Adventures in Travel
The world felt small and connected last Friday. As a book publisher, I was on a call with a new author guiding a brief meeting to get his cover design started. I've led many of these sessions yet the timing and the connections were unique.
This author was in Tel Aviv, Israel. The designer was in Canada and I was in Phoenix. We took care of the business about his cover and the call was almost over.
Last Friday was Good Friday yet also the beginning of Passover. As we were speaking on the phone, he was driving through an Arab village on the way to celebrate Passover at his in-laws house.
We were speaking on a conference number and this author dialed in using Skype so there was a bit of a delay with his speaking but it worked. I felt connected to the world community and was amazed at the advances of technology to allow something that a few years ago could not be imagined.
Each of us have unique personal experiences in this journey called life. What steps are you taking to capture some of these experiences shortly after they happen?
Our personal experiences can be used in many different ways for our writing. I'm going to give you several of them:
1. Personal Experience magazine articles. Your personal stories can be used in many different types of publications. The category of personal experience articles is almost universal for the print magazine world. High circulation glossy publications use them as well as trade publications. I've written for both types of publications and you can too.
2. Personal stories in nonfiction books. Writing any nonfiction book involves a careful balance between personal stories and how-to information. Often I've included my personal experiences in my writing. I've also collaborated with more than a dozen different people. This experience has allowed me to write their personal experiences into these books. In those cases, I tell the stories through their viewpoint which is another spin on how to use personal experience.
3. Fodder for your short stories. Many novelists are focused on producing their complete novel. Yet it takes a lot of time to write a full novel. You can be practicing your storytelling craft and using your personal experiences as fodder for those stories through short stories. Many print magazines are actively looking for appropriate short stories. It's terrific exposure and experience for the writer. Some of that storytelling springs from your life experiences.
4. Fodder for your novel. Many novels are thinly-veiled personal experiences for the writer. It's a common statement that writers should write what you know. It's hard to make any fiction believable if you've never been to a location yet you can take those experiences and they can be the backdrop for the writing in your novel.
5. Stories for your blog. Your own stories can create some fascinating writing for your blog. As someone with over 1,000 searchable entries in my blog, I'm a big believer in writing your experiences in the blog. If you don't know how to monetize (make money) from your blog or maybe you aren't making enough money from your blog, I recommend you get my 31 Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks, then read it and take action on the many suggestions.
Some writers journal to capture their thoughts and feelings. Others open a computer file and write the raw emotions of a moment.
How do you seize the day and take advantage of your personal experiences? The key from my perspective is to take consistent action to gather these stories so you can use them in your writing.
In my life as a writer, I need a legal form from time to time. For example, when I have to bill for a job, I need an invoice. When I work with a collaborator, I need a collaboration agreement. When I'm going to give an estimate, I need a form to give this estimate in a professional way.
Where do I turn? I can search online and maybe cobble something together that will work for the need. Normally I reach for Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers by Tad Crawford. In one convenient place, this book lists 25 different forms and includes the negotiation checklist for each form.
I'm not an attorney. When it comes to publishing matters, not just any attorney will do because the language and issues for publishing is a specialized area. You need someone skilled in this area. Crawford has worked in publishing law for many years and put together a terrific resource. I've actually purchased this book several times over the years because it has evolved into different versions. The most recent version includes the forms on CD-ROM in three different formats (Word, rich text format and PDF).
When I need a form, I will put the disk into my computer, pull up the form, modify it then send it to the other party. The forms aren't perfect and my long-term literary attorney friend doesn't like them because she believes each case is different and there is no one-size-fits-all form. Yet I also realize that boilerplate contract language is common throughout publishing. For my use, these forms work for my simple need. This resource may help you as well.
“Oh, no,” I groaned this week as I tried to start my car. There was a clicking sound and finally the engine started. I was in a grocery store parking lot several miles from my office and out running a couple of errands. Instead of going home and getting stuck with a car which didn't start, I drove to my car repair place so they could check out my vehicle.
Normally when I go to the repair place, I bring some work but in this case I was caught up prepared. I had a single package from a publisher. Opening it, I found a new marriage book.
If you don't know my background, I've reviewed thousands of books and for several years I was the book review columnist at two publications which don't exist any longer. I read and reviewed many marriage books. I also acquired marriage books when I was an acquisitions editor. Yet over the last few years, I can't even recall a book I've read focused on marriage. Yet I was headed to the waiting room while my car was examined and the only thing in my hands was this new marriage book.
The book included a cover letter where I was asked to endorse the book and post a review on Amazon and other similar places. I began to read the book and loved the contents. The author, Poppy Smith attended a continuing workshop I taught several summers ago at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Workshop. Those classes are structured to be small classes and I believe I had six people including Poppy) that summer.
I could have read the book and done nothing with it. Instead I wrote my review and sent the endorsement and posted the review on Amazon. I also review for a newer site called Lunch.com where I posted the same review. Lunch.com allows you to add links as well as select photos for the review. I selected the cover and Poppy Smith's photo. Then I took one more quick action: I tweeted about my review to my twitter followers which also goes to my Facebook friends and my connections on LinkedIn. Finally I wrote Poppy and told her about my review.
Admittedly it took some proactive effort on my part for these various steps to happen. I am committed to using what is in my hands.
What do you have in your hands? How can you use it in your writing life? I love what Napoleon Hill said, “What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
Through the years, I've met face to face with many writers. I know they have big dreams and good intentions. Maybe they want to write a novel or a nonfiction book. Or they want to get published in a magazine and understand the value of perfecting their craft in a shorter form of writing before they try a longer book project.
During our brief meeting together, I listen to their pitch. I often give them some input or direction from my experience. Often I will encourage them saying, “That sounds like a good idea. Write that up and send it to me.” As an acquisitions editor, I only asked for the manuscripts that were a fit for my publishing house. My encouragement to send their manuscript was sincere.
Yet I never heard from them again. I believe there is a chronic challenge among writers. To get published takes more than good intentions. You must follow through with your intention and get your writing into the marketplace.
Here's five tips on how to have more than good intentions and follow through:
1. Divide the Work. Every task needs to get broken into bite size parts. If you are writing a magazine article, then set a word count goal for your production. If you are trying to get more magazine writing, then decide how many queries you are going to send this week. Or if you are writing a book proposal, then tackle the sections one at a time. Or if you are writing a novel, set a number of words you want to produce each day. Make the work or task specific and then move forward and get it done.
2. Make a check list and cross it off. Take your planned writing and write it down every day. Often I will make a list the night for the next day. Then I cross it off when it is completed. It feels good to complete something and mark it off the list—and I know I'm moving ahead with my intentions.
3. Keep taking action. Without a doubt, you will have interruptions and other things which enter your life to cause delays and capture your attention. Recognize these interruptions ahead of time and make an internal commitment to continue moving forward. It will take on-going commitment to achieve what you want with your writing.
4. Create your own deadlines. Editors give writers deadlines for their writing—whether magazines or books. I encourage you to create your own deadlines for your writing and commit to making those deadlines. It will keep your writing moving forward. And if you don't make your deadline for some reason? Set a new deadline and push forward.
5. Get an accountability partner. Verbalize your goal to some other person. It could be a friend, a writer friend, a family member or whoever. Ask that person to hold your feet to the fire and check with you about whether you are accomplishing your intentions or not.
If you follow through with excellent writing, you will stand out in the publishing world. Many people dream and the ones that get it done, follow-through with their good intentions.
James Patterson is a successful and prolific bestselling author. Whether you've read all of his book or some of his books or none of his books, you can't help but admire his achievements in the world of publishing.
I love reading author profiles about other authors because of what I learn from it. It's one of the reasons I've interviewed and written about more than 150 bestselling authors over the years—I learn a great deal from the experience which I incorporate into my own writing life.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal published the article: James Patterson Tells Us Why His Books Sell Like Crazy by Lauren A.E. Schuker. I hope you will read the entire article. I'm going to pick up on seven insights I learned about James Patterson from this article.
1. The 65–year-old author works seven days a week. I noticed Patterson had been on the golf course that day but he mixes relaxation and work. It's significant to me Patterson works at his craft every day.
2. He is not stuck at a computer but uses paper and pencil. The description of his office notes that Patterson prefers a legal pad and pencil for his work. He is not alone in that habit.
3. Patterson collaborates with other authors. When he explains the writing process, it is clearly collaborative with other writers. He writes the outline then assigns the writer their task. I've noticed his books have many different co-authors yet they sound like they came from the same author. Why? Because…
4. He takes firm control of his storytelling rather than turning it over to a co-author. Yes, Patterson has created a publishing empire but he is firmly at the helm of it and working on the different aspects of his stories.
5. Rewriting is an integral part of the creative process. As he explained, “I'll do any number of outlines or re-writes on the pages. I've done as many as nine drafts of a book after the original comes in.”
6. Patterson has chosen to stay outside of New York and Hollywood. While intimately involved in the publishing world and Hollywood (his movies and TV from his books), he has selected to live in Florida.
7. He has experimented with other types of writing (nonfiction) but sticks with what he does best—fiction. Toward the end of the article, Patterson is asked about other forms of writing like plays or musicals or nonfiction. He has written nonfiction but stays with what works—fiction.
These are my seven insights that I learned about James Patterson. Maybe you picked up on some other details in the article. Which ones?