Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


I can go on and on about what I'm thankful for, but as a writer, one of the top things I'm thankful for is that I met you guys and am part of this writerly community. You guys mean to world to me, and it's because of you guys (and especially my awesome writers at AQC) that I've grown so much as a writer.

This is a short post, and it's on Thursday, because I just wanted to say thanks for everything, and that I won't be posting tomorrow because it's a holiday!!! Woo!!! I'm finally getting in the holiday spirit and it feels fun :)

Hope you guys have an awesome Thanksgiving (and if you don't celebrate it, have an awesome day!)!

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'd Rather Have Readers

I wrote a post last Friday about the Dickens Schism, where his most critically acclaimed book, best selling book, and the book he loved the most, were all different. Which drew the question, what criteria matters the most? Critical acclaim, popularity, or self-fulfillment?

I asked you all to discuss your opinions in the comments of that post, and I said I'd share my answer today. So here it is!

I was surprised to see that all (or most, depending if new comments have arrived by the time this post gets published) of the comments wanted popular acclaim. Because, that is my answer as well.

It's funny. I thought a lot of people would put self-fulfillment as their answers because they write for themselves, etc. etc. But I do think, for most people, the honest answer is that they write because of the readers. And that answer holds true for me as well.

Let's just do a little process of elimination.

Why not write for yourself?

Because, as Michael so smartly pointed out in the comments, "[if] you're just writing a book for you, don't bother publishing." It's on point if you think of it, and doesn't need much more talking about. It's almost unarguable: if your main purpose in writing is for yourself, don't publish. I'd like to hear an argument about how that statement wouldn't hold true because I can't think of any!

Why not write for critics?

This is a tougher one because you can indeed wish to publish for critical acclaim. And authors have done that: think James Joyce and his Ulysses. I'd be stretching to say that that book is incredibly popular amongst those not pursing English degrees or publication ;) Some writers do indeed write for critical acclaim, to explore and invent new ways to use language and words. And it is to them that writers owe much of their knowledge in prose and literary techniques.

But in the end, most writers, in fact the vast majority of writers, write for the readers. If they want critical acclaim, it might be easier to publish in a literary magazine instead of trying to get a Big 5 publisher which might not want to risk publishing a book of a new style. Yet most writers strive for Big 5 publishers, or self-publishing, any way to reach masses of readers.

I, personally, have a story to tell. Something to say. Because, as Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And I think that quote is so, so true.

It is due to this agony that writers go through years and years of rejection, of typing, of revising, of little hope. I think we many times underestimate just how insane writing truly is: years of voluntary pain for a goal that may never come.

But at the end of the darkness, it's not really self-fulfillment that's driving us forward. If it was, we wouldn't be striving for publication. For most of us, it isn't critical acclaim (or at least, solely critical acclaim - because who wouldn't like being called the new Hemingway?) that drives us on. It's too much of a niche to hold on to. It's the masses, the large populations, the millions of readers, that push us along. It's the idea of having a voice in this world, of having an impact, of being heard. It's the idea of having your ideas be spread to other minds instead of bottled up in your own.

So, for me, it is mostly about the readers. Because, yes, I wouldn't dare publish or write a book that I hate, nor do I want to be laughed at for my prose. But I do want big sales: not because of the money, and I mean that. It's because that means many, many people have heard what I have to say. They've read my story. And hopefully, it had an impact.

How about you guys? What would you want?

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Dickens Schism: Sales, Critical Acclaim, or Personal Fulfillment?

I thought I blogged about this before, but I was searching for the post and I can't find it. So I guess my memory is just faulty or the post is hiding! ANYWAY.

The very famous Charles Dickens and his works fall victim to one of the most interesting, thought-provoking phenomenons of literature.

His novel, Bleak House, is commonly called his ultimate masterpiece.
His novel, A Tale of Two Cities, is his bestselling novel and also the best selling single work of fiction of all time (at least according to Wikipedia).
His novel, David Copperfield, is the novel he loved the most, the one of which he mentioned when he said, " many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield."

Now, this schism of critical acclaim, popular acclaim, and personal fulfillment is, as far as I know, unique only to the works of Dickens.

The reason why this is so interesting: it's up to us to decide which of the three is the most important.

This will be a Discussion For You (I haven't had one in a long time). On Monday, I'll post my own opinion as to which, to me, is the most important of the three (I do have an answer, and it's not a cop-out answer).

First question: How should a book be measured? By the critics' love, the public's interest, or the author's love?
Second question: Which of the three (critic's love, public's interest, or author's love) is the most important?

Discuss in the comments! 

P.S. Barnes and Noble is having an awesome pre-Black Friday "Discovery Friday" sale TODAY. I am so so so so excited. It's the only store I've been watching for Black Friday deals. I'm going to get lost in B&N today. It'll be bliss. I'm beyond excited. Squeeeeeeee!!!!!!

Anyway, keep discussing in the comments! I want to know what you think :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Internet 'Distractions' Actually HELP Raise Your Word Count?

There's this very common joke that goes around the writerly social media world. The joke basically goes like this: "I WANT TO WRITE WORDS BUT INTERNET." Internet is the scapegoat, the reason so many of us profess that we have low word counts or lack the motivation to write. It's our procrastination tool. Our humorous excuse.

Even more so, some of us actually start disliking the Internet and its charms because we really, really want to write. But the Internet is such a big distraction and an addiction.

"Good gosh, if only there was no Internet, I'd be writing so much," is a thought that probably crosses most modern writers' minds.

But what if I were to tell you that the Internet actually HELPS you write more words?

I do not own this picture (or lack-thereof).
Yes yes yes!! I'm being serious!

I thought of this when, a few days ago, I tweeted that I wrote 940ish words. I was very happy, and I was done for the day. Then, my friend, Brighton Luke, replied and said "go for a thousand #IBelieve." So, I groaned, and pulled up my word document, and got a new goal for a thousand words.

In total, I wrote 1,423 words that day.

I'm not going to tell you to use the Internet 'usefully' because in all honesty, if you're reading this blog post (and didn't come here by some accidental crazy link) you're using your Internet time to look at writerly stuff already. I'm not going to tell you to use your Internet time to go on 'actually helpful' sites like 'Write or Die' (an AWESOME writerly help, by the way) and never to Tweet or email or read blog posts or post on forums.

Because all of that 'distraction' funnels down to you writing better, you writing smarter, and, due to writing-related things being constantly in your environment, wanting to write more.

We commonly say Twitter is a writing distraction, or that writerly websites (like Agent Query Connect) are time saps for writing. But I'd bet that a writer who is a participant in all these things will write more in a year than a man sitting at home with no Internet connection at all.

It's pleasant to think we all write due to our own self-motivation but I know my life changed forever since the day I became a part of this community. I don't know if I'd have lasted so long in trying to reach my writerly dream if I had no Internet. I might have given up. In fact, I probably would have. And it's a sad and scary thing to think about, just how important certain decisions are.

The Internet means connecting. It means being with material you love to think about, and being with others going through what you are. It means finding support through a Google search. It means getting help from someone over Twitter, someone who'll push you to write just a little bit more. It means you'll keep writing when you think to give up.

So what if the Internet distracts you for a few hours, hours you could have been writing? Swallow your frustration and thank the Internet for what it has given you: support. Support in many forms. Writers without Internet have only themselves and those around them for support (and usually, those around them aren't that writerly-intelligent). And their motivation fizzles away with no stimulation, challenge, or friendly competition.

Because without the Internet, sure, maybe I'd write 2,000 words a day. And maybe it'd last a month. But I, at least, would probably fizzle out in the end with no external support. And in a year I'd have written maybe 60,000 words max. And I'd probably never write again.

And with the Internet? Maybe, only 300 words a day. But in a year, that's 109,500 words, and you'd keep going for many years to come, the Internet guiding you along. And that's nothing to be frustrated about. In fact, we should be downright grateful.

Are you grateful for the Internet?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Psychological Reason for Why Querying Writers Go Chaotic

It's frequently said that writers, in their querying phase, are quite chaotic. Their nerves are frazzled, they are quick to react, they sleep very little, etc. But hoorah! Psychology has an explanation for this! And while I still can't find a solution to this, at least we know why it occurs!

There's a thing in psychology called operant conditioning. It boils down to the fact that the consequences of your behavior determine whether you continue that behavior or not. So, an example: if a dog gets a treat every time it stands on its hind legs, it'll stand on its hind legs more and more so it gets food (the consequence of his action). This is called positive reinforcement, meaning the dog's behavior (standing on its hind legs) is reinforced or encouraged.

Now, the interesting part:

Operant conditioning can be funneled down to four more categories, but of those four, we'll only concentrate on the two important ones that apply to us writers. They all depend on when the consequence of the action occurs. We'll say that the consequence is a good result (getting food, etc.).

1. Fixed Ratio - Every single (or every second, third, fourth, etc.) time the creature does the action, the reward is given. This leads to incredibly crazed behavior from the creature. Meaning, a pigeon will peck at a spot hundreds of times just to get the food. However, the minute this constant reward stops, the pigeon will almost immediately spot pecking. So if you take away the food, the pigeon stops pecking.

2. Variable Ratio - Ah. The one that causes minds to warp and nerves to twist. The one that makes writers' brains go haywire. I'm laughing just at writing this because of how hilariously diabolical this psychological phenomenon is! This means that reward is given randomly. So, a pigeon can get food on its 1st peck, then its 2nd peck, then its 189th peck, then its 210th peck, then its 1,800th peck. No rhyme or reason as to when the reward will comes (think of slot machines in Vegas - the gambler has no idea on which turn they will get money).

Rewards given on a variable ratio are so, so interesting and applicable to us writers because of one fact: while creatures take up the behavior slower if rewards come randomly, they forget the behavior so, so much slower. Meaning, a pigeon will actually peck at a spot 150,000 times before getting its reward!!!!! They have no idea when the reward will come. It'll come next time. It'll come next time. It'll come next time. They go mad with anticipation. There's no schedule to the reward which makes the pigeon's mind calmer.

A pigeon as the subject of a psych experiment.
(I do not own this picture at all.)
This is what happens to us writers in the querying phase.

"Let me check my email. Let me refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. EMAIL FROM AGENT AHHH!!!! Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh  Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. No, no, no sleep, I have to check my email, who knows when an email has come. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. *Wake up in the middle of the night* Let me check my email. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. *A minute's worth of free time between parking in the garage and walking into the home* Let me check my email. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. *Two days later* EMAIL FROM AGENT AHH!!!"

Do you see what I'm talking about??!?!?!

I find it really, really, really funny. It's diabolical and evil! I'm literally laughing right now because of the sheer evilness of it all :) WE ARE ALL PIGEONS.

Psychologically proven: your 'refresh my email' behavior will take a very, very, very long to time go away specifically because you'll never know when an email from an agent will come in. If agents only sent requests at 5 PM EST, I have no doubt that querying writers will have calmer lives, and more peaceful minds.

But, let's be honest. We didn't become writers to have peaceful minds XD

So now you know the reason behind the craziness of writers in the querying phase! The solution.... I don't know. But at least you know the reason behind it!!!

Hehe, I had fun writing this post :)

Did you guys enjoy this post? What do you think about the psychological state of writeres?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day! An Inspiring Story

This, and Earth Day, are the two holidays that I'm most supportive of.

Thank you, veterans, for fighting for your country. Words cannot describe how much respect we all have for you. Thank you for risking (and many, giving) your lives for the safety of your people (I don't just mean the US, I mean everywhere).

They deserve all the happiness and safety America can provide for them. This is a holiday well-deserved.

So while there might be awesome sales going on, think about the reason we celebrate this holiday. Thank the veterans living in your neighborhood, and just think about what they've been through for a few minutes.

And, something to inspire you guys, check out this article about a UK veteran who passed away with nobody to attend his funeral, the power of social media, and the goodness of the British public. It's the best article I've read in a long while :)

Happy Veterans Day everyone!

Friday, November 8, 2013

What Barnes and Noble Needs to Do to Stay Alive

There are very few people in the publishing industry that do not fear for Barnes and Noble's life.

I do not own this picture.

The bookseller has been reporting losses for almost every quarter for a while. Its stock prices have been falling, its sales have been dropping, and they're even closing many stores.

And there are very few people who believe that the cause of this destruction is anything but Amazon.

First, let's investigate the top three reasons why Amazon is beating B&N right now.

1. Price
2. Price
3. PRICE!!!!

Sure, sure, you can throw in things like a wider selection of books to pick from, ease of accessibility to the Internet (which makes it much easier to order online than to drive to a B&N), and the relative confidence that the book you purchase will be good (due to Amazon reviews and other info you can get online).

But the reason why people go into B&N, find a book, then put it down and buy it off Amazon, the reason why Amazon's book industry is doing so well, is because of its price.

It's simple economics. Amazon has three main advantages over B&N about its price:

1. Price Flexibility. 

Unless I am severely mistaken, Amazon price-matches most (if not all) of the books on its website, meaning that they match the lowest price offered for the book out there. However, books in B&N are of a fixed value. This means, even in a changing environment, B&N can not shift to meet the changing demand as quickly as Amazon can.

2. Production Costs per Unit of Production. 

 B&N has to pay for rent (and if you've seen their huge stores, you'll know this is a big cost). They have to pay wages to their workers, they have to pay insurance for their workers and for the stores. All this boils down to a higher price per book.

But Amazon... what are their costs compared to B&N's? Maybe they have some workers, but rent? Maybe for warehouses, but those warehouses are not only for books. Book-to-square-foot, B&N has a LOT more rent to pay. And thus, Amazon's costs boil down to a cheaper book.

3. E-Books. 

True, B&N has the Nook, but it's not as popular as Amazon's Kindle. As e-books are so much cheaper than hardcover or paperback, and since most self-published authors are going towards e-books to save costs, Amazon is receiving a TON of books. Since the supply of books is increasing with a relatively stable demand, the prices for the books fall (as economics dictates). This price fall is mainly present in the self-publishing part of Amazon, but it sometimes trickles into traditionally published books as well. Also, B&N carries very few self-published books.

So let's get one thing straight: Due to the brick-and-mortar aspect of B&N, B&N should give up all hopes of EVER competing with Amazon's prices. At most, they'll get close to the prices, but they won't beat it, nor will they be too competitive with them. It's economics.

So what can B&N do to stay alive? Should they give up all hope?


In fact, they are sitting on one of the biggest niches in the market: the desire for a physical bookstore, and everything that it entails.

Do you remember the craziness at the bookstores when a new Harry Potter book was about to be released? There were midnight releases, parties at the bookstores, and they sold a LOT: about 11 million, worldwide, in just 24 hours.

And most of this happened at bookstores.

People haven't lost the love for a bookstore, as proven by the Harry Potter phenomenon and the recent one when Allegiant came out. People want a place to gather and share their love for a book or series with others like them. Clicking 'Place Order' on a computer doesn't do that for them. I doubt the Internet will ever replace the feeling of a group of people actually being in contact.

But B&N, in their futile quest to be as Amazon-like as possible, isn't utilizing this niche as much as it can.

B&N has to find a way to justify the higher costs for their books. If they aren't offering anything new or exciting that Amazon doesn't, why would a consumer go to B&N?

Here are a few ways Barnes and Noble can stay alive:

1. Book of the Month Reading groups.

At the start of every month, B&N will pick a book to read (this book can be picked by individual stores, or it can be done corporate-wide (I think the latter would work better so there would be a more communal feel to the whole B&N community)). At the end of the month, the readers will gather in the bookstore and discuss. B&N can decide whether to force the reader to buy the book at B&N to participate, or not. Basically, I'm saying B&N should have a book club at the actual location and not online. I can't imagine running this would be too costly.


There are so, so many authors in every city in the country!!! I'm shaking my head at how wonderfully this tactic would work: if B&N actively seeks out authors in the area to come and sign stock, sit for a while, and even do a talk (although that might get too hectic), they would make a LOT of money with very little effort. Everything other than the talk, the author would handle themselves. Also, it's simply natural for an author, when invited to sign stock and sit at a table to talk to readers, to invite people to come to the bookstore. THEY WANT PEOPLE! They'll call their friends, their families, saying, "Hey, I'm signing my book at B&N, come over!" The publicity and marketing will be done by the author themselves; B&N will simply have to sit back and watch.

Quite honestly, only the big B&Ns are getting many author visits. The one near me has gotten none as far as I've seen (and that's a problem). It doesn't have to be big, Rowling-fame writers. Almost all books published are by the 99% 'not famous' authors; doesn't make them any less of a writer.

3. More interaction from the workers. 

Get them to wear signs saying, "Hey, want to hear about a book I've recently read?" It's a psychological trick, but an honest tactic as well. By getting the workers to recommend books to the customers, the customers leave with a better book. Also, the customers have a much less chance of leaving and buying the book off of Amazon. They'll feel indebted to the worker, and they'll feel bad about 'wasting' the worker's time. So they'll buy the book, feeling content all the same.

The key is to have charismatic, passionate, and non-pushy workers (meaning, they'll ask what the customer's looking for, will know what to recommend, and will know how to pivot if the customer doesn't seem to like the recommended book. This doesn't mean more expensive workers; in fact, the best workers will be the ones willing to work for normal wages, since they'll want to work with books, their passion and love).

There are many, many more tactics that can be put into play, such as having the workers wear name tags listing their favorite books, or setting up much more vibrant and fun displays, or even having a 'Published by Authors in Your Area!" case which contains books by self-published and traditionally published authors near the store.

And it all boils down to this: utilize your advantage as much as you can, and also, utilize your combatant's weakness as much as you can. Meaning: B&N: YOUR PHYSICAL LOCATION IS A GIFT.

I just want to add, this isn't an attack on Amazon. Amazon has done AMAZING things for the publishing world and for us writers, so I want to thank you :) This is simply an attempt to revive B&N. The enemy of my friend does not have to be my enemy. The world isn't that black-and-white.

Well, I hope someone from Barnes and Noble reads this and at least gives it a thought! Otherwise, I've done what I can do. After that, it's up to them. But I hope they do at least give this a try.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let's Eradicate 'Guilty' Pleasures


I think we now call some pleasures 'guilty pleasures' because adding the 'guilty' in front of it, in some way, excuses the pleasure or almost asks forgiveness for it -- when none is necessary in the first place.

"I watch dramas, but it's a guilty pleasure of mine."

"I watch Spongebob, but it's a guilty pleasure of mine."

Heck, even, "I read 50 Shades, but it was just a guilty pleasure of mine!"

Something that upsets me is when people ask forgiveness for what gives them pleasure, doesn't harm anyone else (and doesn't really even harm themselves!), and they ask forgiveness from others who honestly don't have much of a say over what you do.

Here's the thing.

What constitutes a 'guilty' pleasure? Is it something that most of society has shunned (usually because of prejudices or preconceived stereotypes), but something you find pleasure in? Let's be honest: most of us who have bashed 50 Shades have never even read the books (I being included in that group). And even if we have read them, and even if we didn't like them, what allows us to make others feel uncomfortable about enjoying the books? Live and let live, no? (Even though it's really hard for books that I feel strongly against.)

It's just that I'm seeing so much of, "I like this author, he/she is my guilty pleasure." Who's making you feel guilty? It's not because you feel guilty about enjoying it; other people are making you feel guilty! And you haven't done anything wrong.

Take pride in your passions. Don't fear loving certain books or authors or anything. Why hide? And all of us (including me, because I really do need this lesson) who have quickly judged based on other people's likes: let's stop. Because not every single book has to be full of beautiful prose or three-dimensional characters.

If you enjoy it, then it is a good book: the author did something right to make you enjoy it. What did the author do? Investigate it, and it won't be a 'guilty' pleasure: you'll learn from the books. It'll be a nutritious novel, so to speak, and you'll feel better about reading it.

So let's break this crutch and answer this one question: What is your greatest "guilty" pleasure?

I'll start.

Don't hurt me or make fun of me, please, knowing that I'm a big Harry Potter fan, and also a male. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but here it is:

I actually enjoyed the Twilight book series.


They're just so readable! Not my favorite books by far, but still. I split my books in two categories: Am I happy I read this, or should I never have wasted my time? Twilight is in the former category. Some may not agree with me, but, yea... oh well. There are very few books in my 'I never should have wasted my time' category. In fact, I think there are no books in there; out of all the books I've read, there are only two that I strongly, strongly, strongly dislike. Urrggh. But I don't know if they were a waste of my time, so to speak.


Let's not be ashamed of 'guilty pleasures' anymore!

What is your greatest guilty pleasure? 

P.S. For those of us in Daylight Savings Time Zones, hope the time change went well!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tools You Need to Tackle National November Writing Month!

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit! 

Ah, November! Soon to fall back an hour for Daylight Savings here in the USA (GET AN EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP, YES YES YES!).

First off, the businessy stuff:

For Nightmare on Query Street, we had awesome agent Roseanne Wells come for more requests after the contest had 'officially' been over. She made nine requests in total!!!!! That brings our total requests from 75 to 84 (!!!!!!) requests!!! The stats have changed, so click this link to see the updated stats :) (Michelle's Minions still won though, grr.)

To all those that requested critiques on their entries: I plan to get them all done over the weekend! They're taking longer than I thought. I thought I'd do a quick 2 min critique for each, but they're turning out to be 10 minutes or more on each one and a long paragraph in length. Since there are 20ish to do, that's a lot of time, so I hope (hope) to finish them by Monday :) Wish me luck!!

It's National November Writing Month!!!

This is what I needed to boost my writing! I have no excuse now; I think I've gone 2 months without writing a month and I really need to start again. A busy life is no longer an excuse.

I've said before that I don't even try to write a full novel during November. I find that slightly absurd and crazy (because I'm not a fan of the lengthy, mind-numbing editing afterwards). But if you enjoy that, go for it!! There are still some writers out there who don't do NaNoWriMo because they can't imagine writing a full novel (and only 50k words, which is short for most YA and Adult genres). I'm going to try and convince them to do NaNo regardless.

I don't take NaNoWriMo as write a full novel in a month. Not in the slightest.

I use NaNo as a way to get 50k words in. Just 50k words. Period. At the end of the month, I don't even try to get a resolution or close off the story if it doesn't happen naturally. In fact, last year (I won NaNo!) I didn't even write a new manuscript! I simply wrote 50k more in my work in progress.

I take November as a normal writing month, except sped up. Let's keep it simple, people :) Let's just get 50k words.

Here are the tools you need to tackle NaNoWriMo (based on my own experience (and my corresponding blog posts) with it last year).

NaNoWriMo -- DON'T Write a Book in a Month.

Writing Crap

5 Ways to Catch Up With Your NaNo Word Count

The Secret to Winning NaNoWriMo

I hope those links help! They are nowhere near professional advice, but I hope you still have something to take from them.

This month, I'm not going for 50k words because it was such a challenge last year, and my work in progress has at most 10k-20k left until the first draft is finished. My goal for the month is just to finish the book, and maybe, if I'm lucky, start editing it :) (Add me if you're doing NaNo! I'm SC_Author.)

GOOD LUCK GUYS!!!! This month is fantastic for writers :) (