Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Career-Focused Writer

The February edition of the RWA Romance Writer’s Report’s Presidential message by Terry McLaughlin stated a renewed emphasis on “focusing on the fundamentals, building the cornerstone of our organization: the career focused writer.” She went on to ask the following question: “Do your romance writing efforts qualify as a career or a hobby?” Why? Because as she emphasized, you may be asked to prove to the IRS that you are career-focused and actively seeking to make a profit from your endeavors.
That’s great if you’re already published and making an income as a published author, but how do you go about proving you’re a career-focused writer if you’re still unpublished, or PRO, or published but still haven’t earned PAN status? More importantly, how do YOU prove to YOURSELF that you are a career-focused writer?
Easy. You behave like you’re already published.
That’s right. Behave like you’re already published and making an income from your writing efforts.
How? Well, I’m not an IRS expert and I’ve only recently signed a publishing contract with an e-publisher so you can bet the only money I’m earning right now is a quarter per goal met. The quarters add up, but they really don’t constitute an income.
However, the quarters do constitute A COMMITMENT TO PROFESSIONALISM.
Yup, you read it right. LONG before I signed a contract, I made a commitment to treat myself as a professional and to treat my writing as a job. Period. Here is a list of some of the things I did BEFORE I signed the dotted line with my publisher.

1. I had a writing schedule.
2. I committed to writing 6 days a week every week except for scheduled vacations.
3. I joined the RWA, local chapters and attended RWA meetings.
4. I took online writing workshops as well as career-oriented workshops.
5. I attended regional and national writing conferences.
6. I set clear and defined goals: daily, weekly, yearly, and more.
7. I entered writing contests, which gave me clear deadlines.
8. I queried.
9. I pitched at conferences.
10. I followed up on all requested materials.
11. I kept a spreadsheet of all my queried responses, targeted agencies and publishing           houses.
12. I volunteered for my local chapters but ONLY IF THAT TIME DID NOT     INTERFERE WITH MY WRITING TIME. This is important. Writing must come first.
13. I networked with authors and agents and editors, etc.
14. I tracked my business expenses.
15. I had professional business cards and used them at all events where applicable.

This is a short list of what I did to prove to the government that I was and always will be a career-focused writer. And guess what I’m going to do now that I have a publishing contract?

All of the above with minor changes based on where I am in my career as a writer. Are you still not published, floundering on Facebook and Twitter with your writing friends, and making writing the last thing you plan for instead of the first thing you plan to do? Then I issue a challenge to you. Take your writing career seriously in 2014 and make it a priority because you are a CAREER-FOCUSED WRITER.

What are some of the things you do as an unpublished writer to remain focused on attaining your goals?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tourist Time: Jack Daniels Distillery

Last week I had a great visit with my friend from Virginia. She keeps a daily blog and loves to go on adventures so that the blog is fresh and interesting for her readers. As part of her visit, we decided to go to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, TN before she caught her flight back to Virginia.

It was a cold day, but the sun was shining and the skies were blue when we left for the distillery. My handy GPS system completely lead me astray, but we used a smart phone app to find Jack Daniels and all was well in our world.

We toured the facility with a small group lead by a man who has an interesting Western Outlaw name. Jesse James! Or so he said... we started the FREE tour with a video about how this amazing young boy Jack Daniels bought a still from his employer, a preacher, and became the 13 year old entrepreneur. Then we boarded a bus to the distillery with two British young men and a family of three from Florida.

First we went to the outside burning area which created the wood charcoal the clear alcohol was "mellowed" through--big flames, heat and more. We walked by the cave of spring water that Jack Daniels has used to create its bourbon since its inception. Finally, we climbed a lot of stairs, saw and the mash, smelled the liquor and tasted it in the air, then concluded our tour in the bottling of single cask bourbon.

If you're ever in the Middle Tennessee area, I highly recommend taking a side trip to tour the Jack Daniels Distillery. And if you have Jesse James as your guide, tell him I said hello!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Travel Bug Hits Again

I love to travel and explore the world, but it's hard to do alone. Fortunately, I have a dear friend visiting from Northern Virginia and we're seeing my local sites while she's here.

Some of the fun and interesting things we've done so far are:

1) Belle Meade Plantation. We really enjoyed our tour and the lunch afterward was divine If you're ever in the Nashville, TN area go visit and have the fried green tomatoes. You won't regret it!

2) The traveling DaVinci Exhibit at the Huntsville Davidson Air & Space Center. This exhibit is amazing--4 exhibits are traveling throughout the world. I'm amazed by all that Leonardo DaVinci accomplished, the varied aspects of his creative mind, and the incredible talent he expressed in drawing, inventing, and more!

Tomorrow we're hitting a local art museum and seeing the world's largest Silver Menagerie. And Thursday we're visiting and touring the Jack Daniels Distillery. There's so much to do in our area. What fun things are there to do in your area?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I've never been great at picking out titles, but I do try to make unique titles for my stories. I thought I had some great titles for 3 of my stories. But unfortunately they were already taken by other authors who publish with my publishing house, Entangled Publishing, or different houses. Either way, I was left with a dilemma. I have to re-title 3 of my manuscripts. And I'm sad because I really loved my already taken titles.

My critique partner, Pam Mantovani, encountered a similar problem with her recently sold book to Belle Books. Her title was already taken by another book at that house. Together we searched for new titles for the story that reflected it well. We'd come up with a fun title, search for it on the Internet and boo... already taken! Finally her publisher/editor came up with a great new title for the story.

The titles do matter. They hook the reader, right? And they give a taste of what the story might be about, double right? I guess so. I go through my RT Review magazine and check out all the category series and contemporary single title stories' titles and some of them do give me a clear picture, while others not so much.

So how important is a title? I think it's important, but I also think a great back cover blurb is important. The cover needs to impart the spirit of the story, too. But I really think that beyond all of that, the contents within the cover and the back cover are the most important of all.

What do you think? Do you pick out books based on the titles? What is your criteria when selecting a new book to read?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year & New Goals for 2014

Happy New Year! Time to create a new set of goals. Once again, I've written another ambitious list and one that I'm sure will morph over the year as new demands pop up that will require my time. As always, I believe in setting the bar super high. And so far that method of operation has been successful. The higher I aim, the farther I will fly. I've got a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year and 20 year goal plan in place as well. I also will break down my goals by month over the next few days. Next week Monday, January 6, I should be ready to hit the ground running with a solid plan in place. 

Writing Goals for 2014

*clean and organize office to get ready for the new year
*Revise MT and retitle it.
*Revise MINO & retitle it.
*finish sequel and deliver to Editor/Finish first draft by end of January
*revise sequel in February
*meet with CP at least 3x during year
*understand more about Street Teams and develop one when the time comes
*maintain brand name with social media presence with blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest and web site
*update website quarterly or as needed
*market debut release
*brainstorm 3 new books for 2014 (2 category and 1 novella)
*review self-publishing notes and determine hybrid self-publishing/digi pub.  career launch for 2014/2015
*revise Tycoon
*build query list for books
*go to both readers’ luncheons and participate with Debut author basket
*write 2 new category books
*Attend Moonlight & Magnolias
*Assist at M&M during editor/agent appointments
*PRO liaison job maintained/ongoing commitment to programming committee
*build name bible of all names I've used in my books
*get a publishing contract
*continue building professional mentor relationships
*continue to streamline writing and business of writing with proper schedule
*Review digital and e-publishers for submissions
*take at least two master classes in craft
*set up my first workshop to run in tandem with the book release in fall 2014
*judge at least two writing contests
*set Top 5 Priority List and review every quarter
*read for fun
*continue to analyze published books in my genre
*continue learning and growing in my craft with online courses and craft books
*attend chapter meetings which aid in my professional development and in my goal for achieving publication
*build my critique partnership

*be courageous, strong, and focused in pursuing my dreams and goals

I hope that 2014 is a wonderful year for all of you. And I hope you set positive, attainable and high reaching goals for yourself. You'll be amazed at how much you accomplish simply by writing it down.