A while back, I had the honor of asking for and receiving advice from Joel Eisenberg, a Hollywood producer whose books are now becoming a television series (The Chronicles of Ara).
This information just doesn’t get old!
So here are the questions I asked him, after reading a post about his journey as a writer.
Would you call your story of becoming a writer…relatable? How much of your path relied on luck, being in the right spot at the time, etc.? I hear stories like yours a decent amount, and I always find myself sighing: How could that ever happen to me?
From what you said, I understand that you literally gave up everything to become a writer. Maybe it didn’t seem like you were giving anything up, but from my perspective, it certainly seems like it. You ditched reason and what others would call having a “normal life” (by ditching your job!). I understand that this worked for you in the long run…but would you encourage others to do the same thing, even though this could potentially distort someone’s life…and then, in the end, it may not even pan out the way it did for you?
Just coming to you honestly, thanks for any advice!
Love the questions, Dominic. Thank you and I appreciate your honest feedback more than you know. Let me try to take these in order.
“Would you call your story of becoming a writer … relatable?”
– My path was my path; some may relate, others may not. Remember, Dominic, as I mentioned in a prior reply above – everyone’s path is individual. Some may have commitments with their children, for example, while others may have no children. Some may work 15 hour days to pay bills and work jobs they loathe, while others may have certain freedoms based on the amount of money in a savings account. Your path will never exactly follow another.
However, like John Grisham, who worked countless hours as an attorney and wrote “The Firm” in whatever spare moments he had, like Stephen King and so many others … A person can ALWAYS find the time to write, or send an email query, or replay to a blog post. It becomes then a question of time management and discipline to most prudently work with the tools you have to attain your goals.
“How much of your path relied on luck, being in the right spot at the time, etc.?”
– That was actually my problem for so long. I waited and waited and waited some more … and nothing happened. There were projects here and there, stacks of returned scripts … but my career went nowhere. It’s only when I got desperate that I realized only I could turn all this around. I did something I never did – I wrote that book (and did have a few non-performing films prior) – and it made all the difference for me. I PROACTIVELY kept in touch with all the people who contributed that trod similar paths, and I PROACTIVELY kept up my networking group for years. I got out of my comfort zone. I don’t believe “luck” was part of the equation.
“I hear stories like yours a decent amount, and I always find myself sighing: How could that ever happen to me?”
– I made that same observation and asked myself that exact question for so many years. I’ve so been there. But see above. I never stopped writing. I never stopped dreaming. The sacrifices were outrageous and I would not recommend those sacrifices to everyone. But, again, I’ve always had a sort of primal “need” to write; it’s always been more than a simple “want” for me. I made it work. The others who share similar stories made it work as well.
Look, sacrifice is a monster. I ended relationships, risked sleeping on the street, and a relatively new marriage, didn’t eat well, paid bills late … I would not recommend this. But my point is — I found the way. I tell people who attend my courses, speaking engagements and such that they don’t have to go to the extent I have. I did all the work. I learned what works and what does not, and why. There is no road map; if there was everyone would follow it and everyone would share the same degree of success.
There’s not a roadmap, though, but what there is are very specific strategies to save you an insane amount of work to help you get where you need to be.
Not luck, science.
Hope the response helps …
I was so happy that he took me seriously and actually got back to me! I also respected that he didn’t sugar-coat anything; he was being totally honest. Overall, I think what he said was encouraging, but you still get the sense that being a writer is HARD.
What do you think of his response? Thoughts?
So I published a book!!! Here’s the description:
His parents abandon him when he’s thirteen. He’s left to care for his little brother and sister. Life is tough. Things can’t seem to get any worse.
But then Evil Itself breaks down the door. It kidnaps his siblings. And It leaves him bleeding out on the floor of his own home.
The Golden Lands, one of the Three Worlds of Elithius, is supposed to be a place of light, peace and happiness. But the Golden Lands hasn’t been such a place for John Hedekira, a jaded, hot-headed sixteen-year-old. Joined by his friends Faith Pinck and Bernard Tanner, John must rescue his brother and sister from their captors…before his siblings can be sacrificed to the ominous God of Death.
Time is money. No time to waste. Don’t have time for this. Need more time. If only I had the time. Time flies when you’re having fun.
We’ve all heard or said these things before. Why? Because it’s true. Time is important to us and we never seem to have enough of it. At times, it’s frustrating…because we want more time, or we wish we would’ve spent our time differently.
It all goes back to the fact that time is limited. Whether you have three hours of free time to accomplish something, or whether you’re just thinking about your life as a whole. Time is limited. And so we value it.
So the question becomes, “How should I manage my time?” And it’s an important question! Because so much depends on the answer to this question.
I’m only going to investigate this question as it pertains to writing. We have so much we want to accomplish, so many things to do between blogging, writing, editing, networking, etc. It’s easy to get overwhelmed (like yours truly). Besides all that, we have our lives to attend to also: relationships, work, school, etc.
Write When You’re In the Mood…and Write A LOT!
This might seem obvious, but it’s the truth. Sometimes we don’t have time to write when we’re in the mood, unfortunately. But when you do have time and you’re in the mood to write, edit, or blog (or any combination), DO IT.
Essentially, the idea is to poop out as much work as you can, acting solely off of your “mood to write”. For instance, I’m usually in the mood to blog on Saturday mornings. So what do I do? I blog (duh). But I also write SEVERAL posts, allowing my determination to keep me going so that I not only have a post for the weekend, but also for throughout the coming week.
In the end, as you might imagine, this SAVES TIME. In fact, it ensures that I actually have something to publish on WP, which is important. Because then I don’t have to take time away from school or work to blog. In the end, writing when you’re in the mood is extremely important.
This is something interesting that I’ve been noticing with many big-time authors out there. They readjust their schedule to suit their writing-moods and the amount of alone-time they have. Let’s be honest, having alone-time is extremely important when it comes to writing.
Sleep is totally necessary: please make sure you’re getting enough of it! But if you think you’d be comfortable writing right after you wake up, then maybe it’s time to set your alarm clock for an hour earlier. Maybe this means sacrificing some of your night life. But will it be worth it? I think so.
Consider readjusting your sleep schedule. Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn Series and many more, goes to bed at 3 A.M. and wakes up at 11 A.M. That’s still 8 hours of sleep! And it works for him as a writer. He gets to spend the day with his family and then he gets to write at night.
Obviously, we aren’t Brandon Sanderson (yet 😉 ). But you get the idea. Adjusting your sleep schedule can produce great results for your writing-life!
Work With People
If writing is important to you, don’t be afraid to work with the people in your lives to ensure that you have time to write. This is a touchy subject, I know. I would never encourage you to be selfish with your time; other people might deserve your attention more than your writing. This might suck at times, but it’s part of being a family, friend, employee, etc.
And all of these (at least being a family) is more important than writing. Let’s keep things in perspective.
But you can still try to make people understand 🙂
Hope these tips help! Please share your tips about how to save time and write more!
I think this is actually an important topic because everybody wants to sell something, but a lot of people are afraid to buy. I would fit into this category 🙂
How high (or low) should you price your book?
Obviously, if you’re already doing well on the promotional side of publishing, you can probably make your book cost a bit more…you know, the normal price that a book should cost. That being said, I see a lot of newbies trying to promote their stories by promoting “freebies”–books that are totally free of charge.
I understand the mentality behind freebies, I really do. In fact, I’ve done it. Freebies help you build an audience, get reviews, etc. The goal is to gain loyal readers. And, hopefully, if they like your free stuff, they’ll come back to BUY things from you too.
Yeah, that was my mentality. I made the first book of my series free, hoping that people would eat it up and then come back hungry for the second volume. Well, it sort of worked…the first book has received over 300 downloads. But how many has the second book received (when it’s only priced at 99 cents?)? Like 12.
The thing about freebies is that sometimes it doesn’t even WORK. It’s a waste of effort and can even be a waste of time. Nowadays, I’m very serious about selling your book for MONEY.
Because you worked hard to write something. You worked hard to edit it, to publish it, and to promote it. Why should you just give it away? Your time and talent should be worth something.
To be honest, whenever I see a book that’s free, yes, part of me thinks, “Oh, I’ll just download it because it’s free.” But another part of me is like, “Will it even be a high-quality book? It’s free!”
The point is, making your book free can turn some people off. Because writing that is WORTH something will COST something.
But then, back to the original question: How much should you price your book?
Yes, I am asking for advice because my book (after a makeover, new name, and more editing) will be coming out soon.
My book is 300+ pages long. I’ve worked really hard on it. Do I want to sell it for “free”? For 99 cents?
No, I don’t. Because I think my book is worth more than that.
I guess the point of this post is to ask you to be real with yourself and with others. How much should someone else’s work of art cost? How much should YOUR work of art cost? What are you saying by making your book free?
Think about it.
What’s the point of earning “readership” by promoting a freebie, if, in the end, you really haven’t gained any loyal readers? It’s easy to download a book for free. But it means so much more when someone actually BUYS your book. Also, if they buy it, then they’ll be more obliged to READ it. And that’s what we want as writers. That’s how we hook readers. And isn’t that the goal?
I’m coming out and being honest. When my book comes out, it will not be free. This is my decision to make. I hope all of you can respect that and still give my book a chance, if you’re interested.
Don’t be scared though, I’m not going to make my book super pricey either!! I’m not Shakespeare yet 😉
What do you think?
Well, so my computer is shot. That’s right, no more convenience of hopping onto my computer and being able to write much faster than on my phone…editing is going to be harder, and no doubt publishing will be.
Oh well, guess I better cough up some money for a new one.
You know I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately. A lot about what I’m trying to accomplish by writing. Writing is something beautiful and it means so much to me; it’s a sport of the mind, a rollercoaster of the heart, a journey of the soul. I would be a totally different person without it.
But I’ve been thinking about the things that will really make me happy, about the paths that lie ahead. Choices I need to start making, mentalities I need to form. What will make me happy? What should I be doing with my life?
Yes, I know, these are big questions. But another big question is “will writing be a part of the answers to these questions?”
Writing makes me happy, yes, but lately I’ve been feeling a call to make my life more about other people. I know it’s cheesy, I know it’s preachy, but nothing makes us happier than when we make others happy, than when we change someone’s life for the better, when we mean something to others, not just to ourselves. This is what makes people happy: it makes ME happy.
And I want to use my writing to do this.
So the question becomes, “what can I write that will help others, that will build people up, that will mean something too them?”
I feel like it isn’t so much “what should I write” as much as “how should I write it? With what mentality? With what drive?” And, ultimately, if I form my willpower in the right way, or point it in the right direction, then I’ll always be writing the right thing.
So I guess I need to change my drive. I need to not write for myself, or about myself. I need to write something for others. If I do that, then I’ll help myself. I know that I need writing too, but I need to act lIke people need my writing more than I do.
If you read all of that, then thank you. And welcome…welcome to who I am. You just experienced a lot of me; I hope you understand that.
So thank you, and, as always, please tell me: what do you think?
Many of us have been writing stories for a reallllly long time. Like since we were 10. Or 7. Or 5.
Some of these stories hold a special place in our hearts. Maybe these stories have developed over time, or changed, or helped spark new ideas for a champion story.
The point is, we’ve all got stories that mean a lot to us. And maybe we’ve been working on these stories for a long time, biding our time as we hunt for publishers or try our hands with self publishing.
The journey of working with a story you created when you were younger is quite beautiful, in my opinion. Also, I think that you, as the author, have a deeper connection with your characters and with your setting, which you can then convey to the reader better. Sometimes these stories can be even more meaningful, since we have discovered and taught ourselves a number of lessons through them.
Often times this means that when it’s time to edit, we aren’t willing to change what we’ve written. We can grow so attached to our stories, stories that we have grown with for such a long time, that we refute the idea of editing and everything that comes with it: erasing and rewriting, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, this can be really hard, and even a little frustrating or heart-breaking. It’s like parting with an old friend. I get it, and I’ve been through it. I “wrote a book” when I was seven, and I worked on that story up until I was sixteen. Yep, that’s right. I tried to get it published and everything.
The emphasis is on “tried”.
The truth is, I had grown too attached to parts of my story, especially in the beginning, that I really should’ve let go of. The beginning of the boon was slow, drawn out, etc. But, because of my affection, I wasn’t willing to make the changes necessary to my book.
Fight this mentality with tooth and nail. Seriously. No matter how tough the fight gets.
Because we need to ask ourselves an important question: how far are you willing to go to make your book into what it needs to be? To make your book into what it should be?
This is one of the hardest parts of writing: being honest with ourselves. And accepting criticism from others. And being willing to criticize ourselves.
It’s tough. Nobody likes being criticized or having to correct themselves. But it has to be done.
I’m actually struggling a little as I edit Elithius, the series that will be coming out soon. I just happened to be perusing the beginning of the book, a part I had already edited numerous times, and I realized, “Gosh, this needs to change!”
After so much editing, do I really want to change the beginning?
No. But I will.
Because I want to give whatever it takes to make my book perfect. And there is something beautiful about that. In fact, although I don’t like thinking about the changes I have to make, I think that I will enjoy this in the long run. Who doesn’t like making something better than before?
In what ways does your own story need to change? What parts are you holding onto that need to go?
How far are you willing to go to make your book perfect?
That question is equivalent to: how much do you love your story?
What do you think?
Also, just a note: my computer is down, so I have to use my phone for everything. Thus, if I don’t seem very productive…well, that’s why. Thanks for understanding!
I’ve been seeing a lot of blogs recently where the authors have a MAD following. I sigh and drool and faint whenever I see how many followers these people have. They average at LEAST 40 likes a post.
But they also average MAYBE 2-3 comments a post.
These people have 5,000+ followers. Some have 20,000+ followers. Why is no one commenting?
Let’s be honest. Everybody likes to get Liked. But I think we can agree that when people take the time to comment, this feedback means way more to us. Because it’s easy for people to click the Like button, but it takes effort to comment. And that means they are taking us seriously and actually paying attention. We like comments more than Likes.
The question is then: What makes people comment?
You might have a huge following, but if you don’t have a sense of personality, people will stop treating you like a blogger. They’ll see your blog posts, they’ll Like them, hopefully they’ll read them…but if you are only putting your writing forward, or whatever you’re trying to promote, people won’t care about you. They won’t know YOU.
People might like your blog, but they aren’t going to comment unless they like you.
Think about it.
If your blog, your writing, lacks a sense of YOU, what will people be seeing? Just words. They might be some good words. But if they aren’t able to attribute them to you, then why would they comment? Who are they commenting to? Not a person. Just words. And no one praises or converses with random words, however good they are.
Of course, maybe you ARE putting yourself into what you write…but maybe it’s too much of yourself. I see this sooooo often. Those bloggers who get big and popular and then all they do is blog about themselves and their own personal endeavors. The titles of their posts are eternally:
“Hey, check out my new book”
“PLEASE buy my new book”
“Hey, guess what? My new book is out”
“Update on my story”
You get the picture.
I’ve said this multiple times and I’ll say it again. If you want followers and an active audience, blog about things people CARE about. Blog about things that HELP people. Make them WANT or NEED you.
If all you blog about is yourself, this can also constitute a lack of personality towards your audience. Or, maybe not a lack of personality, but a bad personality.
Don’t be like those bloggers who are dry and have no personality, and don’t be like those bloggers who never have anything to offer to their followers. Let your audience know who you are, and show your followers that you care about THEM too. Make people come to your blog not just because of your content, but because of your character–because they genuinely know and like you as a person (and not just what you’re promoting)!
I hope this helped!
What do you think?
Have you ever closed a book and instantly felt like a part of you just died? Or watched the end-credits of a movie file onto the screen, and find yourself sighing with longing?
Have you ever read or witnessed a story that touched you so deeply, that you connected with so perfectly, you wish it would never end?
Our culture is messed up in many ways. We don’t have to look very far to see this. But, deep inside all of us, we have this desire for eternal things. Think about it. There are plenty of songs on the radio that have lyrics like “I wish this moment could last forever”. The song itself might have a pretty cruddy meaning, but this phrase is pretty common in modern music. We all know that when we have something, good we want it to last forever.
We typically apply this thinking to love and relationships. To romance and marriage. Those moments when life seems so perfect, we wish time would freeze.
Yeah, hopefully you know what I’m talking about.
And then, of course, we can look at how, since the beginning of time, we’ve longed for immortality. We’ve longed for “eternal life”. We just crave eternal, good things.
It’s no surprise that we should apply this to stories.
Don’t you like it when you find a nice long story to enjoy? Maybe it’s a serious page turner and you read the whole thing in two days. Maybe it’s a riveting show and you binge watch it for three days straight. But still, don’t you like it when stories are nice and long, long enough that you get to go back and revisit all the different parts?
I personally love being able to do this. For me, I particularly enjoyed the Inheritance Cycle for this very reason. The Inheritance Cycle, written by Christopher Paolini, isn’t perhaps the most well-written series. But each book in the cycle was nice and long.
There would be scenes that made you smile, frown, grimace with determination, etc. I loved finding those moments in the story that made me go, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that!” I loved the fact that the series was long enough for me to FORGET certain scenes…so that I could go back and relive them again, as if it were the first time.
THAT is the kind of series I love. As I’m reading Harry Potter for the first time (go easy on me), I realize that this is another one of those series. Big books, lots of stories within the stories. Plenty of things I can go back and revisit.
This, in a way, is how you make stories that last forever.
Even though the stories aren’t lasting forever, our human minds will forget, and thus we’ll have to go back in order to remember. And we’ll do this again. And again. And again.
It’s a beautiful cycle.
My favorite book thus far is The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Although it’s just a standalone, it’s big enough to have plenty of scenes that I’ll forget. In fact, there will be times when I’m able to pick that book up and read a scene I totally forgot about. And, just as when I read it the first time, I’ll enjoy the experience!
In all honesty, this is what I’m trying to do with my own series, Elithius. I’ve planned for it to be a long series. In fact, I like doing this because it helps me create an intricate plot and realistic characters that my audience can grow with. My characters are teenagers when the story begins. They’ll be adults by the time it finishes. Along the way, they’ll have plenty of ups and downs. I think this will be very…realistic. Life is never easy and straightforward. Our struggles in life are usually never short; so neither should a plot be; neither should a story be.
Life is a journey, and I believe that stories are too.
Some stories will be forgotten, but not mine. I won’t let that happen.
I challenge you to do the same.
We all search for eternity in some shape or form. Make a story that is eternal. Make a story that never dies.
What do you think?