When Going Green Isn’t a Good Thing

by Dan Walsh, @DanWalshAuthor

In recent years, the idea of “Going Green” has become a pretty popular and positive thing in the US. I say “recent years” because I can easily recall a time (in my youth) when the thought of focusing on the quality of our environment was no big deal. No one talked about it. The topic was rarely in the news. No one ever recycled anything or cared about “sustainability” (they wouldn’t even understand such terms if they heard them).
There was, at least, common agreement that tall factory smokestacks belching out thick clouds of black smoke was probably a bad thing. But that’s as far as our environmentalism went. No one ever thought about Going Green as a good thing.

Today, I want to talk about a more traditional form of Going Green. That is, the greenness of Envy. Why do we associate the color Green with Envy and Jealousy? Some say it goes back to the time of Shakespeare (Othello, Act III, Scene 3: “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on“).

A few days ago, I was reading some comments on a Facebook writer’s group when someone posted about their struggle with Envy. Specifically, the envy of other writers’ success. She was, in a way “fessing up” to something she wanted to be free from. Very quickly, a large number of other writers jumped in, identifying with her and admitting to ways they struggled with the same thing. At some point, one of the contributors noticed only women were sharing, so she tagged me and other male authors she knew, asking us to weigh in.

I read all the posts, then struggled about whether to respond. The reason? For many, their primary struggle with envy had to do with their lack of book sales compared to all the work they put into the effort. Many expressed a strong desire to have at least enough success (i.e. book sales) so they could at least earn a “livable income” from their writing alone.

See — as I shared in my Novel Rocket column last month (CLICK HERE to read I Make Up Stuff For a Living) — I’ve had the good fortune and a sufficient measure of success to write full time for the last 7 years. I was concerned that if I shared my situation on this FB group, rather than encourage these writers, I would simply provide a fresh temptation to become envious again (by being envious of me).

I had a second big concern with responding to this FB post. That is, even with my measure of success, I can still struggle with Envy. I imagined most of the writers who had just shared their envy-struggles would have a hard time imagining why I—after all the success I’ve had—would still struggle with it, too.

But I do. I don’t want to. But sometimes I still do.

So, I decided to jump in and share my struggle, such as it is. Here’s what I said:

I actually still get envious of other authors. Which authors? Those who sell mega-books, or those whose books have been turned into movies (which then resulted in them selling mega-more books). I’ve had one of my better novels optioned 3 times by 3 different production companies (something always happens to short-circuit the process). I keep wondering, when will one of my books finally break away, so that I don’t have to work so hard at making this livable income? I’d like to drop down to writing 1 book a year (and not have to market so much). I’d like to be able to travel and research fascinating locations in person (vs going there on Google Earth). I’d like the freedom, just once, to work on a book that I’d want to write, just because it interests me and stirs my imagination, without worrying once about its sales’ potential. I fantasize that THIS is the book that will finally break away for me, but it can’t happen, because I can’t write it, because I’m stuck on this production treadmill, writing books that will help me keep writing books that will keep earning me this livable income.

So you see? It never ends. What’s that Proverb? “The leech has 2 daughters: Give, Give.”

I think, because of Adam’s fall, we are all hard-wired and prone to Envy. If we ever get that thing we’ve longed to have for so long, we soon find ourselves longing for the next thing. And social media—for all its benefits—easily serves up fresh bouts of envy, as we read about one author after another experiencing levels of success that have still eluded us.

Why God? Why them, and why not me?

Why? Well, for starters…that’s the wrong question to ask. It springs from a heart that’s looking in the wrong direction altogether. Contentment never springs from a heart that’s comparing its lot with others. I’ve heard it said, contentment comes not from getting what you want, but wanting what you have. When I focus on that, I find spreading out before me a growing list of things to be thankful for. As I begin to thank God for those things, the green-eyed monster quickly flees the scene.

I’ll start off with how thankful I am about the launch of my newest book (my 18th overall, my 5th as an indie, and 3rd in my Jack Turner Suspense series). It’s called Unintended Consequences. Sales are going extremely well and the early reviews have been spectacular.

So…why don’t you jump in here? Share some of your struggles with Writer-Envy and, perhaps, follow up with an equal number of things you are grateful for.

TWEETABLES

Unintended Consequences:
Jack and Rachel leave Culpepper for their long-awaited honeymoon trip, a driving tour through New England. On day three, they stop at a little bayside town in Cape Cod to visit Jack’s grandmother. After he gets called away to handle an emergency, Rachel stays and listens as Jack’s grandmother shares a remarkable story about how she and Jack’s grandfather met in the early days of World War 2. It’s a story filled with danger, decades-old family secrets, daring rescues and romance. Jack is named after his grandfather, and this story set the course and direction for Jack’s life to the present day. After hearing it, Rachel is amazed that anyone survived.

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 3 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 40 years. You can find out more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com.

Title Photo Copyright: rtimages / 123RF Stock Photo

I Make Stuff Up for a Living

By Dan Walsh

I should start off my post today (in an effort at full disclosure) by saying my inspiration came from reading my friend Rachel Hauck’s Novel Rocket blog post a couple of weeks ago on April 19th, called, It All Boils down to This… I’m a Writer.

I’ve been writing novels full-time now since 2010, part-time 2 years before that. I’m just about to release Novel #18 on May 15th. I’m not sure, but I think Rachel’s been writing quite a bit longer than me and has more novels published. Still, as I read her blog, I was nodding constantly in agreement.
This is an odd thing that we do, writing novels.

The number who have the good fortune to do this for a living is even a much smaller group (I’ve read it’s only about 5% of published authors). So that makes what I do for a living even more odd.

Other than the author friends I’ve met online, at writers’ conferences and at other various writing events, I don’t know anyone else who does what I do for a living. No one in my church. No one in my family. And I think you could count on one hand the number of people who do this for a living in my town (the greater Daytona Beach area). Now, there may be a handful more who write for a living in my town, but not people who write novels.

Lately, when people ask, “So, what do you do for living?” (this question gets asked in small talk on occasion), I’ve started telling people, “I make stuff up for a living.”

You can imagine the look on their faces. But really, that’s what I do. At least 5 days a week. And I’ve been making stuff up every day, full-time, for the last 7 years. And Lord willing, I intend to keep right on making stuff up for a living for many years to come.

When you stop and think about it, it’s the craziest thing. Imagine people paying you for something like this. And thankfully, paying enough so that for the last 7 years I can do this as my primary “work.” See, even that, I felt the need to put the word work in quotation marks.

Why? Making stuff up hardly feels like work. The crew of guys who sawed down and hauled away the 4 dead trees on my property this week…those gentlemen worked. And what did I do while they were out there doing this work? I sat inside, in the air conditioning, making stuff up.

Perhaps I should feel guilty. Perhaps, on some level, I do.

But I have no plans of letting such latent guilt ruin this good thing I’ve got going on. I’m having way too much fun. I love writing novels. I love coming up with stories that move me, and intrigue me, and provoke me to go looking deeply into things. Deeply enough, that it almost seems like I’m not really making stuff up, but I’ve actually been there myself and lived through everything my characters are experiencing as the story unfolds.

But I’m not. At any moment, I can hit the pause button, step out from some intense scene I’m writing, pet my dog on the head, go out into the kitchen and make myself an ice coffee. Such a thing is only possible to those who make stuff up for a living.

Like me. I write novels. That’s what I do.

Thank you, Rachel, for helping me shed some of this latent guilt for having such a crazy job. We’ve got nothing to be sorry for, right? Making up stories and writing them down for other people to enjoy (and, hopefully, be inspired by) has been going on for ages.

Maybe we should start a support group. Or, since we live so far apart, a blog on the internet. Where other writers who make stuff up all day can come and share their experiences with each other and with other sojourners considering a similar path.

We could call it something like…Novel Rocket.

Well, my time’s up. What better way to end this than with a shameless plug? I’m about to release (as I said) Novel #18 in a couple of weeks. It’s called, Unintended Consequences. Click on THIS LINK to get a preview.

And yes, when you’re reading it, everything will feel like it’s all true. Like it really happened. But don’t be fooled…I made the whole thing up.

TWEETABLES
Don’t be fooled…I made the whole thing up.~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

Getting Rid of the Parts Readers Skip

by Dan Walsh

We’ve all done it. You’re reading a novel that’s captured your interest and, before long, you find yourself skipping several paragraphs to find “where the story picks up again.” The writer writes well. That’s not the problem. The problem is they write too much. Sprinkled throughout the interesting, exciting parts you find a lot of blah-blah-blah.
Like you, my life is pretty busy. When I get to read fiction, I do it to be refreshed and entertained. If a book has too much blah-blah-blah, I put it down for good. Guess what I don’t do after that? I don’t recommend it to others and, likely, won’t buy another book from this author. Neither of these are good things.

I’ve published 17 novels in the last 8 years; 13 with traditional publishers, the last 5 as an indie. My books have received over 6,000 customer reviews on Amazon. One of the most consistent comments I get (and one of my favorites) is: “Once I started, I couldn’t put the book down.” That’s the reaction an author wants from readers, no matter what genre you write in.


Readers who feel this way about your book, will tell others about it and buy your other books. If you’re not published yet, agents and editors will offer you contracts.

As I look back I believe I owe a good deal of my small measure of success to my favorite writing quote by the late NY Times bestselling author, Elmore Leonard:

“In your writing, try to leave out the parts readers skip.”

I latched onto his advice when I first started writing and have followed it ever since, not just when I write but especially when I edit my work. Here are 3 practical tips I’ve learned about getting rid of the parts readers skip before sending in your manuscript.

1. See Research as a Spice, not a Main Ingredient
Whether we write historical fiction or contemporary, research is a part of our writing life. We should be devoted to it if our stories are going to come across with relevance and credibility. But our tendency is to imagine that all these fascinating details will be as interesting to our readers as they are for us. It’s not true. Really, it’s not. Figure that 90% of your research will be blah-blah-blah to your readers. You spent all that time to find the 10% you put into your book.

2. Descriptions? We Don’t Need No Steenking Descriptions

We are writing books for people who live today, not fifty years ago. We live in a video/visual generation. Most of our readers have watched hundreds if not thousands of movies and TV shows. Most of the words we write describing locations or what our characters look like are wasted. After a few lines our readers have already formed pictures in their heads and skip past everything else we say.

3. Resist Over-Explaining

At a social gathering, have you ever found yourself stuck in the gravitational pull of someone who talks too much? Don’t you hate that? Sadly, many writers suffer from the same malady. Not with our speech but our pen.

Say what needs to be said well, but only once. Resist the urge to explain the same thing over and over again to your readers in different ways. It’s all just blah-blah-blah. As writers, we need to see the cutting room floor as our good friend.

Think of it this way: the words lying there on the floor after you edit needed to be written so the better words could find their way. That’s the only thing that should wind up in our manuscript, the better words.

* * *

OK…I started the discussion with 3 Slicing/Dicing Tips. Share with us some others you’ve discovered. And for extra points, here’s a Quiz Question…who knows what movie I’m quoting (paraphrasing) in Tip #2 about the “steenking descriptions” and what’s the actual movie quote say?

TWEETABLES
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

Sometimes You Gotta Take a Risk

by Dan Walsh

I think it’s fair to say that I’m nowhere near as brave or courageous as most of the main characters in my novels. If I’m being honest, it might be accurate to describe me as a “Risk Adverse” kind of guy.

That’s why the last few weeks have been pretty exciting for me. Some of you know my “author story.” At
the end of 2014, I did something pretty risky. After being a traditionally published author with 12
contracted novels released over 6 years the old-fashioned way, I made the decision to leave my
comfort zone and start publishing my books as an indie.


The Big Picture reason was, I could see the entire publishing world
was going through a major shakeup, created by the advent of that great monolith Amazon,
Kindle and other ebook formats and devices. I watched this massive shift occur, as more
and more readers stopped buying their books from retail bookstores and
started buying them online.

Rescuing Finley Cover - half sizeThe Little Picture reason I became an indie was because of the book I’m featuring in today’s post, Rescuing Finley.
In August 2014, I had just finished writing my last contracted book with my publisher.
It was time to turn in a new multi-book proposal. I
had come up with a 3-book series idea, similar in genre to all my other
books with them. Each of the proposed books would have many of the similar
features that had made my other novels successful (and many of them, award-winning). The only difference? These books would all feature a Shelter Dog as a main character. I
loved the stories and was certain my publisher would too.

They didn’t.

In fact, they rejected the series, saying they didn’t like the
stories that much and didn’t think they’d sell very well. “What else have you
got?” they asked.

My answer? (Herein lies the title for my Blog Post today). “I don’t think I’m going to send you anything else. I really believe in
these stories and think people will love them, at least as much as
they’ve enjoyed my other books.” I politely informed them I’d be
writing these books on my own, and we parted ways.
RF - 571 Stars

So you can imagine how exciting it is to be writing this blog post today. What’s the Big News? Well, this past week Rescuing Finley
SURPASSED ALL my traditionally published novels in terms of the total
number of Amazon reviews, and it’s on track to surpass them in Sales, too. And…it’s reached
this milestone at a breakneck pace – it’s only been out 14 months.

As of today, Rescuing Finley has received 571 Amazon reviews, averaging 4.8 Stars
(86% are 5-Star reviews). I’d say that officially bashes the notion that readers wouldn’t like this kind of book. To be fair, many of my traditionally published novels
have surpassed the 400-review mark, and some have even reached the
500-review milestone. But these books have all been out for several
years. Here are some examples:

  • The Unfinished Gift – 444 Reviews (4.6 Star Avg) – Released 2009
  • The Deepest Waters – 412 Reviews (4.7 Star Avg) – Released 2011
  • Remembering Christmas – 533 Reviews (4.6 Star Avg) – 2011
  • The Discovery – 521 Reviews (4.7 Star Avg) – Released 2012
  • The Reunion – 515 Reviews (4.8 Star Avg) – Released 2012
  • The Dance – 453 Reviews (4.7 Star Avg) – Released 2013

When Night Comes - Suspense Novel lineI love these traditionally published books and loved writing them. But it’s pretty satisfying to see books that were rejected by my publisher actually surpassing these novels in such a short time. My first indie novel, When Night Comes (and first true suspense novel…again, a rejected book by my publisher) is right up there with these novels after only being out 2 years. It has 440 Reviews (4.4 Star Avg).

Besides the Reader Response, which has been off the charts, the sales of Rescuing Finley
have also been stellar. Three
weeks ago, I did a 5-day Free Promo of the book. Over 41,000 readers
downloaded a copy. Since then, it has sold 1,409 copies (almost 500/week…on Amazon alone).

The 2nd book in the series, Finding Riley, has gotten quite a bump since then, too. It only released last October (3 months ago), and it’s already up to 124 Amazon reviews (Avg 4.8 Stars).

So I’d say…this “risky” indie experiment appears to be working. Both my indie inspirational
books (Forever Home series) and my suspense books (Jack Turner Suspense
series) are humming along with 2 books each. I’ve just passed the
halfway mark writing Book 3 in the Jack Turner series (hope to have it
released in May, no title yet), and will immediately begin writing Book 3 in the
Forever Home series (Saving Parker). I hope to have that one ready by
October. My goal would be to have at least 4 books in each series 18 months from now.

If you want to read any of these reviews or get any of these books, they’re only $3.99
on Kindle (less than a Starbucks latte), and all are available in
print. Click on any of the titles in the post above to go to its Amazon
page.

Since the theme of this post is Risk-Taking, I’d love to hear some of your stories. Times when you took a risk as a writer and it paid off. Let’s encourage our fellow writers who are standing at one of Life’s scary forks in the road.

TWEETABLES

Sometimes You Gotta Take a Risk by Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

I’m nowhere near as brave or courageous as my main characters.~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

I loved the stories and was certain my publisher would too. They didn’t.~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes.
He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three
of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book
Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his
wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and
spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.