Author: DeAnna Knippling (Page 2 of 28)

Journal: The broken routine

If all goes well, this morning will see the end of a novel.  If not, well, it’s probably because I’ve sabotaged myself again.  I got up this morning and went, “I can’t do this.  I can’t write, I can’t take out the trash, I can’t journal, I can’t put a bra on, I can’t do laundry, I can’t check social media, I can’t do any kind of maintenance tasks, I can’t do freelance work, I can’t do…”  You get the picture.  I was trying to swerve away from all the hard things.  Yesterday I pushed pretty hard, and I’m scared that I’m going to remain uncomfortable and drained all day today, too.  Fair concern.

How does one keep up a broken routine?  Easy answer:  start with good intentions every morning, then dismiss them when things go to hell. What if losing that routine isn’t [due to everything] “going to hell,” though?  What if it’s an opportunity?  Like I was jotting down the other morning:  when you have an opportunity that’s better than the routine, there is no shame in breaking the routine.  But when you don’t, or when you need your routine in order to make use of that opportunity–back to the routine.

If you liked this morning’s entry, take a look at what makes you break your routine (whatever that routine may be).  Is it “writer’s block”?  Is it the chance to jump onto something really cool?  Is it a series of small tasks that you really should get to, but honestly could do later?  In short:  what disrupts you?  Fear, or opportunity?

Also, wish me luck 🙂

Journal: How to tell if it’s criticism or opinion

Yesterday’s journal was all about a new project that I’m working on.  It was cool; a bunch of stuff just gushed out.  Today’s was back to normal, more or less.

Something that’s been getting on my nerves is when someone “criticizes” a piece of entertainment that features women or has female creators by pooh-pooh-ing it.  Watch for things like, “I didn’t think the actresses were attractive enough.”  “It’s just not funny/scary/whatever.”  “I thought it was an X, but really it wasn’t.”  (Prejudging the work.)  “I just didn’t get around to it.” (Swerve.)

[Rant on people who “criticize” the Ghostbusters remake, some notes on the hypocrisy of people who love the Scooby Doo movies and Hudson Hawk turning their noses up at it.  I liked all three; Ghostbusters wasn’t one of the greats but it was a lot of fun.]

The good criticism is when you know the form well, and you can make insightful, specific criticism about the piece based on the form.  “They shouldn’t have done it” or “the story was bad” — those things mean you are not providing insightful, specific criticism.  You’re dressing up your bias in fancy words to excuse your shitty behavior.  People with vague, superficial criticism don’t have criticism:  they have opinions.  If you’re not doing some kind of analysis, then [pretending you have some kind of valid criticism] just a bullshit, handwaved, “I didn’t liiiike it.”

If you liked today’s blog, check out N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season.  It is an incredible book.  If you’re one of those people who “reads for story” and yet somehow doesn’t end up with a lot of women writers on your list…you’re missing out on this one.  It should go down as containing one of the best plot twists of all time, in my opinion.

Journal: More on swerve.

This was a pretty productive morning, where I wrote a lot of concrete thoughts (if there can be such a thing) on a couple of short stories I have to turn in ASAP.  Apparently I’m terrified that one of the stories just flat-out doesn’t work, but I decided to let the editor make the call on that one.  I did manage to pull out more on the idea of swerving away from the things you’re scared of, though.  I interrupted myself a lot this morning.

A note on something–I have a number of reading lists that I try to work through, to reflect the reading habits I want to have, and the territory I want to cover.  For some reason it occurred to me that I wasn’t reading an entire category of books that I’d resolved to read:  the works of long-term professional writers.  I started to explore that and…

I have a hard time reading long-term pro-writers’ work [on a regular basis].  Like not that it’s terrible or anything.  Just–I don’t have the discipline for it.  Why is that?  Well, a) where’s the list [of long-term professional writers that I can dip into], and b) you’ve read some books that are totally not for you.  Just not.  So you swerve.

There, too?  Shit, that’s annoying.  Like, new resolution:  don’t swerve.  But it’s hard to prejudge the state of not swerving, because the whole point is to not have to encounter something.  A good goal, but perhaps one that–

[Subconscious refuses to let me finish the sentence.]

Don’t swerve from success.

[…]

Just stop fucking yourself over.  Force the universe to cough up an enemy [that isn’t you].

If you enjoyed this morning’s journal, check out my novella, All the Retros at the New Cotton Club.  It’s all about a character who swerves from the truth.

Journal: Swerving past success

The journal this morning was really brief and wandery; it was hard to stay on any one thought for any length of time (which is a relatively clear indication that I’m trying to avoid some topic).  One of the things I’ve been trying to do is sort out what’s holding me back from being more successful as a writer; I kind of just assume that anything that’s holding me back has roots in my own behavior.  In some cases it doesn’t, but since I can’t help that–those things I just blow off.

So this morning:  one of the pieces that bubbled up out of nowhere was thinking that I “couldn’t” write novels.  (I counted them up this morning; at least 25 completed novels, mostly ghostwritten, mostly since 2012.)  I’ll probably have to cycle back around to this; I feel like I haven’t truly dug all the way down on it.

The other piece that I found interesting was that I noticed that I sometimes derail good habits on other levels, too, using the excuse that “the new thing will be better than sticking with the habits of the old thing.”  Despite the fact that the things I want to blow off are habits that improve every aspect of my life.  Could it be that I’m approaching some kind of success and am afraid of it?  What it feels like, looking back through my journal this morning…

I feel like other writers will look down on me if I do anything but short stories and longer works that nobody else is crazy enough to do–[for example] the Alice obsession.  Kind of that’s on crack, though.  You get to write series.  [Just because my writing series] hasn’t worked before–that’s kind of a vicious circle, forcing yourself to fail and then going, “Well, you failed in the past so why try now?”

[Also a note that I do have a series, for middle-graders, that I have all five books written, but had a meltdown releasing them after book 3.  It was getting too close to successfully closing a series, and I made it “fail.”  I also have the second book in the Alice/Zombies thing done–also forced myself to “fail” there.  I keep trying to slate book 4 of the kids’ series into the work schedule, and it keeps sliding out.  Because of this one stupid fear.  I have successfully written and completed an entire series for a client.  It’s not like I can’t do it.]

[…]

What I really want is to not have to have conscious discipline.  I want to be able to go, “Look at the new shiny” and have all the time in the world to pursue that.  Is that what you were gonna do today, though? […] WHEN you are inspired by the new thing THEN you can strip your life down to pursue it.  And even so, doing journaling, meditating, and working out is only going to make you more effective.  So don’t blow this off.  You know you sort out a lot of shit this way. Your brain works better.

Marketing brainstorm: Marketing by scale? or, I Came Up With Something Cool and Have No Idea What to Call It.

Full nerd warning:  I’m going full nerd here.  It’s still not going to be enough nerd for some people, though.

I’m trying to brainstorm how to market; the context is that a group of writers is trying to get together to teach themselves how to market, and I have to organize the meeting where we do so (it’s my idea), and therefore I have to actually find a way to help me conceive of what’s going on with marketing, so that I have a framework for, “This is a good book marketing idea” or “This is a bad marketing idea” or “Oh man that is so far above my scope right now that I can’t even marketing idea.”

Indie authors are getting a firehose of marketing suggestions, and very few of us have any kind of background or instinct for this kind of thing.  So we’re lost.  “Should I buy reviews?  If I don’t buy reviews, how do I get reviews?  Because I pass out all these free review copies and nobody reviews the book.  But buying reviews isn’t ethical, is it?  Because I’ll get busted and then what?”  “How am I supposed to know if my advertising is working?”  “At what price point is it a good idea to buy a BookBub ad?” “What the hell is BookBub?” “You can’t talk politics if you want to sell books.”  “That’s horseshit…”

And so on.

Additionally, the things that I hear authors bitch about are not the things that editors and publishers are bitching about.  Apparently authors are letting a lot of opportunities slip past: that’s marketing, too, and we can’t even grasp that those possibilities are out there, a lot of the time.

I’ve been pondering this for a while, but only recently came up with a conceptual tool to organize what’s going on in the book marketing world.  (In the hopes of reducing the “I can’t even” items.)  I tested it out on a bunch of writers over food, and they didn’t throw any at me, so I’m gonna release this into the wider world to see what comes of it…

[Warning:  Idea in testing.]

How you’re going to market your book depends on how many people you’re going to reach at a time.

Let’s start with one book at a time.

1.  One Book

  • You are selling one book at a time to one person.
  • In the end, all marketing techniques come back to this.
  • You have to have a good book.
  • And a good cover.
  • And a good back cover description.
  • And the first thing to do if your sales aren’t what you want is to go, “How can I put out a better book?”
  • So you have to keep studying how to write, what good covers are like, what good book descriptions are like.  Learning how to write better with every story you create is good marketing.  If you’ve stopped getting better as a writer, if you’ve stopped learning and growing as a writer, you’ve stopped marketing, and your career will die.  (I added this last sentence because I hear it all the time from long-term pros, not because I know it personally.)
  • The first finger to point in blame is at your book and your writing.  I know this personally; I can’t stress it enough.  You might think you write well, but it’s really that you write better than people who can’t write books.  There is no point at which you cannot learn how to write better.
  • Marketing technique:  hand the book to someone and go, “Hey would you read this?” Or email them the ebook.
  • What does success look like:  “I stayed up all night to finish this.”  “I stayed up too late.”  Some sort of proof that they were so lost in the book that they forgot about the real world.
  • What does failure look like:  “I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”  “It’s not my kind of thing.”  “I thought it was okay.”  Granted that people have lives and often have better things to do than slave over your book–but it does mean that your book isn’t compelling enough to make them break their routines in order to read it.  You probably have authors whose books you buy on release day and read ASAP.  Aspire to be that.  These kinds of responses are also failures because they mean you’re putting your book into the hands of people who may not be your best potential fans.

2.  10 Books

  • You are not selling one book at a time to one person so much as influencing one person to recommend your book ten times to other people, or to put you in a position where people are ten times more likely to read your work.  Ish.
  • I think of this as personal connection and influence.
  • As with all levels of marketing, this can eventually take on a wider reach (say if you got on Oprah, that would reach more than ten people), but when you start out, this is where you are.
  • Book clubs.
  • People who ask you, “Can I forward this ebook to a couple of friends who really love this type of book?”
  • Critique groups where you have to read each others’ books and end up going, “Oh, mom, you know whose book you should read?  My friend who writes the stuff you like…”
  • Writer groups.  (Like mine, Tesla, which has more members now, but generally comes down to a table full of food and writers blathering on at each other.)
  • Friends of friends who are editors, agents, work at bookstores.
  • Community relations managers at bookstores.
  • Pretty much any networking opportunity.
  • Going to conferences and talking to people you meet on a one-on-one basis.
  • Going to classes and talking to people on a one-on-one basis.
  • Working on a project with another writer
  • You still have to have a good book with a good cover and a good description.
  • But now you also have to have people skills, where you build up favors owed and given with other people.  “It’s who you know” as a marketing tactic.
  • Marketing technique:  put yourself near other writers.  Help other writers.  Get to know interesting people.  Do small favors with large positive outcomes.
  • (Do not throw yourself on the altar of self-sacrifice, though, because it costs you the time you need to write the next, better book, and can make you feel like all you’re good for is volunteering to help the “real” writers.  If you’re doing this more than, say, five hours a week of unpaid labor for someone with very little or nothing in return, tell them to go to hell.  Especially if they don’t say “thank you” on a regular basis.)
  • What does success look like:  Random opportunities drop into your lap.
  • What does failure look like:  You feel isolated and discouraged about writing.  You don’t know who to ask about a given area of writing or marketing.  You never have to turn anyone down for a favor; either nobody asks you or you always say yes.  You feel drained and used by someone in the industry.   You feel like your opinion isn’t respected.  You try really hard to handsell books but it never goes anywhere–people just walk away–but if they pick up the books randomly, without you being around to encourage them, they like the book.
  • Why does success/failure happen?  If people like working with you, or think that you’ll be able to handle challenges in a competent manner, they’ll recommend you.  Then again, if people think that you’ll work for them for less than they invest in you, they’ll use you.  They might be awesome toward people they think of as real connections–but they don’t actually treat you as if you were, in yourself, a valuable connection.  If you treat people like book-buying machines, they won’t connect back with you.
  • However, people being who they are, if you put yourself in a position where you are likely to be able to do someone else favors, then “unpleasant” behavior suddenly becomes bearable.  [Cough] Sexual harassment cases in professional editors. [Cough.] Recommend not doing that.  Treat people as equals; it’s a better long-term strategy (i.e., ethics).
  • Again, once you’ve influenced someone who influences others–you still have to have a great book.
  • UPDATE:   Via author MJ Bell:  You need to be able to talk about your book, to be able to describe it better than it’s just about “good versus evil,” but talk about what makes the book different.

3.  100 Books.

  • You are being present to groups of 100 people at a time.  You are not handselling them books.  You are not influencing them to sell books for you.  You are present and accessible.
  • At this point, you’ve handed over control over whether or not anyone buys your book truly into the hands of the consumer.  When you interact with people on this level, they have to seek out your work on some level.  Often, they will first read your work and then connect with you on this level.
  • The easiest example here is social media.  Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • You might have larger friends list, but Facebook tweaks things so you’re not seeing all their posts on every day, for example.  Everyone has filters.  So don’t be too dramatic if not everyone sees you, all the time.
  • The principle here seems to be a “net of connections.”  It’s not the stronger but less formal “who you know” network, so you have to be extremely fastidious about making sure that every possible way that people can find out more about you or interact with you is connected to every other possible way.  People must be able to contact you, and it must be obvious how they can do so.
  • Now, eventually, when you’re at “world-famous” level of authorship, the method of contacting you needs to be more stringent to weed out people who are wasting your time.  For example you have an email address that’s openly published, and an assistant who takes care of monitoring it.  But the connections that truly belong in the 10-book category (networking opportunities) or the 1-book category (fans) should still have some kind of personal touch.  It all comes back to selling one book at a time to one person.
  • Also:  figure out how to cross that bridge when you get to it.  Don’t put “but I need to guard my privacy like I’m a vestal virgin” policies in place when you don’t need them.  Take reasonable precautions not to get hacked and spammed, though.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, oh god, all the social media things.  Goodreads.  LibraryThing.
  • Website.  Website.  Website.
  • Mailing list.  (This can grow larger, but this is probably the place you’ll be starting from.  That means you can add 1000-Book techniques, not that you can stop doing 100-Book techniques.)
  • A list of basics to check on every social media/Internet thing you’re involved in:  how can people contact you; what do you write (both a general genre description and what books specifically); where can people buy your stuff; what do you promise when you sell a book (the beginning of branding–everything you read of mine is going to be creative, for example); is it worth contacting you about additional opportunities, questions, feedback (the answer should be yes); where else can people find out more?
  • How can people contact you:  set up an email that’s not your personal email.  You’ll probably get spam on it.
  • Make a policy of connecting everything back to your website.  A) It’s yours and not Facebook’s, so there’s less of a chance of an “oops, all your info is deleted” being out of your locus of control.  B) If you connect everything back to your website, then you don’t have to directly connect Facebook to Twitter and Twitter to Snapchat and Facebook to Snapchat and all three of them to Pinterest…
  • “I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, crime, and suspense.”  This will do you a world of good as your 10-Book network tries to rack their brain for who to invite to an anthology.
  • A good bio and list of works is your friend.
  • I need to do a separate ghostwriting page, I think.  I took it down because it seemed overly complex to me, but I’ve gotten fewer random ghosting invites lately.
  • What success looks like:  people tell you that they like what you say, even when you don’t remember talking to them (lurkers).  Random opportunities that come your way via the Internet rather than someone you know personally or as a friend of a friend.  Some random sales happen on your books that you have no idea where they came from (you haven’t done any actual promotion of a specific book lately).
  • What failure looks like:  Crickets–nobody responds to you, ever.  Or they respond to your “funny” posts but never to your promo posts.  Or you’re completely overwhelmed by social media and are wasting time online instead of writing or doing networking activities.
  • Why does success/failure happen?  Failure first…on the one hand, you might not be building a network of connections between your social media outlets.  I see a lot of writers passing these opportunities by:  they have blogs and are on Goodreads, but their blogs don’t feed to Goodreads.  Or they’re not on any social media on the Internet, or when they are on social media, it’s so locked down that no random passersby can enter:  posts are purely “friends only.”  On the other hand, you might be overinvesting in social media (I personally have issues with this) and doing too many favors for people as if they were 10-Books people (a true network, where people do favors back) instead of people who just want to use your platform to be heard or to use you without giving anything back.  This includes trolls:  I highly recommend finding a way to handle trolls that reflects positively on you without letting them take up any additional brain space, either in your or in the people following you.  This does not mean you need to be nice.
  • Success happens when you have a net in place that “catches” anyone who’s interested in you.  Not everyone who comes across your blog or your Facebook or whatever.  Just the people who are likely to enjoy your books.  You make it easy and interesting to interact with you.  You are present.

4.  1000 Books.

  • The 1000-Book level appears to be all about the power of suggestion.  “I suggest that you would enjoy reading my book.”
  • I’m just starting to touch on this area, in two ways:  one, I’ve started advertising, and two, some of my 100-Book techniques have crossed into 1000-Book techniques.
  • The crossing over part comes from aggressively adding more people (who might be interested) to my 100-Book social media connections.  For example, if I read someone’s comment on a friend’s post and I think it’s witty/insightful, I’ll try to friend that person, or at least follow them.  If someone shows any interest in any book of mine on Goodreads, I’ll try to friend/follow them.  That kind of thing.  If there’s a low-effort way to connect to more people on social media without completely filling my world with spam, I do that.  Consistently.
  • But only on the social media sites that I actually like.  Because if a social media site makes you uncomfortable/miserable to use, or even if it’s just “meh,” then it’s probably going to be more effort than it’s worth, once things really start to scale up.
  • Advertising is much, much easier when supported by good 1-Book, 10-Book, and 100-Book marketing techniques.  For example, if you have a solid Facebook author page, you can advertise first to the people who have liked your page (and yet who may have turned off their “follow” posts), and their friends.  Which gives you far better results than advertising to random bobos, no matter how well you select them to weed out people who won’t buy your books.
  • And advertising to thousands of people to sign up for your mailing list is bosh if your newsletter sucks.
  • Or if you advertise to thousands to get ten people to buy your book (yes, this is a reasonable number), and then don’t have a way for people who liked that book to find more of your stuff.
  • Once you’re into the thousand-book marketing techniques, you’re into crowd behavior.  I personally find this level of marketing both fascinating and slightly creepy.  Also strangely useful for writing books:  you’re starting to see, on average, what makes people tick.  A lot of it isn’t “I make rational choices on a regular basis.”  A lot of it is, “I made this choice because someone I know made this choice, too,” or “Buying this thing will make me feel special and individual, but not, you know, too special and individual,” or “I like sex and this gives me the feeling that I’m having more of it,” or “I like feeling like X, and this provides that feeling,” where X is power, control, intelligence, sophistication, strength…  All kinds of maybe not so noble motivations come bubbling to the top at this level.
  • I’m being really vague here because I understand so little of this.
  • Branding really seems to come into play:  What you sell is what you are.  It’s like people can take on part of your essence by buying your books, which means you intentionally or unintentionally acquire some kind of essence which they can take.  For example, Neil Gaiman isn’t just selling books; he’s selling the Neil Gaiman Experience.  Otherwise, nobody would want their books signed, and first editions wouldn’t be special.
  • Test one thing at a time.  Something I’ve been doing is putting up ads to places where I don’t sell books often.  Like New Zealand.  If I get better and better clickthroughs for a New Zealand ad, and eventually sales, then I know I’m getting better at ads.
  • However, different groups of people respond differently to ads.  I tested the exact same ad in Canada, US, and the UK.  It got far fewer results in the UK.
  • Responses to your ad might have nothing to do with interest in your book; I was posting ads mainly to women, then posted one to men and women–a large number of men clicked through.  They were in the 25-35 range.  But I saw no increase in sales.  I puzzled over that for a bit, then realized it was probably because the image I used for the ad focused on a sexy pair of eyes.  It was probably sex appeal:  made the guys click on the ad–but not necessarily show any interest in the book.  I still had to pay for those clicks, though.
  • When in doubt, go for the option that gives you more data and more control over the options.
  • Personally, I won’t sign up for a 1000-Book level of marketing if that kind of thing doesn’t make me, personally, buy books.  If I can’t get the appeal, then I probably will be a bad judge of whether the marketing technique is done well or not.
  • It seems like the general idea at this level is to advertise widely, catch people in your “nets,” and then convert them to loyal followers (the “True Fans”).  I can’t say definitely whether this is what success looks like or not, but I suspect this is the case.  When you acquire people who are “True Fans” who later followed you on social media, then your 1000-Book stuff has really started to take off.
  • What does failure look like here?  I have more evidence on this 🙂  People say they have no idea whether a piece of given advertising works (it’s hard to know this, of course, but these people say this over and over, like a mantra).  They scramble for one more advertising technique.  They try to “cheat” their way to the top, looking for an easy solution that will catapult them to success.  They don’t value the 100-Book, 10-Book, or even sometimes the 1-Book techniques; they spend a lot of money on people who don’t become repeat customers.  Or they do nothing at all and get angry that nobody’s loving on their books.  What successes they find drop quickly back to a consistent baseline rather than rising between major advertising pushes.  I am definitely a fail here, in multiple ways.  But I’m working on it.
  • What makes the effort a success or a failure?  First, the technique itself is lame.  “Hey, let me spend advertising on stuff that was never going to work in the first place.”  Refining your efforts through testing will probably fix that.  Second, the technique is good but it doesn’t lead anywhere, because the lower-level networks are shot full of holes.  A potential “True Fan” finds, reads, and possibly loves your book–but never reads another one.  AUGH.

5.  Even further in scope?

  • I can only catch glimpses here.
  • Winning major awards.
  • Third-party bestseller lists.
  • Movie deals.
  • Probably a lot more that I’m either not noticing or not identifying as being so much larger in scope than a Facebook ad 🙂

There are LOTS of things (both in the sense of minutiae on Facebook and whole categories of things, like contests) that I’m not discussing here.  This is a list to argue principles, not specifics, even though some specifics are mentioned.  Like I said, I’m testing the idea, not perfecting it.

Ask yourself (please?) where you think any missing techniques that come to mind should go.  What type of benefit do you think you can get out of it, and who will doing this impress or give you access to?  Should you take out an ad for 1000 librarians first, or should you talk to one librarian and see what they’re looking for?  Probably you should treat a librarian as a 10-Book opportunity:  build a relationship with one librarian and take their feedback.  Later worry about getting into Library Journal, at which point you will be carried on the laudatory words of all your librarian friends.  That kind of thing.

There are also things that we do because that’s just what we’re called to do, regardless of whether it’s a good idea or not.  Those things, I think, are actually, secretly part of your brand (at the 100-Book and 1000-Book levels), and you should respect that and find ways to include that in what you do on purpose, to market your writing.  (For example, I love reviewing the books I finish on Goodreads, which is technically a waste of time as an author; however, I’ve found ways to make my obsession with tracking my own books work for me as a writer, and spend more of my time there on author marketing stuff.)

Just don’t throw yourself into things to the point where you stop writing.  That’s usually very bad.

I would say, in general:

  • Start with one-book techniques.  Write the better book.  Learn more.  If you’re indie, build better covers.  If you don’t have control over your covers, advocate for the best of all possible covers.  Write your own back cover description and submit that to your publisher.
  • Work your way up the scale.
  • If things are working, check lower levels first.  It may be that the cover that worked just fine on a 10-Book scale now no longer is the big fish in the small pond and needs an upgrade.
  • First blame yourself.  Take responsibility for your marketing.  There are gonna be obstacles; don’t foist your lack of success off on the latest Hollywood star to use their fanbase to sell a ghostwritten book, for example.  They hustled for that fanbase.  You didn’t.  Why should you expect the same results?
  • This is a bootstrap, not a linear process.
  • It all gets easier when you have more good books to sell.  Keep going back to making good books.
  • Good books don’t count if they’re not published.
  • “No” is a good word and will not lose you sales as long as the major categories are covered well.  If your social media marketing efforts are good, then signing up for the latest and greatest thing is probably a waste of time.
  • I don’t know.  Probably more stuff that I’ll laugh and think was obvious later.
  • My brain is fried.  I’ve typed up everything I can think of.  More later.

If you enjoyed this post, consider following me on Facebook if you’re not already.  Here’s my personal page.  It’s not full up yet.

 

 

 

Journal: The guitar that weeps only of regret; what we wish all gods would do.

It’s the first weekday after the Daylight Saving shift.  I may be a little less awake than usual.

[I would search for] smaller and smaller guitars, until they were too small to play with human hands, and must be played by robots, spirits, traveling pixies, nanobots, and/or the wind.  These guitars will be know as guiltilettes.  And they will only play subliminally in minor keys, inspiring regret, especially regret for kind or loving words left unsaid.  Dogs can hear the playing, but because they have no regrets of that manner, they do not howl:  when a dog howls at a dog whistle, it is because they seem to hear prey.  “Are you getting that or am I?” they ask, as if a phone were ringing.  “Somebody get that.”  Dogs are domesticated gods.  When we are good to them, they fawn on us.  This is secretly what we wish all gods would do.

If you liked this morning’s blog, check out The Clockwork Alice.  It’s a) my newest release, and b) pleasantly weird.

Journal: The wax on, wax off of writing

From the journaling this morning:

How to level up as a writer:  don’t just follow “good” advice but do the work of testing it in your own writing, and by finding out how long-term successful writing pros do it.  If I were going to train up a writer like Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, I would have them spent six months outlining books, and typing them in. If you can’t outline it (it’s harder than it looks), then you have to type it in.  Spent eight hours a day doing that for even six weeks and suddenly you’re a master.

Personally, I set my bare minimum for a long-term successful pro as publishing a book a year for at least fifteen years, and currently a bestseller in their genre.  If you liked this blog and haven’t signed up for my mailing list already, please consider doing so.  Free book involved.

Journal: The psychopath writer is you, is all of us

This started out with a perfectly obvious statement and went weird fast.  Just so you know, when I get feedback, yes, there’s this flash of complete disconnect with reality:  it’s not my fault you didn’t think it was perfect…but I sit on it.  If I trust you, I might vent a little first…but you can’t ghostwrite if you can’t swallow your own feelings on a project.

My confidence goes up and down based on results.  The thing about getting a rejection is that your confidence goes down.  Getting criticism on a story, your confidence goes down.  One of the better things that I’ve done for myself is learning the difference between a drop in confidence and a personal attack.  If you lash out every time your ego takes a hit – if you lash out every time someone makes you question yourself…

I get this all the time.  People lash out at me on Facebook all the time.  They see something I post and they don’t like it – they hop onto my post and attack me as thought I’d started something.  Because they don’t know how to question themselves.  Sometimes it’s hard as a writer – editors are getting backlash from writers who can’t question themselves all the time.  Agent, too – anyone who has to tell a writer “no.”  Women are all the time getting bullshit from men who can’t question themselves.

When you’re on the receiving end, it’s fucking insanity.  But when it’s you questioning yourself, it seems perfectly natural to shift the blame onto someone else; half the time you don’t even know you’re doing it.  But it’s serious:  how many people get killed every year because they cheated on their spouse – and made the spouse question whether they were worthy of love?  The same forces come to bear when you’re getting edits.  [Or rejections.]  You’re stirring up the inner psychopath.

So if you’re going to write, learn how to question yourself, or nobody’s going to work with you.  […] Humility is the ability not to go insane in the face of accurate feedback. […]  I have the greatest respect for [editing clients] who can work through the period of psychosis or whatever it is when they get their feedback, and honestly improve how they write.

If you like this post, check out my horror novelette, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.  

Journal: The nightmare that turned out to really have been about success

From this morning’s journal.  I was trying to figure out why I had a terrible nightmare involving sex, then woke up angry and resentful.  Possible answer below.

I know all about fear.  [Huge break while I stare off into space.] You’re thinking in your head again, instead of on the page.  One more promo task.  One more after that.  After that.  Day by day:  promo.  When do the writing days happen?  […]

But I am also bitterly angry this AM.  [Description of stuff I’m angry about that is too personal to talk about and really wasn’t what I was angry about anyway.]  And the nightmare of sex being a train wreck, of getting tricked into doing things I didn’t want to do.  It started out as trying to help [person I think of as “good” but also very judgey] out.  But why?  To prove I’m a decent person?  Who knows, maybe everyone’s horrified at me.  […] I’m angry and unpleasant.

It seems like I should be having different nightmares, if at all–ones about…what? [I realized I’d been staring at my fingernails for like an entire minute.]  My fingernails?  You’re nowhere near halfway through today’s journal, honey.

Nightmares about failure.  Over and over.  Instead I’m having “I’m the bad person here” nightmares.

[Tangent as I try to swerve away from the subject.]

But [The Clockwork Alice] went over well.  So maybe that’s okay.  Maybe you just get to tap into yourself and have fun writing, and that is how you make your money.  With the nutso project that’s never going to work. [Side notes about a nutso project that I’ve convinced myself is never going to work.]

I ask for help–it’s not like I don’t<–that statement looks like a red flag for bullshit.

[The process of marketing as] asking over and over:  Is this me?  Is this me?  Does this fit? Does this still fit?  What do I sell.  Second sight.  How can I sell anger as second sight?  Stop being so mercenary!  Okay, but that’s really just a matter of phrasing, not mental purity.  I get to sell my thoughts, some of which are angry, and they deserve to be sold.  [If I just] narrow down my focus on delight, well, there are dark and angry magics.  What about mystery?

[Maybe I’m angry that my true feelings are,] “Yay.  Failure!  I can afford to write again.”  [And stop doing promotions.]  Every day, get some shit done to get your thoughts to your fans.  Customers.  Readdress the thoughts in your head to be survival–thrive–profit.  [Note:  I was sneering at myself for using money-words around creativity.]

It’s hard for me to market, because of words being triggered as bad.  Maybe that’s it–I’m trying to sell stuff; therefore, I am doing something filthy and corrupt.  That nightmare.  Probably not a coincidence that I’m trying to convince someone that I’m a good person in the dream before that, which means that the first dream was part of the nightmare, too.  That’s some hard shit to deal with first thing in the morning.

[Complete tangent about not knowing what to write next.]

How do I drag myself out of this ugly feeling so I can be productive today?  […] I don’t know what I should have done or what I should do or how artistic I should be or how to turn this rant into anything but fire and uselessness.  I hate it when my emotions take over.

[Tangent as I try to swerve away from answering the question yet again.]

So–what?  What do you plan to do with your day?  Throw a fit?  Collapse?  Weep?  I need a day off.  Do you?  Will that solve anything?  Or will you just want more and more for yourself, when really you’re afraid of selling books?  Because you’re still gonna be afraid tomorrow.  But I tried and now things aren’t magically all better.  And I’m angry about that.

[Another attempt to swerve away from the subject.]

Don’t swerve.  But this fear of success is a raging beast.  I’m terrified that people will think I’m dirty.  For selling books.

[Note:  At that point I hit my three pages and was done.]

Journal: The podcast I decided not to listen to

So once upon a time there was a podcast.  (Not naming names.)  It was just getting started up; only the first episode was live.  It was on a subject that I’m a fan of.  However, after listening to the first five minutes of the first episode of the podcast, I stopped and haven’t gone back.

What popped out in my journal this morning, the last thing before I wrapped up:

The sign that the [name] podcast  was going nowhere was that they didn’t get down to the meat of the matter.  They talked about themselves — they talked about how and why they were doing this — they avoided the ballsy move, which was to talk about the topic itself — which is contentious — right off the bat.  They did their Academy Awards speech before they made the movie — not because they were arrogant, I think, but because they were afraid.

If you liked this entry, please check out Angela Carter’s Wise Children on audio.  It sounds like Helen Mirren with a cockney accent reading a bawdy, rambling story about families, twins, theater, and Shakespeare.

 

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