Finding the Time: If You Want To Be A Writer, Write

Finding the Time: If You Want To Be A Writer, Write

Greetings all,

Wedding
I kissed the bride.

I’m not sure what post it was in, but a few posts ago I mentioned my wonderful life and how that life has altered my schedule. I had been and remain adamant that anything in life deserves a level of commitment. That level of commitment should reflect the importance you give it in your life. I’d advise anyone to take a serious look at the things they say they want to do in their lives and evaluate how much effort they make to do those things.

It’s a good way to put things in perspective too. If you keep investing your time in other things, maybe those things are actually more important to you. This isn’t a judgment. It’s your life, and you’re free to spend it doing whatever you want. If you look at that life and realize you spend a lot of time doing X, then you can either realize that X really is more important or change your habits.

Being married has been a huge adjustment. I’m about 10 months into my marriage, and we’re still figuring things out. It’s not just me. My kids’ lives are very different than they were before I showed up, and they’re even more different after I became their father. My wife’s life is different. We’ve talked several times (Julie and I) about what we want to find time to do and how we can pull it off.

So I offer this bit of rambling to you who say you want to write but can’t “find the time.”

First question: Do you really want to write? Really? Do you want it more than sleep? Do you want it more than football? Do you want it more than video games? Do you want it more than time with your wife? I’m not saying you have to sacrifice everything. However, there are only so many hours in a day, week, or month. You can’t give time to something unless that time comes from somewhere. If the things you’re already doing are more important than your desire to write, it’s no shame on you. I think you should simply think about other ways to find time. Maybe take a vacation day here or there. Maybe do some sort of writing retreat. Maybe look at the situation and say to yourself that you’re happy with your life the way it is. If you can’t let writing go, then don’t. But that means working to find that time. Before moving on to any step be aware that finding time means investing time. If there’s nothing in your life you’re willing to do less of, then writing isn’t that important to you, and that’s OK. But if you do this seriously, and you’re heart is set on writing, then you’ll find the thing you’re currently spending time on that isn’t that important.

Me and JulieThings more important to me than writing: God. My family. Being a good employee. Those are areas of my life that I won’t give up to find time writing. I love writing. It’s been part of my life forever, but I won’t take time from those things to find more time to write.

Things I really, really like: Football and video games. Those are things that I’ve found can compete. However, when I realize I’ve spent more hours playing video games than I have writing, it’s usually a convicting moment for me. Football is a fairly seasonal thing, and commercials are awesome! They let me do social media things or work on a cover. I wouldn’t necessarily tell people to write during commercials. I think that divides too much of your attention, but there are somethings you can do that will let your dedicated writing time be all about writing. If I’m up against deadline, video games are usually the first to go, and I can reduce my football. I love my 49ers most, so I tend to want to watch that game, but the rest of the games are things I can set aside if I need more dedicated writing.

Easier said than done: So above, I mentioned my family. That’s a lot of time. Homework time. Dinner time. Family time together. Bible time (at least in my house). Laundry. Cleaning up. Bed time (at least in my house). This takes up the better part of most evenings and every other Saturday. So time at my house is such a premium.

I don’t get a ton of writing done at home these days. I usually get a bit on Saturdays. Most of my writing time is done during my authorized lunch time. Rather than what I used to do (enjoy a mindless hour on Youtube), I use that time to write.  After we get the kids to bed (my wife an I alternate bedtime), I might have to not play video games so I can get more writing done.

The boys
The boys.

My point is, the time is there. When I feel myself getting frustrated at the amount of time I have to write, the first thing to do is make sure I’m not wasting time I could be writing. However, I’m not a crazy person. Those video games are usually how I calm my self down (animated though I may be during the games) before going to bed. Who doesn’t need relaxation now and then. Writing is actually pretty relaxing on one end, but it activates my mind. When I used to try to go to bed right after writing, I found I couldn’t shut off my brain. I still have my normal goal of 1,000 words (of something) a day. That might be editing like I’m doing now with Betrayed. It might be outlining, like I will be doing with Discovered. I love drafting most.  Tuesdays and Fridays are set aside for blogging right here. No, I don’t have nearly as much time to “write” as I used to, but I still managed to find the time I’ve always believed I “need.”

Other places I find time: My wife drives. First, she likes it, and I hate it. So while she’s driving, I can get social media done or even some drafting or editing if the trip is long enough.

Stay up a “bit” later. Honestly, I’m 40 now. Man my body needs way more rest than I’m used to. I used to be able to be pretty much good to go off maybe  three hours of sleep. Not any more. I need five. Five is probably pushing it, but I have to get five hours of sleep to have a hope on Earth of waking up on time for work or church. On an occasional time or two (or Saturdays if I’m being honest), I pull of four hours of sleep, but I usually hate myself. However, I can probably find an hour when I need to after everyone else has gone to bed.

Wake up a “bit” earlier. If I’m being honest, this would probably be the more feasible option if I needed it. I’ve found that no one in the house likes going to sleep alone, but no one in the house gives two toots who wakes up first. My bias is I hate waking up regardless of the hour. If I could sleep for a whole day, I would. However, it’s an available option to me.

I wanted to share this to help anyone out there struggling. If one were to ask me, “Do you feel like you get enough time?” I’d probably say, “Not as much as I want, but at least what I need.” Still, before I was married, I wrote a bunch and had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. It wasn’t fun. It’s way more fun having three wonderful sons. It’s way more fun having a wife. So I take the lunch hour I used to waste on videos and get the 1,000 mandatory amount, and then I carve out other blocks if I feel I need to.

It’s really just about taking a good, hard look at your schedule and making a decision about what you’re willing to give up, which is why that first question is the most important.

So, busy authors who are more successful than I am, what do you do to find time? What ideas have you had that I haven’t mentioned above?

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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Betrayed’s First Draft Is Under Way

Betrayed’s First Draft Is Under Way

Greetings all,

As you can see in the title, I’ve started the first official draft of Betrayed.

caught-front-coverMy Process: Just last week, I talked about getting that first draft down. I’m so aware of the issues with mustering up the courage to put a story on paper that I’ve developed what I call the discover draft. It’s my way of cheating the system. When I’m writing this draft, I’m just getting the story down, and I’m not held up on anything because I don’t really think about it as a draft. That discovery draft is a very rough version of the story (some are more rough than others).

So what I did was get Betrayed’s general story down. Then I started re-reading the story. I made notes. Some were just me telling myself to check certain details. Most, because this is an area I struggle in, of my notes are just me telling myself how much more description I need. I also take a close look at the plot points and the characters to be sure everything is satisfying.

So without giving too much away, my biggest (non-description-related) notes were about making each scene more satisfying. There’s definitely one character who needs more screen time. I also need to push in on  some of the relationships and how they’ve evolved.

I’m pretty happy with this draft, and I’m excited to see what people who liked Caught think of how the story progresses.

The horror element is dwindling, but that’s by intent. This is much more action and drama oriented than Caught. The struggle is making the opponent seem worthy when Oneiros is a group of psychically enhanced people. I think I’ve done that.

Betrayed features Dom. Sal is still there, and Kaitlyn begins to take more of a lead role. I explore the relationship between those three characters and Kira. There’s a lot of friction in there, and poor Brandon and Chris have to try and keep things together. The government has finally decided to react to Oneiros and its vigilante operations. An old friendship gets shattered, and (as always in this series) more secrets are uncovered.

Betrayed currently has a prologue and 31 chapters, so I expect it will take 1-2 months to get this draft done. Then I’ll put out the call for Alpha Readers. With my family life, it could be some time before I finish the final draft. I have to take the time it requires to make this a quality story for you, but I promise I’m dedicating whatever time I can to the project.

Repressed_ACX_CoverIf you haven’t read Caught, I’m hoping you’ll give it a shot. Repressed is a short story based on Kaitlyn, and it’s a nice little update on things. I have free Audible download codes if you’d like to give one or both a try (seriously, I have 100 for each). You can email me for those.

I’ll get Betrayed out as soon as possible, and I’m outlining Discovered, which will complete the trilogy.  Please be patient as I continue to adjust from being a single guy with little to do but write, to a married man and a father. I will figure it out. Things might not get out as quickly as I’d have liked, but they are coming.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Your First Draft Will Never Be Perfect

Your First Draft Will Never Be Perfect
stuck
Stock image from Pixabay.

Something that slows down or even completely stops an aspiring writer is the idea that the book is finished when he or she completes the draft. I see it with my students. They spend far too much time trying to make the first draft their last draft.

That’s an unfortunate misconception that only serves to devastate someone. I’m not saying it never happened to me. The first thing I ever wrote, I proudly presented it to a few friend’s and even a published author. I wanted them to lavish me with praise and compliments. That’s just not how it went.  

My friend pointed out all of these plot holes, and the author I showed it to just told me why it didn’t work. I was absolutely devastated. I had just spent about a month typing some thousands of words, and the story wasn’t any good.

What saved me in that moment was my sheer stubborn nature. All my youth spent having to do something over and over again until it was right instilled in me the determination to keep at something until it’s done. I’ll admit, that same youth put me in a mindset to completely hate having to do something again. I still do.  The thing I learned, and the thing I want others to know, is that the first draft is only a draft.

If your stuck because, “I just can’t get this chapter right,” rewrite your definition of “right.” A first draft should have the general plot and major character events in an order that makes a pretty good amount of sense. I overemphasize this statement. JUST. KEEP. WRITING.  First of all, there is no such thing as a perfect story. Someone is going to find a plot hole you didn’t think of. Someone is going to find some copyediting error you didn’t even know existed. For the first draft, don’t even worry about it. Write to get the story out. Hunger for people to point out the holes. Crave criticism.

Now those are things that are still against my nature. “I love this story! I couldn’t bear it if someone didn’t like it!” Do yourself a favor: Never publish that book or show it to anyone. Someone is going to hate your book. It’s the world, and the people in the world will find things they don’t like. Use that feedback to make the book better. By all means, stand behind decisions you make, but do so knowing what some readers might think of those decisions.

Bob CoverThe Journals of Bob Drifter was my first book. I have six reviews that are two stars or lower between Amazon and Goodreads. That mans six people just flat didn’t like my book. It hurts to think that. I really want people to enjoy my book. However, if I really did let that stop me from publishing, I would have missed out on the 50 four-star-or-higher reviews. At least 50 people loved the book! That’s the nature of entertainment. (I have 63 reviews for Bob between its two editions and the review from Amazon and Goodreads.) However, the final draft of that book looks very different from what I originally wrote. The order of the book was very different. Some of the decisions were different (particularly with Richard). The criticism from editors and beta readers truly helped shape the novel into what it became, and I still love it.

Every single one of my titles has the same story from that point of view. Sure, when I get criticism, I feel defensive. Who wouldn’t? But a published author has to push through the fear of criticism and see it for what it is, a valuable tool to get better.

When I sit down to write my discovery draft, I have zero regard for anything. I just pound the story out. Sometimes I leave little letters to myself. However, nothing keeps me from finishing the draft. Nothing stops me from getting the story out.

breaking
Stock image from Pixabay.

You can’t revise an incomplete story. Anyone who tells you otherwise has figured out something I’ve personally never seen. I’ve heard the same from Brandon Sanderson and James Patterson. I do know that Sanderson had written about 13 books before an agent he’d been soliciting flat told him, “I’m trying to get this book where it needs to be,” or something to that effect. Sanderson said he didn’t want to revise and that he’d prefer to just move on to another book. He eventually came to understand the value of revision.

I type this bit of advice to convince aspiring authors to forget about what people may think or say about your first draft. Just get it written. Embrace the feedback. Don’t ever stop drafting until you’re done with that draft. Then, and only then, you can revise, and revise, and revise.

Don’t be afraid. Some people might not like your story. There might be many more times the number of people who love it. Sure, there is a universe where everyone who reads your work hates it, but it’s statistically unlikely. But in my days of doing conventions and talking to aspiring writers, I continue to hear the same set-back. I just keep going back to rewrite it. Sure, rewrite it after it’s complete. But if you never finish the book because you’re revising it, realize that you’ll never finish your book because you’ll never be done revising it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The Work: What Any Hopeful Storyteller Needs To Remember

The Work: What Any Hopeful Storyteller Needs To Remember

33691405_1268090163335754_6441353274913193984_nGreetings all,

A lot of people have asked me how to write.

Several people have asked me about how to self-publish.

Only a few people have talked to me about marketing.

I can’t remember the last time (or if ever) anyone ever asked me about the work.

The thing is, people love the idea of being an author. Actually, what they love is the idea of being a huge author.

First, “huge” is not a real measurable standard. For instance, Brandon Sanderson only has a net worth of $6 million according to celebritynetworth.com. Now, I’d never say no to $6 million, but what is that compared to say, George R. R. Martin, who makes $15 million per year on that show you all know and $10 million a year on those books based on that show.

Those are good stories and nice goals to have. They’re even real, attainable goals. However, no one just goes to sleep and wakes up next to a novel that will put them in the millionaire club.  Sanderson wrote 13 novels before he got picked up. He typically releases three titles a year. That means the guy writes a lot.

WritingI don’t begrudge a guy who’s more like me. I’m someone who does his best to get work out, but I’ve learned a bit more about the trade (and I still have a ton to learn) since I’ve started. Still, let’s just look at the work I have done. I’ve released nine titles (five original works) in four years. I had written about seven books before I self-published. In word count alone, I’ve written more than 330,000 words. That’s a commitment of time. Before I got married, I wrote 1,000 words a day and marketed for about an hour.

Since I’ve been married, I market as I have time and squeeze in a couple-hundred words a day even if I have to do so during my lunch break at work. I’m still under the belief that the time you put into it has a direct relationship to the success you have. I think this is particularly true of the marketing.

Hopeful authors, please understand that I want you to have your dreams come true. I’d be overjoyed to see you become a best-seller climb up that Forbes list. I just want you to have your eyes open to the effort you have to be willing to put in. There are no shortcuts; there are no easy paths. Too often we see the reward for one’s work, and assume it just “happened,” and that’s just not true.

ChartI wish I had some sort of chart. There are days when I’d kill to know how many books I’d have to write before I start seeing a monthly profit. I’d love to know how many dollars to invest in marketing before I see a regular sales pace. I have some info for you.

I know that a self-published author typically has to get ten books out there before they start to see a profit.

However, that’s the only solid info I have, and it’s info you need if you aspire to be an author/entrepreneur. To be frank, I still don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m just doing my best based on my own research and talking with authors I respect.

So the real question that matters is, “How much time are you willing to put into this?”

If you come and tell me you write 5,000 words a day and market for three hours a day, I’d expect you to be doing well. If you haven’t written a single book, well, that’s why you’re not succeeding as an author.

Why this post at this time? Well, I’m not working as much as a single guy could these days. I’m not upset about it. I’m more interested in being a loving husband and leading father than I am about anything else. But I am still working toward a goal. I just expect I’ll reach it a bit more slowly than I would otherwise. That doesn’t discourage me, it encourages me. It changes my thinking.

Instead of wondering why things haven’t happened yet, I realize I just need to work at it a little longer. However, I can have that optimism because I believe that work ethic breeds success. My goal is to help you see that too. I don’t imagine it would be hard to be at least as successful as I am (if one would go so far as to call me successful). But it starts with, “Write a book.” Then it builds to, “Market the book.” Then it’s, “Write another book.”

You just have to put in the work. It’s a lot of work, but that’s the only trick. So what are you sitting here reading this blog for? Go on! Get writing!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

 

 

What Anime gets right: Characters

What Anime gets right: Characters

Note: (Featured image from Anime Planet.)

Greetings all,

I Heart Anime
Image from RPGWatch.

It’s been a few weeks since I had a good ‘ol fashioned writing-based post, and since I’m in the middle of a few projects, and I don’t have any official news yet, I have the chance to take a look at what I feel is the most important part of any story …

Character.

If anyone interested in writing wants my humble advice, watch anime. It’s awesome for one. The other reason is that they always deliver a multitude of characters viewers love. Now I could go in a lot of directions, and I might actually do more than one post on this robust topic, but for now, I’m just going to focus on the general idea of what anime does with characters.

  1. Deep, complex backgrounds: When I watch anime, I genuinely feel like the creators sat down for every character and wrote a story just for them. Any one of them could be the main character if they just got a bit more screen time. As if that’s not enough, the episodes use those complicated backgrounds to advance their MCs. This allows fans to grow closer to an
    Naruto_vs._Neji
    Image taken from Fear-World.

    other cast member while still being connected to the hero. It’s honestly brilliant. Naruto does this best. Some may argue they go to this well too many times, and I’d have to agree, but inevitably, as Naruto interacts with characters, we learn more about both of them. This happens both in fights (Naruto VS Neji Hyuga and with team-ups (Sai’s arc). As they fight or work together, we learn more about the side characters, and as Naruto works with them he learns more, and we grow closer to him.

  2. Clear motivations: Every character in anime has motivations and obstructions to those motivations. Good or evil, those characters strive for something. Sometimes they build conflict and suspense. Sometimes the motivations build sympathy. Both are essential.  Let’s take a look at Mikasa Ackerman. She’s a fascinating character. She could want any number of things, but all she truly cares about is protecting Eren. This motivation is clear. So when Eren is in danger or pain, we know this causes Mikasa stress (sympathy). When people seek to harm or even just belittle Eren, we know this will create conflict.
  3. Ryuk
    Image taken from Star City Tees.

    Sympathy: One of my favorite things to do when talking anime with anyone is to talk about their favorite characters. My favorite books have that same feeling, but I can’t always do that with books. I can always do it with anime. The main reason for this is how sympathetic anime characters are. Anime does a fantastic job of making viewers feel for them. They do it through humor. (Ryuk. Sure, he’s evil, but people like him because he amuses them. Why else do people always think of him and apples?) They do it through conflict (Ichigo). They do it through relationships (Ed Elric). The writers use a variety of situationally dramatic settings to allow the viewer to grow sympathetic toward the characters.

So I’ve only scratched the surface on this topic, and I’m probably going to harp on a lot of this when I don’t have any news about my writing to offer. However, this is a good place to start.

When developing your characters, look for opportunities to consider these topics and how anime uses them to get those fans cosplaying. If you do, you might just see a few cosplay people pick one of your characters? (I’d love to see a Grimm or a Caden cosplay!)

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A Thin Line Between Loyalty and Boring. The Value of Conflict Between Supporting Characters

A Thin Line Between Loyalty and Boring. The Value of Conflict Between Supporting Characters
civil-war-cap-tony-179110.jpg
Image from comicbook.com

I’m making my way through my TBR pile, and I noticed something in a book that drew my attention. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s probably not a good thing. I’ll keep things vague because there’s enough bad pub out there regarding books, and I’m not in any way trying to bash anyone. However, we can look at what some people do and make notes.

We have a  main character who has a sidekick. This sidekick is loyal and steadfast. My argument is this character might have reached the point to where that steadfastness is not only hard to believe, but has become boring because no matter what the main character puts that sidekick through, the character simply keeps being this amazingly helpful, understanding person.

While I’ve recently come to believe that conflict in stories is a must, and I think authors should find as many opportunities for conflict as possible, I’m not in any way saying there needs to be some sort of fight scene or argument in every scene. Sometimes you need tension. Sometimes you need support. The thing is though, no one can be stalwart and reliable 100 percent of the time.

From a human perspective, even lifelong friends get frustrated with one another. My brother-and-I are such close friends and so well regarded, that family members have on occasion asked one of us what we wanted and then bought it for the other.  When I go shopping, I just buy something I really want and give it to him. That doesn’t mean we’ve never fought. From that same perspective, friendships are tested through adversity. The point in live isn’t to always agree and support each other.  Support is a thing, but support doesn’t always imply, helping or (more importantly) rolling with whatever the MC wants.

From a writer’s perspective, any author should be seriously worried when character reactions or actions become predictable. Predictable characters are boring, and boring characters lead to unread books.

Disagree?  Let’s take a look at some of the most famous “friends” in fiction or entertainment:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way.  Didn’t we all see Civil War? I mean, the movie made metaphorical-astro-bucks in theaters. Wasn’t that story (in movies and comics) all about putting allies at odds? That sort of conflict takes this analogy a little farther than I want though.  What about the most loyal sidekick ever?

samwise-gamgee-samwise-gamgee
Image from writingishardwork.com

Samwise Gamgee: The guy tagged along with Frodo through everything. Some may Sam is the actual protagonist of the story.  while I think he was the hero, he wasn’t the protagonist. The protagonist in any story is the one who has a clear goal and encounters obstacles. The main goal of Lord of the Rings? Destroy the ring. Yes, Sam just wanted to protect his friend, but it’s not as neat as those wearing fond remembrance glasses think. For starters, Sam didn’t hear about the tale and shout, “Frodo can’t go unless I do!”  In fact, he was caught eavesdropping and ordered to follow Frodo.  The very beginning of their journey wasn’t based on friendship and support; it was based on Sam being yanked into this mess because of being nosey.

Yes, Sam was stalwart through perhaps 95% of the whole story, but there was rising conflict and an eventual clash of wills and break-up. Sure it was short lived, but Sam and Frodo argued about Gollum, which ended in Sam saying he can’t support this path. Yes, he returned, but that return as all the more heroic because the audience understood and believed how frustrating it would be.

So writers, I’m not saying the friends or sidekicks of the story need to argue at every page or end up on opposite sides of the conflict, but no one real or fictitious, can walk in the shadow of an MC and not encore some of the emotional strain, turmoil, and resentment the MC encounters.

Writers should be aware of what the MC is putting that sidekick through, and respect that those challenges have a toll on that friend. Every Robin ever has had some major conflict with Batman. Sometimes it was a conflict to earn a place beside him, and sometimes it was a more literal conflict. No one liked Jason Todd until he came back and tried took on Batman.

mat-cauthon-hat-3-wheel-of-time-mat-by-dragoninstall-567-x-632
Image by Dragoninstall taken from agrimarques.com.

There’s another side. There are characters who get boring for the opposite reason. They almost never seem willing to support or help out that MC.  Mat Cauthon was a very hot and cold character for me.  I frankly resented him sometimes for how quickly he was ready to abandon Rand and how stubborn he was about pretty much doing anything. I understand part of this was an aspect of his arc and his fatal flaw, but he infuriated me, and there were times when I just wasn’t interested in him because I didn’t want to read another ten pages about how he wanted to avoid the situation. That said, I absolutely bawled when he mentioned a certain prank from way back in Eye of the World (I’d really appreciate anyone who remembers what that animal was by the way. I can’t seem to recall it. Might be time to read that series again.)  Mat ended up working for me because he inevitably was loyal. He fought it every step of the way, but he did come through in the end.

Consider this as you write. Tension and conflict, even between the closest characters, can make that relationship stronger.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

 

One Character Quality Isn’t Enough

Greetings all,

 

I’m writing this post on my phone because for some reason, my computer has decided it hates WordPress. I’d rather post something as opposed to not.  I think it’s important I post on schedule, so here I am, but I do ask for some leinency for lack of pictures and any other errors.

A while back, I posted about chracter sliders. I mentioned that characters need to grow, but today I want to warn against characters who only have a high value in one category.

I don’t think charaters like this work. If you have a character who is amazingly competent, it won’t matter if he’s unsympathetic or not proactive.

Some may argue characters have to be symoasympat, and I like those characters, but sympathy alone isn’t enough.

I wanted to try and explain this with a character study, but I simply can’t think of a character who only has one high-value characteristic.  I’m honestly atill thinking, and I can’t name one.

So let’s assume you all agree with me that characters need to be sympathetic; what else should they be? Well, that’s the luxury of choice.

A proactive character would, I think, inspire characters and motivate readers to keep trying.  This would be a character like Naruto.

A competent character would challenge the reader. He would force the reader to keep up while simultaneously frustrating readers with his tendency to not act. Doctor Strange is a good example here. He’s totally motivated by selfish reasons.  By choosing to take action and help defend Earth, the reader is satisfied and excited by his involvement in the fight.

Why are two mandatory?

Well, let’s again assume most feeling characters just be proactive.

If he doesn’t do anything, the reader will lose interest, feeling as though the character won’t ever answer the call to action

If the reader is also incompetent, the reader will put the story down because even if that character decided to take action, he’d probably fail.

My point is a character can’t just be sympathetic, proactive, OR competent. There needs to be a second element to create tension during the rising action and satisfaction during the climax.

What are your thoughts? Can you name any one-dimensional characters?

 

Thanks for reading

Matt