Guest Post: Skill vs. Talent – Which Do You Have? by Ryan Lanz

Please welcome back author and blogger Ryan Lanz! This time, Ryan will be discussing the differences between talent and skill, and which you need to make it in the writing world. 

  • tal·ent [tal-uhnt] noun: a special natural ability or aptitude.
  • skill [skil] noun: the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well.

What if you don’t have natural talent? Does that mean you may as well give up?

It’s not quite the chicken or the egg debate, but it’s up there. I’ve heard people go in circles about which comes first and which is necessary. At what combination of both does one continue the grind and attempt at success? I’d be surprised if you haven’t asked yourself that question. It’s a part of being human.

What does each really mean?

This comes from the university of my opinion, but I would describe talent as the natural ability that needs little to no refinement, and skill is the unnatural ability that you have to develop. For those of us who’ve played sports (myself excluded), I’m sure you’ve all encountered someone who strides onto the field and makes it all look so darn effortless.

This person hardly shows up to practice, and you have a fairly good idea that it took hardly any effort to accomplish. Same with the person who aced every test in college with little preparation, leaving you in study hall time after time with a bucket of coffee. You must have missed at least three parties because you had to cram for the Calculus exam, right?

Which is better?

Good question. And one not so easily answered. Sure, we would all like natural talent that we don’t have to pour so much effort into, but sometimes that doesn’t quite pan out. Often, we are born with enough talent to have an affinity for a profession, but the rest has to be made up with skill. In writing, there are dozens of abilities that need to be present to make a good novel, such as foreshadowing, prose, description, natural dialogue, pacing, etc.

Let’s say that you have a knack for writing dialogue, but your setting description rambles on and on. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and you’ll have to practice at writing setting description over time to develop it into a skill, even if it’s not a natural talent. To be fair, natural talent does get you to the goal quicker.


Related: Finishing a Book is a Skill


The combination of the two

If Tiger Woods is not the best golf player of all time, then he comes very close. He started golfing on professional courses at the age of two years old and was featured in a golf magazine at the age of five. Tiger spent 545 weeks combined total as the world number one. In my opinion, that is some superb natural talent. Although Tiger has mounds of it, he still had a golfing coach (and probably still does) through most of his career. That’s combining the natural with the refined skill that creates that sweet spot. Think about how you can make a similar combination.

Is it so bad if you don’t have natural talent? Should you give up?

The one downside to having natural talent is that you don’t have as much appreciation for the effort. Let’s look at two writers: one who writes his/her first book and quickly becomes published, and the other is a writer who labors for ten years to even become noticed. Both eventually become published and successful, let’s say. I think it’s fair to say that the latter writer has more appreciation for the effort of the craft. There are small nuances of writing that I feel are best represented when someone has to massage and mold their skill over the long-term.

I believe that about anyone can accomplish about anything if they were to dedicate their entire life to it, even if that person doesn’t have a drop of natural talent. Ask yourself what craft you can accomplish if you were to invest 20 years to its perfection. So, no, don’t simply give up on it. You may have been born with talent in a profession you’re not interested in. That’s okay, just work to catch up in a profession that you are.

Conclusion

If you sharpen your skill enough, people will believe that you’ve had talent from the very beginning, regardless of how much you actually had to start with.

Original post here.


Guest post contributed by Ryan Lanz. Ryan is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr.

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Guest Post: Branding Basics for Authors by Dave Chesson

Today, I’m thrilled to host Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com. If you don’t know Dave and his website, you’re missing out on a wealth of self-publishing knowledge! In this article, he discusses the elements of an author brand and how to design a unique brand that fits you. This is an aspect of publishing I’m still working on, so I’m super excited to read his tips! Over to Dave …


What Is An Author Brand?

At first glance, the concept of an author brand may seem strange or out of place. After all, doesn’t an author’s work speak for itself? Shouldn’t an author be judged by that alone?

The first thing to realize about author branding is that every author has a brand, whether they choose to deliberately develop it or not. The brand an author has is simply the way they are perceived by those who encounter them.

It is natural that readers form an opinion and an impression about writers whose work they come across. The impression formed is influenced by the choice of words the writer uses to describe their life and their work, the type of images they use when promoting their books, and the design and feel of their website, blog or any other platform officially associated with the author.

When you think of author branding as inevitable, it makes sense that an author would wish to take control of their brand and how they are perceived by the public. If readers are going to hold a certain perception, it makes sense for authors to try and influence that perception in their favour.

Read on to discover the benefits that come with taking control of your author brand, the main ways in which authors are able to influence the ways they are perceived, and some easy steps for getting started with your branding efforts.

Why Author Brands Matter

The term ‘brand’ sounds somewhat sterile and corporate and this can be off-putting for creatively minded people, such as authors. It’s better to instead think of the ways in which authors form connections with their readers, as this is the ultimate effect of a brand.

By ensuring that their brand is a reflection of who they are, authors are able to allow their readers to connect with them on a human level. Think about how much nicer it is as a reader to know something about your favorite writer in terms of their life, personality and the things which influence their creative output.

In the world of self-published books, there is more choice than ever before. People are likely to have a range of books to choose from on any given topic. If you are able to present yourself in a way which increases your credibility with readers, your book stands a better chance of being chosen ahead of the competition.

Branding Through Bios And Language

One of the first things that  browser on a major bookstore will do when researching a purchase is to try and find out something about the writer whose book they are considering buying. This is especially true in the era of self-publishing and pen names.

An author bio is one of the best ways for an author to convey who they really are to readers. Amazon Author Central, for example, offers writers the chance to feature not only a bio, but also links to their website and blog posts.

So how exactly does a bio impact branding?

The choice of language an author uses when describing their life and work directly affects how they are perceived.

Consider someone who writes inspirational, motivational self-improvement books. Imagine that their bio contained dry, dense language. Wouldn’t this be off putting and incongruous to readers? A much better impression would be formed if the author bio contained the same type of uplifting and inspirational language as found in the books.

It’s important that the language used in an author bio matches the tone and style of an author’s work. It should feel like a natural extension of their books. Readers should feel at home and familiar when reading bios of their favourite writers.

Visual Branding

A writer’s image in the eyes of readers is more than the sum of their words. The photographs, videos and design choices made by authors also impact their brand.

Writers should approach their choice of photographs and other visual elements of their brand similarly to choosing language for their bio. The visual material used should be appropriate for the style and tone of the author’s work.

Visual branding is an art and science of its own. For many writers, it can be intimidating and hard to know exactly which images are best suited to their work and audience. Two simple solutions exist for this problem.

First, writers should take the time to get a feel for what other similar writers are doing visually. By spending time checking out similar authors, any trends in terms of the type of image or colors used will emerge. This allows authors to work within the visual conventions of their genre.

Second, it’s important to get objective, outside feedback on any images chosen. Ideally, this should be from a group of relevant readers without a personal connection to the writer. This allows for truly impartial feedback from people in a position to offer valuable insight.

Author Branding Final Thoughts

Some of the keys to making author branding work for you are —

  • Seeing it as a valuable opportunity rather than a sterile chore
  • Learning how to match reader expectations to your own ideas
  • Being willing to accept feedback and make changes accordingly

We are fortunate to have a wealth of author branding examples available to us as inspiration.

If you don’t know where to start, spend some time browsing the websites of authors you admire. You’ll soon get a feel for what appeals to you.

Get inspired, find a way to put your own unique twist on the ideas you come across, and start to experiment. Have fun and make something that truly shows the world who you are.


About Dave

In his own words: When I am not fighting dragons or chasing the bogey man out of my kids closet, I like using my previous Online Optimization skills to help other authors with the ‘technical’ stuff and get the right authors to the top of Amazon and any other eBook service out there.

Guest Post: The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue Tags by Ryan Lanz

Today, I’m pleased to host author and blogger extraordinaire Ryan Lanz. His article is packed with tips on how to correctly use dialogue tags. As someone who struggled with this as a beginning writer, trust me when I say: this is great stuff, and I wish he had written this post years ago! Over to Ryan …


Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.

In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.

Why do we use dialogue tags?

The simple answer is that we use them to indicate who’s speaking. In visual media, such as movies or television, the viewer can easily tell who’s talking by lip movement and camera angles. When reading a book, obviously that’s not an option.

Tag travesties

There are certainly ways to misuse dialogue tags. When I was a new writer, I felt compelled to overwrite. I’m sure every new writer goes through a version of this. I observed how successful writers used simple tags like “said/asked” and thought to myself, that’s boring. I’m going to be an awesome writer by making them more interesting. You don’t have to admit it aloud, writers, but we all know that most of us have. Let’s look at an example of this:

  • “We can’t cross this river,” Alanna exclaimed repugnantly.
  • John crossed the room and shouted disgustedly, “I’ll never take you with me.”
  • “This has been the worst day ever,” Susie cried angrily.

For those of you who still aren’t convinced, let’s up the dosage with a paragraph:

Hank crossed the room and sat down. “We should have never waited this long for a table,” he seethed, leaning over to glare at her. 

“If you wanted a better spot, you should have called ahead for a reservation,” Trudy returned pointedly.

“Well, perhaps if you didn’t take so long to get ready, I could have,” he countered dryly.

Can you imagine reading an entire book like that? *shiver*

So why do new writers feel the urge to be that . . . creative with their dialogue tags? Back in the beginning, I thought the typical tags of “said/asked” were too boring and dull. It didn’t take me long to realize that dull (in this context) is the point.

Image your words as a window pane of glass, and the story is behind it. Your words are merely the lens that your story is seen through. The thicker the words, the cloudier the glass gets. If you use huge words, purple prose, or crazy dialogue tags, then all you’re doing is fogging up the glass through which your reader is trying to view your story. The goal is to draw as little attention to your actual words as possible; therefore, you keep the glass as clear as possible, so that the reader focuses on the story. Using tags like “said/asked” are so clear, they’re virtually invisible.

Now, does that mean that you can’t use anything else? Of course not. Let’s look further.

Alternate dialogue tags

Some authors say to never use anything other than “said/asked,” while others say to heck with the rules and use whatever you want. Some genres (such as romance) are more forgiving about using alternate dialogue tags. I take a more pragmatic approach to it. I sometimes use lines like:

“I’m glad we got out of there,” she breathed.

The very important question is how often. I compare adverbs and alternate dialogue tags to a strong spice. Some is nice, but too much will spoil the batch. Imagine a cake mix with a liter of vanilla flavoring, rather than the normal tablespoon. The more often you use anything other than “said/asked,” the stronger the flavor. If it’s too powerful, it’ll tug the reader away from the story and spotlights those words. In a full length book of around 85,000 words, I personally use alternate dialogue tags only around a few dozen times total.

By saving them, the pleasant side effect is that when I do use them, they pack more of an emotional punch.


Related: How to Write Natural Dialogue


Action beats

I have a love affair with action beats. Used effectively, they can be another great way to announce who’s talking, yet at the same time add some movement or blocking to a scene. For example:

Looking down, Katie ran a finger around the edge of the mug. “We need to talk.”

That added some nice flavor to the scene, and you know who spoke. The only caveat is to be careful of not using too many action beats, as it does slow down the pacing a tiny bit. If you’re writing a bantering sequence, for example, you wouldn’t want to use a lot of action beats so as to keep the pacing quick.

Dos and don’ts

Sometimes, action beats and dialogue tags have misused punctuation. I’ll give some examples.

  • “Please don’t touch that.” She said, blocking the display. (Incorrect)
  • “Let’s head to the beach,” he said as he grabbed a towel. (Correct)
  • Sam motioned for everyone to come closer, “Take a look at this.” (Incorrect)
  • Debbie handed over the magnifying glass. “Do you see the mossy film on the top?” (Correct)

Conclusion

Like many things in a story/novel, it’s all about balance. Try alternating actions beats, dialogue tags, and even no tags at all when it’s clear who’s speaking. By changing it up, it’ll make it so that no one method is obvious.


About Ryan

Ryan Lanz is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr.

Image courtesy of Onnola via Flickr, Creative Commons.

Guest Post: Why Books Are Important From a Writer’s Perspective by Joe Baldwin

Joe Baldwin Guest Post

We have everything we could ever want in this cruel world. We just have to come and get it. As simple as it may seem, getting all the things what we want can be a bit tough. First off, we have to equip our self with all the necessary knowledge to get there. We also need to dodge obstacles that come our way. With that, we find ourselves going to academies and universities trying to learn all the things that we possibly can, which we may, later on, use in fulfilling our dreams and desires.

Back during the days, teachers would require students to write a college essay, they would be required to read loads of books. But nowadays, with the invention of the computer and the internet, books aren’t much of a thing than it used to be. These days, with just a click on the internet, you’ll be introduced to tons of facts and research about a certain topic. To say it simply, information is free. That being said, people don’t resort to books anymore. They find the internet more useful since it gives them access to an even wider array of data. I guess it’s safe to say that some people have forgotten the importance of books in or lives. Who can blame them, though? With all the advancement that we have going on with gadgets, why would they even bother putting their phone down for one book?

I just feel differently about it, though. Books play an important role in our lives. You’ve probably heard of this saying before: “when you open a book, you open a new world”, and I don’t think I’m the only one who agrees with this. There are loads of people whose everyday lives are intertwined with books. They won’t last a day without at least having to read a few chapters from their favorite book. Why are books so awesome? They’re packed with insights, knowledge, life lessons, love, and helpful advice.

Books just seem perfect for me. Not only does it make for a great pastime, it also opens new doors for the reader. Yeah, sure, the internet also provides us with a diverse set of reads, but it’s really different when it comes to books. Books allow us to internalize each idea, whereas the internet reads only give us a gist of an entire topic. Here are more of the reasons why books are important:

It exposes us to new writing

Even though we’re not all writers, writing is still an important aspect of our life, most especially in our jobs. It’s important to be skilled in communicating effectively through the use of writing. Sure, good writing is inherent for some people, but for most, it can be a real piece of work.

I guess you can get a few ideas from the internet in writing, but that won’t surpass the writing insight that you’ll be gaining if you’re reading a book. Why? Well, it’s because reading a book lets you into the story or concept. Reading books on a daily basis will help you understand different types of writing.

It helps us improve our self

We may think that we already know enough about the world, but we only know so much as what information the media and society feeds us with. We only become as good as society expects us to be. It’s healthy to have our own personal standard. With that, we should aim to improve ourselves. The question is how. Self-improvement only starts with awareness, meaning knowledge. We need to become more aware. There’s no better way to become more knowledgeable than by reading books because through it, we’ll begin to understand the world more, and when we do, we come to understand ourselves more.

It improves our imagination

In this world, we are limited. We can only do so much. But we are only bounded by these walls if have a weak imagination. Imagination is part of growth. It’s the one thing that makes us think that everything that’s happening can get better, that there’s still hope. Reading books gives us access to other people’s ideas and imaginations, which we can inculcate in our own.

It improves our memory

Memory is an important aspect of our life. Unfortunately, our attachment to technology is disrupting our memory affectivity. We become too reliant. It’s not like we can avoid using technology, but that’s no reason to let ourselves to fall into the pit. Rather it gives us more reason to maintain or improve our memory. Reading exposes us to different kinds of information. In order for us to fully understand what we are reading, we have to become aware of the previous events in a book or story. That being said, it urges our memory power to be at its maximum.

It gives us entertainment

A life spent only on academics and career can really tear us down. We’ll get to the point when we don’t even know what we’re doing the things we do anymore. We need to get out of our poor spirits. Books can give us exactly that. Reading books can take us to a whole new world, where all our fantasies come to life.

It’s important to keep our life balanced. Reading books is one of the best ways to do so. Why? While you’re busy with school or work you’ll always have a book to keep you away from all your troubles. Imagine feeling all hopeless about your job, that it almost makes you want to quit. No worries, then because there’s a book you can rely on that’ll take you to other places of the world where you meet new people. It’s just like going on vacation.

It doubles our knowledge

Yeah, sure, school is already doing fine educating us, but it’s just not enough. Knowledge is ever static. It changes every second. That being said, we can’t always rely on what was taught to us at school. Reading books is great if you want to become more knowledgeable.


About Joe

Joe BaldwinJoe Baldwin is a native US resident & professional Article writer for https://essaylook.com. He studied English literature and creative writing. He has experience with online web content including blogs, web page content, news, public relations, press releases, and long form sales and industrial presentations.

New Book Release: Curiosity and the Sentient’s Oblation by Zachary Paul Chopchinski

Gabrielle #3 Book ReleaseI’m thrilled to announce that my friend and fellow independent author, Zachary Paul Chopchinski, has just released the third novel in his Gabrielle series. If you haven’t read any of the books, they follow Gabrielle as she travels through different time periods and journeys through the lives (and deaths) of other individuals. The books are charming, fun reads – perfect for fans of young adult fiction, time travel, and historical fantasy.

Learn about Curiosity and the Sentient’s Oblation (Gabrielle #3) below, then go pick up your copy on Amazon or grab a signed paperback from Zach’s website!

Synopsis

Curiosity and the Sentient's OblationThe widowed wife of a North Carolina plantation owner, Gabrielle awakens in this life with a broken heart and a sharpened spirit. Living in one of the darkest times in American history, she finds herself running a safe house for the underground railroad during the American Civil War. In order to save a life, Gabrielle must make a sacrifice that could damn her host for eternity.

Everything’s different this time. The rules have changed, Morrigan has changed, and Arawn is more dangerous than ever. He has sent a hunter after Gabrielle and she has to use every ounce of her new powers if she is going to survive.

Book Trailer

About Zach

Zachary Paul ChopchinskiZach is a bow tie wearing, formal vest rocking, pocket watch using, sarcastic monster of a writer. Currently residing in Orlando, Florida, he spends his days working, writing and procrastinating.

Zach is the author of the Gabrielle series, a young adult fantasy with a paranormal-historical-time traveling twist (try saying that five times fast).

Zach has multiple college degrees, in the fields of criminal justice and criminology…because he wanted to catch ALL the bad guys. Now, coupled with being an author of young adult fiction he spends his days yelling at people for breaking regulatory laws.

Connect With Zach

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Zachary-Paul-Chopchinski-772308849490741/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Website: http://zachchop.com

Tumblr: http://an-author-and-his-books.tumblr.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZachChop

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9853623.Zachary_Paul_Chopchinski

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/zachary-paul-chopchinski

Buy the Book

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lCL5yk

Website: https://zachchop.com/store/checkout-book-3/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33539522-curiosity-and-the-sentient-s-oblation