Investigative journalism and research can help improve your fiction writing.

Taking a page from journalistic writing to help write and edit your novel.

What’s the best thing about journalism that we tend to overlook?

Typically, print investigative journalism is usually condensed, because there is a word count that the writer needs to comply with. A hook. An angle, a balanced discussion, or point of view the author wishes to bring to light. All the relevant information, facts, and references are provided. Regardless of tone and writing style, these aspects are usually always present. So, what is the takeaway for fiction writing?

Focus.

If you break down your writing into scenes – a section of your writing that has its own unique combination of setting, character, dialogue, and sphere of activity – (like a conversation, or a fight, or the first time a character arrives at a destination) you can focus on certain elements to help keep your writing focused, paced well, and if need be, your word count on track.

Granted an article is short prose and has different intentions than a novel, but if you look at each scene in your story and ensure it hits benchmarks of purveying the right emotion and intent, covers the plot points (or facts, or reveals) and has an element that engages the reader… all the hard work is done. Then it’s a matter of ensuring the pacing works for the scene and the prose flows easily. Journalism or Non-fiction can tend to be flat or short in its writing style (apologies for the broad and generally incorrect assumption.) Not a lot of time is spent on world building or on character development. It’s all about supported facts and the intent of the piece.

I think this is especially handy when you are looking at your work and can’t figure out what is wrong with the scene.

What is supposed to happen? What do you intend the reader to get from this scene? Or what (facts) am I meant to show the reader? Is the plot point clear?

See how asking those questions clear away a lot of muddy ground to get right to the heart of the scene. Or if in fact the scene is needed at all.

All of the above points deal with the mechanics of your writing… how it is put together. The other aspect of investigative journalism is research. It should be common sense at this point, but there are still writers out there that begin writing a novel about something that they don’t know much about. Taking the time to build the world, craft characters, look into every little facet that makes your characters compelling and interesting, of the world you are setting your novel in (wondrous, or bleak, or scary…) it’s adding those little touches, brief flecks of complexity that give your writing confidence and nuance. I’ve known authors to spend months researching topics before beginning to write. Some create elaborate topological maps, extensive character profiles. Researching mental illness or medical conditions, collection of colloquial dialogue, or even the fashion and social etiquette of a certain time period. Other writers read scientific journals on forward evolution or potential global impacts of things like pollution, over-population, solar radiation, etc… to get a solid ground behind them before crafting even a single sentence. It boasts sound knowledge of their world, plausibility of the plot, and realistic, complex characters which are a joy to read. The narrative feels solid and realistic no matter the subject.

Things like this can be applied in a developmental edit, but, you can use these tools in the planning phase of writing your novel depending where you sit in the spectrum of Plotter vs. Pantser.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Finding the motivation to write

Pretty much my attitude to writers block or being unmotivated is simply ‘write the damn thing!’

When I am having that spark of creativity and the words flow easily and reading my prose back it feels entertaining, witty and on point… other times it feels dry, stagnant, and uninspired. It’s painful to have to write in those moments. Sometimes I’m lucky to get a paragraph down before I feel like bighting a bullet.

The thing is, editing is much easier. Adding to something feels like a more possible task. So filling the blank page with the mechanics of your story, or article is the hard part. But if you can get it down, then improving your piece becomes infinitely easier. Well, in my process it does.

I cannot ever recall a time where I wrote something straight from my head and it was instantly a masterpiece. I’ve had to edit, improve, embellish everything I’ve ever written. So why do writers have this hang up of writers block.

There is always something for me to do – jump ahead in the timeline and write a scene in a future chapter. Explore my characters motivations in dialogue, write about the world, put on some music to inspire some words, switch to another project altogether, edit, design some marketing activities, read something in a similar genre and take note in the writing style and how that reflects on your own.

Stick to a schedule. Whether it’s every day, or on the weekends, make a set time for your writing and get the thing done. I have to say that has been the most helpful thing to impact my career – forming a habit of writing. I started small, and eventually it grew to a point where I can put in a ten hour day if I needed to. I don’t do that now if I don’t have to. I like to end the day with something to look forward to tomorrow. Like teasing myself with a little cliff-hanger that I need to write. I get to mull it over in my head overnight so the next day I have a semi-formed plan and am excited to get to work.

So most of the time, lack of motivation, or writers block, does not hit me because I’m always inspired. Whenever I get new ideas, I write them down and file them away for later. I have literally so many book and article ideas stored away I couldn’t get them all written in my lifetime. So when my flow for a certain project dries up, and I have exhausted all the ways to move it forward, I can take a few days break to work on something else with ease.

I have a friend who had a massive cork board that they collect ideas, snippets of dialogue, pictures to inspire character profiles, places, mantras, etc as a source of inspiration to write – a board that is constantly changing and evolving so it never runs dry. You just have to find a system that works for you. Mine’s digital, and I like to work on a few projects at the same time. A fellow writer buddy I know can only write one book at a time and in sequential order (a pantser) and when she gets stuck tends to daydream a little with what-if scenarios, flesh out character profiles, go out to shopping centres and cafes and eaves drop on conversations and take note of peoples mannerisms for things that she could use. Or if the block is really bad, she will re-write her chapter and take it in a different direction.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, art, music, reading, movies and television, or simply switching off for a moment. It’s important to refill your well of creativity just as it is to create a habit of writing to offer longevity in your career.

If your sitting at your keyboard and nothing is coming, start asking why? Is the scene you’re currently trying to wright, not right for the overall plot of the novel? Is it a boring topic? Is there another more interesting way to approach the subject matter? Can you switch perspectives or tense? Are you just not into this whole writing thing? Maybe the content is not relevant to you, so you are not connecting with it? Like any job, you have to find ways to get things done. Make writing comfortable, methodical, entertaining and inspiring for you. If you are constantly having to struggle to fill a blank page and you can’t work out what is wrong, maybe writing isn’t for you? Try changing up your process – write the ending first and work your way backwards. Write the key scenes to your story first and then fill in the gaps later. Create mood boards for each scene/chapter to keep the emotion or tone of the writing present in your mind.

The whole thing about writer’s block is that it is all in your head. And we are wired to think, to be creative, so if you are genuinely blocked take a serious look at yourself… is writing really a vocation for you? Writers deal with fact and imagination for entertainment, information, or discussions. Maybe look at how you are delivering your prose and switch up that tone? There is literally thousands of way to re-ignite that passion. You just need to momentarily step back, re-orientate your thoughts, and get back to work.

I’m generally in the field that if I’m ‘blocked’ it’s because the scene or article isn’t working. Something is missing. It’s irrelevant in the bigger picture; so stepping back to get a fresh perspective always illuminates some solution. And if not, there is plenty of other projects to get on with, so I am always writing something.

Do you suffer writers block? What are some of the ways that you have overcome a slump in your writing habits?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing a business strategy (for writers)

A guide for beginners – the business of writing doesn’t have to be a drag, it can be an example of adventure.

“For the past couple of years, I’ve been fine-tuning my business strategy as a writer. At a recent writing conference, I discovered that many writers, even those with years of experience, find setting business goals daunting. It isn’t. It’s only frightening because it seems complex. By taking it one step at a time, your business strategy can be made simple and understandable.” – Lynne Lumsden Green

When I think of a business strategy for writing, my mind instantly goes to spreadsheets and budgets, but that is only part of managing your career… and the number crunching part is really a small part. Used as a way to track and monitor progress. An article published in WQ (Jun-Aug 2020) Lynne Lumsden Green discusses this topic which I think helps demystify the task many of us baulk at. She suggests that we start by asking ourselves these questions:

  1. What are your long-term goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
  2. What are your short term goals? What do you want to achieve in the next six months?
  3. What has worked best for you in the past? What hasn’t?
  4. What can you learn from your successes?
  5. What can you learn from your failures?

Upon first reading her article and going through the list of these questions an issue prominently jumped out at me regarding my own career goals. These questions prompt you to not only keep on track with your goals, but highlight what is, and is not working.

The key takeaway for me was the question about what is not working – how long have I been doing the same thing and seen little or no positive growth. It really gave me that ah-huh moment. It’s time I should be trying different methods, tackling different tracks towards my goal. What’s that old saying : doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I’ve gotten too comfortable in my systems and habits that it is now impeding growth.

These questions are all about finding out what works and using those methods to get you to your goals. Ditch what isn’t working.

Lynne Lumsden Green goes on to discuss:

“Let’s look at part of my business strategy as a stepping of point. For 2020, one of my goals is to get more paying gigs. This means I need to write nonfiction articles for magazines, as well as short stories for paying markets. From January, as part of keeping proper records, I’ve been keeping a monthly spreadsheet separate from my nonfiction submission spreadsheets. I started by wanting to sell an article a month, but I am hoping to increase that to one article a week by December. To do this, I need to develop a pitch/query at least once a week. To do that I must develop relationships with the editors of my target markets.”

“Can you see how setting goals leads to implementing a series of logical actions to achieve that goal?”

I love how Lynne explains desire/goal through to a practical application to achieve a result. My writing goals are more based around getting first drafts completed by the end of this year, gearing up for putting out for submission later in 2021. So I have set scenes I have to write each day (notice I didn’t say word count, but story elements of the plot.) In conjunction with this I am researching Publishers who are accepting submissions, what their guidelines are, creating paragraph summaries, tag lines, 1 and 2 page summaries, noting themes, writing up short character profiles… all that lovely marketing material you need for a pitch/submission. Additionally, some publishers (mostly overseas) require that you have a literary agent to represent you, so I have been researching that as well. Again, many are genre specific and have their own guidelines for accepting applications. Another aspect of this goal is researching writing competitions – these can not only put up on the radar of publishers/agents, but if you win, it commonly results in a publishing contract. All of this activity not only makes the whole writing activity real, but gives you a deadline. And each bit of information or step you achieve along the way is ticking off a small task towards your longer term goal.

If you want to get even more technical you could also be tracking the amount of time you spend writing, researching, marketing, so that when you start to earn money through a book advance, sales or royalties, you can estimate how much money you earn an hour. If it’s not high enough for your goals, then you can look at different ways to improve upon your system… and ultimately your earnings.

Writing when inspiration strikes, passively submitting a story here and there one at a time can be a little soul crushing because you are eagerly waiting for a payoff instead of concentrating on a schedule and already moving on to your next target/goal. A business strategy for writing forces you to take in a bigger picture, a career making attitude, and leave you little time to fall into depression from rejection letters and failed submissions.

Lynne Lumsden Green also states “As writing is my business, I try to keep to a schedule. I spend an hour or so every morning on mail, updating my files, and researching new markets. This part of my business strategy won’t be changing any time soon. I then spend an hour every day on social media. I recently had over 400,000 people come through my Steampunk Sunday page on Facebook; a ready-made audience for my writing! You might want to do writing courses or attend more conferences, or join a writing group, so don’t forget to include those in your plan.”

Again this shows by example how much a schedule, consistency, and trying new things are important you your long term success at being a writer. Simply posting to social media blindly does not ensure success, you need to add value, offer a solution to a problem, tap into a niche market. Research your demographic. Try different forms of social media. Reach out to other writers who are having success and mimic their methods for a trial period.

There are a lot of resources out there to tap into. Courses, platforms like SkillShare, YouTube videos, blogs with advice, writing groups, state and government bodies that are running local initiatives to support the publishing industry and writing community, even emailing an author with one or two questions to help you figure things out…

“Don’t forget to be brave. Take risks. Having a business strategy doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”

I hope this discussion helps to change your thinking and provide some inspiration to develop your writing career a little further. Go get ‘em!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrapping up 2020…. And good riddance!

Looking back through the year that was, a lot has happened, but a lot did not… It’s kind of a 2020 thing. All my friends are saying the same. My yearly goals have mostly been thrown out the window because of Covid-19 and a cancer diagnosis (again, sigh) but let’s get this wrap up done and put a positive spin on things.

Book worm:

My last catch up was in October leaving my TBR at 423, I didn’t post a November wrap-up because I’d not long started chemotherapy and was focusing on my health and wellbeing, so any work and reading goals felt superfluous. (Plus I was tired and in pain all the time and it was difficult to concentrate.) Though I did read 2 books in November, and completed 8 novels in December, taking the TBR down to 413. I’m still on my buying ban until I get below 400.

I set my reading goal to 52 books for the year, but was really hoping to reach 104… I kept it light with all the financial stresses, health issues, etc… but managed to complete 68 book for the calendar year which I’m happy about.

Thinking back over the year though, I would have to highlight my top five reads:

This Mortal Coil (trilogy) the first two novels were outstanding, it’s action packed and choc full of STEM themes of what the future could look like under heavy influence of genetic manipulation and body modification.

Highway Bodies is a zombie apocalypse with diversity. Highly entertaining and so proud of a fellow Aussie author.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a comedic historical fiction that had me laughing up a storm, really looking forward to completing the series.

I’ll Give You the Sun was a surprise hit out of the park. Bring your tissues for this roller coaster ride.

Reckoning a non-fiction title by Australian darling Magda Szubanski was beautiful melancholic writing that captured a lot of my youth and challenges what it means to not only be an Aussie, but a human being.

Scribe and scribble:

I only managed a paltry 1500 words for the year. With distractions, having to work long hours, being the only one to stay employed through the Covid-19 lockdown for six months, then having to manage doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy, not only did I have little time to write, but my mind simply wasn’t in the right headspace to get creative. It was a depressing year, but I am thankful the worst is behind me.

Levelling Up:

I still haven’t completed my marketing course, it had to put on the back burner in favour of other priorities. But I am still keen to complete it in 2021 and am eyeing off a few other short courses. I love to learn!

Social Butterfly:

My biggest goal for 2020 was to be more social, get out and about more… and well, it goes without saying that it didn’t happen. Lockdown and being immune-compromised has meant I’ve become a bigger homebody than ever. Oh the irony! On the upside, I’ve caught a lot of good television. Australian series ‘Glitch’ has been a big favourite, tv series ‘Insatiable’ had me in belly laughs, ‘Dickinson’ staring Hailey Stansfield was strangely hypnotic, I re-watched the ‘Teen Wolf’ series and making a start on re-watching ‘Supernatural’ now that it is ending; props to ‘Love, Victor’ and ‘Never Have I Ever.’ Fell in love with ‘Little Mix : The Search,’ squee’d over ‘Julie and the Phantoms,’ and like everyone else got a big sci-fi hit with ‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Star Trek Discovery’ and ‘The Expanse.’

Some movies that brought me joy include: ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘Underwater,’ ‘Like a Boss,’ ‘We Summon the Darkness,’ ‘My Spy,’ ‘Enola Holmes,’ ‘Love and Monsters,’ ‘Happiest Season,’ ‘Uncle Frank,’ ‘Freaky,’ ‘Godmothered,’ ‘Superintelligence,’ and ‘Monsters of Man.’

Work that body:

I was working out before the Covid-19 shutdown, and was making progress, though it wasn’t until 6 months later that the gym re-opened and I only got in a month before getting diagnosed with cancer and not being able to return. Though as a part of my treatment and recovery I am doing stretches, getting adrenal massages, and anything else the doctors have recommended to increase my chances for a quick recovery. I have lost some weight, my hair has been falling out, I feel a lot of aches and pains and lose my breath easily; but with a prognosis of 100% recovery I know it is all temporary and am looking forward to normalising my health in the new year. Some scary emergency hospital stays knocked my confidence a bit, but the idea of simply being able to take my dogs for a walk around the park keeps me motivated – I mean those soulful eyes would heal anyone!

As much as 2020 has been a dumpster fire, it’s forced me to focus on what is important and plan out my 2021 – it’s going to be a cracker of a year, because I don’t think I could do worse that 2020 anyway. The only way is up!!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bring on 2021!

Wishing everyone all the very best for the new year!

Leaving 2020 behind with a thankful smile, 2021 is going to be awesome, I can feel it in my bones. Stay safe over the holidays and look forward to reading all your wonderful content. Comment below what your New Years Goals will be… I’m aiming for health and productivity.

Tips for writing productivity and ergonomics

Is your desk set-up secretly causing aches and pains?

I used to be the go-to person in my last few job positions for health and safety when it came to setting up workstations, specifically the ergonomics. With a massive pool of employees that either worked in customer service, or 2D and 3D animation for film and television, people were sitting at their desks for long periods of time, and frequently complained of back, neck, and shoulder strain… enter my lovely smiling face to visit their work area and help set things up so they could be more comfortable.

The biggest issue around back, neck, and shoulder pain mainly came down to muscle fatigue from prolonged amounts of time in a fixed position. It’s important to get up and move around every 45 min to an hour. In fact, I set a timer when I work to remind me to get up and do something else. Typically, I will spread my chores through the day for these intermissions. It not only gives your body a break from being in a seated position, but also helps reduce eye strain from staring at a fixed depth (of the computer screen) and a reprieve from monitor glare.

The next important issue has to do with posture and placement of the keyboard, monitor, mouse and other regularly used items. Without getting into all the specific angles, I’ll attach a few diagrams for reference. But the best gauge is that your feet are meant to comfortably reach the floor (flat feet,) with no pressure on your thighs, elbows level with, or slightly higher than the desk surface, and your monitor positioned straight in front of you. When looking straight ahead, your eyes should hit around the top of the monitor. Regularly used items (keyboard, mouse, etc) should be easily reachable with your elbows near the sides of your torso. Items used a lesser amount can be placed further back on your desk.

All of this keeps you in a natural seated, and relaxed position, avoiding having to hold your body or limbs in unnatural positions for any extended length of time.

From there you can address if you need lower back (lumbar) support cushions, seat framing to keep your hips even with a shaped cushion, or even a shoulder/back harness to stop you from slouching forward. There are other elements you can use to help set up your workspace, like footrests, laptop stands, a standing desk (you can purchase ones that can convert from seating to standing with the press of a button these days.) Different types of chairs, or the kneeling seats or even the exercise balls instead of a chair to force you to use your core muscles to keep you stabilized. It’s important to find what works best for you to avoid injury from strain, or being frozen in a fixed position for too long.

Of course all hazards and wires are safely stored with cable ties and the like. Ensure you have adequate lighting and try to avoid clutter on your work surface.

I only just gave my workstation an ergonomic assessment as I was finding the number of hours I could work comfortably in a day was reducing… it turns out my monitor was too low and off to the left side, and as the day went on I was hunching over more and more until I started getting a lower back ache or headache. Now that everything has been correctly situated, my productivity is picking up and the niggling pain dissipated.

When I originally organised my home office, I had set it up to be aesthetically pleasing using some gorgeous Pinterest pictures as inspiration. And yes, it looked pretty, but was not necessarily the best functioning. I feel like such a doofus for not thinking about the ergonomics earlier.

How did your workspace fair after reading this information? Do you get eyestrain or back pain from the hours you spend writing… let me know if any of these tips help you.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Is the self-publishing industry being held back by hack writers?

I’ve been reading articles and having discussions with my peers and industry professionals regarding the future of self-publishing, and while the outlook is generally positive, the reputation isn’t so bright.

When canvasing readers about self-published titles I generally get a pensive face… and when I push harder, the responses I get revolve around poorly produced cover art, poorly written novels that have not been sufficiently developed or edited; and occasionally, the reader desires a physical copy, only to find the novel is available only in ebook format.

Admittedly this mirrors my own experiences with self-published authors. While it is not the rule of everyone, but it does seem to be a common thread. When I start to push for examples and numbers however, we start to see a slightly different story. And I have to think about that saying of “If you get ten compliments in a day and one person yelling a derogatory comment at you, you are more likely to only remember that one bad comment.” So too, readers tend to remember bad reading experiences more prominently that good ones when it comes to self-publishing… leading to the self-fulfilling prophecy that self-publishing is amateur and rife with a whole lot of sub-par material.

So basically, the self-publishing industry, more often than not, is getting judged by readers on the authors either inept at the publishing and writing process, or doing it for the wrong reason entirely. That’s a pretty harsh and bleak statement to make – and it infuriates me – but the results into my research and discussions with readers support this statement.

Granted, there are self-publishing success stories, and reports of various increments of success across the board. But, it is those poorly produced and written tomes that readers are using to pass a blanket opinion on the industry in many cases.

There are many authors whose body of work can dispel this assumption, and the tide is slowly turning, but what do we have to do to eliminate this attitude completely? The cost of self-publishing is weighted fully on the author, and services like cover art, editing, marketing, and manuscript development services are expensive – they are steps self-published authors shouldn’t be skipping, and it is unfair to ask professionals to offer their services at a discounted rate or for free for self-published authors. Do we start booting off under-cooked material from online stores? That’s censorship. Can we force self-published authors to do a minimal number of steps in the writing development stage before allowing them to publish on a given platform to ensure a certain standard is being represented? It’s hard to start putting regulations like that on a free-form market. There are authors churning out up to ten novels a year (or more) just to earn enough money to live off, but does their content meet the cut?

I read a number of self-published authors personally and I have to say there is a 50/50 split between books that if I didn’t know any better I’d say were traditionally published, and the rest have really obvious mishaps: spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, formatting errors, poorly developed writing style, novels that have been rushed to publication… don’t get me started on some of the cover art. While some are exceptional, others look like clip art from the 1980’s.

When I first started blogging and reviewing I accepted review requests from self-published authors hoping to support those trying to carve out a career in writing, but I found nearly all the manuscripts I received were sadly not up to scratch. I teach English in High School and any of these novels wouldn’t have even received a passing grade. So after that I stopped accepting review copies and focused on a curated selection of novels appeal to my tastes.

Another aspect I found my readers reporting was regarding career authors: not only were many of the self-published authors they listed falling into the ‘rushed to publication’ category because they were trying to get a high volume of work out there to earn a suitable income. But also the readers were inundated with online marketing and blog posts. Spam and junkmail seemed to add to their discomfort with self-published authors. It seemed like some of these authors were not selectively marketing effectively and barraging their subscribers with continual and repetitive content. This kind of strategy quickly turned readers off as they unsubscribe… and subsequently stopped reading the authors books.

I understand the whole self-publishing journey is a learning experience, and your mistakes are going to be out there for everyone to see with a google search, but I guess slow and steady wins the race. Reputation is the biggest commodity for an author to have in their arsenal. That and a solid, professional body of work. The publishing industry as a whole (traditional or self-published) is a slow moving creature. It takes hard work to get a novel published, time for readers to read and review a book. Heck I still have unread novels on my shelves from five years ago that I am still keen to read once I get the time. But after all this, I still ask myself what can I do – all of us do – to help the self-publishing industry? It does have a valid place – not everyone can afford the cost of a physical, traditionally published book, not everyone has access to physical book stores. Traditional publishers set and follow trends and an author’s work may not fit into the current marketing trends, and self-publishing may afford them that niche market they need to reach. Increasingly we are seeing textbooks and manuals reach the self-publishing industry because of the volume of pages in their publications, why try and carry around 2 or 3 books over a thousand pages long, when you have an e-reader? Readers read for a variety of reasons and in a variety of forms, and self-publishing has its place, but I was sad to read the results of the survey of my peers, industry professionals, and readers alike when it comes to the general feel of the self-publishing industry.

Which I find astounding considering the market share e-books have in the economy. Though, that share is dominated with traditionally published authors. The whole situation feels a bit of a quagmire. And don’t get me started on the number of pirated copies of books then self-published by ghost profiles stealing income from popular authors.

I think the reality is, we need some policing on standards for self-publishing, but also a more transparent view of the amount of work – the number or tasks and roles you need to perform above writing the book – for a self-published manuscript of a certain standard. With so many resources online – for free – and courses you can access, I’m still a little bewildered why some authors are not taking advantage of these to give themselves the best possible chance of success for their book launch and their career. Did they just run out of steam? Are they ignorant of what they need to do? Do they just not care? Too harsh? Well, it’s because I get a little heated over some of the attitudes I’ve been reading – and come of the poorly developed work I’ve seen around the self-published industry. I hear people saying “But so-and-so is a successful self-published author, why not use them as an example?” Well. They have put in the work, educated themselves, invested money to get that success, why should another author who’s put in a fraction of that effort ride on their coattails? Don’t they need to put in the hard work too? Again it comes back to reputation – the author who has put in the effort, maintained a quality body of work and found that balance of marketing and a target demographic will thrive in the self-publishing environment over time; those who do not, will falter. I just hope readers stop judging the industry as a whole on those of the latter.

So there is no easy answer, no easy solution. The industry will be swayed by larger platforms and their market share. Newer authors are still going to blunder their way through the digital publishing process and either succeed or buckle under the enormity of the task. Our industry relies on word of mouth and marketing – no matter how good a writer you are – a book does not sell itself. I have heard of online platforms dropping authors and works that do not sell, and algorithms for how your book is listed in search results plays a bit part in that behaviour too. That’s why it’s important to have a marketing plan and cover all your bases. Build a subscriber list. Argh! So many thing for an aspiring author to think about… and try not to spend too much of their own money to achieve it.

What’s your opinion on self-publishing? Are there too many low quality books saturating the market? Do you have any solutions that could help rescue its reputation?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Attitudes in the book blogging community

There are some outliers that make the experience of sharing love and support for fellow writers very difficult.

I love reading. I love sharing my thoughts on what I read. I love recommending great novels. I also love sharing my experiences with writing and tidbits of information around writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. For the most part the online community is greatful and supportive. I have delightful conversations and garner knowledge from other bloggers on their own journey.

In dealing with a wide sample of the population we get a plethora of experience, knowledge, and attitudes.

Helping younger bloggers and writers elevate their content. Provide more critical reviews and recommendations, more insight into the craft of writing is what I consider what this community this community is all about.

One of my biggest dislikes has been the spam, the unsubstantiated emotional responses (*cough*trolling*cough*) and professionals coming back to members of the community with cold, threatening attitudes because they are trying to monetize and ‘own’ the content that a multitude of bloggers are posting for free. Granted it’s a small minority of the community at large, but it exists and can have an enormous impact on the person targeted with this type of behaviour.

I’ve personally had my content plagiarized. And it takes nothing to reach out to the instigator and politely ask them to either take the post down, or link it to your original material. There is no need for threats of lawyers, being rude, or charging them money for using your content. After all, you can contact the hosting service if they are in breach of copyright (WordPress has its own guidelines and governance regarding this) and the material can be taken down as a last resort. Or ultimately there is the registrar, the DMCA, or even google. (I have previously written a post with step-by-step actions about these topics here.) There are always steps to take other than a heated emails with no response.

On the other side of the coin, I have myself inadvertently breached copyright. In researching an article, I copy and pasted material into several documents for reference later offline, and to link to when I wrote and published my article. However after writing my post, I accidently deleted the finished article, and saved one of those source material documents under the title… and then it was subsequently scheduled to post. So what was published were notes cut and pasted without context of someone else’s material. Plagiarism out right. So embarrassing. A lesson learned in triple, quadruple checking the line-up of scheduled posts. I received an email the next day of a threatening nature. Granted it was my mistake, and I was able to find my original article and upload it in place of the mistakenly published article – the in-question material having only been live for 10 hours. However, this time I expanded on the topic, researched more and made it even better. The thing is, if I’d received a better toned email, I would have admitted my mistake, altered the article and the owner of some of the source material would have been credited and given a lot of hype in the article – benefitting us both. But instead I found alternate source material – who don’t require a paid subscription to access – and much more examples. My newly edited article was infinitely much better, and all reference to the nasty emailer removed. They missed out on engaging any audience funnelled from my publication just because of their attitude. I would have responded to a nice email… but I don’t reply to threats. You don’t get results for inciting negativity. You can escalate the issue for importance sure, but keep it neutral in tone. I hesitate to mention, that even after I had uploaded the correct and finished article, removing reference to the emailers original content, they continued to harass me to the point I had to block them on all of my social media accounts. This person clearly did not check the updated article, or check her tone. I wanted to issue a public apology, I wanted to contribute some of her material as inspiration for my article, but after the bullying nature and threatening nature of their correspondence (from a professional in the industry mind you,) I’m doing what my mother always said. Ignore the bullies and eventually they will find a new target to annoy.

I guess with a background in teaching – you learn a bit about reacting to attitudes; a little about conflict resolution. But with the rise of social media we are seeing a lot of this clapback mentality. Off the cuff posts, tweets, DM’s, emails designed to hurt, scare, or embarrass the target when you could take a night to sleep on the matter and craft your response more maturely. It’s hard to make this point in a world where sensational content trends regularly. Cancel culture, online bullying, clickbait, response videos, apology videos… they are big business in the news cycle. We are seeing more and more inexperienced (and some who rightfully know better) falling into this trap.

It’s a form of bullying, of hate culture, of negativity that stalls the growth of our community and the publishing industry as a whole. Sadly this is not going to go away. The only way we can start to change attitudes is to not react, or react appropriately. Know appropriate ways to respond to threats. Know the avenues you have available to protect yourself online.

Granted I don’t see this bad behaviour happen a lot within the book blogging community, but it does happen; and when it does it can really impact you.

Anyway I thought this was an interesting discussion to bring to the blog – have you experienced any of this type of behaviour? How did you deal with it? Have you made a faux-par with copyright or plagiarism, and what did you do to make amends? Do you think information around the craft of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing should be widely free and accessible to anyone online, or is it something that should be paid for?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creating an atmosphere to write

Music, ambience, views, nature, books… what helps set the scene for you to pen your next great story?

I go through moods with how I like my environment while writing. I see so many of those playlists on the internet, sometimes I feel like I’m missing something, because while I like to have music playing in the background at times, I don’t associate particular songs to a scene in a storyline.

So I have different modes when I write. At times I like complete silence. Which is fine when your home by yourself, but when you’re not, I need to pull out those noise cancelling headphones to get some work done before I succumb to the urge to bludgeon someone with a heavy blunt instrument.

Other moments I love having an ‘80’s playlist in the background. Something about sense memory of a more innocent time when I was growing up helps to free up my inspiration. Like I’m shedding the stresses of adult life and going back to a time when anything was possible. Music from this time period is like that old oversized cardigan, it’s familiar, you know all the lyrics, and you could listen to the soundtrack and never get tired of the melody. Can’t say my housemate particularly love the retro playlist on repeat, but hey, it’s not about them… and I can always listen to it on my headphones. No harm, no foul, let me dwell in my happy place unencumbered.

I also have moments where I love some easy listening or playing Andrea Kirwan in the background. Her voice melts away my headache and puts me in the mood to write a more intimate, emotional scene. Great for love scenes or creating angst. I’m a mood reader and a mood writer. I don’t have to craft a story sequentially, I can jump forward and backward in the storyline and pen a scene if I have a particular feeling I need to currently capture… yes I’m a plantser! (A combination of a plotter and a pantser for those of you who have not heard that term before.)

Visit Andrea’s website at http://www.andreakirwin.com

Dance music: those feverish times when my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like a coffee fuelled writing sprint. The volume is not too loud to pierce the bubble of extreme concentration as I channel from some other creative dimension. This is particularly useful in action scenes, or when my fingers on the keyboard cannot keep up with my overactive brain. While it feels productive and fantastic in the moment, often when I re-read the days work, some of it is embarrassingly discordant… like and actual monkey took over and was banging at the keyboard.

Ambient noise. Rainforest. Café, office, library… Public places also makes me productive. Something about needing to block out your surroundings to write. And the other layer of people watching you sitting there at a laptop makes me want to look like I’m a productive member of society. Knowing you are being watched is a great motivator, or being surrounded by other productive people make you want to pull your socks up and get to work.

But no matter where I’m working, I need a clean and clear workspace. If I’m writing with paper and pen, I need a bright and light area, whether indoor lighting or plenty of sunlight. There are also moments where I like to sneak down to the computer at night time and write in the darkness. It feels sneaky, intimate, like you’re undertaking subterfuge.

I also love a view of nature. Whether I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the coast line. Seeing the rolling hills meet the sand and a stretch of white-capped waves rolling in from the horizon. Or down in the sunroom amongst rainforest trees, colourful parrots singing a tune, and a natural spring that brings a serenity with its waterlilies and ducks.

I don’t think I could work in the same place every day forever. It would feel stale after a time. The creative beast needs to be fed with sensations, sights, sounds, and stimulated with verse. Reading helps, conversations, observation, even daydreaming. It is the best way for me to stave off writer’s block… well I don’t necessarily get writer’s block because I switch up my environment, habits, what I’m working on so much that it never gets boring. That, and having a routine (whether I follow it or not) are great guides to keep the prose flowing.

And don’t forget to cut yourself a break. Good writing does not explode from you immediately. Writing is a process of inspiration and creativity, reviewing and editing, fine-tuning, and outside feedback. A solo endeavour, but a group experience. Writer, Reader, Reviewer…

There is no set structure for how to write, just many avenues you can try out for yourself and see what works. You’ll find your groove, fall out of it, and find inspiration again. The key is to never give up and never stop trying different methods. I routinely spring clean my office and re-arrange the furniture, pictures, colour scheme, it give the space a different feel and when I sit down to write it feels fresh and new – with no mistakes – and somehow leave me invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenges.

What are your tips for creating an ambience fit for writing? I’d love to get a writing group together, but living remotely, it’s not necessarily an option. Online doesn’t feel the same. Escaping to the university library is the next best thing. I even went and did a few weeks work at an empty desk in a friends office and it really helped get me out of a low productive moment. There’s always a way…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quarterly Goals – July-Sept 2020

Keeping track of my yearly goals – ¾ of the way through…sheesh where did the year go?!

Much of my local area is returning to normal with relaxed precautions from the Covid-19 pandemic, but I am starting to see the long road it is going to take for the economy to return to normal. We’ve been lucky. One of us in the household has always been able to work which means no financial stress or worrying about putting food on the table. Though not completely stress free. I worry about my friends and family. I’ve been daydreaming ways I could make the world an easier place for them… but it’s just that – a dream. It would take a massive Lotto win to accomplish anything like that. (Hint, do you hear me Universe. A Lotto win would be just peachy.) As with nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, concentration and creativity can be difficult in these times. I’ve found motivation a huge obstacle, and many of my yearly goals are focused around networking and connecting with people more in a social setting. With 6 month of the year in lockdown, 2020 is going to be a poor year for progress to my goals. Anyhoo, let’s check in on my achievements:

Book worm:

I’ve managed to get my TBR down from 417 to 407, BUT caved with all my free time and with my goal to #BeatTheBacklist in completing series that I started years ago and yet to finish, I had to purchase so remaining titles to complete the collection… And well I haven’t bought any new releases since last year. I splurged. I might of read 10 for this quarter – which is pretty poor for me – but I purchased 16 titles. That means my total TBR pile is at 423. I’m going to have to get that down again if I want to get any books for Christmas!

Books completed in September… and one blurry puppy (because he was too excited to bet his photo taken.)

Scribe and scribble:

July turned out to be my best month for writing, however the following two months were sadly very low with the word count. Mainly because I’ve returned to the gym and found myself so exhausted of late I kept dozing off or having lapses in concentration for my allotted writing time. Turns out, I just needed to add some more iron to my diet. I’m determined to make coming last quarter my most productive for the year. I have two novels that I definitely want to have a first draft done! Get writing girlie!!

Levelling Up:

Because of above mentioned lack in concentration – and having to pick up more copywriting work, I’ve made no progress on my online marketing course. I have been doing a little more research into other marketing and writing avenues however to help grow my income. Not really helping with certification or professional development, but did increase my portfolio.

Social Butterfly:

Well… emailing, facebooking, and zoom are my entire world for social interaction at the moment. I did venture out once for dinner with the neighbours – which meant we had to line up for ages (socially distanced) provide our personal details for contact tracing regulations, and had to be in and out in 45 mins. It was nice to get out of the house, but not the relaxing social occasion I was hoping for. Apart from that, does quietly obeying my personal trainer at the gym count?

Get creative:

Still on a budget, and busy bidding for work projects so all creative projects are still on hiatus. It’s been six months now and I am getting a serious hankering to do something crafty. Some sewing or maybe furniture restoration… The last quarter for 2020 is looking promising.

Cash grab:

I’ve tripled my regular income, needing to pick up the slack from members of the household losing their jobs because of this pandemic. We support each other. With help from my now unemployed housemates, we are at the stage where we can list items of eBay for an online garage sale hand give our petty cash tin a bit of love.

Work that body:

So great to be able to work out again. I managed to put on some weight with the lockdown, and was feeling depressed and frumpy. And by gosh, that break has made me feel so unfit. It’s been an adjustment getting back into the groove, but now I’m over the hump of returning to regular exercise, I should start to see results and get back to pre-Covid-19 status.

So professional:

My goal to start expanding my digital platform has made no progress this quarter. My time has been so busy elsewhere with more urgent priorities. Maybe I’ll get something done before the end of 2020, but I think it’s more likely this goal will have to wait until next year.

Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has slightly improved, and now with lockdown restrictions eased and the country aiming for everything to be back to normal for Christmas, it can only get better. 2020 has been a strange year for tracking my goals. I feel like just skipping over this year – like those awkward teen years – it’s a grin and bear it kind of situation. Though I am counting my blessings and trying to stay positive and focused on the future. Reading about fellow bloggers and their journeys through the pandemic has made me feel not so alone. Like my trainer at the gym says – that last little push makes all the difference, and I plan on bringing the year home with a smile.

How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals? What has been the biggest influence in helping you get through the pandemic and remaining in a positive frame of mind?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.