You are here for a reason. So, the question is: Why?
Entrepurpose is a book inspired by 13 intense years of struggle to find the answer to the question,
“Why am I here?”
That journey took me through three depressions, alcoholism, and unhealthy weight gain as I tried to reconcile my life without purpose.
Now that I know my why, I have experienced an infusion of life and focus that I have never felt before.
This work has become my mission, and I can enjoy it more fully each day. But, it came at a price. That price was 13 years.
My story is our gift to you.
Inside these pages are the tools and principles that led me to understand what I was born to do.
If you apply these principles to your life, you will begin to see that every experience, no matter how painful, is part of your strength. If you feel different from others, a misfit perhaps, this book will show you why different is better than better. Maybe, for the first time, you will begin to accept who you are.
Whatever the reason that brought you here, know that you are here for a reason. That reason can be understood, and once you know it, you will have a responsibility to impact the world in the way only you can.
Welcome to your rebirth.
This book is already doing well, and I couldn’t be happier for the creators. It reached number 1 in three categories: Business and Money, Education and Education and Reference.
What’s most important about this book is, it’s designed to help people who truly feel low. All the feedback I’ve seen and all the messages I’ve read continue to say, “This is what we need.” Every writer wants his or her book to have an impact, and the early returns on Entrepurposve indicate this book does that.
Now let’s meet the creators.
I met Rusty somewhere around two years ago. We both teach at the same school. Over the last few months, we’ve been working more closely as he’s teaching the same segment of the course I teach.
There’s a bond between authors. They don’t have to recognize it or accept it in any way. It’s a bond of caring for your craft. You see it when they’re a bit tired the next day because they rushed home to eat up whatever time they can with their family before they toil away at another job that takes not just a great deal of effort, but an insane amount of mental energy. I’ve watched Rusty as he’s pushed himself to share this with you. It’s not just his story, which alone is something compelling; it’s his passion.
Every day I see him talking to people about personality types and how they gather information. Every thing he does as a teacher is driven to understand how the student thinks and learns, so that he can teach more effectively. I haven’t had a chance to read the book just yet (it’s next on my TBR), but his story and his effort to find ways to reach people are already strong motivators for me.
I haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Laprath. He’s currently a reservist in the Air Force, and any time I can help out a fellow veteran, I’m going to. You can find out more about him on the Entrepurpose website. That site also has a blog and a ton of information worthy of checking out.
So I wanted to take a moment today and share this with you. As most of my followers and those I follow know, I love giving shoutouts when dreams come true. I relblog posts where authors announce they’ve finished a book. I like it when people achieve their dreams, and I wanted to share this achievement with you.
I’m very glad I had the chance to finish this book last week. I’d been excited to read the final book in the trilogy, and I wasn’t disappointed. To remind you all what’s happened so far, please check out my review of Magic-Price land my review of Magic-Scars.
Spoiler Free Summary: Magic-Borne is the final book in the Crown of Stones trilogy. It takes place pretty soon after the events of Magic-Scars. Ian is trying to solve the mystery of his scars, save a loved one, defeat his father, and find a way to bring peace to the land. We get a lot of questions answered and the readers will get a complete resolution, which is all any reader of a series can ask for these days.
Character: Ian is still amazing. His arch shows a lot of progress from the character we met in Price. He shines more in this book. I’ll admit I missed some of the other characters who, while still in the book, didn’t get as much air time as I’d have liked, but Ian is, and should be, why people are reading the series. In my review of the last book, I’d noted I would have liked more from them, but I think pulling back a bit was a sound decision. Jarryd had some major impact moments that showed his evolution in some pretty powerful ways, but the rest of the characters simply don’t get a lot of face time. It’s understandable given the ending, but I won’t lie that I wished they had a bigger role.
Exposition: This is about the same as the last book. Schneider has a knack for blending exposition with description to help the reader avoid large blocks of data dumping. I almost never notice the exposition in her work.
Worldbuilding: So what I have to do here is admit that if someone shouts that the ending “seems” convenient (or at least the plot device that brings about the end), I couldn’t get too angry because I’d understand what they see. I’d like to argue though that what Schneider did here is not MUCH different (if not even done better) than what McCaffrey did in Dragon Riders of Pern. Before anyone throws stuff at me, realize I’m only drawing a correlation between plot devices.
Pern is my favorite series (by a lot) and will always be. But if the plot device in that series didn’t bother you, the plot device in this one shouldn’t either. Schneider did a great job closing all the loops here and letting the readers learn about a complex magic system as they needed to. She sets up the ending to be complete and fulfilling while simultaneously leaving the door open for more books from that world.
Dialogue: I’d say the dialogue in Scars was better. There were scenes and arguments in Borne that felt a little quick for me. As I write this, I’d have to say Scars was my favorite in the series on a lot of fronts. That doesn’t take away from what this book is and could be. The biggest difference stylistically was the pace of the dialogue. Even the amount of dialogue felt a bit more rushed in this book. This was not to a degree as to degrade the quality, just not the same crips, visceral dialogue we saw in Scars. It’s still a great book. I just felt this was a weaker element of the book.
Description: I mentioned problems with how I saw characters in the review for Scars, and Schneider followed up her novel with much more character description. Her extra attention to smaller character details made the book that much more visceral than the last. I thought this was a great blend between setting, scene, and character description. This was an improvement from Scars to Borne.
A note on content: I don’t think this book is as explicit as Scars. There are some adult scenes in this book too. This still serves as a plot device as intimacy is a theme that shifts through each book. Where as with straight romance (note, I’ve only read two), you tend to see scenes like this for the sake of scenes like this. Here, you get steam and impact for the character. That’s something I appreciate.
Overall: I stand by my opinion that Scars is the best of the three, but this book is a very satisfying and complete conclusion to a great story. Where Scars upped the drama and the emotion, Borne lets us slip into the the resolution like a warm bath. I appreciate how this story tied up all the loose ends and let us leave this world feeling as if we’ve seen all there is to see, for now. This also holds true to how I usually feel about trilogies. I tend to like the second act best because that’s where the most drama is. That makes this book a perfect conclusion. No, it’s not the most exciting book because it can’t be. A reader has to leave a story knowing there’s nothing more (in a manner of speaking) to be seen from this arc. Borne does that. If Schneider ever decides to go back, I’m going to be immensely pleased. This was a sold, complete, well told story with an amazing protagonist and a fascinating twist on a few old tropes.
I’ve made no bones about the fact that marketing is something I don’t understand. Oh, I have as much economics training as the next Associates Degree holder, but to be honest, I only know enough to know I don’t know what I’m doing.
My idea is to create a marketing journal. I’ll track what I try and how it works. Then I realized others might be interested in seeing what I’m doing. Maybe they know how to do it better and will help a guy out, or maybe they’re like I am, and this will help them at least be as successful as I’ve been.
This is my first entry under this Marketing Journal tag, and I don’t know how often or regularly I’ll post these. Most marketing campaigns have some sort of cost associated with it, and money just isn’t a thing I have.
I noticed Goodreads has started an add campaign system a while ago, so I thought I’d give it a try.
How it works: Well, if I can figure it out, it’s pretty easy. You start by clicking here. It’s the summary and description of how it works in general.
Like I said, advertising usually costs money. For this campaign, I set a limit of $50. For anyone smarter than me: is it completely unreasonable to think the money you invest in campaigning should at least result in the same amount earned in sales? What’s the ration of profits earned against advertising dollars? For me, I would consider this a gain if I simply get 50 people to add my book to their TBR lists. I’d be ecstatic if I sold 50 copies of my book. But I need to be told if that’s just a pipe dream.
I have a daily cap set at $5 a day. That cap is based on my Cost Per Click. I established my Cost Per Click originally at $0.5. So when I started, if 10 people clicked my link, I wouldn’t get any more clicks, but I wouldn’t lose any more money from my budget. I’m not sure how big a deal that is to be honest. My whole campaign is built to end when the $50 I invested runs out, so weather that runs out in a day or a month, I’m not concerned either way.
Now we come to the part I think might be of interest to those like me. I set up my add to target women who like a group of genres. I was very broad, basically clicking any genre my book comes anywhere near to fitting in. The first day I had 70 views. The second day I had 73 views. I didn’t have anyone click my link. I’ve mentioned before that interaction matters to me. So I changed it up. I shifted so the campaign only targeted men.
I’m a man. I wrote a book I liked. I wrote a book my best friend and brother in law might like. But when I looked at Goodreads and Amazon, I realized that the BULK of my sales and 5-Star Reviews were, in fact, from women. That’s why I chose women first. Watch this: When I shifted from women to men, my views plummeted from 73 to 22. I can say I wrote this book for whoever I want, but the fact is, women are more interested in my book than men. I shifted the campaign back to women the next day and ended with 100 views. After four days, I had 165 views, but no clicks. Time to switch it up.
Goodreads also has a feature that allows you to target people who rated a group of Authors. So if I select authors I think my book is like, anyone who gave all of those authors 3 or more stars will see my add. This is awesome. I chose Dean Koontz, Christopher Golden, Mike Molina, James Patterson and Dan Wells.
I had 23 views.
My theory is that the list of authors I gave is very broad. Only two come any where near each other, and even that is a stretch. So if only a small percentage of people read that combination, it reduces my reach. Now, this would have been fine if those 23 views also mean 23 clicks, but it didn’t. In the interest of science, I switched it from women who liked those authors to men. Again, I dropped to 16. Still no clicks.
So I changed my approach. I switched my audience to women again. Then I went back to genres. This time, I reduced the number of genres to those I felt BEST represented Bob. I chose Ebooks, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, and Thriller.
In one day, I received 3,562 views. I also received 3 clicks. Two people added me to their TBR lists. The next day I received 3,362 views and one click. I was very happy with the views and the clicks were improving.
The help section in Goodreads recommends if you want to increase your click through percentage (CTR) (percent of people who click your link from those who view your add) to change the add summary. At this point, my add was an image of the cover with the following: “Dead Like Me meets Supernatural. A story about life from the perspective of those who watch over the dying.” In an effort to increase that CTR, I changed it to, “Dead Like Me meets Supernatural. A substitute teacher must collect the souls of the dying. How does one live, when his real job is death?”
Whenever you change your ad, it takes a few days for Goodreads to approve your ad. So my ad shut down for a few days until it was approved. When it came back up, I received 2,720 views, but no clicks. I’m going to let this campaign run for a few more days with these settings. If I don’t get back above 3,000 views, or I don’t get any clicks, I’ll go back to the original add and see if those numbers climb back up.
That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve had 10,040 views and 4 clicks for a CTR of .04%. (Goodreads says the results span from .05-.5, so if I can get to .25, I’ll call that a solid first time average).
I hope this helps those trying to figure out ways to reach viewers. Of all the campaigns I’ve tried outside of conventions, this is one I feel best about because I already know I’m getting my add in front of interested readers. That’s priceless to me. Facebook and Twitter adds can be refined to interests, but people are finicky. I would not call someone who likes Harry Potter a fan of Fantasy. The reading of one book doesn’t make you a fan of genre. I’ve read two romance novels. I hate romance. I actually liked one of those books. I read it because I wanted to learn from the structure and style. Any genre is the same really in that regard. BUT, to be able to target readers who like those genres or the authors those book match is awesome! I’ll keep you all posted in how this goes.
So I often talk about a lot of books and things of that note, but a few people have asked me about my favorites, and I thought now was as good a time as any to share a few with you. I’m probably already talked about these in one way or another, but I think it’s a good idea to have them all in one spot. After considering my options, I’ve decided to give you my top five, because everyone likes a good countdown. These are my all-time favorite. They are books I’ve read more than once simply because I love them.
Note: I talk a lot about a lot of writers, and they’re all amazing. This is my top five ever. These are the books that I’d drag out of a burning building (and that’s saying something since we’re actually talking about 28 books in reality). This isn’t to say I don’t like others. I even love some. But these are the ones I love most.
5) Beowulf: Probably the first book I was ever made to read in school that made me realize that books existed that I actually liked. There’s a lot here in this story. Beowulf is probably why I’m drawn to the types of characters to which I’m drawn. I created a role playing character named in his honor.
4)What Men Live By, by Leo Tolstoy: This is actually a short story, but any anthology of his work that includes this story is something I’ll read more than once. I’m a huge fan of Tolstoy. I usually find a way to weave him into my books, (including The Journals of Bob Drifter). This story strikes a lot of chords with me, and is actually a very good case study for character and foreshadowing. The message of this book is what drew me in. I’ve loved it since the first day I read it.
3) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson: I’ll confess. I read this because I learned that Sanderson was finishing the Wheel of Time (see below). I wanted to get to know him so I would just judge him on what he “didn’t do that I thought Jordan WOULD do.” So I read his blog when he spoke about Jordan’s passing. That alone helped me see what a good man he was. Then I read Mistborn. Game over! He’s the best in the business. He’s a brilliant writer and an amazing individual in the community of authors. On my list of “writers whom I drop what I’m reading for,” he’s number one.
2) The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: I’ve read this series no less than eight times. It’s a huge story with so many wonderful characters. I actually think readers are VERY polarized with Jordan and his work, but I love the series and can’t wait to see it in live action if it ever actually happens.
1) The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey: This has been my favorite series for decades. I fell in love with Ruth. I love the Master Harper. It’s one of a few books I freely confess to openly weeping over while reading. It’s so beautiful and touching. The drama between characters just pulls in the reader. The covers are simply amazing. Every time someone asks, “If I want good fantasy, where do I start reading?” This is my answer.
So this is short and sweet, but I thought I’d share. I’ll probably drop a few more favorite five every now and then. What are your favorite five stories of all time? Post in the comments below. I’m always looking for books to add to my TBR list.
So I read a blog from Quintessential Editor a few days ago in which we discussed character or conflict. He and I may (I’m actually not sure) disagree on what makes a book great. I’ll vote character every time, and I have my reasons, but the blog inspired me to offer my view on what turns out to be how I evaluate characters.
I love Writing Excuses. It’s a great podcast, and they did a podcast a few years ago (back when I had the luxury of listening every week) that helped me understand why I like books. I’ve said it a few times. I like sympathetic, proactive characters. The podcast to which I’m referring is the one on character sliders. In it, they discuss how to evaluate characters by Sympathy, Competency, and Proactivity.
I’ll let you listen to the podcast for the explanation because they’re awesome, hugely successful authors, and I’m an Indie guy trying to find my way in the world. I will make one argument.
Sanderson explains that Sympathy is the “how likable a character is.” He’s my Yoda in every regard, but I don’t know that’s true. I think Sympathy (at least to me) is how strongly I feel about the character. Whatever the emotion, if I feel it strongly, I’m drawn to the character. The formula works regardless, but I see sympathy as “strength of emotional reaction” and not strictly “likable.”
What I thought I could add or build from this wonderful tool was how to use it when writing a book. I don’t see this as a character development tool myself. Rather, I try to anticipate how readers will see the character. I’m editing Caught still, so I’d like to use Sal. In the previous draft, he was proactive and sympathetic.
My editor and I disagreed on his arc. What I wish I’d argued then is that he wasn’t actually very competent. He tried several times and several ways to do something before he gained more power. His argument, in the interest of being fair, was that Sal struggled and failed so many times, and never reacted to those failures.
I kept this in mind while revising. I kept in in mind while writing for the other characters as well. I want my readers to say two things when they read my books. “I (feel strongly) about his characters” and “they’re always moving.” I hope they hate the characters I want them to hate, and I hope they love the characters I mean for them to love, but as long as they feel strongly, I feel I’ve succeeded.
So how do you do this? Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of ways, but this is my own spin. At each major plot point (for me, this is when I check my outline), look at your character and see how the plot point might have effected each of these traits. Every time a character fails, he or she seems less competent. Some fans hate incompetent characters. I’m actually not one of them.
Case study: Naruto is a moron. He’s a goof, who’s just winging it. He can’t do a single normal jutsu and really only has the one major trick. But look at how hard he works! Look at how much he cares about his comrades? Look at how he struggles to maintain his bonds. In fact, each time he wins, it’s usually DESPITE his competence. Still, if he NEVER learned anything, he’d eventually get boring. So at certain points, he becomes ever so much less stupid. This is how we see his progression as a character. Don’t mistake progression as moving forward.
Case study: Rand al’Thor is one of my favorite characters ever. In fact, I’d like to compare him to Ichigo from Bleach. I feel Rand works more because there’s more progression. Ichigo gets more powerful. He’s competent, proactive and sympathetic, and he never really changes. Rand becomes all the more compelling because as he becomes more powerful (and we’ll have to discuss something soon), he becomes more isolated and less sympathetic. So you see, he devolves in sympathy as he evolves in power.
Is power a slider? For me it is. Because competence, to me, is the character’s success rate. But there are several characters who win a lot, but still don’t feel very powerful. The first that comes to mind is Ender Wiggin. He’s incredibly sympathetic, competent, and proactive. But none of that matters because he’s supposed to fight an alien race that the human race has feared for generations. Power is a factor in a lot of things, and conflict can be the gauge by which you measure it. So why do I consider it a slider? Because it can be used as a source of conflict in itself, not just a resolution to conflict.
Now that I’ve done a few case studies, let’s turn that microscope on myself. While writing Bob, I was very concerned about the first act because the conflict is subtle. Most reviews regard the first act as the best, which makes me feel good I didn’t cut it from the book. In the first act, Bob is sympathetic and proactive. His proactivity is what causes the conflict. Police notice him, and now he has to evade them. He’s not very competent. He doesn’t know anything about his job. He doesn’t know how to avoid police. He’s not even very good at covering his tracks. This leads to the climax of part one.
When I got to Part 2, I checked up on Bob’s sliders. Sympathy 100% Proactivity 100% Competence: 30% (I’m probably being nice). Power 50%. This might surprise people. While Bob talks about how “useless” his powers are, he’s still comparatively more powerful than most of the characters in Part 1. In Part 2, I introduce Grimm. Now he’s very competent, very proactive. How sympathetic is he? I HOPE readers say they hate him, but I can’t pretend to know. There’s hardly any feedback on him though, so that leads me to believe I miscalculated here. So he’s not sympathetic at all. (otherwise, readers would have said something about him by now). I can learn from this. But what he DOES do, is make Bob seem LESS powerful. That also makes him seem LESS competent. So the progress for Bob is actually devolving and not evolving.
In Part 3, I make Bob more competent. I do this by showing him learn. I had to bring in the “mentor” archetype. I had to give Bob a few wins. This made it so when he got to the final conflict, he looked like he stood a chance.
That’s how I use the sliders. If I ever felt like my sympathy or proactivity values were slipping, I adjusted for it. I encourage authors to do these checks. When you hand the book to beta readers, ask them to send a chapter by chapter evaluation using whatever sliders you use to evaluate the character, then compare those to your own assessment. If they’re the same, I’d say you’re doing it right. If they’re different, that’s when it’s time to find out what you’re missing.
I’ve never really cared much for competent characters. They bore me. Oh there are a lot of characters that I love that are ALSO competent, but for my money, if a character doesn’t make me feel and isn’t doing anything, I hate the story. That doesn’t mean EVERYONE will. Know your genre.
That leads me to my last point. The Mary Sue character. Corey would be awesome and tell you where that term came from, I just learned it an moved on. (The difference between a gardner and an architect if I’ve ever seen one). A Mary Sue is a character that is the most compelling, most powerful, most proactive, most competent character ever. Dear God, do I hate those characters. I argue that if a character is too powerful and too competent, the sympathy bar naturally slides down for me. It’s a risk writers take. But here’s my twist:
Mary Sues don’t happen when all the bars are maxed; they happen when all the bars are equal.
I get this from photography. I picked up that wonderful skill in the Navy, and I’ll love it for the rest of my life. In terms of light, if you have equal values of red, blue, and green, you get gray. You can have 20% of each, or 100% of each. (Zero..well..then you don’t have any color, so that’s black, which, according to Batman is a very, very, very, dark gray). I find characters feel like Mary Sues when all values are equal, no matter those values.
Character study: Rey. She’s not that sympathetic. Really. She’s just out there in the desert chilling. You LEARN to care for her, but that’s not the first hour of the movie I saw. She’s competent, but everyone but me remembers how she got captured (like a chump) and messed up the doors (like a fool) when they were first aboard the Falcon. If I evaluate Rey right after meeting Han, I’d say she’d measure out at: Sympathy 10% Competence 10% Power 10% and Proactivity 10%. Remember, Finn is the one who gets her to move. She wanted to go home through the first half of the movie.
Her arc SEEMS Suish (trademark M.L.S. Weech) because she processes equally across all sliders throughout the movie. She gains more power and competence. This makes her more proactive and sympathetic. I love the movie. I don’t mind Rey, but I don’t love her either, because she essentially sat around the desert until someone forced her to move, and even then she didn’t do much until she got captured. Watch the movie, let me know if you think I’m wrong.
So that’s it. Try it on your book. Toss me a few character studies. Let’s make a game of it. Until then, thanks for reading.
Under my new book review format, I talk about how much I enjoy characters. That got me thinking about character sympathy, why it’s important and how to manipulate the reader’s sympathy for a character.
One reference for how to adjust sympathy is Writing Excuses. They’re more successful than I am, and they’re also better at this than I am. The linked podcast addresses the how. They reference another podcast that explains why you don’t have to have sympathetic characters. That’s true. There are reasons to have unsympathetic characters, but I’m not a fan of them. They exist in The Journals of Bob Drifter, but that doesn’t mean I was overly happy about their existence, only aware of their necessity.
What is a sympathetic character. There are a few differing opinions, but I’m going to selfishly hover in my realm of opinions. While some feel sympathetic characters are those readers feel sad for, I don’t necessarily leave it at that. When I talk about sympathetic characters, I’m speaking specifically on characters readers have a strong emotional response to. A character my readers hate (if that’s what I wanted them to feel) is every bit as important as a character my readers love. When I get feedback from beta readers, my worst fear is I’ll ask, “what did you think about Character X?” and the readers will respond with, “Who?” That’s a much bigger problem to me.
One of my betas for Journals hates Richard. When she told me why, I smiled, and said, “Sorry, but that’s exactly what I wanted you to feel.” The degree to which readers hate Richard is one thing, but if they hate him for the same reason my beta hated him, I did my job right. Characters can’t be completely rage worthy any more than they can be completely sympathetic. The masters (who in my opinion are George R.R. Martin and Peter V. Brett) can make you hate a character and then a book later, make you at least understand them. This particular ability allows you to have an extra arch with your characters.
A great example for how to do this? Believe it or not, the WWE. I haven’t watched wrestling in years, but think about it. Shawn Michaels went from hero to villain to hero to goof to hero and all the way around again. Readers look for growth in character, and that’s another term that might be misleading. Sometimes failure tests a character’s metal, and it’s okay for that character to regress. Why?
Now we come to the main purpose of this particular blog. We’re all human. Just on the drive to my brother’s house we talked about what it is to be human. I don’t think people are good or bad. I think they’re people. Sometimes they do good things, sometimes they do horrible things. I know I have. So the most realistic characters react to their environment. I have a few characters who don’t change. I like those characters. I like those who no matter the test, they alway pass. I like the other characters too. I think House, M.D. was a great example here. What kept me watching that show was the thought that, “Maybe this episode, he’ll do the decent thing.” Nope. Never did. It’s the same trick Charlie Brown kept falling for. He’ll never kick the ball and House will never be a compassionate person. (You can argue the end of that series with me in the comments if you want.)
Those characters are unique, but they can get boring quickly. I’ve failed in my life, so I look for characters who have flaws, but are generally decent folk. One of the more common compliments I get for Journals is Bob. He’s a good, white-hat, guy. He has his slumps, but he’s consistently kind and compassionate, and that makes him sympathetic when he’s faced with tragedy. Others don’t like him because he’s too nice. I think the world is just about done with antiheroes, then again, maybe not. I think it’s an archetype like any other. Use tools for a reason.
You don’t need a raging alcoholic day-care sitter any more than you need an incredibly pious prostitute. That sort of extreme can seem forced and/or contrived. Strive instead for people who feel real. All my favorite books have at least one character I genuinely feel some connection too. It’s the part of me I see in those characters that makes me want to see what happens to them. I think this is something to strive for in writing.
That makes me want to close with a few (in no particular order) characters I found very sympathetic. They area also some of my favorite characters in fiction. They are:
Perrin Aybara from Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.
All of these characters have great emotional range. Sometimes, they do things that make me proud, other times, I’m angry with them for how they handle a situation. I could have gone on, but I just wanted to give you all a few characters I felt have the qualities I look for when I’m reading. You can feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
In summary: A sympathetic character is someone the reader feels something for. They should be realistic by sometimes failing tests of character. They can be “bad” or “good” as a whole, but no one is all of any one thing. (except for a few carefully chosen characters, which I feel need to be offset by other members in the cast.)
I hope this gives you some insight into what I shoot for when I write. If you think you’ve found something I missed, or you just have a good resource to share, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading,
I’d like to start this story out by telling you about my senior year in high school. I promise, this is relevant. I don’t know about you all, but my algebra class had a rubric which accounted for showing your math. This infuriated me. I’d get the answer correct, but lose a point because I didn’t demonstrate how I got there.
I didn’t know it then, but this was an early indication of my writing style. When you get down to it, there are generally two types. There are discovery writers like me, who think, formulas be damned, here’s the book as I made it up.
Then there are outliners. These are the people who toil and stress over each plot line and scene.
A few of those big names out there have different terms, but they all mean the same thing.
But wait! Matt, you said you outline all the time!
Yeah, yeah I did, but that’s because I, like most authors, have found a little bit of both worlds can be helpful.
The first book I ever finished writing was discovery written. I wrote a chapter a day for a few months and finished a book. I made it up as I went. I knew what my ending was, and I had a few general ideas, but I just sat down and typed. I’ve mentioned before that book never worked, but while numerous drafts are a consequence of discovery writing, the technique isn’t a bad one. I was just so inexperienced and raw, I didn’t know what to do.
The first act of The Journals of Bob Drifter was also discovery written. I had to revise that part a few times, but I was also more experienced. I’d been studying and reading. I was practicing my craft. Then I sat down with my brother (primary alpha reader and main supporter). We set out a few plot points, and I had an idea.
I decided to use my discovery writing tendencies to develop an outline. This let me keep the freedom of letting the story take me where I wanted with the ability to make continuity and development adjustments. I could switch things around without having to do a bunch of rewrites. (Don’t let me mislead you, no matter what you do, you’re going to have rewrites. I just mean I didn’t have to do dozens.)
This is what I tend to do now. I develop my characters. I plot their progress. I do this by typing a summary of their through line of the story. If I hit a scene I really like or just want to flesh some things out, I do. If my pace starts to slow down, I just summarize what’s going on and move forward. I’ve written whole chapters that way. Once all my characters are done and their through lines prepped, I tie them together in an overall outline. Again, as I copy and paste these plots together, I let the 17-year-old me come to all the conclusions he wants.
Remember that story I opened with? I did that then too. I’d write down a formula or do a step or two if I was stuck, but once I felt like I was moving, I just kept going. All I cared about then was getting to the correct answer. All I care about now is getting the outline done.
When I finish, I have my outline. BUT, the discovery writer in me isn’t done yet. After my outline is finished, I start what I call my discovery draft. The rules change a bit, but I still have some freedom. The rule change is I have to complete a manuscript. I do this the way any writer of integrity and skill does.
My fingers still fly across the keypad. I don’t stop for anything. Inevitably, I come to a new chapter, a new character, or pretty much anything that needs description. Description is the molasses in my swimming pool. I get better with every book, but inevitably, I get frustrated, or just flat out bored. So what do I do? I use parenthetical symbols.
The good guy kicked in the door, his 9mm Barretta (CHECK SPELLING) held just at eye level. The room was like a nightmare. (BORING, WHAT MADE IT LOOK LIKE A NIGHTMARE).
Inside the parenthetical symbols, I use all caps and write a little message to myself. I’ll do everything from say (DESCRIBE THE ROOM) to (FIND OUT WHAT SORT TACTIC A HACKER WOULD USE TO RESOLVE THIS SITUATION). I’m not a hacker, but I know people who know people. (NOT ACTUAL HACKERS).
So I just motor through my draft. Sometimes I go back and clean things up. But whatever I don’t fix this time around, I don’t worry about. I just get everything on paper. I use my first draft to address all those notes. I find experts who are willing to help me with stuff and get rid of those. Then the dreaded editing starts.
I’ve found that really works for me. It took just about three years to write my second book. (That first book I mentioned, I wrote it 21 times through a 15-year period). This new system allows me to write about one a year. It still takes a hot minute to edit and make them ready to publish, but not nearly as long as Journals took me.
I decided to sit down today and explain this because it helped me. But what if you’re an outliner.
That’s okay. You’ll probably hate yourself less during editing, but if you find yourself stuck, I don’t want you to be afraid to just pound something out. I have a few friends who can’t turn off their internal editors or cure themselves of world-builder’s disease. If you find that you’re stuck, do something different. I found that I hated how many rewrites I had to do, so I decided to outline in a way that still fits the way my mind works.
So what are you? Outliner or discovery writer? Do you have a process you think works for you? Please share it in the comments below so everyone can try to add a new tool to their toolbox.
Spoiler Free Summary: Doomedis a story about Madison Spencer, who is dead, but that doesn’t stop her from posting blogs about her fight with the Devil. She’s trying to prevent the end of the world, which is pretty hard because everyone seems determined to run toward just that, and they’re doing so in her name.
A note on content and content warning. Not only is this book designed for adults, I must admit that this has some aspects of tone and conduct that strike me the wrong way. While this affected MY enjoyment of the book, it does not diminish the quality of the writer or it’s narrative. This is important for me to say because I developed this new review format to be objective. The reasons I struggled with the book have more to do with my own past and my own issues than it does with why this book might be of interest to other readers. That said, readers with an aversion to certain sexual situations may want to speak to a friend who’s read this book before reading it themselves.
Character: Madison is actually a very sympathetic character. Her situation is tragic for a great many reasons, and as the plot progresses, her story only becomes that much more compelling. There are a few other cute side characters here and there, but Madison drives this story. I’m unsure of some of her motivations, and this is an issue because they shift the plot forward when I’m not sure why she’d do such a thing, but the bulk of her actions make up for one issue that may be more a result from having to step away from reading than the actual plot of the book. Even if there is an issue, it doesn’t degrade Madison’s overall sympathy. This book is in first-person narrative, and that gives us a lot of insight. It’s also written in a sort of “blog” style, which is cool to see, and if the reader pays attention, there are some small easter eggs here and there.
Exposition: This backfired in my opinion. There are breaks in this narrative from an alternative perspective. Those breaks didn’t do much for me in any way, and really only confused me. It’s not to say that breaks in narrative NEVER work, but to date, I’ve only seen this done well a few times. I mention it here because those breaks are for exposition. I comprehend what it’s doing, but all of that information comes back to light in Madison’s narrative. There isn’t a lot of it, but I don’t know that there needed to be any.
Worldbuilding: This is a pretty deep world when I consider all the forces working together. The wolrdbuilding is a strength in this book because everything builds on everything else. It’s set in modern-day earth, but I’m not talking about the “physical” world. I’m talking about Madison’s world and how it works. Each time we gain more understanding in how she exists, we learn more about how the forces against her have been moving.
Dialogue: The dialogue in this book is crisp and witty. Madison’s tone is darkly optimistic, and that’s something I enjoyed a lot. Not all of the dialogue is that good. Madison’s parents were a lull for me in pretty much any scene they were in, but the dialogue between Madison and her grandmother was amazing. Each character had a unique voice, and Palahniuk did a great job shifting those tones not from his perspective, but from Madison’s.
Description: A friend (Hi Woody!) gave me this book because I continue to assert description as a weakness of mine. In terms of using this book to analyze and practice the art of description in narrative, this book was a great choice. Palahniuk’s style and description adds a texture to the story that goes beyond just “knowing what was in the scene.” Where some authors use scene out of obligation, Palahniuk uses it as a tool and even a plot device. I’m grateful my friend gave me something like this to study.
Overall: Fans of dark comedy will enjoy this book, though I didn’t find a lot of it funny. It’s not graphic or controversial (I think) for the sake of shock value, at least not in my opinion. The cliffhanger ending didn’t endear itself to me either. This book covers a few very important concepts. The blending of setting, circumstance, and character makes for some very powerful drama. It’s satirically funny at times and poignantly tragic in others. Some of the characters frustrated me because I simply don’t find them believable, but Palahniuk works with characters like that.
I saw this 5-Star review for The Journals of Bob Drifteron Amazon, and I wanted to share it. I’m always humbled and happy to see any review. The feeling is that much greater when the rating is high and the words are kind. I’m grateful to the reviewer.
The reviewer mentioned seeing more from the universe. As it stands, there are no direct sequels planned for the book, but if you keep your eyes open for my third book, you may recognize a few people.
As I type this, I have 101 followers. This is just amazing to me. As an MC in the Navy, I constantly teach my students, “producing content is worthless if it’s not reaching anyone.” That’s true, but if you reach someone, that matters. I get a huge sense of satisfaction thinking that 1 person cares.
For the longest time, I kept writing because Ben (my brother) was reading my work. I gained friends, joined a writers’ group, and found myself on the HMS Slush Brain. I have support, and this milestone matters. EVERY milestone matters.
So to celebrate, I’d like to thank a few people.
Quintessential Editor: Corey helped me make this page. He noticed my last blog wasn’t getting any traffic, so he pretty much clapped his hands and wiggled his nose, and I had a website before I knew it. He’s a great man, a brilliant writer and one of the most dedicated friends you can ask for. He helped me get set up on WordPress, and was my first follower.
Rough & Ready Fiction: Jenn is one of my top interactions on the blog. She’s always offering comments, and I truly appreciate it. Also, she likes Supernatural, so she’s got to be cool.
J.R. Handley Blog: He’s another person who’s always offering comments and helpful links. He’s a top contributor and always has some great insight.
Sinister Dark Soul: I love reading the prose on this site. Sometimes I just skim along the
posts and look at the lines that jump out at me. If you have 20 seconds, you’ll read some fascinating musings.
Finally, there’s The Excited Writer. Nichole was my 100th follower if my computer is telling me true. Thank you Nichole! I hope that you keep stopping by and I keep providing you with content that interests you!