Writer’s Block & How to clear it.

Let’s start with, what is writer’s block?

Well, I just sat down to write this post, and now I can’t think of a single darn thing to say. Oh well, I’m outta here!

Even if this particular situation doesn’t sound familiar to you, we’ve all experienced the phenomenon of absolutely intending to sit down and write something, usually driven by a work project, school assignment, or personal-deadline that we have imposed upon ourself, when! Uh, I can’t think of what the word is. . . oh, yes, it’s on the tip of my tongue . . . it’s:


Whew! I feel so much better just getting that out of my head
and onto the page!

Writer’s block is the patron demon of the blank page.
You may think you know EXACTLY what you’re going to
write, but as soon as that evil white screen appears before you, your mind suddenly goes completely blank. And I’m not just talking about the Zen meditation stare-at-the-wall-until-enlightenment-hits kind of blankness.

I’m talking about sweat trickling down the back of your neck, anguish, panic, and suffering that takes hold of you so tight until the closer the deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, the worse the anguish of writer’s block gets.

Having said that, let me say it again. “The tighter the deadline, the worse the anguish of writer’s block gets.” Now, can you figure out what might possibly be the cause of this horrible plunge into speechlessness?

The answer is obvious: FEAR! You are terrified of that blank page. You are terrified that you have absolutely nothing of value to say. You are afraid of the fear of writer’s block itself!

It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve done a decade of research and all you have to do is string sentences you can repeat in your sleep together into coherent paragraphs. Writer’s block can strike anyone at any time. Based in fear, it raises our doubts about our own self-worth, but it’s sneaky. It’s writer’s block, after all, so it doesn’t just come and let you know that. No, it makes you feel like an idiot who just had your frontal lobes removed through your sinuses. If you dared to put forth words into the greater world, they would surely come out as gibberish!

Let’s try and be rational with this irrational demon. Let’s make a list of what might possibly be beneath this terrible and terrifying condition.

  1. Perfectionism. You must absolutely produce a masterpiece of literature with your first draft. Otherwise, you qualify as a complete failure.
  2. Editing instead of composing with writer’s block seated firmly on your shoulder, yelling as soon as you type “I was born?,” no, not that, that’s wrong! That’s stupid! Fix it, fix it, fix it!
  3. Self-consciousness. How can you think, let alone write, when all you can manage to do is pry the fingers of writer’s block away from your throat enough so you can gasp in a few shallow breaths? You’re not focusing on what you’re trying to write, you’re focusing on those gnarly fingers around your windpipe.
  4. Can’t get started. It’s always the first sentence that’s the hardest. As writers, we all know how EXTREMELY important the first sentence is. It must be brilliant! It must be unique! It must hook your reader’s from the start! There’s no way we can get into writing the piece until we get past this impossible first sentence.
  5. Shattered concentration. You’re cat is sick. You
    suspect your mate is cheating on you. Your electricity
    might be turned off any second. You have a crush on
    the local UPS deliveryman. You have a dinner party
    planned for your in-laws. You . . . Need I say more.
    How can you possibly concentrate with all this mental
  6. Procrastination. It’s your favorite hobby. It’s
    your soul mate. It?s the reason you’ve knitted 60
    argyle sweaters or made 300 bookcases in your garage
    workshop. It’s the reason you never run out of Brie.


How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Okay. I can hear that herd of you running away from
this article as fast as you can. Absurd! you huff.
Never in a million years, you fume. Writer’s block is
absolutely, undeniably, scientifically proven to be
impossible to overcome.

Oh, just get over it! Well, I guess it’s not that
easy. So try to sit down for just a few minutes and
listen. All you have to do is listen ? you don’t have
to actually write a single word.

Ah, there you all are again. I am beginning to make
you out now that the cloud of dust is settling.

I am here to tell you that WRITER’S BLOCK CAN BE

Please, remain seated.

There are ways to trick this nasty demon. Pick one,
pick several, and give them a try. Soon, before you
even have a chance for your heartbeat to accelerate,
guess what? You’re writing.

Here are some tried and true methods of overcoming
writer’s block:

  1. Be prepared. The only thing to fear is fear itself.
    (I know, that’s a clich?but as soon as you start
    writing, feel free to improve on it.) If you spend
    some time mulling over your project before you
    actually sit down to write, you may be able to
    circumvent the worst of the crippling panic.
  2. Forget perfectionism. No one ever writes a
    masterpiece in the first draft. Don’t put any
    expectations on your writing at all! In fact, tell
    yourself you’re going to write absolute garbage, and
    then give yourself permission to happily stink up your
    writing room.
  3. Compose instead of editing. Never, never write your
    first draft with your monkey-mind sitting on your
    shoulder making snide editorial comments. Composing is
    a magical process. It surpasses the conscious mind by
    galaxies. It’s even incomprehensible to the conscious,
    editorial, monkey-mind. So prepare an ambush. Sit down
    at your computer or your desk. Take a deep breath and
    blow out all your thoughts. Let your finger hover over
    your keyboard or pick up your pen. And then pull a
    fake: appear to be about to begin to write, but
    instead, using your thumb and index finger of your
    dominant hand, flick that little annoying ugly monkey
    back into the barrel of laughs it came from. Then jump
    in ? quickly! Write, scribble, scream, howl, let
    everything loose, as long as you do it with a pen or
    your computer keyboard.
  4. Forget the first sentence. You can sweat over that
    all-important one-liner when you’ve finished your
    piece. Skip it! Go for the middle or even the end.
    Start wherever you can. Chances are, when you read it
    over, the first line will be blinking its little neon
    lights right at you from the depths of your
  5. Concentration. This is a hard one. Life throws us
    so many curve balls. How about thinking about your
    writing time as a little vacation from all those
    annoying worries. Banish them! Create a space, perhaps
    even a physical one, where nothing exists except the
    single present moment. If one of those irritating
    worries gets by you, stomp on it like you would an
    ugly bug!
  6. Stop procrastinating. Write an outline. Keep your
    research notes within sight. Use someone else’s
    writing to get going. Babble incoherently on paper or
    on the computer if you have to.

Just do it! (I know, I stole that line from
somewhere?). Tack up anything that could possibly help
you to get going: notes, outlines, pictures of your
grandmother. Put the cookie you will be allowed to eat
when you finish your first draft within sight ? but
out of reach. Then pick up the same type of writing
that you need to write, and read it. Then read it
again. Soon, trust me, the fear will slowly fade away.
As soon as it does, grab your keyboard ? and get

why you should write an ebook.

A writer should never think that everything that has been said has already been written. Since that unfortunate first used to slow me down I have come to realize that the whole universe has changed. Technology has changed, ideas have changed, and the mindsets of entire nations have changed.

The fact is that this is the perfect time to write an ebook. What the publishing industry really needs are people who can tap into the world as it exists today. Innovative thinkers who can make the leap into the new millennium and figure out how to solve old problems in brand new ways. Ebooks are a new and powerful tool for original thinkers with fresh ideas to bring information to the millions of people who are struggling to figure out how to plant seeds, tie a necktie, or bake some to-die-for fresh bread.

Okay, those are just some of my writing ideas but there is actually a plethora of e-book ideas just waiting to bring a smile of accomplishment to someone’s face. Let’s say you already have a brilliant idea, and the knowledge to back it up that will enable you to write an exceptional ebook. You may be sitting at your computer staring at a blank screen wondering, “Why? Why should I go through all the trouble of writing my hobby, or time-saving idea when it’s so impossible to get anything published these days?

Well, let me assure you that publishing an ebook is an entirely different way of publishing than the process used when publishing a book in print. Let’s look at the specifics of how the print and cyber publishing industry differ, and the many reasons why you should not be afraid to take the plunge and get your fingers tapping across the keyboard of your choice!

Submitting a print book to conventional publishing houses or to agents is similar to wearing a hair shirt 24/7. No matter how good your book actually is, or how many critique services and mentor writers have told you that “you’ve got what it takes,” your submitted manuscript feels more like a boomerang because it keeps coming back to you instead of landing that prized publishing and Barns And Nobles bookshelf position you desire.

Perhaps, in desperation, you’ve checked out self-publishing and found out just how expensive a venture it can be to assume the position of publisher for yourself. Most “vanity presses” require minimal print runs of at least 500 copies, and even that amount will cost you thousands of dollars. Some presses’ minimal run starts at 1,000 to 2,000 copies. And that’s just for the printing and binding. That’s thousands without even adding in distribution, shipping, and promotional costs and – well, you do the math. Even if you wanted to go this route, you may not have that kind of money to risk.

On the other hand, let’s say you already have an Internet business with a quality website and a quality product. An ebook is one of the most powerful ways to promote your business while educating people with the knowledge you already possess as a business owner of a specific product or service.

A good example is, let’s say that you’ve spent the last twenty-five years growing and training bonsai trees, and now you’re ready to share your knowledge and experience. An ebook is a perfect way to reach the largest audience of bonsai enthusiasts.

Ebooks will allow you to not only promote your business – but it will help you make a name for yourself and your company, and establish you as an expert in your field. You may even find that you have enough to say to warrant a series of ebooks. Specific businesses are complicated and often require the different aspects to be divided in order for the reader to get the full e-book story.

If your goals are more finely tuned in terms of an ebook idea. You may want to build a whole business around writing and publishing ebooks, perhaps even start an e-business. Like setting up a website to promote and market your ebooks. Maybe you’re even thinking of producing an ezine.

Because writers of ebooks are usually people who understand the new cyberspace world we now live in they are one of the most prevalent reasons people read ebooks looking for information about how to turn their Internet businesses into a profit-making machine. They are looking to the writers of ebooks to provide them with new ideas and strategies. Ebook writers are experts in Internet marketing campaigns and the strategies of promoting and distributing ebooks. The cyberspace community needs its ebooks to be successful so that more and more ebooks will be written.

You may want to create affiliate programs that will also market your ebook. Affiliates can be people or businesses worldwide that will all be working to sell your ebooks. Think about this? Do you see a formula for success here?

Figure out what your subject matter is, and then narrow it down. Your goal is to aim for specificity. Research what’s out there already, and try to find a void that your ebook might fill.

What about an ebook about a wedding cake business? Or an ebook about caring for elderly pets? How about the fine points of collecting ancient pottery?

You don’t have to have three master’s degrees to write about your subject. People need advice that is easy to read and easily understood. Parents need advice for dealing with their teenagers. College students need to learn good study skills – quickly. The possibilities are endless.

After you’ve written your ebook

Getting your ebook out is going to be your focus once you’ve finished writing it, just as it is with print books. Creating your e-book should only cost you some time and not thousands of dollars to be able to give out a few copies. People will usually hesitate to buy any book from an author they’ve never heard of. Wouldn’t you?

The answer is simple: give it away! You will see profits in the form of promoting your own business and getting your name out. You will find affiliates who will ask you to place their links within your ebook, and these affiliates will, in turn, go out and make your name known. Almost every single famous ebook author has started out this way.

Another powerful tool to attract people to your ebook is to make it interactive. Invent something for them to do within the book rather than just producing pages that contain static text. Let your readers fill out questionnaires, forms, even crossword puzzles geared to testing their knowledge on a particular subject. Have your readers answer a call to action by clicking on a link that will allow them to recommend your book to their friends and associates. Or, include an actual order form so, at the end of their reading journey, they can eagerly buy your product.

When people interact with books, they become a part of the world of that book. The fact is just as true for books in print as it is for ebooks.

That’s why ebooks are so essential. Not only do they provide a forum for people to learn and make sense of their own thoughts, but they can also serve to promote your business at the same time.

The Teachings of Musashi Miyamoto

Artical ArtworkI was just introduced to an extraordinary piece of literature entitled The Book of Five Rings by Musashi Miyamoto–a 16th century samurai warrior. In the book, Miyamoto discusses the way of the warrior and how to live one’s life as a samurai would–with distinction, control, and thirst for knowledge in all things. Despite the fact that many of Miyamoto’s teachings are intended to prepare one to become a fierce samurai warrior, many of his principles can be applied to our own lives.

He emphasizes the concept of trying to become knowledgeable in all things, not just “the way of the sword”, for we can apply all things to that which we strive most towards. Miyamoto says that if a person wants to become proficient swordsman, he must not only practice swordsmanship, but also guitar and commerce. Why? Because playing the guitar teaches rhythm, and commerce teaches aggression and tactics–traits which are necessary tools for a samurai. This is also why a scientist should study art, and an artist should study science. The scientist will learn how to see the beauty in life and its processes, and an artist will learn to appreciate the order and logic of science. Although Miyamoto says that attaining all knowledge is impossible–and I’m sure we all know this as well–we should never stop striving for that perfection. We should never stop our search for knowledge.

A quote that really stood out to me in the first part of The Book of Five RingsThe Book of Earth, was the following: “By keeping at a particular form of study a man can attain perfection either in this life or the next (if a next life is believed in). The warrior, however, understands that the end result of any study is a kind of death (sublime, not necessarily physical) before the attainment of perfection.” What does this mean? It can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, but to me this means that true perfection is unattainable because it is, in itself,  a sort of death. You can never know every little detail of that which you seek to gain knowledge of. Strive for it, yes, but don’t expect to ever get it–that’s not cynicism, that’s truth. Be content that the world is too big for you to ever know in its entirety and hope that the next generation will discover the secrets you couldn’t. Although we’d like to, we can’t be all-knowing, and with this acceptance comes a sort of serenity. There’s no more rush to know everything and beat everyone. You’re out of the rat race watching everyone else scuttle about for what you now know to be an impossibility.

We are not higher or lower than anyone else, we just are. Knowing this, we should make the best of our lives and learn as much as we can–not being boastful or condescending due to our acquired knowledge. Miyamoto’s writings teach us to be both a participant and observer of life–the latter of which I think some of us, myself included, forget to do sometimes.

Below is Musashi Miyamoto’s The Way of Walking Alone–a piece written one week prior to Musashi’s death.

1. Accept everything just the way it is.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
6. Do not regret what you have done.
7. Never be jealous.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself or others.
10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
11. In all things have no preferences.
12. Be indifferent to where you live.
13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
15. Do not act following customary beliefs.
16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
17. Do not fear death.
18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.
21. Never stray from the Way.

Although I did not initially agree with each and every tenet listed above, I can now say I understand why one should follow these “rules” in their own lives. These are very much Buddhist notions and it all boils down to this simple concept: desire is the source of all pain. Want for nothing and “accept everything just the way it is” and you will never be disappointed–that’s the idea at least. That’s easier said than done, but it’s this concept that’s important for us to take away from Musashi’s Way. I don’t think I can follow the Way as it was intended to be followed, because my desires are too strong to be stopped at this point. Pain is inevitable for me, as it is for many others, but I will not regret the things I’ve done and I won’t say I’m sorry for the past. The past is gone, now all I can do is live in the present and look to the future. That, in its simplest form, is the way of the warrior.

A Writer’s Pen Name

Pen Name Article

When I first started putting my name on screenplays, and manuscripts that I had finished I really hadn’t given much thought to a Pen Name. At the time I remember thinking, my name, is my pen name; later in discussion with friends on the subject, whether or not to use a pen name other than my own, I remember thinking to myself, really—what is the difference? I could see no logical reason at the time for hiding behind a pseudonym. I wanted people to know it was me, Hank Gray, who wrote what they had just read. In my mind I wanted to begin developing my own brand, the way it was suggested in a seminars, on writing, that I had attended.

Then one day I read about a female writer who was busy collecting rejection notices, just like me. Even though her science fiction relate manuscript was really good the male dominated field she was shooting for, and the publishing rep she was in communication with at that moment, which according the article made no attempt to hide their bias when it came to letting her know what they thought of a female science fiction writer. But like the title to an old faux country song, “I keep missing you baby, but my aim is getting better,” she didn’t give up or make any changes to her manuscript. Her confidence in herself and her story impressed me at a time when any encouragement and hope related to weathering manuscript rejections was welcomed.

Her story also held my interest because of her never-say-die-attitude and the way she repackaged herself, the next time, using a male pseudonym (pen name). She offered her finished manuscript again to some of the same publishers, and this time their reaction was different; her story was considered, then talked about and eventually she got an offer from a publisher, which by-the-way, she accepted. I remember focusing on the smaller picture like how would she do book signings, what would her publisher do when they found out, however, by the article about her I realized none of that mattered. She had been published, and her science fiction story ended up on book store shelves where it sold well.

I didn’t do any more research, about the women in the article, so her story ended there for me leaving me to realize that with a pen name change her book had finally made its way to her intended audience, the science fiction crowd, and was selling well so what would the publisher care? I had learned something about a pen name as well, that in some cases the use of an alternate pen name could helped you overcome a bias. Since that time I have learned of several other instances where a pen-name, other than your own, can be helpful to a writer. For example if you write text books, filled with facts not fiction, and intended to be used in school classrooms, your publisher might not take kindly to you branching out and writing on some other topic like comic books or fiction since textbooks are intended to be good at clouding science-fiction-theory with facts.

The way I see it is that with the use of a pen name, your writing diversity can still be allowed to flourish without causing my hypothetical textbook publisher, who might be heavily invested in your textbook pen name, to feel threatened by a science fiction or comic book writing deal that, hypothetically, might come your way. At least that’s my thinking, because I can see where an author, signed to one publisher, might run into some credibility trouble if they mix fact with fiction using the same pen name.

With the use of a pseudonym your writing talent can be expanded enough to bring in several streams of writing income, and that’s a good thing! More recently though I have thought of some more reasons why the use of your real name might not always be the best solution when it comes to a pen name, or a by-name, if you are writing articles; the internet and the twenty-four-hour-seven-day a week personal identification thieves lurking in just out of reach in cyber space.

A determined hacker or information thief just might be unstoppable when it comes to protecting your identity online but there are ways, with the use of a by-name, or pen name, that you can make their job, to rob you of your identification, a lot harder. And if there is one thing I learned from chatting with my writing buddies, each writer will have her or his own reason, and make their own choice when it comes to whether or not to use a pen name, it all comes down to what makes you feel the most comfortable.

There have been cases where even with the use of a pen name an intrepid thief was still able to go from the first page of an author’s new book, where he pen name was printed clearly just below her book title, to the second page where right there, next to the copyright symbol, was the author’s real name which lead to that author’s home address and let’s just say problems with a fan. It is possible to also copyright your work in a pseudonym, especially if it’s also your brand. Every author wants fans of their work but being in control of how some of those fans are able to communicate with you, or gain access to your personal information is worth thinking about. It pays to be mindful of the ways bad guys (the identity thief) work, especially when working and selling on the internet.

Being in control of the information about yourself that you share with your readers, and hopefully fans, is an important part of crafting your author identity and its way more fun when you control that personal information and not the other way around. On most manuscripts the name you place in the upper left hand portion of your manuscript front page is who they send the check to. So have fun using your real name, or one you selection as your writing “by-name/pen -name” to identify your work.

Have a book you’d like to market? Let me help, Hank Gray.

Completing your Manuscript First Draft

writing progress



If success is truly where talent and opportunity meet then not much has changed since I first left school and was told that success meant first, making sure you’re good, then hoping that you were lucky. I always felt that, the being good at what you do, referred to being good at a particular craft, in this case writing, and the being lucky part of the equation, meant at some point being struck by a lightning bolt of opportunity—I know—I think weird.

But what good would it do for the opportunity to become a published author showing up, if you had not put in the time to bring your story idea to the page by completing your manuscript? There is no getting around the fact that taking the time to sit down and get the story in your head on to the page will require an investment in time. So getting back to my: make sure you’re good, hope that you’re lucky, the making sure that you are “good” simply refers to a completed manuscript. So—got your manuscript done?

Answer: “Why-yes-I-do!” Good!

If, however, your answer was no, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why. But first let me say something about the second part of the equation, making sure you’re lucky. Now-days, though the advent of self-publishing you can actually go out and create your own luck! So as far as the: hope that you’re lucky part of my equation goes, no more standing around trying to attract that lightening bolt of opportunity; if you can make sure you’re good by being ready with a completed manuscript your luck is running high.

Even if most self-published author’s advertising and promotional budgets are not as well-funded as the established publishing house they can still look forward to pretty much the same potential profit if their marketing and distribution are good enough.

Of course all of the above starts with something to market and sell, and that all begins when you find the time to complete that all important first draft of your manuscript. Too many of the writers I know spend so much time worrying about being good enough, and agonizing over parts of the publishing process that really only applies to a completed first draft of a manuscript; leaving me to wonder if they might run the risk of talking themselves out of writing anything at all, or finishing what they started.

My thought is, even if you have a degree in English, and several writing ideas that might turn out to be some really neat novel food for readers, none of that matters if you can’t find the time to sit down and write about it.  That was me a few years ago when I was making the transition from writing screenplays to writing a manuscript. I realized that at least one of my half-finished manuscripts needed to be finished before I did too much worrying about possible publishers or self-publishers problems.

So rather than think in terms of finishing my story that would be instantly ready to be published, I thought in terms of just finishing my first draft, giving the story I was carrying inside me a  beginning, middle and the end, and it worked. Just like in my dreams—well almost. You see in my dreams I write so beautifully, so clear and without error that I can start, then finish a story, and have that same story go directly to press, soon as I’m done writing.

Then, I wake up—and realize that my draft needs editing, and proofing, perhaps even a Bata-reader or two, but that’s all part of the process that can only begin when you have a completed first draft of your manuscript.

Do your best to find time to write, believe me it will pay off, my best time is now, late at night who knows what your best writing time will turn out to be? Set the goal of a completing your manuscript and until that is done don’t let too many other publishing concerns block your path or slow your writing to a crawl. Find a way to manufacture time to write; all the other steps will be easier to get to with a completed manuscript in your hands. I also try to write a little every day, I am not always successful at it but since I actually started making the effort—I now end up with more writing days than not and to a manuscript begging for attention, that’s a good thing.

I have even found that having something to write about, or some creative thought, is not necessary when I sit down to write because after committing to write, even if I don’t come up with a sterling writing piece at the time, I usually have enough of an idea to eventually peace together something useful. There will be times when you draw a blank; times when your creativity-well is dry, and nothing makes its way out to the page, take a break, stop for the day but don’t give up, and save even the ideas, and self-suggestions you reject, they can be useful.

The majority of the motivational things mentioned above are some of the tricks and methods I used to keep me writing on a regular basis. Almost none of my writing motivation ideas matched any of my friend’s ideas or methods to keep the writing ball rolling. When it comes to trying to set up some sort of writing schedule you will have to try and come up with a routine that fits you best. Back when I wrote almost exclusively on screenplays all I had to do was put on some music, that I felt fit the scene I was working on, and go to work writing, most of the time I was successful when it came to a useful addition to my story.

My methods to keep myself writing on a project that was already started and yearning for more pages from me was to do pretty much the same, simply making the time to write and trying to make the most out of that writing opportunity. With my manuscript when I try to commit to the same routine as with a screenplay and write on a particular project once a day. What changed was, if I ran into a creativity dry patch while working on a project already in progress, and found myself not happy with the words I was adding, I would stop trying to be creative, and work on other writing chores (like proofing, or spelling) on that same writing project.

More than once I would be re-energized to the point my creativity switch was turned back on and if that did not fire me up with enough good stuff to go on and finish that story, at least I ended up a little further down writing trail and a little bit closer to my first draft. I can tell you this about self-publishing vs the publishing house, you will never experience as much freedom of creativity in book writing, design and publishing as you will being a self-published author; so make sure you’re good (to go) complete your manuscript. Do the things necessary to attract an established publishers, if that is your goal, and/or if that does not work-out, switch to plan-B and self-publish, because a good book idea, is a good book idea, no matter who publishes it.

Taking Criticism LIKE A BOSS

Criticism photo
Nicole Mac Arthur

No matter what kind of artist you are—painter, sculptor, animator, musician, and, of course, writer—you’re going to receive criticism at some point in your career. In fact, you’re going to receive criticism as long as you are creating something that is subjective to each individual who crosses the path of your works. I’m not going to lie, the criticism is going to hurt, and sometimes it’s going to hurt so badly you’ll question what you’re doing and even consider quitting. There are some talented artists out there who have quit due to someone else’s critical remarks.

I’m not here to tell you that the criticism is going to magically disappear someday, or that everyone will come to know the genius of your work in time, because that simply isn’t the case. You, my friend, are an artist, and as such that title comes with certain harsh realities. With the possibility of great success there is also the possibility of great failure—you’ve just got to learn how to pick yourself up after you’ve been knocked down.

So, how do you, a talent artist, take other people’s negative comments about your work in stride? Understand that what you do is subjective to the tastes of others—some people may love your work and others may hate it. That’s art. I know it’s difficult, but you can’t let yourself be discouraged by the opinions of others.

So you found someone who hates your work; you’ll find ten others who’ll think it’s absolutely brilliant. You’ve just got to keep on keeping on and you’ll find people who will appreciate your hard work.



            Once you get the hang of it, sloughing off negative comments about your work becomes easy; however, there is a certain type of criticism that one should not take so lightly. It’s not much of a punch line after the bold heading above, but what I’m talking about is constructive criticism. Speaking as an author who has gone through the editing process twice, it’s sometimes difficult to be told “I don’t like when your character does this” or “this part really slowed down the story and made it less interesting”.

Ugh! My poor heart!

But again, even suggested content edits are subjective. One person may really like a scene, while another person may think it slows down the pace of the book. If you don’t completely agree with the constructive criticism being offered, get the opinions of others. My rule is, if I hear the same piece of constructive criticism from two different people, I consider changing it. If I hear the same piece of constructive criticism from more than two people, I will change it.

Remember, first and foremost, constructive criticism is not meant to discourage you, it’s meant to help you improve. Take what you learn and apply it to make your writing even more awesome than it already is—you’ll be surprised at how much your stories will improve once you do!


As far as mean comments go, ignore them. “Haters gonna hate”, as they say. Never let anyone discourage you from doing the things that you love because there are people out there who will appreciate your tireless efforts—all you have to do is keep working hard and never give up! On a less cheesy note, you’re haters are going to feel really stupid about dissing you once you’re rich and famous.

Book Launch Party on a Budget

Your book’s written and nearly ready to publish, so what now? Many authors choose to have a book launch party to celebrate the happy occasion and let people know that their book is available for purchase. However, for indie authors, book launch parties can be quite costly. Many independent authors decide to skip their book launch parties all together because of the sheer cost it. This is a mistake, mainly because book launch parties are a great promotional tool for any author.

I’m here to tell you that anyone can have an amazing and unforgettable book launch party without breaking the bank. With a little time and effort, you can throw an awesome party that your guests will be talking about for months to come—and if they remember the party, they’ll remember your book.


The first step to throwing a book launch party is choosing a venue—you should probably decide this a few months prior to the party in order to better prepare. Community club houses, indie bookstores, and libraries, are great places to host your party if you plan on inviting the general public to your book launch.

However, if you only intend on extending invitations to family, friends, and friends of friends, I recommend saving yourself a little extra cash and hosting it at your house/family member’s house/friend’s house. A house is ideal if your guest list is between 20-50 people—this is the route I took when I hosted my first book launch party for The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined.


You’ve got two choices here: 1.) strictly appetizers, or 2.) dinner. I’ve learned from personal experience that although offering dinner is a great way to get people to your party, it takes the attention away from you and your book. Once everyone’s sat down for dinner, you’ve lost your audience to food. It’s sad, but true. Full bellies make people sleepy, and when people are sleepy they leave early. Save yourself some grief and stick to appetizers (preferably relating to your book) to keep your guests minds on what’s important: your newly published novel.

If, however, you do decide to serve dinner at your party and you’ve got some extra money and not a lot of time, hiring a food truck is a great way to keep your guests fed and is often cheaper than getting your party catered. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a lot of time and want to save some money, make dinner yourself! Make dishes that can easily and inexpensively be made in bulk and, if you can, have the food you serve relate to your book (for instance, my book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined, takes place in Germany so I served German food at my launch party).

If most of your invitees are 21 and over, novelty cocktails are a fun way to engage your guests. For my book launch party I had three novelty cocktails: Wilhelm’s Poisoned Watermelon (midori sour), Finn’s Bravery in a Cup (rum and vanilla coke), and Isole’s Kiss of Ice (non-alcoholic mint julep). The specialty drinks were a huge hit, and got people asking about the characters they were named after.


I know it might be tempting to go out and buy lots of decorations to impress your guests with; however, the costs of snazzy decorations adds up quickly. To save your money for the things that matter (like buying books and merchandise to sell/give away at your party), gather some creative friends and make the decorations yourselves.

I, for instance, employed one of my artist friends to draw a few of my characters. I printed those characters out and stuck them on the gift bags, the center pieces for the tables, and the labels for the appetizers. Since my book pays homage to The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, I also cut out some snowflakes and strung them up beside a poster of my book (which I had printed at Staples).

Bottom line: be creative and employ all free resources at your disposal—you probably have more of those than you realize.


Everyone likes free stuff! Handing out gift bags with things relating to your book is a great way promote your new novel.

For my book launch party I bought laminated bookmarks, customized pens (99 Cent store pens which I wrapped with stickers of my book’s cover), and German candy to put in the gift bags. If you’ve got a bit more money on hand, buy customizable tote bags in bulk and put your book cover on them or your publishing logo (if you have one).

Sticking your business card in the gift bags is another great way for your guests to remember you and your book. When you order business cards from places like vistaprint.com they offer the option of putting tipping percentages and other useful charts on the back of your business card. If you do this, the chances of your guests keeping your business card are much higher.

Make sure most of the favors you hand out are useful things that your guests can utilize every day such as: pens, bookmarks, tote bags, USB drives, notepads, can coolers, bottle openers, letter openers, keychain flashlights, mouse pads, shirts, etc.


Keeping your guests interested and engaged is a major part of orchestrating a memorable book launch party. Have games ready for your guests to play, and encourage participation with prizes like merchandise, candy, or even the chance to win a free copy of your book.

At my book launch party we played a couple games. The first was a fairy tale themed “Who Am I?” game (my book has to do with fairy tales, so it made sense) in which I wrote a bunch of fairy tale names on sticky labels and stuck them on my guests’ backs. My guests then had to ask each other yes or no questions in regards to which fairy tale character they were. The first person to correctly guess who they were received a German chocolate bar.

I also set up a fairy tale trivia game, in which the winner won a German chocolate bar, a keychain of my main character (Destan), and a free paperback copy of the second book in the series (The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, launching this December). Finally, I raffled off a copy of Destined—if you’re going to do this, I recommend drawing a winner before your guests arrive.

It really doesn’t matter what games or activities you have at your party, just so long as you make it fun and engaging for your guests. The more fun they have, the more interested they’ll be in purchasing your book!


What is the most important thing to have at your book launch party? Your books, of course! Order as many copies as you can to sell at your launch party—trust me, if they’re available to your guests, your guests will buy them. If you don’t have a lot of money to purchase physical copies of your books, you can also set up a laptop pay station, where your launch party attendees can purchase your book online. As an added incentive to buy your book at the launch party, give your guests a discounted price on your novel and offer to sign it for them.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have at least some physical copies of your book at the launch party. Never assume someone is going to buy your book at a later date, even if they said they will—that’s like counting your chickens before they hatch. If you’re able, buy enough copies for everyone at the party—your guests are more likely to buy the book if it’s physically available to them.

Buying your own books will probably be one of the more expensive parts of your party no matter what you decide to do; however, they are crucial to your party’s success. Cut back where you can in the other areas mentioned above so you can have physical copies of your books on hand—I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Well, there you have it, a basic overview of a book launch party on the cheap. Start your planning in advance—the sooner you do, the less stress you’ll have to deal with when you get closer to the big day. Happy planning!


Writing Contest

Are writing contest a good way to jump-start a writing career? I think so and here’s why, I learned from experience that more people are interested in writing contest result than just the writer and contest judges; sometimes even literary agents show an interest writing contest. Enough so that if you had gone the query letter route, even submitted a book proposal and were rejected well entering a writing contest could hold a pleasant surprise for you. Rejection is part of the business so don’t get too discouraged if that has happened to you.

Now, granted you were not rejected because you were, let’s just say, way ahead of your time writing wise, I suppose there might be something wrong with your writing craft. In some way writing contest are a good way to have the latter possibility evaluated too. If you determine that you are in fact writing at a professional level then don’t be afraid to dust yourself off after a rejection and submit an entry in a writing contest. Strengthen yourself against rejection, even professional writer suffer rejects. In a lot of cases the rejection has nothing to do with their writing ability but more to do with the subject they are writing about, most editors look for good fits, subject wise, for their publication.

Because most editors end up with more good written material than they have space in an issue of their publication so the hacking and slashing off excess submission material is usually very impersonal and always a little painful for those sent a rejection notice. The good news is there are hundreds of other writing opportunities. If you think you might fall into the category of perhaps needing a little more help perfecting your writing you might want to look into the online Creative Writing Center or someplace like it. In writing persistence does pay off so just remember, especially if you enjoy reading the way I do, when you write if you are happy with your work, other will be too.

Since novel writing will be probably one of the smallest categories you will find in writing contests, mainly because novel manuscripts are very time consuming when it comes to judging and because of the amount a judge needs to read and remember when it comes to judging time. Judging a novel is way harder to judge than article writing, poetry, or short a story. For the novel writer though The First Three Chapters is a site where authors can submit three chapters of their completed project to literary agents looking for new clients; so it could be worth checking out if you have an interest in submitting some of your writing for publishing consideration. It will cost you almost twenty bucks but I’m leaving the link here just in case.

A good place to start your search for writing contest possibilities is the Contests and Awards section of the Writer’s Market publication. You might be able to find a copy in your local library, or local book store. I mention the local library because my last copy of that publication, including taxes, cost almost thirty dollars. I believe one of the reasons The Writer’s Market publication is so expensive is because it has a shelf life, mailing address locations seem to last longer than some of the contact people names do. Changes happen in publishing, people in key places move around. I always felt better using the personal touch when submit my writing and tried to know the name of the person doing the acquisition so my letter intro did not start with—to-whom-it-may concern, Dear Sir, or Dear Madam.

So it’s a good idea to make sure you have the current year’s issue of the Writer’s Market and if money is no object the Writer’s Market is a great publication to have around for selling your work to trade journals, consumer magazines, book publishers, and small press.

I admit my suggestion might sound a little like playing the lottery, when it comes to submitting to a writing contest, and might even seems like a long shot; but just like the lottery if you never buy a ticket you don’t stand a chance of winning, not entering a writing contest could mean the same thing, at least for that particular writing contest. I think you should at least give yourself a chance to win; so when it comes to opening doors for your writing I say entering your work in writing competitions is worth the chance.

About E-Books

For e-book article

Currently I can think of at least a half dozen popular ways for E-Books to be read; besides your notebook, laptop, or desktop and the dedicated E-Readers like the Sony Reader, Nook, or Kindle, you also need to remember some of the older readers known as “Personal Digital Assistants” from Pocket PC,  Psions, and Palms & Handsprings, add these PDAs to the online, or offline, ultra-books or netbooks and you begin to see why formatting and file type are important if you want your work to be available to as many readers as possible.

In fact as I write this blog entry several other E-Book readers may have joined e-reading devices from the list above, the I-Pad, Samsung Galaxy and a host of other web-readers, not yet mentioned. Include the fact that most of today’s cell phones have evolved enough so that a mobile phone, with internet access, is capable of serving as an e-reader too. E-Book material is based on the file type, or the format the e-book comes to you in; so if you decided to take on this challenge publishing and distributing your own e-book be mindful of the above, and do as much research as you can to make sure the software you chose will do the job. Hopefully this information will be useful and get you off to a good start.

Individual E-Publishing and file conversion, or server-side software, is available that will allow your website to become a little more full service if you are not already able to offer your own e-book(s) from your website. Design, package, and distribute your own encrypted DRM’d (Digital Rights Management a class of technology used by hardware manufacturers, copyright holders, and publishers) This software should allow you to distribute Adobe PDF and E-Pub E-Books directly from your website.

With a program called Desktop Author you can create an attractive page turning electronic publications that is interactive and has multimedia potential. The program allows you to produce books, catalogs, presentations, brochures, photo albums, forms and for the college student exams. The publications you create with this program are read with a DNL reader that can also be included or downloaded separately. There is a free trial version available for those who might want to test drive this software program before you purchase it, however, with the free version function is limited.

This blog entry was not meant to scare you away from distributing your own e-book from your own website. I only meant to share some of the file, and format, concerns associated with releasing your e-book to the world by yourself and reveal some of the software that is available to those brave enough to take on the challenge of distributing your e-book information online. I suppose if you would rather have relatively worry free e-book distribution; free of the concerns listed above there will always be the e-book distribution pros like your publisher and others set up to assisting authors and self-publishers with e-book distribution needs.

Helping writers become authors