Writing Has Taught Me – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Category: Writing Has Taught Me (Page 1 of 5)

Writing Has Taught Me to Keep Improving

Can you ever be “good enough” in any area of life? Can you ever be content to settle and enjoy your progress–in either your personal or private life? Sadly, the answer is probably “no”.

Personal development and growth is a MUST for better relationships. Professional development is vital for those who want to excel at their jobs. For writers, no matter how good you think you are, you can always be better!

It’s never enough to just be “good” at what you do–in this case, writing. You may feel like you’ve made a lot of progress over your career as a writer, and you’re content with the way your writing has improved. But the moment you think you’re “good enough”, that’s the moment the quality of your writing begins to decline.

It’s just the way of nature! If you’re not making forward progress, you’re sliding backward–back into old, bad habits. You can’t accept that your writing skills are ever “good enough”, but you have to constantly be searching for ways to improve. The more you work to improve and learn, the better you will become.

How can you do that?

Read more. The more you read, the more you see what other authors do–both the good and the bad. You’ll learn what to do, but you can also learn what NOT to do!

Put your work in front of others. It’s always wonderful to have people to tell you your work is wonderful, but you don’t need more “yes men” in your life. Find people who will tell you what’s wrong with your work, and who will call you out on poor quality. Those are the kind of people you need in your life in order to make progress!

Create more. The more you create, the more you push yourself to do more and be better. Writing more is the key to getting better at writing, so you should always be working on something.

Study. Study the craft of writing. Study grammar, syntax, and punctuation. Study flow and pacing. Study marketing and promoting. Study self-critiquing and editing. Study querying agents and publishers. Always be learning something new about the industry, and you’ll make forward progress in your career as a writer.

It’s never enough to be “good”. If writing has taught me one thing, it’s that you always need to be working to improve and grow!

Writing Has Taught Me It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

When I started my writing journey, I had it in my head that I was going to be the one writer who never made mistakes. I was going to write the best characters, tell the most amazing stories, and all without a single flaw or error in my writing.

Boy, was I disabused of that notion in a hurry! By the time I finished publishing In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent, I had learned just how fallible I was.

When Blade of the Destroyer came into being, I quickly saw how much I had to learn. After having the book sliced and diced by the world’s best beta readers, I ended up re-writing an entire third of the book. Book 2 was only slightly less flawed, and I had to do a lot of re-writing to make the story work.

Now, as I’m working on Book 3 in The Last Bucelariiseries, I’ve come to a simple understanding: it’s not a bad thing to make mistakes, as long as you’re willing to admit that they really are mistakes and correct them.

I wrote Book 3 with a very definite goal in mind. I wanted to show that the main character, the Hunter, was making some progress as a human being. After the events of Books 1 and 2, there was a slight crack in his “tough guy” façade. But, like the human being that I am, I went a bit too far and made him “too human”. I gave him all these attributes and personality traits I’d expect of someone in that situation, without actually thinking about how HE would react.

Now that I’m re-drafting, I’m having to do a lot more re-writing than I’d expected. Thanks to my amazing alpha-readers, I’m changing the ending, adding another 10,000 or so words to the story, and changing some pretty core elements of the story. The result will be a better book, but it’s a lot of work.

But imagine how different things would be if I was so worried about making mistakes that I clung to my idea of what I believed to be “right”! Book 1 would have sucked right out of the gate, and none of the later books would get any better. After all, I would have stubbornly clung to my idea of perfection, and there would have been no room for improvement.

Let this be a lesson for all of us: making mistakes are a good thing. Once you understand that, you start to see them as a learning experience. When I sit down to write Book 4 (which I plan to start before the end of this year), I’m going to keep the lessons I learned from writing Books 1 through 3 in mind. When I write Book 5, I’ll have the addition of lessons from Book 4. All the mistakes I will have made will help me to be better as a writer, and it will be easier to adapt, change, and improve.

Don’t be so stuck on perfection that you can’t handle mistakes! Mistakes are a GREAT thing, provided you are willing to correct and improve. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn from them. See mistakes as a good thing, and you will mature and improve far faster than you would getting it right every time!

adapt_to_all_situations_by_ervid-d50vmqn

Writing Has Taught Me to Adapt

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” — HG Wells

Adaptability is a writer’s best friend, but it’s definitely a hard one to develop!

When I started out copywriting/marketing/blogging five years ago, my skills as a writer were fairly limited. I could do one style of content, in one tone of voice, and with just one layout or structure.

Now, years later, I’ve developed my skills as a writer to the point where I can match any tone: formal, informal, informational, dry, comedic, sarcastic, and the list goes on.

In my journey as a novelist and author, I’ve learned that I have to adapt if I want to succeed.

I have started work on a SECRET SIDE PROJECT, set in the same world as The Last Bucelarii books, but following a different character (a woman this time). I participated in a Writer’s Bootcamp between March and September (2015), so created this story specifically for the Bootcamp. In an effort to do something new and different, I changed my writing style to be minimalist and only offer the most important details.

But as the book is going through the editing/revising process, a number of alpha readers have commented on how there is a lack of understanding of and connection to the character. If you’ve read Blade of the Destroyer, you’ve seen what it’s like to live in the character’s head. In this new project, I described everything via narrative rather than getting inside her head.

Of course, now that I’ve heard that there’s a lack of connectivity, I have begun to rewrite and put the reader inside this girl’s head. When I sent the re-drafted version to an alpha reader, they commented on how much easier it was to understand–and thus relate to–the character, and they said the book is MUCH better as a result.

So, adapting leads to improvement, and that’s what being a writer is all about. The more you improve, the better you will become, and the easier it will be to communicate clearly to your readers.

My advice to writers (both new and experienced), and to everyone: Don’t be stuck on one way of doing things. Adapt as needed, and be willing to change things in order to improve. The more you adapt, the higher your chances of success!

12120199_160228734326627_7403016884880662740_o

Writing Has Taught Me How to Handle Disappointment

Life is filled with disappointment! There’s no two ways about it. No matter how hard you try, how smart you think your plans are, or how well you have prepared, life has a way of messing everything up. Plans go awry, fail, or are knocked completely out of whack. How you handle them, that’s what matters!

I just spent the weekend at New York Comic Con, having a blast interacting with fellow authors, artists, and geeks/nerds. It truly was one heck of an awesome weekend!

I was fortunate enough to have a space in the convention to sell paperback copies of The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer:

12120199_160228734326627_7403016884880662740_o

When I planned for the weekend, I figured I could sell X amount of books. I ordered that number of books, set up my little spot, and got to work! At the end of the weekend, I had sold less than half the number of books I had expected. Talk about disappointment!

All through the day, I had to tell myself not to worry, get stressed, or anxious because things weren’t going as well as I had planned. I had to force myself to be happy with the results I got.

But then I came to a simple realization: I did great! I met a lot of awesome people, made new friends, got my book in the hands of a significant number of people (all of whom, I’m sure, will be hooked!), and made some great contacts in the industry. While nothing concrete has materialized from anything (beyond the immediate sales), the potential for growth and expansion in my career more than makes up for the “disappointment” of not reaching my goal.

And there’s a bonus:  When talking to a Big Four publisher (who had a booth just a few feet away from mine), I found out that I sold more books over the weekend than the average new author. We’re talking books from publishers like Tor, Random House, and Simon & Schuster!

None of this is to toot my own horn, but it’s just to help put things into perspective. I felt disappointed by what I felt was a failure to reach a goal I had set, but once I accepted that things were the way they were and found the “silver lining” in the situation, everything started to seem so much better.

Now, as I’m on my way to the Texas Book Festival (in Austin next weekend), I’m looking forward to everything. I may feel the twinge of disappointment if I don’t sell as many books as I had expected, but I will take my lumps and find the good in the situation. And trust me, there is always good!

Writing Has Taught Me to Worry Less

When I first started writing, I remember being incredibly stressed because I couldn’t quite figure out some new plot twist or clever direction for my story. I would lay awake at night, tossing and turning, trying to figure out what came next.

What a waste of time that was! All that time spent worrying did me no good, as I was so focused on the fear of “What happens if I don’t figure this out?” that I had no brain power left to focus on actually figuring things out.

Now, I don’t worry AT ALL. I don’t have to struggle to figure out plot twists, story lines, or characters. I don’t have to wonder how I’m going to keep the reader interested. Instead of worrying about it, I’ve learned to trust.

You see, as I’m writing a story, my mind is already churning out what comes next. Subconsciously, I’m chipping away at the block of marble, trying to find that story. I’m figuring out a book or two in advance, or at least a few chapters in advance. Every time I come up with something, I write it down. The more I write down, the easier it is to work within the structure of what I have created. I don’t have to figure out enormous chunks of book, but I can break it down to figuring out one problem at a time.

I participated in a Writers Bootcamp from March to September 2015, with the goal of taking a book from inception to completion in just six months. When I started the bootcamp, I had no idea what I was going to write, but I didn’t let that bother me. I focused on the work I was doing (writing The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen).

As the start date approached, I didn’t sweat it. Instead, I just let my mind wander. I took more walks, spent more time sitting and doing nothing, and let my subconscious mind interact with my conscious. Within just one week (yes, 7 days), I had the story, plot, and structure of the 100,000-word book. Sure, I developed more as I was writing, but I never let it worry me. I used my energy to figure out the problem, not worry about it.

Let that be a lesson to us all! The more time and brain power you spend worrying about stuff, the less energy you’ll have to focus on what really matters: finding the solution! Worry less, and you’ll get a lot more done.

 

I’ve never had to struggle to figure out a plot twist or something. My mind is always working on it, even subconsciously. Worrying won’t help me figure it out.

Writing Has Taught Me to Dig Deeper

As I was reading the book Sol of the Coliseum for my review, I found myself asking “Why?” Why was the villain such a cruel bastard? Why did he do the things he did? What set him down the path to being a torturer, assassin, and all-around a-hole?

That is something that I’ve also been doing in my own life. When my kids start snarking at me, my wife, or each other, instead of looking at the words they say, I’ve started looking at the reason WHY they said those words. Maybe it’s a bad day, a problem at school, or something else going on. Instead of looking at the actions, a look at the “cause” behind the “effect” can help you understand others more.

This is something that everyone needs to do more!

As authors, you need to get into the “why” of your characters’ actions. For example, in my secret side series (coming in 2019 or thereabouts…), the main character is raped by the villain. Throughout the book, the villain is clearly an antagonist, but he only crosses the line at the end.

But what caused him to go over the deep end and take that step? He’d beaten the MC (a girl) half to death, killed her best friend, and more, but what made him take it to new lows?

It’s all explained in a few simple comments the villain makes: (Warning: Graphic)

“You don’t belong in the Night Guild! You’re a woman, not a thief. You’re good for nothing but being a whore!”

“Do you know what happens to whores, little Hawk? I do. My father showed me many times what a real man does to whores. And now, I’m going to show you.”

“But it’s like Father always said, ‘Show a woman her place, and she’ll be grateful for it.'”

“Yes, scream for me, little Hawk! Mother always screamed like that. Father said that’s how she showed that she was enjoying it. Are you enjoying it, little Hawk?”

“Remember this, little Hawk: you deserve this!”

Pretty insightful, isn’t it? Instead of giving you the villain’s backstory or showing his journey into villainy, these excerpts give you a hint of what he went through to turn him into the monster he is. You don’t need to know more about him because these things give you enough insight into the character. You can guess at the trauma and abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, or the things he witnessed that twisted him so.

It’s important to understand the “WHY” behind things. And I’m not just talking about the things people say and do in your books, but also in real life.  If you can take a deeper look at what is causing the actions, it will help you connect better–be it with your main character in your novel, with that a-hole at work, or with your kids. It’s highly unlikely that they are acting that way without a reason! Once you understand why, it helps you to see things from their point of view, making it easier to deal with them.

 

Writing Has Taught Me to Look for the Creative in the Mundane

Over the last few weeks, after the launch of The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer, I’ve done a lot of author interviews. In nearly every one of those interviews, I’ve been asked the question, “Where does your inspiration come from?”

As any author, artist, graphic designer, or photographer will tell you, it’s nearly impossible to put your finger on the “where” or the “why” of creativity. The process of “inspiration” is like being hit by lighting–it happens out of the blue, and with little or no preparation!

*** Minor Spoilers to follow ***

There are times when I can think back and pinpoint that “aha!” moment when inspiration struck. For example, when I was writing Blade of the Destroyer, I couldn’t quite figure out a few things:

How to explain the Hunter’s near-immortality

What kind of someone would be pulling the Hunter’s strings

How the Bloody Hand (a criminal organization) and the Dark Heresy (the “shadow police”) would be working together.

Too many elements to figure out!

One day, as I was cycling at the gym, I was playing a silly iPad game called Dungeon Hunter. As I was playing it, I was looking at the demons my character was hunting in the game, and it struck me how much fun it would be to write a story using demons not as the villains, but as the sympathetic characters, the protagonists.

“Aha!” moment struck! Immediately, I knew how to make the Hunter near-immortal, I knew who or what would be pulling the Hunter’s strings, and why these two organizations would be working together. It was perfect!

*** End of Spoilers***

But that was just one small detail in the book. As for the rest of the book, the rest of the books in the series (officially 6 books now!), and everything else I have written since, it’s impossible to put my finger on that moment when creativity struck.

I learned one simple lesson from this experience: you can find inspiration in the most mundane things! I got an idea for an entire series of novels from a silly game I was playing. The idea for the voices in the Hunter’s head came from an episode of Criminal Minds (TV show), and the ideas for everything else come from everywhere else!

I’ve had ideas while listening to other books, running on the treadmill, watching goofy YouTube videos, checking out a billboard, surfing Facebook, thinking about stupid things I’ve done in the past, and many more things. It’s not about knowing where the inspiration comes from, but it’s knowing how to turn even the most mundane things into something amazing.

Today, as you walk around, make it a point to look around you. Don’t TRY to find inspiration, but just let your mind wander as you take in the details of what’s going on in your world. You’ll find that the most ridiculous, inane things will inspire creativity in your mind, and you can come up with some pretty awesome things just by taking in the mundane around you!

 

Writing Has Taught Me to Keep Looking Forward

It’s funny how easy it is to “rest on our laurels”, so to speak. Once we accomplish something, we can be tempted to relax and take it easy for a while. But if we do that, we’re never going to get anywhere–or at least not as quickly as we could/should!

I JUST launched The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer three weeks ago. After months of hard work and waiting, it was finally done and here. Big launch party, lots of sales, hurrah for me!

But do you know what else I just did? On Friday, I just submitted the final draft of Book 2 to my publisher. All the time that I was setting up the book launch for Book 1, I was working on Book 2. Now that Book 1 is launched and trucking along, I’m setting up the launch for Book 2.

And don’t think for a minute that I’m done! Starting next week, I’m going to get back to work on Book 3. The story is fully written (in a rough draft), and alpha readers have done their thing. Now it’s time to take their comments, fix up the book, and write that first draft to send off to beta readers. It’s about two months or so of hard work!

What’s going to happen while Book 3 is with beta readers? By the gods, I’m going to work on writing the rough draft of Book 4 to send to my alpha readers, so that when Book 3 is off to the publishers (sometime in early to mid 2016),I’ll be able to start working on Book 4.

That may seem like a dizzying amount of work in advance, but it pays off! Only by doing all this hard work in advance will I be able to keep up a steady rhythm of publishing a top-quality, professionally-edited, reading-worthy novel every 6 to 9 months. I’ll always have something written and ready to work on, and I’ll always be making progress.

Writing has helped me to keep looking forward to the “next thing”, and it’s going to keep me working well into my later years! I’ll be pumping out novels at a regular pace simply because I’m always finished projects and working on the next–never waiting or being content with my current “success”.

This is an attitude that (I hope) will permeate into the rest of my life. It’s hard to keep going from one thing to the next, but it’s the best way to keep making progress as a parent, a spouse, and a person. The moment I get complacent with my progress in any area of my life, I tend to stall or slow down. The only way that I can keep moving forward and making any sort of progress or growth as a person is to keep moving and keep looking forward!

Writing Has Taught Me to Let Go

It’s amazing how many writers cling to their works like they are their “babies”. Which, all things considered, they really are!

It’s hard to release your creation into the world, out there where others can see it, comment on it, and possibly say negative things about it. It’s definitely one of the greatest challenges writers face, and it can lead to some pretty bad insecurities.

But over the course of my writing career (short as it may be), I’ve learned that we have to let go. Once we make it as good as we possibly can, the only thing we can do is put be brave, put ourselves out there, and take our lumps!

When I launched The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer, I was incredibly nervous about the feedback I would get. I spent months poring over every word in that book, trying to make it as good as possible. When the day come to press “Submit”, I knew it was as good as I was going to make it.

Thankfully, most of the feedback has been positive! The book’s rating on Amazon hovers at 4.6 Stars, with most of the reviews being five-stars (all without me saying “Pretty please”). But there have been a few reviews that forced me to be a man and take my lumps.

There are things about the book that I absolutely love! For example, the part where the Hunter goes around the Temple District and sees all the different temples to the various gods. For me, that was the most enjoyable part to write! I loved creating an entire pantheon of gods, and I felt that was the best way to explain about the gods of Einan (the world in which the Hunter lives).

But a few reviewers have said, “It felt like an infodump.” To anyone who reads/writes, that word “infodump” is something to be dreaded! It’s basically a way of saying, “That’s a newbie way of sharing information–it could have been done better.”

So, I had my idea of what would make the book interesting, and I discovered I was wrong. I have two choices:

  1. Cling to the blind confidence that I am right and these reviewers are wrong.
  2. Let go of my way of thinking and try to approach it the way someone else sees it.

I’m not going to go back and change anything, but I will DEFINITELY keep it in mind for future works. Because I have made the choice to “let go” of what I think to be right and am trying to be open to the suggestions of others, my work will only improve in the future.

Writers–and anyone who creates–learn to LET GO! It’s the only way that you will get better. Don’t box yourself in by sticking to your opinion or idea of what “right” really is, but let go of your assumptions or preconceived ideas. The more open you are the learning, the more you will learn, and the better you will become!

Writing Has Taught Me to Be Passionate

Passion is an interesting thing. Everyone has the potential to be passionate, but until they find that special “something”, they will never truly come alive. When you do find that thing that makes you passionate, it’s something that will attract people to you like nothing else!

(Let me be clear: I’m not tooting my own horn here. My own life experiences are all I have to draw on…)

I was fortunate enough to attend Anaheim Wondercon (a comic convention) in 2014 for the first time. I was invited by some friends who run a booth there every year. I was there to enjoy myself, take in the sights, and have the experience.

But when I found myself talking to people about comic books and stories I loved, the passion just burst out of me. I made friends, attracted attention to the booth (even though I wasn’t there to work), and sold hundreds of comic books. Thanks to that, my friends invite me back (to more than just Wondercon!) every year so I can use my passion for comic books to help them sell their stuff.

Another example:

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a local author event at the amazing Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore (the best indie sci-fi/fantasy bookstore in San Diego). Every one of us authors had a chance to present our works, and when it came my turn, I found the words just flowed out of me. I loved my work, my story, and my character so much that it shone through my speaking. Because of that passion, the book completely sold out at the bookstore that day!

I’ve been on a few radio interviews, and have been told that I have the “perfect” voice and personality for radio. I don’t feel like I’m the best host, but I have no problem talking about all sorts of things, and my passion for my writing–and both writing and reading–shines through.

Why am I telling you all of this? Simple: I want you to understand that your passion is one of your best tools when it comes to marketing yourself, your books, and your product/s!

I have little doubt you are passionate about your work, which is why you have spent hours laboring over it and trying to make it as good as possible. But it’s tough to tap into that passion at first. You feel, “Well, no one wants to hear me ramble about myself endlessly.”

So don’t ramble, but don’t be afraid to let people see what makes you passionate. Talk about your characters, your plot twists, your clever ideas, and whatever else makes you love your work. Let others see the reason that THEY should love your book as much as you do, and it will be much easier for them to “hop on the bandwagon” of loving you, as an author.

Robin S. Sharma said, “Be spectacularly great at what you do. Wear your passion on your sleeve and hold your heart in the palm of your hand.”

Follow those words, and your passion will be spread to others!

Page 1 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén