4 Important Things Every Aspiring Author Needs To Know

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Your humble host.

Pushing that PUBLISH button is a big moment, and your life is different – for better or worse – from that moment on.

 

Writers need to get over the fear of publishing.

 

I was lucky, I started by writing family humor essays and my stuff was out there for a years on Facebook where friends read it and enjoyed it and shared it with strangers and encouraged me, so I knew what was funny and how to hook readers and how to get an audience to cry before I ever sat down to create a book. Still, pushing that PUBLISH button is a big moment, and your life is different – for better or worse – from that moment on.

 

I know each new story is better than the last one and believe it will be well received, but getting past that initial fear, worrying that I was about to humiliate myself, was hard for me and is hard for most writers.

 

What I can tell you is DO IT.

 

Publish book one and get book two out as soon as possible. There are very few Harper Lee’s. Most of us are going to have to write a few books to get good at it.

 

Here are the FOUR most important things every aspiring author needs to know:

 

  1. Don’t polish it forever, put it out there.
  2. At some point the changes aren’t improvements, they’re just changes.
  3. Believe in yourself and start achieving your dream. It waits for you on the other side of the publish button.
  4. Mobs do not show up with pitchforks and torches if your book is bad, and odds are you didn’t write something bad.

 

  • From an interview with Cathleen Townsend in her blog The Beauty Of Words when she asked me “What has been the hardest thing about publishing for you?”

 

When chasing after your story, KEEP AFTER IT!

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Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE, Black Friday Edition: TWO-SENTENCE STORY

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BLACK FRIDAY TWO-SENTENCE STORY CHALLENGE

Flash fiction is supposed to be short and fast, and it doesn’t get much faster than two sentences! But it’s a holiday weekend here so I wanted to make this fun.

(I saw this on CS Wilde’s blog and LOVED the idea. I spent longer thinking about my two sentence reply than I have for whole sections of stories.)

THE CHALLENGE: Write your best two-sentence story in the comments section below, post the challenge on your blog, and make sure to leave the link to your blog in your reply.

Did you get all that?

  1. Leave your two-sentence story in the comments.
  2. With your blog link
  3. And post it in your blog

Careful! It’s harder than you think!

THE REWARD: as always, the recognition of your amazing talent, as signified by like and shares to your reply here.

READY? Here is the prompt you add onto. A story stem,  if you will:

THE SHOVEL HIT SOMETHING HARD. THEN THE SCREAMS STARTED.

It can be any genre you want: humor, horror, romance; anything at all, as long it’s ONLY a two-sentence story.

Now get after it!

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REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

3 Tips To Getting Over Your Holiday Writing Hurdles (The Emotional Rollercoaster, part 1)

 

00 santa hat writer
A visual representation of me if I were a lady in a Santa hat. Even I don’t get this one.

I expected to get a ton of writing done at Christmas last year. NOTHING got done!

 

 

NOTHING!!!

 

 

Writer’s slump? Maybe.

 

Don’t you HATE it when the words aren’t flowing, or you can’t get motivated to write? Or other writing related hurdles?

 

The thing is, it passes.

 

Think about how difficult it was to share your work with another person the first time. Hopefully they were nice no matter how good or bad it was. Whether it was shared on Facebook, with friends, a spouse, a critique group, SHARING was a mountain BEFORE you did it – and now we look back and see it wasn’t such a big deal.

 

businesswoman-pointing-gun-to-computer-laptop-sitting-office-desk-desperate-stressed-young-attractive-having-problems-47931112
Write, damn you!

Somehow, we got through it.

 

Lots of hurdles are that way. You just knew about some of them, like publishing or getting reviews. Maybe you had an idea of what writer’s block was, but it hadn’t ever happened, or you never had to push through a case of lack of motivation all by yourself.

 

Those are all hurdles, too, and they seem HUGE when you are in them.

 

Worry not.

 

There are ways over your WRITER HURDLE just like any other kind of hurdle. Here are a few suggestions.

 

  1. Down in the dumps? Help somebody else. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or help another author with their problem. Misery loves company but in this case your input might help them get past their hurdle. It feels good to help. You want to feel good. I feel great every time one of you says that I helped you, or thanks me, whether you do it in a comment here or in a private message (and I get a LOT of those). They all feel great! (And don’t worry, I’ll be asking every one of you to buy a book pretty soon to show how much I really helped you.)

 

03 art and images (5)
Oh, it’s a compliment, eh?

Remember, when you help a writer friend and they say “no” to your suggestion, that’s a good sign. They instinctively have a better one percolating. Or they’re an asshole. Hold back the desire to stab them. “No” is good and so is “yes.” Talking about it with a sympathetic ear that belongs to a writer makes a big difference. Normal people don’t understand. Find that ear. Talk to it. (Did you just get a flash of a big ear sitting on a table at a coffee shop and you were talking to it, with no person attached? I did. Weird.)

 

  1. Writer’s block? Do a flash fiction challenge. Muscles atrophy and so does your sharpness as a writer. Don’t let it. You can force yourself to write something that is just for fun and it can restart you engine.

 

  1. Stuck on a plot point? Talk, or think up an alternate ending.
    man-reading-book
    Ooh, that’s GOOD!

    Send in your problem. Maybe we’ll air the options here and when people say “Ooh that’s good!” – WOW, the wind goes right back into your sails.

 

What else is bothering you? Let me know. There are lots of smart people here. No need to suffer in silence.

 

Most important, realize: with a few exceptions, you are not a robot. You have emotions or your stories would read like instruction manuals for Legos. This is a different business from a lot of others because it is so personal (more on that in part 2), and that can magnify things, so don’t let it. Learn to develop a thicker skin. But until then, ASK FOR THAT HELP.

 

Everybody here wants to help you.

 

Let us.

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REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

 

 

Yes, BLOG! What New Authors Need To Know About Building A Platform

Is this you when it comes to blogging?
Is this you when it comes to blogging?

Occasionally a new author will write me with a question or problem and I’ll answer it here so we can all learn.

 

Dear Dan,

I went to a writers’ conference last weekend (which was kind of intimidating) but I learned a lot about writing technique and learned some things about myself. I’m not a good self-promoter. I’m kind of quiet, actually; but one thing they recommended was a blog and/or website. I never had a good impression of blogs because I never thought people would be interested in things like, “I got up and made myself coffee.”

Sincerely,

Blogless Beginner

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Dear Blogless,

Not a good self promoter? A little on the quiet side?

Talk? To people?
Talk? To people?

Sounds like you’re an author all right!

Let me tell you a secret. MOST people aren’t good self-promoters. There are very few Donald Trumps in the world – he wrote a few books, you know.

(We recently discussed building an author platform HERE, HERE, and HERE)

The folks at the conference who recommended you have a blog or website probably believe a blog is a good platform from which to build a fan base – and they may be right – but you don’t have to do one. If blogging is a chore, it’ll read like a chore, and nobody will want to read it, a lose-lose.

But some blogs are fun to read. Like this one!

My blog has started to become a good one in the last year or so, after I figured out what I was doing. It’s supposed to be helpful and lots of people think it is. I also like to promote other authors and so far that’s worked pretty good for them, too. So anything I can do to help, let me know.

A visual representation of my blog, year 1
A visual representation of my blog, year 1

(You know what would be good for you to do? But boring? I mean BORING? Go to my archives and see the progression of what I blogged about 3 years ago and what I blog about now. Which posts got comments and which didn’t. Talk about an education! There’s 2 years saved right there!)

There are a lot of ways to do a blog, almost none of them wrong, but you’d never know that from reading people’s complaints about how nobody reads their blog.

And you’re right, nobody wants to read about boring stuff, but think about it: some construction worker somewhere doesn’t want to read about writing and how to do better dialog. But somewhere else, a bunch of nurses would love to share their funny nursing stories – and a bunch of nurses might like reading that, as well as a bunch of other people. (There’s more but this is a start.)

You ROCK!
You ROCK!

What interests you will be interesting to others, trust me. It’s a chicken-egg thing, but if you blog with enthusiasm about what interests you, people will find it, enjoy it, and tell friends.

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REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

I Can’t Finish My Story! Failure To Launch, a (common) writer nightmare

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

Occasionally a writer reaches out and laments about a writerly problem. Here’s one I received recently that I think is fairly common.

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Dear Dan,

I recently realized that my writing has slowed to a standstill, not because I’m busy, but because I’m terrified to finish.

Help.

Scared Storyteller

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Dear Storyteller,

It’s not uncommon to see the finish line and suddenly become… intimidated.

Truman Capote said finishing a story is like taking your child out in the back yard and shooting it.

Oh yes he did
Oh yes he did

See?

Why is that?

Why do so many writers get so far along and then not finish?

I think the reason(s) is basically simple. First of all, a lot of people get a great idea for a story, but once they get that idea down – Oh, wouldn’t it be neat if the Easter Bunny murdered Santa Claus? So they set up the murder, and the rabbit whacks the fat guy!

And then they’re sitting there thinking… Now what?

Yeah. No idea.

(Recently we discussed ways to find more time to write, HERE

Didn't happen
Awesome dragon hunt? Didn’t happen.

Or a writer decides they’re going to have a big dragon hunt and their critique partner says no dragon cos it doesn’t fit in the world you constructed. And then you’re sitting there saying, okay, no dragon, no dragon hunt… Now what?

And some people just plain old get stuck. They have an idea but they don’t have a story. Big, big, BIG difference. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. Ideas – maybe not!

Other writers get stuck in what’s called the mushy middle. They have a beginning: Easter Bunny intends to kill Santa Claus over a long standing feud about candy. They have a great ending: Easter Bunny and Santa reconcile and Santa is not killed.

But they don’t have a middle – known as a big part of the story – and they can’t figure out how to go connect the dots to make it happen. THAT one’s a BIG “now what.”

I'm a pantser. Something will come to me.
I’m a pantser. Something will come to me.

But I believe far away the biggest reason real writers don’t finish a story is: once you get close to the end, you begin to lose your identity.

You have been spending time with these characters. You know them. You look forward to seeing them each day and you wonder what kind of funny things you can have them do or what interesting situations they’re going to get into or what new romance is right around the corner…

Shutting that door and walking away is tragic!

It’s extremely difficult!

And while I think Truman was a little over the top with his infanticide reference, finishing a story – and the fear of what waits on the other side – it is a lot like graduating high school not seeing all your friends anymore, or leaving a fun job where we had a lot of friends and going to a new job we don’t know anybody.

Introvert viewing a new workplace.
Introvert viewing a new workplace.

Graduating college, my world became very different. Bosses expected me to show up every morning and know things. There were no noon classes, it was 8am every day, butts in seats. And within 18 months, I moved across the state to take a different job, so I didn’t know anybody. I struggled for a while.

Finishing your story can be like that. It’s a big change

It’s the unknown, and people are like rightly afraid of that. You knew every day what was going to happen with your characters and now, sadly, that is going to stop.

Personally, I think that’s why a lot of sequels and trilogies get written (even when they shouldn’t). They can’t walk away from the characters, so they don’t. And only a few stories deserve trilogies. A few.

To contrast, the great John Belushi once said no sequels. And he was right, too.

There’s nothing wrong with a trilogy, but most the time one book will do it. Think of movies and think of sequels, and almost never – almost never – is the sequel (or the third or fourth) as good as the first.

The original and different and exciting. It’s usually best if we leave it that way. But…

I DID have that idea about the Santa murder...
I DID have that idea about the Santa murder…

I also believe that your ONE BIG STORY is not the only one great story you’re ever going to have!

Finishing it and setting it aside allows you get on to your next story, which will probably be even better. Do you know how I know? Because I was in the same boat. I was finishing a story and I was scared to death of what was gonna happen. I was rushing to finish because I was so excited about my story, and then it was done – and I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I enjoyed a few days off, basking in the glow, knowing I’d written my best work ever, and then I became borderline depressed. Well, depressed for me, anyway, which means I was sad for a few hours. (Okay, maybe the better part of a day.)

So I get it.

And then I went on to write what most people regard as my best work ever.

Shameless plug for upcoming book.
Shameless plug for upcoming book.

And then I stretched those writer muscles and wrote another one. It’s pretty darned good, too. It has flashes of brilliance, honest.

You can do that, too.

Writers, you are NOT alone. You may be the only one typing the words of your story, but there are plenty of helpful hands patting you in the back or helping you back on your feet – or feet kicking you in the butt if necessary.

Finish your book! The NEXT great story awaits, and you can’t write that one while you’re fiddling around with this one!

Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for a suggestion. I’ve done that, on the giving end AND the receiving end. Collaborate. Ask for ideas. As soon as you hear the shitty stuff your friends come up with, an amazing idea will pop into your head.

Thumbs Up
Novellas rock!

You have short stories and blog posts you’ve wanted to do, and that will fill the void.

And then one day a pretty girl will sit across from you on a train and you’ll say, Hmm… and an amazing story will start flowing through your fingers into the keyboard.

You can do it. Writing takes a brave spirit. So does finishing.

Be brave. Your next great story is in there dying to get out. Let it.

What are some of YOUR tips to finish or experiences near the finish line?

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Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Name A Book Or Movie That will Make You Cry

000000000000000000

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Simple enough, huh?

When you get somebody to be honest about this, you learn about them. When you’re honest about this yourself, you learn about you.

When you dissect it, you learn about writing.

What the author or screenwriter did to make you cry was a series of repeatable steps that you can learn to do for your stories.

Janice Hardy mentioned 5 Common Elements to Likable Characters

  • They show compassion or empathy
  • They have strength or fortitude
  • They display a talent or skill
  • They’re funny or entertaining
  • They’re broken in some fashion
  • They have a dream

(Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, April 30, 2014 http://blog.janicehardy.com/2014/04/five-ways-to-create-likable-characters.html) That looks like six to me…

After you like a character, when they feel pain, you sympathize. When they are emotionally distraught, you are.

When they cry, you cry.

You gonna argue with Robert Frost?
You gonna argue with Robert Frost?

So, think about what made you like the character, and then the steps that got you there. Odds are it’ll be some of Janice’s five.

Also, if other characters like your character, the reader will. If they look up to him, readers will see that.

Then think about the steps involved in making you want to cry for the character.

If you look at two or three movies, you’ll assemble the steps to likability that work for you, and the second set of steps that made you cry. That’s a powerful tool to deliver in any story, and readers tend to remember it. After all, you didn’t need an hour to come up with a story that made you cry, did you?

So? What books or movies made you cry?

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Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: PLOT POINT

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

If you wanna get right to the challenge skip down to “FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!” and champagne Leo.

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As most of you know, plots are either very easy or very hard.

You take a trip to Italy and see a girl on a train? Bingo! Three months and 100,000 words later you’ve written a Pulitzer Prize winner (it could happen) –  definitely your best book yet!

By contrast, you take a vacation to the Florida Keys and become convinced the guy who rented you the house is a psychotic madman with a cool boat who will take you scuba diving – to murder you!

And, well… three months later its whole story line consist of these seven words: Rental house owner wants to murder me. With the supporting phrase: “His friend on the boat looked squirrely, too.”

They ARE tasty, though.
Margaritas ARE tasty, though.

Yeeeeeah, maybe that one’s not going anywhere. Chock it up to too many margaritas.

Which is why I am convinced: we do NOT pick our plots, OUR PLOTS PICK US!

Or at least for this writing challenge, that’s my theory.

Luckily, thanks to a Random Plot Generator, we no longer have to wander in the darkness. We can now allow our plots to quickly and easily find us!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to go to the Random Plot Generator and allow the plot gods to speak to you! Yes, it says movie plot generator; just ignore that. Do not question the will of the gods.

EXAMPLE of where your plot idea will be. CLICK  TO ENLARGE
EXAMPLE of where your plot idea will be. CLICK TO ENLARGE

YOU must then write 1000 words on the topic the gods have chosen for you, AND you have to include the random phrase IN the piece.

Yeah! Not so easy now is it, tough guy???

Um… and that’s about it.

You have one week to complete the assignment. Link to it here by noon on 11/20/2015 EST. We’ll have more of these challenges on Fridays through the holidays, unless there’s a mass revolt like we almost had over the haiku scandal. (I thought haikus were supposed to rhyme.)

It's the holidays - almost. Relax and have some fun with a Flash Fiction Challenge. And a margarita.
It’s the holidays – almost. Relax and have some fun with a Flash Fiction Challenge. And a margarita.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!

If you read this far, you have to participate. Basically I’m looking for something around 1000 words. It can be less, it could be more. If you’re closing in on 3000 words and you haven’t really nailed it yet, think about a little editing.

Take a deep breath and click on your Random Plot Generator: ONE click per player!

http://plot.kitt.net/

THE RULES

  1. You write 1000 words more or less on the topic
  2. Post it on your blog
  3. Reference us on your blog and this challenge so your regular readers don’t think you’ve gone rental-house-owner-in-the-Keys-style psycho.
  4. Post the link to your story here in the comments section.
  5. You have until Friday 11/20/2015 at 12 noon EST, that’s Tampa Florida US of A time, for those of you who live elsewhere.

That’s it! GET TO IT!

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Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.