The right way to ask for reviews

It’s weird to think that I’ve written more than 600 reviews since I started my website back in 2016. Of course, as I cross-post these reviews to various sites like IMDb, Goodreads, and Amazon, I started receiving requests for reviews relatively soon after I started gaining some traction from my posts (my reviewer ranking is above 23,000). I’ll ignore the requests clearly from Chinese sellers trying to manipulate their Amazon rankings, but I do have a soft spot for authors. Unfortunately, most authors don’t know how to interact with reviewers—especially when sending a request via e-mail. They all understand the value of reviews, but they don’t take the time to ensure they’re making the best first impression. After all, reviewers are people and sending a review request is much like pitching an agent: you want to show you’ve done your homework. As a result, most reviewers will ignore these requests or send them to their spam folder, which wastes the author’s...
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Why self-publishing isn’t “free”

I have always said that one of the main benefits of self-publishing is that there is no financial barrier to entry. Anyone can write a book and have it published without paying a cent to anyone. Granted, this is also the reason why many people look down on self-publishing. With the costs of self-publishing being non-existent, there are no quality checks to ensure the content being published is good enough for readers to spend their money to buy it. Sometimes, this can result in backlash with angry readers leaving negative reviews. Often, not investing in a written work doesn't produce the sales an author would like to make (and is the main reason I don't make a living with my writing). Over the years, I've learned that self-publishing isn't just writing a book. Instead, self-publishing is editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, and any number of other tasks that combine to create a polished product. Depending on an author's skill level, some...
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Why you shouldn’t ignore creative burnout

Why you shouldn’t ignore creative burnout

Working on creative projects takes a lot of effort. When things are running smoothly, it’s easy to ignore how many tasks need to be done, especially if you’re trying to accomplish this project alone (as I’ve written about before). But when does it become too much? When can a creative endeavor cross over from pleasure to work? Part of the problem of accumulating creative projects is the desire to work on all of them at once. For some, it’s how they pay the bills. For me, my creative pursuits are meant to be enjoyable hobbies. I understand that some aspects of these hobbies (like editing) aren’t the most enjoyable, but they still need to happen if I want to produce a product I’m proud of. There are plenty of ideas I want to see come to life, but I don’t have the time to work on them all simultaneously. Sometimes projects overlap. I’ve recently recovered from a bout of creative burnout. I pushed...
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The Benefits of Fanfiction

Anyone who has consumed a significant amount of media can tell you that there are no original ideas. Most stories merely borrow ideas from their predecessors. The fact that most stories can be categorized into a handful of core concepts proves that everything has already been done before. And yet, people keep writing stories. Part of what makes a story original is how it mixes its influences to create something new, even if the foundation is recycled. Then, there's fanfiction. Some stories are told so well that the characters and settings are adopted wholesale into a different author's new work. While this form of creative writing could be considered intellectual property theft (especially if the stories are sold without consent from the original creator), it can be used as a stepping stone for writers who want to improve their craft. Alternatively, experienced writers can find the weak spots in famous stories and re-write them to fix plot holes and character inconsistencies....
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Traditional Publishing is Bizarre

The dream of many writers is to be traditionally published. There is a certain amount of clout that comes with having a manuscript printed by a company that is in the business of publishing books. There is a validation when an author’s book is distributed to brick and mortar bookstores like Barnes and Noble. I understand the appeal, but the more I learn about modern traditional publishing, the more I find it antiquated and bizarre. Is traditional publishing behind the times? For personal reasons, I have decided to exclusively pursue self-publishing as my venue for distributing my stories. While this is in part due to my realization that I can’t make a living off my writing—and thus why I pursue it as a hobby—I’ve dipped my toe in enough of the process and discussed it with other lesser-known authors who have successfully done it to realize that it’s somewhat stuck in the past. Here are three things about traditional publishing that I...
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2021 Has All the Fun

2021 Has All the Fun

Another year, another set of writing goals. 2021 will be a bit different in that I've already been hard at work getting things prepared for publication—or merely fixing up the project that I delayed from last year. Either way, I do plan to continue my goal of self-publishing at least one book each year. With most conventions postponed or canceled this year, I'll certainly have time to sit down and work on these projects. Buried Colony Despite the setback I had last year, I still plan on self-publishing Buried Colony as soon as possible (before it becomes a reality). I'll be re-working the parts that need attention in January and will get a few beta readers to check my work before proceeding with the advanced reader copies again. Fortunately, a lot of formatting and design has already been completed, so it's really just the content that needs some polishing before publication. I also hope to release this as one of the first...
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The Hindsight of 2020

As the saying goes, "hindsight is 20/20." This year has been a bit challenging and different from past years due to the pandemic. I didn't have nearly as many opportunities to go to conventions since they were all canceled or delayed to future years. While staying at home would have provided me with plenty of opportunities to write, I have also learned that having an infant daughter is a challenge that I had not accounted for in my plans. Regardless of these challenges, I managed to complete at least a few things in 2020, based on the goals I set forth at the beginning of the year. Let's see how I did in this year's... 2020 YEAR IN REVIEW The Ascent of the Writer (Ironed Man / The Last Immortal) In part due to the "hindsight" saying, I decided this year to go back and collect together all the little bits of writing I had written over the last 20 years. The result...
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How to pivot as a writer

If 2020 has taught me anything, it's how to be flexible. It's quite difficult to predict what will happen in a year, let alone one with such a massive global event like COVID-19. Fortunately, writing is a solitary activity, so writing new stories isn't terribly difficult when I'm forced to stay home. Unfortunately, this pandemic has been such a historical moment that it's difficult to ignore it in anything written in the present day. While I had plans to write a rather dramatic story set in the real world and in present times, I'm now considering moving it out a few years to gain some distance from COVID. Hopefully, this whole mess will be done by the time I start writing this book, and I'll have a bit of hindsight to help mold the characters and plot. So far, I've already gained a few key points that I want to integrate into the story that will certainly be familiar to anyone...
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Pretend Politics

I just turned 35 a few weeks ago. According to the Constitution, since I am a natural-born citizen of the United States, I am now eligible to run for President. With the latest Presidential election upon us, I thought I’d take some time to figure out what I would change if I were running this country. There’s clearly a lot that could use some improvement. One of the challenges of identifying what’s wrong with any situation is how easy it is to focus only on the symptoms instead of the root cause. One of the most memorable television shows I watched growing up was Connections. This PBS show that aired in the mid-1990s would take random objects/themes and show how they are all interrelated. I loved how these elements of “cause and effect” revealed how interconnected our world is. Nothing is truly isolated. As a scientist and writer, I can explore hypothetical situations. Granted, many of these scenarios rely on my knowledge...
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When did the writing begin?

Before this year began, I decided the idiom of “hindsight is 20/20” was an appropriate chance to reflect on the writing I’ve done over the years. While I managed to collect over 200 pages of my written works from the last 20 years in my latest book, The Ascent of the Writer (available today!), my writing “career” started well before then. I’ve never been one to throw away anything I’ve created. My basement has quite a few boxes and cardboard portfolios filled with all the visual art that I made throughout my elementary education. Among the pencil sketches and finger painting, I also managed to keep some of my earliest writings. These go back as far as 1992 when I was in the first grade. Some of my earliest stories were written in 1992. It’s quite a trip down memory lane reading some of these “stories” I wrote back then. I still remember the inspiration for some of them—some of which were just...
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