Tag Archives: new year’s resolutions

Drew Year’s Resolutions

This year I’ve learned some hard lessons about publishing, book promotion, and blogging. I’ve honed in on my problems and come up with some solutions for 2019.

PROBLEM: My novel isn’t going crazy viral

A blog is not the best promotion vehicle for a novel (even if I write a dozen novel-centric articles). Most of my readers come for writing advice or nerd culture commentary. My book He Has Many Names delves deep into both of those themes, but it’s billed as fiction. I have a pretty good following but my novel-centric posts get the least amount of engagement. I think that might be because readers see them as a kind of Sponsored Content.

That and shifting my blog from squeaky-clean writing advice to horror-centric content means I’ve had to rebuild my following.

SOLUTION: Consider the audience

There’s a way for writers to get more eyes on their page without resorting to click-bait-meme-dump-listicles.

As much as I love sharing short stories, satire, and monster dating profiles, I need to offer something useful too.

I want to get back into giving writing advice, but in a way that differs from what I’ve done before. My new criteria will ask the following questions:

  • Can I offer technical insight into the subject rather than simply define it in my own words?
  • Can I approach the subject within a three act story so that it’s more memorable for readers?
  • Can I draw from my personal failures to better inform new writers?
  • Will the subject spark a debate or is it too safe?

PROBLEM: Winter’s impact on my creativity

Every year Minnesota winters beat the shit out of me emotionally. It gets dark at 4pm and cabin fever can get nauseating. Yet, every summer I forget the toll the cold takes and I assume my creative energy will power through the seasons. I’m always surprised when it doesn’t. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is not the definition of insanity (that’s more of a stock phrase for hack writers on TV). Still, it feels like in this instance it applies to me.

SOLUTION: Schedule posts out in advance

Smart bloggers write a ton of evergreen content (timeless articles) that they tease out throughout the year. They schedule posts and social media links months in advance. This gives them a buffer to chime in on current events or the latest pop culture conversation.

Smart Internet personalities spend this extra time introducing themselves to strangers via guest blogs, podcast appearances, and public readings.

This winter I’ve had the energy to just post links on Reddit. Next year I’ve got to do better than that.

PROBLEM: The holidays are a horrible time to promote a book

It’s easy to fill a spreadsheet with book promotion strategies. It’s hard to implement them when you work customer service through the holiday season.

Right now I work for a company who would very much like their acronym to stand for: United Problem Solvers, even though they deliver packages.

As Amazon rises to utter world domination the holiday seasons has become overwhelming. People with boxes up to their eyeballs line up out our door and at the front counter they haggle over every dollar. In the back parcels are stacked through the ceiling tiles, and at the packing table the staff are multitasking through their meals.

I come home, take a moment to pet my cat, and wake up on the floor a few hours later. I’m drained, no fun to be around, and in no condition to reach out to podcasters to talk about my fiction.

My book He Has Many Names is a horror story, which is why my publisher (Clash Books) released it around Halloween. Anticipating the promotion cycle I tried to dial my work schedule back, then three people quit and suddenly I was senior staff.

Suddenly every customer shouting, “What do you mean I have to pay for packaging? Amazon said it would be free.” Are syphoning my book promotion energy away from me.

SOLUTION: Honestly, I’m still looking for one

An author at my level has to be their own agent, their own influencer, and their own street team. They have to pull double shifts daily. I have to anticipate crunch cycles if I’m ever to master my work/writing balance.

I think this means I need to take a more active role in scheduling around my creative energy. That means focusing on simple attainable goals for the remainder of the winter and big lofty goals for the spring and the summer.

PROBLEM: My creative career feels like it’s running in place

It’s harder to vie for readers’ attention than ever before. They have the collected history of mass media in their pockets now. Genre authors have to scratch a very particular itch. For years it’s felt like each new endeavor was just another scheme. That needs to change.

SOLUTION:Devout more time to the planning stage

I used to be so afraid of writer’s block that I wouldn’t take time to think about promotion. I was afraid the well of inspiration would run dry if I stopped pumping. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and the ideas haven’t faded. I need to assure myself that the stories will still be there if I pause long enough to sell them.

I need to submit to more themed collections, put more unpublished offerings on Amazon, and offer more incentives for readers willing to review them.

CONCLUSION

Getting a writing career going is like trying to become a professional lottery winner. The odds aren’t in anyone’s favor.

That’s why my New Years Resolutions are short-term incremental goals.

What are your writing resolutions? Anything on my list make yours? Anything on your list that ought to be on mine? Let me know in the comments.

•••

Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.

Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.

Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.

Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?

Pick up HE HAS MANY NAMES today!

Writer Resolutions for 2017

New Year, new Drew.

The following are my resolutions for my writing going into 2017.

Finish What I start

I need to take my stories all the way from conception to the query letter. I’m good at writing first drafts then moving on to the next bright shinny thing. Part of the problem is I’ve gotten addicted to the instant gratification of publishing short fiction online.

My novels and novellas have suffered for that. I need to remind myself that everything I post here is in service to the novel I’m cheating on. 

And speaking of query letters. I need to…

Sell What I Write

I’ve sold some of my short stories, but I drop most of them into the gaping maw of Beelzeblog, the master of metrics, the prince of platforms, the ruler of reach. He demands a sacrifice a week. At night, I hear him growling from my laptop.

“Feed me.”

I can never satiate Beelzeblog’s hunger for fresh content, but maybe I shouldn’t. It’s hard to sell something once you’ve given it away. I need to hold more material back.

I’ll keep sharing stories, but I need to use some to expose my work to new readers, pad my bibliography, and earn money. Continue reading Writer Resolutions for 2017

How to Make Practical New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Enigma

The more I tell myself New Year’s Eve doesn’t matter to me, the more I realize it does. That’s the power of negative suggestion. The more you tell yourself not to think about something the more you do (quick, try not to think of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man).

I try to roll my eyes at the Calendar, thinking the New Year is just another number; an arbitrary changing of the digits, a human construct with as much meaning as daylight savings. It’s still going to be cold in Minneapolis on January 2. Nothing significant is going to change, but that’s the thing that always gets under my skin. It isn’t merely about the festivities of the evening. It’s about how much distance I’ve put between this version of myself and the one from the year before. Continue reading How to Make Practical New Year’s Resolutions

Hyper Emotional Thoughts on New Year’s That I Probably Shouldn’t Post Online

If you’re looking for fluffy holiday sentiment to pass the time before the party is in full swing, Buzzfeed’s got you covered. If you’re looking for a way to set reasonable short term goals for the new year, there’s plenty of moon-faced smilers willing to sell them to you on Amazon. If you’re looking for a way to visualize yourself as a stronger more assertive person for 2014, then boy did you take a wrong turn on your way to Albuquerque.

I once made an impassioned plea for bloggers to gimme some truth, tonight I’m dishing it out. If you’re expecting my usual sympathetic voice, he’s going to sit this one out. Charm has to take a back seat to candor. Consequences be damned.

Last night, finishing this piece was the furthest thing from my mind. It felt like a lie, a last minute attempt to cushion myself from a blow I knew was coming. A frown I tried to dig my claws into and twist upside down. Things happened. My focus shift.

Forgive me if I rant, if I get abstract, if I slobber all over the place. At time’s like these, I have to let it all hang out.

For me, New Year’s Eve has always represented heartbreak and regret. The first time I got stood up was on New Year’s. Turns out, I was the alibi she gave her father when she ran away with her boyfriend. I loosened my tie around the time he called the house to ask where she was. He kept calling. Years later, I got involved with a roommate’s girlfriend (nothing to be proud of). When the ball dropped, she kissed him, and I bit through a champaign glass. The next morning, we all went to a restaurant with our best game faces on. I gave the group the old Batman goodbye. Bridge burned, lesson learned.

This year, the tradition continues. The details are mine to keep replaying in my head. You’re here for another reason, and pity parties are so 2013. Let’s get to what really matters here: how all this introspection applies to you. Hiding behind first person just isn’t my style. Let’s stagger on into the second, into your comfort bubble. Come on, be brave.

I’d like to issue you a challenge for the New Year, dear reader, and as sign of respect I’m going to issue a separate one to myself. I’m going to make my point using strictly positive language. Knowing me, this will be a herculean feat of self discipline. I’m going to talk about New Year’s resolutions, New Year’s expectations, and the yard sticks by which we measure our lives. From this paragraph on, I will spare you all the “don’t’s” and the “try not to’s” and the “avoid thinking about’s,” you tend to find in articles like this. I want you thinking about the things you try to cast out.

Let them in.

I’m flipping the script to spare you the compulsive pull of negative suggestion. Avoiding a thought has a way of turning it into the big red button that you just have to press. Thinking we’ve locked a thought inside a vault, we find the door in a place of prominence in our memory palace. My nasty thought is. It’s big, bright, and burst wide open. That’s okay. Sometimes you have to look at the elephant in the room to realize it’s a bull in a china shop.

The following self fulfilling prophecies are going to happen at midnight: you will contemplate bettering yourself. Goals will slip in through a breach in your subconscious. Your wish board will populate on its own. You will imagine yourself in 2015, looking back on what went down in 2014, and hope it was an improvement over 2013. You will make an empty promise, because you have to.

You will mistake hope for entitlement. You will mistake the absence of events for fate. You will mistake wishes for resolutions. You will contort the definition of Karma, and treat your built up stress like it’s good for a paid vacation.

Others will volunteer their resolutions. They’ll tell the monkey on their back that they’re smoking habits are in the past. They’ll announce their novel, their daily word count goals. They’ll have an end date in mind before they even get started. They’ll tell you their dietary changes, so that you can help enforce them. They’ll tell you about the numbers they expect to see coming from their scales.

You will tune out completely, and wonder who you are in the grand scheme of things. Your identity will split, like so much confetti. You’ll have to distort your self image to keep yourself from looking away.

Broaden your definition of success. Life’s grading spectrum is wider than pass or fail. There are goals, then there are stretch goals. Short sighted, we only see black and white. Counting our blessings, everything looks so binary. With our eyes on the prize, everything else seems like such a wash. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Focus on the bear essentials, everything else is just gravy. Get on top of your current workload, everything else is just extra credit. Find your comfort zone, then start on building an expansion.

The holidays have a way of tempering our egos. Social media has us comparing our party-scapes, contrasting our entourages. It rounds our expectations to the highest percentile.

We’ve seen so many stories play out, that we’ve been conditioned to think in three act structures. Each and every one of us thinks that we’re the protagonist, the underdog, the bright eyed lover. We give our memories beginnings, middles, and ends, bending reality into a movie trailer. This warps our expectations. Many of us will find ourselves pacing the scenery, waiting for the next act to begin. I know I will.

When it feels like we lost the plot, we need to hope the story is longer than we thought it was. We need to pitch ourselves a pretty lie to bide the time.

You will see this New Year’s Eve in the context of every other New Year’s Eve celebration you have on file. Let the fear of disappointment come, let it wash over you, let it kick off its shoes and make itself at home. There’s only one way this process will play itself out. You have to process it. This only passes when you lift the gate.

Let go.

Stew in your own juices. Lick your wounds. Get up close with your thousand yard stare. Let yourself feel the way you’re actually feeling. Let it bleed through to the surface. Let it show on your face. Pride is a wall. Shame is suspect. Dignity is the enemy, it stands in the way of empathy.

This is going to hurt. It’s supposed to. The jugular is open, take the shot.

***

Those of you who’ve gotten everything you wanted out of the year, feel free to skip out of the room in a trail of glitter. There’s refreshments, a rainbow parachute, and some lovely glockenspiel music in the lobby.

As for the rest of you, the one’s swaddling your wounded egos, the one’s clinging to expectations that stretch out the door, I want you to lean in.

The rest of this is coming in hushed tones, mumbles, and whispers.

Next time we have to set clearer expectations. Lead with our hearts on our sleeves. Point them out, remind people that they’re there, explain how fragile they can be. Take the risk on the chin, before the stakes start rising, before we find our calendars landing on introspective holidays.

We need to respect our role in the decision. Whatever side of the table we land on, both players are here for the same audition. Both players get their turn to be the actor and the casting agent. Monologues are for mirrors, dialogue is where it’s at. There has to be balance, an understanding, mutual respect. Trust has to be a factor, if you’re really doing what you think you’re doing.

Just be honest, be clear. If you need special handling, use clear imagery. If you’re looking for something specific. Then specify. If you need your role defined from the get go, then say so.

The fantasy is that this will happen at first sight. That it will happen organically, and blossom into something purer than words, an unspoken bond, coded telepathy, kindred spirits with signs aligning. We want to believe that romance is an enterprise onto itself, independent of our input. We hold our breath as fate deals our hand. We walk into a minefield with a blindfold on.

How’s that working out for us so far?

You have value. Your feelings matter. You deserve better. Ask and receive. Next time. Keep telling yourself there will be one.

I’m giving this advice to an abstract audience. It’s something I need to hear myself. Everybody needs a little assurance, even if it has to come from the mirror.

***

This all might be subject to deletion. A sober man’s cover up. Right now, my tongue is so loose it feels like it’s going to fall into the snow. Restraint is so 2013.

Some of you can follow this plot. You know just what I’m talking about. Those who have to ask why we feel this way, will never know. Them’s the breaks.

Empathy works in different frequencies.

For those of you who follow my blog, our regularly scheduled programming will be back when it’s back. Right now I’m feeling a little bit truthsome.

If I’ve ever had a message to hammer home, it’s this: it’s okay to be low sometimes, just don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Ah fuck it, I just used negative language.