That Burnout Feeling

All authors are under pressure. Writing is hard work and to then switch to publicising that work is a difficult gear change for many. If you are an indie author, the pressures are magnified because you are your own CEO, your own publicist, your own everything. It takes a certain type of person to thrive in that environment but even the best of us can come unstuck.

Burnout
Burnt Out by Gerwin Sturm courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9iWxgH https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Burnout is a danger in many walks of life and writers are prone to it. We live in our heads for one thing, we often have day jobs to support our writing for another and so we write around the day job when we are tired and often not at our best. If we are published, whether traditionally, hybrid or indie, there are other demands on our time. We need to keep abreast of new ideas and innovations, to be aware of strategies to assist with our writing, or the production of our books, or our sales, or connecting with our readers. We can easily become overwhelmed by all the information out there. It’s a tidal wave rushing towards us and it’s easy to get swamped. Information overload takes over.

Tidal wave
The Roar by FHG Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/34pDEU https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Although many people would envy our achievements, we know the sacrifices it took to get there. We are also familiar with the pressures. It is a fine line to walk between being busy and pushing too hard.

We are all capable of working hard to finish a big project, throwing all of our mental and physical energy at something just to get it done. But what if the big projects just keep coming? We can only keep going at that pace for so long. Eventually we need to throw the off switch and have some down time and if we don’t our bodies will throw the off switch for us by making us sick.

How to recognise you are heading for or suffering from burnout:-

  1. The things that gave you pleasure now no longer please you.
  2. You have stopped writing anything new (this is different to suffering from writer’s block – that’s when you want to write but cannot because the words aren’t there). Here, you no longer even want to write.
  3. You are tired – mentally. All the time.
  4. Even the simplest tasks seem like hard work.
  5. You keep coming down with bugs and sniffles.
  6. You feel overwhelmed and inadequate.
  7. You are running just to stand still but are achieving less and less.
  8. You question why you ever started this in the first place.
  9. You want to stay in bed and pull the duvet over your head.
  10. Moving to a desert island with no wi-fi connection is suddenly an appealing option.
Desert Island
Desert Island by Rob courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6V2ZTa https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Sound familiar? This is where I found myself a couple of weeks ago.

Recognising the problem is half the battle. In the coming blogs, I will share with you what happened to me and how I am trying to combat it.

If you too have suffered with burnout at some stage in your career please get in touch and let me know what worked for you.

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Evolution of a Cover

My summer release, White Lies, will be published on 27th June.

This is my second, full length novel, following on from my debut The Flower Seller which was released last year.

I loved the cover my cover designer came up with for The Flower Seller. The very talented Berni Stevens http://www.bernistevensdesign.com/

the-flower-seller-cover-small
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

For White Lies, I asked her to come up with a cover that would help me to build a brand. I wanted something that would be recognisably an “Ellie Holmes cover”.   Pinning down that elusive idea was never going to be easy. We made a few false turns on the way but I thought you might find it useful to see where we started and where we finished up.

In order to build the brand we used the same font for my name and the title of the book but not the same colours – hard to use cerise pink for the title when the book is called White Lies. We also used an image of a woman walking away as another echo of The Flower Seller.White Lies Contact Sheet 1

My two favourites were the lower two images. I love the autumnal colours of the image on the left but I was initially drawn to the image on the right. We almost went for the summer image but at the last minute I became worried that it was too similar to The Flower Seller.

I wanted to build a brand, remember but The Flower Seller and White Lies are stand alone stories. They may be set in the same location and feature some of the same places and minor characters but they are not part of a series. I was concerned that if I went for the summer cover it was actually too much like The Flower Seller and readers may think I was indicating the books were part of a series. This brand building stuff is complicated!

It took four more contact sheets of the lower two images, with various tweaks along the way, before we finally hit on a version that worked. I think when a reader sees The Flower Seller and White Lies side by side they will identify a brand through the fonts and the figure but not be misled into thinking they are part of a series. I hope so, anyway.

Here is my new cover. I love it. What do you think?

White Lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes

Awesome Indies Approved!

I don’t often use my blog to talk about my achievements when it comes to my writing – it’s usually my sounding board when things are going less well!

On this occasion however I have decided to change things up.

My debut novel The Flower Seller was released in June 2016. I worked hard to make The Flower Seller the best version of the book it could possibly be. As an indie author I was keen for my novel to stand out so I put a lot of thought and effort into how the cover would look and engaged a fabulous cover designer to assist. Step forward the wonderful Berni Stevens http://www.bernistevensdesign.com/index.htm

I also made sure I didn’t stint when it came to the story inside the covers – I worked with an editor and a proof reader to make sure the book was as well presented as it could be.

It was at this stage of the process that I became aware of Awesome Indies. If you are unfamiliar with them here is a link to their site http://www.awesomeindies.net/

Their Mission Statement as stated on their site is as follows:-

“Our editors award the Awesome Indies Badge of Approval to indie books that meet mainstream standards of quality. Readers buy our books safe in the knowledge that every one is a professional product. We are the unique voices of quality independent fiction.” Tahlia Newland, founder.

Their approval is the equivalent of a Kite Mark of quality.

Details of how to submit your novel for consideration are given below:-

http://www.awesomeindies.net/for-authors/submissions/

I approached one of the AI Assessors, Debbie Young, to see if she would be willing to read and review The Flower Seller. She kindly agreed and you can read her review here:-

https://debbieyoungsbookblog.com/2016/09/07/the-flower-seller-by-ellie-holmes/

Having received the requisite level of review from Debbie, I was able to formally submit to Awesome Indies and see whether my novel could achieve the necessary second high scoring review.

I am proud to say that The Flower Seller has achieved that and has therefore been granted Awesome Indie Status. You can read the second review here:-

http://www.awesomeindies.net/awesome-indies-approved-the-flower-seller-by-ellie-holmes/

Whilst it is nice to be independent, it is still wonderful to be given the approval of your peers.

And I believe anything that can distinguish good quality, well produced indie books from those that are thrown on to the market with very little thought or care has to be a good thing for all writers and particularly for all readers. Don’t you agree?

the-flower-seller-cover-small
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

The Indie Author Fringe Event

Learning
Learning by India Edu courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/cJHGxJ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Indie Author Fringe Event at the London Book Fair takes place online across this Saturday March 18th starting at 10.00 a.m. London time and continuing for 24 hours.

Here is a link to the speakers and topics being covered during the event:-

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/indie-author-fringe-march-2017-agenda/

If you are interested in registering (registration is free) or want to find out more about the event itself here’s the link:-

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/what-is-indie-author-fringe/

I have signed up for previous fringe events and have always found them helpful and informative. So why not give it a go?

This is what ALLi have to say about the event on their website:-

“Indie Author Fringe is a three-times a year, online conference for self-publishing authors, brought to you by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), fringe to the major global publishing fairs. 

 ALLi brings together the most up-to-date self-publishing education and information available and broadcasts it to authors everywhere. 

Running 24 sessions over 24 continuous hours allows our members, and other authors round the globe, to attend some live sessions, no matter where they’re located. (But don’t worry, we don’t expect you to stay up all night! You can always catch up later.)

Over the course of the year, we take authors across all stages of the author-publishing journey: writing, editorial, design, production, distribution, sales, marketing, rights licensing, money matters and living the indie author life.  And thanks to the generosity of our speakers and sponsors, it’s free.”

Can anyone be an indie author?

Technically, the answer to that question is yes. Not everyone, however, is cut out to do it and fewer still can do it and enjoy it.

As with so much, it comes down to how much you want something and how much time and effort you are willing to put in to achieve it. Too many people say they want something but baulk at the work it takes to accomplish it.

author
From affirmation to reality by Joanna Penn courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/akqpa3 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Being an indie author is not easy. Whilst you can build up a support network, you need to have a strong sense of who you are as an author and where your books sit in the market place. You need to be able to trust your own judgement. You are the only one who has your back.

As an indie author, even if you hire others to do some of the work for you, the ultimate responsibility for what they produce lies with you. You have to check and recheck and check again to ensure a quality of output is achieved that you are happy with. You are the Managing Director, the CEO, the buck stops with you.

The boss
The Boss by GDS Productions courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/aWS8c2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The glory, however, needs to be shared. Remember to thank people for the work they have done. It costs nothing to be nice. If people pay you a compliment on your cover, don’t forget to mention your cover designer. If people praise the professional look of your book, namecheck your editor and others who have contributed their time and talent to making your dream happen. Always, always acknowledge and thank and pay it forward.

And Don’t rush things. Your goals should be to produce the best books you can and build a sustainable career for yourself. That won’t happen overnight. Have patience and plan out a schedule that is achievable. Remember there are only 24 hours in every day and you should be sleeping for eight of them! You might want to do it all, you may even succeed for a while but eventually you will crash and burn. Remember that story about the tortoise and the hare from when you were a child? A slow and steady approach is better both for achieving longevity and for your health.

http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

 

 

The End – And a feeling of relief

end
End by Hitchster courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9orz8V https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

I finished my novel last weekend. High fives and glasses of wine all round. It’s gone off to my editor. Before I know it, it will be back with a myriad amendments to be made but for now, I have planted the words ‘The End’ like a flag on a mountain top.

prayer-flags
Prayer Flags by Valcker courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/mJDy3r https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

Whenever I reach the end of a novel I always feel a huge sense of relief. Relief that I went to the well and there were words there to find. Relief that I had an idea and a half decent novel emerged from it. Relief that those characters that I thought about and worked so hard to create have taken on lives beyond those I imagined for them. I gave them wings and away they flew. Relief that I can still do it. I can still pull it off. I can still spin a plot and weave the magic. The muse hasn’t abandoned me. Yet.

happy-feb
Happy by Carmela Nava courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/78jzSv https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

Am I alone in my feelings of relief? I often wonder about that. Do other writers experience joy, happiness and pride when they reach the end of their novels? I am always so drained by the end of the writing journey that those feelings occur further down the road to publication. At the instant I finish and for the immediate days after, relief is all I feel.

It is not relief that the writing is over, you understand because I am always writing. There are always a dozen ideas waiting to be developed and explored. It is relief that I can still do my job. I am still a writer.

The relief comes hot on the tail of the fear that stalks me: that one day the words will not come, that the plot will not gel, nor the characters take flight. One day I will have an idea and not do it justice. One day I will not be able to capture lightning in a bottle. One day I will fail.

But that day is not today. Today I am a writer.

the-flower-seller-cover-small
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
the-tregelian-hoard-cover
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

The Director’s Cut

During my rewrites of the work in progress I came across a section which has given me trouble from the word go. Rewrites have improved it but I was still struggling to make it sing. Nothing seemed to work. All the usual tools in my writer’s toolkit weren’t able to get to the heart of the problem. Dispirited after another fruitless attempt to bring it up to the level of the rest of the book, I abandoned my study and stomped off.

Needing a boost I decided to watch The Devil Wears Prada on DVD. I’ve seen the movie several times. I can quote my favourite lines as they are being said but it always makes me laugh and I was in need of comfort. When the movie finished I decided to watch the outtakes and then look at the deleted scenes whilst listening to the director’s commentary.

What became apparent with a lot of the scenes that had been cut was that there was actually very little wrong with them. In most instances the point of the scene had been made better in a different scene making the cut scene superfluous or the movie was simply running too long and a scene had to be trimmed with the vital parts of that scene being retained and anything else being cut. Most of the scenes that were cut were beautifully shot and yet had no place in the movie because they didn’t carry their weight.

Lightbulb moment.

lightbulb
Lightbulb by Richard Rutter courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/5neV8y   https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

I knew I could use the logic of this process on the section I was having difficulty with.

The next day I returned to the study, buoyed up and ready to attack the troublesome section with a pair of metaphorical scissors. For the next couple of hours I transformed the section from flabby to tight. With my Director’s Cut take on things I was able to zero in on the pieces of the work that were crucial and the parts that could be done away with – however nicely written.

scissors
Scissors by Dean Hochman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/r2NyMb   https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

By the end of the day, the section worked. Up until that point I had been working too closely with it. What I needed to do was take a director’s bird’s eye overview of the piece and then it became apparent where the problems were.

So the next time you are having difficulties become the director and get your metaphorical scissors ready for action.

directors-chair
Directing your Life by Carol VanHook courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/nhSg57  https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

 

the-flower-seller-cover-small
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
the-tregelian-hoard-cover
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes