Wizard’s Guidance. A New Guest Post for Dice Castle!

This month I return to the Village of No-No’s in my continuing series at Geek’s Dream Girl.

“Well, it’s a good thing you know how to do that at least.” The wizard quips as he unrolls the parchment. “Now, here’s something you might be interested in. Why don’t you go ahead and read this version of events.”
Not wanting to piss off an all-powerful wizard, you take the document off his hands and begin to read a familiar, yet slightly different, version of events. As you engross yourself in the story, the room begins to spin.

You adjust your shoulder bag and stroll into a village nestled in a lush valley. The first thing you see is a man and a woman arguing at the top of their lungs. From what you can make out, they’re pissed off about coin. The woman turns to you and says: “Don’t work for that guy, he’ll never pay you.” The man, who happens to be wearing a jerkin with an embroidered logo on the back, rolls his eyes and drones: “Don’t hire that freelancer, she’ll never hand anything in on time and it’s full of typos, too.” — SOURCE: Wizard’s Guidance, Adventure to Dice Castle

I hope you’ll drop by the site and give Wizard’s Guidance, Adventure to Dice Castle a read!

25 Mantras on Writing and Professionalism

As a follow-up to my previous post about “bad news,” I decided to write my thoughts on what I feel it means to be a professional writer. You may disagree with me, and that’s okay. I firmly believe that your path is not the same as mine. Take what you want and leave the rest.

    1. Any advice, news, tools, or people that distract you from getting words down on the page is not valuable to you as a writer, regardless of how positive or uplifting you feel afterward.
    2. Having a writer’s platform is meaningless if you don’t have any readers, because your brand’s awareness does not always equate to sales.
    3. Avoid any bandwagon that declares publishers or retailers are bad or evil.
    4. Know your own worth but be realistic about it.
    5. Learn the tools, but don’t make your platform your primary focus if you have nothing to sell.
    6. Don’t quit your day job. Don’t quit your day job. Don’t quit your day job.
    7. If you submit a story, pitch or job application, don’t wait to hear back before starting on the next one.
    8. Respect and support other writers that are more experienced that you are.
    9. Writing is NOT a competition. What (or who) one reader or employer likes is going to be very different from someone else. Sometimes, you aren’t a good fit for the job. Sometimes, an employer doesn’t want to re-train a new writer to work with them. There’s a lot of slots to fill; find the ones that work for you and keep looking.
    10. Understand that some people will be happy for your success and some people won’t. Learn to tell the difference and distance yourself from those who are jealous or are willing to sabotage you.
    11. Don’t talk shit or make boasts you can’t back up. You never know how that will come back and haunt you — until it does.
    12. Remember that there are misconceptions about writers and, in some cases, there is nothing you can do about it.
    13. Know that success is relative. One writer’s accomplishments are not your successes, so quit worrying about what someone else is doing. Their “greatness” doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
    14. It’s okay to have a bad day! Experience that bad day, then get over it and get back to work.
    15. If you are a writer, be flexible but write what you’re interested in and work for the people you have a good relationship with. Do not become a slave to your job.
    16. If you can’t afford to be a full-time writer, explore your options and find a part-time job or something else to do. Being a poor artist isn’t virtuous or ideal — it sucks.
    17. Always keep an eye out for new jobs or opportunities and network, network, network.
    18. Don’t be afraid to say “No” when you need to.
    19. Resign yourself to the fact that you may never be as popular or wealthy as Steven King. The, focus on the readers that you DO have.
    20. Learn how to resolve interpersonal conflicts and identify people who can’t. If you wind up on the receiving end of something like this and your assignment/job/project is affected, know that even though it might feel like a personal attack, it’s more of a reflection on the person who can’t resolve the conflict.
    21. Get it in writing.
    22. Realize that you are not a machine. Some days you’ll write faster than others.
    23. Recognize that everyone functions differently and cultural nuances affect not only how people work, but how they respond to people and what they do at work, too. If someone doesn’t get back to you right away, it’s not because they’re ignoring you.
    24. Understand that your rejection letters may not have anything to do with the quality of your work or “you” as a person. Don’t take them personally.
    25. Keep up-to-date on technology and don’t be afraid to learn new things that make you more marketable.

My Guest Post at SFWA: An Overview of Writing for Print vs. the Web

As a writer, I’m often asked to describe the difference between writing for a print publication and writing for the web. This month, I had the chance to write an in-depth article for SFWA.org that provides you with some insight as to why writing for an online publication is so different from writing for print.

Here’s a quote from the article:

Many, if not all, online content providers know about search engine optimization and how powerful well-created content can help lift a site in the search engine rankings to attract visitors. This content, however, doesn’t come “free,” which is why there is such a huge need for good content written with SEO in mind. SEO is one of the reasons why there are places online that want your writing; many companies are looking for good, keyword-driven articles that they can use on their website. Some of you may feel that SEO isn’t really important all the time; in my experiences, SEO is a component of your online writing toolkit but it isn’t the only one.

Be sure to read the full article entitled An Overview of Writing for Print Vs the Web. If you have any questions, feel free to add your thoughts over there.

Writer’s Block? Maybe it’s “Writer’s Avoidance” Behavior

I was fortunate to attend a presentation given by author Kathy Steffen, who talked about ways to overcome writer’s block. One of the things she talked about was how writer’s block isn’t always a “block” of creativity, but you’re actually engaging in something she called “writer’s avoidance behavior.”

I feel that this is especially true for writers in today’s challenging market, because there are a lot of discussions that distract an author (or a potential author) from staying on the keyboard and writing. From conventions to a metric ton of posts about how often you should blog to developing a writer’s platform, there are often more discussions about how to market yourself than how to actually write. For a new author, that can be very confusing. After all, they don’t see what all the other published authors go through before they get online and start marketing themselves. They don’t see how many hours it takes to write a novel, then revise it and go through the editing, submission, approval, proofreading, etc. process. Of course, even though the experiences are different, the distractions are still the same and for authors that need to stick to a deadline, it can be very easy to lose yourself in a sea of babble.

Often, I receive a lot of questions about how I balance full-time job, part-time writing, and my marketing efforts. First and foremost, I spent a number of years focusing on “how to write” not “how to market.” When I was younger, I focused a lot on the mechanics of writing so the business portion of it wasn’t as prevalent and — as a result — the opportunities just weren’t there. As I got older, I entered the gaming industry and was able to transfer a lot of my experiences to a number of opportunities, but I was so heavily focused on learning how to fit my writing into another world (or game system) that I didn’t really care about the marketing aspect of this. Was I writing all the time? No, but I feel that I was writing more often. When I didn’t write, it was because there were other challenges that came up like dealing with contracts, rejection or issues with scheduling and payment. In a way, those challenges became roadblocks to writing and affected my creativity, but not for lack of trying.

This year, I’ve taken a hard look at why it’s been so difficult for me to get my third round of revisions done for my novel. I realized that I was avoiding the revisions because I felt I needed to keep active, to have a vibrant persona that allows me to attract and retain people interested in my work. Well, sure…that may (or may not be) important…but when it comes down to it — all the followers, friends, devotees, etc. in the world don’t matter unless you have something to show for it. Even with a platform, you can’t “sell” a blank page.

After jury-rigging my schedule and figuring out what was important, I realized that it is possible to be active, to use your existing platforms, etc. provided I schedule my time better. Sure, I might not be as “active” as I was, but if I get online at night…I’m probably engaging in some form of “writer’s avoidance” behavior.

I understand that other authors have the same challenges that I do. Sometimes, an interruption that takes the form of two loads of laundry can lead to an evening of a poor word count. However, I also feel that scheduling challenges isn’t the only reason why an author engages in “writer’s avoidance” behavior. Often, an author’s insecurities can manifest in any number of different ways and there are a lot of “writer’s avoidance” behaviors that can result from that. One trend that I’m seeing, are a number of “new” authors that really, really want to write…but spend most of their time following other authors online or talking “about” writing. In my mind, someone can talk about the state-of-publishing and how to be a writer all they want — but if they never actually sit down and do it…then they’ll never “be” a writer. In many ways, it’s easier to talk about something you want to do from a theoretical or a hopeful perspective, because you’re trying to boost yourself up. Sometimes, though, you just have to disappear for a while and ignore all the naysayers and/or the cheerleaders. Sometimes, you just gotta focus on YOUR work and forget about everything else.

Be sure to check out Kathy’s article about battling writer’s block. If you have any insight or additional thoughts to share, I invite you to comment below.

Is Your Next Writing Project Worth the Trouble? Use the K.I.S.S. System and Find Out!

There are a lot of ways to communicate your point, but sometimes the simplest vocabulary and the shortest sentences offer the the biggest benefit. While every writer knows and understands that, what’s not so simple is our process for making decisions.

Enter the K.I.S.S. system, which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. (The acronym can also be used to describe Keep It Short and Simple, too.)

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the challenge for a lot of writers is this little thing called “the brain.” This spongy mass tends to get in the way of great writing because it’s easy to “over-think” your projects and what you’re working on. Having a strategy to write is one thing, but thinking about your writing so much that you end up either a) not writing or b) writing something you’re not happy about. Our writing ends up suffering because we feel obligated to write something rather than focus on something we want to write.

If you feel you’re over-rationalizing your projects, then read on because I’ve got good news for you. You can use the K.I.S.S. system to simplify your woes and get back to writing what you want to write. All you have to do is ask yourself these simple questions and limit your responses to one, two or three word answers.

I’d like to help you by using an example. Let’s say you are tasked with writing an e-book about how to use WordPress. Here’s how the K.I.S.S. system can help you:

    1. What am I writing? – e-book
    2. Who am I writing it for? – first-time users
    3. What is the format of my project? – how-to, non-fiction
    4. What is the primary focus? – explain main features
    5. Do I need to do any research for this project? – no
    6. Do I need to use any additional skills? – yes, screen shots
    7. Is the project paid or unpaid? – paid
    8. What do I achieve by working on this project? – money, publication credit
    9. Do I own the rights to the content? – no
    10. Is there a contract? – yes, work-for-hire
    11. Are edits including in the contract? – no
    12. Is this a project I want to write or have to write? – have to, money
    13. Am I getting paid fairly? – no
    14. Is the publisher reputable? – yes
    15. How much time will this take? – 10 to 15 hours

Here you can see that fifteen questions, broken down into simple answers, offer a wealth of information. In this example, the writer can see at-a-glance what the project will entail from the legal side of things to the production side. Based on these fifteen questions and responses, is this a project you would take on in your schedule?

If you’re interested in a related topic, I offered a little bit of information on this when I designed some writing exercises to learn word conservation. The K.I.S.S. system can also be applied to the way in which you write as well. A writer’s style is often something that develops naturally over time. Using simple, clear phrases can help improve your writing in some cases, but may not work for every project that you’re writing for.

What kinds of questions would you ask yourself when working on a project? Can you limit your answers like I did?

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