TPW Motivation Monday's 019: 3 Reasons for Writing Fiction

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In this installment of Motivation Monday's, Ryan draws on the wisdom of fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien. Is writing fiction a waste of time? Or, does it tap into something deeper and important for the world? Find more writing resources: https://theprolificwriter.net/

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TPW 108: 7 Step Story Structure for Kick-Butt Novels

What elements are essential for a great story? How can we evaluate our stories ensuring they're not just scenes going nowhere? In this episode, Ryan explores the 7 Step Story Structure for writing page turning, kick-butt, and compelling stories... every time. More writing resources: https://theprolificwriter.net/

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TPW Motivation Monday's 018: Outline Your Novel Challenge

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In the latest installment of Motivation Monday's, Ryan shares a new resource called the Outline Your Novel Challenge. He explains why challenges are good for writing (or anything in life), and how to get involved with the free training launching soon. More writer resources: https://theprolificwriter.net/

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TPW 107: William Turner on the Art of Research for Novels

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William Turner is a former Vietnam Vet turned mystery/thriller author. A cruel comment from a teacher in grade school gave William the passion to write great books. He's now the author of two popular novels: Murder in Our Midst and Death Comes for the President. In this interview, Ryan and William discuss the role of research for your novels, how to use critique as fuel for better writing, never giving up the writing dream, and much more. You can find William Turner's books on Amazon. 

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TPW 106: Thien Doan with a Live Book Coaching Session

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Dr. Thien Doan is a Christian writer that's known for his nonfiction work. But now, he wants to try his hand at fiction. In this episode, Ryan and Thien do a live coaching session on his fiction work in progress. Listen in as they explore story structure, what makes for good characters, why outlines aren't necessary, trusting your storytelling senses, and much more. Follow Thien and his work: http://thiendoan.net/

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TPW Motivation Monday's 017: Write the Book You Can't Write

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In this installment of Motivation Monday's, Ryan explores the idea that the project with the most tension, resistance, and fear... might be the one that's most important to start. More writing resources: https://theprolificwriter.net/

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TPW 105: J.P. Choquette on Page Turning Thrillers

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J.P. Choquette is an author who pens thrillers that turn pages, not stomachs. She has published several full-length suspense novels, a number of short stories and hundreds of articles for magazines, newspapers and trade publications during her writing career. In this episode, Ryan and J.P. discuss how to write a page turning thriller, why too many details in your stories is boring, when J.P. almost quit writing and what she learned, and much more. Follow J.P. Choquette and her work: http://jpchoquette.me/

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TPW 104: Dissecting My First Novel

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In this episode, Ryan dissects and analyzes his first novel (Hired Gun) written in 2013. Previous to the episode, Ryan hadn't read a single word from the book since being published in 2015. He will discuss why he no longer uses pen names, the reasons he changed the title and cover, why your first novel is not very good (and it doesn't matter), why most reviews aren't helpful, and much more. Listen in and learn from his mistakes, so you won't do the same. More writing resources: https://theprolificwriter.net/

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TPW 103: Lucas Mangum on Reading and Writing Widely

Lucas Mangum is a horror, literary, and romance writer who loves to blend all three genres together. He also believes in a simple adage: read and write widely, and read and write a lot. Lucas found early success with Flesh and Fire, his debut novel, and then a sequel Blood and Brimstone. But, after having a child, and life getting in the way, Lucas almost gave up the dream. Join Ryan and Lucas as they discuss writing and reading widely, how marketing in person still works, why small press publishing is a great option for authors, and much more. You can find Lucas and his work: https://lucasmangum.com/

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TPW Monday Motivation's 015: Will Smith on Overcommitting Yourself

In this installment of Motivation Monday's, Ryan finds some writing inspiration from actor, musician, and rapper Will Smith. It may seem counterintuitive, but it might be the motivation we all need to get more words on the page. More writing resources: https://theprolificwriter.net/

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TPW 102: Shashane Wallace on Sacrificing for Your Work

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Shashane Wallace is a romance author from Jamaica. In her early years, Wallace didn't have access to many books and didn't think authors existed. Yet, she was determined to write the stories deep in her heart. Listen in as Ryan and Shashane explore the role of sacrifice and passion in your writing, how you can publish great books on a small budget, how she managed to go from $50 a month in sales to $5000 (in one year), and much more. Find Shashane on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shashane.hicks

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George Carlin on the Danger of Visible Progress

Maybe the worst invention in the world’s history is the “like” button on Facebook. Or do you prefer: hearts on Instagram, claps on Medium, or favorites on Twitter?

These seemingly innocent inventions designed to validate one’s work whether it be a selfie, article, or recipe for Vegan Soup. A collective inter-webs high five to say:

you’re good enough, smart enough, and gosh dang it, people like you.

Now I may see the like button as a spawn of hell. But let’s not forget the power of change it can bring into the world. A click of a button can determine who’s on the right side of history. A simple retweet will show the world how much we love humanity or not.

Did they like that post? Why not? They must be a narrow-minded homophobe that hates puppies. How can Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or choose your political or religious affiliation, be so unenlightened?

All because of the like button.

But can we engage the dark side of the incessant clicking and liking and retweeting? Can we consider those on the receiving end of the likes, or no likes?

People like you and me.

Those brave souls that put out their blog post, article, book, or recipes for Vegan Marshmallow Pies hoping someone will validate our existence.

Will they like me? Do they think I’m pretty? Why is it crickets in here? The algorithm must’ve changed, and no one is seeing my posts.

When our best work’s done for the validation of others, we have problems. Spending absorbent amounts of money to snap a selfie on the top of a mountain hoping to get a heart on Instagram… we’re not doing it right.

When the work we engage, and the relationships we nurture, and the difference were trying to make is only for the approval and validation of total strangers… I’ll say it again: Houston we have a problem.

And besides, have you read reviews on Amazon, or comments on YouTube?

YouTube… Nice video, too bad you’re fat. Hey thanks for the video, I hope you die. What?

Amazon… My book wasn’t shipped on time, 1 star. They ripped the packaging, 1 star.

Yelp… the food was salty.

I’m not sure that’s the point of reviews and comments. The dark side of incessant validation of likes and hearts goes deeper still.

It’s The American Way.

The American Way is built on progress, power, money, and efficiency. We only do things if it can be measured, monetized, or counted. If a building is old, we tear it down. If a kid can’t concentrate in class, we medicate them.

Our kid’s take tests and the state determines if they’re intelligent based on a subjective number. High school students take SAT’s or ACT’s determining if they are college-worthy.

I took my SAT’s hungover after prom and it wasn’t pretty. I managed a 3.3 in college. What do these numbers prove?

The comedian George Carlin once said that America is obsessed with visible progress:

“It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy… No time to grow up. No time to learn from your mistakes.” (from Keep Going, by Austin Kleon)

Our obsession with visible progress has crept into our art, work, and relationships. How many words did I write today? Did I complete my To-Do List? Did I spend enough quality time with the kid’s? Everything has a spreadsheet and a number to prove its value.

We obsess over website metrics, book sales, and eyeballs on our articles. Churches view attendance and dollars as the only metric of a healthy community. Everything has to climb or it doesn’t count.

By the way, I’m preaching to choir. I told my mother-in-law who knits these amazing scarves she should sell them. Open an Etsy store and make a fortune. She said no, I felt stupid.

Why can’t my mother-in-law just make the scarves for her enjoyment? For the joy of our kids when they open the box and see a new hat for winter? Why can’t we do anything for the sake of the process? Have we lost the sheer joy of creating, writing, making, and enjoying relationships, because we must measure everything?

What is the invisible ladder we feel we have to climb?

Our hobbies don’t have to be a side hustle. They can be simply for the joy of doing them and the healing it brings to our souls.

Carlin was on to something long before the like button. He saw something we all need to consider: can we write, create, work, and leave the results up to God? Does our validation have to come through Google analytics and claps on Medium?

I’m not immune to any of this and my obsession with measuring things is off the charts. But I want to change. I want to write and be alive and create from the true self.

I think when we allow climbing, measuring, and analyzing into our creative and work space… we miss the joy of being alive and making something beautiful. When we worry about the reaction of others before we write for ourselves we can’t write free.

That’s what I’m thinking about right now.

Before you go, please leave a clap or two, my self worth depends on it.

*Originally published on Medium.com

TPW 101: Susan Neal on Getting Healthy

Susan Neal is an author, speaker, and wellness coach who is on a mission to reclaim the health of the body of Christ. She combated a health crisis at the age of forty-nine with ten medical diagnoses and two surgeries. Her doctors did all they could but she was still not healed. Susan used her nursing and health science background to heal her body. In this interview, Ryan and Susan chat about her story of losing and regaining her health, how this trauma led to a bestselling book, Susan's in-person marketing strategies, how to use blogging for better book exposure, and much more. You can find Susan Neal at: http://susanuneal.com/

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Two Questions for Better Writing Productivity

Parkinson’s Law says: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Give someone twenty-four hours to complete a project and watch them use their time efficiently and wisely. Give them a week and suddenly the project is perceived as complex and they spend half the week messing around. 

Don’t believe me?

Why does the average person work eight hours a day and forty hours a week?  Nothing is magical about these numbers. Do people actually need that many hours to complete their assigned tasks? Maybe. What if you gave them thirty hours to do their work? Would they complete these tasks and have ten hours to spare? Most likely. Parkinson’s Law.

 What does this have to do with writing?

Many writers live under the illusion that if they had more time to write they'd have more success. The full-time writer is where it’s at. But what about Parkinson’s Law?

If you had eight hours to write would you spend that time wisely? Not likely according to Parkinson’s Law. You'd mess around on social and playing games instead of doing the work. If you only have two hours to write you can use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage. 

Tim Ferris in his book The 4-Hour Work Week asks some hard questions about our productivity.   Actually you only have to ask two questions:

1. Am I being productive or just being active?

2. Am I inventing things to avoid the important?

Am I being productive or just being active? 

Busyness for the sake of busyness is laziness. Endless outlines, research, and tweaking your website and social media profile is not productivity. These aren’t bad things and might be necessary sometimes. 

But are we just doing things to do things? Living by the adage: look busy in case the boss is watching. 

Activity doesn’t always equal productivity.

Here’s a question: did your activity lead to more words on the page? Are you moving your writing project forward or not? 

If no, you’re active and not productive.

Am I inventing things to avoid the important? 

Wow, a hard one. How often do I mess around doing mindless things instead of engaging the hard thing? If I had a dollar for every time, I said: one more episode on Netflix before I work on my book. 

The invention of tasks to avoid the most important projects is the sly tactic of the Resistance-Demon.  That still small voice that says: yeah, create a new website, instead of work on your book. You should watch another Ted Talk instead of meditate or call a friend. 

Parkinson’s Law is alive and well. I’m going to invent all kinds of tasks to avoid doing the most important tasks. The important work. 

But here’s the deal and don’t lose heart. When we invent stuff to keep us busy and avoid the hard thing. Listen to your life.

The hard thing that we're avoiding is what we have to work on. It’s the most important thing. 

Whatever is scary or hard is most likely what needs our undivided attention. If our writing project is easy and breezy, it’s probably not pushing us enough. 

If we have an idea that keeps us up at night and scares us to death… we know what we have to do next.

So, ask some hard questions and take inventory. What am I doing that's just busy work? Stuff that gets more words on the page? Does it move the project forward?

What am I inventing that’s a replacement for doing the hard thing? Whatever you’re avoiding is exactly the thing you need to work on next. 

Hope this helps. 

*originally published on Medium.com.

TPW 100: Ella Barnard on Fighting Perfectionism

Ella Barnard is host of the Author Like a Boss podcast, owner of Author Boss Academy, and administrator of the Author Like a Boss FB Group. She’s also an author and publishing coach who loves helping creative people connect with their audiences and with each other. In this episode, Ryan and Ella explore what holds authors back from starting and finishing their books, why marketing doesn't need to be scary, how to find time to write, and much more. Find Ella and get a free marketing book at: http://authorlikeaboss.com/

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TPW 099: Rachael Herron on Writing Memoir

Rachael Herron is the internationally bestselling author of more than two dozen books, including thriller (under R.H. Herron), mainstream fiction, feminist romance, memoir, and nonfiction about writing. She received her MFA in writing from Mills College, Oakland, and she teaches writing extension workshops at both UC Berkeley and Stanford. In this interview, Ryan and Rachael talk all things memoir, why to write one, why not to write one, how to discover past memories, and much more. You can find Rachael at: https://rachaelherron.com/

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(Most of) Life is Out of Our Control

Most of life is out of our control. Life is a mystery and complex and a gift.

You can eat well and exercise and still get cancer.

You can work your tail off at a prestigious college and still not find a job.

You can raise your kid’s to love and respect others and they can still turn out to be monsters.

Life is complex and a mystery. As much as we like to think we’re in control of, well, anything, it’s not true.

Does this mean we throw up our hands and say:

“We’ll leave everything up to God, chance, or luck?”

No, we control what we can control.

The artist, creative, and writer often forget these truths. They’re looking for that perfect moment or season of life when everything will line up. When the creative gods will drop an idea, image, or project in our laps.

David Long comments on inspiration for the writer:

“You can’t rely on inspiration. I don’t even believe in inspiration. I just believe in working. Work generates work. What frustrates me horribly is not knowing what I’m going to do next. And so you force something to happen… . You can’t sit around thinking. You have to sit around working.”

Long is right. Inspiration is a myth. Ideal situations and circumstances are not a thing. We can’t control if our health will hold out today, but we can control doing the work. Sitting around thinking about the work, is not work. Adding new words to the page is work.

A writer can’t control a bad review or a family member who doesn’t understand why you’d spend months writing a novel.

A writer can’t control rejection. I found out this reality last week after submitting a novel to a publisher.

“No thanks, not what we’re looking for.”

I couldn’t control rejection from a publisher but I can control the work. I can control the work that allows for the possibility of submission which might lead to the path of acceptance.

But it all starts with the work.

The artist and writer and creator can’t control their health. Or the health of others. I’m in and out of hospitals this week as I write these words. A family member is ill. Perfect health on Saturday, in the hospital Sunday.

Such is life.

I can’t control what people say, what they think, or the circumstances and events of my life. But I can put my butt in the chair. I can tap one word after the other.

No one can take away the sacred process of creation.

You can control paint on canvas, words on a page, or working on your next project. No one can steal that part of the creative process. The results are up to the gods.

We aren’t able to predict future results. No magic eight balls or prophets telling us how it will all turn out. We go in faith.

But we can do the work. You can control that today.

Toni Morrison said:

“I can’t explain inspiration. A writer is either compelled to write or not. And if I waited for inspiration I wouldn’t really be a writer.”

We can wait for inspiration, wait for the perfect situation, or we can control what we can control…

Doing the work.

*Originally published on The Prolific Writer (publication)