Archives For Writing

How to’s on writing books, articles, essays, pretty much anything. If I’ve done it, you can too.

Edge Conference by Jeffrey Zeldman at flickr

You ever spend time on an event for a specific reason, and then get something completely different out of it?

I came to the ReWrite conference last week expecting to get a lot of tips on how to improve on marketing, and perhaps figure out when a traditional publishing deal would be worth my while.

What happened instead is that I ran into my people.

You know, your people? A group you can be yourself around?

If I’m lucky I develop friendships with 1-2 of those kinds of people per year.

Imagine running into 100 of them in 2 days.

Esther Fedorkevich of the Fedd Agency set a strong, indie-friendly tone in spite of her traditional publishing background. The feud between indies and traditional publishers is fading fast, and she is definitely part of the solution in that area. Rest assured, I still hammered her employees with ‘Audit the Fed’ jokes.

Personally, as long as I live in a relatively free part of the world, I’ll use whichever route achieves the goals that matter to me, as long as those decisions are legal, moral, and ethical.

Traditional? Sure, why not?

Indie? Sure, why not?

Keynote speaker was Ted Dekker, who wrote the Circle series, Thr3e (also a movie), and many other bestselling novels.

People who stood on stage and said things

Like the subtitle? The tone of the festival was that all authors are equally important, because even the top selling folks were at one point learning the basics. And people learning the basics are just like the top sellers, traveling on the journey from where they are to where they want to be. It was a judgment-free zone, and even the major players were in the audience taking notes, just like everyone else. That is some real ‘walking the talk’.

At the risk of leaving out any names, or name-dropping, here were some other panelists and attendees:

Takeaways

Here are some lessons that anyone can take with them, writer or not:

“When you love your neighbor as yourself, you love yourself, because we are one.” – Ted Dekker

“Everything you do in life will flow out of who you are…rewrite what you believe about yourself.”

“Do not despise obscurity” – Mary DeMuth

On gurus and how following their checklists often fails to bring you the success you seek. “What if the ‘Guru’s’ advice works?! You might risk pointing to them or yourself rather than to God.” – Mary DeMuth

Just because God is in something, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will prosper the way we want it to.

“It’s difficult to read the label (your qualities) when you’re standing inside the bottle.” – James Rubart

“Culture is a gathering of people around a common idea, item, or belief.” [that is the goal of social media] – Sandi Krakowski

“Nobody [successful authors interviewed] could identify a single moment of breakthrough… they only noticed breakthrough after the fact.” – Esther Fedorkevich

All the moments pushing the flywheel led to the breakthrough.

“Think less like an author [on PR] and more like a journalist for a news outlet.” In the end, that’s what social media is, and our job as creatives or businesspeople or writers is to report on what’s making the most impact in our respective subject matters. – Randy Shelton

Don’t put your identity in your work. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword (paraphrase of Ted Dekker). On a personal note, I noticed you can replace ‘Sword’ with…well…anything. Also notice if you live by God, you die by God, but since He’s the source of salvation it is the only way that death turns into an illusion.

Chad Allen showed me something called the living systems theory, which in my opinion is one of the reasons that change can be so hard sometimes. Living Systems Theory = when you change 1 or 2 parts of a system, the whole system changes.

“If you spend your whole life teaching a fish how to climb a tree, the fish will spend away its whole life thinking it’s stupid” – Kevin Kaiser

 So, should you go, if you’re a writer?

I’d say yes, if only to get your head in the right place. In the future, I’d like to see more case studies and tactical stuff, but it is what it is. If the above quotes helped your mind in any concrete way, look into it the next time the event comes around.

Nano Rhino by mpclemens at flickr.com

My rough drafts have slightly better spelling.

What the heck is NaNoWriMo?

I saw that wierd word on a bumper sticker glued to the back of a laptop in a coffee shop a few months back.

It feels embarrassing that as a writer I didn’t know what it was until then.

What is it then?

It’s an acronym that writers added extra letters to, so it became easy to say.

National Novel Writing Month

Apparently lots of authors I have trouble starting a project without a deadline. So worldwide, many authors decide one or two things are going to take place in the month of November:

1. They will complete an entire rough draft of a novel they’ve been thinking about writing but haven’t started. AND/OR…

2. Write 50,000 words towards that project before the month ends.

It’s like No-Shave November, but people have to actually do something.

What’s Been Going on at Author David’s Bulletproof Lab:

This is my first NaNoWriMo, and I’m not doing it because it’s November, I’m doing it to get into the habit of knocking out first drafts in a short time, no matter what.

And the Results?

I have a series idea, and plotted it out so that I could start writing by November. That meant september was a month of research and plot outlining.

With a goal of a finished 60,000 word rough draft by months end I set to work.

Stats:

Week 3 results: 42,639 words written.
Chapters Completed: 23/36

Since one of my weeks was 18,600 words, I am sure I could hit 60,000 if I had to. The truth is, it’s looking like this book might be a bit longer than 60,000 words though. I still have 36% more book to write. Based on an average chapter length of about 1800 words, it looks like I’ll need to write 24,100 words or so to hit my completed rough draft goal. Seeing as I’m developing a habit of working on marketing as well as writing, along with two jobs, it may not be realistic to push for 24,000+ words in a week.

But if I’m anything, it’s unreasonable.

Implications

Since this upcoming book is a series, I may still have to write new characters, plots, and scenes. However, the fact that the character has a history, motivation, and supporting characters, along with a few repeating environments, the pre-book planning process might be a little shorter (4-5 weeks rather than 6-8).

I like to take a break between first draft and revision, so this gives me two weeks to spend a bit more time on marketing and develop some plots for future releases.

The hard part for me is revising. It can be fun when once I start, but I tend to dread it until work really begins. The revising process, and everything leading up to releasing a book, also comes with having to work with other people’s deadlines (editors, beta readers, proofreaders, book cover designers, etc). While I’ve gone through the gauntlet a few times, I’m still looking for an editor that will work within my budget without reducing quality. Someone I can go to over and over. As book sales increase, I’ll probably sink more into having great editors than anything else. To sum up, I can crank out some relatively fast rough drafts in spite of nearly anything, it’s the stuff afterward that needs the most improvement in order to write lots of books and get them out in a decent amount of time. While I still dream of 4 books a year, that dream may not become a reality until the middle or end of next year, with one book – from concept to completion – in a 3 month period being the metric that really shows I’ve got it down.

Pool of Echoes - Book CoverPool of Echoes is out!

Here’s it’s about:

Jordan Mitchfield is heir to a media empire worth billions. He also sees and hears things that aren’t there.

Then someone close puts him in an insane asylum against his will.

When it looks like there is no way out but to take his own life, he is stopped. Is it a vision? Is what he’s seeing actually real? Is it even part of this dimension?

Whatever it is, it opens his cell door and throws him into a dangerous time-travel adventure through his memories.

As he goes deeper into the Pool of Echoes, he is forced to confront everything he has ever known, reconstruct his own mental health, and play a role in something much larger than himself.

If you or anyone you know has ever questioned their own self worth, get on board this life-changing fiction thrill-ride. You will never be the same.

I’ll make an entry on the BOOKS page so it will be easy to find later.

This was my first of ‘hopefully’ many thrillers. I’ve noticed that my favorite stories have a bit of action and conflict in them, and it’s an underserved area for those who like Christian fiction.

 

The Reason for Pool of Echoes

The basic message of the story is: where does your self worth come from?

If it comes from your possessions, your family, your socio-economic background, your friends – these are all things that can change. Even worse, whatever you make as the center of your self worth ends up being a chain, preventing you from a healthy relationship with whatever idol you’ve chosen – even if it’s just an idea.

There is one exception – and that is to put your self worth someplace where it cannot be taken away.

Wanna know where it is? Wanna know? Well I’ll tell you, but I also wanna make a living and share this great story with you, so come on down to the Amazon, where my book file yearns to visit you.

Click here to check out the book and/or download a preview.

Enjoy.

-David

 

Note: If you’re finding out this way rather than through the mailing list, my list server is temporarily down. The matter should be resolved in a day or two.

ferocious little cat by boogy_man at sxc.hu

Requisite cat image. Bring it on, web traffic!

Do you want to change yourself? If so, you look to examples of other people who have. Some of these people don’t exist, but they are real to you anyway.

That’s right, I’m talking about books, movies, videogames, and stories of all kinds.

Most big stories involve character change. We recognize that change is a part of life – a part of life that should be handled as intentionally as possible.

There are 3 layers to characters. They mirror reality in how well we know the men and women who pass by and interact with us each day. I’ll give examples for each to show how simple, yet deep, this is.

1. One Dimensional – Just the facts.

Do I really need to describe it when I can just show you instead?

I am a writer and I write. The butcher chops meat. The student studies. The jock wrestles varsity in the heavyweight class.

2. Two Dimensional – There is a reason behind the action.

Everybody does what they do for a reason.

I am a cop because my father was a cop. I start businesses to make a profit because I grew up in a poor household, and don’t want my family to suffer like I did. I volunteer at a homeless shelter because I want to help those who have nothing.

3. Three-Dimensional – There is a purpose that justifies my reasoning.

Now you’re getting somewhere. Now we not only see the reason behind the action, but the reason for the reason. At this level, you start to really know/love/hate a person.

I bribe people to pass laws that favor me because I don’t want any competition – I am afraid that if other people could compete on the same level as me, the world would find out that I’m not really that smart/wise/creative/competent/superior-by-birth.

I start businesses to make a profit because I don’t want my family to grow up poor like I did – because being trapped and powerless is scarier than death, and I would not wish it on anyone.

I read the Bible every day, even though it sometimes confuses me, because I realize the Being who cares more for me than anyone else is God; pursuing the only relationship that really matters will bring the most fulfillment.

It’s the key to great heroes and villains.

We don’t have time to give every person on the street three dimensions. Way too much to keep track of. Somewhere in an underground base, a government computer is short-circuiting.

Nor can stories have all three dimensional characters, at least not without it being a very small world (Tom Hanks in Castaway is a good example). We need first, second, and third dimension characters.

In the end, the story is about the third-dimensional character. That’s the guy with the sword who we identify with. That’s the lady with the bow and arrow.

The problem is that we often don’t allocate the time to see our own selves as three dimensional characters. Yet we absolutely must if we want to experience the same level of change that we see as necessary – and crave in our favorite stories.

Change is Good

For a long time, psychology treated these underlying our motivations as tracks that have already been laid by past experiences. They couldn’t be changed. While it’s true that we can’t undo the past, it is a lie to believe that what happened to you in the past will shape and determine the rest of your life.

Many of the great stories either involve a hero accomplishing his goal despite everything set against them, or a character who goes through a change.

The deeper the change, the more powerful your story.

So What About You?

Think back to the last time you made a mistake with your job. If you’re anything like me, you don’t have to think back too far. :)

First dimension: What did you do?

Second dimension: Why did you do it?

Third dimension: Why was your answer in the second dimension so important that you acted out?

Example:

I took 20 minutes with my break instead of 15.

Why? Because the boss makes me work later.

Why do you think he’s making you work later? Because I’m too afraid to say no to her. What if I get fired?!

So, in this example, taking a longer break would allow you to express just enough discontent to not get fired, but enough to vent your frustrations and feel like you’re getting SOME of your time back. Right?

If you had a character in a book that did this, and the author articulated exactly why they did it, you would totally understand and relate. You’d read on to know more about this character even if nothing has happened yet.

By understanding the deeper motivations, and then choosing to script your own deeper motivation, you’ll become more effective.

Eventually, you’ll come to the conclusion that you need to establish some boundaries, but in a helpful and tactful way. And if getting fired is still a concern, then you’ll ask why and learn that IF you get fired – yes – it will suck. But you know what? If you’re tough enough to have a difficult conversation with your boss, you’re also tough enough to find a better job. Chances are, it won’t even get that far anyway.

The Third Dimension is Tough!

You’ll look in the wrong places. You’ll probably have to think. You may even need to talk it over with trusted advisers or friends. In my opinion, that’s what trusted advisers are for.

When you find a better third dimension, you’ll have a better second dimension, and therefore, you’ll take more effective actions.

In the end, your own life will be a story worth telling.

Have you ever seen yourself as a third dimensional character? How do you think it will change the way you interact with the world around you? Let me know in the comments!

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