Era of the Unicorn (For Writers)

Hey, everyone! I hope you liked the title for this post. I felt like discussing the mystical unicorn today.

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For those who don’t know what it is, it’s that unique, amazing, just brand new out of this world idea that’s going to get you rich and famous. You know, that premise you discovered, and everyone is asking, “How did you come up with that?! Tell me your secret!”

Yep, that’s the unicorn. These days, it seems everyone is chasing it: artist, musicians, tech start-ups (programmers), and of course, writers. It’s funny, actually. I never heard the term “unicorn” until I moved to Silicon Valley. In just my first two months of meeting people here, I heard of the unicorn. In the group I was with, two programmers were going on a quest to find the unicorn. Their stead wasn’t a horse, but a smartphone app they designed. Now, this post isn’t about becoming a successful start-up, but it’s about how as writers, we are hunting that unicorn.

For writers, our unicorn is a unique story idea that hasn’t been done before, or it’s a story that captures readers like they wouldn’t believe. In today’s society, we’ve already seen the writers who caught the unicorn.

Writers like:

Stephen King
E. L James (I know, but she still found it)
J. K Rowling
Brandon Sanderson
Alice Walker

And the list goes on. With the unicorn, you end up here:

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However, don’t forget that for every successful writer, there are probably hundreds of unlucky ones. This post isn’t to discourage you, but to keep things in perspective. We shouldn’t spend all our time searching for that unicorn. More than likely, we won’t find her. Instead, we should write our stories the way we want and see if the unicorn finds us.

Also, remember, “Writers shouldn’t follow trends, they should set them.” My creative writing teacher said that.

In a tech article titled “Finding the Next Billion-Dollar Company,” Bill Barnett said, “Want to find the next unicorn? Listen to where the buzz is coming from and run the other way. I can’t tell you who will be the next unicorn, but I can tell you it will come from where we least expect it.

(article link: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/finding-next-billion-dollar-company)

So, to my fellow writers, stay true to yourself and the story you want to write. When I see other writers online copying cliches or writing what is already popular, they are following the buzz, not looking the other way.

For Clash of Tides, I honestly felt I found my unicorn, but alas, I didn’t. However, that won’t stop me from working on new stories.

Maybe, one day, the unicorn will find me.

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Question: For your stories, did you ever feel you found the unicorn? When you realized you didn’t, what did you do?

(Please note: I will respond to my comments soon. I’m behind with my writing for contest and submissions. Also, the full chapter 21 will be posted this week!)

Please tell me your thoughts!

I’ve Returned!

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Hey, everyone! How has your week been? Well, I’m finally back from my trip. For those who are interested, I went to Sedona, AZ with my family. From there, we did the tourist thing and saw the Grand Canyon.

Honestly, the trip was awesome! It was peaceful looking at the red mountains and listening to the water flowing. If I ever decide to make a writer’s retreat, it will be in Sedona.

During my trip, I reflected on who I am and where I want to take my life. Sometimes, we need to break that daily grind to think about our own selves and desires. My biggest goal for the rest of the year is to have no more self-doubt. A fellow writer on Writing.com told me “If people tell you your writing is good, believe them.”

Now, I think the worst thing a writer can do is receive praise for their work and not believe their readers (fans). That’s exactly what I did, and I won’t be doing it anymore.

Also! I came up with so many story ideas while on my trip. I can’t wait to write some new stories and blog posts. Here are some pictures I took:

Also, I wrote a poem about my experience:

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As I stood on the rusty colored dirt road,
my eyes were fixated on the scene before me.

Giant rocks, as they formed through the ages,
captured my sight and entranced me.

Their shapes were mountainous, scary,
but they held an alluring beauty.

Under the desert sun, my worries emptied,
and I reflected on my reason for being.

For I am a writer, and the written word is my course,
and bringing worlds to life is my path.

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Next week, I plan to post the following:
Book Review (a fellow blogger’s story)
Chapter 21 of COT
New blog post

Here is my to-do list for the rest of March:
– Write my entry for the Short Shots contest (Writing.com) 
– Finish my prep month (Profile showcase for Writing.com) 
– Upload the revised chapters for 9/Nine Realms (For review on Writing.com) 
– Write my next short story for publication (Submissions!) 
– Sign up for my Creative Writing class for April

Question: When readers tell you your work is good, do you believe them? (Of course, there is always room for improvement, but do YOU believe your stories are good when readers say it?)

Vacation Time!

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Hey, everyone!

I meant to post this earlier, but I got busy.

First, I want to thank everyone who commented on my Measuring Accomplishments blog post. Everyone here is awesome and such wonderful writers. Never forget all the amazing things you have done in your writing journey. Every step you take will get you where you want to be.

So, tomorrow, I’m going on vacation! For next week, there won’t be any updates. However, rest assure, I will be posting new content when I return next Saturday. The content will include:

  • A book review
  • Chapter 21 of Clash of Tides (for feedback)
  • New blog post (I don’t want to mention the topic =))
I’ll probably be lurking on other people’s blog post. Sadly, I’ll only have my phone and iPad with me. Hopefully, vacation will give me some thinking time to plan out my new stories.

I’ll miss you all! See you in a week!

When you go on vacation, do you write, or focus on your trip?

I honestly feel like writing, but I don’t want to make my family mad.

 

Measuring Accomplishments

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Recently, I’ve been dealing with my self-doubt again. You know, the classic, “I’m a horrible writer,” “I haven’t accomplished anything,” and “I should give up writing and save myself the pain.”

However, today, when I logged into Facebook (which is rare for me), I saw a post my friend wrote. In her post, she mentioned never giving up. She also said if you want to change your life, you have to go out and make that change.

For the past few years, I’ve been trying to change my writing life. Today’s post is more of a personal piece, but I’m posting it in hopes that others will be inspired.

In my writing journey, I’ve been on various writing websites, and I’ve met different writers. For a long time, and even still slightly today, I don’t feel like an accomplished writer. Compared to most writers online, I don’t have millions of people reading my work, I don’t make any money from my stories, and I don’t have any complete stories to publish, yet.

Like most writers, when I first started writing, I was hoping readers would like my work, and I would gain a decent following. Well, that didn’t happen, at all…or so, I thought.

Earlier today, I checked my stats from last year and wrote down a list of everything I’ve accomplished. And well, to my surprise, my own numbers blew me away.

Below is my blog stats for last year…

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Clash of Tides had over 4,000 page views, and the Clash of Tides chapters had over 300 views. In a way, I had a part of what I wanted, but I was blinded by what was in front of me. You are probably wondering why this is important, and I’m going to tell you.

When you measure your accomplishments, look at WHERE YOU CAME FROM, AND WHERE YOU ARE NOW. The key here is don’t compare where others are, but just look at yourself. I know most writers know not to compare themselves, but I always do. Compared to when I first started, I’ve accomplished more than I thought I did. So from now, I’m going to make a list every month of what I’ve done. If you feel your writing isn’t getting anywhere, make a list of your accomplishments. Look at your list and let it fuel you to keep moving. After all, if a car doesn’t drive, then it will never reach its destination.

Here is my writing list of accomplishments. For this list, I’m going to include everything so far that I feel is important to me. These accomplishments have been throughout my writing journey online.

Wattpad:
– My old fanfictions reached over 1M reads on Wattpad.
– I won an award on Wattpad for one of my fanfictions.
– Clash of Tides was a finalist in an Under The Sea writing contest.
– Clash of Tides was added to the Wattpad Fantasy profile of high ranking stories.
– Clash of Tides was added to the Tales of the Deep Wattpad profile.
– Love for an Angel was added to the New Adult Reads profile.
– Love for an Angel was added to the Paranormal Wattpad profile.

WordPress:
– In less than a year, my WordPress blog reached over 1, 200 followers.
– My posts got reblogged on various writing advice sites.

Writing.com:
– Won one writing contest.
– Honorable mention in another contest.

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– I submitted my first submission for publication on the website.

When I look at this list, I don’t see someone who was ever a failure, I see a writer who was blinded by everything they accomplished. So to my readers and followers, thank you so much for supporting me. 

If you don’t mind, can you tell me what you have accomplished with your writing? I would love to read everyone’s list.

Useful Skills Writers Should Learn

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Did you like the meme? LOL, I don’t know how I came up with that – don’t ask.

Before we begin, I want to post what I’m working on. I know some of you have emailed me, and I promise to respond soon.

Here’s my to-do list:
– Finish beta reading for another blogger
– Finish reading (another blogger’s) story for a book review
– Respond to inquiries (WordPress inquires)

That way, those who contacted me know I’m making my way down the list. Oh, and I’m also working on my own writing projects. Speaking of which, I updated Clash of Tides. If you are willing to leave me feedback on chapter 20, I’ll unlock the chapter for you. Thanks!

So, today, I’m going to discuss useful skills that writers should learn. Of course, being a good writer is number one, but to sell our stories, we need more than just good writing skills.

Now, this post may not apply to you. It depends on what route you decide for your stories. Meaning, do you plan to self-publish or try for traditional publishing? Even if you don’t plan to publish anytime soon, there are still handy skills you (as a writer) should learn.

You’re probably thinking:

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I know, believe me, a writer’s life ain’t easy! When I first started writing, I thought I only needed to do the writing part.

In the past, I’ve mentioned marketing! Yes, dreaded, annoying, crappy, marketing! To get readers for our work, we need to market our stories. Sadly, marketing isn’t easy. That’s why people have degrees in it. Now, I’m not saying you have to get a college degree in marketing or even take a class, but you should have some idea how marketing works.

Yes, there is the basic, get people to buy stuff concept, but marketing goes deeper than that. When we market our stories, other factors come into play. For example, book covers, character designs, social networking – you get it.

To do a breakdown, here is the list of skills I feel writers should learn (if they want to):

Drawing – You may think this isn’t important, but being able to draw basic characters can save you money. I know drawing isn’t easy, but if you have an interest in it or have some semi-talent already, expand on that. Buy some basic how-to-draw books, take a class, or watch videos on YouTube. Many writers spend hundreds of dollars getting artwork of their characters done (I should know > <). If you can do it yourself, you can potentially save time and money. And believe me, I know a good character drawing isn’t easy to come by, but if you can expand on another talent you have, why not?

Graphic Design – To me, this skill is amazing for a writer to have. Want to know why? Because you can make your own book covers! Sure, they may not be professional quality, but when you are first starting out, having a basic cover design is essential to getting readers. Let’s face it, most, if not all story sharing sites require book covers now. Finding someone to make your cover can be expensive and overwhelming. However, thanks to the internet, you can download programs like Gimp for free and watch tutorials online. While Adobe Photoshop isn’t free, you can find free articles and videos on how to use it. The covers for my stories were made by a self-taught 22-year-old and a self-taught 24-year-old. Both of them just downloaded the programs one day and taught themselves. It may seem hard, but it’s not impossible. You can also use Graphic Design software to make quote teasers and added designs. Here are some visuals I’ve made for Clash of Tides:

(I didn’t do the artwork, but I manipulated the images using Gimp. The backgrounds are stock photos. I also stayed with my underwater theme. After all, it is a story about mermaids and mermen.)

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(This is my wallpaper…don’t judge…)

 

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If you are wondering, yes, I plan to get new Clash of Tides artwork done soon. ^__^

Marketing – Last, but not least, marketing. All writers, self-published or traditional, should know about marketing. I’ve heard writers who traditionally publish still have to do their own marketing. I don’t want to get too into this topic because I’ve touched on it before. But seriously, at least pickup Marketing For Dummies.

Editing – Good writers should know how to edit their own work. Of course, you should still get a professional editor, but the more editing you can do on your own, the less you have to spend on a professional. A handy book I’m reading right now is called, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How To Edit Yourself Into Print by Dave King and Renni Browne. Check it out!

Remember, more knowledge can only help you, not hurt you =) Also, most readers LOVE visuals, as it helps bring them into the story. So, yes, visuals are key when marketing our work.

What other skills do you think writers should learn?

Are Serialized Stories the Next Big Thing?

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Hey, everyone! Today’s post is long, but I hope you’ll still enjoy it!

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First, I want to start off and say I haven’t been in the writing world that long. If you have been writing for 10+ years, then you’ll know more than me. However, I am noticing a trend towards posting serial stories online, and there are companies trying to capture this market.Which by the way, it’s very popular in some Asian countries.

You may be wondering what I’m talking about. Well, if you didn’t know, there are a few new websites offering to pay writers for their work. As in, if you post your serial story online, you can earn some money. Now, whenever you tell someone they’ll earn money doing what they enjoy, people jump on the opportunity. So, let me explain how this all works. Two websites, Radish and Tapas, will pay writers for posting their chapters (fyi, they are both startups) From what I’ve seen, writers online feel it’s an honor to post on these sites because you have to be “invited.”

Sorry guys, but here is my feeling on that:

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Why do I feel this way? Well, it’s simple, these websites are only inviting writers that already have huge followings online. Ok, so I know you are thinking, “But Aka, that makes sense.”

And yes, I agree with you. However, it’s clear these websites are exploiting other people’s hard work to make themselves known. Not only the writers, but also the readers, too. Most of the writers getting “invited” already offer their work for free. I get that readers will want to support the writers, but let’s be real for a second. For every 20 readers you have, only about, maybe 3 will probably pay for content. The same could be said of receiving comments. When I posted on Wattpad, my chapters would get 500-1000 reads. Guess how many people commented, like 10. Frankly, that’s one issue I have with this model. My next issue is how the “paying writers” works.

For example, you post your story, and if readers want access to your newest chapter early, they can pay a small fee (between 1 cent to 99 cents) or they can wait 5-7 days for the chapter to be released for free. Of course, a percentage of that goes to the writer. It sounds good, right? But in today’s world, most of the people who read online are teens and young adults. Well, most teens don’t have money, and if they do, they don’t have a lot of it. I’ve actually heard writers who use these websites say that don’t make much money. Generally, it’s pocket change.

Another factor is if you have to wait for chapters to be released for free, you can just read something else. In the internet age, you can binge watch and binge read thousands of different shows and books. And if a teen or young adult lives at home, it’s more likely they have access to Netflix, Hulu, Kindle Unlimited, etc. So, they have many avenues of entertainment while waiting for FREE chapters.

To illustrate my point, think of the game, Candy Crush. When it first came out, it was huge! And yeah, some people spent money on the game, but it also reached a wider audience. If I recall, it was a unique game idea at the time. In fact, I remember people would ask others if they spent money on extra moves. If the person said yes, the instant response was, “Why would you spend money on that?” Sadly, the same thinking can be said of stories online, especially since most work online for free is first drafts and unedited.

As writers, we are dealing with other entertainment mediums where people can easily binge read while waiting for our content. More importantly, you can get published books off Amazon for .99 cent to $2.99, plus no waiting for the next chapters. Or you can go to your local library, which I’m sure most teens and young adults still in school do.Not to mention you can also read manga and comics online, too. Last time I checked, the anime industry was suffering because so much anime can be found online for free now.

Oh, and I did check out Radish for myself. Of course, since writers need to be “invited,” I was thinking there would be quality stories on Radish, right? I was wrong…so wrong. I saw a book of BDSM one shots that caught my eye and thought meh, this should be an interesting read. And well, the words “one shot” should have given away who was the writer of these stories. Needless to say, the first story I read was about a 16 (or 17 years old, I can’t remember for sure) year old that was in high school and her boyfriend, who she called, “Daddy,” dominated her life. Yes, you read that right, my fellow writers, it was a high schooler and her relationship with “Daddy.” I don’t want to get into the subject of BDSM high school stories, but you catch my drift. And yes, this was a “trending” story on Radish.

My thoughts were:

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(Yes, it was scarier than the trolls in Nilbog)

Don’t get me wrong, anyway a writer can make money is good, but I wouldn’t use these sites as your saving grace. From what I’ve noticed, it’s best to still pursue publication through Amazon or a traditional publisher. Yeah, use the little money making sites on the side, but don’t hold out for a huge payout. At the end of the day, if you want to be seen, you have to reach the big boys and make a name for yourself.

So, I’ll let you decide what avenue you feel is best for your writing, but be cautious of serialized websites promising to offer you money for your work. Please, if you have experience with either Radish or Tapas, please leave a comment because I would love to read a different perspective.

Question of the day: As a writer, would you be willing to try a model like Radish or Tapas, or would you rather do self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Writing Prompt Series: Disguise

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Hey, everyone! It’s been a while since I did a writing prompt, so here it goes!

(If you are new to my blog, these prompts are for all readers and writers. If you would like to participate, please post your story in the comment section.) 

In 50 words, write a story about someone who wears a disguise and reveals what they really are.

Here is mine:

In the cover of night, her milk chocolate skinned changed. When darkness arrived, she was no longer human. Jewels covered her form, glowing from the moonlight reflecting off their surfaces. Humanity considered her just a black woman, but at night, she was the goddess of the stars, sky, and moon.

~ 50 Words

Happy Writing! Please post your story in the comment section, but only if you want to ^__^