One Month, One Novel – No Plan

This is the month that I write a novel – with no plan.  I am officially joining the Pantster tribe and throwing myself into this one with my eyes wide shut and my fingers crossed.

Let me be clear – this is not my natural modus operandi.  I am most definately, by nature, a Planner.  I am a Virgo with a stationery fetish and a stack of notebooks just crying to be filled with dreams and ideas.

Why write a novel with no plan?

However, I had a terrible epiphany last month.  And it was this:  I am often so thorough in my planning that by the time I come to write I am completely over it.  It has become like entering into a romantic liaison having already watched the whole disaster panning out ahead of me.  By the time I have planned those darlings, I couldn’t care less about the main character, and tension?…. meh, not happening.

You see I have a sneaky suspicion that planning had become, for me, a very subtle form of what I term, Productive Procrastination.  You know, the type of procrastinative activity at the end of which you have something, and nothing, to show for your time.  And I wanted to try something different.

So, what is the alternative?  Pantsting.  Literally writing by the seats of my pants.  No outline.  No scene by scene plot arcs.  No orchestrated tension.  I was just going to throw myself into it and hope for the best.

The scene was set.  I had made the trailer.  It was scheduled in my Filofax.  Systems were go, go, go.

Day One

But somewhere in between deciding to do it and actually doing it, I found myself in a maelstrom of self-doubt.  What should I write?  What genre should I write in?  Was I writing to sell, or writing for me?  Should I finish the other novels first?  Should I revive my very brief foray into erotica?  Should I? Should I?  Should I?

So Day One was, in sporting terms, a No Show.  Rain Stopped Play, and all that.  Not that I wasn’t thinking about the whole thing.  Not that I wasn’t beating myself up like a gangland boss, and reprimanding myself for my lack of action.  But words on page?  Nada.  Nothing.  Sweeeeet FA.

Day Two

So Monday arrived.  Which was kind of like Day One, only it was by now, Day Two (are you still with me?)  The scene was set.  Kids were at school, I was heading home to write, but blow me, if a sneaky new novel idea hadn’t crawled into my brain overnight.  Like an earwig, this idea was gnawing away – munchie, munchie, munchie – and to cap it all, the blinking sun was shining.

Well, I ask you, what’s a woman to do but take herself to the beach to ‘live in the moment’ for a little while.  Well, an hour and a half later, I was back at the car and ready to return to my post.  I was Ready To Write.

Or so I thought.  Because then something very strange happened.  I had laptop freeze, which for those who don’t know is when I go to turn on my laptop but I just cannot do it.  Something stops me.  I don’t want to be tied to the keyboard.  This frolicking little pony in my mind says, ‘don’t do it!  stay free, my beauty, stay free, neighhhh, prrrrr’.

Which is, quite evidently, a problem.

Or is it?  Because my answer to this conundrum was pretty darned radical.  I have gone…. ANALOGUE, my friends.  We are talking notebook, pen, armchair.  Old School Portability.

“Paper and pen?”  you cry.  “Are you nuts?”

Well, it would appear that yes I am.  But here’s the thing.  It is working.

First session of the novel with no plan: 2400 words.

Which I think can officially be called – A START!

So what say you?  Fancy joining me?  Fancy freeing yourself up from the orthodoxy of planning and venturing into the crazy unknown.  Want to pick up a pen and just start writing?

Let’s do this thing.

All comments gratefully received.  Show me I am not alone in this.  Please….



The book trailer is unveiled….

Here is the book trailer that I cobbled together using Movie Maker.  I have watched it too many times to be objective but I do like it.

What do you think? Would love to have some feedback…

Making a book trailer with free resources

To be honest when you are self publishing any book, your budget is going to be at best limited.  I would hazard a guess that your budget may be less than limited.  My own personal budget is just ever so slightly above well… zero really.  And lots of things seem to cost some money.  Making an ebook cover using an online creator was about 5 bux and then there is your time and possibly an editor, a proofer…. oh sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all, does it!

Still one way in which you can have some fun and not spend a penny is on your book trailer.  I made my trailer this week for zero budget.  And yet it has about 80 images on it plus some footage including timelapse loveliness! So how can you make a book trailer without hiring a professsional?

Two main options really:  you can powerpoint it or you can go Moviemaker (not sure about the Mac equivalent on this but if you are a mac user then you will know, right!).  I decided to go with Movie Maker.  Not sure why really – I think I just like the fact that it is designed to be seen as one clip without pauses, there are plenty of flashy little effects and it feels quite an intuitive user interface for me.  Still whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Then I while away many a happy hour on public domain and creative commons sites downloading footage from the 1930s and images from all over.  All for free and me likey the freebies!  I started the trawl with a google search for ‘public domain video clips’ and then went to here which led me down all sorts of rabbit holes of public domain wonderlands.  Two episodes of I Love Lucy and some Harold Lloyd later, this girls was feeling good and armed and dangerous with some lovely little black and white clips of all sorts of stuff, as well as some awesome timelapse footage.  Yay!

Next I wanted some images so I typed into google “creative commons images free”.  This brings you to lots of available images sites.  Flickr obviously although you have to be in it for the long trawl there.  There are some free images available here which is as good a place to start.  You can also search  for public domain images.

Add some music and some captions and bob’s your uncle.  Ok so mine won’t win any oscars but I tried to incorporate the key elements of an ad which are:

  • Problem
  • Outcome
  • Solution
  •  Benefits of this solution
  • Actionable step

or POSBA which is not memorable at all but does play into the always popular acronym trap.

OK so quick word – don’t be too precious about this.  People are not expecting Hollywood, or even Bollywood.  It is just a way of letting people know about the book by using Youtube rather than relying on your blog, or FB page or very loud voice and incredibly large extended family, in the build up to launch date.  Have fun with it.  Be professional in your approach but, unless you area  professional filmmaker or a very keen hobbyist, be realistic about your results.

I like mine.  I have tweaked it and tweaked it and it’s almost ready to reveal but I will keep you hanging on that one….

Duh doh darrrrr

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Can I really create a blog in 20 minutes?

So when you are creating your author blog, how long is it going to take?  You are a busy creative,I know, I know, and time is money and all that!  It’s tempting to fall for those blog posts and email newsletters which promise you that you can really create a blog in 20 minutes and then just sit back and watch your stats pile up.

I believed them too.  Until I created a blog that is.  When I did that I realised that the reality is that registering for a blog takes 20 minutes but to actually create a blog with something for people to read is actually a much longer process.   Take this blog for instance…

Yesterday I sat down thinking that – yes, 20 minutes and I am up and running.  I logged onto my WordPress dashboard that I use for my other site and hit the button that said “create new blog” and the party began.  And what a party it was?  Not one of those sedate dinner party gatherings that ends at a reasonable time – oh no!  This turned into a downright “gathering” to which the Frustration police were called in the early hours of the morning… nuf said!

Still the blog was created – check!  Then I had to whip out the credit card to pay for a dot com domain so that visitors to the site would see a .com address rather than address which comes for free.  I know that this is a good idea – it oozes professionalism and professionalism is important to me.  But having made that decision, I then had to waste a half hour deciding on what I wanted that domain to be.  I have read enough books about making money online to know that your web address should be eminently searchable.  You are supposed to go through all sorts of rigmarole around search words and SEO ( note to self: what the heck is SEO?) but I was in a hurry as per normal so I just went ahead and hazarded a guess thinking that it should be related to what the blog was all about.  The temptation was to get all clever and literary and come up with a sparklingly witty blog name, but, you know, I was tired etc…  Ok decision made, domain available, credit card used.. Next step-

Then you have to go through it all again by coming up with a title for your blog.  Do you choose a name that you already have ie your own name?  Yes if you are wanting to build up a brand and you have the dream of creating lots of books.  This is the goal for my other site, so there I chose my name for the domain address and put the title of the book as the name of the blog – “Change Your Life From the Inside Out’.  I was invited to shell out a vast amount for their professional package and as a newbie I did pay the $99 fee because I thought I might need those extras.  In fact I have used them to alter fonts and colours and create some general niceness.  For this site, I didn’t do that, opting instead for just the domain name.

Then you need to choose your theme.  Oh the joy!  This is like real estate shopping except all the free ones are in your price range and so many look good.  Say goodbye to another half hour of previewing contenders until you eventually come back to the original choice.  I chose blissful blog because well … I liked the name, ok.  Plus it’s cute and a little bit (a lotta bit) feminine which is v. me!  A word about themes – steer clear of anything that looks too dark or space agey (unless you are dark and space agey in which case knock yourself out, buddy!)  For me, professional is about light and bright.  Not too many squiggles.  Think clean and elegant!

Ok so now we are onto headers.  Easier this time.  Flipped over to another window and searched images for ‘lady writing’.  Picked a pretty one, cropped it and pressed the button.  Yep all good and only 2 hours behind schedule!  Now onto the pages.  Keep it simple here.  At the moment on my site I do not have my book ready to sell but I do provide face to face coaching and hypnotherapy so I created a page for products and prices.  Then fill it up with some copy.  30 minutes – check!  An About Me page – do I go narcissistic or humble??  Instead I chose on the other site to speak about my service and say what I can offer to my clients and what my professional experience is.  On this site, I tended towards the mememe approach… As an author wanting to sell products, I may create another page on that website and call it “Books”.  Never let it be said that I am not an original thinker…

Next I needed a landing page, which is basically where people land on your site if they search for you direct.  This is the page which offers an insight into your service/offering and sets the tone for the site.  On my professional page, it is like this but for this site I wanted to focus on the challenge that I have set myself so it is slightly different in tone.  Make your Welcome Page nice and colourful and I would suggest that a picture is good.  I have even embedded a Youtube video on my welcome page (wow – such a whiz) which I had to teach myself how to do.  But by now you can imagine – my caffeine levels are running dangerously loowwww and I am in danger of a mercy run to the biscuit tin.  It’s already lunchtime and I still haven’t actually written a blog post. Grrrrr…

One caffeine stop later ad I am finally onto the blog bit because this is where I am going to be reaching out from and was (can you remember still) the point of starting this whole circus in the first place.  Make your first blog about the first question that you would ask if you had found your site.  Write as yourself not as some corporate robot who is just churning out generic copy.  If I wanted generic, I would go the the library, or read ‘The Secret” or something.  Be you – the writer – someone who is human and genuine and nice and dazzlingly witty (my head is swelling…)  Oh and one thing that I have learned is to put on an actionable step at the end of the post.  Not actionable as in ‘buy my book – it’s awesome’ or ‘pick up the phone and call me now.”  An actionable step is something that your reader can do or think about after they have got to the end of the post.

Then create some tabs and categories on the sidebar. I am still getting my head around tags so I will keep you posted on that.. Stick in some links by using the link icon at the top of the page and press publish.  I will talk about widgets later this week as I am currently navigating this learning process myself and even heard a whisper that widgets were easy to create yourself – What???  Do I sense another 3 hour “20 minute ” session a-brewing….  That’s enough.  I’m off for another cuppa – biscuit tin, watch out – I am heading your way!

Your actionable step today is to set a three hour window aside for the creation of your WordPress blog.  Be prepared for frustration and keep calm and carry on.  Oh and you could leave a comment below if you have some insights or questions – I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Over and out.  Gotta dash