Sunday Surprise


That’s what the critical voice does. It makes writing hard, unpleasant, and something to be avoided, rather than embraced.

All of us who write face that. We just have different battles with our critical voices. Some writers battle the voice in the words on the page. Other writers battle the voice in the types of stories it’s okay to tell. And apparently, some, like me, battle the voice on expectation of production.

So I need to revamp. Again. As I seem to do annually with that pesky critical voice.

Since I had the realization so soon after the workshop, I thought I would share.

As is always true with any workshop I teach, I suspect I learn more than the students do. And I never know what I will learn.

Although I usually do learn something new about myself.

Kris Rusch

I’m still here. Which, in the digital age ,says A LOT.

Still HERE, in your corner. Here to give you tough love, more love, hard truths, more laughs and let you know that you matter. Your writing matters—regardless the reason you do it—so do yourself a huge favor and take time finding your WHY.

Then once you find it, always keep searching. The world needs more dreamers, more storytellers and more stories.

Kristen Lamb

That’s writing a novel into the dark. Buckle in and believe you will end back up in the station, breathing hard and laughing.

Yet so many writers have bought into the myth that writing is “work” and you must suffer for your art. And that you can’t make a mistake or have a wrong word and everything has got to be planned out ahead because, heaven-forbid, you write extra words.

And, of course, everything has to be rewritten, edited by someone who doesn’t write, rewritten again, and so on in search of a perfection that never can exist in the arts.

That’s torture and writers who write that way seldom last for more that a few books or a few years.

Sitting alone in a room and making shit up is fun. Plain and simple. Sometimes fun because of how well a story is going, sometimes rollercoaster fun of pure terror and worry and fear (and maybe even panic).

But fun.

So go have fun. Gets some words done. It’s Friday night and I have a movie to watch.

Dean Wesley Smith

Being a great writer takes a lifetime. There are hundreds of skills that all work in tandem, and then there’s the mental and emotional maturity earned from experience that makes your fiction resonant.

It’s very tempting to get to a point where you’re pretty good and just stop. You’ve found your comfort zone. You say to yourself, “I’m a good writer now, this is the kind of stuff I write, and it’s working. I’ve found my place and I’m going to stay in this lane for life.”

It’s such a relief. No more struggle. No more failure. Consistent success.

At least that’s how it seems.

In reality, your comfort zone as a writer is a path to stagnation, to atrophy, to becoming a plagiarist of yourself instead of a creative writer.

The temptation of the comfort zone is exacerbated by the publishing industry. Publishing is a business first and foremost, and the strategy is usually “this made us money, so do it again and again!”

Many successful authors fall into this repetition pit and spend the rest of their careers regurgitating their past successes ad nauseam. Authors need to make a living just like anyone else, and a comfortable life doing what you love is an admirable goal for a writer. Right?

I would posit that this is an unfulfilling life for a writer. A life of diminishing returns, and of slowly, steadily waning quality.

The only way to grow as a writer is to consistently step out of your comfort zone.

(…)

Writing is not something you do in your room alone. It’s not an excuse to hide from the world. Don’t let your home become your comfort zone. Get out and experience life or you won’t have anything interesting to write about.

Fail. Learn. Grow. Repeat.

It’s the only way to become the best writer you can be.

Dave Terruso

Sunday Surprise


The real key for time management with licensing is this:

Your primary job is writing. Your secondary job is to make sure the public sees your storytelling in one form or another. For most of us, that’s in book form.

After those two jobs, then you’ll need to learn licensing/negotiation because you will need those skills down the road, no matter what. I was a baby writer with a handful of stories out when a theater in LA approached me to license the rights to use one of my stories as a monologue. I had no idea what I was doing. But if I had known then what I know now…

And that’s the key. Make learning your third job, followed by some kind of schedule. You might have time to figure out how to license one teeny part of a property. So schedule that first. Then move to the next, and the next, and the next.

The key here is this:

You can’t do this all at once. None of us can. Nor can you do everything. Again, none of us can. But you can get started.

And you can stop being afraid of licensing. It’s part of your business. In fact, licensing is how your business reaches the public and earns money. So you need to learn how to leverage licensing in the way that is best for your business.

Manage your time using the formulas above along with the WIBBOW test. Keep track of what you do in some kind of spreadsheet/calendar/diary.

You’ll be surprised what you will have accomplished by this time next year.

Kris Rusch

Talent is so utterly subjective. How can we know if we actually have it? Recently, I was chatting with my cousin who’s an incredible artist.

She mentioned how, no matter how many compliments or how many sales, she can’t help but feel like an imposter.

I, of course, responded that authors suffer the same malaise. Imposter syndrome is alive and well, and it doesn’t matter how many books we write, the titles we earn or how many books we sell. For a lot of us? We still can’t help but feel like a fraud.

That we don’t actually have any talent. Oh, and that any moment someone might find out we’ve fooled the world and have no talent at all.

Kristen Lamb

Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the rollercoaster of the creative journey.

– Joanna Penn, The Successful Author Mindset

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 writer 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.

I think that there are some things that young writers can do to protect themselves from burnout.

First, don’t obsess about your writing. If you don’t give yourself time to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, the truth is that you run a risk of stifling yourself as an artist.

Take care of family and social problems when the fire is still small, and don’t wait for it to consume the house.

If you have creative differences with an editor and an artist, and that person is too immature to handle them gracefully, recognize that it might be time to terminate the relationship as gently as you can.

And if you do burn out, recognize that this, too, is just a phase that you’re going through.

David Farland

“My jump is not high enough, my twists are not perfect, I can’t place my leg behind my ear.” Please don’t do that. Sometimes there is such an obsession with the technique that this can kill your best impulses. Remember that communicating with a form of art means being vulnerable, being imperfect. And most of the time is much more interesting. Believe me.

– BARYSHNIKOV

Sunday Surprise


I’ve blogged at length about the differences between goals and dreams, but TLDR: goals are within your control, dreams are what you want but beyond your control.

While self-pubbing has allowed writers unprecedented control over how we publish and promote, there are still four things beyond our control that writers seems to get stuck on.

(…)

You should go to conventions and meet like-minded authors and have coffee-break/beer-rant conversations with them. If you find a kindred soul, you should trade manuscripts with them for critiques (they aren’t critics, they are fellow artists) and attempt co-writing a few times. It’s helpful, and fun, and a nice break from all of the lonely solitude of being a writer.

But it’s okay if you don’t make any lasting friendships, or co-write any stories, or trade manuscripts.

It’s even okay if your peers don’t like you.

Other writers aren’t necessary for you to succeed in this business, and their acceptance of you isn’t necessary for you to feel good about yourself and your career.

Friends in this biz are great, but don’t worry if you don’t have any.

Joe Konrath

After we choose a genre (or genre fusion like mystery-thriller, historical romance, dark fantasy, etc.) then we need to refine the experience another level. This helps us pitch to the right group of people.

How long is our work? How dense? What book(s) are most like ours? Do we specialize in long, heavily researched books with a lot of world-building (Michael Crichton) or are we prolific, focused on shorter works of fiction that cater to those who inhale pulp novels (Louis L’Amour)?

Or are we somewhere in between? Maybe we do both?

Crichton didn’t compete with L’Amour. They had vastly different audiences with diametrically opposite expectations.

***No one expected Crichton to release multiple books a year. Conversely, L’Amour wouldn’t have become a legend if he’d only released a book every eighteen months.

Kristen Lamb

I also know that being scared is part of owning a business. There’s no guarantee of success. No guarantee of continued success. No guarantee that if you do A,B, and C, you’ll be as rich as Nora Roberts or as famous as Stephen King. So what?

Be your own writer. Be your own business owner. Be someone who tries, and eventually you will succeed.

Stop making excuses.

The only path to success is a path of risk-taking and failure. Instead of fearing that failure, learn from it. Try again. Try smarter. Eventually those risks will pay off. That failure will help you carve the path you need to walk. Failure will teach you how to be better and stronger, and prepare you for the difficulties of success.

Because there are a lot of difficult elements to success, things you can’t plan for until you’re there.

Most of you won’t get there, if your comments to me are any indication. Because you’re all searching for reasons not to try.

Kris Rusch

Whatever the case, with this book and with Wanderers, it has been proven resoundingly that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m actually quite happy about that. It makes each book its own peculiar journey, and it also releases me from a certain kind of pressure. If I enter every book feeling like I need to have everything locked down, if it needs to be a well-trod path, it’ll be frustrating. There’s a level of performance anxiety there. But if every book is a portal into a whole new place with all new rules, I can be forgiven for having to stumble around blindly for a while.

(It’s amazing the things to do inside our minds to make this process feel better, to absolve ourselves of certain stresses and sins. We do what we must because we can, as GlaDOS said. Also, but there’s no sense crying over every mistake, you just keep on trying till you run out of cake.)

Chuck Wendig

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

– Stephen King

Life is an unending stream of extenuating circumstances.

– Clayton M. Christensen

Sunday Surprise


If you want to be a writer, then the first thing you need to do is define yourself as a writer. Then you give it your best effort.

When you write a manuscript, you have to think of it as an investment. You create an “intellectual property,” one that may or may not sell.

Sometimes the property doesn’t sell for years. It just sits like an empty building lot, ready to go.

(…)

So when you invest your time in writing a novel, you don’t know how or when it might pay off. I had a friend once who wrote six books and began sending them out. She felt that she was at the end of her rope when she suddenly got offers from three different publishers in two days. Another author I knew tried publishing for several years, but gave up because she wasn’t making any money. Two years after she quit writing, her novels went huge and she made millions.

In short, it can be a crazy business. If you believe in yourself and you keep on pushing, then you’re a real writer, regardless of whether you’ve ever made a nickel at your job. You shouldn’t let anyone try to tell you different.

– David Farland

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT LUCK

No one can predict what will sell. If they could, every book would be a hit.

Everyone can tell you why a book sold well after it has already sold well, pointing to various things that were done that they claim led to the book’s success. They are full of shit.

NOTHING guarantees success.

Not quality.

Not past success.

Not a big advertising budget.

Not a big marketing budget.

Not publicity.

Not social media.

Not any sort of plan that you read anywhere.

You can write the Best Book Ever, do Everything right, spend a Fortune, and not even come close to making any sort of money.

Joe Konrath

For the past ten years, I’ve been saying that the changes in publishing have given writers a real shot at doing what they want to do. We can write what we want, publish what we want, and make more money at it than we can in traditional publishing.

But, with those changes has come yet another upheaval on the ways we measure success. And I use the word measure on purpose.

I’ll wager that, if you ask Adam Levine, he’ll tell you that Twitter saves and overnight live votes, stirred up by social media accounts, aren’t the way to measure what makes music successful. I don’t know what he considers as successful. I just know how frustrated he got with the way that someone tinkered with The Voice. It wasn’t what he had signed up for, so he left.

Clearly it’s not about money for him either, or he wouldn’t have left $30 million on the table. He would have (grumpily) stuck it out until the end of the new contract.

But television, like music, like publishing, is trying to find a new metric, one that everyone will agree measures the audience in a way that we all believe is accurate. The key word in that sentence, by the way, is believe since we never had accurate measures in the past.

As artists, we can continue our search for a new metric or we can just tell our stories and put them out there, letting them build organically, and finding the audience in their own sweet time.

Eventually I’ll read all the books on my TBR pile. I have some books by new-to-me writers there. If I like those books, I’ll buy more from the same author. But it might take me two or three years after I bought the first book to do so. And by then, no metric will be able to track that first sale as something that led to the latter ones.

Maybe we should stop trying to find the perfect way to measure, and focus on our writing. After all, that’s what we love. That’s why we got into this business. And, I assume, that’s what we all do best.

Kris Rusch

Agents have never done marketing, even before digital. And actually people are reading more now than ever. Paper sales are increasing. As the data is coming in that screen time should be limited with adults and PARTICULARLY children, we are seeing a LOT more parents who are going for good old-fashioned paper books. This is why the remnant indies are coming back strong.

Yes, we need to do the hard work. WRITE. Write good books and lots of them. But marketing and advertising hasn’t been effective since the 90s. Brand and platform are totally different creatures and ones we—the artists—can control and grow.

And if mankind and readers are evolving, then I think it’s fair to say writers should evolve, too. This isn’t 1955 where we can use a typewriter and write a book every year and a half and make money to live off of while we do book tours. Might as well get in the horse and buggy business.

If a writer wants to write for pleasure? Sure. Go for it. Don’t change or evolve. Want to make a living? Then there is a LOT we need to do well and a TON of new niches that are paying very well.

Kristen Lamb

Be as true to yourself as possible. Create the work you want to create! People will try to get you to water down your style, be more like someone else. Politely say no. If a client wants you to be something else, they are not your client. You are where you are right now because of who you are. Do not change that. Listen to others, but ultimately, follow your own instincts. Be kind. Be humble. Don’t hold grudges; we are all flawed human beings trying to make our way through this crazy world. Stay laser-focused and follow your dreams. Do not let anyone create your life for you. You hold the power. Take ownership and get out there and do it!

Clinton Lofthouse

Sunday Surprise


Thus, there is no right or wrong way. Rather, it’s about doing things your way. Until you experience this “moment,” you’ll continue attempting the correct or best way to do things. You’ll continue copying other people’s work.

But if you persist, you’ll become disillusioned to those who were once your idols. They are people just like you and me. They’ve just made a decision to create in their own way.

The idea of imitation will become abhorrent, freeing you to create as you see fit. You’ll emerge with your own voice and original work. You’ll be less troubled about how your work is received and more focused on creating something you believe in.

Benjamin Hardy

Self-rejection, as noted, is you pre-judging the work as lacking in some critical way, and so you take action to sabotage it or cease it entirely.

But it is a beast with many faces.

The most obvious of the bunch is, you say, FUCK THIS SHIT, and you either stop writing the thing you’re writing, or you take the thing you wrote and chuck it in a trunk before immediately burying it in your backyard. You pre-judge the work. You find it wanting. You quit. Problem there is, of course the work is inferior. Of course it fails to match the vision in your head. The perfect will always be the enemy of the good, and the first draft of a thing is never the final draft.

So, don’t do that.

(…)

Third, recognize that sometimes the voices of self-rejection are not your own. People in your life will fill your skull with bad advice and negativity. Sometimes they do this to be kind, trying to warn you away from a hard career or trying to deliver unto you their vision of success. But their intentions don’t matter; the result remains poisonous. And those voices in your head create long, loud echoes. They echo back and forth inside your braincave so often you start to take on their voice as your voice. Don’t adopt their negativity as your own. Don’t code bad advice — or worse, abuse — into your own narrative program. Get shut of it. Kick ’em out of your head.

Chuck Wendig

Now, more than ever, it’s time to focus on the quality of our work.

This has always been true, of course, but in the hamster wheel game that has become popular at Amazon, I think genuine quality has fallen to the wayside. Amazon rewards authors for getting books out fast. They’re not rewarding authors for quality. They’re rewarding for quantity. This is a huge deal. For the short-term, authors can play this game. I went from publishing about every three months to two months, and last year, I was trying for one book a month. Long story short, I was unable to crank out a 50-60K story every single month. But I did push myself into burn-out by trying to do it.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had started to treat my books like a product on a widget line. This isn’t good. When we start looking at books as a cheap little widget to be shoved out the door as quickly as possible, we stop looking at good storytelling.

Ruth Ann Nordin

Don’t join writers in being members of clubs like Splatterpunk, Noir, Cyberpunk, etc. Be your own club. As soon as those things can be identified, they are pretty much over with, and if you are member of such a club, you begin to write for the title of the club or members of the club, not yourself. Also, it becomes mechanical, then you start to write in a way that bores the reader, and you. Write what you want. Let the badger loose.

(…)

All rules are suggestions, and all are made to be broken. Except these. To be a writer you must read, and read a lot, and read out of your comfort zone. Don’t just read, horror, Science Fiction, what have you. And write regularly. Best of luck.

Joe Lansdale

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and, your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take awhile. You just gotta fight your way through

– Ira Glass

We believe you can earn money with your words. We know it’s hard, really hard and takes a great deal of work, but if it’s your passion, why would you be willing to short-change it? There have been a few people in here who thought they could make a quick buck from self-publishing. They didn’t last long. There’s nothing quick about taking years to become an overnight success. Only the first million words are hard, right?

Professionals write the words when they don’t feel like it. They write the words when they are inspired. They write the words when they are tired.

In the end, those words are something that can pay them now and pay them later. That is my definition of professionalism.

No one is like me. No one is like you. And we are in this together. Better together than alone. A rising tide…

– Craig Martelle, 20Booksto50k®

So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure there are any other rules. Not ones that matter

– Neil Gaiman

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


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

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