Three Great Resources

Most of the writers I’ve met don’t have large marketing budgets for their self-published books. Writers who have their books printed by traditional publishers, find they have to take greater responsibility for the promotion of their writing. We’re artists, but we need to think like entrepreneurs.

A book by one of the stars of Shark Tank offers great advice and encouragement for anyone who is starting with few resources. One of the main themes of The Power of Broke (2016) by Daymond John is that if you start with little financial support, it forces you to be creative, searching for unique solutions to challenges, rather than just throwing money at problems. His life is an example of how focus, determination, and perseverance, can lead to unbelievable success. Daymond John offers readers a glimpse of the challenges he faced building a company from the ground up, while encouraging them to follow their dreams.

Another great book that encourages anyone striving to follow their dreams was written by the Producer of Shark Tank. Dare to Succeed (2001) by Mark Burnett, stresses how essential it is to take chances and be prepared to expect the unexpected. Today you know him as a very successful television producer, but after serving in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, his first job in the United States was as a live-in-nanny. If you had just left one of the world’s elite military units, would you expect to find yourself taking care of children? His goal was to establish a life in the United States, and he was willing to do whatever it took.

I found it interesting that John Daymond sold clothing out of an old van in New York and Mark Burnett sold T-shirts on a beach in California. They both had direct sales experience early in their careers. What every writer can learn from the lives of entrepreneurs, is how essential it is to develop pitching skills. Daymond John had to convince musicians to wear the clothing he was designing in their videos. Mark Burnett had to convince companies to sponsor Eco Challenge. Likewise, writers are constantly pitching ideas to editors, trying to get them to publish our books, short fiction, articles, and essays. If you write screenplays, you have to persuade film companies to read them.

As well as reading these two books, I would highly recommend that you takes a look at Evan Carmichael‘s videos on Youtube, especially the Top 10 Rules series. Here you can find countless videos describing the principles used to achieve success by authors, business leaders, motivational speakers, actors, musicians and pastors.

Keep Striving. Keep Learning. Keep Writing.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

No Wasted Experiences

To begin, I want to make it clear I’m not implying that simply writing about an experience will make the pain and suffering disappear. What I do believe, is that the experiences we have, gives each of us our unique perspectives.

A writer who has lived in a war zone, has endured unimaginable terror. Having lived in a peaceful country like Canada,  I can write a battle scene, or perhaps a story about an alien invasion. What I can’t do, is inject the same raw fear that comes from the real life experience of someone who has heard bombs exploding around them, and witnessed the carnage of war. Their writing will have a much more powerful impact on the reader.

Have you ever won a trophy, or run across a finish line first? If the he answer is yes, then whether it was when you were twelve or thirty-two, the thrill of winning is burned in your memory. You can use that to your advantage, because when you write about a character that has just been elected President, you can remember the unbridled enthusiasm, and your description of her emotions will be genuine.

Recently, I used that same principle to write a short story, “An Appointment With Life.” In my case, it was the experience, many years ago, of being rejected by all the law schools I applied to, and watching a dream come crashing down. The good news is the story was accepted and published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of the Ambrosia Literary Review: http://www.ambrose.edu/ambrosia-literary-review. If you’re interested, you can download the issue in that website’s Archives section.

What unusual events have occurred in your life, that could be included in a novel or screenplay? There are over seven billion people on the face of the Earth, and not one of them has had exactly the same experiences as you. You’re a one of a kind person, which also makes you a one of a kind writer. Keep writing, because the world is a boring place without your voice, your passion.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

Jump-Start!

It doesn’t matter if you have a successful writing career, or you’re just getting started, Writer’s Block can be devastating. Here are some ideas to help you get back on track.

Read or listen to: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Discouragement begins when you’re hoping for that big break, but it seems as if you aren’t making any progress. Jeff Olsen reminds readers that it’s all about consistency and persistence; very few people are overnight successes.

Read or listen to The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. This book contains great advice regarding how to develop positive attitudes and start moving toward your goals.

Watch this three-part video featuring Canadian science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer. Recorded at the 2010 Ontario Writers’ Conference, Word by Word, Robert J. Sawyer discusses the process of building a writing career. You can find it on http://www.youtube.com listed as : Robert J. Sawyer -P1 of 3 to P3 of 3 – OWC 2010. It takes about 25 minutes to watch all three parts. (I’ve mentions this before, because it’s a message that every writer should hear, and Robert J. Sawyer is an excellent speaker.)

Watching videos of novelists and screenwriters discussing their craft is an excellent learning opportunity. If you’re serious about a writing career, why not learn from the best? It’s essential to watch how they conduct themselves while speaking to audiences and being interviewed, since those are skills you’ll need to develop.

If you’re writing a novel, but suffering from Writer’s Block, write an essay. If you’re writing a screenplay, but need to take a break, write a short story. The key is to switch gears, but keep moving forward as a writer. Give your subconscious some time to work on the problem, and when you return to the project in a few weeks, you’ll probably have a solution. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a novel, a screenplay, a short story, essay or stage play, the world needs to hear your unique voice.

Copyright ©  2019 by J. Paul Cooper

Three Questions

Do you have a story idea that you’re convinced is great, but you don’t know where to start? You can begin by writing scenes, without worrying about where they will fit in the story. It’s better to get started, because if it really is a great idea, everything will eventually fall into place. Directors rarely film all the scenes for a movie in chronological order, because they have to work according to when film locations are available. And when it comes to that movie being filmed in your head, you’re the Director!

Have you just received a rejection, and you’re having a difficult time dealing with it? To keep from slipping into a deep depression, remember that publishers and editors are inundated with manuscripts, and they can’t publish all of them. Rejecting your work involves risk on their part as well, as they may have just turned down a brilliant piece of writing. 

Do you feel like you aren’t making any progress, and want to give up? Although it feels great when you do get published, it’s important that you keep writing when you’re going through a dry spell. You don’t know which short story, article or novel manuscript is going to make a significant difference. More importantly, if writing is your gift, if it’s what your were meant to do, then you need to write.

Keep writing, let the world hear your voice and feel your passion!

J. Paul Cooper

 

Be Your Own Motivation Guru

Note: This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of Opal: The Magazine for Canadian Authors and Writers. Pages 23-25

There’s enough information about motivation and success to fill every spare moment of your life with books, eBooks, audiobooks and videos. An endless stream of motivation gurus saturate the marketplace, some taking a more relaxed, reflective spiritual approach, others adopting a high energy, super-charged persona. Gleaned from that eclectic mix of wisdom and hype, here are a few practical concepts that writers can apply in their careers.
If you were guided into a room filled with of targets, handed a bow and arrow, and told you could win a thousand dollars if you hit “the target,” you’d need to ask two questions: Which target am I supposed to hit? How long do I have? This is the reason why its important to Write Down Your Goals.
The first step is to consider which goal, if you were to finish it, would have the greatest impact. As you write down your main goal consider what other skills would help your attain it, and write those down as well. If you goal is to write a novel, what other activities would you be involved in? Since being established in the literary community will help you promote your novel, you could write short stories and submit them to literary journals while you continue working on the novel. As a published writer, you’ll need to do public readings, so watch for open mic events, which are excellent opportunities to gain experience.
Note: Although a novel is used as an example, the goal you choose to focus on does not have to be a major project. If completing a short story, essay or poem will aid in building your self-confidence as a writer, then they may be the ideal goals to pursue.

Set a Deadline For Your Project. One of the problems faced by writers when they have no deadline for a project, is they can be constantly distracted and never finish it. When you write down your main goal, also record a deadline for when you intend to finish the fist major stage. “I will have a first draft of ‘Title of Project’ finished by November 14, 2018.” If you haven’t completed the first stage by the deadline, don’t be too hard on yourself, just set another deadline and keep writing. When you’ve finished the first stage of your goal, set a deadline for the next one: “By March 14, 2019 I will complete ‘Title of Project’ and Submit it to Publishers.” Once again, if you miss the deadline, create a new one and keep writing. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to discourage you, the purpose is to help you keep focused.
If you can’t imagine yourself standing on the top of a mountain, you’re unlikely to start climbing, which is why you should Visualize Your Success. Everyday, take a couple of minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself receiving writing awards, addressing large crowds of fans and signing autographs. Does it sound silly? It’s one of the methods athletes use to prepare for major competitions. A downhill skier imagines flying down a mountainside at 100 km/hr to win a gold medal and a writer imagines walking up to a podium to receive an award, but they are both moving towards attainable goals.
As is experienced by many writers, there will be times you’re so discouraged by rejection or the slow pace of your progress, that you’ll be tempted to give up. When you start to hear yourself say things like “you’ll never be a successful writer,” or “you’re just a…..” it’s time to Counter Negative Self-Talk With Affirmations.

An affirmation is basically a positive statement to remind yourself of your potential and drown out devastating negative self-talk. Here’s an example:
I am a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur
I am talented, intelligent, resourceful
My creative potential is unlimited
Another threat to completing a writing project is perfectionism. If you believe your work has to be perfect before sending it to an editor, you could spend years endlessly rewriting the same manuscript over and over again. Keep in mind that Perfectionism is a Form of Procrastination, and it may be holding you back. Every writer at some point has to decide whether to show their work to the public and risk potential criticism, or give up the dream of being published. Your project will never be perfect, but it may be just what editors and readers are looking for.
Since writing is part of your life, and life is unpredictable, expect roadblocks and Don’t Limit Yourself to Just One Path. If you’re climbing through a mountain pass and it’s blocked by a fallen tree, you don’t just stand there and stare at the tree. You might try pushing it aside, climbing over it, walking around it, or going back a couple of kilometers to find another path.
If you’re a screenwriter, but you’ve been unsuccessful in selling your completed scripts, perhaps you should write a novel. It may be that the novel catches the attention of the producers you need to impress and open doors for you. If you’re a playwright and can’t get a play you’ve written performed, perhaps you can adapt it as a short story and have it published in a literary journal. Keep in mind that the story is essential, formats are just various ways of telling that story.
Although it’s true that sometimes you have sit at a keyboard with just you and your thoughts, You Don’t Have to Go It Alone. Joining a writer’s organization will give you the opportunity to meet others who are just as enthusiastic about the art of writing as you. It’s also a non-threatening environment where you can read your work and receive suggestions on how to improve it. Perhaps the most important reason to join a writer’s organization is you can benefit from the experience of other members. To use a Canadian analogy; when you’re guiding your canoe down a river, avoiding one rock hidden beneath the surface can make a huge difference.
The best advice, however, for anyone interested in a literary career is: Just Get Started, Write. You can read books about the writing process, watch interviews with successful writers, join writing associations, and attend writer’s conferences, and never make any substantial progress, if you aren’t actually writing. Although learning about the writing process is important and getting to know other writers is helpful, to become a proficient writer, you need to practice your craft, you need to sit down at the keyboard and work.
Why is it important that you write? If a literary agency sent agents across the entire planet, among the 7.6 billion inhabitants, meeting writers of every nationality, race, and religion, they would only find one you. You are unique and so is your voice and your passion. Share your opinion, give us stories to lose ourselves in, create characters to cheer for, tear at our hearts strings and tickles our funny bones… just write.

Essentials For Success

A WRITER’S AFFIRMATON I am a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur. I am talented, creative and resourceful. My potential is unlimited.

RULES TO LIVE BY:

DON’T COMPLAIN  It only proves that there’s a better option and you’re aren’t doing anything about it. Being miserable won’t help you achieve your goals, it will only drive people away from you. It’s a recipe for loneliness.

DON’ T WAIT UNTIL EVERYTHING IS PERFECT  Perfectionism can be a form of procrastination. If you want to be successful writer, you have to be willing to submit your work and accept criticism. You could spend years working on the same novel or screenplay, constantly making small improvements, and never submit it to an editor or producer.

BE GRATEFUL Although it’s important to set goals for what you want to achieve in the future, it’s essential to be grateful for what you have now. If all you do is focus on what is wrong with your life, it’s going to lead to a downward spiral of depression. Having a hard time trying to think of something you’re grateful for? Since you’re a writer, you can be grateful that you have a vivid imagination.

YOU ARE NOT A LOSER Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has disappointments. Everyone makes poor choices. If you feel like a fool sometimes, you are not alone. You’re not a loser, you’re human.

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS People start their day in a negative mood because they are completely focused on what they hate about their circumstances, and see no hope for change. If you have goals and you’re taking action toward achieving those goals, you aren’t trapped, you’re making progress. Speed isn’t as important as consistency.

BE PATIENT Have faith you will reach your goals, if you are persistent and remain focused. There are so many factors that can influence how long it takes to complete a novel or screenplay;  your shift schedule at work changes, you child joins a new sports team that requires you to drive her to an extra practice each week, you have to start taking care of an elderly parent…. the list is endless. You may have to adjust your expectations regarding how long it will take to finish a project, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up.

I don’t always follow these essential rules, but I try. I hope you find this advice helpful and that you’ll be encouraged.  God bless you, and keep writing, because the world needs to year your voice and feel your passion.

Copyright © 2018 by J. Paul Cooper

 

 

 

 

What If?

“What If?” is the most powerful question that any writer can ask. This simple phrase is the catalyst that opens the mind to an endless world of possibilities.

When screenwriters are pitching movie concepts to producers, they always begin with the logline, a one or two sentence description of the story. Even though they don’t usually use the words, “What If?”, that’s the basic concept.  To illustrate how useful the concept is, take a moment to think about your favourite novel or movie. How would you describe the plot in one sentence, beginning with the phrase, “What If?”  For Titanic, my best guess would be: What if a young woman engaged to a man from a wealthy family, fell in love with a poor artist travelling on the Titanic?

I remember watching the original Star Trek series with scenes where Captain Kirk was talking to a Star Fleet commander on a computer screen. In order for that to be written into the script, someone had to ask  himself or herself, “What if future technology will allow people to talk to each other face to face through computers?” Now it’s no big deal, but at the time it seemed like amazing technology.

The reason “What If?” is so effective for fiction writers, especially science fiction and fantasy writers, is because it doesn’t imply any limitations. You’re writing a novel and you ask yourself, “What if the largest predator on the planet where my heroine has been stranded has huge razor sharp teeth, spits acid and can both fly and swim?” By continually asking “What If?” you can raise the tension and keep your readers up all night turning pages.

I hope this week you’ll spend some time asking, “What If?” and create great literature. Since it’s probably a cardinal sin for a writer to miss an opportunity to market his or her writing, I should mention the title of my eBook is What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper. You can purchase a copy through Smashwords or other online eBook retailers, or you can ask your local library to order it through Overdrive or Cloud Library.