Aspie Author: Introduction to a New Blog Series

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I’ve kind of been writing about the author side of things in my blog already, but I really wanted to separate the two a bit more when I have reviews for author products, or just updates dealing with changes etc. So I’m starting this blog series and calling it ‘Aspie Author.’

Yes, I do have Asperger’s, General Anxiety, and ADD. Surprisingly, it’s manageable for me most of the time, but I do have to do things in a specific way and deal with things differently than most people. It’s never bothered me, but now that I have a 3 year old and am trying to balance a life and a career more than before, I think I am going to seek out a therapist.

This business stresses me the f**k out. The income is all over the place. Amazon does weird things that mess with my business. The markets can be fickle. It requires a quick write and release strategy. But right now, my biggest stressor is that 3/4 of my income is Kindle Unlimited (KU from now on).

This isn’t a bad thing per se, but it does mean that Amazon can decide they found something fraudulent and strip away pages = income.

I’ll go more into that later, but for someone with General Anxiety this means I’m stressed the F**K out between the 1st and the 15th of the month until those numbers lock in.

I don’t know if what I learn and have learned will help anyone, but I’m FINALLY getting through some of my books I’ve purchased on the business, FINALLY getting through the Mark Dawson Ad Course videos, and FINALLY kind of making headway.

It still feels like I’ve no idea what I’m doing though. Every release I panic and think this is going to flop and everyone is going to hate me. But I keep plugging along. And 5 years in this business finally paid off.

It’s most definitely still 25% luck. But I know how to read trends better, I can write faster, and I am building an audience which is good for longevity. Ads are still my weakest area, but I’m trying.

Come along with me for the ride ❤

5000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox: My Takeaway and Change to my Work Ethic

I already do pretty well when it comes to writing quickly. I currently average about 500 words for a 15 minute sprint. Sometimes it’s 400 words and sometimes it’s 600 words, but I can bust out 1000 words in half an hour – or 2000 words in an hour. I’ve already implemented sprints into my work which is how I manage 2000 words but I’d like to improve on that. While I don’t think I’ll hit 5000 words an hour, 3000 would be amazing for me with a stretch goal of 4000 by this time next year.

Now, since I already sprint, I simply read through this entire book before doing the exercises. And I won’t lie, I’m skipping around and doing them in the order that works for me. The book took me maybe an hour or two to read (I’m not the fastest reader, but I’m no snail either). What I really liked was the lack of a million personal anecdotes, and the list of exercises repeated at the end of the book in a convenient little list so I don’t have to flip around.

This book assumes you can type decently. I liked the suggestion to work on typist skills. It was a class I was taught in my school on the computer (anyone else worked with Mavis Beacon? LOL) and I will be forever thankful for that class. I think my best was 75wpm, because that shark chasing me was hella motivating.

What I didn’t like about this book: It’s written from a male POV in the sense that I get he’s not the primary caretaker of his children, and not mentioning small children etc or anything like that was kind of off-putting. Even if you don’t have small children, there is no assumption for the requirement that your day needs to be flexible. Perhaps you take care of your parent(s), a sibling, a child, or have two jobs, or whatever. None of that is brought up, but I suppose this could be addressed in the ‘distractions and finding solutions’ section. But I couldn’t afford child care until recently, so it’s a bit of an issue in my opinion.

This book also assumes you can write the second you wake up in the morning, but honestly it’s just advice and I understand why you would want to get the words out first thing in the day so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. But I know myself and I would never make 1000 words per hour at 5 or 6am let alone 3000 or 4000. My advice is find which block of time you are the most productive and mentally present and try to work in those hours.

Okay, so that’s my review. I do most of the things in this book, but I haven’t implemented it in quite this way before. Things I agree with: plotting – even if it is super general and it’s ‘they go to the store to buy ice cream’ you need it. It’s like…Angry Birds lol. You can do a lot of damage (words) if you’re pointed in the right direction. But if you go full tilt in a screaming rage towards nothing…nothing gets done.

Save the editing for last – sometimes I can do this, and sometimes I need to read what I’ve written again to do the above plotting because I don’t always know the entire book’s story until I’m halfway through.

I have ADD, Asperger’s, and General Anxiety. So I get random thoughts, or get fixated on stuff, and FORGET everything. I swear, I have the brain capacity of a dead gnat sometimes. So I am placing a notebook next to me so I can write down those thoughts etc., while I’m in my work block of sprints so I don’t get distracted and can then address those thoughts later. Because thanks to all of those mental health issues, I will get anxious that I will forget those things and my Words Per Hour slows drastically. You may not have this issue, but I addressed it in my Solving Distractions exercise.

Being an author isn’t just writing and editing. I get emails daily regarding covers, or from readers/fans, or betas, or ARC readers.

Betas: a reader who reads an early draft and tells the writer if they notice plot holes, continuation errors, where they felt bored, confused, or like the characters didn’t make sense or weren’t engaging. If my betas have negative comments like, ‘I wanted this to happen, but it didn’t.’ I consider those, and tweak what I think makes sense here.

ARC readers: A group of readers who get my finalized book before publication with the promise that they will review it in the first 30 days of release (other authors have other timeline requirements). As it’s against Amazon’s TOS to ‘review in exchange for a free copy’ I make it a requirement that the review is for the next book. If they can’t review, they can’t stay on my team for future books.

Because of my ADD and Asperger’s I get fixated on things. So I’ve scheduled a block of time I address emails. Then I’m not allowed to check emails during my work block at all as I’ll get fixated on a cover or my mood can change dramatically if I see something negative and it instantly derails me and my flow. This may or may not be something you experience.

Now, I currently write 17.5 thousand words a week (2500 words a day). I would like to bump that up to 20,000 a week without sacrificing my life/work balance that I’m trying really, really hard to build so I don’t burn out like I’ve seen so many authors do.

We just signed my son up for another day of preschool. He loves his class and teacher, and is really learning so I don’t mind spending the extra money. I’d rather he take advantage of it while he can since not every class and teacher will be like this. For me it’s more about the environment and what kind of person he is learning to be, rather than ‘Does he know all his ABCs?’ (he’s actually got most of them down and can count to 10 in three languages, English, Spanish, and ASL. I’m so impressed since he’s only 3).

And then my grandparents like to spend time with him once a week so now I have 4 days a week without the ‘distraction’ of a toddler. Which brings me to my next point, and Exercise #4 in Chris Fox’s book 5000 Words Per Hour.

For the sake of transparency and examples I’m going to post my list of distractions and solutions.

Distractions:

  1. My 3 year old son, E.
  2. Paying bills on paydays for fam and business.
  3. Checking sales.
  4. Ads/Admin.
  5. Social media: Mostly Facebook.
  6. Texts/Messages, etc.
  7. Phone games (I currently only have one).
  8. Random thoughts, remembering things that need to be done, etc
  9. Appts, holidays, people are sick, etc.
  10. Cats/Roomba getting stuck.
  11. Outlining, editing, formatting, etc.
  12. Drink/snack/pee.
  13. Gym – makes me tired and it’s difficult to focus after.

This list gets longer and longer every time I look at it, I swear.

Solutions:

  1. Work block is during his nap, so 1230p-230p on days he’s home, or until 1000-1500 words has been made on W/S/S. To keep with this general time of day, work block on M/T/TH/F will be from 11am-230p or until 5000 words has been made.
  2. On paydays, do bills etc. before work block starts. This will be my only ‘admin’ of the day to cut down on busy work.
  3. Check sales prior to starting work block. Allowed to check sales between sprints as part of reward.
  4. Assign one admin task to each morning, one hour. Done by 11am.
  5. Check and handle all messages and notifications once in the morning, and once at night. One hour of social media allowed per day, (not work stuff) at night. Spend one admin hour per week scheduling posts. For ad courses, watch videos etc. during my gym time?
  6. Only messages/texts with sprinting partners allowed during work blocks. If chatting with anyone else, text or message them start and end time of work block. Only answer the phone if it’s E’s school. (Find a way to silence everything but this contact, and Husband’s In Case of Emergency.)
  7. Phone game(s) check prior to work block. Allowed to check/play in the 5 min breaks between sprints as part of reward.
  8. Random things and thoughts notepad during work block. Address only after work block.
  9. Schedule chores in the morning before work block, or the evening and spread throughout week.
  10. Appts, only schedule them on Wednesdays. Once a month/week check the next week/month’s schedule for holidays and mark them and adjust work block if needed. Be aware of this, might have to be a loss day – should have a lower word goal that day instead of the normal. If E is sick, schedule emergency work block for after Husband gets home for two hours. If I’m sick…I’ll have to lose those days and adjust my schedule.
  11. The cats and the Roomba. This sounds so dumb, but sometimes the cats get aggro with each other or the Roomba gets stuck on something etc. I will have to be momentarily distracted for the Roomba, but have the Roomba’s remote next to me so I don’t have to look for it, and turn it off until my 5 minute break, and keep a spray bottle with water on it next to my desk since I don’t have an office where I can close the door and ignore the world.
  12. I will need an admin day. Editing and formatting should be done on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays if I need to do any (unless I’ve finished a draft and am working on content edits). Outlining should happen on those days too, but I will also need to do them in the morning before the work block to make sure my sprints are most effective.
  13. Have drinks and snacks at table. Pee prior to work block. Pee if need to during breaks.
  14. Only gym after words are done. My focus fractures after working out and I don’t know why. Go after words have been done, or after E goes to sleep. 4 days min a week. Wednesdays personal trainer at 8am.

I can already see my week more clearly, and what needs to be done. This is all incredibly personal LOL, and I feel kind of stupid writing it all down like this, but if it helps someone else than it’s worth it.

The first three exercises I haven’t done yet, but I will. The 5 minute micro sprint to see my average Words Per Hour. Exercise #2 was pick a work block which I’ve done. I can’t set up a work space where I will not be disturbed, so my mental trigger for ‘it’s time to work and bust ass’ will be my awesome headphones. I do listen to music, which will also help. Exercise #3 was set up a way to track your sprints and progress. Chris Fox offers a spreadsheet, but I prefer by hand so I have a notebook to write in on my desk.

I did exercise #4 above.

Exercise #5 is plotting for the sprint. I put this in my schedule. #6 is getting up to 20 min sprints instead of 5 minutes. Everyone has a block of time that’s more productive for them. Chris Fox says 30 min is his. Mine is around 15-20 min. Find yours.

Exercise #7 and the small chapter before it was honestly one of my favorite parts of this book. The exercise is to find a way to increase your speed. At some point you’ll max out because you can only type so fast. So find a typing program and practice typing until your Words Per Minute increases. Start working with a dictation like Dragon. Teach yourself dictation and take a week to practice. I hate speaking my thoughts, but if it increases my speed and gets me through rough patches like sick babies or out and about I’d be interested. I don’t think it will ever be my strong suit though.

I am also trying to be better about using my phone. I downloaded Google Docs onto my phone so I can write there when I’m waiting for my appointment etc. This isn’t great for ‘flow’ or anything but 300 extra words won’t hurt. Because I can’t always remember what I’m doing, I usually have a ‘phone’ project. A different book entirely, and work on that.

Exercise #8 is editing sprints. You edit in one massive push. I like this idea, but pretty sure it would take me all day to edit, and I would need two days, no matter how fast I’m reading/editing. But he is right, it is easier to edit when everything is fresh so after the first draft, focus on just the editing. This is also assumptive of your time and attention though. Do what you can.

Exercise #9 is tracking your progress. I assume you want to compare once a week, then once a month, etc. #10 is to reward yourself. He suggests finding sprinting buddies. I have some already, but I do suggest it. I am more productive and faster with them than I am alone. I also think there should be rewards for hitting daily word goals. Or weekly. But that’s at your own discretion. I can’t really do an ice cream for daily when I’m trying to be healthy, but I’m sure I can think of something. Weekly…I’ll have to think about it.

The last exercise is mindset. I’m not going to get into it because it’s kind of a long winded chapter, but essentially write down where you want to be in 5 years if everything went perfectly. Again, this is highly personal so up to you.

Where I want to be in 5 years:

  1. All debt paid off.
  2. Renting out our current house, living in a bigger and better one that doesn’t have an HOA.
  3. A new car for me that doesn’t break down all the time – I would like a Subaru.
  4. At least one good vacation a year, preferably out of the country.
  5. I’m healthy, in shape, able to spend money on good food for me, Husband, and E.
  6. E will be 8. I want to be able to put him in whatever activity he’s interested in and have a hobby together.
  7. If we do have a second kid I want a helper/child care so my work/life balance isn’t trashed, and I don’t lose everything I’ve worked so hard for in my career.
  8. Able to pay for my teaching certification – and that is done.
  9. Going to university for my Master’s in Accounting. It would be nice if I could be done by the end of 5 years, but I don’t mind being slow and taking 1-2 classes a year.
  10. I’m able to have a office/library.
  11. The Lego room can be a part of this or not, but I would love a space where I can create a city and just build things, kind of like the Dad in The Lego Movie. E loves Legos too so we could do that together.
  12. I want to be dancing again.

All in all, I recommend buying the book >>> 5000 Words Per Hour. It’s not currently on Kindle Unlimited, I don’t think it ever was. And it’s currently 4.99$ but I think it goes on sale sometimes. Up to you, but I purchased it and since this is how I make money, I just put it in my tax write-off column for business expenses. It wasn’t a bunch of new information, but it is a great kick in the pants, and made me look at my life differently for the most optimal writing time.

My time is valuable, and if I can get the majority of my words done in two hours instead of three, that’s more time with my son.

End of 2018: Onto Year 2 of FT Writing and What I Learned

I don’t if anyone knows this, but I’ve been low-key publishing since 2014. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I just kept trucking along while working on my degree. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot.

Then when I graduated I decided to take off a year to really give it a go. And I swear, 2018 happened so fast.

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I started writing in paranormal romance and I really loved it. I’ve been building on that world and managed to finish Draga Court by the end of the year despite my son starting preschool and basically bringing home every plague that exists.

Looking back on what I’ve managed to accomplish, I’m pretty pleased despite the ups and downs.

I wrote and published 10 books in 2018:

  • Jasmine of Draga
  • Heir of Draga
  • Queen of Draga
  • Fate of Draga
  • Winter Solstice in Draga
  • Alpha Wolf
  • Broken Wolf
  • Spotted Her First
  • For Fox Sake
  • All Foxed Up

And all the Draga books except for the last one were long. I’m really proud of that series and that I finished it. It’s my first complete series. And now that I have stretched my writing legs I’ve gotten my daily word count up to about 3000 words a day on average if not more. So I plan to do even more in 2019 at a more leisurely pace (meaning I’m going to stop writing myself into corners with preorders.)

The best thing about 2018 is I finally hit minimum wage which means I can justify spending another year at this. I’m still going to pursue my Masters and slowly work on my teaching certification, but it’s not my priority. I scheduled two slow work months to study and pass the CBEST and GRE. Then it’s back to full tilt writing.

Things I learned from 2018:

  • When working with a new artist request links to stock and art used for copyright purposes. I ended up really fucked here because of this. Still figuring out how to salvage things, but I might end up out 1000$ for 7 covers. Hopefully not.
  • Plan to throw away money when looking for someone to illustrate a cover. I picked someone amazing with a fantastic portfolio but they were a nightmare to work with and took 8 months to deliver. The final product isn’t what I was going for, but oh well. It’s close enough. I have to use it in the meantime, but I refuse to work with this person again so that means I have to look for a new illustrator and lose out on that 600$ so all the covers match when I have it redone. I hope you get it right on the first go, but damn. I have shitty luck with artists.
  • When getting a logo done, just have someone draw/design it, even though it costs more. Too many crazy rules on Shutterstock – and you can’t trademark stock photos. This business is HARD.
  • Sometimes what sells best isn’t what people like the most. And this sucks. I really liked writing Spotted Her First. It was a lot of fun for me and a great break from the heavy world-building and plotting of Draga. But it’s also my most controversial book. I had the most complaints about this, but it is STILL one of my top sellers 6 months later. To compare – people adore Chaos of Foxes and I have some diehard Draga fans. But neither have ever made the money Spotted has. So…take what readers/ARCs/Beta readers/reviews say with a grain of salt. Take in the constructive criticism and use it to improve on the next thing. Filter out everything else and watch the sales. That will be the best indicator.
  • Space Fantasy romance does trash in Kindle Unlimited. I took it all out because Amazon was doing weird things and honestly KU while extremely lucrative – terrifies me. So I decided to start building my wide audience. My income has taken a hit, but hopefully my strategy will keep me from sinking too far down.
  • Use the Profit First method of accounting. It’s an amazing book but the most applicable part is separating out your income as you get it. It changed my entire business process and gave me an idea of what I should be spending on expenses. Because I’m still mass producing I keep expenses under 40% if I can but understand that sometimes it goes up to 50% with certain cover purchases etc. That still gives me tax money and income. It’s seriously changed my life.
  • Websites are overrated and expensive. But I still have one.
  • Newsletters are annoying. I still have one. Takeaway from these two points – you never know what will help you and these are cheap and require minimal work.
  • Loomly is one of the best social media scheduling websites available – but FUCK. It’s not worth the money if I don’t use it. I need to get my shit together lol.
  • The ever controversial Kindle Unlimited – I have never been in a place of privilege to give the finger to KU and its exclusivity. Until now. I finished my Draga series and it was making very little in pages read. Between the 9 books I’m taking out of KU I probably lost about 300-500$ a month. It’s a lot, but not at the same time. I’d say its currently about 1/16 of my income. So I’m fine with that. Slow build has been the way I’ve done this from the very beginning. Either a year wide will be a success, or it won’t. I don’t have much to lose but everything to gain.
  • THIS DOESN’T APPLY TO EVERY CATEGORY/GENRE/AUDIENCE. My paranormal RH will stay in Kindle Unlimited until there are no pages left and there are suitable new releases to take its place.

I’m sure there are other things, but this is basically the most important of my personal takeaway. Write to market – but make it something you enjoy that you can put your own spin on. Learn how to advertise. That’s about it. Everything else is pretty much a hit or a miss. Some people do great with newsletters and some don’t. And weird things like – one of my ‘meh’ covers looks like its a huge hit with people.

It’s not always about the art. This is a business. I love doing it, but I still have to pay for preschool and feed my family. So I do make some choices that others may not have to for a variety of reasons. But I’m succeeding. After taxes and expenses I have enough left over to live somewhere that’s not California LOL. My goal for 2019 is to bring home enough each month to cover our current minimum expenses – so our mortgage, food, utilities, phone, and internet.

A fun new thing I’m planning to do for 2019 that hopefully will happen –

  • Christmas paranormal books!
  • A vlog that touches not only on writing but living with Aspergers. My coping mechanisms, interests, health, and so on. This does and does not have anything to do with writing, but I will talk about that too and how they relate.
  • The above vlog may or may not be a part of the Patreon/Twitch I want to set up. I’m not sure if it will work out that way or not. Still figuring that out.
  • MOAR lesbian romance.
  • Trying new things while still expanding on my Council of Paranormal world, and the Draga Universe.
  • Urban Fantasy Romance.

You know what I’m not doing in 2019? Putting myself on a cover ban. I love covers and finding new pretties whether they’re premade or not. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. This is a mistake a lot of authors make. Covers. We see something shiny and we buy it.

Don’t pass up something perfect because you’re on a ‘ban.’ Just have rules and criteria. Keep a list of future projects you want to do and maybe have small burgeoning ideas for. Know the genres and audiences for those and you will know which premades will work. Make sure you’re spending money on a cover that matches your branding. Spending $$$ doesn’t mean it’s great. Don’t settle. Don’t like the title? Ask if someone else can do it. That’s what I do. I firmly believe typography makes or breaks a cover. I need more couples so that’s what I look for. MFM, FF, and MF. It’s surprising how few of those there are. Which means…I’m not spending money on stuff I can’t use. Bright side!

I set up these rules for myself because I am that girl with 25 covers waiting to be used. BUT. I’m 99% sure I will use all of them 😉

This was kind of all over the place, but I hope it was helpful for those of you who write. Enlightening for those of you who don’t. And just a small peek behind the scenes for my readers who may wonder what it is I do all day when I’m not fucking around on social media.

So here’s to hoping 2019 is the same progress that 2018 was (even though I swear sometimes I’m just going sideways.)

❤ Emma