Welcome to my world!

 

Welcome to my little corner of the internet! I’m glad you stopped by! Please check my disclaimer on the Fair Warning page.

Hint: This ain’t your ordinary author blog. I hope you like what you see and come back often!

It’s Not a Competition. Is It?

yours-is-biggerOne of the things I do throughout my day is try to figure out what I’m going to write about next. Not necessarily in my books, but in this blog. I don’t want this to just become another “how-to” blog on writing (especially when there are so many excellent blogs on writing already out there), so I look for other ideas. Like the mindset of an indie fantasy author.

Oh wait, that’s me!

Anyway, once upon a time while surfing the web, I came across this as a suggested writing prompt:

What author’s career are you most jealous of? Why?

As I read that, my first reaction was: Why should I be jealous of another author’s success?

jeal·ous
adj.

1) Fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position.
2)
  a) Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious: jealous of the success of others.
  b) Inclined to suspect rivalry.
3) Having to do with or arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness.    
4) Vigilant in guarding something.    
5) Intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity; autocratic.

 

I don’t know. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way, but I’ve never considered this business as a competition. Why not? Because your success as an author has absolutely no bearing upon my success as an author. In fact, I love seeing authors, especially unknown authors (and especially ESPECIALLY unknown, self-published authors, such as myself) succeed. And if I can help out another author, I’m happy to do it.

Now, let me qualify one thing just a little: I suppose it does become a bit of a competition if you’re writing for magazines, newspapers, or other periodicals. After all, there’s only so much space in each edition.

But, as someone who writes books, my success as a self-published author depends entirely upon my own ability to put out engaging, well-written, well-edited material, and my ability to market that material. That’s all on me. Just because Joe Literary sells a lot of books doesn’t mean he’s taking sales away from me. Way to go, Joe! I’ll be there someday, but in the meantime, keep up the good work! I don’t get annoyed, jealous, or angry because of Joe’s, or any other author’s, success.

Okay, okay, that’s not entirely true. I will confess that I get annoyed when “celebrities” write fluff books that sell millions of copies (or sell almost no copies, but the “author” still gets paid), just because their face is plastered all over the media, even if—especially if—they’ve never actually done anything to warrant their fame. (Hi, Snooki! Hi, Paris!) I guess that’s just a personal failing of mine.

But, anyway, we were talking about authors succeeding…

To better understand what I’m getting at, I guess it helps to know what I mean by success.

You see, your idea of success and mine might be different. In fact, they probably are, at least a little. I’m sure there are some authors that think of success as a six-figure—or seven—advance or annual income, with acclamation in all of the literary magazines, and awards coming in from all sides. I won’t deny that would be nice, but I’d consider myself successful if I just made enough from my writing so that I could do it full time. I don’t need the awards or the six and seven figure paydays, although I certainly won’t turn you down if you want to shoot some of that my way.

Look, there are millions of readers in the world. In my mind, there are more than enough of them to take care of the authors that put out good content, of which I hope I am one. I haven’t reached my goal yet, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t. It may take some time, but I’ll get there eventually. Until then, I’ll just keep writing. To all of you other authors out there who might not have made it yet, keep at it! And if you have already attained your idea of success, good work!

So what do you think? What’s your idea of success? And is this a competition? Or is it a road we’re all on together?

Sometimes a Pencil is Just a Pencil

pencil1I recently finished a science fiction book that made me feel like I was wading through a hip-deep swamp of adjectives and adverbs. It was really unfortunate, because the excessive (and repetitive) use of descriptive words and phrases completely overwhelmed what was actually a rather interesting premise. I forged through just to see where the story would go, but what could have been an enjoyable read instead turned into a tedious and almost mind-numbing journey.

Now, to be fair, the overall writing wasn’t horrible. Not great, but not the worst ever written, and the premise itself was rather unique (as much as is possible in today’s writing world). But the overdone descriptions every time we walked into a different room, or changed to a different character in a different setting, almost had me skipping entire paragraphs. I’ve already met this woman before. Why do I care which pair of earrings she’s wearing today or what the pencil she’s using looks like? And I already knew about his bronzed, rippling muscles. They were described at length in the first chapter. I don’t need to hear about them every single time we see him. (Besides, bringing them up over and over again was starting to make me feel insecure.)

We all know description is important. Descriptive words and phrases help pull your reader into the story, help them “see” your characters and settings. When first introduced, descriptions of scenery and characters can sometimes make the difference between intriguing or boring your readers. But even then, too much description can actually bog down what would otherwise be a good read.

Give your readers enough to form a picture in their mind, but leave some of it to their imagination. This allows the reader to create details that could make the story more personal and memorable. Instead of telling me what Jon looks like tonight, from his jet-black hair and lightning bolt-shaped earring to the chains around his boots (and every thread, zipper, and tattoo in between), why not just say something like “Jon was in full punk regalia,” or something along those lines? Maybe offer a few tidbits about his appearance, but not an entire paragraph. After all, one reader’s idea of what constitutes punk might be different than another reader’s.

Leaving a few details open to personal interpretation allows the reader to picture Jon in their version of punk, and keeps them from having to remember what your idea of punk was. This is especially true if we’ve already been given a description of Jon earlier in the book. We don’t need to bring up the jet-black hair and fingernails over and over again. We get it. He’s punk (or Goth, or Emo, or whatever it is these days).

Of course, if some aspect of Jon’s appearance is going to be a used as a focal point, then it does need to be mentioned. For example, if one of the bar’s patrons starts giving Jon flack over his “cute little lightning bolt” or tattoo then we probably need to know that he has a lightning bolt-shaped earring dangling from his ear and a Hello Kitty tattoo on his left shoulder. Or, if an aspect of a character’s appearance gives us a little more info about their personality, then by all means, bring that up as well. Jenny might be extremely proud of herself for finding nail polish in that perfect “to die for” shade of red that totally matches the shoes she’s wearing to the dance.

But if it’s just an ordinary day, and they don’t play any real part of the story, some of the little details can be left to your readers’ imaginations. It will help tighten up your prose, as well as allowing your reader to have a more personal and enjoyable experience with your story.

So, how much description do you like in the stories you read? A lot or a little?

It’s All in Your Head (Well, it might be.)

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? – Robert H. Schuller

weightsWhat an amazing and intriguing question this is!  Think about it.  What would you do if you knew you would succeed?

Now think about this: “Knowing” is not so much a matter of doing something, as it is believing, without any doubt, that you can do it.

So many of our limitations are self-imposed. Either we think we can’t do something, or we believe other people when they tell us we can’t.

Consider the case of former Russian Olympic weightlifter Vasily Alexeev. Alexeev was the first man to clean and jerk 500 pounds, BUT…the first time he did it, he didn’t even realize it until after the fact.

Alexeev had put up 495, even 499 pounds on several occasions, but had never been able to break the 500 pound barrier no matter how many times he tried. One day in 1974, during a training session, his coach had him lift a bar with 499 pounds. Having done it before, Alexeev was confident he could do it again, and indeed, lifted the bar overhead. After he dropped the weight to the ground, his coach told him that instead of being 499 pounds on the bar, there had actually been 501.5 pounds.

Vasily’s limitations didn’t stem from a lack of strength, they came from a lack of belief. Somewhere inside of himself, a little voice was telling him, “You can’t lift 500 pounds. It’s not possible.” His coach understood this and “tricked” the voice so that it didn’t interfere with Vasily’s attempt.

How many of our limitations aren’t really due to anything real, but to our own self-doubt? Believing you can do something that you once thought was impossible can be the hardest obstacle to overcome. But if you can get rid of that mindset, you might just be amazed at what you can accomplish.

The next time you’re thinking about your dreams and that little voice whispers in your ear that you can’t do it so why bother to try, tell it to shut up and get out of your way. Then go out and chase those dreams!