Tag: Write It Forward

“I’m convinced fear is at the root of most bad writing.” Stephen King

King fear writingActually, fear is the root of most failure.  When I was talking to a CEO about using some of my Special Forces strategies and tactics to help her company, I asked her what was the #1 problem, not only in her company, but overall in the business world.  She said fear. Regardless of the business, it was the one thing that carried over.  It’s insidious and tears away at people and is the main obstacle to success.  This works on many levels.

For writers, we’re afraid our abilities aren’t good enough to get published.  We’re afraid our voice isn’t strong enough to write what we really should be writing.  We’re afraid to take chances, to break rules, to break out of the norm.

WDW_B&N copyWhen I turned my Who Dares Wins concepts to writing and developed Write It Forward, my goal was to look back on my 25 year career as an author and combine that with my 20 years of experience in Special Forces.  I mainly blundered my way through my writing career, like many of us do.  In today’s world, we can’t afford such inefficiency.

Write It Forward focuses on educating writers how to be authors and conquer their fears. Write It Forward is a holistic approach encompassing goals, intent, environment, personality, change, courage, communication and leadership that gives the writer a road map to become a successful author. Many writers become focused on either the writing or the business end; we have to integrate the two.

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Write It Forward fills a critical gap in the publishing industry paradigm. While there are numerous books and workshops focused on just the writing, this one focuses on the strategies, tactics and mindset a writer needs to develop in order to be a successful author.

Under the current publishing business model, authors learn by trial and error and networking with other authors; sometimes it is the blind leading the blind. The learning curve to become a successful author is a steep one. In the past, the author might have had years to learn, and when needed, re-invent one’s self, but the business is now moving at a much faster pace. It is expected that authors not only have to write the books, but also become promoters of their books. Interestingly enough, promoter (ESTP) is the complete opposite of author (INFJ) on the Myer-Briggs personality indicator. It is difficult to go from one mindset to the other.

With more authors becoming hybrid or indie, this is even more important, because we are now wearing two hats: author and publisher. I believe that most authors can’t do both by themselves if they have more than a few books, since eBooks are organic, not static. The skill required is just too broad. Especially for a traditional published author going hybrid. In any new business endeavor it takes roughly three years to begin to master the necessary skill set. An author can’t afford to spend the time doing that.

Authors are the producer of the product in publishing. Agents, editors, publishers and bookstores are the primary contractors, processors, and sellers of that product in traditional publishing. While most agents and editors normally get educated in a career path starting at the bottom of an agency/publishing house, writers, from the moment they sign a contract, are thrust immediately into the role of author as well as promoter. For the new author it is sink or swim. Unfortunately, with the lack of author training, most sink. First novels have a 90% failure rate, which is simply foolhardy. For indie authors, a first novel is a complete shot in the dark, while trying to master all those skill sets.

Stephen King is correct. Fear is at the root of many things. Interestingly, I think for many writers what they most need to write is the book they’re afraid to write. The point of view they need to write in, is the one they like the least. But more on that in craft posts.

Here is a key question we must all answer: I’ll do whatever it takes to succeed as a writer, except don’t ask me to do XXXX.

I’m not talking about sacrificing our first born or something like that. I’m talking about something we know we need to do, but are afraid of doing. It could be a writing issue, a business issue, a promotion issue, whatever. Over the years I’ve had to conquer quite a few fears and still have some lurking out there. I had to learn how to network positively. To not be contrarian. To drop my introvert ways. What is it you just don’t want to do, but know you need to do?

 

 

Do you need to burn your ships or have a catastrophe plan? Write It Forward

In Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author, I discuss and recommend having a catastrophe plan.  I’ll tell you what that is below, but recently I’ve had a “moment of enlightenment” where I realized there are people for whom a catastrophe plan is not necessarily a good thing.  Some of us need to “burn our ships.”

Which are you?  Even more importantly, it occurs to me that perhaps they are both the same, it’s just having a different approach to the same objective.

Here are the reasons to have a catastrophe plan, and the key for creative people is #3:

  1. To prepare for things that might go wrong to keep those things from going wrong.
  2. If the catastrophe happens, you have a plan and can deal with it.
  3. To provide a sense of calm about possible catastrophes since you have a plan in place, thus freeing your mind to focus on what you want to create instead of being worn down with worry.

This is all very nice and well.  But as we always note:  there are many roads to Oz, so one size doesn’t fit all.

Some people work better under pressure, and not so well when they are calm and at peace with their world.  Crisis and catastrophe motivates them rather than defeats them.

Throughout military history there are numerous accounts of leaders who committed their troops to a course of action where there was no catastrophe plan.  Where it was all or nothing.  Victory or annihilation.  Caeser crossing the Rubicon:  Alia iacta est as I learned in my Latin classes at Cardinal Spellman High School in da Bronx.

When Cortez arrived in the New World, he had his ships burned.  No looking longingly over their shoulders for a way home for his men.  Forward and win.  Or die trying.

David Morrell advises writers not to quit their day jobs because then they’ll “write scared” and he believes scared writing is usually bad writing.  I remember hearing him say that at Thrillerfest a few years ago and it worried me for a little bit until I realized writing was my day job and I certainly had no inclination to quit it.

Sometimes scared writing is inspired writing.  Sometimes we are most creative when we are under the most stress.

In Special Operations training such as the Q Course (Special Forces Qualification Course), Ranger School, scuba school, etc. there is an emphasis on placing candidates under extreme stress and then evaluating how they perform.  Those who can’t perform under stress aren’t ‘bad’ people.  Or losers.  They just aren’t people who should be in a unit that is expected to perform at a high level under extraordinarily stressful environments.  To reverse this, however, a person capable of thriving under extreme stressful situations is probably not the best candidate for an occupation that requires repetition and drudgery.  They might go postal on you.

To muddy an already confusing situation, perhaps always looking ahead for possible catastrophes is a form of burning ships.  Perhaps the ship I am currently afloat on has a good chance of foundering.  In fact, I’m pretty certain that nothing is certain.

I stayed “afloat” in traditional publishing for 20 years by always having a “spec” manuscript written in addition to the manuscripts under contract.  Thus whenever my “career” ended because a publisher didn’t renew me for more books, I was already selling a new series to another publisher in the form of that spec manuscript.

In indie publishing, I am preparing for possible changes in royalty rates and business models that might have an adverse effect in the way we are currently flourishing with Who Dares Wins Publishing.  We’re acting, rather than reacting.  We’ll post on this shortly.

So which are you?

A person who needs that backup plan?

The person who needs to burn their ships?

Or the person who always has a backup plan in case their ship burns?

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