Twitter Made Simple

If Facebook is about connecting with friends and family, Twitter is about connecting with like-minded people you don’t know.

I spend about 10 minutes a day on Twitter. If you do a few things there each day, you will build a following over time. My advice: (1) share what interests you with hashtags (for example, #writing), (2) support others with the same interests by retweeting and favoriting their tweets, and (3) don’t get too salesy.

If you are new to the platform, here are a few slides that can help you get started. If you have questions, please contact me. I am happy to help. 

A Christmas Gift to You: Write Your Book in 24 Hours

Monday, December 2 [2013], I’ll begin publishing Write Your Book in 24 Hours serially, for free. It’s my Christmas gift to you—a thank you to my readers.

Why did I write 24 Hours? I’ve met a lot of people who have felt inspired to write a book but they don’t know where to start or how to get the job done. This book will guide you step by step through writing, editing, publishing, and promoting your book. You’ll learn, among other things:

  • What blocks you from writing your book and getting it published
  • How to organize your ideas into a coherent stream
  • The key to getting your book down in written form in about 10 percent of the time
  • How to publish on Kindle and other platforms
  • Who to have on your publishing team
  • How to promote your book
  • And much more!

Merry Christmas to you all.

Note: The book was taken down on January 2, 2014. Thank you for reading!

Three Reasons Why You Hate to Write

I sometimes hear people say, “I hate to write!” But I don’t believe it. Writing is really just the surrogate issue. You most likely have another issue that you are wrestling with and writing brings it out.

I am of the opinion that everyone should write, and that the only way to get better at writing is through deliberate practice. Yes, I know some people are talented writers, but I also know that natural, raw talent is one of the most wasted resources on earth.

Talent alone does not a writer make, or a painter, or a skier, or a driver, or a mom, or anything. You can’t develop talent without motivation, and you can’t have motivation without hope. I also believe that you can develop and even create talent through hard work, but you won’t work without hope. 

Here then are three reasons why you hate to write. There are more reasons, but I’ll keep with three for now.

The more you reject these ideas, the more likely you will continue to hate writing; the more you understand them and embrace them, the more likely your writing will get better. And better and better.

1. You are afraid of sharing yourself and who you really are with the world.

Fear keeps people in check. It keeps them in hiding, even hiding from themselves, because they are afraid to know who they really are. You are ashamed to show up because someone might point a finger at you and ridicule you. But that is inevitable. Someone is going to rise up and tell you that your writing—or your fill-in-the-blank—is stupid and that you are terrible. But why should you believe such nonsense? You believe it because you’re giving someone else more authority than they deserve. Fire your critics. Send them packing. Especially the ones that only exist in your imagination—”for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2). However, the more ardent your critics are, the more likely you are on the right track. Fear is your friend if you know what it really is. You have something valuable to say, something that will change other people’s lives. What you have to say is part of who you really are. So say it. Please say it. The world is looking for the real you to show up.

2. You are a perfectionist. 

Because you are afraid of what your critics, real or imagined, might say, you strive too hard for perfection. That takes a long time and a lot of energy. Do you even really know what perfection looks like? I don’t. I know what better looks like, but not perfection. Integrity is a different thing, and taking time to do your best work is showing integrity. If you are embalmed by perfectionism, you can’t live. If you are frozen by perfectionism, you won’t grow. You can’t grow and you won’t learn. Not very fast, anyway. You won’t share yourself either, not fully.

3. You are impatient so you want your writing to be finished on the first try. 

Think of your ideas as seeds, and your story as a field. In order for those seeds to grow, you need plenty of rain. Each time you touch a key on your keyboard, it’s like a drop of rain on your field. In writing, the more you rain on your field, the better. That’s deliberate practice. So keep at it. Nothing grows in a drought, least of all your talents and skills. Don’t expect your piece to be finished on the first try, no more than you are ready to receive a college degree on the first day of classes. Getting words right takes time, and it is always worth the time. It takes a million keystrokes to write a book, and many million more to write a good one. It takes time and patience.

The only obstacle to good writing is time and you.  Allowing fear, perfectionism, and impatience to overthrow your writing is your choice. You control the weather of your mind, so don’t blame others for the storm in your heart. Until you let your real self out of the trenches, you will be at war with yourself. As long as you wait for perfection to arrive, you will never find it and you will remain in hiding behind your TV remote. As long as your umbrella is up, turning every which way to shield your seeds from rain, your field will lie fallow.

Be yourself. Express yourself. Be true to yourself and others. Be patient with yourself. Above all else, accept and love yourself. And let it rain. 

Pitching Your Book to a Literary Agent

This past Saturday, I met with a literary agent at a writer’s conference for a pitch session. I should have been nervous, but I wasn’t.

I wasn’t nervous because I was prepared. I am going to pass on what I’ve learned.

  • Introduce yourself. Politely. With eye contact. Extend a hand.
  • Be confident. If you are not confident in your book (yet), what are you doing there? Your book doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good, and only you can make it good. Confidence is knowing in yourself that your book is a quality product. Arrogance is pride in something that is not real. Confidence comes from doing your homework.
  • Be yourself. Be your honest, at-ease self. Breathe deeply. Nerves come from the anticipation of rejection. Hold a different, brighter picture in your head, like I am about to learn some cool stuff. Woo hoo!
  • Be prepared to answer these two important questions: How long is your book? (in word count, not manuscript pages.) And, Is the book finished?
  • Pitch your book, briefly and with enthusiasm. To prepare for this moment, write your pitch down. Make it brief, between two and four sentences. When you give your pitch, be coherent, logical, and passionate. Talk about your characters as if you know them personally and deeply. Practice your pitch over and over, out loud, to someone else—yes, to another human being. Caution: Don’t drone on and on about your book. Be concise. Share the juicy details, then pause.
  • Put a sock in it and listen. This is your chance to get some important, valuable, and critical feedback. If you can’t take feedback effectively, you won’t get very far in your writing career.
  • Ask meaningful questions. How could I best position this book for the market? How was my pitch? What else do you want to know about me or the book? As a new writer, really, what can I do to help you succeed? What kind of books do you want to see in the next year?
  • Be willing to change your story. If your book is too long, are you willing to cut it? Are you willing to cross into another genre? Would you change the age of a character? Are you willing to let go of something in your book so you, your agent, and your publisher can succeed? Let the agent know that you are flexible, that you are a mature writer who prefers strategy over ego.

Even though I wrote down my pitch (and rewrote and rewrote it), even though I practiced it out loud with my wife, I never actually gave it. I gave something else. Something that was better. But without the preparation, I wouldn’t have been able to give the real pitch I wound up giving.

I am happy to report that my pitch session was a success. My cross-genre novel was well received. I got a page request. The agent was very nice. She was not only easy to talk to, she was fun to talk to. I was at ease the whole time because I was prepared.

I want to say thank you to Celesta Rimington for her advice and for pointing me in the direction of great tips from Janet Reid, Jennifer Laughran, Shannon Messenger, Holly Bodger, and Sisters in Scribe.