Life is meant to be pleasurable. Life is meant to be fun. Life is meant to be enjoyable. But sometimes it is easy to forget that. It is too easy to get caught up in the rat race, using bullshit phrases like “time poor” as excuses for inertia, and just plugging away in a boring and monotonous life in the hope that we can get to the fun stuff later.Read More
My February started in a sad way with the passing of my grandfather. Throughout my life he has always been there not only as my grandfather but also acting as a father figure, a role model, and a great mate. I loved him dearly and I will miss him greatly but I am not one to dwell on negativity, even in times like these. Instead I like to focus on the positives, to laugh at the good times spent with granddad and to remember the lessons he taught me...Read More
If you are living true to yourself and your inner drivers (and not purposefully trying to hurt others) then you never need to apologise for being yourself. People who want you to change, or want to belittle your thoughts and dreams, or just want you to stop being yourself are not healthy people to spend your time with. If people cannot respect you for being true to yourself then they need to be shown the door...Read More
Daniel Grant Newton is a kind, funny, inquisitive, and creative man and he has an impressive story. Not only did he recently quit his job to travel around the world but he also fulfilled his life-long ambition to write (and self publish) a novel. But it gets better than that. He published his first novel, The Last King of Shambhala in March 2012 and it has since been shortlisted as a semifinalist in the Kindle Book Reviews Best Indie Books of 2012. Now that's pretty impressive.
Knowing Daniel personally I knew that my readers would not only benefit from his insight into writing, but also gain insight into how he actually managed to achieve one of his life's ambitions and also the attitude and passion he funnels into his writing and his life in general. I hope his words can inspire others just as they did for me.
Writing a book is a long-term task and requires countless hours of dedicated effort. What made you want to go through this to write a book?
Thanks for inviting me to talk on your blog, Zac. To answer your question, I have always loved writing fiction from a very early age, and have started and stopped trying to write a novel ever since I was very young. It was never that I sat down and thought ‘I’d like to write a novel’, more that I got ideas and felt compelled to write – and dreamt that one of those ideas would become a novel and would be read by the world. I was no small time dreamer.
However, after years of having written the beginnings and middles of many novels, I made the definite decision to finish a book, and created different habits and strategies that would keep me on task. The real secret was that once I found a storyline and characters compelling enough for my ‘multi-focused’ brain, there was not much ‘motivation’ needed as the story pulled me back to working on it in any spare moment. Hopefully this will have the same effect on my readers.
What were the reactions of your friends/family when you told them you were writing and self-publishing a book?
My wife was always very supportive, and that was important for me. She was my biggest fan, just loving my story ideas from when we first met. As for the rest of my family, they knew I had always been writing, and were also supportive. But perhaps, knowing the magnitude of the task, they may have questioned whether I would finish it, I don’t know. I tended not to tell friends, and it was difficult to tell family, but usually once I did they were very supportive. Perhaps only other writers – jaded ones – were naysayers.
The thing that really raised eyebrows was when I decided to self-publish rather than go the traditional route. Almost everyone (bar my wife) thought that was the best way to not sell a book. I am starting to make independent publishing believers out of them now however.
Your story is a journey across multiple worlds and periods of time with many different characters. Where did you draw inspiration from for your novel?
I think when you are being creative you draw inspiration from all over the place. For me, I have a keen interest in different world mythologies, folklore, spirituality and religions, cults, lucid dreaming, astral travelling, psychic phenomena and cold reading, comedy, psychology, alternative histories and conspiracies, and even music… and so there were many ideas drawn from those subjects (or inspired by them) and interweaved into the multiple story arcs. I am also a fan of stories that are a little different (for example, the ‘Journey to the West’ TV adaption ‘Monkey Magic’, ‘Sanctuary’ and the British comedy the Mighty Boosh), or incorporate mythology (like ‘Stargate’, ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Thief of Bagdad’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’), and so my stories incorporate mythology and are a little different, I think.
I guess you tend to write what you like to read or watch.
What methods/tools did you use to ensure you kept writing, and kept progressing towards your goal, even through tough times (e.g. writers block, lack of motivation)?
There were many different strategies I used to keep motivation, but for me, I never got writer’s block. I think if you do however, perhaps just take the time to sit and daydream about your characters or story, read through your notes or what you have written, or take a little quiet break and come back to it. This will usually get the juices flowing again.
As for motivation, a quick way to get in the zone is to do the above, or watch something inspirational on YouTube. For example, if you are writing an action sequence, watch one from a movie on YouTube. It’s not to copy it, but to get you in the right head space. Another key thing I have learnt is to ensure your writing catches up
with your ideas. If you are no longer excited about what you are writing, or the ideas are no longer fresh and energising, inspiration will be difficult. You’ll be tempted to skip ahead to the next part, and it could eventually kill the motivation completely and you’ll be onto your next book. That said, sometimes you need to let the story simmer in your mind, and come back to it later.
You can use this time to research which is another great way to keep motivation. (I wrote about things I loved to research which made research fun and easy to do for a long time, and fun to incorporate in the story.)
I know that you were working full time whilst you were writing the book. How did you balance yourself between work and your writing?
Working full-time, with an active family and friend network, makes writing very hard. You need to fit it in around your schedule, and being productive and doing your best is nigh impossible, because you are – or at least I was – always tired.
As a result, I decided to have a solid schedule where no matter what, I’d sit in front of the computer and write. I tried early mornings and late nights, and both were difficult to get the energy required, and to be inspired because I put pressure on myself to get stuff done. Actually, the pressure to do an acceptable amount of words in a short time was the worst – very stifling. And if I didn’t get enough done each day I’d actually feel depressed.
The trick in the end for me was deciding to go down to working four days a week, and dedicate one full day to writing. In that time, my productivity each week increased phenomenally, and my happiness levels greatly increased. I had no pressure to write at odd hours, but interestingly, the times I decided to sit down at these times produced more than when I had simple set the time aside during the working week. I put a lot of that down to the lifting of pressure.
Describe how you felt in the moment when you finished the book, the moment you realised you had just achieved one of your biggest goals?
So very excited. I practically danced about the house like I was on drugs. But at the same time, a little sad that the journey had come to an end – I suspect I’ll feel this much more when the series is all over and I kill all the characters off … just kidding!
But I think there’s a funny thing about goals, even big ones, once you have accomplished them, it doesn’t take long before your focus turns to the next goal. For me, once it was done, like a madman, I turned my focus to my next book and began adding to the extensive ideas for the second book I had made during writing the first book.
This time I thought, it took me ‘x’ years to do my first book, but now that I know what I know, and know how to do it, I’m going to write my next book in a much shorter period of time.
What lessons have you learned about writing a book?
There are a lot of lessons I have learnt, and it could take another whole book to impart them all, but here’s a selection.
1) Write notes whenever you get ideas. Do NOT ever miss writing down a good idea that you cannot see fitting because it might become useful in the future. In addition to that, it is important to note that often great ideas come when you are occupied with other things like work or in the shower, but you’ll probably forget them if you don’t write them down at the next possible moment. From all my notes, I could have actually written countless variations for my book, all very different from each other. I chose the ideas I preferred.
2) Get to know your characters and fall in love with them. Talk to them in your head as if they are real people. The more you like them, the more the reader will.
3) Free your creativity. If any part of what you are writing is boring for you, it will probably be for your readers. I’d scrap that part and look for a better way to write it, or a better situation.
4) Start chapters with something that will draw you in, like intrigue or action or the anticipation of action. And finish every chapter with a cliff-hanger of some type.
5) Set your goals and a plan to achieve it. As a reader of Zac’s blog, you no doubt are aware that this is the only way to achieve anything worth achieving… well, almost anything.
What lessons have you learned about self publishing?
I am at the beginning of self-publishing, so I am very much still learning. There are a couple of points I can pass on.
Firstly, I never really considered publishing. For me and my artist brain, someone else owning the rights to my book, and doing what they want with it, turned me off. Or at least until I had proven the book and had a bit more control.
I have heard horror stories about the surprisingly low amount of sales many published books sell, and how after a few months with minimal promoting, if your book isn’t being sold magically (or with your unaided marketing sweat and tears paying off), it is no longer printed and you cannot print it until their contract runs out (in five to ten years). And from what I have heard, if you aren’t an established author or a celebrity (yet), YOU will be the one promoting your own book. So why bother? Especially since independent publishing is closing the gap traditional publishing once had.
A new traditionally published writer gets about 20c for a $15 hard copy book or so (I’ve heard, you might want to do your own research there), and perhaps less for an online copy. That is just not fair. Yes, they are taking on the risk, paying for services like printing and editing and graphic designers, and are running a business. But, bottom line, you wrote the book – and that intellectual property should have a much higher value.
If you self-publish online, you will get on average about $3 per $6 book sold – it varies depending on location and store (e.g. iBooks and Amazon). If you had a traditional book deal that gave you 30c per online book sold (and they’d no doubt make it harder to sell with a much higher price), you’d need to sell ten times more.
That mightn’t sound much, but if the self-published author sells ten books, the published author needs to sell one hundred books to get the same amount. If the self-published author sells one hundred books, the published author will need to sell one thousand to make the same amount. And so on.
I have not gone down the Print-on-Demand route yet, but from my initial research you can get about $5 or so for a hard copy book selling at $15 on Amazon (there are other companies too). That includes printing, packaging and mailing out – and has no risk as you are only charged when a book is bought. And they can produce as little as one book, so there are no storage fees.
On a side note, I once went to a writer and publishing house seminar, and the publishing houses cried poor about their dying industry. All the authors and inspiring authors in the room sympathised with them and talked down about the changing industry – and the end of the world.
But for me, this proved I was right about my thinking and decision to go independent. One – the changes benefit the writer and the readers. The readers benefit because publishing houses will only print stories that have a ‘proven market’, meaning the books you are buying sound like books you’ve already read. Independently published books can be just as good as published, but can take you on all sorts of journeys, not just a ‘revamped Twilight’.
And two – if the industry changes, you have to change with it – not complain. Some publishing houses have taken writers for granted before, but with the Internet and advances in technology, we writers can do it ourselves. It will take work, but do not be fooled, being a new published writer will take just as much promotion unfortunately. If publishing houses want to keep up, they need to improve their services.
So anyway, what was the question? … :)
Just kidding, but as you can see, when you ask me about self-publishing, there is a LOT to consider for a new author. The big thing to consider is you need to look into ways to promote your book, do them, and think outside the box.
Once you have reached a certain mass of readers in the right niche, providing your book is good, you can then focus on writing and your relationships with them. Why? Because your readers are your best marketers. They’ll spread the word for you.
How are the book sale figures in relation to your expectations?
At the moment, I am still starting out in promotion, so it is too early to judge. The great news is I am understanding who my target market is better, and are planning around how to put this book in front of those who’ll enjoy reading it.
Not everyone will be your ideal reader, but I’ve had great feedback from those in my target market, and I have already apparently inspired a few to begin their own novels – which is the biggest compliment you can get I think.
What will you do different next time?
Write more novellas (shorter novels) that are serialised. The more material you have out there, the more ‘touch points’ you have for new readers to find your work.
In my research of the industry, readers like reading shorter stories online as well as books of traditional length, especially if these shorter novels are 99c or free. By showcasing your imagination and style in these shorter books, even for free, helps develop your emerging fan base.
What are you working on now?
I have just finished a novella called Don’t Shoot the Messenger, which is about a team of soldiers who travel back in time to change the world by assassinating a key but unlikely historical figure. There are some – controversial, let’s say – twists in the plot that make this quite a fun story, but I’m keeping them under wraps at this point in time. Don’t Shoot the Messenger will be available in the coming month.
The other books I am working on are the sequel to The Last King of Shambhala (Akashic Records Series) called Mysteries of the Black Sun, a prequel novella to the same series called Tsinto and Atlantis, the other side of the Frosted Mirror, and a teenage sci-fi series yet to be named. After those are complete, I have a backlog of ideas that will make up more novellas, and then the final book in the Akashic Records Series.
So yes, very busy, but it is what makes me thrive!
What advice do you have for any budding first-time novelists (like me)?
I could write a book about tips, but here are three pieces of advice to get started.
1) Enjoy the entire process, if your story at any point seems like a task, rethink it, and take it in a little bit of a different direction. Not only will it be hard to write something uninspiring, your audience will no doubt find it uninspiring too!
2) Don’t procrastinate planning too much, just jump in there with the main thrust and shape it as you go. Too many people I talk to who want to write a book use ‘planning’ as an excuse to not start, fearing they won’t produce something any good. You will fix and enhance all your work in the rewriting and editing, but that can only be done once you have something to rewrite or edit.
3) Learn all you can about character development and plot creation, but don’t let it get in the way of your writing. I love learning about the best ways to tell my stories. I took subjects at university on creative writing, and I obsessively paw through books and the Internet for tips, and learning about your craft does make it better.
But creativity is a natural process, and you don’t need to comply with any tip or suggestion if it makes sense not to. (Perhaps the only general rule that applies to almost every good story is that there is a beginning, a conflict and a resolution, and at least one of your main characters will have changed as a result of that process.)
As a caveat on the above, don’t let anyone intimidate you and your work. Because there is this idea that being a novelist is highly competitive, it tends to breed desperate writers who are quick to put you down and make themselves sound amazing. If you haven’t done a writing course and haven’t read Dickens, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t got amazing stories to tell. And if you have, it doesn’t automatically mean you do.
So don’t take on board the words of a naysayer, and don’t be a naysayer yourself (it does more harm to you and your subconscious psyche that it does to theirs!).
Early today I was facing a conundrum. I sat down to write another article about friendships, relationships and bringing positive people into your life, and I couldn't write it. Words made their way onto the screen but they were not right. It felt like I was forcing them out when usually they just flow out of me with ease. I thought maybe I just wasn't "on" today, or maybe I was having my first writers block? Then it dawned on me: I was not doing what I wanted to be doing. The concept sounds simple enough - do what you want to be doing - but not many people actually put it into practice. Today I was one of those people. I have a list of article ideas ready for write, and after a week of paleo-centric writing I felt that I should get back to the person development areas that I normally write for. The problem was that nasty s-word: should.
I did not actually want to write. Why? Because I have several other big projects on the go and some ideas floating around in my head that I really wanted to sink my teeth into. But, I had this nasty obligation-like feeling hanging around which ended up ruining my day. When I worked on my projects and ideas I had the feeling that I should be writing that article, but then when I started writing the article I really wanted to be back working on my other projects. In the end I was very unproductive and I wasted a lot of time. And you should know by now that I HATE wasting time.
So I've met in the middle. I'm writing this because it is helping me realise what is important to me and work through my personal issues with focus and concentration. The next time I find myself in this situation I will remember this article and what I learned from today so I do not make the same mistakes again. And the by-product is that I get the article to write (even though it is not the one I "should" be writing) and I get to move on to my other projects.
Should is Nasty Word
Should is evil. I hate the word. In my world I aim to live as if the word does not exist because it has no purpose other than to foster negative feelings, and that is not something I want in my life.
My main beef with "should" is that it is not valid in our individual context. Should is only valid to the third person perspective, and only then because it is valid based on all their past experience and knowledge, not ours.
If someone tells us what we should be doing it is the same as being told them telling us that what we are currently doing is wrong. Now there is no harm in being wrong, and a bit of constructive criticism is a wonderful thing in our personal development, but the problem is that when people use the word should, they are only providing their opinion. It is all based on what they think is the best thing at that time, and what is true for one person is not necessarily true for another. It is subjective and biased. Very biased.
Even when the "should" comes internally, from our wonderful brain, the bias is still there. Think of my example from today. I had tasks that I was excited about, that I really wanted to be working on but my brain kept kept telling me that I should write an article today. I had no proof to believe this - I had not received a specific request for an article today nor had I been receiving comments saying "less paleo, more personal development" but my brain, in all its wisdom and power, somehow concluded this was the right thing to do. And I've mentioned how the brain can make a hash of things like this before.
Solution: Turn Yoda
No I'm not saying you need to turn green, cultivate the hair in your ears, and master the light-saber. Although I'm sure that last skill would certainly impress the ladies.
To quote Yoda (and show my true geek): "Do, or do not. There is no try." Substitute the word "should" for "try" and this phrase explains all that is needed to get past the dreaded s-word.
If you want to do something then do it. If you do not want to do something then don't. It is a simple as that. Remember that it is often the simplest things that work best.
Challenge: Take a Personal Day
With that concept in mind I issue a challenge to my readers. Take a "personal day" off from your work and do something you have always wanted to do. Call in sick and run off to discover your passion. Go rock-climbing, paint a picture, read a book, whatever. Just make the day 100% about you. It is not about anyone else. Before you do anything in the day you must ask yourself "Is this what I really want to be doing?" and only continue if the answer is a resounding "YES!" Do not think ahead, do not worry about consequences, just get out there and do what you want to.
It is your life after all. Do what you want with it.
Being passionate is the single greatest quality you can bring to any situation whether it be in work, love, friendships, or just life in general. Passion, by its nature, is an exciting and happy trait that motivates others and encourages positive actions with its energy and joy. Being passionate about something is highly respected by our peers and it is actually one of the most commonly desired things in society. Most people want to be passionate but don't know where to start. I'd say to start here is a very good first step!
Passion in Work
Having passion for your work is what most people identify passion with. Often people will comment positively when they interact with someone who is obviously doing something they love. Why? Because they exude an energy which naturally excites us and motivates us. And makes us jealous.
Ok well not exactly jealous, but most people in the world are not doing work they are passionate about, and when they see someone who is they cannot help feel encouraged but also a little envious. This is why success stories of people starting their own businesses are loved by many.
The good part is that finding what work excites you is relatively easy, if you are willing to do a little soul-searching. Executing the change, however, is much harder. You probably have to take a pay cut or expose yourself to financial risk to do it, and if you have been socially conditioned to love your money and possessions this will be hard. But then you need to ask yourself if working in a job you do not love for 40 years to have cool "things" is worth the unhappiness. I say no.
Passion in Love
This should not even need to be mentioned, but sadly this probably one the areas where our passion is most under-developed. When in a relationship we share our lives, including many private and intimate moments. Sexual passion comes easy to some people but sex is only one part of the relationship. Passion is needed elsewhere.
Relationships are complex things, combining physical, emotional, psychological, and social aspects. And all of these aspects need passion. Are you passionate about your partner that you go out your way to make them happy? Are you passionate about helping your partner through difficult times? Are you passionate about doing fun things together? You should be!
Passion in Friendships
Friendships need passion to grow. Without passion your friends will always just be nice associates instead of great mates. Passion in friendships is not the same as in love but it is equally important in establishing strong social relationships. The passion in friendships comes from two things - sharing passionate interests and being passionately supportive.
Sharing passionate interests is obvious. If you and a friend both love something similar than the job is easy. But you both have to love it! If one party is so-so then that does not count as shared passion. The good thing about shared passions is they encourage you, motivate you, and provide you an outlet for when your creative juices are flowing.
Being passionately supportive is the area where most people fail to grow their friendships. Why? Because being supportive implies focusing on someone else for a time and some people don't like this. I'm not saying you need to forget your needs and devote yourself entirely to others, but if your friend needs support you can choose to be there and help them. And if you do it passionately they will not forget it.
Are You Being Passionate?
Take some time to sit back and observe your life and see if you are being passionate. Imagine you are watching a movie of the past month of your life and ask yourself these questions:
- Do I love my work? Am I excited by the prospect of work every time I wake up?
- Do I provide physical, emotional, psychological, and social passion in my relationships?
- Do I have friends who share my passions? Do I passionately support my friends?
No? Perhaps it's time to make some changes in your life.