Tag Archives: habits of productive writers

@JasperTScott on Burnout and Productivity #amwriting

Today’s post features USA Today bestseller, Jasper T. Scott, who has agreed to talk with us about his approach to productivity, and how he deals with something that affects all professional authors: burnout.

First though, a little about Jasper. An indie, Jasper has written nineteen books that have sold over a million. Yes—you read that right. He has sold over a million books.

When you go back and read Jasper’s author blog, you will see that he has written his way through some of the roughest experiences life hands us. So, I asked him two questions, which he was kind enough to answer.

CJJ: Do you feel pressured to constantly produce new work?

JTS: Yes, I do feel pressured, but that’s because I am the sole provider for my family, and I have a responsibility to keep a relatively stable income. The only real way to do that as a writer is to keep churning out new books! But I consider myself fortunate because anyone else in a 9 to 5 will stop making money immediately if they stop working ;). Also, no one can fire me! Job security is unparalleled in this career.

CJJ: How do you deal with those dry spells we all have and still keep to your publishing schedule?

JTS: Dry spells… I had my first in 5 years at the start of this year. I was blocked and courting burnout after a hectic release schedule last year. So, I gave myself a break and took the pressure off. I still finished a book, but it was about 2 months later than it could have been.

More minor dry spells in the day to day are easily handled by pushing through, writing even when you think you can’t, even when you think you’re writing something that’s subpar. Usually it’s not as subpar as you think.

Another strategy is to take a break, do something unrelated and inspiration will strike when you are least expecting. Driving around doing errands, doing the dishes, going for a walk… those are all helpful activities when you’re stuck!

Jasper made two important points, reminders that really resonated with me. First, he reminded us that anyone who stops working stops earning money.

THAT is an important concept that productive authors seem inherently able to understand.

Second, he reminds us that dry spells are temporary, and everyone has them. He diverts himself and writes his way through them, and that is how I handle them too.

For me, blogging is something I can do, no matter how crazy my life gets, or how low on creative energy I am. For me, blogging is writing but it is having a conversation too. Because it’s like having a conversation, I can write blog posts when I can’t think of words to write on my works in progress.

I promise you—having two kids with epilepsy means I’ve blogged my way through everything from a kid having brain surgery to the same kid having a stint in the regional burn unit. That is what life handed us, and while we wish it were different, we’re used to it and know it could be so much worse.

It’s important to know that every author has a life outside their writing, and we each experience life’s triumphs and tragedies, some worse than others. The loss of a loved one, a terrible illness, a car accident, these kinds of days are life altering.

But just as in every other kind of job, we deal with days ruined by minor aggravations—telemarketers calling, the internet going down, bad weather, bad traffic—life hands us aggravating days. Maybe we aren’t as productive that day as we could have been, but working productively, whether working as a programmer, building houses, or writing books is a matter of discipline and ignoring the aggravations.

These rough patches affect us differently, but one thing writers have in common is the way we handle things. We lose ourselves in our work. We take that pain and confusion and subconsciously, we turn our emotions into a story that others will want to read.

Writers write.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Amazon has placed an added burden on all authors, not just indies. This is called Rapid Release Publishing, and what it means is, if you publish once  a month, Amazon’s algorithms will give you a better slot in the rankings. It can be a short story, a novella, or a novel—just something new every 30 days.

That is a tough schedule, even if you are mostly publishing short stories and novellas. Discipline and a strong work ethic are required, and while I personally do have those qualities, I’m not a good keyboard jockey, so I write slowly.

Even though I’m slow, I’m able to publish a new book every year because I always have three manuscripts in various stages of the production process. Most days, I will write between 1,000 and 2,000 new words every morning on the unfinished first-draft manuscript. At noon I take a break, and in the afternoon, I spend several hours revising one of the other manuscripts.

At this point, I have a manuscript that is completed and in the final stages. Julian Lackland, the final installment in the Billy’s Revenge series will be published by September. I also have an Alternate Arthurian novel that is nearly finished, and a contemporary fiction novel that is in the beginning stage. When I wake up and have nothing to say on those works in progress, I will work on one of several short stories, or plot a new short story to work on during NaNoWriMo if nothing else.

Indy author Cat Rambo has over 200 published works.

Cat is both prolific and disciplined. At a conference two years ago, she told me she sits down and writes 1000 new words every day before she does anything else. She was nominated for a Nebula award for her short story, Five Ways to fall in Love on Planet Porcelain.

To be nominated for awards like Cat Rambo, you must write every day.

To be as prolific as Lee French, you must write every day.

To sell over a million books like Jasper T. Scott, you must write every day.

The most productive authors I know write something new every day even when they suffer from a temporary lack of inspiration. If they can do this, we can too.


Jasper Scott is the USA Today best-selling author of 18 sci-fi novels with 16300+ total reviews on Amazon and an average of 4.4 stars out of 5.0.

With over a million books sold, Jasper’s work has been translated into various languages and published around the world. Join the author’s mailing list to get two FREE books:

 https://files.jaspertscott.com/mailinglist.html

Jasper writes fast-paced books with unexpected twists and flawed characters. His latest project is a series of unrelated standalone sci-fi novels; no sequels and no cliffhangers, with one novel currently published, and five more planned to the end of 2019. Previous works include four other best-selling series, among others, his breakout success—Dark Space, a 9-book-long, USA Today Best-selling epic with more than 12,000 reviews on Amazon.

Jasper was born and raised in Canada by South African parents, with a British cultural heritage on his mother’s side and German on his father’s, to which he has now added Latin culture with his wonderful wife. He now lives in an exotic locale with his wife, their two kids, and two chihuahuas.

For more information check out the author’s website at: https://www.jaspertscott.com/ 

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@authorLeeFrench, Collaborating with another author #amwriting

Today I’m continuing my series on productivity, featuring a guest post by USA Today bestselling author, Lee French. Lee not only writes as a solo author, but she has two co-authors with whom she writes. These collaborations produce widely different work.

Besides writing bestsellers, Lee is a regional municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo. She travels a lot, working the tables for Clockwork Dragon at as many conventions as she can fit into her schedule, publishes several books a year and produces new short stories every month for her website and fans. Despite this vigorous schedule, she remains true to her commitment to only publishing the best quality work. One way she does this is by working closely with other authors.

And now, Lee French talks about productive collaborations:


Lately, I’ve come to the opinion that the future of indie publishing is collaboration in one form or another. We get more done when we work together with a team outlook. One form of collaboration is co-authoring. I’ve worked with two different co-authors, Erik Kort and Jeffrey Cook. These are two quite different people, but they share similar strengths. Which is great, because those strengths cover for my weaknesses.

I met Erik on an online role-playing forum using bulletin-board style called Myth-Weavers. It’s a community of people playing games like Dungeons & Dragons as collaborative writing, often because finding an in-person group of 4-6 people with adult obligations who can all meet at the same time on a regular basis is challenging. At the time we first began playing in a game together, Erik and I lived a few hundred miles apart. He had college. I had a preschooler and another on the way. I never would’ve met him in my daily life.

Over the years, we gravitated toward each other as players because we had similar writing styles and narrative preferences. I found joy in working with him. We first decided to give a shot at writing books together after a game called The Greatest Sin folded due to real life obligations. He ran the game as the GM and I played a character named Chavali. After it folded, we had a chat conversation that began with expressing our mutual disappointment and ended with both of us admitting we didn’t want to give up on the story or Chavali. By this time, I’d published my first book, Dragons In Pieces, and he’d started his first book in earnest, Children Without Faces (as Erik Marshall). We both knew we wanted to pursue publishing as a job. I don’t recall who said the words first, but we both eagerly jumped into the idea of an epic fantasy series with these ideas neither of us could abandon.

Jeff and I met under quite different circumstances. By the time I first encountered him, I’d already published five books and had several more in the pipeline. He had a similar number already also. We met at an event he’d organized, of a group of authors hanging out at a geeky restaurant, enjoying good food and trying to sell a few copies of their books. I attended the event because I’d first heard about it too late to request to participate.

At that point, I’d participated in one group reading but otherwise had no idea what to do at a book event.

I was so young and naïve at the age of 39.

Being me, I flipped through books and made strangled attempts to engage in conversation with the authors present. Some were pushy, which I had hard time extracting myself from. Jeff was not pushy. I chatted with him and picked up one of his books on my kindle because he was nice and pleasant to talk to. After I’d read the book (Dawn of Steam: First Light, which is not at all my usual sort of reading material), I decided I liked the cut of his jib, so to speak. The next time he needed a ride to a show we’d both signed up to work in Portland, I offered to transport him.

Two hours, the duration of the drive from my home to Portland, is a fair amount of time to be stuck in a car with someone. Twice. On the ride, we chatted about writing and books, and all kinds of other things. We chatted during the event. Then we chatted on the way home. I helped him with some annoying story ideas, and he helped me with some of my own. Instead of feeling drained when I got home that evening, I felt energized, like I could write a book before going to bed.

We decided to work several more events together, then invited a few friends and turned it into Clockwork Dragon, a formal indie author co-op with its own bank account and centralized tax payments for all of us. At this point, we work 25-30 events per year, selling each other’s books.

But we didn’t decide to write a book together until the first time we took a road trip to Indianapolis, Denver, and Kansas City. Jeff and I spent 5 weeks on the road with nothing better to do than talk. Some days, we drove for fourteen hours. Rather than sit in silence or just listen to the radio, we decided to hatch a mad scheme to co-author books. We’d both done it before with other people and knew generally how to work it. Our collaboration started with a nonfiction book about how to work event tables, a task we both felt (and still feel) completely qualified to teach. Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions came together swiftly and easily with a minimum of fuss. That led us to dive into fiction collaboration with Nova Ranger Academy, a standalone military superhero novel.

Both Erik and Jeffrey are excellent plotters and researchers who love doing those things, but not especially swift writers. I’m less enthused by either plotting or research, but I can bang out a book like it’s nothing. As such, my collaboration model with both relies upon initial conversations about theme, characters, and basic ideas. They go build the setting and plot, then I take what they’ve built and write the book. They read through the first draft and make revision notes, then I take those and fix things.

Other models exist and are equally valid. Some folks alternate writing chapters, using two different POV characters. Others might have one person writing a first, bare-bones draft, then the other person threading in description, setting, and other subtleties. And so on. Anything is possible.

Whatever division of labor you choose, be clear about it. Don’t leave anything vague or unexplained. Discuss all the phases of the book, from concept to publication. Who will format it? Who will handle the royalties? Will it be a 50/50 royalty split, or is one person really doing much more of the work? Who will buy print copies if you go to an event? Who’s responsible for the cover? Proofreading? Editing? Getting beta feedback? Revising with that feedback? Writing the blurb copy? Setting up advertising? Will there be an audio edition, and who will handle that and how? What happens to the Intellectual Property when one of you dies?

Finally, even if your co-author is a friend, draw up and sign a contract to specify all these decisions. It doesn’t have to be formal, legalese writing, but it does need to lay out all these decisions. Include a clause for one of you to get out of the deal in case you ever have a falling out or one of you can no longer write for some reason.

Above all, look for someone you can work with. Co-authoring books is a professional arrangement that lasts as long as the books are available. In the indie world, that’s effectively for the rest of your life. Don’t get into an agreement with someone you don’t like or can’t stand working with just because they’re more successful than you. Get to know them and consider a test run of a novella or short story to see if your work styles match.


Lee French is a USA Today bestselling indie author of over two dozen fantasy and science fiction books across a variety of subgenres. Her newest release is Crawlspace, the sequel to Porcelain, a YA space opera portal fantasy about aliens, wormholes, eating disorders, Marines, laser guns, and family.

 

Link to The Fallen (with Erik): books2read.com/u/3GXXpm

Link to Nova Ranger Academy (with Jeff): books2read.com/u/bxzDnd

Link to Crawlspace: books2read.com/u/bOGk7K

 

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