Long Tail Writing http://www.longtailwriting.com Writing home of James Livingood Tue, 07 Jul 2020 16:29:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 The 5 Stages of Finding Your Writing Process http://www.longtailwriting.com/the-5-stages-of-finding-your-writing-process/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/the-5-stages-of-finding-your-writing-process/#respond Tue, 07 Jul 2020 16:27:41 +0000 http://www.longtailwriting.com/?p=1695 I have read a lot of articles online and taken a number of video courses. I am far from an accomplished expert, but I have spent a lot of time looking into what process works for me. I think that this can be broken down, for me, into a number of areas. In addition, this process is just at its start. I hope to continue to tweak and perfect what I’ve learned, which is exciting to me. Let’s dig into this 5 stage process.

Stage 1: Build Something Horrible

I think this is the stage that is potentially the hardest in some ways. People don’t want to be horrible at something they’ve worked really hard at. In addition, it is really troubling to start the process knowing you’re going to be horrible. However, there is a topic that I find absolutely fascinating in this stage. For the first time ever, you get to hear your voice. When I say voice, I don’t mean your actual throat voice. What I mean is your literary voice. When you write a book, you write it in a unique way, in a unique style. When you first start writing, you get to start hearing this for the first time. It’s like hearing the compilation of all the stories you’ve admired through the years. Or perhaps it’s a squeaky and high pitched type of thing, where you absolutely hate your voice. Either way, you don’t know the “sound” until you start building something.

Stage 2: Work with Others

This is the stage where you might be the most shy. Now that you’ve built something, it’s time for others to read it. That can include beta readers, friends/family, or even narrators. The biggest and most important part of this stage is honesty. Brutal and non-comforting feedback. Once you have this, you can start to change the parts that don’t work that come naturally to you. That’s right, for the first real time, you will start training. You move from believing you know how to write, to actually writing better. The more feedback and the more trial/error, the better you get. This is the practice that separates the normal from the great.

Stage 3: Sow Knowledge Finds

After you’ve gotten feedback on your own writing, you can now dig into all the various pieces of advice out there. It might be best to stick with advice from proven authors, since their advice will be more generic. If you get advice from non-proven authors, they may believe that small successes are key. One note, I am not a proven author. When I say proven author, I am saying someone professionally doing writing for a living. In addition, they can’t be subsided via another route. A lottery winner, who doesn’t need to work, isn’t the best source of what may work. You want to find someone who works hard and is turning that hard work into an actual livable wage. Once you have these sources, and you learn from them, you hear about way more than you could ever act on. These knowledge finds become seeds for finding your style. You go ahead and plant them, which means you try them out. After you try a number of them, you’ll get a sense of what works and doesn’t work. I think this is the most interesting stage, because of the excitement of what could happen.

Stage 4: Reap and Repeat

After you try out a number of ideas from known authors, you can see what works for you. After you work through a lot of these ideas, you’ll begin to see a trend. At this point, you should be trying out the ideas, getting feedback on your work, and seeing what makes your style work. You should be finding ways to leverage your practice to be bigger and better. However, it doesn’t stop there. Now that you have a sense of what may work, you can start looking outside of known experts to see what is working on the fringes. Ultimately, you want to continue to work on your process and style. The more you refine and leverage it, the better it becomes. One potential danger at this point is building too big of system. At this point, you may need to cut things that work, but don’t work as well as you want. You need to keep the most important stuff: such as stuff that makes it fun to write. After you cut and find new stuff enough, the final stage opens up.

Stage 5: Final Why

Now that you’ve dug through all the methods that work for you and what you know how to get better, the final stage appears. This stage is determine what drives you to continue this practice. What makes you want to continue to get better and better. The more you refine and focus on this, the better. This stage is extremely risky, which is why it’s towards the end of this process. At this stage, you may determine you don’t want to write. You may also determine you want to write for the rest of your life. The choice will be yours, but it may fuel a unique determination. You’ll face the final boss battle of your writing process and either come out with a loss or win. Knowing your why is the most important part of the writing process. It is also the most difficult to pin down.

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Finding a Pre-Made Cover http://www.longtailwriting.com/finding-a-pre-made-cover/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/finding-a-pre-made-cover/#respond Fri, 12 Jun 2020 16:38:35 +0000 http://www.longtailwriting.com/?p=1659 Many of my stories are short stories that don’t require an expensive cover. (Please note, none of these are affiliate links.) I’ve had luck so far spending money on this fiverr gig, then using GIMP to modify the end result. The idea is to get an image and font that work well for the cover. I then modify the image manually, along with the text, to get an okay cover. However, I don’t think I will be able to continue doing that as I write longer and more complex tales. My next step in this process is to pay for pre-made covers.

Why is this the next step? Because the Fiverr gig only takes one image from DepositPhotos to be used for the cover. A custom cover takes a number of images and blends them together. The end result is a cover that could pass for a 100% custom design. This is the next step up from pre-made covers, though it is the longest time-wise and most expensive. So, how do I find pre-made covers? First I lookup what others have recommended and commented on. For that, I searched Reddit. I found this SelfPubBookCovers website. There are a lot of great covers there, but there are also a lot of junk covers as well. To help sort these out, I clicked the genre I am looking for and begin scrolling. When I find a cover that looks good (even if it doesn’t fit the book) I click it. I then take the creator’s name and search for covers by that creator. What I am doing is isolating the really good artists and then looking through their portfolio. Through my search, I may dig into about a half dozen different artist portfolios. The end result is finding that one or two covers that really stand out that may fit the book. After that, I look for covers by that artist that are similar. Many times I am not only looking for one good cover, but a small series of covers. The goal is to pre-buy covers for two or three books, so that as the series continues, I have covers that all match. I think that’s an extremely important aspect to finding a cover. The goal is getting a book series that looks professional, but not having to pay high prices.

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Building a New Website http://www.longtailwriting.com/building-a-new-website/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/building-a-new-website/#respond Wed, 03 Jun 2020 15:18:04 +0000 http://www.longtailwriting.com/?p=1567  As you can see I am building a new website. I am hoping to make this website feature rich, while also making it fast and secure. The goal with this effort is to own another potential marketing channel. I believe in the importance of owning versus renting. If a person uses an exclusive website to publish their book and uses that platform’s tools to market the book, they don’t really own the book. They own one product in one rented instance. That means that the rent can go up, the platform could change its rules, and many more things. This has already happened to me several times and I am tired of building on shaky ground. My hope is to build up my own website, my own mailing list, my own promotions, so that I can truly own my destiny. I believe that fully owning your sales chain, from production to repeat sales, is a stronger strategy for the long term. 

There is short term risk with this move though. The main book platform, which requires exclusivity, has the majority of the market. That means that in order to build my own sales chain, I may sacrifice short term profit. That’s going to be really tricky to do. Still, the name of my effort is ‘long tail writing’, which is about building a writing platform that will last for a long time. My personal hope is that this is something I can relish in during my twilight years. I want to look back at all this effort and go “I am so glad I did that”. I think the key to that isn’t just a single trick or short term gain. I think the key to that is human connection and bringing value wherever I go. I think that if I can build a platform that is really useful, that will have a more lasting impact than simply grabbing the easiest cash and running. 

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Loading and Dumping Writing Information http://www.longtailwriting.com/loading-and-dumping-writing-information/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/loading-and-dumping-writing-information/#respond Thu, 07 May 2020 16:14:00 +0000

There are a few things I’ve done lately to help build a writing practice. I started out finding a way to take in new information. After I got kinda “full up” on information I had to figure out another method. This article speaks about the “loading/dumping” of information that I hope will lead to a better craft.

Step 1: Loading up on information.

In this step, it’s pretty obvious what happens. I got to a variety of sources and I learn about how to write. My current favorite right now is masterclass, just because it has so many topics by people that are really at the top of their game. I like the idea of learning new things from top teachers. I think that’s what really sets Masterclass apart from other sources. Yes, you can get wonderful information, from top teachers, at other locations. However, you need to know which teachers are at the top of their game at first. Once you figure out a handful of top teachers, you then have a very limited amount of material from them. Many of these wonderful authors may have just put out one or two books on the subject. Once you’ve exhausted that source of information, you can ask for recommendations. From these recommendations you can gather perhaps a few more top teachers. However, even this eventually runs out. Soon, you’re stuck in this place where you don’t know if the other author really has the “proof” to what they say. That’s ultimately what you are looking for from a teacher. You want proof that what they are teaching is you going to be valid and worth studying. Everyone has something to say, but not everyone has an equal amount of sweat in what they’ve learned. Some people are just trying to say things to get others to listen. That’s not someone who is going to have a lot of life long lessons to learn. Enter Masterclass! You not only have a variety of wonderful teachers to look into, but you get a demo video at the beginning that gives you their style and credentials. That way you can view a variety of demo videos before settling on a worth while teacher. Once you’ve looked into gathering a bunch of information, the next step is to use it.

Step 2: Dumping the information

Right now I have a few different spots that I can dump information. This helps me gain the maximum capacity. After all, if you have a lot of material to work with, you’re going to need a lot of space. That means that you need to have a variety of organizational systems that will take in this knowledge and make it usable. My first step in this is to sort the kind of information. If it’s meta information (how to write) I may put it in that area. If it’s for a specific book, I’ll put it on the chapter list for that book. If it’s about a specific chapter of my book, I’ll add it to the header of the chapter. If the information isn’t about anything, but is still really cool, I’ll put it on the writing compost heap. That information will be picked through at a later day. The goal with any of this is to be able to take in information in a manner that you can use at a much later date. What I’ve found with this method is that I often need to fill in specific inspirational information or specific chapter information all the time. However, the compost heap and meta area (how to write) tend to fill up fairly quick. That means that I keep less information in the areas that fill up quick. I tend to keep more information in the areas that always need information. That’s how I build my capacity to hold information.

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Discovering the Need for Faster Feedback http://www.longtailwriting.com/discovering-the-need-for-faster-feedback/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/discovering-the-need-for-faster-feedback/#respond Tue, 14 Apr 2020 18:45:00 +0000

I am having some difficulty getting back into the swing of writing daily now that we are having a pandemic. That being said, I have introduced some wonderful new things to help my writing practice. I did sign up for MasterClass, which is giving me access to not only wonderful writers, but creators of all sorts. I was also able to hook up a family member with these same courses, so hopefully that will help them create.

I know that there is merit in working on your method, but I am finding that it’s diminishing returns if you don’t go and put the work back into practice. It’s my hope to build the mix between process and results. I’ve got a new focus now; working to make connections with readers. That’s a better focus than what I’ve had in the past, which were mostly based on fear.


In the past, I looked at royalties as proof that what I built had value – because I feared that it had no value. I now realize that honest connections with people are the way to build towards the future. To build a constant feedback loop, instead of just making assumptions from money.

Because money doesn’t always (pun intended) tell the story.

My hope is that the rest of the week will see an uptick in creation. I have a better understanding of why I write and why I wrote in the past. I am hoping to build a mix of creation and a chaotic sort of mindfulness.

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Royalties are Less Important than Reviews http://www.longtailwriting.com/royalties-are-less-important-than-reviews/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/royalties-are-less-important-than-reviews/#respond Fri, 03 Apr 2020 00:06:00 +0000

When they say you got to get the fundamentals right, they don’t really tell you how far the fundamentals go. Becoming an author is not simply about writing a wonderful book. A wonderful book is not an easy fundamental to deliver on. It takes a team to make that work. However, a wonderful book also takes practice. So after you’ve done enough writing and worked with the team and you have a wonderful book… that’s only the beginning. In today’s world, that’s just the first step. You also need to be able to sell that book. The first sale is easy: you get your wallet out and you buy. Getting a complete stranger to buy is magnitudes harder. After that, you have an even larger gap to figure out: getting a regular stream of complete strangers to buy your work. Even those can be fast tracked if you just throw enough money at it. The difficult part is getting them to buy without throwing buckets of money at the problem.

Some people think that if they throw buckets of money at the problem, it will eventually trickle into their other works. That might be true, but that becomes extremely hard to manage. So, say you are able to get a regular stream of complete strangers to consistently buy your work: fantastic! You still fail. Why? Because in order to make the book worth their time, it costs money. So you need to figure out a way to not only get strangers to buy your book, but you also have to earn out on your book fairly quickly. Why would you need to do this fairly quickly? Because you need funds to build ANOTHER book. You need funds to restart the campaign. You need funds to get this going again.

So after all the scrapping and connecting, the pleading and baby-kissing… what do you get with your author career? If you’re lucky and you work hard; there is one and only one reward. It’s easy to think the reward is royalties. It’s not royalties. If you pour everything you got in, you get a lever. Every time you pull that lever, you get to play the lottery. That lottery is simple: Is what I’ve created good enough to connect with people. That’s the treat. You get a visible, tangible sign that your deepest thoughts and work is validated. Not validated because they got a freebie, but validated because they spent hard earned money, took their scarce amount of time on this earth, and said – thank you for the escape. That thank you is the treat you get at the other side of the lever. I made fun. I made wonder. Here they are, in a box.

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Building a Writing Environment http://www.longtailwriting.com/building-a-writing-environment/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/building-a-writing-environment/#respond Fri, 06 Mar 2020 18:17:00 +0000

One of the key tricks to building a daily writing habit is to build a productive work environment. If you have a place you want to go to write, it will allow you to build a better word count. A daily writing habit can mean the difference between a professional and wannabe writer. So here is a first step to getting towards the professional realm of writing.

Stimulating but not Cluttered

You want to build your writing environment in a way that inspires you. That may include inspirational quotes, Funko Pops from your favorite shows, posters, or any number of things. The point is to surround yourself with inspirational items. However, no one wants to work in a mess. That is why you must strike the balance between being cluttered and being inspirational. Sometimes the best way to strike this balance is to organize the inspiration. This may include a shelf that has nothing but figurines on it. Maybe your posters are in professional framing. Another idea is to keep certain areas of the work area clean. Even if you are mostly digital, and don’t do a lot of paper, the psychology of a clean working space allows you to be more active. Again the trick is to balance inspiration and clutter.

Tools and Preparation

One of the easiest ways to have a wonderful writing environment is to be prepared. If you are prepared to write for the day, you are more likely to write. That means you have an outline that needs to be accomplished. If you don’t use an outline in your writing, it may be helpful to describe the feeling or environment prior to writing. The idea is to not start cold. You want a warm start to your work and being prepared is the best way to do that. In addition, having the proper tools to work is important. If you live in a noisy household and have trouble concentrating, a pair of noise canceling earphones may be required. In addition, you want to have the right software to write. If you have the correct software and it is set up the way you understand, then that is something you don’t have to think about when you produce words. Ultimately, your goal is to make writing as frictionless as possible. You want to reduce the amount of excuses you have.

The Comfort Zone

One of the best ways to build a writing environment is to be comfortable and be in the zone. This includes wearing comfortable clothing and having lighting that you prefer. Some people like to work in a darker place, while others love the sunlight pouring in. Whatever is most comfortable to you, try to achieve that. In addition, wearing comfortable clothing is also essential. You don’t want to be picking at your clothing, or squinting, when you’re trying to produce words. Finally, the tone of your book can be set by the tone in your ears. If you have music that fits your book, that may be a wonderful addition to your working environment. Or, if you like to listen to a certain type of music, such as classical or chill, then running that over your headphones / speakers may help produce a wonderful writing environment.

Building a writing environment is the first step to a daily writing habit. However, there is a point in which you can over-engineer your writing environment. If you are spending more time on the activities surrounding writing, and not actually writing, then it can be a detriment. You can change your environment in an iterative approach. That means you change your environment a little at a time to make it a better and better writing environment. After a number of years, it will be a wonderful place to work every single day.

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How to Find Time to Write http://www.longtailwriting.com/how-to-find-time-to-write/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/how-to-find-time-to-write/#respond Tue, 03 Mar 2020 16:07:00 +0000

Lately I have been having difficulty finding time to write. I want to write, but there have simply been too many higher priorities. This had me wondering how I should find time to write. Here are three different ways to do just that.

Method number one: Edges

One of the best ways to find time to write is to look at the edges of your day. That means your morning or night. If you can wake up an hour early or go to bed an hour late; that will give you time to write. This will make a big difference in your writing. My suggestion is to look hard at your morning. It is better to wake up fresh and write then to be tired from your day job and write.

Method number two: Commute

Another great method to find time to write is to look at your commute. Sometimes you can take public transportation or carpool and write during that time. Another method would be to use a recorder device while driving, though that can be difficult especially if it becomes a distraction. Distraction free driving is the law.

Method number three: Cutting

Sometimes the best way to find time to write is to cut out things you don’t need. For example, if you’re spending a lot of time in the evening watching TV, it might be best to cut out the number of shows you watch. That will allow you to have time to write. Another method to cut out things is to delegate them. Many people have others hired to mow the lawn or clean the house. This time saved would allow someone to write. In addition, setting up meals in advance may help reduce the amount of time taken to make dinner. This time can be spent writing. Cutting down your daily chores, or daily habits, can lead to some wonderful writing time. Writing is fantastic because it doesn’t take that much time to get some words on the page.

Finding time to write can be tricky. We all have day jobs, relationship obligations, chores to do, and we still need to find time for ourselves. That’s a lot to do in everyday life. However, finding time needs to be important if you want to be a writer. Ultimately that’s what being a writer is all about. You prioritize the act of writing over other things.

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The Three Pillars of a Daily Writing Structure http://www.longtailwriting.com/the-three-pillars-of-a-daily-writing-structure/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/the-three-pillars-of-a-daily-writing-structure/#respond Wed, 26 Feb 2020 15:48:00 +0000

What we do without thinking, via habit, helps define most of our life. Some speculate that it is what our lives are built upon. We simply go from one ingrained procedure, like a computer, to the next. This is why writing every day is so important. Writing daily helps your thought structure and makes it much greater than you would normally would have access to. They call this better word structure a writing practice. This is the true power of writing every day. A writing structure can include three components. There may be more components than these, but these three are the ones I can think of easily.

Structure one: Goals
When you have writing goals, it helps alleviate a very common problem. That problem is what to write. By taking away that extra consideration, you spend less time preparing, and more time writing.

Structure two: Revision
My least favorite topic is editing. I hate it. I think I hate editing so much because I need to rely on software to help me with grammar. I also hate editing because I have to cut out material. My preference is to always use every word I’ve written. However your writing released needs to be the best words written. That is why editing is such a key component of a writing practice.

Structure three: Fun
Fun is a commonly overlooked area of a writing practice. Many writers focus on profits or on hitting a major goal. However, it is equally important to have fun while writing. This can include world building, listening to inspirational music, or simply work-shopping an idea with another person. Fun will drive you to write everyday and continue to expand on your craft.

These three structures are important to a writing practice. They are not the only three structures, they are simply the one I can think of right now. However they are important to consider when building your writing practice.

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Building a New Writing Style http://www.longtailwriting.com/building-a-new-writing-style/ http://www.longtailwriting.com/building-a-new-writing-style/#respond Tue, 25 Feb 2020 15:33:00 +0000

Lately I’ve been working on building a new writing style. It all started when I read about the snowflake method. In this idea, you take one part and expand it. For example, a character starts with a few lines, and turns into a paragraph, then a page. The idea is that you continually expand your story structure. In addition to all that snowflake method, I have also been reading about what kind of questions a person should ask when developing a story. All of these new ideas have me thinking about developing a new writing method. Here are three ways that I’m doing just that.

Method 1: Dictation

Right now I’m finding that writing is taking too much time. Writing is important to me, but I have my day job. Writing is important to me, but I still need to make sure to take out the trash. Writing is important to me, but I still need to make sure to spend time with family. There are all these different things getting in the way of writing. In order to get these done, I’m now trying dictation. Even this very article is being dictated. I’m hoping that this will speed up my writing.

Method 2: Asking Questions

In a recent interview with Patrick Rothfuss in the Writing Excuses podcast, he presented this question. He asked to question yourself on what you’re writing; what you are trying to make the writer feel. In addition to that, he says that you should list out what the three objectives of a given chapter should be. He also lists that each scene, that’s where someone enters her at this stage, should be noted with some other purpose. In addition to these questions, as mentioned above, there is the snowflake method. In addition, there are more questions I found in the Lazy DM Guide book. That book shows you how to run easy campaigns Dungeons & Dragons 5. I’m using these to help me build a writing structure that is easier to complete.

Method 3: Interweaving

An area I fail in is in adding descriptions into my stories. I am fairly light on the description, instead diving right in the action. However, when reading Brandon Sanderson books, I see how he shifts between each type of topic. He’s digging into description one moment, dialogue the next, and exposition the third. He continually shifts between these different modes, which makes the flow of the story much better. I’m doing my best to emulate that style.

These three methods are how I’m trying to modify my writing style. I don’t know what’s going to be successful, so I am aiming to practice as much again. I’m also turning to flash fiction prompts, to help me build this muscle. The more that I’m able to write successfully, the better. Ultimately I want to produce the best writing possible as quickly as possible. I want to be able to produce stories so quickly, that I don’t have the surplus of ideas. The quicker these go out into the world, the faster I can improve my writing.

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