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How Much Time Per Week Should You Devote To Writing?

The title of this post makes it sound like I have an answer. Which I do. However, you’re not going to like it because it is one of those “depends” kind of answers.

Throughout each one of my books and the majority of my posts, whenever a set of steps is provided, or advice is given it is followed or preceeded by a disclaimer that strongly suggests readers should be adjusting this instruction to meet their own personal needs.

Too often we listen to podcasts, read books, watch interviews where some “expert” tells us what we should be doing. Now I’m not saying that we should be closed off to these opinions but we must first recognize them as an opinion based on one particuarl person’s exeperience. He or she does not live our life and therefore is not qualified to tell us what to do and when to do it without knowing all of the variables that exist within our daily lives.

Therefore, rather than tell you or even suggest how much time you should be devoting to writing. The goal here is to equip you with a set of steps you can take to properly anaylze your week and assess when and where you can fit some writing time.

Step 1: Identify any repeated tasks or responsibilities that you have for each day of the week (i.e. Work from 9 to 5, bring to the kids to and from school, etc.).

Step 2: Draw 7 columns (or use a spreadsheet) and label each column a day of the week.

Step 3: Begin writing down your day to day actions for each day of the week and write down the times. Note: it is appropriate for times to be approximate and to be wide ranges because you want to include everything you do from going to work to watching tv. 

Step 4: Look for gaps in your day where you could fit in at least 15 minutes of writing (preferably 30 minutes or more if possible). If it is a location other than your home, identify a method to ensure you have your computer or whatever equipment you may need.

Step 5: Based on this schedule insert your writing sessions with specific times and desired durations. Time ranges are appropriate as well. In other words, if you know you have at least 30 minutes sometime between 5PM and 7PM, but the specific start and end time for your writing session will not be consistent, then just write 5PM to 7PM for 30 minutes. Highlight each writing session.

Step 6: Bonus Step – Based on the time and days, if you have a smart phone, set reminders for each of the times to prompt your writing session.

Notice that at no point during any of the steps provided was there a minimum amount of sessions suggested. Personally I have four to five each week and each ranges from 30 minutes to an hour. This works for my life but it may not work for yours. Maybe you can fit in more or less. It doesn’t matter as long as you identify times in your life when you can realistically sit down and write.

Once you have these times, outside of staying disciplined and sticking to each writing session that you have set for yourself, your next focus is going to be calculating how many words per hour you can typically produce.

If you’re consistently struggling to stick to your writing sessions then I encourage you to take a look at a book I’ve written titled The Persistence Formula. This book aims to help people who struggle to follow through with taking action to achieve their goals.

To calculate your word output rate you need to track your time and your total words produced per session. Do this for at least two weeks.

To clarify for every writing session you should be tracking the exact amount of time you’re actually writing and how many words you’ve produced within that specific amount of time.

Note: this is easier to calculate if you have a session for an amount of minutes of which 60 is a multiple (i.e. 15, 20, 30, and 60 minute sessions are ideal). 

For the purposes of clarity let us take a look at a hypothetical example.

Joe Smith can fit three writing sessions within his week. One session is 30 minutes while two sessions are each an hour. For the next two weeks Joe is going to track how many words within each of those writing sessions he can produce.

Week 1

Session 1 (30 minutes) – 402 words

Session 2 (60 minutes) – 943 words

Session 3 (60 minutes) – 928 words

Week 2

Session 1 – 463 words

Session 2 – 1002 words

Session 3 – 917 words

Now for the number crunching. First, calculate your hourly rate for each session so in this case Joe would just double his amount of words for each of his first weekly sessions. Second, now that all  sessions are equated to an hourly input amount, we add up all of the hourly word count numbers and divide by the number of sessions (in this I example 6).

More specifically…

804+943+928+926+1002+917 = 5520 (total words produced in 6 hourly sessions)

5520/6 = 920 (total hourly word rate for Joe Smith is 920)

Why do you want to know this number?

Put simply, knowing this information can help you determine how long it is going to take you to chip away at your book. When you’re equipped with this information you can plan a little bit more effectively. The combination of your hourly word output rate and your book outline will position yourself to stay motivated as you tackle each section in an objective, manageable way as opposed to the perspective of writing one daunting book.

Lastly, if you truly want to ensure accuracy of your hourly word output rate then continue to track your words written for each session and keep a spreadsheet documenting this information.

Overtime as you write more consistently you’ll notice this number will likely increase.

Happy writing!

 

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Instead of Writing Beginning To End, Try This…

For a long time, I used to think I was clever due to the fact that whenever I sat down to write I referred to an outline that I already created. This would enable me to effectively puts words on paper whether I was lacking inspiration or not. This is an effective approach and I stand by it.

However, there are a few additional steps that can be taken to increase efficiency while promoting additional opportunity to input high-quality content.

For example, if you are starting a new chapter start by copy-pasting all the parts of your overall outline that fall within that particular chapter.

The next thing you want to do is look at each section of that outline and ask yourself a few guiding questions such as:

What additional instruction or details would help the information or story? 

Is this typically offered in similar books or genres? If so, how can it be differentiated? 

For non-fiction authors, is there a related, helpful anecdote or personal story that can be added? 

For fiction authors, is there a further detail that can be offered to make it more authentic? 

These guiding questions are just food for thought. Take some time as you reflect on your own writing to develop your own that trigger creativity.

As you answer these questions you should be writing your answers down within the relative section of your outline. The answers can come in the form of paragraphs or sentences to be included word for word, or short phrases that can be rearticulated at a later time. Once this stage is complete then instead of looking at a blank page tasked with the challenge of filling it, you’re now filling in a structured chapter outline.

To clarify let us break it down into nice and neat phases.

Phase 1: Copy-paste relative chapter outline from whole book outline.

Phase 2: Insert more input based on guiding questions previously mentioned and/or your own guiding questions.

Phase 3: Fill in the missing parts.

At the end of the day, you’re going to have sit down and write. There is no avoiding it. However, this is a much less daunting task when you’re adding to something as opposed starting a chapter from scratch.

If you’re still not convinced let us compare it to the construction of a house.

When contractors begin they do not start on the left and work their way to the right. Instead, they pour the foundation, construct the frame, then add the plumbing, wiring, drywall and so on.

To be fair, this is only a suggested approach. If you have a method that works for you once you get going then you may not need to use this. If, however, you are a person who struggles to make yourself sit down and write then you need to break it down into smaller, easier steps. The strategy offered here is one way to do it. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, then do not quit, just continue to look for an alternative approach.

Leaders within this realm, that I look up to, are Joanna Penn, Steve Scott, and Tom Corson-Knowles. As a writer, you must make it your responsibility learn about different strategies used by a variety of authors.

Even when you have something that is working, if you notice your productivity is decreasing then utilizing the leaders above and any other resources you’re aware of to avoid the complacency that can come with dusty, old strategies.

To keep things practical and get back to the original point, I recommend you try each phase using Evernote. Within one “notebook” that holds all the content of your book, you can create “notes”. One note should be your overall book outline, then each other note should be a chapter.

This is a great, free way to easily navigate from book outline to a specific chapter rather than scanning through one large word document.

Evernote is certainly not the only option here, but it is recommended that you use a software that enables you to easily locate each chapter and your outline.

Okay, enough is enough. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

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When Your Hard Earned Kindle Reviews Disappear

I was literally in the middle of writing a post that shared the results of my very successful book launch for The Kindle Publish Launch Formula.  In fact, I had approximately 350 words completed which included the general outline that I was then going to go back to and fill in.

To do this I had to log into to my KDP account to take a look at my current results.

Like an abrupt smack in the face, I saw that all my reviews were gone.

Gone.

Instead of 10 beautiful full stars. I saw a link that said, “be the first to review this book”. How can that be?

My stomach dropped to the floor and I did what I always do when I encounter an obstacle. I found my wife and explained what happened.

Visibly annoyed, I made it clear to her that I needed to be brought to a better place before attempting to address this concern.

She effectively did this by saying “Mike, obviously, there is some misunderstanding or error somewhere. When did you become a guy who panics before obtaining more information?”

That is why I married her. She called me out and kept me honest.

I pride myself on being able to view everything as an experiment. If I don’t like the results I simply adjust the actions until desired results are achieved.

So why was I acting out of character?

As I reflect on this experience I realize that I was particularly emotional about this because of the topic it was concerning; reviews.

Within the very book that this was happening to, I implore writers to ensure that they obtain reviews in an honest and ethical way.

Now all of a sudden I went from 10 reviews to 0 in a matter of minutes.

I couldn’t help but feel dirty.

What had I done wrong?

Had the KDP rules changed?

Did I reach out to people and offer them a free copy in exchange for an honest review? Yes. It was always and still is my understanding that was acceptable. Prior to my launch, I asked supporters to leave an honest review but to state that they received a free copy to enable providing an honest review.

If it isn’t clear, the theme of that last chapter was honest.

I stand by this. I only ask people who I know are going, to be honest, and then I strongly implore honesty.

These people have provided less than stellar reviews for my previous books.

Now, unfortunately, I can’t tell you this story has a good ending. In fact, it doesn’t really have an ending at all.

All I can tell you is that I have since reached out to KDP support on two separate occasions and at the time of me writing this post I have not heard back yet.

There is a moral to this story, though.

Right now I have two choices. I could choose to be stressed out and anxious over this.

Or, I could focus my attention on resolving this issue and when in a period of waiting for Amazon’s response I can focus on other ways to be productive.

So on that note, I’m going to work on my self-publishing course that supplements that the book. A blog post and some course work completed.

Not a bad panic mode to be in.

 

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10 Thoughts From An Author Just Before The Launch

It is official. My next book The Kindle Publish Launch Formula is currently under review to be made available for pre-order with a release date soon approaching.

I’ve got all of my ads lined up. I’ve reach out to my supporters to help with honest reviews. The time is near.

The purpose of this post is to offer some insight related to what this means for me mentally. To be honest this post is more for me than it is for you. I figure it will help me better prepare for my next launch if I have an record of my emotional state easily accessible.

Below is a list of observations as I reflect on where I am mentally at this point as I soon approach going live and launching my next book.

1. I’m constantly taking breaths and reviewing my task list to avoid overwhelm. I struggle to sleep now because I wake up thinking about something I need to do. The truth is there is a long list of tasks that you need to complete to be ready to go live and launch a book. It is very easy to try to do too much at once and mistakenly leave a task  out. When I begin to become anxious I fall back on my my tasks lists that are organized by date telling me what to do when. As a result, I strongly recommend that you use a calendar beginning a month prior to the launch date where you write specific tasks within certain dates.

If you think of a task that you may have forgotten, rather than impulsively trying to complete it, refer back to you calendar and see if it needs to be added in.

I use this calendar to stay on top of my tasks but also to control my nerves. When my mind starts going in a thousand directions I can pull up my calendar and rest assured knowing that I’m progressing at just the right pace.

2. This feels more important than ever before because this particular book marks my entry into the self-publishing niche. Personally, this is what makes me most anxious. I really love writing and self-publishing and I genuinely want to be considered an expert in helping other people experience success within this category. If my book flops then I’m back to square one.

It doesn’t mean I’ll give up, it just means I’ll have to figure out another way to earn credibility within this particular niche.

I’m also amused at the fact that I accidentally acquired some authority and credibility within the private labeling on Amazon niche. I experienced so much success selling on Amazon I wrote a book called The Amazon Sales Formula. I had zero intention of writing anything beyond that until I learned that self publishing can earn you additional income while  you gain credibility. If only I was passionate about selling on Amazon.

I’m taking a chance by refocusing my efforts on a different niche because I currently have a pretty decent sized email list of Amazon sellers. The problem is, I don’t love selling on Amazon. The money is nice but it is and was meant to be a source of passive income. If I’m going to be actively working on something I need to be passionate about it.

We’ll see if I made the right choice soon enough.

3. I’m constantly fighting off self-doubt.  For reasons mentioned above in addition to the fact that there are many self published authors who by many definitions are significantly more successful than I am, I can’t help but doubt whether or not I’m worthy to teach people the ins and outs of the self-publishing world.

I distract myself with exercise and other activities before I let my head turn me in the wrong direction.

4. I’m tired. Between restless nights thinking about what I have to do then doing it on top of making sure I’m the best family member and educator I can be, I’m tired.

I do want to point out its the kind of fatigue that  I would equate to the soreness after exercising. It’s a good pain. I’m proud of it.

5. I’m second guessing whether or not it is ready and/or if I should delay the live and launch dates.  I should also point out that my wife and I are having our third baby in a couple of weeks. So I’m literally timing up my launch to conclude just days before this. I’m reluctant to push this off because I assume I’ll be less equipped as my family and I adjust to an additional member.

I don’t want to wait too long after so I rather just get the launch over with so my marketing pace can slow down.

We’ll find out in the next 6 weeks or so if that was the right decision.

6. I’m excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As concerned as I am about rushing this process I’m also excited to be entering a new phase of this book’s lifespan. It is nice to publish the book and shift focus on marketing.

I’m certainly not a expert marketer but to be able to take a break from writing and rewriting the same work over and over again is nice.

7. I’m excited to finish my supplemental course. While I’ve been going to the editing stages for this work I’ve also begun development of my supplemental course that aims to offer a different format for information to help people reach their self publishing goals.

This is a nice creative outlet where the bulk of the hard work (writing the book) is already done. Whenever I can repurpose content I’ve already created it helps decrease the pressure that is often felt when trying to create something new.

8. I’m excited to start my next book (and all the ones thereafter) within a niche that I’m passionate about. My next book is tentatively The Idea To First Draft Formula.  The purpose is to help people who struggle with creating a completed piece of work. In the past I always considered myself an “ideas guy”. I didn’t realize that I was giving myself an excuse for not finishing whatever I started.

Since this time in my life I’ve developed strategies to keep myself focused one project at a time. This makes it even more exciting when I’m finally able to move onto the next.

9. I’m encouraged because throughout all this I still love to write. If anything, my passion for writing has grown pretty significantly. Truly, I look forward to my writing sessions the same way I used to look forward to my sporting events when I was in high school. Excited, anxious, and getting mentally focused.

I love this feeling. I love the feeling I get after I write as well. The bulk of my writing occurs in the morning before my work day and I genuinely believe I’m more productive at work as a result. I feel so motivated throughout the day knowing that I already wrote 1000 words down while the majority of people I know were sleeping.

10. I really hope this goes well. I saved the most obvious for last. For reasons mentioned above in #2 and beyond, I really, really, really want this to go well. My goal is to create a business that serves the writing niche. This book is my first source of content (outside this blog) that will or will not help establish my credibility as a self publishing coach and writer.

If you’re willing I’d love your support. Purchase my book The Kindle Publish Launch Formula: Your Personal Escort Through The Entire Self Publishing Process.

Thank you for support!

 

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Do This Before You Begin Writing Your Book

If you’re like me then inspiration hits you at random. I might be at work, playing with my kids, going for a jog, and bam something I see or hear triggers an idea. I try to equip my life in a way that enables me to easily and quickly record these ideas no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

When you’re in the process of writing a book it is easy to become distracted by these ideas. Conversely, when these ideas don’t seem to be occurring it is difficult to sit down and begin writing.

In my experience, inspiration comes in waves. I’ll have a day or two where I seem to be an idea machine and then a few days where I’ve got nothing. The inconsistency does not lend itself to writing a book. Moreover, if I have two or three ideas and only an hour to write that day I become overwhelmed when determining which idea I should focus on.

To address this I recommend creating a book outline before you begin writing. This outline is tentative and as inspiration strikes throughout your book writing process you can insert the idea wherever it is relative within the outline.

This creates an organized list of topics that when written about join together to form your book.

Before you begin writing your book I recommend you take the following steps.

Step 1: Complete a 15 minute brain dump of all potential chapters, topics, and subtopics to include in your book. Do not limit yourself in anyway. If it pops in your head, write it down.

Step 2: Sort through the brain dump by highlighting all the potential chapters. Create a list based on your highlighted chapters.

Step 3: One chapter at a time start inserting the topics and subtopics that you thought of within the list under the relative chapter.

Step 4: Look at each chapter and related topics and ask yourself what is uneccasary and what needs to be added. Cross out and add whenever appropriate.

Step 5: You now have your book outline. Be sure to include this outline on some sort of cloud based software (i.e. Evernote, Google Docs, etc.).

Step 6: Whenever an idea hits you record it within the outline. If you don’t have time just place it underneath the outline so you’re not relying on your own memory then insert it accordingly when you have a chance.

An additional step you can take if you’re feeling like the outline will not produce enough valuable content is to do a brain dump for each chapter before you begin writing it. This is a great way to combat the days where you’re staring at a blank screen and you have no idea what to write.

A few other thoughts about the importance of having an outline:

First, it gives you an overview of where your book is taking the reader. Knowing this while you write can help you put your reader at ease. For example, ocession ally there are cincur stances where I bring up a topic that hasn’t been discussed yet. I can add reassuring sentences saying something along the lines of “this will be covered in greater detail later on”. 

Second, it allows you to work on your book in any order you want.  If I have finished the first two chapters and I sit down for a writing session to begin my next chapter it doesn’t have to be the third chapter. Though I do believe it is helpful to stay in order it is not a requirement. This is particularly helpful when you’re feeling inspired towards a particular part of your book.

In other words, if your brain is coming up with gold for chapter seven, but your on chapter three, don’t fight it. Allow the inspiration to guide your process within the confines of your outline.

Third and finally, the outline allows you as a writer to chip away at your book. Rather than writing a whole book each time you sit down, you’re only writing a small piece of it. All these small pieces become your book.

Now stop reading and go make your outline!