Writing & Publishing

Writer's Myth #1 - The Number of Words

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One of the most common myths I hear is that a book must be a certain number of words— not too many and not too little.

Let me tell you, that is an arbitrary rule.

Here's a principle you should follow: 

 

The whole purpose of writing is to
convey your message or story.

 

If you do it in a 100 words, great. If it takes 10,000, fine.

What's important is that your audience understands what you have written.

Some publishers or editors will tell you that a book should not be too big, but what about that classic Gone with the Wind with over 400,000 words?

Others will say that a book can't be too short either, then how to you explain the success of Fight Club with less than 50,000 words?

So throw away this myth and just write, say what you want to say, no more, no less. 

The only real purpose of counting words is to measure your daily or weekly production as a writer, if you must. I have personally never done so. I measure my production on the number of chapters I complete.

And as a self-publisher of 7 books, I don't need to adhere to someone else's idea of "ideal word count."

And never let anyone tell you that you need to write more or less. It's a myth.

Feel free to ask questions.

Hit the heart button if you liked it and leave a comment. 

How to Write: The 3 Hats Every Writer Wears

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I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve never sat down and stared blankly at a screen. I’ve never felt the need to do something else instead of write.

I don’t think I have any special ability. I believe the reason is because I know exactly what hat I’m wearing.

hat noun, used to refer to a particular role or occupation of someone who has more than one. — Source Apple Dictionary

I know I have a dad hat, another for being a hubby and many different hats in my businesses.

The trick is to know what hat you are wearing and to not wear the wrong hat. I know from experience being “hubby” doesn’t work while I’m still wearing my “CEO hat.” And my kids don’t respond or enjoy my company if I don’t have my “Dad” hat on.

Understanding this concept of hats early in my writing career, I identified 3 different hats I wear when writing a book. As long as I know the hat I’m wearing and don’t mix them up, the writing process is smooth, easy and fun.

The hats of a writer are:

1. The Writer or Creator
2. The Reader
3. The Private Editor

The Writer or Creator

The writing process, be it fiction or nonfiction, is a creative process. While I am The Writer, I let the ideas flow. I don’t care about spelling, grammar, punctuation or even if I’m making any sense. Those jobs belong to the other hats. My job as The Writer is to get the ideas out of my head and into written form.

The process of writing starts from one idea and flows to the next. It’s a natural process with ideas combining into new ideas, each one giving birth to the next. You’ll never arrive at the end idea unless you let that process occur naturally, creatively, and without a care about what anyone will think about your idea, or if anyone will buy your idea, or even if the idea makes any sense. It’s a birthing process, and just like childbirth, it must be allowed to flow naturally, without intervention or interruption, until it is finished.

When the ideas stop flowing and you’ve written all you want to write, it’s time to switch hats.

The Reader

 Typical page after it’s been attacked by  The Reader  (my  Rich Habits  book )

Typical page after it’s been attacked by The Reader (my Rich Habits book )

When changing from The Writer to the The Reader, I often print out my manuscript and go to a different place other than my desk. It might be a cafe, a park or even the couch. This break between switching hats helps clear my mind.

Typical page after it’s been attacked by The Reader (my new Rich Habits book due out October 2017)

I then sit down with a blue pen, my manuscript, and blank pieces of paper and I read. My manuscript is printed with double-spaced lines so I can easily make corrections. As I read, I notice obvious typos and circle them. I correct grammar, add punctuation and emphasis where required. If an idea strikes me, I’ll quickly switch back to The Writer and let it flow, using my blank sheets. I make a note in the manuscript where the new idea needs to be inserted.

As The Reader, I also might change the flow, rearrange parts or delete entire sections.

By the time I’m done being The Reader, my manuscript is dogeared, full of scribbles and food stains. Now it’s time to move onto the next hat.

The Private Editor

This hat is simple. I make all the corrections and changes highlighted in my manuscript. Using a red pen, I put a big line through each correction on my manuscript so I know I’ve done it. I type up any new ideas exactly as I’ve written them. Once everything is done, I’ll throw that manuscript in the bin and start the entire process again.

That’s how I write.

I never force myself to be The Writer if I’ve got nothing to say.

I usually have a general outline of a book and of the ideas I want to convey.

I never set a target on the number of words I must write. I just write, read and edit and repeat the process until the job is done.

Then I send it off to a professional editor who makes sure there ain’t no words spelled wrong and the grammar is good and proper and stuff — like this sentence. 😀

Simple, eh?

Give it a try. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Hit the heart if you like it.

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Social-Triction (So-tri) — A New Genre of Storytelling

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Firstly, some definitions ...

Social: As in social media, and in the adjective sense of relating to or designed for activities in which people meet each other for pleasure.

Triction: A coined word created from truth and fiction; it contains an element of both.


I believe there is a new type of storytelling.

Just in case my fictional writing fails to leave an indelible mark upon the literary world, I thought I should claim the title as “the-one-who-named-it.”

Social-triction is driven by the social interaction between fans and fictional characters who communicate with fans via social media.

Although the characters are fictitious, their interaction with the audience is real and the plot develops through that interaction. Real people and scenes may find their way into the story as it unfolds.

So-tri, as a genre, is used alongside any other genre, be it romance, action, mystery or science fiction. It has no limits.

My first fiction book, #JailbreakEarth — Mass Escape Plan, combines sci-fi, satire and a little mystery while using so-tri to build and develop the plot. I have written the book to appeal to an online, techie audience who I hope will find it funny and enjoy the ability to interact with the hero via social media. Time will tell if this first so-tri story is successful. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and self-publishing experience. The process is quite different to writing how-to type books.

So-tri beyond Books

No doubt this method of storytelling will grow. A live TV show, using the so-tri method, could utilize the power of social media to directly interact with an audience in real-time. Like an improv on steroids! The characters (actors) need to adapt to the real-time responses of their audience. “Should Zoey kiss Josh or should she just walk away and go back to Zac, who loves her?” Let the fans decide. It would be fun to watch.

On a commercial front, it tells you if a book, play or movie is worth creating. Can you engage fans with a snippet of the story?

Using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, it’s possible to generate both funding and a fan base by storytelling so-tri style.

Storytelling the Hacker Way

In 2009, as part of the $5 billion public offering of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg included a letter to investors. In that letter, he described “The Hacker Way” and defined “hacking” as “building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done.”

He goes on to say:

“The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.” 
— Mark Zuckerberg

I believe The Hacker Way contains some real gems for storytellers. You no longer have to convince an agent or publisher to “buy your story.” You can put it to the test. You no longer need to write a 500-page novel; just release the first few chapters and see if anyone falls in love with your characters.

The Hacker Way contains two mantras storytellers can use.

Mantra #1: Done is better than perfect.

Just write, sing, act, direct — however you tell your story, tell it your way, in your style and don’t worry about it being perfect. Just tell it and get it out!

Example: Andy Weir, after being rejected by literary agents, decided to give his book away for free via his website one chapter at a time as he wrote it. He honed the story based on feedback from fans. At the request of fans, he made it available on Amazon for $0.99 and within 3 months, the Kindle edition rose to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction. He was then offered a publishing deal, and debuted at twelfth position on the New York Times bestseller list. Next came a movie deal which was directed by Ridley Scott and the lead played by Matt Damon. The book is called The Martian and is funny as hell.

So remember: Done is better than perfect.

The second Facebook mantra is: Code wins arguments. Rather than discuss and argue if a new feature will be accepted, used and liked by followers, at Facebook, they write the code and release it to a small group first to see what happens. As storytellers, we can modify this mantra for our purpose to this:

Mantra #2: Fans win arguments.

You’ll never know if people love your characters and plot until you share it. Applying Mantra #1 will help you find fans and in the end, it’s their opinion and their feedback that matters more than anything.

Example: INXS was a very successful Australian band in the late eighties. In 1987, they recorded an album that was rejected by their record label president, who insisted the band make another album; he even offered them a million dollars to do so. But the band persisted and the album Kick was eventually released and went on to become a six-time platinum selling album with over four Top 10 singles in the USA.

Fans win arguments.

A Storyteller’s Dream

Today, the corporate executives of the publishing world no longer make arbitrary decisions as to what will or won’t be popular. Today, they aren’t deciding on the next big thing — they’re looking for it.

Today, a storyteller can bypass the old system entirely.

Take your message straight to your fans with a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, a crowdfunding project and blog.

If it doesn’t work, adjust it. Listen to the feedback.

Sooner or later, you’ll strike a chord with an audience and your so-tri story may become the next bestseller.

It’s pure unhindered creation. It’s fun. It’s challenging. It’s rewarding. And if you keep at it, sooner or later some part of your fictional world — your dream — becomes true.

I wish you the best of luck.

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