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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.

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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 🙂

True Love

It is often said that true love lasts forever. I’m not sure true love exists. I think that in reality, love is a fleeting emotion. Temporary, and all the more precious for it. However, it’s possible to fall in love again and again for the same person. Each time they do something that makes you smile, and your heart flutter.

When love ends it’s not the end of the world, just the end of your time together. You discover some principle they have that is diametrically opposed to one of your own, or they behave in a way that you find shameful or repugnant one too many times to balance with their enduring qualities. Perhaps they just flat out refuse to conform to your preconceived perceptions, or insist you do something that you find boring, useless or disgusting? It doesn’t really matter. There’s nothing you can do to change it.

Unless you can make them fall back in love with you, but that one’s tricky. Usually, there’s a bond of trust that forms between people in a relationship. At the very least there’s a familiarity between you both and the prospect of having to be single and fend for yourself again inspires some resentment. At least one partner will probably feel betrayed.  It’s unlikely they’ll ever trust you again.

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Especially if you pull it off. You show them you’ve changed and given them everything they ever wanted from you, so they give you another chance. Then you regress back to old behaviour patterns as soon you feel like things are good between you. Yet the alternative is worse, having to accept that you failed to do what every successful adult is supposed to do. Find your one true love and be married to them forever.

You don’t find out until you’re in the mess of relationships that falling in love is easy, and we often fall so hard and so fast that we’re swept away by the blessed miracle that we have found our one true love so soon. You find yourself making little concessions for this person, and making excuses for them so you can maintain the delusion that you’re going to stay with them forever.

Some people manage it. Live perfectly content lives, soldiering on together through hardships and victories. Bottling up the resentment over how much you had to give up to keep the relationship going. Even old lovebirds that smile and talk to one another happily, can still cry when they’re alone. Regretting the chances they could’ve taken if they hadn’t played it safe.

They chose to hold on to that one constant individual, even if it means lying to themselves and each other. It’s silly, and it’s based on something that isn’t real. Wouldn’t you rather live a real life? One in which you make big risks, stupid mistakes, have genuine adventures, new experiences, and fall in love all over again? It is a choice. A real choice we can all take. We can stop living the lie, admit the love is gone, ride through the resentment, the withdrawal and the fear of being alone forever.

We can stop living the lie, admit the love is gone, ride through the resentment, the withdrawal and the fear of being alone forever. Or, we can stick with what we’re used to. We can apologise for things we know we haven’t done wrong, just to keep the peace. We can wear that awful garment they say you look good in, hoping it will rekindle the romance, even though it makes you feel ugly, weak and dishonest. At least you’ll be able to look back on your life and say “We stayed married”!

I wanted so badly to stay married until she said something to me that completely broke my world view. She said, “It’s not your job to make me happy”. I may have mentioned this before, and if so sorry for repeating myself but I’m going to say this again anyway. I had believed until that point that my true purpose in life, as her one true love, was to make her happy. Suddenly I felt like I had no reason to exist.

Now, to be completely fair here, I hadn’t been doing very well. I would promise to do something different to make her happy, and I would do that thing (such as wash the pots more often, or maintain a house planner) for a little while. Then I would slide back into old habits.

Arguably, this could be just ADHD. Unable to focus on necessary tasks, because it’s boring as fuck and I don’t want to. Especially when it doesn’t need doing yet, and I’m really really enjoying my Xbox 360. Which she bought me, by the why, to illustrate that she recognised I’m not happy and wanted me to have more recreational time.

Whenever we talked (usually after a fight) she would tell me that I needed to spend more time with friends and have something in my life other than just her, and yet the fight would usually start because I hadn’t been writing chores that needed doing into the planner and marking them off one by one as they are completed each day.

In hindsight, I understand now that she also wanted me to schedule in ‘me’ time and friends time. I think she seriously imagined that I would be able to breathe in a strictly scheduled life in which I plan out each day meticulously in order to balance my work life, home life and all other pleasures of life in perfect harmony.  I can see why it would have comforted her to live in such a safe and predictable world, but I felt trapped.

Even writing “Monday – laundry,  Tuesday – groceries, Wednesday – litterboxes, Thursday – dusting” and left every other day blank. Leaving that journal out for her to oversee and check was enough to make me feel like a caged bird with a snake in the room. Beating it’s clipped little wings pathetically to escape. I’d build the cage myself though, and it was keeping her out.

Those words of hers let me see the bars. When we were dating, she told me that she saw greatness in me. When she took it back, telling me ‘I don’t see that in you anymore’ I saw that the key had been in the lock the whole time. It still took me a little while after that to pluck up the courage to open the door and escape.

It also turned out to be more like a multi-walled fortress than a cage, and I think I may still be working my way through some of the outer defenses. Turns out imaginative people can build one heck of a prison! It had oubliettes. Go watch Labyrinth (again), followed by Dark City and at least 3 documentaries about medieval castle defences. You’ll thank me for the imagery. 🙂

I thought about her words and realised something. If she saw something great in me when I was single and confident, and dressed all in black, perhaps I needed to go back to that. Not to win her back. That had been the plan shortly after we broke up, but that ship sailed when she told me about her new boyfriend.

I started to notice how ratty her face was (in hindsight, this may explain why I often use giant rats as villains in my stories), and how immature and nonsensical some of her opinions and assertions were then. I became determined to find my greatness despite her pronouncement that my chance at greatness was behind me. To come back to who I was before I met her, make some different choices, and be the person I was meant to be.

I may have missed the window for greatness, but I’m going to do my damnedest to get close to it. I want you to know, in advance, that I appreciate all your help on the way there. Maybe together we can build something greater than all of us, and perhaps the spirit of the Creative Writers group will continue after we’ve all gone. Who knows. For now, I’m just enjoying taking the journey with you all.

Have a great day 🙂 I hope you enjoy my writing

 

 

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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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Monolith

I recently had a hare-brained idea to make an anthology. That’s a short-story collection in case anyone knows. Have you ever had a nagging thought in your head saying, “That doesn’t seem too hard? I bet even I could do that!”? In my case, it rapidly evolved from “Maybe I should try?”, through “Do it do it do it do it do it…”, to suddenly finding myself posting this in the Creative Writers group on Facebook:

Anthology

Soon the group was discussing the idea at length, getting excited and helping me pick out a font for the cover.  Before long the group had a brand new pinned post and I was challenging the group to coming up with a cover image that would be appropriate for both the series title, Monolith, and the theme of book one: New Beginnings.

Here are some of the early mock-ups for the front cover:

It’s early days, and I’m sort of making it up as I go, but I’m willing to learn. If you think you can help I’d appreciate it. You can join in the conversation we’re having on Facebook and have your say in how the book looks, advise me on how go about publishing it, or even discuss your short story submission.

If you are considering submitting a short story for Monolith please don’t submit rough drafts. If you’re having trouble with phrasing or grammar, by all means ask for help while you’re writing it (from me or the group). After it’s submitted, if I have to rewrite the whole thing it’s probably not going into the collection. If your short story is well written, well told and ready to go, you can submit it here or click on the “Monolith” tab above.

I expect it will take us a while to get it ready, but it would be nice to have a book available for sale by June-July. Then we’ll come up with a new theme and start collecting stories for the next book! You’ll get royalties (if you want them) on every book sold that you have a story in. It won’t be a lot to begin with, but it’ll all up, and I intend to use some of the money to promote the book and make us all more money. At least, that’s my current plan.

Interested?

Paypal subscriptions and donations will help to support this venture:

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Have a fantastic day! 🙂