Tiny Tales: Why Small Projects Are So Important

Writing a book is BIG.

It’s a big investment of time, energy, money, and caffeine, but don’t let that put you off trying. We have a tendency to think that the bigger the book the better, but if you’re just starting out or if you’d like to engage with a creative project minus the pressure, then starting small may be the better option for you.

Instead of sitting down to write a multi-generational family saga, try writing a tiny story about a child and their toy, an unexpected encounter, an uninvited guest or a mysterious package in the mail. 

Set a tiny word count between 10-500 words. 

You can be as precious or as un-precious as you like; you can scribble something out in five minutes, or you can spend an afternoon perfecting a single paragraph stuffed with ornate description.

Then, and here’s the kicker, publish it.

Post it on one or all of your social media pages. Stick it on your blog. Submit it to a short story or flash fiction competition.

If you really can’t stomach the idea of publishing it online, then read it to your partner, your parents, or best friend. Hell, read it to your dog! 

Learn how to engage intensely with your writing and then learn how to release it. The exercise will show you a number of things:

1) Your writing didn’t change the world, but it made some people happy
2) Your writing didn’t change the world, but it made some people unhappy
3) These people were mostly unhappy because your post had a typo

3) The world didn’t stop because you published something with a typo.

It takes a long time to write a novel. It’s an exercise in discipline and delayed gratification. These are good skills for a writer to have, but sometimes you want your cookie now, not after lunch.

Instead of writing an epic fantasy consider writing a tiny book.

This tiny book could be a collection of tiny stories, or it could be one beautiful tiny story. 

Your tiny book can be 30 pages long or 120 pages long. Don’t stress over the page count, the story will tell you what it needs. 

You could write a tiny story from the perspective of your cat. You could write a tiny story about a boy wandering lots in the city, then flip it and write it from the parents’ point of view! You could write about a segment of the population relocating to mars or about a girl who travels back in time to meet David Bowie — Oh wait, I already did that. 🙂

When you’ve finished your tiny book, make a book cover or hire someone to do it for you and then publish your beautiful little book through Amazon or Ingramspark. 

If technology ain’t your jam, then print your story and leave it on your partner’s bedside table, or slip it beneath the front door of your best friend’s house, or between the covers of a book in your local library or independent bookstore … You wild writer devil you. 

Writing can be VERY SERIOUS, but it can also be a teeny bit magical. You can write a long book or a very short book, but remember that the length of a book is not reflective of its quality or the joy experienced by the author when they were creating it.

Write long books, but write tiny books too. 

I look forward to reading what you come up with. 

How To Your Daily Walk Part of Your Creative Practice

In previous posts, I’ve written about how walking in a relaxed state with an open mind can lead to creative insight and new ideas. In fact, many authors consider their daily walking a part of their creative practice, as they use this time to solve plot holes and other creative problems. 

The walking practice I’m going to unpack in this post is different.  

Instead of walking with the intention of observing your surroundings and allowing your mind to wander, this post is about walking with the intention of solving creative problems by concentrating on them intensely. Cal Newport refers to this practice as productive meditation.  

Productive Meditation: walking as a way to solve creative problems

I first heard of productive meditation when listening to a podcast with the aforementioned Newport — an Associate Professor at Georgetown University and author of six productivity books. The phrase productive meditation may sound like an oxymoron and hard-core meditators may find this term slightly blasphemous but don’t discredit this practice just yet. 

The intention of meditation is to become detached from your thoughts; the purpose of productive meditation is to hone your thoughts on a creative problem. In this way, both practices are requiring you to take control of your thoughts. Meditation is about focussing on a mantra or your breath where disruptive thoughts are acknowledged and released before the meditator returns their focus to the mantra or their breath. Productive meditation is about focusing on a creative problem in order to find a solution. The idea is that when your mind wanders, you notice this disruption and shift your focus back to the issue at hand. 

Productive meditation is its most effective when done while going for a long walk, 60-120 minutes. Walking activates parts of our brain that are dormant when we’re sitting. This is why we often coming up with fresh ideas, creative solutions or insights during an afternoon stroll. 

My Experience

I decided to experiment with productive meditation after listening to the interview with Cal Newport. At the time, I was dealing with a particularly sticky creative problem. As you may or may not know, I started a doctorate in creative writing earlier this year. My doctorate comprises of two components, a creative work (in my case, a novel) and an accompanying exegesis. 

My research covers multiple areas of study including, but not limited to, ecofeminism, Anthropogenic fiction, the trickster archetype and human-animal relations. 

The problem? 

I was struggling to pull these seemingly incongruous areas of study into one cohesive narrative. While the novel doesn’t have to explicitly reflect ALL my research, I was unsatisfied with the work as it currently stood.

Basically, I knew I could do better. 

So, I followed Newport’s advice. 

To be clear, productive meditation is not as easy as it sounds. You are not simply thinking while walking. No, in order to get the most out of this practice, you must push your mind to think harder and to actively look for new connections, possibilities and solutions. Little will be gained by lazily cycling through the facts you already know and repeating the familiar thoughts you’ve already had about this particular problem.  

You needn’t power walk, this process isn’t about exercise. A gentle stroll or amble is suffice – preferable in fact – because you want your attention to be focussed on the problem at hand. Your thoughts should be turned inwards, not outwards. That being said, creative idealisation is heightened again when walking outside in nature as opposed to urban settings or office stairwells … after all, you’re not going to find much inspiration in there! 

It’s also a good idea to take a notepad and pen with you to record any ideas or insights that occur during your walk. 

My first productive meditation session went for two hours and to be totally transparent, the first twenty minutes were incredibly difficult.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the thoughts that were cycling through my mind:

  • You don’t have time for this
  • You should be back at your desk reading that journal article/writing that paper/working on the next chapter/revising that other chapter/replying to that email blah blah blah
  • This is stupid
  • Screw you, Newport
  • This isn’t working
  • I can’t find a solution because there is no solution to find
  • I’ve painted myself into a corner
  • I’ve totally screwed up this research project, what the heck was I thinking?

Now, to be even more transparent … I was terrified of finding a solution. 

Let me elaborate.

The reason I was resisting this exercise is because I was afraid that I might come up with a solution that would require me to scrap the manuscript and start again.

This is an unwelcome thought for any writer. The idea that I may have to toss my 60,000 word draft in the bin was .. let’s say … disheartening. 

Despite these thoughts, I was determined to stick with the experiment, mostly because Newport’s anecdotes were so convincing. For the first 20-30 minutes, I really struggled to stretch my mind. My thoughts alternated between all the research I had gathered over the past six months and the novel’s premise; cycling and repeating the same information over and over. 

I could sense the connections that ran between these supposedly unrelated topics, but I couldn’t articulate what those threads were.

If these connections were a school of fish, then I was standing on the pier with neither a line nor bait. 

I kept walking and I kept thinking; hard. Slowly and painfully, the connections between my research and the manuscript started to become clearer. The fish swam closer to the surface of the lake. 

After an hour, something shifting. 

If there is one thing I learned from this exercise it is this: you must stick with this process until you experience that first shift. 

That first shift is the key to unlocking your thinking process. Like a domino effect or a chain-reaction, once that first new idea pops into your head, you’d be surprised how this dislodges creative blocks and new ideas start flooding trickling in. 

As I continued my walk, I pushed harder against the boundaries of my limited thinking. I actively sought out new solutions, stopping every ten minutes to write down whatever ideas came to me. This may all sound a little vague, so let me get super-specific. 

During this stage, my thought process looked a little like this:

  • How can the research be turned into the premise for a novel?
  • How else might the research be reflected in a novel?
    (Hint: this is one of the best ways to come up with better ideas. Don’t ever accept the first answer/solution your mind comes up with. Ask what other possibilities many exist. Dig a little deeper and try to come up with at least five responses to every question or problem). 
  • What do I really want the novel to be about? 
  • How big of a scale do I want this novel to be? 
  • How do I want people to feel when they read this novel?
  • Do I want the voice/style/tone to be warm/literary/moody/eerie?

These were the general question that eventually leads to the first BIG realisation. After that, I was able to drill down on the structure of the manuscript. Another 90 minutes of walking passed. I continued to write down ideas and to ask myself further questions. Eventually, I had clarified my ideas enough to sit down at a picnic table and to write a fresh outline. 

To be clear, this was a broad outline that filled two A4 pages. (I tried to follow Steven Pressfield’s method of a single page outline, but failed!)

The Take-Away?

Productive meditation is a very effective tool that can add great value to your creative practice. My project benefited so much from this process that I’ve decided to do one session every week. 

To date, I have only used these sessions as a way to develop my creative work, but I have no doubt that they would be equally beneficial for academic work such as outlining research papers or thesis chapters. 

If you choose to experiment with this method, then I urge you to fully commit to the process. Push yourself to break out of your cycling thinking, challenge yourself to find new solutions and stick with the walk for the allotted time period (60-120 minutes). 

If you do decide to give this method a whirl, please reply in the comments or send me an email. I’d love to hear about how this method works for other creatives.


 

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How Do You Know When A Project Is Finished?

One could argue that creative projects are never really done. Like any skill, our creative processes and practices improve over time. You are a better writer today than you were yesterday, and you’re definitely a better writer now than you were three years ago. Because our skills are constantly improving, it can be difficult to recognise when a creative project is finished.

You may finish revising chapter twenty-six and decided on a whim to look back at chapter three. Then your heart sinks. The chapter is crap. Well, maybe not crap, but you know that you can do better. You know that you can lift chapter three to the level of chapter twenty-six. One of the trickiest things about writing a novel is learning how to maintain a consistent voice across three-hundred-plus pages while your technical abilities as a writer constantly improve.

The desire to constantly tweak, lift and better your work never goes away.

If you love words, if you believe in the power of storytelling, and if you respect the craft of writing, then chances are you will have very high expectations when drafting your own novel.

Dani Shapiro once said that it would be an insightful experiment to have an author re-write the same book every ten years because it wouldn’t be the same book. An additional decade of life experience and craft development would ultimately result in a book that may have a similar premise to the earlier edition, but the quality and content of the updated copy would be entirely different.

So, how do you know when a novel or project is finished? Below are a few signposts that may indicate when a creative work has resolved itself.

You’re Kind of Over It

Resentment and boredom are good indicators that the cake is baked. If your eyes glaze over while revising chapter three—again—or if you feel irritated, frustrated or angry every time you sit down for another writing session … perhaps it’s time to hit the pause button and do some evaluating.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I having a bad week or am I truly done with this project?
  • What would it feel like to ‘hit publish’?
    (This could mean publishing a blog, sending a manuscript to an agent or publishing house or submitting a pitch or article to a magazine)
  • Am I done or am I quitting?
    (Remember: quitting feels great in the short terms, but lousy in the long term)
  • Can someone (other than Mum) read my work and provide some feedback?
  • Have I given this project all that I have?
  • Am I still in love with this project?
  • Does working on this project make me feel excited or drained?
  • If I were still working on this project in a month’s time, would I be okay with that?

The answer to these questions may help you decide whether this project requires more time or if it’s actually “complete.”

Pushing vs Perfectionism

Pushing yourself and perfectionism are similar, yet there is a subtle difference.

When we challenge ourselves, we are extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone. We are awake and alert. We feel focussed and excited. The obstacle course we find ourselves on may be tough, but we know that we are capable of finishing it. Even if we’ve never done anything like this before, we know that it’s possible to leap over hurdles, weave between obstructions and cross the finish line!

Here’s the difference: pushing has an endpoint; perfectionism doesn’t.

An obstacle course of this vain doesn’t have a finish line. Instead, the course is a loop that you climb, jump and run through, over and over again until your feet give out and you vomit from dizziness.

Are you challenging yourself to make your novel (or any work of art) the best that it can be or are you reaching for an ideal? Because, dear friend, there is no there, there.

There is no such thing as a perfect novel.

Don’t believe me, let’s consult some experts.

“Near enough is good enough.” Elizabeth Gilbert.

“The novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.” Randall Jarrell.

Deviation from Original Concept

Another indicated that it may be time to wrap things up is if the project is starting to deviate from the original concept. If you continue to work on, develop and revise your novel for too long, there is a very good chance that it will move away from your initial intentions. It’s good to push yourself and to allow projects to develop and change over time, but you also need to recognise when your constant need to tinker with the work has morphed into unproductive meddling.

There is a difference between tweaking a story in order to strengthen/improve it and changing a story so much that it is unrecognisable. Embedding new ideas, cutting out and adding characters, deleting scenes and writing new ones are part of the creative process but are you doing these things in order to excavate the story buried deep inside your soul, or are you simply fucking around?

Do not ignore the voice of your subconscious in favour of what you think the story should be about.

Finish the story you set out to write and reserve any sparkly new ideas for future projects.

Books are never really done. A writer could spend their entire life trying to making a manuscript match the ideal version they envisage in their mind. At the end of the day, you have two options. You can spend years/decades/a lifetime tweaking and ‘perfecting’ a single manuscript or you can do the work, make it presentable, hit publish and move on to the next project.

The choice is yours, so choose wisely.


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Interview with YA author Stacy Nottle

Like many authors, Stacy Nottle’s has a rich and varied work history having worked as a shearer’s cook, a waitress, a scientific research assistant, a high school science teacher; and as a careers counsellor in an all boys’ boarding school.

Stacy’s career has evolved over time, yet her love of stories—other people’s and those she makes up for herself—has remained a personal passion.

Growing up on a sheep station at the far reaches of Australia, Stacy spent her early years adrift inside her make-believe world of mystery and imagination.

At age six, she went away to boarding school ‘in town’, and later ‘in the city’, where she discovered another world. She studied science at university and has worked as a shearers’ cook, waitress, scientific research assistant, high school science teacher; and careers counsellor in an all boys’ boarding school.

She has a liking for adventure and her body bears the scars of a big life well-lived.

Stacy is an active member in the Queensland writing community attending workshops, writers’ groups and festivals which have connected her with mentors and allies that have helped her along the way.

Stacy’s debut novel, After the Flood, will be released on June 30 by Black Phoenix Publishing Collective. After the Flood is a meditation on loyalty, human relationship and the lengths we would go to for those we love. Combining Stacy’s love of the bush and her personal interest in human dynamics and storytelling, After the Flood, is a gripping portrayal of how we cope in the face of trauma.

To celebrate the release of After the Flood, I decided to interview Stacy about the release of her debut novel and the writing life. Enjoy.


 

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 3.51.18 pmWhile you’re here, be sure to join my email newsletter and gain instant access to your FREE downloadable copy of the Writer Kickstarter Pack: How to Start a Blog and Get Published. Plus, you’ll receive my weekly newsletter straight to your inbox every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog/vlog, updates and other exclusive content that I ONLY share via email.


 

Q1 / Can you share with us the story behind the story? What was the initial inspiration for writing After the Flood? 

Many years ago, I participated in a Season’s Grief Program for Young People where I was deeply moved and fascinated to hear the stories the young people told of their loss and grief and how they dealt with it. More than a decade later, at a boarding school where I was then teaching, I found my attention constantly being drawn to this one, sandy-haired young boy of about twelve. He was from outback QLD and seemed in many ways to be a regular kid who was busy with the task of making new friends and settling into boarding school…but something about him was different. Then I found out that he had lost his sister to leukaemia and I realised that what I was observing was grief. The kind of grief that leaves a hole in your life that is too big to ever fill. I began to think about the boy’s grief, and then about his family who must have also been devastated by their loss. Farmer’s have enough challenges without having to deal with something as unspeakable as the loss of a child, I thought. It made me very, very sad. So I wrote about it. I created a little boy called Jamie McKenzie and tried to articulate how this brave, stoic little fellow coped when all around, his life was crumbling. It was only meant to be a short story, but then I met Wilhelmina Johnson, an eighteen-year-old girl from Sydney whose life had also been marred by loss. Then I brought Jamie and Wilhelmina together to see what would happen.

Q2 / How has the work changed from your initial idea to now, the finished publication? 

It evolved slowly from that first impression of a young boy’s grief. The idea of a dual timeline (when Jamie was a boy and when Jamie is a man) came to me quite early. I remember talking to a counsellor once who told me that a child who suffers loss and trauma can take more than twenty years to recover and I wanted to see how Jamie was doing as an adult. So I created Jamie’s daughter, Cass, a young girl with a striking resemblance to his long-dead sister and thought – that’s interesting! Characters came and went, but those that matter are still there in the story, pulling their weight.

Q3 / Can you tell us a little about your writing routine? 

When I first wrote about Jamie McKenzie, I was working full-time and was busy most weekends with sport, and I was desperate for my own quiet little space in which to write. So I set up a tiny desk in a tiny junk room in a corner of my drafty old house. But the floor was crooked and my office chair kept rolling away from the desk, and I had to hold my body in this rigid, lop-sided pose if I wanted to remain seated at the desk. Such constant contortion gave me a sore back. Also, it was cold in that little junk room. So I got a giant-sized desk and placed it in the corner of the lounge room, then found myself constantly grumpy when my husband, Richard, wanted to watch Landline or have a chat. Then I got cancer and took a year off work. During this time, I was too ill to write and my creativity seemed to have gone on holiday; but I did reread Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ and began writing morning pages. Now I work three days a week and write in the lounge room on my days off and on weekends when the sun is shining and Richard is outside doing ‘what Richard does’ in the garden. I don’t write at night because then my brain won’t want to go to sleep and I like to get up early to walk my dogs. I love to pants. It is so much fun letting my characters do whatever they like. But I’ve discovered that if I don’t plot, I end up writing millions of words that will never see the light of day.

Q4 / What tools, books, workshops or resources did you find most supportive during the writing of After the Flood? 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron got me back to writing. Cancer helped me rearrange my priorities.

At the urging of a friend, I took a weekend workshop on self-publishing with Dallas Baker. Dallas told me about using Beta Readers (shock! horror! let someone read my scribbling?), gave me some very excellent advice and got me on the path to publishing. I sent After the Flood to seven beta readers including a few people who had some expertise in issues raised in the story such as a police officer. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but also really useful. Jessica Stewart did a structural edit and it was fabulous to have her brilliant advice and also her warm enthusiasm for Jamie McKenzie and Wilhelmina Johnson. The list of people who have helped is a long one.

Q5 / What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were first drafting your novel? 

While pantsing is fun, I really do need a plot.

Q6 / What are you most excited about right now? 

That’s an easy one! I’m sitting at Brisbane International about to board a flight to the states to visit my daughter. I’m also very excited about the release of After the Flood. And I’m looking forward to getting back to the writing process and doing another story. I have two I’m working on. One is speculative fiction, set in a futuristic Brisbane, with a working title of Salience. The other is a memoir with the working title Breastless…or maybe Giantess with Angel Wings.


 

After the Flood FRONT FINAL
What would you do to save someone you loved? When the storm breaks and the creek at Moonbroch Station floods, more than one life is in danger.

After the Flood explores loyalty and the tensions and complexities of abiding relationships. A gripping portrayal of how we cope with trauma, After the Flood is as uplifting as it is thought-provoking.

‘Friends forever?’ she said. He cleared his own scratchy throat and nodded. ‘Yes.’  Then he reached down and gently tangled his little finger with hers. ‘Pinkie promise,’ he said.

 

Available from:

Amazon

 

Creating a Writing Tribe

If you’re a writer, it’s likely that you spend a lot of time by yourself. While you can talk about your writing process, current WIP or latest bout of writers’ block with your friends and family, it is a vastly different experience to have those conversations with other writers because they actually understand what you’re saying!

A writing tribe has many benefits, both creatively and professionally. Depending on the level of experience held by each member of your group, a writing tribe can support you through the editing and revising of your novel, offer encouragement or suggestions when issues arise during the writing or publishing stages, and they can even introduce you to other writers or professionals in the publishing industry.

Typically, writers are a friendly bunch—despite our preference for isolation!

Most writers are happy to help others and to provide advice from their own lived experience. If you don’t have an existing writing club in your community, you can always make one. Most libraries are happy to provide a space for a writing club to host their meetings. You could post an ad on your local community Facebook page, gumtree or you could create a group page on the site ‘Meet Up’ to see if there are any other writers in your area interested in creating a club.

There is also a host of online communities you can join via Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube and Instagram.

However, building real-life relationships with writers in your own town and region is far more powerful and rewarding.

Attending workshops hosted by your state’s Writing Centre is another great way to meet people, same goes for attending writing festivals and conferences. Being on a budget is no excuse as most of these events are desperate for volunteers. Volunteering at a conference and festival is not only a great way to give back to your community and support the organisation running the event, but it is also a great way to meet other volunteers, committee members, staff and guests. The bonus here is that you all have something in common: a deep love for writing and reading.

As a writer and lover of books, you may consider yourself an introvert and therefore incapable of introducing yourself to a stranger.

Dear friend, if you are at a writing festival, workshop or conference, you are already among your people.

You are surrounded by introverts who are just as nervous, anxious, and worried about saying something weird/stupid/foolish as you are. Also, everyone attending such as event expects to be approached by strangers. That is the whole damn point! To make new friends and contacts. So, don’t be shy. If you need a few introductory phrases to break the ice, here are some conversation starters to get the ball rolling:

  • Are you a writer? What are you working on right now?

  • What are you reading at the moment?

  • Are there any speakers you’re looking forward to seeing?

  • Is this the first time you have volunteered? Are you enjoying it?

Part of being a writer is spending a lot of time alone.

The gift of creating a writing tribe is that you can meet other people who also express their inner thoughts, their observations about the world and the bizarreness of our human lives through the act of storytelling.

Writers need time alone, but we also need to be around other writers.

Interview with Crime Writer Gregory James

I first met Greg three years ago when we enrolled in the same Creative Writing course. Though our writing paths have since taken different directions, our mutual obsession for reading and writing crime fiction has remained the same. I had the good fortunate of reading an early draft of Bordertown when Greg enlisted me as one of his beta-readers. A good plot is an essential element to every crime novel, but it was Detective Robert “Bo” Campbell that kept me turning the pages.

Bordertown follows Detective Bo after he accidentally shoots and kills his best friend and partner during a bungled inner-city drug raid. Exiled to a remote post on the border until his troubles blow over, Bo finds himself in the middle of a cover-up as the corrupt police force conceal the fact that half a dozen indigenous women have gone missing. Bo has to ask himself whether he is willing to risk everything in order to save this broken border community.

  1. Was your earlier career as a Detective the reason why you chose to write a crime novel or were you always a fan of the genre?

Not necessarily, but obviously I have an interest (even now) in crime. I still love watching it, reading about it and even listening to it (podcasts) even though I’ve lived it for the last 25 odd years! Back in my teenage years, I loved an author by the name of Robert G Barrett. His protagonist, Les Norton, was an anti-hero and was largely on the other side of the law. These days, I can’t get enough of Michael Connelly and his character Harry Bosch.

  1. Did your experience as a Detective make writing Bo’s story easier or harder because you are so familiar with this job? Did you find that you needed to do much research?

I think that it made it easier in a sense because I knew the police procedure. I have a pretty good idea of how things work, obviously, and how things are generally done. This is an area where some crime fiction writers can get it wrong. I always tell those authors to visit their local detective. You might need to get past the grumpy ones and find one that will help! But Bordertown is set in the early 1980s, a time when I was still at school. So, yes, I had to do quite a bit of research about what was happening in those days; the uniforms, appointments, vehicles and the like were all different. The political climate was different. In my view, it’s important to get these things right.

  1. How long did it take you to write Bordertown and how does the finished novel compare to your initial ideas/drafts?

I started Bordertown in 2013 when I was in the process of learning the craft of fiction writing. And, it is a craft. I often hear people say that they’d “like to write a book” and “should write a book” which is great. But one has to learn the craft of formulating a novel. You’d be a freak if you could just do it without any knowledge! I know that I spend many years doing courses (online and in class), going to conferences, talking to published authors and reading/researching the craft of writing. I learnt along the way, and the result was the first draft of Bordertown. Not much of a novel at that point, but a draft nonetheless.

The finished product is quite different from early drafts, although the basic premise is the same. A large amount was cut, at least one major character was deleted completely (on the advice of a publisher) and many, many changes made. This was the hardest part of the process for me. Re-writing and re-writing. Moulding and massaging the story. Changing dialogue, tightening the plot and changing direction. Looking back on it, writing the first draft was definitely the easy part!

I launched Bordertown in March 2019, so six years from start to finish is a good estimate. But being an author, much time was spent on other projects, work and life and the story sat idle for some time. I also spent at least 18 months trying to get a publisher.

Greg 1

  1. Do you have a writing routine, if so, can you tell us about it?

The short answer is no. When Bordertown was crafted I had a fair bit of time on my hands, not so much anymore. I used to write when I got into the “zone” and keep writing. Into the future, I hope to dedicate a day to a day and half a week on the next novel. I don’t write every day like the guru’s recommend. I’d love to, but it’s not practical.

  1. What do you know now about writing a novel that you wish you had known in the beginning?

Just how bloody hard it was going to be! But how proud I am of myself to see my written work in print, and to have people enjoy the story. Again though, if you want to write a good novel you need to know how. There are plenty of courses out there to help you.

  1. What advice do you have for other writers interested in self-publishing specifically or publishing in general?

These days, anyone can write a book and self-publish it. My advice is; just do it! Get that book written first though, and get it to a standard that is the same as published books. It’s not going to be cheap, but it will be worth it. Editing (structural and line editing), book design and printing cost a lot of money, but the end result will be something you are proud of. There are also quite a few people to hold your hand through the process (at a price of course). You need to decide whether you need this or will go it alone. In any case, get advice.

One last piece of advice: write the story you want to write. Not what might sell. Not what is popular. Not what publishing agencies are suggesting. Write a story you want to read. You’ll find others want to as well.

~*~

To order a copy of Bordertown, or to find out more about Greg, please visit the links below:

Bordertown Purchase Link

Website: https://gregoryjamesauthor.com

Twitter: @GJames_Author

Facebook: @gjamesauthor

Desires vs Goals

(Note: The video version of this blog can be found here)

As writers, we all want to write amazing novels. We want to write the kind of novels that readers can’t put down. Novels that take readers on epic journeys far away from their everyday life and that allow them to experience the world through another’s eyes. Novels that challenge readers, that teach them something, that inform them about important issues or that move them in some profound way.

As writers, we want to get agents, sign deals and see our books in stores. We want to go on a book tour and do interviews with smart journalists. We want our online platforms to explode along with our sales. We want readers to send us fan art or emails detailing what our book meant to them.

These secret desires can be rocket fuel on days when inspiration is running thin. Be warned though, these same desires can quickly lead to disappointment and apathy. When these thrilling futures fail to materialise, we may wind up asking, ‘Why hasn’t it happened yet? What’s the point in trying anymore?’ or worse, ‘Maybe I’m no good at this.’

Dreaming about hitting the New York Times Best Seller List or winning a prestigious award can be a fun way to occupy your time while waiting in a doctor’s office or lazily drinking tea on a Sunday afternoon, but there is a big difference between desires and goals.

Getting an agent, a book deal, winning a literary award or experiencing skyrocketing sales are desires. You have absolutely no control (or very little) over any of these events becoming a reality. However, you are fully in charge when it comes to goals.

Goals are specific, measurable and they have deadlines.

Getting an agent is a desire. Querying five agents in the first quarter of the year is a goal. The former is ambiguous and disempowering, the latter is exact and empowering. Goals are specific and measurable. In the case of the above example, you have set the goal to email five agents, and the self-imposed deadline will help keep you on track and focused.

Of course, some goals will involve others, but it’s important that you continue to recognise the difference between a goal and a desire.

Desire: The proofreader will find all the typos in my manuscript.

Goal: The proofreader and I will complete the final round of edits by October.

While it’s fun to imagine the future our current WIP may one day experience, it’s important that we keep our feet firmly on the ground. After all, that shiny ‘one-day’ future will never happen if you don’t do the work.

When working on a project, there is tremendous value in setting goals. However, setting vague goals like “Write a Book” can lead to overwhelm and procrastination. It’s just too damn BIG! Plus, it will be a long time before you experience the satisfaction of crossing that item off your goal list. Instead, it’s much more productive to break that one massive goal into much smaller goals.

Remember: A goal is something you are in charge of.

Instead of setting “Write a Book” as a goal, consider the steps involved in that process. This one goal could easily be broken down into something like this:

  1. Read a craft book such as Save the Cat by Jessica Brody
  2. Spend one week creating character profiles
  3. Spend one week outline the novel using the Save the Cat principles
  4. Write 500-1000 words a day, five days a week. Hit 80,000 words by July 12.
  5. Re-read manuscript in one/two sittings while making note of any large structural issues or plot holes
  6. Spend one week creating a plan on how to revise initial draft
  7. Spend one-two hours, five days a week, revising
  8. Spend 2-3 weeks re-read the revised draft and make any final adjustments
  9. Ask five friends to become beta-readers
  10. Drink copious amounts of whiskey while waiting for beta-reader feedback.

Of course, some of these goals could be broken down further, but you get the idea. For instance, I prefer to complete step ten while clutching my battered copy of Stephen King’s On Writing and crying.

Desires can be inspiring, motivating and energising, but they can lead to dissatisfaction. Goals may be less thrilling, but what they lack in shimmer they make up for in pragmatism. Please, do not underestimate the energy and motivation that comes from real progress. It may not be the Ra-Ra excitement you experience when imagining hitting the New York Times Best Seller List, but those big exciting moment won’t ever happen if you don’t first build the habit of setting realistic and achievable goals.

So, what are you waiting for? Get to it!