Steve Martin and I have one thing in common – we’ve both killed books.

I don’t put myself in the same category as Steve Martin. He’s a great comedian, actor, and  accomplished writer.

I’m a highly unsuccessful Indie writer and Steve Marin…well, what can you say, he’s written over forty novels and numerous screenplays. My favorite of his novels is Shop Girl and L.A.Story. There are some who love his campy, The Jerk, I admit I’m one of them.

The one fascinating thing I learned about Steve Martin in an interview he gave was how many times he dropped a book that wasn’t working. Now wait a minute. How is that possible? Isn’t every book idea we have incredible?

Well, apparently not. Steve Martin recognized it, and over the years, I’ve come to the same conclusion. When I first heard him say he dropped book ideas, I was amazed. Then I heard the phrase, “kill your darlings,” which is highly used by writers, and I got the message.

I have written and published four books. I have two sitting in a drawer gathering dust that will never see the light of day. What happened to them? They didn’t make it beyond my beta readers.

A Beta Reader should be an author’s first sounding board.

My wife is my first beta reader. If she likes it, I run the book down to the hill to one of my friends who is a quick and voracious reader. If it makes it past him, then it’s time to make numerous copies and have those read by several more readers.

I always wait for feedback to see what my readers think, then I go from there. Why would I do that you ask? Why not just go with my own intuition, my own gut feeling, and critics be damned, just publish it?

Well, that perhaps is why we are ending up with so many Indie titles that are not getting read and are having no sales. Someone has to read what you wrote to give feedback.

Writers need beta readers for feedback like Chef’s need tasters.

Have you seen the television shows where the budding Chef prepares a dish and one of the judges proclaims, “This is awful, did you taste this as you prepared it?”

That’s when the camera pans in on the poor Chef whose shoulders are now scrunched up to his or her ears, the sweat pouring off their brow and they mutter a “no, I didn’t taste it.”

The music sounds a death knell and we see the frown of the judges turn to shaking of heads with the commentator pronouncing the early exit of the Chef.

The difference between the writer who doesn’t get a readers feedback and a chef who doesn’t taste their own dishes and get other’s to taste them is the same. Readers give feedback, the same why a Chef’s taste buds tell him or her if the dish is palatable.

Feedback gives us clarity and direction.

If a plane leaves London, heading for Chicago and the plane is just one degree off course, the plane will  miss  Chicago by hundreds of kilometers.

Imagine that. One degree. Isn’t that the same when we read a book that doesn’t end well. Somehow the book went off course. The writer lost his or her way.

Those are the very books that need to be either dropped or revamped. Somehow, however, we writers feel we have so much invested in an idea, that we have to finish it. I’m all for finishing a book. Sometimes I just want to see where it leads.

But do I publish all of them? No, some of them I just write to see where the story goes. I’ve done the same with short stories. I write them, some of them I send off to magazines or newspapers and see if they get any attention.

Some of my short stories sit here, and then over time get sent out. I call that my aging process. Like fine wine. I had one that rested for fifteen years. Then one day I found a magazine for it and it got published.

What I’m saying is, some writing has to die for the eventual sake of our art. We need to try all the time, but not everything should get published. Especially in the realms of Indie writing, where, somehow authors think everything they write should see print.

I think if we all take a moment, let the writing rest, let a group of our best friends and critics see it, and then decide. And if we do kill our darlings’, we’ll do it softly and quietly then move on to the next project.

I wish all readers happy reading, and writers many hours of happy writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have 57,204 readers on TripAdvisor, and only 5 of my new novel. Now What?

I opened  my email this morning and was delighted to see a report from TripAdvisor. “You have 57,204 readers of your reviews.” I’ve posted some 78 reviews, and received 56 helpful votes. How nice is that?

I then opened my Amazon account where my four books reside. My most recent one, MisDiagnosis Murder, was published several weeks ago, and I was hoping to see some results.

What did I see? 5 sales in four weeks! Then the red line that signifies sales dropped to zero. If you’ve ever watched the heart rate monitor on medical shows you’ll know my experience.

The red line on the bottom, it denotes no sales. No life, as in nada, zip, zero. Yes, in the words of Billy Crystal from the movie Princess Bride, “the patient is not all dead, just nearly dead.”

Is there a point where you should  give up as a Writer?

I think every writer asks this question. I did give up an earlier career in freelance writing for magazines and newspapers when I found the returns dismal for the effort I put in. You’d think I’d want to walk away now, when the returns are even worse.

But in every writer, there is the need to express on the page what is inside them. They never know what it is until it’s on the page. They discover the story, just as much as the reader does, and they become a part of it

The returns for writing can be poor. Back in my business career, I had this motto, “Return on Investment.” That was the king. If something did not return a profit in a certain period of time, I would drop it.

Why don’t I drop it now? After all, I’ve spent over 5,000 dollars in the past four years in publishing my books, with very little return. Shouldn’t I just give up?

Well no, I’m not done yet. There are more books inside me, and I’m sure there are inside of all the other independent writers.

Are the Naysayers right about Indie (Independent Writers), is this is fools game?

When I started writing and publishing four years ago, Indie Writing was just taking off. Many said it wouldn’t last, and some said it would be a way for editors and book designers to make money, while writers make very little.

Some of that is true. But I’m glad that book designers and editors are making a living. Why shouldn’t they? After all, if it were not for editors, some of the writing you’d see would be objectionable. And, for the book designers, I think they are worth ever penny.

Is there a way for Indie Writers to actually make a living, or at least make back their costs?

At this point in time, there are numerous people out there banging a drum to tell Indie writers that all is not lost. They will find us those ever elusive readers.

You have to understand that the writing world has taken on Tsunami like proportions with the implementation of e-books, and print on demand. Amazon’s Kindle was probably the largest game changer since the Gutenberg printing press was invented in 1440.

The stats are that some 600,000 ebooks and print on demand books are hitting cyber space every year. This is wonderful time to be a reader. For the writers who are trying to make a living. Perhaps not so much.

There is a tendency to be washed out to sea by this Tsunami. I mean, really? How many more romantic zombie books can be written? Or how many more shades of grey are there before everything turns to black?

Is there help out there for Indie Writers, or just people who are trying to make money off of us?

Back in the days of the gold rush, they claim the only ones who made any money were the people who supplied gear to the miners. Want an example? How about Levi Strauss. You may be wearing his jeans right now.

In my short four years of writing, I have found some very honest writers who want to help other writers. K.M. Weiland and James Scott Bell come to mind as two successful writers who are sincere in their efforts to help writers. It shows in the excellent books they’ve produced on the writing craft.

For books on marketing, I’m a big fan of Joanne Penn. However, when I listened to her last webcast, she claimed the key to success was writing 20 books.

Here is my slight problem with that math,I’m just turning 63. I produce a book at a snails pace of one per year. I need 16 more years on the planet to get that number. I’ve decided I’ll take up the challenge, eat more oatmeal and reduce the amount of olives in my martinis. Here’s hoping for book number 20 on my 79th birthday!

Taking the title of Highly Unsuccessful Writer, and owning it!

In all this, I’ve decided I will take on the title of highly unsuccessful writer. Many people ask me what I do. I  say, “I’m a writer, but a highly unsuccessful one.” It’s kind of a joke, but it’s okay.

Owning that title, makes me want to move forward, to write more, to get better, to see if over time…maybe I’ll sell 10 books next month! Okay, that’s a lie, I do want to sell more books and achieve a wider audience. All writers want that. It’s how we justify what we do.

For those of you who want to see how a truly unsuccessful writer does, you can see all my books on my webpage at www.lylenicholson.com.

for those of you who want to know where to find the best Mai Tai on Oahu, you can check me out on TripAdvisor. Apparently I have quite a following.

For any writers out there who would like to comment, or admit they too are highly unsuccessfully, and owning the title, please leave a comment.

 

 

 

If we linger too long in Paradise – do we lose momentum?

My story of losing momentum actually begins over 40 years ago. It was taught to me by an old Engineer of a freight train. I was working for the railway in Canada’s far North. The location was Hay River, North West Territories. The same coordinates as St. Petersburg, Russia. That far North.

On a Sunday,I got a ride on an Ore Train in the front engines too see a friend of mine some 60 miles south. As we approached my friends place the Engineer slowed the Ore Train down to around 5 miles an hour. He turned to me and said, “Son you’re going to have to jump. I can’t stop this train for you. She’s too hard to get started.”

I knew what he meant. The Train  had four engines, and all four of them had strained to get that long Ore Train moving. Stopping this train for me, an eighteen year old kid,wasn’t going to happen.

The Engineer gave me some good advice, he said, “When you jump from the train, keep moving. If you try to land and stick your feet, the momentum of the train will send you into a tumble.”

The Canadian term he’d used was actually,”Ass over tea kettle,” which needs a lot of explaining -so I won’t.

I looked down at the ground and thought of what a tumble to the left meant – under massive train wheels. As I’m writing this Blog with both hands and alive, you can assume that didn’t happen.

I did jump from that slow moving train. The  Engineer waved at me as I jumped off and did exactly as instructed by hitting the ground running, and slowed down to a jog to watch those mighty wheels of the Ore Train sink the tracks as they pressed their heavy loads on the gravel rail bed. Yes, I was happy I’d heeded his words.

Why do I mention this? I thought I could venture onto the wonderful island of Oahu, in Hawaii and take my writing projects, and keep my momentum going and just keep writing.

What happened? I slowed down, no not to a mere 5 miles or 7 kilometers an hour, no I slowed to a grinding halt. And, as in case of the long train, I found it hard to get my momentum.

Do I blame it on the beaches, the Mai Tai’s (a strange cocktail of rum mixed with several ingredients that allows a Ukulele to sound good), no I blame it on me, and trying to push the odds.

I thought I could go to a resort, a lovely place with pools, and beaches and a great gym and I would get up every morning and just do some editing for a few hours, then some reading and then blog a or two. Who was I kidding?

My results? I did get 50 pages of editing done. Not very good for one month away. But I did see whales, dolphins,  and several Albatross and Monk seals that seemed almost happy to be seen.

My wife and I spent most of our time roaming the island searching out farm to table bistros that offered food that was Hawaiian focused, and I wrote about my food experiences on TripAdvisor.

I received 4,550 reviews on TripAdvisor in one month. According to my wife, if I got that many reads of one of my books, I’d go from a highly unsuccessful writer to an almost successful one. I assumed she was joking,  she was finishing her second Mai Tai at the time.

Did I learn anything  in my one month in Hawaiian Paradise? Well, I did learn that a beach chair has three positions. Upright is conscious for reading books or watching waves and whales. Semi-reclined results in semi-consciousness, and all the way flat means a total lights out or sleep. There seems no way to remain awake in a lying position in Hawaii while gentle trades winds waft over you.

You would think all the bodies in various states of repose, that look curiously like sleeping Monk seals (without the nice fur) are catching a nap to do some great activity later. The activity unfortunately is Happy Hour. That’s where the Mai Tai’s and Ukulele’s come out.

I do think we all need rest at some time. The body and mind wears out when under too much stress. But too little stress for too long a time, can be just as taxing. I think we do need some constant momentum in our lives…even hanging out in paradise.

Like that Engineer said to me so many years ago, “Kid, you got to keep moving.”

What the Engineer   stated was the obvious, that a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Simple physics, that we human beings need to heed, because eventually we will be a in flat position, so we need to keep up our momentum until then.

I wish all of you writers happy writing, and all you readers happy reading.

Writing my 30 day novel. How I cheated and let the characters do it for me.

If any of you saw my post back in October, I said I was going to enter the 30 day challenge, which is called NaNoWroMo, which means write a novel in the month of November.

It does seem daunting. I mean, 50,000.00 words? That works out to 1,666 words per day, and I mean every day. There can be no days off unless you drink major quantities of caffeine and fire off 5,000 words one day so you can coast the next day.

So how did I do it? Well I had help, yes and I hope the folks at NaNoWriMo don’t find out that I cheated, because you’re supposed to do it alone. What I did was put together an outline first – no that’s okay – that’s not cheating. And then I put together a list of the characters, and all the things that they do, and what they look like – again many authors do that and it’s okay.

But when I got three chapters into the book, which is called CIRCLING THE DRAIN, I found this amazing thing. The characters started to interact. They were talking to one another and all I could see were scenes that they were in. I couldn’t see words I needed to write, I could only see scenes that needed words added to them.

Everyday I woke up at 6am, and I was in my chair by the window, overlooking this lovely golf course pond in Palm Desert in my rental unit, and from 6am until around 10am I would pound out my scenes.

Sometimes I woke up earlier. I told my wife that my characters were bugging me – wanted to get to the next scene to get some things resolved. Some of them had issues with one another. They just needed me in the writers chair to give them life – to put them on the page.

Sound a bit crazy? Well it does, but if you ask many writers who write on a regular basis they will tell you the very same thing. Sometimes we have to take control, because we see a character wanting to go off in a direction that we don’t think suits the outline we gave them.

Sometimes we just let the character go off and explore, and we see if we like where they’re going. Kind of like what you’d do with your child, only hope they weren’t making a bee line for the road or the water. Yes, it is kind of like that.

So, there you have my confession of how I wrote my book in 30 days. I wish I had learned this several years ago, as all my previous books, such as Dolphin Dreams, Polar Bear Dawn, and Pipeline Killers were words that became scenes. Each of them took so much longer to write.

I will now go into the wonderful world of edits, where every author must dwell in the grueling task of ensuring each sentence means something, and everything is spelled correctly, and more importantly if the facts are straight.

This is also a great time for me, as I get to see all my characters again. I will be hanging out with this entire crew until you get to see this new book in print in about 3 months from now. But please don’t tell anyone I cheated in the competition…let’s keep it between you and me.

 

 

 

 

 

A late blooming writer finds a road map for new writers with The CreativePenn.com.

I admit it, the world of Independent Publishing is daunting. I recently published a Novella through an Independent publisher, and have watched it drift aimlessly after its launch. Yes, all that excitement over the publication, and the let down of “what now?”

That seems to be a recurring theme amongst Indie Authors. The dream of being the next Fifty Shades of Grey Author (even if you don’t write Erotica) seems to slip away, as you see one lonely review of you work on Amazon or Kobo. So, where do you go for help? Is there a road map out of this wilderness of Indie Publishing, with poor sales?

I have to say, I’ve found a great resource in Joanna Penn, and her website The Creative Penn.Com . Joanna offers a tremendous help to new writers in her Author 2.0 Your BluePrint for Writing Publishing and Marketing Your Book.

I wish I would have found the site earlier. Well, actually my Blog coach, Carrie Mumford sent Joanna Penn’s website to me with a remark about what a great resource it was, and it took me 2 months to open it and review the information. No, I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box!

What I found on the Author 2.0 Blueprint is probably the best information on Indie Publishing I’ve seen. And, the best part, the site is free!

There are 57 pages of information on writing, blogging, social networking and how to market your book, and get reviews after you’ve published. There is also Joanna’s personal Pod Casts of interviews with Indie Publishers, and blogs by successful Indie Authors. Now 57 pages may not seem like much, but there are so many links to other sites, with resources referenced it took me 2 weekends to get through it all.

What I liked the most about Joanna Penn’s work, is her honesty. She published her first work some years ago, and it went nowhere. Sound familiar? Then with much research, she found what did work, applied it, and got great sales on Amazon. Now that is what I call a real success story for an Indie Author.

The site Author 2.0 also references other links, where writers can download her other books on aids for writing, and I think that’s great. I’ve found her free information so valuable, I’ve no problem with paying out 39.95 to 69.95 to get even more information on this new world of Indie Publishing.

So, do I sound like a fan? Well, yes I am. I have signed up for Joanna’s Blogs, her tweets, and I’ve found her posts to be highly informative, and exactly what I need to learn in this new world of Indie publishing. I’m sure there are many more sites out there, but as of now, I’m rather impressed by Joanna’s.

I wish all of you great writing, good reviews, and many downloads.

My non resolutions for 2013, that involve writing, and not taking myself seriously

I Realized today, that we are ten days into this year. Another year, that to me spreads before my like a white canvas or blank page. Many years ago I used to make resolutions, and take all of those resolutions quite seriously.

It was twenty odd years ago, I discovered that if I made goals, depending on where I wanted to be in one year, 5 years or 10 years in the future, I often found that when the future arrived, many of the goals were achieved. Funny thing that, setting something in motion, that when set in motion, would develop into what you wanted.

I have done the same thing with writing. As I wrote in previous blogs, I really could not come up with my next career, and decided to do something I’d always loved, writing, but never made time for.

My goal was to learn to write, I thought that might be more advantages to my readers, and also enjoyable if I was doing. Numerous writing courses later, a library full of how to write the best novel every type of books, and here I am, about to have my first Novella published later this month, a Novel ready to go to proof reading in March, and working on a third Novel.

I sometimes wonder what drives me to do it, and I decided, it is because I don’t take myself seriously. I take my writing seriously, I love to write, but I don’t listen to myself, when that little voice tells me I can’t write, will never be a writer, or just not good enough to be read.

That’s when I have to laugh and smile, and just say, “if you don’t write, you’ll never know if you are a writer, and if you don’t publish, how will anyone else know.”

So I write, and I do have a goal for this year. To publish Dolphin Dreams my fantasy Novella this month, then my Novel Polar Bear Dawn, and then a third Novel by late this year, or early next year. My total overall goal is One Million words in print in the next ten years. I would be 70 years old then. Now that would be a wonderful thing to look back and see some goals that I set out to do get accomplished.

To all those who make goals, I wish your reach all of them in your future.

A late blooming writer is asked the quesiton, “do you ever wish you’d started earlier?”

I was asked this question last week.  Getting my haircut, nice and trimmed up for Christmas, and my upcoming 60th birthday, the young hairstylist asked me what I did.  “I now write books,” I said.

She was mildly impressed, and asked me what I wrote, and what genre.  Turns out the young lady was as Sci-Fi fan.  Then she asked me the one question I may have asked myself, “do you ever wish you’d started earlier?”  She probably got that from the long locks of grey hair falling to the floor that I was not just fresh out of school.

And here is the answer I came up with, I was too involved with so many other things in my life to write.  Sure I thought of it many times, driving down the highway when I was in sales, or on long flights on business trips.  So many things got in the way, so much noise in my head.

I was offered, by my lovely wife, the opportunity to just write at the age of 35.  Yes, I could explore the world of free-lance writing, write a novel, even go to Journalism school that had accepted me.  And get this – she would support me.  How many people get this opportunity!  Not too many I assure you. I tried for three long months, and so many things got in the way: writers block, writers angst, and basically writers avoidance.

Now, 25 years later, what is different?  I have finished a Novella that is soon to be published, have another Novel ready for final proof reading, and working on a third novel that I am half way through the first draft.  I know what is different.  The noise in my head, it’s calmer up there.  I’m no longer worried about the deadlines of my business, or investments, or meetings.

It is now just me, meeting with a keyboard, creating characters, and one scene after another.  Could I have started earlier, maybe, If I were someone else.  Perhaps John Grisham, he started his writing after his daily work as a Lawyer.  Stephen King worked in a closet in his laundry room in his double wide trailer, while he worked as a teacher.

And me, well I had to wait until I was ready.  I am sure every writer has their own timeline, the day that the stars aligned, and they could work with the characters in their heads.  I have been a very late bloomer.  Something that I deal with.  But, my time to write is now, what I write now in the present is all I care about.  The past is gone.  I can not look back, and can not even look ahead.  I can only look down at my page, as one word after another appears before me, and be very glad that I started now.

I wish all of you, who started early or late, or started and stopped, and started again, I wish you all good writing, and if you have a story of your journey to write, then I would love to hear it.

Good Writing and good journey,

Lyle Nicholson

A late blooming writer finds his Muse

I admit, I knew nothing about this thing called the Muse, when I started writing again in 2010.  I heard it existed, musicians had it.  I thought that’s were the word came from.  Poets supposedly wrote about it, but unfortunately I’m not a big fan of poetry, so their musing were lost on me.  Sorry about that last sentence.

I found a wonderful reference to it on TED, this was from Elizabeth Gilbert.  I found it on a website from Cally Jackson, and I thank her for placing it there, as it was a great inspiration, and discussion on writers Muse.

As for myself, a writer coming late to this party, I thought finding my muse would be easy.  Wasn’t it just telling a story, and letting the creative process flow?  Apparently not.  Some times I write and what appears on the page is outright drivel, and sometimes it is inspired.  There are times, I let out a sigh at the words before me.  They actually look good, like someone else wrote them. Is that muse?

Well, I’m still early in this, I’ve finished my first Novella, called Dolphin Dreams, which is still at the publishers, and waiting uploading to Amazon and various other eBook sites, but here is what amazed me.  I started writing the Novella as an adventure story, and it turned into a fantasy, with a love story intertwined.

Now, how does that happen?  Do we not all control what we write.  Are we not the master and commander sitting in the chair, fingers flying on the keyboard while characters and plots emanate from us?  Well, I thought so…at least at first.  Now I realize I’m part of the process.  Sure, I have ideas, fantasies, and dreams.  But as I sit down to write, things start to change, characters change.

I have found this part fascinating.  I would love to hear comments from others on this as well.  I know we are writers, but are we also a conduit for a creative force?  The word inspire, comes from the Latin, “to breath in,” are we breathing in and breathing out as we write, and are these words before us a mere image of something in our deeper selves.  Ops, now that be a little deep.

So, as an aspiring writer, finding his muse, would love to hear from others on this.  Inspiration, is always a welcome insight, and if you have a moment, check out the YouTube video from Elizabeth Gilbert, it is twenty minutes, but really well worth it.

The late blooming writers learning curve

I realized starting to write late in life, that I had a lot of learning to do.  Where do you start?  If you spent most of your life making a living, and then decide you want to pursue a passion for writer, what’s the next step?

I found myself in this very dilemma in 2010.  Retired from my career in business, wanting to pursue writing, and ideas for stories bouncing in my head.  I realized to my horror, that I had no idea on dialogue.  Yes, the “Well, I think we need to go over here,” he said with a firmness that masked his nervous twitch.  There was that, and the idea of how to  have a beginning and middle and  end.

Yes, I was somewhat adrift in a sea of writers angst.  Where to begin.  My very fist class was a Creative Writing Level One course at Mount Royal University in Calgary.  There I was, the old grey haired guy, amongst the young trendy set.  I brought out my trusty notebook and pen, and the nice young men and women with their laptops and pads gave me a knowing smile.

What I received in that first class, were the very first elements, the bare bones of instruction in writing.  The instructor was Naomi Lewis.  A wonderful award-winning writer and editor, who kept the class on topic, and pushed us to do writing exercises in every class.  Writing exercises!  The meer mention of it sent chills down my spine, and when I did them, they were a complete joy.

We held readings in class, and I could hear the enthusiasm in the voices of others.  I gave my readings, and could feel the tension in my voice, as something I had written touched me.  We were introduced to a book called Imaginative writing, the Elements of Craft, by Janet Burroway, and from the exercises, I learned about writing styles I never knew existed.

I wrote the first chapter of Polar Bear Dawn, a novel I intend to publish next year,  I read the first chapter in class, and it was proclaimed, “Gnarly,” by a young man in the second row.  That was all the confirmation I needed.

I recommend writing classes to everyone who is yearning to write, and looking for some kind of guidance, but there is a caution there.  Sometime, after the classes are done, you need to sit down, and write.  Find your story, the one only you are passionate about it, and write it.

The technique is out there.  You’ll find a multitude of books that will tell you how to do dialogue, and pacing, and structure, and all those important things, but what is missing is you – your story – your uniqueness to the world.  And that after all is what matters.

Happy learning, and writing.