Category Archives: Challenge

Give A Little, Would Ya?

Lately I’ve found myself sharing my experiences with other writers as though I’m some sort of “Johnny Appleseed” of indie authors, planting my advice wherever I can. Let’s get that idea debunked now: I’m not an expert.

But what I am is a person willing and eager to share my experiences with the hope they will help someone else. My experiences might not be the most relevant or the most powerful, but they are mine not to keep to myself, but to share with others.

germ-2871773_640I belong to several indie author Facebook groups where new and experienced writers can exchange their stories and learn from one another. I’ve taken it upon myself to answer a lot of questions from the newer authors because if I were in their shoes, I’d want someone doing that for me.

It’s paying it forward and we need more of that.

Navigating the often difficult path to indie writing and publishing can be daunting without the proper guidance. I’m not going to say I know it all or I’m an expert by any means. My mistakes and low sales are evidence to that. But I do have experiences that if shared, can help others after me grow faster and possibly sell way more than me. And I’m cool with that.

I don’t see indie writing and publishing as a cut-throat scenario where I’m gonna keep my successes (and failures) to myself so others will be at a disadvantage. I want us all to rise up and be better. As fellow writer and all around good-guy Brian K. Morris says, “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.” If I succeed, I want other writers there with me.

There are always unscrupulous people out there in every facet of life; indie publishing is no different. Sometimes the advice or experience I share might benefit them too. It’s a price to pay for being willing to open up with others.

I hope you’d consider sharing your experiences, good and bad, with other writers and people in your life when you can. We should all be learning and growing. Our advice and recommendations may make it easier for others and might help them surpass our own efforts.

Cool, bring it on. Let’s all grow better together!


ForgottentrilogyCoverLast week I posted about reviews. This week, I’d like to ask for them.

My boxed set of The Forgotten Chronicles: The Complete Trilogy is chilling on the various ebook retailers all alone without a review to accompany it. Would you be willing to leave an honest review? If you bought the boxed set or read the trilogy on its own, you can leave a review for it on Amazon. For the other retailers, you’d have to actually buy the trilogy. So…if you could help a brother out, that would rock. I plan on running promos in the near future and as I posted about last week, many services need to see a certain number of reviews before they’ll promote your book.

Thank you!

 

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Just Finish Already!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: FINISH YOUR STORY! Get to the end, no matter how good that end is. Finish the dang thing already, will ya?

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from writers or would-be writers about how they’ve gotten so far into a story and can’t finish. Or how they’ve started umpteen stories and haven’t finished a single one.

I get it, kinda. Writing sucks at times. A great idea loses some of its vitality when it goes from a fluid impression in your mind to hard, unyielding words on a screen or paper. When you see the dark print staining the white screen, they’re real. They’re mocking. They tell you “Hey, psst, you can’t do this. You can’t finish. Why bother? Who’s gonna read it anyway?”

Don’t listen to them! Honestly, don’t. They’re bad. They want to suck the life out of you. Think vampire, but worse cause they won’t let you sparkle.

wrestlers-646524_960_720What to do instead? Sneer at them. Thumb your nose at them. Show them who’s boss by adding more words until…until the end. Don’t let them linger like a bad odor. Spray febreeze on those things and own ’em. This is no holds barred, super-ultra-submission kinda stuff. If you can’t handle it, maybe you ought to rethink what you’re doing.

I don’t say that to be mean. I want you to finish your stories probably more than you do! I want you to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. I know that feeling. It rocks! I want you to rock too! They’re called rock bands, not rock individuals. But if the thought of finishing a story scares you–

Look, you don’t have to listen to me. Who am I to give advice anyway? I understand. I wouldn’t listen to me either to be honest. I tend to make my own path when it’s clearly been marked and paved, but hey, such is life.

So if you don’t listen to me, listen to that tiny voice in your mind reminding you to finish that story. It’s right you know. You need to buckle down and get to work. Your story is your story, know what I mean? Only you can tell it like you tell it.

The sense of accomplishment when the story is over is amazing. I want you to experience that, because it’s addictive. Of all the things in this world to get addicted to, I think this is one your doctor will be cool with.

So for the last time: FINISH THE DAMN STORY!

The End is Here!

It’s Monday September 5th, 2016 and in the US we’re celebrating Labor Day. It’s also the end of the Summer of Writing!

Back in July I created a challenge to write every day called “Summer of Writing.” It was meant to encourage anyone who writes and get them writing something, anything, every day from the 4th of July to Labor Day. We are at the end of the challenge. If you participated, how’d you do? Get more writing done? Focus more on your craft?

I’m proud to say I completed it knowing I wrote something every single day. I worked on projects soon to be released (like my new collection of stories), I worked on existing projects, I wrote outlines, blog posts, and more. All in the name of writing.

I made it a priority. Every morning I wake up, have coffee, and read or play games on my ipad. Instead, I used the time to write before the stress of the day zapped my creative energy. I found writing at the end of the day difficult and often unproductive. Working in the early morning when the house is quiet was the best for me to focus on my writing. There were occasional days when I didn’t get to write in the morning and I’d write in the evening but all day I kept thinking how I needed to get the words out.

That was by far the most important part of the challenge for me. I created a new habit in my life which will dominate my thoughts if I don’t take care of it. I made it more than a hobby or something I’d get to when I had time. I made the time. When I did that, everything else fell into place.

Like all writing some of it was bad, but I feel I’ve grown in the craft because I made a deliberate attempt to do so. Maybe I’m wrong and fooling myself. I’ve gone through moments when I wanted to stop. I thought “Who cares if I keep at it? No one reads what I write anyway.” I expressed that to my wife one morning and in her wisdom she told me not to give up, to keep at it, and if I loved what I was doing to continue no matter what. Those are things we’ve all heard but her words held more weight for me. I trudged on. My focus changed. I found the joy again. Even if I’m the only one who reads it.

The biggest sacrifice I made to create this new habit was my gym time. I used to go semi-regularly with a friend of mine to our local gym. We were one of the early risers and be home around six in the morning. I chose to use that time to write instead. I can honestly say my middle-aged body misses the workouts. Don’t get me wrong, I hated getting up and leaving the house so early. I always looked for excuses to get out of it. The determination I used to build my writing habit needs to be applied to exercising. I’ll need to incorporate working out into my schedule or I won’t be around long enough to see all my amazing fans!

I appreciate all of you that tried the challenge. Lakesha Mathis, Aaron Hamilton, John Smith, and others all attempted to make a change and if nothing else, I hope you were able to refocus your time over the summer to work on your writing.

It has been a summer of growth. Thanks for sticking with me. Let me know your successes or failures so we can all learn from them. Thanks again!

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Summer of Writing

OK, I’m gonna throw this challenge out there. Starting July 4th and ending on Labor Day (Monday Sept. 5th) let’s have a Summer of Writing!

The goal is to push yourself to write – Every. Single. Day.

There won’t be a word count required per day. Write as much as you can. That might be 100 words, it might be 5,000. No matter what – WRITE!

You can work on a project you’ve already started or you can start something new. It can be a bunch of different projects as well. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you write.

Think of it as a sort of NaNoWriMo without a word count goal. If you want to include a goal, by all means share it with everyone else so we can support you. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook  and together we’ll share our experience and push each other further.

Share the challenge with other writers. We can use the hashtag #sow16 to find one another.

You can do it! We can do it!

Let the Summer of Writing begin!

It’s Time To Tell Your Story

Your story needs to be told. No one can tell it like you. No one experiences it like you. I can’t write it for you. It’s your story, not mine.

It’s time you write your story.

Your story is informed by your experiences and reaction to them. Your story lingers in your head begging to be set free. Dare you expose what thoughts rest inside you? Nothing great happens without daring risks.

Now is the time to tell your story.

Your story might be a science fiction romp through the universe. It might be historical fiction. It might be a vampire romance. Or it might be autobiographical. It doesn’t matter – it’s your story to tell how you want it told.

There’s no better time than the present to write your story.

You can keep your story to yourself if you want, but at least get it out of your head and on paper or computer screen. No one has to read your story, it’s for you alone. But I promise when you do get your story out, it’ll make you feel accomplished. You’ll have done something worth shouting about. 

I want you to tell your unique story.

We all have stories within us. I think it’s part of being human. We carry thoughts and experiences around like energy in a battery. It fills us and powers us. We use them to relate to others. Sometimes we like to hold those stories close to us, but deep down, I think we all have a desire to share our story. 

This is your time to get your story out.

Every November during NaNoWriMo, hundreds of thousands of people decide it’s time to get their story out. They make the life-changing decision to finally let out what’s so long been rattling around in their head in a spectacular cathartic release. Isn’t it time you did the same? 

Your story needs to be told and only you can tell it. 

It’s Time to Prepare

With less than two months away, now is the time to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Research your topic. Make notes. Start those dreaded outlines. But with time quickly moving forward, now is the time to start thinking about your project.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past year, you’ll know I’m a huge advocate of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Not think about writing one. Not editing your work. Sitting down and writing one word after another until you accrue 50,000 wonderful words. Sound unobtainable? Not at all! As long as you prepare.

I’ve written before how I’ve attempted it five times with three wins, all in the last three years. Why did I fail the first two? Lack of preparation.

I was a “pantser,” meaning I wrote “by the seat of my pants.” No time spent studying my subject. No research on relevant topics. Just sitting in front of a computer and typing. The farthest I got using that method was maybe 20,000 words. Not a bad showing, but clearly far from goal.

Then I decided to try my hand at plotting. I wrote a rough outline. I researched key facts that I thought I’d need for my story. By the time November 1st rolled around, I had a vision and a route to get there. 

It felt weird at first. I have never outlined well and normally hate feeling restricted by one. What I learned was the outline could be a guideline, not something I’d strictly adhere to. I soon went off track as the story led me, but I went back to my outline and brought the story back to my original plan. I learned to coexist with my outline and instead of feeling suffocated by it, I used it as a rudder, steering me back to the path I planned.

The research I did beforehand also contributed to my success. When I got to the parts of the story that involved my topics (certain kinds of alcohol and what their provenance was) I could write freely and with authority because I had the knowledge I needed. Instead of wasting time looking up articles and reading histories, my preliminary work let me just write. When knocking out 1,600+ words per day when you’ve got all your other life  responsibilities to attend to, any advantage you can get is crucial.

So. Now is the time. Think about your subject. Consider the conflicts you want to write about. Are there any subjects you need preliminary research on? Do it now. You can do all those things before November 1st. Then when the clock strikes midnight on Halloween night, you’ll be ready to start a new adventure in your life. Within 30 days, you too might be able to join countless others proudly claiming you wrote a novel!

Sound like something you want to try? You can sign up at http://www.nanowrimo.org. 

*Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with NaNoWriMo. I’m only an excited participant wanting to share my enthusiasm with other promising writers. We all have a story to tell!

NaNo FTW!

NaNoWriMo, which I’ve written about before, is almost over.  By the time this is posted, there will be 5 days left for the challenge.  As I type, I’m sitting at just over 43,000 words and poised for my third straight victory (yeah!)  The other day I thought about how writing for this challenge is one of those things I look forward to every year since I started four years ago.  So here are some of my thoughts as I head towards the finish line.

I believe my job in sales has prepared me for this type of challenge.  I never thought sales equated to success in writing, but there are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.  For example, every year we are faced with a sales goal that drives all our efforts.  Then that goal is divided among the twelve months and then those months are divided among the sales team.  We are each responsible for a certain amount of sales in order to reach our annual goal.

In sales, some days are better than others.  My assistant is fond of telling me how much we need to average per day to meet our goal.  It can seem daunting, but breaking a month up into the individual days can be helpful.  Some times we have spectacular days where we go way above what we need for the day and other days we are well under.  Knowing how much I need per day and exceeding it boosts my confidence while the days when we are low, I know we’ve built in enough cushion from the good days to compensate for the shortage.  At the end of the month when the tally is done, it doesn’t matter how much you did certain days, just as long as you hit the mark set for you.

Writing, especially for NaNoWriMo, mimics the ebb and flow of sales.  At least in my case it does.  There are days when I can crank out 5,000 words (or more) and then there are days when all I can eek out are a few hundred.  Of course some days I’m not able to write at all.  But the thing is, like sales, it’s a numbers game.  As long as I continue to add, no matter how much or little, in the end I will get to 50,000.

I’ve seen it work in my sales profession and that gives me the ability to keep calm over the thirty days of NaNoWriMo.  I apply the same principles in both sales and writing and that has made a huge difference for me.

One other point I’d like to bring up is preparing for the win.  My first NaNo attempt took me to about 15,000 words or so before I lost track and lost focus.  I didn’t care about my story anymore and gave up.  The following year I did something different.  I researched a little on some key topics relevant to the story I had in mind.  Having that foundation helped get me to my first win.  For my third attempt (and second win) I not only researched, but completed some character sketches and outlined a good portion of the book.  By the time November 1st came around, I was ready to roll.  I ended up with over 75,000 words for the win that year.

This year I did something similar as last time, though I didn’t get too deep with the character sketches and the outlining wasn’t as thorough.  What it did do for me though was give me a guide, a rough idea of what I planned on doing.  It helped get me started and gave me a loose framework within which to write.  This year more than any other I’ve veered off course from my original plan but I think it might be the most complex, interesting, and exciting thing I’ve done yet.  Of course, I am a little biased.

I hope that one day any of you interested in writing will give it a chance.  It’s always been a learning experience that pays off in the end – a written novel!  How many people do you personally know that can say that?  Think back to the successes you’ve had in other areas of your life and the steps to get there.  Then take those concepts and apply them to how you write.  You might be surprised at the results.  I sure was.