Wednesday, July 19, 2017

LUW Marketing Workshop


Writing is a joy. It’s an inspired act of creation and expression. It is a tonic for me and for most writers. Sometimes it becomes work and you have to force through it but it’s always worth it. That is always the best part of writing.

The not best parts, you hear me complain about a lot. The querying and glacial pace of publishing are terrible but that just begins the slog of marketing. This is what most new writers don’t understand and few are good at; the marketing of the book. A book, no matter how good or bad, is a product and must be sold. I’ve said many times that right now it’s never been easier to be published, but it’s never been harder to be read. That’s where marketing matters. And it matters a lot.

Writers are not by in large marketers—salesmen. Ir we were, we’d probably be selling cars or condos or bridges or something and getting rich instead of brooding with plots and character arcs, themes and twists that paint imaginary pictures into the aether of art. We tend to be introverted. Even me. Yeah, I know, me? Really. There are several Johnnys; one is a writer; the other a marketer who just happens to adore his product.

But enthusiasm isn’t enough. Marketing, as any business school will tell you, is a dynamic science of luck and perseverance,. The tools that work for one product one day, won’t work the next or for another thing. Finding an audience (customers) is paramount for authors and unless we just get stupid lucky, we're going to have to work a little to find them.

This is why the League or Utah Writers has put together a Summer Conference prequel class on marketing. A common topic in all modern writing conferences, the League thought to have a special dedicated half day seminar about the subject with professionals and amateurs who’ve waded into the ocean of sales and come out alive.

The seminar is Saturday July 29th at the Viridian Event Center, 8030 S 1825 W, West Jordan, UT 84088, Here’s a link to sign up and all he other info (just click on the graphic). If you do go you get a discount for the LUW Fall Conference in October. All good. There’s even going to be snacks.



I’ll be there to hear some great ideas and find reinforcement for some things I know. I invite all authors seeking to finds sales to come join us. It’s a cheap date and the information you glean might make the difference in a career.



Thursday, July 6, 2017

Creative Writing Bootcamp Plan


This Saturday, I teach my first CREATIVE WRITING BOOTCAMP for the University of Utah Lifelong Learning Center. It’s a class that’s being taught by several instructors and is very popular. In planning my lessons I landed upon a fundamental philosophical problem in creative writing and thought to exploit it.

The world of writing is separated into two camps: Pantsters and Plotters. It's a reference to how an author approaches their writing. Plotters tend to outline their work first, have the ending in mind, organize. Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants” and go where the muse leads them. There’s a long-standing feud between the two camps and it often gets bloody (see the famous Merriman City Authors massacre 1977).

I think every author is a little bit of both and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. I’ve called myself a plotter for most of my career because I think it’s the better side to be on. Generally speaking, a plotter is more productive. They can pick up where they left off more easily and have a plan that enables them to finish books. I’ve talked to sworn pantsers who’ve turned to plotting once their careers put them in the hot seat for deadlines. It’s a good way to go.

I still plot for the most part, but lately it’s been a really loose plot. I call it "waypoint writing." I have a list of things I want to accomplish in each book, each chapter and scene, and write to that. It’s a moving target. Sometimes I can’t get what I want to say into a chapter so I have to write another. Sometimes something new and amazing happens and I have to rework later scenes to accommodate. It’s a pantser inside the plot. I always have goals, themes and ideas in lists and maps, and I navigate the ocean between my points by these stars. It works for me.

Certain works demand more or less plotting. Mysteries require extensive thought beforehand if I want to play fair. Character studies can go where they will so long as I don’t loose the thread (see: Write as Fast as You Can). In truth. My most creative moments come from deep pantsting, I won’t lie. When I’m off the grid and letting the muse take over, some absolutely wonderful things happen. However I can’t count on her coming to each session. She seems to have other interests, music probably, so I’m often left to my own devices. That’s why I plot as I do.

I think a lot about these two approaches and notice myself switching sides here and there, leaning more this way or that. I teach plotting mostly, because it can be taught, but I am well aware that art comes from flying and not running on tracks. I struggle with it myself and have learned the hard way never to over-plot.

I will take this struggle of mine, this battle of writing styles, into my class. The first week of my class, we’ll pants the hell out of it (kinda). The second week we’ll plot the snot out of it (kinda sorta). And during the entire class, we’ll talk about how it all works and debate and discuss and come to an understanding if not a decision on what works best for us. At this moment. For this project. During this phase of moon. Sorta. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see what actually happens.






Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Single Woman

Continuing the challenge of writing a one hundred word story, I present today my quick response this writing prompt: IT WAS AS IF SHE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF "SHUT UP."


“Olly was nice but woke me up to go running every morning, and I need my beauty sleep so that wasn’t going to work. I had my eye on Steven anyway, so he moved in so fast the room didn’t get cold. That should have been a clue. The warrant wasn’t cold either and they grabbed him coming out of a 7-Eleven. Then Peter stole my mother’s clock to buy an ankle bracelet. That guy… But then Levon—“

“I just need two tacos with extra sauce.”

Her sigh came through the little speaker like a roar. “ Fine. Drive through.”




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Death

They say all writing is about sex, death or writing itself. My theme is death. Always death. I’ve never written a thing without death in it. Hell, I once wrote a family Christmas poem with a body count of six. Such is my fear (dare I call it fascination?) about death.

This year death is close to me in more places than my imagination. Death has visited this year, several times. I’ve lost friends and family to the stillness after the moment. I’ve lost other things too. I’ve lost hope and optimism. I’ve passed to a new time of my life. I’m an empty nester now and the silence of an empty house is shocking. And funereal.

I’ve spent my whole life wrestling with the idea of death. Our species is cursed with the knowledge of our own mortality. It is one of our defining characteristics. I’ve studied the issue from every angle because it is never far rom my mind even at the times death was not near as it’s been lately.

The best understanding I have of death comes from two, dare I call them - Occult sources. The first is from the thirteenth card of the major arcana of the Tarot. That card, is appropriately enough, DEATH.

I don’t expect the modern reader (or any reader come to think of it) to have spent time meditating on the symbols of the tarot, so I did it for you.

The biggest takeaway from my investigation into this card is that it is not a bad card. Though it looks terrible and scary, it means “change” more than the grave. There are worse cards. The TOWER for example. You’d be hard put to spin a happy ending into a spread with that as the central force. But DEATH means change. It’s more akin to the seasons than to ruin. It’s a natural thing. That’s how the magicians who built the deck saw it and I find a solid wisdom in that.

On a similar vein, I find a terrible but also necessary understanding of death in the goddess Kali. I know this Hindu God better than I know any other save the Judeo-Christian one. I spent a year with her, studying her, meditating about her. Writing about her. The product of this search is my upcoming book, WHAT IMMORTAL HAND.

I wrote this book years ago, but it’s fitting that it’s coming out now. At this time in my life, in the place. Now. As I re-read the pages I wrote back then, with these older eyes, I’m reminded of terrible beauty which is change and time. And death. It is easy to turn one’s back on the phenomenon, cursed that we are with the knowledge of it. Denial is strong in the species (and writers) so it’s a siren call we’re happy to follow. But if we do, when death does come, for it will, it must—it is, we are unprepared.

We find ourselves struggling to comprehend it. We grasp at childish ideas and think it’s all beyond our understanding and mourn our ignorance. But that’s not true. I don’t think death is supernatural. It’s the most natural thing there is. It’s just shocking because our culture has removed it from us and we live in a season-less society of hot-house tomatoes and air conditioning. Outside our houses, in the natural world, we see the cycles as they are. Every moment, month and millennium speak of the cycles. The lesson of death and change are on a perpetual loop right in front of us, but we block it out and see lines instead of circles. forevers instead of evolutions. It’s our own fault when death surprises us. She didn’t mean to.

I’m glad to be back in WHAT IMMORTAL HAND. It’s helpful to me. It’s a dark journey, one I took with my characters, but in the end it was one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I faced death on a spiritual and intellectual plane when I wrote it. Now, with deeper wounds, and empty rooms, it is the cooing song of adult wisdom against the crying pains of childhood.









Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Experience

“A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” 
― Jorge Luis Borges

This is a great quote and a greater idea.

I’ve long had a similar philosophy developed during high school if not before when I was consuming philosophy books and studying metaphysics. The idea was an attempt to find meaning in life, yeah, just the kind of thing an angsty teenager would need to figure out. Actually, the very thing. Anyway, the idea was that we were set upon the earth to gain experience. That was it. The truth I lighted on was to live and notice living as much as possible.

I actively pursued this goal, trying new things, feeling the indestructibility of youth and the certainty of progress for a long time. I was called a risk taker, not because I put myself in physical danger, but because I put myself in psychic danger by leaving the country for a year as a senior, switching jobs when they no longer interested me (see Tony Flaner) and, yes occasionally, putting myself in some danger with long camping trips or questionable chemicals.

I was fearless for the longest time and I think it did me good.

I'm not longer fearless, or as fearless as I was. I got squashed here and there, was betrayed more often than I care to remember and lost some of my pluck. I lost people to distance, time and death. I fell into a rut. My courage slipped to fear as my aura of invulnerability dissipated. I got pneumonia. My knees weakened, memory slacked, finances got scary. I retreated a little.

But through all of it, I tried to pay attention.

Today I sit on the verge of another adventure, one again of my own choosing. It’s a simple thing, a move—a hellish, complicated, expensive, hard, down-sizing move, and while my back aches from boxing and my calendar runneth over with handyman visits and shinglers, there is a definite part of me watching it all and recording it.

I’m collecting experience.

It makes me—a writer, an artist, a conscious human being.

Life.

Another favorite quote of mine.

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."
The Waking, by Theodore Roethke



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

FyreCon 2017


It is convention season and I'm proud to say that I'm a big part of the debut of a new creativity focused convention called FyreCon. I hope you've heard of it, if not, look into it. It's a writers and artists, classes for enthusiasts of all levels. This three day event begins Thursday June 8 and goes to Saturday June 10tha and is all at the Weber State-Davis college.

Here's the link to learn more. Walk-in welcome (i.e. you can register at the door)


June 8-10
Weber State University Davis
2750 University Park Boulevard
Layton, UT 84041


It promises to be a great summer event and I'm stoked to teach my guts out at it. I have a lot to say and I'm teaching my favorite classes. Heres' my schedule:


Thursday, June 8, 2007

PRESENTATION: Writing for Young Adults  
4:30-5:20 p.m. 
Building D3
Room 307
Writing Room 2

Friday June 9, 2007

PANEL: Books the influenced the Authors
11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

Aaron Blaylock, Callie Stoker (M), Dave Butler, Johnny Worthen, and Wendy Knight
Panel Room 3
Building D2
Room 301

 

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT
2:30 p.m.


PRESENTATION: Writing to Theme
5:30-7:20 p.m.

Building D3
Room 302

Saturday June 10, 2007

PANEL: Underused Conflicts: What are They and How They Make Your Story Stronger
12:30-1:20 p.m. 

C Michelle Jefferies, Gama Ray Martinez, Johnny Worthen, and M.K. Hutchins (M)
Panel Room 3
Building D2
Room 301

PRESENTATION: Character Creation and Management, The D&D Way1:30-3:20 p.m.
Building D3
Room 306

PRESENTATION: There are No Rules; Here are Ten
3:30 - 4:20 p.m. 

Building D3
Room 307

PANEL: Writing Humor
6:30-7:20 p.m.

Aaron Blaylock, Alyson Peterson (M), Johnny Worthen, and Robert J Defendi
Building D2
Room 110

See you there!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Editing Workshop

This Saturday I'll be participating in the League of Utah Writers Summer Prequel Editing Workshop. That's a mouthful, probably should edit that down, but if only I knew how... good thing this workshop is happening. It's a four hour long workshop from 12:00-4:00 covering, well, editing, but from a different point of view. We've invited traditional publishers and self-publishers the differences and techniques of each. I suspect there'll be a lot of overlap, but also copious amounts of information for the writer looking to improve their craft. We're calling this a prequel because it is kind of part of the Fall Conference on October 6 & 7th and anyone who attends this will get a discount to that conference.

Here's the link and cool graphic. There's still time to sign up, still room in the limited space. For now. There might be tickets at the door, but they'll probably haze you or something, so get your tickets now.


SCHEDULE:
12:00 Welcome
12:10-1:40 TJ Da Roza (Jolly Fish):
Editing the Publisher Way
1:40-1:50 Break
1:50-3:20 Melissa McShane Proffitt
and Jana S. Brown:
Editing the Indie Way
3:20-3:30 Break
3:30-4:00 Panel from all guests