The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: November 2015

Guest Post: The Sweet Spot

Note from D_Sidd: Marcus Wearmouth is back with a great guest post to wrap up 2015 on the Everyday Author. Just like last year, we’ll be taking the month of December off to regroup for 2016, watch Star Wars repeatedly and spend time with family over the holidays (read: catch up on all the revising and editing we’ve got to do on our books before the end of the year). We wish you all a safe and happy holidays. From us, that means Merry Christmas! Now, here’s Marcus. Enjoy!

It’s slightly easier than many people think to write a breakout novel and become an author.  Merry Christmas and keep that simple notion with you when writing in the New Year!

Although the definition of a breakout novel is an economy of scale, to most it would be thousands of sales and high ranking on Amazon charts.  You have to be realistic.  The very peak of sales for breakout books is reserved for celebrities and the 0.001% rest of us.  Even so, there is a catalogue of authors who struck gold with their first book/s then made the jump to a full time writing career.   It takes hard work, ideas, a basic understanding of language and dogged persistence.

On a first book, pent up feelings and thoughts on the world gush out on the page/screen.  A lifetime of interactions, whimsy and storytelling coalesce into a magnum opus.  Like mining on a rich seam that you’ve kept hidden for years waiting for the right time to pull it all out into the sun.  On a first book, characters are raw and the plot feels unique.  It’s an inspirational experience to publish, market, sell and hopefully (fingers crossed etc.) receive an offer from a publisher (the warm feeling).  I perhaps missed out beta reading, content and copy editing that corrects English and tweaks the plot but essentially we all have a book inside us.

That’s all there is to it.  Years of ideas compressed into a jam-packed breakout novel that catches on and before you know it, a critic is praising your satisfying denouement (sic).  A lot can be forgiven in reviewing the work of a first time author.  If the narrative is strong then reviews sometimes overlook minor mistakes or weak characterisation.  There’s a difference between writing a story and being a wordsmith.  X Factor to Beethoven.  McDonalds to Michelin star. Can the first come close to the second with enough talent and effort?

The next book

So you begin to write your next book and discover the definition of writers block.  The seam is nearing empty but the writing needs to be stronger.  Writing the tricky second book is when problems begin to beset your brainwaves.  Carrying a story around in your head for years practically writes a novel.  The full plot has been imagined.  Every scene visualised.  When you start again with another new story, even if the idea was vaguely formed, it’s a bigger challenge.  It’s easier to rework the original story with a few tweaks and different setting.   That’s why a strong lead character series is a brilliant but insipid fallback position.

Changing genre dilutes your audience and diluting an audience is the single most perilous risk of a second novel.
As a spunky newbie, your rough edges are smoothed in the editing process but essentially it’s your original vision that is unique.  With the second novel you try to be all things to all people.  Maintain your momentum and so on.  Even in the same genre, writing a different story is challenging.  Remember that you can’t change genre.  It’s a rule of lower level writers that changing genre dilutes your audience and diluting an audience is the single most perilous risk of a second novel.

You hesitate over colourful language, erratic behaviour and anything contentious.  Desperately trying to appeal to a mass market and maintain your faux popularity.  It’s easier to say nothing than something controversial.  Not only are your ideas running out, but your creativity is watered down by the need to be popular.  The result is a slightly better written but ultimately uninspiring book that waters down your world view.

The challenge is to be both fresh and exciting but recognised and familiar.
The challenge is to be both fresh and exciting but recognised and familiar.  If writing is art then we should strive to elucidate our understanding of the world through narrative.  If writing is predominantly for sales then it is ultimately unfulfilling for the writer or reader.  At some point unless you are established, the ideas will dry up and your output will become hackneyed.

Never be a full time writer

As a fulltime author you can lose your connection with the world that you interacted in to stimulate your ideas.  So keep juggling your current responsibilities.  Feel pressure to write in bursts and store your thoughts while you’re busy with a day job.  Use interactions with people and situations to fuel your creativity.  Embrace those feelings of frustration and humility.  Continue to mine your mind.  Let your subconscious do the work with internal wanderings that trigger moments of inspiration.  When you can feel a truth at the very edge of your consciousness or turning over an idea until that eureka moment pops into your head.  Write it down and save it for later. Writing is an act of passion not a trick of grammar.

My advice is to never be a full time writer.  Maintain your creative control by being independent of writing revenues.  Eliminate the need to gratify a mass market with rehashed versions of the same story and characters.  Be bold.

If your writing can strike the perfect balance of inspiration, humility and skill then you can hit the sweet spot.
If your writing can strike the perfect balance of inspiration, humility and skill then you can hit the sweet spot.  You can force open a gap in the market that not only describes a story but lives the story.  A book that is onomatopoeic.  One that hits the mark so perfectly that it transcends your first novel and all others you have read.

Of course you then have to think about the next book and that’s a whole other story!

The Everyday Author guide to podcasts for authors, round two

In the world of self-publishing, things can change overnight. Since we wrote our first Everyday Author’s guide to self publishing podcasts, a whole new slate of shows have popped up, offering a TON of value you won’t want to miss out on. Here’s a few of our favorite podcasts for authors we’ve added to our listening lineup:

sffm podcastScience Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast
Tune in here
Hosted by fantasy/sci-fi self-publishing veteran Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo and Jeffrey Poole, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast (SFFM for short), covers the unique aspects of writing, publishing and — you guessed it — marketing Science Fiction and Fantasy. If you write in either of these genres, this podcast is a must read. Many aspects of fantasy and/or sci-fi make these books more difficult to market than other genres and require different strategies. Lindsay, Joe and Jeff, along with their lineup of guests, make this podcast a can’t-miss for any author in the science fiction and fantasy realms. Episodes are released once a week and run anywhere from 50-70 minutes.

cwc-podcast-logo_v3Creative Writing Career Podcast
Tune in here
Brand new and just out of the gates, this podcast, hosted by Justin Sloan, Kevin Tumlinson and Stephan Bugaj provides tips and advice from the hosts and a wide array of creative writers in many different industries. Unlike the other podcasts we’ve listed, Creative Writing Career covers not just author careers but video game writing, screenwriting and other tracks as well.  Creative Writing Career’s interviews and unique perspectives provide insights found nowhere else. Episodes are weekly and run 30 minutes long.

 

RM-Podcast-Cover-12-350x350Rough Draft
Tune in here
Originally five minute episodes released daily, Rough Draft switched to a longer format in October to tackle meatier topics. The host is Demian Farnworth, Chief Content Writer at the one and only Copyblogger. He offers “essential web writing advice” designed to put a keen edge to the blade that is your writing skill. Although the podcast is tailored for copywriters, Demian’s advice will help your writing, no matter what you’re writing. Episodes are now weekly average around 60 minutes in length.

 

story grid podcast logoThe Story Grid Podcast
Tune in here
Another great new podcast  based on The Story Grid book by renowned editor Shawn Coyne. Together with book marketing master Tim Grahl, Shawn Coyne breaks down the nuts and bolts you never knew about storytelling. Shawn’s vast knowledge on the subject combined with Tim’s insightful, genuine questions make for some intriguing episodes. If you want to write fiction, you need to be listening to this podcast, no ifs ands or buts. Episodes are weekly and are around 60 minutes long.

What are some of your favorite podcasts for authors? Tell us in the comments!

Lessons learned two years into self-publishing

Deuces. Last Wednesday (November 11) marked two years since I self-published my first book, Out of Exile. Looking back, it’s amusing how little I understood about this business back when I dove in head first. I’m still not close to making a living (or even an part-time living) yet, but I’m still encouraged by how far I’ve come. While there’s been plenty of frustration to go with the celebration, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had and the relationships I’ve built chasing this passion for anything in the world.

In that spirit, here’s a sampling of the lessons I’ve learned over the past two years. Some might be obvious for the rest of you, but hopefully you’ll be able to find a few takeaways that help you on your own journey.

Lesson #1: Forget about overnight success.

When I hit the publish button on Out of Exile and saw it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I literally expected to be making a couple hundred bucks a month off my books, without doing anything but watch my bank account get fat. Overnight success does exist, but you’ve probably got better chances of being eaten by a grizzly bear than finding it. Stop daydreaming about catching that big break and get to work. You can’t count on catching lightning in a bottle, but you can make it easier to find you.

Lesson #2: Be patient and always keep improving.

It’s easy to get frustrated when other authors around you find success and you’re still struggling at the back of the pack. Instead of letting comparisonitis plague you, focus on the things in your control. The only person you’re trying to beat is the author you see in the mirror each day. Make each book better than your last, build connections with your readers and figure out what types of marketing strategies work for you.

Lesson #3: You can’t do it all yourself (plus you don’t need to).

You can’t publish an awesome book without help from others. And you shouldn’t attempt to. Authors can’t edit their own work and my guess would be 99.9% of them aren’t qualified to design their own covers, either. Building up a team around you helps you make your book look and read as legit as possible. These teammates will likely be some of your biggest supporters as well.

On the flip side of this, if you try every outlining, revising and marketing strategy out there, you’ll probably go bonkers. Don’t be overwhelmed and spread yourself too thin trying to make Wattpad, social media, blogging, voodoo rituals, etc. all happen at the same time. Rather than failing at everything, try picking out a few new things that appeal to you and focus on testing them.

Lesson #4: Don’t be a tight wad.

Hiring professionals to do professional things costs money. Don’t cheat a manuscript by skimping on a quality editor and slapping a cheap cover on it. In the long run, you’ll be costing yourself, money, not saving it. It takes money to make money. If you’re treating your writing like a business, you need to invest. But at the same time…

Lesson #5: Be smart about where you put your money.

There are hundreds and hundreds of people out there looking to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting indie authors. While you need to invest money in your writing career (see above), make sure you do your homework before writing out the check. Don’t fall for gimmicks and empty promises. Remember, the people who struck it rich during the gold rush were the ones selling picks.

Lesson #6: Celebrate the small victories.

This quote from Neil Gaiman says it all: “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” Testify! If you hit your word count for the day, give yourself a pat on the back. Everything else is a bonus. Enjoy the mile marks you pass along the journey — they can be just as rewarding as the destination.

Lesson #7: Small and simple things lead to big results.

All those small victories we just talked about add up. One day, you’re going to look back and realize you’ve wrote a whole crapload of books. Careers are made out of doing the little things repeatedly. Book are written one word at a time and a living made one sale at a time.

Lesson #8: Avoid burnout.

Being an indie author is hard. Not so much physically, but it can be a humongous mental drain. You write day in an day out, sometimes with nothing but a bunch of (what you probably think are sub-par) words and strange looks from your relatives to show for it. Know when you need a day (or even a week or more) off. That being said, there’s a fine line between slacking and overdoing it. No one else but you knows where that is.

Lesson #9: You’re not alone.

Here at the Everyday Author and all across the big wide land of internets, there are authors just like us on the same journey. We’ve either gone through it or are still going through whatever you’re currently struggling with. One of the best things you can do is make other writer friends online and support one another. Only you can write your words, but that doesn’t mean you have to always be in solitary confinement.

Lesson #10: There is life beyond your writing desk.

Even though most of us probably don’t have the luxury of allowing our writing to overtake our lives, we should still be aware neglecting other responsibilities in the pursuit of this dream. Don’t let all your free time become consumed with writing. You have loved ones who want to spend time with you. Get out sometimes, fellow writer-hermits. There’s a big wide world you’re missing out on. Take a walk, do some pushups, LIVE A LITTLE!

I’m playing the long game and, with any luck, I’ll be able to write a ten, twenty and fifty year post just like this someday. But until then, I’ll keep on writing. Deuces.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far in your author career? Share with us in the comments.

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.

Guest Post: How to keep creating when you need a day job

Chances are you’re reading this blog because you have a day job, and some part of you wants to make it as a writer. You’re spending your days in a job you really don’t care about, dreaming about getting home and putting fingers to keyboard. Over time it can seem like the soul is being sucked right out of you because no matter what, you aren’t spending as much time writing as you feel you should. How do you persevere?

A little about me – I’m an independent creative. I write. I make movies and I’m moving into animation as I write this. People often ask me “How do you do it all?”

It’s really simple – if something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. I make time for creativity. What follows is some of my advice for staying motivated:

Make the Writing the Reward

If something is important to you, you’ll make time for it.

I do a lot of stuff in addition to my day job, and most of it revolves around writing. A lot of people ask me how I accomplish so much. The answer is simple and a bit profound, and when you think about it, really powerful.

I make writing my reward. I work in I.T., a field where long hours are supposed to be the norm. Sure, I occasionally have to work late to meet a deadline, but overall I spend more time with my nose to the grindstone so I can leave on time. I can leave the office, hit the gym, and then go spend some time writing.

You would be amazed at how productive you can be when something outside the job motivates you to work efficiently.

Do Not Fear Technology

I know many writers that are downright technophobic. The thought of learning new software sends chills down their spines, and they just want to spin yarns on a word processor. Many of these same people run around with a smartphone in their pocket, blasting Meghan Trainor or playing the zombie app of the month.

That phone in your pocket can become one of your greatest allies on your writing journey. Most people treat their phone like a toy – a flashy, fun toy that that use to stream movies, play music, or make the occasional phone call with.

Tons of Information is Available – Most of It’s Free

There is a wealth of information for independent creatives (heck, anyone else as well), and most of it is free. You want to write, but can’t afford a class? Sign up for Critters.org. It’s a free site to join, and you read and provide feedback for other writers. You read a number of stories, then your work gets into the queue. I went to grad school, and found some of the writers on there are as serious and dedicated as the grad students were.

That phone also gives you access to podcasts. Most of these are also free. Yes, you can listen to conservative talk shows, or the celebrity buzz podcast, or you can feed your brain and listen to writing podcasts. There are lots of them out there and the bulk of them are free.

The good thing about a podcast is you can be doing something else – writing, slinging code, or washing dishes – and you can learn about writing. And I don’t just mean grammar and punctuation – I mean storytelling. Marketing. Editing. These are things that will help you as an independent author.

I’m kind of lucky – my day job allows me to spend chunks of time working alone, with headphones plugged in so I can listen to a podcast. Some of you may not be as fortunate, but you could still benefit. Listen to a podcast while cooking dinner, washing dishes, riding the bus, or writing. You’ll be glad you did.

Some of my favorite podcasts: (all free on iTunes)

Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list, but these should get you started.

I Should Be Writing
Mur Lafferty hosts a podcast that’s supposedly focused for aspiring writers, but I find her advice and guests can benefit writers of all levels, Mur focuses on scifi and fantasy, but most shows have advice that transcends genre.

On the Page
Pilar Alessandra’s posdcast targets screenwriters. She interviews screenwriters – period. If you’re remotely interested in writing movies, this should be on your must-listen list. And since movies are so driven by structure, any writer can benefit from the writing advice Pilar and her guests impart.

The Creative Penn
Joanna Penn writes genre, but also works in nonfiction as well. She offers a well-rounded podcast that offers lots of business advice and marketing tips as well as solid writing tips. It’s a great podcast for writers at any level.

Odyssey Workshop
If you haven’t heard of it, the Odyssey Workshop is an intensive summer workshop for writers of horror, scifi and fantasy. Only 15 people are admitted every year, and the experience can be so intense some people stop writing. The episodes in this series are short – most clock in at under a half hour, many are less than 15 minutes – but they contain some of the best writing advice on the web. In my eyes, at least. A must listen for any writer.

Sometimes the Stories Will Need to Wait

Life is life – there will be ups, there will be downs. There will be times when you can write a lot and there will be times when it feels like no words will ever come again.

As I wrap up this post, I know some of you have gone through spurts. I know I did. I went to college, got away from writing for a while, thought I was going to give it up (and those were undoubtedly the worst two years of my life, but that’s another story), then got back to it.

Over the course of my life I’ve gotten married, raised two children, survived three layoffs, the 9/11 attacks, the deaths of my parents and my kids heading off to college. And yes, there’s a LOT more but I don’t have the space to fit it all in. It seems like the one thing that’s stayed constant is I still need to write and create.

Life is life – there will be ups, there will be downs. There will be times when you can write a lot and there will be times when it feels like no words will ever come again.

When I was an undergrad, one of my mentors gave me awesome advice that I often share with aspiring writers to this day. The art will always be there. If you’ve got the spark it will never leave you. In those dark hours when you just can’t create, remember that. At some point the clouds will life – they always do – and you’ll be able to write again.

Tim MorganTim Morgan is a New Hampshire based independent writer and filmmaker. He is the author of the zombie novel The Trip, and producer of numerous short films. You can find out more about Tim, what he’s done, and what he’s working on at his web site: http://www.timmorgan.us  You can also follow Tim on Twitter @tmorgan_2100

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