Friday, December 27, 2013

Persistence Is Key

Nobody is going to tell you to write a book. It just never happens. What usually happens is you get an inkling about maybe kinda sorta writing a book. It starts off small. Maybe you come up with a character or two in the shower. By the time dinner rolls around, you find yourself with a plot. Then a beginning. Then an ending. The middle is your job. That's where the real work is laid out. Because if you got a killer beginning and a dynamite ending, then its up to you, and you alone, who has to hold the audience for an extended period. 

It can be difficult at times.

Little trolls plant seeds of self-doubt in your head.

Is this a strong enough beginning? Why did I put that obstacle in front of that one character? Will this even make sense?

But there is one thing to look out for if you are a truly dedicated writer. And that is Persistence.

When I first started, back in 1999, I knew that I'd write garbage. I gave myself time to write the most awful work I could. Wrote 168 pages of fiction then deleted the entire thing. I also had four or five ideas brewing. Maybe altogether I had 500 to 1,000 words to work with.

There was this old desktop computer I had when I first wrote. It was bulky, black, an Acer brand. Thing is, this computer was incredibly slow. It wasn't new either. My aunt gave it to me because she was getting a new one. My writing ritual would always start the same.

I'd take the stairs up to the attic, turn the corner, sit at my desk, turn on the computer, then pull out whatever book I was reading at the time. Different Seasons by Stephen King was always a favorite. I'd read this book because it took 20 to 30 minutes for the computer to boot up. When it was fully on, I'd open up Microsoft Office, which took another 10 minutes, and I'd start typing. There was the occasional freeze which was annoying but would clear up after 10 or 15 minutes. 

So, all told, it took me an hour of wait time each time I sat down to write. But I didn't care. If a novel is intriguing, you'll become real persistent. Wrote 80,000 words on that computer. Now I sit here and wonder how I ever had the patience. 15 years later and I've already written 500,000 words. It just takes persistence.

Persistence is key.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Write, Publish, Repeat and Other Writing Guides to Get You Started

Let me just say that I wish this book existed when I first started writing. It's that kind of book. If you're a newbie, this tome is a fantastic resource for inspiration, motivation and practical tips on "how to get your work out into the marketplace without the gatekeepers of publishing." If you are a budding writer, I, like you, went through every permutation you could think of: I kept it secret for years, then tested the waters, dipped into POD, have been scammed, gave up, started all over again.

The best thing about this book is that you get tips from guys who tell it to you straight. No sugar-coating, just the facts of what they found as they themselves mitigated through the waters of the self-publishing career. And yes, it is a career choice. Much like other how-to writing books, this one takes you through some of the personal stories of why and how these trio of authors (Johnny, Sean and Dave) came to the conclusion that they wanted their works out there. This is not a Gold Rush scam. I'm happy to read that they address the many scammers who take advantage of aspiring writers (like buying reviews, faking reviews.)

One thing I have to contend with are some of the reviews of this book. The ones that say they aren't interested in the authors or their life story. Life stories of how someone got started writing, for me, are usually the best part of a how-to guide. Why should I get invested if I don't know if someone else has gone through the exact same struggles as I had? Would you discount the personal side of King's book On Writing?

If you know of these authors and have listened to their Self-Publishing Podcast, you can skip ahead to Chapter Five of this book. That seems to be when this book picks up steam. It does take you by the hand, which is excellent if you are a newbie, but it also give you a much needed "Face-Kicking Machine"(The Bialy Pimps, a hilarious book by Johnny) as to the realities of the industry you are getting yourself into. They discuss more on strategies rather than tactics. But the major point is, dude, just keep writing more books. Because this is the long haul. And if you are not interested in being prolific as well as diverse with genre-hopping, this might not be the book for you.

So why should you listen to these guys? 1) They have experimented with strategies and are giving you the info on what worked and what didn't. 2) They continue to learn new things and share them with the self-publishing community. 3) They have successfully become a fiction machine generator, churning out book after book that are not only interesting concepts but differ from the last one. Originality is a hard thing to find in the bookworld and these guys know what they're doing. 4) They have written over 100 books together and just finished writing 1.5 million words for the year. If that isn't productivity, I don't know what is.

While I didn't agree with every single thing that was outlined in this book, it still is a great resource to get you started, either in fiction or non-fiction, and keep you on the path to your future publishing goals. If you have a tight budget and plan on being a writer and could only afford 4 How-To guides on writing and publishing, I suggest you pick up a copy of On Writing by Stephen King, Newbie's Guide to Publishing by JA Konrath, Write. Publish. Repeat by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt and finally Zen In the art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Honestly, as someone who has written for 15 years, I've read a lot of How-To Write guides and these, in my opinion, are the only four you need.

Just for sake of reference, here are just some of the How-To write guides I have read:

1. On Writing by Stephen King - By far the best book on writing advice I've read. King is gentle in his approach and I've re-read it several times over.

2. POD People by Jeremy Robinson - A slim book, 156, but a great resource for people trying to break into POD print books. Best part about Print-on-demand is that its cost effective. No waste and eco-friendly. Plus there is a really inspiring story of how Robinson finally was able to live off of his own writing.

3. Newbie's Guide to Self Publishing by Ja Konrath - This is originally segments from his already popular blog. It is free on amazon. Contains 350,000 words and has lots of good personal stories as well as ebook advice.

4. So You wanna be a writer? by Vicki Hambleton -This book is inspirational, giving you constant boosts of motivation if you just decided to write.

5. Plug Your Book! Steve Weber - Great for people looking for strategies on how to get more exposure for your books.

6. No Plot? No problem! by Chris Baty - Nanowrimo founder takes you by the hand and tells you to just start writing that first book. 30 days to get 50,000 words. It is possible.

7. Write Good or Die by Scott Nicholson - Loads of inspiring stories from other writers on how they got started.

8. How to Tell a story by Mark Twain 

9. Danse Macabre by Stephen King

10. How I sold one million ebooks by John Locke - I do not by any means recommend this book. I'm just listing it because I've read it. The entire book seems moot because this author admitted to buying reviews and took self-published authors two steps back. Plus, the entire book has this cocky attitude about it.

11. Be The Monkey by Barry Eisler and Ja Konrath - a conversation between two authors on the future state of self-publishing.

12. Literature in Fiction - This book is halfway decent but it also has contradictory advice segments at times.

13. The Story and Its Writer - By far the best book for a writer learning the craft. Inside it includes famous stories by a gaggle of writers. ( stories include The Lottery, Young Goodman Brown, Bartleby the scrivener, Metamorphosis, Hills like White Elephants.) It also has a forward on some stories on how they went about creating their works.

14. How I Write by Janet Evanovich

15. How I wrote my First Book

16. How to Write a Sentence by Stanely Fish - Sharp prose, friendly advice but it also bogs you down a bit.

17. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury - This book will wake up the inner writer in you.

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