Top 10 Ways Good Marketing Is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist and Mother of Five

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Becoming an author is like becoming a parent. 

The writing of the book, was the pregnancy. You conceived the idea in a romantic, intimate moment.

You developed it secretly in the dark. You wrote while stuffing your face with all kinds of snacks. You tried to explain your characters and your plot to others and they just didn’t understand. And the length of the ms got bigger and bigger. And you wondered will I ever get this done? Will I be waiting for the arrival forever? 

And the big day comes!

You get your little bundle of joy from Createspace or some other expert labor and delivery establishment! You count all of the pages to make sure that it is all there!  You think that your book is the most beautiful and the most amazing thing that was ever created! And you tell all your friends! You post it on Facebook! There has never been a book before this book! No one will be a better author than you!

And then the novelty is over.

The well wishers have bought their copies. You realize that you’re the one up all night with the little buggar. You second guess yourself, are you the best marketer you could be? Amazon Kindle sales are nice but the reviews aren’t as complete as you’d like. The sales are only trickles. You thought that perhaps something significant would happen now, something bigger? The blues come on you and you don’t know what to do. One star reviews smell like dirty diapers. Rejection letters are the mean toddlers who throw sand on the play date. And then there’s that other author close to you who says, “I would never do that to my book! What are you thinking? What kind of an author are you?”

This metaphor can go on forever. 

Just like parenting, we often don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to marketing our books. Just like parenting, we read good advice and we try it, but it doesn’t always work for us. Just like parenting, we have great aspirations, but sometimes we get caught up in our own inadequacies and our own faults. Sometimes the frustration of knowing what is best for us is overwhelming.

Like parenting, if we are going to market our books, we kind of have to figure it out as we go. 

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

1. A good parent does what they can when they can. You don’t fill out college applications the day after coming home from the hospital. A good marketer understands that there are seasons for their book, look at the process in the long term and gives themselves grace.

2. A good parent has low expectations. A first time author should have them too. I haven’t  met a mother of a toddler yet that  didn’t. If you’re a first time author, understand that you won’t sell thousands of books. That’s okay. You’ve got your future ahead of you.

3. A good parent attends to the basics automatically. For a parent, that means having baby fed, washed, nurtured and well rested. For an author, that means having the manuscript well-written, well-edited, well-covered, and accessible to readers on the most basic of platforms, like Kindle direct. As your platform and skill set grows, your accomplishments will too.

4. A good parent doesn’t compare their kid or their style to another parent’s child or style. A good book marketer doesn’t either. What works well for your friend’s book, Amish Zombie Princesses won’t work for your book, Lint Art for the Lonely.  Like parenting, our marketing journey is a personal one and we have to choose what’s best for us and not judge others’ choices.

5. A good parent knows parenting is a game of inches. Children don’t master good manners in one lesson. It takes years. Authors who market should understand this too. A first book gains a few readers, the next book gains more. This game — parenting and marketing — is not for the impatient.

6. A good parent uses their community. Who hasn’t asked a friend, neighbor or family member to watch a child? What parent hasn’t depended on a social group to help them out? Authors need community too. If nothing else, an author’s community can encourage him, help promote, help fine tune and show how things can be done.

7. A good parent manages their time the best they can. They have an understanding of what must be done and figures out ways to get it done. A marketing author does this too. The engage with their readers without being too distracted. They delegate. They learn how much they can do in 10 minute increments.

8. A good parent takes reasonable risks. They want their children to stretch themselves, try new things and grow. A good marketer does this too. They aren’t afraid of speaking to the librarian at their local branch or calling the local paper. Both parent and marketing author knows you never know what great thing could happen if you try!

9. A good parent knows the “rules” but makes them work for their situation. A good marketing author does too. They’ve read marketing blogs, they understand generosity, they’ve taken great notes. Then they get good ideas and apply the principles their way.

10. A good parents sees the differences in their children and nurtures them accordingly. A good author may also see that each of their books opens doors that the other one can’t. They also aren’t afraid to learn from their mistakes and do better with children and books this time around.

Authors should take another lesson from parents — just because you do everything “right” doesn’t mean that there are guarantees. Parenting is fraught with heartbreak, disappointment, pain and expense. But then, it’s awesome and joyful and exhilarating.

But like parenting, marketing will take hard work, trial and error, risk-taking, expenses, time, energy, possible humiliation, disappointment, regret, sleepless nights, and the list is endless.

So are you a good parent/marketer?  What other similarities do you see? What has parenting taught you about marketing?

Top 10 Reasons To Treat Twitter Like A Big Cocktail Party by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

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Imagine yourself in a packed football stadium — one of the big ones like Gillette or Lucas Oil. Now imagine that every one in attendance at that stadium is shouting at the same time.

BIRDS

They aren’t shouting to players on the field, they’re not even watching the game, instead, they are trying to get the attention of the people on the other side of the stadium. Everyone in the stadium, including you, wants attention from others. Everyone wants to be known as clever. They want subscribers or followers or friends or likes. Everyone in the stadium wants the attention of everyone else in the stadium. This isn’t a great way to communicate. It’s chaotic, disorganized and discouraging.

Twitter can be like that for authors.

Yet, authors often hear stories of how books are sold, tribes have increased, and deals are made. Somehow Twitter works for those who know how to work it.

But if all you do on Twitter is shout into the crowd with no plan, no target and no order, you’ll probably come away disappointed.

BIRDS

Perhaps we should think of Twitter as a cocktail party instead.

Top 10 Reasons To Treat Twitter Like A Big Cocktail Party by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

If you go to a cocktail party, your purpose is not ever to shout. Instead, you extend your hand, make small talk, find common interests, and exchange information with the guests there. Everyone has the same purpose — to get attention — but a party is more relaxed. You can be yourself. You can take your time. A cocktail party is a manageable way to start relationships because it’s based in conversation, not shouting.

These nine tips can help you make Twitter less of a shouting match and more of a party.

BIRDS

If you follow these tips, you’ll start conversations, you’ll build relationships and eventually you’ll build your tribe.

1. Target specific types of people, not just other writers.  Other writers should not be your first market for selling your book. Instead, you should be looking for readers that meet your specific criteria. You know who you are looking for based on your genre, your setting, your themes, and characters. Take the time to think about your book and seek out readers who identify with certain aspects of it.

2. Ask questions of people you meet, don’t just say, “buy my book! It’s $.99!” Only blast tweets about their books.  If you are using Twitter as a an advertising medium, you are going to be disappointed. With the vast number of tweets every day, your message of “my Amish Zombie Princess romance is $.99” will get lost in the crowd. Questions, however, engage people who potentially could learn to love you.

3. Think long term. No social media platform guarantees instant success. To maximize the benefits of Twitter, you need to have a long term vision. Set a goal of following 50+ people a day. Schedule your blog post or “look at me” tweets but use the rest of your day to engage your followers and ask questions. You will see results if you commit to this daily, engage others and save the hard sell for something else.

4. Ask questions constantly and don’t overthink it. As you read people’s bios, ask them about their pets, their hometowns or who won last night’s game. You are going to have to get over yourself you are insecure or self conscious. Don’t waste this opportunity thinking “this sounds stupid” or “no one will respond”. Twitter moves so fast, that even if you do sound stupid, you can always tweet something else. Lighten up, ask questions and take chances.

5. Write an interesting noun-filled bio. At a cocktail party, you’re introduced with nouns, “Chip is an agent!” or “She’s a new mother!” or “He’s a marathoner!” The best nouns connect us to our jobs, roles, interesting hobbies and big dreams. It’s these nouns that will identify you to others and start conversations. Your bio should be a warm, friendly, specific introduction, not a CV or resume.

6. Search out relevant chats. There are dozens of chats on Twitter weekly. (My favorite? #10MinNovelists, every Thursday 9 PM EDT) Engage in one of them! You are likely to meet people in your target market who can encourage you. We all need community. We need encouragement, professional opinions and connections. I have meet dozens, if not hundreds of writers (my target market). Even if these writers never buy my books, I’m learning from them.  My writing life is all the richer for it.

7. Use hashtags appropriately. Hashtags are shortcuts to conversations. I’m the first person to volunteer to use one as a punchline, (#likethis #duh) but the purpose is to find common threads or topics quickly.  Your target market has its own set of hashtags. Find them! The people who use them are the people who may buy your book. The effort research is worth it.

8. Don’t treat Twitter like Facebook. It’s a waste of time to scroll through your Twitter feed to “catch up”. Twitter is so fast, that there is no need to go to where your 1200 followers left off yesterday and see what everyone had to say. Instead, create a list of your favorites or closest friends and check on them a couple of times a day. Use Hootsuite to track the threads of important hashtags. Find what’s trending and jump in the conversation, if you can’t catch up, don’t worry about it. Just go forward.

9. Make lists. Twitter allows for you to make lists to organize your followers. Use them. This will save time. Lists are also a great place to find more followers in your target market. And it’s perfectly fine to find followers from others’ lists — in fact if you may be able to find the lists created by others who share your target market (your competitors!) Take advantage of this: new connections are ripe for the taking.

10. Don’t get in a rush! Relationships take time. If you are antsy to make a sale, gain a reader or get a follower, it will show. And rushing relationships is a big turn off. Cocktail parties are meant to be relaxing — hence the cocktails. So pour yourself another glass, raise it high and toast to the beauty of good conversations through Twitter.

I love Twitter. I love its speed and its flexibility. I love that if I have an off week and don’t keep up with my tweets, I can pick up where I left off.

I love that writers everywhere are learning how to use it well. I love that most of my online connections have come through Twitter. But Twitter won’t work for you if you don’t know how to understand it’s strengths and weaknesses. So put away the football jersey and megaphone and slip into the little black dress.

Join the Twitter cocktail party, engage with others and have fun!


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


Top 10 Ten Ways To Be There For Your Readers By Way Of ’90s Television

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I firmly believe that your readers can be your friends.

I think that if you are a wise author, you are looking at your readers not as someone who bought, read and reviewed your book, but someone who, could potentially turn into a raving fan. 

The term raving fan was coined by Kenneth Blanchard to describe a customer who enthusiastically promotes a company or service and would be a lifelong fan of the people behind it.

In the writing world, we can have raving fans too.

A writer who has raving fans will have an army or coalition of people who will always buy what they publish, they will always leave good reviews, they may also comment on the Facebook page or communicate with you on other social media. But the most important thing they will do is passionately tell other people about you. 

You can’t get raving fans overnight. You have to cultivate the relationship. You have to be friends.

You know, FRIENDS. 

Top 10 Ten Ways To Be There For Your Readers  By Way of 90s Television by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

 

Top 10 Ten Ways To Be There For Your Readers By Way Of ’90s Television

1. Be as accessible to your readers as Chanler & Joey was to Monica & Rachel.   Your social media presence should be there to nurture relationships, not just push your sales. Carefully consider every way that you and your brand are represented. If it’s not welcoming or easy to find, make some changes.  It’s this frequency and accessibility that can build a relationship. Just don’t come in unannounced. 

2. Be as generous as Phoebe was when she found a thumb in her soda.  In the relationships with your readers, make giving your default setting. Does someone need advice? Give it gently. Does someone have a question? Answer, and do a little digging for them. Give without any expectation of return. Readers will flock to writers who have something to offer — and I’m not talking about your free download. I am talking about your practical advice, your words of inspiration, or your funny stories. And if Ross ever needs fashion advice, make sure you give him the right bag.

 

3. Be as interested as Joey is when Rachel’s sister visits. But more appropriately.  This could be your How You Doin’  strategy. Take the time to ask readers about themselves. What is their life like? What do you have in common? I find that if I turn my purpose from “connect with readers” to “make new friends” not only is it more fun, but I walk away far more satisfied. I also lay the groundwork for future conversations that could evolve over time into rich relationships. Nobody knew in season one that Monica and Chandler would get married in season seven.

4. Be as excellent in your writing as Monica was in the kitchen. This is a pretty important item on the list. If you have entered a relationship with a reader and they have actually paid money for your book, then you better respect that bond!  That means your book should be the very best it can be — professionally designed and edited, followed the rules of good storytelling and presented well.

5. Be just as authentic as when Monica and Ross danced on national television.  It never ceases to amaze me how much people are drawn to me when I am honest about my weaknesses. It seems counter-intuitive; we think we should hide our flaws. There are some dance moves that should stay in the family room in 1989. But I’ve found that the more real I am, the more my readers (who are now my friends) circle around me to support me. My weaknesses then becomes my strength. Maybe it didn’t for Ross and Monica.

6. Be a soft sell, which means don’t take marketing lessons from Marcel the monkey. This whole “buy my book” mindset of many authors in social media is beyond annoying, like Ross’s pet you can be smelly, loud and it feels like you’re throwing poop at me. I suggest you scrap any sales strategy that is repetitive and one-sided. Instead, lower your expectations for numbers, work on finding readers one at a time and stick it out for the long haul. This type of strategy will work far better for you in the future.

7. Be light-hearted like a couch-centered situation comedy. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Yes, you’ve written a book. That’s a great accomplishment that thousands if not millions do every year. If fight for that image as a special snowflake then you’re pushing people, and potential readers, away.

8. Be consistent, like Phoebe’s song lyrics. This is also a pretty important item on this list. Your brand needs to be predictable. Your readers need to know that when they pick up a book with your name on it, they can expect certain things. If you’re a blogger, you need to stick to a schedule. Consistency keeps your words in front of your readers so they don’t forget you.

 

9. Be yourself, unlike Joey’s acting.  If you keep looking to the right or left so you can copy what that other writer did,  you need to STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You will never get anywhere by trying to be derivative! Instead write freely, with blinders on, doing the best you can in your own voice. (That doesn’t excuse you from being excellent!)

10. Be unique like Rachel’s haircut. Our lives are filled with unique stories, experiences, struggles and pain that qualifies us to have a niche in this world. Take the time to find yours. Don’t rush this. Everything that you’ve experienced, good or bad, has been given to you so that you can use it to be generous to others. Your readers need you.

Now, realistically, this could take a long time. Longer than Ross and Rachel’s relationship. But I’d like to argue that the hard work of investing in people, asking them questions, looking for opportunities to be generous to them, remaining authentic, will pay off for you as your platform grows.

What else is there? What else can we do to love our readers? As a reader, how do you like to be appreciated? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! 

Top 10 Things You Can Ask Yourself If You’re Looking For Extra Time To Write by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

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Ever since I decided to find 10 minute increments here and there to write, I’ve viewed the time in my day differently.

Now, I compare wasted time to a designer coffee that I might buy daily without thinking about it.

I’d like to suggest that in the area of time management, conscientious writers need to consider the latte factor.

I did not coin the term Latte Factor. It was, however coined by financial guru David Bach. In his book, The Automatic Millionaire, Bach claims that consumers spend little bits of money here an there, say, buying daily designer drinks.

He claims, and rightfully I think, that these little bits add up. Wise consumers should see that this “money leak” is a problem in the long term. His suggestion is that consumers take active steps to stop those money leaks so that they can save money, perhaps significant amounts.

I’d like to suggest that we do the same with time.

We get only 24 hours in a day and we have to spend it somewhere. This may take some soul searching, but if you are really serious about pursuing your writing dreams, you’re going to have to make time for it.

Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”

I am a firm believer in writing in 10 minute chunks. And like Bach’s Latte Factor, I believe I  can find more time in my day if I look hard for it. 

I also believe that you can find 10 minute chunks of time to write if you are willing to  be brutal with the things that take up your time.

Top 10 Things You Can Ask Yourself If You’re Looking For Extra Time To Write

If You're Looking For Extra Time To Write by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

  1. Can you lower your expectations for the amount of writing you can do in a day?

2. Can you be brutally honest with yourself about those optional activities that you could eliminate, like PTA or that birthday party this weekend?

3. Can you get rid of time wasters, like mindless television?

4. Can you consider everything that you do, from the time you get out of bed each morning to the time you go to bed at night — where the time could be slipping from you?

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
Anthony G. Oettinger

5. Can you get up a bit earlier? Or go to bed a bit later without affecting your body’s needs?

6. Can you streamline tasks like meals and chores so that they take less time? Can you plan or prepare meals in advance?

7. Can you delegate to your family members any appropriate tasks, like cleaning, laundry or cooking?

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. Can you organize the clutter so that you don’t waste time looking for things?

9. Can you lower your expectations for holidays, extracurricular activities, or family events so that you can have more time?

10. Can you say “no” to people around who need your time and energy?

 

If you can write 10 minutes extra a day, every day for a week, that’s 70 extra minutes you can devote to writing this week. That’s 280 minutes more this month. That’s 14,560 minutes, (or 242.66 hours!) that you can write this year!

Our time is valuable and no matter how hard we try to hold on to it, it marches forward. Rather than giving up altogether, just look for those latte factor moments, make a few changes in your schedule and make the most of it writing!

 

Top Ten Reasons to Become a Reider: All About Janet Reid

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One of our 10 Minute Novelists, Sherry Howard, recently wrote this piece about Janet Reid, literary agent and blogger. Janet’s advice is excellent. It’s always a good idea to to listen to agents and learn from the experts. Enjoy! 

Janet Reid, of Fine Print Literary, is also well-recognized as her more ferocious persona, Query Shark.

There are  different aspects of Janet that are worth getting to know: the agent, the Query Shark, and the blogger.

Here are ten reasons to learn about agent extraordinaire, Janet Reid.

 

  1. Get to know the agent. Janet is most interested in representing crime fiction and narrative non-fiction,  although she occasionally says that she’s a sucker for great writing of any kind. She’s quick to suggest that writers of children’s works query other agents, because she’s honest that way. She represents some great authors: Patrick Lee, Sean Ferrell, Jeff Somersault, and Robin Becker, just to name a few.
  2. Get to know the Query Shark. Her massive library of query feedback, compiled as the Query Shark, is widely recognized as the best place to learn to write queries well. She has dissected hundreds of queries, and suggests, no—demands, that you read each and every one of them if you want to understand the art of the query. I’ve done it, and it’s worth the time. As a matter of fact, I’ve read them all more than once. Eventually, you’ll internalize some of the advice.
  3. Get to know the blogger. The blog is ongoing, and filled with rich content for any writer, whether you plan to query Janet or not. The content usually triggers writerly discussions among the woodland creatures, AKA blog Reiders.
  4. Get to know the Reiders.  Reiders are a lively bunch of blog devotees, many of whom comment daily. (I only comment when I think I have something to add value to the discussion, which isn’t every day.) When I told Janet about this post, she emphasized that the Reiders bring a lot to the table—the experience wouldn’t be as fun, useful, or informative without enjoying the comments, too. “I view this as a group experience.”
  5. Get to know the wizard behind the curtain. Janet accepts questions for her blog, and often blog comments trigger an answer from Janet in a new blog post. We know Janet “reids” comments because every once in a while she’ll inflict a shark nip at one or more of us for some misbehavior. Have a question? Find the link in the sidebar: Get in touch.
  6. Study the resources in the archives. There are several ways to find what you need: category, other posts, and a search tool that’s very efficient. If you have a question about writing, you’ll likely find an answer and a discussion. If not, see #5.
  7. See that agents can communicate if they choose to. Janet keeps a notice on her page about where she is with queries, and provides information about what to do if you haven’t heard from her. If you query her, you’ll know if she’s seen your query yet.
  8. Study her answers to questions. She has probably answered any writer question you can possibly think of. Her files are well-ordered, and a search will help you find what you need. See #6.
  9. Study her book recommendations. Janet recommends books she represents, but also other books. Pay attention. You’ll learn something about at least one agent’s tastes in books.
  10. Enter her flash fiction contests. Janet runs flash fiction contests that are a great teaching/learning tool. Her comments about the results give wonderful insight into what works, especially opening lines. She’s very specific about the winning entries, and what worked for her. It’s a great place to flex your writing muscles and enter, or just read and learn. Thanks to a regular Reider, Colin Smith, there’s a compiled reference of previous winners.

In the same Writer’s Digest issue that honored 10MinuteNovelists, Janet’s blog was recognized as “the best of the best” in the agents’ category. I couldn’t agree more!


Sherry Howard is a former school administrator, storyteller and poet. Her website is SheryHoward.org.

Top Ten Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

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I spend DECADES of my life saying negative things to myself.

Slowly, I’m addressing them one by one, changing what I say and taking positive steps (like NOT buying a box of donuts to eat in one sitting) to make my life better and my soul happier.

Below I have a list of the top ten things wannabe writers say to themselves that keep them stuck in failure.

Top 10 Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

If you are saying any of these things to yourself, then you will, most certainly fail.

The reason? This negative self talk is a paralyzer.

It fosters inaction.

The antidote is two fold: say positive things and take baby steps out.

1. I’m So Disorganized.

Okay, this could be true. You maybe disorganized because you lack focus, or management skills or a plan. But all of those things are tools.  Successful people have learned how to use these tools that they can stay organized. This is the secret that super organized people know — organization does just happen, it’s daily work! If your house, office, desk, ideas or life is super disorganized, find the tools the experts use and make them work for you!

What to say to yourself instead: Today I’m taking 10 minutes to get more organized. I’m starting small. Something is better than nothing. Go me!

 What to do: Take 10 minutes, start with Pinterest and search for specific links, then create an organization board. Don’t get distracted. This is your starting place for the actual work. Or, take 10 minutes to make a list of the specific areas you want order in. Then, commit to ten minutes a day working on this area. You’ll see progress. You’ll find order. Try also Flylady.com (my personal favorite).

2. I’m Not Any Good.

This could be true. You may not be a good writer. How do you get better? With practice. Writing is a skill and the most talented writers in the world still have to practice! They did not just spring up out of the ground as NYT bestsellers. They worked on their craft over and over until they grew in skill and confidence. Learn all you can about the craft of writing. Be teachable. Find a mentor. Take a class. And write every day!

What to say to yourself instead: Everybody has to work hard. I’m no different.

What to do: Take 10 minutes and write. Don’t evaluate it or edit it. You just practiced! Then take another 10 minutes and request writing books from your local library’s website, or search Goodreads for the best books and buy them, or go to Writer’s Digest website and spend ten minutes reading. You can learn to be a better writer on ten minutes a day.

3. What If Someone Doesn’t Like It? 

Someone is not going to like it. This is a fact of life in the world of artists. If you choose to be an artist, then you’re choosing to have a bad review occasionally, you’ll receive a rejection letter or two and your skin will have to toughen up. But somewhere, someone will like it. This is your first fan. If you don’t write, you’ll never find them. It is for this reader (and all their Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google+ people) that you write what you write.

What to say to say to yourself instead: What if someone does like it? That will be awesome!

What to do: Read all the one-star reviews of your favorite books on Amazon.com. Some of them are horrible, aren’t they? Notice how this negativity keeps these authors down. (Hint: it doesn’t!)

4. I Don’t Have Time.

You’ll pardon me if I roll my eyes on this one. For nearly every other item on this list, I have great compassion, but I don’t for this one. The truth is you have time for everything you want to do. All you need to accomplish your writing goals is a minimum of ten minutes a day. I know that this is true because between my five children, my homeschooling responsibilities and my homemade bread baking, I found time to pursue my dreams in ten minute increments.  It took me five years to write my first book, but I did it. I examined my carefully to find the time, made the time and then worked all the time!

What to say to yourself instead: I can find the time!

What to do: Spend ten minutes looking at your schedule on a daily and weekly basis. Where is there lolly-gagging time that can be devoted to writing? Where are you waiting for your kids? What Netflix show can you forfeit for the sake of writing? I bet you can find a lot more than ten minutes a day.

5. I Don’t Have What I Need.

This excuse is an easy fix. If you are reading this, you’re on a computer or a smart phone. That means you have what you need. Don’t have word processing software? Put your work on Google.docs. Do a search for all the great writing apps for smart phones. Or go low-tech and buy a spiral notebook and a pen. You can get what you need to be a writer very easily. Don’t let this small problem keep you from pursuing your dreams.

What to say to yourself instead: Wow! That was easy!

What to do: Spend ten minutes finding a place at home that will be your workspace — it doesn’t have to be big or glamorous. (I spend years standing at my kitchen counter on an iMac.) Then set up a document, create orderly files, put that journal in your handbag, get a great pen. You can do this!

6. I’ve Failed Before.

We’ve all failed. The first time you tried to walk, you fell. The first time you tried to eat solid food you spit it out. The first time you tried to read, you got it wrong. I can GUARANTEE that there are grammar and spelling mistakes in this blog post. Failure is a part of life. I’m not a psychotherapist, but I’m going to guess that it’s not the failure that’s the problem here, but the feeling of worthlessness that plays piggyback on that failure. This took me a long time to realize but the truth is, failure doesn’t define me.  I am so much more than my series of mistakes. I’m going to fail in the future, that’s a given. But I’m not going to let it keep me down.

What to say to yourself instead: I’m going to fail in big and small ways, but so what?

What to do: Read this. I am especially impressed with the fact that Oprah was fired because she was too emotionally involved in the story she reported.

7. I’m Not As Good As Them So Why Try?

Trying really hard not to eyeroll here, bear with me. Of all the excuses on this list, this one is the most cowardly. It’s bad enough that you have no confidence in your God-given skills and abilities, but then you take what you perceive as your weakness and compare it someone else’s strength and naturally come out lacking. It’s a double whammy against who you are and what you were created to be. You are never going to be as good as anybody. Do you know why? BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU! If you have artistic inclinations, then you have a distinct point of view, a unique voice, a perspective that no one else has ever had (you’ll still have to work hard to make it shine, but still). The world needs you!

If you really, really want to believe that the success of other people is the reason to hide your talent under a bushel, then you should be ashamed of yourself. I want this post to be encouraging and hopeful but I’m half-tempted to tell people who actually believe this crap to stay on the couch, stay in front of Netflix, do nothing. Please. I want your future readers for myself.

What to say to yourself instead: Dangit! I have something to offer!

What to do: Put some blinders on. And for the love of Pete, stop comparing yourself to others.

8. I’m Too Old To Try Anything New.

This one is breaking my crap-o-meter. You are NOT too old. Life is going to pass you by if you don’t pursue your dreams now. You don’t want to come to the end of it and wish you’d take ten minutes every day.

What to say to yourself instead: My kids (and grandkids) need to see me pursue my dreams!

What to do: Read this Huffington Post article about writers who got published later in life. One woman was 99!

9. There’s too much to learn, so it’s too hard.

When it comes to writing and marketing and publishing there is a LOT to learn. The bad news is that there’s always an new app or a new social media platform or a new guru to read.  The wealth of information is intimidating and overwhelming. Instead of thinking about how hard it is, choose the easiest thing or most interesting aspect of writing/marketing pursuit and only do that. The good news? Nobody knows and implements it all. The most successful people have put limitations on themselves so that they keep the ever growing information monster at bay. You can do that too.

What to say to yourself instead: My time is valuable. I’m going to focus on one aspect of my goals, like writing, and learn a little bit every day. 

What to do: Find one or two blogs on writing to follow. Read one book at a time. Don’t panic over what is left, just do what you can when you can.

10. I Don’t Have Anything Worthwhile To Say

Deep sigh. Then a hug. Then another sigh. I totally get this. Sometimes the desires that we have to write are lonely. They don’t exactly have ideas to play with. Personally, I’ve found that ideas, for some reason, inspire other ideas. The act of creating sometimes can spawn new inspiration and then you have something to say, something you didn’t know was in you.

What to say to yourself instead: Hey Muse! I’m going to sit down to work, you’re going to join me!

What to do: Write for 10 minutes about anything. Sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts. Then, watch this Ted Talk about the creative muse by Elizabeth Gilbert (this is my all time favorite Ted Talk. It makes me cry every time!)

The most powerful voice in the world is the one you use to talk to yourself.

Make sure the voice you use is the one that can keep you motivate, encourage yourself to succeed and keep hope alive.

It took me about 20 seconds to come up with ten, because I’ve said every single one of these to myself. I know how powerful these lies are.

 

So, what else are you saying to yourself that could be keeping you down?

What can you say to yourself instead?

What can you do to change everything?

 

Top 10 Signs You’ve Given TMI & Need to Cut The Dickens Out Of Your Backstory by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

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Free fiction

You are not Charles Dickens.

As much as you may want  to be Victorian, champion for the London’s most needy, and father 10 children, that doesn’t give you the right to overwrite your novels.

That is, if you intention is to sell them in today’s market, you may want to reconsider how much backstory you have and how you may want to cut it.

In today’s market, there are general guidelines for genres. Writer’s Digest has a nice article that breaks it down for your use. But these are general guidelines. Anyone who self-publishes can basically do whatever they want. And if you look hard enough, you’ll find exceptions to nearly ever rule. Harry Potter, anyone?

I’d like to suggest that as you are sculpting your novel, you do take into consideration its length. Look specifically at all the backstory you may have included. Then cut it.

Top 10 Signs You've Given TMI & Need To Cut the Dickens Out Of Your Backstory by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

You May Have Too Much Backstory If . . .

1. You have told your reader how everyone is related to everyone else in the first two paragraphs. Save all familial connections for your own notes. Then only give the reader the information in organic ways, slowly, across several points in the first act. There’s  a big difference between these connections being interesting and being relevant. If any cut makes a difference to the story when it’s gone, put it back in. 

Top 10 Signs You've Given TMI & Need to Cut The Dickens Out Of Your Backstory by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

2. You’ve listed three items on your main character’s resume early in the book. Where they went to high school, what kinds of grades they earned and where they worked the summer of 1988 is all critical character development and needs to be kept in a back room. This is like the family information — needed only in your notes. 

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

3. You’ve mentioned you protagonist’s high school experiences and your main character is 27. We’re all shaped by our experiences as youth. But only mention them if they are pivotal to the events that are currently happening between the covers of this book. If something happened in Miss Simmon’s English class that was that significant, either mold the plot around it or write a prequel. 

4. An old boyfriend makes an appearance and your MC flashbacks to the break up scene. This is a lot like the high school trauma. For your own notes, you may want to know that your main character got dumped by the academic team captain the night before the big match, but unless it’s part of the current story it shouldn’t be mentioned. Everyone has a heartbreak.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings

5. It’s in the first chapter. You should never, ever have backstory in the first chapter. No. Don’t do it. First act? Yes. Your first chapter’s purpose is to set the tone, identify the setting, introduce your main characters to your readers, touch on the big objective and themes of the book and hook your readers so they want to hear more. Your first chapter should be full of action in that it thrusts the story forward. Backstory is usually passive. It can’t thrust anything, except my eyelids to lower. Think about moving it to chapter three after you’ve cut it down. Way, way down. For the reader this can be as ill-fitting as the Artful Dodger’s found wardrobe.

6. You defend yourself by saying that Dickens  did it so you’re doing it too. No! A thousand times no! We don’t read the great authors of the past so that we can create dictums for current discipline in our writing. We read great authors of the past because their work has lasted a long time, because they are a part of our literary culture and because it’s good for us. The demands of today’s market has nothing to do with past books. If you want to sell to modern audiences, you need to be approachable, sophisticated, and savvy, not dated or old-fashioned. Unless you don’t want to sell books at all.

“I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

7. When you get carried away. You’ve stopped the big action between the dragon and the knight  to tell the reader how the sword the knight is using was forged by the elf who was once engaged to the driad, who died of a curse from a witch, who lives in the hut in the enchanted forest, that is full of fairies who sing in a full moon, which only comes out once a year because this story takes place on another planet in another galaxy that was formed billions of years ago. What I’m trying to say here is that backstory kills action. If you have an important action scene, you need to complete the scene before you throw in the backstory. Backstory is passive. Backstory drags down pacing. Whenever you put it in, put it between big action scenes so your reader can catch their breath. But even then, make sure it’s not that long because you don’t want to calm your reader down so much that they go to sleep.

8. When you’re overly proud of your research. You catch yourself saying, “but I RESEARCHED the slums of 1840 London! My reader needs to see how hard I worked!” This is a hard truth in writing, especially if you write historical fiction: your research work shouldn’t be too obvious to the reader. Your research is for your artistic and integrity and accuracy. Historical fiction fans will love that about you. It’s not though, for showing off in the story. Save your most interesting finds for the author’s notes. That way readers who are really into it can appreciate your hard work. Better idea? Create a blog about your research topic! You’ll find new fans for your work!

“You are in every line I have ever read.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

9. When you believe that every work that comes out of your keyboard is golden and precious and can’t be omitted. Now this may be true during Nanowrimo when you just need to pad that word count. But in a novel, you need to be brutal with excessive words.  Brutal like Bill Sikes’ attack on Nancy. Your objective as a writer is to communicate clearly and excellently. That will require you to cut out what is irrelevant, unnecessary, tangential, dull, passive, overwritten or inconsistent.

10.  You’re so into telling, rather than showing, that you named your main character William Tell. He lives in Tell City, Indiana, he has a job as a teller, and for vacation he goes to Telluride. My point? Show. Instead of telling us that Mr. Tell is angry, show us that he threw the mug across the room. How do you know if you’re telling? If your words create a visual image of action, then you’re showing. If your words feel like a list, or your reader’s mind has a mental gray space where the action should be, or you are imprecise in what is happening in the story right now, or your verbs are weak, then you may be telling. Get a good beta reader or critique partner and let them mark up places that need to be written more interestingly. You can find one in this group on Tuesday’s Buddy Day. 

“It’s in vain to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.”
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

 Not convinced? Here’s more Signs You’ve Given TMI, Need to Find A Sharp Instrument, & Cut The Dickens Out Of Your Story

You may have too much when you feel like there’s a pause button because you need to explain something.

You may have too much when you think that detailing people’s opinions of other characters is an excuse for head hopping.

You may have too much when the details that you have to share reveal a secret, which, would be best suited saved until much later.

You may have too much when you’ve decided that a little backstory is easier to write than action or dialogue.

You may have too much when you have referred to childhood trauma way too early.

Backstory does have its purpose.

As a writer, you need to spend time developing the pasts of all your characters so that you can define their desires and goals. Each character should make decisions based on the composite of their past experiences. But these experiences aren’t always welcome in a narrative. You also need to be thorough and diligent in your research. This adds credibility to your story and integrity to you as a writer. But just because you thought it, doesn’t mean it needs to be written.

Editing all those words is more painful than Scrooge following around the Ghost of Christmas Past, but if he can be honest with the mistakes that he made (and make big changes) so you can you!

Top 10 Ways To Equip Myself To Be An Expert Starer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

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Oh, how I love Flannery O’Connor for about ten gazillion reasons.

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When one of my literary heroes says it’s okay to stare, you better believe I’m going to do what she says.

But in my staring,  I need to be equipped. I need to have the right tools. I need to know what I’m doing. I need to know why observing people makes me a better writer.

Today I’d like to present Top 10 Ways To Equip Myself To Be An Expert Starer

Top 10 Ways To Equip Yourself To Be An Expert Starer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. I should have something with me at all times on which to take notes. If not the Evernote app on my smart phone, then a real life notebook and paper. Evernote is good for documenting and putting things in the correct file AND I can sync my phone notes with my iPad and my laptop. But then the kinesthetic experience of writing with an actual pen is therapeutic and calming and feels a little more artistic.

2. I should use my camera on my phone (at least if I’m discreet). Once when I was in Chicago O’Hare’s airport, I saw a woman who looked exactly like Michael Jackson. Everything in me wanted to take a photo and put it on Facebook, (oh, you pesky ethics!!!)  but instead I just wrote down detailed notes about her black suit, pointy boots, ghostly pale complexion, blunt black bangs and vibrant lipstick. This took place in 2013 and I can still picture her!

3.  I should have a regular observation time. Part of the mom’s job description is to wait on kids. Since I know I have to be at soccer practice at a certain time every week, I should devote some of that waiting time to observing the people around me. You’ve got waiting time too. Use it to stare!

4. I should tune into my senses. The five senses should be my first step in observation of anything. What do I see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel? I should go into as much detail as possible in my notes and if I go off on a tangent, all the better!

5. I should speculate on the story of people based on their appearance. I was dying to know what the Michael Jackson look-alike was up to. In your observation notes, play junior Sherlock Holmes and deduce a little. That scar? Was that a childhood injury or the battering from a spouse? Those shoes? Are they worn because the wearer only has two pair? What story could be told by the lack of a wedding ring? The weight problem? The limp? If I make the most of my staring, I use my speculation to fuel my imagination and even if I never make it into a story, this mental exercise is still a win!

6. I should throw in some metaphor and simile to describe what I see. He was as big as an ox. It’s okay to start with the expected, but I should stretch my mind and compare the people I’m watching to other things or ideas. She was as creepy as a mysteriously androgynous dead pop star. 

7. I should exaggerate. Maybe there was a logical reason why this woman looked so much like MJ. But maybe she suffered from a mental illness and was obsessed with the King of Pop and this flight out of Chicago was the first leg of her journey to Neverland where she would try to reunite with Michael’s chimpanzee and have dinner with Tito. That’s the making of a story! I should totally write any ridiculous ideas down when I stare!

8. I should be honest with myself about what caused me to stare. Sometimes I catch myself being so wrapped up in the voyeur aspect of people watching, that I reduce these people to objects. That’s not cool. I need to treat them with dignity (which is why I never took a photo) and even if I find something in this moment that is story worthy, I need to always remember that the half -naked redneck at Wal-Mart probably has feelings too. It’s one thing to use others as inspiration. It’s quite another to mock them.

9. I should not whisper. If I’m with someone else, then I need to restrain from talking about the weird people around me. Even if they don’t overhear me, it doesn’t help my reputation if I’m known to be critical of others. I should save these observations for the privacy of my own creative time.

10. I should combine my notes with other things. Once I leave the setting and I’ve kept my notes safe, I should go back to my files at home. I should tuck these notes away safely or thumb through other ideas and see if this today’s observation will enhance anything.

Good observers are good writers. With practice, your observation skills can enhance your prose and make your characters and your stories richer.

So go ahead, stare!

Top 10 Questions To Ask Others and Avoid Being Labeled Another Emily Dickinson by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

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If you are a writer, then it is likely that you prefer to be isolated from the rest of the world.

You spend your days thinking up great stories, making them as perfect as you possibly can. You may create that ideal lover, that ideal setting or that ideal story that you believe is the only story worth telling, at least for now. You may often be so engrossed in the creation of your little world that you forget that when the story is over, you may have to share it.

And that thought makes you want to pretend you’re Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson was an American poet who lived about an hour from where I do now, in Amherst, Massachusetts from 1830 to 1886. Dickinson was a famed recluse. And when she died, her family found over 1800 poems that she had hand composed. Some had been “published” in that they were sent to friends, but most were left undiscovered. And this video from Crash Course and John Green explains my favorite commercial jingle related Dickson explanation. 

You don’t want to be Emily Dickinson.

Okay, having 1800 poems written would be kinda cool, but if you are going to have readers, editors, agents and publishers, you’re going to have to come out of the house and show others your work.

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This means that you should get feedback.

This means that you have to open yourself up to criticism. This means that you may risk being misunderstood or disliked. This means that someone may not agree with your choices. This means that you may need the opinions of beta readers, critique partners or writers groups in order to be the best that you can be.

Yikes. That sounds scary. It’s bad enough that we’re writers. But we have to do this too?

When we start out, we’re hesitant and flighty, nervous and fretful. We crave affirmation that we’re on the right track, but we stop so often to ask, we make little progress. Then it doesn’t help that there are so many book/websites/blogs to read about how to be a great writer that it just makes us more insecure in who we are.

Oh, we writers are an insecure bunch aren’t we?

So are we good or not? How do we know? When do we find out? Why isn’t there a rule about this?

Um, well, this is the problem with the subjectivity in good writing. No one really knows. But that doesn’t help you, the new writer.

Good writers, or at least writers who want to be the best that they can be,  use beta readers’, critique partners’ or writers’ groups’ opinions to iron out the story’s wrinkles, find out what’s missing and see what the writer doesn’t see. You can use beta readers early in your writing journey, say, after the first draft. Or you can wait several drafts into it and then let trusted people read it.  Either way, you may find it helpful to give them specific questions to answer about your manuscript. Need a beta reader? The 10 Minute Novelist Facebook group has Buddy Day every Tuesday just for this reason! 

“Judge tenderly of me.”
Emily Dickinson

I’d like to suggest that the world is only big enough for one Emily Dickinson. I’d like to suggest that you get over your fear and ask for help from other writers. To help you, I have this:

Top 10 Questions To Ask Others & Avoid Being Labeled Another Emily DIckinson by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

1. What were the strengths of the book? Start off with a positive! If anything else goes wrong, you at least have one or two nice things others say. 

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”
Emily Dickinson

2. Who was your favorite character, why? The characters need to be interesting, not necessarily likeable. They need to have a distinct arc. They need to change either for better or worse. They need to be consistent. 

3. Did you think that the plot lines were plausible? Even if your story takes place on a distant planet, underwater or sometime in the future, you need to make sure that the things that happen have the possibility of actually happening. If it is too far fetched, even in fantasy, your reader won’t be interested. 

“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.”
Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems

4. Did you think anything was missing? You first readers should be paying close attention to what isn’t being written about? If they say to you, I kept waiting for this to happen and it didn’t.  Then you may want to find a way to fill that hole. If one reader thinks something’s missing, another may too. 

5. Where you ever tempted to put the book down and not pick it up? Why or why not? This is a good question. Your beta reader should tell you when things get boring or dry. If you don’t need the description of the back alley behind the pizza joint, don’t put it in. If you don’t need the backstory of the girl next door that explains her scar that you’ll never mention again, then take it out. Your reader’s willingness to keep going is good marker on whether or not you’re doing your job as a storyteller.

“But a Book is only the Heart’s Portrait- every Page a Pulse.”
Emily Dickinson

6. Did you find the setting fully described? Regardless of your genre, your setting will have a role to play in the story. The story itself will dictate how much of the setting is pertinent. Pay attention to what your beta reader says about it. You may have given us too much information or maybe not enough. 

7. Did you find the characters to be distinctive? Each character needs to be developed enough that the readers have no trouble remembering who is who. My personal goal is removing all the dialogue tags from their conversations and see if I can spot the distinctions in what they say. Ask your readers if they can find distinctions easily. If they can’t, consider fleshing them out more, or combining a couple of characters together. 

“I have been bent and broken, but -I hope- into a better shape.”
Emily Dickinson

8. Did you understand the goals of each of the characters? Each character should want something. Sometimes what they say they want and what they really want are two different things. Ask your readers if the goals are clear and reasonable. If they aren’t, then spend the time to clarify them. You may find by fine tuning goals, the character itself will become richer. 

9. Did you “see it coming” or were you surprised by the progress of the story? You story should be plausible, but not predictable. Hopefully your readers can be honest with you about what they saw coming and what may seem cliched. You may have to change a few things, but that’s okay, your work will be all the better. 

“Opinion is a fitting thing but truth outlasts the sun – if then we cannot own them both, possess the oldest one.”
Emily Dickinson

10. Do you wish that other things had happened to the characters that didn’t? I had a reader once who told me that she thought my poor main character went through far too many conflicts and I should ease up on her a bit. I respectfully disagreed. The variety of conflicts made the story a good one. But check with your readers. They may give you an idea you hadn’t thought of. 

Now Emily Dickinson did write, 

“Saying nothing sometimes says the most.”
Emily Dickinson

I’d have to disagree with her. I think that we need feedback from others. It is scary. But once your get your answers, handle them gracefully. You don’t need to follow every suggestion. Just use them for what they are: another helpful tool in your novel-sculpting.

“They might not need me; but they might.
I’ll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.”
Emily Dickinson

And the nice thing about having relationships with other writers is that we can reciprocate! Our turn will come when we can be the one who is called to critique. Hopefully we’ll remember the experience and answer these questions with grace and gentleness.

You need not be afraid of others’ opinions about your work. As poetic as you may be, it’s healthier not to be an Emily Dickinson.

Take your chances with the world and be as good a you as you can be.

Top 10 Signs That You May Be A 10 Minute Novelist by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

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Are Your Big Writing Dreams Worth Finding the Time?

Writing a novel takes hard work. It takes order. It takes discipline and planning. It takes courage and determination and tenacity. Anyone can do it, even if they have only ten minutes a day. (How do I know this? I wrote a novel in ten minute increments. Hence the name of this blog!)

I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends
I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends

Sometimes we think that we also need long, uninterrupted hours, an isolated cabin in the woods, a whiskey habit and a carton of Marlboros to be a writer too. But we don’t. Sometimes we need to stop thinking about how much different our life is from the idealized writer life is and just do what we can. We may have been in the habit of thinking that we can’t write at all unless conditions are perfect, the kids are more cooperative and inspiration strikes.

But I’m here to tell you that there are no such things as perfect conditions for writing.

There are, however, writers out there who make the most of what they do have and accomplish their dreams in less than ideal increments. I call these folks 10 Minute Novelists. 
Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”

Are you a 10 Minute Novelist? Ask yourself these questions and see!

1. The baby wakes you at 4:30 and after you settle him back down, your first thought is “How many words can I get in before the whole family wakes up?”

2. While watching a crime show, a prosecutor mentions “solitary!” Your first thought? Solitary confinement? That sounds heavenly! I could get so much done there!

3. You’ve said to yourself “one of these days, when I have the time, I’ll get that book written!” Except that you’ve said it so many times no one believes you.

4. You treasure time alone in the bathroom to collect your thoughts and you may have a notebook and pen stashed somewhere just in case you get inspired.

Why can't I write?
That hashtag? That’s our Weekly Chat on Twitter! Join us!

5. Whenever you hear someone say they wrote 3000 words in one day, your first thought isn’t “good for you” your first thought is, “will they press charges if I slap them?”

6. There’s an inch of dust on your laptop.

7. You think that real writers have sprawling desks, live in isolated cabins, chain smoke, drink themselves silly, wear a lot of black and possibly own several cats. Then you decide, well no wonder they write so much, no one could stand to be near them!

8. If you’re honest with yourself, you think that your dreams are selfish. That your responsibilities are far more important and lofty than any silly, childish fantasy. That the desire to write a book is nothing but a vain attempt of mortality. And then you don’t know why you’re so sad.

9. You’ve watched Two And A Half Men and thought more than once, “I could write better dialogue in my sleep!”

10 Somebody once told you that you had talent, but you’ve never found a way to express yourself in writing. And that kind of bugs you. And you don’t know where to begin. Click this to find out how to squeeze in ten minutes to pursue those dreams of yours! 

If any of these are true about you then you may be a 10 Minute Novelists. That means that you are time-crunched writer with big, big dreams.

Join our Facebook group to meet hundreds of writers from all over the world who are just like you. This is such a cool place to hang out, that Writer’s Digest named us one of the best websites for writers in 2016. Many of us are just starting out on our writing adventures. Some of us are very experienced. Some of us have book deals and agents. All of us though know what it’s like to squeeze writing goals around a busy life. Want to start finding an extra 10 minutes today? Here’s how!

Your dreams are worth 10 Minutes. Find them. Put down some words.

Be amazing!