person's or company's name (or at least the city and state), so you know whether to let it ring without answering (or let your answering machine come on), or instead to pick it up right away. I've found that those numbers not displayed are invariably sales solicitations or PR people.


Writer's Block

Start out strong to beat writer's block and procrastination dawdling:  Before stopping for the day, think of a quick-to-do — but important — task you can do first thing tomorrow. As soon as you arrive at your writing desk next day, start and finish that job without interruption. The positive push from completing a top-priority task will propel you through the day.
Source: Tyme Management


Writers Conferences

To get more out of a writers conference:

  • Before you go, read what the speakers have written or edited, then ask them specific questions about their work: Why?, How?
  • If you get a "poor" speaker, but one rich in experience, draw the information out with lots of questions.


Handling Rejections

More good writers don´t make it because they can´t deal with the rejection of their ideas than for any other reason. Look at those rejected ideas realistically: If you were knocking on doors to sell a product, you wouldn´t expect every person to buy your product. And if you owned a clothing store, you wouldn´t expect every shopper who came in to buy that $200 dress or $500 jacket. So why should you expect every editor to buy every "product" you send out? Look at those, "Sorry, I´m not interested todays" the same way salesmen and shopkeepers look at their shoppers who don´t buy today.

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