Daily Tao ☯ 6.20.17

Not a bad day. 400 words of fiction, 500 words of non-fiction, decisions made on a couple of soon-to-be-in-your-hands projects, and, because of your fabulous response, Amy and I decided that yes, we shall shut down the world for the two weeks between July 1-16. I think we both need some time to regroup, reset, and Lord knows that girl deserves a vacation. I’ll be doing mine writing style — which means I’ll be shutting off socials, email, and Internet and really going to town writing.

I am so excited! A writing vacation! In the middle of the summer! 

I am simply going to write as much as I can on the novel in a 14 day period, and see what happens. I don’t think I’m even going to set goals. I mean, I have my daily word count goals that must be met, but I’m not going to say — I’ll write X number of words, or X number of pages. I will simply write. No appointments. No blogging. No socials. Just deep work on the novel.

It’s going to take some prep beforehand, but I have to say, I am SO EXCITED!!!

The remodel is going well, too. The visions are starting to come together. Can’t wait to share some pics — they’ll be done Friday on stage 1!

Hope your day was great!

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 6.18.17

Hi, chickens, welcome to Sunday. Happy Father's Day to my Daddy, and my friends who are dads, and you, too! If you didn't know, Father's Day originated as a day of remembrance for fathers who were gone. I'm so thankful I have mine to celebrate with.

What a week it has been, a hard one, a sobering one. The attack in Washington, intensive work, and a bevy of life's little things that need my attention have drained me physically and emotionally. Time and again, I have gone back to the words of my friend, Rev. Katie Ladd, who shared how to begin to cope with tragedy and grief, and how we work for a better world after. Her words are still bringing me comfort and love in this hard week. I hope you find some light in them, too.

Here are a few other things that happened on the Internets this week:

BookExpo: Females as Strong as Hell Edition. Thank you, BookRiot, for rounding up the books with strong heroines we need to look for soon. We need more badass heroines, in fiction and real life.

2017 Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year: Nashville Public Library, TN. From sports to books to libraries, Nashville rules. Yay, NPL!

James Michener’s Nomadic Pursuit of Depth. Author of DEEP WORK (one of my favorite books ), Cal Newport, profiles the author's great lengths to pursue his art. "If you want to produce big things, you need to be willing to go big with your work habits." So true.

How Deep Work Can Change Your Life Forever: 3 Strategies to Overcome the Distractions. Speaking of Deep Work, productivity and publishing guru Michael Hyatt is a fan of Cal Newport, too. This is why.

Pain, satin and paper towels: What it takes for ballerinas to dance on their toes. It is amazing to see the lengths people will go, the sacrifices they will make, in pursuit of their art. Ballerinas sacrifice so much. Talk about true grit.

7 Books to Devour on a Plane. A fabulous reading list for your summer travel.

And closer to home:

Review: Lie to Me. I've seen reviews of LIE TO ME begin to trickle in, and I'm so pleased to find readers are enjoying it! I particularly enjoyed this review from Stacy Camp. Thank you, Stacy! (PS click here to read the first three chapters of LIE TO ME!)

That's it from me, y'all. I hope you have a great week, drink plenty of water, pick some flowers for your Dad or a friend, and we'll talk again soon.


Daily Tao ☯ 5.23.17

A stellar start to the book today, 2300 words. I could have kept going, but there were a ton of distractions, too. My fault, I forgot to turn on Freedom and ended up dealing with an issue that should have waited until after work hours. My goal is to average 2000 per day 5 days a week, and I’m feeling confident enough in the story that I think this is very doable.

I am back in my zone, only taking appointments and calls on Mondays and Fridays, which allows for deep work Tuesday through Thursday. It worked for the last book so well I’m excited to try it again. If it continues to work, it means I can almost double my usual weekly output, which makes my brain (and my publishing partners) very happy, because there are so many stories begging to get out. 

Last night was historic in Nashville. My beloved Predators won the Western Conference title, and will be playing in the Stanley Cup for the very first time. And I will be there, in my nineteen-year-old practice sweater, cheering them on. The Preds came to town the same year I did, and I’ve always been a fan. My parents took me to Colorado Rockies and Washington Capitals games growing up, and darling husband continued in their stead, so this is a lifelong quest, for me to see my team make it to the big dance.  

And at the same time, my heart is breaking for the families in Manchester, England. It’s a terrible thing, and I was so torn last night, filled with great pride and great sorrow. It feels like the world should stop turning when these horrible events happen, but it doesn’t. All I can do is offer a prayer, and make sure the godless people who commit these atrocities are forever stopped in my novels. You wonder why I write crime fiction? So I can stop the bastards in their tracks. 

And on that rather vicious note, sweet dreams!

Save Time and Be More Productive with Workflows

This post first appeared on RT Book Reviews. If you missed it there, today's your lucky day!

Workflow. It’s a common business term that describes how a project moves from inception to completion. It is a simple, powerful way to get things done. For writers, the concept of workflow is intrinsic—we start a novel, we finish a novel. We start a short story, blog post, interview, we finish and submit. But if you think in broader terms, workflows can be applied to all aspects of your writing business.

Business. That pesky word again. Writing is a business. Those who treat it as such reap the rewards and build their readership. We can’t escape it—marketing and PR falls partially (sometimes fully) on the authors now. If you find ways to automate the most mundane tasks, you free up time to write.  

This is probably old news to established writers, but for the ones who are getting their start, establishing this kind of organizational structure to your writing business now will save you so many headaches down the line.

Though we act in the art of creation, there are still hundreds of moving parts that can be wrestled into some semblance of order to make your life run easier and smoother. 

Do you blog? Find a service that will deliver your blog directly to your social media accounts so you don’t need to post directly. Dlvr.it is superb for this. Want to post to Twitter at regular times, but don’t want to log in four times a day? (because hello, time suck!) My team uses Buffer, which allows us to automate and schedule well in advance. Even Facebook now has scheduling in advance, so you can sit down once a week and populate your feed with great content. Set it and forget it, which allows you to spend the time doing what social media is supposed to do for you—engage. When you’re done writing for the day, talk to your readers. Chat with them. Get to know them. Build a community. Your content is only as good as your relationships with the people in your networks.

But workflow can be much more robust than simply automating your posting to social media. Let’s take a book, for example. For every book you write, you already know the actions that have to take place. Develop your idea, create a synopsis, outline the book (or pants it, like me, based on the general idea of what’s happening) finish the book, edit the book, edit it again, deliver to beta readers, edit again, deliver to agent/editor, line edit, copy edit, last pass pages. Meanwhile, the business side kicks in—cover art is developed, sales get underway, marketing plans are written, PR begins, then you have release day, promotional tours, etc. 

For those of you who are indie, the process is similar, but you’re the one doing the work, hiring the art and editing, establishing the marketing, setting up the PR, deciding on sale price and release time. Plus doing all of the backlist promotion you do, scheduling discount sales, etc. 

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking through our process.

When I hired my author assistant in 2015, one of the things we worked on first was automation and workflow. We try not to reinvent the wheel every time a new book comes out. Add in we’re self-publishing through our own press and juggling multiple houses on the traditional side, and believe me, the established workflows have saved our bacon more than once. 

Here’s a typical workflow we use when we’re looking at scheduling a book launch. It’s very top-line, because each project is slightly different, but you’ll get the gist.

As you can see, the step-by-step process makes it easy on us both. We know once the book is listed on Amazon, we put the cover up on the website. We know when to change our Facebook, Twitter and website banners to announce on-sale dates. We plan what information goes into which newsletter. We break everything down across the board as such: 

Project → Tasks → Subtasks. 

Once you build the workflow, it’s there, and you don’t need to think about anything but content creation. 

We have to be flexible, of course, because every project is its own beast. New opportunities arise. A blog that normally features us goes defunct. Contacts move on. But in general, this flow takes us through, making it easier on both of us. We apply this basic structure to every project, putting in place a general workflow the moment a deal is done. 

Now to the other side of the coin. I believe very deeply in this concept: your art is your business. At the same time, you have to create your art in order to have a business. That means finding pockets of deep work time which allow you to focus on nothing but writing. 

For some of you, the business side comes naturally. For others, it doesn’t. And that’s perfectly okay. There’s an easy solution for both writing brains: help. There are amazing author assistants out there who are trained to help you manage the business side of things. I think it’s very important to find people to work with who are fun, flexible, and dedicated to helping you be your best.

For those who think the cost of hiring help is insurmountable, let me say this: words equal money. The more time you spend writing and creating, the faster your business will grow. An author assistant can help you automate, create workflows, and in general free up your precious time so you can write. They can do as much or as little as you need. Even in only an hour a week, they can draft a monthly newsletter and program your social media for the week, and you can spend that time writing. It adds up. Say you can write 1,000 words in an uninterrupted hour. That hour a week you offload some business on an author assistant can add up to 52,000 words in a year. I think that’s worth $25 a week, don’t you?

Even if you don’t have the extra money to spend, you can get help. Contact your local college English department. They are always looking to place interns. These incredible young adults are tech savvy, social media aware, and bring so much to the table. They get first-hand experience in writing and publishing, and you get that extra hour a week for your deep work.

We all want to be more productive. Proactive planning, comprehensive workflows, and finding deep work time will get you there.

Here are some tools to get you started:

Freedom – the gold standard for tuning out distractions by shutting down your internet

Dlvr.it – automating social media feed systems from your blog

Author Rx – Mel Jolly has a ton of resources on finding author assistants

Cal Newport – The author of DEEP WORK, a book you must read

Asana and Wunderlist – Workflow task managers

Buffer – The best service for scheduling and sending links out to the world

1.12.17 - Silence!

1.12.17 - Silence!

I came across this article from The Economist on Twitter the other day, and was compelled to click because I’d just had a conversation with my husband about my need for large swaths of silent time. 

I’ve long owned my natural introversion, but I think there’s something more fundamental at play. Perhaps it’s from growing up in a forest, perhaps it is the introvert in me (with more than likely a touch of Aspergers to boot…) but I really like silence. I like the quiet that comes from spending the day alone. I like the evenings we spend reading instead of watching television. They rejuvenate my spirit, and bolster my concentration levels.

Who knows why and whence it came, but the fact is, when there’s too much sustained noise around me, I get very frachetty. I can’t concentrate. My thoughts fracture. I find even the simplest tasks hard. I get snappish and annoyed easily, and of course, the work suffers. 

I loved the piece in The Economist because it felt like permission to be true to myself.

Do I want to hike to the top of a mountain and become a monk? Well, only sometimes. 😉 I dream of doing a silent retreat, but I would want to have my husband there to talk to at night. Does that defeat the purpose? I can’t imagine going more than a few hours without hearing his voice, and he mine. True love? Codependence? Who cares, it’s a fact. So the all-silent thing isn’t for me, I guess. I did get a kick out of the fact that the author of the piece thought a week-long silent retreat was going to be the best thing ever, and instead bailed and left after a day. 

Silence is not for everyone. 

I don’t see the boredom in silence. I see it as a state of being. A calm lake on a cloudless day. A snow-capped mountain set against a sapphire sky. A perfectly attuned book photograph on Instagram. Something that makes you pause in your day and say, “Wow, that is beautiful. I need to stop here and admire it for a moment.”

Your shoulders relax, you breathe a little deeper, your mood is bolstered. 

That’s what silence does for me.

I’ve always admired writers who can go to coffeeshops and work. I have a fun group of writers here who do just that, and I join them on occasion. They rack up word counts while I get business done. Emails, blogs, things I can do with half an ear cocked elsewhere. There are just so many people to look at, characters all. I find myself daydreaming about who they are, what there lives are like, what they do for a living, who loves them, who they love, why they’re in the coffeeshop at that particular moment… which is a great creative exercise, but it also means zero word counts, which defeats the purpose.  

Lately, especially, the computer itself is also an agent of noise, even when it’s not playing anything through the speakers. The screen clamors for attention, a siren’s call. The consumption of this particular kind of noise is devilish to me—a bargain that must be made. I need the research. I like the friendships. I adore the education.

But at the same time, this is why I’ve been working so hard to turn off my devices, to spend time in REAL silence, meditation and yoga, a general tuning in to the universe. It’s hard to tether a lifeline, but I’m finding it more and more rewarding to have these few hours of true silence in my life. 

This is probably why Cal Newport’s DEEP WORK feels so right to me, why I like to turn on Freedom and work. The quiet is permeable, an entity unto itself. It grows around me, a favorite blanket, allowing me to relax and create. To simply be. 

Something I don’t know that we do enough of. 

Are you the strong silent type?