How to Become a Writer in Only 20 Hours

How to Become a Writer in Only 20 Hours

How to Become a Writer in Only 20 Hours

Photo by Mary Cullen. License

A few years ago, I posted an article on how to Become a Master Writer in Only 10,000 Hours. It didn’t go over well. Blog readership dropped. Who wants to put in 5 years of full time effort to become a writer? Could it be nobody?

That article was based on books which suggest it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. But, how much of an expert did it mean? Did it just mean good? Since I’ve put in lots of hours writing over the years, it didn’t bother me but new writers would probably appreciate a more reasonable target. I’ve found one thanks to another writer who gave a Ted Talk.


Moving From Maximum Hours to Minimum Hours

Josh Kaufman wondered about those 10,000 hours to achieve expertise too. His talk, The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything, is informative and entertaining. If you like it a lot you might want to check out his book by the same name.

Kaufman’s wife had just had a baby and they felt like they were never going to have free time ever again. He looked into how long it would take to learn a new skill and found the 10,000 hour estimate. He wondered if that could be true. 10,000 hours is a full time job for 5 years. He had learned plenty of things in less time than that. Where did the 10,000 hour rule come from? It’s from a study of the top performers in many fields. The 10,000 hours is how long it takes to become the best in the world at something. Over time, the 10,000 hours has been used as the measure to learn less and less until it has been applied to even the simplest skills.

Next, Kaufman looked at the learning curve. There are sharp amount of growth at the start and then it slows down. He asked how long it was from gross incompetence to reasonably good. The answer was 20 hours as long as the 20 hours were invested in the best way possible. This involved several steps.

Read More Read More

How to Get Book Reviews for Your Self-Published Book

How to Get Book Reviews for Your Self-Published Book

How to Get Book Reviews for Your Self-Published Book

Photo by ThoroughlyReviewed. License

Book reviews are the most important part of your book marketing strategy. There are other marketing techniques. Sharing on social media can improve sales or have little affect. Keep track of sales versus sharing and avoid putting time into an ineffective social media strategy. Writing shorter works that point to your book sometimes works. Blog posts and interviews that mention your book will also help. An internet search for book marketing will reveal a seemingly endless number of marketing strategies. Book reviews beat them all, but how do you get them?

The first problem with book reviews is that it’s hard to get reviews if you’re not selling books. And it’s hard to sell books if you don’t have reviews. It’s clear that you need to get your books out to people who will read them when there are no reviews yet and they need to be people who will write a review after they finish reading.

This means you need to find book reviewers. Where do they live?


How to Find Book Reviewers

Many book reviewers blog about their reading by writing reviews they post on their own site. Book bloggers are overwhelmed with books to review because every writer needs reviews. If you query 100 book bloggers, you will get a few reviews out of the effort. It’s worth the effort.

Amazon reviewers often don’t have a blog. You can find them directly in Amazon’s books section by finding books similar to yours and checking the reviews. Click on the Customer Reviews link and sort them by Newest. Look at the details on each reviewer and see if they have contact info. If they do, write them an email similar to what you use for book bloggers and try to soft-sell them on reading your book. Be sure to offer a free copy in any of the formats you have available.


How to Increase Your Odds of Getting Reviewed

You’ve put in the time and effort to write a great book. It’s only fair you should get a review. Thousands of other writers feel the same way and they will be competing for book bloggers’ attention. Here are a few tips on how to stand out from the crowd and increase the number of positive responses.

Read More Read More

Can Social Media Inspire Articles and Short Stories?

Can Social Media Inspire Articles and Short Stories?

Can Social Media Inspire Articles and Short Stories?

 Photo by torbakhopper. License

There’s no mystery here. Social media can inspire articles and short stories. You may want to use different sites for each kind of writing you do depending on which social media you use. I’ll use Twitter for my examples because of it’s ability to follow hand-picked lists.

Finding Article Ideas

When you want to write many articles on a topic, you can create a list of people you follow who mostly tweet about that topic. You could click the links for interesting articles, read them, and then write similar ones, but you don’t want to be a plagiarist. If the topic is new to you, it is a good idea to read lots of articles and follow their suggestions until you become an expert but I’m guessing you were already an expert when you chose your niche.

The best way to generate new articles using your Twitter list on the topic is to read the article titles and link blurbs without clicking the links. Articles are copyrighted automatically. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. You’re looking for ideas to capture. Where do you capture them?

You capture ideas in an ideas file. I have about 300 article ideas in my writing ideas file. An idea for a writing article goes in the file no matter where I got it. Some come to me while I’m writing. Some come to me after reading another writer’s article if I see that I would have written a different article on the topic. And some come from social media.

To avoid writing articles similar to ones you’ve read, it’s a good idea to gather at least a couple of dozen article ideas before you start using your ideas file. Put new ideas at the bottom and grab ideas to turn into articles from the top. This causes the article that inspired the idea to be a dim memory. It’s going to be your thoughts on the topic, not the other writer’s. That’s what you want.

For the article ideas from social media, you don’t need to have this cooling off period when all you see of the article is the tweet. Come up with your own title and outline your thoughts on the topic and you’ve got what you need to launch the first draft of an article.

If you spend a couple of hours on twitter, you’ll find yourself adding a huge number of article ideas to your file. This varies according to how many people you have in the list for your topic. You can always follow more people. Any social media site that lets you select who you follow can work this way. Pinterest also comes to mind. I’m sure there are others.

Finding Short Story Ideas

It’s a little trickier using social media to gather short story ideas. This time it depends more on focus. I’ll still use Twitter as my example.

You’ll want a list of people that tweet things that inspire short stories. Some kinds of news will make you wonder about the story that led to the crime, accident, social movement, protests, and other events. Tweeters who promote lots of different books can be good too since the blurb that goes with each book will mention the main theme without all the complications that make it fill a book. That main theme could be an interesting short story.

Again, you want the idea, not the same story as the promoted book. For news items, you can change the country, the details of the event, the scope, whatever it takes to make the story uniquely yours.

Your fiction ideas file is going to be a little different from a non-fiction one. You’ll want to outline a story idea before trying to write the story. It’s no good to put work into writing a story only to find that it’s so simple it’s not interesting. You’ll want to break the rule of working from the top idea. Work from the first idea that is outlined enough to become a short story.

Your story ideas won’t get outlined on their own. Read through your story ideas file and add to those that trigger your imagination. If an idea does nothing for you, move on to the next. This process will put you into the habit of looking for ideas and eventually one of the ideas will take off and you’ll write a good outline. Now you can move that outline into its own file and start the first draft.

The concept again. Use social media to gather basic article and story ideas that you store in a file. When the ideas have aged, read through your file and build on the ideas until you create your own articles and short stories.

Article by Ivan Izo.

How to Launch a Short Story Writing Binge

How to Launch a Short Story Writing Binge

How to Launch a Short Story Writing Binge

Photo by Educators License

Once upon a time, on a farm in the country, a boy we’ll call Max decided he would write a novel in a week. He was reading a lot of heroic fantasy and science fiction novels at the time. An action adventure set in an imaginary medieval world seemed like the perfect genre. Max bought pens and paper and started writing. His time-line went out the window. After several months, he had a story of about 30,000 words and no idea how to get published.

Max bought a Writer’s Digest magazine and read every article. What’s this? Publishers will only accept 100,000 word manuscripts from new writers. He couldn’t get his book published. Max didn’t have a mentor that could have advised him to write another book, so he re-wrote the first one. And he kept buying Writer’s Digest every month and reading it from cover to cover. He learned about proofreading, spelling, grammar, and revising. Especially revising. He revised his novel over and over.

All of his work was done on paper. He’d add edits and pages to his story until there was no room for more. Then he would re-type the entire adventure on a manual typewriter and begin revising that version. After about 30 revisions, it was still only 50,000 words. Eventually, he cut the story down to 8000 words and called it a short story.

Max learned a lot about revision but he didn’t learn how to write a novel. If he’d had an experienced writer friend, he would have learned that his story was a novella. He should have given it one or two revisions and made another attempt at a novel with a new story.

Thirty drafts is crazy. Max could have written 10 stories of three revisions each. That would have been more productive. At least he learned how to edit and revise.

What can we take from Max’s story?

Read More Read More

Writing Lessons from Prolific Authors

Writing Lessons from Prolific Authors

Writing Lessons from Prolific Authors

Photo by muffinn. License

There have been many great prolific authors over the years and a few that were not so great. Whether we like what they wrote or not, we’d still like to know their methods. Since starting the Writer on Fire blog, I’ve written about a several of them, usually only one or two a year. That makes the articles hard to find, so here’s a list of them all in one place in the order they appeared.

Martin Caiden wrote 50+ books, often writing his first and final draft in one non-stop writing binge. Legend has it that he wrote his big hit “Marooned” in five days of continuous writing without food or sleep. He was a scientist for NASA, so if you’re not interested in the technical details of airplanes or space travel his writing can be dull. Still, how did he write so fast? He didn’t say much about how he did it so I drew some conclusions in the article, Prolific Writing Using Caidin Methods.

Ryoki Inoue wrote over 1100 novels of about 100 pages each, sometimes as many as three in a day. Prolific Pulp Fiction the Ryoki Inoue Way reviews the tips he’s shared in articles and interviews and suggests ways you can take the ideas further.

I revisited Martin Caiden’s prolific writing with a new theory on his single draft method. Prolific Revision – An Alternate Caidin Method goes with the theory that Caidin was able to complete his books in only one draft because he re-typed them into second drafts every few pages. Yes, he used a typewriter, and yes, this is a terrible idea but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Barbara Cartland wrote 722 romance novels. Barbara Cartland’s Prolific Writing Method was to dictate her stories to a secretary while she lay on a sofa. While you won’t want to do that, you may find her use of writing formulas interesting.

John Creasey wrote 600+ books. John Creasey’s Prolific Writing Method has many insights into what it took for him to become so prolific that he needed 28 pseudonyms. It leaves unanswered the question of how he created narrators that publishers were not able to recognize as him.

Enid Blyton, children’s author, wrote about 600 books, sometimes as many as 40 per year. Enid Blyton’s Prolific Writing Method looks at the criticism of her work and how she did it. At this point in the prolific authors series, a pattern was beginning to emerge showing they almost all began early and continued to write every day.

Isaac Asimov wrote or edited 500+ books, both fiction and non-fiction. Isaac Asimov’s Prolific Writing Method is about a different kind of prolific author. Asimov was a Princeton physics professor before he turned to writing. Could learning to speak non-stop help you learn to write non-stop?

Kyokutei Bakin wrote 470+ books, including a 106 book novel. Kyokutei Bakin’s Prolific Writing Method is another writer with a different background. This time it was early training as a Samurai that created a strong internal discipline.

Lester Dent wrote hundreds of books and short stories. He is best known for the 159 Doc Savage books he wrote under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. Lester Dent’s Prolific Writing Method was called the Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot and I explore what you might do with that as your starting point.

Ursula Bloom wrote 500+ books, the first at age 7. Ursula Bloom’s Prolific Writing Method seemed to be writing about the life she wished she had instead of her real life. Her romantic novels put her protagonists into more interesting lives in better society. As long as she kept writing, she escaped from reality.

Nora Roberts has written 200+ romance novels so far. Nora Roberts’ Prolific Writing Method breaks away from the usual path of early attempts and many failures before success. She was a lifelong reader who started writing when she was snowed in by a blizzard and liked it so much she started out prolific.

As I write more articles about prolific authors, I’ll add them to this list and put a link back to here in the article. Future candidates for Prolific Author posts are Dean Koontz, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, Georges Simenon, Mickey Spillane, and Corin Tellado.

Article by Ivan Izo.

Put Some Catch 22 in Your Fiction

Put Some Catch 22 in Your Fiction

Put Some Catch 22 in Your Fiction

 Photo by Matthias Ripp. License

In the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, the Catch-22 was that if any of the bomber pilots wanted to fly missions they were crazy and needed to be sent home, but in order to be sent home they had to apply for discharge and that meant they didn’t want to fly bombing runs and were therefore sane. I had trouble finding a plot in the novel, but it was meant to be comic literary fiction. I often don’t find plots in literary fiction. The mini-stories within the book had plots, so the book was worth a read.

I’ve looked for Catch-22 situations since reading the book and found some.

Catch-22 in the Lives of Regular People

There are enough lose-lose situations in everyday life that a writer could almost create a “Catch-22s” file and keep building a list. Some examples then.

A character may need more education to get a better paying job, but a degree will bring so much debt that the better paying job is less profitable than the low paying job they already have.

A character needs a part-time job so they can afford a car but because they don’t have a car they lose three hours a day to the bus ride back and forth to their full-time job leaving no time for a part-time job.

The conflict between time and money is another kind of Catch-22. You can solve this for a character by having them learn frugality or turning to crime, depending on the type of story you’re writing. Any decision a real person might make is a possibility.

Read More Read More

Ray Bradbury on Writing

Ray Bradbury on Writing

Ray Bradbury on Writing

Photo by Magdalena Roeseler. License

Ray Bradbury wrote hundreds of short stories and close to 50 books. Most years, he wrote one or two books. So, this is not an article about how to become a prolific author. It’s a few of Bradbury’s tips on how to get good.

I’ve probably read about half of his novels and many of his short stories in collections. The tips come from short articles and video interviews with him. And, no, I didn’t interview him myself.

Write Using All You Are

Forget about writing what you know. That would be limiting. Don’t stop at your day to day experiences. Write from your imagination because imagination has no limits. Your work, your family, your environment, are the same as every other sheep in the flock. People read to be taken somewhere. Take them where your imagination takes you. Your uniqueness is internal, not external. Your experience, imagination, and interests will make your writing your own.

Fire the Unbelievers

Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writing ambitions? He suggests calling them up to “fire them” without delay.

You’ll get a lot more writing done with that negativity removed from your life. Keep the friends who believe in you.

Read More Read More

Time Thieves and the Writing Life

Time Thieves and the Writing Life

Time Thieves and the Writing Life

Photo by micki. License

We usually think of time thieves in terms of distractions. In other words, we blame ourselves. Time thieves are to blame too. Many are distractions that make an effort to get our attention. They come as both people and activities.

Time Thief People

People are essential. Without a social life we would become isolated and out of touch. Worse, we could become lonely and self-centered. We might even turn eccentric and not be able to relate well with others. That’s not what you want as a writer. On the other hand, you also need to cut off friends who are time thieves and make new friends.

Here are a few types of time thieves.

The Extended Visitor: An hour or two is never enough time for this friend. Every time you meet, they want to hang out together until bedtime.

The Phone Addict: Both calling and texting. They just have to fill you in on all the latest news they’ve picked up from all their other calls and texts.

The Idle Neighbor: They’re retired, unemployed, or working but have no hobbies. TV is boring, so they drop by hoping you’ll entertain them.

The Bore: There’s no such thing as a quick conversation. The shortest response by you prompts another speech.

Read More Read More

6 Lessons Learned While Writing Homicidal Tendencies

6 Lessons Learned While Writing Homicidal Tendencies

Homicidal Tendencies

Homicidal Tendencies was my first novel. Like most first novels, it took about two years to write. There were re-writes and delays that I know I’ll never repeat. Experience is a great teacher. What did I learn?

1. A Sketchy Outline is Going to Add Months of Work

When I began writing the first draft, I believed I had a decent outline. There were a few areas where I’d need to make up some plot points as I went along. No problem, right? It will fit into the plan. Wrong. With the plot not entirely defined, it was free to twist in unexpected directions. Those new twists changed what should follow until the remaining outline was useless. And that’s not all.

By putting my outline together in a short amount of time, I didn’t know the characters as real people until I wrote the story. Once they seem real, characters change the story too.

Lesson one is to make sure the outline is complete from end to end. No plot point should be left hanging unless you want to spend a huge amount of time re-writing. I now give the outline three drafts. By the time it’s ready to be used to write a novel, it has every event including the sub-plots. I did this for my novella, Toe-Cutter and wrote it in one month. That’s one third the length of the novel written in one twenty-seventh the time. Nine times as fast. Finish your outline.

2. Taking a Break from Writing is Starting Over

While writing the novel took two years and three months of writing time, this was spread over five years. I would write for up to eight months and then take several months off. Loss of motivation? A new job? Read an article that said most writers won’t make any money? All fine excuses.

When you take several months off from writing a novel, you forget everything. The writing that’s been done is still there, but it all needs to be re-read in order to get going again. Part of my writing time on this novel was review. One of the outcomes of reviewing is finding ways to improve the story. That’s the next thing I learned.

Read More Read More

23 Tips for Building Your Author Platform

23 Tips for Building Your Author Platform

23 Tips for Building Your Author Platform

 Photo by Daniel Oines. License

If nobody recognizes your author name, your books will need to sell themselves. A good cover and publisher’s blurb can work wonders but you may be leaving money on the table. A strong author platform lets readers know who you are and what they’ll be in for with your books. What do you need to establish your author platform?

Most of these tips are about building a writing website, usually a blog, and how to get more visitors to your site. Since a great website isn’t the only way you can sell more books, there are a few tips that don’t require one. For example, when you don’t have a website, you can put links to your books in your about pages on forums and social media sites.

Why Are You a Writer?

What’s your goal? Why do you write? Are you trying to change the world or just entertain? What’s your message? Do you believe the universe always balances itself out or that you don’t always get what you pay for? Do you believe bad people will always get what’s coming to them and the good will win in the end? Your potential audience wants to know if they’ll be able to relate to your books.

You need an author manifesto. It explains why you write and where you’re going with your work. This can be used on the About page for your blog and social networks. Use the same one everywhere or re-write them for each site. One possible variation is the next tip.

Read More Read More

Translate »