The Best Writing Aid

I’ve written about Buddy before. He’s a rescue dog rehoused twice before he came to us. Dog’s Trust emphasised that neither of the returns was his fault as the circumstances of each family changed. I suspect Buddy was the circumstance.

Buddy Is Always Watching You

He needs a lot of gradually increasing exercise, regular attention and reassurance that someone is always there. He’s perfect for a writing lifestyle.

I wake up and take him for a long walk. This is the best way for me to start the day. Movement, thinking time, and unconnected to the rest of the world. When we get back he patrols the house and checks everyone is ok as they get ready for the day. He has a whimper at the front window as each of the family leave but that’s lessened as he learns they are coming back.

Morning exits complete he comes up the stairs to where I work, checks I’m there and settles down to a routine of ear scratching, toy chewing, drinking, napping, and going outside every 25 minutes when I take a break. I used to allow deadlines and client demands to pressure me into missing these breaks but when the sprint timer chimes he’s a pain in the arse until he gets outside. Buddy likes routine.

Lunchtime we play fetch for a while on a local field as the rest of the family start returning home. These are joyous events at least 3 times a day. If everyone on the planet greeted each other the way a dog does advertising wouldn’t exist. This cheers me up every time.

The afternoon repeats the morning and everyone is getting used to me talking work things over with the dog who is a patient listener as long as there’s a belly rub now and again.

We wrap up the day with another walk. Because I know there’s another one a few hours away late-night Netflix or gaming binges are dying a death. Better sleep means better work and less stress.

It’s developing into a great deal. I’m exercising more, spending better time with people, less stressed and writing more. Buddy’s loving it as well. There’s always someone engaging with him all day until he ambles away to his bed in the warm kitchen for the night where he sleeps knowing he’s home.

Social Media Selection

If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no-one there to listen does it make a sound? Probably but I don’t know for sure. I do know that if a book is published without marketing no one will read it.

I’m nowhere near ready to promote a book that’s only in revision but I’m getting ready to outline the marketing plan which includes pulling all the courses, books, emails and notes I’ve gathered over the years into one place for research.

One school of thought I’m picking up is the need to have a presence on every social media platform for MAXIMUM EXPOSURE!

The theory is that being everywhere all the time means more people looking at your posts and buying your books.

That’s bollocks. I don’t buy stuff from randoms who only appear in my timeline when they selling their latest book. If that’s the only thing I see that person is gone. I like social media with a purpose, being social and interacting. That’s impossible to do across too many channels without sacrificing creative time or hiring someone. This got me thinking where I want to spend a set amount of social media time each day.

  • This Blog
  • Soundcloud (I’m paying for it may as well use it)
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Goodreads

I haven’t touched Twitter and Goodreads for a long time but they’re text platforms which suits me better than the visual mediums of Instagram and Pinterest. How many pictures of my keyboard, post-it notes and notebooks can anyone take?

Expect badly formatted posts on all channels as I relearn everything all over again.

https://soundcloud.com/stephen-gordon-774642219/social-media-selection

The Iron Triangle of Editing

My sleep is erratic. My daytimes have slumps where I have to force myself to get up, stretch, move around and wake up as I get used to a new working routine.

Tiredness brings bad habits including arsing about on social media.

In a self-publishing Facebook group an author asked how to get a high quality editor for a low cost.

You can’t.

Every project, including publishing a book, has to abide by the Iron Triangle made up of three factors.

  • Quality
  • Time
  • Cost

Every successful project delivers a result, in a period of time, for a cost. The dream is to deliver a project that is…

  • Good
  • Fast
  • Cheap

But it’s impossible. You only get to pick two.

You can have an edit that is…

  1. Good + Fast (But expensive)
  2. Fast + Cheap (But low quality)
  3. Good + Cheap (But will take a long time)

The third option needs a professional editor prepared to take on a book for low to no pay. Unless you’re the favourite grand daughter of a retired Big 5 editor it’s not going to happen.

Your editing options are

  • Good
  • Fast
  • Cheap

Pick 2.

I Broke My Dog

Buddy the Devil dog has been downgraded to ‘scamp’ after developing a limp.

A quick trip to the vets and he’s all better with Doctors orders to take it easy. Since he arrived at the end of November I take him for two walks a day (about 8 miles in total every day) and last week we added a lunchtime fetch session at a local field with a tennis ball.

That was too much and I broke him.

At 7 months old he’s the physical equivalent of a toddler about to start nursery in preparation for primary school. You don’t just chuck kids into Primary School aged five and hope for the best, it’d be chaos, burnout and wet pants every where.

It was too much too soon and from tomorrow we’re cutting the walking distance in half and shortening the fetch sessions to five to ten minutes.

Riveting stuff for those in the Gordon household but not so much outside of imeediate family. But stick with me this is going somewhere.

Buddy limped because his muscles are still developing and the daily mileage was too much. He’s a big, bouncy, bitey, hairy baby who is still growing up and needs to build up towards 10+ miles every day. He’ll get there in a few months and we can add running to his daily exercise.

This blog, me writing this blog is just like that. I love writing this almost as much as that black and white demon loves getting outside. He doesn’t care that it’s hurting him because he knows that a bit of rest, development and experience will make him better, stronger, and faster.

This thing, this blog is limping because I’m not me here yet. Each day, each blog has elements of other pieces from other writers that have stuck in my head and I lean into making this more like them. I’m trying to copy the cool kids but it feels like a bad impersonation that impresses no-one, especially myself. I don’t have my blogging voice yet.

And that’s a thing. Not just for blogging. For any kind of creative endeavour. Everyone has to find their style, their voice in everything they do. It becomes a signature so that even with out a piece of work being signed or attributed anyone familiar with that writer, artist, poet whatever will recognise the work. I don’t have that yet.

I’m still trying to figure out what’s me on the page. Up to now it’s been a mix of me, others I’ve read, or something that isn’t really me but I write it because I think it sounds cool or interesting.

Do I say fuck, try to be high-brow, or chase controversy? Not the last one because who needs the hassle of pissing in the wind over social media but the others? I don’t know.

The dog will get better and so will this blog or at least it’ll get better at being me (now I liked that bit, that was all me).

This was not the deal

Back at work. Half of December was spent figuring out how to make 2019 less stressful, more writey and disconnecting with the internet doom machine.

I love the internet. It’s the best non-medical invention in my lifetime but it’s a shitstorm of conflict and shouting around the social media and news sites.

I’ve had a nice holiday away from that and I’m sticking with social media and news updates once a day. And never, ever, reading the comments. It’s where sense goes to die.

My routine should have been to wake at 5 am, take the devil for a walk and be back in the chair to start writing by 8 am. Instead, I’ve been up since 3.30 and I know I’ll crash at some point. I know better than to fight it and when the mind-haze kicks in I’ll sleep for 30-90 minutes.

This week I’m reading Growth of the soil by Knut Hamsun and Lost Connections by Johann Hari. I’m on the last 20 or so lectures of Issac Rudansky’s Ultimate Google Ads course.

3am updates are a bad idea

There’s nothing better waking at 3am and making updates to a new page builder you don’t fully understand. Reset and I’m going back to bed.

Top 10 Podcast Dramas

It is impossible to walk a Border Collie too much. Buddy, the devil dog, is powered by a miniature star which means no matter how many miles we walk he is always up for more.

Conversation with the dog is limited to telling him he’s a good boy and don’t eat that. I tell him other stuff but unless there’s a treat involved he’s not interested.

Podcast Dramas are enjoyable company on a walk and thanks to a heads up from KC Wayland I’ve got hundreds of hours of them to look forward to from the BBC Sounds report of the Top 10 Podcast Dramas from the last decade.

Top 10 Podcast Dramas

  1. Welcome to Night Vale
  2. The Adventure Zone
  3. We’re Alive
  4. The Black Tapes / TANIS
  5. Hello From the Magic Tavern
  6. Limetown
  7. Alice Isn’t Dead
  8. The Bright Sessions
  9. Wolf 359
  10. The Message

I’m a big fan of We’re Alive. That series is so good it got me through twenty mile runs in Northern Irish winters back when I was training for marathons.

Book Marketing Sums

Here are some book marketing sums to depress you.

Only 3% of visitors to a webpage take any action.

For every hundred visitors to your book page on your website, Amazon, Apple, where ever, only three visitors buy the book. Maybe.

With an average of $0.27 per click on Facebook Ads those 100 clicks to sell three books cost you $27 and earned you $6 in royalties.

That’s a $4.50 loss on every book sold.

Virality is key. You want positive comments of your book to be circulated rapidly and widely for free from one Internet user to another.

Maybe put a picture of a pratfalling cat on the cover?

The More Things Change

WordPress had a major upgrade last week to version 5. The latest version makes Gutenberg, the platform’s new drag and drop editor, the default way to post and create pages.

People hate it but they’ll find another change to dislike and other than the odd grumbling about the good old days it’ll all go back to normal.

The change makes sense for the platform which has lost market share to Wix, Squarespace and other drag and drop website builders. Gutenberg is the first step in WordPress winning over the non-techie crowd but still leaving enough under the hood for tinkerers to play with.

Meanwhile, the folks at user-friendly page builders, Beaver Builder, Elementor and Divi are telling everyone that it’s fine, WordPress will always need them while piling on new features to prove their worth.

I’ll stick with simple text posts written in markdown and avoid the tepid uprisings.

Clearing The Decks

Gary Keller’s Book ‘The One Thing’ wants me to ask the same question every morning when I get up.

What is the one thing I can do today such as by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.

It’s forced me to look at all my work and see how wasteful I’ve been.

I’m looking through my manuscripts, book ideas, inbox, messages, requests, client lists, projects, processes, tasks and I’m asking these two questions.

  • Will doing this write or sell my books?
  • Will doing this increase my profits?

Where the answer is no I’m deleting. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts. No hedging, or archiving. Gone.

Freedom!

Buddy Is The Devil

No fanfare, no big announcements and there’s a good chance I won’t share this with anyone until it’s a habit because how many false starts writing a blog can you have?

I’ll let this be a thing I quietly do for a while. Besides who wants to read a blog from a writer that hasn’t written anything yet? I’m not a writer, I’m the bore in the corner talking about writing.

Writing Projects

Speaking of which I have three firm projects on the board or at least I would if I ever put it on the wall and used it to organise myself, but at least it’s out of the box and leaning against the wall. So there’s that. If it were on the on the wall, it would say

  1. Planet Killer. Sci-fi. 4th draft. Rewrite. Final draft due 31st Jan 19.
  2. Constance and the sum of all things. Fantasy. 1st draft. Edit. Final draft due 30 Apr 19.
  3. Patience. Crime. Outline. Final draft due 31st Aug 19.

The deadlines are estimates because I don’t have a repeatable writing process I can keep coming back to each time.

No process means I don’t know if the deadlines are real which is a problem I look at in two ways.

The first is I’ve royally fucked up the last three years by not getting at least three novels written and published, or I can look at the previous three years as the general arsing about before getting my head down to get the work done.

The first is harsh but true, and the second is a kinder truth. Reality is somewhere in the middle.

Either way, deadlines must be set and met to the detriment of everything else other than health and family because if I don’t, I’ll never know if I can.

What I’m reading

No one ever talks about how the importance of editing and rewriting. Well, they do, but no one talks about how to do it. I spent 3 years on a creative writing degree and not one class covered how to edit and rewrite. Of the last 3 years, those are the two skills I’ve spent the most time learning.

That’s been a valuable lesson for me to learn that editing and rewriting are two separate things.

Editing is tearing apart a manuscript looking for the slightest imperfection. Rewriting is fixing all those flaws.

Your editor personalty is harsh and unforgiving. Your writer personalty is a creative problem solver. Let one finish their job on the manuscript before putting the other one to work.

Stephen Wilbers ‘Keys to Great Writing’ helps both those skills. It’s a guide for your self-editor to where the script has gone wrong and a scalpel for your rewrite to make it better (UK) (USA).

Stephen Wilbers – Keys To Great Writing

What I’m listening to

When I’m working, I’m a toddler. The slightest thing will break me out of my flow. I’ve been doing a lot of brain.fm focus tracks. I’m into them but as the winter nights come in my non-writing life could do with some more tunes to push the darkness back.

What I’m watching

It’s impossible not too like Patton Oswald, but after watching his Annihilation set on Netflix, he’s ascended to an emotional God being who should be taught in every primary school about how to be a decent human.

In the set he talks about the loss of his wife, the impact on his daughter and the world still turning regardless. It’s funny, will most likely make you cry and definitely glad you watched it.

What I’m Eating

I am the walking dead. This is Buddy. (I am not eating Buddy)

Don’t be fooled. He demands at least eight to ten miles of walks a day otherwise he sulks, chews doors and leaps at you when you have a cup of tea in your hand like a canine Cato.

Here’s been here a couple of weeks and I’m wrecked. I wasn’t ready for him. I’m tired all the time, I ache and seem to live in wet clothes (It’s rained hard every day since we got him – like he’s a water sprite sent to punish me).

There’s not enough protein in my diet especially the start of the day. I am not a morning person and left to my own devices breakfast would be nothing or take a couple of hours in the making depending on my mood. This is not a good thing, so I’ve switched to Huel for breakfast.

What I’m doing next

Monday I start the fourth rewrite of Planet Killer. It won’t be the final draft before it goes to an editor, but it will be a major one with a readable manuscript when it’s done.

I’ve got a website project to finish for a friend and preparations for a new internet marketing service launching on January 19.

I’d love to be writing full time, and that was the plan when I quit my old job but what I really did was give myself the flexibility to write more.

Realistically I’m looking at 7 years from the first book sale to when there’ll be enough money coming in from royalties to force a decision with the freelance work.

I can live with that.

That’s it for the week. If you’re reading this, it’s a miracle because I’m telling no-one about it.

Cheers

Stephen

“It’s chaos. Be kind” – Michelle McNamara.

Small, Light and Fast

I’ve been looking at my website the last 12 months thinking what was I thinking? 

I don’t have an eye for design. I can’t draw and my kids looked funny when I dressed them. The old website looked awful. 

I was using X from Theme Co. It’s powerful, packed with features and all faults of the old website were mine and not the theme. I’ve switched to Oxygen Builder. It has a smaller code foot print, ideal for text focused sites and it’s fast, really fast.

Site speed counts. Any page that takes more than 3 seconds to load loses 40% of its visitors and after all the work I’ll do to get you here I don’t want to lose you because of slow loading.

Dull, dull, dull but the first posts are where to get the housekeeping out of the way and let me see where tweaks are needed.

We’ll get to the books, writing, and other stuff soon.