Tuesday, June 5

Joe Konrath: Are You Ready To Quit Your Job And Write Full Time?

Isaac Asimov

Joe writes:
Every writer needs to figure out what their goals are, and decide upon the best ways to reach those goals. Quitting your job to write full time is a big risk, with no guarantees. Remember that luck is extremely important. You can write a great book and it could take years to find an audience. It might not find an audience within your lifetime. Betting your entire future on luck may not be a wise way to approach life.
- Guest Post by Jude Hardin
I couldn't agree more.
As I read these words Isaac Asimov came to mind. Asimov, one of my all-time favorite authors, was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University and one of the most prolific writers of all time. Did you know he wrote or edited over 500 books? 500! By the way, that information comes from Asimov's Wikipedia page, which is bursting with interesting facts. For instance, I had no idea he had published books in all 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal System. That's prolific.

Back to Joe.
If you are thinking about writing full time, here are some questions you might ask yourself before telling your boss to go to hell.

Do I Write Quickly? The faster you can write, the better chance you have at making a living. I can comfortably write four novels a year, plus a handful of shorts.

What Is My Financial Situation? You need to understand how much money is required to stay afloat, and when you guess how much your book income will bring in, guess low. Ebooks aren't a steady paycheck. Sales fluctuate. 

Do I Have A Back-Up Plan? Do you have money put aside if things get rough? Would your job take you back six months from now? Do you have an alternate stream of income (spouse, investments)?

What About Insurance? I couldn't afford health insurance the first seven years I was writing full time. I got really lucky my family had no serious health issues. 

Can I Write? Every writer thinks they can write good books. But not every writer actually writes good books. Obviously, some people are deluding themselves. Are you one of them? How do you know for sure?

We all have different goals, and there are many ways to reach those goals. There are no right ways and wrong ways. The best plans can be derailed by bad luck. The worst plans sometimes succeed. But the more informed we are, the more we understand, the likelier we are to make smart choices.
- Guest Post by Jude Hardin
It's all about risk management.

I once took a course at my alma mater that was taught by the owner of Talon Books Publishing. His main focus was on drilling it into our heads that the number one thing we had to focus in any business was on was how to manage risk.

This is true for writers as well, at least writers with their business hats on. The creative artist inside us doesn't give a fig about risk, nor should she, but when we think about marketing, sales, etc, when we think about how nice it would be to continue eating and not having to fight Big Joe for the good cardboard box, then we don our business caps and think about risk management.


Monday, June 4

Free Photos At morgueFile

I'm constantly on the lookout for royalty-free photos. A few days ago I came across morgueFile. Grizzly name, but the site promises a lot of photos for free use.
Free images for your inspiration, reference and use in your creative work, be it commercial or not!
Here is the human-readable summary of their full license.


The Secret To Making A Living As A Writer: Work For Free

Penelope Trunk writes,
High performers work for free. The difference between working for free because you’re a loser and working for free because you’re a high performer is what you get from the deal.

People often ask me how to become a writer. The answer is to write for free. You won’t get paid for years. I wrote for decades before I saw any money from my writing.
- How to decide when to work for free?
I guess this is what you would call a long term plan for writing success. On the other hand, if you've written for years--blogging, journaling, scribbling on the walls, whatever--you can count that as part of your unpaid apprenticeship.

In any case, let's say someone approaches you with a project, it's something you wouldn't mind doing, but you would be expected to work for free. How do you know whether this opportunity would represent a stepping stone or just one more thing to take you away from that novel you swore you'd finish this year?

I'm reminded of Neil Gaiman's recent commencement address where he compared ones goal, whatever it is, to a mountain. He said, and I'm paraphrasing: If you have a choice to make ask yourself, If I do this, will it take me farther toward, or farther away from, the mountain?

Simple, huh?

What follows is an unholy mashup of Neil Gaiman and Penelope Trunk. Here are guidelines on how to tell whether working for free would take you farther toward, or farther away from, your mountain.

1. Is the path to your mountain jammed with other people or is it an empty thoroughfare?

The more crowded the path, the more attractive free work becomes because it allows you to build your resume.  Penelope writes:
But you know how you can tell when it’s a job no one else wants? It’s really easy to get. If you are having trouble doing the work you want to do then it’s a pretty good bet that it’s not easy work to get.
- How to decide when to work for free?
If it's not easy work to get then working for free can help you fly about the crowds as you work you way closer to your mountain.

2. This job will get you closer to your mountain, but will you starve along the way?

Do your research. Make sure the path you are on really does lead to your mountain and not into a quagmire.

If you're a photographer, taking free pictures for Penelope Trunk's blog makes sense. It's read by thousands of people, potential customers, who will see your work. It's great advertising.

On the other hand, taking pictures for Jane Doe's blog who has 1 subscriber, someone who is currently lost in the subarctic, doesn't make a lot of sense.

3. Will this job help you establish contacts with other people who are heading in the same direction you are?

Everyone is the hero of their own journey and every hero needs a mentor. If working for free will help you meet people you can learn from, perhaps people who would be valuable business contacts for the rest of your professional life, then what are you waiting for?

4. Is the mountain your mountain?

Sometimes we think our goals are the ones we chose when they're really the ones our parents picked out for us, or our society wanted us to have. Perhaps we got swept along a certain path without actively choosing it for ourselves.

Say you want to go into business for yourself. Taking a free internship that will allow you to observe business leaders in action, that will allow you to learn about various aspects of an actual business first hand, could be great experience. Not only if you keep entrepreneurship as your goal, but perhaps as a test to see if going into business for yourself really is your mountain.

Best of luck on your journey toward your mountain.

Other articles you might like:
- Penelope Trunk Discusses Time Management
- Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story
- Kristen Lamb: Don't Let Trolls Make You Crazy

Sunday, June 3

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep: Release delayed

Stephen King's sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, is not going to be released in the middle of next January as previously planned.

Here is the original announcement. I'm including it because of the great description of Doctor Sleep.
Just got the okay from Scribner to release the publication date for Doctor Sleep. It is tentatively set for January 15, 2013. Here's the catalog copy:
Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
- Release Date? Page 3
Three days ago this statement was published on the forum, again from Ms. Mod:
Steve needs more time for editing as he doesn't feel it's anywhere near ready for publication. He has a number of projects he's working on so would not be able to accomplish that within the deadline they would need in order to get it ready for production for a January release.
- Release Date? Page 5
I'm guessing Doctor Sleep is still going to be published in 2013, just a few months later.

Thanks to Lilja's Library for posting about this.

Related Reading:

TREEbook: An e-book format that allows for multiple story-lines

"TREEbook" stands for Timed Reading Experience E-book. As the name implies, this new e-book format will allow the reader to experience a story tailored to their reading pace and preferences.

This is from treebook.com:
Built into the code of each TREEbook™ are time triggers that are set off based on your reading habits, such as your average reading pace, which day you’re reading, or even how long you read, leading you to each successive branch within the story. With the interplay between time triggers and story branches, different readers can experience various results of pivotal moments within the same TREEbook™. If, for example, you read that the hero has ten minutes to dismantle a bomb but your real life forces you away from the TREEbook™ for fifteen minutes, you could return to the story in the aftermath of the explosion. If your friend is reading the same book, depending on her reading habits, her experience may be different. For example, the hero could save the day. The outcomes would lead you and your friend to even more diverging branches of the story.
. . . .

The story grows with you.

The very first TREEbook™ novel (release date 2013) will be The Julian Year by award-winning horror author Gregory Lamberson (The Jake Helman Files, The Frenzy Wolves Cycle). In The Julian Year, Julian Weizak, an obituary writer in New York, celebrates his birthday alone in a bar on New Year’s Eve. At the stroke of midnight, scores of homicides break out on the East Coast.

Julian discovers twenty thousand murders are committed that night in New York alone, with the epidemic spreading across the country and the world time zone by time zone. At midnight each day thereafter, millions of people become homicidal maniacs, contributing to the biggest killing spree in history. It looks as if the chaos can lead to only one end: the extinction of humankind.
- About TREEbook
I wonder how this would work for book clubs? You ask: How did you feel when the hero was blown up by the bomb? only to have everyone look at you uncomprehendingly because in their versions (they didn't have to get up to baste a chicken!) he was saved.

Although I love exploring new technologies, it seems as though this one could be frustrating. Having the action continue on even when I'm up doing something else? I don't know about you, but the day I got a Personal Video Recorder (PVR), one that allowed me to freeze whatever program I was watching so I could go off and do other things, was one of the happiest days of my life! (A fact which makes me think I've likely spent too much time watching TV.)

What do you think about this new technology? Would you buy a TREEbook?


Quotes From The Master of Horror, Stephen King

Here's my favorite:
People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy... and I keep it in a jar on my desk.
 Some more quotes from the King of horror:
Fiction is the truth inside the lie.

Talent in cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.
Read more quotations here: Stephen King Quotes

Another great source for King Quotes is his book On Writing.

Related reading:
- Neil Gaiman Interviews Stephen King, King talks about Dr. Sleep
- No Ebook Version For Stephen King's Next Book
- Stephen King: 15 tips on how to become a better writer

Saturday, June 2

Barnes & Noble: Replacing the word "kindle" with "nook"

word substitution, ebook

I discover the most interesting stories over at the Passive Voice Blog!

Today Passive Guy posted an article, Nookd, about how Philip over at the Ocracoke Island Journal discovered that all the occurrences of the word "kindle" had been replaced with the word "nook" in the version of War and Peace he had bought from the Barnes & Noble's Nook Store. He writes: 
As I was reading, I came across this sentence: "It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern...." Thinking this was simply a glitch in the software, I ignored the intrusive word and continued reading. Some pages later I encountered the rogue word again. With my third encounter I decided to retrieve my hard cover book and find the original (well, the translated) text.

For the sentence above I discovered this genuine translation: "It was as if a light had been kindled in a carved and painted lantern...."

Someone at Barnes and Noble (a twenty year old employee? or maybe the CEO?) had substituted every incidence of "kindled" with "Nookd!" 
PG remarked that this is the second instance he has come across where the word "kindle" has been replaced with "nook" in a book downloaded from the Nook store.

I wonder, what do you all think about this? As a corporate policy it seems extremely foolhardy. These things always leave a paper trail. Further, even if there is no longer a copyright on the book, it is still extremely bad form to make that kind of a change. In my view, it amounts to vandalism of a classic work of art.

Although the new digital medium has allowed these kind of shenanigans (love that word!), it is to be expected, perhaps, that the road will contain a few potholes, especially in the beginning.


What To Do When Life Hates You

Marilyn Monroe

This morning I found a link to "12 Most Unexpected Life Lessons from Marilyn Monroe," in my mailbox. I was a huge fan of Marilyn's as a kid but had never thought of her as having anything valuable to say about getting through the hard times.

I was wrong.

Here are a few of my favorites:

- I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.

Yea! I had never thought of it that way, but it's very true. As Niles used to say on Fraser: You have to pay the tole.

- Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.

- It’s better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone.

- This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth.

- We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.

Read the rest here: 12 Most Unexpected Life Lessons from Marilyn Monroe.

Friday, June 1

How To Show Rather Than Tell

Creative daydreaming

Here are mystery Writer Elizabeth S. Craig's tips on how to show rather than tell:
I’m not a fan of reading info dumps.  An author could describe a character with well-written, vivid details and I’ll going to skim it.  I’m usually more interested in picking up on little details that point to qualities the character has. Or a slipped-in description—a character whose shoulders are stooped from listening to shorter people around him. Or the character with lots of smile lines and raven’s feet….sort of a double-duty description.  Cheerful and wrinkly!
With indirect characterization, you let the reader draw their own conclusions: based on character dialogue, internal musings shared with the reader, and other characters’ observations about a character. Then the readers can pick up the hints and feel clever about their deductions.

For instance, we can show one character’s demeanor when dealing with the protagonist—and add dialogue clues to hint at character traits and the characters’ relationship with each other. 

You could have a character that you want to portray as someone who talks too much. This could easily be expressed by interruptions from a second character or their signs of impatience. Or of them putting off a phone call with the character. Much better than pages and pages of chatty dialogue to prove the point. 

Since I’m a mystery writer, I’m also interested in planting the wrong impression of a character. I might  mislead the reader. (Other novelists might want to do the same thing, for different reasons.) Maybe the character is unnaturally chatty because they’re nervous. Maybe the second character is just an impatient person who interrupts—maybe they’re not making a point about the character’s loquaciousness at all.
To read the rest of Elizabeth's excellent article, go here: Showing Character.

I love getting writing tips from established professionals like Elizabeth, especially when accompanied by reading recommendations! I won't spoil the surprise though, it's all in her article. Cheers!

No Kindles Allowed At The Hay Festival

Why are no Kindles allowed at the Hay Festival? Apparently it "goes against the ethos of a town to have a machine you can read a story on (From the transcription of the video No Kindles Allowed, see below)."

Edit (June 2, 2012): See the bottom of this article for an update to the situation.

I had never heard of the Hay Festival before, which I feel a bit silly about now since apparently it's quite famous.
The Hay Festival of Literature & Arts is an annual literature festival held in Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales for ten days from May to June.... [T]he festival was described by Bill Clinton in 2001 as "The Woodstock of the mind".
- Hay Festival
Ian McEwan once gave a great line about why he previews his novels here [at the Hay Festival]. He joked - 'I don't do research anymore, I ask the audience at Hay'.
- Hay Festivals
Today is June 1, so the Hay Festival should be in full swing. Passive Guy came across a video that looks as though it was shot at Hay-on-Wye, where the festival is taking place. As of this writing, the video can be found in the hayontv YouTube channel.

I've embedded the video and included a transcription, below.

My transcription:
(Woman sitting in a bookstore looking at the camera.)

When you drive into a small American town you often see, by towns side, apart from the number of people that live there, is that it's a nuclear free zone, or something like that, because the local councils have voted on that.

We would like Hay to be a Kindle free zone. We really feel it goes against the ethos of a town to have a machine you can read a story on. The book is the thing in this town. And we would like to really ban them [Kindles] and treat people coming with Kindles quite harshly.

(Woman walks through bookstore and addresses a man. The woman is now off camera.)

 Woman: I heard you actually told somebody off the other day for sitting outside the next door shop reading from a Kindle.

Man: Well, I was gasped in surprise and I did restrain myself from grabbing it and jumping up and down on it and then slashing it to bis with my lightsaber.

(Laughter from off camera.)

Man: So in fact the person holding it was quite lucky they escaped with their Kindle in one piece.

Woman: So no Kindles allowed at this years festival?

Man: No Kindles. Anybody seen with a Kindle will be unceremoniously dumped on the wayside.
I'd like to stress that this story is unconfirmed. It certainly could be someone's idea of joke. I have contacted the Hay Festival in an effort to confirm the story, but I haven't heard back from them.

I should mention that when I looked through the hayontv YouTube channel I found this video of a hiker openly using her Kindle. She was interviewed but appears to have come through the experience no worse for wear.

If I hear anything else about Kindles not being allowed at the Hay Festival, I'll be sure to update this post.

June 2nd Update
I just heard back from the folks at Hay Tourism. Here is the reply:
Thank you for your email.

Please ignore the foolishness on the video.  Mr & Mrs Addyman have a couple of bookshops in Hay so I can see they would rather people purchased books rather than people having Kindles.

I agree in that nothing can replace a good book but for convenience, especially when on holiday when one has to consider baggage weight etc., a Kindle is ideal. 

So please do not let such things prevent you from visiting us here in Hay - I am quite sure it was all done, as you say, tongue in cheek - and bring your Kindle!!

Kind Regards.
So it seems the video expressed the sentiments of two individuals rather than the town, or the Hay Festival Committee. I am glad. It looks like a terrific festival, one I would love to attend one year.

I can understand the desperation bookstore owners must feel in a town where six bookstores have closed in the past year (this is according to the second video I listed, see above).

Here are two articles about the situation at the Hay Festival:
- The man who would be 'king' of Hay-on-Wye
- Kill the Kindle! In home of the Hay Festival, bookshop boss goes to war on gadget that 'turns readers into robots'

Also, there is a lively discussion going on over at the Passive Voice Blog.

"No Kindles Allowed At The Hay Festival," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.