TED Talk: Why you will fail to have a career?

Loved this talk! For all of you who still hadn’t found out your passion or know what is your passion but are too afraid to pursuit, then this is the talk for you!

Actually, this is the talk for all the people who want to have a goal in life and achieve it!

Professor Larry Smiths presents, in quite a peculiar way, a talk that changes lives and inspires. He is a professor of economics at University of Waterloo. A well-known storyteller and advocate for youth leadership, he has also mentored many of his students on start-up business management and career development. The most notable start-up he advised in its infancy is Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry.

Invest 15 minutes in this talk and it will be an investment for life!

 

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10 Things you should know when you first write a book

When I started working on my first book, I had the following plan:

  • I would finish the draft in four of five months at most
  • I would make a thorough review of the first manuscript and in one single edition round I would correct everything that is wrong.
  • My beta readers will read it in a couple of weeks and I would rejoice in his/her wonderful comments
  • I would find a great Literary agent in a blink of an eye
  • I would have the book published in that same year
  • I would live from my writing and would travel the world.

I was naïve. REALLY naive.

 

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This is the second year I’m investing in my first book. I’m still editing it. So far I’ve come to understand the following:

  1. Doing the first draft is by far the easiest and quickest part of the process

When I finished the first draft, I was so thrilled. I felt I have conquered the world and I could be called a writer. I was so proud of myself. I thought that finally I was making something good with my life, that I was looking towards the future, towards my goals, you get the point…The truth is that writing the first draft is the easiest part. You can even achieve it in one month (If you want to test the efficiency of NaNoWriMo). But rest assured the first draft will not be readable yet. Chances are it will still have lots of plot holes and huge amounts of rewrite to be done.

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2. Planning one round of revision is not realistic at all

There will be many rounds of revision. It’s hard to rewrite scenes, plot holes, and work on character development while editing your grammar and punctuation at the same time. You’ll probably need another round, and perhaps a third one, etc. Additionally, after your beta readers come to you with feedback, chances are you’ll probably need to change and rewrite many sections of your book which will lead you to another round of sentence structure/grammar review, etc., again.

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3. Leaving your first manuscript to rest for a couple of weeks and even a month is not a bad idea

I knew about this tip way before I finished my first manuscript. Nonetheless, I was in such a hurry of having everything done that as soon as I finished my first manuscript, I started to edit it on the very next day. I didn’t leave it to rest and breath. My head didn’t have time to clear enough to target my manuscript with a fresh point of view. The result was several pointless rounds of revision until I decided to finally give myself a break and leave the manuscript for a month. During this time, I wrote other short stories, I read more, etc. When I finally returned to my old good manuscript, my mind was fresh and I could detect more issues than in all those previous three rounds. I identified huge gaps where I could improve. If only I’ve done that before my first round of revision… I would’ve probably faced my manuscript with much better criteria from the first edition round.

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4.  Your beta readers won’t give you feedback in a couple of weeks

I had three good beta readers, but it took time to receive their feedback. You have to take into account that not all of them are available to read your manuscript as soon as you deliver it. Unless you’re paying for a beta reading service, most of these people will be doing you a favor. You’ll probably need to wait until they have time. Not all of them can read books in a couple of days; they might need more time. Not all of them have only your book to read; they might need to put it in their queue of “still to read books”.

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5. Good Beta Readers will say the truth and cause many changes in your book

Let’s face it. This is your first book ever. You can’t expect to nail a best seller that soon. You’ll need a lot of time,experience, and good listening skills. You need to pay attention to your beta reader’s feedback. And I’m talking about good beta readers, not your mom, your husband, etc., but people who will be able to judge the manuscript and say what is in their minds without any fear of hurting your feelings. You have to acknowledge that as the author of your book, you know how the plot works, you know how characters look in your mind, but sometimes you fail to translate this knowledge into the written world. Chances are you’ll still need to change and rewrite after your beta reader’s feedback.

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6. Character development is not achieved at once

If this is your first book, then you’ll probably struggle with nailing “character development”. Even if you outline characters before you start the book, they’ll probably develop and change as your plot changes. Their behaviors will change depending on how the direction of your books goes or how scenes are improved. Providing a three-dimensional character is harder than you think. It wasn’t until many revisions and feedback that I had enough tools to develop my characters as they should.

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7. Developing your voice doesn’t come so fast

It doesn’t matter how many books about writing you read and how many writing courses you attend. Developing your voice only comes with practice. Sometimes, you want to obey all writing rules and make your sentences’ structure perfect, but then you find yourself with a boring flat manuscript. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the rules. To break the rules, you need to know them first. But you can’t expect to find your writing voice in the first round of writing. Perhaps you won’t even find it in your first book.

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8. Don’t hire any editing service until you’ve received plenty feedback

I made the mistake of hiring an editing service (which was very good) before I got all the feedback. My third beta reader was able to send me his feedback after my manuscript was already edited by a professional editor. This feedback was very helpful and had lots of good advice plot-wise, which meant I had to do significant changes and rewrite many scenes and even chapters. The result, the professionally edited text was gone. It would’ve been certainly helpful to hire this service after all revisions and feedback.

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9. Consider your first book may not be publishable

In my plans above, I clearly talk about getting a literary agent, publishing it, and having enough earnings to live from my writing. The reality is different. And the truth is your first book could not be published yet or could not be published at all. You need to accept this fact from the beginning. It’s a learning curve. My mind already has tons of topics to write other books; they even sound more interesting than the manuscript I’m working with right now. Perhaps book two or three will be published. Perhaps my first book will be revisited in a couple of years and later published. At this point, I only care about improving my writing.

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10. This is only your first experience

Writing a first book is about gaining experience. It doesn’t matter how perfect your book idea is, how charming your characters are, or how beautifully you construct prose, the process is still tricky with the first book. You still need to learn how to handle feedback, how to detect plot holes, how to find your voice, how to make useful rounds of edition, etc. If you take this point of view, I guarantee you’ll find the experience more rewarding than the publishing result. You’ll be more excited about your next projects and you won’t suffer so much if the path of delivering your first book looks too hard. Best of all, you’ll encounter the true meaning of being a writer.

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Cheers!

 

 

 

 

When old habits are hard to abandon… I’m looking at you Procrastination!

Procrastination has been affecting my life since I can remember. Fortunately, these last couple of years, I’ve been suffering less of it or else I would’ve never achieved a novel’s first draft (it should be treated as an illness!). But I haven’t gone over it yet. I might now put a daily effort on my writer goals, but it’s not enough yet.

The one to blame, the Internet.

I could use the computer and disconnect, but I depend heavily on thesaurus.com I could get a physical copy, but certainly working with the website allows me to easily navigate from word to word’s synonyms and definitions in a matter of seconds, without losing the inspiration or the sentence idea that troubles my mind at that point. I’ve tried using printed copies of dictionaries and thesaurus, but they’re not meant to be used on every single minute. And yes, I still use it a lot. Especially, since English is not my first language, many times I just want to make sure I got the correct definition and that the synonym I’m choosing to use is accurate.

So if thesaurus.com wasn’t such a good tool and as dependent on internet connectivity as it is, I would probably disconnect from Wi-Fi. But if this website helps my writing, what is the real problem?

My mind is used to multi-tasking. As a result, thoughts, ideas, and hyperactivity flood my brain almost 24/7 (If mental hyperactivity could be translated into physical hyperactivity… I would be the best athlete in the world… but that’s another topic). My mind doesn’t really switch off until I go to bed. And sometimes, I find trouble sleeping trying to unplug my mind from its endless ideas, worries, etc. So while writing, it’s normal for me to get distracted by other websites; afraid (maybe an excuse word) that I will forget later what I wanted to buy in Ebay, that I will miss what’s going on Facebook, and that there are still tips, blogs, and websites I should be looking at for my next trip (in 2 weeks – Tripadvisor, I’m looking at you!),  I open the browser and proceed to search, look, and verify other issues while in the middle of writing.

The result: guilt invading me at around 10:00 pm when my eyes are starting to feel the burden of the day and I have to choose between:

  • Giving up and going to bed
  • Continue the writing until almost midnight or until my eyes are hyper red. The direct consequence: I cannot invest any more reading time in bed if I want to give my eyes a proper resting (after all, I spend the whole day in front of the computer)

Maybe I’m too anxious for vacations these days, and I cannot move forward without taking out of my mind all the issues that should be arranged or known before traveling. Maybe after my holidays, my mind will be clear enough to continue working. But who am I kidding? There will always be a next trip, a next activity, or a next excuse. If I’m going to take the writing career for good, then I’d better eliminate the word Procrastination from my vocabulary. Any advice?

 

 

Weirdness: Embracing it…

I always describe myself as “weird”. People around me hear “bicho raro” an expression in Spanish that would mean something like “weird bug.” Some friends are fast to point out that I’m not weird but “unique”. I appreciate their good intetions, but I actually don’t feel bad about being weird. I love being weird. I embrace my weirdness.

So what do I mean by being weird? I thought it would be to check up the exact definition of the word:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/weird  says: involving or suggesting the supernatural; unearthly or uncanny. fantastic; bizarre.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/weird says: Strikingly odd or unusual, especially in an unsettling way; strange. Suggestive of the supernatural.

But I like the definition of the Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weird  :

  1. of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural :  magical

  2. 2:  of strange or extraordinary character:  odd, fantastic

And I’m almost sure the latter is the best reputable source as well.

When reading the first two definitions, one would see why people react to the word “weird” as a bad adjective. This word for them describes something  not very nice – an “unsettling” word. The expression “weirdo” is a commonly expression used to tag people in a despicable way. However, I insist on relying on the Merriam-Webster definition: “supernatural, extraordinary, fantastic, unusual… etc.” In this interpretation, I love the word; it describes how my usual perspective towards life is.

I always like to believe I don’t fit social standards as normally other people do. I love going against the trends and against the expected behaviors. Even the way I dress, reflects in some way, who  I am as a person. And if people expect you to celebrate a holiday, I do exactly the opposite. But for me this weirdness is not about being stubborn or trying to make a point, it’s only about behaving according to my feelings and without regard to social expectations. For me being weird is nice. It’s about expressing myself in the most extraordinary fashion, living my life defying any social foolish conceptions. It would be nice for a change people wouldn’t chastise or try to fix weird people.

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It’s as simple as that: good writing matters a big deal

It’s as simple as that: good writing matters a big deal. As I dig more into this writing career, I realize how much I still need to learn.

I’ve always been for thrillers and mysteries. I’ve always loved fast-paced books with lots of action: books that I could see in my mind as the next big Hollywood blockbusters. But lately, I’ve realized that there’s also another side of reading. A reading where words enchant you and make you want more of this world of beautifully written words. Now, I believe that good storytelling doesn’t exist without good writing.

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I must confess I haven’t read much of Literature Nobel prize winners before. Except from “One Hundred years of Solitude” from Gabriel Garcia Marquez (which I didn’t like), I wasn’t drawn into these awarded authors. It was like Oscar movies: not all Oscar movies winners are good. In fact, some Oscar winners are actually weird and not in my taste of “awesome films.” But this time I bought Alice Munro’s: “Lives of girls and women”, a Nobel prize winner, and I can’t believe I did it by mistake.

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The purchase was done when I was coming back from NY’s Writer’s Digest conference. I’ve written down all those titles that during the conference attendees were advised to read. One of the panelists highly recommended to read Alice Hoffman. In the airport, when I came across Alice Munro and read the label “Nobel Prize winner,” I really thought I got the right “Alice.”

I realized of my mistake when I came home. But as a bookworm, I’m never sad for having a new book to read. So I give it a go to this book. And I loved it. Munro’s writing is completely beautiful. The way she starts describing everything and how characters develop in this beautiful written prose was such a relief and rest from the fast paced books I’d been reading before. It made me love writing and reading even more. It made me realize how much, still, I have to learn from writing in English.

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This blog post was meant to be a review of Alice Munro’s “Lives of girls and women” but as I came across the blog, I realized I mostly wanted to express the lesson learned while reading this book, and how it has influenced my writing learning process. I’ve also realized how important is for writers to read out of their genre, how it makes you grow professionally. There’s still a wonderful world of written words out there.

And you, have you come across with these beautifully unexpected books that made you want to grow even more as writers?

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