Year’s End

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Another year is coming to an end. I realize this is my only post of 2014. This year has been challenging but I’m glad to report that I survived and live to tell the tale. This year also marks ten years since I started Azreal Publishing Company on a hope and a prayer. I’ve learned a few valuable lessons that I’d like to share with you. It is my hope that something I say here will inspire you and give you the insight you need to go forward with boldness and confidence in 2015.

1. Authors Are Entrepreneurs
Even if you have a book deal with a major publishing company you are still self-employed. If you want to be a successful author, stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like an entrepreneur. In 2015, think about the type of brand you want to be and work on growing that brand.

2. Grow Readers Not Receipts
I used to be really concerned that I wasn’t selling enough books. I have a surplus of books and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to sell more. But a better question is, how do I get more people to read my books? Because once they read it, sales tend to follow. In 2015, focus on doing what you can to get as many people as you can to read your book. Build relationships with those readers and the books will sell themselves.

3. Writers Must Write
When you are self-published you wear a lot of hats. In the beginning I enjoyed being a one woman show. But over the past ten years I’ve learned my strengths and weaknesses. I know that writing is the thing I do best. Speaking is something I do pretty well too. However, there are a lot of other things that have to happen to get the opportunity to release a new book. In 2015 build a team of people who can help you do the things you are not so great at. This will free you to do the things you do best.

Please take a moment to check out my new website and leave a comment on this post if it has been helpful.
www.azrealbooks.com

I wish you joy and peace in the New Year. May you write much and publish what you’ve written. May your voice be heard in 2015.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

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An Exercise in Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, I’m taking an inventory of all the things I’m thankful for. I practice daily journaling and decided to dedicate today’s journal entry to a list of things I can give thanks for today. I don’t usually do writing prompts but I thought it appropriate this week to introduce a writing exercise on the topic of thanksgiving.

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Instead of just listing all the things you are thankful for. I challenge you to write an alternate version of what life might be like if you did not have all of the things you are thankful for. What would your living space look like? What if you never went on that first date with your spouse? Who would you be if your parents never met? It doesn’t have to be long. 250-500 words are enough to remind you to be thankful because things could be very different.

Have fun with your writing assignment and remember to give thanks everyday.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

National Novel Month

The Great Gatsby

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve been wanting to write a great American novel, this is your month. There are programs that promise that if you follow their method, you can write a novel in 30 days. Whether you write fast or slow, I encourage you to get started writing this month. If you’re like I was when I began writing my first novel (which I’m still working on), you may wonder how to get started. Here’s my simple tips on how to write your first novel in the next one to six months.

  • Choose an engaging theme
  • Create interesting characters
  • Chose an attractive local or setting
  • Make sure the plot has plenty of things at stake for your characters
  • Leave somethings to the imagination of the reader
  • Show don’t tell
  • Write dialogue that mimics the natural rhythms of speech
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Give the reader a satisfying conclusion

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to edit and re-write and craft your writing. If you’ve every read a novel in a weekend, it was because the writer was a master a their craft. They kept you wanting to know what happens next. They created characters that you cared enough about to keep reading until the end. And if you really enjoyed the book, they ended it in a way that was satisfying to you. In order to write like this, you will need to know a few things.

  1. Your Audience
  2. Your Genre
  3. Your Craft

All of these things can be learned and improved upon. Writing is one of those things you learn by doing. You also learn by reading the kind of books you want to write. My novel, as I mentioned is not complete. The story is complete but the word count is about half that of an average novel. I could put it out as a novella, however, I believe that I can expand it. So in honor of National Novel Month, I’ll be revisiting my novel. I probably won’t finish it this month because of all the other things I’ve got going on. I may finish by the end of the year, if I get focused on it.

If you are going to start or complete a novel this month, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know your title and the name of your main character.  At the end of the month I’ll check back in with you to see how it’s going.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Outlet

images-1Writing is used as a form of therapy. The act of journaling provides a much-needed outlet for many. However when you are a writer, what do you do? I still journal but I find that I need something more at times. I’ve taken up running and exercising to release tension and stress. I work through many issues and plot twists while I’m out on the trail or sweating it out on the elliptical. I often write listening to music because it helps me to relax and provides the emotions needed to write from the heart.

It’s so important that a writer has an outlet or a way back into the regular world. The mind of a creative person can be a playground but it can also become a toxic place. It doesn’t matter if your outlet is a social (bowling) or solitary (knitting), you just need a way to decompress and exit the world of your latest and greatest masterpiece. There is a reason writers gained the reputation for being a bunch of drunkards. Some turned to alcohol as a means of escape. Others thought alcohol sparked creativity. I’d caution you to choose your muse wisely.

In addition to adopting a hobby, it may also be beneficial to totally unplug from time to time. Many years ago, I instituted what I called, “unplugged weekends”. From Friday morning through Sunday night I would totally unplug all of my electronic devises. I’d let my family and close friends know on Thursday, not to call me till Monday and where they can find me in case of an emergency.  I’d spend those times of silence, reading, praying, and journaling. I’d often add fasting and meditation to detox my mind, body and spirit. On Monday morning I awoke refreshed and at peace with renewed vision and energy.

If you find yourself feeling stuck and uninspired, look for a new outlet. Do whatever it takes to sharpen your focus and rekindle your passion for writing. This often means taking a step away and doing something else for a while.  Distance indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Share the Wealth

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, it’s likely that you have a wealth of information that you can share with the world. I had a professor in college who used to always give us random tidbits to place in our “cesspool of knowledge.”

All the research you’ve done and your life experiences have a value out there in the marketplace. You can either sell this knowledge or give it away but whatever you do, don’t hold it. The next generation of writers will be forever grateful that you shared the wealth. Here are but a few ways you can share what you know.

If you are so inclined, you can even blog or use your Facebook page and Twitter account to give good advice and information to your followers. There are many gurus who can teach you how to package and sell your information. Once you reach a certain level, people will pay good money to find out what you know. However, I’ve found that in the beginning, it’s easier to give it away, and pay it forward. None of us has gotten where we are by ourselves.  So find ways to give back to others and you’ll see it pay off for you in big ways and small ways.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

You Are What You Read

images-1In the same way the food you eat literally builds and shapes your body, the books you read shape your mind. What you read, forms the basis for your beliefs, and serves as your base of knowledge. Books color the way you view the world and how you interact with people. Words have power when spoken but they have just as much power when read. Did you know that the type of books you like to read says more about you than the clothes you wear?  One of the tools that FBI agents use to learn about the mind of a serial killer is to review the list of books they have checked out from the library.

What have you been reading? I challenge you to take a look at what you like to read? List the top five genres that you read regularly in order of importance to you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is it about the number one genre that I like the most?
  2. Do I primarily read for information or entertainment?
  3. If you could not complete the list because you only read one or two types of books, what don’t you like about other genres?

They say self-examination is good for the soul. However, the answer to these questions will lead you to some important insights as to the type of person you are becoming. For example, If you only read nonfiction/self-help books and you primarily read for information, you are most likely looking for a solution.  I know people who don’t like reading newspapers or magazines because bad news and current events depress them. There are other people who have to read dry academic writing for work and so when they sit down to read for pleasure, they only read fiction, because they need to escape.

If you want to be a well-rounded individual and writer, you should read a balanced mixture of fiction and non-fiction and several genres.  I tend to lean toward non-fiction, so I on occasion will make myself read fiction. I’ve also recently tried my hand at writing my first novel, just to prove to myself that I can write fiction. I prefer a good mystery, but have challenged myself to read a sappy love story. Sometimes I’ll ease into a genre that I’m not as familiar with by reading what I call a hybrid genre. I’d rate Science Fiction as last on my list, but a Sci Fi Whodunit might grab my attention.

Next time you reach for a book consider that maybe it is not you that chooses the book but maybe the book has chosen you.  There are times when I’ll find a book at the precise time I need to read it. Then there are books that I’ve bought and could not read them until years later. But when I did, I found I was in a place to receive the information, whereas I may not have been when I bought it.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

 

Seize the Day

DownloadedFile                  I attended a meeting over the weekend for local authors. We were celebrating 5 years of being a group. There were door prizes, like book lights and journals. What you would expect for a writer’s group. However, I happened to win an alarm clock. When she called my number, I thought wow, I never win anything. Which actually is not true, I just never win the things I really want. The leader of our group explained that she bought the alarm clock to symbolize that it is time for some of us to wake up and write. The alarm clock sounds like a siren. So not only do we need to wake up and write but it’s urgent that we awake. Sound the alarm!

Nothing is lost on me, so the door prize that everyone else was probably glad they did not win has inspired me to write this blog. I meet people all the time, who ask me for advice on writing. They have this story that they have been thinking about and maybe taking notes on for years. The only advice I can give, is to seize the day. Every day that you talk about it but don’t write is another day the world has to wait to hear your story. Every year that you wish you could write but don’t write is another year that the world has to wait for the solution to their problems.

In life the only time we have to live in is called now. Once the moment passes it’s gone never to be lived again, except in a flashback. When it comes to writing, you can’t continue to put it off until tomorrow because tomorrow is not promised. If you want to write, you are going to have to do it now. I began offering my services as a ghostwriter and work on other freelance projects because people just don’t have the time to write. But at least they understand that the time to get their message out there is now, and so they pay someone else to write it for them.

I had intended to surprise my husband by changing out the alarm clock while he was sleeping. As funny as that would be, at least to me, I’ve decided to use the alarm clock to mark my time to write each day. Some times when you work from home you fall into the trap of doing everything except what you’re supposed to be doing. Starting today, when the alarm goes off I will stop what I’m doing and write for at least an hour.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin