Sunday Surprise


The idea is valuable as a stepping stone. It’s useful as a springboard. Sometimes a really interesting idea is the first strong rung in the ladder, sure. But that is all that it is. It’s a hook. It’s a twist. It’s a notion. It is not the backbone of the work. It is not the blood and heart of the thing. It’s not what makes your story interesting. Sure, a good idea might nudge people to check out your story, if the idea is easily encapsulated in a sentence or two, but it’s not what keeps us there. What keeps us there are characters with problems, what keeps us there are not simply core hooks but things that go deeper than mere ideas: hopes, dreams, wishes, fears, arguments, and the unruly thoughts you wrestle with at 3AM. What keeps us there is an interesting journey, a compelling problem, a fascinating escalation of conflict and question, and pages that have more to say than the plot that falls upon them.

Story is so much more than an idea.

Chuck Wendig

We live in the most distracted era of human history. The internet is a double-edged sword. Like money, the internet is neutral — and it can be used for good or bad based on who uses it.

Sadly, most of us are simply not responsible enough for the internet. We waste hours every day staring idly at a screen. Millennials are particularly prone to distractions on the internet, but nowadays, everyone is susceptible.

Our attention spans have shrunk to almost nothing. Our willpower has atrophied. We’ve developed some really bad habits that often require extreme interventions to reverse.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting the internet — with its constant distractions and interruptions — is turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers. One of the biggest challenges to constant distraction is that it leads to “shallow” rather than “deep” thinking, and shallow thinking leads to shallow living. The Roman philosopher Seneca may have put it best 2,000 years ago: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

Benjamin Hardy

Writing to market means you put the reader first. Then you work out a story to write for the reader. You’re looking for a way to appeal to the most readers in your chosen genre. Because, when it all comes down to it, writing to market is about writing for money. Now, I have no problems with earning money from our work. It’s great when we can get paid for what we do. However, I think the idea behind writing to market is, at its core, an attempt to make the most money possible. This is why tailoring a book for the majority of readers in a certain genre is key in this philosophy.

If you want to write that way, it’s fine with me. I’m not telling you to write for passion. If you want to make a gazillion dollars a month, go for it. I hope you have more success than I did because by the time year #2 was up, I had crashed and burned so hard that I was looking at working outside the home just to avoid writing another word again. I’m not saying that will happen to you. You might be able to write to market for the rest of your life. I’m not saying it’s impossible. I know it is. But will you enjoy it?

Writing to market killed my creativity. I stopped enjoying the process of storytelling. I’m convinced that writing to market kills creative voice. When writers listen to creative voice, they write books they’re most passionate about first and then try to find a market for it. Their voice is fresh and new, and they’re storytelling is strong. These are often the best stories they’ll ever write.

Ruth Ann Nordin

Write simply, which doesn’t mean the words should be laid out like turds in a row. They need sparkle and they need poetry, and if you need a run-on sentence to give your story the feeling it needs, fuck the grammar police, but know what rules you’re breaking, and why, even if you only sense why.

Writing isn’t about pretty manners, but it isn’t about trying to show you don’t have pretty manners either. It’s about the characters in the story, the dialogue, and a feeling of a subliminal story existing under the story. That there is more in the forest than the trees.

Write like everyone you know is dead. To hell with everyone else’s opinion when you write. Write for yourself. I don’t have a perfect reader in mind. That works for some, but it makes me write for them which means I might not be writing for me. I have no idea what anyone else will like. I only know what I like, so I write for me. It’s a wonderfully selfish moment. When I’m done, and the book or story is out there, then I hope a lot of folks like it. But face it, you can’t be universally admired, so don’t try to be.

Joe Lansdale

Novels have problems that only novelists can solve; and, the only way to become a novelist is to finish a novel.

– Michael Stackpole

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

– Maya Angelou

Sunday Surprise


A few days ago I learned of the passing of David Farland, beloved author and writing teacher. I was honored to meet him back in 2018, although we didn’t have much time to talk – it was a class of 50 writers and he was already booked for his only lunch at that workshop – but he has been a guest on this very blog a long time ago.

In memory of a great man, here’s the interview I did with him back in 2011 (yes, in another era) – some links or news might be expired, but I copy-pasted it below “as is” for a better memento.

R.i.P David Falrand, you will be sorely missed.

***

Interview with… David Farland by Barb on 28/10/2011

I read on his Daily Kicks that he wanted to do a blog tour, so I immediately offered my blog. He was supposed to be here in September, but things got postponed… which worked very well for both of us! Ladies and gents, I’m honored to have interviewed a real pro today. Please welcome David Farland. Feel free to leave comments (I hope to be able to approve them in a timely manner)!

Can you do us a summary of your writing career?

That’s not easy!  I’ve written and edited about fifty-novel length works and anthologies, been a New York Times Bestseller seven times, set the Guinness record for the World’s Largest Book Signing, worked with a number of major properties such as Star Wars and the Mummy in movies, and Starcraft and Xena in videogames.  I’ve trained dozens of writers who have gone on to become New York Times Bestsellers, and I’ve won a few awards for best novel of the year, best story of the year, things like that.  I often feel that when I talk about such things, it must have been someone else.  Most of the time, my life is rather dull–I sit and write.

Where do you find your inspiration?  Do you put yourself in your stories?

Inspiration is everywhere–movies that I watch, music I listen to, news reports, dreams after eating pepperoni pizza. (Seriously, I’ve gotten two novels that way!)  You just have to keep yourself open to it.  When you think about writing a lot, soon the ideas seem to come from everywhere.
As for characters, most of my protagonists are what I’d call “twisted versions of me.”  I can imagine what they would think and do only by examining what I see as possibilities within myself.

When and where do you write? Do you have a specific routine?

I have a nice Lazy Boy that I write on most of the time.  I put my laptop on it and type away.  Sometimes I’ll lie down in bed and write, if I’m tired.   As for when–I do it all the time, from 6:30 in the morning until about midnight.  Much of my time is spent writing correspondence, taking care of business, but the point is that I don’t have a set schedule.  I like to work out in the evenings because most of the time, after working out, I’m too tired to write.  But then there are those times when you get inspired, and it drags you out of bed.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

All of the above.  I teach a course called Million Dollar Outlines, and I do outline sometimes.  But I’ve also written about half of my books just off the cuff, improvising.  As to fast or slow, people complain that I’m not writing my books fast enough, but they don’t know all that I’m doing.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

Both if you can swing it.  Traditional publishing–where someone else prints, ships, edits, and markets your book–was a good deal three years ago.  It allowed an author to concentrate on his or her work.
But with the rise of electronic publishing, the deals there aren’t looking very good.  The traditional publishers are demanding too much of the author’s revenue, given what they’re providing.  Even then, a lot of publishers seem to be withholding monies due.
I think that we’re going through a transition period.  Perhaps in a couple of years, things will settle down, and the deals will get more reasonable.
But with this latest book, I just felt that I couldn’t take it through New York.
So I decided for something of a third alternative: I’m starting a new publishing company, one that will treat authors much better that what they’re used to.

For those who (still) don’t follow your Daily Kicks, what’s up at David Farland’s these days?

I’m releasing NIGHTINGALE hopefully on November 4th.  This is the beginning of a huge franchise, I suspect.  It’s the story of a young man, abandoned at birth, who is raised in the social system.  When he gets kicked out of one house as a teen and taken to another, he learns for the first time that he’s not human, but descended from a race of people that only look human.
The title NIGHTINGALE comes from the Asian Rainbird, or Asian Nightingale, which lays its eggs in other’s nests and lets birds of other species raise its young.
I think that this book will appeal to fans of TWILIGHT very strongly.  I was Stephenie Meyer’s writing teacher, and in our classes we spoke quite a bit about writing to the teen audience.  I just have never tried to bring out my own big series.
We’re excited about this because we’re doing something interesting.  We’re putting it out as an enhanced novel, with an app for the iPad, along with over 100 illustrations and animations.  We’ve got a 45-minute soundtrack with it, and of course an audiobook.  The hardcover will come  out later this fall.

Do you have any other project on the pipeline?

I’m finishing up the last book in the Runelords series, of course, and we’re getting ready to start pushing the movie in Hollywood.  (I wrote the Runelords screenplay earlier this year.)  I do have a producer who is interested in taking NIGHTINGALE to film, too, and so we’ll be pursuing that once I finish up with the Runelords.

You’re starting a writing contest, why is that?

I started writing for prize money in college on the advice of my university writing professor, Eloise Bell. I entered a story and won 3rd place in a contest. That inspired me to try harder, and within about 18 months, I won the grand prize for the Writers of the Future. That led to a three-novel contract with Bantam books.

So writing for contests launched my career, but I don’t see many of them being sponsored lately. I love writing. I think that it’s one of the most exciting and interesting jobs a person could have. So I want to help inspire other artists to create.

What kind of writing contest is it?

This is a short story contest, just ten pages. It can be set anywhere, any time, though it would be nice if it were set in the world of the Nightingale.

How is this contest different from others?

First, I’d really like to promote it to younger writers. I’d like to see teens enter the contest who may not have thought that writing can be a realistic choice for a career. I’d like to help them make their dreams come true.

What opportunities will the winner receive?

The winner will get $1000 cash, and will have his or her story published in the electronic versions of Nightingale. More importantly, East India Press will invite the top authors to submit novels for publication. East India Press will release these as enhanced books with illustrations and soundtracks, audiobooks, e-books, and as hardcover novels.
If the winner does publish with East India Press, I’ll help them push their books toward bestseller status by giving them guidance on a level that other editors aren’t trained to do.

Where can I find out about the contest?
You can learn all about it, and even find an article on how to win it at www.nightingalenovel.com.

How does one become a successful prize writer?
First, you have to be aware of the contest deadlines, and then enter before the contest ends. You’d be surprised at how many people want to win contests that they never seem to enter.
Beyond that, you need to familiarize yourself with what makes a good story, how it can be told well, and how to analyze your audience. A lot of those concerns are addressed in an article on my website at www.nightingalenovel.com. I don’t believe in just telling you that I’ve started a contest. I want to tell you how to win any writing contest.

Well, there you have it, writers. From a real pro. I was honored to have him here, and hope he stops by sometime again or consider my humble blog for his next release! Thank you, Mr Farland, for visiting my blog!

Sunday Surprise


What I’m trying to say is:

Being a writer is about more than writing.

Writing a book is about more than sitting down and writing the book.

We know this. But I don’t think we’re always so good at knowing exactly what this means — as in, there’s a lot about being a writerperson of books that nobody tells you and so there’s a whole buncha shit you simply don’t plan for. And you maaaaybe should.

(…)

We like to believe that writing a book is enough. And in many ways, it is. You don’t have to do anything beyond writing and editing the book. Once it’s out there, you can stop. That’s okay. But also, your book is releasing on a literal tide of dozens of other books in its genre, hundreds of other books in general, and all that is born upon seas of countless other distractions (social media, video games, oceans of pornography).

Plus, you’re a storyteller.

It is wholly appropriate for you to figure out the story about your story.

You have one. I’m sure of it. Our books are not born of nothing. They’re made from us, and the greatest mistake we make as authors is to believe we are not an important part of that — that we don’t have anything to say, that we’re just a cog in the creative machine, that the book is a shield we hide behind. But that’s not true. The book is a part of you. And you matter! This massive story came out of you (not literally), like a weird little book baby. It’s got your memetics wound up in there, and it came out of your experiences, your ideas, your hopes and fears. There’s something in there to talk about. Just as the book has a hook, so does how you talk about the book.

Chuck Wendig

I know this isn’t what new authors want to hear, but it’s true. Just because you publish books, it doesn’t mean you’ll make money. Just because you write in a certain genre with a certain plot, it doesn’t mean it’ll sell. Sometimes a book doesn’t resonate with readers, so they don’t buy them. It doesn’t mean the book is bad. (I’ve seen plenty of great books not selling well.) It just means the book didn’t “click” for some reason.

Even if you wrote something specifically to market, had tons of feedback on it from your target audience, got a professional cover, had a professional editor, and have the best website on the planet, you aren’t guaranteed sales. Also, you can run ads, do permafrees on the first in a series, or do other promotional stuff all day long, and you still might not reach the level of income you were hoping for. I’ve seen authors do all of the right things and still not make a living at this. The sad reality is that sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

Ruth Ann Nordin

Each to his own, but the idea of multiple drafts is not necessarily a good idea. A writer can get lost in all those drafts, and think the more drafts the better the book. I polish as I go, so there’s essentially one draft, though by polishing as I go, I’m doing a lot of little daily rewrites. I don’t outline or plot, except subconsciously, I just write, correcting each page the day its written, after the juices are done with the creative part. Then I look over yesterday’s work the next morning before continuing, touching up here and there. For me, this creates a more polished draft. About halfway through I reread the whole thing to regain momentum, polishing if needed, then I write the rest, and reread it all and polish. So it’s one draft and a polish. Now, this may not work for everyone. There is no right way, but this is my way. I can only offer as evidence a forty-six year career. Other’s may feel they need to do a lot of drafts. I don’t. I also have found the more I’ve worked like this, the tighter the work is first time out. I write more loosely with letters, notes, things of that nature, and that is a kind of freedom from thinking about how “right” it is. But stories and books are better polished in progress for me instead of juggling a lot of drafts. I did that in the beginning, and it just depressed me. I let the story come fast every day, but when I’m done, I read over what I’ve written and make touch ups.

Joe Lansdale

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise. Attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.

– HG Wells

When I was first starting out, I had the same agent as Agatha Christie. I was about 19 and she was in her nineties. I met her once, and I remember she said, “I want to die face-first in my typewriter.” And I feel that way. I mean, I want to go on forever, just writing.

Danielle Steele

Sunday Surprise


NEVER PUT DOWN YOUR OWN WORK. Especially older books.

Some reader might think your older book is the best thing they ever read and the last thing they want is to be insulted by you putting down their tastes in books.

Keep your mouth shut, keep learning, write the next book, and get it out. Repeat.

And if you really do realize no one cares but you, the freedom in your writing is amazing.

Go have fun.

Dean Wesley Smith

What I can tell you is that I know less about writing now than when I began, and that my successes have been born of failures, and that my failures are made from just trying shit. All the time. It’s me constantly poking at this thing I do. Sometimes that means 2,000 words a day, sometimes it means 5,000 words in a day, sometimes it means no writing in a day because I’m lost in thought to it. Sometimes it means self-care. Sometimes it means I realize today’s self-care is just a crutch, and I can’t lean on it. But every day it usually means touching it, so to speak, just a little bit. It means looking at it, prodding it, not leaving the work alone. It means accepting that to do this thing I want to do, I need to do it, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and not always in one direction. Progress is not always in a forward direction. It’s too often sideways. Once in a while, it’s driving in reverse. Sometimes you go back to go forward, sometimes you spin in place for a while, just revving your engine. I don’t know.

That’s the point: I don’t know.

And nobody else does, either.

Nobody but you.

But to Delilah’s point above, there is no waste in your effort. That’s the key takeaway here — the goal is simply never to give up, and always to be doing something. Thinking, plotting, writing, rewriting, scrapping it, starting over, just fucking poking and prodding the thing. How you do that, and the form that it takes, is yours. But be assured that no effort is left on the floor. No part of it fails to teach you a lesson: even, and especially, the failures. To fail is to try. To try is to do. Most people write one book every never. Most people never even manage a paragraph, much less a scene, or a chapter, or a finished manuscript. The best thing I can tell you is to keep on keeping on. The tragedy is not in failing. The tragedy is in quitting. Persevere. And as I said before: persist.

Chuck Wendig

The manuscript you have just finished writing is not your story. Your story lives in your mind. The manuscript is a tool that takes the story from your head and puts it in my head.

The very best writers use that manuscript tool so effectively that readers can actually hear the writer’s voice as they read. That’s why so many readers have a visceral response to writers like Stephen King or Nora Roberts. (Oh, I hate them. They can’t write. Or Oh, I love them. They could tell me stories forever.) That’s why so many English students and unsophisticated writers will complain that certain bestsellers “can’t write their way out of a paper bag.” Those reviewers, students, readers, and writers are all reacting to upper-level voice, without realizing it.

Kris Rusch

We start by being happy first. Learn to be content with how things currently are for you. We often hear “don’t compare yourself to others”, and I think this falls in line with that idea. It’s hard to be content with how things are for you if you are comparing yourself to someone else.

I’m also going to say something that is probably going to upset quite a few people. It’s time to stop listening to others tell you WHAT makes an author successful. I understand that writers are looking to make money, but the pursuit of money does end up trapping us into the cycle I mentioned above. This post is talking about happiness, not money. You can have both if you learn to be content with the money you’re making. But what I find most of the time is that writers want to make more. It’s more and more. Even if they’re making a living, it’s not enough. And the marketing experts know this. This is why they sell courses teaching authors how to make more money. The illusion of money (aka success) = lasting happiness is a powerful one in the writer community, and there are some people out there who are taking advantage of that.

If your aim is to be happy for the long-term, you have to shift your mindset. I’m currently working on shifting mine. For the past couple of months, I’ve felt incredible despair about writing. I was thinking, “What’s the point in writing if I can’t sell books unless I write to market?” and “What’s the point in writing when my income keeps dropping?”

Ruth Ann Nordin

I know so many people who chase whatever worked for other people. They never truly decide what they want to do, and end up jumping from one thing to the next — trying to strike quick gold. And repetitively, they stop digging just a few feet from the gold after resigning the spot is barren.

No one will ever give you permission to live your dreams. As Ryan Holiday has said in The Obstacle is the Way, “Stop looking for angels, and start looking for angles.” Rather than hoping for something external to change your circumstances, mentally reframe yourself and your circumstances.

“When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.” — Wayne Dyer

You are enough.

You can do whatever you decide to do.

Make the decision and forget what everyone else says or thinks about it.

Benjamin Hardy

Sunday Surprise


“If you are going to devote your life to a music career, you also need to devote your life to having fun with it as well.” Mariah Carey on The Voice.

I know many of you get tired of me constantly saying over and over to have fun with your writing. I know that goes against the myth that sitting alone in a room and telling stories is “hard work.” And that many of you have issues from your past about needing something you make money with to be work.

I got all that.

But making your writing work, making it special, making it difficult to do just leads to the critical voice eventually grinding you down to a stop.

And making writing work never allows the real you to show through your writing. And that real you is what makes your stuff different. Original. And sell.

The real secret to being a long-term successful artist is what Mariah Carey said. Devote your life to having fun with your art, be it writing or music or painting.

Dean Wesley Smith

Money isn’t enough. It never is. You have to START with connecting to your own heart, and telling the stories you hold dear. And if you need your “adult” self to hold down a day job so that your “child” self can play, then DAMMIT, DO THAT. Do NOT make the creative child pay the bills. The child’s job is to play. It is the ADULT’S job to pay the bills.

And…if you are lucky enough that the output of that child finds an audience? Embrace and nurture that connections,a nd be true to it.

And…if you are smart enough to set your “adult” to learning marketing, such that it handles the Outer world with the “child” safe in the Inner? Most of the most successful people I know either split themselves into Artist and Marketer, or find an agent or manager to handle this “adult” role.

But they do NOT whore the children of their hearts. They just DON’T.

Steven Barnes

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.

~ Alice Koller

There’s no map but the one you draw. No process of anyone’s you can borrow. You gain your groove by wearing it into the floor one micrometer at a time. It’s erosion. Water on stone to find its path. It makes it harder in times like these because we want it to be math. PERSIST.

You don’t know you can do it. You don’t know that you belong. You can do it. You belong as much as anybody. You’re an impostor, sure, because we’re all impostors, we’re all here unasked for, unbidden, uninvited, wearing our masks.

Persist anyway.

Chuck Wendig

Creators on social media can feel as if they are expected to present a positive, successful image at all times—and to churn out a steady mix of self-revelation, irreverent commentary, earnest activism, and a smidge of self-promotion. It creates the impression that all of us are doing great, that things couldn’t be better, that we’re all on upward trajectories of success and enrichment.

Unfortunately, for quite a few of us at any given moment, that’s not entirely true.

Creative professions, especially those connected with publishing, are difficult and often low-paying. For persons without other full-time occupations, trying to survive in a gig economy can be brutal, exhausting, and demoralizing. Sometimes we get depressed. The entities some of us rely upon to help advance our careers let us down. Things sometimes don’t turn out as well as we had hoped. Promises made to us get broken; opportunities get rescinded.

Most of us can’t talk openly about such setbacks. In some cases it would do us more harm than good to air our disappointments, so we shield our fans and friends from our bad news.

David Mack

Sunday Surprise


With fiction, the reader wants to escape their life and you’re offering them a way into this other world. Those readers often become loyal to your brand over time.

So when this question comes up for you, it is usually at one of two different points in your life.

If you haven’t written anything yet, seriously, go with your heart.

You need to write the book of your heart. You have to. Why would you do this otherwise?

Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. You write because you can’t not write. You love it. You love reading. You love words. You just want to do this, and even if it never makes any money, you’re going to do it anyway.

Joanna Penn

There’s no use, after all, in beating yourself up for desiring more from your craft than the confines of one small box. The truth is writers write. Sometimes in one vein, sometimes in another.

While others may tell you that you fit this mould or that, it is you and only you that knows what is best. Trust your gut. Accept it’ll change.

At the end of the day, what really matters is not your label but your craft. Write well.

If you do feel like you want to leave one box for another, know that you can. It goes back to number one: set that goal. Learn what you will need to do. Start to take those steps.

Baby steps, dear writer.

Great things take time.

Mackenzie Belcastro

I am prolific for the following reasons.

1… I love to tell stories.

2… I spend more time making up stories than other people do.

3… I don’t waste time writing stories ahead of writing them or going back over a story after it is done. Into the dark one draft clean and I have been doing that for thirty years now.

4… I have set up systems to get my work to readers quickly.

5… I have been at this for over forty years now.

I would love to be able to type faster and over the years my speed has increased slightly. But that has nothing at all to do with me being prolific or selling millions of copies of my books.

Dean Wesley Smith

Write something meaningful to you, regardless of imagined commercial implications

This one is hard. As I began putting this book together, with its unusual structure and its potential for being categorized incorrectly as an anthology, I couldn’t help wondering: Who will buy this? Could a publisher get behind it or will it be too odd? Is this what I “should” be writing? Will this be a waste of a year?

I stopped asking. Or at least I tried to. Because the thing is, there aren’t valid answers to those questions until you’ve written the book. Unless your name is so huge that your publisher is going to buy whatever you pitch them, no matter how vague the idea, isn’t it better (I asked myself) to simply write the story you want to write? Then you can show people a completed novel. And it will speak for itself.

So that’s what I did. Because the simplicity is this: every publisher in every country of the world, and every reader who has ever existed, wants the same thing: a good book. That’s all. I don’t think I can write a good book if I’m writing to chase an idea of what people might want. And besides that, who wants to spend time on something that doesn’t make you want to jump out of the bed in the morning so you can get to work?

Happy writing to all of you!

Arwen Elys Dayton

Write what you love. Set up a solid business model of the kind that you want to build. Focus on a slow build, and concentrate on providing books to anyone who wants to read your work.

If you do those things, and stay true to yourself, you will still have a career five years from now. Will you be rich? Maybe. If you figure out what works for you. Will you be successful? Depends on your definition of success. Will you be happy? Ah, hell, how do I know? I don’t have a crystal ball.

But I do know this: You’ll be happier if you do what you love than you will be if you’re just blowing hot air around a room as you try to impress people you look down on.

So shut out the hype as much as you can. Take what little bits of advice that make sense to you from the gurus out there, and apply those bits to your business. But avoid “systems.” Because they don’t work, often not even for the person who developed it.

Do your thing, and you’ll have a greater chance of being around five years from now than that supposedly super-successful person “everyone” is talking about.

Remember that, and you’ll be just fine.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise


I consider there to be very few Actual Truths in writing, in storytelling, in making cool shit — but this, I think, comes as close to Actual Truth as I can muster.

Every story has one original thing about it.

And that original thing is

You.

That sounds like some goofy-ass self-help shit, I know, but trust me, you’re it. You’re the thing. You’re the Original Idea, the Important Discovery, the One Untold Tale, the Unexplored Path, the Savior of Narnia, the Sword of Damocles, the Revenge of the Sith wait I’m getting carried away, sorry, sorry. Ahem. Moving on. Point is, it’s you. Look at it this way —

You’re a bundle of unexpected genetics. Two people fucked, and they made you. And to make each of them, two other people fucked, and on and on and on — you’re at the bottom of an inverted pyramid, the nadir of an unholy host of genetic material that has scrambled itself up and guaranteed that you are a random, uncountable confluence of atoms. And that’s just the genetic side.

On the memetic side — the side of ideas and information — oh my sweet fucking hell, are you ever an infinite, irreplicable* maze. You are a labyrinthine tangle of wants, desires, fears, experiences, anxieties, certainties, questions. You’re the sum total of the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, the things you’ve seen. And you complicate that when you go more places, meet more people, see new things. You never get simpler. You just get more complex. Your uncertainties grow. Your maze grows larger even as you travel it. You’re an amazingly weird, bizarre, wonderful bundle of wires.

Chuck Wendig

I get emails from authors every week asking if they are “too late” to write a book when the world is so crowded with books and more being published every day.

Best time to be a creatorBut it really is the best time ever to be a creator and I am grateful every day to be born at a time in history when the internet enables us to write, publish and connect with readers across the world through free or cheap tools.

When you get bogged down by negative news or get sucked into the drama of whatever authors are worried about next, look at the bigger creative picture and be happy!

Joanna Penn

I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. It’s best that I be as clear about this as I can—I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves.

– Stephen King

The best advice I can give is this, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it again, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.

– Neil Gaiman

That always happens to me. I couldn’t sustain a week of publicity if I wanted to. I couldn’t go ten days without writing fiction no matter how many concerts or plays or movies I attend. I’m just not wired for it.

I know that wiring is trained. Just like runners who take a week off feel cranky and out of sorts because they haven’t been exercising. (Talk to someone who runs regularly and gets a knee injury—but stand some distance away. They’ll be grumpy.)

But I’m pleased I trained that wiring into place. I love writing fiction more than almost anything else. My job isn’t hard. It’s not even a job. It’s play. And who wants to avoid play?

The rest of this stuff—the promotion, the publicity, the constant striving to rise above all the noise—that’s work.

Writing fiction is great fun.

And has been, for me at least, for decades.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise


Words of wisdom, writers on writing, whatever you want to call them, here’s the monthly feature back for the rest of the year! Have a great Sunday!

12 Reminders You Probably Need Today Because Let’s Be Honest We’re All Struggling

Some much-needed reminders for you, just in case.

1 All writers start out writing things that aren’t very good.

2. Even experienced writers sometimes still write awful stuff.

3. The only way to get better is to keep practicing. No matter how long it takes.

4. You don’t have to do everything.

5. Sometimes, doing your best means not doing very well.

6. Everyone goofs.

7. Other people’s opinions don’t determine how skilled you are. You do.

8. Every rejection is a step closer to success, even if it’s the 10th one in a row.

9. If you enjoy writing, then you should keep writing.

10. If it feels like you no longer enjoy it, there’s probably a reason unrelated to your actual writing.

11. No book, article, script, or writer is perfect. You don’t have to try to be.

12. You can keep writing. And it’s something you’ll never regret.

Meg Dowell

The work doesn’t need your confidence.

The work just needs the work.

What I mean is, if you can manage, push through. Recognize that we all have those days where we don’t believe in the thing we’re writing, but all it takes is to persevere and continue the effort. Your faith in it is invisible and illusory — words on a page are not ensorcelled by how much you believe in it. It’s not a fragile little sprite, it doesn’t require your clapping to come to life. Now, the caveat here is sometimes you still have to take a break and walk away — and that’s okay, too. Don’t walk away too long, but a short, non-permanent vacation from the work is super-cool, and sometimes essential. But then come back to it. Come back to the narrative and renew your effort.

(…)

We are often the worst judges of our own work. Especially as we’re eyeballs deep in it. It’s like trying to figure out if you’re going to die while lost in the woods. You are or you aren’t; worrying about it isn’t gonna fix your problem. What will fix your problem is picking a direction and moving in it.

Just like writing.

Chuck Wendig

“If you think you understand what you’re doing, you’re not learning anything.”

Wow does this apply to writing. Writing, as many have learned in the workshops, is an art that the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. I love that part of it and always chase the next level up, constantly learning.

Dean Wesley Smith

I figured I might lose a fan or two with some of the character choices I made. Someone could be angry that a certain character lived or died, or that someone else was hiding a major secret. So be it. I was happy with it. That’s because my primary approach was that of a fan. I am indeed a fan of my own work! And why not? I WROTE IT. IT’S MINE. I should like it. If I didn’t like it, I’d change it or just stop writing it.

So that, to me, is the simple-yet-infinitely-complex solution to serving your audience and writing for fans – be a fan of your own work. Make the decision to change the narrative based on the story you want to tell, because you’ve lived with the story and those characters more than anybody else on the planet could. If you want to write something comforting, then by all means, go for it. If you want to blow shit up, have at it!

Not everyone will like it. But it’s the most honest way to go.

Michael J. Martinez

You’re taking risks just by being a writer. You are, in this modern era, as much of an entrepreneur as the folks who started Chef’d or MoviePass. The difference between them and most writers it that the folks who start big businesses like that know they’re taking huge risks.

You need to understand that as well, and act in the same way.

Many of you who read this weekly blog aren’t writer/gamers. You tried the systems and moved on or you didn’t try at all, just doing your writing and publishing and watching from afar. Good for you. You’re building sustainable businesses.

But you also need to acknowledge the risks of what you’re doing. It’s hard to build a business, whether that’s a restaurant or a retail store or a writing business. It takes day-to-day massaging, and a focus on making financial decisions while nurturing your creative side. Because without the creative side, you won’t have a business that you want…ten years down the road. You’ll be on some hamster wheel. And that’s not what any of us want.

Kris Rusch

Wednesday Weekly Roundup


And welcome to post number… two. Five. Zero. Zero. Yes! TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED posts on this blog since 2009! 🙂 Gone from daily posts to weekly posts, and even though blogging is no longer a thing, I’ll keep going for a little longer.

The writing is still slow (less than 2K again) because I spent a lot of time editing and formatting and making covers last week, and this week I have guests and some traveling to do. Hopefully next week I’ll catch up, but for now I’m at 220K for the year, so I’m not complaining.

I saw the warning about changed on BundleRabbit and now I’m starting to see what it’s becoming. It’s not fully ready yet, so I’ll post about it next week, when I’ll head there to set up the next curated anthology for Sci-fi July. It has changed (moan) but has added some very interesting features I hope to use in the future (yay!).

For you KU authors, there’s a wake-up call. The ever-changing landscape of indie publishing is going through another shift, maybe not this year, but it’s coming. I have only certain Italian titles in KU (and Lisa’s Odyssey), so it won’t affect me much.

Although I haven’t really built an audience elsewhere, but you can find me on Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and DriveThru already. Probably more in the future, especially if some of the above features pan out. I hope eventually to be able to sell from my own website, but it won’t be in the next couple of years.

I enrolled all my books in the Smashwords July Summer/Winter sale – everything 50% off from tomorrow and until the end of July, except for 99c titles and the new one coming next week (or possibly earlier, since I’ll be traveling soon).

Now back to prepping those new titles! And since I skipped a month or three, I’ll add some Words of Wisdom/Writers on Writing/what-have-you below! Have a great week! 🙂

***

Kill your darlings.

It is, as with all pieces of writing advice, good advice.

Until it’s not.

Meaning, no one single piece of writing advice is a one-size-fits-all unitasker. Nearly all pieces of writing advice — with maybe the exception of FINISH YOUR SHIT — can easily be Judo-flipped onto its back. Nearly every piece of writing advice and its opposite is true, at some point, for many writers. And it’s vital we not be rigorous with what we feel are these chestnuts of writing advice. These chestnuts must, in fact, be roasted time and time again to bring out their nuttiest, most delectable flavor.

(…)

And as I said above, it’s good advice, until it’s not.

More to the point, Kill Your Darlings (besides from being a great band name) is 101-class writing advice. It’s entry-level, as are most of the authorial platitudes. Show Don’t Tell? Sure, great, until the time comes when you need to tell the reader something. Write What You Know? Go for it, until you realize you don’t know a whole lotta shit, and if you take that advice too literally you’ll never write a goddamn thing that isn’t you sitting at the keyboard writing about writing about writing. Never Use Adverbs, For They Are Wizard Prisons! Great, great advice, perfectly golden always and forever, oh, except the words “always” and “forever” are motherfucking adverbsWriters Write Every Day — except until they don’t, and some write every week, or every month, some write 2000 words a day, some write 15000 words once a month, some write for a couple hours, or four, or eight, some write to music, some write to the screams of the people they have trapped under their floorboards. Open With An Action Sequence, except action sequences don’t always give the proper context, and also, what if you’re not writing action?

Chuck Wendig

The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse wen you beat your head against it.

– Douglas Adams

12 Strategies to Help You Deal With the Stressors Blocking You From Writing

Life is stressful. You can write anyway.

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking (usually) doesn’t work.

2. Break big scary tasks into small less scary pieces. Tackle one piece at a time.

3. Prioritize the things that need to get done today. Finish those first.

4. Don’t forget to breathe.

5. Write something that makes you feel good — no “strings” attached.

6. Treat writing as a reward, not an item to check off your list.

7. Speaking of lists … try making shorter ones. Just TRY.

8. Remember that it’s sometimes better not to write than to write poorly. Sometimes.

9. Take a few days off from writing if you have to — but only a few!

10. Or, alternate between writing days and writing “off” days.

11. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t write. It’s OK to have a bad day.

12. Give yourself a pat on the back for every good writing day. Cherish those moments. Smile.

Meg Dowell

TAKE CHANCES, DON’T JUST PLAY THE MARKET

I need to write what I’m passionate about. If I don’t, the reader knows. Understanding the market is fine, and I’m not saying it’s entirely without influence, but writing is a labor of love. I need to be able to sustain that love over the course of the boring bits, right? Not every scene can be a character returning from the dead or a car chase or a shower scene.

KD Edward

What are the rules of Writer Club? Well, since you asked…

1. The First Rule of Writer Club is that long-term success is always about building readership.
2. The Second Rule of Writer Club is that any success you have in achieving the first rule does nothing to hurt the chances of mine.
3. The Third Rule of Writer Club is that it’s okay to talk about Writer Club.

Ron Collins

That blaming of the writer, and that emphasis on the words is reflexive. It’s what we were taught in school.

However, this craft we call “writing” isn’t about words. It’s about telling stories. And there is no secret scale that makes one story better than another.

It’s all about taste.

So it’s time, writers, to stop blaming your colleagues when one of their books doesn’t satisfy you. Maybe the book isn’t to your taste. Maybe you don’t like that sort of story. Maybe the writer didn’t tell the story the way you would have told the story.

All valuable ways of looking at fiction. But you as a writer have to stop using that invisible scale inculcated in us when we were children—in a different world, one run by a handful of people who had a stranglehold on publishing. That scale does not exist. It never existed. There is no perfect novel. Nor is there—from a writer of Nora’s caliber—“merely adequately readable prose.”

If you start admitting that a book isn’t to your taste, you free yourself up to read—and write—things that take risks. You can write books that don’t belong on that imaginary scale. You can drop the chains that force you to struggle with that scale, and start writing things that interest you.

You can find the freedom to write what you love. But only if you stop blaming other writers.

It’s all taste, folks. And your taste is as valid as mine. It’s just different. And that’s okay.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise


Words of wisdom, writers on writing, more writers’ quotes than ever! Happy Sunday!

I am more and more aware of this dichotomy in the indie community. There is a pervasive focus on vanity metrics like sales ranking or number of books sold over profit and money in the bank.

Many consider it ‘better’ to reach number one on Amazon in a category where they have paid for a ton of advertising than bulk sell thousands of books that no one will ever know about but have thousands of dollars extra in the bank.

As Orna Ross noted in the Blockchain for Books white paper,

“Many authors crave attention more than money and overvalue their work emotionally while undervaluing it commercially.”

Orna is a literary fiction and creative non-fiction author, poet and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, and told me that the biggest challenge for authors is “to understand that you are in business and what that means, as well as knowing the value of what you create.”

Orna has challenged herself to understand her ‘comps,’ or comparison titles, and to dig deep into the micro-genres around her books. She also stressed the importance of looking outside the publishing world for ideas – definitely something I felt coming out of the fair. I think we have more in common with the tech community than the publishing world most of the time.

Joanna Penn

 

And here you might be saying, WHOA WHOA WHOA, WHY ARE YOU NOT TELLING ME TO CONSIDER MY CAREER, OR THE MARKET, OR TO CONSULT THE ORACLES OF PUBLISHING.

Listen, you can care about that stuff.

Maybe you even should, I dunno. It’s certainly not the worst idea to try to imagine what things might sell and what things might not. But… the reality is, nobody actually knows anything? I’ve made this point before but it demands a return visit: nobody knows anything inside publishing. They can make guesses. Many can make educated guesses based off insight and experience. But there’s no answer. And by the time you actually write the thing that might serve the market, the market will have changed. As I’ve said before, you’re aiming your spaceship at a star that has already burned out — the light from it just hasn’t caught up yet. The market is an unknowable entity. It is a lightless, doom-filled eye whose only language is chaos. It’s Sauron, it’s the Death Star, it’s Kanye West’s Twitter account. My advice is to stay away from it.

Chuck Wendig

 

After innumerable rounds of revisions, when the stress of ‘will it sell or will it die?’ had disappeared, I finally began to chip away at a new idea. And you know what?

I wrote another book. Sometimes I wrote for eighteen hours on both Saturday and Sunday, every weekend for a month. And sometimes I didn’t even open the document for four weeks. But eventually, it became a book shaped thing, and I realized that I didn’t have to write every single day to be a writer. I have to write when the ideas won’t simmer anymore and come to a boil. I have to write when I’m able to devote my thought processes to the project at hand, and not the one that hasn’t sold, or the one that I need to revise. I have to write when my job or my kids or my yard work or any of the other responsibilities I have aren’t dragging at my thoughts. Sometimes that happens every day, and sometimes it doesn’t happen for a month, but the fact is, just because my life gets in the way sometimes does not mean that I’m not a writer. If book shaped things eventually come out of my brain, then I am, by definition, a writer.

Stacey Filak

 

Leave your creative voice alone, folks.

Change to positive. And how do you do that with so much training in the other way? Actually, simply do three things…

1… Stop caring so much about the final product, just do the best you can.

2… Write one draft, clean with cycling in creative voice, and release with a promise to yourself you won’t touch it again.

3… Have fun. Make writing fun again. Make it play.

Then stand back because you will be writing stories you never expected to write and having a blast doing it.

Dean Wesley Smith

 

It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.

– Ernest Hemingway

 

But as a writer, you most likely will begin to tire of writing the same kind of thing over and over. As we age, our tastes tend to change. The lighthearted stories of wonder that we told when we were young might not become as interesting as other genres, and so many authors will want to explore—much to the dismay of their fans, who will feel disappointed and betrayed.

And so the mounting pressures from fans, publishers, agents, and spouses all combine to a point where the author just says, “Screw all of you!” and has to walk away for a while.

But here is the thing: If you’re an artist, it is not a lifestyle that you can choose. The truth is, those creative fires keep burning within you, and you have to come back. You will be different, will have grown and evolved, but you’re still a creative.

I believe that you will find that your inner joy is still tied to the arts. So the old band gets back together, minus a player or two, with a couple of new faces. Or the painter picks up his brush and begins a new work, or the writers wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t get a dream out of his head until it transforms into a story.

The thing that I want to say is this: In life, we undergo creative highs and lows. At the highest points, we might sit and write for sixteen hours a day and it feels as if the book is merely “writing itself” while all that we do is type. At a low point, we might wonder if we will ever be able to write again.

David Farland

 

If you think of stories as conversation—gone after the words are uttered—you won’t be as tempted to go back and tweak. Just let the words represent that past moment. Move forward. Move on.

Realize that there are lot more important things in the world right now than some perceived literary transgression.

And because we’re all stressed and terrified and grieving, we need fiction. A lot of it. Some people want entertainment that they call mindless. (I don’t think any entertainment is mindless.) Others want an incredible challenge. And still others want to have their buttons pushed in fiction, so their buttons don’t get pushed in real life.

Our job is to provide all of that. Write. Write a lot. Give the stressed and grieving a different world, something else to think about, a different preoccupation, if only for a few hours.

There’s value in that. A lot more value than we writers usually give credence to.

So write the tough topics. Write the easy topics.

Just write.

Because that’s what we do.

Kris Rusch

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