Sunday Surprise


Find what works for you. Do it. Keep doing it until it’s natural.

If you find yourself stuck, ask if you’re doing what works for you. If not, why not? Did it stop working? Or did you just lose the habit?

If you lost the habit, pick it back up, and do what works for you.

In the past four days, I’ve dictated at least 12,000 words. I haven’t counted yesterday’s and today’s words yet, but I’m confident I hit 18,000 words, possibly 20,000 (some on another project, because that’s how authors take a break: we work on another book). Adding in the weekend before that, I’ve written probably 36,000 words in the past 11 days.

All because I stopped fretting and just got in the Aldrin Express and started driving and dictating. That’s what works for me.

That burst of productivity far outstripped anything I have written in months. The only time in recent memory that I’ve been productive like that was last September — when I jumped in the Aldrin Express, drove completely around Lake Michigan (1,000 miles), and dictated the last half of The Last Campaign.

That’s what works for me. So I’ll keep doing it.

Find what works for you. Do it. Keep doing it.

Martin L. Shoemaker

I’m often wont to say that plot is Soylent Green – it’s made of people. Meaning, people make decisions, and that’s what forms an overarching plot or story, not some external hero’s myth, not some skeletal framework of A to B to C. And that’s in narrative, yes, but it also translates to the real world. Science and history are both driven by people – their decisions, their choices, their observations and recordings.

Chuck Wendig

The main things to remember when asking yourself “How can I improve my writing skills?”

1. Remember, free writing advice comes from the heart.

2. But watch out for ignorant advice.

3. Beware of teachers who hold back vital information.

4. Even the greatest writers can be poor teachers.

5. When seeking wisdom, search widely. Test the advice.

– David Farland

Tonight I read a story by an author. A really old idea, one I had seen a hundred times and rejected almost a hundred times. But the difference?

I had not seen this story, this idea done by this author before.

Understand that simple statement?

I had seen the plot, a very old plot, and the setting, a very old setting, hundreds of times. Cliche didn’t begin to describe it, and normally I would have stopped reading when it became clear it was going to be the same as all the others because the writer was imitating and rewriting. But this writer allowed personality and voice, both author and character, to come through the story from the first moment. And what was old to me became new and wonderful.

Each of us is what makes a story unique.

It is the writer that creates a story that will sell. Not some genre or some sort of plot or some sort of secret marketing handshake. Nope, it is the writer, if the writer allows himself to be in the story with the character.

Dean Wesley Smith

If you think about things like questioning the premise of, let’s say for instance, ‘writers write.’ Some writers think and some writers need to think to write. If I’m forcing myself to write just because somebody said writers write and it felt very resonant to me or they believed it a lot, they had a lot of certainty about it and I never think to question like, ‘Does that actually work for me?’

Or, ‘You can’t edit a blank page,’ is another one. People edit blank pages in their head all the time. It’s just, for about 50% of people, we found editing a blank page does not actually help them be more productive. But for about 50% of writers, it does help you be more productive if you allow yourself to edit before you write.

So there’s so much of this advice that we hear for writers that we just accept without thinking about it because the person who is telling us is either very certain and worth sensing their emotions of certainty or they sound smart or they’re successful. We assume if they’re successful, we should listen to what they say.

And, again, it’s not to say no one should give advice. That’s definitely not what I’m saying. It’s to say, when it doesn’t work for you as an individual, don’t assume you’re at fault and you’re stupid or unmotivated. Assume that that advice is not for you because no advice is for everyone.

Becca Syme

Sunday Surprise


And I’ve said as much myself, that for me, plot is Soylent Green: it’s made of people. Characters do shit and say shit, and they do so in pursuit of solving problems, chasing desires, and escaping fears. As they do this, they create plot. It’s watching an ant colony forming — they’re making art, chewing those tunnels. Characters are doing that. But of course, lots of folks also write differently and consider plot considerations first, and then slot in characters who fit that plot, and that’s fine, too. It’s all fine. The only bad way to write is a way that stops you from writing and readers from reading it. That’s it.

Chuck Wendig

(…) what also doesn’t change is creating valuable intellectual property assets, which is, I think, how I’m framing it for 2020 in my goals is “I create intellectual property assets,” which goes beyond “I write books.” That’s how I’m really trying to think about it going forward, which again, it’s two parts of the brain, I know, the creative side, the business side, but they have to go together. And that’s how we’re going to do this for at least another decade.

Joanna Penn

What do you do if you don’t have an insider team? You find one. This is the age of the internet. You offer to read for others first, in your genre. Don’t make the mistake of taking anything you can get. And you read as a reader, not as a budding author trying to show off your chops. Would you keep reading or not? That is what you’re looking for. Keep reading, need to know what happens. That is the epitome of a minimum viable product. It makes no judgment of your grammar or spelling. That’s what editors are for, unless your writing takes the reader out of the story, then you need to do better before you float it past someone.

No one said being an author was easy, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier either. There are story elements and basic writing skill that one can learn before moving forward to discover whether your book will sell before you’ve written it. And that is not science fiction.

That is how professional authors get the most from their time investment.

Craig Martelle

So if you’re having trouble pacing yourself, try switching gears. Perhaps you could start your day by writing a fifteen-minute “blast” where you get ideas on paper. Then time yourself and do some “stress-free” writing using the technique that Dan Wells does, then finish off for another hour to two working to use my precision-driver method.

That’s what I’m going to try this morning.

David Farland

Writing advice: Read and reread. Think of a story you have never read but wish you had; then write it as carefully as you can. Finish it, and send it around till it’s published.

Samuel R. Delany

Sunday Surprise


How do you make the paradigm shift from powerless writer to powerful owner of IP? The first shift has to happen in your own mind. Just because you haven’t yet licensed much of that IP doesn’t mean that the IP lacks value. The IP is waiting there for you to work with it, inside of publishing and out.

Seeing yourself and your work as valuable is tough for writers, particularly those who went through the “rigors” of an MFA, followed by all those years of begging traditional publishers to “buy” their work. All those experiences did was browbeat the writer into feeling unimportant and valueless—which couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’m a lot farther ahead on this road than most writers because I know business, and I’ve stood up for my writing for decades. I still ended up feeling battered and bruised because of the unhealthy relationships I had with some of my traditional publishers.

And if someone like me, who really didn’t want people to trample on my IP, could feel battered and bruised, I’m sure writers with no knowledge of business and no understanding of the legal sides of intellectual property, feel even more out of control and downtrodden.

When someone like that—like me, in some instance—is told they’re the one in control, they have a hard time believing it. But you can’t exercise control unless you know you have it.

Kris Rusch

Winning Edge and Finding Your Pace

Some books are like fine wine, and need time. They require a certain climate, fine weather, nurturing and an aging process. Michael Crichton, Larry McMurtry, Ken Follet, Amy Tan, etc. didn’t churn out books every two months and no one expected them to so.

Granted, some of the greatest works of literature were actually written VERY quickly (as I pointed out in my tongue-in-cheek post ‘Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish). Not all writers have the same pace. Not all stories require the same operational tempo.

Stephen King has written works that took eighteen months and others that took only a few days.

Publishing isn’t One-Size-Fits-All, or at least it shouldn’t be. But we are still enduring the birthing pains.

This said. With this drive for writers to push out content faster than a cartel meth lab, quality has taken a major hit. It’s also deluding a lot of people into believing they can take shortcuts.

That what we writers do is not an art, an artisan craft, a skill that requires YEARS and DECADES of training, learning, practice, classes, reading, and training to refine.

I believe we’ve gone far enough down this digital highway to come to a crossroad where we’ll need to choose.

When I began my journey years ago, the greatest hurdle I had was to get authors to understand we were in the entertainment business and that half of that word was business.

Now that has flipped.

We are still in the entertainment business, entertainment being half of that word. And I am actually excited about that, because I LOVE teaching craft.

Kristen Lamb

This next point is critical for authors to understand. In the new indie era, more millionaire authors have been created than in all prior publishing history. There will be even more in the future (woohoo) but your probability of becoming one has not changed (what?). Here is what I mean, and this has been validated by surveys I have done, author earnings I have received, as well as other sources.

The distribution of earnings has not changed, only the (n) population has changed.

The distribution (bell curve) is exactly the same as it used to be when it comes to the percentage (probability) of attaining a certain revenue level as an author. What has changed is the population that the distribution is applied to. The cold, hard facts are that 80% of authors will never make more than $10,000 in a lifetime from writing. Sixteen percent will make around $10,000 a year; everyone else making more is in that final four percent, including the millionaires.

Joe Solari

Continuous learning is critical for creatives and entrepreneurs. We need to keep filling the creative well, but also learn new skills and ideas and meet people outside our immediate niche. We cannot stay in the safety of the indie author echo chamber or we will find ourselves blindsided by changes to come.

– Joanna Penn

So don’t believe everything you hear. And if somebody tells you something about self-publishing, test it, try it for yourself. Because we’re all different. We all have different readerships. We’re at different stages in our career. And as we can see, things are constantly changing. So the only way to know whether something works or not for you is for you to give it a go and do everything in the spirit of “I’m trying this out. If it doesn’t work out, no worries I’ve learned.” So I take that learning into the next thing. Trying to get it right, trying to second guess the market, trying to do something that somebody else did. I see that not working all the time.

And understanding that we are in business. I think that’s the other core fundamental. It’s not the same to be in businesses as to have a career. They are two different choices in life. And if you’re running a business, up your business skills a little bit. I know a lot of authors have an aversion to business skills as a concept. The way they’re taught a lot is very dry and very boring. I get all that. I am that kind of person myself, but knowing the fundamentals of how business works, and what, you know what a good business person does.

Orna Ross

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

%d bloggers like this: