Monday, December 30, 2013

Celebrate your wins

As 2013 winds down to the final hours, there are some--or maybe even several--goals you didn't accomplish.  Instead of beating yourself up, celebrate what you did accomplish.

I had a Twitter follower goal that I accomplished.

I had a blog post view count that I accomplished.

I self-published three books.

I paid off our van.

My "spiritual" goals were met.

I submitted a short story each quarter to the Writers of the Future contest.

As well as others.

What did you accomplish?  Celebrate those wins.  Look to the positive.  Let's say one of your goals was to write and complete your first book, and got 70,000 words written (and you figure another 15,000 should finish it).  Pat yourself on the back.  You got 70,000 words written that weren't written before.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 27-Dec-2013 / Guess where we've been this week?

We've been out of town all this week.  Can you guess where we are?

Yes, we've been at Disney World over the Christmas holiday.  Cheers!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Have you submitted to the Writers of the Future contest yet?

Every quarter there is a contest you should be submitting to--if you're not already a published author.

That's the Writers of the Future contest.

As we speak, you have a little over a week (December 31st) to get your next submission entered.  What in the world are you waiting for?

Here'a hint too: check out last year's edition: Volume 29 (hint: I gave it a 5-star review!)

So check out the contest rules and if you quality, consider submitting to the Writers of the Future contest.

Who knows, you just might win.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 20-Dec-2013 / Winding down

Not only am I winding down for the year, I (and my family and in-laws) are winding down for a little vacation over the Christmas holiday.

The past few weeks have been busy (aside from packing) with getting blog posts written and scheduled.  I don't like to miss my Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, so I made sure I scheduled them ahead of time.

Where am I going?

You'll see.  Let's put it this way: I live in northwestern Minnesota, where we've already seen severe below zero temperatures, and we're going someplace where it's not only warm, snow is rare.  We're going someplace much, much warmer.

Think warm climate and . . . mouse ears.  Yes, it's Disney World.

I'm inching along with Shadowkill.  I have a lofty goal of self-publishing this book by Q1 2014, which means time is running out.  I'd also like to have the first draft of the second book in the Central Division Series complete too.  I have lofty goals for 2014 to begin with--and most are centered around publishing more.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"But what should I write?"

The chef wanders into his kitchen, scratching his head.

What in the world should I make?

He peruses the cupboards, the refrigerator, and even the freezer, looking for ideas on what to make for his next meal.  It doesn't matter if he's creating something for himself or maybe for his significant other or even a group of close friends.

Now, one would say that he should've prepared more, that he should've written down a list of meals to make.  Well, he did that.  Yet when it comes to actually cook something, the creative juices still need to flow.

Okay, maybe another trip to the market.  Then I will surely get more ideas.

He spots an ingredient here and there, and finally a meal starts to form in his mind.

The same goes with writers.  No matter how much planning we do (and lately I've been doing more and more, to be honest), there is still the act of sitting down and doing the work, creating the story.  You think about books you read or movies you saw, drawing on any ounce of inspiration where you can get it.

Writer's block is a real thing . . . if you let it.  I may experience a temporary writer's block, but I don't call it that.  I call it searching . . . firing the synapses in order to connect a few dots in my story.  I never call it writer's block.

If you need ideas on what to write--or even how to write it--look around.  Think of similar stories.  But in the end, write something.  You can always delete it using the digital eraser.  That's why it was invented.

Sometimes I think writers use the excuse of writer's block when in the end it's called laziness.  You'll never see a truck driver hop in his cab and say, "Damn, I can't inspire myself to drive today.  I guess I'll go back and take a nap."  He just gets in and drives.  Writers just need to write.

So do it.  Right now.

The world is waiting.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's not too late to accomplish a 2013 goal

2013 is winding down.  How are your 2013 goals coming along?

Of course, if you're like the majority of us, you still have goals left.  No big deal.  Even successful people don't accomplish all of their 2013 goals list.  Because of they did, their list wasn't challenging enough/

Take that list down.  Look at it.  Is there one thing--just one--that you can bust through and accomplish?  I bet there is.

Maybe you're in the midst of a novel and you figure it won't be accomplished until January or February, but in reviewing your list there is something--maybe an entry into a contest--that you could do.

Do it.  Take a day or two and do it.

Cross that item off your list.

Then move on.

Please share what small goal you accomplished right at the end of 2013.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 13-Dec-2013 / Another 2013 goal accomplished

I counted up 18 separate goals for 2013.  I accomplished 13 of them.  Some goals were "pie in the sky" and due to time/money constraints they were not even touched.  Others weren't either--these I will keep with myself.

But I completed the 13th one a few days ago: I submitted to the Writers of the Future contest--it's a quarterly contest and I sent something off all four quarters.  I didn't place or even get past the first round on each one.  I don't mind.  It's the act of submitting that has made it worth while.  The competition is stiff, and I'm determined to continue.

Because one of two things will happen: I'll either win or I'll make myself ineligible because I'll sell too many books.

That's a good place to be.

For 2014, I have another 18 goals--different goals, for some of them, the same for the rest.  My emphasis will be on publishing more.

Which brings me to what I'm working on.  This week has been a little hectic.  I've been hammering away at Shadowkill, now into chapters 5-6 and beyond.  It's been a slow process so far, but if I still keep plugging away, it's gonna be done.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Make every minute count

Slice and dice your next 24 hours.  Or even your next 168.

Everyone has the same amount of time to accomplish what they need.  Rockets have been built, mountains have been climbed, diseases eradiated, great novels written, songs composed, paintings have been created . . . all within the same 168 hours in a week.

How are you spending yours?

My typical morning routine starts at 6:00am.  I get up, toss on some shorts and a shirt, and head downstairs where I write until 6:45am--by the time I get ready, I only have roughly 40 minutes or so, give or take.  Then, at 6:45 I get the kids up and ready for school.  If I'm lucky, they're out the door by 7:30am.  After that, it's back downstairs to write until roughly 8:30am.

All total, about an hour and a half of actual time allocated to writing.  I know this, and there's been times when I'm tempted to check out Facebook or Twitter or even Amazon to see what my book rankings are.

But those precious minutes wasted are minutes wasted not writing.

Be mindful of the little things that eat your time away.  Get them under control before they start controlling you . . . until you find yourself ten years older and still haven't accomlished your dreams.

What's your biggest time waster?  Please share and comment below.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Create sawdust

You open the door to the workshop.  The master woodworker is busy at his bench, sanding down the finishing touches on his latest creation.

"So, you want to become a master, do you?" he asks.

"Yes, sir."

"Any questions before we begin?"

You rub your hands together.  "Yes, sir.  What's the key to it all?  How can I become a master woodworker like yourself?  There must be one thing you can tell me."

"There is," he says.  "And it is simple."

"I knew it," you say, excited to finally hear the secret to the master woodworker's success.  "Please share, sir.  What is it?"

"Create sawdust," he says.

"What?!?  Create . . . sawdust?  What do you mean by that, sir?"

"In order to become a master," he says, "you need to put in the work . . . and create sawdust.  Lots of it."

What irritates me about a lot of Q & A sessions authors have with fans and/or wanna-be writers is that everyone thinks there's some magical key to success.  "How do I create scenes that resonate with my readers?"  "How can I increase the tension in my story?"  "How can I make my characters more believable?"  And on and on . . .

Writing advice can be broken down into six simple words: read a lot, write a lot.  That's it.  In other words, as with the master woodworker story above, you need to create sawdust.  What you write in the beginning isn't a masterpiece, so don't treat it as such.  Just write.  Write as if you're practicing for the big story.

Create sawdust.

Write.  A lot.

If you read a lot of stories, you'll know how good stories are put together--and you'll also recognize how bad writing is . . . well, bad.  But don't just study stories, you also need to write them.  I learned a lot about writing back in college when I wrote my first novel.  Some of it I didn't recognize until years later (yes, I thought it was a masterpiece at the time).

If you want to become a successful write, then write.  Create sawdust.  You can't reuse sawdust and make a bird house or tool chest or even a house.  It's throwaway wood.  But it doesn't matter.  Write anyway.

The world depends on it.  The world needs you.

So write.  Today.  Create the equivalent to sawdust.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 06-Dec-2013 / Gearing up for 2014

As 2013 is winding down, I'm planning for 2014.

I don't like rushing things along--I have to constantly be reminding my kids not to wish for time to move faster, that you need to savor each moment--because before you know it, the holiday season will be over and the new year will be upon us.

My two novel projects are inching along:

1) Shadowkill is still being edited in the opening five chapters

2) the sequel to Beholder's Eye has seen roughly 1500 words written this week, and is sitting around 6100 words total.

My goal is to publish both of these within the first quarter of 2014.  I'm not sure if the sequel will be done or not with editing, but it'll be close.

I have some bold goals for 2014.  Sorry, I will not share them here.  It doesn't matter what my list looks like when compared to yours.  Each of us is different.

But you need goals in order to know what you're aiming for.  Write them down.  Be specific.

Then do it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

External character conflicts

Everyone in real life has conflicts. And your characters are no different. There are basically two types of conflicts: internal and external. Today we'll explore external conflicts.

External conflicts are, by and large, beyond the character's control.  A loved one gets cancer.  They lose their job.  Their house is set on fire.  The world is under attack by aliens.  A plane gets hijacked.  A salesperson goes on a sales call and gets rejected time and again.  They meet someone they're deeply attracted to.

Combining these external conflicts with internal conflicts makes for an interesting story.

In my thriller Beholder's Eye, the main character Kolin Raynes is an investigator for the Minneapolis PD.  He's new to the job--aside from his many years as a street cop--and finds himself in the midst of a serial killler.  One that is targeting him.  But for what reason, he doesn't know.  Then, his teenage daughter is kidnapped.

Talk about external conflicts!

Then, to top is all off, he witnesses an accident and finds himself temporarily disposed.  Lots of external conflict.

Conflict is what makes a story interesting.

To find out more, be sure to check out Beholder's Eye, the first thriller in the Central Division Series available on the Amazon Kindle store.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Internal character conflicts

Everyone in real life has conflicts.  And your characters are no different.  There are basically two types of conflicts: internal and external.  Today we'll explore internal conflicts.

Internal conflucts are defined as events or processes within the character that shape how they act.  They may be happy-go-lucky on the outside--what they show the world at large--while inside they're an alcoholic or a budding serial killer or a kleptomaniac.

Think of the people around you.  Whether or not they're reserved or outgoing, what's going on in that brain of theirs.  Maybe they're caring for a loved one who has terminal cancer, and the stress is causing them to take a few pills here and there.  Maybe they're in a high-paying, high-pressure job and they want nothing more than to sit out at their lake cabin and paint.

What's going on in their brain?

How do they handle stress?

In my thriller Beholder's Eye, the main character is an investigator for the Minneapolis PD.  He's good at his job, but he struggles with the job as a whole.  He wants nothing more than to be with his family, but the pressures of the job keep him away.  And the bigger the case, the more he's away.  His wife has a decent job, so it isn't because of the money.  Skills-wise, investigating crimes is what he's good at.  Wow, what a problem to have!  Many times we read thrillers where the cop is married to the job and has marital problems.  Kolin is the opposite: he wants to be with his family and puts his job far below on his list of priorities.

To find out more, be sure to check out Beholder's Eye, the first thriller in the Central Division Series available on the Amazon Kindle store.