500 Words Per Day

Atomic Habits

I just received it today and I’ve already cracked it open and read the Introduction. I can’t wait to dig in. Right now, I have three non-fiction books vying for my attention:

Indulge me for a moment. If you have read much here, you will have picked up on the fact that I like numbers. I’ll never be a statistician or mathematician, but I do enjoy marking progress through statistics and more.

As I was driving to a client cleaning the other day, I found myself mulling over the following question:

What If I Wrote 500 Words Per Day Every Day for Ten Years?

500 x 365 x 10 = 1,825,000 words total

After all, it had been ten years (and four months) since I published my first book. And five more had appeared alongside the first. But I had to wonder, what would 500 words a day look like?

Now, let’s say that none of those words were wasted or cut out and let’s also assume that each book I write is 100,000 words long (true of fiction, but non-fiction has been far shorter than that).

1,825,000/100,000 = 18.25

Eighteen books?

Eighteen?!

That’s an amazing number!

And what if what I am making now, on the six books I have for sale, was multiplied by three? I would be making at least $556 per month in sales. Not earth-shattering, not quit your job today, but still, more than what I am now. And realistically, if I had that many books out, I would also be better at marketing, book blurbs, book covers and more by now and that would translate into better sales.

All from just 500 words per day.

What About 1,000 Words a Day?!

And before you say, “Christine, seriously, that’s doubling your word count. How are you going to do that when we all know you aren’t even hitting the 500 mark every day (obviously, otherwise I would have far more books published!) I need to point out just how short of a time it takes me to type 500 words.

20 minutes.

When I knuckle down and concentrate, that’s how long it takes me to write 500 words.

So yeah, 1,000 words a day is totally possible.

Clarification

I would say that I write at least 500 words a day already – easy peasy, in my blogs, my journals, my Facebook updates. What I’m talking about here is novel writing.

So when I set a goal of 500 words or even 2,500 words in a day it is with the understanding that those will be written in service to finishing the book of the hour. Which in this case is The Hired Gun.

But Will It Actually Happen?

Damn, who knows? What if I did, though? What could I get accomplished in a year? In five? In another ten?

Today I was up at 4:45 in the morning, good to go. I sat here, and I slipped away on tangents, opened up internet rabbitholes, and found a dozen other things to do but what I had assigned myself.

I had set a goal of 1,500 words and at noon I had managed 576. I kept coming back to it, kept working on it in spits and spurts and finally at 5:45, I checked my totals and I had written precisely 1,650 words.

Mission accomplished. See you again tomorrow.

Little Goals, Big Goals – LIVING Goals

Two years ago, after my crazy, stressful flight to Panama and back, I realized that I have spent most of my life just getting by. 

Pay the bills, work my ass off, and try and be a good mom, wife, and human being. Rinse and repeat.

They aren’t bad goals, and they aren’t without moments of joy. I have a great life, I really do. But the older I get, the more I want to see the rest of the world, explore foreign cities, stand in a castle centuries older than me, and dip my toes into strange and distant shores.

I have also wanted to go to a writer’s conference for at least the past six years, possibly longer. I want to rub shoulders with other writers, listen to what works for them, and take a few days to just be in my writing world, all by myself, without family commitments.

So after hemming and hawing back and forth, I made the dual decisions. 

  1. I’m going to a writer’s conference in 2019
  2. I’m really REALLY going to go to Europe for my 50th birthday.

Here is how I think it will all shake out.

20 Books to 50k

November 2019 is the 20 Books to 50k Las Vegas conference. I’ve already booked a room and I plan to buy tickets to the conference when they go on sale in a month or two.

I’m going by myself, as in, alone. The thought of it gives me some level of giddiness. No kiddos, no husband, just me and my writing dreams for a few days in a strange city. I’m so excited at the thought!

Naples, Italy

For years I have dreamed of visiting Pompeii. I also desperately want to visit a range of destinations – from my family’s ancestral home, Schloss Sandfort in Germany, to the beautiful shores of Ireland and more destinations than I have time to detail.

But one thing at a time.

For now, I’ve settled on a trip to Naples, Italy in 2020. On May 17th, 2020, I will step off the plane and spend two weeks bopping about Naples. I would love to climb Mount Vesuvius, explore some catacombs, take an authentic Italian cooking class, explore Santa Lucia, and yes, of course, see Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Two weeks will barely scratch the surface of what Italy has to offer, but I know I will love it. And I hope too, that we will then be able to repeat our trips to Europe, every other year, and slowly tick off the wonderful and amazing destinations I have longed to explore since I was my daughter’s age.

I will be learning Italian through DuoLingo. I love the app, we have been using it to learn Spanish as part of my 12-year-old’s homeschool, but I really want to learn Italian so I’m less of the “ugly American.”

Em says she wants to learn it as well, so it looks like we will be adding it to our homeschool curriculum in January. Beginning January 1st, I’m committing to taking two lessons every day.

I found a great article: 15 Best Things to Do in Naples for when we are there. Most of them sound like “must see” destinations to me!

And Last, But Certainly Not Least

My writing goals for this year are as follows:

  • Finish The Hired Gun and get it edited and published. I hope to see this happen by March 2019. This also means completing Better Choices, a novella that will be a giveaway for readers of Benton Security Services series (of which The Hired Gun is book one).
  • Make progress on Zarmina’s World, the sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure
  • Write Winter’s Child – I have the outline, I know where I’m going, I just need to write it, edit, and publish it. That’s all…just, you know, the whole burrito. No problem!
  • Make progress on The Chronicles of Liv Rowan

That’s a lot of writing, folks. We will see if I am up to the task.

One General Malcontent, Reporting In

It’s Friday, so I figured it was time to report in and update on my progress. Small and measurable, but still, progress.

Books sold: 14 this week, 57 (this month) and total for year: 532

Words written this week: 3,500 (approximatation)

This includes several blog posts, two synopses, several character developments, and around two chapters of actual, you know, words, that folks will someday get to read.

I finished reading Tim Grahl’s book Running Down a Dream. And while at parts I found myself wondering when he was going to really get on with it, in the end I appreciated his candor. The journey to becoming a writer can be full of pitfalls and self-hatred, I know, I’ve found myself there multiple times. He gave me some great ideas at the end of the book on how to move forward, inexorably, from here.

Last night I wrote down in my work journal a list of tips from the back of the book. Here are a couple of them to get you started, but I highly recommend the book for the full list (along with Tim’s own story).

  • What is the most direct path to my goal? (to write at least 500 words every day)
  • Stop doing everything (I’m working on it. Right now the hubs is cooking dinner)
  • No seriously, STOP doing everything and really focus on what you should be doing (go granular, figure out your daily “to do’s”, figure out what is essential, and remove the non-essential.)
  • Create systems for the essential tasks

There’s more, lots more, but I will be focusing on these for now. I’ve already been reducing the things I do, but there is definitely room for improvement. More on this in another post. I’ve also recently added Jeff Goin’s podcast, The Portfolio Life, to my “must listen to” podcasts.He has some good ones on the writing craft as well as profiling interesting writers and other creatives.

P.S. Sorry, Not Sorry If I Offended You

So this is just the weirdest fucking thing and I have to share so that someone will please tell me exactly how this post was offensive, because I’m boondoggled if I understand it. And as a lifelong auto-didact (it means self-learner folks, it isn’t some pervy thing) I really do WANT to understand weird shit like this.

Here is what happened:

This morning, thinking about my husband’s birthday in January, I thought about how I want to take him to somewhere really special for his birthday. He wants sushi, so I thought Why not go somewhere we have never been before?

And at about that same time, someone on the Kansas City Eats Facebook page posted about a restaurant and I thought I’ll ask them! So I wrote:

“Your favorite sushi restaurant…Go!

p.s. I’m trying to find a really good one to take my husband to in January for his 50th birthday. He loves sushi.”

And then I went out and about – work, errands, homeschool, and finally picked up a friend of Em’s who is spending the night. I come back to a huge list of recommendations and this:

Is GO a trigger word? I even searched the internet to try and figure out if I had somehow offended someone. Or are we seriously just getting in a kerfluffle over the word go?

By the time I was home and could check my email, some admin had even turned off the commenting feature on the post, so I couldn’t even ask what the hell was wrong with the word “go.”

And then I realized that I really don’t give a shit. Life is too short to wonder about the weird and freakish eccentricities of others. I mean, I didn’t scream “cockroach!” or “All hail Trump” or anything else incendiary. Just that awful, terrible, ridiculous word…GO.

Well here it is again. Take your offense at the word “GO” and shove it straight up your…

[deep breath]

Hey now, I might swear on my blog. Occasionally. Okay, sometimes more than occasionally. In any case, I decided I didn’t really want to know what grave offense I had committed, offend the group hive mind’s delicate sensibilities, and I exited the group.

Life is just way too short for that kind of silliness.

Back to writing I go. I think I can wring another 500+ words out of today. Maybe one of them will include the word…GO.

Better Habits

Weekends Are for Marketing & Blogging

The world of self-publishing is really opening up to new authors, and even established authors no longer satisfied with the status quo. Each week I tune in and listen to several excellent podcasts. They give me great ideas I can implement, and continue to buoy my spirits. 

Each week I make it a point to listen to:

  • The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn is in line with the cutting edge of new developments in the publishing world
  • The Book Marketing Show – Dave Chesson, creator of KDP Rocket (an essential tool for keyword searches for ads and more)
  • The Self-Publishing Show – Mark Dawson is living proof that you can make it as an Indie author. I’ve signed up for (and need to continue learning from) his Ads for Authors course
  • The Portfolio Life – Jeff Goins has some great insight as well into the processes of writing
  • Don’t Keep Your Day Job – Cathy Heller is inspiring. This podcast is for all creatives.

Sometimes, however, the amount of knowledge that is flowing in is rather overwhelming and I noticed a rather extreme dip in my writing output over the past year as I learned more and more about how to be successful in publishing.

And not just that, but it’s kind of addicting to watch my stats on the KDP dashboard. It faithfully records sales and I find myself checking it multiple times in a day, which distracts me from my other tasks.

And of course, there are plenty of family and home obligations. Every day is full!

Tons of Info + too many distractions + family obligations = not enough writing

I’m hoping to break it up a little, though. Weekends are busy times for us, but I can usually scratch out a little time to go through my AMS ads, figure out what is working and what isn’t and adjust my ads accordingly. It’s also a good time to go through and create a blog update, like this one!

When it comes to the more creative side, that still needs to be woven into the spaces between cleaning houses, homeschool and family life.

I can’t do much about eliminating those time sucks. After all, I want them in my life, or else I wouldn’t have had children and become a foster mom! And the cleaning houses is necessary for at least the next 18 months.

Adoption Gone Wrong?

As foster parents who hope to adopt, we are required to take additional classes to prepare us for adopting a child in the future. We are eight months into fostering a little girl, and the case goal is still reunification, but 2019 is promising to be a year full of activities, and so I figured we needed to get all the training done now instead of when our lives are even more busy than they currently are.

As we sat in class and the instructor was busy telling us that there would be no “take backsies,” I was suddenly struck with a story about an adoption gone wrong, and a dangerous violent, evil entity trapped within an innocent child’s body – and it only comes out in winter.

I was listening to Jeff Goins talk the other day about how writing a great book is typically about taking an idea that is 80% someone else’s and 20% your own unique spin. Said another way, readers look for stories that remind them of other stories they have read.  As Goins put it, “Like Lord of the Rings, only everyone is trying to kill each other” (a.k.a. Game of Thrones).

I’ve begun taking notes on it. It’s working title is “Winter’s Child.”

Keep Moving, Don’t Stop

I think the biggest thing I try to remember is to keep moving, don’t stop, and above all, stay positive and don’t lose hope. Nothing truly worth doing is going to be a 100% walk in the park. It’s hard, it’s frustrating at times, but I keep on going.

Full steam ahead!

Creative Process and Audiobooks

I’m reading, marketing, blogging, writing, and otherwise doing what I need to do to move forward on my goals this week. I’m feeling good, I just need to hold on and keep the momentum going!

It goes something like this…

EVERY Day

Each morning this week I have opened this book (yes, it’s my work journal) and detailed my goals and accomplishments.

My goal each day has been: Sell 105 books today

And yes, I still have a way to go to reach that goal…

Each day, the goal resets to 105. Basically, it is my magic number.

My “freedom” number, if you will.

I looked at the two things I would prefer to stop doing – cleaning houses and caretaking – added up my income and threw in 20% taxes, marketing costs for each book sale, as well as Amazon’s take (30-40% of all sales), rounded up and arrived at the magic number of 3,200 book sales per month necessary in order to stop cleaning houses and be able to put my dad in an assisted living facility.

If my sales increase to say 1,600 book sales per month than I will most likely stop cleaning houses but continue caretaking until I reach the 3,200 book sales per month goal.

Yes, it is a huge goal, expecting to move from a handful of sales per day to a total of 105 or more every day of the stinking year. I’m aware of just how big it is. And anytime I start to lose faith, I remind myself of where I’ve been.

Last year I sold a total of 32 books, 31 of which were in November and December.

This year I’ve sold 504 books.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Over 500 books, that’s huge! And the reason for it? Well, as labyrinthine and odd as it might be, the thanks for it can be laid directly at my eldest’s feet. In a sense, it is like a sad version of “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake” – but one thing definitely led to the next:

  • The schism with my eldest last year led to me questioning everything – especially my parenting and even homeschooling abilities
  • This questioning led to a crisis of confidence and me deciding to enroll my tween in 5th grade at the local public school
  • Without her presence during the day, and my days filled with my housecleaning biz, I quickly grew bored with listening to music and started listening to podcasts
  • The podcasts, first Airbnb-related, quickly turned to writing-related and I began learning (and implementing) ideas into my writing business, thus increasing sales.

I would never have turned to podcasts if I hadn’t have had hours of free time with no one to talk to. And without those podcasts, I might have never learned the techniques I have learned (and am still learning) that continue to make a difference in my writing career.

A year later and we are back at homeschooling BUT I do not take my daughter with me to most cleanings – those are my prime podcast listening times!

And so, as strange as it might sound, I am quite thankful to my eldest. She might have broken my heart, but her departure from my day-to-day life also helped me to move past the point where I was stuck for years, waiting for a writing ship to sail in instead of hunting down that damned ship and grabbing it by the anchor.

p.s. Ships are very heavy, this might take a while.

My Creative Process

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Most of everyone I know is a little of both. We know to some extent where a story is going, but it isn’t totally mapped out.

For me, the creative process means that I usually have a scene or a series of scenes visualized in my head, but the characters walk into the picture where I’m least expecting them. They pop up, barely introduce themselves, and then just start doing whatever the heck they want to in the scene, without so much as a by your leave.

I found my character Shane looking out for this poor junkie down the hall from him in his apartment building. Where Kenny the Junkie came from, I have no idea, but damned if he wasn’t insistent on me writing him in.

Audiobook Dilemma

I have this great speaking voice. No seriously, I really do. Years of work on phones, in call centers, secretarial work and more have cemented that fact. My daughter loves for me to read to her, she says I act out the voices and make the stories interesting.

So between that and the fact that paying someone to transform your book into audiobook form was incredibly expensive, I just figured I’d muddle my way through it and record my own.

And since I’ve solidified on my goals for 2019 in the past week, the idea of needing to record my books was stressing me out. How was I going to fit that in among all the other stuff?

And it wasn’t just the recording time, but the editing time, which most folks will tell you is about five hours for every finished hour of recording.

Talk about a steep learning curve! I needed to:

  • Learn how to record my voice in a way that would sound professional (i.e. without the sounds of sirens, heaters, children, and barking dogs)
  • Learn how to edit the files
  • Spend approximately 60 hours editing the files once I had recorded them

OR…

Go to a company, enter into a deal where I split the profits on any sales 50/50 for seven years.

OR…

Pony up around $2,500-$4,000 per book to be recorded that I could then sell royalty free.

Option 1 – too much time, not enough experience or comfort doing it myself

Option 3 – no money, honey

So Option 2 it will be. I’ll be working on getting Get Organized, Stay Organized recorded after I do a complete re-edit of the manuscript. After that, an edit of Gliese 581 and then I’ll have that recorded as well. The others will wait until I see how the sales for these two go. Who knows, they might give me the $$ I need to pay for Option 3 for the rest of my books.

Forward Motion – One Day at a Time

I wake up every day with the following assignments:

  • Write something
  • Learn something
  • Edit something
  • Market something
  • Interact with someone about writing

One day at a time. Every day. I’ll make it work. Just…you…watch.

Time to Get Serious

I’ve been listening to podcasts for over a year now. And I have found that I love them. They have interested, inspired, and informed me. Listening to them, in those moments when my hands were occupied, but my mind was not, has changed my life.

Last year, as I mourned the loss of a family member I had built so much of my life around, I enrolled my then almost eleven year old in school for the first time. I questioned everything, up to and including the meme above at times. It isn’t easy when relationships end. It isn’t simple, or clear cut, or easy to walk away.

I questioned it all.

Was I a good person?

Was I a good mother?

Was I a good teacher?

Was I a good writer?

I cleaned my client’s houses, I listened to the podcasts. I learned.

I changed my covers, fixed glaring errors and dove back into the self-publishing world. As I did this, my daughter’s school conducted placement testing and I learned that not only had I managed to educate her in a reasonably efficient manner, but that, at worst, she was grade-level in math, and at best she scored six grades ahead in science.

She excelled that year in school and I regained the footing I had lost in those months of agonized questioning and fear and doubt. Not just that, but all of sudden, I was selling books.

Not a “oh my god girl, you are a millionaire!” kind of way, but a bright, bright light at the end of the tunnel. A “this is possible, this can be done” kind of way. Every day, I listened to people whose incomes were growing, exponentially.

Joanna Penn – whose income is now in the mid six figures.

Mark Dawson – whose income in book sales alone is around 80k per month

And several others.

And as I listened to them, and implemented so many changes, some effective, some rather expensive – I realized a few things.

  • You can be creative AND make money
  • I want to write books but I also want some form of security (a.k.a. passive income in the form of rentals or Airbnb properties)
  • Whether or like it or not, I need to learn marketing.

And I have kept learning, and trying, and experimenting. And yes, at times I feel as if I’m banging my head against a wall.

I realized too that as the months wore on and I wrote little or nothing that it was a combination of issues that were stopping me…

  • My dad – his presence in my life has always caused me to question myself. He thrived on it, sort of like a vampire, and seemed to enjoy unsettling me. This continues, although I have managed to make it clear that he is the problem and not me. This toxic relationship is not one I prefer to continue, but there are economic and logistical issues that stand in the way of moving him into a nursing home. For now, he is an unwilling part of our lives.
  • Excuses – damned if I don’t have one for every mountain that appears in my path. But mountains can be climbed. And if I want this bad enough, I need to get the fuck over them.
  • Family, projects and more – as much as I want to cut back, I recognize certain parts of my life take at least a chunk of priority. One cute three-year-old who we hope to adopt, a 12-year-old who is back to homeschooling, a wonderful husband and our Airbnb projects.

As I listened to the story of Shayne Silvers, a fellow Missourian who wrote his first book in 2012, and then returned to writing in 2016 with stunning results, I knew it was time to get serious.

To write and be successful, you need:

  • A great story, well-written, that appeals to your target readers
  • An excellent, well-edited manuscript that isn’t full of errors
  • A book cover that reels in readers
  • A book blurb that peaks readers interests
  • A host of compelling ads that encourage folks to click the buy button
  • A subscriber list so you can engage in personal interaction as well as low-key marketing to the readers who are already interested in your writing
  • A book magnet – a freebie giveaway that gets folks interested in your series so that they want to read more.
  • Interaction/availability – to your fans who want to know more about you or your universe of characters (fiction) or your knowledge (non-fiction)

And while there are some areas that need improvement (editing, some book covers, a bigger subscriber list) I’m on the right track, but now it is time to seriously move forward.

The end of the year always spurs thoughts of how next year should go, and this December is no exception.

I know that I want to stop cleaning houses and that I need to move my dad into a nursing home. That want and that need clash with a very basic issue, that of money.

In order for those two things to happen, I must sell 3,200 books per month. That number was arrived at through some rather labyrinthine calculations, and include setting aside 20% for taxes and 30% for Amazon’s bite of the pie, and an advertising budget that does not exceed 50% of the income I receive from sales.

Like I said, labyrinthine.

As of last month, I sold 124 books. That means I’m at 3.8% of goal.

In total so far this year I’ve sold at least 491 books. That’s a huge difference from last year in which I sold a total of 32 books. That’s an improvement of 1,534% over last year! A big thanks to Stephanie Adams for helping me with that math problem. So, going along with that concept, I need to sell 38,400 books per year or increase my sales from this year by 7,821%.

Here is how I’m going to do it.

One…

bite…

at…

a…

time.

The way I figure it, every single stinkin’ day for the next 2-4 years I need to be:

  • Writing something
  • Learning something (marketing, writing ad copy, improving my writing)
  • Editing something
  • Marketing something
  • Interacting with somebody about writing

Every single day. Without fail.

I can do this.

I’ve been homeless.

I’ve been married to shitty human beings (and even shittier husbands).

I’ve gone through divorce, custody battles, raising one teenager, bankruptcy, and a host of other challenges.

I can do this.

Stay tuned.