Posted in All Articles, Writer's life

My friend wrote a mediocre book. Should I give them 5 stars just because I like them?

Your favorite writing buddy with whom you could chat all night long finally sends you their novel. You start reading and… 

No, it’s not appalling. Writers who are really serious about their writing put so much effort in their works, that it’s impossible for them to release something appalling. But, judging a book as mediocre isn’t any better. It means: “I liked this, but that ruined it completely. The overall effect is not truly impressive.”

Your writing buddy is waiting to get your feedback, hoping you will praise them. They take praise as a form of support. They also had people who didn’t believe they could. They also had people who made them lonely. They see someone important in you, and so they gave you their book, praying for you to validate their talent, their story, their journey.

If you say the truth, you might lose their trust. They will stop believing that you have their best interest at heart. It’s like you told a fellow parent that their child is not very smart, or lacks manners. Even if you think like that, you don’t want to say it, for the sake of the friendship.

If you lie and praise a book you hated, it will have consequences. Your friend will continue sending you their flawed writing, and they will never improve. Because they won’t know where they should improve. They don’t see their book the way that you see it.

Whether to tell the truth or stay silent is a huge dilemma faced by lots of authors every single day. For this reason, I chose to write an article about it.

In general, the best option would be to avoid these sorts of situations. For example, if the book is not in your genre, explain that to your friend. Pass their book to someone else, and if you don’t know anyone, then just promote it on your website or social media. It’s just a few clicks and later you can delete the post.

If you already landed yourself in this sort of situation, where a friends waits for you to review their mediocre book, here are my suggestions:

STEP ONE: Do not trash talk them in public.

The book sucked? Okay, maybe it did. Which doesn’t mean that you have to suck as a friend and write about it online. You will chase your friends’ future readers away, and that is a horrible thing to do to another author. If you have to write them a review because they are your friend, try to give them a good rating – if you can’t give 5 stars, give 4, and if you can’t give them 4, don’t leave any rating. If you leave a 1-3/5 star review to your friend, you are showing them that you value your own opinion more than them and their dream – and that you are not wishing them well (because you are basically telling their future readers, ‘stay away from this book!’). Follow the savoir-vivre and refrain from reviewing your friend’s book online if you really dislike it. Readers will figure out anyway if it’s good or not.

STEP TWO, OPTION A: If you know that writer well, talk about the problems behind closed doors. 

And start with the positives. Say, “I liked the setting, the atmosphere, the characters. But. I think that you need to work on … . If I was writing about it, I would…”. Be very delicate and use your words really wisely. People are incredibly easy to hurt. Always assume that you are talking to someone incredibly sensitive. Reread your message before sending and think about how  you would feel.

STEP TWO, OPTION B: If you don’t know the writer well: help them silently. 

I do believe in honesty between authors, but if you have just met them, the bond between you is very fragile. If at the beginning of friendship you will tell them that they did this, and that, wrong, they are not going to like you. They might think that you are envious of their book or want to lower their self esteem. For this reason, talking openly in here is not the best idea. You should help them, but do it in a different way: for example, if they are struggling with character development, wait some time, and then send them articles on how to create better characters.

Final thoughts:

  • WHY DO PEOPLE SEND THEIR BOOKS TO FRIENDS?

From my own observations: usually, if people are showing you something, they are not interested in your ‘honest opinion’. Instead, they want to be praised or validated. We all know that joke about the wife who had already chosen the color of the dress (purple), but asks her husband for opinion, and when he says green, she gets angry. Cause she hoped that the answer would be purple.

Same is with authors. Why are we giving out our books? Because we want people to love them, not hate them. If you knew someone hated your book, would you send it to them? Probably not.

  • WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE OUR FRIENDS’ BOOKS?

Two years ago, I started a review blog about classical literature. I decided I would read Booker Prize. I rated the first book 4/5 stars. The second one got 3/5 stars. Was it bad? For me yes, for Booker Prize jury – of course not. We all have different opinions. Who is right? Who is wrong? Nobody knows! Everyone’s perspective is different! I might think that that Booker Prize book was horrible, but was it really, or was it me who couldn’t appreciate it, because, for example, I wasn’t the target reader, of I know too little about literature?

  • WHO SAID THAT ALL PIECES OF ART MUST ADHERE TO THE SAME RULES?

Writing is not mathematics, it’s art. Does art have to stick up to all rules that are out there to be appreciated? Not really.

  • ARE MINE AND THAT AUTHOR’S GOALS THE SAME?

Maybe the characters are flat because my friend can’t write them… Or maybe, maybe my friend did them like this on purpose, cause they wanted to make them universal.

Maybe the descriptions are dull. Maybe without them, the story would be too fast paced and impossible to read in one run…

Who knows what they were thinking when writing?

  • SHOULD WE TEAM WITH AUTHORS AGAINST READERS, OR WITH READERS AGAINST AUTHORS?

Again, this is a very subjective question. To me, supporting a friend in their writing career is more important than proclaiming what I think is the Ultimate Truth. Especially when I know that what is the Ultimate Truth for me, might be very subjective and even false in a broader context.

What are your opinions on this big dillemma? Share them in the comments below this post! Thank you!

And last but not least… related articles:

 

Posted in Writer's life, Writer's problems

How to write when everyday life leaves you exhausted?

If you are writing and in high school, there are tests. If you are writing and in university, there are exams. If you are writing and employed, there is work. If you are writing and parenting, there are children. Unless you are on holidays, sick leave or retired, you will always be too busy and too  tired to write. 

Our society doesn’t reward writers. Yes, there are royalties, but authors don’t get them every month after working 40 hours each week. You get paid sometimes and the amount of money in your paycheck may vary. So, to survive, you need a “real job”. And while this “real job” is going to provide your everyday bread, it’ll consume most of your creative energies and hinder your writing process significantly, making you less efficient (here is your anticapitalist love note: “You are worth more than your productivity”).

After “real jobs”, most people watch movies, play games and surf the web. But, if you are a die-hard writer like me, you are probably trying to write faster, better and more in whatever’s left of your free time. Which isn’t always possible, as you are a human being, not a novel writing machine. And if you have reached the point when you are so frustrated that you want to throw the keyboard out of the window, please throw it on the bed, because someone could get hurt, and that person could also be another miserable novelist returning from somewhere they hate.

I have only two quotes to motivate me in such situation and I will share them with you.

  1. “Your pain will make a way for you” (Tumblr). I keep this one pinned to my corkboard. It reminds me that even though it’s extremely hard to fulfill all my duties and write, I must persevere, because it will be worth it. In order to reap, we must sow. It will all pay off with time, hence, it’s crucial to be patient.
  2. “I forced myself to be enthusiastic” (Soichiro Honda). I have this one on my corkboard, too. A lot of people believe wrongly that working on your passion is a piece of cake. It is not. And you are not going to be highly motivated and efficient all the time. This is why you must discipline yourself and do things as if you were enthusiastic about them, even if you aren’t.

And now – advanced time management techniques:

  • Limit contact to time consuming people – Who are time consuming people? For example, an old friend who invites you for a coffee to gossip about everyone she knows for three hours. Or it might be your sister who drops her children at your appartment every weekend “because you are not going anywhere anyways and she has stuff to do”. It might be a coworker who writes you on Friday night to talk about work or it might be a university group leader who wants you to do voluntary work each time there is a conference. Altruism is good, but not pathological altruism, where you regularly give up on your needs and wants, simply because you “can’t tell someone no”. Be assertive and healthily selfish. Protect your time!
  • Learn to delegate people. Consider if it wouldn’t be better to pay someone to help you instead of doing everything alone. If you don’t have time to clean, hire a cleaning lady. If you don’t have time to cook, order a take-out. If you don’t have time to edit, get a gig on Fiverr. You could actually hire the whole team to write, edit and market your book. If you can’t invest your time, invest your money. After all – time is money and money is time.
  • Avoid long routes. Let me give you an example: you live in the northern part of the city. Your child’s school is in the southern part of the city. Your dance studio is in the eastern part of the city. Your favorite bookshop is in the western part of the city. Oh, and your best friend lives in the suburbs. How much time do you lose on driving in between those places? Try to do as many things as you can in ONE district of your city.
  • Avoid big and crowded places. Buying vegetables at the local grocery can take you 30 minutes at most. Driving to the supermarket, finding a parking place, walking between shelves, reminding yourself of other things to buy, then standing in the line, packing the stuff in the car… Do you see how much time it takes? If you have to visit the supermarket, try to do it once a week instead of three times a week. It will save you a lot of time and tiredness.
  • Give up on something. But not on sleep, healthy food and exercise, because it’s going to backfire sooner or later. Here is a list of things that you can cut on:
    • Playing arcade games.
    • Rewatching old movies / TV shows or watching AMVs.
    • Surfing the web without an aim.
    • Watching TV programs you aren’t interested in, just because a TV is on in the room.
    • Reading forums and responding to each new post.
    • Checking social media more than necessary.

All those things can be done later, as a way to rest from writing. However, if you do them for two hours after work, then at night you will be probably too tired to write.

And now, some more tips on how reorganize your writing routine to make the most out of your creative energies:

  • Reconsider your writing hours. If you are too tired after work, consider going to sleep earlier and getting up at dawn to catch up with writing. It’s always easier to write when your brain has rested. Also, try to take advantage of the weekend.
  • Organize your writing. For example, I’ve made an excel table with all the projects I’m working on. It’s very useful, as I work on lots of projects at the same time. I update the word count regularly and keep track of what needs to be done next for each story, whether it needs to be rewritten, edited etc. In this way, I don’t need to waste time on thinking which project I should open and what I should do.
  • Set goals to track progress. I have created a table with every little action I do to push my writing career forwards. Each action is rewarded with a small number of points. For example, I get 2 points for writing a page from scratch, and 1 point for creating a picture quote. I try to earn 10 points each day. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s impossible. Whether I fail or reach or cross my point goal, it doesn’t matter. I keep the table to remind me that I’m moving forward.
  • Try not to freewrite. If you feel that the quality of your writing dropped below 30%, skip the writing. Do marketing instead. It’s not as tiring, and it’s really worth it: in fact, you’ll probably thank yourself later for it. Add followers, seek book blogs and contact reviewers. Alternatively, you can also read a book in your genre or research a topic that you’d like to write about.

In general, I am very stern about my own writing routine and I encourage people to do their absolute best as writers. However, the real question at the end of the day is not “how to write when exhausted?”, but rather… “should you write when exhausted?”. Pushing yourself to do more when you can’t is never a good idea, as it’ll leave you feeling empty, depressed and angry. If you feel you don’t want to write, don’t write. The world won’t collapse if you publish your opera a year later than planned. However, you yourself could collapse, if you don’t rest and live on coffee and 3 hours of sleep every single day. Always put your own physical and mental health first. Remember that when you are well rested, inspired and happy, writing is much easier. And it might pay off to give up your Friday evening to watch a good movie instead of forcing yourself to write when you really can’t.

I hope this helps, stay inspired.

Posted in Writer's life

Why dealing with social anxiety is so important if you are an author

Let’s have a heart-to-heart today:

When I was 19-20 years old, I suffered from social anxiety. It changed after a class with miss Li (surname changed). She moved from China to Poland, and taught Chinese… using Polish. We were all very impressed by her Polish skills. One day, someone (not me) told her that they didn’t have courage to make phone calls.

“Why?” She asked, “You all speak Polish. My Polish is just so-so, but I am not afraid of anything. I always use the phone to order pizza.”

‘She’s so brave,’ I thought to myself and decided I wouldn’t have social anxiety anymore. Of course, I still had it, but I endured. I told myself: “It’s nothing. I’m not in danger. It’s just a social situation. I will do my best and it’s enough”. Guess what – it helped. I moved to China. I did order pizza on the phone. Now I don’t have social anxiety anymore.

Why I am telling you this story: as an author, you will be required to interact with different people. Not only editors, readers, reviewers and writing teachers. But also sponsors and publishers. Not reaching out to important people, who have the power to push your career forward, puts you in a disagvantaged place. If you really want to get your name out there as an author, you cannot let shyness and social anxiety stop you.

I have designed 10 questions which will help you verify if and how much social anxiety is dwindling your current potential:

  1. Have you come out as a writer to the people who might be able to help you? (e.g. your boss has a friend with a publishing house, however you keep silent about your writing endeavors).
  2. Have you reached out to other successful authors to ask what are their ways? (aka “Are you trying to reinvent the wheel?”)
  3. Do you censor your writing, afraid that friends or family might not like what really is going around your head?
  4. Do you send your writing to others, or do you have a million excuses why it’s not a good idea?
  5. Do you send your work to 10 publishers, instead of 50, because “you want to be over it as soon as possible”?
  6. Are you proud of your presentation skills? How do you feel speaking in front of crowds? Are you really ready for dealing with journalists, fans, investors and other people once your book becomes a bestseller?
  7. Do you use the word “introvert” as an excuse not to interact with people?
  8. If you are not happy with something (e.g. unfair publishing contract or uninteresting cover design) are you able to talk about it openly?
  9. Do you seek jobs that require writing (e.g. copywriting, newspaper work etc.)? Or do you feel “unqualified” and afraid to have your skills tested?
  10. Does social anxiety cause distress in other areas of your life?

I know that dealing with social anxiety is not easy. However; if you realize that social anxiety is robbing you of opportunities as an author, this should be another motivation for you to acknowledge the problem and commit to recovery.

Posted in Writer's life

Friends won’t read my writing: what to do about it?

Publishing a novel can be quite an extatic experience. Imagine an elated writer who throws his newly published book in the air, the same way graduates throw their caps. “I’ve finished!” He yells. “Everyone, enjoy!”. The book hits the ground and except from the closest family, nobody cares. Friends suddenly disappear with the excuse of being busy. They don’t read, don’t review, don’t pass the word.

No matter what you create, whether it’s novels, stories, poems, music, art or jewelry – you are hoping to sell it, and hence, it’s a business. If you google “what to do when friends don’t support your business”, you’ll find dozens of articles on the topic, and all will apply to your situation.

It hurts a lot when friends don’t support you. After you’ve licked your wounds, you realize that something needs to be changed. Most articles suggest two radical solutions: either you give up on your expectations or you give up on your friends. Before you choose the latter option, let’s talk about giving up on our expectations.

It’s helpful to realize that:

  1. Friends aren’t necessarily your target audience. (Food for thought: If you two weren’t friends, would you recommend them your book? Or would you seek another reader?)
  2. Friends have their own reading taste. And remember that “de gustibus non est disputandum”, meaning “in matters of taste, there can be no disputes”. (Food for thought: Are you into the same authors / genres? If they hate home cooking, but you expect them to read your recipe book, you might be wasting time trying to get any feedback.)
  3. Friends might lack time (or… not want to have it) to read books. If that’s the case, you might send them the article What to do if you hate reading?, but don’t expect miracles. Chances that they will read your epic poem of 300 pages in the  name of friendship are quite slim.
  4. Friends might be afraid to tell the truth about your book. If they are sure they won’t like it, it’s easier for them to say that they’ve been busy, rather than hurt your feelings by saying “I don’t like it”. Take it into consideration.
  5. If friends don’t read your books, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you. Don’t discard a great friend just because they aren’t into your work. Instead, focus on other things that make this relationship work out. If you really, really  need them to read your book, it’s best to explain to them, why.
  6. It’s not about friends anyway: you are desperate to be validated as an author and have your books read. I assure you, that once you’ve gathered a target audience and a review team, it won’t matter whether your friends are reading what you wrote. At the end of the day, it’s important that our friends have our backs and our readers read our books.

If you feel less angry with your friends after reading all of the above, and ready to forgive, good. But that’s only half of the journey.

You must learn how to convince strangers read your work. In this way, you’ll never run out of readers. Here are some tips:

  • Improve the quality of your work. Re-read it again, hire a beta reader and an editor. They aren’t as expensive as everyone thinks, and their help can do wonders.
  • Work on your self confidence as an author. If you know your strength and trust that the book you’ve written is good, you won’t need validation and encouragement from friends.
  • Seek book reviewers within your target audience. Useful hashtags are #bookblog, #bookblogger, #bookstagrammer, #bookblr, #bookworm, #bookreview, #bookreviewer. If you combine them with genre hashtag, e.g. #historicalromance #bookblog, you will surely find who you are looking for.
  • Learn the benefits of reaching out to book bloggers. They will probably read your book quickly and review it on their own platform, which will generate interest.

I have noticed that many people are dissatisfied with their relationships because they expect their close people to be everything at once. E.g. a woman is disappointed at her husband because he is not the best business partner she could have. Or, a father is upset with his second son because he won’t keep him company during fishing, (like the first son did). Authors believe that friends should become their first readers, etc. While it might be truly beneficial to accept that the circle of friends and the circle of readers don’t need to overlap. (Related article: What to do if you feel lonely as a writer?)

I hope this helps. Share your stories and feelings under this post and stay inspired! Also, if you like Always Inspired Writing, consider following me either on Twitter or WordPress! Thank you!

Posted in Be a smart writer, Writer's life, Writer's problems

Commenting on EU copyright law: I’d rather have my copyrights respected than laugh at memes: what about you?

Do you care more about having hilarious memes or about your copyrights being respected?

If you had the chance to really earn money for the content you are creating, thanks to copyright protection, would you still vote against the new EU copyright law?

Before you contact the European Parliament (as Wikipedia suggest you), think about the consequences – especially if you are a content creator.

People are panicking because of the article 13 of EU’s new copyright law: “a regulation that will force websites to filter out text, audio, photos and video shared by users against an ever-expanding database of copyrighted works” (source). Yes, it might be the end of our precious and beloved memes, as well as parodies, remixes, fan videos etc. But it’s a blessing in disguise: it will protect us, creators.

I sometimes look at fanpages here and there and my blood is boiling when I see that 90-100% of the posts contain stolen materials that breach copyrights. It’s like taking a dress from a clothing shop without paying for it and going for a photoshoot, getting likes and follows and oh, not returning the dress but keeping it in your wardrobe. That’s exactly what’s happening when you post an entry with a copyright-protected image.

The creation of digital media is a new type of work. It requires time, efforts and skill. And it deserves to be paid. There are so many talented people on the internet right now, writers, editors, artists, musicians – but they won’t earn they money they deserve because consumers think that everything posted on the internet is free and can be used as they please. 

Consumers must learn to differentiate between the public domain / creative commons materials and protected materials. Memes, remixed and fan videos can still be created as long as various licenses are respected.

People are earning more and more, eating better, working out under the eye of trained coaches, spending money on membership cards, events, tickets, holidays, gifts, clothes and other material possessions. And yet, they are thieves on the internet. Why is that so? Because “nobody will notice”, “this is just for private use”, “I’m not important enough to be sued?”. Or maybe because “an e-book is not material anyways”? If you print an e-book than you’ve stolen, it’s not different from stealing a book from a book shop. Then why is everyone doing it? It’s not poverty – it’s greed. 

The European Union’s copyright law will help non-creators understand that digital media are goods no different from material things that are available in shops. I am sure that after the copyright protections are launched, more and more content creators will start earning.

Writers – wouldn’t it be awesome to stop worrying about your newest book getting pirated as soon as you release it? Wouldn’t you want all the illegal copies of your sweat and tears removed from torrents?

Personally, I really have no intention to write or sign any petition against the EU copyright law. I think that it’s there to protect me. I really care more about my copyrights being respected rather than having hilarious memes, remixes and fan videos.

What about you?