Chatting · Monthly Goals

September Goals and MERCH UPDATE

I forgot there was an extra Friday in the month, whooooops. My bad. HAPPY OCTOBER, IT’S SPOOKY SEASON!

In all seriousness, I’m home this weekend to celebrate my brother’s Eagle Scout, so everybody better leave him lots of congratulations in the comments. I’ve been scrambling to get my work done around the travel plans, and while I started this draft, I completely missed adding it to my queue. But all the same, this was a hectic month. Fall semester of my Senior Year includes several project-based classes, running most of my clubs, doing undergrad research, working at the school makerspace, and hanging out with my friends. It’s been a ton of fun, and I’m determined to make the most of it, much to the chagrin of my sleep schedule. So before time gets away from me again, let’s go over some cool announcements!

Merch Update!

I recently started a new job at the maker-space at my school, which means I have FREE and totally UNLIMITED access to all sorts of neat machines, including 3D printers, a laser cutter, a waterjet, t-shirt printers, and a sticker maker.

In short, I’ve gone mad with power.

Continue reading “September Goals and MERCH UPDATE”
Chatting · Reading Recs

Nonfiction Notes: Newsletter Ninja

Overall Impression:

4 out of 5 stars: This book is for any writer who wants to learn more about the marketing side of the industry. You don’t have to have a book out yet. In fact, you should be reading this and implementing the advice before you publish so you can reap the benefits of having a mailing list. But regardless of where you are, if the idea of self promotion makes you want to curl up in a ball and die, or you’re trying to promote yourself and it’s not sticking, this book has useful advice. There’s not a ton of business jargon, so it’s accessible and a relatively quick read. One star deducted because it’s easier said than done to execute some of these tips, and in my experience, mailing list success simply comes down to luck and previous existing visibility, but it’s still a solid primer.

Content Summary:

Why you need a mailing list and what it needs to accomplish: If you have spent any amount of time throwing your work into the void of the internet you’ll know that persuading people to read your work is difficult. Convincing them to buy it is harder. The world is already so inundated by advertisements that people don’t want to see one more annoying self-promo, but that’s what it takes for people to realize you even have a book in the first place. The point of a mailing list is to cut out the middleman of social media or advertisement services and talk directly to people who will hopefully become your fans. People also tend to check their emails, or at least take them more seriously than social media posts, depending on your target audience, so if you can persuade someone to add one more to the top of their teetering inbox, you’ve already won their loyalty and readership on some small level.

How to pick a provider and set up an onboarding sequence: There are about a million provides out there to collect and store email addresses, and send out automated welcome sequences and scheduled campaigns. This part of the book walks you through the strategy of how to pick one that works for you, and what first steps to walk new members through before adding them to your regular list.

How to choose your target audience and convince people to sign up (hint: the answer is bribery): The target audience for your books is hypothetically the target audience for your mailing list, but as I mentioned before, nobody wants more emails cluttering up their inbox unless they’re really worth something valuable. You have to decide what you’re going to give them that’s worth that sacrifice.

What makes a good bribe? For authors, this is usually a short story or some other bookish merch, but whatever you offer, it should be exclusive, free, completed, and related to your other work. This section of the book gives you some ideas of how to offer “cookies” that will entice the right readers to sign up and stay signed up.

How to get people engage or re engaged: What do you write about? How often do you send out the emails? What are you putting in your subject line? Do you include images or emojis? Whether it’s an art or a science, every line of the email can influence whether someone clicks the links you include, deletes it immediately, or hits the unsubscribe button.

Final Thoughts

I read this book when I was first starting my mailing list over a year ago. Upon rereading it, I realized I had so much missed potential in the automation and landing forms I originally had set up, and immediately rehauled my entire system. I’m still offering the same thing (new short stories every 3 months), but now the onboarding process should be a lot more informative and seamless than it was before. I can highly recommend this book to any author who’s looking to improve their marketing, regardless of if you think you know all the tricks already. If you want to sign up for my Fancy! New! Improved! mailing list to get an audio drama of “Edge of Infinity” next week, you can register with this link. You can find Tammi Labrecque’s other books on her Goodreads, including a sequel to Newsletter Ninja called “If you give a reader a cookie.”


Thanks for reading! Do you have a newsletter? If so, drop a link in the comments and I’ll join up! If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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Chatting · Writing Advice

What I’ve Learned Writing Short Stories

Since launching my website, getting involved with the writeblr community, and starting my newsletter, I’ve tried my hand at quite a few short stories. They’re a completely different beast from novels, much less a series, and utilize a completely distinct skill set of storytelling tools. Today I’m sharing some of the tricks I’ve learned in my experience!

You can still outline – It just looks like a list of bullet points or one paragraph instead of a spreadsheet and a wall full of sticky notes. I find it useful to still have a plan going into the story, so even the bare bones of a character objective and obstacle can help structure the plot and keep it from running off an extra 3000 words, or running into the ground after two paragraphs.

Choose one thing to improve or experiment – In each of my stories, I’ve taken the opportunity to mess around with a particular aspect of the story, be it a strange POV, changing the tense, turning it to script form, playing with the alightment, color, font, and format of the text, or other such shenanigans. The nice thing about a short story is that you only have to commit to the bit for a few thousand words, rather than an entire book, and it takes a lot less time to revise. It’s like doing figure studies in art, or scales in music.

You often start In Medias Res – In short stories, there is rarely page-time for backstory or build-up. It’s crucial to jump straight into the action, and keep the narrative running at a steady pace. It’s a different story structure than you often find in full-length books, and so it’s interesting to explore a unique process of plot beats that might not line up with what you’re used to writing.

Explore different elements of your world – If you’re stuck with the plot of your main WIP, short stories are like writing fanfiction for your own book. Explore “deleted scenes” that you might not expect to make it into the final cut of the draft. Switch POV for a scene to a side character who doesn’t often get the spotlight. Explore an alternate universe to see if changing the setting leads to more interesting conflict. This is what I’ve been doing with the Runaways universe, to share lore about Seelie the girls don’t get to see.

Finishing smaller projects is a confidence booster – When you slog away at a giant WIP for years it can be easy to get discouraged and feel like you’ll never finish. If you’re anything like me, checking things off a list is supremely satisfying, and tinkering away can get exhausting when you look ahead and see no end in sight. Bashing through small works is a great way to revive motivation when you can see the checkmark within a week or two of setting out. Accumulating a nice backlog of works also means you have them to pull out and share at a moment’s notice, which is also great for getting immediate feedback, since people are more likely to read and finish a short story.

Treat it like a low-budget theater production – We don’t have time for set dressing! That costs words! You’re reusing the blue curtains whether you like it or not! What do you mean three side characters? Can’t we get away with Joe in a funny hat? Graphic descriptions of props and macguffins? That’s a nerf gun covered in masking tape and paint. It doesn’t need backstory. LIGHTS CAMERA ACTION!


Thank you for reading! Next week I’ll be sharing a review of Newsletter Ninja, so be sure to check back for that, or to leave a writing prompt in the comments. If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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Chatting · Monthly Goals

August goals

The end of summer is always a time for transition, and this year was especially hectic. I had to finish an internship, move home, which involved packing and a nine-hour drive across 3 states. Then I spent a hectic week at home, catching up on administrative adulting stuff, fixing my car headlights, and seeing friends, before moving two hours back to school to start my senior year! The beginning of the semester included starting two new jobs, taking on my capstone project, hanging out with my best friends who are now my roommates, and kicking off the three clubs I help to run. It’s been crazy and quite fun, but I’m glad to be into a routine. With that context, let’s see how I did with my writing goals, shall we?

Won – 3/6 Goals

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Chatting · Writing Advice

Creative Strategy

Trying to maintain a balance between real-life obligations and your creative pursuits is less like walking a beam and more like one of those platform games where you just have to time the jumps right and hope you don’t fall in the lava. Our days are a battlefield of shifting schedules and absent attention spans, so today, in the honor of my website-launch anniversary earlier this month, I’m sharing some of the wisdom I’ve learned over the last two years. If you’re looking to be more purposeful with your writing work, I hope this can share some helpful advice!

What are your long-term goals?

If you want to write as a hobby and post your work for free online, your first and only priority should be to write for yourself and have fun. If you want to publish, you’ll need to know whether you want to self-publish, query agents to go on submission to traditional publishers, or run a hybrid model, and do research on what it takes to make it into each side of the industry. What are your goals for publishing? Sales, royalties, marketing commitments, and professional skill sets are all important factors in deciding which type of publishing you want to pursue, and one route or the other might be better depending on the book and your mindset. If you want to write under a pen name, do you plan on having multiple pen names and running multiple platforms? What genres do you write and what’s your target audience? Do you want to make this your full-time career or pursue something else as a day-job and keep this as a passion project? The answers to these questions will determine how you approach your personal writing strategy – which shouldn’t be the same for everyone!

My example: I knew in high school, when I started thinking about career paths and college majors, that I wanted to have a financially stable life where I could work a 9-5 or eventually part-time role and still have mental energy to work on my hobbies when I came home. I’ve talked before about how I balance my storytelling and STEM studies, but this means I treat my writing like a part-time gig. My goal is to self-publish because I like the idea of maintaining creative control and a larger percentage of royalties from my sales. I write under the name Etta Grace to separate my fiction from my real-life career and maintain my privacy on both this platform and from my employers. At one point, I thought about launching a second pen name for my middle-grade fiction, but decided running two platforms and building a new one from the ground-up would be too much work. Therefore, my platform needs to have some crossover appeal to reach my wide audience audiences.

It’s not too late or too early to think about this and making a new plan. If your life situation changes, if might be a good time to reevaluate, if you’re going through a big career change, starting or finishing school, or going through a significant family event. Write these down before you continue reading.

Look ahead at the year

It’s impossible to plan for everything, but through a global pandemic and an impending economic recession, we still have to go to class, work, and see our families. It’s easier to account for ebbs and flows in productivity when you know what obstacles will keep you from the laptop and you can compensate for the lost time in the quieter weeks. Sometimes it’s possible to line up steps in the writing process with these seasons, such as releasing a suspense story around spooky season. Keeping tabs on upcoming events helps keep you from getting blindsided by the inexorable progress of time.

My Example: My semester starts in August, so I planned to finish editing Draft Three of Runaways around that time so that I could hand off the manuscript to beta readers while I tackle senior year. When I move out of my apartment, I’ll need to take down the sticky outline that’s still hanging on my wall, so the Laoche spreadsheet/document outline needs to be done by the time you’re reading this. I want to cosplay Vin Mistborn for Halloween so when burnout hit this summer; I switched to working on the first piece of the costume so it would be ready in advance and picked a shirt design I can use for multiple costumes (check out last week’s post if you missed it for a walkthrough of that thought process).

If you know there’s a transition coming up, do yourself the favor to pre-emptively work around it. With a plan in mind, that’s one less stress to be cluttering your mind during those turbulent periods of life. Unlike a writing career, getting a degree has a clear path to follow, so this lets me make progress towards my personal goals without feeling like I’m falling behind on my books.

Look ahead at your fiction

Planning a series is an enormous commitment. Publishing leaves you open to further exploration with those worlds, characters, and missing scenes if you have avid readers who will want to know more. Marketing requires having freebies on hand to encourage people to read your work, such as mailing list cookies and art giveaways. My best advice for not going insane is to multitask – if you can reuse short-stories for content, save yourself the pressure of producing extra words under time pressure. Use every project as an excuse to procrastinate on other projects, so you can always stay working on something that interests you at the moment. Whether you’re a plotter of panster, before going into any publishing, have an end in mind by outlining or fast-drafting.

My example: I’m terrified of publishing Storge – the prequel for the Laoche Chronicles – then starting on the series itself and realizing I didn’t set things up properly and I can no longer go back and retcon my old work because it’s already released. I’m outlining the entire series at once hoping there will be less risk to releasing the books one at a time as I write them without digging myself into a plot hole. I want to work a few books ahead of schedule, so that #1 is done and #2 started by the time Storge gets published. This way, there’s not a huge wait between them, and I know I’m up-to-date on my lore and foreshadowing. I also plan to have novellas between the books to fill the time and provide missing-scenes. Unfortunately, making a debut with something this massive is intimidating, and so I plan to self-publish Runaways first, as it’s a much simpler and self-contained story. I needed cookies for my mailing list, so instead of writing one-off short stories, I’ve been using this method to explore the fae world more, and want to collect those works waiting in reserve for an anthology.

Even if you have nothing published yet, it never hurts to start working on your author’s platform early, so that by the time you have all your ducks in a row, you also have readers at the ready. Think about how you want your book-backlog to look in 5, 10, 20 years, and set up a list of priorities so that you can switch out WIPs as needed.

Making Connections

Writing should not be a solitary endeavor, and I don’t know what I would do without my friends to enable this insanity. For more practical purposes, your friends are the people who are going to tell others about your writing, especially if they’re also creatives. You become mutual promotion machines and meet new people through the networks you create simply by putting yourself out there. This falls under the umbrella of “building a platform” but really that means building a community.

My example: In 2019 I joined Tumblr, whipped up a blog header and WIP intro, and started posting horrible Inktober illustrations of the Storge cast. Two incredible authors – @abalonetea and @siarven found my work by checking out my blog after I left comments on their work, and we hit it off. Their introduction to the writeblr space let me meet dozens of other talented people and we still chat ideas to this day. You might recognize their names from my interviews here: where we talk about character development and worldbuilding, respectively.

Be friendly, leave comments, find your social media platform of choice, and join groups. Try to get to know the extroverts because they’ll introduce you to the rest of their friend group by proxy. I always prioritize the relationships in my life first because I’m not super social at work, but I have a close knit friend group in real life as well and those people are really important to me and supportive of my creative endeavors.

Budjeting

Money is deeply annoying, and adulting is hard, but fortunately it is also extremely important and so we should still talk about it. If you self-publish, you will need to pay for everything out of pocket, but you will keep more of your royalties and start earning money immediately after the book sells. If you traditionally publish, you will get an advance payment and should not pay for anything throughout the process, but you will not start making royalties until after the sales have paid back the advance, and then you will earn a smaller percentage of your royalties. This is a major factor for many writers in choosing career options. If you know you will be self-publishing, it’s best to start saving up now. It’s also worth considering if you want to monetize your author’s platform, and if so, how? Patreon, Ko-Fi, donations, ads, commissions, and ghostwriting are all additional options to help your writing fund itself.

My Example: In May, I will graduate and start my new adult career in some engineering role. I want to have an editor, illustrator, and cover artist picked out for Runaways by June, so when I have Salaried Money and no more student loans to pay off, I can hit the ground running with production for publication. This blog doesn’t cost me a lot of money to maintain, but it is an enormous time investment, and it would be worth it to set up some kind of monetization, however small, sooner rather than later. I run unobtrusive ads at the bottom of my posts. Though I don’t have the traffic yet to see any payout, I hope it’ll accumulate, eventually. I set up a way to tip me directly if people feel like being a ~patron of the arts~ but I will never lock things behind a paywall or subscription because I don’t believe in running a creative hobby like that.

This is an extremely personal decision, so choose what works the best for your personal situation. A lot of creatives break out in hives at the idea of setting up a budget and marketing their work, but it’s worth thinking about if you want to have peace of mind about making ends meet.

Bide your Time

As far as I’ve read and experienced, it takes roughly two years to establish any kind of online “presence” that gives you consistent feedback. Growth follows generally follows an upward curve, and at a certain point, if you’re lucky, that turns exponential. Consistency helps to please the fickle attention span of the internet, but make sure it’s at a pace that works for you. Though a lot of success in creative industries comes down to luck, don’t let that discourage you from putting yourself out there. Luck is just where preparedness meets opportunity, and you’ll have more opportunities the longer you’re in the game and know where to look, and if you have a strategy in place, you’ll be prepared to jump on opportunities when they come up. Don’t follow the trends, be yourself, and know that eventually algortighms and reblogs and word of mouth can work in your favor to bring people to you.

My example: On a daily and weekly basis, my views for this site are all over the place, but if you look at my history, you’ll see how my audience has grown. These screenshots are from 8/7/2022, as I’m queuing this in advance, so they’re slightly outdated, but still an accurate representation of the point I’m trying to make.

These are the statistics for my top 5 posts in the past year. I wrote the post on Addie La Rue without realizing its popularity, because I just thought it was a good story and worth analyzing. This accidental trend-hopping has contributed far more to those views than any of my original work, and it brought a few readers to the site who ended up sticking around.

Follow your interests, and you’ll be surprised where it leads you. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the results you want right away. Remember, strategy is playing the long game, and it’s not a race.

Habits aren’t for everyone

The advice to write every day is EVERYWHERE in the writing community – from NaNoWriMo to that one post about Terry Pratchett’s 200 words before breakfast. It’s easy to fall into this mental trap that if you aren’t building consistent habits, you’re horrible and a failure and you’re Never Going to Make It. My dear friends, that is but mere bullshit. I know I said earlier that consistency helps build a following to appease the internet attention spans, but that’s the miracle of the queue button.

My example: I sprint through writing in hyper-focus mode and switch projects rapidly to keep things interesting. It’s possible to *post* every week without *writing* every week. The fiction writing matches roughly the same pace. This graph is from last year’s sprint:

Take it at your own pace – even if that pace is oscillating between manic progress and forgetting about it for weeks on end – then schedule things in advance if you need.

Build Backup Plans

Burnout aint pretty and no strategy is complete without prepping contingencies for crises. Leave enough room for inspiration to take the wheel, and to move to more relaxing projects when you’re sick of the big ones. You can always make them work into the big scheme later, and passion is never wasted. I’m definitely not the fastest writer, but I think being well rounded and protecting your mental health is more important than word count.

Thank you for reading and let me know if this has helped you at all! Next week I’ll be sharing a short-story I wrote for the Writeblr Summerfest event hosted by @abalonetea, so make sure to stop back for that. If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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Chatting

Stitching Storytime: Pirate Shirt Process

Ok, I know y’all are here for writing and bookish content and not Etta’s hyper-fixation of the week, but hear me out on this one. Usually, in my how-to posts of the month, I walk through my personal process for some element of the writing process. I’ll never say that my way is the Proper Perfect Official and Only way to outline, but sharing methods provides another tool for writers to pull out of their set when they need a new angle to solve a problem.

This month’s writing problem was the dreaded ~burnout~

I hadn’t realized how badly the accumulated stress and exhaustion of this year had worn on me until suddenly I had the free time to throw myself into the next project and just…. couldn’t. My major goal for this summer was to finish editing Runaways, but I’m struggling to even process the story, much less find the energy to comb through each line and hyper-analyze my word choice. Furthermore, I got sick with bronchitis, which had me wiped out for several weeks, and the fatigue hasn’t really left since recovering from the cough. At first I beat myself up for being lazy, but I’ve realized since finishing this project that my inability to sit down and grind through words came from a much deeper-seated issue. I needed something new and refreshing to refill my creative well, that wouldn’t require a lot of mental effort, and preferably wouldn’t put me in front of a computer. After rifling through my long list of hobbies and coping mechanisms accumulated from many years of doing this to myself in cycles, I landed on sewing.

If you’re facing burnout or a packed schedule, I recommend checking out my alternate post on How To Stay Creative When You Literally Can’t Write for some more suggestions on the topic. The rest of this post will walk through my process of tackling a not-writing creative project to serve as an example (a good one or a bad one is up for you to decide).

The Inspiration and Resources

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Chatting · Monthly Goals

July Goals Recap 2022

Hellooooooo everyone, I hope your summers are going well! This month went by much too quickly, and somehow the evenings and weekends I have off from work seemed like both a luxurious amount of freetime and nowhere near enough to accomplish all the things I wanted to do this summer. August will be hectic with moving home from KY, then back to school to start fall semester of my senior year, so I hoped to get everything done this past month. And I did a lot, but it still never feels like enough haha. Anyhow, let’s get into it, shall we?

WON BY 3 POINTS – 7/8 GOALS

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Chatting · Interviews

Indie Author Interview: R.K. Ashwick

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to R.K. Ashwick, one of my long-time friends on writeblr and the author of The Stray Spirit which I reviewed last week, thanks to an advanced reader copy. RK writes character-focused fantasy books with a cozy feel. I’m thrilled to have her on my blog today to talk about her upcoming release and publishing journey! This was such a fun interview and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it!


Welcome! Let’s start off at the beginning: How did you come up with the concept for The Stray Spirit?

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Chatting · Reading Recs

Book Review: The Stray Spirit by R.K. Ashwick

There are very few things in this world as satisfying as reading a book – A REAL ACTUAL PUBLISHED BOOK – by one of my writer friends. I am unbelievably proud of our very own, one and only, R.K. Ashwick for reaching this amazing milestone! I’ve been following its development through the taglist on tumblr for… I don’t know, maybe over a year now? It’s been truly gratifying to watch the characters and story grow (hah), and I am absolutely overjoyed that come August, I’ll be able to hold it in my hands. The following review is my honest opinion, which I promised to share after receiving an advanced reader copy of the book. I’m going to keep this mostly spoiler free because it hasn’t come out yet, though in the future I may write a spoilers-filled review as well, so I can freely dig into all the interesting bits of this book. So without further ado…

Overall Impression: 5/5, Next Book Now Please?

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Chatting · Monthly Goals

June Goals

Well, we’re halfway through the year and it’s been a great six months of beating writers block and burnout back into the hell from whence they came with a very big stick. I tried to take some time off this month to rest, work on low-stakes side projects, and enjoy long chill chats with friends instead of constantly working, and I think it’s helped a lot. I’m still exhausted, but in a satisfied, “I’ve spent my time well” sort of way, and not the frantic “I’m running out of time” that I’m used to. I’m settled down at my internship, living alone for the first time in my life, and learning how to manage my free time like an actual adult. Weird stuff. Let’s see what I did with my first month of summer “break”!

Won by 2 – 7/10 Goals Completed

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