Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Search for the WAS

How to find weak writing in your manuscript?  Search for the word WAS.


Most of the time, as I'm going through my book, I find this word describing something, which is the antithesis to the "Show, don't tell" mantra.  It definitely tells, most of the time.


When I find it, usually there are three things that are happening:
  1. I'm being lazy, and can beef up the action verb more.  "The sun was setting", for example, versus "the setting sun exploded color...". The verb went from "was" to "exploded" which is much more engaging.
  2. I'm using the passive voice.  Never good.  "The building was blown up by the militants" instead of "the militants destroyed the building".  Again, a more exciting action verb.
  3. I'm trying to use a metaphor, but again, being lazy:  "she looked at me like I was crazy" as opposed to "she stared at me like my head had just sprung open and butterflies flew out". 

HOWEVER, there are times when I keep the WAS in.
  1. In dialogue.  Yes, it's not as exciting, but that's how people speak.  Take any of the three items above and put quotes around it, and you've just made your teen sound like a Harvard grad.
  2. When it's require for past-perfect tense.  Like when a character is rehashing an event prior to the one they're in, or when they're remembering something.  "I remember he was running down the corridor" is perfectly ok because it's part of the past perfect tense. 
So I'm searching through my manuscript now and every time I see a "was" I look for these different items.  This is when the rubber meets the road, where your writing skills are really tested.  This is where an author could spend an hour on a single sentence.  This is what separates the pros from the unpublished.  So get searching, and

WRITE ON!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

3 Fears That Keep Writers from Writing

Ok, these are my three, and I'm no psycho-analytical genius, so take them for what they're worth.  But c'mon, every one of us that has either not been published or has self-published have stopped writing at some point, right?  We may call it writer's block, but there's something deeper than just trying to figure out another word for "like". 


We're afraid.


Of what, you may ask?  Why, if I love writing the way I do, would I possibly be so afraid as to STOP writing?  You can't be published if you stopped writing.  In fact, 100% of all unfinished novels that have never seen the light of day are UNPUBLISHED (that one's a fact.)


So why do we stop writing?


1.  FEAR OF SUCCESS.


This is a weird one, so I thought I'd throw it out first.  What does Fear of Success mean?  Who the heck would ever be afraid of success?  Money, fame, fortune, a beautiful model on each arm (depending on the tolerance level of your spouse).  Sounds great, right?


Wrong.  What does Success really entail?  CHANGE.  Imagine your book finally getting published.  Selling.  Through the proverbial roof, in fact.  What does that mean?  Changes to your lifestyle.  And I don't mean a brand new Porsche.  I mean possibly quitting your job.  Having to look for health insurance as a self-employed individual.  If you have kids, it might mean less time with them.  More time writing, but with greater, stricter deadlines.  Flights to weird places.  Book signings.  Marketing work, all while you still try to hang on to your crummy day job that you can't wait to quit but you have to keep because the royalties from last month just paid for a new printer and not much else.

How do you overcome this?  You face the fear, you imagine your life as a success, and you plan for it.  You organize your future life to understand what the change will mean, and make the change less of a scary "oh my God my life will be totally turned upside down" and more of a "man I can't wait."

Fear gone.  Until it's replaced by:



2.  FEAR OF FAILURE.



Yes, this is something that every author has so I won't bog you down with clich├ęs and obvious points.  You know what this means.  You know how it feels.  You see the rejection letters, hear the "It was good" reviews from your closest friends, and you know you've just dropped your drawers in front of three agents at a writer's workshop and had each of them laugh at you.  You've failed.


So how do you overcome it?   EXPECT FAILURE.  Welcome it.  Relish the rejection letters, and never accept a critique of "it was pretty good".  Failure means progression, pure and simple.  Without it, you can't recognize what needs to change.  Without it, you only know you're NOT doing something.  Like Edison famously once said, "I didn't fail 1000 times, I found 1000 ways to NOT make a light bulb".  Find those ways.  Don't, of course, drive yourself to failure.  That'd be silly.  But realize each time you think you've failed, that you're a real writer.


And then, you'll only be left with:


3.  THE FEAR OF EXPOSING YOURSELF



This is an altogether different type of fear, based on the reason WHY you're writing.  We write because we love the act of creating worlds, characters, being charge, playing God, whatever.  But really, deep down inside, we write because we have something to say.  My author friends, the published ones, have written very personal narratives that touch on social issues they feel people need to be aware of.  K.M. Walton's CRACKED, about not just bullying but why someone might bully, is a very relevant social topic.   SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a wonderful story about a very troubling social issue of rape.  Even if the story isn't that heavy, like my book The Timepiece Chronicles (link above), there still is a theme to our writing that we want others to come away with (in my book it's about the importance of not fighting what happened in the past).


But what if your theme causes controversy, or you're seen as an expert when really you just wanted to express your opinion?  Or what if people argue against you, or challenge you?  That can be scary.


So, again, how do you overcome it?  TRUST YOURSELF WITH THE STORY.  You've written about this for a reason.  You know it in your heart to be true, no matter how many people take offense, or challenge you, or want more from you.  Hopefully, in your research, you've become somewhat of an expert, and hopefully you are passionate about it that you won't stop learning more.  You can stand your ground, accept the challenges, or promote your idea from the highest mountaintop if you believe in yourself, and believe in your ability to deliver the message.


We're all messengers.  Every single one of us that writes has a message to send.  Trust yours, and trust yourself to deliver it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

5 Things I've Learned About CreateSpace

After a lengthy sabbatical, I've picked up the blog pen again to keep you abreast of my adventures in self-publishing land.


To catch everyone up:  I was offered two eBook agreements by small time post-apocalyptic eBook publishers, and after wrestling with my indecision, I chose not to do either.  Stupid, perhaps, but some part of me felt that this was something I had to do alone.


Fast forward to today - I'm in the midst of editing the printed version of my book, after getting it to CreateSpace via Amazon.  It's print-on-demand, so there's no cost, just a percentage of your sales.  As opposed to publishing houses like AuthorHouse, I think this is totally worth it.  Sure other places like AuthorHouse offer a lot of perks, but they're also expensive.


So, without further ado:  5 things I've learned about CreateSpace:
  1. It's pretty easy to use, but the layout must be exactly to their specs.  Don't mess with it, or your book will look amateurish. 
  2. It does require an ISBN number.  If you're self published and don't have one yet, get one.  It's about $129, and if you go through CreateSpace to get it they'll add it to their distribution list for libraries.  Not really relevant for an R-rated book such as Under a Broken Sun, but definitely something I'm going to do with The Timepiece Chronicles.
    1. NOTE:  Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing does NOT require an ISBN - they assign an Amazon number regardless.  So if you're not planning on printing, don't worry about it.
    2. However, if you want to protect your work thoroughly, it does help ;)
    3. I pretty much just added 2 because my teacher always said when outlining every 1 must have at least a 2.
  3. The cover can be a bit tricky, but if you have the cover for your eBook already prepared, it's not too hard to get it into the format and size CreateSpace requires.  Just don't expect a "slam it in" or as the old infomercial used to say, "set it and forget it".  It'll take some tweaking.
  4. The site overall does a good job of walking you through what you need, and letting you know if something doesn't fit or doesn't work.
  5. Finally, when you get it all complete, for about $12 you can send yourself a PROOF copy to review and edit.  I HIGHLY recommend this, one because it's TOTALLY COOL to see your book in soft cover for the first time, and two, it's a lot easier to edit when it's in book form, because you read it like a real book.  And if you're like me, you'll find a lot of errors you would've caught in any real book.
That's it for now.  In the interest of keeping blogs short, I'll sign off.

Coming up:  trouble with my inner child, and how that stopped me from writing, and 10 reasons why I left Apple and switched to Surface Pro 3.

Later on, my writing family!

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