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- David Farland, award-winning author, international bestseller

 

#WritingTip—When Conventional Wisdom Goes Astray

guy at computer_medThe writing world is changing quickly, and that means some things that used to be taboo are now all right.

For example, a couple weeks ago, I was at the Superstars Writing Seminar, and found that there are some common misconceptions among new writers. Here are three things you should do:

Raise your e-book prices.

Some new authors like to give their books away in order to attract buyers, and while there are a lot of people who like to grab free books, it appears that so few of those people actually read the books that it doesn’t often generate much advertising value. In fact, typically sales are better if the author charges a fair price for the book. That’s because a book has a perceived value. Too often, readers feel that reading a free book is the equivalent of reading an editor’s slush pile. They wonder, if it’s any good, why do you have to give it away?

So what’s a fair price? A few years ago, it was about $5. But readers would now prefer to pay a little more in order to get a better novel. So what’s the optimal price to charge? What price tells readers that this is a good deal? Right now, that price is about $7. If you’re charging less than that, you might want to consider raising it.

Send in simultaneous submissions.

When I began writing many years ago, it was considered terrible if you sent a manuscript submission to more than one editor at a time. Authors just didn’t do that.
Of course, that meant that an author could spend years waiting for one publisher after another to look at a manuscript.

But on a recent panel, a couple of editors from major publishing houses surprised me by saying, “I don’t mind simultaneous submissions at all, so long as you tell me in the cover letter that it is a simultaneous submission, and so long as you let me know if it sells somewhere else first.”

This is big news to me. Why? Because it puts an author in a place where he or she could potentially have multiple publishers making offers on a novel. Granted, it’s not likely, but it could happen.

If you want to write a series, don’t be coy about it.

Twenty years ago, if a writer wanted to write a big series, the author would write the first book and wrap it up enough so that it could be seen as a standalone novel “with the potential to become a series.”

However, for most genres that hasn’t been true for a long, long time. Yet twice this past month I’ve been on panels where authors assumed that this was true. All I can say is, “Watch the sales stats.” If you pay close attention, people are selling books in series right and left.

The reason of course is clear: When you write a series, it gives the bookstores an incentive to pick up books on the backlist and keep the series in stock, and that’s the easiest way for a new author to build an audience.

The hitch? The truth is, if you’re going to start a series, that first book had better be darned good. If it is, then just about any publisher would love to have a series by you.

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The deadline for enrolling in my “Professional Writers’ Workshop” is next Friday, March 6th. The purpose of this workshop is to show you how to become a professional writer—how to make a living as a writer.

Now, normally I spend most of the time teaching others how to write well, but I see so many authors who start their careers improperly, that it’s like watching them shoot themselves in the foot just before the race.

If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, or if you feel a need to break out of your current career, this workshop is for you!

Learn more about it here.

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One of our readers, Lee Falin, has his second book coming out March 13th. Titled Science Fictioned. The book takes cutting-edge, scientific research papers and turns them into science-fiction and fantasy stories.

This book has its roots in two observations I made while working as a researcher in Europe:

    1. There are some really amazing scientific discoveries being made in the world these days.
    2. Research papers are so boring, that most people are probably never going to hear about those amazing discoveries unless they happen to make the 6 o’clock news.

I was reading over the details of yet another extremely dull paper one day, trying to keep my colleagues from noticing the drool on my chin, when I realized that there was a better way—what if every research paper was accompanied by a thrilling story?

And thus, Science Fictioned was born.

You can preorder Science Fictioned here.

#WritingTip—Plots

A plot doesn’t have to be brilliant for a story to work. It just needs to have some basic components: characters—in conflict and in a setting. The characters must struggle to overcome some obstacle (or obtain some goal) on three or more occasions, and the tale must resolve in such a way so that the reader knows what happens. (If you don’t know the basics of what a plot is, there are a number of good books on the topic. Read Robert McKee’s story. That’s a great place to start.)

The biggest problem with plot is when the author leaves one or more element missing. Usually the author gets a character in there, even more than one, but something gets left out.

When I’m reading for Writers of The Future, every quarter I get at least a couple stories that start out brilliantly. The author is often erudite, with a knack for description and dialog. A huge problem will evolve, and the character will go and solve it—on the first try.

I recall one excellent example: A young woman, a linguist, was put in charge of greeting the first aliens to land on Earth. During a previous encounter in space, mankind had sent an emissary to meet them in their own language. The ambassador spoke the greeting improperly, so the aliens killed him and destroyed a space station on Alpha Centauri.

So in this story the linguist literally has the fate of the world thrust on her shoulders.

She worries about it, she frets. The aliens come, and she greets them perfectly. The aliens then rejoice to find such a sophisticated, deserving people, and they shower mankind with technological gifts.

Well, it just doesn’t work. Telling a tale where something of import was accomplished in one try leaves the audience expecting more. Yet some writers don’t get this.

I once read a nice story of this type in Writers of The Future, and at the end, the author put a note which said, “I’ve been entering this contest for fourteen years, and I’ve never won a thing. This is the best that I can do. Could someone please tell me what I’m doing wrong?”
So I told him about try/fail cycles. I worry that I did so in vain. Someone who doesn’t “get it” naturally probably has something wrong in the head.

Now, you can’t just have try/fail cycles. Your goal is to have interesting attempts to resolve the problem. Fascinating attempts. Thrilling ones. And the attempts must turn out to be more mind-boggling than first imagined.

In other words, if you have a villain, the villain must try to thwart your hero in creative ways that deliver suspense, that keep us engaged. Similarly, your protagonist needs to deal with his problems in ways that are entertaining.

You need to break out of the mold. You can’t have heroes and villains meeting every challenge in the same way as has been done in a thousand other stories.

Have you ever watched Kung Fu movies? How many times can a bunch of villains in black fight a bunch of heroes in white without things getting boring? The answer: only once. After one scene of hand-to-hand contact, you have to throw in swords or something, but even that gets tedious in a heartbeat.

Yet I’ve seen many novels that are the equivalent of Kung Fu movies. I was trying to read a novel by one vaunted fantasy author the other day, and I was surprised at how often the author resorted to the same trick. He wants to raise the tension, so he throws in a new encounter with “trolls.” The swords come out, and five minutes later the hero is back to plodding along across some interminable landscape.

But it isn’t just the try/fail cycles that get left out or get stale. Sometimes the proper tension just isn’t invested in a tale. The hero isn’t facing any challenge of consequence. Nothing is on the line.

For example, here’s a story: I just went out and got the mail an hour ago.

Does that sound like a story to you? Not really. There was no challenge for me. Now, if I had to get the mail, but in order to do it I had to dodge bullets, stick my hand in a mailbox full of rattlesnakes, and fight off an IRS agent in order to get back to my door, then perhaps I’d have a story.

Or maybe not. Sometimes the try/fail cycles can be boring because they feel contrived. The author goes “over the top” as he or she struggles to entertain.

In short, you need to have a conflict that is properly balanced with the protagonist’s abilities.

Along with this, the author needs to vary the types of conflicts. By this I mean that it can’t all be Kung Fu fights. Protagonists often must face multiple types of problems, with both internal struggles and external conflicts, and possibly romantic conflicts. So on one level, our Kung Fu master might be struggling to get rid of the evil bandit who is forcing his sister into prostitution. On another level he’s trying to overcome his own fears. On a third track, he might be trying to solve a murder mystery, and so on.

More than one Hollywood story doctor has pointed out that in every great movie, there is an “external journey” that a hero takes, and an “internal story” that also comes out. They’re right. That internal journey often involves the hero struggling to reveal his true self to the rest of the world. They might think that he’s a coward, or dishonest, or ill-bred, but he knows that he has greatness hidden within him, and he proves it by his actions.

So a good plot flows quickly and logically, often while the stakes become greater as the story progresses. Let’s talk about the stakes for a moment. The major problem often broadens, so that it affects more and more people as the story goes on. For example, in a murder mystery, the victims begin to pile up over the course of a novel. But the problem can also deepen, having more deleterious consequences in the hero’s life. The detective in our story might find that he cannot sleep, cannot eat. He becomes obsessed with finding the killer, and it ruins his marriage and family life.

In fact, most of the time, a good conflict will both broaden and deepen.

Not every try/fail cycle in a story needs to be shown. In short fiction, we might pass over the easy attempts. For example, let’s say that we write a story about a young man who gets thrown out of his house, so he decides to secretly live in the attic, thereby having adventures. The young man might talk to his father early on, try to resolve their differences, but you might well feel that this doesn’t need to be in the story. Why? Because his first attempt to resolve the problem is boring. So rather than recount it in a scene, you might deal with it in a sentence or so and move on to something more worthwhile.

Unfortunately, in literary fiction it has become standard to throw out too much of the plot. Authors truncate stories by removing inciting incidents, then drop the ending by reasoning that any intelligent reader will be able to deduce the ending by recognizing the author’s tone. It is true that for sophisticated readers, a truncated story can work fine, but you must remember that not all readers are sophisticated. Even the ones who are sophisticated don’t necessarily want to have to struggle to understand your tale. Most of us read for relaxation and entertainment.

Given this, I prefer to read authors who put most of the story onto the page—who struggle to elucidate rather than to be obscure.

So at the end of a tale, I have to go back and examine the basic plot, and ask myself, how well did the author do? Guess what? It doesn’t have to be the best plot ever written. Many a fine movie or book might score only a five out of a scale of one to ten and still become a big hit. Why? Because plot is just one factor to making a great story.

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We’re rapidly coming up on the deadline to join my “Professional Writers’ Workshop” in March. The purpose of this workshop is to show you how to become a professional writer—how to make a living as a writer.

Now, normally I spend most of the time teaching others how to write well, but I see so many authors who start their careers improperly, that it’s like watching them shoot themselves in the foot just before the race.

If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, or if you feel a need to break out of your current career, this workshop is for you!

Learn more about it at www.mystorydoctor.com

#DailyKick—Religion in Fiction

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#DailyKick—Religion in Fiction

Certain works of fiction are designed to appeal to readers with strong belief systems. For example, most large religions have enough followers so that a few storytellers can become popular enough to make a living writing to people of that denomination. But not all “religious fiction” need be religious.

For example, there are people who write books that appeal only to people of certain political ideologies, or prominent economic ideologies, and some adherents to such philosophies exhibit an almost religious zeal.

In my book Million Dollar Outlines I talk about some of the powerful emotional draws that pull people toward certain types of stories, and while working as a greenlighting analyst in Hollywood, I studied these draws heavily. We looked at emotions like wonder, humor, horror, adventure, romance, mystery, drama and erotica to figure out how well movies might do.

But the draws that I mentioned above are not the only ones that attract audiences. Religious fiction can be extremely powerful. In fact, most people are unaware of just how popular religious fiction can be.

Let me just give you some examples. Years ago, the television show Touched by an Angel was the biggest hit of its time, with some 28 million weekly viewers at the height of the show. I was having dinner with some producers in Hollywood at the time when the discussion turned to Mel Gibson’s venture with The Passion of Christ. One of the producers noted that it was being written in Aramaic, and another said, “Oh, god, I hear he’s spending $24 million dollars on that thing. Why doesn’t he just stick it in my pocket if he’s going to throw it away?”

I then suggested that the movie would do at least ten times better than the other producers thought, based upon my own observations of the size of the religious market. The movie went on to gross $600 million in the US box office, becoming one of the top ten bestsellers of all time (at that given time).

At about that time, I was introduced to Bruce Wilkinson, a minister whose little book The Prayer of Jabez had sold 10,000,000 copies so swiftly that he followed it up with several others that sold just as well. Bruce at that time had a whopping 60 million sales of his books—and that was more than eleven years ago.

At the same time, the Left Behind series—which deals with the Second Coming—was doing just as well—selling more than 65,000,000 copies.

What I want to say about religious fiction is that it doesn’t quite function in the same ways as other stories do. In fact, things that a writer thinks might work often don’t.

For example, years ago I met a gentleman who wanted to write science fiction for the Mormon market. He wrote a good book set in the future, but it did pretty miserably. He was trying to add a sense of wonder and adventure to a story of faith, and it didn’t quite work. Why?

By setting his tale in the future, he was hoping to create a sense of wonder. But I suspect that such tales too often challenge the reader’s own views of the future, and religious readers usually don’t want to be challenged. Religious literature is comfort literature. It reinforces, strengthens, and builds up the reader’s own belief system. That’s the draw. So anything that negates that will tend to disenfranchise readers.

So, when this author asked me how to handle future novels, I suggested that he go to the past, that he write historical novels about the early leaders of the Mormon Church, so that he could bring their lives to life. To my surprise, he did just that: and his next series of books became the all-time bestsellers in Mormon literature. His sales on that series outsold that first book by a factor of, I believe, some 300 copies to 1.

So what popular emotional triggers might negate sales in religious fiction?

Wonder

The first thing that I look for is what I call wonder, but what others might call “science fictional” elements. The reader is trying to engage in voluntary suspension of disbelief. Anything that acts as a barrier to that is a red flag.

So, for example, if I were to write a story in which Jesus is simply a young man with a time machine who goes into the past and quotes teachings from the bible, a lot of religious readers might feel that you’re making this harder to believe than easier to believe. Similarly, if you were to write a story in which Jesus was a master magician, and Peter was his young apprentice, you’re likely to get yourself stoned.

Humor

Making jokes about faithful characters or about the reader’s belief system will disenfranchise readers.

Romance/Erotica

Taking romance to extremes, being erotic, or just showing poor taste in descriptions of your character’s body parts might well drive away readers. Of course, it goes without saying that nudity is a taboo for many religious cultures.

Horror

Many religious readers have made it a long habit to avoid polluting their minds with violent or disgusting imagery, and so will have a lower tolerance for horror than your average reader.

But something that terrifies religious readers is the introduction of a power system that is greater than their own cosmology. For example, let’s say that I write a story in which demons seem to be more powerful than God. Do you see how terrifying that might be to a teen who has never had to grapple with that idea? That’s why the movie The Exorcist was so powerful. It scared the britches off a lot of believers.

Profanity

It’s true that people use profanity in real life, but in my fiction, most New York Times bestsellers keep it toned down. Of course, the use of profanity doesn’t come just with words. Often, it can come in the form of behaviors.

So when you approach a story that might offend religious readers, just be careful. The ones that challenge reader tend to bomb big time. The ones that best strengthen the audience’s belief system and help deepen and broaden it are the ones that will become bestsellers.

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We have our Professional Writers' Workshop coming up next month, and we still have a few spots open before the registration deadline. This workshop is designed to help teach you the kinds of things that you can’t learn in most colleges—the ins and outs of the writing business. To learn more about it, go here.

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One of our followers, Noel Pogson, released the fourth novel of his Zak Turner series on Friday! Check out the first book here.

When ten year old ace junior footballer Zak Turner ended up having a scuffle with the cheating goalie in the school playground, he triggered a series of events that changed his life and the lives of those around him forever.

Like all ten year old boys, Zak had read the stories about Harry Potter, and secretly dreamed of a life at Hogwarts. Little did he realise that there was a real life wizard in his own class at primary school, or that it was the secretive son and heir of a very wealthy and important local landowner and businessman!

A New Life is the first novel in the series, and relates the dramatic changes and events that occur in Zak Turner’s life as he turns eleven and starts his journey to manhood in the Yorkshire Dales in England, hiding a secret too valuable to be shared...

The Zak Turner series follows Zak’s life and the lives of his close friends through their secondary school careers, whether that’s at non-magical Netherdale Academy, or magical Mhonarr Castle, or in Zak’s case both!

Netherdale is in the depths of the Yorkshire Dales, and is based on real locations with their names changed. Those who live there today will recognise them, and may even recognise some of the characters in the books. Mhonarr Castle? Well, that might be somewhere in Scotland, or it might not… No-one knows really, but there’s no way to get there except by magical means, so you’re not going to stumble across it on your travels. You’ll also not find it in the first book of the series, for Mhonarr only makes its appearance in the second book, Zak Turner – Wizard Summer.

The series has a supporting website with more details and information about all the books in the series – visit www.zakturner.co.uk to find out more, and for details of offers.

 

Check out the other books here

#DailyKick—Update on Rachel Ann Nunes Case

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#DailyKick—Update on Rachel Ann Nunes Case

A few months ago I began to track the case of Rachel Ann Nunes, whose clean romance novel was allegedly plagiarized by a woman named Sam Taylor Mullens, who first copied the novel, did a minor rewrite in which she added pornographic elements, and then packaged it as her own. Alert reviewers quickly noticed the similarities to Rachel Ann Nunes’s work and informed her of the copyright infringement.

The plagiarist went by the name of Sam Taylor Mullens, but had also begun creating online identities known as “sock-puppets” to promote her pornography by giving herself rave reviews on Amazon.com, Goodreads, and on various blogs. It was soon discovered that Sam Taylor Mullens was actually a third-grade teacher named Tiffanie Rushton, and her sock puppets were often named after her third-grade students.

When Rachel Ann Nunes and others began to make inquiries to the plagiarist about the book, she posted dozens of outrageous claims about how she had come to write the novel, saying at one point that she was a niece to Rachel Ann Nunes, at another that she was a friend of the author, and at another that she had permission from Nunes’s coauthor, and so on.

Realizing that she was about to get caught, Rushton then began using her online identities to attack Nunes’s work on Goodreads, on Amazon.com, as if seeking to destroy her career. She went even further and began a campaign of cyber-bullying, making dire threats.

Now, most plagiarists are smart enough to run and hide when they get caught, but not this lady. She’s a real piece of work. So Rachel is going to be forced to sue her.

However, the costs are monumental. The law enforcement agencies consider this to be a civil matter, and though there are criminal penalties for plagiarists, this isn’t the kind of plagiarism that was even possible twenty years ago. Rushton didn’t make copies of an existing book, print them up, and sell them as her own. Rather, for a small investment she simply altered the electronic files and sought to pass them off as her own.

So the only punishment that she is likely to get will come in a civil suit, but the estimated cost for this is enough so that it would bankrupt Nunes.

Given this, we’ve set up a page on GoFundMe where you can donate to the cause.

Now there some new twists to the case. Rachel has recently found an attorney who will handle her case but only charge about 1/10th of the cost up front. This means that she needs about $5000 in order to hire him. She still has tens of thousands of dollars that she has already spent and is trying to make up for, but she’s in serious need of funds. So if you can donate $20 or so, please do so.

However, there is a much bigger problem here. It seems that about every week I am hearing of new cases of plagiarism. Some of the plagiarists are using Rushton’s methodology—stealing bestsellers, calling them their own, and the bullying the author if they are caught, only to fade into anonymity. Others are just psychos who aren’t plagiarizing works, but merely pirating. These people are simply selling other people’s works and pocketing the money.

Given how rampant this is becoming (and I suspect that it will become more rampant in the future for reasons that I dare not disclose lest I give any crooks some good ideas), I’ve begun talking with an attorney. We’re looking at creating a non-profit organization that would simply “insure” authors against plagiarism. The idea is simple. An author (whether traditional or indie) would simply have a small donation of perhaps 1 cent per book go toward insurance, which would then be put into a legal fund. If the author were to get plagiarized, the fund would sue the devil out of the plagiarist.

Our goal would quite simply be to prosecute this crime to the fullest extent, providing a powerful deterrent to our next generation of criminals.

I hope to be writing more about the new fund in the near future, but for right now we have a lot of work to do setting up the nonprofit, putting together a board of directors, and setting up the internal machinery of how this will all be funded and run, so it will take a few weeks.

In the meantime, please help Rachel Ann Nunes. If she loses this case, we as writer will all lose. GoFundMe

When to Stop Polishing a Manuscript

Conflict 8, Reading News Magazine, 1-20Many new writers don’t know when to stop polishing a manuscript and move on to the next. Part of the reason for that might have to do with Ernest Hemingway.

Many years ago, a writer asked Hemingway, “How many times should I rewrite a manuscript?” Now, Hemingway hated dumb questions, so he answered “Oh, at least 60.”

He loved doing that to writers. On one occasion, a writer asked him what kind of chair he preferred to sit in, as if perhaps the brand of furniture that an author had planted his butt on might somehow confer literary genius.

Hemingway answered, “I don’t sit when I write, I stand.” And a generation or writers began to write standing up. The problem with that is that you can go to any one of Hemingway’s old homes or offices, and see the chairs that he sat on.

On another occasion, a writer asked him how long she should wait between drafts when revising, so that she would be able to look at her story “cold.” He suggested that it should be two years.

Think about it. If Hemingway did sixty drafts of a novel and waited two years between each draft, he would have never finished a single book. Don’t listen to bad advice, even when it comes from a genius.

Back when I first began writing, I used an old typewriter. I didn’t like it. I had to really bang the keys hard, it was noisy, certain keys didn’t work well, and the type was uneven. Because of this, doing rewrites was difficult. I’d type out a draft, make extensive corrections on the page with a pencil, and then try to type out a perfectly clean copy.

Using that system, it would have been foolish to repeat the process sixty times. Because of this, in the 1920s and 30s, a professional writer would typically try to learn to write a finished copy in a single draft. It was simpler to write out a nice outline in longhand, and then thoughtfully type out one clean draft, than to retype a piece over and over.

The first electric typewriter was invented in the early 1900s, but they didn’t begin to become in wide use until the 1930s, and really took off in about 1960 with the IBM Selectric. These models made rewriting much easier, and authors began to revise more.

Of course with the development of computers, revising became quite easy. My first computer would allow me to put only 2 pages of text on a disk, but by the late 1980s I was able to get first a whole chapter, and then with the addition of a hard drive, an entire novel in a single file. It wasn’t until then that rewriting became so easy that it became problematic.

You see, as an editor I’m looking for stories that have some originality, that carry an author’s own voice, his odd quirks. But when a new writer begins showing a manuscript around to members of her workshop and polishing it further and further, eventually the author tends to lose her own distinct voice. The result is, that the story can become less interesting to me as an editor with every draft.

So the question is, how many revisions does a novel or short story really need?

That’s a personal question. Each published author might develop his or her own standards. I typically go through a novel three times before sending it to my editor, though key scenes might get another polish or even three more.

As I rewrite, I try to avoid changing both the voices of my characters and my own narrative voice. Rather than polishing away the differences between voices, I think it’s better to look for ways to heighten the unique characters in the tale.

In fact, on one of my last rewrites, I do what I call a “voice edit,” where I go through key characters person by person to make sure that their voices are consistent.
I almost never look at a scene more than five or six times. Yet I know some writers who will polish a scene 20 times or more, making it a little less interesting each time. Don’t do that.

Why? You’ve got other books to write! By the time that you’ve revised a novel half a dozen times, you’re probably not really making it any better.

So when you feel good about it, submit it to editors.

Now, when many writers get a rejection letter, they’ll begin to feel insecure about a tale. Don’t let that happen. The world is full of great novels that were rejected over and over again. Harry Potter went to all of the world’s biggest publishers before it finally found a home. Dune was rejected dozens of times, as were dozens of other great novels.

The proper response to a rejection is to send the story out to a different publisher—not to rewrite the tale.

So don’t fiddle with your language. There are times when it might be wise to make a “substantial” revision, one where you change the very bones of a story. For example, you might decide to write a new opening scene, or extend a climax, or something like that. In that case, it’s like re-setting the bones of the story, not applying new lipstick to the face of it. You’re fixing the underlying structure.

For example, years ago I was walking down a hallway at a convention, and I heard an editor talking to a young writer. He was describing the problem with the author’s story, and he said, “You know what that story needs? It needs something big, a world exploding or something right in the opening.”

Now, it so happened that I had written a little short story about a terrorist called “The Sky is an Open Highway.” It wasn’t much of a story, but it did have a world exploding in it. In fact, that very editor had rejected it a few months earlier.

So I added a new scene where a world explodes on page 1, and then sent it to that editor. I was rewarded with a contract a couple of weeks later.

Now, that new scene was a “substantial edit.” It changed the nature of the story, signaling to the reader exactly what the story was about. But I didn’t polish the rest of the tale. I already knew that it was good enough.

Resolutions

shutterstock_109898864I hate the word “resolute.” Whenever I think of it, I think of soldiers circa 1800, marching resolutely into battle, knowing that they’re going to die. Yet every year I make resolutions anyway. Maybe if we had better attitudes about resolutions in the first place, it wouldn’t be so hard to keep them.

This year I have a number of resolutions.

It seems to me that if I approach my goals properly, then reaching them won’t be too hard.

For example, let’s look at writing goals. What if instead of saying, “I’m going to write twenty pages a day for at least three days per week,” I decided that, “I will approach each day of writing calmly, training myself to be excited about the task, and anticipating the rewards of a job well done”?

I think that I might get a lot accomplished, without feeling as though I’m marching into battle while the canons are exploding at my back and gunfire erupts all around me.

Or how about this as a New Year’s Resolution: I’m going to train myself to write by writing. Each morning, I am going to get up, and I will have my current novel/short story up and ready to go. I will begin typing on my manuscript before doing anything else, so that by the end of the week, I will have trained myself to think, Ah, there is the keyboard. I will go and work on my manuscript.

You see, many of your habits are subconscious. Some people teach themselves that the computer is for videogames, or it’s for checking email, or it’s for chatting on Facebook. So when they sit down to the keyboard, by force of habit they immediately begin playing.

But what if you trained yourself to make writing your habit? What if you tried something like this:

1) Close your eyes and think about something that excites you. Perhaps it’s the idea of getting your first novel published, or maybe it’s an award you’ve won, or just the joy that will come when you complete your novel.

Think about it, and let the excitement build for 15 seconds.

2) Now, sit at your computer, open the file to your work in progress. Do not do anything else. Instead, open your WIP and write one paragraph.

3) When you’re done with that paragraph, get up from your computer and walk around the room for a moment, thinking about what you might want to do with your work in progress.

4) Repeat step 1, thinking about something that excites you, and letting the excitement sweep through you.

5) Now write another paragraph. Make it beautiful.

6) When you’re done, get up from your computer for a few minutes and think about what you will write next.

7) Repeat steps one through three ten times. By the time that you have done it a few times, you will have begun training yourself so that when you sit down, you will become excited at the prospect of writing, and you will immediately open your work in progress.

This of course is a form of self-hypnosis. We do so many things out of habit—things like putting on our clothes, eating, driving. If you work in a factory, you probably don’t much think about the repetitive tasks that you’re doing. You quite literally may find yourself doing them in your sleep, dreaming about them.

Well, I’m convinced that writing is much the same way. When I go on a writing retreat, I choose to go to places where I don’t have internet access or a phone. All that I can do with my computer is write. Without any distractions, I find that all of my computer time quickly gets focused on writing, and as a result, I can do tremendous things. So what if I train myself to avoid the distractions, to simply focus on what I really want to do most?

Give it a try. It really isn’t hard. You don’t need to be resolute at all.

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Only two days left until we end the our sale on writing workshops over on MyStoryDoctor.com. So, if you are interested, now is your last chance to act.

One of my friends, Mette Harrison, has a book launch happening in Salt Lake City, Utah, January 2nd, at The King's English Bookshop, for her book The Bishop's Wife

In the predominantly Mormon city of Draper, Utah, some seemingly perfect families have deadly secrets.

Linda Wallheim is a devout Mormon, the mother of five boys and the wife of a bishop. But Linda is increasingly troubled by her church’s structure and secrecy, especially as a disturbing situation takes shape in her ward. One cold winter night, a young wife and mother named Carrie Helm disappears, leaving behind everything she owns. Carrie’s husband, Jared, claims his wife has always been unstable and that she has abandoned the family, but Linda doesn’t trust him. As Linda snoops in the Helm family’s circumstances, she becomes convinced that Jared has murdered his wife and painted himself as a wronged husband.

Linda’s husband asks her not to get involved in the unfolding family saga. But Linda has become obsessed with Carrie’s fate, and with the well-being of her vulnerable young daughter. She cannot let the matter rest until she finds out the truth. Is she wrong to go against her husband, the bishop, when her inner convictions are so strong?

Inspired by a chilling true crime and written by a practicing Mormon, The Bishop’s Wife is both a fascinating look at the lives of modern Mormons as well as a grim and cunningly twisted mystery.

“The Bishop’s Wife has good reason to draw a large readership. It places heavy emphasis on domestic abuse and on the question of how dangerous fire-breathing extremists really are. The man who inveighs against women as whores and sinners may or may not be anything worse than a crank. The man who speaks sanctimoniously of them may be much worse... That’s why Ms. Harrison’s Linda is such a welcome character: In her role as Sister Wallheim, she encourages women to speak freely, at least to her, and to escape the shame that has burdened some of them since childhood."
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Harrison makes her adult debut with a stunning contemporary mystery set in Mormon country... [She] easily transports readers into a world most will find as unfamiliar as a foreign country."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

"The mystery surrounding Carrie drives the plot, but Linda herself is the most compelling thing about young adult author Harrison’s debut adult mystery about a world she knows well."
—Booklist, STARRED Review

"Adds twists aplenty to an insider's look at a religion replete with its own mysteries."
—Kirkus Reviews

 
The book launch party will include a Jello salad contest judged by authors Shannon Hale and Matthew Kirby.

Dave In The News!

Dave was in the news today. KUTV, a Salt Lake City-based television station, ran a spot on him in the evening news. You can find the video here: