Flirting with Burnout

Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

I’ve been pushing myself really hard since 2016, the year I started publishing and somehow put out four books in seven months.

Each year I told myself I wouldn’t work so hard, but I kept on and sometimes added even more.

And now, almost four years later, my characters won’t talk to me. That’s a big problem because I can’t write without them.

So I think I may be reaching the burnout point. Luckily, I’m not fully there, but I think I’m getting close.

Looking back on my year, it’s not surprising:

Suffrage Movement Book:

  • Researched two sample chapters.
  • Wrote sample chapters (17,315 words)
  • Co-wrote proposal.
  • Queried agents with co-author.
  • Shelved book.

Virginia and Francis Minor biography:

  • Researched 105,557 words of notes.
  • Took research trip to University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
  • Wrote proposal and sample chapter.
  • Queried agents.
  • Project on hold.

Historical fiction book:

  • 9,041 words of notes (not complete)
  • Project on hold due to project below.

WWII book:

  • Researched 21,634 words
  • Developed detailed 7 page outline, with becomes 40 pages with notes.
  • Did this in three weeks.
  • Wrote 6,218 words.
  • Now the book is refusing to cooperate.

Other writing:

  • Wrote a short story for an anthology – 10,000 words
  • Researching book chapter: The Ethics of Writing Guinevere for the Modern Age.
    • So far at 15,410 words of notes.
    • Have four articles and two books to go.
  • Wrote three articles for NINC newsletter.
  • Reported on 11 sessions from the NINC Conference.

That’s a total of 185,175 words written (not counting the articles and reporting), even if most were notes.

Other 

  • Attended four conferences, speaking at two.
  • Spoke at five other events.
  • Conducted a successful USA Today bestseller list campaign.
  • Read 86 books (not including research) to date. Will likely hit 100 by end of year.

Oh and I have a full-time job.

But yet I hesitate to let myself have a break.

  1. I’m not sure I know how. I don’t know how to person without writering.
  2. I worry someone else will get to this latest book before I do.
  3. I feel like I always need to be doing something.
  4. I worry that taking a break will harm my career.

Yet, I know I have to slow down/stop for a while. The only thing I can muster energy and interest in right now is playing Covet Fashion on my Kindle. That is not a good thing because it costs money, rather than making me money. And it takes up time I could be using for writing. But at least it is a creative outlet, I guess. (And I am a damn good stylist!)

I know how I got myself here; now I just have to figure out how to get out of it.

Online Courses Now Available at Professional Author Academy

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to learn more about writing, finish your book or maybe even to self-publish, you’re in luck. I’m now offering online courses on writing, business and publishing for authors of all experience levels, from aspiring to multi-published, at Professional Author Academy.

Here’s a look at the courses:

Business Courses 

Audio Books for Indie Authors
Audio books are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry and are a relatively easy way to make money on books you’ve already written. The process may seem overwhelming, but Nicole Evelina will guide you through a few of the ways of getting your book from page to earbuds. She’ll help you understand your options for production, the cost involved, how to audition narrators and guide them once you’ve selected your talent, what the recording and editing process entail, and how to get your books out to your audience.

Basic Branding for Authors
When we hear the word “branding,” most of us automatically think “logo.” While that is one part of it, branding is actually so much more. It includes the way people feel when they interact with you, your “voice” both in your writing and online, and the image you project online and in person. In addition, branding encompasses your logo, author and book taglines and the fonts and colors you choose for your web site and marketing materials. Drawing on 15 years of professional experience in marketing and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole will help you understand branding through case studies of authors who do it successfully, as well as offer tips and exercises you can employ to discover your own brand.

Business Plans for Authors
A business plan is a roadmap to success. Whether you’re published or not, indie or traditional, a good business plan helps you in defining your goals as well as action steps you can take to reach them. In this course, you’ll learn an 11-step process for writing yours that will take only an hour or two to complete. Plus, you’ll get to see a real-life example of a business plan from your instructor. You’ll also learn how to set your budget and think through your long-term and short-term goals, uncover additional merchandising opportunities that could lead to income, and plan for your next year’s worth of book releases.

Legal Issues for Indie Authors
Being an indie author is more than just writing and publishing a book. Regardless of whether or not you choose to formally start your own publishing imprint, as soon as you make your first sale you are a business in the eyes of the law. This means you’ll have to pay taxes and make sure you follow local, state and Federal laws. In this course,* award-winning author and owner of Lawson Gartner Publishing, Nicole Evelina will walk you through the ins and outs of copyright, PCIP information and Library of Congress numbers, things to consider when starting your own publishing imprint, taxes and proper business record keeping. *This course should not be taken as legal advice. Please consult an attorney and/or tax expert before taking any action.

Marketing Plans for Authors
In today’s publishing world, it’s not only indie authors who have to handle the lion’s share of marketing their book. Increasingly, traditionally published authors are being asked to shoulder the burden. So where do you start? Drawing on 15 years of professional experience and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole Evelina will lead you through creating your own marketing plan. You’ll learn how to:

  • Get an idea of the market for your genre
  • Research competitive and comparative books
  • Identify your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats
  • Identify your target audience
  • Develop key messages about your book and yourself as an author
  • Plan what tactics you will use before launch, during your launch and after to gain and sustain sales:
    • Distribution – online and physical stores
    • Getting endorsements
    • Paid advertising
    • Social media
    • Your web site content
    • Guest posts/writing articles
    • Events/speaking engagements
    • Media relations
    • Tapping into online and real-life organizations
    • Using giveaways and ARCs to build buzz
    • Getting reviews
    • Supplemental materials you’ll want to have on hand
  • Measure for success and evaluation of ROi

Nicole will share her own marketing plans with you, so you can see how one looks when complete, as well as provide handouts you can use as templates to create your own plan. Nicole has won international communications awards for her marketing plans and regularly writes them for her day job.

Self-Publishing 101
Self-published authors are more than just writers. We’re our own business managers, sales force, distribution team, marketers and more. This course will teach you everything you need to know to self-publish as a professional and produce books of equal or greater quality than traditional publishing houses.

This course is actually several courses in one, as I offer many of these modules separately. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of self-publishing
  • How to write a business plan
  • Budgeting
  • How to handle editing/proofreading
  • How to get a great cover design
  • Options for interior book formatting
  • Distribution: Ebooks, print and audio
  • How to sell your book to libraries and bookstores
  • Legal issues for indie authors: copyright, Library of Congress, forming your own imprint, taxes, recording keeping and expenses
  • Marketing and PR basics
  • Your digital media strategy: website, social media and branding

Steps to Self-Publishing
Self-publishing a book is more than uploading it to Createspace and clicking “publish.” There are several steps necessary in order to produce a book that is equal to or better than those from traditional publishing houses. In this course, award-winning self-published author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to know about professional editing, cover design, interior formatting, production​, sales and marketing in order to make your book as professional as possible. She’ll also teach you how to budget for the expenses involved and cover the advantages and disadvantages to choosing to publish independently.

Web Sites and Social Media for Authors
By now we all know that web sites are a must for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in any field. This is especially true for authors whose sites function as not only as virtual calling cards, but as portals for sales and interaction with fans. In this course, award-winning author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to do to set up a site of your own, from choosing a hosting company and buying a URL to deciding what information to include and how to organize your pages. She will also show you how to incorporate branding and marketing best practices into your social media. In addition to using her own site and social media examples, Nicole will offer best practices from famous authors and show you how to emulate them.

Writing Courses

Self-Editing
Editing. That one little word conjures a range of emotions in writers. Some love it. Some hate it. No matter how you feel about it, it’s a necessary step to get your novel ready for publication. Nicole Evelina will teach you some tips and tricks she’s learned over the last several years that will make self-editing a much easier step. Highlights include how to:

  • Break your editing into rounds so that you don’t have to tackle everything at once.
  • Examine dialog, description, characterization and action.
  • Use a beat sheet to check pacing and balance of power.
  • Make every word count without having to agonize over every sing word.
  • Use advice from beta readers and contests to strengthen your novel.

Setting and Description in Fiction
Setting and description are key to immersing your reader in the world of your novel. But how do you accomplish this without overwhelming your readers with pages of flowery prose? Nicole Evelina shares her tips for writing description that will leave your readers wanting to live in the world of your book without sacrificing pace.

Writing Historical Fiction
Ever wanted to try your hand at historical fiction but didn’t know where to start? Award-winning historical fiction author Nicole Evelina will show you it’s not as intimidating as it may seem, even if you’re not a fan of research (though it helps if you are). She’ll cover research methods and sources, how research informs plot, how to handle characterization in other time periods, how to bring the past to life, mistakes to avoid, and more. Whether you’re just dipping a toe in the historical waters or have already published in this genre, you’re sure to learn something new.

Convenient and Reasonably Priced
I know what it’s like to try to fit learning into a life already filled with work, family, writing and other responsibilities. That’s why these courses don’t require any homework and can be taken at your own pace. All courses include a welcome video and narrated Powerpoint slides. Many also include a recommended reading list and other handouts for reference or use as a worksheet or template.

Plus, they are cheaper than your average college course, which runs about $1,500/course (at $500/credit hour), or even many Writer’s Digest Online Workshops, which average between $200-$600+. I offer a tiered pricing structure based on the amount of information in each course. You can pay all at once or installments.

Basic – $100/course

  • Legal Issues for Indie Authors
  • Writing Setting and Description

Standard – $200/course

  • Audio Books for Indie Authors
  • Business Plans for Authors
  • Self-Editing

Advanced – $300/course

  • Branding for Authors
  • Website and Social Media for Authors
  • Steps to Self Publishing

Premium – $500/course

  • Marketing Plans for Authors
  • Writing Historical Fiction

Premier – $1,000/course

  • Self Publishing 101 (This course is several courses in one, including Steps to Self Publishing, Business Plans, Marketing Plans, Legal Issues, Web and Social Media. If you bought the classes separately, you’d pay $1,400.)

To register, just head over to Professional Author Academy.

Stay Up to Date
I’m planning to add new courses several times a year, so if you’d like to be notified when there is a new course or a current course goes on sale, please sign up for my course newsletter.

Future Planned Courses

  • Advanced Author Branding
  • How to Use Pinterest to Develop Your Story and Career
  • How Acting Can Make Your a Better Writer
  • Public Speaking for Authors
  • Starting Strong: Tips for Honing Your Novel’s First Chapter, Page and Line
  • Resources for Self Published and Hybrid Authors
  • Working with a Publicity Company: What You Need to Know
  • Building Strong Characters
  • How to Write a Query Letter That Goes You Noticed

If you have any suggestions for future courses, please email me at nicole[dot]evelina[at]att[dot]net. I’d love to know what you want to learn about!

And please spread the word about this new resource to all the writers in your life.

2018 Word of the Year and Goals

All of the year-end Best Books of 2017 lists (and an article on 10-year planning I read) have brought me to a conclusion about 2018: I need to focus on getting traditionally published.

I’ve known all along that I would try that route again someday, but if I’m going to become “the Nora Roberts of Historical Fiction,”* which is my goal, I don’t know that I can do it without at least a few traditionally published books. Plus:

  • I want to be on those year-end lists.
  • I want to get big-time exposure.
  • I want to get foreign rights deals so I can get more international fans.
  • I want to be on the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists.

And realistically, the only way these are going to happen is either by an act of God (like Colleen Hoover and Bella Andre experienced with their indie careers) or with a traditional contract.

I’m hoping that my indie publishing successes will give me enough credence to make getting an agent/publisher easier than it was the last time. I know that because of what I’ve already experienced, I will go into this round of querying and submissions with so much more confidence. And probably less stress because I know this time that it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of my career; if it doesn’t work out, I can always self-publish the books.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN I’M GOING TO STOP INDIE PUBLISHING!

Not at all. I have plans to self-publish at least four or five more books related to the Guinevere series (Mistress of Legend, Isolde’s story, Morgan’s story, Soibian’s story and a companion guide, plus maybe a few novellas), and possibly the other three or four books in the Chicago Soulmates series, which began with Been Searching for You. Plus whatever else traditional publishing doesn’t take. I’ll become a hybrid author.

So that means 2018 is shaping up like this:

  1. Get Mistress of Legend done and published. (I know that will make many of you happy. Me as well! Publication date TBD.)
  2. Continue on the Rose Ferron biography, which I’m hoping to have done by late summer.
  3. Research and start writing two WWII books that I’d like to get traditionally published.
  4. Research the feminism book I’d love to have out by August 2019 (I doubt it will be ready by then).

In my fantasies, I will also have time to write Isolde and Sobian’s stories and start researching a 19th century historical that I am also going to try getting a traditional contract for. That might be possible if I wrote full-time, but I don’t. So just let me live in my deluded state. I’m happy here.

But I will have more time to write because I’m only going to two conferences and am going to limit my speaking engagements. I may pull back on social media as well. I see 2018 as a year of retreat, and by that I don’t mean running away from battle; I mean it in the sense of a quiet, calming spiritual retreat, a chance to get away and focus. But instead of prayer, my focus will be writing, which for me is a spiritual act. I know I say every year that I’m going to focus on writing, but this year feels different.

They that when we make plans, God laughs. Yes, but God also knows that I need plans because he/she/it/they/whatever made me this way. At least I know that if things don’t follow my plan, it’s because he/she/it/they/whatever has something better in store for me.

2018 Word of the Year
So this brings me to my 2018 Word of the Year: Leap. I’m tired of baby steps. Been there, done that. I’m ready for action, so I’m going to take the metaphoric leap of faith and soar into the unknown by trying once again to go traditional. I’m ready for success; I’m ready for the big time. As they say, God helps those who help themselves, so my helping myself is going to be writing several books with traditional potential and putting myself out there in the publishing industry again.

*For all of you wondering how I define being “the Nora Roberts of Historical Fiction,” here’s my thinking: She’s prolific (perhaps too much so; I’m not aiming for that level), well-respected in her genre, beloved by her readers, and one of the queens of the author world. I don’t care so much about the last one (although I so want the perks like money, films, and bestseller status); the others are what really matters. I hope I’ve made a few strides in that direction already with my own small efforts. I plan to expand exponentially from here.

What is your 2018 Word of the Year?

Mea Culpa! My Top 5 Common Writing Mistakes

Quick Writing Update
I’m busy working away on my non-fiction book on Guinevere – three research books away from writing. I’m going to try to do my own cover and format that myself. Right now I’m thinking a summer release. I’m also researching for Mistress of Legend. I already have some great new ideas on how to improve the draft I have. I’ll probably be writing on that one in late February. I’ll get back to more book-related blog posts around that time.

I’ve also decided to take a break from social media (Facebook and Twitter) for a while. It’s just not fun right now with all the political stuff. I’ll still be on my FB author page, Instagram and Pinterest, if you want to interact. If nothing else, this will give me more time to read/write.

On to the Blog
This week’s blog challenge is “Sorry, Editor! My Common Writing Mistakes.” No one is perfect (even though I like to think I am). No matter how hard I try, there are some mistakes that I make over and over again. My poor editor and proofreader are probably so sick of them. To compile this list, I went back and looked at previous edits to see what they pointed out.

  1. Comma splice – This is by far my most frequent offense. My proofreader is probably sick of writing “Comma splice. Em dash or ellipsis recommended if you want to pause for effect.” Here’s an example of a line I did wrong: “We didn’t have much experience seeking out the spirits; usually they came to us, and privately at that.” It should be “usually they came to us – and privately at that.” I seem to think commas are enough of a pause when they don’t really function the way I think they do in these cases.
  2. “Was” phrases – Because I write in past tense, I have a tendency to say things like “I was walking to the door when it suddenly opened from the other side.” Many times that can be better phrased as “I walked to the door…” The “was” makes the sentence more passive. I have to break myself of that habit.
  3. Forgetting “had” – Again, because I write in past tense, I sometimes forget that when you are talking about the past in a past-tense book, you need to use “had” to indicate the action took place in the past. For example: “My suggestion of a theme had come at the end of a long brainstorming session…” My tendency is to want to write “My suggestion for a theme came at the end…”
  4. Redundant phrases – I think a lot of people have problems with this, partly because of the way we speak. It’s common now to say things like “she was just a tiny little thing.” You really don’t need both “tiny” and “little” since they both mean the same thing. My most common mistake here is “sit down on the chair.” Where else are you going to sit, but down? You can sit up, but when you’re talking about being seated, down is the only way you can go, so you don’t really need that word.
  5. Typos/misspellings – I used to be an okay speller, but as I’ve gotten older and learned to rely on spell check, I’ve gotten bad at it. Part of it is because we don’t always say words the same way they are spelled. Plus, there are some words I have a mental block against, like “convenient.” Typos are more of an early draft thing, but sometimes they make it into the published book. (Eeeeek!) Missing words tend to be most prevalent, I guess because I’ve read it so many times I see it as it is supposed to be rather than how it is. Also, my brain moves faster than my fingers so sometimes not all the words make the transition from mind to keyboard. I seriously love readers who point out the typos they see so I can get them fixed.

Plus, every writer has tics that show up in a book. In Madame Presidentesss, everyone smiled and nodded a lot. In Been Searching for You, people pointed with things a lot – pens, forks, etc. In Daughter of Destiny, I kept emphasising Morgan’s red hair to the point that my editor commented something like, “OMG, she has red hair. We get it.” Whoopsie.

 We all write in some form or another, whether it’s in email, social media, blogs, for our jobs or for books. What are some of your bad habits? Please tell me I’m not alone!

In Celebration of Indie Authors

I am giving this short speech today at the St. Louis County and St. Louis City libraries as part of Indie Author Day. I wanted all of you who couldn’t join us to be able to read it as well. I hope you enjoy it. Learn more about my speaking engagements

self-e_indieauthorday_logo_tshirt-01-e1462823856596When I was invited to be part of Indie Author Day, I was honored and humbled. I’m very proud to be an independent author and to be part of the first ever national day celebrating our work and our achievements. Our community has grown tremendously in the last five years, and now the books we produce rival – and in some cases outsell – those released through traditional means.

I want to be clear that I have nothing against the traditional publishing industry. I may even still join it in the future, but it isn’t what is right for me as an artist at this moment in my career. And that’s what being an indie is all about: taking control of your writing, your career, and the myriad decisions that go into it. We are no longer the ugly step-children who couldn’t make it traditionally; we are the entrepreneurs who chose to go our own way.

In her novel The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown writes that the surrealist artists of post-WWI Paris were “making space for themselves without waiting for someone to give them permission.” That is exactly what we are doing as indie authors. We may cross traditional genre boundaries, write about subjects or in time periods that aren’t considered marketable, or simply want to do things on our own schedule. Whatever our reasons, we are producing our art without so much as a by your leave. We have something to say and aren’t waiting for anyone to give us a stage; we are building our own.

Now, being an indie author isn’t without its challenges. In declaring ourselves free of traditional constraints, we also take on the burden of being our own patrons, financing our cover art, editing, production and marketing. We take the financial risk that our work may not find an audience – or at least not enough of one to recover what we’ve invested. But such is the curse of every small business owner, from freelancers and flower shops to barbers and bakeries. We take a leap of faith that with enough hard work and a bit of luck, we will somehow make it.

We also face the seemingly impossible task of making ourselves known in a world where a new book is published every five minutes on Amazon, which is already home to 3.4 million books. But somehow, we still manage to find our audience – no matter how large or small. Whether we use Facebook ads, make book trailers or go the route of hand-selling and attending conferences or speaking engagements – we get out there and let people know we are here and why they should be interested in what we have to say.

Really, that is a challenge for every author, whether indie or traditional. But as indies, we have to do it ourselves, or if we’re lucky, with the help of a publicist. Without the endorsement of a big publishing house, we rely on the help of our tribe, other authors and readers whose loyalty we’ve gained, to provide endorsements of our work. They are our support system, our lifeline in times of crisis and uncertainty, and they can be a connection to new readers.

As indies, we may be perceived as being in this alone, but that is far from the truth. We have a vibrant, supportive community that is more generous than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve found genuine well-wishes even from people who have written about the exact same subject as I have. In the corporate world, we’d be considered competitors, but I’m coming to realize that here we are really allies. Whether we share resources, write guest posts together or just silently cheer one another on, it is that support that buoys us and keeps us going in and ever-changing industry that doesn’t really know what to do with us.

We’ve broken the traditional paradigm and that scares a lot of people. I say let them be scared; we aren’t. You know who else wasn’t afraid to try something new? Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Ben Franklin. Madame Curie. Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. The Wright Brothers. And we can’t forget the Founding Fathers of our country. Without them we wouldn’t have iPhones, PCs, eyeglasses, X-rays, light bulbs, cars, airplanes or an independent nation – things we now take for granted. While few of us are on that grand of a scale, without us, the publishing world would be lacking in richness, diversity and, our readers would be still be searching for our stories.

It is the independent spirit of the publishing entrepreneur we gather to celebrate today. In the last five years, we’ve gone from being tentative explorers of the brave new world of ebooks to producing top quality work that makes the bestseller lists. Some of members of our community have even become breakout stars – such as Courtney Milan, Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, and many others – authors who regularly outsell those who are traditionally published. We’ve done this through discipline and professionalism, by writing outstanding books, and applying business acumen to our work – for this is no mere hobby; this is our job, regardless of whether we have another that pays the bills.

With the rapid advancement of technology and gradual acceptance of our legitimacy as real authors, in another five years – even in one year – who knows where we can be. We may well be the new norm. How we get there is up to you and me, the indie authors of America. I, for one, am proud to celebrate us and our accomplishments – past, present and future – today.

Summer Writing Challenge: Beach Witch

I don't know the source of this, but it would be my ideal book cover for Beach Witch. If anyone knows whose image it is, please tell me. I'd love to give credit.

I don’t know the source of this, but it would be my ideal book cover for Beach Witch. If anyone knows whose image it is, please tell me. I’d love to give credit.

The Challenge: Can a Midwestern, land-locked writer successfully tell a contemporary tale set in a magical (fictional) seaside town in Virginia using only these things as inspiration?

  • A local man-made lake with a beach
  • A pool
  • A CD of ocean waves
  • One day on Santa Monica Beach in September
  • Her imagination
  • A Pinterest board

I hope the answer is yes, because that’s what I’ll be spending the next few months doing! Because of other trips I have planned (like the one to LA in September), I don’t have the time/money to visit the real-life area the town is located in, so I’m going to have to do the best I can with what I have access to.

I can’t wait to introduce you guys to this town, because I love it. The plot is still taking shape, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to end up as light (read: happy) women’s fiction with a bit of magical realism, which is ironic because I don’t normally like magical realism. The working title is Beach Witch (which I don’t like and will change, but it has to have something for now). It’s about a 30-something woman’s struggle to find her purpose in life with the help of her family in this strange little town. And yes, there is a love story. Think of it as Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells meets Barbara Davis’ The Wishing Tide.

Also Happening: I’ll also be researching my next historical fiction novel, which I hope to start in the fall. I can’t say who it’s about, but it’s another 19th century American woman who is little known. Her story is totally different from Victoria’s and she isn’t in any way involved with politics or women’s suffrage. It also takes place in a totally different part of the country, which is going to stretch my research and writing skills and my imagination. But it’s one I HAVE TO TELL NOW. She’s in my head and she wants to be heard.

Plus, I’ll be starting my DIY MFA as I finish plotting Beach Witch. Will let you know how that goes.

Any other suggestions for bringing the ocean to a land-locked girl? Thoughts on Beach Witch?

DIY MFA

DIY MFA copyAs anyone who knows me will attest, I am a lifelong learner. If I had known when I was in school that being a scholar was a valid career choice, I totally would have done it (history or religion). But as things are, I have two jobs, a day job for which I’ve gotten a master’s and professional accreditation (that’s as far as I can go as a PhD would make me overqualified) and my job as an author. I really, really want to advance my knowledge in the craft of writing, but I really have no desire (nor the time or money) to get a traditional MFA.

So, to that end, I’ve created my own course curriculum, based on books and DVD and online courses I want to take in my areas of focus (general craft, historical fiction and romance). I have no idea how long this will take me to complete, but I will do regular updates here to share what I’ve learned, give you an update on my progress and give myself a method of accountability. I plan to use what I learn as I write my next several books (I have a few contemporary love stories in mind and at least two historicals. I’ll be using my alpha/beta readers, critique partners and future agent as the criticism part of an MFA.)

I know I won’t end up with a piece of paper at the end of this, nor will I will able to add to the letters behind my name, but I should emerge from all this learning as a stronger writer, and that’s the whole point.

If you want to come along this journey with me, all of these sources are available to anyone, either from Amazon, or in the case of the Great Courses or Lawson Writer’s Academy, on their respective web sites. I have no idea what order I’m going to do things in, but you are welcome to journey along with me. In fact, I’d love to be able to discuss these books along with you.

Here’s my course of study:

(List updated 09/30/16. I’ve added more and crossed out those I’ve already completed as of today.)

General Craft:

  • Building Great Sentences (The Great Courses)
  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques (The Great Courses)
  • Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel (Volume 2) (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing plots with drama, depth and heart: Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction (Book by CS Lakin)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Plotting Your Novel (Book by Connor Goldsmith)
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (book by Noah Lukeman)
  • 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • A Writer’s Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Structure Architect (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Engineering (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Story Physics (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Page Turner (book by Barbara Kyle)

Writing:

  • The Architecture of the Historical Novel (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Attitude & Altitude of Historical Novel: (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel (Book by Cheryl St. John)
  • Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (book by Renni Browne and Dave King)
  • How to Capture Your Reader in the First 10 Pages (Lecture by Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Screenplays that Sell (Book by Michael Hauge)
  • Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant (book by Larry Brooks and Michael Hauge)
  • Diving Deep into Deep Point of View (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Rhay Christou)
  • Digging Deep into the EDITS System (highly recommended for a unique perspective on editing) (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Advanced Deep Editing: A Master Course (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Empowering Characters’ Emotions (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • 30 Days to a Stronger Novel (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Lisa Wells)
  • The Hero’s Journey, Parts I & II (DVD by Michael Hauge)
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (book by Christopher Vogler)
  • The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening (book by Kim Hudson)
  • Save the Cat (book by Blake Snyder)
  • Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (book by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward)
  • The Secrets of Storytelling: How to Write Compelling Stories (Webinar by Jerry Jenkins)
  • The Story Toolkit: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Stories that Sell (Book by Susan Bischoff)

Romance Specific:

  • On Writing Romance (Book by Leigh Michaels)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Lecture – Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Book by Billy Mernit)
  • Old RWA conference workshop handouts
  • How To Sell Romance Novels On Kindle (Book by Michael Alvear)

History/Research:

  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • The Story of Medieval England (The Great Courses)
  • The Information-Literate Historian (Book by Jenny L. Presnell)
  • From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods (Book by Martha C. Howell)
  • The Craft of Research (Book by Wayne C. Booth)
  • Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide (Book by Myfanwy Cook)
  • How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction (Book by Persia Wooley)*
  • Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders (book by Susanne Allyen)*
  • Writing Historical Fiction: Advice for the Digital Age (book by Marilyn Weymouth Seguin)
  • Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction (book by Emma Darwin)*

Non-fiction

  • The Non-fiction Proposal Demystified  (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Book Proposals (Book by Gordon Warnock)
  • Step by Step Pitches and Proposals by Chip Macgregor

The Business of Writing/Marketing

  • Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Author’s Guide to Marketing (Book by Beth Jusino)
  • Getting Published in the 21st Century: Advice from a Literary Agent (book by Carly Watters)
  • How to Market a Book (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)*
  • Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)
  • SMART Social Media for Authors (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Guerrilla Marketing for Writers (Book by Jay Conrad Levins)
  • Opening Up to Indie Authors (Book by Debbie Young and Dan Holloway)
  • Green Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing (Book by Brooke Warner)
  • Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Book by Fauzia Burke)
  • How to Get Publicity for Your Book (Book by Natalie Obando)
  • Red Hot Internet Publicity (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • 52 Ways to Sell More Books (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • How Authors Sell Publishing Rights (Book by Helen Sedwick and Orna Ross)
  • Successful Self-Publishing (Book by Joanna Penn)
  • The Naked Truth About Self Publishing (Book by Dorien Kelly)
  • Author Identity: Build Your Brand, Sell More Books, Change the World (Book by Angie Mroczka)
  • Let’s Get Visible (Book by David Gaughran)*
  • Library as a Discovery Platform (IBPA Webinar)
  • Wherever Books are Sold: How to Convince Huge Chains to Sell Your Books (IBPA Webinar)
  • Audiobook Marketing Tips & Tools (IBPA Webinar)
  • Book Marketing with Internet Media (IBPA Webinar)
  • Sell More Books with Less Social Media (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Talk Up Your Book: How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences, and More (Book by Particia Fry)
  • Public Speaking for Authors and Creatives (Book by Joanna Penn)

* Indicates I’ve started this book/course

What do you think about my DIY MFA program? Is there anything you would recommend adding? Have you read any of these books/taken any of these courses? Will you be joining me for all or part of this journey? If so, which part(s)? 

2015 Goals

Goal-Setting-2015-1024x1024Last year I was pretty darn ambitious with my writing goals and it nearly did me in. So this year, I’m keeping it simple:

  1. Write at least one book – I’m planning on writing another historical fiction after I get this one edited and finished. As I’ve found another woman no one has written fiction about (that I can tell), I’m not revealing who she is until the book is done. But I can tell you this: she survived the French Revolution and went on to run a business empire in an age when women did not dare set foot in the work force. Her name survives on her product today and chances are good if I said it, you’d recognize it right away. I’ve also got two contemporary stories fighting for prominence in my head, so if I get the time, I’ll write one of those.
  2. Write a short story to submit to an RWA anthology – I never thought I’d do this since I generally can’t write short, but there’s a historical romance that’s been slowly piecing itself together in my mind and I think I know the plot now. I wrote the first part a few weeks ago. It’s set in 1920s Chicago smack bad in the middle of Al Capone’s mob. The story guidelines are 5,000-7,000 words, so we’ll see if I can get it done in time for the March deadline (along with editing and going on vacation).
  3. Continue to blog once a week – That’s here, plus my monthly post over at Spellbound Scribes and posts over at Femina Aequalitas whenever I can (I have to get to doing those more regularly!) Oh, and we’ll have a special guest here at Through the Mists of Time later this month. I’m very excited because she’s a pretty well-known historical fiction writer.
  4. Attend conferences and speak as possible – I’m planning to attend the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver in June, as well as Sirens (also in Denver) in October. Right now I also have a tentative speaking engagement at Webster Groves High School in February.
  5. Continue social media – I’m on Twitter and Pinterest all the time, just found Instagram (follow me as Nicole Evelina), and I’m on Facebook about once a week. That’s about all I have time for. I may add some more, but that’s good for now.

Is there anything you’d like to see on this blog this year? Anyone want to guest post? I’m up for suggestions!