Monday, November 21, 2011

Don't censor the internet, stop the Protect IP Act

Hank Green writes:
By attempting to control the internet, Congress can't help but do anything but screw it up. They want to create a system whereby any website in America could be turned off at a moment's notice. And if they can do it, don't worry, they will.
This information caught me by surprise, Hank's video was the first I've heard of it.



If you'd like to sign a petition to stop this, click here: Save the Internet

Have you heard of the Protect IP Act before? What do you think of it?

Interview With a Curmudgeon


Not too long ago, a charming Scottish writer emailed me with questions about book promotion. I hope I said something vaguely helpful. Since then he has begun blogging (Report From A Fugitive) and tweeting (@RLL_author). He even did an interview with me! RLL did most of the work. I emailed him a few questions and he did the rest. How marvelous!

Canadian writer Karen Woodward, author of Until Death, thought it would be a great idea to interview me. Wild horses dragged me to tame horses. Tame horses carried me to room 102. Room 101 was taken. Shining her spotlight on the face of the innocent dupe I’d hired to impersonate me, Karen began the interrogation…

KAREN WOODWARD: Please tell me a bit about your book.

RLL: Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords is my commentary on a disease-raddled, drug-addled, country known for its prominent blade culture. That country is a thinly-disguised Scotland. Drugs are plentiful. Violence is everywhere. Justice is in short supply. Lives are cheap. Alliances and allegiances are even cheaper. I try to ensure that my overly-optimistic view of the nation doesn’t get in the way of a rattling good story.

My approach was to squash the sorcery element of the standard sword and sorcery tale, placing science in its stead. Not a new notion. On top of that, the war fought out in the book’s pages was a Cold War. The icing on the literary cake was always this idea that old heroes, from legendary tales, would pass through the modern stuff. Old heroes, and old villains.

The strangeness of the mixture makes for a decidedly odd cake. That’s the beauty of self-publishing electronically. Every type of story is up for grabs. As author-publisher, the e-book writer can tackle a setting that might have limited appeal in a diminishing paper marketplace. So what. Appeal to that limit electronically, then publish the next story. Build a following. Or build several different followings. It’s all on the table, and it’s all to play for.

Is Neon Gods a series? Not in the conventional sense. It’s not a story about quests. I make this quite clear in my notes at the end. A second book would run in the same timeframe as the first, featuring some of the first novel’s characters in scenes witnessed from alternative viewpoints.

However, publishing a series is not my immediate plan. I have a small stack of unpublished novels and short stories sitting there, and I am formatting those for the Kindle before I return to the series. That doesn’t mean neglecting the story.

I’ve written more of book three than of book two, as I must keep a deathly grip on continuity. Yes, I could simply introduce unreliable narrators and leave the audience to sift through inconsistent debris. But I’m in this game to do the job properly.

The novel is an Amazon Kindle e-book. It was important to list story structure at the start, in a series of chapter links. A new thing for me. I want readers to see that the story ends with chapter 32. The book ends with the section ABOUT THIS BOOK.

It’s a warning to wannabe e-authors. If you end the story halfway through the overall page-count, and pad the rest of your book with articles and off-cuts, have the decency to warn readers of this. Aim for transparency. Don’t just dump that on readers as they hit the next page. Bad form. (My story takes up 95% of the publication.)

This peeve dates from all the research I did for a novel on comic books. Comic book readers judge the story by the thickness of the magazine. A sawn-off adventure featuring the main character doesn’t go down well if an unannounced back-up strip rears its head at the turn of a page. What happened to the hero? Who is this third-rate banana, drawn by a filler artist we’ve never heard of?

Bluntly, authors depend on the kindness of stranglers. If I generate a vast audience, I know that’s a vast audience I’ll never meet. Is it possible to respect all these unknown and unknowable people? At the basic level, in applying professional standards to the work.

I am reluctant to discuss the plot in an interview. Always leave ’em hungry.

KAREN WOODWARD: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

RLL: From the pen of C.S. Lewis. Read your work aloud. I must add that I do this in the voices of the characters I create. If they sound different as I’m typing, they will be different in the eyes and minds of my readers. Well, so I like to think.

One of the best ideas I ever absorbed from a writer came from Hans Andersen. He’d travel with rope, so that he could escape from a strange house in the event of a fire in the middle of the night. I’ve only used the escape rope once, thus far. That’s another story.

I’ll amplify on your original question, and give you the worst writing advice I ever received. This happened in school, no surprise, and was uttered by an English teacher. Again, hardly a shocker. “Never use and or but at the start of a sentence. It’s okay to do that in real life, but never in an exam.” The advice was seared into my mind, for all the wrong reasons.

Indicating that exams had no bearing on real life, as far as that teacher felt. A skewed view. Hardly the meaning she was attempting to convey. There is nothing wrong in using and or but at the start of a sentence. Avoid overuse, to keep your style from being nauseatingly repetitive. I live in a part of the world in which it is grammatically acceptable to place but at the end of a sentence. That’s just the way local grammar developed, but.

KAREN WOODWARD: I understand that you have written for many years, although you have just begun self-publishing. What advice would you give to a new writer?

RLL: You mean a writer of fiction. Writing non-fiction lies in the same solar system, though is one planet over – with its own local conditions. Some of this doubtless applies to non-fiction too. For new writers, the advice is obvious. Read. Discover what you like, and what you don’t like. Learn from both types of writing. I learned as much from crappy books as I learned from excellent ones. (Sometimes I think I learned more…)

Cut loose of the stuff you like reading. Be influenced by it, but don’t become it. Cut loose of the stuff you don’t like reading. Avoid spending your writing time hating that material. You have better things to do with your days. And tastes change, over time, in any case.

Learn beyond writing itself. If you look for inspiration in non-written material, whether painted or sculpted, then that’s a good thing. Have interests and pursuits outwith literature. Apply every piece of experience to your writing. Good or ill.

Read copyright law.

Enjoy what you do, though understand that some of your best material might end up being written while in a foul old mood, with the odds stacked against you, your back to the fiery wall, and time running out.

Be prepared to recycle ideas that fall apart. There’s no call to print a story, rip it up, and throw it away. (Unless it’s truly beyond saving. Even then, I’d think twice. And twice more.) I have stuff to get back to. Fragments. Snippets. Remnants. The ruins of stories. New writers should keep hold of everything. One rainy day, that neglected computer file will be dusted down…

Put the hours in. I know I’m always banging on about that. If stories really wrote themselves, I’d be in the Bahamas right now as this interview saw to itself. That takes me back to reading. Consider the size of a book you liked…

Calculate the number of words. Discover your typing speed. Work out how many hours you’d have to spend, to come up with a similar-sized book – based on typing alone. Now think about the number of hours you can spend a day, typing.

You’ll see how many weeks it’ll take to work through a story similar in length to the one you enjoyed reading. I’ve made that sound like a mechanical process. Well, it is. Discipline is a cliché to writers. Often spoken of reverently, without further explanation.

Get into the numbers. Develop a sense of scale. Set a goal, in words. How many? Do the basic arithmetic. If you want to write 100,000 words at 1,000 a day, every single day, you’ll spend 100 days marching to the last page. Not counting research, editing, medical emergencies, and all the other stuff life throws your way. If you type 10,000 words a day, it won’t take you 100 days. Doing the same job in just over a week is no crime.

Discipline is all about the numbers. Nothing to do with quality, or art, or the creative muse. Discipline has no handy shortcut. I feel inclined to say the same to old writers, just in case you think I’m blaming youth for being young.

If you want to be a writer, write. Stop wanting. Be. (No, kiddies, I’m not a little green alien living in a swamp.) A writer is always on the job. Even asleep. Wake, write the dream down. Type it up. Stuck in a queue? Observe. Play the game of faces, as you shop. That guy’s a rocket scientist. She’s a spy. He’s the stranger, come to town with a grudge.

For reasons of space, Scheherazade-like, the interview ceases. Read the full interview on the blog, REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

RLL's book will be available in December, for more details visit his his website: Report From A Fugitive.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My first drive in the snow


I'm not sure if I should tell you this, it's along the lines of a confession. I got my driver's license last year and -- although I live in BC, Canada -- have never, EVER, driven in the snow.

And, trust me, I had NO plans on starting. We have a great transit system and I like taking the bus; it's fast and cheap and I don't have to worry about parallel parking. However, yesterday, I wanted to go see my Dad in the hospital and it was fastest, easiest, to drive to the skytrain station (Vancouver's version of the subway).

I borrowed a friend's car and went to visit my Dad around four in the afternoon; at that point it wasn't even cloudy. Sure the air was a bit nippy, but that was it. I parked at the skytrain station, got to the hospital around five, visited with my father until eight and then prepared to leave. When I looked out the door of the hospital the world was white. There was about an inch of snow on the ground and it was falling like a white curtain. Gah!

As I rode the skytrain back I looked out the window thinking/praying, "It's only snowing in Surrey, right? There's no snow in Vancouver. RIGHT?"

Um, wrong.

By the time I sloshed my way back to my friend's car (btw, I was wearing tennis shoes!) it looked like a snowball. I hunted in the trunk for a snow scraper but the only thing it contained was a hammer. A hammer? I ask you, who carries a hammer, and only a hammer, around in their trunk? I mean, why? Who thinks: 'Oh, I might get a flat, better bring a hammer'? I don't want to seem ungrateful, my friend was very nice to lend me their car, but I gotta say, I'm a bit suspicious.

Moving on. Okay, so there wasn't a scraper. That's fine, I just used my arms to sweep the snow off the windows. Easy peasy. I started the car, cranked the heat and sat there for about five minutes trying to feel my toes. Eventually, I steeled myself, eased out into traffic and headed for home. Driving in the snow was a bit anticlimactic, actually. I had a tougher time driving over icy roads last spring.

Everything was fine until I drove to Pine Street where I'm staying. Now, there's something you need to know about this street: It's one big hill. No one can get up that hill once its covered in snow and black ice and I didn't want to leave my friend's car at the bottom where oncoming traffic could play Bumper Cars with it.

I can't convey to you the happiness that surged through me, right to the tips of my frozen toes, when I saw that Pine Street was snow free.

The car now sits snugly in my friend's garage and I am, once again, a devotee of Vancouver's transit system.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else who has a scary, or not so scary, driving story to share. Thanks for reading!

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thank you to my friends: an update about my Dad

A few weeks ago I posted about my Dad's illness and you've all been so very supportive, I can't thank you enough. You've been great.

My Dad is in the hospital again and it doesn't look good. Strangely, he seems to be taking the news better than I am!

Anyhow, I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for the support you've given me in the past and to thank you in advance for your patience in the days to come. This is for you:

A cure for the blogging blues

Remember the food pyramid? Did you know that it can help a person not only have a healthy body but also a healthy blog? Suitably tweaked, of course.


I'll let Ariel Hyatt tell you about it.
It happens to me all of the time when I teach artists social media.The face goes blank, the frustration begins to settle in and then the artist says it:

“I just don’t have anything interesting to say.”

REALLY?

I’m shocked by this every time. You are an artist; you do things we mere mortals are totally enamored by: you PLAY MUSIC, you write songs, you perform them in public!

So PHLEEASE, do not tell me you have nothing interesting to say. I ain’t buying it.

All you are missing is a System for Social Media Success.

Luckily, unlike sheer god-given musical talent, social media is a learnable skill.

As I was teaching my system to a client in my kitchen a few weeks ago over coffee and bagels and it HIT me… and so I created:

THE MUSICIAN’S SOCIAL MEDIA FOOD PYRAMID!
Remember that chart they brought out when we were in 2nd grade to show us how to eat well-rounded meals? I have re-tooled it for you so you can now participate on Social Media healthily! And you won’t even have to think about it – just follow along…

You wouldn’t eat only bagels all of the time. They are a treat once in awhile, but they are not healthy to eat every day – and a diet of only bagels would be boring!

Most artists are only serving their audiences bagels all of the time. Plain bagels. Over an over again.

Uninteresting.

We want a burger, or a giant green healthy salad, we want some candy, give us protein!

But you keep serving bagels, bagels, bagels!

These are five things that when used in concert with one another can help you ratchet up your social media effectively and manage it easily.
To read the rest of Ariel Hyatt's awesome post, click here: The Musician's Social Media Food Pyramid

For those of you who don't feel like clicking, here's the gist:

1. Network
It isn't all about blogging, it's about making a personal connection.
Frequency: 3 or 4 out of 10 posts.
- Facebook: Leave a comment (or comments!) and become involved.
- Twitter: Chat up your network! Send messages to people & use their twitternames.
- Blogs: Read other blogs and LEAVE COMMENTS!
- YouTube: Find videos you like, subscribe to the channel and make your own video comments.

2. Promote others
Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
Frequency: 3 out of every 10 posts
- Share profiles, photos and links to interesting articles on your Facebook page and your blog.
- Tweet others as you would have them tweet you (sorry, couldn't resist!) Participate in #FF (Follow Friday) and retweet others tweets. Review books or albums and talk about what effect they've had on you and your work.

3. Curate Content
Frequency: 2 or 3 out of every 10 posts
- RSS feeds: This is my favorite! Every day I prowl through my RSS feeds using Google Reader and select the articles I think are the most interesting and share them.
- Food: You don't have to blog about the same thing all the time. Share recipes or talk about your favorite restaurants. Are you a secret addict of any food reality shows? (me --> Diners, Drive-ins and Dives)
- Media: write a review, whether of a book, a movie or some music.
- Talk about something your audience is interested in. Parenting, sports, technology (the iPad!)

4. Pictures!
Take photos and share them.
Frequency: 2 out of every 10 posts
- Twitter: Use twitpic and yfrog.
- YouTube: Dive in! Instead of posting video replies (see above) post your own video. If you're shy, you can post videos others have made.
- Blog: It makes your blog more visually interesting if you add a photo or two and the best photo is one taken by you that has some personal connection to you. It doesn't have to be OF you -- although it can. People are naturally curious about others. What does the view out your window look like? What does your writing desk look like? Your readers want to know!

5. Promote yourself!
Frequency: 1 out of every 10 posts
Do you have a book coming out? A short story? An album? Tell people about it!

That's it! Oh, but before I end this post, two very important things.
1. Most important blogging tip ever: Whenever you post on your blog or on Facebook, tweet a link to your post!
2. My thanks to the marvelously talented Deborah (www.thelandofdeborah.com) who sent me the link to Ariel's article. Her voice is completely amazing, check out her YouTube channel and her Facebook page. You can also find her on iTunes.

I hope you found something that will help inspire your blog posts. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Viddy: Twitter for videos


Viddy wants to be the new twitter, but for videos. Or, to put it another way, Viddy is to YouTube as Twitter is to blogging. With Viddy, you get 15 seconds to tell your story. Only 15 seconds!

But perhaps that's a blessing. Twitter has shown us how expressive we can be in 140 characters, perhaps this could revolutionize our videos. And for those of us who haven't uploaded a video to YouTube, Viddy can be a much less daunting alternative.

Right now, to help make your first video fun and painless, you can put one or the Muppets in your video. Being a huge fan of the show, I had a lot of fun and it didn't take long, less than 5 minutes. My Muppet video contains absolutely nothing writing related, but it does star my (very grumpy) cat.

Jason Boog used the Kermit pack (it was free) to make a short book trailer: How to put the in your book video. (Thanks to Passive Guy for the link!)

Cheers!

Links:
- Is New Viddy App Too Much Like Instagram, But For Videos?
- Viddy Launches Twitter for Video Mobile App

Monday, November 14, 2011

Story structure: What is it and why should I care?


I started this post intending to write about Kristen Lamb's article Structure Part 7–Genre Matters. Kristen's posts are always marvelous, but it got me thinking about the importance of story structure and I decided to talk about that instead.

In my opinion, one of the best books on story structure is The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. Vogler tells a story about about how, when he worked for Disney, he wrote a memo that became wildly popular. He had no idea his memo had been attracting a lot of attention until people from other studios called him up to request a copy! This memo eventually became The Writer's Journey.

Why was Vogler's memo so popular? He says he was able to identify "a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling like physics and chemistry govern the physical world. (The Writer's Journey, ix)" Be that as it may, it clearly worked for many people, and it's something that I try to use in my own writing. I find it especially helpful when I'm stuck, or I feel that my story has gone off the rails.

What is Vogler's formula? He insists that it's a form not a formula, but, that said, here are the basics:

Vogler divides all stories into three acts: Act 1, Act 2 part one, Act 2 part two, Act three. Act one involves the hero's (when I say "hero" I mean someone either male or female; the hero is basically the protagonist of the story) ordinary world, their call to adventure, and their accepting that call. Act two shows the hero in a new world, one where he is tested, where he meets both allies and enemies. The hero goes through an ordeal and seizes a reward; in fairytales this is often depicted as an elixir. In act three the hero is shown back in the ordinary world, having returned with his reward/the elixir. Commonly, the hero's victory isn't just a personal victory, it is a victory for the tribe as well.

That's the outline. Perhaps I've played fast and loose with Vogler's account and the outline certainly doesn't do justice to the complexity of Vogler's book, but hopefully I've captured the gist.

For my next post in this series, I plan to go into more detail about Vogler's system, and perhaps talk more about other kinds of story structures and how they compare to one another.

The story structures I'm most familiar with are those used by Christopher Vogler, Michael Hauge and Dan Wells. If anyone can add to this list, please let me know in a comment! :-)

Interesting Links:
- Writing and the Archetypes: Are They the Best for Developing Characters?—Part 1
- Story Structure, because even a three ring circus is organized. I think the pdf is from storyfix.com.

Don't committ professional suicide: protect your writing time


When I read this article I felt as though the author was speaking directly to me. Every day I plunk my posterior down and write blog posts. I've made that a priority, and I usually succeed in writing at least one. I was hoping that NaNoWriMo would help me sort me out as concerns my fiction writing -- but that was kinda like believing I could buy a chocolate bar and not eat it. It sounded good, plausible even, but it didn't have snowball's chance in hell of coming true.

Here is the article, curtsey of The Script Lab.
I talk about this a lot – simply because a lot of the time, people just don't do it. And that is professional suicide. You have to schedule your writing time and protect it like you would your own child. Then stick to it – like crazy glue. Because the writer's schedule is the writer's salvation.

Almost everyone who is really good at something finds that success because they practice their profession daily. It's not like the Olympian just shows up for the race. Four years of preparation can go into a single sprint that lasts less than ten seconds. Dedication is the key. You must show up every day and do it – whether it's the 100-meter dash or the next "Great American Novel". Being a writer – paid or not – is absolutely a job, so treat it like one. Be accountable. Be responsible. Be on time. Don't call in sick. Show up and write - Everyday!

This is no secret. Most of the best authors schedule their writing, and it's that dedication that makes them good. Even the "Father of American Literature" Mark Twain famously wrote every day between 8:30AM and 5:00PM from his writing studio at his home in Hartford, Connecticut, reading what he wrote each day to his children and wife after super. Apparently, Twain needed critical feedback too.

Now I understand that structuring a 40-hour writing workweek may be a fantasy for most people, but everyone has at least one hour a day. You just have to decide what you're willing to sacrifice. Watch TV a little less, get the kids in bed on time, and yes, try waking up earlier and knock out a few pages before the sun rises. Whatever you decide, you must make it routine.

Just think, without that kind of discipline, we may never have been blessed with some of the treasures Twain completed during his seventeen years at Hartford: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).

Obviously, we must give credit where credit is due – Mark Twain was a colossal talent, but it was his writing schedule that allowed him to maximize that talent. It's easy to thank Twain for his writing, but what we should really be thankful for is Twain's dedication to his writing schedule.
- Safeguard Your Writing Time
I'm going to do something Rebecca Bollwitt (miss604.com) suggested during her workshop at the Surrey International Writers' Conference: keep a detailed daily diary. I manage to make it to my day job on schedule, I should be able to write (at least!) an hour a day.

How to set up a Google+ page

It's amazing the things you find on the internet! I was researching a recipe for blackberry ice cream and ended up reading an article about how to set up a Google+ page for your band.

Hmmmm, Until Death as a Band, I wonder what that would look like ...


Okay, now that I have that out of my system. ;)

I don't have a band -- although I've always had a secret ambition to die my hair purple and play the drums -- but what's true for a band page could be done as an author page. Right?

Well, I thought so. If you want to see my Google+ page, click here: Karen Woodward's Google+ Page. It's nothing much to look at. It would be nice if I could use dlvr.it to hook the RSS feed from my blog up to my Google page the way I can with my Facebook page.

Here's the article with information about making a band page: DIY Update: Introducing Google+ Pages and How To Set Up Your Band Page. Good luck! :-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

12 reasons why commenting on blog posts will make you a happier, move fulfilled, person


Okay, maybe not a LOT happier, or MUCH more fulfilled, but I've been fortunate to make quite a few connections to other readers/writers by leaving comments. I've also been lucky enough to connect to some of my favorite authors through leaving comments (yes, I walked around my apartment with a goofy smile for about half an hour afterward; I'm such a nerd!).

But don't take my word for it. Here are Bruce Sallan's 12 most self-serving reasons to post blog comments:
1. Yes Fred, it will make you happier
Commenting is a happiness guarantee. You will have more interaction with people. People will like you. You’ll get auto-post thank yous. But, you’ll also begin meeting really great people because you’re going to comment on great blogs, right?

2. No Sally, it doesn’t take too much time
Every comment does not have to be a brilliant essay! So, stop with the excuse that it’s too time consuming! Sometimes we “desperate-for-any-feedback-insecure-writers” just love an “‘ataboy!” Not me, of course, since I’m totally secure. You like me, don’t you?

3. Yes Robert, you will get more followers
Do you want real followers or just numbers? I know there are some great programs that will increase your numbers, but if you want more quality peeps, start commenting.

4. No Herb, you don’t have to have the answer all the time
A question is posed in a post. You think you don’t have the best answer, so you don’t bother commenting. Just ask a question back.

5. Yes Karen, your Klout will improve
A lot of people measure their worth by Klout. IF you care about this sort of stuff, you probably will get a higher Klout score via commenting as you’ll just generate more of the metrics that they measure, though it makes NO sense to me!

6. No Joanna, it won’t hurt
“I don’t have time.” “If I do yours, I’ll upset him/her if I don’t do theirs!” “C’mon, I have work to do.” What’s your B.S. excuse? It won’t hurt, it won’t deprive you of needed TV time, and in fact you can do it in front of the TV!

7. Yes Jack, commenting is good for your blog
You comment. They comment. Simple. To gain loyal readers, comment on good blogs and those writers will comment on yours. I know this is complicated, but you do for me and I’ll do for you. It’s called Quid Pro Quo… and Life!

8. No Roberta, I won’t stalk you any more than I already do if you comment on my blog
I love Roberta. I follow everything she says and does. She’s afraid I’m going to show up at her home. NOT, NOT. Stop worrying, just comment.

9. Yes Norbert, I learned everything from #blogchat
I’ve written about how much you can learn from Tweet Chats, and I learned the value of commenting from #blogchat. Other than “Content Is King,” that has been the most consistent evergreen recommendation for better engagement. So, listen to the blogging pros and comment!

10. No Cynthia, all the comments don’t have to be how swell the blog is
But, it may be better to be nice. You can start incredible discussions with a probing comment, even a provocative one. I wouldn’t suggest dissing the blog or the writer. It’s bad karma.

11. Yes Carla, it helps you improve your writing
To comment, you have to read. The more you read, the more your writing will improve. You might even learn something. This is called Win-WIN!

12. No Warren, I won’t miss participating in your great community ’cause I’m always commenting
Again, we come back to time management. That is the ironic struggle we all go through with the advent of the computer. It was supposed to ease our burdens. All it did was give us more to do. So, begin slowly. Start by commenting once a day. Make it a habit and then you won’t have to miss your friends!

Okay, ready to comment? Convinced? You can start below. I will respond to EVERY ONE! I always do…
- 12 Most Self-Serving Reasons to Post Blog Comments
The same goes for me! :-)

Amanda Hocking Joins The Amazon Kindle Million Club


Amanda Hocking is the second self-published author to join the Kindle Million Club, the first being John Locke. The other authors are: Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins, Michael Connelly, John Locke, Kathryn Stockett, Janet Evanovich and George R.R. Martin.
As with John Locke before her, Amanda Hocking sold the majority of her 1 million Kindle books independently using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Since its launch in 2007, KDP has provided a fast, free and easy way for authors and publishers around the world to make their books available in the Kindle Store. In addition to the more than 2 million books sold by John Locke and Amanda Hocking, 12 KDP authors have sold more than 200,000 books and 30 KDP authors have sold more than 100,000 books.

“Our customers love reading all kinds of books on their Kindle, and it’s thanks to them that the Kindle Million Club keeps growing so quickly,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content. “It’s exciting to see both long-time Amazon best-selling authors from the traditional publishing world and independently published authors join the club.”

"I’m thrilled to be a member of the Kindle Million Club,” said David Baldacci. “EBooks are leading the way in more people reading and it’s great to be part of this revolution." David Baldacci is the internationally best-selling author of more than 20 novels that have been translated into over 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries. His most recent books include the best seller “The Sixth Man” and the Kindle Single “No Time Left.” His newest novel, “Zero Day,” was published on October 31.

"I’m so grateful to everyone who has bought one of my books, and to Amazon, for giving me a place to share my books,” said Amanda Hocking. “None of this would have been possible without you. Thank you!" Amanda Hocking got her start independently publishing her books and is now the best-selling author of 10 books, including the My Blood Approves series and the Trylle Trilogy, which has been optioned for films. Hocking has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post and Forbes.

"I know for a fact that this is the most awesome club I’ve ever been allowed into,” said Stephenie Meyer. “Of course I owe it all to the readers – thanks for continually making me cooler than I actually am. And thanks Kindle, for making it so much easier to bring 25 books with me on vacation.” Stephenie Meyer is the author of six novels, including the best-selling Twilight Saga series. “Twilight” was named an Amazon.com Best Book of the Decade So Far, and the series has become a global phenomenon that has been published in 50 languages around the world with over 116 million copies sold worldwide. The movie version of the final book in the Twilight Saga, “Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” hits theaters November 18.

Kindle books are “Buy Once, Read Everywhere” – on Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G, Kindle Fire, on the web with Kindle Cloud Reader, and free Kindle reading apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PCs, Mac, Android phones and tablets, BlackBerry and Windows phones.
- David Baldacci, Amanda Hocking and Stephenie Meyer Join the Kindle Million Club

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kristen Lamb: Are you butchering your creativity?


Kristen's blog is on the (rather long) list of things that I love, and her last blog post is an excellent example of why.

Not too long ago one of my biggest problems (as a writer at least!) was that I killed my voice during the editing process. I pounced on any deviation from English Grammar -- for instance, a sentence fragment -- and either deleted it or re-worked it. But the result never had as much oomph as the original. My critique group helped set me straight, but if you don't have one, or if you just need a reminder, Kristen's post is a must read!

Kristen Lamb writes:
Premature editing is very dangerous for three reasons:

1. Premature Editing Uproots Subconscious Seeds—Our subconscious mind is an amazing machine. It sees the big picture in ways the conscious mind cannot. As we write, our subconscious mind is planting seeds that, when viewed in a microcosm of one or three chapters, will likely seem to make no sense. Duh. That is like an acorn trying to envision life as a 100 foot tall oak tree.

These seeds need time to gestate. When we edit prematurely, all we see is a hunk of something smooshy. We don’t realize that a possibly mind-blowing idea is trying to germinate and take root in the fertile soil of our story. By editing too early, we can possibly cripple our novel. By the end of the first draft, however, we will be able to look back and see sprouted weeds, which we can feel free to uproot. But the sprouts will be mature enough to distinguish from seedlings that need to be nurtured to their full potential.

This is especially true for those of you who did at least a basic plot of your main narrative points. When we do this, we have basically told our subconscious we need to make it from Point A to Point B (Inciting Incident to Turning Point Act One). Sometimes, our subconscious will want to show off and can dazzle us with how creatively it can make the trip.

So let it alone. Your subconscious could surprise you.

2. Premature Editing Makes Us Mistake Busy Work for Real Work—Premature editing indulges our fears. Many times we writers do not continue forward due to subconscious fear. Deep down we might know our original idea is flawed, or not strong enough, or convoluted, or unclear. We may know that we don’t have a solid outline or framework to support a 100K words. We may realize our characters have problems, but it is going to take work and honesty to fix them. Or all of that might be just fine, but we fear failure or even success. We fear writing the gritty stuff because it leaves us exposed and vulnerable, or we fear writing real conflict because our human nature is to avoid it.

Premature editing gives us a false belief that we are being productive, when in fact it is sabotaging our work and reinforcing our fears by permitting us to procrastinate. Fears can only be conquered by facing them, and premature editing keeps us “busy” and gives us justification to stay mired.

3. Premature Editing Can Discourage and Keep a Writer from Finishing
—This is another reason that traditional critique groups can be counter-productive. Again, other writers are seeing our work in a microcosm, and that limits how well they can critique. This is why I suggest using the techniques we discussed earlier. Just make notes.

Our fellow writers are invaluable, but we have to appreciate that they are seeing our work from a limited point of view. Their opinions may be dead-on (We HATE your protagonist and hope he dies), but they could be far off-base and serve only to uproot those subconscious seeds we discussed.

If we continue to go back changing things chapter by chapter, changing, changing, changing, either due to critique group feedback or our own self-edit, what happens is that we KILL our forward momentum with a big ol’ red-penning, back-spacing bone saw. Do that long enough, and it becomes hard not to be discouraged and ultimately give up. If you have been reworking the first act of your book for months, it can very easily end up in the drawer with all the other unfinished works.

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, the point is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. That’s it. You can’t do this if you over think your work. If you hit a wall, just keep writing. Sometimes our brains are like water pumps. We need to prime them and get through the goo before the creativity flows. Just write. You can fix it later. Or, you can start over.

Doesn’t matter.
This is an excerpt of Kristen's article, which I would encourage you to read in its entirety here.

SiWC 2011: Character and POV: The Voice of Your Story, by Bob Mayer


I love Bob Mayer's writing! I've read his (excellent!) blog, Write It Forward, for the past year or so and was eagerly looking forward to taking this workshop. I was not disappointed.

I should apologize in advance; my notes are sketchy in places because sometimes I put down my pen and just listened.

As always, any mistakes and distortions in the following are completely my fault, not Bob Mayer's.
"I'm convinced fear is at the root of most bad writing."
Stephen King
How do you get great reviews? Great blurbs for the front of your book? You network. Networking is very important.

Also, character is everything.
- What is your character's core need?
- What is their pathological maneuver?

Emotion is more important than logic.

Your characters must want something concrete. This concrete thing, though, can in turn illustrate an abstract need/want.

Motivation
- Every character thinks the story is about them.
- Everyone has a core motivation. Motivation can be anything.

Peel away what the character wants and then find out what they need.

The protagonist goes up Maslow's hierarchy while the antagonist goes down.

Both your antagonist and protagonist need blind spots. Needs produce blind spots.

Do not name a character unless the character is important.

What if your protagonist fails? The answer will tell you what is at stake in your book.

Your protagonist has to overcome their fear even though their fear is their primary motivator.

(Book recommendation: How To Write The Breakout Novel, by Don Maass. KW: This book was recommended at almost every workshop at the conference.)

Character Description:
- Keep it brief and distinctive
- You're not writing a personal advertisement
- Don't have your character look in a mirror when it comes time to describe what they look like! One thing you can do is use other points of view to describe other characters.

The stages of change:
- Denial
- Anger
- Bargaining
- Depression
- Acceptance
=> Have your character go through these stages, don't have them suffer a loss and, the next moment, be okay with it.
=> How do we know when someone, say a friend, has changed? We see it.
=> At the end of the story we need to see our protagonist do something emotional they weren't able to do at the beginning of the story. This will show that they've changed.

Point Of View
1st person: I am sad.
2nd person: You are sad.
3rd person: She was sad.

The 2nd person destroys the 4th wall.

One advantage of 3rd person limited is that you can't info-dump.

What voice should you write in? The voice you enjoy reading.

What should you write about? Write about the thing you're most afraid of. Put it on the page and out there for people to see.

When should you break the 'rules of writing'?
1. Know the rule.
2. Know when you're breaking the rule.
3. Take responsibility for breaking the rule.
That's it! Hope you found something useful. :)

These are my notes from other workshops I attended at the SiWC this year:

- Don't Flinch, Robert Wiersema
- The Psychology of Plotting, Michael Slade
- The Inner Journey, Donald Maass
- Getting Started and Heading in the 'write' direction, by Robert Dugoni
- SiWC 2011: Writing for the Web, Rebecca Bollwitt

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SiWC 2011: Writing for the Web, Rebecca Bollwitt


This post continues my series ... I suppose I can call it a series, but that makes it seem rather more serious than it is! These are my notes from the (wonderful! awesome!) workshops I attended at the SiWC this year. You can find my other notes here:

- Don't Flinch, Robert Wiersema
- The Psychology of Plotting, Michael Slade
- The Inner Journey, Donald Maass
- Getting Started and Heading in the 'write' direction, by Robert Dugoni

Rebecca Bollwitt is Miss604 and has a very popular site about all things Vancouver. I was lucky to be able to take her workshop.

(Disclaimer: These are my notes of Rebecca's talk and so may be in error. If so, my apologies!)

Here are the highlights:
- Best word count for a blog post: 250 to 1,000 words.
- Include photos in your blog posts, photos that are personal in some way. E.g., a photo of your desk, the view out your window.
- Get your website graded at websitegrader.com. (I tried it, it's fun!)
- Register your blog with technorati.com, a site that is to blogs as Google is to everything else.

How to get readers for your blog:
- Read other blogs and leave comments.
- Link to other blogs.
- Use social networks such as YouTube, Flicker, Twitter and Facebook.
- Get out from behind the computer and go to meetups.

If I'm series about growing my blog, how frequently should I blog?
- The important thing is to blog regularly. This may be once a month, once a week, once (or twice, or three times, or ...) per day. The important thing to post regularly.

That's it! You can find Rebecca Bollwitt over at miss604.com.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Joe Konrath on Self-Publishing


Joe Konrath has come out of temporary retirement a second time to talk about self-publishing, and I think that what he has to say is well worth reading, so I've re-printed some of it below.

I'd like to mention, though, that I don't agree with Joe 100% on this one. I'm still a huge fan of his but I think that self-publishing is one option among many equally viable ones. I agree with him that it's wonderful to have the option, but I don't think a writer is foolish to go the traditional publishing route. Not in the least! That said, I do think it's silly not to consider self-publishing when weighing one's options.

Okay, without further qualification here's what Joe sez:
I've always stated that is important to set reasonable goals in your career, and to separate goals (things within your power) from dreams (things that require a "yes" or "no" from someone else in order to happen.)

Your dream could be to get published by a legacy house. That means your goals should be to write a terrific book, then send out ten queries a month to top agents. If stars align, your goals can help you reach your dream.

Then, once you have a legacy deal, your next goal could be to write another book for that house.

But is this really a worthy goal in today's publishing climate? Is it even a worthy dream to begin with?

Many authors defend legacy publishing without fully understanding their reasons for doing to. They don’t back up their opinions. They don't feel they have to. For the past 100 years, we writers haven’t had a real choice if we wanted to earn a living–it was legacy or nothing. So we pursued legacy.

I see that attitude still being expressed, even though there is now a choice. And based on everything I know, having been on both sides of the issue, self-pubbing is a far better choice.
- read the rest here: Guest Post by Barry Eisler

Kristen Lamb: 3 kinds of social media platforms for writers


Kristen Lamb a savvy writer on any social media topic, and her latest post is no exception. It is a must read for any writer, whether traditionally or independently published. Even if you're thinking of publishing your work, you'll want to read this article.

First, Kristen Lamb talks about different kinds of platforms:
The Traditional Author

If you are agented and likely to be traditionally published, you have the backing of a publisher, an editor, an agent and people hired to help your books succeed. Thus, the burden of sales and marketing doesn’t rest solely on your shoulders. Focus on writing the best book you can write.

But, is a good book alone enough? No. And it never has been. How can I say this? I like to cite the BEA statistics of 2006. 93% of all books published (traditionally and non-traditionally) sold less than 1000 copies. So, for traditional authors, even with all those people working in your favor, the failure rate can be sobering of you rely solely on a good book alone. Historically, a writer had no control over changing these odds. Now, we have social media so we can help spark word-of-mouth. We are no longer forced to gamble, and that rocks ;) .

Also, what we need to always keep in mind is that social media has changed demands placed on traditionally published writers. Many times the publisher will expect the author to help with her own marketing and promotion. This is easier to do if when your first book is published, you aren’t trying to pull a platform out of the ether.

For the traditionally published author, you don’t need to do as much. If you want to blog and tweet and Facebook, then go for it. I think the stronger your platform, the better. My opinion? Being traditionally published does have advantages.There really isn’t a need to have a social platform the size of a self-pubbed author unless you want one. A great author to follow who has THE BEST advice for the traditionally published author is Jody Hedlund. Another fountain of wisdom in this crazy world? Anne R. Allen. Bookmark their blogs and listen to every word they tell you. These ladies will keep your head straight.

The Hybrid Author

Some of you might fall into the traditional category. Ah, but you have a bit of a wild side that likes to write essays, poetry , short stories, death threats, or manifestos. Now, in the changing paradigm, there is finally a cost-efficient way of getting these types of works to the reader. Ten years ago, no publisher would have taken a second look at a book of poetry because it might only sell 500 copies. It just was a terrible investment with dismal returns for the publisher and even the author.

Now? Just e-publish. Those 500 copies that looked so depressing before, now are darn spiffy sales numbers if you’re keeping 100% and putting out only time, effort, and a minimal cash investment. So, if you are wanting to try your hand at selling some self-published items, you need to have a larger platform and a greater presence to drive those sales. Pay attention to Chuck Wendig. He makes the second-oldest-profession-in-the-world look good and is not above showing a little leg.

The Indie

Yes, for the sake of brevity I am lumping a lot of stuff together. Indie has a lot of different flavors and I highly recommend listening to Bob Mayer and Jen Talty. Take one of their workshops because they are the experts when it comes to all the different publishing options in the new paradigm.

If you are an indie author, you have the backing of a small independent publisher. There is the upside of not being completely all on your own. I am with Who Dares Wins Publishing and I am blessed with a lot of expertise I don’t even know if I have the smarts to learn.

But, we need to point of the pink elephant in the room.

As awesome as indie presses are, logic dictates that most of them won’t have the manpower to help us in promotion and marketing like Random House or Penguin. We don’t get book placement in major chain bookstores or WalMart or Costco. We need a VERY LARGE PLATFORM. Sure, the indie press will help, but the lion’s share of the burden is ours.

Many new writers are carving out a career path by starting indie in hopes it will lead to traditional publication. Yet, here’s the deal. NY will want to see high sales numbers. Our social media platform is critical.

The Self-Published Author

Some of you love being in control of all aspects of your career. Web design, book covers, uploading? No sweat. There have been some tremendous success stories that have come out of the self-publishing world—Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory and John Locke are three that come to mind. These folks didn’t already have a name branded by traditional publishing. They rose out of the nothing with their own hard work….but boy did they WORK.

I was blessed enough to meet H.P. Mallory and listen to how she sold a bazillion books in six months and I needed a nap. John Locke? He is a MACHINE. I read his How I Sold a Million Books in Five Months and I thought it could be retitled as How to Kill a Writer in Less than a Year. The amount of work, planning, strategy was incredible (and I say this with the utmost amount of respect awe and yes…jealousy).

Yet, I do need to point out that Hocking, Mallory and Locke have all since signed with traditional/larger publishers. I think there comes a point when the workload is too much to maintain alone and long-term, but that might just be my opinion. Would have to ask them.

Thus, when we start thinking about our writing career, we need to be really honest about how much work we can do. Too many new writers think that self-publishing is a panacea, that all they need to do is upload their genius and people will buy.

Um…no.

If we look at the self-publishing success stories, the harder they worked, the luckier they got. Same with indie. If you are considering any kind of publishing outside of the traditional route, then ask the hard questions.

Can you write and maintain a blog and a social media presence? Can you do guest posts and blog tours and contests and create groups? Can you do all of his without the quality of your books suffering? Can you keep writing more books? In indie publishing and self-publishing, it is becoming clearer and clearer that those writers who can turn out books and quickly create a backlist are the ones that are the most successful.

What is your background and what do you bring to the table? Do you already possess a lot of technical expertise? H.P. Mallory left a career in Internet sales. She built her own website and uploaded, formatted and designed covers for all of her own books. If you don’t have the tech savvy, do you have money to hire people to do it for you? John Locke did. What is your background? Both Mallory and Locke came from a background in sales. That is a driven and fearless personality.

If you are writing under three pen names because you fear your family will find out you want to be a writer, then this might not be the best path. Things like time, money, background and personality all need to be considered when it comes to tailoring the right platform to the right publishing choice.

It is a wonderful time to be a writer and the sky is the limit. There are all kinds of generous people willing to offer time, help and expertise. My favorites are Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, and Bob Mayer. And if you are an unpublished writer?

Feel free to start with the Snuggie, but eventually? Yeah, you will have to hand it over lest it become your Lazy Blanket.
The above is only a part of Kristen Lamb's excellent article, I would encourage you to read the entire thing. You can find it here: Beware the Social Media Snuggie -- One Size Does NOT Fit All.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Your YouTube Video: Turn it into a video game!


I was watching a John Green Truth or Fail video yesterday, for the first time, and was amazed when I found I could interact with the video! "What strange new world is this," I thought. (Really! I sometimes think in Shakespeare quotes, it's strange, I know.)

If you have no idea what I'm rambling on about, play this video:



The wizardry behind this technological innovation are YouTube Annotations. What is a YouTube annotation, you ask. Good question! Let's let the talented folks over at YouTube explain it:
Video Annotations is a new way for you to add interactive commentary to your videos! Use it to:

- Add background information about the video
- Create stories with multiple possibilities (viewers click to choose the next scene)
- Link to related YouTube videos, channels, or search results from within a video
- All of the above!

You control what the annotations say, where they appear on the video, and when they appear and disappear.
- Read More
You might be thinking: Okay, that's fine, but how do I DO all this cool stuff? How do I transform my crusty, boring, video into an interactive masterpiece? I'm glad you asked! If you click here, the Folks at YouTube will show you how to create or edit your annotations. And, I ask, what could be more fun than that? Can't you see yourself Saturday night, alone, at home, furiously editing annotation after annotation? Oh, wait, that's me. :p

Hope you have fun with your annotations!

Related Articles:
- Why YouTube Annotations Can Make the Difference Between Viral and Lame
- Penny C. Sansevieri: Six Simple Ways to Promote Your YouTube Channel!

Hiring the Right Web Designer


Many years ago I was a website designer/developer. Nowadays, I leave the website designing to other folks, but when I read Jane Friedman’s blog post about what to look for in a web designer I knew I had share with you. Her questions are spot on.

My advice: pay special attention to #6.
1. How long have you been designing websites?
If someone has been creating websites for awhile, there’s a good chance that they will be around for the long haul. Being in business a long time is not enough to prove they’re competent and reliable, but it’s a start.

2. Can I see your portfolio?
Looking at someone’s portfolio can provide you with a lot of information. You should be looking for a few things.
- Do you like their design style? It’s important that you like their style, because the design they do for you will probably have a similar style.
- Do their sites function well?
- Are their sites easy to get around? Is there a lot of clutter, or is it clear how to find what you’re looking for?
3. Are you primarily a designer, programmer, or both?
Some people can create a beautiful design as well as expertly code your site. But most people excel at one or the other. In some cases, you only need one set of skills. Make sure your web designer has whatever skills are needed to get the job done right.

4. Can we meet and talk (virtually or in person)?
Creating a website is a joint effort between you and the designer. You will be having a lot of conversations over the course of the project, and it’s important that you can communicate well with each other and that you are comfortable with their communication style. The only way to get a sense of that is to have a conversation.

5. Will we sign a contract?
Verbal agreements are not enough. You should receive written documentation that spells out the scope of the project. You should know exactly what you’re getting and how much it’s going to cost. This protects both you and the web designer, and is essential for preventing misunderstandings. If the designer is billing by the hour, you should be given an estimate along with some agreement as to what happens if the process takes longer than the estimate.

6. How are website updates handled?
It used to be that you had to hire your website designer to update your site for even the smallest changes, unless it was built with an expensive proprietary content management system. A content management system, or CMS, allows you to update your site without knowing any code or programming languages. These days there are a number of free systems that nearly anyone can use without special knowledge, such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Of these systems, WordPress is the easiest to use. If you want to update your site yourself, ask your website designer if they use WordPress or another content management system.

7. Who owns my site after it’s completed and paid for?
You should have full ownership of your website. Make sure you get all of your login information so that if somewhere down the line your website designer is no longer in business, you have access to your site.

Some companies build their websites with proprietary software. This may work well while you are hosted with them, but you will not be able to move your site anywhere else, since it needs the proprietary software to run.

WordPress is a very popular platform, so I recommend using it if at all possible. If you want to move your site or change website designers, you’ll have no trouble finding someone else who can take over.
Read the rest of Jane's article here: How to Hire the Right Website Designer

Monday, November 7, 2011

Joe Konrath releases his sales numbers


Joe Konrath broke his hiatus to, among other things, release some of his sales figures. I was amazed.

Joe writes:
Here are my latest royalty statement figures for my six Hyperion titles and my Hachette title, for Jan 1 - June 30, 2011. Paper sales are hardcover and mass market combined.

Whiskey Sour paper sales: $1450.00
Whiskey Sour ebook sales: $5395.00

Bloody Mary paper sales: $463.00
Bloody Mary ebook sales: $2591.00

Rusty Nail paper sales: $226.00
Rusty Nail ebook sales: $3220.00

Dirty Martini paper sales: $415.00
Dirty Martini ebook sales: $3370.00

Fuzzy Navel paper sales: $485.00
Fuzzy Navel ebook sales: $3110.00

Cherry Bomb paper sales: $224.00
Cherry Bomb ebook sales: $3864.00

Afraid paper sales: $1608.00
Afraid ebook sales: $12,158.00
My jaw made a popping sound as it hit my desk. I had no idea that writers could make that kind of money from ebooks compared to print.
You can read the rest of Joe's article here: Guest Post by Lee Goldberg (and Konrath talks numbers)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

To Writers: The benefits of living with a cat

The title of this post should be: The benefits of a cat allowing you to live with him/her.

Muriel Spark writes:
If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work ... the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp. The light from a lamp ... gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.
- Writing Advice From History's Fastest, Most Prolific Authors
So there you have it. The tranquility of a cat will help inspire you and improve your productivity. Sounds good! Honestly, though, my two cats are better at putting me to sleep. Especially when I sit down on the couch, notepad in hand, and they decide to climb on my lap. I start petting them and, the next thing I know, I've been asleep for an hour!

Perhaps, though, you'll have success with this method. It's something worth trying.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Six reasons to keep writing

I woke up today and didn't want to write. I wanted to do anything but write. I felt, What's the use, it's never been a happen, I'm never going to be able to earn a significant portion of my living from my writing. But I know with that sort of attitude only one thing is guaranteed: I'm guaranteed to fail. So I wrote this blog post with myself in mind.

1. You owe it to yourself.

If earning your living from writing is your dream, the only way your dream is going to come true is if you keep at it. There's only one person who can make your dream come true: You. Remember, if this were easy then everyone would be doing it. There's a reason they're not.

2. If you try you will succeed.

I'm not saying that if you try you'll get rich, or that you try you will be able to earn enough money from your writing to quit your day job – that would be nice, though! What will happen is that you won't have given up on your dream and, yes this sounds corny, but that's success. You'll be a writer. There's a reason why the phrase, 'starving writer,' trips off the tongue so easily.

3. If you don't try, you'll always wonder, 'what if?'

They say that at the end of life as you look back at what you've done, what you've accomplished, you don't regret the things you did, you regret the things you didn't do. I don't know if that's true, but it sounds right to me.

4. It's a marathon, not a sprint

You've heard this one before. Personally, I think it's like a series of triathlons!

5. Variety is the spice of life

When you get bored, try something new. Something I'm trying out is Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I hadn't heard about this software until a couple of weeks ago when I came across a number of author blogs talking about the fantastic results they had been getting with it. (No, this is not advertisement for Dragon NaturallySpeaking!)

When I picked up the software last week, I thought that this might be a way of getting another half hour per day to write. It takes me 15 minutes to walk to work, but if I could use a digital recorder to dictate parts of my story, perhaps even a blog post, I could squeeze another 30 from the day.

I haven't tried that yet, but something unexpected has happened. This new way of writing – perhaps I can't, or shouldn't, call this writing; perhaps I should call it speaking – has made the words come easier, has reinvigorated me.

One thing Dragon NaturallySpeaking had been excellent for is transcribing my longhand notes. Often when I get an idea for a story I write it out longhand and these notes can run to hundreds of pages! Over the past few days I have been faced with the task of typing in about 50 or 60 pages of notes, something that takes me a long time to do. Last night, using Dragon, I transcribed the lion share of my notes in about half an hour! Perhaps it's the novelty that made it seem effortless – and fun! – But it seemed to go much faster, and I'm a fast typist.

6. Bribery works

I love books, especially journals. New journals. Over my lifetime I've filled bookcases with journals covered in my scribbling. (And, no, I'm not a serial killer!) For me, if I need special motivation, I tell myself, "Self, all you need to do is fill up this journal and you can buy yourself a new one." And, believe it or not this often works.

Okay, I don't know about you, but it's NaNoWriMo time and I'm all fired up to write! Talk to you tomorrow. :)

(PS: I wrote this post using Dragon NaturallySpeaking.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm Listed on Technorati.com!


I don't know why I'm so thrilled by seeing my blog listed on Technorati.com, but I am! I have a tiny, tiny authority of 109 (authority measures a site's standing & influence in the blogosphere and is a number from 1 to 1000, 1000 being most influential), but that's okay.

I would encourage anyone with a blog to list it with Technorati.com. The process is quick and painless and, somehow, very rewarding. Here's how you go about it.

For anyone who is curious, I haven't noticed a significant increase in traffic to my site (technorati is a search engine for blogs) but I just got listed, so who knows?

10 Excuses That Prevent You From Ever Becoming Great

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We all make excuses, excuses that keep us from doing those things we want to do, perhaps even those things we <i>need</i> to do.

Reaching for our dreams is risky because, to achieve them, we would have to make ourselves vulnerable.

Each of us has a special fear, but a big one for writers is rejection, having agents and editors -- and, ultimately the reading public -- tell us our writing is dreadful and our ideas unworthy of the hard drive space they're stored in.

Let's identify the excuses we use and ditch them.

(The following list was made by Tommy Walker, see below.)
1. You can’t afford to take a risk right now.

If not now, then when?

This excuse is fear of the unknown.

The reality is, you can’t afford <i>not</i> to take a risk right now.

If an idea really benefits people, pulling on the reigns doesn’t just inhibit your progress…it prevents people from improving their lives.

2. Someone else is already doing it.

Which came first, Copyblogger or Problogger? Dyson or Hoover? Groupon or LivingSocial?

Does it matter?

Not really.

3. You don’t know where to begin.

The human brain isn’t designed to process information in a linear fashion.

This is why when you dream, it doesn’t start “at the beginning” and you only remember how the dream ended, but never how it began.

If you’re looking to pick up a new skill, usually “the beginning” will make itself apparent, regardless of where you start.

Even better, because the way you process information is unique to you, your “starting point” could help you form a very unique perspective that people love.

Also consider the other people who “don’t know where to begin.”

By simply picking a place and chronicling your journey, you can inspire others to learn with you.

4. You’re afraid of what your colleagues will say.

Peer validation is rarely the deciding factor in any entrepreneurial story worth hearing.

If you’re concerned with what your industry peers will think, don’t worry about it.

Sometimes disruption is exactly what your peers need.

5. Nobody will buy.

If people will buy the “Pet Rock” people will buy what you’re selling.

You just have to figure out how to position yourself, and why they need you.

6. You haven’t done it before.

This is my favorite excuse, because it’s such a cop out.

Let’s look at some of the common milestones in your life that you got through just fine

- You went to school (hadn’t done that before)
- Had your first kiss (hadn’t done that before)
- Learned to drive a car
- Took up a new hobby
- Learned to read

Or really anything beyond lying on your back and flailing your limbs uncontrollably.

You hadn’t done anything before you did it. It’s simple, but it’s true.

This excuse is rooted in fear of the unknown.

Now it’s perfectly fine to be afraid, but “inexperience” is by far one of the worst excuses.

Life is built on a series of “firsts” and making the choice to limit your experiences only leads to dissatisfaction.

7. You’ll get to it later.

No you won’t. You never do.

Get to it now, or at least schedule it to get done.

Then do it.

You’ll be a lot more satisfied when you’re finished.

8. You don’t want to be boring.

What’s boring to some is addictive to others.

People process information differently. If you skew towards boring it’s entirely possible to still find the right audience.

However if you skew towards boring, and you don’t want to, find <a href="http://www.copyblogger.com/how-to-be-interesting/">ways to become more interesting</a>.

Take an improv class, do some live Q&A’s, go bungee jumping… spice it up.

9. If you can’t get it right the first time, why bother trying?

Perfection is a myth.

Nobody actually “does it right”. That’s why there are so many grocery stores, soda brands, religions, and blogs.

It’s not about “doing it right” so much as it is doing it to the best of your ability.

Giving it everything you’ve got, regardless of the outcome, that’s the only way to do it right.

10. Failure would destroy you.

Anyone who’s ever “made it” will tell you they’ve failed more times than they’ve succeeded.

Being destroyed by failure is a choice; the choice is to quit.

If you fail, fail.

Give it everything you’ve got, and let it become a disaster.

Watch it burn.Let it destroy you.

Then recoup, learn from your mistakes, and rise from the ashes.

Failure never completely destroys you, only the parts that weren’t doing you any good.

With every catastrophic failure, hindsight allows you to see where you went wrong.

When you rebuild, you’re that much closer to perfecting the system.
This list of 10 was taken from Tommy Walker's article, 106 Excuses That Prevent You From Ever Becoming Great.

Excuse number 7 is one I use all the time. Today I'm not going to procrastinate, I'm doing it now. (I don't quite know what I'm doing, but whatever it is, I'm doing it now! ;)

Do you have a 'favorite' excuse, one that keeps you from achieving the things you dream about?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seth Godin: Free Wins


Seth Godin is a new discovery of mine. I had heard his name for years and kept meaning to look him up on the net, but never got around to it. Then a friend of mine said, "Yea, I love Seth Godin's blog, you should read it, I think you'd like it".

So I did.

He opened up my mind to a new way of thinking about community, about what it means to be part of a group, a tribe.

I discovered this video Seth Godin made and want to share it. In it he talks about his book, Unleashing The Idea Virus, and says:
Ideas that are free spread faster and ideas that spread, win.
So, free ideas win.

You might be thinking, yea, sure, you can say anything, what is he giving away for free? For starters, he's giving way Unleashing The Idea Virus as an ebook. You can get it from his site, here.

Here's a video where he talks about how he came up with these ideas:

Social Media: StumbleUpon: It works!


Derek Haines loves StubleUpon and here's why:
My blog completely froze and gave me a ‘Page Cannot Be Loaded’ message. So off I went on an immediate hunt to find out why. It took me some time because I was looking in all the wrong places, and even if I had an inkling of the problem I wouldn’t have known how to go about remedying it anyway. Therefore I didn’t find the problem and decided to try another alternative. Wait half an hour and see what happened.

During that half an hour I popped into Stumbleupon by sheer chance. There at the top of my page was my problem. My server had been hit by over 1,500 visitors in less than fifteen minutes. Yes, from Stumbleupon. As my site is on a very normal everyday type server, this was a bit too much for it to handle. But what a nice problem to have.
Read the entire article over at Derek Haines' blog, The Vandal: Blogging -- The Stumbleupon Effect.

Lately I have been studying ways to drive traffic to my blog but hadn't seriously considered StumbleUpon and, if not for Derek's article, likely wouldn't have for quite some time. Thanks Derek! I think that reading other writer's blog posts is the most useful thing I do all day.

Another site that is worth checking out, if you haven't already, is reddit.com. I mentioned fark.com to someone the other day and they rolled their eyes at me.

"No one reads Fark anymore," they said with pitying condescension.

We'll see about that! I thought and marched home where I compared reddit.com to fark.com using Google Trends.

They were right! Well, not completely right, as you can see reddit.com is trending down as well, but, nevertheless, I was surprised by the result and learnt something.

My goal for the day is going to be to learn more about StumbleUpon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SiWC 2011: Getting started and Heading in the 'write' direction, by Robert Dugoni

Here are more of my SiWC notes, these are from day two, Saturday. I've mentioned Robert Dugoni before, but I don't think I've been able to communicate ... well, how inspirational his workshops (and keynotes!) are. Every time I walk away from a talk he's given I feel: Yes, I can do this!. If any of you ever have the opportunity to hear him talk, I recommend it.

My apologies in advance for the fractured nature of these notes. I repeat certain tips and the notes themselves are less organized than I'd like. My instinct is to tuck this post away until I have time to do it properly, but I know that's not going to happen, especially not during NaNo! So here my notes are, in all their imperfection.
What is the primary purpose of the novel? It is to entertain.

Your CHARACTERS entertain, NOT the author. If author tries to entertain then the story stops.

1. Backstory
Sometimes there is the temptation for the author to say, yes, we'll get to the story, but let me tell you about this first. You need to weave the backstory into the story.

2. Too much description
Sometimes there is the temptation to stop the story and describe a character. You don't have to describe a character unless it is important to the story.

AN EXCEPTION: If something is a marker, then you need to describe it. For example, if your character is wearing a Channel dress, that's a marker. If your character pulls up in a hummer rather than a VW, that's a marker. If it isn't a marker, then you don't need it. Most readers don't care. If it isn't really important don't stop the story to describe it. Also could sprinkle description throughout the book. Give us the description as it becomes important to character.

Have character moving and talking as you give the description.

RESEARCH: It is important if its important to the characters.

Be careful about giving your characters your personal opinions. Guard against your own attitudes and beliefs bleeding through to the character where it isn't appropriate.

Ask yourself: Are the characters entertaining or am I intruding into the story? The best authors are internal to the story.

Journeys
Your story is really the journey of your characters. The physical journey they take is the plot.

Emotional journey. Emotions get people, and your characters, to do things. Emotions give motivation. Basic human needs. Love, greed, protection.

Most books are about basic things.
- To win (a game) ( a contest) (the love of another)
- To stop (the world ending) (the abuse)
- To escape (a bad situation)
- To retrieve something (think Indiana Jones)
- To destroy something (Lord of the Rings)
- To save something or someone

Right now, write down the physical journey your character is on. What is their motivation for doing it?

Good. Now write down the emotional journey your character is on. What is his or her motivation for doing it.

Raising the stakes
Don Maass' books are great. Read them.
- How would you raise the stakes? You have a victim, how are you going to raise the stakes? How about revealing that the victim is the hero's brother? That's one way of doing it.

The hero has to care. What happens if the hero fails in reaching the goal? Raising the stakes means making the hero lose more, makes the loss more painful and less likely that the hero can recover. Make the goal more personal to the hero, that's how you raise the stakes.

Your goal is to establish the TONE of the book early. Each kind of book is going to have a different tone that will cure the reader that the books is, for example, a mystery, or a thriller, or a romance, etc.

Early on, introduce who the story is about, your readers need to meet the protagonist.

Also, you need to introduce the story problem early on. For instance, in the Lord of the Rings, the story problem is that the hero needs to take this ring a destroy it. Give your readers the story problem at the beginning of your story.

Hooking the reader
Classic openings in literature:
a. Everyday hero. Their everyday life. If your hero is a housewife, you see her going about her day, if your hero is a trial lawyer, you see them arguing a case, etc.
b. Action scene. The hero in action.
c. Emotional scene. Outside action opening. Da Vinci Code. Don't start with the hero. Start with the killing.
d. Prologue. Start in a time or place different from the rest of the book.
e. Flashback opening. Water for elephants. Take scene from the book and put it at the beginning. Like a scene out of sequence.

Warning: Readers don't like prologues. If you absolutely must have a prologue, call it chapter one.

Remember to write scenes where you use all your senses.

Some people say never start a book with your hero on a plane, train or in a car. Why? Because it's a static environment. It is difficult to have action or dialogue. You will be tempted to have your character thinking and thinking and thinking. That's not very interesting.

Goal
Your hero must have a goal. For instance, let's say that your hero can't be late or she'll be fired, but she also HAS to have her morning coffee. She peers into the coffee shop, there's no line up! She rushes inside and an elderly lady steps in front of her and she takes forever to order. The elderly lady is an obstacle that creates suspense.

Okay, so now your hero is late for work. She goes to the office. Her boss isn't there. She looks down the hall, but her boss isn't there either. Perhaps she'll be able to make it to her office and her boss will never know she was late! Her hero walks into her office and there's her boss, standing in her office.

How, should the boss say, "You're fired!"? No, at least, not until the next chapter. You need to keep the story moving forward.

Chapter Breaks
One thing you should ask yourself is: Does this chapter have a better question for the next chapter (a question the next chapter has to answer) if I take out the last paragraph? Often an author will summarize the chapter in the last paragraph, this is bad because it's boring. Your job is to get the reader to turn the next page. How do you do this? By raising story questions.

The first word of every scene
Use the first word of every scene to hook the reader. Raise a question. Readers are curious people by nature. If you raise a question in the first sentence they will want to answer it.

Flirt don't tease. Don't go 35 pages without answering a question you've raised.

Make the first sentence of every chapter great. Don't throw away the first or the last sentence of any scene.

Give the reader something interesting right away, as soon as your story begins. An interesting character should appear right away. Like going to a cocktail party or a book-signing. Unusual people, even people you might think are a bit crazy, are very interesting. The worst judgement you can make about someone is that they are boring.

Settings: Third element
Your settings help you tell the story. For instance, in a scene lets say you have a few tarantulas in a terrarium in an elementary school classroom. The teacher is putting some papers into her briefcase and her principal walks in. The teacher glances at the terrarium. The spiders are gone.

Opening scenes: Don't over-populate your first scene.

If a scene doesn't advance the story then cut it.
Here is a link to Robert Dugoni's home page.

My notes from other workshops I attended:
- SiWC 2011 Day One, Part Two: Don't Flinch: Robert Wiersema
- SiWC 2011 Day One, Part Three: The Psychology of Plotting, Michael Slade
- SiWC 2011 Day One, Part Four: The Inner Journey, Donald Maass