Balancing Your Platform Vs Your Writing

For the majority of the writers out there, a platform, usually accomplished through an online presence (a website, blog, equivalent soap box), is necessary to let readers know that their work exists and should be purchased at the soonest possible convenience. Of course, there are writers who can thrive without websites, twitter accounts and the like, but their names usually end in things like King, Rowling, Meyer and Gaiman (and that’s not to say that these authors don’t put a lot of time and hard work into their platforms, signings, appearances, etc, because they do).

But for the rest of who don’t share such last names, prestige, or wildly successful Mormon vampire franchises, the online presence is almost a necessity. And one of the biggest questions that arises when talking about an author’s platform, is how much time should a writer dedicate to their platform and how much time should be spent actually writing their manuscript?

Well, there really is no easy answer to this dilemma because there is no rule that says either of these things are necessary. Some people may just want to blog and socialize, working on their books in a very casual and gradual manner, and some people just want to write books and be left alone. That’s absolutely fine for an author to do that, but I think this post is more for the writers out there who are trying to find some semblance of balance between the two worlds.

If I had to come up with an ideal ratio, I would say I personally shoot for an 80/20 split in favor of my time being put into manuscript writing. Do I always hold to that? No. Absolutely not. Realistically, I think most days I probably fall into a 60/40 split with my platform occupying a bigger chunk of the day as a mild procrastination tool on the creative front. On the really bad days, I drift into an unenviable 90/10 split in favor of blogtwitterfacebooking and those nights often come to a notably unproductive end with me making pancakes, watching ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and cursing my characters for not being as cool as Han Solo.

If you really want to get a feel for where you are in the ongoing manuscript vs platform battle, there is an easy test. Close your eyes and ask yourself this question. When you have a full day free for writing, is your biggest problem for the day trying to form your characters, outline your plot and punch out your 1,000 words or is it trying to break out of the cycle of constant twitter checks, website maintenance and email drafts? If it is the latter, it might be time to try to limit your time spent on social media and forge some new routines. Try to dedicate certain times of the day to answering emails instead of checking every five minutes. Treat checking a chunk of your tweets, posts, etc at the end of the day as a reward for a productive day on the narrative front. Or if you have a word count goal for the day, check your messages early in the day, then work straight through until you hit your goal. Then you can dip back into the twitterverse guilt free.

Another easy way to get your writing back on track? Subscribe to a writing magazine like Writer’s Digest or Poets & Writers. I know you would think that periodicals like this might provide another excuse to distract yourself with interviews, contests and writing prompts, but for me it has the opposite effect. After I read a couple of articles on inspiring author successes and upcoming writing conferences, I always find myself back at the computer in a matter of minutes with a renewed sense of inspiration and clarity for my writing. These magazines also feature a lot of helpful articles on budgeting your time as a writer too.

I know it may be cliche to suggest that the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to forge new routines and find new motivation for your work, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Why not take a shot at improving your word count output or page revisions in a day? Use some mid-year goals for motivation. Is this your first novel? Then why not shoot to be drafting a query letter for agents by July? Are you working on a series? Why not try to have the series outlined and in progress by May? Either way, it’s up to you to take the initiative and make 2015 a memorable year in your writing career, so get going!

What Do You Think Of The Way Writers Are Depicted In Film And Television?

Writers penning stories about writers is not a rarity in the world of film and tv. While some may criticize this as being a bit lazy and arguably pretentious on the part of the writer, it is a narrative device that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The effectiveness of these portrayals vary. Sometimes depictions of writers are endlessly fascinating to people, while other times people could care less about watching someone sit in a room and transcribe the conversations that take place in their head. It generally hinges on the level of interest the viewers have with the author in question.

Personally, the last thing I want to write fiction about is writing. I’d rather spare people the not so interesting ins and outs of my writing process in favor of exploring something more fantastical. But what about you? As a writer, what do you think of the way writers are depicted in film/tv? Do you find them completely unrealistic, at least as far as the majority of authors go? Do people think you’re wealthy beyond belief because of these depictions? Do they expect you to pick up the tab because of Californication? Do they expect you to arrive to book signings in a helicopter because of Castle?

It seems that most films tend to favor unrealistic depictions of writers. One of the more outstanding examples is John Cusack’s character in the forgettable two and a half hour explosion that was 2012. Cusack’s character Jackson Curtis lives in a fairly sizable house in LA despite being recently divorced, apparently out of work (he might drive a limo? I forget) and a bit of a mope. He identifies himself as an out of work writer who penned this great science fiction novel that no one read. Despite not seeming to do any other writing outside of said book, he lives comfortably off the massive royalties from the twelve people that bought his book. This seems like a bit of a stretch unless his book jacket was made of diamonds and each copy sold for $100,000. But in retrospect, Cusack’s occupational discrepancy is still probably the most realistic thing in that movie.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t rock star writers out there that don’t live like royalty, but the truth is that they represent a very small minority of the writing community. And even then, most of the vastly successful writers like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman hardly strike me as extravagant or excessive personalities. So, this begs the question, is there really a Rick Castle or Hank Moody out there in real life or are the really wealthy writers just recluses who spend their millions on expensive scotch and alimony payments?

Notable portrayals of writers in film/tv:
David Duchovny as Hank Moody in Californication
Nathan Fillion as Rick Castle in Castle
John Turturro as Barton Fink in Barton Fink
Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey in Secret Window
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining
Emma Thompson as Karen Eiffel in Stranger Than Fiction
John Cusack as Jackson Curtis in 2012
Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys
Nicholas Cage as Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation
Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love
Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade in Quills
Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath in Sylvia
James Caan as Paul Sheldon in Misery
William Holden as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard
Woody Allen as Harry Block in Deconstructing Harry
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote
Thomas McCarthy as Scott Templeton in The Wire
Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass
Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums
Ben Stiller as Jerry Stahl in Permanent Midnight
Albert Brooks as Steven Phillips in The Muse
John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven
Dianne Wiest as Holly in Hannah and Her Sisters
Everyone trying to kill Tim Robbins in The Player

Looper Review

Just a quick disclaimer. Looper isn’t based on a book and I usually try to keep this site centered on books or movies based off books, but if it’s good sci-fi, I’m going to include it here because this is a sci-fi oriented site and I write sci-fi. I should also point out that I don’t particularly like doing reviews on the site, but I do make exceptions when I want to say a bunch of nice things about a book/movie. So, when reviews appear on my site they tend to be positive schmaltz fests. This will also be a rather broad, mostly spoiler free review.

So, Looper. I enjoyed the movies that writer/director Rian Johnson did before Looper, even though they had their flaws and may be to an extent esoteric products. Johnson sometimes gets comparisons to being a sort of Wes Anderson lite, which might help explain the mildly esoteric nature of his work. Like Wes Anderson, not everyone is going to be on the same wavelength as what he is making, but that’s okay. It happens and you either like what he makes or you don’t.

His first film, Brick, was a cool movie, but certainly wasn’t for everyone. Not everyone is going to appreciate a hybrid film noir homage set in a high school where the kids speak in highly stylized flurries. Cool idea, well executed for a low budget feature, very unique, but a bit of a niche movie when you step back and look at it.

His next film, The Brothers Bloom, has one of the more pitch perfect beginnings to a movie I’ve seen in quite awhile. It’s a quirky comedy about a pair of con men brothers who try to find their way in the world. The first 45 minutes of this film are just flat out great in my opinion. The last half is kind of all over the place though and never quite hits any of the creative peaks of the opening. Ultimately it disappoints in a sense because of the rather jarring dichotomy created by these two separate halves. Still another very unique, commendable film that I like very much.

But with his latest time travel tale Looper, Johnson has created his most accessible and consequently best product to date. It is a time travel story about Joe, a Looper or specialized assassin who kills marks sent to him from the future. The story’s dramatic turn comes when Joe must scramble to save himself after he fails to kill the future version of himself sent back for removal. This is a film that draws on a number of unexpected influences ranging from High Noon, Witness, Terminator, Pet Cemetery, X-Men and 12 Monkeys. I saw one apt movie review cite it is as a “Christopher Nolan movie with a sense of humor” and I find myself agreeing with that assessment.

The great thing about Looper though is that it will surprise you by ignoring many of the established conventions of the genre. I was very excited to see this movie, built up certain expectations for it, but ultimately found it to be a completely different movie when I saw it. I wasn’t disappointed by any means, just surprised. I suppose I was expecting something more along the lines of Shane Carruth’s Primer in terms of level of difficulty to follow and got something that was oddly straight forward, which to be honest, was quite refreshing. Looper is ambitious, creative, inventive, well-written and sometimes complex, but it is never convoluted to the point of frustration. Johnson really anchors this movie in some practical ideas (even in a sci-fi context) and I think this goes a long way toward making it an enjoyable film. In fact, it is these touches of simplicity that I find most rewarding about Looper. There are complex paradoxical situations created, but nothing on the level of Primer‘s brain hurt.

One of these aforementioned surprises has to be the Witness inspired last half hour of the film which almost exclusively takes place on a farm, bucking the massive finale set piece you would expect out of a sci-fi action movie. There is a large element of the plot (not to wade into spoiler territory) that almost doesn’t appear at all in previews, but when it is revealed, you don’t necessarily feel cheated or treat it as an unwelcome addition. Especially since the two characters involved in this thread and the actors portraying them are so strongly written and directed.

I feel as though I’ve only taken the time to praise Looper for being accessible and simplistic in a genre that often produces convoluted, niche films. There is so much more to the film though and if you go to see it, you will discover a tense, nuanced, well-written, acted, designed and directed picture. I’m not even touching on how solid some things are like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance, the makeup and prosthetics used for the young Bruce Willis look, Jeff Daniels being reliably great, Paul Dano being reliably whiny and a number of other nice touches. I also want to commend director Rian Johnson for being so open about answering questions regarding the film and even going as far as releasing a downloadable commentary track that people can play on their iPods while watching it in theaters.

Either way, go see Looper. It’s bound to be less polarizing than Prometheus, much easier to take a date to and has a few scenes of great vintage Die Hard era Bruce Willis at work. Can’t ask for much more than that in a trip to the movies.

Also, if you have seen the film and don’t mind drifting into spoiler territory, check out these cool Looper links:

Looper Timeline Diagram

Ten Mysteries In Looper Explained By Director Rian Johnson

If Disney Had Made Looper In 1994

Looper‘s IMDB page

Rian Johnson Releases Downloadable Audio Commentary Track For Theaters

This Week’s Writing Links

This week’s writing links feature a review of Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale, NPR’s user voted 100 best teen novels ever list, etiquette for proper beach reading material (in which a beach goer is criticized for bringing a book on string theory to the beach. I can’t lie. I did this once and it warranted a few odd looks from passing orange tinged Floridians), the announcement that Peter Jackson’s Hobbit adaptation will now be three films, SF Signal’s podcast on steampunk and the report card for Phillip K. Dick film adaptations.

Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale seems to be the toast of critics right now, praised as a modern fairy tale done right. Joyce’s novel is described in AV Club’s review as an, “achingly resonant story of a broken man who’s found his long-lost sister. His prose and dialogue, even more than usual, are carved with balance, clarity, and subtlety.” Some Kind of Fairy Tale has been added to my reading que, but I haven’t quite gotten to it yet. I am still plowing through Hugh Howey’s engrossing sci-fi omnibus Wool, which I would also encourage people to check out.

In other news, The Hobbit is now officially three movies, which certainly seems to have brewed some grumblings from the fans (albeit minor grumbling, I would point out that they are far from mutinous). Three movies may be stretching it a bit since the book itself is just over 300 pages (which would put each respective movie at about 100 pages of source material to cling to), but truthfully, I’ll watch anything Peter Jackson puts up on the big screen. I just hope that the movies don’t suffer from bloating with filler material and forced subplots. Anyway, on to the writing links!


– AV Club Reviews Graham Joyce’s Some Kind Of Fairy Tale (avclub)

– 100 Best Ever Teen Novels (npr)

– Literature Greatest Author And Illustrator Duos (flavorwire)

– Literary Agent: Elizabeth Kracht Of Kimberley Cameron Associates (writersdigest)

– Webinar: John Cusick Teaches Writing And Selling Sci-fi/Fantasy For Kids (writersdigest)

– Sci-fi Movie Moments That Made Us Believe In Wonder (io9)

– AV Club On Robert Cormiers The Chocolate War (avclub)

– First Panoramic View Of Mars From Curiosity (examiner)

– SF Signal Podcast: Steampunk (sfsignal)

– What Is Proper Beach Reading? (npr)

– Peter Jackson Confirms The Hobbit Will Be Three Films (deadline)

– The Phillip K Dick Report Card (tor)

– Joss Whedon Directing Avengers 2 (io9)

– The First 40 Pages Of Richard Kadrey’s New Sandman Slim Novel (io9)

This Week’s Writing Links

This week’s writing links feature an especially patriotic 10 Quintessentially American Novels list to celebrate the 4th, the late J.R.R. Tolkien’s Tips For Writers, SF Signal’s Andrew Liptak Discussing Jules Verne’s books about the moon, io9’s list of Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies and EW’s 50 Best Movies That You’ve Never Seen compilation (which I mostly included because they put Memories of Murder on there).

In all of the previous month’s madness, I forgot to give a quick update on the Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Festival which has already come and gone. I did get a chance to attend the opening evening dinner before unforeseen circumstances curbed my attendance at the later events and it was a really nice time. The event honored Chicago author Sara Paretsky for her contributions to the city through her fiction and former mayor Richard M. Daley for his dedication to the Public Library system during his run in office. I hope if you were in the city for the Printers Row Festival, you got a chance to attend some of the events, because my limited exposure was definitely a lot of fun.



– 10 Quintessentially American Novels (flavorwire)

– J.R.R. Tolkien’s Tips For Writers (bestsellerlabs)

– AV Club Reviews Andrew Blackwell’s Visit Sunny Chernobyl (avclub)

– New Literary Agent Alert: Brenna Barr (writersdigest)

– First Look At Matt Damon In Elysium (twitchfilm)

– SF Signal’s Andrew Liptak Discusses Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Round the Moon (kirkusreview)

– Upcoming Science Fiction And Fantasy Movies (io9)

– Lee Child’s Novel One Shot Comes To Life In The Jack Reacher Trailer (youtube)

– Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen (imgur)

This Week’s Writing Links

This week’s writing links include the release of John Scalzi’s Redshirts, the first five minutes of Aaron Sorkin’s new show The Newsroom (which in true Sorkin fashion makes you sit up and listen – language makes it slightly NSFW though. HBO has put the full first episode up for free now on youtube too), a cool tool/community to help you remember those long forgotten books and of course, a cool list of the greatest female science fiction and fantasy authors.

I haven’t had a chance to read John Scalzi’s Redshirts yet (my copy is in the mail and due on my doorstep tomorrow), but I have been intrigued with the book since it was first announced. For those unfamiliar with the term Redshirts, it is an old Star Trek reference for the red shirted crew members on the show that were more or less cannon fodder. They were the people who were there to get hit by stray projectiles that always managed to miss William Shatner while he winced and fired back blindly. The term was eventually popularized and found itself into the vernacular of pop culture.

Scalzi’s book attempts to explore the lives of these ill fatted lemmings through the tale of Andrew Dahl, one of the aforementioned redshirts, who starts to become aware of the disturbingly low survival rate for people of his rank. The book seems to be getting solid reviews and I look forward to checking it out later this week.

I am also currently chugging along on my second book, tentatively titled Illustrious Gentlemen of the Scholarly Type (which for all I know could be titled Magic Bakery Spaceship Vampire Night Cowboy Hat by the time I finish). For now though, it is a YA sci-fi comedy about a time machine. It is quite a different process writing this one compared to Exiles. Comedy, even when dark, requires such different attention and pace. I find myself paying a great deal of attention to the tone changes in the story, trying to soften some of the edges so that it is not a lump of polarized material. We’ll see how it turns out. I am also working on a screenplay. It is a Western. I will never finish it and it will always be called Gunnar. I think everyone dies in it too.



– AV Club Reviews John Scalzi’s Redshirts (avclub)

– Awesome Books To Replace Your Favorite Cancelled TV Shows (io9)

– What was that book again? (livejournal)

– The Greatest Female Sci-fi/Fantasy Authors Of All Time (flavorwire)

– Literary Agent Interview: Ann Behar of Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency (guidetoliteraryagents)

– How I Got My Agent: Benedict Jacka (writersdigest)

– SF Signal Podcast: Books That Changed Our Lives (sfsignal)

– Reading Offers Brazilian Prisoners A Quicker Escape (chicagotribune)

– The First Five Minutes Of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom (youtube – NSFW)

This Week’s Writing Links

Sorry, there was a little bit of a delay on updates, but it’s been a bit busy in this neck of the woods. Either way, today we have some links including a review of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Drowned Cities (a sequel to his earlier book Ship Breaker), Nathan Bransford’s advice if you are self publishing and a list of contemporary authors that we’ll more than likely still be reading in 100 years.

In other news, Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Festival will be happening this weekend (June 9-10). There will be a number of cool events and attendees this year including Sapphire, Dan Rather and Jon Green. I’m definitely going to stop by some of the events and if you’re in the city, you should too.



– Av Club Reviews Paolo Bacigalupi The Drowned Cities (avclub)

– Hundreds Of Harry Potter Fans Abandon Pet Owls As Series Draws To A Close (yahoo)

– On Self-Publishing And Having A Chip On Your Shoulder (nathanbransford)

– What’s Hidden Inside Looper‘s Time Machine? (io9)

– 4 Reasons For Making Time To Read (guidetoliteraryagents)

– How I Got My Agent: Regina Jennings (writersdigest)

– Classic Novels And The Filmmakers Who Were Born To Direct Them (flavorwire)

– Do We Need More Optimistic Science Fiction? (io9)

– Contemporary Authors We Think We’ll Be Reading In 100 Years (flavorwire)

– Free E-book: Particle Horizon by Selso Xisto (sfsignal)

– What The New Yorker And Tin House Say About The State Of Sci-fi (io9)

This Week’s Writing Links

This is just a quick writing links post for the week featuring a review of When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man (which I must say is a pretty cool title for a book), some nice advice on writing to express, not impress, a writer that is already being tagged as the next J.K. Rowling, a post about how great characters make great series and 10 of the best memoirs about mothers.

Don’t forget Mother’s Day is on Sunday. Lay out your best brunching attire and make sure the maternal figure in your life feels properly appreciated. And now, writing links!





– Bloomsbury Signs The Next JK Rowling? (jezebel)

– Av Club Reviews When Captain Flint Was A Good Man (avclub)

– 30 Gorgeous And Innovative Bookshelves (flavorwire)

– Sf Signal Reviews 2312 By Stanley Robinson (sfsignal)

– Great Series Are Made By Great Characters (writersdigest)

– 10 Of The Best Memoirs About Mothers (flavorwire)

– Write To Express, Not To Impress (writersdigest)

– How I Got My Agent: Beatriz Williams (guidetoliteraryagents)

– Details Revealed On Blue Origin Spacecraft Project (yahoo)

This Week’s Writing Links

This week’s writing links feature a review of Stephen King’s ‘The Wind Through The Keyhole’, the return of BBC’s Sherlock in the US this weekend, writing advice from famous authors, Paolo Bacigalupi’s interview on SF Signal and the odd possibility that asteroid mining could be declared illegal.

Stephen King returned to his sprawling Dark Tower fantasy series this past week with the release of The Wind Through The Keyhole, a tale that takes place sometime between the events of the fourth and fifth books of the series. King, who once declared that he was done with the series, it seems was drawn back to the tale of Roland, the Gunslinger. And why not? It’s such an expansive, interesting world, and I don’t fault him one bit for jumping back in. Reviews seem to be glowing so far for this book too. So, kudos again to the book writing machine that is Stephen King.

It was also a little disappointing to hear that asteroid mining might be declared illegal, seeing as that my next kickstarter project was either going to be an asteroid mining project or a mini-fridge segway attachment. Now, I guess I’m defaulted into the segway fridge all the way, which to be honest is a little bit less ambitious. This bit of information also sullies a few bits of asteroid related fiction too. It means that all the surviving astronaut characters in the movie Armageddon would have been championed as heroes when they returned to Earth, but would have been promptly arrested thereafter for space treason or whatever bit of silly legislation this legal snafu falls under. Talk about a buzz kill. Anyway, here are the writing links for the week.



– AV Club Reviews Stephen King’s The Wind Through The Keyhole (avclub)

– David Brin: The Need To Restore Optimism To Science Fiction (io9)

– Season 2 Of BBC’s Sherlock Debuts Stateside On PBS This Weekend (mcclatchydc)

– Paolo Bacigalupi Interviewed For The Drowned Cities (sfsignal)

– The New Prometheus Trailers (youtube)

– Best Piece Of Writing Advice: Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, Carl Sandburg (writersdigest)

– Asteroid Mining Could Be Against The Law (io9)

– New Literary Agent: Sarah Joy Freese Of Wordserve Literary (guidetoliteraryagents)

– The Most Embarrassing Star Wars Official Merchandise (gizmodo)

– 10 Books To Fuel Your Springtime Wanderlust (flavorwire)

– 11 Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror Books To Read For May (sfsignal)

– Indiegogo Project That Needs Help: Game Reset (indiegogo)