Writer's Block = BULLSHIT

For those of us who aren’t professional writers we need to hold down another job to pay the bills and finding time to write can be difficult.

If you don’t have time to write you simply aren’t putting writing (or whatever your discipline is) high enough on your list of priorities. There is nothing wrong with this, just don’t complain that you are too busy. Let’s look at some common excuses as to why you can’t get your shit together and illustrate how you’re just a whiney layabout with no motivation. This goes for any discipline really, I just using writing as an example because that’s what this blog is about. 

I Have Writers Block
Have you ever heard of lawyer’s block? What about accountant’s block? The last time you ordered a pizza, did the guy tell you ‘Oh I’m sorry, I’ve got pizza block right now, I just can’t make you anything. Try back tomorrow.'

No. You know why?

Because they are professionals and they get their shit done on time or suffer the consequences. If you plan to be a professional writer you will have these magical things called deadlines that mean you can either have your work on my desk Friday evening or you can kiss your career goodbye. 

If you don’t feel inspired to write then don’t write, assuming you have the luxury of no deadline. As a self-published author I can take as long as I damn well please to finish a work and I don’t use writer’s block as an excuse for my lack of productivity. I just REALLY wanted to run the Citadel of Flame with my Charr warrior in Guild Wars 2. 

Quit your bitching.

I’m Too Busy
Let’s take a look at your day. The average person wakes up, eats breakfast / goes for coffee. They maybe read the paper or check Reddit, do their usual hygiene routine, get dressed and go to work. You are then at work for roughly 8 hours in various stages of productivity. After work you may go out with friends or just go home to watch the latest episode of whatever you are currently addicted to. You make dinner, watch a movie or play a video game or something to unwind from a long day at the office / construction site / stripper pole and inspiration strikes you. I should sit down for a while and write something. You look at the clock and it’s already 11pm, giving you no time to write if you plan on your nightly ice cream / porn ritual. You decide that tomorrow will be a better day to write something and commence said ritual. 

All that time you spent on Reddit, driving to Starbucks, liking stuff on Facebook while at work, checking your Twitter feed, hanging out with friends, watching TV, adding things to your already too long Netflix queue, playing video games and watching porn could have been spent writing something. 

I currently work 10-12 hour graveyard shifts to pay my bills. I don’t write every night (morning) but I try to keep my projects moving at whatever pace I can while still keeping food on the table. I sacrifice my social life quite regularly in favor of my work because it is important to me. I also sacrifice a lot of work to go out and socialize / keep my sanity. There is a balance but ultimately it is my decision to be productive or not. 

Quit your bitching. 

No Really, I’m Too Busy
Let’s say your wife is in the hospital and you are working two jobs to support your three kids and try to stay ahead of the hospital bills. Your mom is in a nursing home and your dad died last year only to leave you with six figures of debt to pay off. Tough break.

I could say that in between all the chaos there will be moments when you can put a few words on paper. You can get a voice to text device and speak your thoughts into a digital notebook. There are ways to make it work.

But let’s be honest, your life is in shambles and finishing the story about your quirky fairy protagonist and her leprechaun love interest should be pretty low on the totem pole of responsibility. Get your shit straight, take care of your family and keep your brain working. But most of all, quit your bitching. It never helps.

The Bottom Line
Productivity, in writing or otherwise, is a choice. Whether you allocate your resources properly and make time for your work is up to you and no one else. You will have to make sacrifices one way or the other. It will not be easy. At the end of the day the only one who can finish your work is you and the only reason it didn’t get done is because you didn’t do it.

Please share, comment, backlink and all that jazz. 

How To Spend Hundreds On A Book Cover (And Not Use It)

When I did the cover design for my first book I wanted something that was simple and visually unique. I took a look at other books in my genre and a lot of them used space / a big ass planet or an action scene with one or more of the main characters. I personally did not have the ability to do that and I wanted to differentiate myself a little anyways so I decided to design a simple skull logo that would serve as a branding item for the series and most people liked it. 

For my second book, however, I was determined to try and make myself look like my peers and get some balls to the walls character art from a professional that would bring my series up a notch in quality. The result was me spending several hundred dollars to just change the color of my first book cover. Here’s what happened.

Finding An Artist
The first step was finding an artist. Duh. But I had no idea how to approach this so I went to Craigslist and started asking for portfolios. Most of the portfolios I got sucked harder than a porn star with no teeth. Fortunately an artist friend of mine hit me with a blunt object and asked why I wasn’t using DeviantArt, the largest and best known community of artists on the planet. I didn’t have a good answer, so I rubbed my head and logged on to DeviantArt to continue my search.

I spent about a month searching through work that I liked, contacting the artists and sorting them into two piles. The first pile was who I could afford and the second pile were a bunch of assholes. Out of the pile of affordable artists I eventually decided upon a very talented guy named Vlad ‘Walent’ Gheneli. We went back and forth on the rate for a little bit because I was going entirely out of pocket but I wanted to give him a fair chunk of change for the work. Eventually we digitally shook hands and started working on the actual cover.

The Development Process
So the reason I wanted a cover artist was because I suck at drawing. Below you can see the sketch I made that was Vlad’s only direction apart from a brief description from me.

My shitty sketch.
Fortunately for me Vlad is a very talented guy and with my horrible scribbles he managed to whip up this about a week later.

Vlad's AMAZEBALLS sketch.
I was pretty much blown away. Seeing these characters come to life was a dream come true and I was very excited for him to go forward. I gave him a few notes and left him alone to work his magic. A week or two later he gave me more fleshed out versions of the characters and apart from some minor notes I was pretty ecstatic. After some back and forth he finally sent me this...

Like, wow.
I was very happy with it but wanted some minor changes that couldn’t be addressed because of our conflicting schedules and my limited budget. 

The Finished Cover
I threw his art into Photoshop, did some tweaks, put my title on there and blasted the cover out to my book series’ social network. I was so excited to hear the responses that I was bitch slapped pretty hard when not many people liked it. 

I was a little upset having spent several hundred dollars (exact number confidential) on a cover that my fan base did not appreciate. I kicked a wall and tried to justify my expenses but ultimately I knew I had to change the cover. 

I went back to my social media army and gave them the option of my fancy expensive new cover and my old cover (with an updated logo that was a development process unto itself) on a new background. It shocked me when over 90% of my audience liked the simple, free cover better.

The Verdict
I decided to give the people what they want. I finished the cover and released the book with my own free art. At the time of this writing I have a couple thousand downloads and a handful of new products in addition to the third book on the way. Nobody has mentioned that the cover is as bad as I still think it is. Some people have gone out of their way to compliment me on it.

Am I bitter? No. My artist did exactly what I told him and he did a great job, my fans were simply fickle. I plan on using the art for a paper and pencil RPG I am developing within the universe I have created in addition to certain promotional material and products so at least it doesnt go to waste. I learned that keeping things simple and finding out what people want is more important than bells and whistles

Does this mean you should create your own cover too? No, absolutely not. I have a background in design which helped me out and I think I just got lucky. And the truth is without my audiences input I would not have made that cover, so really they crowdsourced it for me. Always get a professional to help you but dont forget to grab some random opinions from your fans, friends or family.

Please feel free to share your book cover success / horror stories in the comments!

10 Things I Learned Writing My Second Book

Because of the popularity of my '10 Things I Learned Writing My First Book' post I thought I'd do a follow up with my new release Soldiers of Misfortune: Forerunners. In reality I learned a lot more than just ten things, but if I shared all of it I would start running out of ideas for other blog posts, so I'll just write the ones that are quick and don't need much explanation. 

1. Use 'But' and 'Therefore'
I found this while mining Reddit one day and thought it was a nice tidbit. Trey Parker and Matt Stone crashed a college writing course and gave them this piece of advice: If your story is told by connecting events with ‘and then’ you are fucked. It should be told by connecting events with ‘but’ or ‘therefore’. 

2. Conflict Begets Conflict
Another idea I can't take credit for is that your conflict should create more conflict. Jim butcher explains this in great detail at a convention he attended, but I'll summarize for you because you're a lazy bastard. This is similar in concept to Trey and Matt's advice above: When your protagonist is faced with a conflict the resolution can end one of three ways.

The protagonist succeeds.
The protagonist fails.
The protagonist fails AND makes things worse.

Use the first conflict resolution sparingly. 

3. Save Up 
I saved money for several months to be able to afford an editor and a cover artist. When you are self publishing it is difficult to justify the expense of these two important jobs, but your work will suffer. If you want readers to take you seriously, get a nice cover and a good editor. You also might want to save up money for marketing.

I ended up paying $700 for a cover I didn't use but the art I commissioned is still great and can be used for marketing purposes. 

4. Get Everything On Paper
I call it ‘word vomiting’. Part of my process is to write all the scenes I know I am putting into the story regardless of their chronology and then going back to fill in the gaps. I guess it’s sort of a very detailed outline, but it works for me. 

This way I can get my ideas on paper and start troubleshooting the problems early instead of getting stuck because I don’t know how to go from point B to point F quite yet. This also gives me a sense of accomplishment since I have a certain number of pages already done, even if they don’t quite work together yet.

5. Keep A Pen With You
If you’re anything like me you get your best ideas at the worst times. I used to tell myself ‘Whatever, if the idea is good I won’t lose it.’ but then I would lose it regardless of how good it was because I'm worse than Dory. 
Always keep something to write with on your person so you can jot down those ideas for later. I use Evernote now because it’s free and lets me organize my thoughts into separate notebooks and search for them by tags. When I get back home the notes I wrote on my phone are already synced to the app on my computer and vice versa.

6. Follow Your Idols
While writing, if there is a section of my story I don’t know how to tell I will go back to the sources that inspired me in the first place. I’ll pull out my old books, comics, movies or games and search for a specific scene just to see how they did it. Using that media as an instruction manual, I go back to my story and adapt the process my idols used to fit my needs, then give it my own flair. Just be careful not to plagiarize.

7. Get Beta Readers 
One thing I neglected to do with my first book was get any kind of feedback before printing. This was a huge mistake caused by my own insecurities. Fortunately I got a very positive response from my first book despite its lack of input but my second story is significantly better because of my editor and beta readers. Finding people who want to read your work before it is officially finished can be difficult, so I asked people that had already read the first one if they’d be interested. Most of them said yes, they got back to me within a few weeks and gave me many things to improve before.

8. Take A Break
The format of my second book forced me to take a break between stories (it's an anthology) which got my mind out of the universe and into something else for a while. When I went back to read what I had wrote I was pleasantly surprised at some parts and appalled by others. 

I was able to look at the story more objectively because I separated myself from it for a while. I recommend doing this with anything you write. Either start working on something else or take a mini vacation, just get your mind out of the world so you can come back with a fresh perspective. 

9. Social Network Like A Teenaged Girl
Get on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google+, Goodreads, Vine, Vimeo, Reddit and anything else you can think of to spread the word. The more people who know about you and your work, the more eyes will be on your next project. If you are putting out quality material, this means increased sales and more fans. Most of these services are free too, so no excuses.

10. Fans Are Everything
When you are starting out, every person who finds, takes the time to read and then comments on your work should be treated like a lesser god. Without your fans you are nothing. Every time someone tells you they enjoyed your work go out of your way to thank them. Send them a message and say thanks. Be honest with them, people can smell bullshit from a mile away, but make sure they know they are appreciated because your career wouldn’t exist without them.

I hope you pulled something from this that will help you in your future work. Please like, comment, share and all that other crap.

Thank you for reading!