Monday, September 30, 2013

The sauerkraut lesson

Growing up, I hated sauerkraut.  There weren't too many things I wouldn't eat, and sauerkraut was one of them.  Liver was probably another, along with brussel spouts.  But sauerkraut--yuck!

Then, not long after my wife and I got married, she made a recipe that involved sauerkraut--the basics is to take frozen bread dough, let it thaw, flatten it out, and fill it with cooked hamburger, 1000 island dressing, and sauerkraut.  I loved it!  And guess what I order sometimes at restaurants?  Reuben sandwiches!

The point is I tried it and liked it.  The same goes with various aspects of your writing.  Are you a discovery writer or an outliner?  Try both.  Do you write better in the mornings or at night or both?  Try all.  I used to be a night writer.  Now, as age catches up to me, I find that mornings are a better fit for me.

When you come across something that may improve your writing, give it a try.  Try as much as you can, and if it honestly doesn't work for you, at least you know you gave it an honest try.  You can't try everything, but if something is intriguing enough, you owe it to yourself to see how it works for you.

Because I could have hated sauerkraut after my wife cooked up that one dish.  But I didn't.  Still not a fan of liver or brussel spouts--yes, I have tried both.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 27-Sept-2013 / 691 words

691 words.  That's all the separates my latest story from novelette to novella.  According to SFWA, a novella is at least 17,500 words (up to the proverbial 40K which is the low end for novels).

Gabriel's Hope.

That's the title for this inspirational little piece.  The plan is within the next 1-2 weeks it will be uploaded onto the Kindle along with Beholder's Eye and Guest of Honor.  That brings the number of self-published works this year to three.

Goal achieved.

I also received my rejection letter from Writers Of The Future on last quarters submission--an expected rejection, of course, as the contest is highly competitive.  Now, I will glance at it and send it out to some of the other SF markets.

Keeping it short today.  Got a lot of irons in the fire, and another trip to Rochester/Mayo for my wife is coming up.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learn the publishing business from a bestselling author

I'm sure we've all read Stephen King's On Writing and have also read numerous books on the craft.  But what if you could watch a bestselling author actually teach the nuts-and-bolts of writing AND the publishing side from a business perspective.

Have no fear!  Brandon Sanderson is here!

For those few who may not know, Brandon finished off Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series after Mr. Jordan's untimely death years ago.  He is also an accomplished fantasy author on his own series, starting with the Stormlight Archives Book 1: The Way of Kings--I highly recommend it for those fantasy lovers out there.

Brandon is also a college professor, and on a video series at Write About, you get to see him in action.  There are two such video series, one from 2012 and one from 2013.  There are 13 lessons on each, and he covers a variety of topics.

Check out the YouTube channel: Write About Dragons.  I can't recommend it enough.  For help with brainstorming ideas, writing first drafts, editing, and even various aspects of the publishing business, you get it all here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The last week of the third quarter

It is the last week of the third quarter.  As we prepare our goals for 2014, we should at least pay homage to our 2013 goals and ask ourselves how we are doing.

Have you achieved at least half of them?

Are you getting close to achieving them?

Now, I understand not everyone is motivated by writing down and achieving meaningful goals.  A study of the world's most successful people, however, show that they are indeed goal-setters.  But certainly not every single one of them.  If you get nothing from goals and have at least tried, then find out what does motivate you.

For those goal-setters out there, keep your goals in plain view where you can see them and ask yourself what you need to do in order to achieve them.

Good luck!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 20-Sept-2013 / Some projects coming to a close, others starting

Yesterday I submitted another short story to the Writers Of The Future contest.  I think it's pretty good, but I have some very stiff competition.  No matter the outcome, I am at least doing something and submitting instead of not doing anything.

Because that is what one needs to do in order to become successful.  Do.  Do something.  Do something to further your work--your art--into the world.

It makes no sense for all of your stories to sit in a drawer with no one to enjoy them--I truly wish J. D. Salinger would've published more stories than the few he did; the rumors of all the stories regarding the Glass family have been rampant.

Your work needs to be out for others to enjoy.

I am also putting the finishing touches on an inspirational novella titled Gabriel's Hope.  My goal is to get it done by the end of the month.

I am also editing a previously submitted short story from Writers Of The Future--that didn't win, of course--to be sent out to the traditional SF market.  If I get no luck there, I'll end up adding it to a collection to be self-published later.

I am starting to work on the sequel to Beholder's Eye, in the Central Division Series thriller novels.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When marketing your work, play to your strengths (psst, you don't have to do everything!)

We've heard all of the advice:

"You must have a blog"

"You must be on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, The Erector Set Social Media Machine" (okay, I made up that last one)

"For every hour you spend writing, you need to spend at least that long marketing yourself"

"You must be on TV"

"You need to call Oprah!"

"You need to be on Google+"

"You need to be on LinkedIn and Pinterest"

"You need to do a podcast and video blog"

"Give a bunch of books away for free"

Okay, let's cut to the chase.  As much as there is writing advice, there is advice when it comes to marketing.  If your head is spinning as mine is, rest assured there are successful authors out there who aren't on social media and don't have a blog.  They don't do any of the stuff I listed above.

What do you do?

Do what you love.  If you love Twitter and not Facebook, go for it.  If you love public speaking, do it.

I love blogging.  I am also on Facebook and Twitter, but there's a distinction between the two.  My writing side is more on Twitter and personal stuff is on Facebook.  I don't do much self-promotion on Facebook (although I probably should), but I engage more with fellow writers and readers on Twitter.

I am NOT on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, or even the Erector Set Social Media Machine (yup, still made it up).  I thought about doing a podcast, but have since abandoned the idea due to time constraints.  The same goes with video blogging.  I love it, but the time it takes I need to put into writing.

And writing is what I love to do best.

(For ideas on marketing, check out Seth Godin's blog.  He is the ultimate resource when it comes to marketing)

Monday, September 16, 2013

What to do with those old manuscripts

Don't be embarrassed.  We all have them.  Yet we cling to them like an old T-shirt we got back in our college years when we went away on spring break.  In your heart, you know they should be thrown away.  But you just can't do it.

What am I talking about?  Your old manuscripts.  Stories written years ago, when you were learning the craft of writing.  You know the stories are good--goddamn it, of course they are, gotta just give 'em a chance!

You can.


Yes, you heard me right.  You can still give 'em a chance.  There's just one thing: they need to be rewritten.  Big time.  From scratch.  Not just edited using your old words.  Completely rewrite it from scratch.

These past few months, I've been digging out some manuscripts I wrote close to ten years ago.  The stories themselves are good, however . . . they just need to be completely rewritten.  Over the course of a month, I took one of these stories and started editing it.  In the end, I only completed the first 40-50 pages before I realized I just need to completely start over if I was going to get anything else done.

Start with a blank screen or piece of paper.  And write it.  Just like the first time.  Only this time it'll be with your current skill set, which has to be better than before.

A word of caution though: don't dwell on the past and think that you can't write any more good stories.  Nonsense.  You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.  If you really want to rewrite an old story, by all means do it.  But don't forget to try your hand at something new too.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 13-Sept-2013 / Starting over (AKA Writing Bad)

I know the feeling--and so do you.  You wrote something nine, twelve months ago and you look at it again because it either didn't sell to whom you were submitting or it didn't win the contest.  Then, you cringe at how awful it was written.

No wonder it didn't sell/win.

But now you are determined to make it better.  You start slicing and dicing the paragraphs and sentences until you realize it would be better if you started over.  Because you were . . . writing bad.

I will admit, I'm watching Breaking Bad on Netflix and I'm in the middle of season 3.  It's a fantastic plot series--one all centered around a high school chemistry teacher who "breaks bad" and starts cooking meth.

Earlier this year, I submitted a short story to Writers Of The Future.  I thought, at the time, it was deemed worthy, even though the competition is fierce.  I didn't win.  I'm planning on submitting it to some traditional markets, but when I read it over I discovered . . . it was written poorly.  I've learned a lot about writing in the past six months alone, and in looking over this story, I decided to just start over from scratch.

I've barely started, but I'm confident it will be better.
My inspirational novella titled Gabriel's Hope (yes it has a title now) is nearing completion and I have another short story ready to submit to this quarter's Writers Of The Future.  Then, I'll start work on the first draft to the 2nd novel in the Central Division thriller series, set to be finished by the end of this year.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What is your writing strength?

In several interviews I've read or listened to from Brandon Sanderson, he says his writing strength are epic novels--not short stories.  He has a new novellas out in the market, but that's about as short as he likes to get.  He doesn't even try short stories because he knows he's not good at them.

Last week during our tri-weekly writers group meeting, the other member told me her strength is in writing short pieces--250-300 word shorts.  This is great for her to realize, and now she's on a plan to start down the path towards collecting these pieces and self-publishing them.

Are short stories your thing?

How about 75K word novels?

Epic novels that topple 200K easily?

Flash fiction?

If you're unsure, try writing in as many veins as possible to find out where your niche lies.  Maybe it's all of the above.   Whatever it is, write to your strength.

Monday, September 9, 2013

10 Rules Of Writing

Last week, I posted about so much writing advice can bog one down, almost to the point where you don't know where to start.

Here are my 10 rules of writing:

1) Write

2) Edit

3) Submit/Publish

4) Write more

5) Edit

6) Submit/Publish

7) Again, let's write

8) Edit

9) Submit/Publish

10) Take rejected stories and submit again

Tongue-in-cheek, one can go a long way following this advice.  I could just break it down into three:

1) Write

2) Send that writing out (either submit to a traditional market or self-publish)

3) Don't quit

Oh, and I'll add this as well: do it today.  Not tomorrow.  Today.  The world needs your art.  Badly.

My favorite writing advice is simple:

1) Read a lot

2) Write a lot

Get it done today.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 06=Sept-2013 / writing advice vs. writing

This past Wednesday was our tri-weekly writers group meeting.  Present were myself and the other co-founder of the group.  After I read my piece--an inspirational soon-to-be novella--we discussed possible titles (because I'm not happy with the one I chose).

Then the conversation took a turn towards writing advice in general.

Type "writing advice" in Google or Bing or Yahoo! and you'll find yourself shoulder-deep in so much writing advice--this person's 10 rules of writing or that person's 5 must-do rules in order to become published--that you may actually not do any writing at all.

And that's wrong.

Over the past month or so, I've cut down the number of podcasts I listen to as well as the number of blogs I read--trust me, I still get quite a number, but the actual number is down from what it once was.  Why?  Because I kept seeing the same stuff printed over and over again.  Also, I didn't quite agree with much of the advice.  Again, why?  Because I could find books that broke those rules big time.

Here's the best piece of writing advice: write.  Not sit down and write.  Write.  That's it.  You can do it standing up.   You need to put words down somewhere.  I don't care where.  It can be on a piece of paper or a computer document or even on a napkin.

Just write.

I'm finalizing my next short story submission to the Writers Of The Future contest, due on October 1st.  I'm also working on the inspirational piece I shared in this week's writers group.  Don't forget, I still have my first full-length thriller novel Beholder's Eye on sale at the Amazon Kindle store (the link is along the side) as well as my novelette Guest of Honor, which not only has gotten a new cover, I also lowered the price to $.99.  I'd be "honored" if you'd pick it up and review it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The one goal I'm neglecting (and you may be too)

I look over my list of goals for 2013, and out of 20 items, I have accomplished 11.  Not bad.  But I'm not patting myself on the back just yet, because there's one goal that I seem to be neglecting.


Yup, the good ol' gotta-lose-weight goal.

This isn't my actual goal.  The goal is a weight I'd like to accomplish.  And I'm far from it.  In fact, I haven't really done a thing about it.  Oh, sure, earlier in the year, when we had snow outside, I'd spend 30 minutes every other day on the Gazelle watching a movie downstairs.  Somehow, that only lasted about two months when the weather started getting nicer and I was starting to make headway on some of my more urgent writing goals.

Now, as my ever-growing gut is  . . . well, ever-growing, I know I need to do something about it.

Like writing, start out exercing small.  Do some walking.  Or bike riding.  Also, start eating better.  Cut out more sugar and eat healthier.

I am no health nut nor am I an expert in weight management, but honestly it all comes down to intake.  The more sweets and fatty foods I take in, unless I exercise it'll grow into a larger gut.  Not good.

I will NOT be posting my current weight nor even my 2013 goal weight.  What I will be sharing on occasion is what I'm doing about it.

Because I still have time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: the importance of having extra supplies

This past Saturday, we helped another diabetic family--whom we didn't know--because they were in a crisis.

Long story short, their son's insulin pump broke and Medtronics was overnighting a pump to them.  In the meantime, they had to inject insulin the old-fashioned way (at least for us who happen to rely on pumps to do everything): with a syringe.  They were also out of town, far from home, and didn't know anyone nearby to help out.

Luckily, the EMT worker who assisted them was a friend of ours and called us up.  We had extra supplies we were able to provide for them, to get them through their crisis.

As a father who deals with diabetic children all the time, the amount of supplies we have on hand can be daunting.  There are times when you wonder why in the world you even have it all.  Once again, the events this past Saturday proved why we do.

We were able to pay it forward.

Because so many people have helped us out in a pinch along the way.

Monday, September 2, 2013

When to start planning for 2014

Today is Labor Day 2013.  The final month of the third quarter.  Have you accomplished much on your 2013 goals list?

When should one start planning for 2014?

I don't believe one should start planning for 2014 on New Year's Eve.  You should be planning well ahead of time.  Why not start now, right this moment, brainstorming what you'd like to accomplish in the next year.

Don't worry, this doesn't have to be a concrete list.  Start by brainstorming all of the possible things you'd like to accomplish.  On Kickstarter campaigns, they have stretch goals--goals that are at the higher levels once the main goal has been achieved.  For your yearly goals, I call them "pie in the sky" goals.  Put a few goals in there that are "pie in the sky."  Meaning, with a lot of effort, you can accomplish it.  And I mean a lot.

Run a marathon

Become debt-free

Pay off your house

These are just three examples of what "pie in the sky" goals could be, but don't limit them to just these.  Let's say you want to write a book.  Great!  How about 2? Or 3?  Or even publish them?

How about saving enough to have a professional do a cover for your book?

Save enough to go on a bigger vacation?

Take a blank piece of paper or a blank document and write down everything you'd like to accomplish.  I ask that you start now because you may not think of everything all at once.  It may take a month or two to think of new things.

And don't worry, you can always change it.

Start by planning for the next year now, and it will cause the new year to start with a bang.  You can do it.  Your life--and the world--depends on it.