I’m stuck, I don’t want to. Is this the end for me as a writer?
So, lockdown has killed my writing groove. What can I do to reignite the spark? If, like me, you’re feeling a bit lacklustre, less than inspired, tired, or frustrated, but you want to keep in the groove of writing without actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, what can we do to keep the fire burning? I find if I step back for too long, I lose the urge completely and won’t write for several months – hardly ideal when I’ve chosen to pursue writing as my career. Allowing such a gap, even in these unusual times, could spell the end, the implosion of my goals, and I’m determined not to let that happen.
After a spell of musing, I’ve come up with plenty of activities you and I can get on with to support our writing and authorship without feeling forced. In fact, this is a great time to concentrate on growing your knowledge and expertise of your craft, and to do small things now to get ahead. I’ve put together a list of ideas (feel free to add yours in the comments) that are sure to spark interest, some of which may surprise you. I’m sure there’s something here to keep your passion alive.
Taking a break is important, but stopping completely could be detrimental. It’s possible to take a writing holiday without losing touch by shifting focus for a bit."
A change is as good as a holiday, even if you’re stuck at home.
At this unsettled time, keeping your mind focused on the singular task of writing may be a challenge, but there are plenty of tasks you can apply yourself to that will support you as a writer, and help you get prepared for when you’re ready to tackle the manuscript again.
My (small and gentle) goals during this time are to:
I've really only set goals for this time so I can ensure I do a bit of each. It's totally up to you if you want to work this way.
Here are some ideas to support each goal:
1. Immerse in story…
2. Grow meaningful social media…
3. Learn your craft…
4. Prepare for the future…
These ideas are just the beginning. I’ve caught a few other blog posts out there with more, so hunt them out if you haven’t found something that takes your fancy on mine.
Do take a rest if you need it. We can’t be totally enthralled with what we do all the time, but we can maintain forward motion. Even when we’re feeling lost or completely anti, there are small actions we can take to get through the hard spots. There’s inspiration to be found in the work of others, and through other mediums. Every little step you take now will help you get through and come out the other side in a better position to restart your writing passion.
In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands, take those little steps.
P.S. Do you have ideas that others might find useful? Please add them to the comments to help your fellow authors through.
First up, I have not been approached by anyone or paid to write this post. I’m singing the praises of Pinterest solely because it’s an essential and brilliant tool in my writing kit, and I want to show you why, so it can make your writing life easier too!
For those of you unfamiliar with this platform, Pinterest is essentially a search engine, but unlike the majority which allow you to bookmark pages, Pinterest has been designed to be the ultimate place to capture exactly what you want off different sites through images and links. It goes beyond that, too, allowing you to create and share your own ‘pins,’ ‘boards,’ or account.
There are numerous different blogs on how to set up an account, and the basics of using Pinterest, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel outlining how to do that here. Instead, I’ll give you my tips and tricks for making Pinterest work for you as an author.
Things to note: a ‘board’ is like a folder (you can have multiple boards on your account. I presently have 38). Within your board you can have ‘sections’ or dividers with different titles related to the subject of your board. A ‘pin’ is the item you’re saving, or tucking into that section that you can come back to later. A pin can be a single image with no link, or it can be a title page that, when clicked on, can lead you a whole blog post or website.
I make Pinterest work for me in several ways:
First: it’s a place to promote myself and my writing. I have boards that illustrate me as a writer and person, my blog and other social media platforms, and my books and stories. These are my marketing boards that help me get my brand across. Many of my pins contain links that take you directly to my website or places you can buy my books.
Second: I use it to learn and help others learn my craft. I have ‘Write!’ boards to inspire others to join the writing way of life. From how to develop a character or plot, to images and prompts for inspiration, I’ve saved hundreds (if not thousands) of excellent tools to help you on your journey as a writer.
Third: I use it to learn and help others learn the business side of being an independent writer. Titled ‘Biz,’ you can find everything here from how to build a website or blog, to different forms of publishing and marketing.
Fourth: it’s a tool for developing and illustrating my stories as storyboards. Each of my stories gets a board, and each board is sectioned depending on what I want to store or show. Common headings here are: characters, setting, and research. I also have character banks (with thousands of entries to help you put a face to your characters), and a ‘research for stories’ board in which I tuck bits and pieces I might need in the future, and could help you out should you need to know about anything from survival skills to period costume, science to crime and combat, and heaps more.
The internet is truly your oyster when it comes to Pinterest, and you tailor your boards to suit you. You can even have public boards (seen by everyone), or private boards (seen only by you), so if you want to save things that aren’t relevant to your writing life, but happen to like sewing or cooking and want to save pins on those topics, you can save them just for you.
Like other social media platforms, you can follow other accounts, or follow a selected one or more of their boards. Likewise, you gain followers – people who see what you’re pinning, and can pin those things too. The key to gaining followers is to pin, pin, pin. Several pins in short bursts throughout the day seems to be the most effective strategy. I’ll pin anywhere from 10 to 50 pins in a day depending on what else I’ve got going on. You can also create your own pins, but everywhere I’ve looked advises to start by pinning from what’s already out there (when you pin someone else’s pin or follow their board or account, they’re notified of that and might pin from you or follow you back!).
World flip! Word from my bubble...
March. What can I say about March, except that the whole world turned upside down in quick succession thanks to that virus that shall not be named! Added to that, the old saying of ‘trouble come in threes.’
We’re living a major world historical event which will likely be taught in schools in decades to come. The way our world leaders have responded to this single event will be talked about in classrooms and lecture theatres, and it’ll be clear who had their S#!+ together, and who used denial, distraction, blatant lies, and in short, f’d it up to the detriment of the entire population they’re responsible for. I am utterly thankful to live under the care of a woman, for one, and beyond that, a human being that has the welfare of the people of her country in the centre of her consciousness. Jacinda Ardern is the best thing that’s happened to our country in decades. Jacinda will also become the focus of lectures, I’m sure, and for many great reasons. Who better to have as a role model, not just for our young women, but everyone!
Who’d have thought going to the supermarket would become a major operation even a month ago? An instant reshuffle of schooling for my kids (now done from home, which is fine for me as an ex-teacher, but will be a whole new challenge for many families), my husband home 24/7 (already carrying enough stress with the discontinuation of Holden in New Zealand, whom he works for), and nobody has any certainty about what lies ahead. Then there’s the quick succession of hospital visits and illnesses between my sisters and I, thankfully nothing related to the current Nasty, but stressful enough, especially given my family usually zoom straight in on the one needing help, but lockdown has prevented our normal rescue missions. We’ve had to do our checking-in via messenger, video calls, and Zoom meetings, strange given we’re all within 5ks of each other. I can tell you from personal experience that Shingles suck! I’m just incredibly thankful that doctoring was able to happen via the phone, and I didn’t have to venture into town, though Mr. L did (to the pharmacy), sanitiser, gloves, and Glen20 in hand. And here’s what I can pass on to you: if you even suspect you’re getting Shingles, don’t muck about thinking it’ll get better on its own, oh no, the sooner you get antiviral drugs into you, the shorter your stint with the blimmin rash!
The positives shine for me, though, these days. A few years back I experienced an extended spell of depression, and through some pretty intense help and change, I discovered how to find and appreciate the good bits, perhaps more than others around me now: as I write, my family are all healthy and safe; we’re fortunate to live in a pretty isolated spot, at least 100m from the nearest house in any direction, and a kilometre from our suburban centre; my kids are coping pretty well with lockdown, and are loving having time outside with their dad (I love that time too!); we have what we need to get through the lockdown, even if it’s extended (fingers crossed it’s not); we have a Prime Minister that truly has our health, safety, and wellbeing at heart; I’m actually enjoying the slowing down of the world (I feel like I can almost keep up at this pace); I’m able to pop off and write for good stretches of time and have found a semblance of routine. In short, we’re good up here on our hill.
My city has made a definite shift into autumn with daylight savings ending. The evenings are dark, the wind is back, and there are more damp, cold days than warm ones. There’s something great that comes of this though: epic sunrises and sets! I’ll be ready with my camera.
Bubble within bubble: my writing room haven...
This geek can’t help but imagine the new dictionary entries that will come of our current situation, the definition of ‘bubble’ will get an update for a start. The use of language in many forms from definitions to hashtags, formal speeches, to sign language, is at the fore at the moment. It’s something worth watching, for me, and it’ll be reflected on in months to come. Fascinating stuff.
I’ve been firmly shoved into re-drafting The Weight of Expectation by the sudden change in circumstances. Strangely, my rather remote setting has featured a couple of times on TV, like a beacon telling me to get my butt in the writing chair! My family have developed a kind of new normal, and I like to disappear and write when the kids and husband are occupied and happy. Learning to work around their constant presence in the house is quite a challenge. Blocking out their noise is possibly the greatest difficulty (music helps, thank god for Spotify). The actual process of is re-write has driven me back to the beginning again – yet another plot attempt, more research, more chapter planning, and strangely, some quite fundamental changes. I’ve needed to simplify my secondary character to make the primary character’s story stronger and clearer. As usually happens in writing this particular story, it stirs past emotions that put me in a weird space. I tell you, this is the most difficult subject matter I’ve ever written because a lot of it is personal, stuff I’ve experienced and would never wish to experience again, only I do, every time I write it. With each rewrite, however, I’m able to put a little more distance between myself and the writing; Cora’s story is not my own, Cora’s headed in a slightly different direction with slightly different experiences. I can do this, I’m sure of it.
This month’s Flash Fiction Friday came to me from a chance encounter with virus-related ideas. On a whim, I decided to draft a quarantine story, and ended up with the rather cheeky Mushy Peas. It absolutely poured from my fingertips and I just had to keep going until it was all out, the last sentences twisting the story right around as I wrote them without knowing where it came from. I love that, a surprise ending that surprises me as I write it! Have a read to see what I mean!
My ‘job’ is a welcome distraction, a haven from the world. It’s the ultimate distraction at the moment. What better to do when you’re unsettled or frightened in the world you live in, than to disappear into worlds you’ve created yourself, worlds you have ultimate control over? I have the opportunity, too, to provide distraction for all of you. I’ve got historical worlds, fantasy ones, and contemporary settings and stories far from the current seemingly apocalyptic reality we’ve landed in. Jump on in and escape for a while. It’ll do both of us some good!
The new normal feels wierd!
The world is constantly changing whether we want it to or not. This is a bigger change than usual, and it’s testing people in ways they never could have imagined. Saw on the Sunday programme last night a psychologist talking about different ways people cope in times like these – those that find it difficult, a grieving process for their old ways of life, others that find it an opportunity to re-evaluate how they live their lives. I’m finding myself the latter, though it’s more an affirmation of the changes I had to make for myself over recent years. The story I’ve been working on mirrors a little of my own life years ago, and it’s reminding me of the changes I had to make to survive, and that the way I’m living at the moment reminds me of that. I needed a quieter life less occupied and dominated by others. I need to be in charge of my world, and I wasn’t.
Going through a period of time where I’m being reminded of the positives that have come of my shitty time and escape from that. Though it’s compulsory, and I could feel annoyed by it, I’m not unhappy to have my husband and kids around all the time. It can be challenging, especially providing every meal every day without end and through illness, but I like the constant, knowing they’re here and not having to worry about them being away from me – this’ll likely throw up challenges at the other end.
I think writing is becoming even more of a haven from what’s going on in the world for me. I won’t lie – I’m enjoying full days without having to hustle to get kids to school, or to stop and pick them up. I resent interruptions, especially obligatory ones, and here I am without any (except taking breaks to feed people)! There’s a gentleness, on calm days with the sun shining, classical music allowing me to float on the surface of good writing time. I feel at peace while the world around me stresses and fears. Can I be the only one feeling this way, or are other writers happy in their bubble, like me?
I do miss my first family – my parents and sisters. I’ve said before that we’re a pretty tight team, and are always there for each other. Being forced to remain apart is the hardest bit. We’ve all been through challenges in the first couple of lockdown weeks that’d usually pull us together, but we’ve been forced to stay apart. I worry for the mental wellbeing of us all, being required to stay apart, and wonder what it’ll be like when we get to reunite. That’s in the future for us, and we’ll find out when we get there. I’ll tell you though; it’s made for some hilarious messenger video chats!
At least I can ramble to you guys to satisfy my rambling needs!
Stay safe everyone, stick to your bubble, and think of how good it’ll be to be free again at the end!
Stay safe in your bubble,
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How are you feeling? Jacinda's got my back!
I’ll be blunt: I’m a bit of a hyper-aware mess. It’s clear, if you’ve got a keen eye: I bite my nails when stressed, my face is a blotchy mess, and I can’t stick to one task for longer than twenty minutes, and that’s at a stretch! Plus, at the time of publishing I've just been diagnosed with Shingles, so I wasn't as 'on top of things' as I thought.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Just last week our Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of addressing the nation on TV. Sure, we see Jacinda Ardern quite a lot at the moment, giving press conferences almost daily, travelling from place to place to check on progress and what our country needs to be prepared for this Covid19 monster, but a direct address is rare. The last I remember happened after the March 15th Christchurch Mosque Attacks almost this time last year. She looked us straight down the camera and assured us she’s looking out for our wellbeing. Unlike some other political leaders across the world, I believe her. She’s not in this for her own gain, political or otherwise. She spends a lot of time away from her fiancé and her own bubba on the quest to slow this pandemic down and soften the blow on our small country, and we know: Jacinda’s got this.
(Side note, I feel like our Prime Minister is part of our extended family, hence the first name basis. Our previous heads have had nicknames in our house – John Key = Jonkey, Bill English = Binglish. Jacinda is Jacinda because she’s guided us through some of our toughest, most personally challenging and desperate times. She’s not afraid to put herself out there. She’s visible, she’s kind, she’s relatable, and at times, hilarious *queue the East Coast Wave!).
So if Jacinda’s got us as a whole, how can I make better use of the time I’m left with? Not by obsessively checking news headlines, that’s for sure. And what about all those people that are now jobless, in isolation, or otherwise at a loss for what to do?
First of all, back up, and take a good deep breath of some clean, clear air. Take another for good measure. Now, read on…
"Having something productive to work on takes my mind off 'real world' stresses and recharges my batteries." - Emily Larkins.
So how do we bust those worries for a bit?
Some of you out there will have been toying with writing, or the idea of writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re serious about a career at it, or just enjoy it, this applies to anyone. You might enjoy poetry, writing short stories, non-fiction, fiction, journaling, screen-writing, anything! You might have written before, or this might be a fresh start for you. It doesn’t matter. This post is about the intent, and that might relate to something other than writing too. My key point here is stepping away from mass panic buying and toward something, anything productive that settles your mind. Cue quote from Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Take hold of your future and make it work for you!
What can you do to switch from Covid19 jitters to a productive mind set? (The highlighted sections in this post include links to some of my blog posts and resources that you might find helpful!):
Some extra tips: timetables, calendars, allocating blocks of time (click here to see tips I use) to certain tasks, monitoring progress, sharing with others – any or all of these things could be useful to you. I’ll suggest journaling as a healthy way to monitor how you’re feeling. I’ve got a Quick Tip blog post on Journaling that might help – it’s quick and easy and only takes around ten minutes a week to work through.
And remember to breathe!
So, it’s time to get your project on! It’ll keep you in a routine, keep your mind occupied on something meaningful, and potentially create some income. Now grab that paper, and let me know how you’re going in the comments. If you need a hand or advice, feel free to drop me a comment in the box or hunt me down on social media. Here are my links.
Until we catch up next time,
P.S. Get in touch through the comments section if you'd like more tipes or ideas, or if you have some to share with others. Together, we'll get through this!
I hate wasting time and I bet you do to!
URGH! How often do you click publish on your blog and realise you’ve forgotten to SEO, ALT text images or add in links? It’s such a frustration, a waster or time, a potentially costly occurrence and, as it turns out, completely avoidable. We, as (semi)-professionals, strive for an error-free product, and missed steps cost time, money, and dent our image. Not good for any of us! So, I’ve come up with a solution so simple and easy you’ll wonder why we haven’t all been doing this forever!
This year I’m trialling a new planning format, and I decided early on that some kind of easily accessible list would be essential. Being a trial, it’s not particularly pretty, but it is dead cheap – a left-over 1B5 exercise book that I’ve spent time ruling up to use for planning. Since having children I’ve lost the magic ability I used to have of keeping an entire diary in my head, so I’ve created Planner Foldouts that hold those essential lists that I CANNOT afford to forget. I’ve got one for my Journal Prompts because I tend to lose the loose pieces of paper I used to tuck between pages, and there got to be so many that I’d be leafing through and wasting time every time I went to look for one!
Well, it’s time for that to stop!
Back in my previous life as a teacher, one of the things that became overwhelming was reinventing the wheel every time I went to teach a lesson that followed a very similar format, for example, printing/handwriting. Yes the letter changed, but the general formula for teaching the lesson didn’t. That’s where Routine Plans helped immensely, and this is where this Quick Tip comes in – ROUTINE LISTS. For the printing routine plan I created a general format lesson that outlined every repeated step in teaching all the letters (the steps that never changed, or changed very little). At the bottom I included the formation sheet and dated each letter as we went through. Tada, one Routine Plan instead of 26. Simple, effective, and not a step missed out, paper and time saved. So how can that lesson help save us time and energy in writing (or almost any other process)? Find out below!
“I despise wasting time searching for lists, AND reinventing the wheel every time I want to plan something. Routine Lists on Foldouts are such a quick, easy, and time-saving solution!” – Emily Larkins, author.
It’s a no-brainer, really: Foldout Routine Lists!
My last Quick Tip outlined exactly how to make your very own Planner Foldouts - simple inserts made to fit the inside cover of your planner that can be folded out for quick reference, and folded away when not in use. What makes them great is that they’re attached (so you can’t lose them), and they extend beyond the cover of your book to refer to as you go. Routine Lists are the extension of that – the essential lists and processes that you use often. My prototype planner with one large foldout holds: Journaling Prompts, Weekly Review Checklist (things I need to check I’ve done each week), Story Creation Steps (from idea gathering to clicking publish on my eBooks and making the Legal Deposit for my story (which we’re legally required to do in New Zealand)), and my Blog Post Checklists for before and after clicking publish. Some of these lists I refer to daily, others weekly or monthly, but the key is: I know exactly where they are when I need them.
To create yours:
Consider what you regularly check when completing a task – do you refer to a task list when creating a story? How about steps for editing? Do you use a specific process to write your blog? Here are some suggestions: frequently used hashtags, social media post schedule, daily/weekly/monthly tasks, Time Blocking chart, editing passes list, publishing process, blog post checklist, publishing checklist, reading list, Goals for the Year/Month/Week, inspirational quotes, conversion charts... In your home diary you may have a list of family birthdays, emergency contacts (doctor, plumber, electrician, etc.), appliance replacement part numbers, key dates (e.g. insurance payments, mortgage repayments, bills, children’s activities, etc.). The options are endless. Choose what works for you.
Write out the steps for your process and double check you’ve got all the steps and order correct.
Create a Planner Foldout for your journal/workbook/diary.
Transfer your list or routine to the foldout.
Hey presto! Done!
Now you’ll always have those essential lists on hand at a mere flick of pages. Check out my Foldouts Quick Tip to see how my clever wraparound Foldout makes this process even quicker and easier!
Happy planning everyone,
Do you have a question about it or would you like more on this topic? Do you have suggestions for other Routine Lists? Leave a comment to help others make the most of their Foldouts.
UNIVERSE, WHY DO YOU KEEP THROWING CHALLENGES AT ME???
The new routine at home. Routine? Haha!
The start of the school year has come with a whirlwind of trips to kick off the year. Between my two girls (five and seven), they’ve had school swimming lessons, a Beach Education day at St Kilda (a thirty minute trip away in town) and one at the local jetty. Though learning to swim is vitally important, and especially in the different water environments we have on the Otago Peninsula, it’s been trying for a number of reasons. 1. I’m utterly sick of washing togs to get dry for the next day, 2. I’m not that confident in the sea myself and parents were required to be in the water, 3. Sand on the carpet, enough said. I also accompanied Miss Seven to Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua. We went on the Port to Port ferry service and the kids LOVED the boat ride. It’s such a special place – I can see the island from my office window at home, and I’d bet ninety percent of Dunedin residents haven’t been there. Oh how this trip reminded of what I loved about teaching, but it reminded me of the challenges too! It’s a very busy job mentally, keeping track of twenty kids, prompting, providing, reminding, answering questions, not falling over (I failed on that one), constant noise, and making sure everyone stays safe. We had a great day though, and I was lucky to be able to take part.
Right, how many days of writing time did I use up there? Three so far…
Poor old Miss Five has already had two tummy bugs, (pretty standard for a new school kid), and Miss Seven, one. Five days of children at home. Luckily Miss Five loves school, and, like her sister, is hungry to read! She comes home so proud that she’s learned new letters and reads me stories. There’s something special about that first read, when they open the book and just start. Let’s hope she never stops!
That big step I was looking toward last news has happened! I put myself forward for a leadership role that in the past I vowed I’d never even consider. I always thought, ‘too big, too much responsibility!’ In short, never say never. The universe hears you and says ‘we’ll see about that!’ I’m like that though, reluctant until I’m challenged to truly think about something in depth. Once I’ve got an ounce of encouragement, talked it through with others, and considered what my role will be, my mind flips and I see my capabilities and what I can bring to the opportunity. It’s a position of responsibility, one I always considered an honour for the holder, and to be honest, out of my league. It turns out it wasn’t, I just had to believe in myself and own what I’m capable of, and in the end, I was given the role. So yes, I’m honoured, and I’ll bring my best to the position. Time to get my game face on!
How does one write amongst the chaos?
What a mishmash I’m in work-wise! I had those romantic dreams of three blissful writing days per week, but oh how the universe likes to play games! It’s been musical chairs shifting days to fit around family commitments and school events. Then there were the school trips and illnesses. It’s meant juggling the rather full schedule of writing commitments I’ve set myself – trying to get blogs written, flash fiction and short stories ready to publish and market, AND doing my best to find time for working on The Weight of Expectation (click to view my inspiration board on Pinterest). Just when I think I’m getting into a routine, something else crops up. Such is life! I’m on track so far though, and exciting things are happening in my mind for my novel. Now to get them onto paper…
I am feeling more like a professional writer, and that I can claim that title authentically. The projects and deadlines I’ve set myself have increased my productivity. They’ve also boosted my sense of achievement. I’m learning how to grab little moments for quick tasks, like a quick social media session whilst the kids eat their morning tea, or making notes alongside them doing homework. As a result, I’ve got more works out there, being seen by more and more people. The idea that readers are entering the world of my stories is a wondrous thing!
It’s time for a new motto.
I think my motto needs to be ‘I can do this,’ whether it be roles of responsibility, or handling the schedule I’ve set myself, even when I’m feeling like I can barely keep up. I just have to remember I can. Sure, it’d be lovely to have a settled routine and very little responsibility outside of my own house, but where’s the life in that? Where’s the learning and the opportunity to grow? So I’m not a nine to fiver, I don’t commute to work, or work with loads of people day in, day out. No, I’m a mum that gets to help on school trips and other school roles (I wanted to be able to do that for my children, and I am!), and I don’t have to take a sick day when they’re sick; I’m an author with the responsibility of setting and achieving my own goals (how great is that?), and I’ve got a bunch of stories out there in the world with many more to come.
So, whatever I am, and whatever you are, we can achieve what we set out to, so long as we believe in ourselves. If you really want something, you’ll make it happen. Even when it’s hard and the world seems to be working against us, in time that will change, and we’ll smash it. I surely intend to!
So, for all of you out there feeling under the pump, like you’re climbing Everest in stilettos, don’t panic, take a breath, the chaos will calm, and you’ll get there.
Keep on keeping on,
Do you have any quotes or words of encouragement for others? Drop them in the comments! If you need some, visit my Pinterest Board and check out the 'Self Care' section, or 'Words that motivate and inspire me.'
Flash Fiction Friday - next week's story Late.
Another Quick Tip next week too!
Check out my Prompts By Emily Pinterest board for brand new story starters every weekend.
Looking ahead to April - New short story to be released!
March release: THE DOOR THAT WOULDN'T SHUT
The basement door just won't stay shut.
To begin, it's a minor inconvenience, but as time goes on it seems something larger is in play.
With the narrator home alone as the first fierce storm of the season ramps up, the winds wreak havoc in the neighborhood, and the door succumbs to the will of the wind.
When it finally decides to close, the door changes the course of the narrator's life forever.
Building an author platform isn’t as scary as you might think…
Starting out back in 2018 I had no clue of what an Author Platform was. None. I had accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and was keen to get my book out into the world, but had a sticking point: it’s scary. To start, following complete strangers on the internet goes against the grain of inviting strangers into our lives, and as for direct messages, well you never know what’s going to pop up in there! To be frank, it scared me, but I had no idea how important a social media following is for an independently published author or for a newbie looking to get a foot in the traditionally published door! I needed direction, so, like for most things I have no idea about, I decided to do some research.
During research into publishing I came across the term ‘platform.’ Having not long built a house, all I could imagine was bare earth all smoothed out and ready to build on, and this image actually isn’t far from the truth. Your platform is the foundation of followers, fellow writers and creatives, friends, viewers…anyone who could be considered a potential reader. It pays not to be a hermit (that’s a bit tough! I hear you introverts cry), but it’s a fact of publication that having a followership really helps. I utterly get the reluctance to venture into the public world with your book baby, or to create a public image of yourself, I’ve been there! I’d not long come through a period of depression when I decided to go the whole hog with my writing. I was in a space of wanting to hide, I mean, why would anyone want to know about me? Why would they care about my stories? How would they even see my one tiny text in a gigantic world library of books? Well, at the start they didn’t, and that’s the point of starting early.
Deciding on how you want to portray yourself can take some time, and so does building the confidence to take that step into the public domain in your newly claimed role. I’ve done it all in little caterpillar steps (to date, two years), and as time has gone on I’ve built myself a platform. I started with family and Facebook friends. I researched platforms and social media (you can find the blogs etc. I used on my Pinterest board here… [insert link]), I created accounts, and I waited, and very little happened. What was I doing wrong? Read on to find out.
Where on earth do I start and why?
The biggest mistake I made in the beginning with social media, was assuming that people would come to me.
I still consider myself a newbie at platform building, and for me it’s been two years of mostly research, trial, and error. I’ll tell you that it takes time and a certain amount of guts (or just close your eyes and go for it, like me) to start making those connections. But the sooner you start, the better, and almost every author I’ve come across will tell you to start before you publish. That felt wrong to me, and so I waited. I didn’t have anything to share, did I? Actually, I did, and so do you. Had I joined the #writingcommunity on Twitter sooner, I could have tapped into a wealth of experience in planning and writing books. There are literally thousands of authors out there who are willing to share their expertise. I could have asked about publishing, advertising, how to beat writer’s block, or what the heck a platform was in the first place! So, I’ll tell you now, it’s never too early to begin, and baby steps are better than no steps.
The one secret I’ve got that can really help you isn’t such a secret really: if you want people to find you, you’ve got to get out there and amongst it by following others. You’ll find that many people you follow, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, will follow you back, and add you to their #writerslift (a way of sharing people to follow), and then you’ve got your foot in the door! Hooray!
But what social media apps should we as writers/creatives be using? How many? What should I post? There’s no easy answer there, sorry, it’s up to you. All I can do is share what I use, and urge you to have fun with it!
I use four main apps – Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’ve listed them in the order I find them most beneficial to me as a writer and I’ll tell you why below.
Pinterest – ultimately a search engine with effective methods for saving what you find. Once you’ve joined (I thoroughly recommend choosing the free business account), start pinning. Begin by pinning other people’s pins that you like. I started with ‘how to’ type stuff, searching, ‘how to write a novel.’ Once you’ve saved a bunch of other people’s pins, you can begin creating your own. The bonus of Pinterest is that you can create boards (like a file folder) with any title you like, and you can divide these boards into sections with their own headings (like divider inserts). I have created title images for each kind of board I have – business boards (for how to build your author empire), reading boards (with inspiration boards for each of my stories), and writing boards (educational tools for myself and other writers to use). I also have a few private boards that are visible to me only. One of these is for saving pins I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. If I like them after reading, I’ll shift them into one of my public boards. I also start new story inspiration boards as secret boards and only make them public when I’m ready. Pinterest helps with my learning, sharing, and marketing of my work, and the business account gives you access to analytics (I can find out how many impressions my pins have made, how many saves, and how many link clicks pins have generated, which of my boards are most popular, and so much more!).
To see how my Pinterest account can help you on your journey to a writing career, click here:
Twitter – it’s all about the interaction. I was terrified of joining twitter in the beginning and saved it until last (silly me!). The potential audience is massive, and I didn’t know what I could possibly have to say that anyone would want to interact with. It’s daunting in the beginning, but if all you do to start is follow a few people (hint, use the hashtag #writingcommunity or #amwriting), you’ll be able to look at what others are posting, and who knows, you might have an answer to someone’s question, or you might ask one of your own. You’ll start getting followers quickly, and you can follow them back (but you don’t have to if you don’t like the look of their bio/account). The key to building your platform on Twitter is to follow people, and participate. Use the above hashtags, and jump on #followfriday and #writerslift tweets so people can follow you. Interact, ask questions, or try setting up a poll. Don’t be freaked out by people with enormous follower numbers – pretty soon you’ll be up there amongst them and wonder what you were afraid of! They’re just normal people too, though they seem like Twitter gods to begin with! Twitter is my newest app, but my fastest growing, and most interactive, and I wish I’d gone for it sooner!
Instagram – is an image sharing platform. There are literally millions of images shared here each day. I use it to share visuals of my work, but also to share snapshots of my life. I started on a private account, but converted to a free business account when I turned my focus to writing. With a business account you get free analytics, and down the track you’ll find these really useful. My viewers get to see a bit of my personality, what I get up to, what I like, and how I live. I don’t have a visually stunning account like some of the pros out there, but I’m learning and evolving all the time. The key to getting noticed on Instagram is to use the right hashtags, for instance #authorlife, or #amwriting.
My Instagram following has been slow but steady to build. My top tips are a catchy bio that has a bit of your personality in it, and images that give a sense of you and your interests. I try to give equally of myself and my work. It’s never advisable to ‘sell, sell, sell.’ People will get annoyed/bored and unfollow you. Another great feature of Instagram is that (once you’ve linked your accounts) you can share straight from your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter with a couple of clicks.
Facebook – it’s where most people start because we’ve been using it for so long to interact with family and friends. The trick, when you go public, is to create a business page. I’ll be honest right now and tell you that Facebook, whilst I thought it was golden in the beginning, has been my hardest platform to grow, and compared to the platforms I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a let-down. Sure you can get some great page views through advertising, but it for me, it hasn’t led so much to anything useful. And be careful with advertising. I put a bit of cash into advertising early on. It got my page plenty of single views, and sold a few copies, but ultimately I haven’t made that cash back yet (not from Facebook interaction anyway). You might have more luck than me, or better yet, do your research to make it work for you.
Beyond my ‘big four’ above, I also have connections in other places:
a website, which is my gathering page for everything – all roads lead to it, and I redirect to other places from there. I’ll blog more on websites in the future.
I have a Goodreads author page but am still working out how to make it work for me.
Potentially the most useful of my author pages as an independently published author is my Amazon Author Page. This is where your face and bio pop up with your works in one place, so it’s important.
There are plenty of ‘how to’ blogs out there with step by step instructions to setting up accounts on any of the afore-mentioned apps. All instructions to accounts I have can be found here – to be clear, these are bloggers I’ve used and collected into one easy place, not my own. You can use them too by clicking here:
I’ll give you my three top tips for Social Media here now (more to follow in my Quick Tips coming soon):
DON’T sign up for everything out there – you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t have time left for writing! Start small and add things in as you go. Stick to two or three and work your way up from there, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time on social media instead of creating!
DO write a bio on each platform. I, and many others, won’t follow you without a clue as to who you are. It’s way too easy to scroll over you. Even ‘writer,’ or ‘#writingcommunity,’ is better than nothing! The idea is to lead us to your account so we can follow you.
DO treat direct messages with caution, in both opening them, and sending them. Seriously, you’ll be surprised what some people think is acceptable to fling at you without invitation (including unmentionable images of body parts, spammy advertising, and ‘if you’d like to increase your follower numbers…’). Likewise, nobody likes the incessant message box spammer that pings you daily with ‘buy my book.’ Just don’t do it. I know it can be tempting when you’ve got a new book and you’re just beginning to build your following, but JUST DON’T. Save it for your public feed unless someone messages to ask you for more information. I don’t even have an automated ‘thanks for the follow,’ because it annoys me to receive them. I’d rather drop a gif or quick thanks on someone’s main feed. My general way of dealing with my direct message inbox is to ignore it, so please don’t be offended if I don’t answer you there. I find it more trouble than it’s worth.
Has this blog helped you? Do you feel more confident in putting yourself out there for having read this post? Do you have questions about platform building on social media? Let me know in the comments section!
Help, I can’t find my insert list name here!
I’m a note-jotter, list writer, and an idea scrawler by nature. Without a quick tidy now and then, I’ll end up with a desk covered in squares of memo cube, and notebooks with warped covers from my tucking odd scraps of lists inside. Since I’ve had children, my previously exceptional memory for diary dates and lists has faded to almost nothing. I’ve become reliant on writing things down; if I don’t, I can kiss that idea goodbye. One of my biggest annoyances is remembering routines, and beyond that, where I’ve jotted them down.
But there is an easier way!
My magic Quick Tip to help you keep those high-use essentials at hand: PLANNER FOLDOUTS! They’re a quick, simple tool to create and use, and you can make them for almost anything you like. I’m not talking divider sections, or bookmarks, but sections that fold right out from the front or back cover of your planner.
Because of Planner Foldouts, I no longer need to try and recall from memory, or search through multiple notebooks and sheets of paper for items I use regularly. I know exactly where they are and they take just seconds to locate. I can fold a list out when I need it, refer to it for as long as required, and fold it back in when I’m done.
I think you’ll love them as much as I do, so I’ll walk you through, step by step.
Planner Foldouts are a timesaving lifeline I use almost every day. With Foldouts I can free up more thought space for writing. It’s a win-win.” – Emily Larkins.
Create your own awesome planner foldouts!
Planner Foldouts are actually really easy to make, and you can make them to suit you and any journal or planner you’re working from.
For this set of steps, all you need is your journal, a list/set of steps/quick reference table of your choice (I’m using my Start and End of Week Check-In lists. Read more about Self-reflective Journaling here... https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/self-reflective-journaling-improve-your-focus-in-just-ten-minutes-per-week), paper (heavier paper is more durable), ruler, scissors (or craft knife), pens/pencils/markers, tape (and/or glue). You can choose to measure and rule if you like. If you’re a crafter with a good eye, you can wing it.
Here’s what you do:
1. Decide on a list or reference table you frequently use.
2. Rough out the steps or elements you need to have at your fingertips.
3. Decide whether you wish to have this list pop out like a tab when folded, or if you’d like it to tuck right inside the cover. For today’s example you’re getting the bonus of one that does both: It protrudes as a tab when in use on my desk, or, if I’m taking my book somewhere, I can fold the sheet over again and it tucks right in for protection.
4. My journal is 29.5cm high by 20cm wide. I suggest working to slightly smaller measurements to ensure all foldouts will fold in neatly. When fully folded out, my paper will measure 26.5cm high by 22cm wide (remembering that it folds in). This is the MAXIMUM I can allow to have a tab AND fold it to tuck away.
5. I’ve marked the fold lines on my paper to fold with a 2cm securing margin (which I’ll glue to the cover of my journal. A top tip is to fold this section slightly narrower than 2cm, you’ll see why shortly), and a 10 cm flap. That leaves just over 10cm between the two folds. You’ll want the middle section to be just a bit bigger than the flap so it folds in without buckling (that’s why we fold slightly shy of 2cm). You can trim the excess along the flap to fit if it buckles.
6. Now, fold along your marked lines. Tip: place your ruler on the fold line and run your fingertips along the back side of the paper. This will give you a nice, straight, sharp fold.
7. It’s time to mark your attachment line on your book cover. If you’d like to be able to tuck your foldout right away and have a tab, you’ll need to make sure you can fold along the attachment line and have the whole foldout tuck flat. I took my time with this step to ensure I had enough of a tab edge, and to ensure I could tuck the whole thing in. Once you’re happy with placement, fold your foldout completely closed and mark along the back side of the fold line against the cover. This will help when you stick it in. For permanently tucked in foldouts, move your foldout over so the folded flap doesn’t protrude at all (no tab).
8. Now, glue along the back of just the thin attachment strip fold. Line it up with the placement line you marked in your cover earlier and stick it down. Check that all folds hinge neatly (I suggest a small piece of tape top and bottom to reinforce the hinge area). Also, try opening your foldout all the way out, close the planner. See how it neatly wraps around your front cover? At times, I use my foldouts tucked around the current working page. This is the secret to why they work so well for me.
9. Last of all, transfer your list neatly (and beautifully if this suits you) onto your foldout! If you’d rather complete this step before permanently binding it to your book (just in case you make a mistake), just shuffle this step up to before you get gluing.
And just like that, you’ve created your very own Planner Foldout!
It’s perfectly possible to include more than one foldout. You can tuck them in the front and/or back covers, and if you’re really clever and patient, you can create multiple layers of foldouts. I haven’t gone that far yet, but plan to.
I recommend having your goals on a Foldout for quick reference, your journaling prompts, high-use hashtags and more. If you’d like to learn about Routine Lists (a throwback from my teaching days), join me for my next quick tip, due next month.
Until then, happy planning everyone!
Have you had a go at making your own Planner Foldouts? I’d also love to know what lists you like to keep at hand. Let me know how Planner Foldouts could or do work for you! Tell me about it in the comments section.
Hi, I'm Emily,