Thursday, January 29, 2015

Someday is Today

Of all sad words of mouth or pen,
the saddest are these:
it might have been.

If I had a nickel for everyone who's said to me, "I'm going to write a book someday," . . . wait a minute,  QE597 just made those nickels completely worthless. Let's start over.

If I had a dollar for everyone who's--scratch that. Stupid dollars aren't worth anything either. I mean seriously, have you been to the Dollar Tree lately? 

Okay. Reset. If I had a Godiva dark chocolate truffle for everyone who's said to me, "I'm going to write a book someday," I'd be a bloated happy person with candy wrappers covering my naked body up to my neck.

Sorry for the visual.

My point is, don't just say you're going to write a book, or you're going to run a marathon, or you're going to herd llamas on the Serengeti Plain. Do it. Yeah, I know, you might have to break a sweat on your pristine little brow, but grab a hankie and do it. And if hankies gross you out, use a paper towel.

If there's a passion in your heart to accomplish something on this side of heaven, waiting for the right time, the perfect set of circumstances, or a good hair day isn't going to help you reach that goal. Why? Let's take these point by point . . .

There is no guarantee of a right time. 
If you put off your dreams for a time that's "right," it may never come.The only time you're guaranteed is right now. These breaths. The ones you're using at this moment. Life is a vapor, my friend. Don't wait. You want to write a book? Start penning a few words every day. Be able to run a marathon? Get your butt off the couch and jog twenty feet down the sidewalk. Whatever your goal is, start today with a baby step toward reaching it.

The perfect set of circumstances will not happen.
Newsflash: we live in a fallen world. There is no perfect. Even my grilled cheese sandwich was a little on the burnt-side of brown at lunch today. You'll never have enough money, fit into the skinny jeans hanging at the back of your closet, or enjoy a premium health care package all at the same time. Stop looking for the planets to align and work toward your dreams anyway.

Good Hair is overrated.
'Nuff said.

What passion is burning in your heart? Go for it. Don't make me put on my cheerleader mini-skirt and do back-flips all over this blog. My thighs are too chunky. Just doggone do it.

What? You're still here?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Shh. Listen. Hear that? It's the squalling cry of a newborn baby website that launched today. Readership is an innovative new opportunity for wannabe authors. It kind of reminds me of Wattpad but with the extra added bonus of potential money for the author. Here's their schtick:
"Readership is a digital book publisher controlled by readers. It was created out of a desire to see more publishers embedding themselves in online culture."
Okay, so I don't really know what that whole culture thing means, but the rest of the premise sounds interesting. I like the idea of readers getting a say in what gets printed. Here's how it works:

  • Writers upload extracts of their work
  • Readers vote yes or no if they think it should get published
  • Readers add donations to every yes vote
  • Every title that reaches its target gets published
  • If a reader votes no, they supply feedback as to why . . . which is invaluable to an author

Readers get a chance to read the first line, the first chapter and the second chapter. Here's a sample page for you to try.

The launch is being kicked off with a campaign that invites any writer to upload their work and see what the online world thinks. Readership will enable votes later on in the year, so make sure your work is uploaded ahead of time for when they open their doors to readers.

I'll be keeping my eye on this one and just might give it a whirl for giggles and fun.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Much Money Does an Author Make?

As an author, I'm asked a lot of questions . . .
  • Where do you get your ideas?
  • Can you help me get published?
  • Do we have any marshmallows in the house? No, really. I was just asked this like five minutes ago.

But the question I'm asked most often is how much money do you make?

I know. I see you. You're leaning toward the screen, holding your breath, looking for a dollar sign and six figures following. Hate to burst your balloon, Bucko, but I maybe know two authors who rake in that kind of moolah.

Here are some facts from The Guardian:

  • Half of the writers surveyed (both traditional and indie) earned $1,000-$2,999 or less.
  • Barely 10% earned $100,000 or more.
  • Only 4% of all writers earned $250,000 or more.

And from a Digital Book World survey:

  • Independent authors make about $500-$999 a year.
  • Published authors earn an average of $3,000-$4,999 a year.
  • Hybrid authors (using traditional and independent routes) take in $7,500-$9,999 a year.
I'd say those figures are pretty dang close to accurate, varying in proportion to how many books an author has on the market. 

Being an author sounds like a glamorous gig, hanging out in your jammies all day, drinking java until you're all jazzed, but the truth is that most authors also have a day job.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Writerly Lessons From American Sniper

This weekend I ran outside the literary fence and roamed the Hollywood neighborhood. I sat down with a tub of buttered popcorn -- yeah, the free refill hog-o-maniac size --  and watched the outrageously successful film American Sniper. Here are a few randomosities . . .

Graphic Violence
If decapitated heads aren't your thing, you'll probably want to pass this one by. And that wasn't the worst of it. I won't even mention the electric drill. Oops. Just did.

Renewed Appreciation
When you see what American soldiers go through in a war zone, it increases gratitude for their service. The hell their families suffer makes viewers appreciate them more as well.

In real life, not every Iraqi is a savage. This movie leans a little heavy-handedly on showing only the "bad guys."

After Chris Kyle narrowly escaped death time and again overseas, I find it a bit ironic that it's an American who kills him.

Clint Eastwood is the bomb at directing. The ending of this film is perfect. Everyone in the packed theater sat in complete silence when it was over.

And those are just a few thoughts. What can a writer learn from all this?

  • Story is a powerful medium. Think carefully about what you want to impart to a reader because you will, indeed, affect them.
  • A hero who risks his life for the safety of others is the kind that everyone loves.
  • Don't sugar-coat the conflict, either emotional or physical. Conflict is what makes a character grow.
  • Sometimes less is more. **Spoiler Alert** There is no music with the closing credits, just silence, which is way more powerful than any song that would've distracted from the solemnity of the moment.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Carpe Diem

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Draft Manifesto: Think Like a Pirate

I hit a crossroads today. Not like smashed the front fender off my van, mind you. Just barreled right up to a Y in the writerly road and stalled out, trying to decide which way to go. Should I follow the synopsis I've already written after much careful thought? Or do I throw it away and allow the story to zing off in a totally different direction? What's a writer to do when this happens?

Principle #4: 
Think like a pirate.

There are lots of things to admire about pirates, as long as you overlook their rank body odor and the fact that they slit throats and rob people. The piratey trait with the most takeaway value for a writer is that pirates aren't married to rules and regulations. Sure, they've got a code to follow, but in the words of Captain Barbossa . . .

When you set sail on the ocean of first draft, you have a destination in mind. There's a plan lurking about in your grey matter, a map for you to follow from beginning to end. If you're really a planner, you've even got a synopsis already written and know exactly how the story will flow from chapter to chapter.

But here's the deal . . . if you happen to come up with a better idea halfway through, it's okay to change directions. Sure, your story might not turn out how you expected it would, but that's okay. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to stay a certain course that you're not willing to explore a different direction story-wise. Some of the best creativity happens when least expected. Give yourself the elbow room to veer off course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

First Draft Manifesto: Endure to Infinity and Beyond

Coming up with story ideas is easy. Telling a whang-banger of a tale around a campfire is child's play. But sitting down day after day, slogging through the minutia of plot arc and character development is grunt work, requiring the same perseverance my dog employs when she watches me eat a plate of spaghetti. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the third installment of the First Draft Manifesto . . .

Principle #3: Endure to Infinity and Beyond

The idea of writing a novel is oh-so-much more romantic than actually parking your heinie in a chair and pounding out words. After a day or two of actual writing, the ninety-nine percent will tuck tail and run, whimpering about writer's cramp or block or something about a clogged artery in the posterior region.

Getting the story out of your head and onto paper takes time. A lot of it. It's called determination, folks, deciding that you're going to write whether or not:

  • you feel like it
  • the words are flowing
  • it's a nice day outside
  • you got invited out to lunch
  • the zombie apocalypse takes place

The only way to finish a first draft is to . . . umm . . . **excessive throat clearing** FINISH THE DANG THING! Yes, I'm yelling. There's no easy way out except through, and that takes endurance.

So keep plugging away, word after word. Eventually you will give birth to a pound-and-a-half baby manuscript, putting you in the ranks of those with a complete novel to their credit instead of a loser talking smack about writing one.