Writing Quote – Robert Frost
I knew that I should always have a few articles “in reserve” as a just-in-case something really came up and I was unable to get to my blog or newsletter one week. But knowing and HAVING are two different things!
So please, this week, use my chaos as YOUR lesson!
Two weekends ago, on 1/18/14, I was robbed while out hiking. Now that sounds all dramatic and I assure you it really wasn’t! To make a long story short, I was learning how to rappel (fun) and went down into the headwaters of the Verde River by rappelling down a damn. Once down, I wanted to take some photos. But then I realized my camera’s batteries were dead. So my honey, Ben, and I headed out to explore a bit.
On our way back, I realized that the “hikers” we had seen on the old railroad bed that ran over the canyon had climbed down our rope, stolen my camera and prescription sunglasses, climbed back UP the rope and then stolen the rope!
Don’t worry, it’s not that hard of a free-climb back out!
But at the end of the day, I still was dealing with the Sheriff, my homeowners insurance, and needing to get new glasses. Why am I telling you this story?
Well, two reasons:
1. It pushed back all my projects from two weekends ago to last weekend. Which totally messed up my project calendar.
2. Because it ties into LAST weekend’s story!
So, we know I was firmly behind coming in to last weekend. And like so many of the self-employed, I rely on my weekends to do the big projects I just can’t get to during the week! Saturday went really well; I was really rocking on my project. Sunday, I had plans to finish up some video scripts, shoot the video for my upcoming launch, and then work on client projects.
Instead, I walked into my office and heard “Squelch, squelch, squelch!”
Yep, completely flooded!
Business of Publishing, Writing book, publishing, writing
I’m the first to admit I think playing games on my Kindle Fire is a BAD IDEA. I figured out pretty early on that I get “addicted” to an activity pretty quickly; there’s no such thing as “just five minutes” for me. Knowing this, I uninstall the games that come with my computer and avoid Facebook games like the plague. Since I know I can’t quit once I’ve started I just don’t start at all.
When I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tablet two weeks ago I knew I would need to avoid the game section of Google Play. After all, the tablet is a tool and I bought it for one purpose in my business. And then my honey showed me “Pop Star” on his iPad. I knew that I would love it. I tried for three days to avoid downloading it to the Galaxy but I finally have in and downloaded a similar game, “Crush Star”.
(Same game rules, different scoring.)
I’ll admit it, I lost a fair amount of my weekend to the game. I used every excuse under the sun to play including that I was “stuck” on a project and needed to clear my head. Yeah right! I’m just avoiding the project.
Then I realized something. First off, the game isn’t challenging anymore; I’ve found the pattern that lets me win more than I lose. But what I realized was that this pattern, this philosophy, a way of looking three steps ahead, is actually something that completely and totally translates to writing books.
I felt no small amount of vindication that my “lost” hours really weren’t lost!
The goal is to get rid of all the colored squares. The more of one color you can put together, the more points you earn. You have to earn a certain number of points per level to move on. When you crush the blocks, any blocks ABOVE the ones you crush move down. If you clear a whole column, the remaining columns move to the right. And you can only “crush” the squares when two or more are touching. (Diagonals don’t count; they have to share a common edge.)
As you can see from this game board, there is a large block of blue squares. When I first started to play, I would happily crush the blue squares and then move on to hunting down and destroying groups or two to three. I liked the graphics, the music, and the sound the blocks made as they were eliminated.
But I was pretty much getting stuck at about level 5. I just couldn’t earn enough points to move on. So I started paying attention to how the points were awarded.
2 blocks – 20 points
3 blocks – 45 points
4 blocks – 80 points
5 blocks – 125 points
6 blocks – 18- points
7 blocks – 245 points
As you can see, the more blocks you crush at one time, the more points you earn.
And then I figured out the REAL key:
You have to think long-term about how the blocks will slide together was you crush certain blocks. Sometimes you have to crush a two- or three-block group to make the biggest grouping of same-colored blocks.
By looking ahead, and knowing the end goal (blue blocks together) in just seven moves, I was about to create a SIXTEEN block group. That group alone was worth 1,280 points.
When I work with my clients, often times we work with the content THEY ALREADY HAVE to create their book. It’s a lot like the starting game board: a large chunk is already done. A few key (new) chapters later, the pieces of the whole book slide in to place.
Okay, that’s a pretty metaphor. But GETTING to the place where the book slides in to place… There are two ways:
Way One: When you have ENOUGH content already written for other things: blogs, newsletters, articles, white papers, etc., the book will become self-evident. Patterns, themes and similar topics will become noticeable and THAT will become your book. And depending on the volume of content you start out with, you may have enough for a few books.
This is like hunting down the groupings that the game board just GIVES you.
But eventually you run out of the “stuff” you’ve already created. Sooner or later, you’ll need to start from having SOME content but not a lot. Then, you’ll write strategic articles that will start to create the framework of your book and fill in the gaps. THIS is the top-level game play.
Way Two: You have the outline of the book. You start writing the articles that you have to write anyway but instead of random articles about your topic, you’re driving toward a goal. Every piece of writing becomes strategic; either THIS book or the NEXT book.
When I first started self-publishing my books I had a HUGE backlist of articles. I had six years of newsletters and blogging under my belt. When I did an inventory, I discovered I already had 20 campfire stories, 90 recipes, 12 articles about trout fishing, and 30 camping articles.
I took the content I already had written to create:
I then created my blog’s calendar so that I was writing a new campfire story every month; I published my third book of campfire stories six months later. (Many of the stories can ONLY be found in the book.)
I’ve published an additional 20 new recipes; I’ll have a fourth cookbook late spring.
And then there’s this blog: I put the eventual book(s) plan into place before I posted a single article. I’m looking long-term and making sure all my “crushed blocks” are moving me closer toward my next book.
And now, I’m off to download Angry Birds!
Kim's Thoughts, Writing writing
Do you ever have one of those projects that you just struggle and struggle with? The type that no matter what you seem to do, it just keeps falling apart?
When I’m working on a writing project, 95% of the time, it just flows. Pretty much effortlessly. (It’s okay, you can hate me now!) But I’ve come to realize that when a writing project DOESN’T flow, it usually mean that something isn’t working in the pre-work of the project.
Here are my seven tips when a project isn’t working:
A lot of the time, when I’m fighting the words, it’s because I haven’t researched my material enough to know where I’m going. This research may be the typical type: Googling facts, reading articles, blogs, magazines, and books, interviewing experts. Or it may be the thought exercises of thinking, outlining, and planning.
Seriously, this matters! There is one chapter in “Pitch Your Tent: A Family’s Guide To Tent Camping” that I just struggled and struggled with. Then I realized I was trying to write this long, technical chapter late in the evening, night after night. I dedicated an afternoon to it and BOOM! Written. The same goes for when you’re brain isn’t functioning at peak because you’re hungry or thirsty. Brain snacks and plenty of water!
Sometimes we need to get away from the project to gain some perspective. This may be as simple as watching a couple funny online videos. Often times, I actually need to leave the computer and do something different for a while and let my brain re-charge. I always get great ideas around water so I’ll do the dishes, take a shower or chase my dog, Lily with the hose. (No, I’m serious, she LOVES it!)
Still stuck? Writing a portion of the project out long-hand with pen and paper can really get the brain juices flowing. There’s something about how the brain hemispheres connect to your hand to the act of moving it across the paper. Frankly, I don’t care about the science behind it. All I know is that it works.