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The Business of Writing

The Business of Writing

Do you treat your writing like a business or a hobby?
Before last year I always said writing is what I do. But I wasn’t treating it like a real business. Are you?

Do you have a separate banking account?

Do you keep up with logging expenses and time?

Do you have a plan for improving your skills?

Do you have *gasp* a business plan?

“Say what now? A business plan?”
Yes, you need one Writing Friend. This is not a goals list. That’s a different zebra.

Writing a business plan puts you in control of your career.
What’s involved? How do you do it?

List of projects you want to accomplish in the first 3 months of the new year. (see three months at a time isn’t so scary!)
This is not where you write down the steps involved to get to that point. Example: I want to write 10 books in 3 months. (I can dream)  You don’t need to write down:  research life on Mars, write 100,000 words a month, find a publisher. Those are steps/goals. Right now you’re looking for the big picture of what you want your business to look like.

Write down the titles of books you want to read to improve your writing skill.

Is there a class you want to take? Write it down.

Do you need to take a research trip? Write it down.

Repeat for the rest of the year.

How much money do you want to make by the end of the year? Yes, I know you don’t really know because you’re a writer depending on someone to buy your books. You still have to write it down because by the end of the year you’ll know how much you did make. Then you can reassess if you need to do something different. Maybe you’ll need to purchase ads, cross-promote with other writer’s or concentrate on social media.

So how did I do this year?
I wrote 3 books.
Rewrote a book.
Wrote a novella to give away to people who sign up for my newsletter. You can get that here. All in Good Time

Took more editing classes.
Took an iPhone Photography class to help with photos to use on my blog and social media.
Made my reasonable money projection.

There were some things I didn’t accomplish, and that’s okay. They’ll be on the list for next year.

And why am I telling you to write your business plan now? Because you want to be ready for the new year. Then you can pull out your plan and start breaking it into goals.

How to Be a Good Mentee, Part 2 of 2

In the previous post, we talked about what mentoring/coaching is and why you might want one. In this post, we'll talk about your side of the relationship.

How to be a good mentee.

  • Spend some time thinking about your “wants” and “needs” in a mentor (a cheerleader, an accountability partner, someone to teach you craft, a listening ear, encouragement in querying or pitching, market info, a simple critique)
  • Discuss expectations up front
  • Be willing to hear criticism
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Spend some time thinking about what you want and need. We discussed some of those areas above. Like anything in life, you probably won’t get everything you want, so you might rank your desires on a scale of “must have” and “nice to have.”

Discuss expectations upfront, including page limits and how long you’ll take to get back to each other.

Let her know your goals and if you want her to help keep you accountable.

Be willing to hear the criticism. Don’t be defensive. Be open to criticism. It’s the only way you grow.

Interact. Ask questions. Be thankful and considerate of their time. Read their stuff if that works for the both of you and give them a “reader” feedback. Be an encouragement to them. Pray for them.

How to find a mentor.

Look in writing groups. Many of them have a system for connecting mentors and mentees. Go to writer’s conferences and talk to people there. Follow blogs to see who you connect with and what advice rings true for you. All of us here at Pencildancers do mentoring and coaching. Reach out to us.

How to say good-bye when it doesn’t work

  • Consider a trial period
  • Realize sometimes people just don’t click
  • Communicate honestly but graciously
  • Thank them for their time
  • Don’t burn your bridges

Sometimes you don’t click. Sometimes they don’t get your voice. Sometimes you’re not valuing the feedback you’re getting. The critiques don’t feel right. Sometimes people just get busy and don’t have the time for this anymore. Try not to take it personally.

One options is to go with a trial period. Try three chapters and a synopsis and see how it goes. Or some other specific piece you can evaluate the relationship on.

Discuss your expectations and desires up front. Communication is very important, even if sometimes it feels awkward. And while email and Skype and Facetime make it possible for people to connect in far wider geographic areas than normal, it also can remove the components of body language and tone. And all the emoticons in the world can’t make up for that. So sometimes it takes more effort and there’s more potential for misunderstanding.

It may take awhile for the relationship to click. But sometimes it just doesn’t. Either you can let the relationship drift away. Or bring it to a close more formally with a “thanks for your time.” Just don’t burn any bridges. While this seems like a big industry, the writing world is very small and you don’t want to say something that you might regret.

You may move through several mentors in your career as you develop different needs and strengths. But former mentors can continue to be great friends. And the mentoring and/or coaching relationship can be one that can accelerate your career in a way nothing else can.

Jennifer's latest books~ Coming Home A strong- willed young woman must discover her brother’s killer before she’s the next victim. The prequel, Be Mine, is also available. Can a simple thank you note turn into something more?

 Cover image of Coming Home by Jennifer Vander Klipp Cover image of Be Mine by Jennifer Vander Klipp

Families Supporting Writers

Okay, authors, here's a post you can print out and share with your family. You're welcome.

As writers, we all know what a lonely life it can be. And how many long hours it actually takes to produce a decent story. Many, many hours. The best support system I personally have is my family. I'm not afraid to look to them for help and advice. And they're good at giving it LOL!

I like to run plot ideas by my family, especially when I'm experiencing writer's block. My story in the novella collection Rails to Love was my husband's idea. I needed a romance with a train as part of it. I racked my brain to no avail. We talked about it at dinner. No one came up with anything. But as I was cleaning up the kitchen and he was putting our daughter to bed, he yelled down the stairs. "Circus train!" Duh. We live in Wisconsin, the first home of the Ringling Brothers. And so, the story was born. They've bailed me out more than once.

They're also good sounding boards. I like to teach them what good writing consists of. Yes, we have interesting conversations around the table. Yesterday, I taught them about deep POV. They at least pretended to be interested. As readers, they made some good observations. And it was helpful to me because I do speak to writers groups. If I can teach them deep POV, I can teach anyone :)

Because I write historicals, they're also helpful to me in my research. They both help me with it and they ask me good questions that I might not have thought about, which leads to more research.

And they keep me on my toes. The question around the dinner table always is, "What did you do today?" I need to be able to answer that I got a chapter written or that I'm almost finished with the story. At the end of the day, I have to be able to tell them something I accomplished.

Okay, now for the part you can share with your family. Even if they don't do the things listed above, here are some ways families can support their writers.

The Care and Feeding of Writers
1. Pitch in and help. This might be popping a frozen pizza in the oven or a load of laundry in the wash, or running an errand. It's the little things writer's appreciate the most. Just so they don't have to interrupt their rhythm when they're on a roll.

2. Be enthusiastic. Even if you don't understand what they're talking about, smile, nod, and let them talk. They might just need to work through a problem they're having with the story. By providing a listening ear, you're really helping them.

3. Spread the word. If you're writer has a published book, tell people at work, at school, at church, in the line at the grocery store. :) Word of mouth is the best marketing tool any author has. And that lets your writer know you care about them.

4.  Let them know when they've had enough. Often, when the story is going well, it's hard for writers to shut it off. They put their heads down and hours can pass quickly for them. After a long day or week of working, remind them to take a break, have something to eat, go for a walk. In the end, they'll thank you for it.

5. Give them chocolate. Lots and lots of it. Enough said.

How does your family support you? Families, how do you support your writer?