How to be a Productive Writer at Home: Workplace Organization

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

While stateside today is a day to lay back and feast, for the rest of us it’s business as usual. The “as usual” part can be seriously improved, though, following simple, doable tips. And what’s a better way to digest them than an infographic?

photoToday, I’m pleased to welcome Emily Johnson from Omnipapers.com, a website about writing life of students and everyone who creates content for the Web. Emily also is a contributor to many websites about blogging, writing, and content marketing. She shares her writing experience with others, and you can always find more works of hers on G+.

In this article, she will give us insights on how to boost our writing productivity through paying more attention to the organization side of things. She’s also sharing a great infographic to illustrate her points. Emily, the floor is yours.

How to be a Productive Writer at Home: Workplace Organization

Every writer wants to be creative, innovative, and interesting. The most common way to achieve these goals is to boost productivity. There are many writers who work from home where it’s nearly impossible to stay focused. However, there are several tips that might help you become a productive writer.

In fact, a well-organized workplace impacts your attention, cleverness, and productivity.

While you are thinking about the best ways to organize your workplace, pay attention to OmniPaper’s infographic ‘Your Writing Cabinet Organization’, as here you can find an incredible piece of advice. Keep on reading to reveal more.

Clean Your Writing Desk Up

Being a writer means thinking about new ideas, insights, and creative drafts. A writing desk is an important workplace for all writers. Sometimes you can turn your desk into a messy table where you can’t find anything: drafts, utensils, gadgets, cups, etc. If you want to stay productive and don’t waste time, form a habit to clean up your table every day. Use lockers, boxes, and bookshelves to keep everything organized.

Organize Your Writing Cabinet

The writing process is not just creating drafts and texts, editing, proofreading, and publishing. It is also communicating with clients, setting up goals, learning something new, and boosting inspiration. Thus, you need to divide your workplace into two zones: computer and non-computer ones.

  • A computer zone is for work;
  • A non-computer zone is for inspiration and relax.

Add Comfort

If you want to stay healthy, you need to add some comfort. Your office chair should support the lower back to reduce a risk of health problems. Plus, you need to work standing sometimes to prove upper back and neck pain relief. Take care of your health!

Check out more interesting ideas about workplace organization below. Let’s boost productivity once and for all.
ways to organize your writing cabinet

Definitely not following most of this advice. I have to step up to the plate and become more oganized if I really want to meet my goals for 2016.

Thank you, Emily, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating!

 

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Re-covering your books

Coincidentally, the two authors I first connected with when I set out to become an author both revamped the covers of their debut novels recently. I’m also in the process of re-examining my published book’s cover, so I thought it would be useful to discuss the matter further.

How does a writer’s perception on covers evolve?

Science fiction and children’s books author Nicholas Rossis and fantasy and paranoral romance author Effrosyni Moschoudi gave their novels a great boost with new, fresh, awesome covers.

Before I start the Q&A with both Effrosyni and Nicholas, note that they both have amazing offers running right now.

Effrosyni Moschoudi’s The Necklace of Goddess Athena which we will further discuss is FREE from 19-22 November.

Nicholas Rossis’ first book in the Pearseus series is FREE until November 20 and again on November 30.

Have you grabbed your copies? Now let’s talk covers.

profpic 690x884 png 300dpiEffrosyni Moscoudi has received accolades for both her paranormal romance trilogy The Lady of the Pier (an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards quarter-finalist) and her debut time-travelling fantasy The Necklace of Goddess Athena. When the book first came out, Effrosyni had chosen this cover for it:

 

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If you click on the book’s title above, you’ll see this new, amazing cover. Let’s ask Effrosyni about this need to give her debut a fresh look.

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Hi, Fros! The new cover is awesome. Really eye-catching! But I’m sure you loved your first cover when you chose it. What were the elements you intended to bring out back then?

When I started two years ago, I knew no one, and my indie budget was non-existent, thus I didn’t have the luxury of employing a professional who could make me a tailored-made cover. Luckily, my sister-in-law, Deborah Mansfield, worked in London as a high-flying graphic designer at the time and although she did anything but ebook covers at work, I thought I had nothing to lose asking if she could help. She was a sweetheart, getting all excited about the prospect of assisting me at the start of my publishing journey and I am forever grateful to her for that. Deborah made the initial cover for The Necklace of Goddess Athena as well as all three in the Lady of the Pier series (plus a fourth cover for a companion poetry book to the series that I plan to publish in January).

 

I didn’t give much input on the first cover. I just sent to Debs a lovely image of the Parthenon (courtesy of my brother-in-law, Adrian Leach – yes, I involved the whole family in that first cover, LOL). I also said it would be lovely if I could have a little owl and a necklace somewhere on the cover and that was the result. Debs chose the graphics, the fonts, the placement of everything and I trusted her blindly. I got a multitude of compliments for this cover across the social media and it helped me tremendously during the first two years of my indie journey.
How has your perception on covers shifted since then?

Well, as you know, they say you live and learn and, boy, is this the case when you’re an indie author! By the time I felt the need to give the sales on this book a boost via a new cover, I had picked up a thing or two on book covers and what makes them more appealing to the reader. They say, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but it’s a fact that we all do. It’s human nature. So, for the new cover I knew I wanted the wow-factor to be taken under consideration more than anything else. Also, I knew the first cover was static and I needed to have a couple and an action thrown in there for a more dynamic result. I also learned at some point that colors play a very important role and that every genre has its secrets when it comes to the colors its expected to have for the genre to speak for itself. So, for The Necklace of Goddess Athena I imagined dark colors to convey mystery, danger, and to add tension – everything you would expect from a mysterious fantasy story.

And then some. How did the new cover come about?

As I mentioned earlier, I needed a new cover as to give the book a sales boost. This time round I was able to afford a professional designer specializing on e-books and I knew, more or less, what the cover should look like. My graphic designer, the talented Alex Saskalidis of 187designz was, like, in my head! I gave him the blurb and told him I wanted an antique clock and a couple on it, mentioning also the Parthenon and Athena, of course, in case he could find something suitable. Alex worked miracles with that. He came up with this awesome cover that made my jaw drop, and it was his very first proposal. It was exactly what I had in mind. He picked the dark colors without me even talking about this, and picked these incredible graphics too. The glint inside the Acropolis and the clock convey the time travel element perfectly while the couple running hand in hand were straight out of the first chapter. It’s the scene of Daphne and Phevos arriving in modern-day Athens at night. One thing I know for sure –  I’m done looking for graphic designers. Alex was a breeze to work with – polite and easygoing, and that’s equally important to me. Alex was a real treasure to find and I recommend him highly!

No need to use special powers of persuasion. Your cover speaks on its own. I’m already using Alex to work his magic on my own cover.
Readers, if you think the cover is attractive wait till you delve in this book. I did and easily 5-starred it. Here’s my review.

And don’t forget. This awesome book is FREE from tomorrow until November 22! Don’t miss out! Here’s that link again: The Necklace of Goddess Athens.

Rossis_1000pxNicholas Rossis’ rampant fantasy constructs fantastical worlds for grown-ups and imaginative tales for kids. His Pearseus epic fantasy series has reached the No. 1 spot on various Kindle categories, and Runaway Smile, his heart-warming children’s story has earned notable distinctions. You can read Runaway Smile for free on Nicholas blog.

 

Nicholas, let’s talk about your Pearseus series. If I remember correctly, you created the first version of the cover, right?

Yes, and I was insanely proud of it at the time. I used a couple of designs my illustrator friend, Dimitris Fousekis, drew for me—the Pearseus logo and the scales of Themis. I hand-drew a map of Pearseus, scanned it and used it as the background, along with some paragraphs from the book in script font.

I then arranged everything to create the cover, using the best of my artistic abilities.

And why did this enthusiasm wane?

We are such terrible judges of our own work, aren’t we? That’s why we need nice people like editors and beta readers. We fall in love with our work, but can’t be sure just how great—or poor—it is until we verify it with the world.

In my case, I uploaded the covers to  Rate Book Cover—a website that allows visitors to rate your books covers using a simple one-to-five star voting system. To my horror, my covers rated between 3 and 3.5 stars. That’s when I decided to have a professional designer, Alex Saskalidis of 187designz, redesign them.

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I love the texture in the new cover. 

Alex is great with fonts. First, he got rid of the Pearseus logo, which was intricate and impressive, but hard to read. Instead, he used a simple, modern font that hints at science fiction, thereby better conveying the unique mixture of fantasy and sci-fi of my books.

Second, he redesigned the scales of Themis, using photographs. The new scales are much more realistic and eye-catching.

Last, he used photorealistic backgrounds to create a tactile image that suits the books well.

In short, Alex’s approach was more professional than mine. You can tell he does this for a living, can’t you?

The final proof that the redesigned covers work better came when I uploaded them on Rate Book Cover. The new covers got an average score of 4.5 stars. One could argue that a difference of a single star is insignificant, but there are three reasons why I felt it was worth it:

First of all, my book covers now reflect the professional writing and editing of the books.

Second, as Pearseus has been Indie published, it has to compete against professional publishing houses. How can you do that with an amateurish cover?

And last but not least, my professional pride (fine, vanity) has now been fully satisfied. Which is priceless 🙂

Hear, hear! Alex did a great job on Pearseus as well!

Readers, make sure you grab your FREE copy of The Rise of the Prince now! Here’s the link. Yes, I’ve read and reviewed this amazing series. Here’s my review.

And if you want to see more work of the talented Alex Saskalidis, here’s his Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I wrote 28K words in two days – Guest post by Ivy Sinclair

I got you there, didn’t I? I can picture those of you who know me doing a double-take. It famously took me four years to write my first book, but I’ve been hanging out with a crowd that really really pumps out words, and their attitude towards writing has rubbed off on me.

Ivy Sinclair is the author of shifter suspense and paranormal thriller novels. She published this post of how she churned out 28K words in two days in one of the author groups I follow, and I just had to ask for it. Read through and get inspired. Duplicating her feat sounds next to impossible, but her attitude and determination have inspired me into quadrupling my daily output. Ivy, take it from here:

How I Wrote 28,000 Words in Two Days

by Ivy Sinclair

Greyelf

This post isn’t intended to be a braggery kind of post, but hopefully offer up some helpful tips for any writer who wants to write faster and get a ton of words down on the page. The way I do this isn’t for the faint of heart and isn’t something I just woke up one morning and said “I’m going to be a crazy ass writing fool today.” I write fast- and this just tells you how fast and how much I can write when I’m properly motivated.

Even if you have no desire to ever try any of this kind of lunacy (much like I enjoy running well enough to do a 5K, but I have no desire to run a marathon), you might find a tip or trick here in any case.

Prior to this particular 2-day writing marathon, my personal best for 2 solid days of writing was in the 20-22K word range. I had done that several times, and I honestly thought this marathon was going to be the same. Turns out, because I needed to get to “THE END” no matter what- I needed to go longer than I anticipated. Luckily, I had set myself up to do it and out popped the necessary 6,000 more words.

Let’s dig in.

deadline

The first piece of the puzzle involved the dreaded “D” word: DEADLINE

Whether self-imposed or put on you by someone else (I’m looking at you, Amazon- stupid 10-day pre-order window deadline), having a deadline creates a sensation of what I’ll call positive anxiety. Your deadline should be publically announced somehow- tell your family or friends, tell your fans. Absolutely, write it down. Put a note in your calendar. Make sure it’s visible there in front of you all the time.

In my case, I’d written half of my novel already but had slacked off a bit. When I was 10 days away from the promised publishing date that I’d given my fans, I knew I was quickly approaching the point of no return. It was disappoint my fans or get the manuscript done. That deadline set the fire under my ass.

prepareThe second piece of the puzzle is SCHEDULE.

You have your deadline. You (hopefully) know enough about yourself and your writing process to know how long you realistically need to accomplish your goal, and you know what you have going on in the rest of your life around that time. Strategically pick days/times that work best for you to focus exclusively and wholeheartedly on your story.

That means you might have to have some tough conversations with the people around you to tell them to leave you the heck alone—of course, I’d soften that by sharing with them the importance of what you’re trying to do and how they can best support you. Get their buy-in and make them your cheerleaders. Promise them updates in-person (if you live with them) or via text or social media. Having a cheering squad is kind of fun— and also serves the purpose of keeping them out of your face.

I picked a weekend where I had no commitments on Sat/Sun, and the kids were with my husband’s ex. Quiet house. I encouraged my husband to rev up his Xbox One and have at it for the weekend. Win-win.

outlineThe third piece of the puzzle is PREPARATION.

Now, this is the point in the post where I expect to lose the pantsers, so I’ve got to say something brilliant. How about, I’ll give you some thoughts on how to make a tiny, little, minimal outlining task fun? (I promise—practically painless.)

I was scarred for life by the horrible outlining requirements for school papers back in junior high/high school. If I never have to look at main bullet + 3 required sub-bullets format again in my life, it’ll be too soon. I vehemently opposed doing any kind of plotting ahead of time with my books, and I did okay with that for a long time.

Then I started interviewing other authors earlier this year, and these were people who were seriously killing it in terms of sales and building a rabid fan base. Almost without exception, every one of them plotted their books out in advance. Some of them went far more in-depth than others, and everybody’s process seemed a bit different. That’s when I realized that I could make plotting what I wanted it to be in a way that worked for ME. Suddenly, my opposition to the idea waned.

Here’s what I do. (This is the FUN part.) I put a big whiteboard up on the wall of my office. I separated it into the 3-act story structure. (That’s a whole other post, but that has completely changed the dynamic of my writing.) Then I bought a stack of brightly colored post-it notes. On each one, I wrote one sentence describing a scene in my story. (In black sharpie, so the sentences aren’t that long.) Then I stuck the post-it up on the board where it fit in the story.

When you have that done for every scene (or chapter), you have a lovely visual diagram of your story. You can move bits around if something doesn’t make sense or add something in if you see a gap. This whole process can take me anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on the story length.

Then I open up my pre-formatted Word document and align chapter headings to my storyboard. I type in my one sentence summary for each chapter/scene. I take a break. Later, I come back and flesh out the chapter summaries a bit more- usually 200-250 words per chapter.

That’s it. That’s the extent of my outline, and I made it as painless as possible.

Now, if I’m doing a preorder, that’s what I use for my drat file upload. I know some folks will probably flip about that, but I’ve used this process over half a dozen times, and it works for me. I’ve never missed a deadline, and I don’t plan on it. I put a warning note at the top that if they’re seeing that message to contact Amazon because they got the wrong file (in case Amazon messes up the draft vs. final file for some reason.)

Now we are really for the crucial piece of the puzzle: SPRINTS.

You’ve scheduled your time and cleared your calendar. You’ve committed publically and to yourself you’re going to do this thing. You have your outline (however bony or robust it is) ready and raring to go.

It’s time to strap your butt to your chair and get the job done. I haven’t found a more effective way to do this than Pomodoro sprints. 25-minute writing sessions following by a 5-min break before starting again. After having used sprints for a couple of years, I know that I average 1250 words in a single sprint. I realize that not everyone is going to hit that, but if you know what you’re going to write (see PREPARATION above), and you keep practicing, you will get faster than you are right now.

When you know your average wordcount per sprint, you can divide that by the number of words you need to get in, and that’ll tell you how many sprints you need to do in the time you have allocated. During my massive wordcount days, I usually plan on 10K words per day. That’s 8 sprints of 1250 each.

I break it down like this: 4 sprints in the morning while I’m fresh. 2 sprints in the afternoon because that’s when my energy is low, and my attention span has a tendency to wander. 2 final sprints in the evening before I give myself the reward of having a glass of wine and watching one of my favorite TV shows or movies.

Honestly, when I do it like this I still have time to have proper sitdown meals with my husband, putter a bit on the internet, and go to the gym or run errands. Or sit my lazy butt on the couch and stare off into space. It doesn’t feel that strenuous. The thing is, you can’t let yourself get distracted so much that you don’t come back and do the work. (Very important!!)

I’d recommend changing the scenery up throughout the day too. I usually write those first 4 sprints at my local Starbucks. Then I do the afternoon/evening sprints in different places in my house. I listen to either baroque or early jazz music with headphones during my sprints (also effective for giving my husband a clue that I am busy…) and that is the only time I listen to those genres of music. That’s a productivity brain hack I read years ago to help train my brain to focus on writing. Do whatever you need to do to fight any kind of desire to be distracted.

When I had my 28,000 word weekend, I wrote 10K words on my first day and realized that if I did the same on the 2nd day, I still had too much runaway left on the story to finish it out. My whole goal was to get to the end of the story. So I did more sprints to fill-in during the afternoon and evening. I wrote “THE END” on the manuscript about 11pm that 2nd day, and I had done 15 sprints. (Some were a bit shorter because I got interrupted btw.)

My eyes were blurry. My brain was mush. But it was done.

Don’t miss the final step of the puzzle: CELEBRATE

My favorite way to celebrate completing the first draft of a manuscript is to open a bottle of champagne and have a toast with my husband. Know that if you attempt anything like this, the day after you’re done your body will probably be sore, and your brain pretty fuzzy. What tempers it is the giddy feeling of kicking ass and taking names for a job well done. 🙂

I’d recommend taking the day off work completely and being kind to yourself. Sleep in. Get a massage. Take a long walk. Go shopping. Take a nap. Veg in front of the TV. Whatever strikes your fancy but recognize that it is important to do that if you ever think you’d do it again.

So that’s it. How I wrote 28,000 words in two days and some thoughts on how you could do the same. Happy Writing!

Recommended Resources: 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron for rapid writing, 5,000 WPH app from Chris Fox for timing sprints and tracking wordcounts

So what do you think about that, folks? Outworldly? Impossible? Doable? Whatever you think, let’s all give Ivy a round of applause because a feat it is. Bravo, Ivy!

About the Author

Ivy Sinclair is the author of the Greyelf Grizzlies bear shifter suspense series as well as the necromancer and demon paranormal thriller serial, Protect Her. She is a firm believer in true love, a happily ever after ending, and the medicinal use of chocolate to cure any ailment of the heart. Ivy’s guilty pleasures include sushi, endless Starbucks lattes, and wine. Connect with Ivy on Twitter @Author_Ivy or on Facebook.