"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: June 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to Create a Writer's Blog

You don't need me to tell you that self-publicity is a writer's secret weapon.

Bear in mind that when you decide you want to be a published author, it's most likely going to take you anywhere between two to five years to see your books in print - that's the reality of the traditional publishing world.

Even if you go the faster route - by self-publishing, then it's still a good idea to give yourself a two to three year period to really get to grips with your new career.

So why not use that time to build a following? 

Why wait until the last minute to start your promotional activities when the Internet is a perfect place to get people reading your writing, and getting to know and like you through a regular blog?

It's not as if it costs anything - except your time - so you have no real excuse, do you?

Where to Start

Go immediately to Blogger.com and register a blog spot for yourself, either using your own name or some other phrase that means something to you.

Don't use Wordpress unless you're a complete masochist - and have time to waste on readme files. 

I have no idea why people use Wordpress at all - it's the most complicated interface I have ever come across and requires a degree in engineering just to install. 

I have one Wordpress site that I come back to every now and then but each time it just seems to get more complicated for no good reason!

In contrast, Blogger.com is easy. 

It does everything for you - and the dashboard where you can add your own stuff is beautifully simple to understand. 

The only drawback (if you can call it that) is that you need a Gmail account to get started. 

No sweat.

What to Say

You don't need to have publishing credits to start talking about writing. 

It's your blog. 

You can say what you like. 

That's the beauty of the Net. 

Your opinion, your worldview, is just as valid as anyone else's.

In fact, that's the trick I think: to be as honest and as frank as you can be. 

That's what will make you unique.

Don't just trot out the standard lines on writing issues. 

Get in touch with how you really feel about your craft and state it, boldly, with pride.

Blogs become popular over time because people dip into them, enjoy what they read and remember you. 

And they remember sincerity for a lot longer than you simply trying to sell yourself, your books and your writing.

How Often You Should Blog

The major search engines trawl the Net at least once a week. Their spiders are looking for new content.

Therefore, in order for a blog to start appearing in search listings you need to keep updating it. 

Once a week ideally - but that's not always practical.

Regularity is the key - and relevance. 

Add topicality to your blog by mentioning world events, personalities, and contemporary issues. 

These all raise your blog's profile - and its popularity.

Building a popular blog can take around a year or two - there's no getting around that. 

But that's why you need to start yours now. 

Think of your writing career as a long term investment. 

In a couple of years from now, wouldn't it be better to know that you've had blog readers - and loyal subscribers over that time?

Make sure you sign up for all the RSS feeds on offer - and you'll find, over time, you'll get more and more visitors.

Find an Angle

If nothing else, the media teaches us one thing: it's the angle that grabs attention.

Start a blog that details your week by week journey through your book or novel, for instance.

Write about a cause you believe in. 

Save the Whales, Obesity, Cancer Cures for example.

Take a religious or political stance (and get ready for vociferous responses!)

Or simply write about where you live, or the history of a place you love.

You'll find like-minded people attracted to your site - and, one day, maybe a news service will contact you to use you as an authority in an interview. 

These things happen.

Can You Get Paid to Blog?


Put Google Ads on your blog. 

Blogger.com shows you how to do this. 

It's free and whenever anyone clicks on an ad within your blog page, you get paid. 

Easy. Money for jam.

You should also put an email catcher on your blog.

Getresponse.com is free - as are many others. 

Do a search on 'free autoresponders' - and most will integrate seamlessly with Blogger.com. 

I use Aweber.com - they've been around forever.

After a few months, when you've built a small list, you can offer ebooks you've written to your subscribers, maybe through Kindle - which is a very easy way to publish yourself. 

Or you can offer other writer's book and courses as an affiliate.

Why not? Everyone's doing it - why leave money on the table?

In the Future You'll Wish You Started Now

Because when you do have your own published books out there in the real world, you'll have people you can tell about them. 

Publishers and Amazon will like you for being able to say you have readymade fans to whom you can promote your work.

Book sales don't just happen nowadays. 

You have to find avenues of publicity and ways of increasing the probability you'll sell your books on the publisher's behalf.

And every little helps.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Low Price V-Courses, How to Write an Essay

Believe it or not, 'how to write an essay' is one of the top search terms on the Internet. I guess because there's a lot of panic stricken students out there who need this information in a hurry!

See the article below for guidance.

Rob Parnell's Low Price Courses

Super Success 101 - everything you need to know about productivity, achievement, getting rich, and securing the life of your dreams. $10 

The Easy Way to Write Short Stories That Sell - the title says it all. $12

Become a Freelance Writer - 59 easy ways to make money writing. $10

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How to Write An Essay

First of all, you should rest assured that compared to any other kind of writing, school essays are a breeze. 

You don't need to be particularly bright or skilled to pull them off. You just need to be able to read the question - and most of the work is already done.

You can get away with around 500 words too - which is pretty short. 

You can write up to around 2000 words if you want to look like some kind of a swot. 

But padding out an essay with extra words really doesn't cut it - or impress the teacher - so my advice is to keep it short.

A good essay is broken down into 5 parts:

1. Intro

2. Terms of reference

3. Discussion

4. Analysis

5. Conclusion

Basically five paragraphs of around 100 words each, which equates to about 2 or 3 sentences in each paragraph, tops.

Now let's look at how you fill that word count.

1. In the Intro you basically need to restate the question - to show you understand it and then make some sort of reference to the fact that you're going to answer it in the essay.

So, say you have a question about what makes Peru an important country, you would say something like: Peru is a fascinating country and this is an interesting question because Peru is important, as I shall outline below... etc.,

2. Next, within the terms of reference, you need to define the context in which the question will be answered. Here's where you tell the teacher what you already know - even if you feel like you're stating the obvious.

In the above example you might explain that Peru is a place in South America, that a country is a self contained economy and that, compared to the whole wide world, it's small potatoes...etc.,

3. In the third paragraph you need to deal with the question. It's best to have at least two facts up your sleeve to drop into the essay at this point.

But don't panic.

Look again at the question. Why are you being asked it? What's the most obvious answer? In the case of Peru - you might guess it's important because of its culture (a good answer to any question by the way), therefore tourism is going to be a factor - and maybe its because the people invented chocolate, sacrificial pyramids and cocaine - all valid things to bring into the essay.

4. In the fourth paragraph you need only discuss the relevance of the things you mentioned in the third paragraph.

For instance you might mention how chocolate is popular because it's tasty, how cocaine is a bad thing because it kills people, how pulling out people's hearts on sacrificial altars probably seemed like a good idea at the time etc., etc.

Easy, but even easier is the:

5. Conclusion. Here you restate the question and tell the teacher you've answered it and proved your answer by the repeating the statements you've already made.

You might say, in conclusion, Peru is an important country because of its chocolate and cocaine production and because tourists like to visit the pyramids and spend their money there.

Voila - an essay likely to receive a gold star.

Here's a tip. Teachers know this essay structure like the back their hand. 

Therefore it's unlikely they'll do anything but skim your essay looking for the two or three points you're making. 

So there's really no point to filling your essay with lots of interesting and insightful facts - it will only confuse them and cause them to work harder, which they don't like doing.

Keep your essay short and sweet and if in doubt, waffle. 

Teachers, at the end of the day, prefer to see that you've tried, no matter what your answer.

I hope this helps.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Writing a Novel Quickly

Time is the writer's enemy. 

Finding it - and using it effectively - is the quest of all writers, whatever their level of expertise.

Many people have said to me that writing a novel in 30 days is a great goal but that it assumes that you can write around 2000 to 3000 words a day. 

Fine in theory. 

But how long it takes to write that much varies with the individual.

3000 words may take some writers all day - and if that's the case then it can be impractical to write for eight hours, seven days a week until you've written a first draft.

As you probably imagine, I, too, have lots of commitments to juggle in order to find time to write fiction - so how did I manage to write the first draft of a new novel in just under two months recently?

I tried an experiment - one that I think might help you.

Instead of writing flat out until the novel was finished, I knew I would have to allocate just a little time every day. Ten minutes here, half an hour there - and longer bursts if the time managed to appear.

I set myself a target of between just 500 and 1000 words a day.

Each morning I would wake up knowing that, whatever happened, I would have to write at least something towards that day's target. 

And I never agonized - or even thought about - what I was going to write during the 'novel writing session.'

I found this allowed me to go about the rest of the day's activities without too much guilt -and meant that I had to do all my thinking about the story while I was writing, which I think is a very good discipline to nurture. 

Mainly because 'thinking about writing' is not usually very productive unless you're actually writing...

I used a very rough template - basically a series of twenty dot points that I knew my plot would have to cover. 

I also decided that my chapters could be as short as a liked. 

And that, if I ran out of ideas or things to say, I would move on to the next dot point without beating myself up about it.

I found that at the beginning, writing 1000 words took about two hours sometimes - usually from ten to midday. 

But as I progressed through the novel I managed the 1000 words in about three quarters of an hour - as long as I never went back to edit, re-read or change anything. Of course I was aware that I was most times writing very roughly, probably creating ungrammatical sentences and making lots of typos. 

I didn't let that bother me.

The point of the exercise was to get the first draft down, quickly.

I let the characters tell me the story and lead me wherever they wanted to go. 

The relationships changed from how I'd originally imagined them - and things happened I wasn't expecting but I decided all that was okay. 

In fact, I decided that was the point of writing quickly - to give the characters room to be real and make believable choices, thereby making the story stronger.

At the end of the two months, and 60000 words later, I was amazed at the result - and very proud of what I'd done.

Now, I know how I work. 

I know that when I return for the second draft, the 60000 words will become 80000, perhaps more. 

But the beauty of all those later drafts to come is that, by and large, the novel is done - it's realized - because the first draft is down - the story, though very rough around the edges, is essentially complete.

This is a great psychological hurdle to have overcome - and will be for you if you want to try it.

You can use all of the other tips and techniques I recommend in The Easy Way to Write a Novel but allow yourself time - to work within a more practical framework that suits you and your lifestyle, whatever that may consist of.

And what if you get blocked?

What if you just can't get ANY words out some days?

Don't beat yourself up. 

Stay calm. 

Believe that the ideas will come - and just write anything that comes to mind, even if it's not relevant to the story. 

It doesn't matter - you can always edit stuff out later. 

The main trick is to teach yourself to write without question, to write without criticizing your own talent or ability.

Let the writing process become an invisible conduit between your mind and the page. 

Because that's your ultimate aim - you get what's in your mind down on paper and not let the writing itself get in the way of that, as it can and so often does!

Some days you might not feel like writing - do it anyway.

Some days you might not have the time - find it anyway.

Some days, believe me, you'll feel you're wasting your time and your story is ridiculous, pointless - but you MUST carry on, as have all writers who've made their mark in the past.

Self doubt is the writer's curse, but you must learn to overcome it. And there's only one way to do that:

Keep going, keep doing,

Keep Writing!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Writing a Blockbuster Novel: The Formula

Before I get into the article, just wanted to update you on a couple of things.

I was going to do a news letter last week on the road - I did some establishing shots but what with looking after the pets and the weather, I seem to run out of time. 

Shame - because I keep meaning to film stuff in new locations, just to mix things up and bit and make them more interesting to watch...

Anyway, lots of new stuff coming up: just finishing off a video course on productivity called Super Success 101

Look me up on Udemy and Vimeo for my latest video courses.

Plus a new novel - All the Right Reasons - coming to Amazon soon!

And: an album of my best songs: Never 2 Late - which I'll be releasing later this year - with much to do and fanfare! 

Look out for news about that too.

Okay, here's the article!

Writing a Blockbuster - The Formula

My subscribers often ask if I know of any successful writers that 'showed' how they took their first drafts and made them into the highly polished versions you see in the bookstores. 

I could only think of a couple.

Stephen King in On Writing includes a rough draft of a paragraph and gives the reader an indication of how he goes about editing it to make it tighter. 

Cutting out words, changing phrases etc, generally improving the work. 

All very illuminating.

(Incidentally, people were so intrigued by Stephen's spontaneous example that he felt forced to turn it into a full blown story - and a movie - which became 1408.)

Also James Patterson has a masterclass on fiction writing out these days - and I've been meaning to get it - just for research, of course!

Anyway, the only other person I could think of was Ken Follett. I read a book once by Al Zuckerman which included various drafts of Ken's work as he edited his manuscripts to a publishable standard. 

So - I took a look at Ken's website.

On that I found a gem: a masterclass on writing a bestseller. 

And this is from a man who's had a few, so if anyone knows how it's done, he does!

What I found most intriguing though was that Ken seemed to think there was indeed a formula for writing a blockbuster novel - and so does Al Zuckerman, one of his highly respected agents - a guy who actually guided authors through the process of writing best selling novels!

So - rather than have you wade through books and websites trying to find illusive information, I thought I'd present what these guys say about writing a blockbuster novel - by presenting the formula here! 

The Formula

1. Come up with a scenario whereby two or three central characters are engaged in a life or death struggle to overcome a huge problem, the bigger the better.

2. Think through the scenario and its setting, the characters and their dilemma, and ask yourself, has this been done before? If so, discard the idea and go back to 1.

3. Write down 5 to 10 bullet points that will comprise the 'meat' of the story.

4. Expand on the bullet points until you have a 25 to 40 page outline of your story told in the present tense, introducing all of your characters and all of the story in the right sequence. Each paragraph should represent a significant plot point.

5. Show this outline to anyone and everyone who will read it and make comments. This might be friends, agents, publishers, the man who collects the trash, anyone. Make note of their comments and adjust the story accordingly. Ken Follett suggests this process of creating the ultimate novel outline might take anything up to a year to complete.

6. Write the first draft. Make sure you have a significant 'story turn' every four to six pages. (I told you it was a formula!) Adhere to this rule - too many story turns too often will confuse the reader, too few and they will get bored.

7. Repeat the process mentioned in 5. with the first draft. Make adjustments accordingly. This should take between 6 months and a year to get right. The first draft may take a month or two but the rest of the time is spent re-writing to make the novel perfect.

The Writing

Now, the most important aspect of this formula is that you don't approach it necessarily as a writer. 

No, you approach it as a storyteller. 

The writing must be crystal clear, only concerned with story. 

If there's ever a passage that smacks of 'good writing', you must ruthlessly delete it.

Because, when you're writing a blockbuster, you're not in the business of impressing people with your writing skills. 

Your text should 'transparent', totally clear and focused on telling a story.

There should be no barrier between the reader and the story. 

There should be no author intruding on the text - and the writing should never 'get in the way' of the characters, their actions and the ultimate resolution of their agendas.

Many writers make the mistake of thinking that merely 'being a good writer' is an end in itself. 

It's not. 

It's merely the beginning.

The ability to write well is one thing but the ability to re-write, edit, alter and change everything from the tiniest bit of punctuation to the overall theme of a novel without so much as a sigh is the sign of a true blockbuster novelist.

So, now you know how it's done, go for it!

Keep Writing!
The Easy Way to Write

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Barking At Shadows - and Other Writerly Pursuits

How are things? Good I hope!

We're travelling today - moving up state and having some personal time.

Feeling bad about leaving behind my novel - All The Right Reasons - that needs fixing! 

Also, I'm half way through making a video course called Super Success 101 - a masterclass on productivity, goal setting, and so forth. Had to put a hold on that too.

Ah well. I suppose we can't work all of the time!

In today's article - which is just text (I have my camera with me but finding time to film is tricky so far!) we look at writing as a past-time and ask, "Are we nuts?" 

If you'd like some free books on writing from star Amazon author, Katie Weiland, go HERE:

Plus, some crucial info on how to make more money when self publishing HERE

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success Is My Concern

Barking at Shadows

Is writing an insane way of spending our time?

My mother thinks it is - even now that she's finally accepted that's what I do. 

My dad too is a bit bemused by my choice of career, seeing as, to him, actually reading an entire book is akin to having his fingernails forcibly removed.

Robert Louis Stevenson once said he felt reading was 'mighty bloodless' and no substitute for real life - but there again, he was famously adventurous, a fact he used to advantage in his novels.

But I think most authors wouldn't agree.

On the opposite side of the spectrum you have Logan Pearsall Smith who said, "People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading."

I can relate to that. I like my own blood to stay on the inside of my body - whereas I don't mind reading, and writing, about someone else's blood spilling all over the page in the fight for justice, truth or freedom.

It's not really about coming down definitively on one side or the other I think. A writer's life should ideally contain both - a good smattering of life's experience but also a commitment to sitting down and recording the insights gained through that experience.

I don't know about you but I don't need much to inspire me.

I rarely spend my time socializing with large groups of people. I know some people do this all the time - as though it's some kind of duty. But, to me, a good, ideal day is when nobody comes around and disturbs my 'zone' and I can get on with my own stuff.

But whenever I do spend time with others, especially out with large groups or at parties and functions, I find I'm storing up hundreds of ideas for scenes, stories and plots I want to later develop in my writing.

It can be exhausting because, instead of just enjoying myself and interacting with others, I find I'm taking mental notes about personality, relationships and how, seemingly inevitably, people coming together creates as much tension, distrust and conflict as it engenders happiness, joy and hope.

We're a funny species in that regard - and I find that writing helps me deal with all the absurdities as well as the profundities of life in a way that would drive me crazy if I couldn't do it!

I know that if I was ever at a loss as to what to write about, pretty much all I need to do is go out into the world and brace myself for interaction - and inspiration!

But yes, sometimes when I'm completely immersed in a fictional world, juggling my characters' lives and developing meaning I sometimes take a step back and think, "What am I doing? Why am I spending so much time on this? What's it all for?"

After all, they say that life on Earth will be gone in a few million years - and all the books we've written, all the music and movies we created along with it. Who's going to be there to say, What an amazing species, look at this great book by...

Sometimes I look at our dogs and I can see that their entire lives are made up of eating, sleeping, getting pats and for the most part, barking at shadows. And I think, what's to say that we humans aren't really just doing the same?

And then, when the insanity passes, I know that this is one of the main reasons we write - to rise above mere existence and create order, meaning and purpose.

Because, you see, the real reason why my mother doesn't think that writing is a healthy past time is that it can 'give you ideas', as she calls it, and not always good ones.

By which she means writing can encourage a person to question the very fundamentals of existence and perhaps realize, as many hundreds of serious philosophers before us have already posited, that there really is no meaning to life that we don't, as humans, merely attach to it.

All else, as they say, is vanity.

But on the upside, writing, though to some a strange way of spending our time, is at least better than sitting around wasting our lives, doing drugs or having nothing better to do than hurt each other.

Writing forces us to make sense of things, to come to terms with who we are, how we act, react, and why.

To me, we need no justification to write - no special reason - its purpose is

We write because we can - and must

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!