Archive for the ‘Award-Winning Fiction’ Category

Getting & Staying Creative

April 23, 2018


Atlanta Symphony guest conductor Donald Runnicles (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

You may find it hard to believe, but I’ve discovered the best remedy for overcoming those moments of author terror known as writer’s block. It’s called working on multiple projects at once, and it works.

It keeps my creative juices flowing.

If you’ve tried it but, like a lot pf people, struggle with simultaneous creative efforts, here are some keys that could help:

Get the right tools
I use specific programs when I write, but what they are is irrelevant. Instead of listing things you may not like, here’s my challenge to you – if you want to be a professional, act like one.

Start by investing in yourself. Don’t let another day go by without getting your hands on whatever tools help you focus on ideas … and stop struggling just to capture them.

Find natural places to pause
At any given moment I’m working on fiction books, blog posts, and how-to articles for my online column. But I’ve discovered I often need a bit of closure on one before I can switch gears.

That’s why I complete a rough draft of this blog or one of my column articles, or get to the end of a chapter with my fiction, before I stop one project for another. Finding that natural stopping place really makes a difference when I pick it up later.

Know what time of day you’re at your creative peak
When you understand how your own internal clock works, you can better prioritize your projects. For instance, fiction books and long blog posts are the most challenging for me, so I work on them in the morning when I’m at my creative best.

I find short, factual articles for my online column are a bit easier, so I can do them in the afternoon or evenings.

From time to time, I’ll have an unexpected creative burst that changes some of that timeline, but I never forget real creativity isn’t about inspiration, it’s about routine.

Create a “parking lot” for your ideas
Managing multiple projects isn’t as difficult as you think. In fact, it could be one of your greatest techniques. I find managing multiple creative projects often means that, as I work on one, ideas for another will suddenly pop into my head.

That alone scares some creatives and causes them to feel they have to stick to a single project, so they don’t lose those ideas.

But the solution is simple – I create an “idea file” where wild, out of context, or momentarily unworkable ideas can be recorded, so they’ll be handy to work with later.

Never forget that ideas are the most fragile things in the world. Sadly, I can speak from experience. If you don’t write them down, you’ll likely lose them forever.

Keep the momentum going
Multiple projects can help keep your momentum going. Cross-pollination can often add depth and new insight to your projects, and help you avoid the feeling you’re never going to finish. Daily momentum is easier to maintain than sporadic progress.

Most people tend to be overly optimistic about what they’ll actually get done in a day. They assume more time will equal more progress. In truth, you’ll still have the same peak creative hours regardless of how much time you’ve allocated.

Many long-term projects need as much downtime for reflection as they do time spent in active development. That’s because our minds have a way of working out one problem subconsciously while we’re working on another project.

So, go ahead and tackle those multiple ideas. Just remember to be as creative with your time as you strive to be with your words.

**********

Gentle Readers, my own books have garnered some terrific reviews. In fact, my novel REICHOLD STREET just received another award.

You can see all my books by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. The column will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

**********

On Sunday, April 29, 2018, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, I will be with a host of other local area writers at the Books & Authors book-signing event at the eclectic Leon & Lulu store on Fourteen Mile Road in Clawson, Michigan. Drop in and buy a book…there will be lots to choose from.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Why Call Yourself a Writer?

March 11, 2018


Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock.

There are two types of writers. Those who write because they have something to say, and those who write merely for the sake of saying they’re a writer.

It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re young or old, but a lot of people are solidly in the second camp. Most of the advice they get about writing only compounds this direction.

“Write all the time. Write for your college newspaper. Get an MFA. Go to writer’s group meetings. Attend writing conferences. Send query letters to agents. Build your social media platform.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good, sound advice. I’ve mentioned much of it here. But do you notice what most advice-givers never say?

“Go do interesting things.”

If you really want to be a writer, that’s probably the most important thing anyone can tell you. Think about it. Take any good piece of writing, something that matters to you.

Why is it good?

No one ever reads something for the very first time and says, “I got absolutely nothing out of this, and have no idea what any of it means but, wow, technically it sure is beautiful!”

But they will say “Damn, that was really good” all the time to things with questionable grammar and simple diction.

Why?

Because of what it says. More to the point, because of what the writer’s words manage to communicate. It’s because the story, technically perfect or not, is so good it speaks to you.

Stories to Tell
I’ve written fiction, off-and-on, my whole life. I earned a degree and an MBA. I spent decades working in advertising and public relations, but not much of it was focused on writing. If there is anything that’s good in my writing it came from things I did outside of school, outside of work, outside of the “craft.”

My technique developed from my life experiences, varied interactions with people and reading dozens of books a month. It was living through an explosive civil rights movement, and a city riot in Detroit. It was observing a war-torn America during the contentious Vietnam conflict, where several of my friends didn’t come home.

These experiences, among a lifetime of others, gave me a unique perspective and voice. I have been able to write about both the bright and dark side of life, because I was in a position to see some of it firsthand. It gave me something to say.

To quote Schopenhauer, the nineteenth century philosopher who contended that, at its core, the universe is not a rational place: “The first rule, indeed by itself virtually a sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say.”

What Does That Mean?
If you want to be a writer, my advice of the moment is to put the fact you’re “writing” on hold for a while … and look around you.

It doesn’t have to take a long time. When you find something you can’t wait to share with the world, and I’m sure you will, you’ll have your chance to dazzle us.

I’m not advocating bailing out of your writing groups or composition classes. Practice and conversation among peers will always be worthwhile. I still try to attend a local Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group meeting every month. I’ve been doing it for years.

Like always, a lot of what I’ve said here is opinion and you can take it or leave it. My voice (to paraphrase a corny cliche) is just another in the wind. After all, there are many ways to become a writer.

But another part of writing today, that is an absolute truth, is an undeniable change in the economics of the business.

It used to be just getting “published” was the hard part. You had to impress some gatekeeper and that gatekeeper was an agent, or an editor at magazine, a newspaper or a book publisher. Today, with the explosion of indie publishing, there are seemingly infinite outlets for your writing (at least it sometimes feels that way).

But remember this, if you remember nothing else. With almost all of them, no matter how you ultimately do publish, traditional or indie, you’ll have to bring your own audience with you.

Getting published today is easy. Getting anyone to care …

That’s the hard part.

So, What Do You Do?
What matters more than any other single thing is that what you’re saying is interesting; that it provokes some response from people. You’ll only accomplish this if what you’re writing, particularly in fiction, is a compulsion rather than a vehicle to display how smart and well-trained you are.

So, think about it one more time. Are you writing because you want to be called an author? Or do you have things inside you feel compelled to communicate?

Do you have a story to tell?

Getting the answer to that single question right is the day you really become a writer.

**********

My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or like my Book of Face page.

You can also find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. They will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, and let me know what you think.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

How Easy is it to Become an Author?

January 15, 2018

You have stories to tell and fantastic ideas floating around in your imagination that deserve to be communicated to a vast army of readers. Hell, you can imagine and create stories that are as good as any of them out there, can’t you?

How Hard Can It Be?
Who wouldn’t be excited? You know in your heart you can be the next Hemingway, Faulkner or Rowling and your talent deserves the celebrity and prestige of authordom … and a shot at immortality.

Why? Because you’ve been validated by your friends.

Now, all you have to do is follow a formula to find a good agent to get your work published. If you don’t know one, you can sign on to the abundance of places on the internet claiming to locate them.

Easy, right?

Maybe you’ve already tried the traditional route. You’ve submitted your ideas to agents, or maybe you actually found a publisher, but your work didn’t sell very well. You’re certain the only problem was no one was promoting it properly.

What do you do now?

Self Publish?
Perhaps you’re thinking about doing it yourself and going indie. People have told you the traditional publishing business is faltering anyhow. Retailers like Waldenbooks and Borders are already out of business. From what you hear, Barnes & Noble is in danger, too.

Every day, advice for the self-published author is coming at you from people who tout their expertise. Many claim to offer you a magic ladder that will get you into the stratosphere. All I can say, if you decide to do it yourself, be careful who you use to assist you.

You’ll find services that say they were created expressly to get you discovered, increase your book sales, get your work on television, into the movies, or adapted for the stage.

Their come-ons are great. If you’ve dreamed that far, it’s easy to imagine lots of money rolling in, being lionized at book parties and having people line up for your autograph.

Why not?

Just remember, nearly everyone who tells you this comes at a price, and most guarantee nothing at all. All I can do is say good luck … and remind you: A fool and his money are soon parted.

Writers’ Conferences
You could decide to attend a good writers’ conference, which I actually do recommend – (see Rochester Writers).

Many occasionally offer speakers who can tell you how to find a good agent and make it in the business (but remember, many don’t tell you how they made it … because many of them didn’t).

You have to choose wisely.

CreateSpace
You decide to take the plunge and use CreateSpace to get your work listed on Amazon (it’s what I’d recommend, if you asked me).

Amazon welcomes you into their book-selling machine and, for all intents and purposes, you are finally what you always dreamed you’d be … a published author. Your friends and family are proud of you. Amazon has come to your rescue.

Except …

Okay, so you probably don’t get to quit your day job.

For some, that really doesn’t matter. Just being published is worth the journey. You are officially an author, sainted by experience, up there with Dickens, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Asimov, et al.

But readers aren’t stampeding to the cash register to buy your book, and those dismal sales are discouraging. So now what?

You try lowering the price to $9.99; then $5.99; then $2.99; then to .99 cents. Finally, you offer it for free (imagine the irony of becoming a best seller for a book that’s free). Nothing happens.

You can’t blame Amazon. You’re in a very crowded pond, in the company of a multitude of authors and literally thousands of books. How can readers find you? Oh, they might take a chance for free, or pack you into their Kindle to read some day.

Maybe.

Hard, Time-Consuming Work
This is when the “How-to-Succeed” boys will come after you again, trying to drag you into their podcasts and how-to subscriptions (always for a price), to show you how to stand-out from the mix.

They’ll dangle in front of you the possibility of speaking gigs, publicity and discoverability. Then (again for a price), they will tell you to get off your butt and blog like all-get-out, social network like crazy, create a massive circle of “friends” and cultivate those new “friends” like hell.

They’ll admonish you to personalize yourself. Tell folks your life story. Bond with them. Keep them engaged. After all, maybe some of them are actually readers. Finally, they’ll try to get you to push these new “friends” to buy your books and, above all, leave a review.

Promote Yourself
You might think that I’m putting you on, satirizing the indie author’s dilemma, but I’m not. I’ve been at this for many years, analyzing the process, studying it, experimenting.

Call this little exercise a cautionary tale. Better yet, a reality check.

Because there is no magic bullet.

You don’t realize it yet, but I just saved you a ton of money. I told you essentially what you’ll discover in all those “How-to-Succeed” sites.

You can promote yourself.

Just don’t go around screaming “Buy my book!” That will only succeed in turning people off entirely.

Getting your name burned into the public consciousness without a huge cash expenditure is a task requiring all your ingenuity and time. The net is like a bullet train, passing at warp speed. Getting the public’s attention is paramount. Keeping it is a small miracle.

Go For It
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for becoming an author, because with social networking skills, optimism and energy, you might develop a following. If you stay the course, the sales, recognition, celebrity and fame you crave could be yours.

In the end, however, remember it’s really all about your work. Is your dialogue believable? Are your characters and your stories worth the reader’s effort? Do they engage, connect and inspire? Make certain they do, and you might get lucky.

After all, someone does win the lottery.

**********

My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

I’ll be at the Rochester Writers’ Meeting this week. See you there!

**********

You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


%d bloggers like this: