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Kick Start

My fancy upgrade on this page was up for renewal in July, but I decided to cancel it since this website hasn’t been my primary focus lately. That doesn’t mean the blog is disappearing. It’s just getting a downgrade to the free version. This will allow me to focus my marketing budget on getting Monolith of the ground.

Speaking of which, with the help of Sydnie Beaupre, and several other Creative Writers, I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the marketing and production costs for Monolith. We’re up to £59 so far. Here’s the link, I’d be very grateful if you sent some potential backers for this project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/creativewriters/monolith-the-creative-writers-anthology-series/

If you haven’t been following along and don’t know what Monolith is yet, I’d be happy to bring you up to speed. I’ve been rather thoroughly involved in running a Facebook group called ‘Creative Writers‘. I got a notification back in February that the group was about to be closed down because it had no admin and only 32 members. Something in my gut told me to run with it, so I did.

By promoting collaboration, support, and offering them the Monolith opportunity, the admins and I have been able to grow the group to 8,745 members. Monolith volume one: New Beginnings, will be the first in a new series of anthologies. Each short story collected within are written by members of the Creative Writers group.

Since I want the Monolith collection to be impressive, my fellow admins and I read every story submitted to make sure they’re nothing less than excellent. Even my own story will have to meet our high standards. Every story we reject receives feedback and help to improve the story, and we tell them in plenty of time to re-write and re-submit.

At least we are right now. The sooner we get the story, the more time you’ll have to re-write. However, you could also use the time to write it really well, and then you won’t need our feedback. 🙂 If you’d like to know more about the Monolith project as a writer, join the Creative Writers group and ask. If it sounds like a project you’d like to support, then please become a backer on Kickstarter.

So far we’ve had about 30 submissions and accepted 12 of them, and the deadline isn’t until August 31st. This is going to be a big book, of impressive stories, and it’s going to priced high to reflect the high quality of the writing. This also means we’ll be able to pay the writers better than most other small publishers. We’re Independently Traditional.

At the moment we’re not a registered business so the money we raise on Kickstarter will be used to jump all the hurdles necessary to make this legit. We have members from all over the world, so there’s going to be a lot to figure out and overcome. It’ll be a great experience though and the more obstacles in our path the more we’ll learn. So far though, the development of the idea into a real anthology series is going pretty smoothly.

There have been a few issues in the group. Minor squabbles and trolling, but far less than I’ve observed in other writing groups. I think the questions we designed for member requests help with that, and the atmosphere of community and support. I also couldn’t do it with my admin team. Irene, Jessica, Prawal, Sydnie and Anya. They share the responsibility of keeping people talking, putting out fires, decided who gets to join, and reading through the story submissions, and they do an amazing job.

Sydnie also made us this:

If you’re a bookseller and want to skip the middle-man, I’m also selling pre-orders of the Monolith anthology. TheRRP for the finished paperback will be £29.99. You can pre-order copies of the Monolith anthology in bulk for £10 each, with a minimum order of £100.

The price is set high to reflect the quality of the writing and the value of the book. Feel free to sell it at a discount, £10 off, 50% off, and still make a profit. 🙂

In other news, since I’m spending so much time on the Monolith project, my girlfriend has decided to move out. We’re still friends, but she’s feeling neglected. Understandable really since I’ve been fairly obsessed. Not many women are going to tolerate being put second to my writing career unless they have something to be obsessed about themselves.

I’m in no hurry to get into another relationship. Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know that I agonised over the writing or dating debate, sure that I would spend all my time maintaining the relationship and I’d be forced to sacrifice my writing. At the time I had no idea that the Creative Writers group and the Monolith project would demand so much of my time that my partner would be neglected.

Now I know that I would sacrifice romantic love for my love of writing, it would be unfair and unreasonable to attempt a relationship again until Creative Writers’ Press has matured to self-sufficiency. I have no intention of retreating from the world though. The best way to write believable characters is to observe and interact with real people. I’m actually going to try and get out more. I can write anywhere.

She’s already collected all her stuff. It stings a little to look at the room without any trace of her left in it, but at least we’re breaking up on good terms.

I’m going to wrap this up because I’ve just had an idea for writing prompt generator cards that I need to play around with. Maybe I’ll ask the group to help. 🙂 I do this while realising that it’s exactly this tendency to be thinking about the writing business by default now that drove Laura away. This is who I am and I like it.

Have a great day. 🙂

 

 

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Opportunities for Growth

For those who read the previous blog entry, Unexpected Hope, yes I did bump into that lady again. I gave her another one of my business cards the very next day and I even saw and spoke to her again the day after that. She promises to email me. If you happen to be reading this, I’m still waiting 😉

In other news, the Creative Writers group is going extremely well. We had had a few fires to put out because too many people were joining that didn’t really belong there. I had wondered for a while how I might be able to make sure that everyone understands the ‘spirit of the group’ when I know that only a fraction of the members will ever read the group description or the pinned post, and join based on the name of the group alone.

I don’t remember now which of the other group administrators reminded me that you can set three questions for new members to answer. I’ve seen too many groups misuse this feature. They’ll ask a confusing question such as ‘Do you promise to follow the group rules?’, when the rules are only accessible after you’ve been accepted. I didn’t want to make this same mistake.

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I had posted a rant to the group after I had kicked out the trouble-makers to try and make sure we didn’t have similar trouble again:

“Creative Writers is a community of writers, wordsmiths and storytellers. We know the power of words. Some words can cause discomfort, and some writers are skilled at deploying these words for maximum effect.
If you plan to drop a verbal bomb in the group, please include a trigger warning out of respect for your fellow writers.

“If you happen to see a word or phrase that offends you, please remember we’re writers. We use words to illicit an emotional response. By all means, correct their grammar and punctuation, but demanding censorship goes against the spirit of the group.

“Having said that this is not the place to discuss religion or politics. You can submit any piece of writing for critique but bear in mind that we deal mainly in fiction and your opinion may be analysed as such.

“We are here to become better writers. To help each other, support one another and learn from each other. Competitiveness and attention seeking behaviours disrupt the spirit of the group and will not be tolerated.”

I boiled this rant down to the following three questions (I copied this from a membership request, so it also includes the answers I’m looking for):

  • Do you understand that this is a place for fiction, and not religion or politics?

    Yes 🙂

  • If you post anything that could be deemed offensive, are you willing to include a trigger warning?

    Yes.

  • Are you looking for a supportive group of fellow writers, willing to help others grow and develop your own craft?

    Yes!

As long as the member answers ‘Yes’ (or some synonym of it) for all three questions, they’re in. If they only answer one or two of the questions, or they reply ‘no’ (or some equivalent response), they are declined. People who still haven’t even answered the questions are declined after a six-hour window of opportunity.  Despite this hurdle, membership continues to increase at a rapid pace.

It seems like we’ve regained the ‘spirit of the group’ I had established when I took over. Finding a way to quit the day job and do this full-time isn’t so pressing anymore. We’re still creating a Kickstarter page, but the focus has been switched from payroll to our product. Which is only right. We’re asking for £3,000 to cover production and marketing of the Monolith Anthology.

 

Plant Cover with Biondi font
We’ve gone back to this cover

 

My original plan, after all, had been to produce Monolith for as cheaply as possible so that all the writers and other contributors can get a fair share of the profit. If I could do it without putting any money in, I would, but my team tell me that this is just as unrealistic as hoping to raise enough cash to pay each administrator $5,000 per month for 6 months! They make a good point.

With all the time effort and passion I’m putting into the Monolith project, including the Creative Writers group and Creative Writers’ Press, I worry that Laura, my girlfriend, is getting neglected. To that end, I’ve been asking her what she’s really like to do with her life. She said she’d like to travel more. At first, this answer made my heart sink when I realised that it would be a long time before I could afford to buy flights and hotels all over the world. Then I watched this video:

I often watch TED videos while I’m working on Monolith, to keep me motivated. This video helped me to realise that travelling the world doesn’t need to mean expensive hotels and flights to every destination. You can travel on a shoestring if you don’t mind roughing it a little, and I have a tribe of over 7,700 Creative Writers to ask for help.

We’ve already had members offer Laura and I a place to stay in Holland, Iceland, Pakistan, Canada, South Africa and several states in America. I don’t have a lot coming in from Patreon subscriptions, but it would be enough to keep my phone data active, and as long as I have power and internet access, I can write anywhere. If it gets too hard I know my family would welcome me back.

We’re not running off immediately (much as I’d like too) we’re currently aiming to start our adventure next year after Monolith has launched, which will hopefully provide an additional trickle of income. In the meantime, we’re going to save up and do our research so we can do this as safely as we can. It will still be risky, but it’ll be a great adventure, an amazing experience, and I’ll have some great stories to tell. I may even end up with my own TED talk!

 

 

 

 

 

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Unexpected Hope

Today I was working a breakfast shift at the Whitewater Hotel. I grumble about having to work here from time to time, but I still like it. There are much worse places I could be working. We were waiting for the last of the guests to finish when one of them called me over.

“Young man? (instant ego boost) Do you have any toothpicks?” she asked

“I’m sure I can find you some,” I say, already knowing there are cocktail sticks in the kitchen. I’ve been working in customer service for most of my adult life, and read quite a bit too, to actively try and excel at it. I habitually under promise and over deliver now.

I returned with three cocktail sticks and asked: “Will these do?”

She accepted them gratefully, and I said, “I’m terrible, I always use the corner of a business card.” She replied that she refuses to admit to doing the same. I took the opening and pulled out one of my business cards saying, “I have one if you need it”.

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She looked at it. Read my name, and that it says ‘Author’, and asked me what I was writing. So, of course, I told her all about Hermes925, the Creative Writers group and the Monolith project. She held my gaze as she asked if I was published, so I told her excitedly,

“That’s part of the reason I’m doing the anthology. It will allow me to figure out how self-publishing works without risking my baby”. My ‘baby’ being Hermes925. She came up with a great idea.

“Then afterwards you could write about how to become self-published. There’s a huge market for that right now.” It turns out she’s retired from a corporate position in which she specialised in attitude-focused motivation. I’m sure my eyes lit up as I mentioned a project currently on the back-burner called “Levelling Up! A gamer’s guide to success“.

The book would compare gaining XP (experience points) to gain new skills in both tabletop and video RPGs to gaining real life experience and applying them to your life to develop real skills.

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She seemed very interested in the idea of applying game experience to real life and encouraging people to be more with what they already know. I loaded my tray with dirty plates and used breakfast items such as the jam tree and sugar bowl as we talked. We soon realised that we’d spent a long time talking and she promised to keep my card and email me. I went back to the.kitchen with the tray, invigorated and hopeful.

I was a little disappointed that she left my card behind, but not terribly surprised. If I bump into her again over the next couple of days, I’ll hand her another card as if she forgot. I may have been deliberate, and if it was it wouldn’t be the first time that someone in the corporate world promised me a great opportunity that never materialised.

It also reminded me that the only people I can rely on are my family. They’ve given so much to help me become a successful author. I want to return the favour and help them live they way they want to live. If I want to do that I need to work harder to make Creative Writers Press a reality, and put rest to the idea that some mysterious benefactor will simply give me what I want.

I’ll learn a lot more figuring this all out myself. I’ll be more than just someone who got lucky. I’ll be an expert, and I can use that expertise to compound that experience into more stories, projects and self-help books! I feel more confident in my ability to pull this off than ever.

I’ve been trying to crowdfund to support giving the administrators of the Creative Writers group a salary, so they have more time to work on this. There’s already a Patreon site, and I’m working on a Kickstarter site too. If that doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world. I just pointed out to someone today that my part-time job gives me a break from all the work I’m putting into this. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

However, I think I might be able to get myself a better income if I do this right. I can schedule breaks for myself. I can keep a standard work day again instead of fitting time in around my Whitewater shifts. Even if I’ll fail, I’ll be gaining experience and I’ll learn. When I try again I can use what I’ve learned and I’ll find a whole new set of hurdles, and I’ll learn from those too. I’ll keep practising what works until I have a whole new set of skills.

Those of you who play RPGs will know that at this point things start to get easier, but then you level up. This gives you new recognition, more renown, and tougher challenges. I can’t wait 🙂

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Time To Write

I know I’m not the only writer that has this problem. You get up ready to write, pull out your notebook and pen or turn on your computer (or both) determined to work on a story that you know has to get written. You know exactly what you intend to work on, but the words just refuse to come.

This is especially frustrating if you know that this is the only time you’ll get this week. The rest of your schedule is filled with prior commitments. Work, family. friends, other writing projects, classes, housework, etc. All vying for attention while the one thing you’re trying to pay attention to refuses to cooperate.

You may be trying to keep to a deadline, a schedule, or a promise, but you just can’t focus. You try to read over your notes, scan over the last thing you wrote, and get into the mindset of your characters. You find yourself just staring, your mind wandering to other worries.

Sometimes I can get around this by working on something else, or updating this blog. Other times I can post a question on Facebook to my fellow writers to figure out what direction I need to take the story in. Most of the time just forming the question is enough to get me going again.

Right now I’m supposed to be proofreading and editing the short story I’m working on for UbiquiCity, the RPG sourcebook I’m contributing to. I have already fixed a lot of it, but I know it needs more. I keep meaning to find the time to read over the stories that have been submitted by the other writers to make sure that my descriptions of the City are consistent, but I keep having the same problem I’m having with my own work. I’m just staring at the screen.

I have four days until the writers meet up again. One of those days I have to be out of the house for about 10 hours for my day job, and on another I’ll be doing the update for my Facebook RP group the City of Gate. I’ve had all month to do the rewrite and I’ve spent maybe 2 days actually doing it. The rest of the time I’ve been working, sleeping, doing not enough writing and spending too much time discussing a new project.

To be fair the new project is very exciting. A series of short-story anthologies called Monolith. The Creative Writers group is now up to 343 members (and probably more by the time you read this) and a lot of them are pumped about writing something for book one. I don’t expect each book to make much money, but the more books we publish, the more the royalties will add up.

Working on Monolith will also give me invaluable insight into self-publishing and allow me to make use of some of my accumulated knowledge on sales, marketing and entrepreneurship. At one point I thought I’d use these skills to attain a corporate position of some kind, or start my own business, but it feels right to apply it to creating a series of books instead.

If you think you might be interested in contributing a short story, please do. You can get more info about it on the pinned post of the Creative Writers group. Eventually there will be a dedicated website to go with the Facebook page I’ve made, but for now there’s a link at the top of this page for submissions. You have until June-August to get it in, so that should give you plenty of time to polish it up and make it awesome.

I should get back to the UbiquiCity story I’m supposed to be writing. If not, then I should at least be working on The War on Magic, City of Gate: Chronicles, Hermes925, or The Haunted Story. I may have too many writing projects!

If you happen to be someone that likes to invest in entrepreneurial new writers, you can do so either on my Patreon page, or by selecting one of the Paypal subscription options below. You’ll get updates on my writing projects and free copies of every book I’m published in if you do. Have a great day 🙂

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What do I write about?

I wrote this for the Creative Writers’ Press blog.

Creative Writers' Press

Lots of people have posted in the group,

“I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.

There’s been some great feedback in these threads, but it’s a fast-moving group. It doesn’t take long before the last post on the subject is too far down the page to easily find, and someone else asks,

“Hey, I’m new here and I’ve always wanted to write. How do I get started?”

The most obvious, and frequently commented answer is, of course,

“Write”.

While this may seem condescending, obvious, and not particularly helpful, it’s also true. As daunting as it always seems to put pen to paper for the first time before you even have an idea, it really is the best start. Free-writing, which is writing with no agenda (for those that didn’t read Overcoming Obstacles), is a great way to practice writing, get in touch…

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Monolithic (the Xan Whittle edit)

This article was edited with help from Xan Whittle, a member of the Creative Writers’ Facebook group. The original can be found at journal.media/monolithic. If you like the changes they made, check out quill & ink consultancy.

A few months ago, I received a Facebook notification that one of the writing groups I was a member of was about to be deleted unless I would like to become an admin. It had no admin and only 32 members. That group was Creative Writers.

Normally, I’d ignore such notifications. If I wanted to make a name for myself as a writer, I couldn’t afford to take on the responsibility of safeguarding a growing online community. I had too much to do already. Between writing my Sci-Fi series, Hermes925, maintaining my authorial presence online and looking for paid writing opportunities, where could I possibly find the time?

Perhaps it was because of the name. My favourite classes in school were the Creative Writing classes. To this day, my best stories are written the way my teachers at St. James’ Junior School taught me to write. You always need to know the beginning, the middle (or muddle) and the end before you even start the rough draft.

The fact that almost every writing group I was in wouldn’t let you post links to your stories was definitely a factor. I wanted to start my own group that encouraged open discussion of your work-in-progress. Posting links without participating regularly in discussion would result in you being labelled a spammer.

Amongst these other reasons, the opportunity to create a haven for writers lead me to my final decision of filling the role. With a little help from my writer friends, I got by, and Creative Writers flourished. We have now reached 6,308 members, and we’re still growing! It is a bustling hub where writers of all genres seek advice, information and encouragement.

One of the ways we’re encouraging members to discuss their writing (and thus, often, write more) is by offering our members an opportunity. This was also inspired by the way that other Facebook groups, writing contests, and vanity press sites did things. I wanted to provide a writing opportunity that I, as a writer myself, would be excited to participate in. So, after in-depth consideration, I produced from my figurative sleeve; The Monolith Anthology.

The Monolith Anthology would not charge a submission fee, or have any other hidden costs. It also wouldn’t bear an iota of resemblance to the endless slick of hideously overproduced, poorly written self-published work. Regardless of the level of technical skill, the books I’m referring too are clearly written too quickly and solely for financial gain. Monolith would be as grand, epic and magnificent as its name implied, and would also be priced appropriately. Too many books devalue themselves. I wanted to be able to pay my writers well, and know that the book will sell. I want to produce something that I know will blow away all who read it, drive them to enthuse about it to their friends.

We’ve already begun receiving short-story submissions for the anthology and the quality of writing we’re receiving is impressive. By the time submissions close on August 31st, we could easily have a book at least 2 inches thick, packed full of some of the best short stories you have ever read. We originally planned for a finished product by January 2018, but I think we can do much better than that. The sooner we get it out there, the sooner we can start work on volume 2!

In order to secure the success of this endeavour as much as success can be secured, I aim to encourage pre-orders, sponsorship, crowdfunding and donations in order to fund the project and allow me and the other admins to work on this full time. With the Creative Writers‘ shared passion for writing, and my own background in business and marketing, this challenge is well within our repertoire.

The way I see this story ending is with over a hundred success stories from every author whose careers we’ve helped to launch, each with a range of books published by the Creative Writers’ Press; writers that were all valued members of the best creative writing community around.

Overcoming Obstacles

An article I wrote for Creative Writers’ Press.

Creative Writers' Press

All kinds of things can get in the way when you’re trying to write, and I’m going to mention a few. The biggest obstacle for most of us though is writer’s block. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of the other issues we resolve, writer’s block always seems to be lurking around the corner, ready to pounce, right as our fingers are hovering over the keyboard, or our pen is about to touch the page.

All of these issues have been mentioned at least once in the Creative Writers group at least once. The first one I’m going to tackle is self-doubt. It’s doozy, and one that often disguises itself as various excuses. After you push through “I don’t have the time”, “I have to be available for my kids (or some other person-in-need)”, or “I’m always so tired after work” (all of which I will also talk about)…

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Redefinition

The original intent for this website was to be the public face of my professional writing career. A sort of interactive portfolio. I included Hermes925 thinking that the ongoing story would encourage repeat visits and help me build my brand. I also thought that some day I could finish it and publish it, and have enough online notoriety to get picked up by a traditional publisher that would pay me for the story and help me distribute it.

I realised not long after though that posting the story on my website could possibly be considered ‘previously published’, and would exclude my story from eligibility for almost every publisher I looked into. Crap. If I wanted to actually make money from writing I had to shift my focus away from Hermes925 and look into other alternatives.

I searched online for writing jobs, and writing gigs, and contests, and magazines accepting submissions. All the traditional jobs seemed to be for bid-writing, technical writing or social media content writing for boring businesses. Nothing creative. There were a few gigs that seemed more than a little interesting, but the amount of research, time and effort necessary to write what they were asking for seemed to be more valuable than the money they were offering.

The contests were interesting, but if you don’t win you get nothing. It also bothered me that all of the gigs, contests and magazines would then own that story for the pittance they were asking. You’d never be able to use that story again. It was gone. If I could use the same story for several gigs it might have been worth it, or they paid royalties.

As luck would have it I discovered that one of the writing groups I was in (called ‘Fiction Writing‘) was compiling an anthology called ‘A Horror of Words’, and the theme was ‘ghosts’. I used to love writing ghost stories, so I gave it a go. The group was very supportive and gave me some great feedback, but ultimately my ghost story was rejected.

I’m glad it did, because I realised my story would work better as a longer, deeper, more three-dimensional narrative. I also realised that there was no reason I couldn’t do exactly the same thing the ‘Fiction Writing’ group were doing. I had recently taken over admin duties for a group called ‘Creative Writers‘ that had been abandoned. It had only 32 members and was about to be deleted, but it had already begun to grow, rapidly.

I’d also recently learned that Amazon now offers a printing-on-demand book publishing process, in addition to the Kindle book publishing. I could make a book. I wouldn’t need to pay a bunch of money up front to a ‘vanity press’ that would print my money whether it was good or not. I could do that for free and Amazon would just take a cut of my profits.

Of course, I know that my book won’t sell unless it’s good, so I still need proof-readers and editors, and mentors. I know my writing is good for me, but it needs to be good for others. There was already a great feeling of collaboration between the Creative Writers, so I proposed the idea of creating an anthology together. We would check each others’ writing, and encourage each other to get better.

It was a very popular idea, and there were several great questions that came up that helped me improve the initial idea. The anthology series will be called ‘Monolith’. Book one is going to be called ‘New Beginnings’ and every story in it will share this theme in some way. Submissions need to be 2000-10000 words and be submitted between June and August. Besides that, any genre goes, and you retain rights and ownership of the story.

The admins and I wanted to make a project that we would want to write for ourselves, and it continues to grow and evolve. The latest example of that is a new WordPress page I’ve put together, the Creative Writers’ Press. The hope is that, once we’ve playtested the process with Monolith and ironed out the kinks, we’d be able to offer to publish other books written by the Creative Writers.

This new website has a blog also, and I’m currently thinking it would be a great way to highlight interesting subjects that were discussed in the group that some of the other members might have missed, and articles on writing, and about the spirit of the group. Creative Writers Press is soon going to become my professional face as a writer and publisher.

This page has been great practical experience, but it’s been bumped. However, this could be a good thing. It would allow me to write a little more personally, and less professionally. I haven’t really done a good job of keeping it professional, but there was always the thought as I was writing that some future boss, publisher, or patron of the arts might be reading this.

The atmosphere of this page may change a little. I may speak my mind a little more. If you’re a family member who would rather follow my entrepreneurial efforts as a writer, you may want to switch your subscription to Creative Writers’ Press. 🙂 Go there now!

If you’re still following this page when the next article is written, then I will assume that you’re not the sort of person that would be intimidated, offended or appalled by frank and honest opinions and topics including (but not limited to) sex, nudity, marijuana, heavy metal, gender-fluidity, faeries, demons, witchcraft, success, business, marketing, money, Science, technology, self-improvement, personal development, depression, bipolarFB_IMG_1492162261458 disorder, rebellion, identity and/or freedom. 🙂

It’s going to get real! Either that or this website will get ignored completely while I focus on other things (which is probably far more likely).

Have a great day 🙂