Some would argue that I’m the last person who should write a blog about this but I would point out that’s what makes it a perfect topic for me to tackle.
My first year of indie publishing, I put out 7 books in 11 months and I thought that was a lot. It sure felt like a lot. I had and still have, a part time day job but the rest of my time has been spent writing or editing. I’ve put most everything else aside and for the first year that was fine but it wasn’t sustainable. Because I am a workaholic, no doubt there, I can justify spending all my time working but I also like going out with friends and having a life outside of work. This proved near impossible with my schedule.
I recently took a class to learn how to write faster but the crux of the class was learning what works for me as an individual. Finding my strengths and working with them. Although I am writing a little faster, the class gave me permission to do what feels right for me instead of trying to fit into someone else’s “right”. So the book that tells me to write for four hours straight every day is the method that works for the person who wrote that book. The person who suggests waking up at 6am to write is what works for them. I have to figure out what works for me but what works for me won’t work for everyone.
I constantly compare myself to authors who write a book a month. I don’t understand how they do it and I don’t know why I can’t. Yet other authors can’t understand how I can write and edit one every 2 months. What others can do does not relate to what you can do. What I do know is that my schedule of writing a book every 2 months was too much for me. The teacher of the write better, faster class, Becca Syme told me that I’m the type of personality that pushes myself hard—to the point of burnout. And when you hit burnout, she said, “you will take much longer to recover.” That may not be the same for everyone but I do believe that burnout is universal. Each person may recover differently and how long it takes for each person to hit it will vary. But as an alternative healthcare practitioner I can attest that burnout is very real. I see it in my office every week. We live in an unbalanced society that rewards people for working harder, longer hours.
So what’s the solution? For some people it may be to take a month off from writing or even a week. For me, I’ve slowed down. Instead of writing one book while editing another, I’ve focused on one at a time. I make more time to hang out with friends and live my life. I take more breaks which include exercising, reading books, laying out in the sun and even shopping. I plan my breaks. If I sit and accomplish 2,000 words (or whatever the goal is) I get to take 30 minutes for a long walk or a short hike.
Burnout is real. It’s not if it’ll happen, it’s when and for how long.
I can’t afford burnout. If I hit it I will lose all the momentum I’ve gained. Another solution is to say no to things that don’t light me up. So if someone asks me to do something that’s an hour away and the long drive feels insurmountable I say no. If I’m invited to an event that feels like a burden, even if they want me to go terribly, I still say no. But I say it with kindness and I thank them for thinking of me.
Self-care has moved to the top of my list. I encourage you to make those lists, even if they’re only in your head. Where do you want to be in a year from now and what, realistically, will it take to get there? Then ask yourself if you’re willing to sacrifice some things to achieve those goals and if so, what things?
Make self-care a priority and don’t forget to reward yourself for your efforts and achievements. My reward to myself is traveling, indulging in my favorite chocolate, reading and hanging out with friends. What’s yours?
by Chloe Adler
So you’ve read my first blog about hiring a VA, and you’ve figured out what you need them to do.
You’ve made your list and checked it umpteenth times. Now you’re ready for the next steps!
Time for the nitty gritty.
Hiring your VA
Where do you hire them from?
There are several ways and several places. You can ask your friends if they have someone they like and trust.
You can use a website — and I’ll list a few below under the resource section — but my favorite and the one I use is Hubstaff Talent.
There are several reasons why this is my favorite site. It’s FREE. You post a job and get a list of applicants. You’re able to look at each one and check out their portfolio on the bottom right or ask them direct questions about the job. Sometimes it’s easier to weed out the people who take the time to fill this part out. I don’t ask anything too time consuming or complicated.
Then you can email them directly. And did I mention they’re free?
One thing, for me in hiring was cost.
I knew what I could afford and offered that price per hour, starting at $3 per hour. It’s low but there are plenty of people in other countries that can work for the price I can afford to pay and I’ve since given my VA’s raises.
When I first get a list of applicants I speak to some people over email and when I find one I like, I Skype them.
If I still like them and think they will do a good job professionally, I hire them on a trial basis to see if we work well together.
A mentor, Jen Lehner gave two VAs the same project to complete and then picked the person who was faster (he was a lot faster).
On Hubstaff Talent you can post the job you’re looking for (this is what I did) or you can look for applicants and invite them to your job (after you’ve posted one). You can scroll down on the main page and even choose by country if you want.
Tracking your VA’s time and Paying them
For this I use Hubstaff and I love it. There’s a monthly fee which starts at $30 for 3 employees or less. It tracks your employees time and even takes screenshots so you can check and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Funny story — I’m an eternal optimist but I’m also a realist, and I just assumed that at one point I’d find someone watching porn. But honestly it was my worst case scenario that I was “sure” would never happen. Except that it did. For real! It wasn’t my VA though, it was someone else who had access to her computer but that was a fun conversation. Not!
Most recently one of my VAs had logged idle time and I had to tell her she probably forgot to turn off the timer. The good thing is that you can delete this time from the hours they worked.
You can also limit the number of hours they work per week, log multiple projects (to keep track) and if they use Paypal, you can pay them automatically through Hubstaff. I don’t do this as I like to see what they’re doing, before I pay them!
I use loom, which is fantastic! And it’s FREE!
Loom records your voice and your desktop. I turn the camera off, but you can record yourself talking in the corner too if you want.
What I did before hiring my first VA is I recorded the tasks I wanted to hand off. I had to do them anyway, so I just talked my way through them for the VA. Then you get a link that you share with them. They watch the video and go to work.
Sharing your sensitive details:
LastPass is where you store your passwords and login information, but it’s invisible to everyone else. You then share each specific login with your VA.
For example, I have a VA working on my social media. So she logs in to LastPass and accesses my Twitter or Facebook through their site. She doesn’t see my password or have access to it.
If we stop working together, I simply remove her from the share.
LastPass has a FREE version but I pay $24 a year for the premium version.
Connecting with/Talking to your VA (for project management and collaboration)I use Skype for the 4 VAs I have. It’s on my phone and computer, and it’s how we communicate (through IM for free).
I make sure they know to charge me (login to Hubstaff) for the Skyping time.
I also use Trello which is FREE. And I have a Trello board for each of my VAs with a list of what I want them to do. We communicate that way daily and I put my loom videos there and a lot of pics/graphics.
I also use shared Google docs to track specific things that need an Excel spreadsheet type layout for another business.
Lastly, you can use Slack, which is also FREE! I love Slack and use it for other projects. With Slack you can IM real time, add pics, videos and files.
You just have to experiment and find out which one (or ones) works best for you.
All the resources are here
Hiring your VA:
I hired my first virtual assistant a few weeks ago and it went so well that I have now hired two more. And that was my immediate goal.
I needed three virtual assistants, for three different jobs. If you think you can’t afford it – think again!
The first person I hired for $3 per hour. And though she only works 5-8 hours a week, I now have those 8 hours a week of my life back!
However, you can spend whatever amount works for you. You can hire someone from anywhere in the world – which I’ll talk more about in part 2 next month.
I was talking to Rachael Herron about this the other day, yes a plug for an amazing woman, and her question to me was “What would I use a virtual assistant for?”
That’s the focus of the first blog in this two- blog series.
What would I use a virtual assistant for?
Ask yourself: What do I do on a regular basis that I cannot bill for? And among those things, if I made the time, what could I train someone else to do?
Here’s an example: You’re a doctor and the only time you earn $$$ (can bill and get paid) is when you’re actually seeing a patient. That’s the only time you’re getting PAID for.
Everything else is non-billable hours. This may include billing insurance companies, writing up patient treatment plans, inputting patient’s information, scheduling, reminding patients of their appointments, etc.
If you’re a full-time writer, earning your living from your writing, this would include anything you do that’s not writing or editing.
Make a List
So, I recommend you make a list of everything that you’re doing that is not making you money, any non-billable hours. Then on that list, look at which tasks can be done by someone else.
As an example, my list is this: Data entry, social media maintenance, graphic art design, and most recently, client phone calls and scheduling.
If you’re like me, this list sounds daunting and overwhelming. How do I do delegate?
Well, there’s a step-by-step process that I learned from an amazing Jen Lehner webinar/class. (And no, I don’t earn anything for recommending her class so you know I have no ulterior motives).
I’m going to lay out a simplified process, but I do recommend her class for in-depth information.
Your first step is to make that list and put everything on it. You don’t have to offload every single thing, especially at once, but do list everything so you can look at all of it objectively.
the #1 most important thing
The next step is to decide what the #1 most important thing to offload will be.
The way I picked out what to do first is by looking at what I hated doing the most, which also happened to be the most time consuming.
Thinking about training someone can be daunting. I believed, “It will take me longer to train them than to do it myself.” For that I want to give you something you can do right now to prepare.
There’s an awesome FREE program: Loom. You can use Loom to record your desktop and your voice. I recommend that the next time you are performing a task you are considering offloading that you tape it with Loom and label it. It’s super easy and takes no extra time at all to do! That’s step two. J
So now go make your list and remember to record when you’re performing those tasks yourself! Then check back in next month for the rest of the steps!
I am so honored that Rachael Herron asked me to be on her Podcast "How do You Write?" -- which features inside information, tips and tricks for all writers whether you're new or a seasoned veteran.
I haven't watched my ep and it was video recorded but I hope that y'all gain at least one insight from it or that it entertains or both! I highly HIGHLY recommend Rachael's Podcast - it's super duper awesome!!! And I'm not talking about the episode I'm on - I'm talking about all the episodes! Rachael interviews great people who talk about their writing and publishing processes. Every ep is chalked full of fantastic information and Rachael herself is inspiring, helpful, knowledgeable and humble! She also has another podcast that I highly recommend with J. Thorn about how they both quit their day jobs to become full time writers and how you can too! Petal the Metal.
I really can't say enough good things about this amazing woman!
Go read Rachael's books!!!
The first thing to determine is how you see things. How does your brain work? Some people need everything on paper in a notebook where they can physically touch a page - while others like to store items on the computer. Do you need it to be accessible everywhere? Like in the cloud?
It took me about 2 years of trying everything I could think of before I settled on OneNote. And it’s fine if it takes you awhile to find what works for you. Here are some options.
In my DE Series notebook I have the names of each character on the left – in their notebooks (like having a folder), my timeline, my settings, my magical systems, etc. Then within each folder you can create as many pages as you want and they all show up as separate tabs in the center. Then on each page you can type anywhere on the page and you can in drag photos. The reason this system works well for me is that while I’m writing or editing and I add something (like a character’s tell or new hairstyle) I can immediately copy it and paste it into the correct sheet in the correct notebook in less than 10 seconds. I want to spend as much time as possible creating my content and as little time as possible tracking it all J
I encourage you to experiment and find what works for you knowing this is anything but a “one size fits all” journey :)
All My Previous Writing Blogs Are HERE and HERE
The Series Bible: Options for Starting One
Getting Into the Heads of Your Antagonists
Two Projects at Once
Learning the Hard Way - What NOT to do When Designing Your Own Book Cover Model Shoot
Writer's Brain - Whose Brain is it?
Submit to a Writing Contest and/or be a Judge
Accountability Using Google Spreadsheets
There are 26 here and 7 more here
We pull our characters from a myriad of situations. Sometimes we stitch them together like Frankenstein’s monster – a little from one person, something else from another until a character emerges. Other times we combine two or three people we know really well, into one. Then there’s the character that makes themselves up; you know the ones. They download into your head and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. They are born like children with fully realized personalities. They may even have built-in catch phrases and drive specific cars. Those are the fun ones, the ones that you can’t fight off the page. No matter how much you try to bury them, they keep knocking on the inside of your skull until you let them out. I have one such character but this blog is not about him because characters such as those need no help, save for our discipline in getting them onto the page. This blog is about the first type of character, the one that’s stitched together like a patchwork quilt.
The other day I was purchasing plants from a nursery. A simple task. As a woman who worked there helped load them into my car she stated an observation. “You drive a Yaris, you get better gas mileage than a Prius.” The woman next to us had just pulled up in a Prius and the woman speaking to me showed unbridled disdain for the other car.
Now there are a few ways I could have proceeded. I could have simply said, “Yes, thank you.” thus agreeing with the obviously opinionated woman and our conversation would have been over.
My father (who I relayed the conversation to later) assured me that’s what he would have done. But, among my many faults I’m contrary, I pride myself on telling the truth and I like to stir up trouble. Plus I had very recently had a long conversation with my father about my car. Yes it gets great gas mileage, there is no doubt about that. It also blows into the other lane on the freeway when a truck passes by or when there are winds above 30mph. If you watch the collision dummy footage you will find, to my dismay, that if another car plows into a Yaris at a low speed (with older models such as mine) it crumples up like a tin can.
Therefore my response to the woman was something like, “Yes but if someone hits me there’s a good chance I will not survive.”
To which she actually replied something like this: “That’s a conspiracy. They want you to believe that but those statistics are all made up. There haven’t been any car accidents in California in the last ten years. The news is full of lies about cars in order to promote fear and make people spend more money to buy more expensive cars.”
I was flabbergasted. I actually tried to argue with her by telling her I had viewed the crash test dummy footage online. She argued back telling me, and truly believing this herself, that the footage was faked. Her next statement, the one that had me walking away shaking my head was: “And if you put those negative thoughts of an accident out there, you will draw one to you.”
Now I believe in positive thinking and affirmations just as much, if not more than the next person but I am a realist. I do not think that if I jump off a tall building and believe I will land unhurt that I will indeed land, unhurt. I also believe in plenty of conspiracy theories but when I drive my car I feel like I’m driving a tin can. As for no car accidents in California… I don’t even watch the news but I personally know of three people who were involved in automobile fatalities in the Bay Area in the past few months and have personally witnessed several not fatal ones myself, quite recently.
But alas… what’s the message here? The importance of all this? That woman makes a GREAT character, or more so, part of a great character. A character who truly believes these things to be true. And I would have missed out on all of that good fodder if I had just agreed with her and moved on. The lesson/s – talk to people, listen and ask questions.
Something major happened to me recently. Life-changing major. I lost a parent by choice, not by death. There was a tremendous amount of drama leading up to the culmination, much like Act II leading up to the black moment in our novels. After the “incident” which took almost six months to play out, the obsessive thinking began. “They should never have… Why did they… I’m so upset about…” etc. Since this event coincided with the outlining of book 4 in my Distant Edge Series I couldn’t keep it from crossing into my thoughts. Before I knew it, a big part of the book’s drama revolved around my character’s issue with her parent. I added similar lines spoken by my family members because quite frankly – they sound crazy, I couldn’t make this $#it up and they make convincing characters.
Looking back on my first three novels in the series, which are already written and will be published starting in May 2017 – I found that my antagonist was completely based on the family member attached to the parent I lost. The character uses modified phrases that this person has spoken to me. Her personality in my books mirrors that of the personality she has shown me for the past thirty years.
Why do this? First of all – sometimes it can’t be helped. Things that are going on in our subconscious comes out in our writing. Secondly – it’s cathartic. It helps us make sense of events, personalities and confusion in our own worlds. Thirdly – and most importantly – it makes for great well-rounded antagonists or protagonists, depending on how people in our lives have treated us.
I received book 2 back from my editor a couple of weeks ago and her comments elicited so much emotion I started to cry (with happiness). She found conflict and motivation within my protagonist that I didn’t even know I had written. This is where our true-life events come out. We can completely fictionalize them and keep the gist or we can use actual events and what people have said to us, changing their names of course.
Everyone’s heard “you write what you know” which is true but we also write “who we know”. Therefore I encourage you to turn all of those wrongs in your past into rights. If you can’t change what happened or the hurt someone has caused you, use it in your book. Turn those meanies into antagonists. Turn their insanity and self-righteous, thoughtless behavior into the conflict your protagonist must overcome. Take the crazy words they have spoken to you, change them a little, and make it part of your antagonist’s dialogue. Not only will this make you feel so much better, it will lend authenticity to your characters. However it is important for your antagonist to believe that what they are doing (their motivation) is right, no matter how heinous it is. Otherwise they’ll read like a cartoon villain. Think of this as a way to process while staying true to your art form. And, it’s probably best not to tell the people who have wronged you that you’ve made them into bad guys in your books. You don’t want to be sued for liable or defamation of character.
Written by: Chloe Adler
Last week someone asked me the question, “How do you manage your unmanageability?” My answer: Accountability.
A few months ago I decided on an exercise challenge. After two years of bi-weekly handstand classes I still could not balance on my own in the center of the room. After asking experts I was told, “you need to practice every single day no matter what, for a minimum of two minutes a day. If you do this, in six months to a year you’ll have your handstands.”
I asked a friend in my handstand class if she would be my accountability partner by checking in every day via text. She agreed and we formulated a plan. We made lists of all of our exercises, given to us by our teachers and started checking in daily. After a few weeks I put all the exercises on a google spreadsheet and invited her. Each day we check off what we’ve done and other women have joined us. Happily… it’s working. I can now hold a handstand for up to six seconds on my own in the middle of the room, after only two months of vigilance. I am also in the routine of practicing daily with daily check-ins to my accountability partner.
Why not do the same with writing? I recently formed a critique group, which has been incredible. However, I had not been writing daily and I need to be as I’m very close to finishing my fourth novel. I asked a few people in my critique group if they would be interested in being accountability partners. Instead of checking in daily, which is a good idea, I went straight to a google spreadsheet, inviting some of my critique partners and formed different tabs for each of us at the bottom.
Along the side are the dates and across the top are: word count, time spent (writing), place (we wrote), emotional state (before and/or during the writing).
Each day I record whether I have written or not and I also look at the other writer’s progress which pushes me further. Google Spreadsheets are great for this because you can invite whoever you want to join them. You can look on their spreadsheet to see what they are doing, they’re free and you can use them on all of your devices.
The other day I saw that one of the writer’s was writing up a storm and I was not so I sat down to write. I don’t feel competitive doing this process, I feel spurred forward by their accomplishments. A sort of “if they can do it with their full time job and husband, I can too”.
I have a deadline too, that I set for myself – I want to be finished before the RWA Conference in July. I looked to see how many words I needed to write a day for that goal and it’s beyond doable. Joanna Penn recently asked a writer on her Podcast, The Creative Penn, what made them finish their first book and the answer for them, as well as for Joanna, was to form a deadline.
Having accountability partner/s is one great way to make your writing goals. Setting a deadline is another. All that said, if you don’t write for a day or two or three or four the most important is not to beat yourself up about it. You can always look at “today” – whatever day is today as the first day you’re going to start and reset your goal accordingly. You can also be realistic. Maybe you only have time to write 1-2 days a week. Accountability can still work. Make sure your partner knows what works for you and what you’re agreeing to do.
Here are two other great articles on accountability, writing, and deadlines J
8 Accountability Strategies for Writing Your Book
How to Hold Yourself Accountable As a Writer
~Written by Chloe Adler