Jeff & Will had to put their business hats on this past week and they talk a little bit about that. Will shares things he learned from three books: The 10 X Author by Sean M. Platt and Johnny Truant, How to Write Fast by Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver and On Being A Dictator by Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker. Will wraps up this week’s show honoring Toni Morrison with two inspirational quotes for writers.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- The 10 X Author: Level Up or Be Left Behind by Sean M. Platt and Johnny Truant on Amazon
- How to Write Fast: Better Words Faster by Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver on Amazon
- Talent, Inspiration and Blue Collar Work on Story Grid Podcast
- On Being A Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer by Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker on Amazon
- The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon: Using Speech Recognition Software to Dictate Your Book and Supercharge Your Writing Workflow by Scott Baker on Amazon
- How To Use Dictation To Write Faster And Stay Healthy With Scott Baker on The Creative Penn Podcast
- Lucy Lennox’s Gay (MM) Author Network on Facebook (NOTE: You do have to answer the questions when you request to join this group)
- Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon on Amazon
- Big Gay Author Podcast on Twitter
- Jeff & Will’s Websites & Social Media:
Will: Welcome to the “Big Gay Author Podcast,” the show that invites you to follow along as two writers attempt to make the transition from part-time to full-time authors of gay fiction. I’m your host Will Knauss and with me is my fellow writer and husband, Mr. Jeff Adams.
Jeff: Hello, everybody. Today is August 10, 2019 and we’re so glad you could join us. Welcome back to everyone who joined us on our premier week episodes. If you have not checked those out yet make sure you go back and check out episode 2 and 3 with PR professional Judith Utz as well as episodes 4 and 5 with Joanna Penn. We think there’s some good stuff back there if you did not pick it up already.
Will: Yeah, lots of great content. So be sure you check that out.
Now, I think we actually said last week that the idea behind this particular show is to hold ourselves accountable in part and we’re going to like talk to you about our business and how we’ve written during the week and that kind of thing and how it’s going.
Well, here we are our second week and we have no writing to report. Neither one of us created any new words.
Jeff: That is very, very true. It was a week of being very businessie.
Will: I’m struggling with words to describe. We made some difficult but important business decisions, which we unfortunately can’t talk about just yet.
Jeff: There are changes afoot and as we talked about many times this week, I think those changes are going to bring about some pretty groovy opportunities. So we’ll be documenting that in the in the weeks to come for sure.
A couple things on the business side I want to talk about because it does connect to the things that we had to look at this week.
Anytime you go into a contract, make sure you read it, fully understand what it says. What it means to you. What you’re giving up. What you’re getting back. Make sure you know where those contracts are after you file them away. This is something I’ve been very lucky and have organized pretty well with books.
For example, I have a folder for every book so the Scrivener files are in there, all the edits that go back and forth are in there. The galleys are in there. The final e-books are in there, the art’s in there. So if I need something for a book, including the contract, I’m pretty good at being able to put my hands on it, which is good.
That’s just a tip for anybody. Make sure you know where your paperwork is so it’s handy if you need.
Where I’m not so good that also became glaring clear this week is when I get reports back on books sold. It doesn’t matter if it’s through Amazon from self-published work, from Audible for things that I’ve published through ACX on my own, or from my publishers. This has really always been the case.
I look at the reports and I’m like “yay, I sold some books and yay, I made some money.” Eventually it’s “look, that money went into the bank.” Awesome. What I should be doing when these come in is validating them. Do they look right? Does it match the expectations? I had from an Amazon dashboard or any other reporting systems. Is the royalty rate right? Is the money right? Is the money that was in the bank right?
Frankly, every time I get a paycheck, even though I’m on a salaried job and my paycheck doesn’t change week to week, I go every Friday to the bank app to make sure the deposit is the right amount. If it’s not the right amount, I figure out why it’s not. Sometimes it could be expenses or bonuses or whatever, but I validate that every single time. Even when I was an hourly employee, was the hours right? Was the rate right? Was the check right?
I don’t do that with my books and I don’t know why.
I have a lot of Amazon and reports to clean up and I will be doing that over the next couple of weeks just get all the accounting in order
So, pro tip understand your contracts. Keep your contract where you can find them. And validate those reports to make sure that you’re getting the money you’re owed from wherever it’s coming from.
Will: Yeah, I don’t think for most authors the business side is necessarily a fun thing to do. But it is very important if you’re going to treat this like a business and hopefully go full time with your writing.
Jeff: I think this podcast made me think about it even more because we’re trying to make that transition. If I don’t understand the money that’s coming in and making sure it’s right,how do we know if it’s something that we could you know eventually live off because that would become our paycheck.
Will: Yes. Exactly. Exactly.
Jeff: Now you read some books this week. You read a lot of books this week.
Will: In all honesty in the last two weeks, I’ve been reading a couple of nonfiction titles.
When we were in New York City, I spent an afternoon lazing around in our hotel room because I was kind of over New York city in the middle of July.
So I spent some time in bed and I read one of the books that I I’d like to talk about right now “The 10x Author” by Sean Platt and Johnny Truant. If those names sound familiar, they are the guys behind Sterling and Stone and the “Story Studio Podcast.”
They’ve been at the forefront, the cutting edge, of the Indie publishing movement for a long time now. Recently they’ve started putting out some small craft books that focus on specific aspects of publishing and writing. “The 10x Author” is really about mindset and a lot of the things they cover are common knowledge that we kind of already know or should know.
They talk about them and kind of break it down in how they’ve experienced it over the years with their particular author business. For them the 10x author is about leveling up your author business and your productivity. But, also it’s your mindset and how that’s really important if you want to take your writing and your business to the next level.
The beginning of the book is really all about doing the work–getting your butt in the chair and putting your hands on the keyboard. There are no shortcuts. If you’re going to make a successful go of a writing career, you can’t half-ass it. You’ve got to put in the work.
They talk about one of the metaphors they use is a flywheel. At the beginning of your author journey when you pushing against that flywheel, it’s hard. It can be really damn hard. But if you keep pushing and keep working, eventually that wheel is going to start turning. If you’re diligent and doing good work, that wheel will start turning. Eventually, if you keep at it the momentum, it will start working in your favor. So they talk about flywheel as a metaphor a lot in this particular book.
They also talk about tips. Like perfect is the enemy of done. No book is ever perfect. So they stress that you need to get the work done and move on to the next. It’s not that you should put out a crappy book. Not by any means. You should always do the best work you possibly can at the moment that you’re kind of living in. But, always strive, push forward, improve whether it’s certain aspects of craft or marketing or business for a new release. It’s always learning and doing. That’s what “The 10x Author” really focuses on.
Jeff: Interesting. I’m always game for a good mindset book like what we had Joanna on an episode 4 talking about mindset. There’s so much there that if you’re not in the right mindset your creative side’s not quite churning right. I think anything that can help get there is a super good thing. I will probably have to pick this book up because I haven’t read a mindset book in a while.
Will: The books that the guys from Sterling and Stone are putting out are relatively short, which is kind of the… What’s the word I’m looking for?
Jeff: It’s definitely a trend to have these little self-help books or craft books that drill down on a specific subject and get you in and out of it pretty quickly so you could execute on it.
Will: Exactly I think trend is the right word–shorter and very specific. I was thinking back, like most of you listening, you probably have shelves and shelves full of nonfiction writing books. I certainly do and a lot of them that I have are classics that may have been written 20 or 30 years ago. They were big fat thick tomes that covered a really large swath like how to write a novel. It covers a really a large scope of the process. The trend now is drilling down, being super niche and super specific in part because I think that’s just the way we live now in our sort of keyword-driven search for knowledge.
That trend is certainly isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Jeff: I agree. The more bite-sized you can get the better these days.
Will: So, the second book I want to talk about is called “How to Write Fast” by Sean Platt and Neeve Silver. This offers some tricks, tips and hacks on how to up your production. One of the main things that they are advocating with writing fast is that when you write faster, you can tap into your subconscious brain. When you focus on writing faster, it’s good for you. There are many scientific studies that show that a state of flow, usually when you’re writing fast, is better.
This is usually the moment when authors say that the characters were talking to them and they were just a vessel. They weren’t even in control of their hands flying across the keyboard. What they’re describing is a state of flow.
For any artist that sort of the ideal situation that you want to be able to get yourself in. In “How to Write Fast” that’s what they’re talking about. It’s getting out of your own way and using different techniques to get into a state of flow.
Some of the things that they talk about is having a plan before you sit down to write and this is for either plotter’s or panthers or discovery writers. It works whether you want to plan out to the smallest detail what’s going to happen in a specific scene or whether you have a loosey goosey idea. The more that you know before you sit down to write is usually the better so you’re not fighting with the critical voice and the internal editor that’s telling you that you’re doing it wrong.
They also talked about having a system, which I like. I’m all about systems and finding ways to trigger your mind into getting into that flow state. So, whether it’s taking a few minutes say, if you’re writing in the morning and you do yoga or meditation and then sitting down to write immediately after that, it sort of signals your mind that you’re ready to be creative. It could be anything–going to the gym first thing, going for a walk or just sitting down in a specific spot at a specific time of day. If you do it enough it, hopefully, triggers your mind and you can get into flow a whole lot faster.
So they talk about finding your unique system. The art of writing is, of course, different for all of us so experiment with different techniques.
They also suggest writing sprints, something that Jeff knows a lot about because he’s a big advocate of sprints.
They also talk about a sort of gamification and rewarding yourself, something they call a daily “fuck yeah.” Celebrating the small successes and making sure that the creative process is still fun.
They’re really down on, and hesitate to call it work. No one has fun going to work. You have to make sure that you got your mind right, that your mindset is on the fun and focused on the amazing thing that you’re going to be able to create.
They also advocate things like write-ins, working with other authors, whether online or in person when you’re doing those sort of sprints. That way you have a kind of community that would help you get words on the page. That may or may not work for some people.
It’s about finding your own system to work for yourself.
Jeff: It makes me think of some of what you said about what we were hearing this past week as we were catching up on “Story Grid Podcast.” In episode 8, Shawn Coyne and Anne Hawley talked about inspiration and talent and what that means to getting yourself in the chair. It was at a really amazing talk. I think Shawn provided a lot of inspiration with his discussion of how inspiration and talent and getting yourself in the chair all kind of mesh together.
Yes, I’m a definite sprint fan. I sprinted both as a pantser and as I converted more to a plotter. You’re a hundred percent right even as a pantser, if I knew what I wanted to accomplish in those 20 minutes before I started those 20 minutes–I would do 20 minutes prints using the Pomodoro method–I would be able to get into that flow. Once I started plotting, I could do those sprints easier.
Even now that I do dictation I still do it in sprints. It not only gives myself a break from writing or talking but and it lets me reset my brain to the next chunk of words. It’s a nice consolidated bit of time to stay focused because in those sprints, of course, you don’t want to look at the computer, you don’t want like a Facebook, you don’t want to get distracted by anything else happening around you. You’re trying to get into that flow in that time frame.
Will: Yeah. Definitely.
Jeff: I look forward to seeing how you apply this as you start to get into writing yourself.
Will: Yeah. Here’s the thing, I love craft books but I have a terrible memory.
A lot of the time I think I absorb the big ideas out of a book, but sometimes the tips or the tricks slip away from me. I think I’ve got a lot of knowledge stored up in this noggin of mine. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hope that when it comes time to apply this knowledge that it’s all going to be there.
Jeff: Put Post-it Notes up for all the tips you want to remember.
Will: There aren’t enough Post-It Notes in the world.
One last thing before I move on to the third book. Both “The 10x Author” and “How to Write Fast” provide a link at the end of the book for a 60-second summary. It’s a downloadable page that gives you the highlights, the bullet point takeaways from the book which is especially helpful.
Lastly. I’m going to quickly talk about a book called “On Being a Dictator” by Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker. This is a book about dictation, specifically how these two authors use dictation in their own work. I really enjoyed the relaxed first person way they explain how they do it and some things to think about when you tackle dictation in your own work. Kevin J. Anderson is a big deal, best seller, probably best known for being the co-author of the “Dune” books with Brian Herbert. He uses dictation to first draft those ginormous, doorstop “Dune” books that he does.
Kevin explains his process. He dictates while he goes on hikes. He loves walking and hiking in the woods around the area where he lives. His process goes something like this: He’s a very heavy plotter, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering he’s writing “Dune” books. He writes very detailed outlines and prints those out so that he has something to reference when he is out hiking. He takes his handheld recorder with him and talks the first draft of his chapters. When he gets home, he downloads those for from his recorder and sends them off to a transcriptionist and they eventually send those files back to him where he can do a second editorial pass on them.
Martin Shoemaker describes his process too. He is more of a discovery writer or more of a pantser and he is a part-timer. He has a day job with a very long commute–one hour each way. He’s got 120 minutes each day in which he can dictate on his latest project. He talks about the recorder he uses, the microphone and certain things to think about when you are in the noisiness of a car and being in traffic and how he navigates certain challenges. He gets in to some specifics of hands-free dictation because that’s important since he’s driving a car.
He uses something with actual buttons you can feel, not like an app on a phone where you have to look at it. That wouldn’t work if you’re trying to drive. He also uses a transcriptionist. But he also talks about using AI applications for transcribing your dictation or a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking. Neither one of these authors uses those methods. They use human transcriptionists. They send them off and someone takes care of that for them. Things like Dragon are certainly an option. It’s a much more affordable option [that a human transcriptionist]. We use Dragon. We also have Trent. How would you describe Trent?
Jeff: Trent is AI transcription. We use Trent to transcribe the interviews we do on Big Gay Fiction Podcast.” Occasionally for ones that are more noisy or have some other technical challenges will actually send it over via Speechpad to an actual human transcriptionist to take care of it.
Will: The thing I liked most about “On Being a Dictator” is that both authors essentially give their first person account of how they use this process when they’re creating their books. It’s really relaxed and informal in part because they actually dictated this book. It’s like they’re having a conversation with you. It’s really, really nice. It doesn’t get bogged down in technical specifics which I think can be a little overwhelming. If you’re new to the idea of dictation and like exploring some of the information about this particular topic one thing, at the end of the book Kevin J. Anderson provides essentially the proof is in the pudding. He gives you the outline for a chapter of one of his books, the notes that he takes when he goes out on his walk, he gives you the raw dictation that he got back from his transcriptionist, and he provides the finished chapter as it appeared in print. You can look at the evolution from exactly beginning to end. And if you’re super curious, he also provides a link to the raw audio file which is his actual transcription that he did walking around.
Jeff: I would never share that.
Will: He’s a brave man. It’s really wonderful that he gives you this peek inside the fiction factory. So I if you’re an author and you’re interested in what dictation might be able to do for you, I think you might want to give this book a look.
Jeff: I’m uch a fan of dictation. I’ve dictated, I believe it’s four novels and probably two or three novella short stories because I’ve been doing dictation between three and four years now. I got on the bandwagon with the book “The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon.” I find it easier to get into flow with dictation once I got over that brain block of speaking my story out loud. I write more words in 20 minutes and find that I will go past 20 minutes because I’m in a flow that I don’t want to break.
I do it into a voice recorder with a microphone that’s it’s right near to my mouth. It comes over my ear and sits almost like a telephone operator, that way I don’t have to worry about too much ambient noise. I also don’t have to worry about where I’m holding the voice recorder in any given moment. Then I run it through Dragon’s transcription module since I don’t like to see the words come across the screen as I’m talking. Plus, I like to walk to I walk circles around my office while I dictate or look out the window or sit in the rocking chair. It’s been really useful.
It’s been interesting to see the number of people moving to transcription. Some of the folks listening to the show may know that Lucy Lennox recently opened up group on Facebook where she is inviting authors tome come, hang out and talk craft and marketing and stuff. She did a live Facebook session around dictation and showed a bunch of people what it’s like to do the dictation. It was so cool to see so many authors take the leap to want to give it a go because usually production increases, quality increases, your first drafts can happen even faster. Even when you consider the stuff that you have to clean up from the transcription to make it into an actual manuscript, which has to be done anyway in the second draft.
Will: Exactly. Do you do you remember why you first decided to give dictation a try? I
Jeff: believe it’s because Joanna Penn had the author of “The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon” on her podcast. If I recall right it was the things talked about in that show that finally made give it a try. I didn’t take the immediate jump into Dragon. I was doing things like Apple’s speech-to-text, which has only gotten better since then.
I could see how dictation was better at correcting typos that I would make. It creates others because I admit that I’m not always the most articulate speaker. So I create other issues, but I still find it faster to clean up the transcription than any first draft of typing that I would do. If you get into that flow state you’re not supposed to not edit as you go, so there’s always something to clean up because I’m not the cleanest typist. I’m curious to know, as you’re getting ready to get going, are you going to give dictation a go.
Will: Um, yes. How and when I will implement I don’t know. I can’t tell you that just yet. We’ll see we’ll see how it goes. More to come.
Jeff: So that wraps us for this week. We do want to say that this coming week we’re going to be in Orlando, Florida at the Podcast Movement conference, taking a jump into something that’s different after almost five years of podcasting. It’s time to go learn a little bit more about this thing that we do every single week.
Will: We kind of took a homemade bootstrapping approach to our shows so far so we’re hoping for some tips and techniques to polish things up. I’m sure we’re going to be learning so much. There’s so much on offer. We were looking at the schedule for the conference just a few moments ago and holy moly there’s so much going on.
Jeff: We thought there was a lot going on for RWA and this one seems to have even more tracks and programs available. Some of the things that I know we’re looking forward too, we’re actually gonna get to meet Joanna Penn. Joanna’s coming over from England to attend. Super excited about that. I’m sure they’ll be a fanboy moment or two happening there. I’m also really interested to hear some of the tracks around podcasting fiction and audio drama. There’s going to be some interesting takeaways from as well.
Will: Okay, guys, I think that’ll do it for now. If you’d like links to anything we discuss this week simply go to the shownotes page for episode 6 at BigGayAuthorPodcast.com. On the shownotes page you’ll also find the links to our individual websites and social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Jeff: Speaking of Twitter follow us at BigGayAuthor where we’ll share things during the week that catch our attention and things like we did this week where we shared the books Will was reading. Be sure to subscribe to this show so you never miss an episode. We’re available on all the major podcast outlets and you’ll find links to those on our
Will: website. Now before we wrap things up, we wanted to quickly mention the passing of Toni Morrison this past week. It’s a great loss to humanity and I wanted to quickly mention a quote from Toni. In “Keep Going” by Austin Kleon, a book about staying creative and staying positive in the difficult times that we are currently living in, Toni Morrison said, “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refused to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art.”
Another quote from Toni Morrison that showed up a lot in my social media feed this past week was, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
So the question I’m going to ask you is what’s the book that you want to read? And what will you create in the next seven days?
Thank you everyone for listening. I hope you’ll join us again next week until then keep writing.