Self Publishing Isn’t Real Publishing

Hopefully you don’t agree with the title of this article… I actually threw it out there to inspire folks to read and chime in. So… Did my troll work?

“Not real” is something that I’ve heard repeatedly since self publishing my memoir. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told folks that I self published and then hear back, “Oh. So you haven’t really been published.” Even the other name for self publishing, vanity press, has an unctuous feel to it.

In the past, When people told me that I haven’t really been published, I hung my head low and agreed with people who made this statement.

Times have changed. These days I keep my head held high, raise an eyebrow, and say, “Um… My book is in print, it’s available at all major retailers, I’ve sold more than 2,500 copies, and I get quarterly royalty checks. How exactly do you define really published?”

In today’s technology filled world, I believe it’s perfectly valid to self publish your manuscript.

On top of that… Think about the numbers associated with this undertaking. Using my book as an example:

  • I spent more than a year writing the 100,000 words in my book;
  • While we’re on that topic; my manuscript was 100,000 words;
  • It took two months to work through my rough draft and glean a finished product;
  • Months-and-months of my time was spent researching the world of publishing;
  • I wrote more than fifty agencies and publishing houses;
  • The self publisher I used assigned me an editor and we re-edited my manuscript;
  • Last but not least, the entire publishing process (after everything else) took more than six months!

After nearly three years of hard work, my book was bound and published in soft and hard cover formats.

What do you think?

If you’d like to see my self publishing adventure, checkout my article, How I Self Published. Also, if you dig, checkout my Inkslinger category for more writing-based blog posts.

I hope you enjoyed my brief tirade,
Vaughn (a published author)

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Writing is Tough

In past articles (Checkout my Inkslinger category for more writing blog posts) I alluded to how easy it is to write and publish. Today, I will play Devil’s advocate and tell you just how tough it is.

When I wrote my first book, it was essentially a timeline of my life. It started out as a journal of sorts and then worked its way into a book. However, it didn’t just come flowing out of me in a matter of hours or even days. It took years. And, it was hard work. Spewing forth words isn’t tough, it’s the assembly and management of those words to compile them into something readable and enjoyable by others. This was the challenge for me.

I wrote an hour or two each day for months on end. Then I would go through and adjust parts. After a couple of years of this, I had my book.

The second book, Decrypted, was just as crazy. It was different, because I didn’t live the story. This one was tough on another level. But, it did sort of flow out of me. I didn’t know what would happen at the end of each chapter, because I had a slim outline at best (more of a skeleton). Most of the story surprised me as I wrote it. The tough part of this one was simply staying in the game. It took a butt-load of motivation and willpower just to keep writing it.

A few chapters in I found a local writing group. This was an immense help! I mean, I was meeting weekly with like-minded folks who asked me regularly, “How far did you get this week?” This was a challenge and I struggled some, but mostly it helped me. They also asked for chapters to read so they could give me advice and feedback. This helped me as well, because I felt compelled to have something complete for them on a weekly basis.

Now I’m working on my third book, Weapon 67, and I’ve found a whole new problem. The problem is, I have four books (Weapon 67, a young adult fantasy, and two non-fiction) in my head. I’m struggling again, but for a different reason. This time, I find it nearly impossible to stay focused on the one book. I have so many ideas popping around in my head, and that is driving me mad!

So you see… Each book has had a different set of problems and challenges. However, there is one common theme: None of them were/are easy.

I imagine that my next book will have some additional complications, but one things remains for me… I love writing. And, for this very reason, I will continue to do so, despite (or in spite of) the fact that it is hard to do.

This article wasn’t meant to scare you away. More like a reality check. Writing is awesome and spiritually fulfilling. It is something magical. But, let’s not kid each other… Writing is tough. I merely wanted to point that out.

Who among us loves writing, or has thought about writing? Please share your insight and experiences.

Cheers,
Mr. V

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NaNoWriMo 2013

Starting back in 1999, the National Novel Writing Month or as most writers refer to it: NaNoWriMo (or simply NaNo) has dubbed November, well… National Novel Writing Month. Essentially, it is a time for lackluster writers and would be novelists to put aside their worries and doubts and bang out a novel. More precisely, the novel should be at least 50,000 words long.

50,000 words?? You scream… Well, if you remember a recent article of mine, healthywealthytribe.com/write-your-book I said that you can write a 120,000 word book in 68 days. hmmmm… That is far cry longer than 30 days. However, the good news is that during NaNoWriMo we only need to write 50K words (50,000 for you non-propeller heads). And, according to my calculations in that article, that can be accomplished EASILY in 30 days with only a half-hour of serious typing each day. Now, most of us mere mortals cannot bang out 60 words per minute for 30 minutes straight… But, I would venture a guess that we could do it in an hour each day. At 1,800 words per day (one hour of typing) we should get our 50,000 word novel completed in ~28 days giving us two days to spare. My recommendation is that on the days you can afford to, write longer! This will ensure that you complete this monumental task.

Who’s with me?

If you want to join me, start today (not a moment to spare) and sign up at: nanowrimo.org

After you sign up, make sure you read through the FAQ and then drop in on the discussion forum and get more info and so on and so forth. Don’t waste too much time in there, because this month is for writing, my friends!

I’ll say it again: Who’s with me?

You can find my NaNoWriMo account here: nanowrimo.org/participants/vripley

In case you would like more info before going to the site, I took the liberty of including their How It Works section to get you started:

During NaNoWriMo, you write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. The challenge may be hard, but the logistics are not! Here, let us guide you through ‘em.

1. Sign up for our website with that big, blue “Sign Up!” button on the homepage. You’ll get an email validation link a few minutes later.

2. As part of the sign-up process, you’ll choose a home region for in-person events near you. This is totally optional, but we think it’s a pretty awesome part of the NaNo experience.

3. Our user dashboard will usher you through the rest of your account set-up stuff. Click on the grayed-out badges to fill out your profile, say hello in our forums, and add writing buddies.

4. On October 1, you’ll be able to add information about your upcoming novel to your profile. Giving your work a title or brief synopsis gets you 225% more pumped for November. It’s a fact.

5. You can also use October to read past author pep talks, grab participant web badges, meet folks in the forums, and learn more about our nonprofit.

6. At midnight on November 1, start writing. Work on your manuscript using any method where you can track your word count. Word-processing program, notebook, typewriter, stone slab: they all work.

7. Update your word count whenever you can. Some like every day; others prefer a few times a week. No matter when, you can do it in that word-count update menu at the top of every page on our site.

8. Stay motivated with pep talks (we’ll send them to your on-site inbox and your email), forum chatter, and in-person events in your region. There’s also a big world of NaNo out there in social media: find us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest.

9. Starting on November 25, you can validate your novel to win. If it’s over 50,000 words, paste the text into the word-count validator. A few robotic calculations later, we’ll declare you an official NaNoWriMo winner! From there, you’ll be able to collect a few prime novelist goodies.

10. If you enjoy your NaNo experience, please donate to support our mission. We believe in making this a more creative world, and we’d love your help getting there. (Here’s more about why others donate, as well as additional ways to give.)

 

I’m off to start my next novel!!! Seriously folks: Who’s with me?

Posted with good intentions,
Vaughn

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Make Your Creative Juice Flow

Our last Inkslinger blog article was about the choice to outline or not. Now that you’ve gotten past that stage, let’s talk about where you can find some creativity when you aren’t feeling particularly creative.

The world is full of wonderful things that can help boost your creativity. Sometimes I find that a simply walk around the neighborhood is enough to spark something magical. If I’m feeling extra dull and struggling, one of my favorite things is a hike in the wilderness. Getting away from concrete and asphalt always helps to clear my mind and inspire me to write.

Along with walking and hiking, I love music to help generate emotional creativity. Sometimes I listen to it before writing, other times I blast it while writing.

Often I find creativity being built while I read other books. I’m careful that I don’t utilize the stories I’m reading but I can definitely pull some excitement to write and ideas about my story by seeing the viewpoint of other authors.

Before writing, I often watch inspirational videos on YouTube. These will spin me up more than most anything else. I get pumped and after watching one or two, my fingers literally fly over my keyboard banging out stuff.

Meditation is another technique I use to tap into my creative side.

If I’m getting writer’s block, I love to do Google searches and read other blogs to help inspire me.

One area that drives me nuts and I avoid is writing with the TV on in the background. I can’t juggle television shows while trying to generate a story. This might work for you, but I try very hard to make sure that the TV is not on while I’m typing away.

If you struggle with creativity and often find yourself experiencing writer’s block, try playing with timing. What I mean is each day write during a different time of day. I have found that I often do my best writing before the sun comes up, so I set my alarm for an hour or two early and bang out my words before the world even starts moving…

This is what a friend of mine, Staci, had to say about making those juices flow:

“Great ideas, V. I use some of the same. A shortcut for me is to hike solo into the woods. Not because the woods hold any special power for me, but because being alone in that space accomplishes several goals for me. First, it shifts my focus to “being” rather than doing or producing. And creativity is best in me when it simply flows. Also, I’ve found that that level of disconnect from screen time gives me opportunity to explore what is genuinely me, without distraction or insertion of other stuff. Examining process is fun… Thanks for sharing!”

 

Hopefully, this article was able to inspire and motivate you… But, most of all, I want to help you find creative avenues for your own adventures!

As fellow inkslingers, what do you guys do to make your creative juices flow??

Sincerely,
Vaughn

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Write Your Book

I was inspired by my friend, Susan Kim, to write about how easy (literally) it is to write your first novel. We were talking about writing and the ups and downs of it, when it occurred to me that the majority of people I know dream of writing a book and yet fewer than 5% of them have actually done it. So, as I was taking my Scottish shower (see my earlier blog post for this most energizing and creative way to cleanse yourself – Take a Cold Shower) I started thinking about this more. I decided it was article worthy.

Did you know that most publishers consider 40,000 words to be the minimum word count in a submitted book? My autobiography, Survivor, has approximately 100,000 words in it. That said, there are a few authors that stuff 160,000 or more words into a book; which is more like an encyclopedia in weight and reading time! For simplicity’s sake, I decided to do a few calculations based around a 120,000 word book. This will give us more than enough for an average sized book. The other piece of the calculation that we need to guess is how many words per minute you can type. I believe that the average person in today’s computer age can type 60 WPM (words per minute). This is even true of single digit hunt-and-peckers like me. I can actually type close to 100 WPM with only my pointer fingers and thumbs! I assume most of my friends with aspirations of writing a book can beat the average of 60 WPM, but let’s stick with 60 to cover all bases.

Now for the fun part (I love math). The calculation part… Considering 60 WPM, you could literally type 120,000 words in under 34 hours. You read that right! For all of you procrastinators out there, you literally could write the rough draft of an entire book without sleeping! As a matter of fact, this is exactly how Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky, when he sat non-stop and wrote the entire thing in three and a half days!!!

Now, most of us mere mortals cannot sit in front of a keyboard for 34 hours straight. At the very least there are things like food and potty breaks. However, don’t you think this is encouraging?? Now let’s dive a little deeper and be more realistic.

Most writers that I have read say that they normally write for about two hours per day. With that in mind, you could bang out a 120,000 word book in under 17 days. Even two hours per day is a bit tough for us weekend warrior types. So, what if I asked you, “Could you find thirty minutes each day to write?” Think about it… Can’t ANYONE squeeze thirty minutes out of a super busy day to write? Of course we can. Now that we know what we can absolutely do, let’s look at the math:

At one half-hour per day, you could write a 120,000 (remember this is a thick book) word rough draft in 69 days (actually 68, but I really love the number 69 – plus this gives us one cheat day. HA!) So, even with some missed days, any of us could type in a rough draft in a mere two-and-a-half months!!!

What are you waiting for? Stop being a lazy procrastinator and get off your ass! I mean it! It is seriously that easy!

Now… Since we got the math part out of the way… In future blog posts I will talk about ways to outline and write your desired story. And, where to pull creative juices from. And, finally we’ll talk about things like polishing your rough, getting it edited, and finding an agent and/or publisher. This is fun! And, simple! Remember what I like to say, “Just because something is simple, does not make it easy.” And, writing is a perfect example of this quote. However, now that you have the math laid out before you, you have no excuses!

While you’re waiting for my future writing posts, be sure to checkout all of my previous ones in the InkSlinger section.

I honestly expect to hear from at least one friend in three months time who adamantly thanks me and thrillingly says, “I did it! I wrote my first novel!”

Love you all,
Vaughn

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To Outline or Not to Outline

That is the question!

Time to tackle another writing article. Since creating the “Inkslinger” category in my blog I have really had a blast sharing my experiences with all of you. Being an author is one area that I sincerely enjoy discussing, and many of you ask me questions about these kind of things. So…Here goes-

There are a lot of different ways to write a book. And, many authors disagree on the proper technique when starting. I have read many books about using, or not using outlines. The opinions vary in many ways. Some authors swear by using a full outline, some say use “some” outlining, and others say they never write one thing out prior to starting the book. I’ve heard that some authors have a mild idea of direction and then they make the story up as they go. Some of these folks have even said that they often surprise themselves with the outcome of the story. While that sounds exhilarating and neat to me, I prefer to have much of the story outlined before starting. All of that said, the truth of the matter is that all of the successful authors do this differently. There is no one, single, must do, only way to outline your book.

Obviously this is personal preference. And, I can tell you that non-fiction is different than fiction. For me, my non-fiction needs to be detailed carefully in an outline. When I do fiction, I am a little less clear and mostly just give myself a track to follow. This allows me some latitude and ability to alter course along the way (as long as it finishes generally the way I originally conceived it). Recently, I was talking about outlining with my buddy, Gary. He gave me a great analogy that I dig… He said, “It sounds like you start with a bone and then stick some meat on it.” Perfect! I’ve honed that to a more detailed:

I create a skeleton, which is a very brief breakdown of sections (the bones of my story). All of my fictional bookes start with the same skeleton. ALL OF THEM. I add a little bit of meat to the structure and this individualizes my stories. From there, I start writing the rough draft based on this “light” outline.

Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) actually introduced me to my style of outlining. Campbell wrote a detailed description of how ALL fictional stories are broken down in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I strongly recommend reading this book, or at least studying the summaries online. Campbell was a freaking genius!!!

Many successful writers, directors, and musicians (George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Mickey Hart among countless others) have have admitted to being influenced by Campbell’s theory of “monomyth” (one myth); which is a concept that refers to the theory that all mythic narratives are essentially a single great story. The theory is based on Campbell’s observation that a common pattern exists in most great myths, regardless of their origin or timing. Here’s a list of Campbell’s twelve stages:

HERO MYTH

1. Hero is introduced in his/her ordinary world;
2. Call to adventure;
3. Hero is reluctant at first;
4. Hero finds encouragement from a mentor;
5. Hero passes a threshold into a special (unknown) world;
6. Hero encounters tests and helpers;
7. Hero reaches the innermost cave;
8. Hero endures the supreme ordeal;
9. Hero siezes the sword;
10. The road home;
11. Resurrection;
12. Return with the elixir.

I realize that some of these section titles are cryptic… You must read The Hero with a Thousand Faces to get a detailed understanding of each one. That said, I think they’re pretty self explanatory.

Now let’s look at my skeleton that I’ve derived from Campbell’s Hero Myth to give you some creative ideas and show you how I do it. When I put my outline together for a thriller fictional story (I call my genre cyberthriller), I always start with the exact same skeleton… I do not list chapters during this phase. Instead, I break the story into pieces (chapters will come naturally as I write the book) and write something brief about each section. I included a percentage of the entire book to give you an approximate length of each section.

MY SKELETON

1. Hero/heroine on another successful chase (2%);
2. Hero asked to get antagonist-doesn’t want to (6%);
3. Hero finds a helper (5%);
4. Hero prepares for the “chase” (11%);
5. Hero in a new place, often the antagonist’s (3%);
6. Hero is tested by the antagonist’s cronies and winning (22%);
7. Hero is tested by the antagonist and is still winning (11%);
8. Antagonist captures hero and is often near death (13%);
9. Hero narrowly escapes (3% of the book);
10. Antagonist pursues hero (11%);
11. Hero has a final victory over antagonist (11%);
12. Final status of hero (2%).

Remember, this is merely the way I do it. Also, those percentages and the breakdown of section types is based on it being a thriller book. Do you see the coorelation between my breakdown and Campbell’s concept?

Now that we’ve broken the intial skeleton out, remember that you must differentiate yourself and your story as you start to put the meat on. A successful outline will only resemble this framework… It is up to you to stray enough that it isn’t robotic and obviously a complete copy of this structure.

If you’d like to see one of my outlines from a book I’ve created, simply say so in a comment, and I will send you one. Let me know if you want fiction, non-fiction, or both.

Now… Get cracking on your next book!!!

-Vaughn

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How to Create Your Own Blog

Several times a week I am asked two questions:

1. What is a blog?
2. How can I make my own blog?

So, I thought I would take a break from the deadly serious subject of health and wealth and tackle another tough subject: blogging… and, how to do it.

What is a blog?
Let’s start with a definition. The term blog was created by combining the two terms “web” and “log.” Somewhere along the line, someone simplified these into the single word, blog. A blog is a journal of sorts that stores and displays (usually in reverse chronology) a person’s blog posts (articles).

Most blogs are articles around a certain subject. For instance, my blog HIVLongevity.com was created to discuss how I’ve survived all of these years despite being HIV+. As you can see (if you read my other blog), not all of my articles are specific to surviving, but most all of them relate back to the subject in some form or fashion.

You will find that almost all blogs out there have a way for readers and subscribers to comment on a specific post. In this way there is often an open dialog between the author(s) and readers. Therein lies the magic of a blog!

Should you create a blog?
Do you have a story to tell? Or, do you have lots of things to say that you think others would dig reading? You first might consider sticking to simple social media avenues like Twitter and the Facebook. But, if you, like me, feel compelled to post long diatribes on a routine basis then maybe a blog is for you. An important question is: Will you be able to keep up with a blog? Many authorities in the blogging world recommend posting a blog article AT LEAST once per week. Most say that you should even do more than that (think two or three per week at a minimum). Despite what you might think, this is much tougher than you can imagine without trying it!

If you think you have something to share. And, that you’ll be able to share that weekly (or more often). And, (perhaps most importantly) that others will be interested in what you have to say/share… Then a blog may be just the thing for you.

Before moving forward and creating a blog, I would recommend going out and reading other people’s blogs. Find ones that you like and read them on a regular basis. Note what they do that you like, and what they do that bugs you. This way you will be more prepared to provide a good blog for your future fans.

How is a blog created?
One of the first things you need to decide is if you want to host or be hosted. What that mostly means is how your URL will look. When I created hivlongevity.com and healthywealthytribe.com I decided to host it myself; which gives me the unique URL and a little bit more control (including deciding not to have someone else’s ads on my blog). If I had gone the hosted route, my blog URL might have been something like: healthywealthytribe.wordpress.com

If you can afford to pay for a URL and site, and have the additional time needed to manage and administer your own site, I would recommend hosting it yourself. In addition to not having some provider’s ads on your blog, you also get the unique name, and to me it feels more like your personal site.

That said, a free hosted blog site can be a good way to get started and learn the ropes. Just remember that if your idea/blog takes off and you decide to host it yourself later that you will not necessarily take your subscribers with you! Migration from a hosted blog to your own site is not an easy process, and you may lose readers along the way. Think this out before deciding.

Creating a hosted blog is extremely easy. You simply go sign-up at a service like:

wordpress.com
www.blogger.com
www.movabletype.com

If you plan to do the hosting yourself, then I recommend using a provider like godaddy.com or someone similar. GoDaddy has a very easy process and you can stand up a server with pre-installed blog software using your very own domain name.

I purposely didn’t go into deep detail here, because there are lots of sites that have already done this. If you are new to domain creation and blog install, I would recommend visiting one or more of the following sites:

firstsiteguide.com/start-blog *note: most comprehensive blog creation site I’ve ever run into!
howtostartablog101.org
www.wikihow.com/Start-a-Blog

Another great resource (as usual) is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

How Long Will This Process Take Me?
The first thing you need to do is come up with a catchy name that isn’t already taken. This can take a few hours of investigation. After the name is decided, getting the domain name, setting up hosting, and installing your preferred blog software is normally accomplished within an hour or two.

Once that is complete, you will need to select a theme (free or paid) and install it. Selection can take anywhere from ten minutes to ten hours depending on how much research you do. Installation of the theme is a simple process and only takes a few minutes.

The tough part is editing your theme to make the site precisely the way you want it. This includes adding “plugins” to add the cool features you want on your blog. You’ll also add pages as needed (like about, contact, etc.) Expect this editing/adjusting part to take a solid twelve or more hours… if you’re doing it right.

Now comes the easy(ish) part. Posting your first article. I like to do a “Hello, world!” post to get things kicked off.

Once you have that first article published, consider writing other ones in advance and scheduling them. Most blog environments offer the ability to postpone publishing until a future date. Doing this ensures that you’ll have fresh content going up on a regular basis.

I like to plan on an ENTIRE weekend to fully create a blog site and get the first article published.

How to Attract Readers to Your New Blog
Once you have the blog in place and have done a post or two, start by bouncing it off your friends with emails and status post on your favorite social media site(s). With a little bit of feedback, you should be able to adjust and work up to a mighty masterpiece.

When you feel that your blog is ready for the general population, you can freely advertise it by going to other (similar) blogs and replying to blog articles as comments. You will notice that most blog comments allow you to put your website URL in there… Insert your blog URL. Before you know it, you will start to have a following and it will grow by word of mouth.

Deeper marketing and publicity ideas are easily found on blogs around the web.

Most of all; make sure that you are having fun with your blog.

Now… Start writing!

Your friend and fellow blogger,
Vaughn

p.s. In future posts, I will tackle deeper blog subjects like: plugins, themes, getting readers, advertisements, and even make some side-money posting. Until then, I hope this was useful.

Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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