Monthly Archives: October 2014

Are You a REAL Writer?

Are You a REAL Writer?

I run into plenty of people. Between homeschooling, running my own business, writing, friends and family, and teaching classes – I’m always meeting someone new and interesting.

And their backgrounds and careers are as diverse as you can find.

Every once in a while I run into another writer. The conversation often goes like this…

Me: Hi, nice to meet you! I write, teach classes, homeschool the kiddo, and generally stay way too busy. How about you?

Other Person: I’m a writer too…well…[pauses and shrugs]…I’m not a REAL writer, I just, you know, write a little here or there. I mean, I WRITE…but…

And here is where we exchange experiences. Mainly self-publishing, or dreams of being published, or looking embarrassed over writing for a regional magazine, or even writing for free.

I always smile and mention Bubblews, quickly following it up with, “It isn’t a SERIOUS writing site, although you can certainly BE serious if you want to.” Or I mention that all four of my books are self-published.

Writers truly are a self-disparaging bunch. Even if we have “hit it big” and gotten published in whatever capacity or print form we were dreaming of, or simply have seen our name in print – we question ourselves constantly and squirm uncomfortably, wrestling with the term “writer” endlessly.

I think it was only after I had self-published my second book that I decided to add “writer” to my signature on emails and even then I was a little boondoggled by my own audacity. If I remember correctly, I even posed the question on Facebook (half in jest, but really, really NOT) whether self-publishing my two books qualified me to call myself a writer. The answers were overwhelmingly “yes.”

And it makes me think that, when we dip our toes in, when we dance about the idea of writing awkwardly and with great embarrassment or fear of being rejected, we are firmly standing in the way of success. How often did I question myself? Too many times to count. How often did I say, either out loud or in print, that I had nothing worth saying or reading? An almost criminal number of times.

And then there are those others who refuse to see the capabilities that lie within us…

I remember the words of someone thankfully absent now from my daily life who said, “Stop dreaming your pie in the sky dreams.”

I remember my eldest mentioning a comment from someone she knows, “Oh honey, you will be published when I am young and skinny again!” You know the Mama Bear in me showed claws at that one.

It isn’t just our own fears that stand in our way, but often a culture that says, “You want to write? Well that’s sweet. But you will never make any money at it, never be successful, never…never…never…never.”

Finding it within to recognize your own worth can be tricky at times.

So if you look at your writing and think, “It isn’t good enough, but it shows promise,” then keep practicing, keep writing, it will get better.

And if you are listening to others try to tell you that you aren’t and you can’t and you won’t – stop listening.

Are you a real writer?

Then get to writing.

Awake Too Early and Goals = FAIL

Awake Too Early and Goals = FAIL

Awake Too Early

I woke up this morning at three o’clock and needed to pee. No problem, I thought to myself, I’ll just get up, pee and get right back to sleep.

Except that my brain turned on and I started thinking of this and that and, before you know it, i’m wide awake and it is 3:30…and 3:45…and 4:00…and 4:30.

I finally got up at 4:30, and took a bath at 5:00.

I’m exhausted, yet awake. Maybe if I get really, really lucky, I’ll be able to sneak in a short nap before Em wakes up at around 9:30.

Goals = FAIL

Sometimes I make goal, and sometimes, I fail in a rather epic manner. Last week is a good example. Buoyed by my ‘win’ of getting five or six submissions sent in to various magazines, I doubled the number for last week, sure I could manage ten submissions.

I managed only two for the entire week.

Worse, I sit here exhausted and frustrated and know that I’m not going to get anything done right now.

At least I’ve manage to write/post/and schedule my TDN posts for the week.

That’s something…right?!

Goals – Gotta Have Them!

Goals – Gotta Have Them!

Exceeded Goals Last Week

So, I pleasantly surprised myself this past week. My goal of sending out queries – first set at 2-3 per week, is already at the ‘end goal’ of five queries per week.

Last week I submitted a total of SIX queries (counting from Monday through Sunday (yesterday). Today I submitted a new query, and that got me to thinking…perhaps I need to increase my query submissions. Perhaps I need to double them to TEN per week.

After all, I don’t have a ton of paying stuff out there, so I need to work twice as hard to get it going. Once I do, and the money begins to roll in, then I can take it a little easier. But for now, I have to try twice as hard until I make a name for myself.

At least, that’s my thought process.

In any case, my days are shaping up to be something like this:

5-6 a.m.   Wake up, check email, begin work

7 a.m.       Go downstairs with husband, eat breakfast, make coffee, talk for a bit, then upstairs to get back to work

7-9 a.m.    Work until kiddo wakes up, get her breakfasted, dressed and brushed (thankfully she can do all of this herself now) and either do some schooling, head to co-op, or go to a cleaning.

So really I have about 3-4 hours to work each day on writing. Afternoons I might get a chance, and sometimes at the LEARN co-ops as well. Weekends I also work for at least an hour or two each day if I can.

New Goals This Week

  • Submit at least two article/book queries per day (Monday-Friday)
  • Work on a book project (take your pick, I’ve got at least five to choose from!)
  • Begin going through all of my old Bubblews articles and turning them into articles
  • “Introduce myself” to at least three new potential magazines
  • Consider entering the next Writers of the Future contest

So I’m doubling my quota from five to 10 queries in a week. I hope to submit at least one book query this week – possibly the Quit Your Job, Change Your Life book that is 40% complete, or some other non-fiction project. Fiction books, unless you are well-known and established, typically need to be fully completed before shopping out to potential publishers.

And speaking of book projects, I need to review them, focus on one and continue adding to it. Perhaps QYJ, CYL, or perhaps one of the others. I won’t be sure until I dive into them.

I have a gold mine of ideas – bases for hundreds of articles – just in my Bubblews posts alone. So, I’m going to go through them, one by one, and see if there is something in them that moves me to write something spectacular and submit it.

Then I need to broaden my list of potential publishers. To date, I’ve submitted articles to five different magazine editors. I need to think BIGGER. I need to know multiple industries since I write in multiple genres – gardening, cooking, DIY, parenting, homeschooling, and more. I should know at least ten per genre, if not 30 or more. So again I find myself needing to stretch – I can’t just go with the ‘easy and familiar’ – I need to push out and find new people and make new contacts.

And lastly, I need to consider putting together a piece for the Writers of the Future contest. Either an offshoot story from the War’s End universe, something from the Chronicles of Liv Rowan (a rather intimidating 12-book series I will eventually get around to writing), or something entirely new.

Yeah, those goals should keep me busy for the week, don’t you think?

Shock, Awe, and…Thankful

Shock, Awe, and…Thankful

I stand at the crossroads…as if I have woken up from a deep sleep and found the answer staring me in the face. Of all the things I have tried – cleaning business, making earrings, working in offices, leasing apartments, bookkeeping, teaching, professional organizing – it has all fallen short somehow.

Although I do truly love to teach. I doubt that will change anytime soon.

And what fills my head, what occupies my thoughts in this moment at this time are…

Shock

This dumbfounded, “Wait, I could write AND make money? ME?” still keeps knocking me in the head. Perhaps because I had been drinking my own Kool-Aid for far too long and listening to that awful little denigrating voice that said, “Sure, you can write, but you’ll never make any money at it. You just don’t write the right stuff, honey, and besides, that cover letter always stops you dead.”

And shock too that, after making so many attempts at writing a stupid cover letter, all of a sudden, I’m over it. And I do mean, completely over it. Like the Bio that I used to dread writing, now I can whip out a cover letter, no problem. I wrote enough different bios over the years and it stopped being scary/egotistical/embarrassing. I just reeled off a cover letter to Parents magazine. Without fear, just WHAM there on the page, but smooth baby, oh so smooth. It doesn’t mean I’ll get a “yes,” but it does mean that I tried.

Awe

That overwhelming feeling over, “Oh my GOD, someone said yes, and I can do this, I can do this!” combined with, “Holy crap, I forgot about all of these miscellaneous writings!” It turns out I have dozens of nearly ready to go articles. A quick review, some editing, and then, “Gee, who shall I send THIS to?”

I’ve forgotten about more pieces than I remember. And I’m finding them now, gliding through the files, burrowing into ideas and random thoughts and deep, dark memories. It’s a friggin’ gold mine over here. I just need to polish and submit, rinse and repeat, and then keep writing.

Thankful

The shaping of a human being does not end with adulthood, nor with our parents. Every person we encounter, positive, negative, thought-provoking, and more – they change us, affect us, and move us in some big/little/great/small way. And I find, at this moment, I have such profound gratitude for the people who I have met and seen move on, those who exist in my life at this moment, and those who I have yet to meet.

I would not be the person I am without each one of you. Each experience, good, bad, even the simplest of comments, I find they have moved me in ways I didn’t think possible.

As much as you may not realize it, every person in my life right now, and before this, and yes even those to come, have guided me here, to this moment. And that is an amazing, humbling feeling. If you are reading this now, then you probably had a part in the me that is now over the moon, excited and jazzed and pumped full of life just thinking about writing and making a living out of it. So…thank you…collectively. If I tried to list everyone out, I would miss someone terribly important.

So thank you for being you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Struggling to Work it All Out

Struggling to Work it All Out

So the other day I mentioned that I had written up this great essay, thinking I would submit it to Tin House, only to read their submission guidelines and realize they had a theme of rejection for this round of submissions.

I’m not sure who to submit this damned essay to, but I hate to close it, saving it to my hard drive and risk possibly forgetting it.

So do I spend a morning shopping around other magazines for it? Do I start going through this enormous tome of magazines and seeing if I can find a match?

Do I set it aside and try to write another piece?

I want to make the most of my writing time, and I know that, eventually, I will find a rhythm to what I am now trying to do. It sure isn’t easy in the meantime.

I like having a plan. And while I do have a general plan, I’m still a little lost here. I hope that changes soon!

Update: Well blow me over with a feather. I sometimes write ahead, and the post above was written on Tuesday morning, before I received an email from the editor of Home Education Magazine in response to my article Unschool Conversations. It looks like the article will be published in fall 2015!

It lit a fire under me. I sat down and wrote out Growing Food, Building Community and submitted it last night. And then immediately began work on an article titled Closing the Gap. I still need a home for the piece I wrote with Tin House in mind, but I’m feeling a little better. Maybe I’ll start a “find this a home” section of my Excel spreadsheet and have essays in the can that I can research which magazines would be interested.

I have to admit that I’m still reeling a little, folks. The first magazine article I have ever submitted and it was snatched up within 24 hours! I know that it won’t always be like that, but really, that was a hell of a start, don’t you think?!

Bump in the Road

Bump in the Road

Word of warning. You are probably going to see some higher levels of stream of consciousness, “how the hell do I do THIS?” kind of posts in the days and weeks to come.

Maybe without the higher levels…maybe just an “oh duh” moment or two as well.

Take last Friday morning’s writing adventures for example…

My dad had sent me a link to this list of 19 websites that were looking for writer submissions. Near the bottom of the list was Tin House, which caught my eye and so I followed the link to the magazine to check them out, noticing almost immediately that Molly Ringwald wrote for them. Yes, Molly Ringwald, teen star. Interesting.

I read the sample essay they had posted a link to and found it funny. It reminded me of a growing up story of my own, one where I was obsessed with being called modest (I wanted that title real bad, REAL bad.) and how it didn’t end so well for me. Having read the essay by Rachel Yoder, I felt I had a feel for the magazine, so I sat down and wrote the story out.

I was all set to find out the specifics of submitting it to them for consideration, and so I went to the Submissions Guidelines page to get the nitty gritty details.

Suffice it to say, I should have gone to that before writing the essay.

[sigh]

Apparently they are only accepting submissions along the theme of rejection.

Something tells me I’ll get a rejection all right, if I bother sending this story that has nothing to do with rejection at all!

So now I’ve got a 821 word count essay that, while it might be ‘perfect’ for Tin House, is definitely not in the theme of rejection.

[bigger sigh]

This is yet another bump in the road. It also begs the question, which comes first the article or the entity?

And also, who do I pitch it to now?

I’m getting there. But the road is bumpy. No avoiding that learning curve for me!

My New Path

My New Path

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last Thursday I listed it all out and committed to my new path – that of committing to a writing career. This may sound strange, after all, I’ve had a writer website for years, I’ve written and published books, how could I just now be committing to a writing career?

Ever dance around something, unsure of whether to commit? Maybe not sure of your own capabilities, tenacity, or simply the world at large? Ever been bound by a set of worries over money, a commitment to family, and not seen a way past to pursue the thing you wanted most in the world?

Yeah, well, join the club. I’ve been fighting that inner battle for my entire adult life.

So here I am, with a brand new set of goals (see picture above). The only reason I put quotation marks around full time is that, no matter what, while I’m a homeschool mom, there is no such thing as “full-time writer.” There just isn’t.

So, to review, I’m committing to:

  • Send out queries (working my way up to 5 queries a week) – Right now I’m averaging around one query a week. So I definitely have a ways to go!
  • Generate 1-2 topics a day for articles – I’m still struggling a bit over WHAT to write. Obviously I have many directions I can go (homeschool, parenting, gardening, old homes, self-sustainability, and so much more), it is just a matter of choosing a specific topic or angle and actually writing the article
  • Market my books daily – and really, this goes for my writing in general, not just the books on Amazon. But I need to create a presence on Goodreads and possibly BookBuzz as well. I need to stop looking at marketing as a “I guess I have to do this” to a “People are interested in hearing what I have to say and reading what I write.”
  • Update my three websites at least twice daily – this maintains my presence in local circles, but it can also take on broader applications if I give myself more exposure (see next goal). I’ve neglected my websites while writing on Bubblews.
  • Build Twitter – I might not use Twitter, but other folks do. And that is a reason for me to build my Twitter following, so that more people receive updates on website posts and also my books. It might help put me in touch with other important contacts.
  • Read Every Day – I have really fallen off the reading bandwagon. Me! I know that is shocking, especially if you have known me for a while and know how MUCH I like to read. I read an interesting, and at times humorous, piece today. I hope to throw in a chapter from the Six Figure Freelancing later today.

So that it in a nutshell. My new path.

I need to go now…lots to do!

I Declare It Marketing Day!

I Declare It Marketing Day!

I finally woke up and realized that, if I want to sell my books, I need to, you know, sell my books.

Marketing might not be my most favorite thing in the world, but I need to definitely change my attitude about it.

And really, you want to read my books. Just sayin’.

In any case, I’ve got Hootsuite up and I’m clipping quotes from my books and scheduling Tweets to happen at regular intervals on all books. I think that I would like to isolate one day a month where I schedule Tweets for the entire month and then don’t have to worry about it for another month. That would get it out of the way and not let it be a “well, gee, I could write, but I really need to market.”

Classical avoidance.

Besides, I’ve noticed an uptick in sales recently. Here is a screen shot of my KDP sales report. I don’t think this counts any of the paperback sales either. I think I need to check CreateSpace for that. In any case, I know the numbers don’t amount to huge amounts (less than $20 in my pocket right now) but I can see that if I keep marketing these books and keep writing and connecting on Twitter, more will follow.

Here is the screenshot…

kdpsalesreport

Big things can come out of small beginnings.

Now I’m off to fix a couple of things on Amazon. If you search for my name Christine Shuck, you get one set of results. If you search for Christine D Shuck, you get a whole other set of results. Those second set of results do NOT point back to my Author Page on Amazon. Soooo…I’ve got some fixing to do. Once it is fixed, I’ll publish under Christine D Shuck, but I want it searchable by both!

In any case, one book down on scheduled tweets for the month. Time to get to the other three.

Changes, Schemes, and Grand Plans

Changes, Schemes, and Grand Plans

I think out loud.

Actually, I think quietly to myself and then bounce ideas off of others. And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.

Mainly I have solidified, finally at the ripe young age of 44 years, on exactly what I want to be when I grow up.

I want to write.

I want to teach and inspire others.

I’m doing this, but I’ve allowed myself to become distracted.

I’ve allowed my concerns about money to dictate what writing I chose to focus on above other options that would produce money, just not as immediately as writing for Bubblews has done for me. And I’ve spent hours each day writing for pennies. Granted, those are pennies that added up to around $25 average income per day. Which may sound like peanuts, but really, really helped that bank balance.

Bubblews stopping from paying regularly was a bit of a shock to the system. I had convinced myself I was under a charm, a protective spell, that others simply couldn’t seem to find. My payments came in, with only two exceptions, within days after they were promised. And when they suddenly stopped, in late September, right as I had committed to writing for publication (predominantly on Bubblews, but also magazine submissions on parenting, homeschool, and so much more) I was thrown for a loop.

However, I have dusted myself off, and re-assessed my situation.

I looked over our current budget, which is quite lean, and asked myself if I was willing to set aside some projects – like working on The Cottage, and focus on writing instead.

Whatever I write now and get accepted (when it gets accepted) will take months before I see any payout. Was I willing to commit to that uncertainty?

The answer was “yes.”

But it isn’t just my decision. I have a family, a husband, and a certain number of responsibilities. I HAVE to bring in income, and the more the better, but after explaining my thought processes and getting a “I support you fully” from my husband I’m jumping in now, with my eyes wide open and my heart committed.

I’m going to continue cleaning houses – we can’t give up that income. But I won’t be taking on any new clients. I will still teach classes, perhaps I will even expand my offerings, which are now at 46 different classes. Teaching, sharing knowledge and inspiring others has quickly become a “must do” that I don’t see abandoning anytime soon. And I will be promoting my books and continuing to maintain my three websites: The Deadly Nightshade, The Homeschool Advocate, and this website (of course!).

And I will be preparing articles and submitting them. I’m going to try and work my way up to five per week. Right now I’ve got two in process and more ideas popping up all the time. Like the classes I teach, these come from my own experiences, voice, and life. I hope I can find the right publications to fit those words into.

So in any case, comment away. Please. I get so much damn spam that I sometimes wonder if anyone is really reading these. And I really like that you do. Just so you know!

War’s End Book 2 is Available for Purchase!

War’s End Book 2 is Available for Purchase!

WarsEnd Book2

I’m very happy to announce that War’s End: A Brave New World is now available for sale on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback formats.

Also, you will find War’s End: The Storm Kindle book for only 99 cents! And if you are like me and must have a paperback copy, here it is: War’s End: The Storm in paperback.

I hope you will take the opportunity to purchase the book and leave a review on Amazon. As a relatively unknown author, every review is needed! Even if you don’t agree with the premise, or find it to be less than five stars, SAY THAT, and give it a fair and honest rating. It helps me more than you could possibly know!

Stay tuned, I’ll be posting soon on some big changes in priorities and my goals for the next few months.