Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Give Yourself Royal Jelly, Part 2

This is part two of a series about basketball coach and writer David Thrope's metaphor of royal jelly. Click here for part 1.

Identify Your Strengths

When David Thorpe, author of the royal jelly concept, began coaching Udonis Haslem, he knew that the young basketball player had potential in the NBA, but not by playing the way he played in college. Haslem's gifts lied not in scoring more points than everybody else, but in rebounding, defending, and playing harder than everybody else. He gave Haslem a goal: finish in the top 5 in rebounding in the NBA's summer leagues.

Udonis Haslem made it by focusing on his strengths
Udonis Haslem made it by focusing on his strengths
How did Haslem go from the star of his college to a role play in the NBA? Thorpe gave him a poster, hung in Haslem's bedroom, titled "Udonis Haslem is..." Together, they wrote adjectives that both described Haslem and would make him valuable to an NBA team

Make your own Udonis Haslem poster.

Only instead of "Udonis Haslem," write your name. Write ten adjectives about your writing that could get you published in today's environment. Start simple, and just write "I Am..."

Then, once you have ten adjectives, start writing a short story, flash fiction, or chapter with only those adjective in mind, and see what you come up with.

After they made it, they exploited their success.

My quotation from Jim Butcher in part 1 comes from the back of Ghost Story, and the last few books from the Dresden Files. It's a part of a multi-page advertisement placed in all of his recent releases. In other words, he's leveraged the strength of the Dresden Files series in order to sell and promote his "swords-and-horses" fantasy series, Codex Alera.

Point being, you don't always get your dream job in your dream scenario. Your first series that you've been waiting to write your entire life might fail completely. Insteady of running the same lap again, or giving up completely, Butcher reassessed his position, and tried experimenting with different paths to success. And when he finally achieved his dream.

The difference here is that artistic careers are longer than athletic ones, and we have more time to grow, to learn, and to achieve new things. While Haslem's career is winding down, Butcher is just getting started. He's already launched his first epic fantasy series, Codex Alera, and he's shown no indications of slowing down.

So learn from Jim Butcher, and experiment with different genres and styles. If you write fantasy, try a subsection of the genre you don't normally write in. If you write thrillers, try a romance. Even if it doesn't make you famous, trying new things will get you to develop skills that will come in very handy when you're developing subplots in longer stories.

Helping yourself develop isn't about self-belief. It's not about knowing you're the greatest writer of all time. It's about recognizing your strengths, and playing to them as often as possible. But sometimes, we have strengths that are lying dormant, just beneath the surface, and it just takes some creative practice to explore them. By trying new things while practicing old tricks, you might just find a different path to success than you ever thought possible.





Monday, July 30, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07/30/12


Random House is looking to expand its brand by creating its own TV channel.

After 125 years of publication, the Writer Magazine is going "on hiatus."

Many authors fear going into self-publishing because it could "kill their career." Dean Wesley Smith explains why this is a misconception, not to mention a baseless fear. He makes a good point: getting published traditionally is a shot in the dark, and you have a better chance of building a career by taking a chance on yourself, even if some of the established publishing houses look down on you for it.

In the future, there will be no more professional writers. I think "authors" would be a better term. After all, Tv and script writing isn't really going anywhere.

Stuck? Try asking your characters for help.

How to make a living writing.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Royal Jelly': The Stories of Udonis Haslem and Jim Butcher (Part 1)

How to Give Yourself 'Royal Jelly': The Stories of Udonis Haslem and Jim Butcher

Despite being a high-school basketball star and a Hall-of-Famer in the NCAA, Udonis Haslem couldn't get a job. While his game was fabulous in college, he was too heavy and too short to succeed professionally. He gave up on his dream to make the NBA, assuming he simply wasn't talented enough to make it - until he was introduced to coach David Thorpe, and his theory of Royal Jelly. Today, he's a two-time NBA champion.

Royal jelly is the food that turns a normal bee larva into a queen bee. Queen bees are not born - all bees in the same colony have the same DNA. Rather, they are made, as one bee is fed an exclusive diet of royal jelly, and the rest are condemned to drudgery. It's the diet and development of a queen bee that makes it unique, not the genes it was born with. Of course, I don't mean that you should literally douse yourself in the stuff.

Because I read too much sports literature, I stumbled upon David Thorpe's brilliant analogy on royal jelly and the development of athletes:

In most cases, players are largely the same. You've got your extraordinarily gifted players [...] guys like Kobe [Bryant] and Lebron [James], and then you've got players who just aren't very good. But most players are largely the same. And what separates them is the coaching aspect - where you get them to really believe they are able to accomplish whatever they believe in.
Thorpe goes on to describe how this theory of royal jelly can be practically applied:

I knew that he had a lot of things that the other NBA teams didn't see. And I had I had to get Udonis to believe that these things were enough to make it.
In other words, Thorpe knew Haslem wasn't going to be the best player in the league. But he also know that Haslem had strengths that, if emphasized and strengthened, would make him a valuable player in the NBA. So he focused purely on those.

I think the same thing applies to writers. Like it or not, not all of us have a Lord of the Rings in us. And while trying to build an epic fantasy that breaks down the established borders of fiction might be possible for you one day, it might not be what you're destined to do, even if it has always been your dream. Consider the story of Jim Butcher.

Jim Butcher wasn't always an urban fantasy writer
Jim Butcher wasn't always an urban fantasy writer
Butcher is most famous for his best selling Dresden Files series. It's a serial urban fantasy about Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, and his struggle to destroy everything from vampires to weregoats (yep, like werewolves, except with goat). It's a fantastic series that's carved a great niche for Butcher.

But that wasn't what Jim Butcher set out to acheive. The Dresden Files started out as a diversion from Butcher's true passion: swords-and-horses epic fantasy novels. Later in his career, wrote about how the Dresden Files actually came about.

When I set out to become a writer, I spent years writing swords-and-horses fantasy fantasy novels—ands seemed to have little innate talent for it. But I worked at my writing, branching into other areas as experiments, including SF, mystery, and contemporary fantasy. That's how the Dresden Files initially came about—as a happy accident while trying to accomplish something else.

What's the link between these two people, and what were the common keys to their successes? What can we learn from their failures, struggles and successes?

What they tried: Each started off trying to be something they weren't: Udonis Haslem an All-Star, Jim Butcher then next in line after JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Terry Brooks. And neither was suited for the task.

Why they failed: Haslem went undrafted and Butcher was unpublished.

What they changed: They abandoned their original dreams and tried different paths in their professions: Haslem lost weight, refocused his energy on defense and rebounding. Butcher started writing short stories in different genres.

How they succeeded: And finally, each reached the height of their target professions: Haslem is a two-time champion, and will likely win at least one more. Butcher became a best-selling author, and has established one of the most consistent brands in literature.

The difference between failure and success for Haslem and Butcher was how they gave themselves Royal jelly - how they chose to develop It's the key for anybody who feels like they're struggling to find their own path to success.

Part 2: How to Give Yourself 'Royal Jelly'


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Morning Pages - 07/25/12


Amazon has used its Kindle products to spur software sales, to much success. Time's Ben Bajarin questions whether Amazon should be in the hardware business at all.

Forget the story of "The Dark Knight Rises." It's Batman himself who can teach you to be a better writer.

Seven ways you can tell if you're a good writer. #1: Somebody said, "You're a good writer!"

Somewhere in the world, a book company made profits. They said only academic books and that "somewhere" was Asia, but still.

"Transmedia" has become something of a buzzword in the writing industry. As we look for potential new streams of income and relevance in a world of declining books sales, authors look for more balanced and innovative ways to create. Jan Bozarth tells us of her experience on Publishing Perspectives.

Also, are transmedia stories better for kids than adults?

When we think of agents, we think of professionals trained to market and promote authors. But what if the situation is actually the other way around?

E-books: Not just for mommy porn anymore. Now they're also for Jesus.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07-23-12

Apparently, copying Jack Daniels' design for your book will get you a the most polite 'cease and desist' letter of all time.
David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants continues to be the best writing blog on the internet. One day, one day.

Penguin bought self-publishing company, Pearson, for $116 million. In other words, the marketplace is changing.

Amazon is growing and shrinking at the same time. They're reportedly adding mobiles to their e-reader and tablet Kindle brands. Their entry into hardware manufacturing is fascinating to watch.

Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors



Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07/19/12

E-Books outsold hardcovers in 2011. That's hardcover books specifically, not paper books, but it's still impressive.

Editing. Is it too tough for women? (Hint: the answer is no.)

Authors have been criticizing Harlequin for a long time. Now, they're suing the publisher for royalties, among other things.

Thank God for Amazon! (And thanks to Passive Voice)

Pearson To Buy Self-Publishing Firm Author Solutions For $116M

21 Articles on Fonts in Book Publishing


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07-14-12

Time - Will Amazon Take Over the World?: "Amazon is already a behemoth of American business. It’s the 56th largest company in America by market capitalization. It’s the 15th biggest retailer in America by revenue and by far the largest Internet retailer. And in a country that seems already dominated by ecommerce, the company has a lot of room to grow. After stripping out things like gasoline sales that can’t migrate to the web, Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler estimates that ecommerce represents roughly 12% of retail sales overall, and that that figure could double in the next ten years. And Amazon is not just growing along with internet retailing. It’s actually gaining market share in that category – by growing at three times the rate of ecommerce overall."

Publishing Perspectives - Should Agents Be Blamed for Stealing Authors?: "Agents who don’t have a roster of heavy hitters are in a much more vulnerable position. They must deal with the same publishers time and time again, likely negotiating on much more modest terms, and deliberately moving one successful author from one house to another might have long-term consequences."

The Miami Herald - 'Serious' Writers Green over Fifty Shades of Grey: "The trilogy, which was launched with Fifty Shades of Grey, has owned the top three spots on the bestseller list for more than two months, accounting for one in five adult-fiction physical books sold in the U.S. this spring. It took The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy more than three years to do what Fifty Shades has done in less than five months."

SFGate - Yelp's Trust at Risk from Phony Reviews: "Judging from recent reviews on Yelp, the Center for Counseling, Recovery & Growth was the place to go to turn your life around. The center in Torrance (Los Angeles County) racked up 14 coveted five-star ratings on the popular review site for its "warm and friendly therapists" and "beautiful offices." Many of the testimonials made similar points, sometimes in nearly identical language. That was no coincidence. Acting on a tip, Yelp uncovered what it dubbed a 'review-swapping ring' composed of members of a Los Angeles-area business networking group. Yelp said it was a coordinated effort by members to boost their ratings by posting glowing reviews about one another's businesses." via The Passive Voice

Write to Done: 10 Books for Writers - "Voice has become a buzz word in discussions of modern fiction; it is what every writer wants to have and what every reader wants to enjoy. Most writers struggle to unearth voice, not only because it is too familiar but also because it means confronting your world. You will find your voice by speaking naturally – by being yourself and not trying to be a great writer. Your voice is your most powerful tool. Your voice is how you write when you don’t have time to be elegant. Most writers infuse themselves in their work. When you read a good novel or a book, you leave with a sense that in addition to the characters, you have met a particular writer."

Writer's Digest - Lee Child Debunks the Biggest Writing Myths: "Show, Don’t Tell. Picture this: In a novel, a character wakes up and looks at himself in the mirror, noting his scars and other physical traits for the reader. 'It is completely and utterly divorced from real life,' Child said.bSo why do writers do this? Child said it’s because they’ve been beaten down by the rule of Show, Don’t Tell. 'They manufacture this entirely artificial thing.' 'We’re not story showers,' Child said. 'We’re story tellers.'"