Tag Archives: Write a book

Indie Author: 3 Tips To Manage Anxiety And Doubt

Indie Author: 3 Tips To Manage Anxiety And Doubt

You’re an indie author, and you’re sinking in a swirling stream of doubts and anxieties. Are you wasting your time? What if your new book won’t sell?

Every author has doubts. Some authors are continually anxious, and there’s a good reason. Research shows that creative people are more susceptible to anxiety than others; the upsetting emotions are just the way your brain works.

Several months ago a friend told me that she was giving up writing. She hated her current novel; she said it was a mess. She was in the middle of an acrimonious divorce. Her writing was another source of stress, so she was cutting it out of her life.

I made commiserating comments and silently made a small bet with myself — I was convinced that she would be writing again within six months.

You’re an indie author: kudos to you!

It took three months. She rang me last week. “I’m working on a new novel. I’m not giving up on the one I was stuck on, I’m revising — I’ve got some good ideas of where I want to go with the revision.”

When there are other things happening in your life, the stress of writing seems too much, so you give it up. That doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, or that you’ll give up writing forever. It just means that you’ve put your creativity on hold for a time. It will return.

Now let’s look at the tips, but do remember that as an indie author, you deserve kudos. You’re doing something that takes courage, faith, and trust in yourself, and at times, finding those things is hard.

1. Anxiety and doubt are normal: expect and accept

As we’ve said, anxiety is normal for creative people. I’ve often told the story of what happened when I got my first book contract from MacDonald Futura. Every morning when I sat down at my IBM Selectric typewriter to work on my novel tears streamed down my face. I was beyond anxious, but I wrote anyway.

I thought that there was something horribly wrong with me; obviously I wasn’t meant to be a writer. Years later, I learned that my emotions were completely normal.

The solution to dealing with them was simple: I learned that I needed to expect to be uncomfortable for ten minutes or so when I started writing.

You can accept the discomfort and write anyway. Within a short time, the discomfort will fade. Until the next time you sit down to write.

Over the years, my discomfort when I sit down to write has almost completely vanished. I need to look hard for it, but a tiny fluttering of anxiety is still there. I ignore it; I’ve learned to expect it, and to realize that that’s just the way our creativity works.

2. Write down what you’re feeling: you’ll feel better

Occasionally, you can’t write. The anxiety is too much. You’ll do anything rather than sit down at your computer. One writer I know painted his house, inside and outside, to avoid writing. Another took up sky-diving.

There’s a simpler way.

When you can’t write, take a pen and paper (this process seems to work better if you write by hand), and write down what you’re feeling. Write for ten minutes.

You may need to repeat this exercise every time you sit down to write for a week or two. Eventually, you will have made all your unconscious doubts and fears visible. You’ve unmasked the terrors and tamed them, so they’ll lose their power over you.

3. Meditate: ten minutes a day puts you in control

If meditation sounds a little too trendy for you, give it a chance. Meditation has been used for thousands of years because it’s powerful. I first started meditating in the 1970s. Although I may not meditate for months, when I start to feel anxious, I start meditating again.

Ten minutes a day will make all the difference. Here’s a simple meditation from Tara Brach that’s both a wonderful introduction to meditation, and an easy meditation you can do every day once you learn the body-scan process.

An indie author strategy: when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break

Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? You’ll know if you are.

Slow down. Review your deadlines, and give yourself a little breathing space. I give myself one day a week when I take a break from writing fiction. On that day, I blog, and I work on nonfiction, so I’m still writing — over the years, writing has become my default setting. It’s just what I do.

Writing fiction can be more anxiety-making than writing nonfiction; you’re working with your imagination. This creativity leads to anxiety, so take a break occasionally. You may find as I do, that your little breaks are helpful. After a break, you’ll write more easily, rather than struggling to find words.

Doubts and anxiety are the price you pay for being an indie author. They do fade over time. You can handle it. 🙂

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
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Self-Publishing 2016: Amazon Cracks Down On Scammers

Self-Publishing 2016: Amazon Cracks Down On Scammers

One of the big events in 2016 was that Amazon started cracking down on scammers. Of course, this was long overdue. Writers’ message boards were full of writers horrified by the shenanigans of some of the scam-artists.


Self-publishing’s challenges: Amazon targeted by scams

Revealed: How one Amazon Kindle scam made millions of dollars reported:


There are a lot of four-letter words to describe Shershnyov. One springs to mind: “rich”.

On a small scale, each ebook can generate anything from a few cents to hundreds of dollars over the course of its life span — until Amazon figures out that the book is a fraud. Fraudulent books get pulled offline quickly but often reappear under a different title, cover, and author’s name.

How Amazon Kindle Unlimited Scammers Wring Big Money From Phony Books reported on the infamous Kindle Unlimited scam:

In other words: if a scam author publishes a book filled with nonsense (maybe a mishmash of a few thousand randomly picked pages from public domain websites), but then includes a link at the front that takes a Kindle Unlimited reader to the last page, Amazon will register that as if the user has “read” the entire book and pay the author for thousands of pages of reading that never took place.

In October, I gave authors ideas on how to get sales if their numbers were down, because some innocent authors seemed to be getting caught in algorithms targeting scammers:

Over the past couple of months, reports from some indie authors indicate slashed earnings at Amazon. Their Kindle Unlimited (KU) “pages read” counts are down, and ebook sales seem to be affected too.

What’s happening? The problem could be as simple as a software glitch in sales reporting. For more on this, there’s a very long thread on KBoards.

Challenges for authors: Amazon cracked down on reviews, too

Reviews are of course essential for authors. Since reviews are an easy way to game Amazon, Amazon cracked down on them too, as Looking Back at 2016: Important Publishing Developments Authors Should Know reports:

Most notably and most discussed among authors: It is not okay to post a reader review if you are, according to Amazon, “a relative, close friend, business associate, or employee” of the author. Interpretation of this policy, as you can imagine, drives considerable debate.

Finally, to post a review, customers need to have spent at least $50 on Amazon. Yes, this is official Amazon policy. This helps prevent fake reviews from people who never shop at Amazon and may receive payment to leave reviews.

What if you’re affected by an algorithm which targets scammers?

Innocent authors do occasionally get caught when Amazon whirls the dials on its algorithms. According to several unfortunate authors on message boards, their Amazon accounts were cancelled. Although this was worrying for the authors, when contacted Amazon investigated, and reinstated their accounts.

So if you wake up one day and find that you’re in a mess because your Amazon account is closed, or you get nasty notes from Amazon about one of your books, don’t panic. Contact Amazon and explain your situation. Chances are you were caught by an algorithm, and Amazon will rectify the situation.

What if you’re gaming Amazon “harmlessly”?

In Ebook Self-publishing: Your Share of a $1 Billion Industry, I suggested:

What do I mean by “trickery”? Basically, anything which is against Amazon’s Terms of Service, even if it feels as if it’s harmless. There are a mile of ebook author groups set up solely to promote each other’s work. Chances are that you won’t get caught if you’re playing these kinds of games.

However, remember Amazon’s algorithm… you can get caught even if you’re completely innocent. If that happens, you have recourse. You can ask Amazon to reconsider, and they’ll get a human to examine your self-publishing account, which will be reinstated. On the other hand, if you’re guilty, your self-publishing business is dead.

Amazon cracking down is a GOOD thing

Scammers have targeted self-publishing since Amazon opened the Kindle Store. Most scams are low-level. Authors are aware of them, as is Amazon. Once these scams start getting out of hand (as with the erotica situation a few years ago), and the more recent, bigger scams, Amazon acts.

This is a good thing. Readers are happier, and authors receive the income they should, rather than seeing that income siphoned off by scammers.

Happy self-publishing in 2017. 🙂

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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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Craft Fictional Characters For NaNoWriMo: 3 Tips

Craft Fictional Characters For NaNoWriMo: 3 Tips

Ready for NaNoWriMo? With just over a week to go, I hope that your preparation is proceeding steadily. One of the biggest challenges in writing a book in a month is creating appealing fictional characters. Since your characters create your plot, it’s worth thinking about your characters: primary characters as well as secondary.

To get a handle on your characters, start with the basics.

Vital: your fictional character’s basics: name, age, profession and primary attribute

I know some authors like to create page upon page of character bios, and that’s fine — although it’s never worked for me. I like to start with the basics, a fictional character’s name, his age, his profession, and his primary attribute.

Let’s say that we’re writing a cozy mystery, and we want to create a quirky sleuth. Without bending our brain, we decide on:

  • Name: Mara Mason, age 26
  • Profession: widow, who works from home, as a virtual assistant;
  • Primary attribute: intense curiosity.

These kinds of mini character bios take less than a minute to set up, and they give us a head start on our plot. Since her primary attribute is curiosity, we know that we need to show Mara’s curiosity several times in the Setup of our novel’s structure (the first few chapters.) We also know that her curiosity will create problems for Mara in the lead up to our novel’s climax — the final three chapters.

Once you’ve created several of these itty bitty bios for the main players in your novel, your plot starts to take shape. Your task now is to challenge your characters, so they reveal themselves, and kick along the plot.

Let’s look at three tips which will help.

1. Give a character the skill he needs: show how he acquired his skills

As you build your characters and your plot keep watching for things you need to foreshadow, and plant. By the time we’ve created another three or four characters for our cozy mystery for example, we’ve decided on the crime which Mara will investigate: it’s the murder of a prominent man in town. We also know that Mara will break into the house of the victim, and into the home of his mistress too. Mara believes that the police have arrested the wrong man.

House-breaking isn’t a common skill. We need to show how Mara acquired that skill, before she needs it. So we’ll set that up in an early chapter.

2. Show your hero’s dark side: everyone has a shadow

Are you a new author? New authors, and some established authors too, tend to create impossibly perfect main characters. No one is perfect. Give your characters faults. Not little faults, either. No one cares if your heroine is chronically late.

You need to create a major fault for each of your main characters if you want readers to remember the character. Consider Lizzie Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice. She falls for Wickham’s tale, and reads too much into the character of Mr Darcy from her cursory observations of him. Everyone loves Lizzie of course, so her prejudice — judging Darcy on little information — is forgiven and understood.

With our cozy mystery, we could turn Mara’s “curiosity” attribute into a major fault. Everyone has a shadow side, so perhaps Mara’s curiosity could be so strong that it’s almost pathological. The murderer recognizes this, and creates a trap for her.

You can turn almost any attribute into a flaw; just focus on the shadow side of the attribute.

Focusing on the shadow sides of your characters will help you to build your plot too, painlessly.

3. Get to know your character: write his journal

Building characters by playing around with descriptions, character attributes and flaws rarely makes your characters real to you. They’re paper dolls.

To make a character REAL to you, write a character’s journal, in the voice of that character. Writing character journals will not only make your characters much more real to you, it will grow your plot, too.

One point… be aware that you’re doing NaNoWriMo prep. 🙂 You can’t start writing your novel until November 1. I always find that when I’m writing character journals, it’s inspiring, and I want to work on my novel.

When you’ve got great fictional characters, you’ve got a readable novel

Readers read to experience. They want to meet interesting people, with whom they can identify, or not. When you follow our three tips, you’ll create characters readers will enjoy.

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →