Lately I’ve been hearing a message repeated throughout my day. I first heard it a while back at church. Then on the radio, then in a random conversation and so on. It’s the message of sowing and reaping.
If you’re not familiar with the standard Christian bible, the King James Version (i.e. there are many different Christian bibles) the message of sowing and reaping, in its most basic form, is the teaching that whatever you put your efforts into (whatever you work at) that is what will generate results in your life. Depending on the source some say there are as many as 66 verses in the bible about sowing and reaping so it seems an important topic.
For example, if you cut wood eight hours a day for a week then at the end of that week you will have a massive pile of cut wood. Whatever you sow (put effort towards) you shall reap (get results).
I wondered every time I heard the concept about sowing and reaping how I would apply that to writing novels. I now how to apply it. I just didn’t know how to tell you about it. Then I had a conversation with a fellow writer who is writing their second book and struggling to get any traction. They knew I had written four books in a year and had five more I was working on for 2018. They wanted to know how I could write so many books. Here’s how a portion of the conversation went.
Me - How many book ideas do you have?
Them - Eight.
Me – Ok, so the problem is not lack of ideas.
Me – How often do you write?
Them – I write when the feeling hits me.
Writing when the muse or mood strikes is tantamount to failure. Think about it this way. If you had/have a 9-5 job and only went to that job when the mood struck you how big do you think your paycheck would be at the end of the month. How many hours you work (sow) has a direct effect on how big your paycheck is (reap).
Writing a novel is no different than any other job. If you write for a few hours a couple times a week, when the mood strikes, by the end of the month you might have finished 10-15,000 words or enough for 2-3 chapters. At that rate it will take a minimum of one year to get a rough draft. Add another year to turn the rough draft into a finished product.
So how many books you finish (reap) is directly proportional to how many hours you write (sow). You don’t sow you won’t reap.
To be a writer, you MUST do one thing more than anything else and that is write. Sounds simplistic but you would be amazed at how many ‘writers’ don’t write every day.
But I don’t know what to write? Write anything, a novel, a short story, a journal, a blog, it really doesn’t matter at first. All you want to do is sow (write) the reaping will come later and trust me it will come.
Look, you may not believe in God you may not believe in the bible but the principle holds true in the material world as well. If you don’t work (sow) you don’t eat (reap). Its built into every core of the universe in which we live.
So sit down and start writing.
As a writer, and someone who did a miserable job at passing English in school, I often (read always) rely on software editors to help with “fixing” my writing. If I didn’t here is an honest example of what you would read.
My father was not one to be praised or ever praise worthy. He was a gentle man possesed with a fire rtempre that woul igniote itself at the slights confrotntaion.
I must be the undisputed king of comma splices and run on sentences. Not to mention my brain thinks faster than my fingers can type.
I currently use two editors in addition to Microsoft Word spell and grammar check. Word has come a long way with the feature and will catch most of your errors. But if you want your writing to rise above the masses you need something more.
I’ve been using Autocrit.com since my third novel and I have to say it has elevate my writing exponentially. It’s a solid program with an easy to use interface.
There is one BIG drawback that I’m hoping the autocrat people will address, this software costs A LOT of money. Its almost $30 per month. If you don’t write often (daily) It’s not worth the expense). I’m not sure if the makers of Autocrit think they are Adobe (a company famous for charging hefty sums for its software) or what but the fee for the software does not need to come anywhere near that. Even Adobe got the message and now only charges $11 per month.
Prowritingaid is a new software I recently learned about. I’m currently using the trial version to check its capabilities. It’s an add-in for Microsoft Word. Compared to Autocrit it’s a steal at just $50 per year (under $5 a month). The software has some nice features to it and would be an inexpensive and solid help to a writer. I find the interface to be clunky and difficult to maneuver. I would add that some of the checks of the software are completely unnecessary and seem to have been added just to bulk up the look. For example, how many of us need an NLP Predicates Check? How many of us even know what the frak that is?
Since I’m discussing this software I just ran a check using it and it gave me 23 reports with 62 issues. Just for this small blog post! 23 reports really. That is excessive.
For my money (and I grant you it’s a lot of my money) I go with Autocrit. I like the layout. The interface is easy to use, and I understand the reports and what they are saying. I’m praying heavily they bring the price waaaaaaay down.
I find that as I get older I spend more time comparing the present to the past. The old “when I was a kid” syndrome. In which I drone on to my 15 year old about how things were when I was young. Before the advent of cell phones, Netflix and the internet. It’s probably something each one of us does as we ponder the ancient question “where things better in that era than they are now?”
I’d have to say it’s a 70/30 split (70% better back then). There has been a great deal of positive innovations (no Amazon Echo is not one of them). Most of them made in science and medicine. And yet we, as a nation, become increasingly isolated in our lifestyles, apathetic in our care of one another and corpulent in what we eat.
I still believe our ancestors had a more positive grasp on life. My opinion it boils down to entertainment. Or what is now called entertainment. Truly, it’s nothing more than watching random videos that people post for God knows what reason.
When I was a kid, we watched TV. Especially Saturday morning cartoons. But then we were outside and would stay outside until the street lights came on (that was the signal to go home for dinner). We rode bikes, we read books, and we played together. We got exercise and were social active all at the same time.
Now with the advent of new entertainment venues (read cell phone) kids have no need to move. They get their “play” from the phone. They socialize (I’m using that word loosely) on the phone. It’s a fact everything kids now have comes from the phone.
The younger generation(s) is becoming more and more dependent on technology and in turn more and more isolated. Cell phone technology has led us down a rabbit hole. And when that hole bottoms out it won’t be a pretty image. But hey, maybe someone will record it on video.
Of course, my first resolution is to not have any resolutions (again!) But clearly, that has never worked out. What I find interesting, and maybe this is only me (thought I doubt it) is that I rarely (read never) achieve my resolutions. Why? Is it because I have no willpower? Well yes, and no.
Dr. Phil (Yes, I love Dr. P) says that willpower is a myth and I am inclined to believe him. Of all the people I have known, I can think of only one person that has ever displayed a consistent and therefore winning game of willpower. It is my Uncle Roy. He was a smoker for decades, pretty much his entire adult life. Then one day he said, “I’m done” and never smoked again. No pills, no hypnosis, no patch. Just pure willpower. Impressive to say the least. What if we could all do that? With anything we wanted. The world would be a wonderful place.
Unfortunately, I think most of you are like me. Willpower lasts a solid five maybe ten minutes then it is out the window. Most of us need some type of outside influence. Need to stop wasting money on frivolous things? Lose your job. Need to lose weight? Have a heart attack. What is called negative motivation, not willpower is the moving force behind most changes.
Therefore, I decided the perfect New Year’s resolution would be not to do less of this or more of that. Instead I resolved to replace my bad habits (I will not list what they are because, well, damn, that’s personal) with positive habits.
Ok I’ll tell you one. I have always wanted to stop watching television. I hate that I watch it. It’s nothing but mind numbing garbage. And don’t get me started on the commercials. Televisions commercials make me want to stab myself or even better the morons who make the commercials. (Ahem, sorry. No, really tell us how you feel). So I have replaced all but the bare bones of TV watching with writing. I like writing better anyway and it won’t turn me into a moronic zombie. Yes, I will still watch most of the new Dr. Phil – the one with psycho teenagers at least. And I continue to watch Ink Master because some of them are such amazing artists. I didn’t watch a lot of TV in the first place but even if I wasted an hour a day on the idiot box that’s seven more hours of writing done a week. That’s a whole extra day’s work.
No bad, huh? So there you have it. I don’t resolve to change anything. I only resolve to REPLACE everything.
“Without a doubt that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.”
If you are a parent and have a small child or baby those words can have a devastating effect. Has anyone ever said that? In a world where people kill each other because they are the wrong race, or religion or nationality, then yes, I am sure someone has said that.
What does that have to do with writing fiction?
The other day I had a fan contact me saying how much he/she enjoyed my first book Darkwater. He/she said they gave it five stars on Amazon (and they did). He/she also wrote in the email how they were looking forward to reading book two of the series.
So I waited anxiously for their review of book two (first mistake). When I looked at the books reviews (second mistake) I saw the person gave it one star. Then I read the review (final mistake and nail in coffin). Aggh! The agony they gave my book one star. The nearly 80,000 words I poured blood sweat and tears into was ripped apart. Oh the humanity!
Fortunately, God saw that one coming (he sees it all coming) and that very night I got another wonderfully written email from a fan thanking me for writing the Xenkur series.
Still the review bothered me. If someone told you that your baby was ugly (see how I tied that in). You know it’s not true and yet that doesn’t prevent the comment from twisting a knife in your heart.
That’s what a novel is to the person who wrote it. It’s there baby. They have worked countless hours, days, years writing the novel. It is their love, their passion. No one would take the time to write a solid novel if there wasn’t a hunger to create.
When I first started getting reviews, I thought it would be helpful to read them. Possibly glean some information that would improve the book and my writing. So I read every review. But, quickly found out there isn’t really anything to help hone my craft in the reviews, (even the five star ones).
So what is a writer to do?
It’s simple: DONT look at your reviews and DONT read them.
It’s great to get reviews, especially positive ones, but I no longer believe it’s important to read them. In fact, I think it is harmful to your craft. If your reading reviews and they say, for example, “I didn’t like the Bob character, he was to wishy-washy.” You may begin to second-guess yourself and your writing. That is the death-knell of creativity.
So write it the way you want do your best to create a quality novel. Remember it’s your baby. And if people love it, great! And if they don’t? Just keep writing. What do “they” know anyway.
I’m not saying books should not get one star reviews. Just be cognizant of what you’re doing.
I’m also not saying you should not post reviews. Reviews are the bread and butter of Indie authors and will help their income.
The internet is a wonderful and horrible creation. Isn’t it? You can find literally any subject you want. Information is nearly limitless.
BUT.... (Knew that was coming didn’t ya)
Is the information true or false? You have to remember that everything is put on the internet for someone’s purpose. The purpose may to be to help others avoid the pitfalls of the author but more times than not it is to make money. Because money makes the world go round (or that is the belief anyway).
OK, then why am I posting this blog entry? I just said everyone has a reason.
The reason I’m writing this is help you understand much of the information out there for indie authors is not to help you but to sell you (something).
I will say that I am not trying to sell you anything. I’m not going to plug “Review software” or some company that looks for reviewers. So I can be completely honest about my findings. And honesty is not something easily found on the internet.
My results of five widely touted “miracle strategies” the internet is currently trying to force down the indie authors throat. Based on twelve months of trial and error.
1) More reviews = more sales
Not as far as I can tell. My first book sold well and only had seven reviews. It now has 13 and there has not been an increase in sales due to reviews. Now it is possible that sales would increase if your book had five reviews and say it now has 500. That I don’t know.
2) Bad reviews are just as good as good reviews
No. Bad reviews are bad and good reviews are good. You don’t want bad reviews. I once saw a website that said they would buy your book and post a bad review on Amazon. Saying bad reviews actually sold more books. I forget the websites name but when you click on the purchase button, it brings up a PayPal account in an Asian language and they never responded to any emails I sent, so I assume it’s a fraud.
Think of it like this. If you were going to buy, a vacuum cleaner and the first had all one and two star reviews and the second had all four and five star. Which would you buy?
3) Advertising sells books
Yes it does. But does it make you a profit? No. and sometimes if you are not careful it can put you deep into debt. Spend your advertising dollars wisely. I can tell you that advertising on Facebook is a complete loss. I tried it (it’s more expensive than many other venues) and I did not sell a single novel.
Remember that advertising has NO guarantee. If you plunk down a large sum of cash you are gambling. Bookbub (the self-touted leader in advertising books) wants nearly $600. The claim you’ll reach 1.9 million readers. BUT (there’s that word again) there is NO WAY to verify how many people your ad reaches. Maybe it is 1.9 million or maybe it’s 10 (wow that’s cynical).
4) Sales rank sells more books
That’s a definite, maybe. Amazon has many programmers working 40+ hours a week designing a system that cannot be manipulated. Add to that the fact that Amazon does not have to tell you when they change, remove, or add anything.
So what’s an author to do? You have two choices.
a) You can try one of the many procedures flooding the internet claiming they have the solution to getting a great sales rank. Many of the procedures look more like a physics problem than anything else. Do they work? I don’t know. Most are far too complicated to be worth it.
b) Don’t worry about it. My books hover in the 75-150,000 range of sales rank and sell well. In that range I’m selling 50+ books per month.
5) More books = more sales
Yes, definitely! I speak from experience. My first books sold ok. Then four months later, I published my second book. Sales of my first book went up 32%. That is a huge spike in sales.
So there you have it. My honest and not all positive conclusions to my first twelve months as an indie publisher.
Leave a comment. I would love to hear your experience.
Anyone who reads a novel (or even worse a series) and then expects the movie depicting it to be as good as the book(s) is setting themselves up for a fall.
I cannot tell you how many times someone will say to me, “Hey did you see the movie, whatchamacallit? It’s not near as good as the book.”
I usually respond with “Oh.” But what I really want to say is -- “Really? You mean the 90 minutes of film does not capture the 1200 pages of the trilogy? I find that shocking.”
Why are you comparing the two? Its apples and oranges. There is no way a movie, even an extra-long movie (3+ hours) can come anywhere close to the experience a person has reading page after page, chapter after chapter. And the real reason has nothing to do with book vs. movie. It has to do with your brain.
Your brain has an infinite capacity to create. When the human brain reads a book, it is not simply reading words on a page. It’s creating a world in which it can move freely. A world that it can immerse itself in. To date a movie does not have that ability. Granted you can get lost in a great movie but the film does not have the capacity to put you in it. Your brain and a great novel can. When you read the words on the page your mind becomes Atticus Finch, Lisbeth Salander, and of course, Harry Potter. It is your brains ability to set you into the scene. Your mind imagines the detail, it hears, and smells the environment. That is what creates the experience. No movie can do that.
So next time you are going to see the movie of a book you read and loved. Enjoy the film. However, remember it will not replace the experience of the book. Because of your marvelous brain, the book will always be triumphant.
My new novel Songweaver
will be available January 9th, 2018
$14.95 US Paperback - $1.99 US Ebook
Available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords and
50 other retailers worldwide.
You can read a portion of the first chapter here.
Let's be honest. Have you ever called anyone ignorant? I know I have (sorry whoever that was) and I would say at one time or another we all have. Now let me ask you this. When you did that, were you educating the person or insulting them? Because ignorant is not an insult. ALL of us are ignorant. ALL of us!
In the dictionary the definition of ignorant is lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular. Oh boy! Am I ignorant of a host of topics.
Ok, a third question. Do you think as a society we are more ignorant or less ignorant than our forefathers? I'm not going to answer that. That's an answer you have to come up with yourself.
(What does this have to do with fiction? What I'm getting there.)
I had the unfortunate chance this last weekend to spend some time with a person who professes to be highly intelligent (mostly from his own lips). Yet I say he is the most ignorant man I know.
I call it the Einstein Effect. Albert Einstein was a genius of that there is no doubt. Yet he failed many subjects and his mother would pin a note with directions on his coat so he could find his way home. He was a mathematical and physics genius and ignorant of most other things.
And that brings us to fiction. (It does? What? How?)
The average American reads at the 5th grade level (it used to be 6th grade so as a country were also become more stupid). So now writers are not able to create masterful works of literature like Anna Karenina, The Great Gatsby, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And it's all because of ignorance.
Writers have been forced to "dumb-down" their creations so the masses can understand and relate to the book. Some things you can't do anymore in a novel.
Put in maps or physical directions
Languages other than English or Spanish (hey no subtitles)
References from previous generations (if you put bell bottoms in your novel only 4% of the people reading your book will know what they are)
The list goes on but you get me point.
Even in this age of the "Information Highway" which needs to be rebranded as "Tarnishing Avenue" more people are ignorant of even the mundane of life.
Don't believe me? Try this; here are six things you grandfather could do that the majority of people born after 1990 cannot.
Change a car tire
Read a map
Use the library system to find a book
Make change without the register telling you the amount
Open a checking account (this one shocked me)
Fill out a job application
(side note: this blog post was written at grade level 5.2 :)
DW is an author and an artist. He has been creating paintings and photographs for over 40 years. He lives in Eastern Kansas with his daughter, a large epileptic dog, two cats, and a barnyard of chickens and ducks.