Indie Life: Inspiration

IndieLife7

Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop hosted by the Indelibles.  Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

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Being an indie writer is hard work.  Not only do we commit ourselves to the life of a writer, but we also have to commit to being a businessperson.  Fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone.  The Internet is here to help.  We have the support of other writers thanks to bloghops like this one, and the Internet provides other little pieces of inspiration from people all over the world.  Here are some examples I recently discovered.

From Jellyvampire, “Born Like an Artist.”

From Zen Pencils, “The Brick Wall.”

From Vimeo, “The Reward.”

I hope you find a little inspiration in these, and please share anything you find inspiring in the comments below!

Indie Life: Disciplined Bravado

IndieLife7

Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop hosted by the Indelibles.  Click here to see a list of participating blogs.

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Once before, I compared the life of the writer to running the space program.  Now I want to do it again.

A friend recently emailed me an article from the New Yorker about the team that designed NASA’s latest Mars rover.  The rover, named Curiosity, was too big and heavy to survive the tried-and-true methods of landing on Mars.  Instead, it used one of the strangest and most complicated landing systems in the history of space exploration: a sky crane that hovered over the surface of Mars and gently lowered the rover to the ground.  One of the engineers who worked on this sky crane is quoted as saying, “It is the result of reasoned engineering thought […] But it still looks crazy.”

A lot of people criticized the sky crane.  To the NASA outsider, it looked impractical and dangerous.  Apparently the design team itself didn’t know if it would work.  They couldn’t even test it.  Since conditions here on Earth are so different than those on Mars, the results of any test here would be meaningless there.  If the sky crane failed, politicians would no doubt call it a colossal waste of taxpayer money and slash NASA’s budget more than they already have.

But the sky crane worked.  In August of 2012, Curiosity landed on Mars and began its search for Martian life.  The article from the New Yorker went on to describe the unconventional thinking it took to make the sky crane a reality.  I particularly latched onto the term “disciplined bravado.”  The sky crane didn’t work because of the discipline of those NASA engineers with all their knowledge and experience designing spacecraft, nor did it work because of their bravado, their reckless courage to try a new thing.  It only worked because they combined their discipline with their bravado.

This is a lesson for writers.  We need a lot of discipline to get ourselves to write every day, to keep working on our stories even when writer’s block gets in the way.  We also need the bravado to invent a new world and tell a story that’s never been told.  In short, we need the same disciplined bravado it took to send Curiosity to Mars.

P.S.: Click here to read the article from the New Yorker, “The Martian Chroniclers: A New Era in Planetary Exploration” by Burkhard Bilger.  It’s a fascinating story and an example of great writing.

P.P.S.: Click here to read my previous post on how being a writer is like running the space program.

Indie Authors, You Need an Editor

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Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop hosted by the Indelibles on what it means to be an independent author.  Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

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My fellow writers, I have no idea who you are or what kind of writing you do.  I have probably never read any of your work, but I still know one thing: you need an editor.  A professional one.

I’m in the process of preparing the ten Tomorrow News Network stories from 2012 to be published in ebook form, and I have employed the services of a professional editor just to double check my work again.  I am so glad that I did, and here are a few reasons why.

  • I’ve been extremely thorough in self-editing the Tomorrow News Network series.  I read each story multiple times, and I read each story aloud at least once.  I’ve also had the help of multiple beta readers who’ve caught many mistakes I missed.  But despite all that, my editor found dozens—perhaps hundreds of errors I never would have seen.  To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed by the number of homonyms that snuck into my stories.
  • Good editors, like my editor, not only draw attention to your mistakes but also to the parts that you did well.  This is not merely an exercise in grammatical correctness.  It’s also about identifying your strengths and building upon those strengths, making your book a better book and you a better writer.
  • Being a writer is a lonely profession.  You spend a great deal of time scribbling on paper or slogging away on a computer, and you can lose track of the outside world.  In the past few months, I’ve felt like a man living two separate lives, each mutually exclusive to the other.  Having an editor changes that.  I have a teammate, a professional who is as enthusiastic as I am about what I’m trying to say and the stories I’m trying to tell.  I no longer feel so alone.

At first, the idea of working with an editor frightened me.  I didn’t know how brutal she might be, and I was afraid I’d come out of the experience depressed and disheartened about my writing.  But if you want to be an indie writer, you have to get an editor.  Now, rather than feeling depressed and disheartened, I’m more confident about my writing than I’ve been in months.

P.S.: My editor’s name is Mary Elizabeth O’Connor.  If you are interested in employing her services, you can email her at rsmfan17 at aol dot com.

How Indie Life is Like the Space Program

IndieLife7

Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop hosted by the Indelibles.  Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

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By now, fellow indie authors, you must have realized how being an indie author is similar to running the space program.  Oh, you didn’t?  Let me explain.

  • Much like NASA scientists, most indie writers have unrealistic concepts about money, making it impossible to write a budget or manage the financial side of what we do.
  • We indie authors set deadlines that sound reasonable, provide plenty of time to check and double check our work, and ensure our story/spaceship is at peak performance, but somehow we always end up behind schedule.  Maybe it’s due to the weather, maybe it’s due to technological snafus, or maybe it’s because we spend too much time “working” on Angry Birds: Space and lose track of the other stuff we’re supposed to be doing.
  • Just as getting accurate data about the hydrocarbon content of Martian soil may not sound exciting to the general public, some people may not realize how important one book sale, one new contact, one re-tweet, or one positive review on Amazon can be.  Sure, it’s not the same as landing on the Moon, but every small achievement gets us just a little tiny bit closer to our ultimate goal, and those small achievement are always worth celebrating.
  • There will always be someone who thinks this (the space program or the life of an indie writer) is a waste of time and money.  Those people are frustrating, but we have to try to ignore them.  If they don’t understand the value of such bold and ambitious endeavors, they probably never will.

So whatever kind of writing you may be doing or whatever dreams you may have, remember to keep shooting for the stars.

Indie Life: Your Day Job

They say write what you know.  Well, I write about a journalist who travels through time.  I know nothing about time travel.  I’ve never done it myself.  I don’t have any friends who’ve done it either.  It’s not something I can research because nobody’s done it, and all the credible scientific sources are purely hypothetical and mostly agree time travel is impossible.  But journalism?  I know something about that.  That’s my day job.

IndieLife7

This is my first blog post for “Indie Life,” a blog hop sponsored by Indelibles.  Like most “indie writers,” I have a day job.  Admittedly, it’s a pretty cool day job.  I work for a local TV station as a video editor, and on occasion they let me write science related stories for the news.  But my passion is science fiction, and by TV job–cool as it is–is just a day job.  Yet with Tomorrow News Network, I turned my day job into an asset for my life as a writer.

Much of Tomorrow News Network is based on my own experiences in the news business.  Talie Tappler, the main character in the series, is based on two of the best reporters I’ve worked with.  Everything else is loosely based on science.  Very loosely.  Except the story I wrote about Roswell.  That’s 100% true.

They say write what you know, but I disagree.  I say start with what you know then add whatever made-up, crazy $%*& you want.  Maybe you’re an accountant; write about being an accountant for the mob.  Maybe you’re a nurse; try writing about a hospital run by sorcerers.  Maybe you’re a janitor; write about being a janitor during the zombie apocalypse.  You might write a really cool story.  At the very least, my fellow indie writer, you may discover your day job is more interesting than you thought.