Tag Archives: writing tips

Top 7 Ways Authors Are Using Instagram – The Book Designer

Follow Other Authors Especially if you are a new author, following more experienced authors certainly can’t hurt. Even the most experienced author is not exempt from gaining insight from other authors. Networking with other authors as a new or previously unpublished author can be eye-opening and present you with opportunities you may not have otherwise come across.Instagram is one of the best social apps you can use as an author, because not only does it give us a rest from all those words, but it can be used in so many ways—personally or professionally. You just have start thinking less in words and more in pictures.

Source: Top 7 Ways Authors Are Using Instagram – The Book Designer

By Adrienne Erin (@adrienneerin)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered if the very popular but visually-oriented social media sites like Instagram are a good place to market books (over 300 million visitors a month, more than 70% of them from outside the U.S.). After all, books are words, not pictures (usually). Adrienne Erin knows that authors can get a lot of attention they might not otherwise get for their books with some savvy tactics in hand. Here’s her report.

Words are for us as writers what computers are to office workers. They are the lifeline to pretty much every facet of our work. Not only do we use them to communicate our art form, but we obsess, play, hate, love and need them in order to do what we do. Sometimes we need a rest from all the word playing—and hating.

Where can we find that rest without cutting ourselves off even further from social exchange, but also without having to use even more words? It can be done—with Instagram. Not only can you use Instagram, but as an author, you should be using Instagram. For more than one or two reasons.

Why You Should Use Instagram as an Author

There are a lot of authors who use Instagram in ways that may be entertaining. It’s entertaining in the same way the crazy lady in the grocery store is who pulls out every gallon of milk from the dairy cooler in order to get the one that has the furthest date of expiration. Yeah, it’s weird and maybe a little funny, but mostly kind of pathetic.

There are plenty of famous authors who evoke that kind of reaction on Instagram. Don’t be one of those authors. Instead, consider some of the following rational ways to use Instagram to help further your author name and influence.

  1. To Follow Bloggers Who Review Books
    This reason really shouldn’t have to be explained. I mean, duh – if you follow enough book-bloggers, you increase the chance that one or more of them will review your book, which is read by said blogger’s audience. Whether that audience is 100 or 100,000 – isn’t it worth it to reach that amount of potential buyers of your book for free?
  2. For Self-Promotion and Marketing
    Instagram can be used for promoting your name or your newest book. You can host a contest with a free copy of your book as the prize. You can ask for photo submissions that revolve around the theme of your book or you can just use photos to connect to your fans and readers. As BuzzFeed’s article on book covers altered to include James Franco shows us, humor can be a great marketing strategy.
  3. Inspire Yourself and Your Fans
    Visual imagery can be the source of inspiration on a daily basis. All you need to do is catalogue it and you have your own visual diary for defeating the worst case of writer’s block. Not only can these photos inspire you, but they may equally inspire your readers and fans, who will in turn, recommend their network to follow you as well. Many writers use inspirational tweets and Facebook posts to reach their readers. Your followers will respond well to inspirational messages that reaffirm their beliefs.
  4. Collaborate with Your Fans
    This could be a marketing project or it could be research for a new novel. Projects can range from social research to just-for-fun, to things like #100HappyDays, which seems to be a combination of both. 100HappyDays is inspirational, fun, challenging and engaging. Hosting a project like this could provide you with tons of material for your next book, or it could simply attract a ton of followers — aka, readers.
  5. Cover Art Photos = Free Book Promotion
    What better place to advertise your stunning new book cover than Instagram? Book covers are certainly one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal for attracting a new reader. I don’t know about you, but if I come across an author I’ve never heard of, but they write in a genre I like to read and they have a fantastically interesting book cover – I am much more likely to purchase that book. By the way, this is also another reason to never cut any corners on your cover art.
  6. Give Fans/Readers an Inside Look at Your Life
    You don’t have to reveal all the skeletons in your closet, but a few pictures of your most recent vacation, your adorable pets, a weekend trip to the harbor and a ride on a boat will get you noticed — people love this kind of stuff. The more you draw in your readers and fans by showing that you’re just like them, the more they will be inclined to follow you and interact with your more professional work.
  7. Follow Other Authors
    Especially if you are a new author, following more experienced authors certainly can’t hurt. Even the most experienced author is not exempt from gaining insight from other authors. Networking with other authors as a new or previously unpublished author can be eye-opening and present you with opportunities you may not have otherwise come across.

 

Instagram is one of the best social apps you can use as an author, because not only does it give us a rest from all those words, but it can be used in so many ways—personally or professionally. You just have start thinking less in words and more in pictures.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “10 Things I Learned About Writing and Publishing From Managing a Porn Store” | LitReactor

Source: 10 Things I Learned About Writing and Publishing From Managing a Porn Store | LitReactor

By Christoph Paul

I used to manage a porn store in northeast D.C. I worked there for two years and it was the best writer job I ever had. There were whole blocks of time where I could read and write while I sat behind the counter. It was a blessing to get paid to practice my craft. All the hours added up and I became a better writer, but managing the porn store also taught me certain skills that I use on a daily basis in my writing and publishing career.

Covers and Titles

The first thing I learned was that we had to buy and sell lots of rentals on our new releases to stay afloat. If I picked a lot of bad movies for the new release wall that didn’t get bought or rented within the first month, my boss would be pissed. The customers also got pissed, and then I would have to deal with a lot of bullshit instead of focusing on writing or reading. The only real work I had besides putting movies back on their shelves was picking the weekly new releases. With the goal of having my boss stay off my back, I made sure to kill it each week with my new release section. I learned what sold and what type of titled stood out. I use that same skill when writing or publishing a new book. Whether it be porn or fiction, the cover and title has to show the readers and viewers that they will enjoy the product. The cover must at least peak curiosity and satisfy something a reader or porn watcher is wanting. Bad covers, whether on a porno or on a novel, are easy to spot and will always stay on the shelf.

Dialogue

My shift was eight hours a day, five days a week. Though I would have loved to spend every hour reading and writing, I had to interact with the customers. There were a lot of regulars who wanted to talk about politics, sports, their personal lives, their kinks, and their jobs. They would not hold back, and almost treated me like a priest. I heard some hardcore confessions. When I am figuring out how a certain character would sound, I have a ton of examples from the porn store. I can use their quirks and speech patterns to inject more realism and humor into my dialogue. Whether it be someone in the closet renting gay porn or a person explaining why they don’t want to have sex with their significant other anymore, I heard people speaking their truths. This gave me an ear for both inner and outer dialogue. There are things that a character reveals in more subtle and nuanced ways, through their rhythms, vocabulary, and even through the things they pointedly leave out.

Writing Through Chaos and Distractions

You can write anywhere. That is what I learned those years behind the porn store counter. I’d have homeless people come in, zoning law inspectors, gang bang recruiters (seriously), cops coming in to shoot the shit, the boss stopping by to complain, and customers looking for very specific fetishes. I learned to stop and deal with who or whatever I had to attend to, and then get back to writing. While there, I finished the second draft of a literary novel, some short stories, and read a ton. I learned there is no perfect place to read and write, and that even through the most awkward disruptions you can still find time to be creative.

Con Selling

If you can sell a $29.95 DVD with ‘anal’, ‘cuckold’, and/or ‘big cocks’ in the title, you can sell a book you have edited or written to a stranger. I picked up some practical sales skills at the porn store. My constant goal was to keep enough money coming in so my boss never suspected I was writing on the job. Though selling shitty porno movies and fake penis growth pills felt disenchanting at times, it taught me how to interact with strangers. When I started doing book festivals and conferences three years ago, they were a joy, because I actually believed in my books and understood how to communicate each book’s value. While penis enlargement pills are bullshit, I actually believe in what I sell. That combination of enthusiasm and sales skills has helped me finish in the black for almost every con/festival I have attended.

Character Studies

It wasn’t just dialogue I learned from the porn patrons. It was crafting real characters with real quirks and commonalities. Listening and talking to the porn store patrons was as good as reading any craft book on creating realized and memorable characters. After working the store for a year, I could usually tell a lot about a person within the first minute of talking to them. I noticed the physical: body language, the sound of their voice, build, did they look me in the eyes or not; sociological: how well read or educated they were, where they worked, what kind of money they made, religion, nationality; and emotional: were they stable, lonely and needing to connect, fake happy, assertive or aggressive, timid. All of these characteristics combined into making them who they were. I could use this skill to build real characters in my fiction. I could take physical, sociological, and emotional attributes and combine them into a unique human being. I would sometimes compare them to real individuals I met at the porn store to see if they felt ‘real.’

Genre Expectations and Surpassing Them

Different fetishes and types of porn are really just different genres. The videos that end up getting rented and bought the most not only meet ‘genre expectation,’’ they also add something special. While I don’t want to get super graphic here, it usually involves something memorable in the video—a scene, a style, and many times, a certain actress. I learned from the popular porno videos that when writing in a certain genre you have to make those genre fans happy, but also give them something unique. It can be your style of language, it can be taking a new approach on a familiar trope, and most importantly giving the reader an outstanding character. When you meet the expectations of genre and create something memorable in your story, your books will sell as good as porn.

Talking Books

On very slow days I would sit behind the register and read. A lot of customers didn’t want to interact and I would just look up, put in my bookmark, and get them their movie. This was pretty standard, but sometimes the porn patrons would be curious about what I was reading. Many of these guys were proud non-readers. I took this as a challenge to infuse the porn store with at least a little literary curiosity. To do this I had to tell them why the book was enjoyable and get them interested enough to want to hear more. I was very proud when I was able to get 4 men excited about the story of one of my favorite novels, Anna Karenina. Experiences like that have made it a lot easier for me to write the back copy of my own as well as other writers’ books.

Vibrator Editor 

Until I got the hang of it, selling and recommending vibrators was a challenge. Though white male privilege exists, it doesn’t come in handy when talking to a woman about what vibrator she should buy. At first it was very awkward and I didn’t sell many vibrators, but I learned that I had to help the female customer feel comfortable. I also needed to be knowledgeable and a little humorous, as well as respectful. When I took this approach I easily sold vibrators and learned better communication skills. These skills help me so much when editing other people’s work. Communication and making artists feel comfortable is important. Sex toys, someone’s story, they both involve vulnerability, but if you communicate the right way, a writer will be able to access the right technique and tool for the job.

Storytelling

When it was cold, the porn sales always rose. Wintertime was the most popular time in the store. Not just for rentals and purchases, but for guys just wanting to hang out. The porn store would feel a lot like a barbershop. There were guys who proudly didn’t read and didn’t even like watching movies or TV. They only liked sports, but some of these guys would come up with the funniest stories I have ever heard. There were always men wanting to talk, but if you couldn’t tell a good story or keep people’s interest, they wouldn’t give you a chance to be heard. I saw that being a great storyteller had nothing to do with being a great writer. Storytelling was a separate skill, and there were some guys who might not have ever picked up a book but could tell a great story. I started listening to these guys and dissecting their stories. I realized they were using many of the techniques I read about in the craft books about great storytelling.

Snobbery

I started the porn store job a good 7 years ago. At the time, I was a big literary snob. I believed that only the serious literary novel is what people should read, and even though I was selling porno, I thought erotica and romance writers were total hacks. After two years of working there my mind really opened, and I saw that whether it be porn, erotica, or romance, they were art forms and audiences enjoyed the fantasy and desire that they provided. I lost my snobbery, seeing that any kind of storytelling takes skill. A few years later I would take what I learned at the porn store and write erotica under a pen name. The erotica I have created is still the most successful work I have published. If I hadn’t worked at the porn store, I would be just another bitter failed literary novelist complaining about Chuck Tingle.

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5 Ways to Combat Author Anxiety | WritersDigest.com

Brynn Kelly, author of DECEPTION ISLAND (June 2016, HQN Books), shares 5 tips for moving past Author Anxiety and to keep writing.

Source: 5 Ways to Combat Author Anxiety | WritersDigest.com

It turns out Author Anxiety is a Thing. It’s not just me.

I discovered this on the eve of publication of my debut novel, DECEPTION ISLAND, when I was silly enough to Google my shiny new title. Up popped a Netgalley reviewer live-tweeting as she read it. Only she was hating it—pulling it apart chapter by chapter.

I’d had loads of great reviews—in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, RT Book Reviews, on dozens of blogs—but this one hobby reviewer withered my fragile confidence. It was the intimacy of it. I could see what she looked like, I could see what page she was reading, I could certainly see exactly what she thought of the story. And I couldn’t stop refreshing. Because I’m an idiot.

I’ve been a journalist for two decades and I’ve published a bunch of nonfiction books, so public criticism is nothing new. Why, then, did this rattle me?

I did what any 21st century dweller does when faced with a 21st century dilemma. I Googled. And I discovered I wasn’t alone. Not only is Author Anxiety a Thing, but it’s such a Thing that, yes, it deserves initial caps. I set out to find a remedy before this vile feeling paralyzed me from writing another fictional word. In the interests of author solidarity, I’m sharing five of my best cures.

1. Find perspective
Many years ago, to finance my journalism degree, I worked as a TV publicist. A fun job but intensely shallow. (Ask me anything about “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place.”) Even so, like all jobs, sometimes it got stressful. The most important lesson I learned from that two years was from a boss who was fond of saying, “It’s entertainment. It’s not f***ing brain surgery.” Same goes for my novel. It’s a romantic thriller. It’s not important. My bad day at work is when a reader isn’t entertained or moved and I lose that reader. I’m not a doctor who has lost a patient or an air-traffic controller who’s lost a plane. The worst-case scenario? This novel tanks, everyone forgets about it, and I write another one.

2. Embrace imperfection
Don’t tell my publisher this, but DECEPTION ISLAND isn’t perfect. There, I’ve said it. What a relief. I could have spent three decades rewriting it and it still wouldn’t be perfect. There’s no such thing as perfection in creative endeavor. At some point—usually when a deadline hits—you must step away from your manuscript and say, “There, it’s done. It’s the best I can do right now.” That book has become your past, not your future. It’s not even your present, anymore. The only thing that remains wholly in your control is your next book.

3. Get productive
If I read a bad review, suddenly I don’t feel like writing. But you know what? A good writing day blows away my doubt and fear. And studies into motivation have found that the muse kicks in after you begin a task, not before. Don’t feel like writing because someone just told the (virtual) world that you suck? Open your WIP and start somewhere, anywhere. Tinker with a paragraph you wrote a year ago, write a random exchange of dialogue, change the font. Just. Start. Your brain will light up, the motivation will come and the angst will evaporate.

4. Log out
Only one thing will make you a successful novelist: writing novels. Let the virtual world live without you—especially if it drags you down. Forget the rules that you must regularly post on social media and engage online. If bad reviews on Goodreads or Amazon discourage you, don’t read them. If you can’t help flicking onto them—because validation is addictive— but you hate yourself for it, get a productivity app and block those sites, and any others that routinely make your heart soar and sink. (If a review falls in a forest…) Ray Bradbury once said: “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” And if you just want the boost without the pain? Ask a friend to email you only the great reviews, in a monthly digest. It’s not a cop-out. It’s sensible.

5. Escape
If that sniping little head of yours is not a pleasant place to hang out, get out of it. Do something immersive: play a card game with your kid, see a movie, whack a tennis ball around a court. When you return, you should find your mind is a more agreeable—and productive—environment. Keep it that way by throwing a little love into the world to offset the negativity. Tweet an author about how much you enjoyed her book—because she may be feeling Author Anxiety today, too.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “New Agency to Consider”

New Agency to consider

kt literary

From their website: Books aren’t just what we do, they’re who we are. We become the sum total of our reading experiences – the romance, the adventures, the coming-of-age, the fantasy, the dare-to-believe. At kt literary, we want to be more.

It's not too late to start your novel.

It’s not too late to start your novel.

Madeleine L’Engle once said, “You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.” Write for children. Write for adults. Write for yourself. And then, when you’re ready to find a literary agent to take your work to the next level, think of us.

kt literary is a full-service literary agency operating out of Highlands Ranch, in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where every major publishing house is merely an email or phone call away. We believe in the power of new technology to connect writers to readers, and authors to editors. We bring over a decade of experience in the New York publishing scene, an extensive list of contacts, and a lifetime love of reading to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

And did we mention our boundless optimism?

Source: http://ktliterary.com/

Agents and what they are looking for:
We’re thrilled to be actively seeking new clients with great writing, unique stories, and complex characters, for middle grade, young adult, and adult.

Kate is looking only at young adult and middle grade fiction and selective nonfiction.

Sara seeks authors in middle grade, young adult, and adult romance, erotica, science fiction, and fantasy.

Renee is looking for young adult and middle grade fiction only.

Hannah is interested in speculative fiction in young adult, middle grade, and adult.

To query us, please select one of the agents at kt literary at a time. If we pass, you can feel free to submit to another. Please email your query letter and the first three pages of your manuscript in the body of the email to either Kate at katequery@ktliterary.com, Sara at saraquery@ktliterary.com, Renee at reneequery@ktliterary.com, or Hannah at hannahquery@ktliterary.com.

The subject line of your email should include the word “Query” along with the title of your manuscript. Queries should not contain attachments. Attachments will not be read, and queries containing attachments WILL be deleted unread. We aim to reply to all queries within two weeks of receipt. For examples of query letters, please feel free to browse the About My Query archives on this site.

In addition, if you’re an author who is sending a new query, but who previously submitted a novel to us for which we requested chapters but ultimately declined, please do say so in your query letter.

If we like your query, we’ll ask for the first five chapters and a complete synopsis. For our purposes, the synopsis should include the full plot of the book including the conclusion. Don’t tease us. Thanks!

We are not accepting snail mail queries at this time. If you have an aversion to email, perhaps we’re not the best agency for you. We also do not accept pitches on social media.

Source: http://ktliterary.com/submissions/

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Healthy writing”

11-reasons-writing-is-good-for-your-health

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/11-reasons-writing-good-health?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-nl-170214&utm_content=921445_WDE170214&utm_medium=email

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February 15, 2017 · 11:56 am

Writing tip Wednesday: “Write better Villains”

How to Write Better Villains: 5 Ways to Get Into the Mind of a Psychopath

By Peter James

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/write-better-villains-5-ways-get-mind-psychopath?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-170124&utm_content=915933_WDE170124&utm_medium=email

1. Where to find a psychopath who will talk to you – the importance of meeting your monster.
Over my years of research for my Roy Grace mystery novels I’ve given many talks in prisons for the charity, The Reading Agency, which encourages literacy in UK prisons, as it gives me the opportunity to meet many different kinds of criminal face to face.

I had been wanting to write about a female “black widow” character for some time, and had been studying past cases, and thinking hard about creating a convincing character. Three years ago I was talking in a women’s prison and there was a well-spoken middle-aged woman in the audience who was asking particularly smart questions about literature. She fascinated me, being clearly well educated and I wondered what crime she had committed. Perhaps she killed someone drunk driving, or something like that, I wondered?

steve-james-featuredOne big perk of my talks is that I get to mingle with the prisoners after and chat to them one-on-one. I made a beeline for her. I never ask a prisoner outright what they have done – it’s not proper etiquette! So as an icebreaker I said, ‘How much longer do you have to serve?’

She replied, in a booming voice, ‘Nine and a half more bloody years – and it’s just not fair! A woman did exactly what I did, in London, and she’s only got six more years to go.’

‘So, what brought you in here?’ I asked, somewhat startled.

‘I poisoned my mother-in-law, the old bag!’

‘OK,’ I replied, somewhat astonished. Then she went on.
‘The thing was, she went into hospital to die, so I embezzled her bank account. Then the bloody woman didn’t die – she came home. I realized she would find out so I had to poison her. Then I realized my husband would find out so I had to poison him, too. And it’s just not fair – this woman in London did exactly what I did and she’s only got six more years!’

As I was being taken back out by a prison officer I said to him, ‘Is this woman for real?’

‘Oh yes sir, he replied. ‘Her husband was three months on life support and he has permanent brain damage – and she’s just angry about the length of her sentence…’

I knew at once I had found my character for Love You Dead!

2. Make your monsters lovable.

If you think about the most endearing – and enduring – characters in the history of literature they are the ones that are not simply portrayed as black and white evil, but with shades of coloring. Think about Dracula – he is a monster but he has huge charisma and charm. Frankenstein’s monster turns to his creator, Dr Frankenstein and tells him he never wanted to be born. Hannibal Lecter, perhaps the most success monster in all of modern literature, is enormously charming, charismatic, he has style and people find themselves rooting for him, despite knowing just how utterly evil he really is.

3. Avoid stereotypes. A psychopath isn’t always a man in black in a dark alley with a sharp knife.

It may be a surprise to some people, but yes, there really are good psychopaths as well as bad ones. Or perhaps, paraphrasing from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, puts it into better perspective: Some psychopaths are less evil than others. He could be a past or a President of the United States? The CEO of a Fortune 100 company? Being a psychopath is the best qualification to get you to the top of a chosen path in life, but the worst to have once you are there: The reason most serial killers get away with it so long is that they are bright and cunning – and often total chameleons, able to blend into society. Ted Bundy, America’s worst to date is a classic example. A good-looking, charismatic former law student, estimated to have killed and raped over 100 young women. But it’s not just a good qualification if you want to be a serial killer, it’s a great one if you want to become a captain of industry or a top politician. The combination of charm, intelligence and utter ruthlessness is potent. The psychopath is capable of saying anything just to get to the top – how many politicians do we all know who’ve said totally opposing things many times during their climb up the greasy pole. But ultimately it is hubris that can be their downfall because their lack of empathy means they fail to read the warning signs. President Richard Nixon is a classic; Idi Amin; Saddam Hussein; Gadhafi. And how many CEOs of major companies, like Bernie Madoff and the late Robert Maxwell?

4. How to come up with a well-developed backstory for your psychopathic character.

Some years ago I spent a day at Broadmoor, the UK’s premier high-security psychiatric hospital. It took me a year before my request was accepted, but it was worthwhile because what I saw and learned there has helped me with so many subsequent characters. The qualification for admission to Broadmoor is, essentially, to be violently criminally insane. I asked the resident chaplain if he felt that there were some people who were born evil, or did something happen in their lives to turn them that way?

He replied that the inmates were divided roughly 50/50 into schizophrenics and psychopaths. Schizophrenia was a chemically treatable mental illness, and provided they took their medication, around 70% of the inmates in this category could eventually go back into the world and live ordinary lives. But for the psychopaths, it was very different.

He explained a psychopath is likely to first present symptoms at around the age of four. The majority is male but there are female ones also – as we will see. The earliest signs are likely to be a lack of empathy and no real sense of a moral code of right or wrong. A boy steals his best friend’s favourite toy – with absolutely zero guilt. He will also from an early age be an accomplished liar – and rarely found out.

The psychopath brought up in a loving, stable family may well go on to become a hugely successful businessman or politician. But the one brought up in a broken home, or a violent, abusive situation, is likely to become dangerously warped. Many serial killers come from such latter backgrounds, as did Adolf Hitler who had a bullying father who would not let him pursue the career as a painter he wanted in life.

5. Talk through any major villain you are creating with a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist.

I was chatting at lunch with former armed serial bank robber, and self-confessed psychopath, Steve Tulley. As a teenager in prison, for his first robbery, he met criminal legend Reggie Kray, and persuaded him to let him be his pupil and teach him everything he knew. At 58, broke, Tulley is living in a bedsit in Brighton and has spent more of his life in jail than free. I asked him what was the largest sum he had ever got away with. He told me it was £50k in a bank job. So what did he do with the money? He replied, excitedly that he’d rented a suite in Brighton’s Metropole Hotel and, in his words, ‘Larged it for six months until it was all gone.”

I asked Steve if he had the chance to live his life over again would he have done it differently? ‘No,’ he replied with a gleam in his eyes. ‘I’d do it all again. It’s the adrenaline, you see!’

From subsequently talking to forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, I’ve learned that this “adrenaline” buzz that Steve talks of goes hand-in-hand, with some criminals, with the ruthless, chaotic, hand-to-mouth existence they lead. One of the most chilling things I ever saw was the police video of Dennis Rader – the BTK Strangler– confessing. When asked why he had bound, tortured and killed – horrifically – his victims he replied, simply and matter-of-factly, ‘It was erotic, I got a buzz from it.”

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Isaac Asimov: How to Never Run Out of Ideas Again – Personal Growth – Medium

If there’s one word to describe Isaac Asimov, it’s “prolific”.

Source: Isaac Asimov: How to Never Run Out of Ideas Again – Personal Growth – Medium

by Charles Chu

If there’s one word to describe Isaac Asimov, it’s “prolific.”
To match the number of novels, letters, essays and other scribblings Asimov produced in his lifetime, you would have to write a full-length novel every two weeks for 25 years.

Why was Asimov able to have so many good ideas when the rest of us seem to only have 1 or 2 in a lifetime? To find out, I looked into Asimov’s autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life.

Asimov wasn’t born writing 8 hours a day 7 days a week. He tore up pages, he got frustrated and he failed over and over and over again. In his autobiography, Asimov shares the tactics and strategies he developed to never run out of ideas again.

Let’s steal everything we can.
________________________________________
1. Never Stop Learning
Asimov wasn’t just a science fiction writer. He had a PhD in chemistry from Columbia. He wrote on physics. He wrote on ancient history. Hell, he even wrote a book on the Bible.

Why was he able to write so widely in an age of myopic specialization?
Unlike modern day “professionals”, Asimov’s learning didn’t end with a degree—

“I couldn’t possibly write the variety of books I manage to do out of the knowledge I had gained in school alone. I had to keep a program of self-education in process. My library of reference books grew and I found I had to sweat over them in my constant fear that I might misunderstand a point that to someone knowledgeable in the subject would be a ludicrously simple one.”

To have good ideas, we need to consume good ideas too. The diploma isn’t the end. If anything, it’s the beginning.

Growing up, Asimov read everything —
“All this incredibly miscellaneous reading, the result of lack of guidance, left its indelible mark. My interest was aroused in twenty different directions and all those interests remained. I have written books on mythology, on the Bible, on Shakespeare, on history, on science, and so on.”
Read widely. Follow your curiosity. Never stop investing in yourself.
________________________________________
2. Don’t Fight the Stuck
It’s refreshing to know that, like myself, Asimov often got stuck —
Frequently, when I am at work on a science-fiction novel, I find myself heartily sick of it and unable to write another word.

Getting stuck is normal. It’s what happens next, our reaction, that separates the professional from the amateur.

Asimov didn’t let getting stuck stop him. Over the years, he developed a strategy…

I don’t stare at blank sheets of paper. I don’t spend days and nights cudgeling a head that is empty of ideas. Instead, I simply leave the novel and go on to any of the dozen other projects that are on tap. I write an editorial, or an essay, or a short story, or work on one of my nonfiction books. By the time I’ve grown tired of these things, my mind has been able to do its proper work and fill up again. I return to my novel and find myself able to write easily once more.

When writing this article, I got so frustrated that I dropped it and worked on other projects for 2 weeks. Now that I’ve created space, everything feels much, much easier.

The brain works in mysterious ways. By stepping aside, finding other projects and actively ignoring something, our subconscious creates space for ideas to grow.
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3. Beware the Resistance
All creatives — be they entrepreneurs, writers or artists — know the fear of giving shape to ideas. Once we bring something into the world, it’s forever naked to rejection and criticism by millions of angry eyes.

Sometimes, after publishing an article, I am so afraid that I will actively avoid all comments and email correspondence…

This fear is the creative’s greatest enemy. In the The War of Art, Steven Pressfield gives the fear a name.

He calls it Resistance.

Asimov knows the Resistance too —
The ordinary writer is bound to be assailed by insecurities as he writes. Is the sentence he has just created a sensible one? Is it expressed as well as it might be? Would it sound better if it were written differently? The ordinary writer is therefore always revising, always chopping and changing, always trying on different ways of expressing himself, and, for all I know, never being entirely satisfied.

Self-doubt is the mind-killer.

I am a relentless editor. I’ve probably tweaked and re-tweaked this article a dozen times. It still looks like shit. But I must stop now, or I’ll never publish at all.

The fear of rejection makes us into “perfectionists”. But that perfectionism is just a shell. We draw into it when times are hard. It gives us safety… The safety of a lie.

The truth is, all of us have ideas. Little seeds of creativity waft in through the windowsills of the mind. The difference between Asimov and the rest of us is that we reject our ideas before giving them a chance.

After all, never having ideas means never having to fail.
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4. Lower Your Standards
Asimov was fully against the pursuit of perfectionism. Trying to get everything right the first time, he says, is a big mistake.

Instead, get the basics down first —
Think of yourself as an artist making a sketch to get the composition clear in his mind, the blocks of color, the balance, and the rest. With that done, you can worry about the fine points.

Don’t try to paint the Mona Lisa on round one. Lower your standards. Make a test product, a temporary sketch or a rough draft.

At the same time, Asimov stresses self-assurance —
[A writer] can’t sit around doubting the quality of his writing. Rather, he has to love his own writing. I do.

Believe in your creations. This doesn’t mean you have to make the best in the world on every try. True confidence is about pushing boundaries, failing miserably, and having the strength to stand back up again.

We fail. We struggle. And that is why we succeed.
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5. Make MORE Stuff
Interestingly, Asimov also recommends making MORE things as a cure for perfectionism —

By the time a particular book is published, the [writer] hasn’t much time to worry about how it will be received or how it will sell. By then he has already sold several others and is working on still others and it is these that concern him. This intensifies the peace and calm of his life.

If you have a new product coming out every few weeks, you simply don’t have time to dwell on failure.

This is why I try to write multiple articles a week instead of focusing on one “perfect” piece. It hurts less when something flops. Diversity is insurance of the mind.
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6. The Secret Sauce
A struggling writer friend of Asimov’s once asked him, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Asimov replied, “By thinking and thinking and thinking till I’m ready to kill myself. […] Did you ever think it was easy to get a good idea?”
Many of his nights were spent alone with his mind —

I couldn’t sleep last night so I lay awake thinking of an article to write and I’d think and think and cry at the sad parts. I had a wonderful night.
Nobody ever said having ideas was going to be easy.
If it were, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
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