Ask Dan ANYTHING

dan
your humble host

Each week we’re taking a few of YOUR writerly questions and setting about answering them for you. 

Ask Dan ANYTHING

Skill level doesn’t matter. Newbie writer, veteran writer, you have questions. I’ll opine; maybe some others will chime in with their thoughts, and hopefully YOU will get several good solutions to choose from.

Or something like that.

  • Wanna know what dialogue tags are, and why you don’t want them in your story?

  • Wanna know how to create a “page turner” story?

  • Wanna know why you need to build an author platform?

And it doesn’t have to be directly writing related. Sometimes you need to get in the writing mood by NOT doing writer stuff. Maybe you wanna know about doing author events, but maybe you wanna know about public speaking, or… I don’t know; the London train system. (I had some trouble there, if you’ll recall.)

Or why so much of Europe requires you to pay to pee…

I don’t want to suggest ideas TO you, I wanna know what’s on YOUR mind.

What are YOU struggling with?

So ask.

Ask me anything.

We have lots of smart people here; if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does. Or I’ll make something up.

Go ahead, you know you want to.

ASK ME ANYTHING!

Post your questions in the comment section below. I’ll answer the first five, maybe the first ten – so don’t goof off. Post your question NOW!

.

danDan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious romantic comedy “Poggibonsi: an Italian misadventure.” 

Click HERE to get your copy of Poggi FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Also available in paperback.

19 thoughts on “Ask Dan ANYTHING

    • I don’t have anybody to do the routine stuff!

      I’ve talked about this a few times and there are several key elements to “finding time.”

      We’ve all heard the phrase, we all have same 24 hours a day, but it’s not really true. On days when I have to spend a lot of time with my daughter, I don’t have lots and lots of hours for everything else. She gets my attention because that’s how that’s supposed to work.

      So on days where somebody is working late or there’s a traffic jam or whatever, they may find themselves being less productive than they typically would like to be.

      What I do is this:

      Many of us don’t control when our day starts but almost all of us control when it begins.

      So I just get up earlier.

      If I get up at five in the morning or sometimes 4:30 or even four, I get at least two hours of writing done before anybody else in my house is awake.

      Now, I don’t look at emails and I don’t look at social media during that time. That is strictly writing time, and believe me, having an hour or for writing time is like having Christmas morning. I can’t wait to jump out of bed and start doing it. Additionally, I am thinking about my story all day. If I get a good idea, I grab my phone and I jot it down.

      I don’t care if I am 99.9% done with the story, if I think of something brilliant for the first page, I talk to text myself a message and I get that sucker put into the first page.

      The next thing is recreation.

      I try to record everything on TV that I watch.

      That may mean watching an NFL football game, that is typically three hours long, but starting to watch it two hours after the game has started. I can jump over all the commercials. I can also fast-forward through a lot of the timeouts and delays of game and all that nonsense. You can watch almost an entire football game in a little more than an hour if you’re trying hard enough.

      TV shows that are an hour long with commercials are about 40 minutes without them. If you can save 20 minutes a day five days a week, if you have over in hour and a half additional “found” time.

      It doesn’t sound like much but it adds up. And I’m not afraid to sit down and watch three hours of TV after a long day. But if I watch three hours this way, I get it over within two, I’m refreshed, and I go spend the next hour writing.

      Most people aren’t willing to do the hard things, and what is hard is different for each of us. You have to identify where you are “wasting” your time and figure out ways to eradicate it. For most people reading this message, they sit down to write and end up checking Facebook, Twitter, and emails – and then discover half of the writing time is gone. Every time.

      Lunchtime can be for writing or it could be for social media or it could be for something else. I typically choose writing.

      I did a blog post and you can search for it about finding time to write and I think I listed more than 10 ways but the biggest one is just get up earlier.

      Each time you go to do something, whether it is watching TV or social media or whatever, you have to ask yourself one question:

      If I don’t get my writing done but I know about the Kardashians or the latest thing on Twitter, will I feel good or bad?

      And with all the different applications on your iPhone, you can do your social media throughout the day or on breaks at work or at a red light or standing in line at the grocery store, you know?

      Protect your writing time. Defend it. What’s more important?

      For me, the writing is almost always more important.

      Liked by 2 people

      • This is excellent. I love what you say here about getting up early and not even looking at social media before you write. It’s so much easier to be productive if you ban social media from yourself until after you’ve completed your daily writing goal. And yet the temptation is always there, trying to lure you away. When I think about authors like you who maintain a very active blog in addition to publishing multiple books/year, I too wonder how it’s possible. But it really is possible if you remain focused.

        Thanks for sharing! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • When it’s time for me to let critique partners look at my work, I usually go to people I have used in the past. We critique each other and have done so for years – so how did I find them in the first place?

      My original critique partners I met through an online critique group – which is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. I literally did hundreds upon hundreds of critiques over years to eventually boil it down to a handful of people who knew what they were talking about. Even then, people I used two years ago may not be active with me today because of time constraints or other things. One of the critique partners I used on The Navigators was not interested in reading a fantasy I was writing. If I go back to time travel he will certainly be there for me again!

      After looking at their work and them looking at mine, we saw enough mutual talent and respect for each other’s distinct abilities to work together moving forward.

      So that probably was six people A few years ago and maybe two or three people two years ago, down to one or two today.

      Now, when I’m done a story, I let it rest and then I attack it again. So I am looking at my work in the harshest light. Then my critique partners get it and they make whatever suggestions.

      I would decide on their suggestions and implement the ones I agree with, and then my story would go to beta readers.

      As far as holding them accountable, you almost can’t. If I’m working with six people and one of them is simply not giving me feedback or doing things in a timely manner, I can ask them nicely but they’re basically doing me a favor. After that, I can’t really keep going to them because they are abusing the privilege.

      So if I had six people, one or two would finish quickly, one or two would take a week or two longer, and one or two would take even longer than that. So the ones who get the information back fastest might have a vested interest because they want me to look at their work as well. The one to take a little longer might just be busy with other things like work and life.

      The ones that don’t seem to ever finish pretty much don’t get invited back to the party the next time. If they finish their information six months later, I might look at it but if the book is published there’s not a lot I can do at that point.

      That said, I never want to offend anybody. I understand their schedule simply may not match mine.

      I ask the same thing of everybody, to finish the work within a certain time period, but some people can’t do it so they don’t ask to be a beta reader that time, and some people ask but are then unable to do it for unforeseen reasons. After a while of working with someone you get a feel for what they are capable of. I would never turn down a beta reader because they weren’t able to finish by my deadline because the next time they might be able to.

      Accountability comes from mutual trust in this area. If they want good information from me, they have to get good information to me in a timely manner.

      Once you’ve worked with people for a while, they know they can be honest with you and tell you when something isn’t your best work and tell you when something is really putting them over the moon. And you have to be able to do the same thing for them.

      Because you respect each other, you are candid up front as far as what you can or cannot do for their work. I have a few people who I would put aside basically everything to critique their work. There are others I have to decline because I simply can’t accept every single request I get.

      But then I try to do my best by periodically holding a contest or an anthology where I can help a bunch of people in a short period of time with just maybe one short chapter or 3000 words or something, giving back a little bit that way.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Somebody asked me once if I was famous. I said, have you heard of Tiger Woods? They said yes. I said, do you know who the 200th best golf player in the United States is? They said no.

      I said, you’ve heard of Stephen King and JK Rowling but you probably don’t know there’s a whole bunch of people right underneath them who make a bunch of money – that you’ve never heard of.

      And underneath that group is a bunch of people who make really good money that you’ve never heard of.

      There’s another group that maybe makes $100,000 a year you’ve never heard of and then there’s a bunch of levels underneath that of people you’ve never heard of who they don’t make a lot of money.

      So am I famous? The people who have heard of me think I’m famous. Most of the world has never heard of me. To them, I’m not famous.

      I’m not known. Not really. So the biggest challenge is becoming known.

      But that’s not answering your question.

      I’m better known than some, and not as well-known as others. Becoming known is a matter of time and effort. Very few people become well-known overnight without doing a lot of hard work first.

      So the answer is time and effort, and maybe being smart about it.

      What got my name out there and made it recognizable was two things. One, I put my name on every critique I do. I don’t hide behind a pen name or a made-up name or anything else. My name is on my books, on my blog, on my Facebook author page; if I did a critique for somebody five years ago in a online critique group, my name is there. So I got my name out there by putting my name out there. When I do an Amazon review for somebody whether it’s for a book or for car mats, my name goes on there.

      Second, my picture. I’ve been using the same picture from when my daughter was two years old. She just turned seven. But I picked a picture that honestly I don’t think my hair looks that good and I’m a little fat in that picture but it is what I have been using for a while and when it came time to change everybody said stick with it. Kind of like Coca-Cola, you may have to advertise your brand but you don’t change your logo and that picture is part of my brand. I remember in high school being surprised that Dear Abby was like 60 years old because she was still using the same picture from when she was in her 20s. It was for brand.

      (For the record, I post enough new pictures of myself on my Facebook author page and occasionally on my blog like when we were on vacation in London, so if anybody wants to know what I currently look like, it’s there. I don’t look too different.)

      So you see Dan Alatorre – Author is my blog, my writing contest is called Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest. Things like that. I use my name over and over and over because I’m not afraid of my customers and using my name helps me become known.

      So basically how you get known is by advertising – and I advertise my name.

      I also have published 18 titles and I advertise those, and I advertise things like my writing contest, so my name goes along with all that stuff, but the one unifying factor is me, Dan Alatorre.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s the answer I was looking for!
        Firstly well done Dan for all your effort, hard work and perseverance. I also congratulate your confidence and self-belief to get out there and mix it with the world.
        (Just an aside, as a Brit, It’s one of the aspect of Americans I love, your drive to ‘get in there’ )
        I agree with your view of the scales of the achievement, but there again there is a personal element to that. Very few will get to the level of, say, Stephen King; there are a whole host of factors which contribute to, say ‘Stephen King’. That aside to reach an achievement which gives you a measure of satisfaction is a worthy thing. Beneath those of us who produce work are those who will carp about it, pick at others work but never produce anything of their own. So hoorah to those who produce even one book (or try).
        Me, for 30 years I wrote in a bubble, not contacting anyone and thinking if I sat there in my corner someone might notice- hah!
        Anyway, getting into WP opened up a whole world. I put a kindle book out ‘A History of These Ilses’ , a skewed version of history of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales; it’s been a lot of fun and to date I’ve sold a whole 6 copies AND had two favourable reviews- by my own standards I ‘have arrived’- but have much work to do to progress.
        Anyway thank you for taking the time to explain your efforts and approach; it’s clarified a great deal for me. And congratulations to you for 18 titles.
        Keep on keeping on, because once you are out there, you have achieved in some way a piece of immortality!
        Best wishes
        Roger

        Liked by 1 person

          • I believe they do Dan.
            This is how I see it; once someone’s work has been published by paper or these days on computer then it exists to be discovered by later generations.
            It might be a long game, but you never know.
            As I see it once you publish ‘you belong to the Ages’ .
            I know that is of know comfort whatsoever for folk who are trying to make an income out of writing in the Here and Now; it’s just one perspective.
            (Like, if my ‘history’ was initially taken as a serious work by someone 100 years time)
            Never, ever give up I say (It would be kind of nice to ‘go out’ still tapping away at a keyboard).
            All the best with your work
            Roger

            Liked by 1 person

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