Waypoint Author Academy is your first step on the journey to becoming a confident writer and savvy business person.
Because whether you’re blazing your own trail in self publishing, or are pursuing the well trodden traditional route, at the end of the day you are still in a business.
Here at Waypoint our goal is blend writing, publishing, and healthy mindset to help you become a powerhouse publishing professional and the author of binge-worthy books your ideal readers can’t get enough of.
Waypoint is the place to be if:
you are brand new to writing/publishing and want to be sure to start out on the right foot
you have been in the industry for awhile and are overwhelmed by all the options and apps and channels for authors to publish and market
you need a quick refresher or reality check to get you out of your head and back into the flow
you want quality information from industry professionals who you can trust to guide you with honesty, integrity, and compassion
Waypoint is absolutely not the place to be if:
you are looking for a magic bullet or quick-fix to game the system and boost your vanity metrics only
you want all the readers and think your books are for everyone
you are not ready to implement long-game strategies, and attract only the ideal readers to your books
Waypoint Author Academy is a virtual learning hub designed specifically to help fiction authors build long lasting and profitable careers.
In the online space non-fiction and fiction authors are often lumped together in articles about publishing and marketing but the frustrating truth is that they are not even close to the same.
Waypoint focuses on marketable genre fiction and authors who want to produce quality books for a voracious audience.
Take a look around and see if Waypoint is a good fit for you!
There’s an ages old debate that happens in writing advice circles between whether you should write what you want or write what readers want.
Writing to market is bad, says one group. You should follow your inpiration and write what moves your soul.
Writing to market is good, says the other. You’re going to die broke and alone if you don’t give the readers exactly what they want.
So which one is right?
Both, but you don’t have to get weird about it…
Both are 100% necessary to incorporate into your process to a degree. If you swing too far to either extreme your stories will flop.
If you publish stories that don’t take readers into consideration at all you will not sell that book. You’ll frolic through the meadows of your imagination (which is important but we’ll get to that) until you’ve written a tangled mess of words and events that are at best puzzling and at worst incomprehensible.
If you only write to the market in a genre you don’t read about tropes you disagree with centered on characters you aren’t invested in, you might be giving readers what they want but they’ll smell your game from the first word of the blurb. These books are at best obviously formulaic to at worst a slap in the readers face.
Here’s my advice, in case any of you asked for it.
Write for you, edit for your reader.
The books that you write have come from your heart in the way of tone, theme, and emotional growth. The characters you write must be interesting to you even if the world may not be. The struggles of the conflict must be something you can sit with over the course of an entire book/series. The story question should be one you want to know the answer to.
The rest should be run through the reader filter. The tropes you use, genre you write in, creatures/world building, the plot events should be geared toward the kinds of readers you are hoping to attract to your author brand.
You love stories about unsure girls transforming into strong independent women? You can write that in many genres using many tropes. A small town girl new to the big bad city for a sassy women’s fiction, a young woman leaving a bad relationship and learning to define love on her own terms with a man she never thought would be right for her in an angsty romance, a teen girl standing up to her mother to make her own decision for the first time for a YA, a young warrior training to take down a rebel army in a Sci Fi, new to magic one girl grows into her rightful place as queen in a fantasy…
Sometimes you need to talk it out with someone who has gone before you.
If you want to write more, get an agent/publisher, attract ideal readers, and sell more books all while still enjoying your life, our customized coaching sessions are for you!
Publishing isn’t a linear journey where you start as a temp and end up a CEO, it’s a complicated and twisted road that throws obstacles at you from every angle: story problems, plot holes, marketing confusion, insecurity, fear, uncertainty and the list goes on.
We believe that a solid foundation and focusing on the FOUR PILLARS of author success is all you need to start writing, publishing, and selling books that matter to readers who will love them.
We can help you overcome an obstacle, create a plan, or become your mentor—whatever you need to move forward in your writing.
Two Categories and Three Levels of Support to choose from
Coaching categories are Project or Platform. Is it your book that’s tripping you up or your author career? We can help you focus on what will move your writing forward toward your goals and dreams as an author.
Note: There are eleventy billion marketing and ads experts out there that will help you get more sales or boost your ranking. We think that’s great, if you’re ready for that kind of marketing. We focus on building the solid business foundations you need before you worry about Facebook Ad conversions, like having a great story and building a business that suits your life.
The Pinpoint | 60 minute tactical session | $75
This 60 minute call is for tackling a specific obstacle that you’re struggling with in your writing or business. It’s a focused call to uncover the thing that’s keeping you stuck and making a custom plan to manage it.
This call is for authors who:
Can’t figure out why they’re getting form rejections from agents
Aren’t getting the sales they were hoping for
Struggling to reach readers and build true connections with fans
Are lost as to how to set up their author platform
Need help to deepen their story, flesh out their charcacters, fill a plot hole, or wrangle their plot into the appropriate story structure
You will walk away from this call with a clear idea of what the problem is and what you need to do to fix it.
The Intensive | 90 minute strategy session | $197
Spend an hour and a half with us dissecting your struggle, crafting a unique fix, and planning the custom roadmap that will help you navigate your goals to reach your dreams.
This call is for authors who:
Are about to start a new project and want to make sure it’s going to hit the mark in terms of genre, character, story, and plot.
Have a book that is not gaining any traction with agents or readers and you’re sure it needs more than a Pinpoint Fix.
Need to start, overhaul, or restructure their author brand with simplicity and ease
The Author Bootcamp | 90 day mentorship | $1497
Having a publishing professional in your back pocket is like having a cheerleader, accountability buddy, development editor, brand strategist, and PR specialist…not to mention a emotional support human.
The Bootcamp mentorship isn’t something that will work for everyone and we only have a certain amount of slots to work 1:1 with authors. Out of deep respect for you we will be the first to tell you if our skills aren’t suited to your project or platform and do our best to guide you toward someone who is. If you’re interested in learning more about the Bootcamp contact us here. Payment plans are available.
Test out our style with the FREESTORY ROOTS IDEA TESTER worksheet and see if you could deepen your story idea and provide your readers with a truly moving experience.
Not everyone needs or wants a coach to help them start their writing career, or level up a career that needs a little push to get rolling again.
For the DIYers and Beginners, watch this space for more affordable programs and courses that will help you build your author framework and sort out the puzzle pieces of the FOUR PILLARS OF AN AUTHOR CAREER.
Sometimes you don’t need high level support or a proven framework to build your career. Sometimes you’re doing fine, and are happy as can be with where you’re writing and author career is going.
But you know there’s always room for growth, stretching, and improvement and that’s what this space is here for. A collection of hyper specific resources on a multitude of topics that relate to the FOUR PILLARS OF AN AUTHOR CAREER that you can pick from to focus on unleveling one aspect of your writing and publishing game.
Selling your books is a process that quickly gets out of control, leading to confusion, indecision, overwhelm, and then shut down.
The cause is too much information, too quickly, and at the wrong time.
Authors (and everyone else on the planet) are consumers of information, but consumption also requires digestion and integration–the most important part of learning
So all those podcasts you binged about author marketing were a colossal waste of your time if you don’t digest and integrate what you heard. Did you go out and DO the thing you learned about, let it sit for a bit, and then come back to analyze it?
If the answer is no, you just wasted your time. When the time comes for you to do things, you will have to learn it again because the first time you consumed but didn’t allow the information time to stick.
The same rule applies to structures, foundations, frameworks, methods for selling books. What someone else does won’t necessarily be right for you. Just because some guy is famous for marketing books doesn’t mean it will be the magic solution to your sales problems. Or because some Facebook group is obsessed with ad strategy, sharing tips, tricks, and rants about ads all day, doesn’t mean ads are right for you.
The number one thing you need to do when creating your marketing plan is to get curious, get comfortable with risk, and get listening to your intuition.
The most effective way to sell more books is to create a marketing plan that you are excited to implement. The most impressive sales techniques in the world won’t sell you a single book if you don’t show up—or worse, show up half-assed and confuse people.
If your goal is to sell books, what’s the path of least resistance between the book and the reader? This trail will look different for everyone.
Everything you do will fall under one of these four categories, and the goal is streamline, simplify, and eventually automate/outsource.
One of the biggest problems I see with authors in all genres is the slow shift away from being a writer and toward becoming a marketing expert. I’m guessing you didn’t start writing with the goal of accidentally changing careers half way through?
The four tiers of an Author Marketing plan are Vision, Strategy, Tactics, and Gimmicks (not all gimmicks are slimy, I promise).
Your vision is just for you—the ultimate goal, the dream, the state of being that you’re after in your publishing career. Where do you want this journey to take YOU? If you’re unsure, write your Vision scene.
The typical day scene is a written account of a day-in-the-life of you, the author. There’s a reason it’s a typical day and not a special day too. It’s easy to imagine the day your book comes out, or the premiere of your movie/show, but those dreams are also too specific and not a representation of your inner success and happiness.
Think to the future, if everything went your way and you got all the things you wanted, what would a typical day in your life look like five/ten years from now. I’m guessing it doesn’t involve you obsessing over ad copy? Dig into this scene and write it down as if it were a scene in a novel. When you write down your goals and dreams, they become that much more real—more attainable.
Don’t hold back, but don’t get too carried away either (we all want million-dollar book deals). Stretch your vision of who you want to be (not just what you want to get) and how you want to exist in this world but start today. Start where you are right this second. You don’t need to change your circumstances, core values or personality to become a successful author. And you can’t change the facts of your life/the world right now.
Write the details and experience your success in the way that feels right for you and your life. Grab your Dreams to Goals Guide to dig into this exercise.
Your strategy is your big picture view or map of how you’ll make it to your vision by providing your audience with a magical experience. This is where your readers become important in your marketing.
How will you show up? Where will you be? What is the path you’ll take your readers down? What landmarks of your life/writing are essential for your readers to see?
Often the word strategy gets tossed into things like ads, funnels, opt-ins, and the like, but in truth, none of those things is an author strategy by themselves. Your strategy is the engine, how all the bits fit together to make the whole machine work. The purpose of an engine is to drive a car. The goal of your marketing strategy is to sell books.
Your strategy includes your branding, online persona, and presence, all of which can be discovered in this simple FREE five day Author Traction Challenge.
Your strategy also includes your reader journey. You need to understand how readers browse and buy books, move through the process, and build your marketing strategy around their needs while remaining true to you.
A tactic is one small, focused effort to gain a specific result. So the overall goal is to sell books. A tactic is to release a free story to get people on your email list. The free story is the tactic, and the specific result is more people on your list, the big picture is that they’ll eventually buy your book.
There are hundreds of tactics to try and test, to mix and match. Your job while creating your marketing strategy is to fill it with tactics that work for you, your readers, and your time—not with what others tell you to do. I’m not saying ‘don’t trust book marketers’, what I’m saying is they don’t have a magic framework no matter what they might promise you. So don’t try to cram yourself into someone else’s vision.
The only absolute I have when marketing is never lead your reader into a dead end.
This phrase is repeated to my authors over and over again.
The secret to creating effective tactics that support a solid strategy is the LOOP EFFECT. Every call to action should take your reader on a journey back to you.
What does this look like in practice?
The simplest is the end matter of your book (yes, your end matter is a marketing tool not just a thing you need at the end of a book). When someone buys your book and reads it, is that the end of the line? Or do you have a link to sign up for your email list, get another book from the series, or join your discussion group? The link in the back of the book brings them back into your world–it completes the loop.
Every tactic you employ to expand your readership, grow your following, or sell your book should be AFTER you’ve thought through your loop. What are you asking readers to do? And how are they directed back to you after doing it?
A bad reputation follows the gimmick around like a shadow, but gimmicks themselves aren’t gross, the people who misuse them for selfish reasons are.
A gimmick is simply a way to get fast results with minimal effort. Unethical marketers use tricks and bribes to pad numbers and create false promises to get self-serving results but at the core of a well used gimmick is reward.
Giving away a $50 gift card is a gimmick. You’re relying on the basic fact that most people like getting free money. But the reward is so open-ended that the goal isn’t to provide real value to readers, it’s to get as many people to sign up as possible regardless of what they need. Misused gimmicks are selfish marketing because you care more about your numbers, ranking, profit, or status than you do about offering readers something they will need/want.
How I recommend authors use gimmicks is to serve their existing readers by rewarding them for their support.
Let’s say you have 500 people on your email list, and your next book is about to release, but there isn’t a lot of buzz happening even though your launch strategy is in place. You can whip up a quick gimmick that will help boost the buzz plus offer the people who are already supporting you a reward for their efforts.
Send out an email and ask your subscribers to share your release with their followers on social media and send you a link to the post. They’ll be entered into a draw for $50 for each platform they share on up to three platforms.
Important Note: You cannot use this to get reviews, that goes against Amazon’s terms of service. Getting more buzz around your book sure, but you cannot reward readers for reviews.
It’s quick and dirty, but instead of being greedy about it and trying to get numbers through manipulating strangers, be strategic and reward those who already support you.
Your road to selling books to readers will be full of vision, strategy, tactics, and gimmicks. They should work for you and make you excited to show up for your readers.
Each one will inform the other, but if you keep these things centered in your mind, your marketing plan will almost create itself:
Start where you ARE, not where you wish you were
Fill your strategy with things you’re excited to try
Always lead your readers back to you using the LOOP EFFECT
Reward the readers you already have with gimmicks, and forget about your vanity metrics
Remember that your best marketing strategy is always the ONE YOU’RE ACTUALLY GOING TO SHOW UP FOR
It’s easy to slip into thinking your writing is just you—the author. Your readers and those dreaded gatekeepers are way over there. In essence, it’s you alone and then everyone else you are trying to reach across some great expanse, whether real or imagined.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
It should be you—the author—surrounded by the people who support and uplift your career in different ways.
I want you to start segmenting your support networks into categories and then understanding what each support category does for you. Your support system is not a two faction entity—this or that—it’s multi-faceted.
Let’s start with the obvious.
Your readers are people who open your book, read your words, and like them. They will often read more of your books and like those too. They will talk about, review, and recommend your books. The ultimate support a reader can give you is to talk about your book to others. That is reader endgame.
But make sure you know if your readers are also your buyers.
Wait? Aren’t they the same thing?
Your buyers are the people who open their wallets and purchase your books. These can be the same person in the case of most adult fiction, but don’t assume it is.
For Middle Grade and Young Adult, the buyers are mostly parents/guardians and librarians. The adults are often the ones with the final say in what kids read. Knowing that is crucial to setting up your marketing plans or structure your story to be sure the people with the money get the message, but the reader gets the experience.
Even if your reader and buyer are the same person nurturing them as a readers and selling the next book to them are two very different things.
Your efforts with your readers should be on nurturing them into advocating for you. Save the hard marketing for your buyers.
Your peers are other authors who are in a similar place to you. Not to imply that only debut authors can network with debut authors or that traditional authors must stick together. I mean, people who are struggling with the same things you are, or hitting similar milestones. If you’ve released your first book and are trying to get it into more reviewers’ hands and another author has 12 books out and is working on her first 100K month, the two of you don’t have relevant advice to share back and forth.
The hallmark of a peer relationship is that it’s mutually beneficial. You need to network with authors who have similar struggles because each of you will have different strengths to lend to each other. You will be able to speak the same language, commiserate together, hold each other accountable, and cheerlead each other.
A word of caution here: Beware the Author Whirlpool!
The Author whirlpool is my term for clusters of authors that begin to treat each other as readers. I’m not too fond of newsletter swaps for this reason (and others). I’ll share your book, you share mine. I’ll buy your book, you buy mine.
Authors all hang out together in big Facebook groups where they inadvertently build a readership of other authors and not readers. They pump money into ads and target authors and wonder why their conversions are low. It becomes a whirlpool and continuously flows in on itself but never expands beyond other authors.
Your peers are not your market.
You need to learn. Learning and growing as an author happens through formal or informal education. Finding a mentor, teacher, or coach isn’t mandatory to a successful author career, but it sure does speed things up and make them way less painful. Your agent or editor qualifies a mentor as well. Mentors are always more knowledgeable or more experienced than you, and the flow of help runs from mentor to mentee (even if the author is paying for the help).
The best way to find a mentor is to be active in author circles to respectfully and tactfully conduct yourself within those spaces and hold back your urges to defend yourself when receiving feedback. There’s nothing more off-putting to an established writer than a newbie asking for advice and then proceeding to refute each point. No one wants to waste their time teaching someone who does not want to learn.
Hiring someone if you have the funds is the best way to know you’re getting the support you need from someone who believes in your writing and will show up for you as they promise (because you’re paying them and if they don’t show up you will stop paying them).
People who aren’t in the writing community don’t often understand the writing community. If I had a dollar every time, someone asked me a silly question or made a stereotypical assumption about what I do…
But here’s the thing with your home-front support.
You don’t need them to support your writing.
You need them to support your time and energy.
So many authors don’t get the support they need at home, but a lot of authors also don’t articulate their need and desire. You hole away behind a computer screen, and your loved ones become resentful that you are distracted and distant, not that you’re writing. You tried to talk to them about your books, and they were dismissive, so you fell silent and steal bits of time here and there, never telling anyone what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Just because your husband doesn’t like your genre doesn’t mean he won’t support you. It might mean he won’t ever read your books, but is your husband your target audience? Not likely. His opinion on your writing isn’t going to be helpful.
But him taking the kids to the park on Saturday morning so you get some time to write? That is what support of your time and energy means.
The real secret here is honest communication. Talk to your family about how much you love writing and how it makes you a better parent/partner/friend. Set real expectations that they can understand around your time and energy, not your books. Be open to compromise and flexible to changing it up.
“I need an hour to work on a project that makes me happy, when can we fit this into our schedule to work for our family?”
“Writing helps me clear my head, gives me a creative outlet and fills me with purpose. When I feel that sense of purpose, it makes me more confident, fulfilled, and excited about life. That makes me show up better as a parent/partner. I need a space of my own in the house to do this work. How can this work for all of us?”
Once you settle on your time and space, protect it.
Be patient but firm with them if you are safe to do so. It takes time to shift expectations and set the foundations for your boundaries. They aren’t going to get it right, right away. Remind them what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how their support is helping.
I tell my 5-year-old that she’s helping me write my book when she’s coloring/reading next to me—that my words are a direct result of her support. I show her how many words I wrote on the screen, which she finds fascinating and is pretty proud of herself for being a part of it.
I report my writing progress to my husband, not as a sarcastic jab or justification, but as if my writing is a job just like his. I ask him how his day was when he gets home and what happened at work.
I started telling him how my day went too in a casual way. No snark, no passive aggressive nonsense that would only make him shut down. I talked about how many words I got down, if they were a struggle, I complained about characters as if they were co-workers and celebrated milestones which helped him understand the process better.
After a while of me doing that, he started asking about it. More than that, he began to understand that I was working toward something that mattered to me. My chatting about it normalized it in my family and extinguished any assumptions he had about what I did behind the computer screen.
Next week is the final post in the 4S Author series and it’s often the things authors skip straight to, which is why I strategically left it for last. See you next week for a chat on SALES.
If you need some extra support, reach out to us here and we’ll help you get back on track with your writing.
Story is arguably the most important part of a writing career. You can be wicked confident and have a ton of money to throw at an in depth marketing plan, but if your story isn’t compelling all the hype will quickly flop.
Now, there’s no possible way to get all the ways to improve your writing skills into a single post. I would never even try.
Instead, I will walk you through how I work with authors to deepen their own stories. Notice I said stories, not writing. Wordsmithing is a skill separate from storytelling in my mind, and the most critical part of writing a page-turner is having a solid story behind your beautiful words.
Great stories are always about compelling character growth. A character starts at point A and ends at point Z, an entirely different person—for better or worse. Humans are drawn to human struggles. We are sucked in by a character in a seemingly impossible situation, and it’s curiosity that drives us to know if they will get through this list of insurmountable obstacles. We absolutely must know what happens next.
As an exercise in character growth we are going to turn to my favourite thing: Trees.
I’m obsessed with trees (I have a giant tree tattooed across my whole back as proof), which I combined with my love of story to create the Character Growth Tree.
Let’s chronicle the growth of your protagonist through trees…
Stay with me here.
The characters are the trees; the story is the forest; the plot is the elements.
The tree has four parts for the purposes of this character lesson—roots, trunk, branches, and leaves.
The Roots are Character Misbeliefs
The roots are invisible but the most vital bit to the tree’s chance of survival. Without roots, there is no tree. Without understanding and developing solid character’s roots, the book you’re writing will not be able to grow and flourish as spectacularly as it could.
I love to poke at character motivations. It’s my whole editing style. Why did the character do that? Why doesn’t she trust men but still is a serial monogamist? Why did he choose this over that? What happened in their life to foster this train of thought? And on and on I go. I drill my authors with questions about the exact details of why their characters think, act, and speak the way they do. They both love and hate me for it.
Because the series of events that shaped a character’s entire belief system before the story begins culminates with the root scene–or the moment the character chooses to go all-in on their misbelief (or the lie/fatal flaw, as some editors call it).
The key to a sturdy root structure for your character is choice. The events in your character’s life do not make them, how they choose to react and respond to those events shapes them. Your character must have agency in their own story. Too many times characters just weather storms that come at them with no active participation in them. Take what happens to your character and analyze what they choose to do with their circumstances.
The Trunk is Character Reactions
The trunk of your character is their foundational choices and reactions. Once you understand their roots and how strongly a character holds tight to their misbeliefs, you can bring them out of the ground and expose them to the elements (the plot that will continuously batter the character’s misbeliefs like wind and rain). This trunk will be the protection they use against the plot assault. Think carefully about how your characters protect themselves. Their actions, choices, and reactions will protect the soft core of vulnerable insecurity that lives beneath the bark’s sharp hardened edges.
It’s completely pointless to know things like what kind of coffee they order at Starbucks unless there is a reason that is relevant to the story. Do they order an iced caramel Frappuccino—even though they think cold coffee is blasphemous—because their friends do? Perhaps they’re terrified of not fitting in, so they suffer through gross ice coffee to keep their popular friends thinking they belong with the popular crowd? Because in that case, their Starbucks order is relevant, not because of what they order, but WHY. They choose to silently suffer to protect their belief that popularity is more important than joy.
Your plot is going to challenge that misbelief. They will grow to realize that their happiness is more important than being popular (if it’s a happy ending), or they will destroy themselves in the effort (if it’s a cautionary ending).
The Branches are Character Behaviours
The branches of your character are their behaviours that result from their misbelief and the protective way they respond to threats against it. Keeping on with the Starbucks analogy, if our character wants to be popular and is willing to drink gross coffee to achieve it, what sort of outward habits would stem from making decisions to follow the crowd? They would be more aware of what others were doing. They’d hesitate before making decisions, ask a lot of questions, or maybe they’re never the first one to speak, instead they wait for their friends to say something first. They lie about having plans and blame it on others, so they don’t have to go to Starbucks and suffer one more sugar cup of yuck but still get to keep their status.
The options are endless, but your character’s behaviours grow directly from their protective reactions to keep their misbelief alive.
The Leaves are Character Mannerisms
The leaves are the outermost layer of your character’s misbelief. The beautiful, colourful distractions from what’s going on beneath the surface. All the ways in which their mannerisms, habits, actions, choices, and misbelief are left to reader interpretation.
Maybe they touch their mouth a lot to stop themselves from talking, or laugh nervously, or stand defensively. They might be twitchy or stutter when asked their opinion. Character mannerisms also grow from environmental circumstances such as sharing a trait with a parent, culture, social group, or geographic location. Still, the core reason the character adopted these habits will always trace back to that character’s root—their misbelief about the world.
What happens next?
Once your characters have all been created, you then have a forest. An interesting tidbit of tree knowledge is that all trees in a forest are interconnected by their root systems. Nutrients are passed back and forth from tree to tree or cut off from the trees that are unlikely to survive, for the greater good of the forest.
In a similar manner all your characters roots, misbeliefs, and mannerisms are going to become intertwined and feed off each other.
This process is how you take your characters and create a story around them that creates a compelling experience for your reader, not just a book to be read. After your readers take in the characters and understand them, they will begin to see how it’s all interconnected beneath the surface, and they’ll be desperate to see how it ends.
Are you looking for help strengthening your characters to create a truly compelling story for your readers? Check out our Story Chats and we can help you level up your storytelling.
Starting with SELF is appropriate because it’s often the thing authors abandon first. We spend so much time trying to contort ourselves for agents, editors, and readers we completely forget that we’re a very important piece of our stories.
If you haven’t read the Series Kickoff outlining the 4S’s, do that here.
The self has two sections: your physical self and your higher self.
Your Higher Self
Your higher self is not a spiritual thing (although it can be if that’s important to you) but more a way in which you carry yourself. In regards to writing, it comprises your values, expectations, and boundaries. These three areas must be understood if you are to have a hope of building a sustainable writing career.
Define your beliefs. What is the code of conduct in your life? Identify the force that drives your behavior?
We all love to talk about values in a romantic sense. We want to value family and love and kindness, but in truth, we sometimes choose our values based on how good they make us look.
Behind all the posturing, our real values are there, and they are coming out every day in how we behave. When we act in alignment with our values, we feel refreshed, inspired, motivated. When we are working counter to our values, we feel stuck, hopeless, or agitated. Values often change and morph as we do, and they’re not fixed. You can integrate new values into your life that will serve you and your writing better.
My two highest held values are communication and integrity.
This is not what you expect from others; it’s what others expect from you. And you have more control over it than you think.
Again this comes back to behavior. You set expectations in others with the choices you make. Every time you sit down to write and your kids want something from you, do you get up and do it for them? Or do you tell them to wait until after your writing time? Both of those actions are setting an expectation.
If you interrupt your creative time to cater to others, you’re communicating to them that your writing time is optional and non-essential. They will continue to interrupt you because you’ve indicated that it’s okay if they do.
Boundaries are born from expectations. Let’s continue with the interruption example as I’m guessing it’s a common one, and it’s also a smaller, more manageable boundary to set.
Boundaries are the lines that you will not allow others to cross—a time/action/space you protect, literally or figuratively. I often instruct my clients to create a Nope List for their fiction, which is a list of boundaries you’ll set with your family/friends and your readers. Write out a series of ways you refuse to compromise your goals and values to achieve some arbitrary metric—such as I will never add gratuitous sex into my novel to gain more sales.
How could we set a healthy boundary around writing time with our children? Here’s how I do it. See how my values (communication and integrity) play into my boundaries.
I get up early to write as I have a preschool-aged daughter and I’m a morning person as they say.
I sat down with my husband and daughter and talked to them about my writing. I told them why I love to write—that it gave me purpose and joy. I let them in on my process—I’m most productive in the morning and require quiet, uninterrupted time to get into the flow. I asked them how they felt about my writing and if they had questions about how I was spending my time at the screen. Through their answers, I realized that they didn’t understand my writing time and often felt I was neglecting them to scroll social media and avoid them. So I explained further. We talked about online presence, my relationship with my readers, and my marketing efforts. I walked them through my brand and how I use my time to write, edit, publish, and promote. Once they understood better, we set the expectations around my creative time as a family.
Unless there is pain or blood, my time is MY time. I make sure to hold up my end of the bargain by sticking to the arrangement. I use that time to work, not to flitter around on the internet doing unnecessary things. And when 8 am rolls around, I pack it up and turn my attention to the family. If my boundary is crossed, I gently remind them of our agreement. I offer them an option to solve their problems and follow through with a list of consequences that we predetermined, such as if my daughter can’t give me that time, she has to play or read in her room instead of in my office. If I breach my end of the agreement, they remind me of the time and how I’ve gone over.
This example sounds very hippie, but it took a lot of reminders and a lot of putting my foot down. It’s a long and bumpy road. Slowly, my family began to understand that I respect my creative time enough to defend it, and now they respect it too.
Your Physical Self
I have zero interest in using this space to make you feel like you need to be a certain way or size or shape to be healthy. Health looks different for all of us, depending on our genetics and our environmental circumstances. Our bodies communicate with us about what makes it feel better and worse. Being in tune with that can improve your creativity because what you eat and how you move affects your focus and clarity—in helpful ways and harmful ways.
If you love to work out hard and cook elaborate Keto meals, then do that.
But connecting to our bodies could look like drinking a big glass of cold water before you write because it perks you up. Or take a break from writing to do some stretching in your chair. Or save those cookies for after your writing time because you know sugar makes you foggy and grumpy.
Practice listening to your body.
Whether it’s your higher self or your physical self, it’s about alignment. This industry has enough obstacles to navigate; our relationship with writing doesn’t have to be one of them.
If you need help sorting out your priorities and creating a plan to bring your Self back into your writing game, I’ve got you covered. Let’s chat soon.
There are a lot of paths to publishing your novels, and it can become quite overwhelming to decide which one is right for you. But under all the tech and strategies and marketing your success will hinge on only 4 core thing.
Over the coming weeks I’ll dive into each one a bit further.
Note: This series was adapted from a summer series available through the email list only. For more in depth writing advice be sure you’re on the list.
Publishing is not a linear process. You don’t start as an intern, pay your dues, and climb the corporate ladder until you reach management. I am a testament to this idea having had a wildly successful debut book, a flop sophomore book, a popular third book, then I burned out hard and took a year off, which killed my momentum and then had to start all over again.
I sometimes compare writing and selling fiction to one of those Tilt-o-Whirl rides at the fair. It’s not just ups and downs like a roller coaster but also violent jerks side to side and sometimes spinning you right around.
It’s not easy this career you’ve chosen, but it also doesn’t have to be so damn hard.
Let’s get into the 4S Fiction Career and get control of this wild ride, shall we?
THE 4 S’s
To build a fiction career, you need to nurture these four areas: Self, Story, Support, and Sales.
All four of these categories are crucial and require you to be paying attention because, as I said, it’s not a linear process. There are no ABCs or 123s about it. Each category has its time to shine, and each will let you know when it’s neglected, often by negatively affecting the others.
The self category is two-sided.
First, your values drive your interests, which guide your experiences that ultimately become the themes of your novels. No matter how hard you try, you cannot take yourself out of your stories. So it’s vital that you understand WHY you write in the first place.
Second, your brain and body are essential to your career as an author. Feed your creativity by choosing nutrition that clears your mind, movement that invigorates your body, and the spirit of curiosity to be continuously learning.
Writing a book is easy. Crafting a story is hard.
All the beautiful language in the world does not equal a compelling story, nor does a kick-ass character, a tightly plotted structure, or any other number of things you can find on Google by searching ‘How to write a novel.’
Crafting a story that is both well written and deeply compelling requires a layering of skills that develop over time. You reach this goal through practice, education (formal or informal), and the willingness to repeat/redo/rewrite until you’ve gone below the words’ surface and created an experience for your reader.
There are many forms of support for a fiction author. The most obvious is your readers.
You need people to read your stories and then talk about them. The talking-about-them part is what gets ignored. It’s not enough to have people on your email list or people that buy your books. You need their support in the form of talking, reviewing, sharing to gain more readers.
The next layer is your peers. You need other authors in your world who love you, your writing, and are happy to help you. Peer relationships are mutually beneficial. They are networks of authors who are in similar places in their careers who help each other. There is a back and forth flow of support. But beware of the Author Whirlpool Effect, which we’ll talk about soon.
The next layer is your mentors. You need people more advanced than you to guide you, help you, and support you because this trip is hard, my friend. Mentors can be generous authors more advanced than you or a coach that you hire to assist you. The mentor relationship is usually only one way. The mentor supports the mentee.
The last level is friends and family. The personal life aspect is tricky, and it’s honestly heartbreaking how many authors I talk to that have ZERO support from their spouses, family, and friends. If you are in a safe space to do so, practicing expectation and boundary setting can be beneficial because a lot of the time, it comes down to not understanding. Your non-writer crew just doesn’t get it. So help them get it.
Marketing is where so many of us get all topsy turvy on our path to monetize our fiction. The branding, and the websites, and email lists, and social media, and ranking, and ads, and banners, and bylines, and the covers, and the launches, and the fast track to burnout-town!
Your only goal after writing your book is to sell it to someone. Many someones, preferably. In the simplest way possible. This path is called a sales strategy. You need one that fits you, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
It also gets tricky because your support (readers) is sometimes different than your market (buyers). Wait. What? Yup. The people who hand over the dollars may not be the people who are actively reading and supporting you. For example, your author friend from that Facebook group might buy your book to support you (and expect you to buy theirs in return, which means you’re at net-zero dollars, btw), but they might never actually read it.
You need to do some real work to figure out your market, where they are, and how they respond to different strategies. Contrary to what the gurus tell you about their ‘proven methods,’ it’s not just pumping money into ads, following a framework, being in certain places, or hanging out with certain people.
There are so many traps and false promises on the trail to sales. It’s wild. I’m on a one-woman mission to prove that 99% of what you’re doing to market your books is an unnecessary waste of your time. I’ll tell you why soon.
I’ll be back over the coming weeks to go into more detail on each category in turn.
Not long ago, I was preparing to teach at a writing retreat. As I sat down to plan, I listed out some ideas of short classes I could present. Then, I sent my ideas to the group of attendees for a vote.
As an afterthought, I slid in – How to Know What to Write Next – and it ended up with the most votes by far. I found this both surprising and exciting. Getting stuck on what you should write next isn’t a problem many writers anticipate having, but it’s one almost all of us experience at some point.
That presentation transformed into Pitch It to Write It, an easy, 4-step process to help you effectively choose your next attention-grabbing story idea that sells.
An effective story pitch sells your idea to your readers if you’re an indie author, or to an agent if you’re traditionally published. It’s a way to distill the heart of your story idea into a quick, simple description that hooks your readers and leaves them wanting more.
In Pitch It to Write It, I draw on my twelve years of publishing experience to bring you a process that helps you pick your next project, know if the idea will work, then determine whether the idea is the next right step for your author career.
Identify other works of fiction that draw you in, and how those values and themes show up in your own ideas
Work through ways you can discover which project(s) you’d like to focus on right now
Explore and narrow down your project ideas to the one that will potentially resonate most with your readers and, as a result, be most profitable
Work through creating a concise pitch that helps you quickly describe your next idea
We’ll work together to put your core values to use, explore tools to narrow down your project list, and find ways to make your take on the story unique to you. Because at the heart of it all, YOU are the unique element of your story.
Being able to pitch your idea is KEY is knowing if there’s a market for it, in keeping your story focused, and having an end product that (hopefully) needs far less editing once you’re done drafting. Saving time on your process means more time to write your next story–and the next, and the next.
Honestly, there’s nothing quite as exciting as diving into a new project, and nothing quite as daunting if you’re stuck. If you’re struggling to decide what project you should start working on next, Pitch It to Write It can help.
By working your way through the pages of the Pitch It to Write It workbook, you’ll gain a clear focus to turn your idea into the solid story it deserves to be. You can get your copy HERE.
How do you prepare to write a new book? Many authors have a system they follow to plan, plot, and prepare before they sit down to write–myself included. While there are no real rules for how to write a book, I find that I prefer to have a loosely structured system that works for my storytelling style.
I’ve written a little over 30 novels–maybe around 40. I don’t count. (I don’t count words either, but that’s a post for another day). Now that I have a few stories behind me, I’ve started asking myself the same six questions each time I start a new project.
Want to know what they are and how they help me prepare to write? Read on.
1. Where did the seed of this idea come from? What’s at the heart of this story?
Considering the seed and the heart of our story idea helps us to remember the passion we had when the idea first sparked. Write your answer down, because you’re going to want to revisit it from time to time throughout your writing process.
Knowing the heart of a story keeps us going when we’re feeling unmotivated. It helps us fall back in love with our characters when we’ve had enough of dealing with them, or love the story again when we hate the plot. (Because at some point in the process, we WILL hate the story or get sick of our characters.)
On days when you’re feeling awful about what you’re working on, go back to this answer. Take some time to refocus on the heart, and you’ll be on your way again in no time.
2. What is the book about?
Writing up a short pitch of our story, even if it’s just mediocre, can help us keep our story focused as we write. Sketch out your basic characters, a bit of setting and genre, what’s at stake, and an obstacle or two.
I fall somewhere between a plotter and pantser/discovery writer. I go back to that blurb again and again. This also helps me know if my idea will be easy to sell or pitch, since I know my endgame is to sell the book. This blurb isn’t set in stone, but I’ll often go back to it and tweak as I write. If you want to feel confident in moving forward with your idea, create a pitch that makes your friends/agent/editor say, “I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE.”
3. What is a topic or sensation or feeling I want to explore?
This goes back to the heart of the story, or theme. What do we want to say about the world through our newest project? Are we exploring a particular emotion or sensation? An observation on society or politics? If we had to summarize our WIP in one word, what would that word be?
All of these details help to keep the EMOTIONAL focus on the book on track. And, the emotions we spark in and through our characters will translate into what you want your readers to feel.
4. How do I want my reader to feel when they finish the book?
Asking ourselves how we want our readers to feel when they put our book down will help us to know if we’re upholding the promises we made to the reader with the beginning of the novel, as well as the blurb. Knowing how we want our readers to feel ignites our awareness and helps us keep the emotional stakes where they need to be throughout the storytelling journey.
5. What happened to my protagonist/world before the novel starts, that has shaped who they are?
Our protagonist’s past experiences inform their actions, reactions, and choices throughout the story. The past follows protagonists throughout their arc, and will have varying degrees of influence on everything they do.
The Hunger Games is a great example. Because it’s a post-apocalyptic story, one might say that the big thing that happened before the novel’s beginning is the revolution that resulted in the forming of the districts, which in turn resulted in the formation of the Hunger Games. After all, the games wouldn’t have happened without the war, right?
But take a deeper dive and look at Katniss Everdeen’s past. The poor living conditions in District 12 contributed to her father’s death, which then forces her to hunt for food to help her family survive. Her grit, determination, and wilderness survival skills set her up to win the Hunger Games.
So in this case, both the world’s past and the character’s past shape the story’s events going forward.
6. What lie does my character believe, and how do the events of the novel play into, or help destroy that lie?
This may take a while to sort out, and that’s okay! But something in your character’s past has led them to believe something about themselves–and/or the world–that is false. Their discovery that this thing they’ve believed to be true, isn’t true, is what drives your story forward.
Your character’s misbelief can be anything, including:
I am the chosen one
I’m not worthy of love
I will never be enough
I can never go back (to home, an old life, to doing good, etc.)
I must do it all alone (everyone is depending on me)
How your character navigates that lie is what keeps the reader turning pages.
These questions are the things that I write up longhand before I start my novel. They’re what I talk to my critique partners about, and how I shape my characters and my story.
If you’re feeling lost, or unsure about how to navigate these questions–either with a new project, or with a novel you’re revising–Allie and I love to talk these details through with writers. Schedule your chat here.
The 5 Point Story Mapping Method isn’t a plotting device. It’s not a new series of beats or a reworking of classic plot tools. The Waypoint Method aims to get deep under the skin of your story so that you understand more than just what happens to your characters. It’s about setting yourself up to succeed, understanding your own motivations as well as your character’s, and using your time and creative energy in the best possible ways.
After a decade of publishing, editing, and evaluating what is and isn’t working in fiction, the core of an author’s story can make or break the final product. Underneath the plot and the setting, what is your story saying to the world?
Below hair and eye color, what does your protagonist need? What do they fear? What do they believe about the world, or themselves, that isn’t true? In this guide, we’ll be digging deep into the origins of your story and your character and help you build your plot around that central idea.
This method is a great tool for plotters to use as, or before, they sit down to plot. Plot points are just things that happen without the background of character and central idea. Honing on those first is key.
If you fall more under the pantser/discovery writer umbrella, you’ll be able to work through these pages in your head to dig deep into the emotional draw of your story and then let the words fly. Or write the story, come back to these pages and edit your story into brilliance.
You can get your copy HERE. And remember that Allie and Jo are always ready to chat this out with you. If you’d like to schedule a simple plot/career chat, or a mapping call, you can find details for those HERE.