"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Monday, March 28, 2011

Living the Luxurious Life of a Writer: Is it fact or fantasy?

Ah, I’m finally living the luxurious life of a writer!  I never have to wake to the blasting alarm clock again, every day I can sit by the water’s edge and write my next umpteenth New York Times bestseller and all the while sipping on one liquid libation after the other.  Any day now I know my phone will interrupt me with the sound of a new text.  It will be from my agent and she’ll inform me she’s scheduled an interview with Oprah for she wants to feature me in her next magazine article titled, Living the Luxurious Life of a Writer.  Welcome to my fantasy writing world.  How about you, do you have a fantasy writing world? 

The fact is I am finally living the luxurious life of a writer.  I sit by the water’s edge every day and write (true it’s only a fountain) and I am working on my next umpteenth story (you never know!), but hey I never have to wake to a blasting alarm clock again and besides what’s wrong with one diet coke after the other, it has zero calories!  One of the numerous things I find best about being a writer is when you’re caught up in the stories you write you can be anyone, you can be anywhere in the world or beyond and you can even have magical powers if you choose.  It’s also the only profession I know of where you can literally get away with murder. 

But let’s face it, writing is a job and for most writers it comes with its own self inflicted job description.  By that I mean there are no company guidelines like dress codes, attendance policies or performance expectations only an internal drive to do whatever it takes to write.  

However, should you have company guidelines?  In my personal experience, I find approaching my writing life as the CEO of the company keeps me focused and engaged.  Sure my dress code may be a little different than your typical Fortune 500 company, not to mention the salary, but I find my attendance policy and performance expectations to be higher.  My company doesn’t offer sick leave or vacation days, we do not accept failure as an option and we believe in helping others become successful.  How about you, does your company have guidelines?  

Next week, we’ll be exploring whether or not you should turn your writing life into an actual company or not.
Until then,
T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Self-Publishing an E-book: Is It a Sign of Laziness or Something Else?

Last week we explored becoming published and some of the things I’ve learned from authors who have traveled the road to publication.  If you missed it, (click here).  This week we’re exploring another path to publication, self-publishing an E-book, and whether or not it’s a sign of laziness or something else.

Today, thanks to the speed of technology and easy access to self-publishing an E-book there are some people out there whom consider themselves to be an author because they managed to write a story in a week or two, throw together a book cover (or not), download their masterpiece and viola they are now published.  Technically speaking, they are right, they are published.  But are they willing to do what it takes to really be a published author?  In other words, are they going to dedicate the endless hours of self-promotion and networking it takes to sell even one book.

Self-publishing is nothing new, only the ease of it is because of the growing fascination of E-books, many writers have been self-publishing for years and many of them are quite good and prove it through their loyal fan base.  How?  First, and foremost, they write good books and secondly, they do what any author who wants to be successful does, they spend a painstakingly amount of unpaid hours, sometimes at the sacrifice of a personal life, to make a name for themselves.

So that leads us into the title of this week’s topic:  Is self-publishing an E-book a sign of laziness or something else? 

Sure you’re always going to have a small percentage of self-published E-books out there that most people wouldn’t even let their child turn in as their seventh grade English Lit class assignment due to it being given an “F” grade; however, what you are going to find is a good percentage of E-books that the writer took many months or longer to write, polish, re-write and polish some more all before even having it edited.  That’s right, I said edited.  Both line editing and copy editing.  Then a professional book cover designer is hired to create the perfect cover and viola the book is uploaded and the writer has a published book. 

What sets the writers apart?  The small percentage of them who threw their book together in hopes of making the vast fortunes they read about making as a self-published E-book author sit back every day and check their sales numbers and wonder why no one is ordering their world’s fastest written book, after all, everyone is reading E-books these days while the other percentage who diligently sought out their dream of one day telling their story will be too busy doing guest blog tours, virtual book tours and following up with all their networking contacts they made prior to the release of their book to idly sit by everyday checking their sales stats.  After all, they are an author.  These are the authors who will continue to lead the way for the future of self-publication. 

There’s a lot of talk these days about the changing world of publishing and how traditional publishing may be in jeopardy thanks to E-books. It is my belief we are on the verge of the next publishing evolution one where the two will co-exist in an ever changing world of technology, they’ll have to if either one wants to survive.  What you don’t hear a lot about is the revival of the entrepreneurial spirit, that inner drive to self-succeed no matter what.  After all, what’s more important than fulfilling your life’s dream? 

The entrepreneurial spirit has always been at the forefront of any changing environment, it’s the steam that drives the engine full speed ahead into the next evolution.  It’s also a sign of a successful self-published author.  How about you, are you ready for the next evolution?  

In the next couple of weeks, The Unknown Author will proudly host guest authors to discuss the release of their debut novels.  Each author has a unique story to tell and their books are a must read.  I’ll let you guess who was self-published and who wasn’t. 

Next week, we’ll be exploring the writer’s life and what it means to be one.

Until then,

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Published: To Be or Not To Be

Several years back I came up on a cross road in my life and to this day I can still remember what the cross road signs in my mind read.  One read, “Forget Your Dreams This Way” and the other read, “Follow Your Dreams This Way.”  Beyond both signs was pure and utter darkness into the unknown.  There were no promises or guarantees waiting for me in either direction, only faith and fate. 

What was my quest in choosing “Follow Your Dreams This Way?”  To one day write a book.  Notice I said, “one day write a book,” not “one day publish a book.”  So I set out to learn the craft of writing and sought the guidance of several well respected authors turned teachers and even a screenwriter turned bestselling author.  After having spent months which turned into years developing the skills I learned I not only have one finished manuscript, but three!

Now I have come up on a new cross road in my life and this time there is only one sign and it reads, “Published:  To be or not to be.”  Beyond it is pure and utter darkness into the unknown.  There are no promises or guarantees waiting for me, only faith and fate.

As in any well crafted adventure tale where the seeker of a quest sets out to find an experienced guide to lead them on their mission I too set out to find such a guide and once again sought the advice of well respected teachers turned writers even journalist turned authors/teachers for advice on becoming published.  Since then the internet has seem to become an unlimited vast sea of information on what it takes to get published and now with self-publishing a click away most beginning writers may think it easy to get published.
But is it really?

Through my studies and experience it is in my opinion there are two important attributes for any writer wishing to become published to have and they are faith and patience.  First, and foremost, you have to believe in yourself and what you write and secondly you must be patient as you seek your dream.

The best advice I ever received on getting published is to look at it as you would any other important job you apply for.  What does it take to land your dream job?  Usually a resume which shows you have years of experience in the field, perhaps it also shows you have had several positions which allowed you to gain the experience and in some cases education which helped you sharpen those skills.  Now apply these same principles to your “writer’s resume” and what do you find?  Is it blank or is it filled with experience?

Remember back when you were first either out of high school or college and every job you applied for was a rejection due to little or no experience?  How about your first application for a credit card?  Were you turned down because you had no credit?  What were the first words that popped into your mind?  If you’re like me the one way conversation went something like this, “How in the (beep) world am I ever going to get (beeping) experience/credit if no one will give it me?!”  So now here you are maybe a couple years later or perhaps too many years later to count finding yourself setting sail on that same ship you thought you disembarked a long time ago.

So think back, how did you gain the experience necessary to go after the job you wanted?  As for me, I took baby steps.  That’s right just as a snow flake turns into a snowball and a snowball turns into an avalanche I took the skills I had learned from school and got the job that allowed me to use them and then gain more and so on and so on till one day I had worked my way up the corporate ladder! Then my cross road came and here I am starting to set sail all over again!

Sure once in a while there comes along a success story which seems to be an overnight success but is it really? Usually what you don’t see is the baby steps most authors have taken to get where they are today.

What were my first baby steps?  Another great piece of advice I received in regards to getting published was to submit either a human interest story or an editorial to a newspaper.  If published, the single most important thing you can insist on (because it is highly unlikely you’ll be paid) is to demand a byline.  Guess what?  You now have being published to add to your “writer’s resume.”  There is also the magazine route or even short story competition avenues you can seek to help gain experience.  The more credibility you can add to your writer’s tool box only helps to strengthen your resume.

What about you, do you find yourself starting from scratch?  I would love to hear what kinds of things you have learned along the way to finding publication.

Next week I’ll be exploring self-publishing and whether it could be another skill to add to your writer’s resume? 

Until then, 

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What Does Show Don’t Tell Have To Do With The Equation: Mood + Story = Theme

Mood and theme is not necessarily the same thing, but they are closely related.  That’s why it is important to keep in mind every setting has its own individual mood and the interaction between them and your story plays an important part in conveying the theme. For instance, a story with a theme about depression may start out with a bright and sunny setting but eventually it turns dark and gloomy, thus revealing the theme. 

Today’s question:  Are there books you still vividly remember reading because it was as if you had been there yourself experiencing the emotions and actions of the main characters and then others you can hardly recall?  If you went back and reread the ones you still remember and the ones long forgotten I bet you would find the difference lies in the details in the description of the settings and how they all tied together to convey the theme of the story.  How did the author do this?  Do you know the answer is not in overloading every setting’s description with adjectives? 

Let’s explore:  Fact is, no one wants to read a book which is filled with every clichéd adjective in the world but would rather read a book in which their imagination soars. In other words, to use a famous writing cliché, show don’t tell!

Most beginning writers struggle with the concept of “show don’t tell” because telling is the easiest way for the protagonist of their story to “tell” what is happening; however, this often times results in leaving out important details such as sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.  That’s right you have five senses not one and so do your readers. Each one of these senses can be broadened to describe a scene with using limited adjectives.  For example, if a scene takes place in a school room what does the description of the light filling the room remind the reader of, does the smell of the room remind them of glue or finger paint, does the glue make them wonder what wet wadded up paper in their mouth would taste like or does the teacher's clapping hands remind them of their grandmother?  Hint: If you are writing for children, the five senses play a huge role in them connecting with your story.

So the next time you’re editing and you find a scene where you have conveniently described every aspect of it using adjectives try looking for ways in which you can show not tell.  How?  Try using specific nouns instead of adjectives or find a way to make the setting more memorable by drawing out related memories and let your readers do the work!  Remember, just as in life, balance is the key.  Too many nouns can lead to boring writing and too many adjectives can lead to unimaginative reading. 

Next week, The Unknown Author is going to step aside from writing techniques and explore the road to publication.

Until then,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author