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Write at Night – Resources for Writing on the Night Shift

Writing, Publishing, Working on Your Craft – One Night At a Time

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Non-fiction Book Reviews – Publishing

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)

You Are a Writer

By: Jeff Goins

I’ve raved about Kindle Unlimited before and yet again, I find it yields a treasure trove of good non-fiction resources.  Jeff Goins has a massive following for his blog and I actually had no idea who he was, except that people on other podcasts would talk about him.  I tried to visit his website and was inundated with popups trying to sell me things.  I signed up for his email list and was immediately bombarded with high pressure sales crap to buy a seat at his nearly sold out seminar. I looked him up on Amazon and he has NEVER published a fiction work yet makes his living telling everyone to go out and write.

So far, I was NOT a fan.

But I did download his Manifesto (the reason I signed up to his email list, which drives me nuts because it is so spammy), and I LOVED it.  It’s very inspiring.  His resources page is great.  And his book was free on Kindle Unlimited.  So how could I go wrong?

I downloaded his book and then paid $1.99 to have an Audible of it and then played it at 1.5x speed to cruise through it. It’s very short, and I think it is a nice pep talk.  This is an updated edition of his book.

He shares about his personal insecurities and the way that his mindset changed and I liked hearing about it.  He draws on advice from someone I admire, Stephen Pressfield and talks about “turning pro” and feedback from Pressfield.  That was perhaps my favorite part.  There is nothing earthshattering in here.  Write every day.  Be ok with the fact that it isn’t good.  Eventually, you will find your author’s voice.

Also, he talks about his foray into nonfiction writing, the way he reached out to editors to seek publication of his pieces.  He discusses how to be persistent and when to back off.  It’s sensible and may be useful to those interested in magazine/epub type exposure.

If you are needing a little peptalk to keep you writing daily, this is a good one.

For me, this was worth the $1.99 on the Audible and it was definitely a good deal for my KU subscription.

 

2K to 10K: Writing Faster (MORE WORDS, YO!)

2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love By Rachel Aaron

This is perhaps one of the most useful writing books I’ve come across so far. It is a very practical handbook, with some of the suggestions sounding so obvious that you feel ridiculous for not having done it sooner.  For 99 cents, this thing is a n0 brainer purchase.

The author herself had been steadily cranking out 2k words per day, after her day job. At that point, it had been taking her three hours per writing session to reach those 2k words.

Then, when she was paying for a baby sitter so that she could write, she found that despite having more writing time, her production remained 2k words per day. After months of this, she got serious.

How did she address this issue? She started by planning her writing and logging her writing output.

She discusses the metric she relied upon, which is the triangle of Knowledge, Time and Enthusiasm.

  1. The first step to writing faster is to know what you’re writing about before you write it. This meant she started jotting out truncated versions of her scenes by hand before writing her actual scenes. It’s inefficient to make things up as you go so sketching it out rapidly in advance speeds up the writing. Spend 5 minutes to do this for every scene. Essentially, you are drawing yourself a plan for the day’s writing goal.
  2. This is the logging part. She kept a chart for 2 months to see how many words she wrote. She learned that she was more productive outside of the home. (I’ve heard many other writers report that they will go somewhere like the library to crank out some serious output.) Also, no WIFI speeded up her writing as well. She also learned that when she had bigger blocks of time, her output increased per hour. Ie, if she had 1 hour, she wrote 500 words. But if she had 5 hours, she averaged 1500 words per hour.
  3. She also had the revelation that the days she wrote the most productively were the days she worked on scenes she looked forward to writing. This brought up a new revelation—if the scenes were a struggle and boring to write, maybe no one would want to read them. So perhaps those scenes needed to be cut or revised.

For me, it was the enthusiasm section where I found her advice to be the most helpful for me. After jotting out the short summary of where the scene was supposed to go, she would play it in her head and look for cool little hooks she wanted to write. If she couldn’t find something cool, she knew she had to fix it.

Though she wrote this portion to address the “enthusiasm” I found it helpful from the knowledge perspective. Playing out the scene in my head in advance of writing, like I was watching a movie, greatly increased my own writing speed because it solidified the KNOWLEDGE I had about what I was writing.

The rest of the book is packed with advice about scene mapping, time lines and how to be a more efficient editor. I could not recommend this book more highly.

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Big Magic – A Book for Creatives

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I am a big fan of audio books.  It’s great for not only the commute, but also long walks in the evening.  Though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Eat, Pray, Love, I stumbled upon this gem and I recommend it highly.

If you don’t have an Audible account yet, I believe the first book is free and this would be the one to get!

Elizabeth Gilbert herself narrates it and her voice is warm and engaging.  She speaks almost conspiratorially to the listener at times, and you can imagine that you are in a lecture hall with her and she is laying down the words of wisdom.  Some of it is autobiographical, she discusses taking work as a bartender and jotting down notes from listening to human dialogue all day.  Most of it is a pep talk, but in the nicest way.

Perhaps the most interesting take away from this book is her theory that ideas are sentient and that they visit you.  If you don’t bring those ideas into being with your writing, those ideas move on to someone who will.  This really blew my mind.  And surely it will light a fire under you.

It’s not a long audio book, and I’ve listened to it twice.  Highly recommend.

 

NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! Review

No Plot? No Problem!

Author: Chris Baty

This little book is a powerful tool to help frustrated writers get past their perfectionistic, procrastinating tendencies using a secret weapon that works on most of us in our adult professional lives, a deadline.  If only we were 5, it would be candy…

But for all too serious adults who want to write a novel and who must be perfect at all times, NO PLOT? – NO PROBLEM! asserts that a deadline contains these potent tools to help writers find success:

  • Brings Focus
  • Forces us to make time
  • Reaches past our too conservative estimates of what it is we are capable and serves as a “creative midwife”

His recipe requires that the Novel be started on Day 1 and you can bring:

  • Outline(s)
  • Character maps
  • Friends – bring friends who want to write as well as
  • Commit to love ones who will ridicule you when you want to quit
  • Write a Magna Carta of the 10 favorite parts of books you love
  • Write a Magna Carta 2 of the 10 least favorite parts of books you don’t love

What you cannot bring… another novel.  Yes, writing prose for the novel before the starting gun goes off is forbidden!  OK, OK, if you read further, in the smaller print with less strong punctuation, he does ‘allow’ you to write an additional 50,000 words on an existing work, but he believes that in order to keep things fresh and exciting for you, that you should start with a blank slate.

How did this all begin?  Well, I’ll tell you.  In 1999, Chris Baty and a bunch of his writing buddies decided to do something silly like get together, drink lots and lots of coffee and write a novel.  No, I mean really.  And now.  So, to get some parameters, he pulled a small novel off his shelf, A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley and found it was 50,000 words. That, then became the benchmark. Then he came up with a… you should know this one… a deadline.  50,000 words + one month = a novel.  Of the 21 people who started with him, only 6 finished. The rest were between 500 and 49,000 words, but they all learned something.  And a funny thing happened, a movement had been born. Since then, the challenge has a name “National Novel Writing Month” aka “NaNoWriMo” and it has a website and an international following.  One of my favorite Books, “Water for Elephants”, is Sara Gruen’s final draft of the novel she wrote as a NaNoWriMo winner.    Chris used his formula and actually wrote 8 by the time this book was published in 2010, and oh by the way, the little book he wrote “No Plot, No Problem” that just so happens to be about 50,000 words..

30 days is 1667 words a day.  He, himself, works a couple days a week and then puts in more time on the weekends. He said about three two hour shifts.  I tried it, it’s not easy because my perfectionist wanted to edit the unadulterated flow and I start cutting back on the word count drastically from the day before.  I re-read the book and found an answer to that for my next challenge, he said that if you feel you must edit, just put the words you want to take out in italics and come back to it when you finish the challenge, but in the meantime, keep your priority on building word count.  He said he learned this from finishing that first challenge:

“…we are allowed to begin a novel simply by turning on the nearest computer and start typing.”

He is not promising that the novel will come out fully formed after 30 days, in fact, he agrees it will pretty much look just like a newborn, bald, toothless and without working legs.  And writing experts he admires pretty much agree like Stephen King, Anne Lamott, and quoting Ernest Hemingway,

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

At the end of the day, he says that writing with an eye towards quantity (word count) instead of quality of writing, gives you permission to write with abandon and to stop being so hard on yourself.  In fact, my favorite quote from the book,

“The first law of exuberant imperfection is essentially this:  “The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horrible and crappy.”

But on a more serious and adult-like note, he believes that,

“…the go-go structure of the event, the stultifying pressure to write brilliant prose had been lifted.”

And I agree, after creating some pretty interesting stories from a one sentence prompt that when you get out of your own way and push past the idea that the first sentence must be from the mouth of God to your ear, and instead get pressured by a deadline to turn something, anything in by the time the bell goes off, well, some pretty amazing things happen.

This book gets to the heart of writing.  You just have to do it, early and often and everyday and then, my friend, you will be a writer, as long as, according to Chris Baty, you do that while drinking lots and lots and lots of coffee.

 

 

 

Your First 1000 Copies Review

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Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book

Author: Tim Grahl

Length: Compact, quick read but bonus content available online

If there were a theme to Tim Grahl’s book, Your First 1000 Copies, it might be “There is No Easy Button.” Either that or, “Slow and Steady Wins the Day.”

easy-little

This marketing guru breaks down the Connection System he has refined to launch NYT bestsellers such as Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit), Daniel Pink (To Sell is Human), and Hugh Howie (Wool).

So you’ve written your book and all you have to do is press the PUBLISH button and wait for royalty checks to roll in, right? Unfortunately it doesn’t usually work that way. Lots of thoughtful and systematic groundwork was laid for those NYT launches, probably nearly a year before the book was ever published.

So the Grahl lays out the step by step work authors need to do to in order grow their sales. He calls it the “Connection System” which is:

  • Permission
  • Content
  • Outreach
  • Sell

His writing style is direct, which I really appreciate. He gives concrete examples to demonstrate the principles he discusses. He concludes each chapter with a bullet point review list of concepts covered.

For example, in his discussion of getting permission from readers to contact them, he highlights the importance of building the email subscriber list. He tells you to give the reader a strong offer. Saying “Sign Up Here For Updates” is too generic to engage people.

When he worked with client Jean Chatzky of Money Rules, they modified her offer to “Jean tells you what the week’s headlines mean for YOUR wallet.” Powerful, personal, and very effective. Her subscriber volume that year jumped up 332% from the prior year.

Everything laid out in the book is logical and consistent with common sense. Grahl’s anecdotal experience in social media also validates a personal suspicion of mine – in the battle of Twitter versus the Email list, Twitter underperforms every time.

This book was published in 2013. In Internet terms, it is ancient and yet the system laid out here still rings true. If you visit his website, he delivers his video updates to walk you through the Connection System.

Rating: 5 stars

 

 

How To Write a Novella in 24 Hours Review

How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours

Author: Andrew Mayne

Length: Short

I am a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited.  As a result, since I read on a Kindle, I have no idea the page length of the book.  I read a lot of non-fiction, probably a dozen a month either actually reading or listening through Audible.com.

Review: My expectations were low and this book blew my mind.  It was packed with factual, helpful tips.  Best parts:

  1.  Write anywhere, all the time.  He suggests the use of an app on your phone like Bywords to help you take down your thoughts while on the go.  He plays with 1 sentence stories, which I found to a very helpful exercise to juice up your creativity.
  2. Simple covers can convey a lot.  He talks about some of the most iconic covers, which are universally recognized.  The Godfather, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Twilight.  He then shows a few he made up to convey what alternative covers for things like Harry Potter could have looked like.  For me, someone who rarely thinks in pictures, this was a very interesting chapter.
  3. Practical.  The tips are practical.  He uses noise canceling headphones to boost his productivity.  He tests how it looks on his Kindle before he uploads his ebook.

Do I think I could write a novella in 24 hours after reading this book? No.  However, I do feel like I could get a decent way through an outline and draft in a week of solid writing with these tips.  He even has a little cheatsheet on how he uses social media to announce or launch his books.  For more on launching books, I’ll put up a review of Tim Grahl’s book, Your First 1000 Copies.

Rating: 5 stars.

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