Who is Right, Stephen King or Orson Scott Card?

Author often have a lot of advice for other writers. I appreciate that. I like to read books and articles about writing. I believe that getting to be a good writer is something that happens over time and with lots of practice and study into what makes good writing.

I have a number of writers that I look up to and look to as “mentors.”  I appreciate that many of them wrote books about writing.

One of those is Stephen King. He wrote a book called On Writing. Another author that I love is Orson Scott Card. He wrote a book called How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.


I found some things out pretty quickly. Both writers have a very different approach to writing. Both writers have a lot of great advice and each contributed greatly to my knowledge as a writer. But what I had a hard time with was how each author said to go about getting the writing done.

Stephen King said that writing an outline kills creativity. That the story needs to cater to the characters and that the development of the characters trumps the plot.

Orson Scot Card, on the other hand, says to write a detailed outline. Spend the time on the outline and the story will pretty much write itself.

Which one is right?

The difference between the two can be explained with two different philosophies of writing. The Stephen King type of writing is called discovery writing. These types of writers get excited about people and situations that they find themselves in. These types of writers have more vibrant and beloved characters because they write the story around what they characters are feeling and how they make their way out of the situations. This type of writer has a hard time getting past chapter three, because they have “finally” discovered what the character is going to do, and started rewriting the first two chapters, again.

The outliners are planning writers. They usually have very solid plots and amazing endings. They usually write the story around what the characters have to do to advance the story. Their stories flow well, but may not produce the same connection between their characters and the reader. The outline writers often get tired of the story. They have already discovered what is going to happen and it is real work slogging through the details.

Brandon Sanderson in his Science Fiction Writing, English 321 course, found on YouTube, said not to think of it as a type of writer, but as tools. Each type of writing can be a tool because each type has its strengths and weaknesses. I have always idolized the outline writer, thinking that using the outline makes writing easier and faster. However, I have come to appreciate the discovery writing, especially when dealing with characters and their emotions.

I have been caught in both camps and have run into both sets of problems. I have had stories sit for some months because I couldn’t come up with how to transition my character from where they were to where they needed to be.

I have re-written the beginnings of many books again and again.

So which one is right? Probably both! Which one is wrong? Probably both!

Have you had experience with one or the other, or been caught with the weaknesses of one approach or another? I would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment.

 How to Draw Readers in Emotionally

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How to Draw Readers In Emotionally

Who are your favorite characters? What has made them so endearing? It is probably the emotional bond that you developed with the character while reading. That bond doesn’t happen by accident. For a story and a character to resonate with you, you need to be drawn in emotionally.


As a writer you hear that all of the time. Make an emotional connection wit your reader. It sounds so easy and straight forward on the outside, but how do you really do it? How is it really accomplished.

This article by Nanci Panuccio really hits the nail on the head. Nanci explains how to make that emotional connection AND illustrates it beautifully. You can read the original story here: http://emergingwriters.us/writing-to-draw-readers-in/

Flannery O’Connor once said that, as writers, we can’t create emotion with emotion. We need to provide it with a body, to “create a world with weight and extension.”

Love on its own, for example, is too broad and abstract for the reader to feel.

If we write about something as ethereal as love without anchoring it in the physical world, we won’t connect emotionally to our reader. That’s because emotion exists beneath abstraction and explanation. It lives in the breathing world of the real, a tactile world we create when we selectively give weight to the objects of our story.

Sensory details trigger emotions in readers.

It’s pure biology. Our brain is multi-layered and although these layers interact with one another, each perceives and responds differently to stimuli. The top layer, the cerebral cortex, takes in, analyzes and categorizes sense information. Here’s where we reason, contemplate, reach intellectual insights and process abstractions. This part of our brain can understand the concept of love.

But it can’t feel it.

That ability resides deeper, in the early mammalian brain. This layer takes in information through the five senses, then produces a wide variety of sense responses within the body.

When a reader feels fear for a character, or anger at another, or dread for what might happen behind the parking lot of a mall, his mammalian brain is engaged.

So to blast through the reader’s intellect to his most primitive, gut level response, we need to bring our characters’ emotions out of the analytical, away from the general, beyond the abstract.

We need to recreate the character’s experience.

We need to see, hear, touch, taste and smell their world.

Take this excerpt from Suzanne Berne’s novel, A Crime in the Neighborhood.

In 1972 Spring Hill was as safe a neighborhood as you could find near an East coast city, one of those instant subdivisions where brick split-levels and two-car garages had been planted like cabbages on squares of quiet green lawn. Occasionally somebody’s Schwinn bicycle was stolen, or a dog was hit by a car that kept on going. Once in a while, we heard about a shoplifter at the Spring Hill Mall, six blocks away. But otherwise both the mall and the neighborhood always struck everyone as the most ordinary of places.

Then one summer evening around five-thirty, just as business at the mall had finished for the day, a florist named Miss Evelyn Crespo carried a box of orchid corsages out to her car for a wedding that night. She had parked far back behind the mall in a row of spaces reserved for employees, below a two-acre wooded rise. That time of day, the mall’s triangular shadow cut upward across the hill like a wedge. As Miss Crespo slid the corsages into her back seat she heard what she thought was a cat mewing from the shaded half of the hillside.

The sun was in her eyes when she backed away from the car to look around. After a moment, the mewing came again, or something like it, a small, weak sound. Although she was a heavy woman, and the day was hot, she climbed partway up the rise toward where it flattened out, wading through the broken bottles, locust husks, and tangled creeper vines to see if the source of the mewing might be somebody’s lost kitten. When she didn’t find anything, she carefully edged back down toward the parking lot, once grabbing the branch of a laurel bush for support. Then she went inside the mall, locked up her shop for the night, waved to the hairdressers in the Klip ‘n’ Kurl hair salon, came out through the automatic glass doors to her car carrying the bridal bouquet, and drove off to Bethesda to deliver her wedding flowers.

Here’s what this passage can teach us:

Resist telling us how your character feels.

Instead, provoke your reader to feel by selecting concrete, vivid details.

Suzanne Berne never tells us Miss Crespo is scared. Because that would short-circuit our desire to feel it ourselves. Instead, she recreates her experience through sensory detail. She shows her grabbing the branch of a laurel bush for support as she edges her way back down the hill. We hear the small weak sound of mewing coming from the shaded half of the hillside.

We’re scared for her, a visceral response to concrete images.  

Slant the details.

Tangles creeper vines, broken bottles, the slanted hillside. The triangular shadow that cut upward across the hill like a wedge. Ominous indeed.

If Miss Crespo felt joyful rather than fearful, the selected details might be different. Instead of tangled creeper vines and broken bottle husks, maybe she’d see sun slanting through tall pines. Maybe a red cardinal alighting on a snow dusted tree branch.

In life, we select and slant details, too. Things that command our focus move to the foreground while everything else fades into the background. This field of vision is constantly shifting according to the way we feel in any given moment.

Juxtapose Details

Details such as broken bottles, locust husks, and tangled creeper vines work on our subconscious in menacing fashion. Berne interlaces these sinister details with more benevolent objects: the box of orchid corsages, the bridal bouquet,  the brick split-levels and two-car garages, the Schwinn bicycle – details that connote complacent, traditional family life. It’s the juxtaposition of the ordinary with the ominous that ratchets up the tension. If her details were solely ominous, the murder of the young boy, which is revealed two paragraphs later, might feel to us like a foregone conclusion. And we wouldn’t feel the same sense of dread.

Because Berne’s details clash, hovering between the safe and the threatening, tension is built right into the narrative. Each side illuminates the other, making this passage all the more threatening.

Conveying emotion is, among other things, an exercise in point of view.

A view of the sun rising over the bay at the same exact moment will look different to a woman whose child is missing than to a woman who’s just fallen in love.

Notice how your own emotions often distort your reality.

In this excerpt from A Crime in the Neighborhood, ten-year-old Marsha is reacting to a series of upheavals; her father has just deserted the family to carry on a love affair with her Aunt Ada, and Boyd Ellison, a young boy in the neighborhood, has just been found murdered behind the Spring Hill Mall. Shortly after these two events collide, here is how Marsha observes the objects in her house:

I noted the worn patches in the hallway’s Oriental runner, the scuff marks on the stairs, the scorch at the back of the lampshade in the living room. The screen was coming away from the screen door in one corner, curling away from the metal frame like a leaf. The volume-control knob had fallen off the hi-fi, leaving a forked metal bud. Steven had spilled India ink on the sofa, and if you turned over the left cushion, you found a deep blue stain shaped like a moose antler. I had never realized our house contained so many damaged things.

Most often, we aren’t equipped to fully comprehend, much less articulate, how we feel.

Emotions are loaded. And they’re pretty complex.

And we never feel one emotion or another, but several, often conflicting emotions simultaneously.  Love can be wrapped up in fear, disappointment, loneliness, even anger.

The world observed by your character can embody the full spectrum of emotional layers, feelings that the characters themselves are not equipped to articulate, much less understand.

So if you’re going to give us the contents of your character’s living room, ask if those details are anchored in your character’s consciousness.

What our characters pay attention to and how they perceive the world around them often reveal more about their feelings than an explicit explanation of their mood can.

The author doesn’t simply tell us Marsha feels sad about her father’s absence. Or fear about Boyd Ellison’s murder. She doesn’t tell us that everything Marsha’s learned to trust has been suddenly, irrevocably turned upside down. She lets the objects in her house carry those feelings. Her sadness becomes embodied in “scuff marks on the stairs,” in the “scorch at the back of the lampshade,” in the deep blue ink stain on the sofa cushion.

To say Marsha is sad is an understatement. By the way she observes the things in her house, we know she feels malfunctioned, damaged, broken, and stained herself.

There’s camouflage and, at the same time, revelation.

The narrator tells us something essential about herself, but by shifting the focus to the things in her house, she avoids self-pity and sentimentality.

Objects then can be figurative representations for what our characters can’t, won’t, or refuse to acknowledge or accept about their own condition.

Abstract ideas such as “grief,” “loss,” “abandonment,” “confusion,” and “fear” never enter the narrative. They’re not even acknowledged by the character. Yet these emotions enter deeply into us.

Try this free-writing exercise.

Bring yourself back to a moment when you felt fear.

Now bring it out of your head and into the physical world.

How does fear taste? How does it smell? What do you hear?

Reach for something tactile. What objects do you see that can be repositories for that fear?

Just riff on this for about ten minutes.

Don’t mention the fear. Go for images.

And if you’re up to sharing, so I can give you some feedback, post it in the comments below. Or email me here

As always, I love seeing what you create.

 Is goal-setting a waste of time?

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What do you think about writing prompts?

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Goal-Setting, Is It a Waste of Time?

Goals—there is such an art to them. I have consistently set many goals, but very inconsistently achieved those goals. I have read many books on how to manage goals. I have had many team discussions about goals, but they are still so very elusive to me.

I was immediately captured by Charlotte Crockett’s article, “Is goal setting a waste of time?” It didn’t disappoint. I think I understand more about why goal achieving is so elusive.

You can read the original article here: http://www.awaionline.com/2015/01/is-goal-setting-a-waste-of-time/


It is reproduced for you below.

By now, most of your friends who made New Year’s resolutions have already abandoned them. Unfortunately, that happens with business and personal goals, too. You set a goal, something happens that pulls you off course, and you abandon the goal. Until the next goal-setting event. It’s a vicious cycle.

After a while you start to wonder if it’s even worthwhile to set goals. After all, aren’t they limiting? What if a better opportunity comes up? Aren’t most goals just wishes, anyway? Is it just a waste of time?

There are some successful people, like copywriter Bob Bly, who don’t go through a formal goal-setting exercise every year. And yet, they’re able to achieve great things.

Marketer Matt Furey explained the mindset of people who don’t set goals during a recent online discussion about the value of goal-setting:


“There are those who are on auto-pilot for success, and they stay on course — defying all the studies. They have ‘goals,’ but not written goals or formalized plans. They’re seeing what they want, and it immediately goes into motion and action.”

People who don’t need to set goals have a steel self-will that drives them to successful actions, and away from distractions that draw most people off track.

It would be great to be that type of person. I know I’m not. In fact, few people are. The vast majority of people need goals to keep them motivated and on course.

Without a clear goal, you run the risk of falling into what I call “employee mode,” where you show up and wait for someone to tell you what to do.

Okay, so we need to set goals. The more the better, right? I can tell you from personal experience — absolutely not! I remember presenting my annual goals to my mastermind group several years ago. I had business goals (for several businesses), personal goals, fitness goals, financial goals, and on and on.

One of the guys looked at me and asked, “Are these your goals or an audition for Overachievers Anonymous?” Point made.

Over the years, I’ve whittled down my goal list to just one big goal today — building a high-income business using my copywriting and marketing skills. Every action I take is evaluated by determining if it will take me closer to my one big goal or pull me away from it.

And, you know what? I’ve made more progress toward that one goal than I ever did when I had a long list. It’s a big goal … really more of a life goal than an annual one. Which makes sense — most big goals take more than a year to accomplish.

Have you set goals for this year? Can you summarize them in one big goal? Whether you’ve set goals or not, take a few minutes to identify your big goal. It should be one that addresses your deepest desires.

Test your goal by asking the question, “If I accomplished this goal, would I be fulfilled?” If the answer isn’t a big YES, keep working.

Keep your goal handy … we’ll take a hard look at it over the next few days. By the end of the week, you’ll be confident that your goal is truly yours.

Then, with a solid goal, identifying the most important daily activities becomes simple — every task either moves you toward your goal, or away from it.

How many goals do you usually set each year? Have you found them helpful? Let me know in the comments!

How to create a sustainable income from writing.

Is becoming a bestselling author easy?

What do you think about writing prompts?

 The Best Writing Year Ever

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How To Create A Sustainable Income From Writing

I think that among the most difficult aspects of writing is the proposition of creating a sustainable income. It seems that the roll of a writer has expanded, and that a writer needs to be publisher and marketer as well as a writer. The idea of being able to find your best skills and leverage those for a recurring income is something that every writer needs to know about and pursue.

That is why this article by Mary Jaksch resonated with me.

It is syndicated from http://writetodone.com/writing-income-interview-danny-iny/

Creating a sustainable writing income is a struggle.

I’m sure you know that!

But maybe it’s important to look at some less-obvious applications of your writing skills.

Check out what Danny Iny has to say about this in the following interview.

As you may know, Danny is a blogger who started four years ago with no connections and no subscribers.

He’s now become one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the Net.

What gives me the most pleasure about his rapid rise to the top is that he’s done it with integrity.

You can download the interview here (right-click the link; for Mac users, control-click), listen to the interview here on the page, or read the transcript further down.

(Don’t miss the 07:40 mark where Danny talks about less obvious ways to use writing skills to create a sustainable income!)


The Transcript

What is the secret of your stellar success – and how could it apply to writers?

Actually, it comes down to what we’re teaching through the Course Builder’s Laboratory. The core idea is pretty straightforward.

What most people do in the online world is that when they have a great idea, they retreat to their cabin in the woods for six months or a year to create something.

Then they emerge, hoping that people will want it.

And often, people don’t.

Then they repeat the cycle, if they have the stomach for it.

Because, frankly, it’s difficult to work hard for a year, have it rejected by the world, and then try again.

And that’s exactly what I did when I started out! I spent an awful lot of time building a course that I thought was going to be amazing. I think it was a good course, but it wasn’t what people wanted.

And then I stumbled onto an alternate way of doing things—and it’s something I did by accident with Write Like Freddy and more intentionally with Audience Builders Masterclass.

The idea is that instead of retreating to a cabin in the woods to work for such a long time to create something—and hope people will want it—you invite people to vote with their wallets, so to speak. To raise their hands and say, “Yes, I want to be a part of this!”

So you do this by selling a pilot offer.

You ask them, “Do you want this? This is my first group of students so it’s still going to be a bit rough, but I’m going to give it to you at a discount and I want you to help me make it better.”

Maybe it sounds a bit premeditated when I describe it like this, but honestly, with Write Like Freddy, I’d been burned previously by this big course that went nowhere, and I wanted to hedge my bets.

It worked really well. It allowed me to validate that I was on the right track, and get feedback from my audience to make my product that much better.

And, even more importantly, it allowed me to bring in some money upfront, which gives you the fuel to keep on going. And that’s the process that we teach in the Course Builders Laboratory.

We teach it in a lot of detail as an implementable, step-by-step process. How to figure out what the market wants, validate through pilot offers, deliver the live pilot, get feedback, correct the course, and then turn it into a final, market-ready product.

In your webinar, you said a goal everyone could aspire to is to “create a leveraged and scalable income by making a massive transformative impact.” What does this actually mean?

Let’s take a look at the audience of WritetoDone. It’s writers.

If you’re following the work that Mary and all her wonderful guest authors contribute to the site, you’re a writer.

You care about writing, you enjoy that pastime, and want to build your skills. And you’re most likely interested in monetizing your skills in some form or other.

Now, there are different ways you can make money from your writing skills.

You can be a freelance writer, you can create articles to go on websites, you can do copywriting. There are many ways you can get paid for writing. Some of them are very lucrative; they come at a very high hour-to-dollar rate.

But in all of those cases, the time that you work will directly govern the money you make. If you stop working, you stop earning. That’s not leveraged and that’s not scalable. Because there is a limit to the number of hours you can work in a day.

That’s a problem because, first of all, it limits your income—which is problematic for many people. Secondly, it also limits your impact.

The fact that you are a writer means that you have a skill set that allows you to take ideas and knowledge, and put them together in a way that impacts other people—without your having to be there.

There’s something magical about that!

That’s the closest that any one of us gets to telepathy: you take an idea out of your mind and put it in someone else’s mind, across space and time through the vehicle of the written word.

That’s incredibly powerful!

What that allows you to do is to take the impact that you can make, and multiply it through different people, who all receive value from it and pay you for it if they’re receiving legitimate value—without your having to do the work again and again.

So that’s what we’re talking about when we say “a leverage-able and scalable income.”

You can make more of an impact, and make more of a difference to other people. When you do that, you’re necessarily going to be making more money.

There’s a quote by Peter Diamandis which I love:

If you want to make a billion dollars, you’ve got to solve a billion dollars worth of a problem, or solve a one-dollar worth of a problem for a billion people.

The more of an impact you can create, the more you can take your knowledge and expertise and package it up to help more people, the more return will necessarily come to you—if you just follow the basic principles to make that happen.

You said recently that one of the things that drives you is your desire to serve. What does this mean for you?

We all live in a community. Maybe we’re part of a small community, or maybe we belong to a broad, global community.

But the only way life is going to get better for all of us is if we take the skills and abilities we have, and leverage them to lift up the people we come into contact with.

And that is really about service. It’s not about making yourself subservient; it’s about taking what you have to offer and serving the people you’re able to touch to make their lives better in one way or another.

For me personally, the way I can do that is through business training. I’m good at looking at business experiences and business processes to see what has worked, and boiling it down to clear, obvious patterns that I can explain to other people.

Fundamentally, my skill set is that of a teacher. I can find the patterns and empower people to do great things in their lives.

For many writers it’s hard to earn an income with their craft. What advice can you offer? 

I think what it comes down to are the obvious and less obvious applications of a skill.

So when you look at the obvious application of the skill of writing, it is writing articles, writing copy, writing books—all the things writers traditionally look at as an income opportunity.

Being a writer means that you know how to communicate ideas effectively. Being a good writer in the realm of non-fiction, means you have expertise and knowledge that other people don’t have, but which they value.

What the Course Builder’s Laboratory will teach you is to leverage these skills, and your knowledge and expertise to create something that is a packaged source of value that make the lives of other people better, and creates a return for you in the process.

Thank you so much for sharing your ideas with us, Danny!

Thank you for having me. I’m always excited when I can contribute to the WritetoDone community!

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What do you think about writing prompts?

 The Best Writing Year Ever

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Is Becoming a Bestselling Author Easy?

That is kind of a trick question. Everyone wants writing a bestseller to be easy, and after reading the “Cinderella” stories of some authors, you might be led to believe that it could be easy. Most authors want to believe the build it and they will come methodology to writing, they want to spend their time on the writing and nothing else. Unfortunately, today’s authors have to be Authors, Publishers, and Marketers. Each of those aspects of your business have to be healthy to succeed. That is why this story by Nina Amir hit home with me. I think that she has outlined a simple way to succeed at being a best selling author. Please let me know what you think about it.

Syndicated from  http://writenonfictionnow.com/who-said-becoming-a-bestselling-author-was-easy/ .

No matter where I teach or speak, writers meet me with the same complaints. Aspiring authors say the necessary tasks required to achieve their goals—and dreams—of becoming successful, bestselling, published authors feel too difficult, occupy too much time, focus on business more than craft, and, worst of all, put their writing on hold.


I understand these arguments. I use to make them all myself, and sometimes I still feel like complaining. Yet, I continue to use and to recommend the strategies that cause these complaints—because they work. They make it easier and more likely for writers to succeed.

My Response

Truly, I’ve been in the same place. I’ve felt frustrated and overwhelmed by all the “hats” writers today must wear to create marketable books and help them sell. We must wear business hat, promotion hat, social media hat, speaker hat, and, last but not least, writing hat. Sometimes I still want to complain, but I don’t. I just do what’s necessary, and I embrace the tasks because I know they get me where I want to go. They help me create successful books and become a successful author.

Without any lack of compassion, when aspiring writers complain to me that they “just want to write,” I offer two responses.

  1. No one ever said becoming a bestselling author was going to be easy. In fact, creating a book that sells an above-average amount of copies and a career as an author, which means earning enough to pay your bills, is downright difficult.
  2. To achieve your goal of becoming a successful author, you must want it badly enough. If you won’t do what it takes—whatever it takes, it’s time for you to question the strength of your desire and commitment to your goal of becoming a successful author.

Not everyone likes those responses.

Embrace It All

This past weekend I had the honor of teaching a group of MFA students at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (NILA) on Whidby Island, WA. We discussed how to create a career plan for successful authorship. I covered the four steps I will be teaching in depth in my Create Your Bestselling Author Career program, which begins January 26, 2015. The four steps to creating a career plan for successful authorship are:

  • Craft a marketable book idea
  • Write a bestselling book
  • Develop an effective book-promotion plan
  • Build a business around your book

When I finished the three-and-a-half-hour class, the students filed out quietly. I had noticed that some of them had that “deer-in-the-headlights” look on their faces, especially as we got into the promotion and platform building topics. There were fewer and fewer questions.

One man remained behind for a few moments. “I guess I overwhelmed them,” I said.

“No. You told them exactly what they needed to hear, but most of them just didn’t want to hear it,” he replied. “And for many of them, this was all new information. Many of them have their books written already, and they just learned about author platform today. Or they are just getting started in the program, so this is all new to them.”

“Ah…well, that explains it,” I replied. “But the problem is that, like so many writers, they don’t want to plan marketable books, build platforms or promote. They just want to write as soon as they have a book idea. When I speak at conferences, almost every time someone raises her hand and whines, ‘But I only want to write…’”

“They need to learn to embrace all those tasks if they want to succeed,” he said with a smile on his face. “I do.”

I smiled back. “That’s exactly right. That’s what changed the course of my career—learning to embrace the activities or tasks I didn’t like or want to do but that would help me succeed as an author.

Attitude Shift

He and I were talking about a necessary attitude shift. For me, it happened after about eight years of trying to get published. In one moment, I decided I was unwilling to fail. I realized I had to do just what this student said: I had to embrace the tasks I had been doing under duress—just because I should or had to. I embraced building my platform in any and all ways. I embraced promotion in all forms. I embraced the business aspects of creating successful books including evaluating each and every book idea to determine its marketability.

My attitude completely changed, and so did my results. Within four years, I had a bestselling, traditionally published book on the market, and my career as a successful author was on its way!

Prior to that, like the people I meet wherever I teach or speak, my attitude toward these same tasks was negative. I complained about the time it took to blog, to do social networking and to promote in general. I balked at doing a market or competitive analysis before planning out the content of my book. In fact, I didn’t want to plan the content because I preferred to write off the top of my head. I could see the book in my head. I knew where it was going and what content I’d include in it…sort of. (Yes, I was a “seatser,” someone who writes by the seat of their pants.)

To be honest, it was simply easier to act upon my ideas and write without a plan. Everything else felt too hard and time consuming.

But that attitude didn’t get me where I wanted to go—successful authorship.

Face the Truth

Why not just face the truth? Becoming an author is hard. Becoming a successful author is even more difficult.

But who said it isn’t worthwhile to do something hard? Of course, it is!

And, guess what? It doesn’t have to be as hard as you think…if you accept the fact that there are tasks you must complete, you embrace them, and you use a strategy that makes it easier to succeed.

What is that strategy? The Bestselling Author Career strategy has five parts:

  1. Develop a vision of your future, including the additional books you might want to write and the products and services you could provide. The more books you write, the more books you sell. That’s why you want to brainstorm spin-offs and series. But don’t stop there. Consider each book a product line. Brainstorming all the additional ways you can use your content as corresponding products and services.
  2. Develop a brand based on the themes and topics in your books as well as on your passions and values Determine how you want readers to know and recognize you and your work. Carry this brand out on an author website with a blog and a store where visitors can purchase your products and services—including your books.
  3. Craft your ideas into marketable books. Make sure every book you write is targeted to a market and fills a hole in a particular bookstore category. That makes it unique and necessary, which increases the likelihood it will sell.
  4. Create author platform and a promotion plan that builds on that platform and targets your market. Be willing and able to help your book succeed. A marketable book will sell well on its own, but the help you provide pushes it to bestseller status.
  5. Monetize your books for profit and promotion. Consider how to leverage your content into products and services that offer more value to your readers while increasing your income. The money you earn supports your continued writing efforts and gives you and your books more authority and visibility, which means your sales increase. Every time you promote a product, you promote your books.

Becoming a Successful Author Can be Easy

Sound like a lot of work? Maybe…Sound hard? Maybe…but if you love what you do and have a strong desire and passion for getting your message out into the world so you impact the lives of your readers, it will feel easy-schmeasy.

And with that attitude shift, you’ll begin to enjoy all these steps, as well as the tasks involved, and achieve success more quickly than you thought possible.

The night before I left NILA and Whidby Island, I had dinner with one of the directors of the MFA program. I told her about my class’ response to the material I presented. She said, “That’s why we brought you here. The MFA students need to know what to do beyond learning to write…and they need to know before they publish their books. They need to know as they get started in the MFA program. It’s a disservice to them to find out later that they haven’t taken the necessary steps to help themselves create a successful career.”

Several students came up to me after dinner. They shared similar sentiments with me. “Thank you so much for your class. It was a lot of information to take in, but I needed to hear your message. I feel much more prepared now to pursue my career as an author and to create marketable books.”

I smiled. They had absorbed the material, and their attitudes had shifted. They were ready…ready to apply what they learned and to succeed. And that makes my work worthwhile despite complaints, whining or blank stares.

What about you? Are you ready?

What do you think about writing prompts?

 The Best Writing Year Ever

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Writing Prompts, What Do you Think?

“There is no creativity in a vacuum.” I really believe that. I search for the best models to emulate, I look for inspiration in everything that I do. Life is too short, and the world too small to reinvent everything–I want to leverage what is available to me.

For all of those reasons, I love writing prompts. I may not actually use the sentence or two that I read from time to time–but I let my mind wander over the thoughts and implications of the writing prompt. Sometimes, it kick-starts my thought process and I am off and running. And other times it is a distraction that I didn’t need. But usually it is a needed break from what I was doing and a great way to start rolling on all four wheels again.


Because I like writing prompts, I wanted to share some that I found.

These come from Charlotte Dixon, read the whole thing here: http://www.wordstrumpet.com/2015/01/inventive-writing-prompt-round-up-25.html .

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #25

Here is the latest collection of posts from my Tumblr blog.  There’s more prompts here.  And you can download a whole book of them here.  Oh yeah, and there’s one less prompt than usual because last Sunday we drove to Seattle and back (eight hours total in the car) to attend the 100th birthday party of my husband’s aunt.  It was a glorious day, reconnecting with cousins and visiting with said aunt.  But I totally forgot about doing a prompt.

#171  He hated when he overslept.  Because, there was nothing you could do about it—that time was lost.  Lost to sleep.  So to make sure it never happened, he….

#172  It was a crushing disappointment.  What does your main character do to recover?

#173  Use the words hoar frost, purple, poem and beast in a sentence.  Then use that sentence as a prompt.

#174  “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  Annie Dillard. How does your main character spend his/her days?

#175  Write about the resolution your character has kept.  Now write about the resolution he/she has broken.  Why does he want to accomplish those things in the first place?  What stands in the way of her doing them?

#176 She was tired.  So tired.  And she dealt with being tired the way she always did.  First, she …..

How did you writing go this week? (I’m almost done with the rewrite of my WIP!)

 The Best Writing Year Ever

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Make 2015 The Best Writing Year Ever!

I often contemplate, “what would make the biggest difference in my writing?” It usually ends up being, “Do MORE of it!” I have a regular schedule, but it is easy to get distracted. I have tried a lot of things to remove distractions and to make sure that I get the writing done. But these suggestions from Charlette Dixon hit the nail on the head. These seven practices will improve your writing by getting you doing more writing. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me.


This article is syndicated from http://www.wordstrumpet.com/2015/01/7-practices-to-create-your-best-writing-year-yet.html . You can read the whole story here.


I write a lot about motivation here.  Yeah, ostensibly I write about writing, and I do, but when I look back over all the articles I’ve posted, many of them are about techniques for getting words on the page.

That’s because I have a cement-firm belief, based on my own habits and years of teaching and coaching writers, that the hardest part of writing is getting your butt in the chair and keeping it there long enough to rack up a word count.  You can be the best, most elegant and clever stylist in the world, and if you can’t get yourself into a regular writing practice, nobody is going to read those elegant words.

Last year I wrote a lot.  I finished a 90,000 word novel, wrote 25,000 words on another fiction project, and completed lord knows how many words total in blog and newsletter articles.  At the same time, I worked with writers one-on-one through coaching and teaching and inworkshops.  So along the way I’ve figured out a few things about how to write regularly.  (Though these are subject to change–after all writing is a process, a vital, fluid process.)  So here are my recommendations for best practices to make 2015 your best writing year yet:

  1.  Plan.I mean this in two ways.  There’s overall planning for you career.  What kinds of books do you want to write–memoir, romance, mystery, fantasy, YA?  What book will you commit to write this year?  And second, there’s planning for individual scenes.  I’ve found that I get way more writing done when I know where I’m going.  You may be a pantser, and god bless you if you are, and swear to me that you can just write and see what happens, but I am more productive when I know what’s up.
  2.  Pre-write.Often it is as important to write around your project as it is to write on it.   Write in your journal or do Morning Pages.  You may resist this, thinking why should you take your precious writing time to work on something other than your WIP?  Because you need to get all the distracting crap out of your brain, for one thing.  Jettison the carping voice of the inner critic in your journal and you’ll be in a much better frame of mind for writing the real stuff.  And because you also will be amazed at the ideas and information that will flow through your fingertips, including tons of good stuff for your WIP.
  3.  Schedule writing time.As I’ve written a gazillion times, I love to get up and write first thing in the morning.  I write Morning Pages and then go right to my WIP. (Lately I’ve also been scheduling at least one two-hour block of time on an afternoon as well.)  My buddy J.D. is a night-time writer.  If he tried to rise at 5 as I do and write he’d be miserable.  And if I tried to write at night like he does, I’d be asleep at my desk.  So figure out what works for you and do it.
  4.  Separate the writing process from the rewriting/editing/revising process.They are two different stages of writing.  Period.  You’ll make yourself crazy if you try to perfect every word as you go, and you’ll lose sight of the bigger picture, too.  Later, after you’ve gotten all your words down into one gloriously messy first draft you can have fun honing and perfecting your scenes and words.  But only later.
  5.  Write fast.This is my single best tip for success, guys.  Once you know where you are going and are working in rough draft mode, let it rip.  Don’t read over what you’ve written, don’t stop, write as fast as you can.  I believe that we all know way more about our stories than our conscious minds let on–and if you write fast you’re going to get all that good stuff from your unconscious out onto the page.  Writing fast is also how you will discover your voice.
  6.  Find the joy.It’s supposed to be fun.  Lord knows, most writers don’t make enough on their books to quit their day jobs, so enjoy it for goodness sakes.  It is easy to get into the grind of a writing practice and see only the daily word count.  But pause for a minute in the midst of writing and remember how cool it is that you are a writer.  Because it’s the coolest thing in the world to be, bar none!
  7.  Rewrite.I know, duh.  But you’d be surprised how many rough drafts I’ve seen through the years–words on the page obviously written fast (a good thing–see #5) with no attempt to go back and straighten things out.  I do see writers getting stuck in the Rewriting Forever Syndrome, loathe to let their babies go out in the world, and that’s not good either. But it is the rare piece of work that does not need at least one rewrite.

That’s all I’ve got for you.  It really is about sitting down and putting words on the page–that simple and that difficult.

What are your best recommendations for a regular writing practice?  Please share!

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Write About Your Passions

Whether I agree with an author’s opinion or not, I much prefer that the author write about his or her passions. Let me know right up front how you feel and where you stand! Give it to me straight and help me see it from your point of view.

I have seen many authors try to change their style and change what they write about, in and attempt to make their writing more popular. That usually backfires.

Someone who writes from their passions, writes with conviction, is much more focused, is much more interesting, and usually HAS SOMETHING TO SAY.

Writing from your passions usually bypasses the tendency to ramble, because the arguments are much more internalized.


That is why, in my book, Steal Like An Author, I write about unlocking your internal creativity and increasing your ability to recognize your passions, your interests, and your personal observations.

There is a quote by Virginia Wolf that I like:

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its color, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.”

Victor Hugo Once Said:

“A writer is a world trapped in a person.”

Let your world shine. Let people see that world through your eyes!

Some times it takes a smack on the head with a two-by-four to get us to see what has been in front of us all the time. But there is no doubt that writing about your passions will improve your writing, will help you focus your thought, and will make writing so much more enjoyable.

May the joy of writing fill your heart and “bleed” onto your manuscripts. Let it fill the volumes that you write and the world will rejoice with you.

Dean Giles, Author


Download a free chapter of my book (pdf), click here.

(no opt-in, no strings attached, just enjoy!)


A fast way to write a book.

Guess what? There is a book on writing.


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Writer’s Block–The Causes

I just love it when the words flow effortlessly into my manuscript. The page fills with black spots on the white canvas, and the end result is beautiful art. However, I hate it when I’m stuck and not sure how to continue. I hate even more when I begin, then delete, and begin again.

I found this article on the causes of writer’s block something that helped me put writer’s block behind me more quickly. I hope it helps you as well.

(This article is curated from http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/causes-of-writers-block-why-you-cant-write )

Why can’t you write? Before you can overcome writer’s block, you need to find the source. Here are five causes of writer’s block and a Sioux Indian parable about awareness, to help you stay motivated to keep writing.


One cause of writer’s block is perfectionism. “[A writer who is a perfectionist] expects her first drafts to be polished and well organized – in other words, like other people’s final drafts,” says Hillary Rettig, author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block. “When she fails at that unreasonable goal, she reacts with great harshness, calling herself a ‘loser’ and other names. And then, losing confidence and perspective, she abandons her writing project.”

In The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block, Rettig describes how to identify and overcome perfectionism, manage your time, optimize your writing process, understand and claim your identity as a writer, cultivate resilience in the face of rejection and harsh criticism, and more. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, or poetry, screenplays or something else – or whether you write for business or school – Rettig’s tips will help you write more, lower your stress, and bring you joy and fulfillment.

Below are five common causes of stalled writing (including perfectionism), plus tips for overcoming writer’s block. First, though, I want to share a Sioux Indian parable about how powerful you are – as a writer, as a human, and as a spirit who is briefly passing through this world.

The Parable of Awareness – A Sioux Indian Story

The Creator gathered all of Creation and said, “I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realization that they create their own reality.”

The eagle said, “Give it to me, I will take it to the moon.”

“No. One day they will go there and find it,” the Creator said.

The salmon said, “I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean.”

“No. They will go there too,” said the Creator.

The buffalo said, “I will bury it on the Great Plains.”

“They will cut into the skin of the Earth and find it even there,” the Creator said.

Grandmother Mole, who is the soul of Mother Earth and who sees with spiritual eyes, said, “Put it inside of them.”

“Yes,” the Creator said.

5 Causes of Writer’s Block

You are creating your own reality. The reason you can’t write – and the secret to overcoming writer’s block – is in you. You are smart enough, motivated enough, and powerful enough to uncover the cause of your writer’s block and get past it. You can find the solution to whatever is causing your inability to write because it’s within your reach. Indeed, you are the author of your reality.

Lack of passion for what you’re writing about

One of the most common causes of writer’s block is boredom. I get assignments from magazines and sometimes they’re the most boring topics on earth – such as how to deal with stress at Christmas. I don’t experience writer’s block when I’m given an assignment because I’m getting paid $600 per article, but I definitely procrastinate! If you’re not excited about your writing, you may think you’re experiencing writer’s block….but the reality is that you simply don’t care about the topic. The solution? Change subjects if you can or interview someone with a completely different take on the topic. Or, you might write about how bored you are with the subject matter and brainstorm positive ways to cope with it. You might also ask readers or fellow writers for tips on how to find the interesting speck in the boring topic.

No plan for your writing

Until two weeks ago, I was SO bored with my Quips and Tips blogs. I started blogging in 2008 and it’s the longest I’ve ever had a job! I was still making money blogging and I had lots of blog posts and ideas on what to write about. The cause of my “writer’s block” wasn’t lack of ideas or boredom with blogging as a business. It was a lack of a plan. Two weeks ago I gave birth to the idea of Putting Parables Into Practice, and blogging has become fresh, new, interesting, and easy again! Awesome. What about you – are you dealing with a cause of writer’s block, or do you just not have a plan for your writing? You need some sort of structure, outline, mind map, or organization for what you’re writing. Else you’ll be lost and unmotivated – and you’ll think you have writer’s block when really you’re just disorganized.

Lack of information on the topic

Another possible cause of writer’s block is lack of information. Maybe you’re writing a detective novel and you can’t figure out how to plant clues and use suspense in your story line. You might think you’re blocked as a writer…but maybe you’re just ignorant. Maybe you don’t know what clues detectives need to solve crimes, or you’re not skilled in using suspense in your writing. The solution? Learn. Do research. Think about the Sioux Indian Parable, and remember that the answer is within your reach.


In How to Fix Writer’s Block, I neglected to describe how destructive perfectionism is to writers. Identifying perfectionism as a cause of writer’s block can open you up. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people,” writes Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. “It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

Hillary Rettig adds that perfectionism can lead you to over identify with your writing and other projects, so your self-esteem rides on their success. “Over identifying with one’s work is dangerous because most projects succeed or fail at least partly due to circumstances beyond your control – and to make your self-esteem so heavily dependent on things you can’t control is a huge risk,” she says in Perfectionism and Addiction on HuffPost. “The fact that your goals were probably unreasonable to start with only intensifies that risk.”

If you feel obsessed with being perfect in your writing – especially if it’s a cause of writer’s block – read 4 Tips for Overcoming Perfectionism for Writers.


“I’ll never get published” and “I’m not good enough to be a writer” will lead to writer’s block. Those negative messages that are full of doubt and self-criticism will paralyze your creativity. How can you write when you think you’re not good enough to be a writer? The solution is to deal with your writing insecurities. Dig deep within yourself. Find the source of the negative self-talk, and learn how to build your confidence as a writer.

Let the Sioux Indian Parable of Awareness – the knowledge that you are creating your own reality – empower you to rewrite your narrative. Instead of hopelessly wrestling with writer’s block as some nebulous blob of failure, try to drill down into the cause of your writer’s block. Once you gain insight into your stumbling block, you are much more likely to move forward to the next chapter.

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Writing a Step by Step Book

Everyone wants to write faster. Everyone wants their book to be useful and praised. Everyone wants to be on the best seller list.


(image courtesy www.searchprosystems.com)

But sometimes it is difficult to move from the wants to, to the actually happening column.

The reality is that writing a book needs to have a step by step plan. It needs some concrete goals and tasks. Write a Step by Step book lays out your plan in a concrete manner. It gives you the right model for finding a subject to write about, writing the book, publishing the book and marketing the book.

The biggest problem that most authors face is that the task is too daunting, so it takes them a loooooong time to get anything down on paper. The checklist and the detailed instructions let anyone with the desire to write a book, get right in the there and get it done.

No more writer’s block, no more wondering what to put down, this will kick-start your creativity and your productivity.

Finally find your grove and get your book written.

Write a Step-by-Step Book, By Dean R. Giles.