Tag Archives: Guest Post

Writing While You Condition and Rinse

ShowerAs I am still in the early phases of my writing career, I approached this year with goals that were as much about education as production. I did have specific writing milestones I wanted to achieve, but I also wanted to devote a decent percentage of my time and resources on learning as much as I could about the craft. I attended classes, took workshops (both online and off) and made as many contacts in the industry as I could. Like most new writers, I was looking for advice from every corner I could find.

The most valuable thing I learned this year though was how to tailor all the advice and counsel into a form that worked inside my own life and methods. Different strokes, as they say. For me, the most important lesson was how to integrate the most common advice of all: write every day.

“Write every day” or some version of this is by far the most frequent recommendation I’ve seen, the one piece of counsel most writers seem to agree on. This was something I was aware of in 2014, and by the start of this year I was in already in the habit of sitting down at the keyboard at the same time every night and working through my two hours of blocked out time. Some nights I wrote little, sometimes I wrote a lot. For a while I became very focused on word counts, during the Spring I decided this was less useful than I had hoped.

As the year progressed, I started to look at this time differently – it stopped being writing time and started being typing time. When I entered my two-hour block with a solid idea of what I was there to do, the words would flow quickly and freely. When I tried to use the same time to work out my story’s problems and issues, all the while with hands on the keys and eyes on the screen, I could feel the momentum grind to a halt.

To work on the mechanics of my stories I needed not only a different environment but a different time. That time might come in smaller, harder to predict chunks, but it was there. In the car, at the grocery store or in the shower. I could spend that time thinking about my stories, and that was writing too.I discovered that, for me, writing was not only something I could do at other times of the day, often times it worked better.

To give a specific example, I’d like to dive briefly into a more detailed lesson I learned this year. This came courtesy of an online workshop taught by Dean Wesley Smith. (I found these workshops to be excellent – here’s a link. The relevant item to my story was the lesson that your character needs to have an opinion about the setting; omitting this will deny both the ability to resonate with the reader. As Dean often says in his lessons, I filed that “in the back of my writer brain” and moved on with my writing.

Fast forward to several months later. I was working on a new short story that I was quite passionate about. I had an interesting setting, a solid premise and what I felt was a really compelling main character. Unfortunately, when I ran the story by my writing group I got very consistent feedback: the readers could not connect with my main character. She was coming off as cold and distant, removed from the story somehow. I racked my brain trying to reason out why that was and eventually that voice from the back of my writer brain reminded me of Dean’s lesson. Taking a second pass at the story, I added her opinions about the setting and got the feedback I was looking for.

The important piece I want to stress here is not really how I solved this particular problem, but where. I didn’t solve that in front of my monitor, hands on the keys. I solved it in the shower, because when I take a shower, I always take it as a writer.

As I said above, I realized earlier this year that I have all my best ideas and breakthroughs when I am isolated. Taking a long walk by myself, driving to the store, or taking a shower. Thus I decided that when I am in those isolated situations, I will always think about my writing. This has allowed me to be mentally present when I am with my family or working my day job, while still getting maximum usage out of my typing time.

One of the most common statements I hear from folks in my position is “It’s hard to find time to write” and I almost agree. Balancing a job, a family, healthy living; all the demands of real life can be quite challenging. Sometimes you can only find a few minutes a day to type, but it can be easier to find time to write if you remove the requirement of a keyboard from the definition.

Just make sure you have a good hot water heater for those long showers.

About the Author: David Heyman

David HeymanDave writes both novels and short stories in the various genres of speculative fiction. His other passions include his family, his job, gaming and reading about mountaineering. Sleep is added to the mix when needed. You can visit him at daveheyman.com

All The Good Things That You Do Not Want

As authors, it isn’t enough to have goals and know what you want – you also have to know what you don’t want.

We spend so much time working towards our goals that it seems contrarian to not embrace every opportunity that comes along, but in fact, to truly create and build up the kind of career you want most, that’s exactly what you have to do. The problem isn’t that we aren’t offered opportunities; the problem is that we are so hungry for acceptance, so desperate for validation of what we work so hard to create, that we overlook the potential drawbacks of saying yes to the opportunities we’re presented with.

This, exactly this, is what allows vanity presses to thrive, and scam artists pseudo-publishers, who promise everything from editorial guidance to production to promotion to distribution, to prosper. Education is key in avoiding being stuck in those kinds of mires, which is one reason I am a teacher for and advocate of the annual Superstars Writing Seminars – because learning the business of being an author is just as vitally important as being an author itself, and the need for that knowledge is ongoing.

New authors are extremely vulnerable when it comes to publishing scams – but those can, with a little knowledge, be easily avoided. No one wants to be scammed, so those aren’t exactly missed opportunities. The ones that are more difficult to avoid, even for experienced authors, are the ones that look exactly like what we wanted, and may in fact be very close – but which turn out to be Potential Disasters In The Making.

Several years ago, I had an opportunity to sell a comic book project to a flashy, upstart publisher that had been having a lot of success in the comic book Direct Market. A lot of my peers were doing books with them, and we were in active talks to develop my project – until I read the contract. They asked not just for a stake in ownership of the properties they developed (which was balanced by a hefty page rate up front, something not guaranteed by publishers like Image where they don’t have an ownership stake, but you pay all the development costs yourself), they asked for 51%. Just enough to be the majority owner of the Intellectual Property. And over that 1%, I declined.

I took a lot of grief from friends over what they saw as a stupid decision – right up until that company decided to shut down, and sell all of its properties to a Big Corporation Publisher. All my friends lost their books, because that 1% meant they never owned them from the moment they said yes and cashed the check. In some cases, they had to watch as other writers and artists were brought in by the Big Corporate Publisher to work on books they had created, while they weren’t even considered.

Saying yes to that 1% might have given me a short-term boost, as it did with my friends – but I’d have lost control and ownership of something I had created, and that option was never, ever going to be appealing to me.

In traditional book publishing (as opposed to comics), ownership is not a question, unless you are being asked to do work-for-hire, or ghostwrite a project, but the same problems can arise depending on the terms of the contracts being signed. Even dealing with that issue that is mostly a matter of knowledge though, and willingness to stick to what you want, so it’s something that can be worked through (or not) and signed (or not). The opportunities that are the hardest to turn down are the ones that almost give you everything you think you want – except for that one little thing. But trust me: like the 1% difference in that comics contract, that one little thing is what will define our work and our careers, and sometimes irrevocably change the direction they take.

I spent a good part of this year negotiating a publishing deal for my inspirational nonfiction trilogy The Meditations, with a publisher that is well known and respected for publishing such books. The publisher liked me. The editorial staff liked me. They liked the books a lot, and really liked the fact that I was already being paid as a speaker, doing my presentation Drawing out the Dragons. It all seemed like an ideal match and a perfect opportunity: they would publish the books, and I would join other speakers on their established lecture circuit. It was giftwrapped and ready to go…except for that one little thing.

They wanted exclusivity, not of those books, but of my efforts as an author and speaker. In doing their due diligence, it seemed to them that I had plans to continue working as a YA Fantasy author, and comics creator, and an illustrator, and they felt that was not the best use of my abilities – not if I wanted the deal to move forward. They saw me as a potential full-time Life Coach, and someone who could ask – and get – ten or twenty times the amounts I was being paid in speaking fees if I was only just willing to edit the books to point in that direction, and more fully dedicate my efforts to that end as a part of their stable of author/speaker/Life Coaches.

I had to decide what I wanted, because that proposal seemed to me to be 99% of what I had asked for – a nice book deal, an international platform, and the potential for a lot of money – but the 1% difference, which wasn’t going to be contractual, just, ah, strongly encouraged, made my heart sink.

I knew what I wanted my career and life and work to be, and it was all of the things I do: writing fantasy, drawing comics, and yes, writing inspirational books and giving lectures. But the combination, the whole, is what makes me happy, and hopefully, inspires those around me. To exclude any of those parts would lessen who I am, lessen my happiness, and lessen the quality of the work that I do. And so I said no, and let that opportunity pass.

Those books have their own purpose, and will find their audience. I’m not worried about missing that deal, or about my career, because it’s the choices we make and the actions we take that define us, and there are always going to be more opportunities to choose, as long as we haven’t given away too much of our power by saying yes to too many of the wrong things, simply because we were afraid to say no.

So, if you didn’t get that publishing deal, or agent, or contract, have a drink and celebrate – it might be the best thing that could have happened to you. Then keep going, keep writing, keep choosing. That’s how it works.

James A OwenJames A. Owen is the author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed Starchild graphic novel series, and the author of the Mythworld series of novels. He is also founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a comic book company that also publishes magazines and develops and produces television and film projects. He lives in Arizona. Visit him at HereThereBeDragons.net

For Me

Amanda cardFor me, writing comes naturally. Writing well takes work.

I decided this year was the year to take a step back and evaluate how well I write. Although reading is a great way to learn about writing, an online class is definitely a more effective way to strengthen your skills.

Time was a consideration for me when deciding to take on “one more thing.” I tend to lead a busy life. I work two jobs as a teacher: one at high school, the other is at college. I am currently enrolled in courses for an additional add-on to my certification. I am going back to school again for yet another degree in January (I already have four). Taking on a writing class was definitely something to really think about since I knew I needed to do it now rather than later.

Honestly, I didn’t take a lot of time. I wanted, no – more like craved – to learn more and become a better writer. Ok. Ready, set, go! I jumped.

I signed up for a few classes with various instructors. All were good classes. I have to say that David Farland’s classes and online lectures were the strongest ones I have taken to date. Listening to his sage advice and techniques had me taking copious notes and reviewing previous things I have written. It has also given me a stronger foundation for future works.

Dave is patient man. Any question I emailed him he has graciously been kind and helpful. No question is “stupid.” The feedback I received from the assignments had corrections and suggestions. Some lessons have more corrections than others, which is ok. I wanted to learn. If I knew it all, I wouldn’t have signed up.

One of the assignments had me build a world. An actual world. With land and water. With habitable areas. With people and animal potential.

I had to read the assignment again. I was terrified. *deep breath* Ok. I can do this.

I watched the videos a couple of times. I took notes. Then, I started plotting and planning.

I figured the best way was to start large and work my way in. I made a world, then focused in on the major areas. From there, I created cities that were important to the story.

At first, I was stressed. I wanted it to be great. With Dave’s advice, I did it over a few weeks, one step at a time. As my fictional world developed, so did my creative world. The more I added, the more it became real to me. I have even, with the help of my chemistry friend, developed the crystal that is a major prop in the story.

I submitted the assignment. And waited.

My results came back. Dave made comments on everything I had submitted. Although I still have all of the comments, the one that still sticks out for me was, “This is something doable.”

My face hurt from smiling. I did it. I was proud of myself.

Dave has truly inspired me. I have never created anything this complex. World building is new to me, and I now realize how much work goes into it. There is as much, if not more, work as actually writing the story. I find I keep going back and adding more, creating more detail for myself so as I create the story, that information will filter through. I want to transport the reader to a new world and experience a new adventure.

Yes, I am published. My paranormal mystery, Strength of Spirit, won an award in 2014. I have had short stories, journal articles, and poetry published. I have been published academically, too.

I am a seeker of words, a bibliophile by choice. However, I pray I never become so complacent with my work that I don’t desire to learn more.

About the Author: Amanda Faith

Amanda Faith

Award-winning author Amanda Faith may have been raised in Dayton, but her heart and home is in the South. With a lifelong love of teaching and writing, she had plenty of encouragement from teachers and friends along the way. Loving a good puzzle has always been a fascination, and writing gives her the outlet to put all the pieces together.

Being adventurous and loving to try new things, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves in unusual situations. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how they interact, taking them on journeys they would never have normally experienced.

Teaching high school English by day, college English by night, writing, and doing paranormal investigations doesn’t slow her down from having a great time with a plethora of hobbies. Her published credits include short stories, poetry, several journal articles, her doctoral dissertation, and her award-winning book Strength of Spirit. She is a staff writer for The Daily Dragon at Dragon Con and an intern for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta at WordFire Press. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Masters in Education-English, and a Doctorate in Education-Teacher Leadership. Check out her website at www.amandafaith.net.

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.