Friday, August 26, 2016

You Have To Love The Challenge.

The truth is, there are no shortcuts in the indie publishing business. Experience yields faster, and better results, you can avail yourself to the experts and heed their advice, but the fact is, you have to love the work.

For example.
This day job is the most challenging I've ever had. Gone are the days of writing between long stretches of nothing. Someone told me that learning here was like taking in water from a fire hose. I liken it more to traveling at lightspeed while holding onto the hull.

Yesterday, I was pissed. It was the end of the day, I was stuck in The Neverending Task, and I didn't feel like I was picking things up as quickly as I should've been. Bear in mind, this was a job I wanted and fought for. Yesterday, I just wanted to flush the day and go home.

So as we're nearing the end, the guy training me (who's about as sick of this as I am) asks me if I can finish on my own. Reflexively, I reply "Yeah, I got this."

I freeze.
I didn't mean to say that. I don't got this. I don't even know what this is. Don't leave me here alone. I'll unleash Skynet or something.

I didn't unleash Skynet.
Something strange happened.

Left alone, I started to get it. Wax-on/wax-off turned into karate (ten points if you get that reference)
Things made sense. I knew where things were supposed to go and how to make them look nice. I got the job done.
Today the work was no less difficult, but the process was a little easier.

There really are no shortcuts, no easy roads. Somewhere along the line, you have to make up your mind that the reward is in meeting the challenge. And then meeting the next one. And the one after that.

And maybe, you'll succeed.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The End...?

This past week, a friend of mine lost her mother-in-law and a close friend within eight hours of each other. It got me thinking.

One thing she said that stuck; with me, once you're in, you're in. Blood isn't always thicker than water.

We can argue over life's meaning until we're blue in the face, but the one inescapable fact is that it will end. There will come a day when we aren't here, and for most of us, that's the most terrifying prospect in the world.

For the most part, I've accepted the fact that I'll die one day. But fear of a premature end has affected my patience. I fear that I'll never accomplish everything I want too before the end comes, that there will always be that one more thing I didn't get to do. It's caused me to rush my work and put quantity over quality.

Well, time to put that nonsense to bed.

There are three points I'd like to leave you with.

1). Don't fear mortality. Embrace it. Having an expiration date is what makes the whole experience worth it. And fun.

2). We don't often meet people who will bring more positive than negative to our lives. The ones who are, cherish them, and make sure they know you care.  I remember an old friend who put on his hat as he walked out of the house to go run errands. We never saw him alive again.

3). I am rescinding all publication deadlines on Agoura Hills, Breach, and Era of the Scourge: Reclamation [Second Edition]. I will publish Agoura Hills and Breach in that order, but I'm not going to give dates anymore. I am more concerned with telling phenomenal stories than my search engine ranking at this point.

One will follow the other.

I'll continue to post updates regularly

I'm going to quit rushing and enjoy the ride.

Thanks for reading. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

3 Tips (And One Hard Truth) To Complete That First Draft

I used to hate these damned first drafts. Few endeavors are more challenging than taking something out of your head and bringing it into the real world.

It hurts.

Every time.

And while it never gets easier (It really should get easier) there are ways to assure you'll complete arguably the most difficult of writing tasks. Here are three tips, and one blunt, hard truth, to help you through.

1). Guard Your Creative Time.
Set aside a certain time each day in which you will write, code, animate, what have you, but block out that part of the day solely to get things done. The main benefit of this is as you make it a habit, your mind will start prepping for the workload in advance.
Do this at the time of day when you're at your best. It's not like anyone is going to see your first draft anyway.

I get up at either four or five in the morning, depending on my day job schedule, so I have at least one hour to be creative. The drawback is that I'm wiped out after work, but there is always forward progress on the book I'm working on.

2). Shut Off Social Media.
Before this comes back to bite me I confess I am a hypocrite! I'm always on twitter when I'm writing so I can powwow with other writers, but Facebook is a damn timesink. Unless you're really good at dividing your attention (and it took me eight years to get this far) shut down all social media. In fact, if you can help it, don't even have a browser open. Eliminate all temptation of distraction so you can be creative. The task is hard enough, and chances are you won't want to do it at first, so don't give yourself any excuses to get out of it.

3). Set Yourself Up For Success.

This is how I like to leave myself set up. The laptop is running, Scrivener is ready to go, and the exact scene I left off on is right in front of me. I don't want to go through any steps to get things ready, or I'll lose motivation.
When you finish for the day, leave yourself set up to get right back to work the next day. By the time you get coffee (or whatever you drink), turn on your computer, open your app, hey, Facebook!

1). The Hard Truth.
When it comes down to it, you either want it, or you don't. We all have obligations. We're all busy. We all struggle for free time. The fact is, being creative will cut into your free time. This either means enough to you for you to pursue it, or it doesn't. You make up your mind to get something done and chances are you can make it happen. But when it comes down to it, you either want to make it happen, or you don't. If you do, you will. If you don't, you'll find excuses not too.

The choice is yours.

Thanks for reading.

Avery K. Tingle is the author of epic dark fantasy Era of the Scourge: Reclamation and scifi/romance the Anniversary. Titles are available on Nook and Kobo too. If you’re new to Kobo, you can get both stories for free!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Agoura Hills, Comfort Zones and the Importance of "Return To" Days

I wrote a post about writer's block and then it found me.

Stymied on a dedicated writing post, I thought I'd post instead on the progress of my latest novel, writing outside of your comfort zone, and another tool I use to get through writer's block; Return-to days.

For a so-called agent of chaos, I need a lot of things in life to run smoothly in order to be creative. I sprained my shoulder (sleeping, as far as I can tell) about a month ago and never gave it time to heal. So I had to stay out of the gym, which throws my creativity off. Then, I wound up getting a new job, No gym, new job; no writing.

Any break in the routine throws me off.

So instead of turning into a freight train and churning out crap, I took a step back to recharge. The longer I'm away from my world, the harder it is for me to return, which brings me to the first topic; Return-To Days.

I use Return-To Days as a way to beat procrastination. Knowing exactly which day I'll return to a task helps me mentally prepare for it. I like to put return-to's at the beginning of a week, or a work week, so I've had time to relax and prepare. In the case of my injury, the return-to serves as a marker to either get back into the gym or (ugh) go see the doctor about my injury. Either way, it's time for this particular incident to be done. Return-to's mark days when, no matter what, a situation will be resolved and it's time to get back to work. It's my nuclear option, the last resort to ensure I don't stay out of the game for too long.

Agoura Hills (YA Supernatural Thriller) is both a test and a triumph. My wheelhouse is usually science and fiction (though my prose needs work). I've never written a thriller before, and I've actively avoided young adult because I don't know if I can do the genre justice. It's a triumph because it's the first book fans have actually asked me to write. So it goes to the adage; work hard and get results. It took me eight years to get this far.

Agoura Hills, the story of a young man investigating horrific incidents that occurring in his home town, isn't coming along as quickly as I'd like, but I write fast and I know the story. I'm confident I can have the first draft done by September 1st. Writing in a genre I'm not comfortable with brings me to my final point

You should take any opportunity you can to get out of your comfort zone. Comfort can lead to complacency, which can lead to stagnation if you're not careful. Your first attempt at any endeavor is probably going to suck, sure, but practice usually improves your skill. Say your wheelhouse is fantasy. What if, one day, you could write mysteries? Science fiction? Horror? And you did them all well?

You never know what you can do until you try.

Thanks for reading.

Avery K. Tingle is the author of epic dark fantasy Era ofthe Scourge: Reclamation and scifi/romance the Anniversary. Titles are available on Nook and Kobo too. If you’re new to Kobo, you can get both stories for free!

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Let's Talk About Writers Block

We've all dealt with it.
The blank screen.
The maddening cursor, blinking over and over again.
Taunting you.
Laughing at your pain (maybe that's just me).

It knows you're stuck.
Tis the dreaded Writer's Block. Be you pantser or plotter, it eventually, inevitably, finds you.

I confess, at the risk of jinxing myself, that I don't often deal with writer's block. Only in times of great personal stress do I find myself jammed up. I've learned to anticipate and as such, stave it off.

Writer's block does not happen because you suck. Writer's block does not make you any less of a writer. Yes, some people get jammed up for days, even months at a time. So when it happens to you, don't be too hard on yourself. Welcome to the club.

Writer's block can mean any number of things;
  • You spent too much time away from the world, and you know longer know it as well as you used too.
  • You have over, or under, thought the process.
  • Your story has taken a wrong turn somewhere.
I find number three to be the most common catalyst of Writer's Block. You feel it; something in your story just doesn't feel right, but screw it, it's a first draft, you'll just power through and fix it later, right?

Then you get so lost in the process that you don't remember where you went south but nothing makes sense and suddenly the idea of getting a "real job" doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Well, stop. If you have a "real job", great. Maintain it. But don't stop writing.

This is how I deal with writer's block.

  • STOP.
    Yes, it's a first draft and no one will ever see it, but when you feel your hair raise on the back of your neck, listen to yourself. You're about to make a wrong turn. Stop. Look at what you've done. Seriously, take two minutes, your hands off the keyboard, and look at what you're doing. Chances are you will spot the mistake. See it? Good. Now, correct it and move on.
  • Get Moving.
    If you're stuck, maybe it's time to take a step back. Close the computer. Get up. Move around. Get your circulation going. Get your mind running. Don't worry about taking ideas down, just move around to get your mind working again. Once you have your heart rate up a bit, you're not feeling so stiff, take another shot at it.
    When you close your computer, don't close out your editor. The less steps you have to take to re-immerse yourself, the better.
  • Take A Break.
    If moving around isn't an option for you, it's still a good idea to unplug and step away for a little bit. Do something, anything, other than write. I like doing dishes when I get stuck. Something about the soap and warm water over my hands fires me right back up.

I haven't dealt with writer's block in a long time because I've learned to see it coming. As such my productivity is better, and the quality of my work is improving. 

Do you deal with writer's block? How do you address the issue? Share in the comments!

Thanks for reading and best of luck.

Avery K. Tingle is the author of epic dark fantasy Era of the Scourge: Reclamation and scifi/romance the Anniversary. Titles are available on Nook and Kobo too. If you’re new to Kobo, you can get both stories for free!
Sign up for the Hidden Level newsletter and get weekly updates, writing advice, and a free short story.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Indie Authors: How To (And Not) Ride the Lightning

Not too long ago, a successful indie author friend of mine found herself mired in conversation with a writer who could not, for the life of him, understand why he had not been discovered as the genius he is (cue Scar's "Be Prepared"). I asked for extrapolation, and she provided what was supposed to be one of his blog posts.

It was actually a thousand words of self-gratification that literally begins every paragraph with "I write". "I write this". "I write that". "I write."

He could not, for the life of him, understand why none of the big publishing houses had picked up on him, or why he had such a difficult time moving his books. He lamented;

"I can't wait until I become a real boy and one of these publishers picks my books up. I can't fight this demoralizing publicity battle by myself anymore."

Personally, I'm offended by this statement, but I hope he gets his wish fulfilled. Because this life clearly isn't for him.

He may be a great writer, but the problem is, a lot of us are great writers. The first mistake he makes is not realizing that it is the differences in our work that keep us from being picked up by the big houses. Publishing is a business, not an art, and businesses are leery to take chances on an unknown. They should be leery. Not because our work sucks, but think about it. How many of you think long and hard before loaning money to a friend or family member? Now imagine doing that with millions of dollars to a stranger.

The truth is, we indie authors have a better chance of being struck by lightning than succeeding as full-time indies. It is in no way impossible, the goal is far more attainable than it used to be, and there are ways to bring the storm to you.

1). Dedicate Yourself to Improving.
Read. Read everything you can on your craft. Study your market. Watch and learn from those pursuing the same endeavor from you. Write daily. Write outside of your comfort zone. Publish frequently. Learn. Unlearn. Keep learning. You will never stop improving, and your work will consistently get better.

No, seriously. Read EVERYTHING.

2). Stay Frosty.
Keep an agile mind. You'll be wrong more often than you're right, especially in the beginning. Adjust quickly. Don't get comfortable, or you may become stagnant. Always be on the lookout for something new, something you may not know. Continuously adapt your methods.

3). Stay Humble.
Publicly admit your shortcomings. Own your mistakes so no one else can. Don't brag your successes. Never forget those who helped you along the way, because you won't do it alone. Be ready to help someone else, and do so graciously.

Here's three things you shouldn't do.

1). Don't Whine.
We all struggle. We all have issues. But the internet has enough negativity on it. Don't add to that. Yes, your book missed a list. Instead of complaining about it online, write a better book.

2). Don't Point Fingers.
The worst thing you can do in a self-publishing endeavor is blame someone else, unless they blatantly ripped you off. But if you didn't make a list, it's not the list builder's fault. There isn't some grand conspiracy to keep you from being successful. Again, write a better book.

3). Don't Get Discouraged.
It's hard work, we know. It's mind-breaking, and we often feel as though nothing we do will ever be good enough. It's easy to get lost in the sea of noise. We all feel like quitting. And you know what? If you feel like you've given it your all, and you just don't have anything left, it's fine to walk away. It's fine to take a step back.
It's also fine to come back with new ideas and try again.

This is simultaneously the most difficult and rewarding thing you may ever do (outside of raising successful children). Know you're not in it alone, there is all kind of support for you, and if you're out here doing your best and making the reader's market a better place, then one day, the lightning will find you.

And you will fly.

Thanks for reading.

Avery K. Tingle is the author of epic dark fantasy Era of the Scourge: Reclamation and scifi/romance the Anniversary. Titles are available on Nook and Kobo too. If you’re new to Kobo, you can get both stories for free!
Sign up for the Hidden Level newsletter and get weekly updates, writing advice, and a free short story.

Monday, July 18, 2016

What Dragon Age Inquisition Taught Me About Story Execution

Dragon Age Inquisition isn't supposed to be my kind of game. Save for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Also from Bioware), I avoid games that follow the dice mechanic of the pen and paper RPG. All I need to know is whether or not I hit the guy. Rolling this to the nth power to deciding the critical chance of success or failure is way too much math for me.

But after so much hype and  this trailer, I had to see for myself. I'm so glad I did. It feels like so few games care about story anymore. Not since Mass Effect have I encountered such layered, complex, morally ambiguous characters in such a compelling world. I don't remember the last time I agonized over every decision I made in a game. The world was so enthralling that, convinced I hadn't played correctly, I began a second playthrough that currently clocks at seventy hours.

Yeah, there's just one problem.

The game doesn't work.

On the first playthrough, the game froze so badly that I exchanged it.  A new copy did not resolve the issue. The game is downright unplayable. The glitches and crashes continued mounting to the point where I began to see the end coming. It was both infuriating and painful, watching a game that never should've been on the 360 try to force its way through archaic hardware. When that final crash came, seventy hours down the drain, I was really pissed off. I still am.

It got me thinking.

As indie authors we struggle to keep our voice above the din, to stay relevant. My preferred method is high-volume, where you consistently put out work to maintain fresh material and a high ranking in search engines.

The problem with this method is, when it's abused, a lot of people end up putting out complete and total crap. The market gets saturated with this crap, people get sick of this crap, and it makes it harder for the rest of us to get people to read our work.

So the question is, while you could churn out a number of short works to keep yourself fresh...

...if they're not professionally edited,
...if the cover looks like a toddler's first coloring attempt,
...if the story is poorly conceived and badly executed,

...should you?

Dragon Age Inquisition is an incredible game that should never have been on the 360. It's a flawed execution of an excellent concept that comes off as an attempt to cash in. Because of this, Bioware's brand is a bit damaged.

So just because you can do something, should you? Will it bring you more fans, more sales, more revenue? Is it a quality product that you would stand behind, that can withstand the most intense scrutiny?

Because if it doesn't, rethink your actions.

Thanks for reading.