Okay, so I stole the trademarked phrase from BeachBody – so sue me.
Actually no, BeachBody, please DON’T sue me. I make no money here, so there’s not much to gain from that. But jokes aside, I use that line as a phrase of endearment so to speak, because it applies perfectly to my current feelings about my goal of becoming a successful indie author one day. I’ll talk more about all that a little later on in this post. On a side note, I do in fact own BeachBody workout DVDs, they’re fantastic and I lost thirty pounds last year doing P90 at home, so I am actually very fond of that company and their products. But I digress…
My last blog post (months ago) was to announce my entry into a short story writing contest over at Short Fiction Break, and talked about some of the tools and conventions that I’d used to craft my story. If you choose to check out my entry, please ignore the glaring typo at the end (cringe). I did not win, nor place, nor receive honorable mention or short-list recognition. But it’s all good, because at the very least, it was a learning opportunity and a challenge that allowed me to grow as a writer. Not to mention, there was more than 400 entries, and many of them were excellent stories.
After the contest, I took a little break from writing, not really for any particular reason. In truth, instead of spending my evenings writing, I’ve spent them reading my genres of choice (which I consider equally important in finding your writer voice). In addition to that, I’ve been devouring tons of YouTube content on writing and the business of being an indie author. Sometimes, I will admit, I get too mired up in learning the business side of things, when I really should be focused on the actual writing. But it’s all useful, relevant information that I’m consuming so I’m not too critical on myself for doing that instead of writing. I mean, it could be worse, I could have spent months playing Fortnite or some shit like that. So, it’s time well spent in my opinion.
Anyway, amidst all of that YouTube content, I discovered two indie author channels that are having a HUGE impact on me:
Chris Fox. I heard about Chris while listening to the Sell More Books Show podcast (with Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen), which has become a staple for me. If it’s not clear already from earlier posts that indie author podcasts are an obsession of mine, it will certainly be clear by the time you’re done reading this. Not only a great science-fiction writer, Chris is well known in the indie author community, most notably for his Write To Market principles that he talks about across his non-fiction books, podcast interviews, speaking events, YouTube channel, etc. The guy is truly a champion of our community, and is super nice to boot. I had emailed him a question a couple months back, one that he had likely answered already elsewhere on the interwebs, but he was courteous enough to promptly respond to my email and share his thoughts. Oddly enough, that very next week, he released a video that addressed my very specific question, but more broadly. I like to think that this was not coincidence, and that he in fact chose to expand on our brief email interaction with a full-fledged video on the subject (which was on reader magnets, by the way). I won’t lie, I did fanboy out a little bit when I saw the video title! Anyway, moving on.
Garrett Robinson. I first came across a short video series Garrett had done for the guys over at Sterling and Stone (Johnny, Sean and Dave from the wildly popular Self-Publishing Podcast, of which I am a huge fan), called Authorpreneur Self-Publishing Nuts and Bolts. I love this little series and have watched it several times through – I highly recommend it. I later found Garrett’s own channel and was instantly sucked into hundreds of videos on a variety of topics. Probably the one thing that struck me most, right off the bat, was that his delivery (both vocally and stylistically) was very similar to a favorite channel of mine that I had not watched in a VERY long time, but enjoyed tremendously back in the day, and that was John and Hank Green of the vlogbrothers. Garrett, admittedly, is also a huge fan of John and Hank, and I imagine that he was influenced tremendously by those guys, hence the similarities.
There are three specific playlists on Garrett’s channel that I am currently working through and they are all tremendously helpful, and entertaining too:
Writer Wednesdays, where he spends three or four minutes talking about a different subject in the world of writing and indie authorship. These are GREAT little nuggets of information. I knocked out all of those in about two or three nights on the couch.
Story Telling Podcast, where he and two other regular hosts talk about all things writing and indie-pub. They hosted various guests from time to time and it’s always a funny and informative hour’s worth of bad puns, foul language, and general nonsensery (but I mean that in the best possible way). They no longer do the podcast – but the videos are all still up, so go check them out.
VlogaNovel, where Garrett literally does the entire process of crafting a novel from start to finish, right there in front of you. Live. Unadulterated. Line by freaking line. He brainstormed, outlined, wrote the manuscript, self-edited, designed the cover, AND EVEN narrated the audiobook, completely live and on-air for all to see. This. Guy. Is. Fucking. Talented. The project involved a serialized story called Nightblade, which he originally wrote and released episodically over several weeks. This format of serialized fiction was VERY popular a few years ago, and it’s the model that Sterling and Stone had basically pioneered and perfected, with tremendous success. Today, however, serialized fiction is not as commonplace and a bit played out, and Garrett has since re-released the books as a single volume.
All that being said – the VlogaNovel experience that I witnessed was truly mind-changing for me as a writer. It gave me so much inspiration and confidence to push forward and get out of the writing slump that I’ve been in. Watching Garrett slog through line after line of the story really humanized the process for me. No longer did writing a novel seem like an unattainable goal for me. I literally had just watched, step by step, what to do and how to do it, from soup to nuts. Not only that, I had an incredible “light-bulb” moment when I saw how he had broken down the global story into episodes, and then each episode into five or so scenes (By way of the Snowflake Method). I saw a tremendous analogy there to my own process that I’ve been going through to write short stories. Building each single episode (and its four or five scenes) to be a complete arc that has a beginning, middle and end, is WAY more manageable for me to do then trying to plot an entire 80,000-word novel with just a few sparse guideposts that are talked about in Story Grid (see earlier post). Not only that, if it’s done correctly, you can structure the episodes in such a way that you still hit all those pivotal mile markers that make a global story work, and the reader keeps getting hooked at the conclusion of each episode. At the end of it all, you’ve got a book, hopefully.
[Pauses to inhale]
To bring this long-winded post full circle: Armed with new inspiration and new techniques, I am shifting gears once again and turning my attention back to novel writing. I won’t elaborate on what exactly it is that I’m working on, because I’m still fleshing out the details, but I will say that it involves the world that I created in Tranquility, and to an extent, the story that I started writing in The Architects. Needless to say, I am SUPER excited.
I think a lot of my hesitation before came from the fact that I wanted my very first novel to be “the breakout success story,” and I’ve come to realize over months of learning from other indie authors that it just doesn’t work like that. At least, in 99.9% of writers out there. Even the best authors in recent times wrote upwards of ten books before they finally landed a publishing deal or found sustainable success as an indie author. I finally realized, I have to cut my teeth on a project I’m passionate about, and it needs to be novel-length work. So why not just do it. Stop hesitating. Stop procrastinating. Stop running from it. Just freaking do it.
Decide. Commit. Succeed.