Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Deflate-Gate

The case of the under inflated footballs. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you probably don't follow football. But I do. And I think the recent "deflate-gate" flap goes deeper than who won an NFL game. 

When I see a runner or swimmer break a record, I want it to be done without chemical help. When I see a pitcher throw a no-hitter, I want it to be done without his roughing up the baseball or applying a foreign substance. And when I see football quarterback turn in a masterful performance, I want it to be done within the bounds of the rules of the game.

I have no idea whether the quarterback or the coach or the ball boy or the hot dog vendor at the recent NFL playoff game did something to stack the deck in favor of the home team. That question may never be settled. But I'm disturbed that people--not just pro athletes--are always looking for an unfair advantage.

I'm a writer, so I keep up with that field. I know about colleagues who hire someone to buy copies of their book so it shoots to the top of a best-seller list. I know about writers who plagiarize large sections of what others have written. I know of other things that are done in the name of sales and rankings and popularity. And I don't like them, any more than I like scrambling for an unfair advantage in a sport.

What about you? Surely you have an opinion on this. I'd love to hear from you.

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If you want to hear a "tease" from my next novel, Fatal Trauma, and see me reading it, check out both the "Take Five" and "Must Read TV" tabs on this page

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing: Miss Steaks

Do errors bother you? I like to point out scenes in TV shows or even movies where something that shows up in one view is moved in another. And, even though I love the writing of Robert B. Parker, even though Bob had a doctorate and was a college professor when he broke in as a novelist, I've found errors in his novels. A number of writers don't do research, and it shows in the errors they make. Does that make my enjoyment of the work less? No, it's just something I watch for now that I'm writing myself.

I hope you noticed that the heading of this post has changed the word "mistakes" to "miss steaks"--perfectly acceptable words, spelled correctly, but not what was meant when they were written. Autocorrect is responsible for many of the errors we see in posts and emails, and I always advise writers to turn it off (as I do) and proofread their manuscripts for misspelling.

A finished book from a traditional publisher undergoes at least three edits (macro edit, line edit, proofreading) by publisher representatives, plus multiple edits and responses by the author. Yet errors creep in. And hawk-eyed readers point them out. But pointing them out to the author won't really help (unless they're an error of style or substance, something he/she may wish to correct in future books). They can be brought to the attention of the publisher so they can be corrected in a subsequent printing (if the book goes that far), providing you can make contact with said publisher. Some publishers make it easy to send them a message--some are so difficult to contact one would think they were in the witness protection program. It varies.

Do errors in a book, movie, or TV show bother you? And, if you find one, what do you do about it? I'd like to know.

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NOTE: If you think writers "have it made" after they get their first contract, check out my blog post on the subject.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Life Is In The Hyphen

Dr. Steve Farrar said something interesting on Sunday. If we walk through a cemetery, we see lots of headstones with someone's name, their date of birth, and their date of death. But, as Steve pointed out, although when we start and finish our journey through this world are important, the real story of our lives is in the hyphen. What do we do during those years, however many there are?

For a decade, I and my colleagues devoted several days to interviewing medical students who had applied for specialty training in our department. The almost-physicians showed up dressed in their best, all primed and ready to answer such stock questions as "Why do you want to train here?" and "What are your plans for practice after you finish your training?" But none of them was ever ready for a question I put to them: "What would you like on your tombstone?"

That's sort of my question. What would you like people to remember about you when you come to the end of your life's journey? What would be in the hyphen on your tombstone? Have you thought about that? I hope you'll leave a comment and let us know.

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NOTE: If you want to hear me read the first several minutes of Critical Condition, my last novel of medical suspense, click here.

IN ADDITION: If you want a chance to win a signed copy of  Critical Condition, check out this website and enter:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Writing: Envying Other Writers

All writers (whether published or "pre-published"--i.e., wanting to be) are subject to envy of the successes of others. When I saw this from Randy Ingermanson recently, I wanted to share it with you. Here it is, with his permission.

If there’s anything that can wreck your writing career, I’d say it’s envy.

What do I mean by “envy?”

Envy is not merely wanting what somebody else has. 

Envy is the feeling of resentment you get when wanting something somebody else has.  

The problem is that the publishing world naturally breeds envy. Here’s why.

It’s just a fact that different writers get very different results from their writing. Most writers earn hundreds of dollars per year or less. Some earn thousands. A few earn tens of thousands. A small minority earn hundreds of thousands. A very few earn millions. A tiny handful earn tens of millions.

This tells us that rewards aren’t proportional to talent. Those writers earning millions aren’t 1000 times more talented than those earning thousands. 

In fact, it’s possible for one writer to do far better than another with quite a bit more talent. See my article on The Success Equation earlier in this issue for an explanation of what drives the rewards of writing. Talent is part of it, but there are other factors that matter a lot.

When you see somebody earning a lot more than you, it’s all too easy for the “that’s not fair” mentality to kick in. 

And that’s not smart.

What goes wrong when you envy other writers? Isn’t that just another name for good healthy competition?

No, it isn’t. 

When you envy another writer, you are the one who gets a sick, nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach. Maybe it keeps you awake at night. Maybe it sucks all the happiness out of your life. Maybe it causes you to dream of ways to hurt the other writer. 

All of these steal energy from YOU, energy that you desperately need in order to write better. You can’t afford that.

So what do you do about envy? A little logic goes a long way here.

It’s not wrong to want to achieve the success that you see somebody else achieving. It wouldn’t harm them at all if you were to up your game so that you were doing as well as they are. 

By the same token, their success is not harming you. When other authors do well, they are not taking money that is rightfully yours. They’re taking money that their Target Audience has decided is rightfully theirs.

So you begin by making a decision to let go of any resentment of other writers. But it doesn’t end with that.

When you see somebody earning vastly more than you, ask yourself why that’s happening. Think about the Success Equation. What accounts for this other writer’s success and what could you do to imitate it?
  1. Are they writing for a larger Target Audience than you? If so, do you want to write for a larger Target Audience, or are you happy writing for the one you have?
  2. Are they doing a better job of delighting their Target Audience? If so, can you learn any tricks of the craft from them that would help you delight your Target Audience?
  3. Are they using better discoverability tools than you are? Can you use those same tools to make your work more discoverable?
  4. Are they more productive than you are? Can you learn from them and increase your own productivity?
Sometimes none of the above explains the discrepancy in earnings. 

Sometimes, luck is the answer. Luck happens. If it happens to you, be happy and enjoy the ride. If it doesn’t, remember that nobody deserves luck.

Sometimes, the other writer is vastly out-earning you because she’s been at the job for thirty years and you’ve been at it for five. If that’s the case, then carry on. If you build your career right, time is your friend.

The key thing here is to not allow envy to derail your career. It doesn’t hurt the other writer. It hurts you.

Put envy aside. It’s not a lot of effort and it has huge rewards. It might be the smartest thing you do all year.

Once you do that, you can take it one step further. You can learn to be happy when others are successful. That’s the flip side of envy. Instead of letting bad feelings ruin your day, let good feelings boost your day.


Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 10,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

(image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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And if you missed my post with my free short story, Epiphany Encounter, click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

I dreamed the other night that I adopted a new Twitter handle: Ars longa,vita brevis. Not only was this phrase unwieldy (and too long) for that purpose, but I had no idea why these words popped into my mind. When I looked up the phrase on the Internet (What did we do for research before Google?) I discovered they were a variation of a quotation from Aphorismi, written by the physician, Hippocrates.

Scholars seem to think that what the ancient Greek was saying was that it takes a long time to acquire and perfect one's expertise (in this case, medicine) and one has but a short time in which to do it.  I've been retired from medicine for over a decade now, and although I had in mind golf and travel as a way to fill my days, God seemed to have other ideas. Since that time, I've spent a good bit of time trying to learn writing, and I'm still learning. Couldn't this aphorism be applied to that--or any other profession--just as well as medicine, as Hippocrates originally meant?

What about you? Do you need a reminder that there's still more to learn, whatever you're doing? Have you reached a point where your attitude is, "I've learned all I need. This can't be improved. Besides, what difference does it make?" I hope not.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this. But hurry and leave them. Remember, life is short.

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(Photo of Greek ruins via Freedigitalphotos.net)