Monthly Archives: July 2017

Barnes and Noble Hires a New VP of Stores

Barnes and Noble wants to focus on bookstore development and the company has hired a new VP of stores to make this happen. Carl Hauch has been named Vice President, Stores, effective immediately. In his new role, Mr. Hauch will be responsible for the entire retail store organization and profitable growth of the business, driving sales, training, developing talent and recruitment. Mr. Hauch will report directly to Demos Parneros, Chief Executive Officer.

“I am excited about Carl’s addition to our management team,” said Mr. Parneros. “He is an accomplished leader with a proven track record for driving results, and he is an important appointment as we position the Company for future growth.”

Mr. Hauch joins Barnes & Noble from CityMD where he served as Chief Operating Officer, responsible for all aspects of both front-of-house and back-of-house operations for one of the fastest growing and highest volume Urgent Care companies in the U.S. He is a knowledgeable leader with over 20 years of global experience in the direct-to-consumer industry.

He started his career at Starbucks Coffee Company back in 1994, where he worked for 14 years, beginning as a Store Manager at one of the highest volume locations at the time. After only two years, he went on to become District Manager in midtown Manhattan, then Director of Operations New York, NY, Vice President of Operations, Starbucks Australia, and CEO, Managing Director of Starbucks Switzerland and Austria.

Mr. Hauch went on to Advance Auto Parts, a $9B retailer, where he made his way up the ranks from the SVP of Operations for the West, to SVP of Human Resources, and finally the SVP of National Operations and Customer Experience, where he was the head of store operations, asset protection and field human resources before coming to CityMD as the SVP Operations and getting promoted to Chief Operating Officer.


Source: goodereader


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4 Tips for Writing a First Draft

For some people, writing a first draft of a scene in a novel is the easiest thing in the world. Armed with nothing but a pen and some paper, they produce a perfectly-structured scene in beautiful prose without even breaking a sweat.
novelist struggling to write a first draft

And then there’s the rest of us.

For “normal” people – beginners and more experienced writers alike – writing a first draft is both a scary and a magical time…

It’s scary because facing a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen, and having to fill it with words – lots of them – is mentally demanding.
It’s magical because you finally get to see a chunk of your novel come to life, like a scene in a movie.

All too often, novelists focus on the scary part. The following tips will help to ensure that writing a first draft is always a magical experience.

1. Just Get Started

Us writers are a strange bunch…

When most people have to work, they roll up their sleeves (metaphorically or literally) and get on with the job. They might not like it, but they know it has to be done and so they do it. And afterwards they enjoy the satisfaction of having done it.

But writers are different…

On the one hand, we love what we do. Hey, what’s not to love about getting paid to make up stories?
On the other hand – and this is the weird thing – when the time comes to actually sit down and write the first draft, we would rather be doing anything else than facing a blank computer screen.

Come to think of it, “doing anything else” is a pastime most writers excel at. Yes, we might be great storytellers, but we’re equally great at…

staring out of the window
making stick figures out of paper clips
reorganizing the apps on our desktops
taking the most non-urgent of chores and elevating it to the status of must-do-now.

If any of that rings a bell, you’re not alone. If it doesn’t, you’re a saint!

But what can you do about it?

Just get started.

The hardest thing about writing – or doing any demanding job – is getting going in the first place. Once you have got going, the job is rarely as tough as you thought. But that doesn’t stop your brain looking for any excuse it can find to put the job off in the first place. John Steinbeck put it well…

How the mind rebels against work, but once working, it rebels just as harshly against stopping. I don’t know why this should be. It’s a dumb brute, the human mind.

2. First Drafts Are Supposed to Be Clunky

First drafts are all about the story, about discovering what happens, about hanging some flesh on the skeletal outline. They are not about producing page after page of perfect prose and dialogue.

Sure, if a great line pops into your head, write it down. But if you can’t find the right words, it doesn’t matter – you’re just blocking out how the story unfolds here, so don’t waste time searching for the perfect piece of description, say, when nothing will come to mind.

Just get anything down, however clunky it sounds. And always remember that “clunky” is to be expected…

The more experience you gain as a writer, the closer you get to finding your storytelling voice. The more you do that, the less clunky first drafts become. But they’ll still be on the rough side, however much experience you have.

You can use this to your advantage, though…

The fact that a first draft doesn’t have to read terribly well takes a lot of the pressure off writing it (and therefore a lot of the pressure off parking yourself in front of your computer in the first place).

If you know that a first draft won’t look very pretty when you read it back, why bother trying to create something pretty in the first place? Instead, just write down whatever words come into your head, safe in the knowledge that you can make them prettier later.

And guess what? Once you’ve given yourself permission to write as badly as you want, writer’s block ceases to be a problem. It’s like Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird…

The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

Still find yourself staring at a blank piece of paper, despite having given yourself permission to write badly? The odds are that there’s a disconnect between your head and your hands. The next tip should fix that…

3. Visualize a Scene Before Writing It

Imagine if I told you to sit down in a crowded train station and write a description of the various passengers coming and going. That would be easy, particularly if I also told you that the quality of the writing didn’t matter.

All you’d have to do is observe one of the passengers and write down what he or she does. Dialogue would be easier still – you’d just need to get close enough to two people having a conversation and write down what they say.

In other words, it’s a simple exercise in observation. You look at the various scenes playing out all around you and write down what happens.

Writing a first draft of a novel can be equally simple. All you need to do is…

Picture the scene in your head – more specifically, picture it through the viewpoint character’s eyes.
Write down what you see – and what you hear, smell, taste, think, etc.

Find it difficult to visualize a scene? Take some time to “get into the zone” first. Close your eyes and clear your mind of your day to day concerns. Fill it instead with the scene you want to write. When you’ve got there, open your eyes, pick up your pen and start writing.

And remember, this isn’t the time to worry about the language. Just get the scene down on paper, even if it sounds like an eight year old wrote it.

4. Set Easy-to-Reach Targets

Even if you take on board everything above, the fact still stands that writing a first draft is mentally draining.

Of course, pushing yourself mentally is no bad thing. It makes stopping and relaxing all the sweeter! Nevertheless, knowing in advance that writing a scene in your novel will likely drain you can be enough by itself to make you take the day off.

The solution? Set ridiculously low targets…

Setting yourself a target of 3,000 words a day, say, is ambitious. Setting a target of 100 words is so simple that you could probably do it while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.

The advantage of the ambitious target is that you’ll get your novel drafted in record time. The downside is that you’ll probably burn out in week one and take the next week to recover – by which time your “writing muscle” will have gone all stiff again.

The advantage of the low target is that turning up at your desk every morning won’t be daunting in the least. The disadvantage is that writing the first draft of your novel will take forever.

But remember what Steinbeck said above…

How the mind rebels against work, but once working, it rebels just as harshly against stopping.

In other words, once you’ve found your groove and the scene is starting to come to life (in your head and on paper), you probably won’t want to stop at 100 words. You’ll write another 100. Then maybe 500 after that. And so on.

The key to this strategy is to understand that you can’t fool your own mind. If you set a 100-word target but secretly plan to write 3,000 words, it won’t work. So whatever low target you set, you’ve got to mean it.

Let’s say you decide on 250 words (about a page) a day. That’s a good target – large enough to be meaningful but small enough to be manageable. It comes with two conditions attached, though…

You’ve got to show up at your desk every day and write your 250 words, even if you don’t feel like it. (Whether that includes weekends or not is up to you.)
Once you’ve reached 250 words, you’re free to stop. Some days you’ll stop and others you won’t. Either way, your day’s work is done if you want it to be done, and you can leave your desk with a feeling of accomplishment.

Final point…

There’s more to writing a novel than writing the first draft. There’s the planning or outlining that happens at the start, then there’s the revision at the end.

So when I say “your day’s work is done,” I’m just talking about the drafting part – the tough part. Spend the rest of your time planning what you’re going to write in the future or editing something you drafted previously.

The important thing is that you carve out time to do some original writing every day…

It keeps you in peak writing condition. It keeps that word count rising. And it satisfies your inner-artist, who loves the thrill of taking a blank sheet of paper and filling it with the first draft of a scene.

Source: novel-writing-help

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10 sci-fi novel opening lines that’ll take your breath away

The opening sentence of a science fiction novel, perhaps more than any other genre, has a lot of work to do. Like all good fiction, it needs to hook you, jolt you into the story and establish the tone. Yet it also needs to get you interested in a whole new alternative world, a place where you’ll live for the duration of the book. It’s a big ask. Nonetheless, there are some masterly examples of opening lines that do that and more. Here are ten that, quite literally, take our breath away.

“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.”  Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card.

Most of the time starting a novel with dialogue is a big no, no. We don’t know who the character is, so we have no idea of the context or whether we should care what they say. Scott Card gets away with it, though, because the line is simply so intriguing and raises so many questions we need answered.

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”Neuromancer, William Gibson.

Another often cited rule of writing is that you should never start a story with a description of the weather. With this stunningly atmospheric opener, Gibson shows why rules are made to be broken. It’s such a vivid image and hints at a very ominous world in a way that prickles the readers’ curiosity.

A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.”Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick

It’s all about the “mood organ” in Dick’s classic opener. The concept is strangely fascinating and conjures up images of an old fashioned instrument with the power to understand a human’s feelings. This opening very much sets the scene for a world we want to know more about.

“Monday morning when I answered the door there were twenty-one new real estate agents there, all in horrible polyester gold jackets.”The Hacker And The Ants, Version 2.0, Rudy Rucker.

Surreal in the Hunter S. Thompson road trip mold, this opening freaks you out in so many different ways. Real estate agents are horrific at the best of times, but so many of them dressed so hideously shouts bizarre, bizarre, bizarre. Immediately, you empathise with the narrator but more importantly you want to know what he has done to deserve such a nightmarish visit.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.” 1984, George Orwell.

Arguably, one of the most famous sci-fi opening lines, what makes this such a classic is the way it lulls you into thinking nothing is amiss until the very final word. Clocks don’t strike 13, we tell ourselves. Then the full implications of the sentence become apparent. Here is a world where the very nature of time keeping itself has been redefined. Who wouldn’t want to know how and, more importantly, why?

“The morning after he killed Eugene Shapiro, Andre Deschenes woke early.” – Undertow, Elizabeth Bear.

It’s the juxtaposition between the everyday and the horrific, which makes this such a fantastic opening sentence. Its added kick comes from the fact the mundane comes after the horrific. It makes you wonder what sort of person could sleep at all and what Eugene Shapiro did to deserve his fate.

“At the end, the bottom, the very worst of it, with the world afire and hell’s flamewinged angels calling him by name, Lee Crane blamed himself.” –  Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Theodore Sturgeon.

We love the drama and amazing energy of this opening. Add to that the Blakeian imagery, and you absolutely have to know why Lee Crane blames himself.

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” – A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

While breathtaking might not be the first adjective that comes to mind when you think of Adams’s classic, this opening ticks all the right boxes. Firstly, the way it underlines the vastness of the universe and, secondly, how it shows how utterly insignificant humans and everything we hold dear are. Brilliant stuff.

“The manhunt extended across more than one hundred light years and eight centuries.” – A Deepness In The Sky, Vernor Vinge.

A manhunt is always dramatic, but a manhunt across one hundred light years and eight centuries is obsessive and incredible, both in terms of human endeavour and technology. We want to meet the chaser and the chased and the world that enables them to do such a fantastical thing.

“It was a pleasure to burn.” Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.

Along with Orwell’s magnificent 1984, Bradbury’s opening line is one of the most famous in science fiction. Succinct yet vivid, it prompts a ton of questions. What was a pleasure to burn? Why was it a pleasure? Who found it pleasurable? Fire is such a sensationally powerful phenomenon, it’s no surprise this line appeals to both our head and our heart.

Source: inktank

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How to write science fiction – creating imaginary worlds

Science fiction writers create imaginary worlds. These might literally be new worlds, i.e., an invented planet. Or these might be our world in the future, or with some innovations (for example, that humans have evolved to breathe underwater).

The way things work in your imaginary worlds will be based on actual science. So it’s important for you to be familiar with the scientific principles and inventions that are related to your creation. For example, if you’re writing about humans living on a planet with zero gravity, then you need to know the effects of zero gravity on the human body and the kind of technology that would be needed to compensate. If you write a novel that takes an existing scientific discovery one step further, then you have to understand the actual discovery.

Then you have to figure out the exact rules of your imaginary worlds. And you have to follow them.

If humans have evolved to breathe underwater in Chapter 1, your heroine can’t drown in a swimming pool in Chapter 3. If your robots write poetry but not fiction, then you can’t throw a novelist robot into Chapter 8. Or if you make these exceptions, you’d better have a convincing explanation for your reader.

The issue here is maintaining your reader’s trust and what is called suspension of disbelief. That means the reader is willing to pretend along with you — if you say that humans can breathe underwater, then she’ll take your word for it. To maintain this suspension of disbelief, you have to let readers know what kind of reality they’re in and then follow the rules of this reality consistently. If you start out with an ordinary detective novel and then throw in someone breathing underwater in the 6th chapter, you’re reader’s reaction is, “What the h…?” The imaginative spell is broken. You’ve pulled out the rug from under the reader and startled him out of his imagination. The same thing happens if you change the rules halfway through. “What the h…?”

Once you’ve lost the reader’s trust, you may not be able to get it back again.

Part of your preparation work for the novel is to map out its worlds for yourself in great detail. Decide:

* The history of its worlds (if your novel is about a new version of our own world, then figure out how this new version came to be).

* The geography (if different from the current world)

* What possibilities does it offer that aren’t offered in our current world? What are the limitations, things your characters can’t do?

* How everything works in this new reality.

* How all of these factors affect the way your characters think, feel, and react to things. For example, if you have invented a world where people live to be 1000 years old, then characters will take a longer view of the future. And maybe a 10-year space flight will seem like no big deal to them.

You don’t have to tell your reader all the rules or present her with an extended fact sheet in the first chapter. But you have to let readers know enough to feel oriented and understand what’s going on. And you definitely have to know the rules yourself so that you can follow them. This also allows you to work out logical problems and contradictions before you start writing. Maybe your book is going to be about a mutant race of half-humans, half-birds. But you also want your characters to breathe underwater. Neither humans nor birds breathe underwater, so how will you explain this? Decide it ahead of time.

Source: creative-writing-now

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10 Ways to Write a Quality Book Quickly

For most entrepreneurs and professionals who want to establish their credibility or promote their services, the question is no longer, “Should I write a book?” but “When should I write a book?”

The issue for incredibly busy people is time—not having enough of it. They assume writing a book requires 6-12 months or longer. Without a doubt, the most frequent question people ask me as an author is, “How do you find the time to write?”

They’re shocked when they hear me say that it typically takes only three weeks to draft a 40,000-word book. (I’ve done it in less time, but that’s unusual.)

Of course, research may take months or years. Then polishing your prose—if you’re a professional writer—can take almost as long as putting together the first draft. So from draft to final manuscript to agent or editor, you may need to invest six weeks or so.

But back to getting the first draft done: You may already have the content in your head because you’re writing about a topic in your own area of expertise—often a how-to, self-help, or business book. When that’s the case, typically the only thing holding you back is a writing plan.

Try one of these 10 tricks to speed you on your way:

  1. Map the entire book with idea wheels. I’m definitely not a proponent of the philosophy “just start writing anything” any more than I’d tell a driver who wanted to go from Columbus, Georgia, to Portland, Oregon, to “just start driving.” Without a GPS or map, that’s a good way to waste a great deal of time. As with driving, map out the quickest route to your destination. Start with a small circle in the center of the page. Draw lines off that circle (like spokes on a bicycle wheel) for the sub-points. Label each of these lines with a chapter topic. Then draw lines off the spokes for the sub-points of those ideas. This wheel or these wheels give you a map over the overall book. Your idea wheel serves as your book-writing GPS to get you to the destination by the quickest route.


  • Pose 20 questions to yourself and then answer them. If you can’t decide what your chapter topics should be—or you can’t figure out the sub-points for any single chapter—pose 20 questions to yourself based on what people typically ask you about that subject. Then answer each question. That’s a chapter or a heading inside a chapter.
  • Play journalist. If you can’t decide what to do with any particular chapter topic, answer the five questions of the journalist: Who? What? Why? How? Where? After you’ve filled in the answers, turn those questions into snappier headings.
  • Skim the TOC of similar books. Take advantage of Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to skim the Table of Contents of competing books to get ideas. If the topic has been done before, go in a different direction. However, simply reviewing these topics will prime the pump to get your own ideas flowing.
  • Start with any random chapter. What stalls many writers is thinking “first things first.” Instead, to begin, select either your favorite chapter, the easiest chapter, or the shortest chapter. Just go to work somewhere.
  • Start in the middle of a chapter and move outward in any direction. If you’re still stalled, select your favorite chapter topic. Add four subheadings underneath (they don’t need to be perfect). Begin writing under any one of those headings. Then start writing under another heading, and so on. Work your way through the chapter until all the headings are finished. Go back and write an introduction and a conclusion to the chapter. Repeat the process for each chapter. Finally, write an introduction to the entire book and a conclusion to the entire book.
  • Schedule marathons. Interruptions break your momentum and your train of thought. I suggest this marathon secret to all my book-writing clients, and overwhelmingly, they find it to be one of the most helpful tips for writing a quality book quickly. Block out a two-week vacation, tell all your family and friends that’s what you’re doing and tell them not to disturb you unless someone is dying. Put in 12-15 hour days and you’ll be amazed how easily the writing flows when you’re not distracted by email, phone calls, texts, or conversations. Cut your daily breaks to the absolute essentials: food, water, biology breaks.
  • Talk it and transcribe it. If you just cannot write fast, consider recording your book and having it transcribed. Then move to the editing step. (Actually, I don’t recommend this to clients as a first step because there is great value in actually seeing words on the screen as you write. Seeing layout and length helps you turn out a better first draft.)
  • Keep a time-and-page log. At the end of each chapter and each day, record your stats—just as you would in sports or with other projects. Recording pages completed in X hours builds momentum—as well as helps you chart your estimated completion date and celebration.
  • Reward yourself for completions. When you finish a long or difficult chapter, reward yourself with a special food, a short exercise break, or a phone call to a special someone. You get to decide; it’s your book and your completion date!


And that’s how the first draft gets done quickly. Editing it is easy, more like trying on clothes for alterations: The basic work is finished; the fitting can be fun and feels like play.

As you wait for the publisher to produce and ship your book to outlets around the world, excitement grows. Promotion begins. Notoriety looms just around the corner. So sit down and draft something.

By Dianna Booher

Source: huffingtonpost


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5 Things You Need to Know Before You Write a Novel

We like to cater to the desires of all types of writers, from fiction to copywriting. So when Larry Brooks, an old friend, an ex pro baseball player and most importantly a bestselling novelist, offered to write a series on fiction writing and getting published, I was quite happy to say yes.

Some really smart people do some really dumb things when writing their first novel – or their tenth, for that matter. They read – at least, they should, if they aspire to write – and because the pros make it look easy, these people believe they can write a novel just as well as published authors. If not better.

It’’s not all that hard. Writing a novel just needs a throat-gripping idea and a couple of months.

Well, Tiger Woods makes his game look easy, too. But the smart people that watch him play wouldn’t dream of entering the U.S. Open qualifier to compete against him and hope to win.

The odds of turning pro as a novelist, of actually publishing a novel, are about the same.

That’s the first of the five things you absolutely need to know before you write a novel. If you know this, if you really get that you need to work hard, be serious and not be remotely cavalier about what it takes to get published, then it can be done.

That’s what the rest of the points are about.

Architecture is More than a Fancy Building

The second thing you need to know before you write a novel is that there is such a thing as story architecture. It’s much more complicated than stringing together a beginning, a middle and a spiffy ending.

Screenwriters have an inflexible story paradigm. The parameters novelists use are much looser and rarely spoken aloud – but you depart from them at you own peril. Publishers aren’t looking to reinvent the novel; they’re expecting a great story told from within accepted parameters.

The Secrets That Get You Published

What are those secret parameters? What is story architecture? It goes like this:

  1. A set-up with a killer hook
  2. Character intro with back-story and context
  3. A sense of place
  4. Foreshadowing and the establishment of stakes
  5. The hero’s impending need and inner demons
  6. The emerging seeds of a subplot
  7. A major plot point that introduces the story’s antagonistic element
  8. The definition of the hero’s quest or need
  9. Scenes that deepen the tension as the hero responds
  10. Refining the nature of the quest and the elements of its opposition
  11. A mid-story mind-numbing context shift that changes everything
  12. The evolution of the hero into a pro-active warrior
  13. Another significant plot twist that puts all the cards on the table

…followed by a series of scenes that show how the hero is applying what he’s learned to become a catalyst in the story’s oh-so-satisfying conclusion.

It’s all learn-able. It really is. Learn it, master it, and you will publish.

The Six Core Competencies a Novelist Needs

Thirdly, story architecture is only part of one of the six core competencies you need to render at a professional level before your book stands a chance:

  • Conceptualization
  • Character
  • Theme
  • Plot sequencing
  • Scene construction
  • Writing voice

This section is really simple. If you are weak in any one of these six core competencies, you’re dead in the slush pile.

You’d Better Like Baseball If You Want to Write

Fourth, the criteria for a new author is different than for a previously published, name-brand author.

Famous authors trade on their brand; their stories only need to be good enough. That’s where you got the notion you could do just as well in the first place. But don’t be seduced – you have to submit something that is other-worldly original, provocative, powerful and artful. You have to knock it out of the park.

Which cleverly brings us to the fifth point…

Publishers are looking for home runs. Don’t settle for good – go for the fence. Publishers have plenty of good novels from contracted authors. To take a chance on a newbie, they need a story that knocks their socks off in a way you can’t anticipate.

You have no idea how cynical and jaded manuscript readers and editors can be.

To paraphrase Neil Sedaka, breaking in is hard to do. But it happens. And it might as well happen to you. Before it does, you’ll realize that there are far more than five things you need to know before you write your novel.

More like 175 things.

And the most important of them is this: It is worth all the work.

Knocking it Out of the Park is Better than Golf

You can’t cut corners in the novel-writing trade. But if you humble yourself before the immensity of the task, if you search out and master the 175 things you need to know and write your story with passion and courage and art and craft and great hope, you’ll find yourself standing in the aisle at Borders or Chapters.

You’ll be staring your book in the face. You’ll be all choked up and blushing. And you’ll be thankful you took up writing instead of golf.

Because writers experience life in a way others don’t. We’re observers and chroniclers and analysts. We’re players. In the roles we write, we are alive and present. We matter. What we write outlives us.

Which is exactly why it really is worth all the work.

And if none of that is important to you… Well, there’s always caddying.

By Larry Brook

Source: menwithpens

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How to Write a Great Science Fiction Novel in 7 Easy Steps

Max Barry’s book Lexicon was voted fourth best science fiction novel of the year by Goodreads, and now he’s put together a (mostly serious) list of steps you’ll want to take to become a writer of great science fiction.


Great sci-fi begins with an idea. Unfortunately, as people will tell you, all the good ideas were taken long ago. But that’s only true if you believe ideas are indivisible, like, “A guy goes on a journey and experiences personal change” covers everything from Moby Dick to me visiting the bathroom. In fact, ideas are totally divisible. There’s no idea that you can’t make new by filtering it through your brain.

The way to tell whether an idea is good is to see if it makes you feel like writing about it. There are no other criteria. I know that sounds trite. But it’s true. Many people have great-sounding ideas for books but never write them. That means they are bad. The ideas, not the people. The people are probably bad, too. If an idea can’t clear the first hurdle in a marathon, a marathon that has hurdles in it, then it’s a bad idea. It is as bad as the idea of having a marathon with hurdles in it.

Note: If your idea involves parallel universes, now proceed to all steps simultaneously.

Note: If your idea involves time travel, follow steps in the order of your choice, taking care not to invalidate any future step (relative to you: past step). If you do accidentally invalidate a step, please cease to exist, at least in this timeline.


Some ideas sound like good stories but aren’t. In science fiction, it’s possible to ram an ill-fitting idea into a story, the same way it’s possible to force a cat into a little tuxedo, but it takes the same amount of effort and the result is just as awkward. When an idea feels enticing but won’t come out, like a cat under the sofa who’s gotten wind that you want to put it in a little tuxedo, it’s because you have a concept but not a situation.

Stories are about change. A story that has no change in it, or the threat of change, is a painting. And stories that aren’t about people are landscape paintings.

So you need to find the situation inside your idea. That’s the part of the concept that impacts specific people and causes change to or around them.


Ego is a critical part of a writer’s toolbox. Without ego, you’d succumb to the fear that the eighty-to-one-hundred thousand words you’re preparing to dump on the world may not measurably improve it. This will only seem ridiculous if you have a tremendous ego, the kind that can look upon a work-in-progress crammed with of plot holes, opaque character motivations, and spelling errors that have dogged you since third grade, and think: Mmm… not bad.

What works for me is telling myself that all writers’ first drafts are bad. I can’t tell for sure because other writers don’t show me their first drafts—probably because they’re so bad. You see? So what I hawk out onto the screen in draft one is pretty good, relatively speaking.

Remember the last time you read a novel that was so awful, just getting to the end was tortuous? Someone managed to write that. They typed out every single word. And they did it as a first draft, when it would have been worse. Thanks to ego.


There are plenty of ways to do this. But all you need to know is that no technique works for everyone, and what’s best for you is whatever gets you regularly putting down words and feeling good about them.

This step takes three months if you are Stephen King, 6-12 months if you are me, and a year or two if you have a real job. Add one to ten years if you have small children.


You are stuck and unmotivated. Delete that last bit. I can’t emphasize this enough. Delete it. I know you don’t want to. I know, logically, it seems like a good idea. DELETE THAT LAST BIT. It’s killing you.


I’m unsure whether not doing something can be a step. But that’s not important. What’s important is avoiding research. I’m serious. Research is useful in two phases: the idea phase and the rewriting phase. In between, research is a stupid boring voice that says, It doesn’t work like that. You know what? I’m writing this story, I’ll tell you how it goddamn works. I’ll make it plausible in rewrites.

Don’t tell anyone this, though, because when they ask, “Did you do a lot of research?” the only acceptable answer is: “Yes, I personally lived the entire experience, creating this transcript of actual events.” But research isn’t what great writers are great at. In the middle of the first draft, research is a distraction from what’s important, which is story-telling.


I call this Step 4 also since it occurs in parallel. Keep reading books. Yes, their influences will seep into your writing. But what are you going to do, never read again?


It’s fine to leave dangling threads and unrealized characters in a first draft, because you’re creating something from nothing. Literally anything you add is better than what you had. Plus, since you’re full of ego (Step 3), everything you wrote is pretty damn good, you feel. This is only way to finish a first draft.

But now it’s time to read over your story like you just happened across it in your printer’s out-tray. Read it like you’re a little impatient. Scrawl on it in pen. React to it like a reader.

Then rewrite. I won’t tell you how long this step lasts, or how many times it repeats, because it’s different for everyone, and the answer is always terrifying.


This means writing thirty query letters to literary agents and responding to the one who replies asking to see some chapters. The other option is self-publishing, which is also viable if you have plenty of time and enthusiasm for self-promotion.

Either way, though, the best marketing is write a good book. Do that and other people will promote it for you. That’s much easier than persuading anyone to pick up a book no-one much likes.


Now the good part, where you let the praise roll in. Unfortunately, science fiction people are the most demanding readers in the world. They sniff out implausibilities no reasonable person should care about. They take weak plots as a personal insult. They compare any idea to one better executed in an all-time classic. And they are super visible about it, because they live online.

On the flipside, though, when they like you, they adore you with the passion of a thousand burning suns. So there’s that.

There is a reason for this, though. Science fiction readers truly believe in books. They know in their hearts that the world is improved by good ones and diminished by bad ones. They don’t read books like consumables. They read them like ideas. And you, as both a reader and writer of science fiction, believe that, too: that this matters. When you think like that, it’s immensely satisfying to write a novel. It feels like the best thing you ever did.

Best of luck. You need that, too.

By Max Barry

Source: gizmodo

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We’re In This Together: How To Help Other Authors Succeed

A common query Becca and I get is, “Why do you do what you do?” It’s a fair question, because in order for us to coach writers through our books, speaking, and our One Stop for Writers site, we’ve had to temporarily put our fiction-writing on hold. Not an easy decision. But the fact is we love to see dreams realized. This is why we do it. As writers ourselves, we know the power of THIS particular dream–a book in hand, our name paired with the title, and the knowledge that readers are losing themselves in a world we’ve created.

We celebrate each time someone we know achieves this dream–and how could we not? It’s so wonderful to see all that hard work pay off! Today, we are celebrating because our friend Kristen Lamb has just released her first mystery thriller, The Devil’s Dance.

Many of you know Kristen and the giant heart she has for writers. She has such passion for those of us in this industry and gives her all every day through her blog and the relationships she builds. So when someone so authentic and genuine rounds the fiction horn, well, we can’t help but cheer especially loud!

I’ve been away the last month in Italy, but the book is on my kindle now and I can’t wait to read it. I hope you’ll check it out too. But first, let’s look more at book releases in general and talk about what we can do to help the authors we know.

Launching a Book: Behind the Scenes

When an author releases a book, it’s all smiles and excitement…on the outside. What we don’t see is the anxiety going on within: will this book find its readers? Will it become lost in the glut of fiction available? If I share my excitement too freely, will people see it as unwanted promotion?

These worries are universal among authors. And, with the saturation of promotion these days, it’s important we don’t push a book too hard ourselves. Inside, we hope others will step up and help.

(And BOOM, this is what community is about, right? Stepping up!)

So if you know an author like Kristen who is releasing a book and you want to help, here’s a few things you can do (beyond the obvious of purchasing the book).

1: Ask your local library to bring the book in. Many libraries have an online form and they often pay attention to requests. Click here to find a library near you…and why not request Kristen’s book while you’re at it? 🙂 If it is an ebook release, first encourage your author friend to make the ebook available to a service like OverDrive.

2: Leave a review. This is the clear obvious one, but often people stop at only submitting it to Goodreads or Amazon. Please cut and paste the review to all the main sites the book is being sold (Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and if it applies, Smashwords.) For example, you can review The Devil’s Dance on Amazon and Goodreads. It wasn’t at LibraryThing, so I added it (if you’ve read this book, please give it some review love?)

3: Place the book on appropriate lists. If you loved reading the book, help others find it. Goodreads has many great lists you can add books to, or start your own. Using Kristen as an example, you’ll see her reviews are excellent. Think of how much it will help her if reviewers add The Devil’s Dance to some of the “best” lists so others also find it.

4: Visit Pinterest and pin the book & link to appropriate boards. We want to get that cover and link out there, right? If you have a board for books you love, add it. Look for group boards you can contribute it to (if the book’s genre is a match or it covers an area of interest that the board is about). Another tip: if you write a similar book as your author friend, then pin their book to boards where yours is. Why? Well, looking at Kristen as an example, she’s got a very strong brand. If I wrote in the Murder Mystery/Suspense/Thriller genre and my book was similar to hers, I would want our books to show up together as it may help my own book gain visibility.

5: Blog about the book or author. If your blog audience is readers who may like this book, please blog about the book. It doesn’t have to be full of promo–just tell your readers what made it special, and link to the book and the author. Or ask the author for an interview, or to guest post. These posts can then be shared on social media, finding even more readers. In Kristen’s case, featuring her and her book is also good for you too, because it is easier for her to share a post on YOUR blog than her own. She’ll send readers your way so they discover you as well!

6: Share the author’s content when it fits your audience. Authors are in many places, which gives us an opportunity to help their content be found by retweeting and reposting…as long as it matches our audience. Chances are, your author friend may have many social accounts. You can help them find their readership by connecting with them in these places. Let’s take a peek at Kristen. A social media maven, she has many accounts: twitter, facebook, an amazon author page, a goodreads profile, instagram, Google +, she’s at linked in, and has a you tube account. Like most authors she has a website…but she also has another space, the WANA tribe.) So wherever your author friend is online, find them. If you use the same networks, reach out, and share their content to help people discover them. Our industry is all about relationships and we help one another become more discoverable. If you are passionate about your friend’s book you can also share it on Instagram as it’s a great visual platform for book covers.

7: Up vote their best reviews on Amazon so they rise to the top. This is a simple thing that can really help! Simply “like” the best reviews that you agree with so these are the first ones potential readers see.

8: “Stumble” the author’s blog pages which will best help readers find them. StumbleUpon is something that’s been around forever. This site allows you to submit pages to be “stumbled,” meaning that people who are interested in that page’s content (which you create tags for) may find it when they use the Stumble it tool. You can submit your own posts (which I do) and traffic comes from those pages & tags FOREVER. Handy right?

So sign up for an account, and find a page or two from your author friend’s blog that tie into their book. Submit these by clicking a toolbar Thumb’s Up icon you’ll add to your toolbar, and create appropriate tags. Here’s what I did for Kristen’s book page.

9: Use your connections. Sooner or later we all realize that marketing is all about relationships, not promotion. You know people. I know people. Chances are, these aren’t the same people. If you can think about a connection you have (in real life, online, in media, etc.) that might help your author friend, then do what you can to make a match. Trust me, what goes around comes around. Even with someone like Kristen who is super-ultra-mega connected, Becca and I do what we can to help her–for example, to frequently recommend her as a speaker for conferences and workshops. To date this has been more with a writing or social media and marketing realm focus, so we’ll have to now figure out how to best try and raise her visibility with influencers in the mystery/thriller market specifically.

10: Ask what they need. This one is the most important, and I don’t know about you, but I am pretty terrible about asking people for help. (I like to be the helper, not ask for help, and frankly this hurts me a bit.) I think a lot of authors are like me so if you have an author friend who has a book out, ask them how you can best help. Marketing a book is tricky. Often other people can promote more directly than the author themselves can. Your offer of help will likely erase some of the anxiety that hits when your author friend is grappling with book marketing.

We’re all in this together. Let’s help one another out the best we can!


Source: writershelpingwriters

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