So You Wanna Write Part 8: Knowing When to Stop

Great advice to keep your stories moving.

adoptingjames

bone

Ever read the Bone saga by Jeff Smith? You should no matter who you are.

Years ago I was reading an article by Mr. Smith and he said something that changed my writing habits for life.

He was talking about his writing process while developing Bone. He said something like, “You’ve just got to know when to stop and skip a scene and come back to it later.”

That tip has done wonders for my writing. And, it’s a great tool to combat writer’s block. If you’re willing to skip a difficult scene and move on ahead of the story to construct something further down the timeline, then your book or story isn’t just sitting in limbo.

Be willing to skip scenes. Heck, on your first draft, be willing to be sloppy! I’m in the process of writing a young readers historical novel and it’s very sloppy right now – the…

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Would You Pay to Play?

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If you’re a writer who also happens to be a loyal Writer’s Digest subscriber like me, you have probably received unsolicited telephone calls and emails from Abbott Press. Abbott Press is the magazine’s publishing arm, and it reportedly takes pride in helping independent authors raise the volume on their creative voices.

I’m all for that. It’s the price tag I’m worried about. Abbott Press’ publishing packages range from $1,000 to $5,000.

If you’re a author who has already sold 1,000 copies of his book, paying to play with Abbott Press probably isn’t a problem. You may have already generated enough funding to purchase the company’s most expensive package. I would expect your sales to go through the roof. Your book is now being pushed by a Writer’s Digest-affiliated company.

I have received multiple calls and emails from the same Abbott Press representative. That’s a good thing. Each time I speak with her, she asks me if my manuscript is done. I tell her no, that it should be completed within the next 2-3 months. She promises to contact me then.

I go back and forth on whether I should purchase one of Abbott Press’ publishing packages. My reluctance stems from the real fear that I won’t be able to recoup my expended monies and then turn a profit. That’s why I have become a fan of Amazon’s Createspace (print) and Kindle Direct Publishing (ebook) platforms. I don’t have to spend anything on the front end, and I receive 70 percent from every book sold. And because it’s a Print On Demand (POD) service, my garage is not filled to the brim with unsold books.

The Abbott Press representative advised that many of their authors initiate crowdfunding campaigns through Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I have always been a Kickstarter and Indiegogo fan. Unfortunately, my previous two campaigns were unsuccessful.

These filmmaking campaigns were probably unsuccessful because I believed my Facebook friends and Twitter followers would come through for me. I did receive Kickstarter contributions from a few Facebook friends, but the amount raised was well below my established target. And most of us know that Kickstater doesn’t deposit funds into your banking account if you don’t achieve your established target.

I realize now that I must align my crowdfunding efforts with Goodreads, the African-American Literature Book Club (AALBC), Kindle Mojo and IndieBound. This is where the readers are. I’m hopeful the book I’m writing now will resonate with them so I can quit my day job to produce the kind of books they want to read.

What are your thoughts? Would you pay to play with Abbott Press? I look forward to reading your responses.

Becoming a More Productive Writer

20140416-105907.jpgAbout two months ago, I decided to purchase an iPad Air. I had the first generation model, but it didn’t have the bells and whistles that come with the Air. I love my iPad Air, for it is the one tool that has allowed me to become a more productive writer.

There are a number of applications that you can download onto your iPad for free or for a minimal price. When I had my iPad 1, I downloaded the My Writing Spot app (free). And as I started to feel more confident as a screenwriter, I broke down and purchased the Final Draft app (around $45).

Both apps have been godsends for me. I previously felt tethered to my desktop and laptop computers. I couldn’t take my desktop to my local Starbucks, and even though my Vaio computer wasn’t that heavy, it took forever to load. Moreover, I longed for something lighter, less bulky.

What you as a writer need to understand is you can turn your iPad, or tablet, into a much lighter laptop by purchasing a removable keyboard. I’m sitting here now typing on my Zagg keyboard (retail price: $100) while watching my son splash around in a hotel swimming pool. Once my son gets tired of splashing around, I will fold it shut and return it to my backpack for the short walk back to our hotel room. When the urge to write more hits me, I will open it, type in my password, and Voila, the last thing I was writing comes up on the screen, immediately.

I have a full-time job in a field that has nothing to do with writing novels or screenplays. Fortunately for me, I get an hour for lunch. I use my lunch breaks to crank out content on my iPad Air. That only gives me about 45 minutes of writing time – I spend the first 15 eating – but my heart is warmed by the fact that I’m inching closer to the finish line because I’m writing every day.

I still have to email my content to my gmail account, where I download it to my laptop, and then copy and paste the content into my formatted Microsoft Word document. But I’m not complaining because this repetitive process works for me. After I finish pasting my content into the formatted document, I’m able to do real-time edits and revisions, which will make my final revision less stressful.

iPad Air + Zagg Keyboard = Winning Combination

What if…?

ImageAs a child, I was an avid comic book reader.  X-Men, Avengers and Fantastic Four from Marvel, Justice League, Legion of Superheroes and Teen Titans from DC.  But if you had access to my footlocker filled with close to a thousand bagged comic books, you would probably conclude that I preferred Marvel comic books over the ones published by DC.

And you would be right.

One Marvel series that I got a kick out of reading asked one simple question: What if…?  The series featured the omnipresent and omnipotent Watcher, and placed a number of Marvel’s greatest heroes in precarious situations.  But as I inch closer to the end of my first novel, I also find myself thinking about its beginnings, how I too asked the question “What if…?”

What if black people were the powerful?  What would they do with all their power and influence?  Would they seek retribution and revenge for all the pain and suffering they had to endure under slavery and Jim Crow?  I tend to think they would use their power and influence to unite rather than divide.

Why, you ask?

Because they are enlightened to the fact all individuals and groups should be treated fairly, and are deserving of respect.

Does that mean they forget the sins that were and continue to be committed against them?  No.  If anything, they would do whatever is necessary to expose Jim Crow criminals and the companies that profited from the uncompensated labor provided by Africans and African Americans.  They would also enlighten Americans of all hues to the fact that Republicans in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the American government have been co-opted the most by the Corporate Cabal.  In this scenario, the Corporate Cabal’s very existence relies on maintaining a system of Haves and Have-Nots, with members of the Black Diaspora being cast in the role of bottom-feeders.  And in an era where the United States has elected its first black president, they will oppose Republican legislators who think it is good policy to make life more difficult for middle and working class Americans.

Stay tuned.

Demar Douglas: The Painter of Dreams

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One of the first things I did after completing the first 100 pages of my novel was decide whether I wanted to hire a professional artist to design a cover for me. Enter Demar Douglas, the Painter of Dreams.

I first met Demar while I was working the booth at a Connection Group Expo at my church. Demar approached my booth and asked questions about the new group that I had formed, the Storytellers’ Collaborative, and I responded in kind. I then asked him if he was a writer. He said no, but quickly added that he was an artist who worked with writers to provide visuals for their characters.

I hired Demar to illustrate the front and back covers of my soon-to-be released novel. It took him about three weeks to send over the final product. What he produced was amazing, and I can’t wait to share my purchased illustrations with the world.

While you’re waiting on the release of my first novel, I encourage you to visit Demar Douglas’s website (http://demardouglas.com/). This brother has skills, and I feel blessed to be working with him.

My First Novel

imageIn April 2013, I sat in front of my laptop computer and pounded out the first three chapters of my first novel.  Those first three chapters equated to about 33 pages, and I felt good about what I had produced.  But then I just suspended my work on the project, opting instead to develop another screenplay.

Before you rip into me, please understand the motivation behind my madness.  I was living in Southern California, about 35 miles east of Hollywood.  I had dreams of writing screenplays that would get picked up by the major studios.  While I produced one 90-minute dramatic screenplay, one 60 minute dramatic screenplay and one short screenplay during my two and a half year stint in California, I could sense that in Hollywood it’s not what you know and how you go about doing it, it’s about who you know in the industry.

There will come a time when I shift my attention back to screenwriting.  I love movies, and I would love to see actors bring my written words to life.  But when I re-read the first three chapters of my novel last November, it dawned on me that I may have something here.

I have added another 100 pages to those first 33.  I hope to complete the first draft of my three-book series in late May, early June 2014.  After that, I will settle down to edit, revise and rewrite my manuscript before uploading the final draft to Amazon’s CreateSpace (print) and KDP (ebook) publishing platforms.

I really don’t know what will happen after that.  I would be lying if I said just crossing the finish line is good enough for me.  Truth be told, I want my family, relatives, friends and acquaintances to purchase it, and then spread word about the novel’s release to their family, relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Writers write to be noticed.

Notice me.