IWSG: Following Heinlein’s Rules

Writers and would-be writers, since we work alone, crave rules that will promise success. Lots of people make up rules for writers— English teachers who have never published anything, or even written anything, wannabe writers who like to boss other wannabes around, people trying to sell writing classes or writer services or recruit writers to be victimized by a vanity press….

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

The best rules for writers come from known writers who have actually written stuff, and made a living from writing. Robert Heinlein was such a writer— his science fiction is still read today— and he invented 5 simple rules for writers.

I have a book by Dean Wesley Smith about Heinlein’s rules. Smith is also a professional writer. He got that way by following Heinlein’s rules, he says. Smith has written over 100 novels and an unknown number of short stories, in his early career he was entirely traditionally published and has now gone indie, and I have actually heard of him and have some books he wrote on my shelf.

Heinlein’s rules worked, therefore, for Dean Wesley Smith, at least. Will they work for you? Probably better than writing advice from people who have never made a living at writing, who perhaps have never finished a novel or even a short story.

Here are the rules— Heinlein called them business habits:

1. You must write.

2. You must finish what you start.

3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.

4. You must put it on the market.

5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

Things are a little different today, as Dean Wesley Smith points out in his book. Putting a written work on the market can now mean indie publishing it. Keeping it on the market until sold can mean keeping an indie published work up, even if it doesn’t sell very well, instead of pulling all your work down because it’s ‘not good enough.’

As the ultimate Insecure Writer, I’m shy about submitting my work for publication, perhaps because of my Asperger Syndrome. Perhaps it’s just I am afraid of being judged by people who just don’t get me. But in keeping with Heinlein’s rules, I put up some of my work on Wattpad, and plan to do more there— a non-fiction work, and a new book of my poetry, both of which may become, in a longer version, at least Smashword ebooks and perhaps proper books (if I can figure out how to format for Lulu and how to afford a decent book cover.)

My Wattpad profile: https://www.wattpad.com/user/NissaAnnakindt

Feel free to share your own Wattpad profile in a comment.

#IWSG — Too Late, Too Late

Becoming a successful-enough writer is a process that usually takes many years, and as the years go by many of us take a moment to wonder— is it too late for me? Am I too old to become a ‘real writer,’ or have I been trying for too many years? Wouldn’t it be better to give up on my writing dreams right now?

This is a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s monthly blog hop. Learn more at: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

The answer to that is that the one thing that guarantees your failure at writing is giving up on it. If you quit writing, your writing can’t get better or take off or anything. In fact, if you give up on writing the moment becoming a writer crosses your mind, you will have saved yourself a lot of time and effort. But then you will never know what would have resulted if you had started trying.

The amount of time you get in this life to do anything is limited. The day you leave the first grade and start the second grade in school, it is forever too late to distinguish yourself as a first grader. That part of your life is over, and whatever things you have not yet achieved as a first grader can’t be done as a first grader. You have to do them at second grade (or even later.)

Writing dreams can begin for us in grade school. When we first read Little Women, being a writer like Jo seems to have much more of a future to it than being a good piano player like doomed Beth. We think about writing, we make our juvenile first writing attempts, perhaps at the orders of a school teacher, and it seems like we have an infinite future in which to make our dreams come true.

But then we get old enough to become a ‘real writer,’ and other people of our age are self-publishing and selling, getting agents, selling books to traditional publishers or getting conned by a vanity press, and we may feel left behind. What’s wrong with my brilliant writing career? Why hasn’t it happened for me yet?

Of course, no one’s writing career is perfect, and I bet there are days in which successful writers like George R. R. Martin, James Patterson, Stephen King, Declan Finn, Karina Fabian, and Mercedes Lackey feel like their writing career is ‘not good enough’ and that they are failures. (Boy, would I love to be a failure like that!)

There are some writers who begin writing at a later age and yet succeed. Others have written and ‘failed’ for years and then their writing ‘takes off—‘ they get published or self-published and their books sell well.

What we need to do is have an idea of what success looks like for us. Is it finishing a novel? Or finishing one that doesn’t suck (much?) Or making a best-seller list? We can’t all be Stephen King and have multiple movies made of our books and short stories. But the vast majority of us can manage to write stories that someone or other out there will enjoy reading. We just have to keep trying, keep improving our skills, and keep writing. Because there is no prize for giving up writing early because you ‘know’ you are doomed to failure. Maybe you will write until age 101 and only then write a single short story that gets published. Maybe only a few people will read it. But you will have kept on trying, and your success at age 101 will inspire many. Though, admittedly, you likely will have passed on before you discover how inspirational your persistence has been.

 

Do you ever worry it is ‘too late’ for your writing? My advice is, stop worrying and write something! It’s only too late when you are dead. If you are still alive, keep on writing.

IWSG: Novels You Have To Read

Being a writer— or an aspiring writer— is different. If you are a child or a plumber or a factory worker, the books you read are books you want to read. But for writers, there are books we have to read to make us better writers. There are good how-to-write books, sure. But one kind of must-read book for writers is examples of the kind of writing we do, or want to do.

For myself, right now I’m reading George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. No, I never watched the television series, and no, watching the TV series does not substitute for reading the book. I read it because it’s a wildly popular book in a genre (fantasy) which I like/write in.

THREE KINDS OF MUST-READ NOVELS

If you are a writer, I hope you are doing a lot of reading of all sorts of books. But there are three types which are kinds of books that you, personally, must-read.

  • CURRENT BOOKS IN YOUR GENRE(S) – You have to know what books are selling right at this moment, in any genre you write in or might soon write in. If you know what science fiction was like in 1950, but haven’t read anything recent, you are not ready to write any kind of science fiction— not even 1950s nostalgia science fiction.
  • CLASSIC AND OLDER BOOKS IN YOUR GENRE(S) – Who were the earlier writers who shaped your genre(s)? You need to read them. You also need to read older but non-classic genre books— many of your readers will have read such books. You need to know what your target readers will find ‘old hat’ or ‘done to death.’
  • OUT-OF-GENRE FICTION – Successful fiction writers are widely read. That writer of best-selling romance novels? She probably reads spy novels or mysteries or literary fiction on the side. You need to read new books and old books, popular and obscure books. Even some of the Great Books, but don’t despair. You don’t actually have to read Ernest Hemingway. Pick books that appeal to you in some way.

Now, if there is a book that is popular but you can’t force yourself to read past the first chapter, perhaps that’s not the book for you. You might read three useful-to-you novels in the time it would take to make yourself finish something you can’t stand. Also, if you have strong moral objections to the content of a popular book, go with your conscience. But you need to read something. Ideally, a lot of somethings.

IWSG visitors:

Please mention the URL of your blog in a comment and I will add your blog to the list of blogs I follow on Bloglovin’. I am looking to increase the number of blogs I interact with, and I’m willing to ‘reward’ comments on this blog by adding your blog to my list. 

#FixThatBlog – Blogging and your WIP

This is a post in the #FixThatBlog series about fixing neglected author blogs, and also the July post in the Insecure Writers’ Support Group blog hop. See, multitasking!

A writer must write. Write on his works-in-progress, and finish first draft and other drafts. But he must also write blog posts so he can build a platform, right? But how do you find the time to do both?

You make the time. Platform-building, in the form of writing your blog posts, and writing your writing-works are both being-a-writer tasks. As are finding agents and traditional publishers, or finding book cover artists and editors-for-hire, depending on whether you are seeking indie writer or traditionally-published writer status.

But it’s tricky. I have a lot of days when I either write blog posts or do work on my WIP. I’ve been trying to schedule a second writing session in my evenings when I usually watch boring crap on television. But due to my health problems and to cheats on my ketogenic ‘lifestyle’ I am too exhausted in the evenings lately to actually do it. I must think of some other solution.

We writers are multi-taskers. We write on our WIPs, but we also go to our day jobs or get our laundry done or cook our meals. And make our bulletproof coffees. There have been cases of writers who took a year’s sabbatical to finally have time for their writing work— and they get even less done than when they were busy with a day job.

I’m not a perfect person on being organized or on Getting-Things-Done. I have Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), which can make a person seem like they have attention deficit disorder as far as being organized and getting things done is concerned. And I’m not a spring chicken any more, and so have a set of health problems that cause a lot of fatigue, especially when I don’t watch my diet. So I have to adapt whatever advice I get from books to what works for me.

Days of the week are one ‘organizational’ tool I have. My garbage pickup is on Wednesday, so an important task on Tuesday is getting the garbage gathered and the garbage cart taken to the curb. Since this blog, since my recent small stroke in February, is also replacing a ketogenic diet blog I don’t have time for, I use Thursday as ‘keto day’ on this blog and make keto posts then. The first Wednesday in the month is Insecure Writers Support Group day. Saturday I can write about my cats or critters, and Sunday I can write things related to Christianity.  This gives me a bit of a planning scheme that I can remember.

To learn more about writing and time management, read How to Manage the Time of Your Life by James Scott Bell. (JSB writes a lot of how-to-write books that are very useful, and also writes mystery novels in the Evangelical Christian fiction market.)

To learn more about Getting-Things-Done, pick up  Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book has been found so useful by so many people that it made the book into an actual bestseller— as in ‘New York Times bestseller.’

IWSG folks on Blogger: if you have that ‘prove you are not a robot’ thing enabled, I cannot comment on your blog post. Sorry. It just doesn’t work on my computer and I’m sick of writing comments that don’t get posted so I have stopped trying.

Have you had any conflicts between getting your WIP done and writing your author-blog posts? Or getting your other tasks done? What do you do about the conflict? Have you found a solution that works for you?

#IWSG – How to Find the Right Genre

Genre? What is a genre? Does ‘creepypasta’ count as a genre? It’s confusing, and that makes for writer insecurity.

This is a post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Find Out More: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Let’s make things easy. A genre is a division in a real-world bookstore. They keep the mysteries in one place, romance in another, and the science fiction and fantasy genres lumped together in another place.

Genres like that are major genres. There are a lot of subgenres under each genre, but the important thing is the major genre. Some subgenres disappear— like the Gothic romance that had its own shelf in the bookstore in its heyday— but writers continue on in another subdivision of the major genre. Some Gothic romance writers just called their work ‘romantic suspense’ and kept on writing Gothics!

What genre is right for me? Because of having Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) I can generate infinite self-doubt about my genre choices. I can tell myself ‘you aren’t really good enough/original enough to write in that genre’ until the sheep come home. (I don’t own cows so can’t do anything until the cows come home.)

The first genre I really loved was science fiction, and that wasn’t because of books, but because of the original Star Trek series. As I grew old enough to obtain books on my own, I read Orson Scott Card and Mercedes Lackey and other authors, some of whom I no longer mention, as in the case of the Darkover authoress who ruined her own fiction by being a swine in real life.

What I really like is a subgenre which is sometimes called ‘planetary romance,’ which is a fantasy-like story which takes place on another planet and where the ‘magic’ tends to be based on science not yet understood in our own time. My current WIP is in this subgenre.

I also get writing ideas that are not ‘planetary romance’ but that fit into the science fiction and/or fantasy genre(s) in some way. Even my ideas for Westerns tend to have alien cowpokes in them. I think that is the key to determining a writing genre— not which you like to read the most, but which genre you constantly have ideas for.

Do you have a Facebook author page? Read: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/doing-facebook-author-pages-in-2019/ and add the link to your author page in a comment, and your author page will be added to my list! The list is here: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/fb-author-pages/

How New Author Bloggers can get Readers, Part 1

Imagine you just started your author-blog yesterday. You wrote a blog post that is really fine-and-dandy. But it will probably be a while before you start getting discovered by readers. What can you do, right now, to get your posts read?

One thing that has worked for me is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group or IWSG. It is a monthly blog hop for writers which has really blossomed in to something big. It takes place the first Wednesday of every month. Here is where you sign up. http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

It’s a very LONG list of participants. And they weed out the people who forget to participate regularly. Now, just this list of subscribers is gold, because it is a list of active author bloggers.

Best Practices for IWSG Participants

     Your Post

The group is about sharing your insecurities as a writer. DON’T write a post that sounds like a blurb from your book. Write something that shares a little of yourself, and how you are not quite 100% confident about your writing. But— here’s an important hint— don’t sound TOO insecure. You want other people to have some confidence in your writing. So don’t write an ‘everything I write is utter dreck’ post because that encourages people to believe it! Write something about one little thing that is giving you trouble. Or that you worry about. As in my own case: I’m working on a zombie apocalypse story, and I finally have a good name for my Hero: Eirik, a Viking form of Erik. But in this case his birth name was Frederick. It’s great, and Frederick has resonance with me because I had a grandfather Frederick. And my other grandfather had the middle name of Friedrich, German for Frederick. But then I realized— the name Eric is close to Rick, the hero of the zombie TV show The Walking Dead. What is my subconscious mind trying to do to me?

Visiting blogs

The number one thing that the IWSG does for you is gets you to visit other people’s blogs. And the one thing you have to do is to write comments on blogs. Any blogs. All blogs. Except porn/erotic-romance writer’s blogs, of course. (Their writing world is not our world.)

Comments can and should be short, but they should show that you have actually read the blog post in question. ‘Nice post’ does not cut it. ‘Nice post about your cat’s flea infestation’ does.

There are four kinds of blogs on the IWSG that it pays to comment on:

  • The ones at the very bottom, who have just signed up and who may not be used to getting comments on their blog
  • The ones at the very top, who are regular participants and who get lots of comments on their IWSG posts (make yours memorable.)
  • The ones in the middle, who don’t get the attention that the bottom and top do
  • Your regulars. These are the people who, after a few months of participation, you think are good matches for you and your blog. Perhaps they are writing in your genre, or they share your worldview, or maybe they are just funny or have great content or share cute pictures of their cat. Make a list of these blogs you like and be sure to visit them each time.

Being visited

Remember to visit back on the blogs of your commenters. I’m really insecure about doing that because visiting back feels too much like social interaction and as a person with Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder) that’s difficult and scary.

Mark the Date

It’s easy to forget about the date of the IWSG, which is the first Wednesday of the month, so mark it on your calendar and put a note on the wall of your writing room. It’s a very worthwhile effort for those with new or rarely visited blogs.

 

IWSG/Worldbuilding Wednesday: Original Enough?

Insecure Writers’ Support Group: Original Enough?

Have you ever felt that your worldbuilding wasn’t really original enough? I’ve read some works like that: a sci-fi where people had phasers and answered to ‘The Federation’ and had transporter beams that were called transporter beams…. It was really just a Star Trek fanfic without the beloved Star Trek characters.
But what if you try to be totally original on every possible aspect of worldbuilding? To the point where your characters are wearing their shoes on their heads, as hats? That goes past the point of ‘too original’ all the way to ‘peculiar stuff no one will read.’
What a reader, particularly a genre reader, is looking for is a reading experience that will be ‘the same, but different.’ What produces that, in worldbuilding, is to have some things that are familiar from other stories in the genre, some things that are similar-but-different, and some things that may well be unique to your work. That reduces the burden on those would-be writers that feel they aren’t original enough.
In my own work, I have a Terran space fleet sort of like Starfleet in Star Trek. But the civilian authority they answered to— a disaster similar to the United Nations— disbanded and the Fleet is on its own. No civilian authority, no taxpayers to pay the bills. So the ships of the Fleet carry cargo and escort cargo ships to earn their pay.

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Judicial System

In my world for my current WIP, this comes out to being about interplanetary law. This is not a nice-and-neat category. One major authority is the Interplanetary Humanoid Archive. They classify the different humanoid races and their classification determines whether a humanoid race is able to colonize a planet by themselves or just a part of a planet. They keep records on claims made by the different races. This is useful since some humanoid races have been exploring space for a very long time and records can show whether a planet occupied by humanoids is its own thing or a failed colony from long ago.
Another authority for interplanetary law is the Fleet. The Fleet uses certain space stations and planets as regular stops for their ships. They insist on certain things in the law of these space stations and planets. They don’t want to do business with a place that thinks it’s OK to steal their stuff.
Tiberius Base, being a space city under construction, does not have its judicial system fully put together yet. Right now Fortunate Dragon, the corporation building the station, makes its own rules. But Fortunate Dragon is under the authority of the Terran interplanetary national entity called the Interplanetary People’s Republic which has a system similar to modern-day Communist China. Since business is important to them, they don’t enforce communist policy in free-trade districts as Tiberius Base will be when completed. They look to having freedom of speech and freedom of religion on the Base even though these conditions don’t prevail in other parts of their interplanetary nation.

This has been a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. AND in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Please visit the links for more information on the blog hops in question.

Book recommendations: I have been working through K. M. Weiland’s Outline Your Novel Workbook, which has been very helpful in getting to know my characters and my story. I have also purchased K. M. Weiland’s Structure Your Novel Workbook and hope that also will be useful. As I have Asperger Syndrome I am VERY disorganized and have not had much success in organizing my ideas into a complete novel. (It’s why I write poetry.) I am hopeful these books will help me upgrade my outlining and structuring skills.