Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.


Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

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Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

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.

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

What to Do When You Have Too Many Story Ideas

Are You Drowning in Story Ideas?

What’s the best problem a writer can have? Too Many Ideas Syndrome (TMIS).

TMIS is the opposite of writer’s block. It’s that sensation when you have so much inspiration, you feel overwhelmed. What story should I write next? Which would be the most fun? Which would my readers like?

I can’t answer those questions for you … but I can give you strategies to make your own decisions. Read on for methods to help you choose which idea to pursue and how to stay loyal to that idea when more inspiration comes calling.

5 Ways to Choose a Story Idea

First things first, start by writing all of your ideas down. You don’t have to use detail, just create a simple list so you can see exactly what you’re working with. You might have more (or fewer) separate ideas than you thought.

1. Go with your passion

When you look through your list, there will probably be an idea that calls out to you more strongly than the others. If you’re writing for a hobby or aren’t married to a particular genre or series, pursue this idea. (Let’s be honest: it’s what you want to do anyway.)

2. Go with your business

If you are writing for your career (and have an established series or genre), then the most logical decision is to write the project that fits with your other books. Your audience will be most comfortable reading a similar story, and you’ve already proven to yourself that you can write that style. Confidence and business win!

3. Combine ideas

More than likely, there will be two ideas or concepts on your list that could go together. Consider which ideas fit in similar genres or have connecting themes. How could you take the best elements from both and make them into one story?

4. Leave it to chance

Seriously, get out a coin or put all your ideas in a hat and see what happens. When the moment to reveal the winning idea comes, you might just realize which one you were actually hoping would win (hint: pick this idea!). If you are 100% indifferent or torn, then accept the verdict and get writing!

5. Talk through your ideas

Sometimes, explaining your ideas aloud can show you which ones are strong and which have less potential. You could do this with yourself, a friend, or (ideally) someone who represents your target audience. Word of warning: make sure you tell your listener whether you want feedback and/or what type of feedback to give. Too much criticism at this early stage can crush your enthusiasm for a great idea.

5 Strategies to Prevent Distraction From New Ideas

Once you have finally settled on an idea, you need to stick with it. Unless you have the time and creative energy to write multiple books at once (lucky duck!), you must avoid the siren call of tempting new projects. How do you do this?

1. Write down your idea

Again, record your shiny new idea wherever you gather inspiration. Sometimes, just acknowledging the idea and promising to return to it later is enough to quiet your mind.

2. Put it on the calendar

If you have a production schedule (even a tentative one) and you think your new idea has potential, give it a slot on your calendar. Knowing that you can explore it after you finish other projects will be great motivation to finish your current works-in-progress.

3. Start researching

While you might not want to write two stories at once, there’s no reason you can’t start researching or outlining your new idea. This allows you to play with the idea, without letting it distract from your creative work. Just don’t let this take away from your writing time!

4. Work on it in your “off” time

Whatever writing project is top of your list should say there. However, if you meet your word count goal for the day, there’s no harm in starting your new idea in your “free” time. Again, though, do not let this new story derail your current work-in-project.

5. Use it in a different form

If you make art in another media (painting, music, etc.), could you incorporate an aspect of your idea in that facet of your creative life? By doing this, you’ll explore the idea and give into your passion without taking away from your writing time.

Though these strategies can help you choose a story idea and prevent distraction from new ideas, ultimately, you have to trust your gut. You are the writer. You are the artist. And only you know what stories are best for your creative life and your audience. Trust yourself, work hard, and no matter which idea you choose, you’ll rock it!


How do you choose which writing projects to pursue? Have you ever felt torn between story ideas? Share your tips and experiences in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

My Quarter-Life Revelation, or Enjoy the Journey

My entire life, I’ve looked forward to turning 25.

As a child, I viewed it as the final milestone to reaching “real” adulthood. At 25, you’ve been out of college for three years–long enough to get your life together and know who you are, but not so long that the world has totally beaten you down. You’re old enough to be taken seriously, but not so old that you take yourself too seriously.

However, the closer I got to 25, the more I realized that people this age (at least in my generation) don’t have it all figured out. You see, by the age of 25, my parents owned a successful business, had built their own home (literally, my dad is a carpenter), were married with a three-year-old daughter (yours truly), and carried all the other trappings of “full adulthood.” Me? I’m married (check), but my husband is still in graduate school, we live in a crappy rented apartment, and while I’ve started my own business, I’m nowhere near what most people would consider a success.

But I had a consolation. When the calendar rolled over to my birthday, I would still have something awesome. My quarter-life crisis.

Seriously, no sarcasm. I’m the kind of person who thrives under stress. I love sitting down and analyzing who I am. I adore writing lists and making goals. So, I couldn’t wait to wake up, be racked with healthy nerves, and puzzle out the solution to all my problems.

The only issue? As my birthday dawned, I laid in bed and waited for the crisis to hit. And it never came. By looking for problems with my life, I realized that I’m actually happy.

Honestly, it came as a surprise. Ever since moving to New Haven, all I’ve done is complain about how much I loathe this city. On a weekly basis, I gripe about my commute or my job. Just as often, I’m frustrated with budgetary constraints and my lack of free time. But all of those less-than-ideal circumstances stayed at the surface, and when I dove down deeper, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t find anything really wrong.

A few days later, by pure coincidence, I had to confront this realization again. I have a friend who likes to ask random questions, just as a way of generating conversation and creative thinking, and he asked me to answer yes or no to the following statements: A) I am happy with my life. B) I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do to survive.

I answered yes to both. He called bullshit. And we started a debate.

During this episode, I thought again about all the surface-level problems I face. And you know what hit me? Gratitude.

Yes, Daniel and I live in a crappy apartment in a noisy, dirty city. But we live here together–and after two years of long distance, I am so thankful for that. Yes, I have a long commute and my job is not my dream job. But I can use my commute to read/write, and my job has a lot of cool perks and has paid Daniel’s tuition and all of our living expenses. Yes, living here expensive and our next home might be too. But it’s all temporary while he’s in school. Eventually, we’ll choose an area more suited to our desired lifestyle.

My friend still challenged me. Paraphrasing here: “Sure, you might be content with where your life is, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy. You haven’t reached all your goals.”

No, I haven’t. But if I had achieved everything I want to by age 25, the next 50-plus years would be pretty damn boring.

And that’s when it hit me. My big quarter-life revelation.

Life is about enjoying the journey. I’d heard it before, read it in a thousand cheesy memes, but it had never really sunk in. Is my life perfect? No. But for 25, I’m doing pretty well, and I’m on a trajectory to reach my goals in the future. Somewhere in the last year or two, I’ve stopped agonizing over the past–over the mistakes I’ve made and the things that have hurt me.

At the same time, I’ve stopped looking at the future as something I lack. The future isn’t the lost puzzle piece that leaves my picture unfinished. It’s the landmark in the distance, and while I watch it grow closer, I also get to drive a fun car and rock out to my road trip soundtrack. And when I reach that landmark? I get to enjoy it for as long as I want, then head off for the next adventure.

The final layer of gratitude, the proverbial icing on my revelatory birthday cake, is that I recognize my privilege. I’m so lucky to be in a situation in which my biggest problem is that I haven’t achieved my dream yet. As my friend’s question revealed, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to for survival. Not everyone is that lucky. Hopefully, by appreciating what I have, writing books that offer escapism or education, and being a more positive, caring person (one of my 2017 goals), I can give a little back to the world and help someone else live better.

So that’s what I’m taking into my 25th year: forgiveness of the past, appreciation for the present, optimism for the future, and compassion for others. I only hope that I’m blessed enough to receive the lessons of ages 50, 75, 100, and all the years in between.

Kate's Nonfiction for Writers, Writing & Publishing Articles

This is the Year You Write Your Novel

notebookIf you’re reading this, chances are you want to write a novel. Whether it’s a goal you’re actively working toward, a regular New Year’s resolution, or the biggest item on your bucket list, you’re in good company. Millions of people desire to tell their stories … and yet only a small percentage of them actually do. Whatever the reason — fear, procrastination, lack of inspiration — most novels die unfinished in the minds and hard drives of aspiring authors like you.

I’ll say it again: you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.

Ever since I learned to write, I wanted to be a storyteller. In second grade, I realized that I could write books for a living when I grew up, and from that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. However, even with my career goal set, it took me years to write my first novel.

My biggest obstacle? You guessed it — me.

If I’m being honest, for a long time, I liked the idea of “being a writer” better than actually writing. The title of “writer” carries a certain mystique. Writers are creative, empathetic, and of course, beautifully tragic figures. They sit down at rickety typewriters and eloquently pour their souls onto the page. Or so I thought.

The change for me came when I learned about independent publishing. By listening to podcasts and reading blogs, I encountered a whole new breed of “writers.” These creatives approached writing with passion, but they also viewed writing as a job. They didn’t complain about their misbehaving muses; they didn’t acknowledge writer’s block; they just wrote — and with joy.

It sounds silly, but realizing that I didn’t have to be a suffering, starving artist finally gave me the kick in the ass I needed to write my novel. There were (and still are!) other obstacles. Sometimes, I don’t feel like my ideas are “worthy” of writing. Sometimes, I have social obligations or am too tired after a long day of work. And yes, sometimes, I just plain procrastinate.

What keeps you from writing?

If it’s fear or time management or (gasp!) laziness, you have to fix those problems for yourself. You can read my (and many others’) writings on the subject for encouragement, but in the end, it comes down to you. But if it’s inspiration you lack, I might be able to help …

From today (Dec. 28) until Jan. 3, 2017, I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal on my first nonfiction book, 1,000 Genre Fiction Writing Prompts to Inspire Your Stories and Novels (Fiction Ideas Vol. 1-10). Please note, this is for the U.S. store only. The price will start at $0.99 and slowly climb back up to the regular price of $4.99 (so you better act fast!).

11-anthology1,000 Genre Fiction Writing Prompts combines all 10 volumes of the Fiction Ideas series into one convenient book (at serious discount!). It’s packed with character- and story-focused prompts to jumpstart your fiction writing. Each prompt has been carefully designed to help boost your creativity, build new writing techniques, add descriptive flair to your narration, and bring greater depth to your characters.
Inside, you’ll find prompts on the following genres:
1. General Creative Writing
2. Romance
3. Children’s, Teen, & Young Adult Fiction
4. Fantasy
5. Historical Fiction
6. Action & Adventure
7. Crime Fiction
8. Science Fiction
9. Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense
10. Horror
Each section contains 100 thought-provoking prompts. Practice them in order, or dive right into to what inspires you most. You’ll also receive a BONUS character questionnaire with 100 questions to bring your protagonist to life.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve wasted too much time feeling uninspired. Pick up your copy of 1,000 Genre Fiction Writing Prompts today and let me help you find the inspiration you’ve been lacking.
Time is ticking (on the sale and in general), and you deserve to tell the story in your heart. Flip that: the world deserves to read your story.
No more empty pages. No more writer’s block. This is the year you write your novel.

What keeps you from writing? Where do you find inspiration for your stories or novels? Share your struggles or suggestions in the comments!