Category Archives: General

Digital Publishing?

Or what are you waiting for?

Consider this:

What are the odds of the average aspiring writer to first land an agent, then have that agent land a publishing deal, and then have that publisher produce a hardback copy of the new author’s book?  That is the dream that originally drove most of us still unpublished novelists.  How much time does this take once your manuscript is finished?  Up to a year to find an agent, another possible year to find a publisher, and at least another year to get an accepted manuscript printed and in stores.

Where will these books be sold besides in online mega-stores like Amazon or B&N?  Borders is gone.  Barnes and Noble brick and mortar stores are struggling.  Are there any independents going to be around?  Increasingly bestsellers are being sold at big box stores like WalMart and Costco.  New authors, mid-listers and genre writers need not apply.  I’ve read enough about diminishing advances, publishers’ insistence on owning and controlling all rights, including e-rights, forever, and other practices to worry me.

I originally had the dream of seeing my books in bookstores.  Some part of me aspires to that still.  But, what that dream really means is that I want readers for my stories.  If I can put my stories into the hands of the readers via a convenient and timely mechanism, whatever you want to call it, then why wouldn’t I take the opportunity while the barriers to entry are still low?  What is that old adage, “Fortune favors the bold?”

Yes, the whole industry is in flux and questions remain, but such transitions also create opportunities for those willing to take advantage.  If we wait too long until things “settle” then many windows may close, some permanently.

I can’t predict the future, but I can predict that I’d rather start selling my novel the day it’s finished and develop a readership than finish my novel and wait up to three years for publication IF my book is deemed worthy of print by the gatekeepers at the big publishing houses.

What of the risk?  Won’t self-publishing taint my reputation and cause traditional publishers to avoid me like a pariah?

What is the real risk for aspiring/unknown/unpublished authors?

We don’t have contracts that a slighted publisher can cancel.  We don’t have agents who try to keep us traditional so they can get their 15% commission.  We don’t have a reputation to harm by writing and publishing an unsuccessful book.  If it doesn’t sell, is our career doomed?

Really?

Of course not.

A book that doesn’t sell is just a book that doesn’t sell.  Write a better next book and sell more.  Write an even better third book and sell even more.  Sell enough and more opportunities present.  If that concern is too high, use a pen name.  Many famous and successful authors have used pseudonyms.

I don’t presume to advise anyone on the correct path.  I haven’t gone far down either path to have much experience to share.  But, I like the options, I like the potential, and I’ve waited too long in my own burgeoning career to keep waiting for either the industry to shake out or for the snail’s pace of the traditional process.

Who cares the most about my future writing career?  An agent?  An editor?  The board of directors at a big publishing house?  Or me?

Easy answer.

What about Amazon?  Aren’t they the big bad wolf?

I don’t care about Amazon.  I’m not pro-Amazon or anti-publishers.  Amazon digital publishing does currently offer the widest possible customer/potential reader base and that potential is tough to ignore.  And ultimately, any successful business needs customers.  Whether we like it or not, a writer is a business owner and the products are the written word.

I’ve had some recent conversations with those who have concerns about digital publishing and in many ways those comment threads felt like a few writers sitting in a coffee shop trying to convince each other of the best path to publication.  There are many valid points on both sides, some more emotional and less founded in evidence or fact than others.  I think we actually agree on more points than we disagree.  That is the beauty of such conversations.  All points can be explored and considered and every side of a topic can be covered.

Ultimately, the paths are many and each writer’s journey will be story until itself.  We must each decide our course based on the winds, weather, seaworthiness of our vessel and the capabilities of our captain and crew.  We must navigate towards the goal we have in mind.

Remember, though, when comparing traditional publishing to self/indie publishing,  we can’t really compared traditional publishers directly to Amazon digital publishing because Amazon isn’t really a publisher for digital indie published works, they are a distributor.

The author is actually the publisher and that is a different business model.  Author as publisher requires new and different skills and demands on the author’s time and that path is not for everyone.  Although many famous and historical authors self-published (as was not uncommon in the 19th and early 20th century), the latter 20th century publishing culture turned self-publishing into a negative connotation dubbing the process “vanity” publishing.  That culture has changed and the technology is now available for an author to write and publish an eBook for literally no cash investment, if he/she can do all the publishing tasks themselves.  This again a valid and increasingly respected path for writers.  Not a better path, another path.

What about the quality of work?  Don’t writer’s need an editor to maximize their stories?

The quality of work published varies with both traditional publishing and indie publishing.  The overall level of quality is arguably better with traditional publishing due to over a century of professionals investing their careers into the industry.  But even that doesn’t guarantee quality.

How would you as author feel if your big break into traditional publishing came with assignment of either a neophyte editor or musical chairs of editors, each less invested in your story than the previous?  I don’t have data to support, just enough anecdotal evidence to validate that it does happen.  This partially invested editor navigates the publishing process poorly and your book gets a rushed copy edit, a cover you hate, a title change you don’t agree with and publication with little or now marketing push.  Your book is published, it’s on a few bookshelves?  But now what?  How do you sell enough to earn out your tiny advance?  Especially in genre fiction?  This isn’t the only possibility, many authors have great experiences, but getting through the gatekeepers as new/unknown author doesn’t get you the attention of the publisher’s A team, either.

But aren’t self-published eBooks mostly garbage?

With the low barriers to entry with digital publishing, dreck will be published by authors who are not ready and haven’t honed their craft enough.  To me, poor sales and poor reviews are in some ways more timely and more useful feedback for a prematurely published author than several months worth of form rejection letters from agents or editors.  With digital, you can take the book down, rewrite it, re-title it, recover it and repost it.  With little or no cost.  If you hate the title or cover of your traditionally published book, good luck getting it changed.

As David Gaughran espouses in his “Let’s Get Digital” eBook, even self-published authors should hire a professional editor to raise the story quality publishable levels.

In fact, anyone even remotely considering self-publishing eBooks via Amazon or other outlets would be wise to read Gaughran’s entire book on the subject.  I’ve read it twice and it paints a crystal clear picture of both why and how to publish digitally.

My goal is not to debate with those who really want to follow the traditional publishing route, but to counter what I perceive as a wariness and caution by many writers and bloggers of the digital publication process and the current players.  I went through that cycle of doubt awhile back and can no longer remember the exact moment I decided to go digital.

Actually I do.

Almost a year ago, a member of my writer’s group came back from a conference and reported to us that editors and agents were communicating to new authors that fantasy manuscripts over 125K words were no longer being considered.  I confirmed this with an email to the editor of Pyr books.  I was at 90K words and only halfway through an epic fantasy novel meant for a trilogy.  The estimated total would be 180K plus.  I spent ten months on this manuscript and was now being told the market wouldn’t accept it, regardless of the quality.  (For a great analysis of word count for epic fantasy, see this post on The Undiscovered Author.)

So, I put my novel on hold and went back to the drawing board, drafted a prequel that would be a shorter, more compact introduction to the trilogy (in the same way The Hobbit is a shorter, more linear, simpler story that introduces Middle Earth and key players).

To my shock and surprise, after using the Snowflake Method as advised by Randy Ingermanson, my scene list and outline estimated my supposedly shorter prequel to be 175K words to tell the story right.

It was then back in February of this year, I think , that I decided the books could be as long as I wanted if I published digitally.  So, having made the decision, I started researching how to do that successfully.

What does that all mean?

Consider my thoughts a presentation of the concerns and fears some aspiring writers have about the current traditional publishing model and the great opportunity I see for creating, as an author, my own a publishing company and distributing my works via available channels, Amazon, B&N PubIt, Smashwords, Overdrive, and possibly LightningSource for printed copies of my books.

I like the future, as uncertain as it may be.  I will have more wisdom and insight once I’ve actually gone through the process, but for now, I’m willing to try.  I feel the risk is worth the attempt right now.  That may change if the whole thing shakes up again, but for now, this new model seems to be an open window.

A window I’m willing to not only look through, but climb through.

Are you?

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A Writer Reads

…but what does reading have to do with writing?

For most of us, we learned to write around the same time we learned to read.  It is likely our ability to read developed more quickly than our ability to write and if we liked reading, we did a lot of it.

I was such a child.  I read everything I could find that interested me, from story books, fairy tales, and fables, to Time-Life books about the planets, dinosaurs, Time, or the Earth.  I even read every word of those Publishers Clearing House envelopes stuffed with prizes and magazines to order.

What I most loved to read, though, were stories.  The Bookmobile stopped across the street from our house every Friday after school for years.  I found the selection limited, though, and began haunting my elementary school library and later the middle and high school libraries.  Once I could drive, I spent many Saturday afternoons browsing the racks at the city library.

Somewhere along the way, after reading the dozens of novels and hundreds of stories, all that reading flipped a switch inside me that illuminated my writer self.  I distinctly remember wanting to write a story for the first time in my early teens.  The story was about an evil janitor with occult powers to punish any kids who played hide and seek in the medical and dental offices near where I lived.  The story concept had some merit, but the writing itself was terrible.

Ever since I finished that short story, though, I’ve thought of myself as a writer.

But what does reading have to do with writing?

The act of writing is putting a story to words so that another reader can experience that story as you intended to tell it.

The more stories and novels an aspiring writer has read, the more proper story structure, format, characterization, description, plot, and theme permeate the subconscious almost like osmosis.

There is a rhythm to storytelling that is not always innate, but can be learned through reading and studying how other writers tell stories.  How do they evoke emotion?  How do they paint images in the reader’s mind?  How often do they address all five senses?  Are characters revealed through thought, dialog, action, or all three?  What word choices to they use?  How is action paced and balanced with reflection?  Are scenes long or short?  How are the best stories begun?  How are the best stories ended?

Much can be learned by simply reading, taking no thought to how the writer did it, but just enjoying the story.  Even more can be gained by actually studying how the writer wrote a passage that resonates with you or impresses you in some way.

By reading a variety of authors, genres, and both new and old stories, you can learn from the example of others.

If you did nothing else but read avidly and write, you would have a head start over those who attempt to write, but don’t read and thus haven’t saturated their minds and souls with the rhythms of story.

As an example, I’m currently reading Brotherhood of the Wolf the second in the Runelords series by David Farland.  I subscribe to his Daily Kick newsletters on writing and publishing topics and find his advice is generally outstanding.  I like the Runelords world and like to see how he writes epic fantasy, especially his earlier books in the late 90s.

I’m also re-reading Character and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.  I’m trying to deepen my understanding of characterization to improve my current novel in progress, The Lost Tower.

Remember that a writer reads.  Stephen King said in his book On Writing that you really can’t be a writer unless you read a lot.  Good advice from one of the masters.

And with that, what are you currently reading and why?


Three Reasons Writers Need Music

The other day, a writer friend of mine and I discussed the value of listening to music while scribing.  We compared notes on the types of music we liked in the background as our fingers danced over the keyboards in story creation.  We also discussed which music genres we thought were best suited for which genres of writing.  We even discussed how the rhythm or repetition within a song or style of music can aid or inhibit certain types of writing.

This discussion lingered and got me thinking about my own musical tastes while writing and how it helps me.  I came up with three questions about music and writing, and many more answers.

1. Why do many writers enjoy listening to music while writing?

2. What are the benefits?

3. Is there music best suited for particular types of writing?

If you read “On Writing” by Stephen King you’ll discover that he predominantly listens to rock and roll music while he writes.  He is an accomplished rock guitarist and his stories and novels are populated with rock song references so it all fits in with his persona and preferences as one of the most successful novelists of all time.  Peter Straub, another horror writer prefers to listen to classical music while writing.  I’m sure most successful authors listen to music at one time or another, and some must have music on while writing.   It is simply part of their writing routine.

Why is this?

I can’t answer that question for other authors.  For myself, music helps me with the emotional undercurrents of a story.  In a movie, the score and soundtrack bring out the emotion of a moment, whether it is a suspenseful threat to the characters, a battle scene, or a moment of loss and reflection.  Music enhances the emotions and what the audience feels.  Music in the background while I write helps feed my subconscious with motifs, sounds, currents, feelings, and auditory ideas that I can draw from when the time is right in a story.  Music helps me go deeper into the story and hopefully to convey that to the written version of it.  Music is a source of inspiration.

Again, I cannot speak to the benefits of music to other authors, but I can share how music benefits my writing.  First, my writing desk is not isolated in my home and to aid in my concentration and to reduce background noise in a busy household, I use noise cancelling ear buds and listen to music via my laptop.  This helps create a writing environment that more conducive to concentration on the story and characters and reduces outside distractions.  Second, as noted above, music inspires the emotional content of writing when matched in genre.  I’ll discuss more about that in the next paragraph.  Third, music can directly influence your stories and bits of song lyrics you’ve heard may be appropriate for an event or scene in your story.  (Just beware of copyright issues and get permission for use of any commercially published music that is still under copyright.)

What music best matches what types of writing?  That is actually a question for each author to answer for themselves.  The correct answer is whatever works best for you.  If you don’t know what works best for you, try listening to different music during your writing sessions over a two-week period and see what music genre inspires you most or what helps you get into the story best.  What music seems to enhance your writing experience?  This is a personal decision.

For me, when I wrote horror stories earlier in my development as a writer, I listened to heavy metal.  The tone of the music seemed to fit the nature of what I wrote.  The past decade or so, I listen to more tailored music.  While writing my romantic comedy screenplay, I listened to popular music from our iTunes library.  A mix of all kinds of rock and all kinds of artists.  When I began writing epic fantasy, I began listening to classical music via Pandora Radio and eventually settled on a custom station based on the soundtracks of Braveheart and Gladiator.  Big, epic, deep, powerful music helps me with the type of epic fantasy novels I’m writing.  This works for me.

Musical tastes are very personal and should be.  Many writers find that music helps their writing.  Music can inspire, influence, seclude, and focus the writer’s mind during story creation.

Does music do this for your writing?

What works best for you?


How to break a slump

How often do we find ourselves struggling to progress in what we’re doing, be it work, sport, hobby, or writing? When an athlete known for his ability to score is suddenly not scoring points or goals, then it is noted that he’s in a slump. When a writer struggles to put words on paper, or thinks everything written is garbage, he is in a slump.

The reasons for the slump are actually not important. Part of the reason for a writing slump or any other is the over-thinking aspect of dealing with it. We go round and round in our minds about why we’re struggling and how untimely it is and how miserable it is, etc.

I know how it is because I just emerged from an extended writer’s slump. Why did it happen? How many reasons or excuses do I have created? How much did I analyze it?

Doesn’t matter.

The solution was simple.

I sat down, opened up my work in progress, The Lost Tower, re-read the previous chapter and started writing.

Sounds easy, right?

Not.

I had to just write. Not think AND write. I had to force off the half of my mind that wants to edit every keystroke that comes from my fingers as they dance across the keyboard of my laptop.

I’m writing the first draft and thus need to keep the editor mind on ice for a few more months.

That is the trick I used. I gave myself permission to write an imperfect first draft. I told my editor mind to take a summer vacation and to leave me alone.

I wrote in half a week more than I’d managed in the past six weeks.

Slump over.

What are your slump stories and solutions?

–Mark


How to cure writer’s distractions…

I’m not a believer in the existence of writer’s block which I consider one of those myths that far too many believe and often fear.  I am, however, a firm believer in writer’s distractions.

The first step to a cure is identifying those distractions.  Here is a little one question quiz to get the discussion started.

It’s 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday and you haven’t yet done your writing for the day.  You’ve just finished eating a delicious dinner with your family.  What do you do next?

  1. Excuse yourself and retreat to your writing space for two hours, where you write at least 500 words on your work in progress.
  2. Excuse yourself and retreat to your writing space and read e-mail, surf writing forums, read online book reviews, write a blog entry, or post on your favorite social media site.
  3. Tell yourself you’ll write later and turn on the TV.
  4. Tell yourself you’ll write later and perform some household chores.
  5. Tell yourself you’ll write later and run some errands.
  6. Tell yourself you’ll write later and play video games.
  7. Tell yourself you’ll write later and play with spouse, kids, or pets.
  8. Tell yourself you are just too (tired, uninspired, unmotivated, blocked) to sit and write.

If you answered anything but “A” then you are suffering from writer’s distractions.  Something all writer’s face at one time or another.  I fall victim to #2 – 8 all the time.

Note:  the 7:00p.m. time slot is arbitrary.  You may write at other times of the day.  So if your usual slot is 5:00a.m. and you sleep in repeatedly or get up and go to the gym instead, those are your distractions.  The point here is show examples of what writer’s choose to do instead of writing.

So, do you have a regular writing slot?  If not why not?

For most of us with day jobs, writing during the day between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. is impossible, so that leaves us with the 5:00 p.m. to midnight window.

The writing slot doesn’t matter, use what works for you.  If you have to, go to Starbucks during your lunch hour and write on a legal pad or pull out your personal laptop or iPad.

The key here is to find and maintain a regular writing slot.  If that is not possible, an irregular slot is better than nothing.

What is an irregular slot?  Here’s an example:

Monday – Come home from work and write before dinner.

Tuesday – Lead a cub scout meeting after work, so you have a late dinner, and write at 9pm.

Wednesday – You DVR American Idol or your favorite shows at 7 p.m. and write while the show is taping

Thursday – Watch kids for spouse so she can attend a meeting or run errands.  Write after kids go to bed at 9pm.

Friday – Date Night – Write from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.

Saturday – Write at 10:00 a.m. or at 2:30 p.m. after household chores are finished.

The point is it is more important to write every day than it is to write at the same time every day.  Sure the professional writers can get up and treat their writing schedule like a day job and “clock” in at their writing desk at 8:00 a.m. every weekday morning and write for six or seven hours.  Most of us don’t have that luxury, so find a spot or spots that work for you.

If you have a regular (or irregular) writing slot, do you often skip it or do something similar to answers #2 – 8 above?

Why?

Is the other activity bringing your book closer to completion?  Is the TV show helping you get published?  Will your pet rock feel neglected if you don’t take it for a walk right at 7:00 p.m.?  Don’t pet rocks like to take walks at 5:00 p.m. right after work or at 9:00 on a warm spring night?

Did that trip to Circle K for a Red Box movie really have to happen right during your writing slot?

Will the laundry turn into a horror movie monster if it sits unfolded for another hour or two while you write?

Okay, some of these examples are exaggerated a tiny bit, but you see my point.  Most of what we distract ourselves with can be done at a different time.

What if we do have the time available and have organized our other activities to give us a daily writing slot, but we still don’t write?

What is the distraction?  I can’t help with that other than to suggest that you need to identify it and remove the distraction.

If you can’t focus and write while the kids are still up, write after they go to bed, before they wake up, or while they’re at school or day camp.

If you can’t focus and write while the dishes are not done, assign the kids or spouse that chore, or quickly do the dishes and then sit down and write.

Identify and remove.

A writer writes.

There isn’t any better way to say this.

A writer writes.

A professional writer writes daily in sufficient quantities to produce publishable works that reader will pay to read.

So, define your goals (i.e. completing a novel or story, entering a contest, publishing an eBook, or just writing for yourself) and go for it.

Start new projects.

Finish what you start.

Prioritize your time.  People tend to do what is most important to them.  In other words, people usually find time to do what they want to do.

If you really truly want to write, you’ll not only find the time to write, you’ll make the time to write.

And if you really want to write, you’ll be far less susceptible to writer’s distractions.

Find the inner desire to write, prioritize some regular time, utilize that time, and write away.

That is the cure.


Spring clean your mind

…and how to reboot those resolutions/goals you have already forgotten about.

It’s early March and the weather has turned.  Here in Phoenix it was 82 degrees today and that is okay with me.  On Saturday we recently decluttered our yard and garage and dumped a huge pile of debris on the sidewalk for the quarterly bulk goods pickup.  Today, that huge pile is gone, and our garage and yard look great.

This is the month where many of us go through this annual ritual of cleaning out the winter dust, rust, and cobwebs.  We toss out the stuff that has been collecting in the corners of our yard or garage because it has been just too cold or snowy or rainy to dispose of properly.

That time is now.

But should we stop there with the annual spring ritual?

I propose that we also need to cleanse our minds of all those useless, wasteful, irrelevant, and discarded artifacts of thought and memory that linger in the proverbial corners of our minds.  It’s junk, it’s clutter, and it’s in the way of a clear and present path forward.

What are some examples?

  • New Year’s Resolutions that you stopped pursuing the second week of January
  • The new hobby or project you started and then gave up on because it was too hard, too time intensive, or too expensive
  • The unformed or unfinished idea you had for a story, blog, or journal entry
  • The idea you had to improve a process or product at work that you wanted to spend more time developing
  • The trip you thought about planning, but never got around to it
  • The call you never made to that family member or friend who hasn’t heard from you and could use your support or wisdom

Now think of your own unfinished business, something that has been bugging your all winter that you just haven’t dealt with it.  That stuff piles up inside the mind and doesn’t go away unless it is addressed.

What to do?  Well, sort the piles and like that cable show, Clean House, create three virtual piles of your mental debris.

  1. Trash: to be thrown out and never worried about again
  2. Sell: to be given away to someone else who will have more use for it
  3. Keep: this is the stuff you value and you can keep using

Once things are sorted, administer the piles and move on.  The idea here is to toss or sell over 2/3 of the junk.  If you are keeping too much, the point of the exercise is defeated.  Your decluttered mind and psyche will thank you.

Okay, you’ve dealt with the piles, now what?  Is spring cleaning over?

Not quite.  You need to make a deal with yourself to keep things clean.  Don’t let the junk pile up again.  Monitor that unnecessary stuff and sort and clear daily or weekly.  Write it all down if that helps.  Especially the mental junk you want to throw away.  Write down a useless thought, feeling, memory, or idea on a piece of actual paper and either crumple and toss in the wastebasket or burn in the fireplace.  Sometimes the physical act of destroying such mental debris is cathartic and frees you to focus on what is really important.

You’re asking yourself if I follow my own advice….okay, let’s work though an example.

At the end of last year, I hit a mini-slump in writing my epic fantasy novel when the market changed to limit the size of first books from new authors.  After spending over a year on it, I had developed an unhealthy pile of useless thoughts and emotions about the subject.  I had two choices, I could despair or use the information to my advantage.  So, at the beginning of this year I began outlining a prequel that will more closely align with the market AND will better set the stage for my original novel.  I knew it was the right plan for 2011 and I was comfortable with my path.

Early in February I started have winter thoughts about the setback.  I had lost 15 months of time on that halted novel.  I was starting over and the outline was going much slower than expected.  I got sick and missed two weeks of writing.  Woe is me!

Waa, is right.  Play me a violin.  To anyone else it would be no big deal, but to me it was becoming a big roadblock that I was creating for myself.  I was starting to question my decision to write using an outline (click for a previous post on outlines).  I was supposed to start writing the first draft on February 1st and as March approached and the personal deadline was missed, my frustration trebled.

Then I had enough of the nonsense and took a figurative Mr. Clean to the roadblock thoughts and recommitted myself to a well designed plan of writing an outline so my first draft goes smoothly, and I don’t hit any dead ends.

That’s it.  Done.  Junk thoughts have been trashed.  The soil of my mind, after a long hibernation, is now ready for new seeds to be planted, new ideas (click for a previous post on ideas) to take root and grow because I’ve pulled all the weeds and killed all the pests.  Only good bugs remain, and good seeds.

Spring cleaning of the mind can be done.  I just did it.

Get rid of what is in your way and revisit those goals and resolutions you thought important at the beginning of the year.

It’s spring.  Things grow in spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can too.

–Mark


Where do ideas really come from – part 2?

It has been a full growing season since I compared ideas to seeds planted in the soil of our minds and compared the development of an idea to a seedling that needed care and tending.

The original post is not surprisingly, named: Where do ideas really come from?  You may wish to refresh you memory by reading it here.

That was a fairly comprehensive discussion on my perspective on the age-old question writers are asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”  There were some great comments worthy of review as well.

So, what else is there to say in the matter?

As gardeners know, not every seed planted, however rich and prepared the soil, germinates and grows into a seedling and eventually a full-sized plant capable of bearing fruit.  Every seed packet you buy from the hardware store or nursery has instructions on the back about how many seeds to plant together, how deep, how far apart, and how long the seeds typically need to germinate.

Even then, some seeds just don’t grow.  Why?

Consider the incredible, but true, story of the Chinese bamboo tree:

“The process goes like this: You take a little seed, plant it, water it, and fertilize it for a whole year, and nothing happens.

The second year you water it and fertilize it, and nothing happens.

The third year you water it and fertilize it, and nothing happens. How discouraging this becomes!

The fourth year you repeat with the same frustrating results.

The fifth year you continue to water and fertilize the seed and then–take note.  Sometime during the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo tree sprouts and grows NINETY FEET IN SIX WEEKS!

Life is much akin to the growing process of the Chinese bamboo tree. It is often discouraging. We seemingly do things right, and nothing happens. But for those who do things right and are not discouraged and are persistent things will happen. Finally we begin to receive the rewards.”

What does this mean for writers and other creative types?

It means that often the best ideas take significant time to germinate in our minds, to develop those deep roots into our subconscious to strengthen and stabilize the idea so that when it does sprout, it can be dramatic how quickly the idea matures and is ready for harvesting into a story, painting, poem, sculpture, music composition, or whatever you are pursuing.

Some ideas take time to develop and mature and while it may seem that nothing is happening, you must continue to nurture and fertilize and fill your creative mind with nutrients so that the long period of germination for those great ideas have a chance.

If you give up and let the idea die, you will never know how much foundation had been already laid in your mind.

Some ideas will sprout and grow quickly, take advantage of those opportunities, but like most gardeners will tell you, your garden should have variety for the most satisfying yields.  If you focus on one big idea, your patience may be tested.  Why not invest your time and energy in both short-term, quick win ideas AND the long-term ideas than can bring great rewards down the proverbial road.

I’m doing this very thing with my own writing.  As some of you may recall, I started world-building for my epic fantasy trilogy back in August of 2009.

Giant Bamboo in Ecuador with a person next to ...

Image via Wikipedia

Nearly two years later I am still planting and cultivating new ideas to supplement the harvest of the big idea that got me started.  Since I plan to write at least three novels in this series, I need sustainable ideas that will yield continuous results.  That is a different idea gardening strategy than planting small quick idea seeds to write short stories or poems.

In addition, I also have my own bamboo idea that is in its 10th year of germination (okay so this one stretches the bamboo metaphor too far, but bear with me).  This is another epic fantasy world that I began designing in 2001.  It was way too ambitious for me as a younger writer, so I am letting this big idea develop very slowly.

I hope the roots are going deep so that when I’m ready to write it, it will grow into a complete series as fast as the bamboo tree, relatively speaking.

Some ideas take time and the time waiting for them to mature can often yield amazing results.  Who knows, you may soon have a whole forest of ideas.

Have any of you had bamboo tree-like experiences with ideas of any kind?

In everything you do in your family, keep in mind the miracle of the Chinese bamboo tree. After the seed for this amazing tree is planted, you see nothing, absolutely nothing, for four years except for a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb. During those four years, all the growth is underground in a massive, fibrous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth. But then in the the fifth year the Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet!“Many things in family life are like the Chinese bamboo tree. You work and you invest time and effort, and you do everything you can possibly do to nurture growth, and sometimes you don’t see anything for weeks, months, or even years. But if you’re patient and keep working and nurturing, that “fifth year” will come, and you will be astonished at the growth and change you see taking place. 

“Patience is faith in action. Patience is emotional diligence. It’s the willingness to suffer inside so that others can grow. It reveals love. It gives birth to understanding.”

From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey (pp. 22-23)


Scott's Grimoire

MY SPOT OF INK: my ramblings on the ups and downs of writing a fantasy novel (or anything else that grabs my interest - books, food, movies, life)

The Undiscovered Author

A Day in the Life of aspiring Fantasy Author Stephen A. Watkins

Geoff's Ruminations

The thoughts and passions of a hopeful future author.