No sequels…? That’s two sequels!

About a year and a half ago I started on a book, a flat run write it in thirty days book…

Well, that book has changed a few things for me.

First, as I’ve already announced I’m involved in my first successful team up. Sariah Anne, a talented young artist created a cover for me. (link)

Second, in the process of working on the Kickstarter campaign I really pushed myself to develop this whole social media presence thing. The Kickstarter is closed now, but its legacy lives ono in my website and social media plan.

Then there was the Kickstarter itself. It didn’t fund, but you know what? That won’t stop me. Like they said in Serenity (link), “…You can’t stop the signal…” The book is still coming out, just not quite the way I planned.

Speaking of not quite the way I planned…

The biggest thing (for me) to come out of this book is the sequel that was never supposed to happen (but really has to!). When I started the story in 2015 I told myself I was going to ‘break the pattern’. The story was a one off, a straight forward story that I would write, publish, and be done with. Well… when I picked it up to start editing I realized sequels were not only possible, but at least one was necessary for me to reach closure on the story.

I started the second book as a NANOWRIMO project in 2016 and as I’ve started the editing process on it I’ve realized that another sequel is necessary to really explain some of the things in the book. If I’m going to really finish this generation of the family’s story a ‘sequel’ is necessary and can only be done in a certain way.

I use quotes because the ‘sequel’ isn’t really a sequel. It also isn’t a prequel. It is a parallel. It is also going to be a story that stretches me as a writer.

In Johnson Farm I introduced a character, Jamie. She’s one of the people that helps the hero figure out what he has to do. She’s also a character with a secret and she’s really not willing to tell anyone…

She won’t tell anyone (yet), but I as the author have to tell someone (the reader). Fortunately I tend to favor a ‘close third’ perspective. I am not writing the series first person, but I’m close enough that the characters thoughts bleed into what I’m writing. And that is why this one is going to stretch me… To pull off the third book I have to write the parallel story at least in part from the point of view of a 14 year old girl (God help us all…).

A different gender? A different language set? A different way of thinking from the protagonists I’m used to? Yep, I’ve got to master it all for the story to work…

So here we are dear reader, on the brink of a new story that will stretch me to new heights as a writer. If I can get away with it…

Wish me luck dear reader, and see you next post (I hope…).

 

Postscript…

Next post probably means next week as my wife will be defending her doctoral dissertation on Friday…

You should at least try…

At some point today a Kickstarter I set up for a Forever Mountain Publishing novel (worse, one of my own novels…) is going to close without funding. Yes, it is a temporary defeat. But, you can’t let the temporary defeats get in the way (Napoleon Hill said that back in the 1930’s…). In fact, as an author and as editor in chief of Forever Mountain Publishing, I have gained a lot through this process…

Since the Kickstarter got started I managed to get the website for FMP up and running; I found and started my plan to rework the social media presence for my company; my wife (who is graduating with her doctorate in Education this semester) discovered a part of the company that she could participate in; and I got to give a talented young artist her first shot at a book cover. A variety of other positives have come out of the process as well.

But, the Kickstarter didn’t go…

No, it didn’t, but the Kickstarter was an avenue, not the only avenue. In truth my wife and I had a backup plan in place a week or so ago. We could have pulled the Kickstarter last week and still had a way to publish the book (I am starting a publishing company after all…). I let the Kickstarter run because it gave more people a chance to feel like they were participating in the launch. It was an avenue to show support that resonated with some people, and it would have felt more like a defeat to admit defeat and pull the campaign than to ride it to the end.

Even though the campaign didn’t completely go the way I hoped, I gained ground. Positive things happened that outweigh the negatives.

Yes dear reader, sometimes we fail. Sometimes we are defeated. But, if we never try we never succeed. (For those who want to pull out “Do or do not, there is no try”, or any other variation I will be dealing with Yoda and Mr. Miyagi at another time…)

The saddest defeat is self-inflicted. The saddest defeat is caused because you never tried.

There are other elements, dear reader, knowledge, planning, resources and other factors all have their place, but you never succeed if you never try.

That’s it for this one,

See you next week…

The secret art of stepping away

Earlier this week I found myself talking to a friend who is getting ready to go back to college. I gave her the usual advice that my wife and I give to all our college bound friends, make sure you take a fun class every semester.

Contrary to what some might think, we don’t give this advice just to make sure the person has fun. The reality is it helps with their other classes.

Why stepping away helps

Taking a fun class, or taking a day off from your big project to do something else, helps you because it changes your focus and lets your conscious mind rest from working on the class/project. We see the same effect with studying. You see better outcomes if you shift subjects every so often and come back later. (How long is a ‘so often’? That depends on the individual and your mileage may vary. For me it’s about an hour to two hours (for studying))

The key is to get enough in, and enough time in, to make a worthwhile step forward without spending so much time that you become counterproductive. In fact we can see the same principle in play in physics and chemistry when painting or putting a patina on metal. It is often a good idea to put on multiple thin layers rather than trying one thick layer that goes on all at once.

The multiple layers allow for better drying and damage resistance while the thick layer gets gloppy, takes longer to dry, and is more prone to chipping. Biologically multiple contacts and repetitions help build neural pathways and muscle fiber in ways that are very different from the patterns developed by the one shot approach.

Growth applications

We see the same principle in a lot of self-help and personal growth applications. This is why goals and affirmations are to be put up in visible places, so you can see them frequently and they get ingrained. It is much more effective to do it this way than the “think really hard about it once then go out for pizza” technique.

I know that this isn’t easy dear reader, but I also know it works. That’s why even though I’m up to my eyeballs in book stuff it’s a good idea to get away once in a while and do something different (even… Gasp… something that has nothing to do with writing a book!).

That’s it for today dear reader. Keep working on those projects, but remember to take some breaks along the way.

See you next week.

1000 words? 10,000 hours? Doing what needs to be done.

 

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There are writing teachers that tell me I should write 1000 words a day to get a book written. Sometimes I do less. Sometimes a do more (NANOWRIMO…).

My wife likes to cite Malcom Gladwell who tells us you need to do something for 10,000 hours to reach proficiency.

This is probably true, but what about beginners luck? What about natural talent? As a writer would the 10,000 hours include the time I spend thinking about my story or just the time I spend with pen to paper or fingers to keys?

The realities…

The reality in writing (and life) is it’s a bit of both. Sure, if you churn out 1000 words a day you’ll eventually churn out enough words to make a book. Actually if we take the NANOWRIMO target of 50,000 words you should churn out 7.3 books per year at 1000 words per day. But… they probably wouldn’t be good books.

There is more to be done than hitting a word count to make a good book, just like there’s more to being a Super Bowl quarterback than playing with your ball…

Similarly, 10,000 hours flogging a keyboard doesn’t make a book, not any more than flying coach for 10,000 hours makes you a fighter ace.

The reality is you do need to write if you want to be a writer. And 10,000 hours working on anything should make you better at it. But, it’s not just an arbitrary time or word count that leads to success. It’s the effort and learning that matter. Effort and learning usually take time. How much time isn’t easily dictated (or determined).

The truth…

Everyone is different. Every story is different. That means everyone has a different path or process to achieve success (the differences may be slight but they exist). Every story, painting, sculpture, football game, business deal, potato crop, or (insert your own item here…) has its own unique requirements and needs its own attention.

Today’s project might need 1,000 words and 10,000 hours. The next one might need 2,000 words and 3,000 hours. The one after that might need 550 words and nine months…

Each project we do and each goal we achieve changes us and helps us grow. Each one also has its own challenges and quirks. To succeed dear reader you will need to learn and deal with each project as itself, not as some predetermined quota. You need to do this every time.

During the next three months I will be working heavily on finishing a novel (My NANOWRIMO project from last year). I will also be stopping in the middle to write the sequel (My NANOWRIMO project this year). I’m not sure how often I will be getting to the blog in that time. But I will be here from time to time.

Until next time dear reader…

Success in all your good endeavors, no matter how long they take (or how many words…)

Walking lines and standing for truth

I’ve recently had a realization about this blog. I was shackling myself. I was setting myself up for failure, but no more.

As usual (in my world at least) it’s not a one factor model. Over the last year or so I’ve gotten a small body of likes and followers. A small body, but not a large one. I hate to admit it, but a bit of a starvation  mentality set in. I was afraid to speak up because I was afraid if I did I would loose the followers I had.

That’s a bad idea… Actually both sides are bad ideas… Loosing follows would be bad; less people would be reading what I have to say. At the same time being afraid to speak weakened what I did say. Weakening my words also results in less people reading what I have to say.

I was falling pray to the fear of offending anyone. You’re never going to make a strong statement if you’re afraid of offending people. And, if you want to make strong statements, but don’t because it might offend someone that undermines you as a writer/speaker and as a person. Reader/hearers can detect that and don’t respond well.

Then, I allowed myself to loose focus. I would give lip service to doing and writing good things here, but I never allowed myself the time to do that. The reality is that not taking the time to do things right is another loosing position.

The reality is that there must be opposition in all things. Often that opposition does not want me (or you to) talk about the things that we believe and stand for.

So, I will be making changes here at WMS. I am making a new commitment not to be afraid to talk about things that matter to me. And if you’d like to weigh in I’m happy to make it a conversation.

If you are interested in or concerned about things I choose to talk about here dear reader, please respond and comment. If not publicly send me an email…

I’m not going to waste my time on trolls, or people that just want to push their angle with no discussions (that’s not what this blog is for). I’m not going to deliberately offend anyone. But, I am going to say something when I have something to say.

And, I welcome comments, discussion, questions, and requests from people who want to discuss things in a civil manner. That is what this place is for dear reader, to talk about ideas and what the words mean.

Words do mean stuff dear reader. Now lets get talking…

A Funny Thing Happened…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Tax Day / My Mother’s Funeral / Mother’s Day / (Insert Huge Event Here) / The End of the Semester…

You’d think I’d have gotten around to this one before this but, as you may have guessed from the title, life happened.

I’ve had a book! My goal as a freelance writer is to put out two books a year. The first one is out this month (people who mistake flexible schedules and dress codes for not working take note!)

It’s a little book but I’ve learned a lot in doing it and had a lot of fun with it.

What is it?

Well…

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Would you like to have a cool and attractive way to carry that water (or soda… or (insert beverage)) bottle with you? Would you like to have a project and skill that allows you to be productive in meetings or watching tv? Have you ever wondered about medieval technology and how to make it into a modern fashion statement? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, this book is for you.

In Chainmail Bottle Carriers you can learn (or expand your knowledge of) how to make cool projects with the ancient art of chainmail. You can turn wire rings into a flexible fabric and an attractive wearable accessory that repays you by helping you be healthy.

For more information on the book (or to buy it) look here. (There will also be a PDF version (that I think is better) released in the near future…)

For more information on what I learned from this process, stay tuned for future posts…

For right now dear reader know that you two can find a way and fulfil your dreams. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible (and sometimes less about the dream itself and more about what you find along the way.

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

Sometimes you have to dream it before you do it!

Write That Story!

Yes, I mean that story! You know, the one in the back of your mind that you keep telling yourself. The one about the traumatic incident (if you’ve been born you have one…).

Write that story it can be really good for you.

Why?

Back in the old days, before we carried internet connections in our pockets, some of my early research in psychology was about writing and the emotional effects of writing. I sort of got away from it but like writing itself I keep coming back to this research.

This week I ran into an article titled Stepping Back to Move Forward: Expressive Writing Promotes Self-Distancing by Park, Ayduk and Cross. The article supports a thought that I’ve had for a while, and even takes it further!

As a writer I’ve always felt that writing about things could help me get perspective on things and had a definite emotional effect. Back in the nineties I demonstrated that writing on some topics made people more nervous than others. I was pretty sure writing was helpful for long term thinking about things and for helping you put things behind you. Well, Park et al demonstrate that.

What they found…

Writing is something I do. The written word is something that people find compelling. If you do it right it lets you safely look at things that can feel pretty unsafe in other parts of life. What Park et al found was that expressive writing, writing about emotional things and putting your emotion on paper, helped participants in their study gain emotional distance from the event. It helped the writer to look at things as an observer and not as someone stuck in the moment of the event.

Why is this important? Well, first off looking at things from a larger perspective (which you can do if you can back up and look at things from the perspective of an observer) gives you a broader view of things and makes things more understandable.

Incidentally (from some of my own research) just being a literate person does some of that too…

When you understand things better. You can deal with things better and find solutions.

Park et al also found that the emotional distancing was associated with a decrease in emotional reactivity. Remembering events can put you through an emotional wringer. Decreasing emotional reactivity means you can remember events and figure out how to deal with them without having to deal with as much of the emotional spikes that came with the original event. You gain protection from being retraumatized by the event.

There’s still more to study on this part, but Park et al also found a link to actual physical wellbeing and emotional distancing. It’s not a direct line, but it seems to be there. The trick is that it’s seems to be a bit of a relational chain… you write the story; you gain distance; your emotional reactivity goes down; and then your physical wellbeing improves. It’s not a direct, A causes B effect, but it’s something that can help.

What it all means…

Well it kind of means what I said at the start!

Write that story. Use your words. Use your writing to help yourself understand yourself. Use your words to help you gain a little distance from that event, thought, or situation that keeps nagging at you; and help yourself find a solution.

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time I’d like to thank Park, Ayduk and Cross for their good research and…

Like I said write that story!

 

Citation.

Park, J., Ayduk, O., Kross, E. (2016). Stepping Back to Move Forward: Expressive Writing Promotes Self-Distancing. Emotion, 16, 3, 349-364.

Delayed Gratification

Years ago there was a psychological study in which children were given a marshmallow and told that if they waited a short period of time to eat it they could have two marshmallow. Years later it was determined that the two marshmallow kids, the ones who could delay gratification, were more successful in life. This was a good discovery but what does it mean for us in day-to-day life?

As I write this I’m actually working on no less than three books.

The first is a novel. I’m finishing up the pre writing stuff (character sketches, where is it on the map, and a (basic and subject to change) outline).

The second is also a novel. I’m at the point where there may be changes that need to be made, but I’ve worked on it enough that I can’t see them. This one is at the point that peer readers and editing people are really what’s needed.

The third is a non-fiction book that was supposed to be out in E-book tomorrow… they just got the proofs back to me today…

I can see the finish from here…

The third book looks great except for five little errors in formatting that don’t work out the way I want them. I have a choice. I could just approve the proof, get the book out on time, and live with it; or I could send in a correction order for the changes that need to be made.

I really want to have this done. I want the book to be out and selling (making money and getting to say “Hey first book of the year is out!” are good things). I also want the book to be the best it can be. The errors are going to reflect on me and people may feel like I’m not as good as I really am because I let the errors slip.

It’s a delayed gratification question. Sure having the errors fixed moves the publication date to the middle of next week, but it makes it a better book. I don’t get to say it’s out tomorrow, but it’ll be a better book and really doesn’t hurt me in the larger goal of having two books out this year. No one is really waiting for the book that can’t wait a couple more days (I didn’t take any prepaid sales and I don’t have any events planned until after Mother’s day anyway…). I have to make the best decision for me and my book even if it means waiting just a little longer.

I really want these things out and being read… but…

The same thing applies with the second book. I want to go ahead and start sending stuff off. But it is of greater benefit to have some other eyeballs on it before I do; so that it can be the best book it can be. It’s the start of a series. There’s a lot of future good that comes from choosing the best path and a lot of harm that can come from an impulsive move.

Before I do that, it’s a good idea to make sure I’ve protected myself copyright wise… I trust my friends but there are people to not trust out there and an ounce of protection can save a lot of headaches in the long run.

Seeing where I’m going before I get there…

The book I’m finishing the pre writing stuff for is a clear shot ahead. This one I’ve taking the time to figure out where I’m going and the foreseeable problems along the way. There’s no real point in delaying gratification, because I’ve already done it. It’s at a point that I can run free and have fun and so I will. I just have to be conscious of where I need to stop and check and take appropriate steps.

The secrets of making dreams come true (well one of them)

Everyone (or almost everyone) likes that immediate gratification. It can be nice to give yourself a project that you can have immediate gratification on. But you need to be aware you need to recognize where things are at and make the best possible choices. Sometimes that means going right now. Sometimes that means delaying gratification and making things or situations better before you take that gratifying step.

Sadly, not all of our choices are a good option versus a bad one. Sometimes it is two good choices and we have to choose the best. Sometimes it’s two less attractive choices and we have to choose the least bad.

Part of growing and learning dear reader is knowing when to delay gratification and when to plunge on ahead. It’s not easy but it is necessary.

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

May all your choices be good, and your marshmallows be tasty!