Category Archives: Frank Morin

Be Your Own Biggest Fan

Be Your Own Biggest FanWrite what you love.

Love what you write.

These just aren’t fun platitudes. This is the heart and soul of our writing. What we feel for our stories bleeds out onto the page, and we can’t fake it.

Who would want to invest the time and effort writing something that didn’t move them? Even stories we love can test the limits of our endurance before they’re finished. Writing one we can’t feel passionate about is doomed. Even if we somehow managed to complete such a work, the quality will suffer and readers will sense it.

If we don’t love what we write, how will they?

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to tell people how much you love your work, and what makes it awesome. Many of us are naturally a bit introverted, and we’ve been trained not to blow our own horn.

To be successful, you have to.

Part of being a writer is putting on the marketing and salesman hat and learning to sell your books and to sell yourself. Don’t become obnoxious, but yes be enthusiastic and willing to step into the light with a smile.

If you won’t do it, who will?

We need to be our own biggest fans.

One of my tests of quality of each of my novels is to pick up a finished one and start reading. Despite the fact that I wrote it, and rewrote it, and edited it, and proofed it more times than I care to count, I will invariably get sucked in. I’ll catch myself laughing at my characters’ jokes or getting emotional at important scenes, or gripped with fear about what’s happening next.

I wrote it, but it still gets me every time.

My wife will often laugh at me and tease me that I can get sucked in by my own novels.

All I can do is smile and say, “I’m my own biggest fan.”

I have to be.

Even if no one else loves my books, I do. And that enthusiasm radiates off of me when I talk about them, when I hold launch parties, etc. People pick up on it, they feel it, and they’re drawn to those stories to share in it. Even if they think I’m a little nuts for being so passionate about a story, they can’t deny that enthusiasm, and they usually respond positively, even if it’s only to get me to stop talking so they can escape.

If I don’t love my work, how can I expect anyone else to love it?

So create stories you love, stories you’re passionate about. You’re going to invest months or years of your life into them, so make sure they’re worth that investment of time.

Get inspired. Get excited. Get motivated.

That’s what readers want, so make it happen.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers urban fantasy thriller series, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Aim For the Stars

Aim for the StarsLet’s face it, most New Year’s resolutions fail. It’s fun to set goals, but it’s hard to establish patterns of success and to maintain enough focused enthusiasm to see those goals to completion.

You may ask, “Does that mean setting goals is a waste of time?”

Not at all. I’m a big fan of setting goals, and I often use the famous SMART method. Make the goals Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely. I’ve accomplished much this way.

Sometimes the SMART method isn’t so smart, though. There are times when we need to leave SMART behind and aim for the stars.

That means to think big, think outside of the box, contemplate breaking free of the ruts we’ve fallen into and set a goal that’s so far out there, it takes your breath away and makes you nervous.

And motivates you like nothing else can.

Those are the goals that inspire, that generate enough enthusiasm to launch beyond inertia and make something happen. If a goal like that fails, it’ll fail in a big way, but might still change the landscape of your life.

Like the saying goes, “Aim for the stars, and you might land on the moon!”

A corollary to that is: “Aim for the mud, and you’re bound to make it.”

Last year I aimed for the stars and decided to launch my writing career in a big way. I’d been writing for almost ten years, with several manuscripts completed, and I was considering jumping into indie publishing with both feet. I’d already self-published one novella, but had lacked the confidence to really launch it. I’d released it under cover of darkness on a moonless night, and of course, it went nowhere. Since then, it’s starting to gather steam, and it’s been well-liked by the few who have found it, but that was not the way to get books published. I needed a different approach.

So I said, “Hey, if I’m going to do this, let’s really do this.”

I set the ridiculously ambitious goal of publishing eight books in eight months. This was no secret goal. I went public with it. I told the world I was going to do it, I created the hashtag for it (#8books8months) and I set to work to make it happen.

I didn’t publish eight books last year.

Not even close.

However, I did publish three books last year. Three major titles, each about 150,000 words, in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. They’re awesome, and they launched pretty big. I got a short story published in an anthology filled with incredible authors, including several other fictorians.

I also created a publishing company and learned all the ins and outs and difficulties associated with indie-publishing novels, and I worked through them. I worked with editors and learned that major rewrites sometimes can’t be completed in two weeks, no matter how fast I type. I worked with cover artists and learned the hard way just how difficult it can be to come up with a great cover. Got some fantastic covers out of the experience, though.

I worked with printers and learned just how long it takes to get proofs and to order print runs. I celebrated book launches, some with more success than others, and learned a ton in the process. I attended two major conventions, participated as a panelist for the first time, and learned how to run a successful convention vendor booth.

I might not have published eight books in eight months, but that goal forced me to change gears and really embrace the intent to indie-publish with my full focus. And I’m on my way to publishing eight books in eighteen months. This year, I plan to release four or five more big titles, plus some shorter work, hopefully launch my existing books as audiobooks, and maybe even produce a teaching guide for at least one novel.

I’m not using this post as an excuse to blow my own horn, even though I’m thrilled with how much I accomplished last year. This is an example of what things can happen when we aim for the stars. By setting a crazy-high goal and committing to making it a reality, I energized myself to get to work, make decisions, and push ahead when I might have otherwise hesitated and delayed.

I learned to be flexible while still keeping my vision fixed on the ultimate goal. When edits to A Stone’s Throw took longer than anticipated, I made the hard decision to push out the hoped-for release date. I didn’t like having to make that decision, but the story required it, and the result is an awesome book that was totally worth the wait.

So set high goals and embrace them. Feed on the energy they produce and use it to drive as close as you can to success, even if ultimately reaching 100% might be a bit out of your reach.

Why not? Even if everything falls apart and you fail, at least you’ve failed spectacularly. And you’re no worse off than if you never tried.

So shoot for the stars, and I’ll see you on the moon.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers alternate history fantasy series, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

We’ll Call it a Win

GoalGood-bye 2015!

As always, there were good times and bad. This past month, we’ve focused on some of the good, some of the lessons learned, and some of the milestones we celebrated.

As a group, the Fictorians accomplished a lot in 2015. We passed our 1000th post, and our site was viewed about 65,000 times.

As individuals, we learned and progressed a lot too. Some of us celebrated important milestones:

Jace Kilian completed a novel! i-finally-finished-a-novel

And in December, I celebrated the launch of A Stone’s Throw, my third major release this year. a-stones-throw-launching-a-sequel

We discussed things we’ve learned about writing.

David Carrico on-being-a-gps-writer, Nathan Barra balancing-the-story-engineer-and-the-mad-man, and I franks-pantsing-doctrine wrote about seat-of-the-pants writing verses outlining, and how those two often opposing approaches to story design can work together.

Time management featured large in our thoughts as we reviewed strides forward. From David Heyman, we learned that any time can be productive writing time, even taking a shower. writing-while-you-condition-and-rinse. Evan Braun discussed building habits to deal with deadlines getting-ahead-of-deadlines, and Vickie Morris reminded us to stop worrying. We’ll find the time for those things that are important. creating-the-time

There’s always time for sharing of wisdom, and James A. Owen reminded us to be aware of what we don’t want as much as we yearn for those things we do. all-the-good-things-that-you-do-not-want

Kim May reminded us to always be ready with your pitch at all times. promotion-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, and Mary Pletsch admitted that networking is important. i-dont-want-to-know-that-sometimes-its-who-i-know

Gregory Little shared insights about the publishing process. everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-in-indy-garten As did Kevin Ikenberry: sometimes-you-have-to-let-go

Jo Schneider discussed the importance of great characters. who-has-time-to-waste-on-people-you-dont-like, and Travis Heermann discussed the importance of making the most out of your scenes. scenes-it-aint-just-the-cliffhanger

Amanda Faith reminded us to take time for ourselves and our personal development. for-me

Kristin Luna reviewed K.M. Weiland’s Outlining and Structuring novels guides. k-m-weilands-outlining-your-novel-part-one and k-m-weilands-structuring-your-novel-part-two

We started presenting author interviews, which will become a regular feature throughout 2016. Ace Jordyn interviewed Jayne Barnard and discussed her steampunk Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond. dueling-parasols-and-creating-a-steampunk-world-jayne-barnard-tells-all and jayne-barnard-on-maddie-hatters-steampunk-society

With so many things to celebrate, we’ll tip our hats to the challenges we overcame and the lessons learned, and we’ll call 2015 a win.

Let’s make 2016 even better.

Frank’s Pantsing Doctrine

statue-hand-writing-penSometimes when I broach this subject, I feel like I’m entering one of those ‘anonymous’ groups.

“Hello, my name is Frank, and I used to be a pantser.”

I usually get one of three reactions.

  • Writers who are strict outliners will make dismissive gestures and assume a superior posture as they consider the foolish mortals who practice such time-wasting habits as pantsing.
  • Writers who are pantsers – meaning they write by the seat of their pants, often called discovery writing – will nod and talk about the wonder of exploring a story without knowing where it will lead. They will criticize outliners for turning the freedom of their art into a cold, calculating business.
  • Everyone else usually snickers behind their hands, imagining a bunch of high school boys running around yanking down each others’ gym shorts.

I’m not talking about the last group. That’s a totally different post, one my sixteen year-old son should probably help me write. The other two groups usually draw up battle lines and begin throwing bad metaphors at each other. It’s not quite as divisive a topic as politics or religion, but for some writers it comes close. But like most other divisive topics, people on both sides are not as different as they like to pretend.

At most writing conferences, there are panels where professional writers take on this question of outlining versus pantsing. The interesting thing is that the outliners usually control those discussions. In virtually every instance at those conference panels, the professional writers will all fall be outliners and will detail to the audience, including many pantsers, all the reasons why they outline stories and why pantsing wastes a great deal of time.

That fact has fascinated me for a while, and it wasn’t until this year that I realized the underlying fundamentals behind the phenomenon. I began writing about ten years ago and, like many new writers, I started as a pantser. I had an idea and I chased it down the rabbit hole, not sure where it was going, but enjoying the thrill of discovery. Every time the story took a wild new turn, I had to go back and re-write what I had already written before I could continue, but that was a price I was willing to pay.

Over time, I realized two things.

  1. I don’t have time for that.
  2. I no longer need to.

That’s where the secret lies. Most pantsers are newer writers. Like any new inductees into any other profession, we’re learning the ropes. We don’t have a firm foundation or an innate grasp of the fundamentals, so we have to work it out, build our creative muscles, and develop that understanding. That takes lots of practice, lots of exploration.

The great thing is, that exploration is a ton of fun. There’s a sense of wonder in discovery writing that is marvelous, and it can become addicting. Some pantsers refuse to graduate to a higher class and realize that same feeling of wonder can be experienced in other ways.

As a writer develops into a professional with several novels under their belts, after throwing away sometimes over a million words of practice, along with many worn-out keyboards, we no longer need to spend so much time exploring to figure out a story. We can see connections, understand relationships and underlying fundamentals that we could never grasp before.

It’s the same in other professions.

Imagine a leading surgeon approaching the operating table, humming softly under his breath, “The knee bone’s connected to the leg bone . . .”

A first year medical student might need to, but an experienced surgeon wouldn’t. He knows without even having to think about it.

Professional writers are the same way. Even when some of them say they don’t outline their books before they start writing, that’s not the same as when a fresh, new, clueless wannabe writer starts writing without outlining. The professional already understands the underlying principles of what makes a story work.

My own writing evolved from full pantsing toward outlining, as do most authors after they complete a few novels. While I’m first exploring a new story idea, I know what types of elements it’s going to need because I’ve explored them before. I know what makes a story work. I can meld those principles into my story without having to spend several drafts trying to figure it out. And I can immerse myself in the story as I plan it, generating that same sense of wonder and discovery, without the massive wasted page count.

Once the framework of the story is outlined, like the skeleton of a new building, I allow myself to free-write while filling in each chapter. That leaves me open to moments of inspiration that can only come while one is immersed – in the ‘zone’ – but still ensures I’m working toward an organized, cohesive goal.

Both outlining and pantsing are processes of discovering a story, and melding the two together can be extremely efficient. Like any other profession, we improve with time. And that’s a good thing, because I spent five years writing and rewriting my first novel, then throwing the entire thing away and rewriting it yet again, before I completed something worthwile. I can’t afford to do that any more, nor do I need to. I can apply those lessons to each new project.

In today’s fast-paced world, that’s a good thing.

So where on the pantsing-to-outlining scale do you fall?

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers alternate history fantasy series, check his website: www.frankmorin.org