Friday, February 14, 2020

Five reasons why I love to write





There are many things to write, but never enough time to express them correctly. Today I will look into five reasons I love to write.

1. To become my own favorite author.

This reason is fairly direct. Anytime I find something cool that another author has done, I want to make it my own and better. The hope is that I can build writing that is amazing. It’s also amazing to think I could have my favorite author write as much as I desire.

2. To surprise and make someone happy; and to break away from their routine.

It’s easy to look at fantasy or fiction stories and assume they are a waste of time. It’s not like you gain marketable skills after each epic book series. Instead, writing allows us to relax in our day-to-day lives. We can unwind and let ourselves be entertained with the various stories. We don’t always need to gain something for it to be worthwhile.

3. To own things that will generate money far into the future.

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of automated work. I like things getting done, even when I am not around. The biggest draw to this line of thinking is fiscal. I love money just appearing, almost as if from magic. I know that all supposed passive incomes are not passive. However, I also know that a person can build a series of good that will help them leverage things in a new way.

4. To own fun, intellectual property and see that come to life.

It’s one thing to write silly stories and ideas down on paper. It is another to see those stories connect with people. Or to see other people take your work and put their own creative spin on it. I like having my own cool things to sell. Things that I would love to own, and build those into even better things. I think there is a certain amount of fun in that idea.

5. To give my mind a vacation in a strange land.

Finally, this is why I love writing. Writing can lead down some interesting rabbit holes and theories. By having a few moments to think, I allow my brain to chase these down and explore. I am no longer concentrating on my day-to-day survival. Instead, I am taking a break from that continuous burden and letting my brain play as it desires. I think this is one of the biggest reasons I love to write.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Using Nooks and Crannies of Time




I think one of the problems I’ve faced recently is my own ambition. It’s easy to desire the creation of many things, but it is more difficult to find the time to complete it all. The routines that help us keep the world spinning are not always in the same rotation towards our goals. This means that you need to sneak in creation wherever you can. That can be tricky as you may not be able to start quickly on your topics. That means that you’re “rev-up” time makes a lot of time slots non-workable.

If you keep refusing these time slots and are not able to get work done, then guilt can set in. Once that happens, you might start making compromises on your goals. The more you do that, the more you feel worse about yourself. This can continue downwards until you are extremely angry with yourself or you become depressed.

Here are some tricks I’ve found to help with this:
  1. Make some 0-Rev activities towards your goals
  2. Go through a quick “why” drill
  3. Meditate in a way that restores


The first trick, making 0-rev activities, is fairly simple. If you’re goal is to put down a certain amount of words every day, you might need some prompts or structure to do that. However, if you haven’t made those prompts, you’re going to pause and not want to write. (Or you’re going to need additional time to start) However, if you make ‘side writing habits’ that don’t require research or structure, you can quickly get into writing without a specific plan. This is a trick of ‘pantser’ writers, they just push everything into a direction and follow where ever it goes. If you can’t do that with your main stories, then just try writing some blogs (like I am doing now) or write on a platform like Hubpages or Medium. I am not saying these don’t require work, but getting a raw word count to play with later can be very helpful. Ultimately, you want to be able to launch into your goal as quickly as possible, no preparation needed. If you make activities designed this way, than you can fit in the activity into the nooks and crannies of your day.

The second trick, a quick “why” drill, is like a little kid asking you a bunch of questions. You take your goal and plan, then apply a why to it. Why does doing this activity solve the problem/achieve the goal? After you have your answer, ask why again. Why does hitting this goal solve the problem? You continue down several layers (often times people stop at 5 why layers). The purpose of this activity is simple. You want to find the most gain for the least amount of work. Once you’ve identified this, you can achieve your goals quicker, which means the nooks and crannies of your day go farther.

The final trick, meditating in a way that restores, is something fairly new to me. In the past, I’ve used meditation in a way to focus. I am focusing on going to sleep or focusing on my daily to-do list. However, there is a method to meditate towards restoration. If you’re brain is getting tired, recognize that and don’t try to fit in a complex activity. Instead, look to focus on what will bring your brain back into “the zone”. This can be completely off-task, but don’t get too zoomed into anything else. This is a meditation where you find a way to relax you’re overworked brain, but don’t let it completely check out. Once your brain is relaxed, then focus the meditation on a method to get it revved back up. Here is an example of how this works: You can start by listening to some of your favorite songs. Then start singing along with them. As you feel more relaxed, switch the station over to some more interesting music. That might cause the creative side of you to come out. Once that side is out, you can go back to building wonderful things.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Measure Twice, Cut Once on Resolutions



‘Measure twice, cut once’ is an adept expression for all of life.  New Years resolutions are easy to build for a lot of people, though more and more are turning away from the idea. I think it’s an interesting paradox myself. People try to fix their indulgences at the start of a year, promising this is going to be ‘their year’. They cut out coffee or desserts to get into better health. I am not above this practice, though I usually do the ‘cut out an indulgence’ at the start of lent.

What makes this interesting to me is that people don’t appear to take a holistic view of their entire life. Instead, they focus on the micro area that is bugging them. If they can just fix that one tiny area, they should be able to tackle all of it, right?

However, that one tiny area may not be the area with the most need for improvement. Furthermore, it might not yield the best results. For example, cutting out coffee may help reduce calories from cream/sugar… but what about those donuts you had for breakfast? What’s more, what kind of goals have worked in the past and why?

Looking to build new patterns in the new year must be based off past success. To me, it’s bizarre to start fresh without really looking at your past. This is what I want to show in this article. Having trend data can really help a person get a better grasp on goals.

For example, I’ve tracked the last 17 years of new years resolutions (since 2003) and can tell you the trends within the data. That allows me to build goals that are not only attainable, but inspiring. The goals are flexible enough to achieve, but have enough of an impact to have a drastic effect in my future going forward. To me, that’s ultimately what you want in a New Years resolution: attainable major change that inspires you. I don’t think a lot of people are willing to track it down to that level. That being said, I am glad I am willing to do this! I look forward to an amazing year of growth!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Looking Back at 2019



Looking ahead at 2020, there are things that worked well and things that didn’t. Some of the things that worked well in 2019 are producing quickly and building audio books. That constant stream of content allowed me to leverage more promotions. This combination led to my highest Amazon author rank ever. I sold a lot of audio books and my email list has grown 4.8% every month.

Another thing that worked out well for me is setting a bar on writing profits. Anything above $350/month goes towards retirement/saving funds. That allows me to see the profit grow in a different way. I also like the idea that my work and effort doesn’t fade but continues to grow year after year. That’s the “long tail” of “long tail writing”: building once and seeing slow growth.

However, a few things didn’t work out so well. I started a goal of writing every week day, but that evaporated. I had to scale that back to a weekly goal and had trouble with that. I determine that the main issue is that I was being a bit too much of a “pantser” and not planning. That led to me not wanting to write, but instead focus too much on promotions. At this point, I know how I want to do promotions. That will change in the future, but I feel like I have a good sense on that.  This lack of productivity did result in a NaNoWriMo fail.

The goal is, and always has been, to be my own favorite writer. I’ve done decent with that so far, but I need to delve deeper into that. I can’t just be producing content to fit a goal. I need to have fun while writing. I think if I can make the writing more fun and easier, I’ll produce more content. 

Summation:

What worked
  • Writing a lot
  • Building audio books
  • Building a mailing list


What didn’t work
  • Not enough plotting
  • Better writing ethic
  • Making writing more fun


Ultimately, what 2020 needs to be is to simply do more of what I am doing now. I think I am on the right trajectory, I just need to tweak a few parts that are not working.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Never Be 100% Pantser or a 100% Planner



I don’t think being 100% “pantser” is an effective way to write fiction. This method is where you have no plan and just start writing. I also believe that being a 100% planner ultimately results in analysis paralysis. (That’s where nothing gets done because you are planning too much.) Most writers I think fall into the middle, and here are 5 reasons why a bit of planning is a good thing.

Connection of points previously not thought about

When you plan you get to see the plot from a different perspective. That higher perspective can reveal recurring themes and conflicts in your work. That can help you play towards those themes, giving you book a much better impact overall.

Allows you to recognize junk to cut

Much like point one, knowing a high-level perspective can help you identify which components don’t fit. That can allow you to cut out junk the reader doesn’t need. Ultimately, the best stories are ones that are told in as few words as possible. This means that each chunk is relevant to the story, and that there is no wasted material.

Makes writing easier

Writing every day is a common desire for many writers. The biggest hurdle in this effort is not the 100th word, but the first. Just like jumping into cold water, the hardest part is that initial leap, that initial first sentence. If you have a focus or outline you can use, this makes things easier.

Allows you to “eat an elephant”

Planning a bit can also take a massive project and make it more obtainable. Few people could sit down and write an entire novel in one session. However, many people are able to take a few months and part out the topics to write. That makes it easier to complete a difficult task.

Can support being a “pantser”

This last point is the most interesting to me. Planning can help being a pantser. Knowing where to go can give you characters a default that they can ignore later. Furthermore, you can plan out systems so that no matter which choice your characters make, their journeys will increase in potency. One of the “tricks” in the Lazy Dungeon Masters Guide (which tells you how to prepare Dungeons and Dragons games with the least amount of time) is to build a list of 10 secrets. These secrets may or may not be used in every session.

I think there are a number more areas that planning can help, but this minor list should help emphasize the importance of planning. We all want a product that has as few problems as possible. These can include plot holes, incorrect pacing, grammar and more. The ultimate goal is to produce an 80% quality product as fast as possible. Why not a 99% quality product? The answer is simple: diminishing returns. To get from 20% to 50% quality could simply be fixing a major plot hole and some minor grammar mistakes. However, getting from 80% - 85% quality could mean re-writing two or three chapters to make a side character emphasize a main character’s journey. That time could be better spent writing a sequel to the endeavor with that side character in the sequel.



Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Combining Ideas with Plans for 2020



Lately I’ve found myself struggling to continue towards a daily writing habit. There are so many things to distract me and I am not just talking about social media. Instead there are many writer activities that can distract me from writing. For example, plotting for new worlds, trying to determine how a mechanic would work, or even working through promotions.

As I look to the new year, a few things will need to be sorted out. Here is a brief list of each and what they may mean.

  • Daily Writing Habit
  • Writing Vacation Days
  • World Burner
  • New Years Resolutions


For the daily writing habit, what needs to be sorted out are the prompts. I need to build a system that helps me feel excited and ready to write for the next day. I think that part of that needs to be building daily writing prompts for myself. For example, if I end the day writing about a fight, I need to write a prompt that talks about ramifications of that fight. The idea being that I can dive quickly into writing that bit.

Wiring vacation days is a unique idea that has really sparked my imagination. The idea is to work 4x10’s during my day job one week per month. That way, I have a day off and will use that day to do nothing but writing. The hope is to burn through 10k work of writing quickly and really enjoy the process. At the moment I am thinking about building a LitRPG story, so that day would have me actually playing the game and writing about the results.

World Burner is a World Anvil contest to put down 10k of words into a world. I think this would be a wonderful way to start a LitRPG story, so I am digging into that. It’s not as intimidating as NaNoWriMo’s 50k, I can say that for certain.

New Years Resolutions – So for this one there are a couple things to think about. I haven’t committed to anything yet, but I would like to investigate a few things. First off, when I combine speech to text, then correct that speech, I can hit about 35 wpm. My normal speed is 20 wpm. (I can actually type around 60-70 wpm, but my brain simply can’t work as fast as my hands can) The other thing I am thinking for a New Years Resolutions is to build two new streams of income from my writing. Specifically, one based on written word, the other on printed word. The idea is to have my author earnings increase every year as I continue this adventure. I am hoping to build some diversity into my earnings so that if one area dries up, I still have a few other areas. I need to be continuously looking to build a bigger platform.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Typical Author Mailing List Versus Mine: Five Month Analysis



My mailing list is an amazing resource that I look forward to building into a multi-prong tool. The goal would be to deliver different types of value to those who most desire it. In October I tried out that approach but haven't found a good way to separate this. (Several of the "potential paths" that would have led to segments in my mailing list had few people click on them.) However, I took a few moments and built a summation of how my mailing list is doing since I revived it this year.

Here is the five-month summation of my list: It is currently growing by about 4.8% per month (after uninterested are removed). These are more actively engaged (the typical author mailing list has 40% open, 10% click. We have 50% open, 15% click) which means 1.5x better results than typical author. [So that 4.8% growth is really 7.2% growth]

On the flip side, I was curious how my growth (with brutal removals of inactive users) compares to more relaxed removal of inactive users. In other words, if I wasn't so quick to remove people, would my reach be better? The answer is yes, I would almost get twice the amount of interaction if I gave people more of a chance. I would see about 15% growth, instead of the [4.8% (actual) x 1.5 (highly engaged)] = 7.2% growth. That's a bit surprising to me, as I assumed more engaged people would make up the difference.

When I revived my list, I was worried I would hit the 2k MailChimp cap by end of October. With this current trajectory of 4.8% growth, I should hit that during spring instead (April/May). However, as I try new approaches in promotions, that may change. The wonderful thing about being active in this endeavor is how much I learn. Perhaps this month or next I'll learn of a new place that will double my growth? Maybe I'll find a great method to segregate my mailing list, which causes it to grow?

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