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

Sunday Surprise


Words of wisdom, writers on writing, whatever you want to call it a monthly feature of this blog! 🙂 Here go the writers’ quotes!

I don’t believe in a zero-sum game for books. I believe EVERYONE should write a book, because every person who writes a book will buy and read far more books than they could ever produce, and in that way, we are a self-sustaining industry.

So there should be no competition among writers. It should be co-opetition, co-operating, co-marketing with people in your genre. We are stronger together.

This is certainly the way I have always run my creative business. It’s why I interview other writers on my podcast, feature them on my blog, tweet them on social media, and promote their books to my email lists.

But paid ads have changed things because we ARE now competing with each other. Pay-per-click ads are all about competing for keywords, upping a bid until you win, and then doing it again and again. Prices go up, your return gets sliced, and in the end, the advertisers come out on top.

Joanna Penn

Because, as a friend of mine once said, becoming a professional writer is easy (relatively speaking). Remaining one is hard.

Your job is to have a writing career, not to publish a single book. So be careful who you partner with over the years. Make sure that person, that company, the conglomerate is trustworthy. And if you can’t make sure of that, then guard yourself as best you can.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Because, in truth, that’s the only way to survive the traditional publishing jungle. Even now. Even as the stories are starting to come out.

Because the change is just beginning. We have a whole lot of reckoning to go through yet. And I’m not sure we, as a culture, are ready for all of it, no matter how much I hope we are.

Just be honest with yourself as you move forward.

And good luck.

Kris Rusch

Bear with me here a sec. I promise this is going to get someplace that’s about the workshop eventually, all right? But let me start this bit by saying that a lot of writers seem to join critique groups because they want people to tell them what’s wrong with their work. That’s an understandable, but—in my probably not particularly humble opinion—deeply flawed approach.

The whole idea is just wrong-minded to begin with.

I mean, you can find beta readers to do that without being required to reciprocate by spending time cutting into someone else’s work, right? So, no, joining a critique group so you can have someone tear into your work is the wrong way to go. There is only one reason to be in a critique group as far as learning is concerned, and that reason is so you can get your hands on and break down as many raw manuscripts as you can. That’s right: The ability to deconstruct stories is the real reason to be in a group. That’s it. Sure, there are social values, and its nice to have people you can lean on when things are down. But when done right the real learning of a critique group is in deconstructing other writer’s stories so you can get better at deconstructing your own.

Ron Collins

When I was 16, I wrote to my favorite author, whose books are still a source of inspiration for me. Stephen R. Donaldson was kind enough to write me back. He gave me the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten, although it took me almost 30 years to apply it. His advice was to apply the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and write.

I’ve learned that writing consistently not only gets the job done but that the act of writing makes you a better writer, just like practicing dance makes you a better dancer. You can’t expect to be a good writer if you only practice once or twice a year or when you feel like it. Writing every day (or as close as you can manage) hones your writing muscles. It teaches you that the blank page is not an obstacle. It teaches you that you can write when you’re mildly sick, when you’re not in the best mood, and when the muses are giving you nothing but drivel. You sit and write like you go to work every day. It’s a job, and some days are better than others. Thankfully, with writing, you usually get at least one chance to go back and polish or even redo it, but you can’t do that until you get it on the page to begin with.

J. Elizabeth Vincent

If I thought about my brand I’d never write anything.

Second, it bears mentioning that I no longer write my ideas down. I used to. I used to hoard them like jewels until I realize they weren’t gems — they were bits of aquarium gravel. They’re dross, they’re dribble, they’re just a building material like dirt or concrete. Not valueless! But also not precious. Ideas ping my brain daily the way we’re all pelted by solar radiation. I submit ideas to Idea Thunderdome, and only those ideas that emerge victorious — by which I mean, they are persistent, like carpenter bees thumping against the window-glass — get to stay. And even then, I don’t write them down. If the idea is good, it will continue to percolate. It will bother me. It will live with me, lingering in my head like a beautiful or traumatic memory.

I usually have four or five of these ideas swirling around my head at any given time. Fireflies in a fucking jar. So, when it comes time to figure out what I want to write — I look at these effulgent little weirdos to see if there’s anything there, and if there is, I pluck it out, smash its glowy butt, and smear the bioluminescent innards onto my face like phosphorescent war paint.

Chuck Wendig

Sunday Surprise


Well, then it looks as if I skipped the summer! Last entry like this one was back in June, yikes! Anyhow, here we go again. Words of wisdom, writers on writing, whatever you want to call them, enjoy these quotes and have a great Sunday!

As I was saying, you should listen to me because I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. Which is really the point of all this: the further I’ve gone down this path, the one thing I know with great resoluteness is that I know less than I did when I began. My certainties are far less certain. My knowledge has faded, and in its place has grown —

*mouth opens, rainbows and ravens shoot out*

WISDOM.

Or something like it.

Chuck Wendig

 

Career authors write a lot of books. One or two books is a great start, but to go the distance in this business, you need inventory, which means lots and lots of books! I find that many authors can write five or ten books, but can they write fifty or a hundred books? Inventory is where the rubber meets the road and makes the difference when it comes to longevity in a very competitive business. I encourage indie authors to keep their focus on producing new books and getting them out to readers as fast as they possibly can without sacrificing quality.

Marie Force

 

Editors do not write your book. You write your book. The idea is yours, the characters are yours, the setting is yours, the plot is yours, the voice is yours—unless you paid one of these “editors” to “fix” your manuscript, which considering how inexperienced most of these idiots are, consists of removing every trace of originality from your prose.

Even then, shades of your voice and your perspective remain.

Your book is yours, not theirs. Readers aren’t reading your book because Annoying Person took a red pencil to your prose. Readers are reading your book because you’re a hell of a storyteller, and they like the stories you’re telling.

Have some confidence, folks. Stop giving these egotistical editors so much credit. They’re people you hire, people whose advice you can (and should) ignore if they don’t understand your work or your voice.

Kris Rusch

 

Keep writing

I still feel the self-doubt, but it’s not crippling anymore, it’s just something that I acknowledge. I let it sit with me, and put my work out anyway because there’s a part of us inside, as writers, where if we don’t write, we’re going to cripple ourselves in other ways.

We’re going to be unhappy. We’re going to feel blocked.

You need to get your words out into the world.

You need to break through that self-doubt because your words are important.

We need to hear your voice. You don’t know whose life you could change with your story, or your non-fiction book, or the words, the wisdom you have.

As an introvert, the thought of the videos I share going out into the world and people seeing them is difficult enough. But we embrace it anyway as part of the process.

And that’s how we write, and create, put our words in the world, and change peoples’ lives.

Joanna Penn

 

WRITE IT BADLY. Write it badly, write it badly, write it badly, write it badly. Stop what you’re doing, open a Word document, put a pencil on some paper, just get the idea out of your head. Let it be good later. Write it down now. Otherwise it will die in there.

— Brandon Sanderson on overcoming writer’s block to create a first draft as a professional author

 

The fact is that no matter who you are, it’s almost guaranteed that your work is probably not where you want it to be. This could be because you don’t know what your work is (a writer is always a suspect judge of their own work), it could be that your work is actually flawed (your craft hasn’t been honed), or it could be any one of a hundred different things.

For new writers in particular, though, writing six stories in six weeks gives you the opportunity understand an important truth: the best way to learn how to tell stories is to tell a lot of stories.

To understand what I mean by that, let me state the counter rule: The slowest way to learn is to keep working on the same story over and over and over.

Ron Collins

P.S. on Wednesday I mis-scheduled the post… if you missed it, scroll down below! Sorry about that! 😊

Sunday Surprise


And it’s the day again. Words of wisdom, writers on writing, quotes for writerly life or whatever you want to call them. Have a great Sunday!

But the truth is, I always had confidence in myself as a writer – I had arrogance, even. Yet I had endless times of self-doubt. I think what carried me through was simply commitment to the job. I wanted to do it.

Talent is no good without commitment. I’ve had students who wrote very well, but weren’t willing to commit to write, to go on writing, and to go on writing better. But that’s what it takes.

“Feeling successful” – well, that’s something you have to work out for yourself, what it means to you, how important it is. You’re quite right that very good and highly celebrated writers may not feel “successful.” Maybe they have unhappy natures, and the Nobel Prize would just depress them. Or maybe they aren’t fully satisfied with what they’ve done so far, don’t feel they’ve yet written the best book they could write. But they have the commitment that keeps them trying to do it.

Hang in there. And don’t push it. No hurry! Writing is a lifetime job.

Ursula K. Le Guin

A few years ago, I met a famous novelist at a conference. He’d sold millions of books. It seemed like he published a new book every time the wind changed direction. As we talked about NaNoWriMo, though, he asked me, “How many novels does the world need, anyway? Why should so many people write?”

I sometimes twitch with churlishness when I hear questions like this. Somewhere within the question, I hear a gate crashing down on people’s creativity. I see a sign, “Don’t presume to call yourself a writer.” I feel a judgment: Why write a novel unless it’s going to get published and made into a product to be purchased and consumed? Why write a novel if you’re not going to make money from it?

The question disregards the spirit that has guided every writer since the beginning of time: the need to create just for the sake of creating. The need to shape the world, see through others’ eyes, tame reality, find oneself, lose oneself—to touch what is magical, astonishing, and wondrous; to exult the possible, to make the strange obvious and the obvious strange. And much more. This need is what we need to remember every day in order to show up at our writing gym and write the story that is demanding to be told.

Grant Faulkner

Why is Annoying Person on Amazon? Why is she all over Amazon?

Because writers don’t understand the “editor” field in KDP. That field is for anthology editors, like Fiction River. When we do a Fiction River, and I edit it, we list Kristine Kathryn Rusch as the editor. Because I compiled the damn book. I chose the stories. I put them in order. I line edited them. I worked on the theme with the writers. I wrote the introductions to the stories.

The volume has my fingerprints all over it, and not because I changed someone’s words or added a semi-colon here and there.

Stop, stop, stop acknowledging this new breed of “editor” in the sales material of your novels. You’re hurting your own sales and doing free advertising for those “editors.” (And yes, dammit, I’m using the quotes on purpose.)

If you need to acknowledge the “editor” as a term of your contract with her, then do so inside the book in the acknowledgements. Write: Thanks to Annoying Person, who copy edited my manuscript. She knows more about the Chicago Manual of Style than I do.

That’s it. And if Annoying Person doesn’t like it, if that doesn’t fulfill the terms of your agreement with her, then don’t work with her again.

Ever.

Kris Rusch

You will fail more than you succeed. You will remember the failures more often than the successes.

The people who believe in you now will believe in you always. Get rid of everyone else.

Readers will love your work. They will think this means they love you. They will be wrong, but do not correct them. You will no longer be yourself when you’re among readers, but an amalgamation of their perceptions of you based on your work and the pixels that make up your face. After a while, even your oldest friends will see you this way.

Pick one person you can be yourself with. It will be the person who doesn’t live-tweet your breakdown.

(…)

You will spend your entire career wondering if it’s already over but no one has told you yet.

You will not sell a lot of books. You will not earn out your advance. You will be passed over for awards. You won’t be a Campbell nominee. You will be convinced you’re not a real writer.

(…)

Fans of your work will clap and cheer at your arrival at events and then sob when they meet you and gush about how your work has touched and inspired them. It will be overwhelming. You will never know what to say. You will be celebrated, wined and dined. You won’t be able to meet with everyone who wants to see you.

Outside of those spaces, you will be treated with all the respect this society owes someone of your race, class, gender presentation, and/or orientation. If you’re a middle-aged white woman who doesn’t know how to dress herself, you will simply blend in. You will not be seen. This will be both a great relief and a big comedown.

(…)

You will travel. You will say YES! to opportunities. You will meet dynamic, amazing, talented, influential people. You will be so tired and jetlagged and anxious about money that you won’t remember any of their names. This will lead to many awkward conversations, later.

You will forget to introduce yourself to George R.R. Martin at the Hugo Loser’s Party.

You will regret being a writer. You will quit, often. Sometimes you will quit for long stretches of time.

(…)

You will be a bestseller, somewhere, even if it’s just on Amazon. You will hit a list. You will be an award winner. Hollywood will talk a lot about movies that probably won’t get made, but the free money will be nice.

You will be jealous of writers who don’t have day jobs. You will celebrate the full-time writing status of at least half a dozen colleagues who end up going back to their day jobs within five years of quitting.

You will never quit your day job.

You will dabble with scripts and comics and tie-ins. You will get invited to so many anthologies and special projects that you will have to say no to a lot of them. You will say no to Marvel, and yes to a book packager project whose team ultimately doesn’t want you.

Kameron Hurley

Sunday Surprise


Again a monthly feature, I give you words of wisdom, writers on writing or whatever you want to call it. Have a great Sunday and see you next month with more writerly quotes!

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Sales fluctuate, and after being in this biz for almost two decades I still don’t know why some things hit and some miss. It’s frustrating, but expected.

Here’s some things I’ve learned.

1. Ebooks are forever, and shelf space is infinite. Once you’re published, you’ll always be selling as long as you tend to your backlist.

2. Ebooks are not a trend. They are the new, preferred way to read, and mankind will always have the need and desire to read.

3. Ebooks are global. Doing poorly in the USA? That’s okay. There are plenty of other countries where you can make money.

4. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re a writer. You’re in this until the day you die. As long as you write good books, you’ll find readers. This may take time. And it may take some tweaking because the books you think are good need a rewrite, or that cover art you bought at a bargain price of $19 is scaring readers away because it sucks.

The universe doesn’t owe you readers. You have to earn them.

Joe Konrath

It feels like a calm period before the next big shift, a time to bed down your processes, grow your backlist by writing more, build relationships, make sure you have sustainable health and creative practices, make the most of your IP by expanding into other products like print, and look to position yourself for the next phase of growth.

Joanna Penn

“Audience” literally means “the people listening” – which tells you what an odd business writing stories down is. We are silent performers in an empty room. We lack the instant feedback that maintains and sharpens the story-teller’s consciousness of and relationship with the audience. So, does the writer consciously try to imagine a reader? An ideal reader? A whole lot of readers? Or are we each our own audience, writing a book we’d like to read, the way we’d like it written? Or do we seek a peer-group for the feedback? Such choices are entirely up to you the writer. And nobody can say what the right balance of conventionality and expectability, challenge and originality, is for you. Tailoring your writing to a specific audience/market is good for writers to whom salability is a prime value, for others it can be demoralizing, a sell-out.

The only advice I can offer is tentative: If you imagine your “audience,” your readers, imagine them as intelligent and sympathetic — ready to read you if you give them the chance.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Nothing sells your old books like having a new book. Listen, the more that you write, the quicker and faster you tend to write. So writing that new book doesn’t just give you extra sales, it helps you become a better writer. Too many authors don’t understand the value of practice. Only a fool would believe that he could sit down at a piano and become a concert pianist in one sitting, yet millions of writers imagine that they become a professional writer without practicing. Even authors who apparently take off effortlessly tend to have had a lot of preparation and secret struggles.

David Farland

Art is not a competition.

There is more than enough room in the world for all of the authors and books that are out there. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Just focus on writing your stories and connecting with the readers that love them.

If you haven’t found those people yet, have patience. Instead of lamenting that other authors have devoted readers, use that energy to find new ways to promote your books. There are people out there who will become devoted readers of your books. You just have to find them.

Some people tend to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the high number of indie authors and the fact that it keeps increasing. However, as Joanna has reminded us on her podcast, when someone becomes more serious as a writer, it’s likely they will read more books as well.

I know that my reading has increased immensely since I started self-publishing my books. So we should be glad whenever someone writes and publishes a book!

More authors in the world means more avid readers in the world, which is good for everyone.

Sara Crawford

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