Writer Yoga: See the World Through The Right Lens

In my first yoga teacher training that really touched on the philosophical underpinnings of yoga, one of the other trainees mentioned advice her stepfather, who had terminal cancer, had once given her.

Four versions of the same photo using different filtering effects“We see the world through the lenses we CHOOSE to wear.”

A simple statement, but one that has stuck with me ever since. It’s a great reminder about how our past history and experiences can color our outlook on life. In these days of political polarization, we see it all the time. People hold one opinion and use that to define everything else they see.

It’s the difference between the perception that a person is shy vs. standoffish, or that somebody is mean vs. stressed, having a bad day vs. out to get you. It explains how you can say one thing to me and I can hear something totally different. And it’s key to defining characters.

If you haven’t read Thrown Out, there might be a spoiler or two here, but it’s the best writing example I have. Dan and Chris Continue reading

Story Cubes Challenge Entry: Into the Future

Two days to go before the first Story Cubes Challenge week ends and I’ve got my ficlet.

Cubes: Hanging, yelling/shouting, pushing, thought bubble, padlock, turning, arrow/pointer, dancing, question mark

Hanging, shouting, pushing, thought bubble, padlock, turn arrow, arrow, dancing, question markInto The Future

“Do I have to dance?” Dan frowned. “Because listening to music is fine. It’s just…” He tapped a calloused finger on the silhouette of the couple dancing on the poster sitting on the table. “I don’t dance.”

“Don’t listen to him, Chris. He’s a great dancer.” Liz grinned, her smile wide across her face. “Better than Evan.” She smirked as her husband crossed his arms.

“Hey,” Evan said. “I haven’t stepped on your toes since high school dances.” He tugged one of Liz’s blonde curls.

Chris watched the three old friends banter and tried to take Dan’s comment at face value. He wouldn’t ask Dan to dance anyway, not in public. That was … It wasn’t worth it. Even after almost two years, he wasn’t sure how much longer this would last, not with grad school ending after next semester. Grief from a bunch of bigots wouldn’t help. But Dan’s reaction was … odd. He debated which question to ask first. “Liz, how do you know how well your cousin dances?”

“He must have danced with every girl at the prom senior year,” she said.

Dan just shrugged. “It wasn’t like any of the guys would dance with me,” he said. “Even Continue reading

Where Do You Write?

One of my writing views...

I find I do my best writing in coffee shops. Caffeine, enough going on that it’s not silent and a limitation on distractions. Writing on my iPad helps with the last of those — switching apps cuts down on the temptation for doing something else, especially compared to when there are multiple windows open on my desktop.

My favorite coffee shop is open late, but it’s the latest of the three downtown ones to open in the morning and isn’t open Sundays. So Sunday mornings, I go to the other coffee shop I like. I’ve got a regular seat, best on days when the sky is cloudy. This morning it was raining, and traffic was light. The view is a quirky little street, one I’ve come to enjoy. Today it inspired me to think about my novel revisions in a different light, providing clarity I’d lost somewhere along the way.

Where do you write?

Announcing Rory’s Story Cubes Challenge, Take 2

Today, David Masters and I were chatting on Twitter about Rory’s Story Cubes and he asked if the Story Cubes Challenge still was running. Well, it never really ran in the first place. Mark Bruno had the idea, I found his post and took up the challenge. But I’m not sure anybody but Mark and me ever tackled it.

So today, I’m launching my own Story Cubes Challenge. Here’s the plan:

  • Each Wednesday, I’ll post an image of nine Story Cubes, a mix of the original set and the Action cubes expansion pack.
  • Between then and the following week’s post, write a short piece of fiction using all nine cubes. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a post I did at the request of the Rory’s Story Cubes folks on writing with the cubes.
  • Anybody is welcome to participate. Just post a link to your finished piece in comments on the week’s post.
  • The challenge will be 108 weeks — one for each image on the cubes from the two sets. You can do one week, 10, 43 or all 108. If you’re finding this in Week 27, feel free to go back and use earlier prompts. They’ll all be tagged.
  • No word limits, either minimum or maximum.

Here’s Week 1:

Hanging, shouting, pushing, thought bubble, padlock, turn arrow, arrow, dancing, question mark

 

Wobbling Through Uncertainty

A few weeks ago, I sprained my foot after I tripped over my own two feet. It’s finally starting to feel close to normal, at least some of the time. The past several days have been unsettling as I’ve had to adjust to limited mobility and unstable balance. It’s pushed my yoga practice off the mat, and even that’s been limited.

At first, I thought this would be a good excuse to put in some serious writing time. No classes at the gym, and going anywhere except work was more trouble than it was worth for the better part of the week. No dice. I did watch a lot of TV, listen to a lot of music and start a new crochet project for my future niece or nephew. But only this weekend did I really start to focus in on writing.

Part of this is because the instability in my gait was paired with some uncertainty about my future. The day I sprained my foot was also key in that situation. I’ve spent about three months teetering on the edge of two paths, waiting to find out which is the way forward. The past few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that the path that branches off my current one likely isn’t available right now. During that same period, my foot has improved considerably. Karma has a wicked sense of humor.

As writers, we face uncertainty all the time. Are people going to like what I’m writing? Is my critique group going to eviscerate this piece I’ve been revising all month? Where is the publishing industry going to be next week or next year? Is there even going to be a publishing industry next year?

When we’re not sure where to step, we often don’t step anywhere. We let inaction become our response. That experimental piece we’ve been working on sits in a folder because we aren’t sure if we should submit it or not. The novel revisions get pushed off because we’re not sure we’re able to write well enough to give the book what it needs. Our daily writing practice is pushed lower and lower on our to-do list.

We let our fears that we’ll make the wrong choice stop us from making any choices.

 

 

When Cross-Genre Becomes No Genre

I’m over at the IBC blog today with a guest post that looks at figuring out how to best position your book genre-wise for success. Or, more accurately, how not having a specific genre for your book makes it harder to get traction, at least based on my experiences with Thrown Out.

Come on over and join the conversation in comments. And if you’re an indie author who hasn’t checked out the Indie Book Collective, it’s a great resource for indie authors at all stages of your careers.

True Fans and Indie Publishing

Thanks to Twitter, today I stumbled on a 2008 post about True Fans — an example of the long tail of the Internet in action. The short version of the post is that artists don’t need to hit best-sellerdom to make a living — they just need 1,000 True Fans who will snap up their new work as soon as it comes out — every time.

It’s an interesting concept, and one that makes some intuitive sense to me. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Jesse Stern’s work. I’ll watch his post-NCIS projects because his NCIS work made me a True Fan. Joss Whedon’s fans are the most vivid example of this in the TV world — many writers and others who worked on Whedon’s projects have carried fans on to their subsequent works. Likewise, if I find an author I like, I often go buy more of their work. That’s one reason I’m a huge fan of book series. I can think of a dozen authors that I like enough to buy new work by them just because they wrote it. It’s the basic reason networking is so key in business of any sort.

So let’s transfer this over to the indie publishing world. Robert Bidinotto, who made indie headlines when Hunter became a huge success back in the late fall, has talked about Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point theory as it relates to publishing. I’ve read Gladwell’s book, and it’s a great guide to how word-of-mouth takes something to that stratospheric success level. But before you can get to the Tipping Point, you need to have a certain amount of visibility. You need that base of True Fans.

When I look at the reviews of Thrown Out on Amazon, I recognize several names. Why? Not because they’re friends, although I would consider several of them friends. But most of them are people who I know because they started reading my fanfiction at some point and that’s how we connected. We got to be friends, but that was evolution, not the origination. And I have many friends who I first got to know because I read and liked their work, whether it was original or fanfic. It’s human nature to want more of things we like.

Earlier this week, I posted fanfiction in a fandom I hadn’t written in before. A couple of interesting things happened. I got an influx of reviews on my NCIS work from people who had never reviewed before. They read my NCIS:LA story, liked it, and went looking for more. Conversely, I got reviews on my LA fic from regular readers of my NCIS stories, many of them mentioning this was the first time they’d read this type of story.

The first example is how we build new True Fans. We find people who haven’t been exposed to our work and entice them to read it. They read it, they like it and they go looking for more. It’s why backlist is so critical to indie success. The more we have available, the more likely it is new readers can quickly convert to True Fans.

The second example is how True Fans help us thrive as writers. That fan base means we don’t start from scratch with each new project. I might have 100 True Fans now. But each new project gives me a chance to build more True Fans. And that’s where Gladwell’s Tipping Point comes in. The more True Fans an artist has who share the work they admire with friends, the more word of mouth you build.

Social media makes this even more key because a few people who have their own True Fan bases can amplify a message. When new NCIS crew members get on Twitter, Pauley Perrette and cast members spread the word, which gets them thousands of followers in just a few days. When writers I follow — James Scott Bell, Terri Giuliano Long, Porter Anderson, Elizabeth Craig, Anne R. Allen, and more — recommend a writing post, I know it’s going to be good and I a) read it and b) share it. And when those writers share my posts, I get a lot more traffic than normal.

Interacting with existing fans helps convert them to True Fans. The more True Fans, the more chances you have of finding new fans. And the more new fans, the more likely you are to hit that Tipping Point. But you can’t skip steps. A lot of people focus on building numbers of fans, but if we all focused on our True Fans, I suspect we would find the number of total fans would increase on its own as those True Fans share their excitement.

Who are you a True Fan of? If you’re an artist of any sort, how do you connect to your True Fans?

Curious about part of Exeter?

I promise, I haven’t died. I’ve been juggling a few extra balls the past several weeks and one of the side effects has been a lack of blogging. I’ve got one particular aspect that should play itself out in the next week or 10 days, and then I’ll be back to regular blogging, though probably not daily blogging.

In the meantime, several of my fanfic friends have an Unwritten Stories meme going on Live Journal. The idea is you post a prompt for a story I haven’t written yet, and I’ll post one to three (in theory) sentences from it. In actuality, both of the ones I’ve done so far have been several paragraphs. It’s been enough fun that I figured I’d bring it over here for Exeter. So, if you have a story in Exeter you’d like to see that I haven’t written yet, give me a prompt. I’ll give you a snippet. And if the story ends up published at some point, I’ll give you a nod in the acknowledgments as well.

Rules: 

Rule 1: There will be 10 (ten) prompt spots per month.
Rule 2: Tell me in comments a story I haven’t written, and I will give you 1-3 sentences from or about it.
Rule 3: No more than two prompts per person, unless I’ve filled everything and there are available prompt spaces
Rule 4: If you hit on something that would give away a couple of key secrets in the characters’ lives planned for future books, I reserve the right to ask for a substitute prompt.

Prompt 1:

Prompt 2:

Prompt 3:

Prompt 4:

Prompt 5:

Prompt 6:

Prompt 7:

Prompt 8:

Prompt 9:

Prompt 10:

And if you’re an NCIS fan and want to post a fanfic prompt request, that’s at my LiveJournal.