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!

This Week’s Writing Links

AMOL_cover_lgThis week’s writing links include a conclusion to the Wheel of Time series, news on the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, a great 2012 short story recap and ebook author JA Konrath offers some advice upon hitting his million ebook sold milestone. 

Despite only reading about six book in the series, I thought it would be nice to highlight the end of the Wheel of Time, which with Brandon Sanderson’s help, Robert Jordan was able to complete posthumously with A Memory of Light. The consensus from the hardcore fans (at least the ones I talked to) seem to be that it was a fitting end to the series. The average rating on Amazon right now for AMOL is only three and half stars, but that doesn’t really mean much. Honestly, if you go through and read most of the one star reviews they read like they were written by robots or hill people, so it’s hard to take them to heart. I figure if you stuck with the series this long and the ending isn’t that it was all just an autistic kid’s dream, you should be relatively satisfied. And I must say after fourteen books, Rand (I’m assuming this is Rand on the cover) really got his posing down. Good for him. He’s been through a lot.

Also, my book The Exiles of the New World is now available on Nook for $1.99. It was previously only on the kindle for ebook form, so it’s nice to get that bit of expansion on the digital platform. Against all odds I managed to finish a draft of my next book this week too, which despite being far from complete, is getting there. It always feels nice connecting the dots, even if the dots are blurry for now. A good four or five months of revising will really help this one out. And if no real progress is made during those four or five months, I’ll just change the ending and make everyone ghosts and pretend like that’s profound. Sound good? Cool.

Oh, here are some links.



– AV Club Reviews A Memory of Light (avclub)

– How To Write A Character From Start To Finish (writersdigest)

– 10 Books That Could Save Your Life (flavorwire)

– How I Got My Agent: Joanne Bischoff (writersdigest)

– io9’s March Bookclub: The Best of All Possible Worlds (io9)

– Rachel Swirsky’s Short Story Recommendations For 2012 (amptoons)

– SF Signal Reviews Son of Destruction By Kit Reed (sfsignal)

– Speechless: Writing Dialogue For Characters Who Don’t Speak (torforge)

– Ron Howard May Take Over Graveyard Book Adaptation (avclub)

– How To Sell ebooks (jakonrath)

– Amy Poehler Is Writing The Book To End All Books (avclub)

The Exiles of the New World Facebook Page

After an admirable bout of procrastination I finally have a facebook page up for my book The Exiles of the New World. Stop by, check out the page and feel free to leave some feedback. I’m sure there will be some periodic updates posted on it as the Holiday season approaches. Hope everyone has a great Holiday season!

Ray Bradbury, Why Prometheus Is Good For Sci-Fi As A Whole And Other Updates

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur, so I’m pooling a few updates into a single post. First off, it was very sad to hear about Ray Bradbury’s passing, but at 91 years old and with over 500 published works, no one can accuse him of not living a very full and inspiring life. I always marvel at the fact that he credits most of his education (he did not attend college) to a decade of veracious reading at the library. I really enjoy the work he produced throughout his career and still count Fahrenheit 451 as my favorite book of all time. I know that his absence will be greatly missed within the literary community.

Consequently, Bradbury’s biographer, Sam Weller (I have met Mr. Weller a few times and must say he is a really nice guy), was already in the process of preparing an anthology of tribute stories to the late great author when he passed away. Although the collection won’t be out until July, sci-fi website io9 has posted an excerpt from the collection, which is entitled Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury. The sample story is written by none other than Neil Gaiman and is certainly worth checking out.

So, Prometheus. There has certainly been quite a bit of discussion about Ridley Scott’s recently released philosophical sci-fi film in the past few weeks. Some are labeling it as a masterpiece, others a misfire and yet another pocket of people who liked the movie but wonder why the supposedly intelligent characters haven’t mastered the ability to run sideways or diagonally when a large object is about to fall on them (I confess, I am in that pocket of people). Regardless of what you thought about Prometheus, I believe its release will be good for sci-fi as a whole, because of the sheer amount of attention that is being paid to the film.

For one thing, the buzz and opening week box office of Prometheus reaffirms that intelligent adult sci-fi still has a place on the big screen. As strange as it may sound, this is a necessary reminder. Every few years or so after a string of sci-fi inspired flops, Hollywood needs a reminder that it’s not just young adult sci-fi adaptations containing preexisting mobs of rapid preteen fans that have a place in movie theaters. Intelligent, philosophical and allegorical science fiction like 2001, Contact, or anything that doesn’t have a cast riddled with Disney channel graduates, still has a place in modern cinema.

I understand that science fiction is a gamble in Hollywood because it generally requires a larger budget to account for the special effects, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from making these movies altogether. It just means that when you do make these movies and invest a chunk of money into their production, you should take the time to make sure that they are well made. And while there are certainly some flaws to Prometheus, I would say that it is still a very well made sci-fi film. Certainly, it has inspired some polarizing perspectives, but through those disagreements, it has also produced some truly interesting ideas and interpretations about what the film is about (definitely check out Adrian Bott’s theories on the film). It is also an incredibly gorgeous movie to look at and is absolutely worth checking out despite its flaws.

On another note, I got a few emails about the availability of my book, The Exiles of the New World, as to when it will be on the Nook and some other e-readers outside of the Kindle. The update on that situation is that it should be expanding to the Nook and other e-readers by the end of the summer. Amazon has exclusive rights to the e-version which allows them to keep it limited for a couple of months. But for now, it is available in paperback and Kindle form. There might even be a soon-to-be-released audio book recording on the horizon, narrated by me, where I attempt to read the entire book in a different British accent for each character. But seeing as how none of the characters in my book are British and I only have one terrible British accent in my repertoire (cockney shoeshine boy), this may be a lie. Only time will tell.

‘Exiles’ On 91.5 WBEZ’s Summer Reading List And A Kindle Copy Giveaway

So, just a quick update on ‘The Exiles of the New World.’ Last week, the book received a nice shout out on ‘The Afternoon Shift with Steve Edwards’ on 91.5 WBEZ(Chicago’s NPR station). Mary Dempsey (who is a family member for full disclosure) was on the show and was nice enough to plug my book (albeit a bit of a shameless plug) as part of her summer reading list recommendations. All the same, she is still too kind for mentioning it and saying nice things about it on the radio. I thank her for that.

You can listen to a stream of the broadcast on the linked story (my book is mentioned around the 28:40 mark), but I would strongly encourage people to listen to the broadcast in its entirety and check out the other recommendations. I have already added a few of them to my reading list including Solace by Belinda McKeon.

Also, I wrote a guest post over the weekend at Writer’s Party on crafting great twists in your story. Make sure to stop by their site and peruse the author interviews and events they host. They are good people. The site will be hosting a free kindle copy giveaway for my book. All you have to do is leave a comment on the post before the 10th and you could win a free kindle copy of ‘The Exiles of the New World.’ More info on the giveaway is on their contest page.

‘The Exiles of the New World’ Launch Recap

So, the signing/launch for ‘The Exiles of the New World’ was this past weekend and it went really well. Big thanks again to Jano from Iconic Publishing for coming up to facilitate the launch and to Open Books for hosting the event. The staff at Open Books are superb and I have nothing but good things to say about them and the program they run over there. The turnout for the event was great and the booing was minimal to non-existent, and that is all you can ask for with a first signing. But seriously, I am truly thankful for all that came out to make it a wonderful evening. I am lucky to have such a great group of people in my life and I cannot thank them enough.

We managed to fit a short reading, a Q & A and a signing into the evening. I’m sure my Q & A answers sounded like nonsense, but I suppose that’s what happens when you drag a writer away from their computer. But to the best of my memory, I didn’t have too many Sarah Palin moments, didn’t get in any heated arguments with audience members over the Oxford comma, and it was a lot of fun when all was said and done.

‘The Exiles of the New World’ Release Week

So, this week is the release week for my book, ‘The Exiles of the New World.’ I’ll be doing the book launch/signing this Friday at Open Books here in Chicago from 6:30pm-8:00pm. If you are in the city, stop by and say hello. No obligation to even come for the book. Feel free to swing by and we can talk about how the Cubs have mathematically eliminated themselves from playoff contention after only 10 games of play. Definitely a personal best for them. Either way, the book should finally be available in paperback on Barnes and Noble and Amazon now.

This Week’s Writing Links

This week’s writing links feature the finalists for the 2012 Arthur C. Clark awards, the return of Game of Thrones this weekend on HBO, new agents on the literary scene, a kickstarter project that could use your help and tips on how to create great secondary characters.

Game of Thrones will start up its second season this Sunday (4/1) on HBO and for those of you that have read ‘A Clash of Kings‘, you know that it should be a good season of television. There is plenty of madness and surprise in store for the poor inhabitants of Westeros. The first season was brutal (poor little Arry) but really well done, so hopefully that trend will continue (not the brutality part, although that will continue, but the relative quality of the show). I’m really hoping that this series will continue to set the standard for literary adaptations and elevate what is expected of them in the future.

In other news, after a long hiatus from John Steinbeck, I started reading ‘East of Eden‘ for the first time and was quickly reminded how much I enjoy his writing. Sure, some people can find his stuff a little dry and all his author photos may look like cigarette ads from the 1930s, but there’s a reason that people still read his books today. His work was just that good. If you forgotten his body of work, why not go back and revisit some of it today? Or if not Steinbeck, one of your favorite authors that you haven’t revisited in awhile. If it’s truly great work, you will quickly remember why you liked it in the first place and what it brings out of you either as a reader or writer.


Game of Thrones: Introduction to Season 2’s New Characters (io9)

– Five (spoilerish) Things I Can’t Wait To See In Game of Thrones Season 2 (tor)

– Flavorpill’s March Staff Reading Picks (flavorpill)

– Everything The Hunger Games Movie Left Out (io9)

– Kickstarter Projects That Need Help: Best Friends Forever (kickstarter)

– AV Club Reviews Heidi Julavits’ The Vanishers (avclub)

– Why Literary Fiction Isn’t Boring (writersdigest)

– Creating Great Secondary Characters (io9)

– New Agent Alert: Paula Munier Of Talcott Notch Literary (guidetoliteraryagents)

– How To Find Rather Than Make Time To Write (writersdigest)

– 3 Worst Blog Writing Blunders (makealivingwriting)

– Universal Pictures Acquire Rights For E.L. James’ 50 Shades (usatoday)

This Week’s Writing Links

This Week’s Writing Links chronicle life being breathed back into the stalled Y:The Last Man movie project, how to end a novel with a punch, a literary map of the US and Jeff Bridges’ soon-to-come book of Zen musings.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a Y:The Last Man movie, if not just for the possibility that it would expose the graphic novel to a new audience. I feel like that would be worth the price of a movie adaptation, even a bad one, if it exposes the book to new people. I certainly know there will be some people who disagree with me on that, especially since the early rumor was that Indy ruiner Shia LaBeouf would star in the lead role as Y. Ultimately, I think Y is a very difficult book to adapt to the screen, but if done correctly, it could be a really good film with the source material they have at their disposal. Although I would argue that it stands a better chance at succeeding if it maintained its serialized form ala The Walking Dead in a tv adaptation, a couple of movies could probably do it justice. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Otherwise, I hope everyone’s writing is going well and expect that goals are being met, revisions being made confidently and new chapters being spawned as we speak. I am personally achieving none of the previously mentioned things this week, but I am taking a break to read more, watch lots of college basketball and enjoy the unusually (and somewhat suspicious) nice March weather in Chicago. And truthfully, I do not feel bad at all for taking this time off. Sometimes you just have to take a break. And now, as promised, links!


– Screenwriters Close To Signing On For Y:The Last Man Adaptation (comingsoon)

– How To End A Novel With A Punch (writersdigest)

– 12 Great Articles That Inspired Films (tetw)

– Neil DeGrasse Tyson ‘We Stopped Dreaming’ (liveleak)

– Literary Map Of The United States (petchmo)

– SAT Vocabulary From The Hunger Games (dictionary)

– Teacher’s Job In Jeopardy For Reading To Kids From Enders Game (io9)

Star Wars Craft Book On Amazon (amazon)

– Short Film: Robots Of Brixton (sfsignal)

– AV Club Reviews Josh Bazell’s Wild Thing (avclub)

– Author Friday: Barry Eisler (catherineryanhyde)

– Jeff Bridges To Publish Book Of Zen Teachings (flavorwire)

‘The Exiles Of The New World’ Release Update

So, my book finally received a launch date for April 20th, with the release/signing happening here in Chicago at Open Books from 6:30pm-8pm that day. Stop by if you’re in the city and free. Despite the release date being over a month away, as part of a staggered release schedule, the kindle version is actually available now on Amazon. It will be on sale for a couple of days before reverting to its normal price. There is also a listing up for the book on Goodreads.