Expectation and Reality

Expectation and Reality

There’s thing in our heads called a brain. It’s crazy and it does a million things and once and somehow is at the core of who we perceive ourselves to be.

One of the things this brain does all the time is process potential future events.

This of course is a purely survivalist practice, as we once were animals living in the food chain. Now this process has become a part of things like when should I get onions and not wanting to go to some social obligation later and how hard it’s going to be to write that next scene I want to get right.

We all have expectations. For everything. Even if we try not to.

Expectations often do not match reality. Because expectations are just some scenarios we have made up in our heads-ones that often aren’t even strongly based on our past experiences but rather our hopes and fears.

For Example,

Expectation: Man, writing this next scene is going to be hard. There’s a lot of detail and content I want to impart in a compact amount of writing. What choices am I going to make for this character, for this reaction? I have to make sure the details line up with my greater goal for the story and the preceding and following plot.

Reality:  Sit down in my chair, open Scrivener. Catch up on where I am in the flow of the scene. Double check my outline to see major points. Start typing. Keep typing. It goes and goes. Hey, I already know all of these things that I wanted to do. I’ve had this in my head for days. This is pretty smooth.

Despite the fact that that is my experience sitting down to right 19 times out of 20, STILL sometimes I procrastinate sitting down to write, daunted by fear or laziness.

That’s because my brain is lying to me.

Expectations are crap. Get rid of them. And by that I mean, don’t let them control your actions, unless it’s controlling them for the better, of course. 😀

-Evan

 

Five Hundred Words

Five Hundred Words

There’s something I read recently that really stuck with me.

And I’m going to paraphrase here… But finding your dream career isn’t about finding one where you love the good parts– it’s about finding a career where you enjoy the hard work.

Because basically all careers, no matter how greenish the grass looks on the other side of the hill, have hard work. No matter how dreamy they seem.

I’m glad I love the writing, the editing, all the stuff that goes into it. There’s something so satisfying about creating a story.

But it’s hard work. It really is. And the procrastination can be REAL.

I’m in a pretty beautiful place that I find myself writing BOOK 2 this summer as my full-time. THAT doesn’t totally feel real.

But the work is. So there’s something of a transition I’m undergoing, It’s a totally different feel writing with the pressure of a Book 1 behind you and readers clamoring for a sequel!

So I’ve come up with a plan. It’s very much in the spirit of sustainability. It’s pretty simple– 500 words a day. It’s not a lot, I know. but that’s the point. Because on a daily basis, I need to feel the satisfaction of getting writing done. I have to keep it from feeling like a ticking clock–and the best way to sustainable success, is small, rewarding increments.

So let’s say I write 500 words and it’s only 2pm one day. I’m rolling, the writing is flowing. I just keep writing. And I get to feel awesome, like an overachiever xD Maybe i’ll get 3,000 words… maybe 8,000. I’ll be sky high.

And if I have a tough day, and only write 500, then I feel like I did what I need to do. And if I take a day off, I don’t feel like I’m SO far behind.

So basically, set your daily goals as very achievable–so you can feel good, so you can blow them away, and you can average more than your goal. You’ll feel great, you’ll write more, and you’ll shake free of the stress of I need to be writing. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. And give yourself the leeway to write it the right way.

At the end of the day, it’s about quality, not quantity. I can’t wait to give the readers of HOOD an ever better work to read.

Evan P.

 

Stick With What Got You To the Dance

Stick With What Got You To the Dance

Distractions are so. . . Distracting.

 

giraffic_park2-copy.pngI’ve spent a very large amount of my writing time lately trying to learn as much as I can about effective marketing, trying to learn from other Indie Authors who have tread this path before, and, well. . . obsessively checking my reviews and sales and KU page reads and Amazon ranking. I admit it.

First step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem 😀

It’s hard work hacking out a hard outline for Book 2, developing character arcs and motivations, doing all the nitty gritty stuff you HAVE to do if you want to write a good story. Slowly, I’m getting there though.

And it’s reminding me something. Something important.

As I sweat and cheer with every dip and burst in sales each day, I’m losing sight of the big cheese, here. I’m forgetting who brought me to the dance.

It’s the writing. The Storybuilding. That shit gets me excited. I’m really happy with what I’ve got so far (after some scrapping) with the arc for Whiskey, BOOK 2 of the American Rebirth series. So happy, that I’m getting that amped-up feeling, the I-can’t-wait-to-make-this-real feeling. It’s the same joy and excitement I got from writing Hood.
It’s the goddamned reason I’m doing this in the first place.

So why the hell am I getting so excited/worked up over daily numbers? Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about how well the book is doing. To quote Saving Private Ryan, this is a gross mis-allocation of resources here.

Sure, marketing is important. I’m going to keep at it. But the delicious storybuilding, yes, my sweet dear, I’m coming back to you.

 

-Evan Pickering

 

Doing it the right way.

Doing it the right way.
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Credit: maciejkuciara

I’ve learned a hell of a lot from writing and publishing my first book.

Chiefest of all of them: do the hard stuff, the legwork and the preparation first, so you don’t have to do twice the work later.

As my dad says, an ounce of prevention saves a pound of trouble. I don’t know if he ever thought it would apply to writing, but it does.

It took 4 years and a hell of a lot of re-writing for Hood.  Rewriting the final version only took 4 months. I’m hoping I can write BOOK 2 in a year.

Part of that is doing what many authors hate to do: Outline. Storyboard. Character pages. Most writers have much of the story already imagined, lodged up there in their head somewhere. They just want to write it as imagined, without being “hemmed in.” But there’s two problems with that:

1. You slow your writing down by about 5x by not outlining first. This doesn’t mean you have to follow your outline exactly. Hell, you can replace things with other ideas or change it on the fly. But writing each chapter is SOOO much easier when you already have conceptualized what is happening. All the stress of “pouring it out” floats away. You’re free. (I always thought outlines were restricting. Reality is, they give you such freedom.)

2. If you structure your story, your scene-sequel pairs from 10,000 ft. view, the quality of your story is exponentially greater. The reality of why we don’t want to outline is because we’re lazy. We want to just let the words fly. We don’t want to “suck the fun out” of writing by following a construct. Be honest with yourself. Yes, it’s hard to plan out the whole damn thing first, but that’s what great stories are made of.

So, here I am, trying to get my outline on. Trying to capture the spirit and mood and excitement of the story in my head in structure. It’s not impossible. Hell, it’s not even that hard. You just have to get your ass into gear and do it.

-Evan Pickering

We Are Our Own Liberators

We Are Our Own Liberators

To hell with recognition.

Any writer who isn’t lying to you will tell you that they dream of winning some breakout author award and standing on a podium thanking people they love, earning praise for a story trapped within them that they wrought perfectly onto page.

Because we’re humans, and we love recognition. We love respect. We love validation. We don’t live in this world alone.

But there’s something far better than that.

To be the one standing on that podium, you generally have to be conventionally published. You have to play the game and you needed to beat the odds just to even have the CHANCE to stand on that podium. And at the end of the day, even if you do stand on that podium, there is no guarantee of future success. Being conventionally published is not some golden ticket.

But we are own liberators, now. I got to watch 12 editors and agents ask to see my book and tell me they didn’t want it. I was not heartbroken, I actually was relieved because by the time I had gotten their responses, I had already researched being self-pubbed as an “Indie Author” vs. conventional publishing.

My mind was already made up. I was publishing my book on my own. Full creative control, full marketing control, high royalties… Basically, you’re your own boss. The book will succeed or fail based on how hard you work at making it great and marketing it well. It’s a shitload of work, but I wanted to do it.

It’s daunting, no matter how you look at it. I have to thank Joanna Penn for talking to me face to face at Thrillerfest, sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm about her success at Indie Authorship and helping me realize that publishing houses need me, not the other way around.

Everyone has rejection stories. Mine barely registered because I was already building my plan. I had seen the light, and it wasn’t being at the whims of people who didn’t know shit about me or my story I had slaved over for years.

Today, my book is on the Amazon top 100 Bestseller list for the Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic categories. #46 and #60 respectively. I’ve sold 33 books today, and it’s 10:50pm or so.

Today is the day that I realized that I have truly found success for myself, that all my hard work is showing something, and that this is just the beginning.

I am a writer lucky enough to live in an era where my success does not lie at the feet of the judgement of some publisher. It lies at the feet of the everyman, the readers who decide if they liked my book or if it sucks, or if it’s just meh.

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Win the crowd. Win your freedom.

I mean, I’m no Maximus Decimus Meridius. But it feels cool to talk like I am. Hell, I even put that quote in the book. Lord knows if that would get past an editor.

-Evan Pickering

 

It’s a Long, Long Road

It’s a Long, Long Road

Man, that kills me every time.

Writing, like in life, you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself–Not take everything so seriously. As writers, we usually take our writing pretty damn seriously. It means all that and a bag of chips and salsa to us.

But at the end of the day, we do it because we love it. Because it’s fun to create. Because we were the kids that loved to play pretend in the backyard. Because we love storytelling, we love stories, we love new worlds and experiences, and we want to share our own with the world.

Me, I know I’m obsessed with storytelling. Reading books, watching movies, playing video games, writing stories. Maybe too much so 🙂

It’s a long, long road. With writing and with life. You’ve got to be able to enjoy the process. If find myself recently  (both in writing and life)getting so caught up in the goal that I’m not enjoying the process.

HOOD COVER FINAL 1
New Cover!

I’ve been fixated on finally publishing my novel. I keep saying “after this edit, it will be done!” But I’m still learning, I’m still improving. I know the work I’m doing in the editing process is making it a more complete, better story. I have to honor that. I told myself I’d have this thing published by the end of the year.

It was my new years resolution, if I remember correctly.

I hope to be able to do that. But if I can’t, to hell with the resolution. I’d rather tell my story right then hit an arbitrary deadline. After all, I’m working for myself.

It’s fun in a sick way, working on editing a book. There will be a day when I look back on this experience with this book fondly.

So take a deep breath, wherever you are in your life or in your writing, accept there’s a long road to be traveled yet. Enjoy it.

-Evan Pickering

 

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Sooner or later (and probably repeatedly) we all manage to tie our own proverbial shoelaces together before we sprint after something.

Most of the time, we don’t do it on purpose. We usually think we’re doing the right thing or making the best choice.

That is especially true in writing.

Writing a novel can be such a huge undertaking. You’re building your whole world and portraying a select few journeys through that world, all while trying to grab your reader’s attention without being garish.

I know that I struggle with too much subtlety. Or at least, what I see in my mind as subtlety. It’s probably more accurate to call it a failure to inform your reader (lol).


So here’s my lesson for today: Yes, you want your book to have subtlety, but there are important things you have to find a way to convey to your reader. You can’t raise the stakes with scene (action) and sequel (down time) if your reader doesn’t know exactly what the stakes are.


If you fail to properly build the intensity of the focal points of your story, you’ll end up with one of two things happening:

1.) Conflict and climax that the reader isn’t fully invested in the outcome of.

or

2.) Conflict and climax that the reader doesn’t fully understand.

Both will completely pull the teeth out of your story. The best and most gripping stories are ones we care about the characters and the outcome, and ones where we understand the dynamics and forces at work (at least, the important ones. In mysteries this is not the case, but your reader is expecting not to understand, and to eventually discover)

Book Cover 11

I am now undertaking what I hope to be the final round of editing for my novel, Hood, Book One of the American Rebirth Series. (Though I feel like I’ve said this before.) I find that as much as I try to make concepts clear, I’m still working on smoothly informing the reader of important aspects of the story. I know that I tend to be overly subtle, hoping the reader will read between the lines. My lesson to myself is relax, the reader will do that on his own. You don’t have to make his or her job harder by not telling them what they need to know.

Hopefully, I’ll have the book out next month. But I’m endeavoring to not rush the process. I’d rather it come out in its best possible form than just push it out because… well, I can’t wait to get it out there 😀

-Evan Pickering