THE CRAFT OF WRITING – MARCH 2020
HOW I AVOIDED KINESTASIS BY READING “HOW TO MAKE A LIVING AS A WRITER”
by Kay DiBianca
In the 1980’s, my husband, Frank, invented and patented a medical imaging device which he named the Kinestatic Charge Detector (KCD). If you’re interested, you can read the abstract of the original paper here.
The KCD worked on the principle of ions moving in one frame of reference, but stationary in another. To illustrate this principle, Frank coined the word “kinestatic” by combining “kinetic” (moving) with “static” (still). What a great word! To our knowledge, this word had never been used prior to his conceiving it.
Frank has often compared kinestasis (the noun form of the word) with walking up a down escalator. You’re moving in relation to the steps, but you’re stationary in relation to the outside world.
There are lots of other situations in everyday life that are kinestatic. Do you walk on a treadmill? You’re kinestatic. In another context, do you ever find yourself rushing around all day doing things but accomplishing nothing? Kinestasis!
As writers, we can identify. I often start the day rarin’ to go with my to-do list propped up next to my laptop. I can hardly wait to start pouring my soul into the keyboard at hundreds of words per hour. But first I check my book’s sales rank, then I respond to emails and read my favorite blogs. Time to take a break, get a cup of coffee, and check my sales rank again. Oh yes, I better click over to Amazon, Goodreads, and Kobo to see if my book received any new reviews. And then there’s social media to catch up on. You get the picture. On those days, I become kinestatic — rushing through the day and getting nowhere.
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In order to have the discipline to stay the course as a writer, you have to know the course. James Scott Bell’s book “How to Make a Living as a Writer” lays out practical steps to navigate the labyrinth of the publishing world and become successful.
This book is an entire library of writing information, from creativity to business acumen. Goal-setting, publishing, branding, marketing. It’s all here.
Whether you intend to make writing your primary source of income or not, get off the treadmill and pick up a copy of this book. It will enhance your writing life.
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I am doubly thrilled to welcome James Scott Bell as my guest today. Mr. Bell is a winner of the International Thriller Writers Award and the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure (Writer’s Digest Books). His thrillers include Romeo’s Rules, Romeo’s Way and Romeo’s Hammer (the Mike Romeo thriller series); Try Dying, Try Darkness and Try Fear (the Ty Buchanan legal thriller series); and stand-alones including Your Son Is Alive and Final Witness (which won the first Christy Award for Suspense). He served as the fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine and has written several popular writing books, including Just Write, Conflict & Suspense, and The Art of War for Writers (all from Writer’s Digest Books). He’s also published How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, Write Your Novel From the Middle, Super Structure, and How to Make a Living as a Writer.
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Welcome, James Scott Bell. Thank you for joining us!
Thanks for having me, Kay.
Why did you write How to Make a Living as a Writer?
For a couple of reasons. First off, I know there are many writers out there who dream of making this a full-time occupation. It’s not easy to do, but it’s especially hard if you don’t have a strategy. I wanted to lay out a strategic approach any writer can use.
Second, I wanted to give writers the basic business principles they need to succeed. This is, after all, a business, whether you publish with a traditional company or go out and publish on your own. This book helps on both counts.
What would you tell a novice writer is the most important attribute (s)he must have to be a successful author?
Production and growth. You have to be able to produce the words, the books. That’s why I’ve always been a quota guy. I tell people to figure out the number of words they can comfortably write in a week, then up that by 10%. Divide that into days. If you miss a daily goal, you can make it up on other days. I usually take one day off from writing every week, to recharge.
And keep growing in the craft. Read books and blogs (like KillZoneblog.com), go to conferences, get feedback. Apply what you learn to your writing. Write practice scenes to try things out. Just like a golfer who goes to the range on his days off.
Do you recommend traditional publishing or self-publishing?
There are pros and cons to each, of course. Traditional publishers know how to design a book and get it into bookstores (those that remain, that is!). But in return a writer signs away rights to his work that can be difficult to get back should things go south. This is where a writer needs to be aware of contract terms so he can discuss things with his agent.
An indie writer keeps his rights and can publish more frequently, but also has to learn how to produce a good-looking product—formatting, cover design, and so forth.
Marketing is another skill a writer will have to work on, because most of that effort now falls upon their shoulders, whether they are traditional or indie.
Eventually, it always comes down to the books themselves. They have to be good, they have to please readers.
How important is it to have a professional editor?
A good, experienced editor can help a new writer. It’s expensive, but if you look at it as an investment in your career, it can make sense. Do some research, get a recommendation, see if the editor will do a sample edit with you before you sign up.
An alternative is a good group of beta readers. After all, you’re writing for readers, ultimately. Advice on this option can be found by going to KillZoneBlog.com and searching for “beta readers.”
Are audio books worth all the trouble and expense?
Audio is definitely the growth area in the book industry right now. Long term, it’s a good asset to have. ACX from Amazon offers writers the opportunity to team up with narrators and split the royalties 50/50. This is perhaps the most cost-effective way to go about audio. The alternative is to shell out the money up front to hire a narrator and keep all the royalties.
A new outfit called FindawayVoices.com has come on the scene. I don’t know much about it, but it is worth checking out.
I purchased my own equipment and am doing my own audio versions. The big challenge is time. It takes a long time to record and edit an audio book. On the plus side, all royalties flow directly to me.
So each author needs to take an objective look at their time, ability, desire, and wallet to sort this through.
With so many resources available: podcasts, blogs, email loops, how does an aspiring author decide which ones to join?
Research and recommendations. Just make sure that none of these overtake your main priority: writing and producing the work.
I hear a lot about branding. How does a new author go about establishing a brand?
A brand is a set of reader expectations. You want to build a readership. You want that readership to become a fan base. That means giving them content they like, which is usually a specific genre. Stephen King specialized in horror. Grisham in legal thrillers. They only deviated from their brand when they were big enough that their publishers allowed a one-off. Then they got back on brand.
So I would advise finding the genre you love and specializing in it. If you’re an indie writer, you have some freedom to try new things, especially in short form. But for the most part, sticking to a brand makes building a fan base easier.
Do you have any other guidance for us that I haven’t asked here?
I like what a writer named Michael Bishop once said: “One may achieve remarkable writerly success while flunking all the major criteria for success as a human being. Try not to do that.”
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Thank you, Jim, for being with us today!