Tag Archives: writing life

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

Pages of Inspiration: Books for Writers

The creative well runs dry. The heart is as desiccated and desolate as a dusty Old West street, because you’re certain your Work in Progress is utter cowflop. You shout into the endless black void, listening mournfully for a few spurious, uncertain echoes. Where can writers go when they need to pour some fire back into their souls? The same place that got us into writing in the first place: Books.

At various points in your life, you’ll encounter books that are like a blessed bowl of warm chicken soup on a wintry day when your nose is crammed with snot and you ache in every bone. You’ll encounter books like the smooth, sweet burn of good whiskey that warms you from the inside. You’ll encounter books like a smart kick in the buttocks from that hot personal trainer.

Allow me to be so bold as to suggest some books for writers that have made an impact on me.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is a short, sweet blast of poetic inspiration. Bradbury was a consummate master storyteller, and being able play with techniques he’s used to cultivate the creative soul is incredibly valuable. This book is less a nuts-and-bolts how-to than techniques for cultivating the creative soul.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a swift little kick in the pants. Each short chapter puts a finger directly onto the throbbing wounds of all the reasons we do not write, all the reasons we hold ourselves back from achieving our potential. The book provides a useful psychological framework for overcoming all of those excuses.

On Writing Horror by the Horror Writers Association is collection of essays from the luminaries of horror fiction. Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Ramsey Campbell and many others tackle aspects of effective storytelling that go beyond writing horror. Much of this book is simply about writing good fiction, and I still reference various chapters.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a great companion to Stephen King’s book below. Part how-to manual and part memoir, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, every chapter is spot-on. The chapter on first drafts is worth the cover price alone. In fact, I give that chapter to my English composition students as a lesson in how to get past the psychological blocks common to beginning writers.

Few writers can boast the impact that Stephen King has made on American fiction. On Writing is part memoir, part how-to. There are chapters on specific writing and revision techniques, but it’s also a memoir of his writing life. I found great inspiration in his writing life because he talks about the course of his career. Much of it is incredibly familiar, forming parts of every writer’s path. He had the skill, the drive, the support of a partner, caught a couple of lucky breaks, and his career exploded. And if he could do it, so can I. So can you.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron was a life-changing experience for me. This book is a twelve-week program designed to reignite the sparks of a creative person’s soul, whether the person is a writer, graphic artist, musician, etc. It helps examine and reprogram all the ways our creative impulse is squelched–by our own fears, by our families, by the outside pressure of society. If you work through all twelve weeks of this program faithfully, you will experience a sea change in the way you approach writing, the way you approach life. I had already been writing for two decades when this book was given to me by a friend, and I found it so transformative that a few years later I went through all twelve weeks again. It was fascinating to see how much of it I had internalized. And also how far I still had to go. The Artist’s Way treats a creative life as a spiritual journey, making writing into your art, into a way of life, not something you try to do in between your day job, kids and soccer games, and your next session of World of Warcraft.

I hope someday to discover another gem and be as enlightened, invigorated, and inspired as I was when I discovered these books. Everybody needs a shot in the arm sometimes.

About the Author: Travis Heermann

Heermann-6Spirit_cover_smallTravis Heermann’s latest novel Spirit of the Ronin, was published in June, 2015.

Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, he is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of Death Wind, The Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Perihelion SF, Fiction River, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including content for the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and EVE Online.

He lives in New Zealand with a couple of lovely ladies and a burning desire to claim Hobbiton as his own.

You can find him on…


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.

Creating The Time

Vickie - TimeThere’s a schedule we keep in our house that is to say the least, busy.

I’m sure many of you reading this will nod your head right along with me when I say that my entire week, every single week, is pretty much mapped out by the needs of my family and the coming things in our schedule that make me simultaneously a tiny bit crazy, and very thankful for the iPhone calendar.

The neat thing about the busyness, is that I’m thrilled by what it entails. My oldest daughter is a World ranked Black belt in Tae Kwon Do. We travel all over the country, and Canada for tournaments. It’s fun and exciting to watch her continue to do so well.

The not-so-neat thing, is that the regular practice and classes she needs and wants take up the majority of that schedule.

I have a younger daughter that seems to fall into the cracks of: “what can I do” or “when is it my turn?” It’s definitely a subconscious worry of mine, that she gets pushed into the background. Often, and unintentionally.

That can also be said for my creative endeavors.

I put my family first in everything. Except on those days when I push for me — like in attending Superstars Writing Seminars, or to help at a Comic Con. But every time I do — I feel like I’m betraying the family I’m not with.

And every time I choose my family over writing or drawing, I feel I’m betraying the family of characters and stories in my head.

The balance between these is what I most struggle with as an author/artist/wife/mother. The same questions that I worry about for my little girl, are the very same I have to ask for myself. What can I do to make more time for writing? When will it be my turn?

When 2015 was yet to begin, as most people were making New Year’s resolutions, I had an overwhelming feeling that 2015 would be the year I finally would publish something. I had no idea what that something would be, but I felt this indescribable joy.

That feeling did turn into reality. But I struggled throughout the year to continue to find the time to write and draw. Even in writing this post, I had to fight to work it into the schedule, and felt terrible about how long it took to come up with the idea.

And that’s when I realized, I need to just stop worrying.

I am the kind of person that will feel bad about things not in my control. The kind that will beat herself up for not doing enough. I also have to continuously tell myself it’s okay if I don’t finish everything on the to-do list. I have seriously had to remind myself that the things I do for my family are enough — that they are great things.

There have been many nights I’ve gone to bed (always the last, several hours after the house is quiet) feeling absolutely sick at not creating something. Anything. Even just one sentence.

It’s taken years to realize that that is okay. That what I do has value, even if it’s heading the routine that keeps the schedule humming. Or finding, then working in ice skating lessons for my youngest.

I need to just stop worrying.

That’s what I’ve found this year most of all. The thrill of seeing my name on the cover of an anthology with several friends is a dream come true. But getting there, I had to work around and through the schedule to create the time to brainstorm, write, edit, and deliver that piece.

Somewhere in this year — where I continued to berate myself for not doing or being enough — I coauthored a book that I also illustrated, I drew a cool tattoo, I wrote my eighth novel (during NaNo this last month) and I’m currently working on illustrations for a friend’s novel.

I don’t know how I did all that. I don’t know where or when. But I did.

I just need to stop worrying. Because I somehow, always can find the time. It’s there.

My house stays clean, (I can’t work on anything for *me* if it isn’t… just can’t.) my family schedule stays running, and I get to do the things I love.

As I get ready for 2016, like last year, I feel the overwhelming sense of getting something else out there in the publishing world will happen. I don’t know what it is yet, nor do I know how or when it will appear. But I do know, I’ll find the time for it — somewhere. And along the way, I may get to see my oldest become a World Champion, my youngest start playing hockey, and my husband actually take a full family vacation.

Just stop worrying. You will find the time.

If that’s the one thing I can give to my writing friends, I think I did good there too.

About the Author: Victoria Morris

Victoria MorrisVictoria lives on the edge of a misty magical forest in the Pacific NorthWest with one husband, two daughters, a big white dog and one huge resident bald eagle that likes to circle over her house when she brings in the groceries. A lifelong artist and writer, Victoria is building a universe inside her head that has taken form in a six book fantasy series, with a middle grade trilogy on the side. While illustrating the world and all its characters is always on her mind, she draws portraits in her spare time to relax. Find out more at www.VictoriaDMorris.com.