Review: “Crank it Out” by C.S. Lakin

Review: “Crank it Out” by C.S. Lakin

Part of C.S. Lakin’s “Writer’s Toolbox” series, Crank It Out is a fairly well known (fairly well received) book about increasing writing productivity. The focus is on how, as a writer, you can turn your productivity around and really start to…you guessed it…crank it out. That’s where I need to start….

At a glance…

Readability

Usefulness

Motivation

Value

Overall Score

I’m going to do something a little different here and write two “reviews” for Crank It Out: The Surefire Way to Become a Super-Productive Writer, by C.S. Lakin. The reason is that the theme of this book took a hard turn for me about two-thirds of the way through and it almost feels like two completely different books for me at this point. I also want to be very clear about what I got out of this book and why.  

The first part of this review is of the first two thirds of the book, and the second is a review of the last third. Because my reaction to those two different sections is so extreme that I don’t think it’s fair to judge them all at once.  

Ok, so “Part 1”:

Lakin’s advice is a reflection of what worked for her, in her life, to get more work done. It’s targeted at writing, but could be read as a general self-help or productivity book. That’s my problem with it. It is very general. I read this for writing advice, instead I got whole chapters about how I would feel better and be more productive if I exercise every day and drink lemon water. 

Which, don’t get me wrong, that is good advice! Well, I’m not 100% certain about the lemon water thing, but I should be exercising more…and, like she says, eating more healthy food, although I fundamentally disagree with her anti-coffee stance (Come on, a writer who doesn’t like coffee?! What are we doing here?).

But ultimately, as a writer, I was pretty disappointed with the book up to this point. Which brings me to the next part of the review:

“This book spoke to me in a way that no other writing book ever has”

“Part 2”:

This was life changing. Like she looked into my soul and diagnosed exactly what is holding up my writing. Never felt more seen than by this woman. Spoke to me in a way that no other writing book ever has. Address the issue of procrastination, of what it means to be a perfectionist. 

I came to a better understanding of myself by reading this book. She made me see why I do the things I do. 

Everyone who wants to write should read this. If you have anyone in your life that you love and they have goals that they aren’t working towards then buy this for them too. 

Ultimately, I simply can’t recommend highly enough the last few chapters of this book. Utterly changed my approach to writing. However the beginning and middle were not that useful to me, and can be skipped through if you aren’t looking for more general life advice.

Looking for some inspiration?!

The bookspry team wrote a book of writing prompts and it’s available now! Weird and wacky prompts to bust you out of that rut…or to distract you from your real work.

Note: bookspry.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

© 2019 bookspry. All rights reserved.

Every Successful Writer’s Secret Weapon – A Word Count Tracker

Writing is a lonely job. Everybody’s interested in what you’re doing, you may even have a great support system but, at the end of the day, writing is about sitting down (by yourself) and putting work in. 

This obviously has it pros and cons (no waiting on lazy co-workers!) but one of the hardest parts of working alone is tracking your work and holding yourself accountable. We’ll have a piece about how to set, and achieve, reasonable goals as a writer later, but for now, we’re going to talk about the tracking. 

Why Use a Word Count Tracker?

I’ve been using a writing tracker for years, but it wasn’t always that way. I used to wonder daily how much I had written. Did I hit my goals? Did I spend more time on Project A or Project B, and how close were they getting to being completed? 

Eventually, once I got sick of feeling that way, I committed to trying to track my writing properly. I made a simple spreadsheet and started writing down time and words written. I promised myself I’d try it for a week and see what happens. That was four years ago and I haven’t missed many days since then.

But it took me awhile to get used to using it. I realised very quickly that there were some very good reasons to spend those few seconds starting my writing tracker every day. 

It’s kind of annoying that I have to open up a spreadsheet and actually fill in what time it is before I start my writing session. I’m sitting there, bubbling with ideas and I want to get started now, so why waste time opening up a spreadsheet instead. Well…

“I can’t lie to myself anymore. I can’t pretend I had a productive day when I didn’t. It’s in my face, in black and white, how much I wrote.”

Accountability

When I use a word tracker, I’m making a conscious commitment to writing. It’s time to close other tabs, put my phone on silent and just get typing. It helps give me focus and structure. I know I’m “on the clock”. 

It also means I can’t lie to myself anymore. I can’t pretend I had a productive day when I didn’t. It’s in my face, in black and white, how much I wrote. 

Let’s be clear, this isn’t about punishment (always remember to be kind to yourself!), this is about me achieving my goals, and that means being honest with myself. 

Motivation

Seeing how many words I’ve written that day or week is massively motivating to me. When my word count is low, I’m motivated to write more to catch up. When it’s high, I want to keep that streak running! I want to run up the “high score”! I’m winning? OK, let’s see how much I can win by!

Fun! (Fun?!)

Call me a nerd, but I LOVE seeing my word counts add up. I love seeing little graphs that show how much I’m writing and how much I’m publishing. When I’m tired of writing and just want to zone out, I’ll take my numbers and start playing with them. Which days do I write the most? Which stories am I writing the fastest? Why is that? Etc. 

I legitimately have fun using a word count tracker.

Still not enough? Chris Fox’s 5000 Words per Hour book talks about the various techniques you can use to speed up your writing, but the first step, the thing you need to know before you can implement any of those things, is knowing how many words you’re writing per hour. 

How to Use a Word Count Tracker?

This depends a lot on how you want to work and what word tracker you choose. Some people like “gamified” word trackers like 4thewords, while some people prefer raw numbers in a spreadsheet they keep by themselves. All of these have different ways to “use them”, so the thing to remember is, “What do you want from a word count tracker?”.

Personally, I need something that will do something with my word count data. Something to show me graphs, progress, charts, etc. Something that will me modify it as my writing goals (and knowledge) change. I need a word count tracker that’s easy to use, but very flexible. That’s why I created my own!

Where Can I Find a Word Count Tracker?

How convenient! We happen to have one right here! 😉

All joking aside. A word tracker like the bookspry.com Writing Diary and Daily Word Count Tracker, hits all my goals. I mean, it should, I built it. But not only does it let me see my totals, it also keeps track of the amount of time I’m actually spending writing, and maybe more importantly, it shows me daily, monthly and annual totals. Which is incredibly motivating. 

Other than that, we will be coming out with a list of our favourite word counters soon. Stay tuned!

Interview with Indie Exchange Founder Oliver Ryan

Interview with Indie Exchange Founder Oliver Ryan

It was my pleasure this week to chat with indie author, and founder of Indie Exchange (www.indiepubexchange.com), Oliver Ryan, about the self-publishing industry and how his new platform can help authors save time, and avoid some of the major pitfalls involved with the self publishing industry.

“Indie Exchange is for every author who has struggled to find editors, designers, and marketing that they can trust.”

What’s your background in the self-publishing world?

Well, I started in self publishing about five years ago. I was looking for a job I could do from home and when I stumbled upon self publishing I knew it’d be perfect for me and dove in head first.

It took probably a year for me to reach the income I desired but once I was doing this full-time, I immersed myself fully in the industry. And for five years, I’ve loved it!

Describe for our readers what exactly Indie Exchange is.

Indie Exchange is a platform for service providers in the indie publishing industry to offer their services and for authors to seek them out. Unlike other freelancing ad sites, Indie Exchange is a subscription based membership service where you can browse ads, look at sample galleries, leave comments and reviews. It’s more involved than your usual ad site and a lot more private!

I think on other freelancing websites, it’s very difficult for providers to get paid what their creative work is worth and it’s similarly difficult for authors to find quality work that they can market to their readers. Indie Exchange is a curated platform that aims to create a community of both quality providers and clients.

Who is the Indie Exchange platform for?

Indie Exchange is for every author who has struggled to find editors, designers, and marketing that they can trust. It’s for experienced authors who struggle to efficiently find new providers and promotional services and feel they waste a lot of time vetting new providers.

It’s also for providers who struggle to market their services to the indie authors who need them.

Basically, it’s for anyone who offers or needs a service and struggles to get connected!

“It’s hard to get started in this industry when you don’t know what to look for in an editor or a cover designer.”

Tell me about the day you decided to build Indie Exchange.

It actually was an idea I had back when I did ghostwriting. I was making some money on the side to supplement my self publishing and I realized I loved ghostwriting, it paid really well, and the clients were generally very good… But it was hard to find clients. I mostly had to do so by word of mouth from friends and acquaintances in the industry. And I just thought to myself… why should it be this hard?

This is a multi-million dollar industry and there are tons of people who want ghostwriters and new writers who would like to ghostwrite and yet there is not a central place for these people to connect.

As a writer, I couldn’t find well paying jobs on freelance websites because people were looking for dirt cheap pricing. And, likewise, authors can’t find quality work on these sites that are marketable in our industry…but they’re willing to pay top dollar to providers who are qualified.

And it’s really from that Idea that Indie Exchange was born! It’s years later and there still isn’t one central site to connect quality providers and professional clients. I hope Indie Exchange will eventually be the place that bridges that gap and providers and authors alike find it an effective way to find every service they need.

What are the main challenges facing indie authors today, and how does your site help?

Well, I think the number one challenge is that it’s more competitive than it’s ever been. So it’s extremely difficult to break through right now and become successful.

And I think Indie Exchange can help with the competition for both new authors and experienced authors alike. For those experienced, I hope to offer a wide range of the best service providers in the industry so that can efficiently find designers, editors, and writers at the touch of a button.

Likewise, with ads for marketing consulting and promotional opportunities, I hope we can help new authors break into the market. It’s hard to get started in this industry when you don’t know what to look for in an editor or a cover designer. Indie Exchange should make it easier than ever to get into this industry if you don’t already have connections to providers.

“On other freelancing websites, it’s very difficult for providers to get paid what their creative work is worth”

What were some of the biggest challenges you came across when putting this project together?

Honestly, to my surprise, the project came together very smoothly! I happened to find an amazing developer through a friend of mine and through his experience, I learned so much. I sketched out my vision for the site, hired a designer to make it all pretty, then hired a developer who really built on all my ideas. It was very much a collaborative effort and I’m so glad building the site went so well.

I think the real challenge comes now that the site is done! The hardest thing is bringing this idea forward into the community and getting the word out so we can get quality providers and members. But I’ve gotten a ton of great feedback and thus far it seems everyone who’s using the site really enjoys it.

So as long as word spreads, I see things going great for Indie Exchange!

What’s your favourite feature of the site?

Well, if I had to pick just one, I’d say our reviewing system is my favorite just because it allows clients to really discern one provider from another.

I don’t buy anything these days without reading the reviews online and I don’t know that I’d be able to work with someone without any knowledge of them beforehand. And I think it’s an awesome bonus that you’re able to anonymously review as well!

What’s next for you guys?

I’ve got a bunch of updates in the works with my developers and I’ve got my ears to the ground as I really try to figure out what members want to be next for Indie Exchange.

I have so many ideas for how to build upon Indie Exchange but it’ll really be the opinions of my members that help me decide what to move forward with first!

What’s your #1 tip for someone thinking about getting into self publishing?


Research, research, research!

The only reason I was able to pave a career in self publishing was because I researched it obsessively. It takes a while to learn the ropes and build an indie author career but it’s very rewarding when you do.

This also folds into Indie Exchange a little bit but long before Indie Exchange came to be, I told people to develop their side hustles. It may take a while to learn the ropes of self publishing but there are so many ways to make a living in this industry. If you’ve got a graphic design background, learn how to make marketable covers! You can edit, you can ghostwrite, there are so many people making money in this industry who aren’t self publishing. While you learn, find something that pays the bills.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. Where can people reach you if they have any questions?

Anyone who has any questions can email me at support@indiepubexchange.com

Indie Exchange is a subscription-based classifieds website curated specifically to the indie publishing community! Publishers and service providers can offer their services or seek out jobs they need, from editing to cover art to promotional services. Members can leave reviews and comments on their favorite services or their clients’ profiles so others can make informed purchasing decisions. You can also browse categories or use Indie Exchange’s advanced search option to find the exact service you’re looking for.

For more information on this new platform for self-published authors, head to www.indiepubexchange.com. 

Podcasts for Writers and Self Published Authors

Podcasts for Writers and Self Published Authors

Rule 89 of the Internet. If it exists, there’s a podcast of it.

If you think the indie author world is niche enough that finding podcast content would be difficult. Baby, you don’t know podcasting.

There are all kinds of books that swear they can teach you how to write. You just need to buy their book and spend hours reading it! One small problem though, you’re a writer and you’re already surrounded by books you need to read. Podcasts can be a great way to augment your writing, planning and organisational skills, while also keeping you up to date on the latest news in your industry.

Driving in your car and learning the finer points of character development. Cooking dinner and listening to tips on worldbuilding.

Sitting in front of your computer, writing about characters, or even worlds, that come entirely from your imagination, means locking yourself in your own head. Writing can get lonely. No matter if you’re writing at home by yourself, or surrounded by people in a cafe or library, once you start writing, you’re in a world by yourself. Sure the hope is that one day readers are going to venture into this world that you’ve created but, in the meantime, it can get pretty lonesome.

Podcasts also offer a sense of community. Here is a voice in your ear that totally understands the situation you’re in and is in the same boat. Week in week out, with each new episode, you get to know the hosts and listen to interviews with other authors, as they give invaluable advice.

Let’s get started…

Writing Excuses

These guys are the big guns. They’ve been around for a long time (right now they’re in season 13) which means that there’s a big back catalogue so you can really dive in and binge listen.

Their tagline claim is that each podcast is only 15 minutes, and although that isn’t always accurate they’re never longer than 25 minutes. They get to the point fairly quickly, covering topics that really get into the mechanics of writing, but broken up into manageable, easily digestible bites.

If you want to give them a try then I’d recommend starting from the beginning of season 10. The previous seasons kinda leap from one topic to another, but season 10 is arranged as a class, with each episode building off the last. The aim is that, by the end of the season, the listener will have written a complete story of their own.

Tl;dr – Popular, short, digestible pods, from experienced podcasters. Perfect for a short commute or while getting ready for work.

 

Death of 1000 cuts

This podcast is only in its second series but it’s already a classic. The presenter really sets this podcast apart from others because of his personality. Tim Clare is a funny guy, it’s obvious that he’s having a great time doing what he loves and he passes that enthusiasm on to you, the listener. It’s easy to start listening to a podcast when you know you’re going to be learning something and have a great time as you do.

So much of the advice offered to writers is about the architecture of writing. Those big things that we all have to think about; character arc, planning, pacing. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, you need to be thinking about those things too. But there’s not much out there that actually discusses the actually nitty-gritty of writing. Sure, it’s great that you know how your characters are going to develop in the current scene that you’re writing, but it doesn’t help when you’re staring at your screen, agonising over what word to write next.

That’s where Tim steps in! He spends time talking about how to write prose, what you should be thinking about on a sentence by sentence basis.

Tl;dr – A fun (and funny) podcast for anyone who’s ever worried their prose might not be good enough and wants to learn how to make it better.

Helping Writers become Authors

Katie Weiland has been putting out great content for years. She’s a published author, with two books aimed at helping writers: Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. Her website is massive, with blog posts stretching back years. It’s an amazing resource that I’d highly recommend everybody take a look through.

Katie’s podcasts cover all sorts of diverse topics; from characterisation to marketing. However her main focus is on story structure and she has a lot to say about it!

A lot of writers worry about relying too heavily on story structure. If every story uses the 3 act structure, then won’t it seem formulaic and dull to the reader? Katie is here to explain why you need to follow the rules of writing, and how to use them to make your story flow smoothly.

Tl;dr – Insightful, energetic and prolific. Her podcasts are 15-20 minutes long and, like with her blog posts, she has a back catalogue of podcasts that goes back years.

 

Sell More Books Show

With a title like “The Sell More Books Show” you know what to expect here. Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral have been hosting this show for 5 years and have developed quite a following in that time. It’s a light, fun podcast that covers a lot of industry news and tips for self-published authors of all stripes. There is definitely more of a focus on the marketing and selling of books than you’ll find on other self-published and writing focused podcasts, and so it’s a great addition to your podcast list to fill that niche.

Tl;dr – Two friends with tons of industry experience dissect the news and give tips on how to be a successful indie author.

Free Writing Diary and Daily Word Count Tracker

Free Writing Diary and Daily Word Count Tracker

Ever wondered which day of the week you’re most productive on? Or which project you’ve spent the most time writing? Or even just what your average words per minute is? This free writing diary will do all of that and more!

At a glance…

This is a Google Doc that you can copy and use to track your writing goals and progress. It will automatically calculate words per minute, daily writing total, words per project and more, and it can be modified to do just about anything you want with your writing data.

Backstory

I’m a writer, but I’m also a bit of a data/tracking nerd, so I built this daily word count tracker for my writing group about a year ago and we’ve been using it ever since. We use it to track our progress and motivate each other to keep writing.

Who’s this for?

Anyone. But particularly people that want an easy way to track their writing progress and totals.

You might be REALLY into your writing data, or you might just want to see a cool graph of your writing at the end of the year.

What does it do?

Calculates and displays writing totals, charts, and graphs based on what you input.

It can be as detailed as you want it to be. I use it to track hourly writing sprints with project specific tags, but I know people who use it for simple, rough daily writing tracking by entering their estimated totals at the end of every day.

 

How does it work?

You enter your writing totals and the time you spent writing. It does the rest.

I added an explainer to the document, so hopefully it will be easy to understand how to use it even if you’re new to spreadsheets or gdocs.

 

It looks complicated!

It really isn’t! It takes five seconds to add a new entry if you know the hotkeys and everything should just calculate automatically after that.

 

Why use this tracker?

It depends what’s important to you. I personally love it because it is both eminently modifiable and as private as I want it to be. Track (or don’t track) anything you want. Share (or don’t share) anything you want. Learn a bit of “Excel” and you can expand this into anything.

Have questions or recommendations?

Please email us at admin@bookspry.com or reach us on twitter

Also, I’m a writer not a…spreadsheeter, so there are probably formulas that could be optimised, etc. I’m always happy to hear about ways to improve it. Let me know if you see something.

That’s it. Hopefully you find it useful. Keep writing!

How to Choose (and buy) a Pre-Made Book Cover

Your book is in the editing phase and boy, is it a doozy

Your long days of writing and editing and rewriting (and worrying the book will never end) are finally behind you.

It’s time to get a cover.

Unless you are rich in design skills yourself (or have a lot of money to throw at a custom book cover design) chances are pre-made covers are the perfect fit for you.

 

How does it work?

The process itself is quite simple and is basically the same regardless of where you get your cover.

Step 1: You find a cover you like, contact the seller, request whatever alterations are allowed by the terms of the website (often this is only the author name and any credits included in the design)

Step 2: The seller confirms the cover is available and they can meet the request.

Step 3: You pay, and the artist sends you your cover in the form of an image file (usually by email and typically it’s a .jpg).

That’s it. Pretty easy stuff. Now…what should you look out for when picking a cover?

Cover Quality

 

This part of the process is very subjective, but look at the covers in your genre. Go to Amazon Best Seller lists, check out what’s currently selling.

Look at A LOT of them.

Not just the top ten. Remember that Stephen King is going to sell a million books no matter what’s on the cover. You want to look for themes that show up repeatedly in your genre. Preferably covers by indie authors like you. Make notes, save some of the images to use as a reference.

 

Have an idea for what will work in your genre.

 

Terms

Questions you should ask about the company you’re dealing with:

  • How flexible is the company or artist you’re buying your cover from?
  • Do they have a money back guarantee?
  • What’s their turnaround time (and does it really matter to you)?
  • Do they offer any alterations or revisions other than the author name?

Ultimately, some of these will matter to you and some won’t, but more flexibility is better.

 

Price

This one seems obvious, but actually deserves a bit more time. People are drawn to lower prices, but remember that this cover will likely be the face of your book (your book!!!) forever.

This isn’t the time to try to save $20. It’s the time to find the right cover for you. One that you really like and that suits your story. One that people will get excited about.

When you find that cover, buy it. You’ll thank yourself later.

Shopping for pre-made book covers right now? Check out the bookspry.com pre-made cover collection!