This article has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with a sign of hope, something I think we all need right now. As Covid 19 runs rampant, states are shutting down again, with no sign of an end in sight, it’s easy to feel helpless right now. Emotions vary from day-to-day. One morning you wake up feeling like you can make the best of the day and find a way to make the new way of life work. Others, you wake up wanting to go back to sleep to shut the world out as soon as you can.
During a road trip to let my older kids visit my parents for a few days, we had to travel up to Estes Park here in Colorado. I hadn’t been up there in some time. The sight that astonished me the most wasn’t the snow in the mountain tops in July, or the beautiful rolling hills and calming waterfront, it was the trees.
Not that long ago, it seemed like many of the Colorado forests, especially those in Estes Park, were doomed. The Spruce Bark Beetle began running through the woods, and wherever they went they left a mark of death on the trees. Spreading a dangerous fungus, the trees of Estes Park and the San Juan Mountains killed tree after tree, causing mass devastation.
Certain areas are still recovering. However, as we drove to bring our children up for a mountain visit, I felt astonished. What was once an area that had sporadic healthy growth, and the rest were either dying or barren, was now a lush green everywhere (see the picture above for the “after.”)
There was a time when the reports indicated we didn’t know how to fight the beetles as they devastated the region. Beetle kill furniture seemed like one mild way to deal with it. Yet here we are in 2020, seeing a vibrantly alive woodland returned not that long after it was thought nearly a lost cause.
Now, the science and care that went into restoring this forest is remarkable. And as we began our drive back home, I had my wife take a photograph of the trees with my camera. It’s because I wanted to not only remember the moment, but share it.
It felt incredibly uplifting to see an area I remember being marked as “done and dead” that now flourished.
During this insanity, I needed that moment, and found the next week with work and writing to go much better. So go out there, find your trees and the sign of hope from something thought lost that now thrives.
In February, I’m giving two lectures. One was last night at the Smoky Hill Library, the second is February 24, 2020 at the Koebel Library thanks to the Arapahoe Libraries. If you can’t make it to them, or wanted some of the tools I shared, you can view the presentation here at this link.
The presentation goes through some of the things I’ve learned at my 6 years in advertising agencies and after getting my MBA, as well as self-publishing some of my own books over the last five years.
Studies show that sharing your goals hurts your chances to acheive them.
One of my largest goals for 2020 is to not share my goals. Which feels a bit like talking about fight club, which breaks many rules of fight club. However, in deciding how to approach the new year and the aspirations I have to accomplish, they’re quite formidable.
Now that I’ve been writing books for several years and released my debut novel in November, the threshold to expand the books I offer, and my readership to continue to the life-long goal of only writing fiction for a living. As I took the holiday break to restructure, I thought about how much at conventions and with fellow authors I would share. However, the results didn’t match up to my goals. I’ll be the first to say I am a very optimistic creator, so I try not to beat myself up over it. Having said that, I wondered if there was any sort of correlation.
Sure enough, there’s a ton of evidence to suggest that sharing your goals can cause significant issues with getting them done. But why?
Let’s start with the science behind it. Achieving goals releases dopamine. It’s why you feel so great cominig back from the gym. You did something and your body releases chemicals to celebrate that accomplishment. However, talking about your goals with others does a similar thing. It’s not as monumental as doing the actual thing you’re aiming to accomplish. But it can act as a substitute. It makes you feel like you’ve done something toward accomplishing your goals, even though all you’ve done is talk about it and have taken no action toward tangibly making it happen.
It’s why if you talk about writing your latest book with a ton of friends, you may find your wordcount is low or non-existent. You have to stop talking about what you will do and instead, really do it.
Your brain is triggering a mental reward for talking about your aspirations. It’s no fun, but speaking about your goals causes the brain to trick you into thinking you’re taking action, when in reality you’re not doing anything real against your goals.
Psychology Today did a great dive into explaining the dopamine issue that comes up from sharing your goals. They explain how when you talk with others about your resolutions, people will encourage you, lift you up. Of course they will, they’re in your life to make you feel better about your decisions in life.
As Marwa Azab Ph.D. explains in her article, “The more others admire our goals, the more dopamine rush we get, and the less likely we are to execute the future necessary actions to implement them. Therefore we deplete our ‘feel good’ gas, keeping us from reaching our final destination: our goal. Furthermore, publicizing our intention to succeed gives us a ‘premature sense of completeness.’ It signals the brain to move on.”
Make a list of your goals, but share them with no one. It will make your brain desire the “feel good gas” Marwa mentioned. You’ll be left wanting more, and in the right way because it will drive you to accomplish your goal!
But what if my goal requires other people or advice?
If you’re completely transforming your life to change your nutrition, or haven’t worked out at a gym in years, you don’t want to grab a barbell and hope you don’t put too much weight on or throw your back out. You need guidance. You have to know what door is right for you and your goals.
This is where sharing is important. A nutrionist or fitness trainer will give you the right motivation. They’ll congratulate you for taking the next step, but rather than leaving it at applause and adoration, they’ll follow up with real steps in order to make a real change.
The same with creating great art or finally writing that novel you have the idea for. Don’t isolate yourself in a room and think you’ll figure out how to create that great work of art or write the great American novel. No one writes their book in one draft and then the agent and fame finds them! You need mentors, conferences, books on craft. The key is to have someone who can give you enough encouragement to believe you can accomplish what you’ve set your mind to, but push you toward the next steps.
A good mentor lifts you up because they struggled to get started themselves, but they’ll tell you the reality of what it takes to succeed.
Therein lies the balance. Don’t share your goals on social media, or the next time you’re out with friends, unless you are looking for someone to mentor you or guide you. Because then, you’ll avoid receiving that false equivalence of accmoplishing the goals you’ve set out to achieve.
Follow me on social @thomasafowler, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thank you and good luck with your goals!
The other night I talked with two fellow writers about goals. One of the many discussed subjects was self-publishing vs traditional publishing. I’m doing both. Going hybrid is the best route for me because there are some projects I want to get out into the world without the hassle of submitting to agents and publishers. It’s not that they’re projects I don’t care about, it’s more that they’re products that don’t need traditional publishing routes. The business model I’ve established simply determines that there are certain products that don’t need the facilities provided. But some do. And as 2017 enters its final quarter, I’ve been assessing progress in my new ventures and determined where I’m headed into the end of the year and more importantly 2018. With every major goal, there’s a common statement: “Then I Have to Keep Going!”
Are my sci-fi novels bestsellers or being adapted?
I’ve got my goals for self-publishing next year, and it makes me happy because those are aspects I have complete control over. One of the most frustrating things about the traditional route is so much is out of your control. I’ve accepted that and my task of making Thursday nights where I submit to at least one agent keeps me constantly moving forward. And the reason I’m willing to go the traditional route with my major sci-fi novels is I want “the championship.” I want to be a NY Times Bestseller, I want movie and TV adaptations. It’s ambitious, and because those are factors that I’ll only have a certain level of control over, I also realize it may not happen. But I’m moving forward as if it is. Because if I don’t believe it’ll happen, why the hell would an agent want to represent me? Why would a publisher want to give me one of their few release spots in year? They have to know I’m in this for the biggest win possible.
And I feel like I am close. That sounds cocky, but the last two rejections had marvelous things to say that indicated they read the pages thoroughly, but then mentioned one thing that stopped them from signing me. I haven’t received a templated rejection in weeks! And yesterday’s rejection was a full manuscript request. It stung like hell because I got THAT close. Initial query: done! First 50: requested! Full manuscript: yes, please! Offer to represent me: Pass. It felt like the racing equivalent of tripping near the finish line. But you can bet your ass I’m back at the races with more submissions and continued work to become a bestseller and get my movies in theaters and on screens!
No. Then I Guess I Have to Keep Going!
Am I Able to Write for a Living?
I’m generating revenue, but not enough to sustain writing solely for a living. Through Spine Press + Post and the incredible collaboration with Melissa Koons, we’re getting closer. And I’m thankful that with a great business partner, we can adapt, learn and adjust our business model. We have a new approach in 2018 that will include publishing more books by us to continue shifting both our lives from needing additional jobs to just being authors. That’s why I’m excited that I’ll be releasing a new short story anthology in 2018, as well as self-publishing sci-fi and fantasy children’s early chapter books and new Porcelain Prompts.
No. Then I Guess I Have to Keep Going!
Do I Look Like a Nerdy Avenger?
This may seem like an odd question to ask about a writing career. But it’s more correlated than you think. You see, I’ve found an incredible connection between my physical health and ability to be creative. If I eat like garbage and don’t work out, I don’t write as much. If I stick to a workout schedule, then I get a ton done during my writing and editing sprints. But I reached a plateau at the gym, I was getting bored because other than staying in shape, I had nothing driving me. So I asked myself what I could drive toward and I determined I’d do two things:
Try out for American Ninja Warrior (which I’m training for and will be submitting an application in January!) I don’t know that I’ll get on, but it’s giving me specific training goals and new focus at the gym so it’s been great.
Look like a Nerdy Avenger. I’m a realist, my personality is not conducive to leading man. When I did theater, I was almost exclusively supporting. Which I don’t mind, the characters are more interesting and I was good at it. So I want to look like I could be a part of Captain America’s squad, the tech consultant to Cap, Falcon and Winter Soldier to provide support while still being able to hold my own.
These two goals keep me focused during workouts, and therefore helps me stay on task with writing. I’m doing well, need to ditch some weight around the stomach and legs but I’m getting closer with each workout.
Not yet. Then I Guess I Have to Keep Going!
So there you have it. For the big three questions of my career, all the answers are “No” right now. Which is okay, because I’m on the way, and I’m going to keep going.
What are your big writing goals? How can you tangibly monitor them and take small steps every day to achieve them? Let me know and if you need self-publishing help, you can get it with publishing and marketing services from Spine Press + Post.
ONE FINAL THING
Speaking of SP+P, I’m going to be doing what I call a brand-split. This is because I used to write on this blog, Writer’s Conquest, about marketing for writers. That energy is now dedicated to Spine Press + Post. So if you want to get marketing and publishing news, you should follow our blog over there. You can do so at this link.
This blog, Writer’s Conquest, will be focused more on the tagline: We Fight. We Write. So stay tuned for inspirational writing advice, motivation, and announcements about my own writing.
Thanks for tuning in, please be sure to like, share comment and subscribe to the blog if you want to follow along. Thanks for stopping by!
This past weekend I traveled to New York to the Writer’s Digest Conference. I returned home well after midnight due to a delayed departure. Having gotten 5 or fewer hours of sleep for nearly a week, it took some time to recuperate. The conference was equally invigorating and exhausting. You arrive home, eager to go straight into writing while also needing a pillow, all the pillows! While I cannot replicate all of the amazing presentations, I walked away with a number of lessons. Here are but a few:
Do your research, but focus on writing first!
Several panels helped with an understanding that too much world-building or going too far with research hinders your primary goal: writing. Two panels of very different subjects (one was Worldbuilding in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, the other on Culture-Specific Writing) had the same lesson: write first.
The authors know writing can be complicated. many feel that it can slow you down from your primary goal: write.
Jeff Somers brought up the point that in SciFi & Fantasy, along with every genre, the collective whole of your readership will always be smarter than you, the individual. They’ll find plot holes and complications with your writing you never even thought about. To which Chuck Wendig, author of the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy hilariously responded, “Try writing a Star Wars novel!”
They concluded that when all else fails, write the story. Because from there the needs of your world will become apparent. When you have questions for yourself as the writer, answering them inevitably builds the world you want to create.
In an entirely different panel, Anjali Mitter Duva spoke about culture-specific writing. Regarding the subject of how much you need to research other cultures, or look into things you need to understand, she had almost the same advice: write the manuscript first. Then you can edit, research areas that were left in question during your writing, and when all else fails you should have people from the culture you’re writing about read it for a sensitivity check.
So in conclusion: write first!
I ran out of fingers to count the times the importance of an established newsletter had on an author’s platform. It’s the proven method to create dedicated readers that will be lifelong fans. Jane Friedman talked about how Tweets and social posts can generate awareness, but cannot generate hard sales like a newsletter can.
It seemed like every successful author speaking at WDC couldn’t emphasize enough the validity and benefit of a well-curated newsletter. From non-fiction to generating client leads to good-old fashioned
One aspect Gabriela Pereira presented was that to make a living as a writer, you need less dedicated fans than you may think. She promoted the hell out of an article by Kevin Kelly called “1,000 True Fans.” It points out, with data validation, that with an established newsletter and fan-base of 1,000 individual fans that are dedicated to you, the author, you can earn a living. Read that article here.
Jane Friedman had an entire panel on the subject of newsletters. And again, with hard data to back it up, she showed just how much her newsletter was responsible for building a dedicated group of fans that generate revenue for her.
At the closing keynote, author/editor/publishing extraordinaire David Levithan said something amazing: “If you see a gap in the shelves, fill it.” He said nothing resonates more than honesty in writing. His personal stories made him the first voice in his genre to provide queer characters in children’s publishing. His continued work helps provide honest narration in the world. He didn’t see those books and wished they were around when he was a kid. Rather than wait for another author to beat him to the punch, he wrote them. Now he’s ludicrously successful and has a storied career that most authors couldn’t even dream of living.
This point was further enhanced by Round Table Companies. They had a board at the conference. We all anonymously filled out a form asking “What makes you feel vulnerable?” As the weekend went on, artists filled the board. And by the time the weekend was over, we had a board filled with honest commentary by the attendees. It was incredible to see the common threads.
Corey Blake, one of the founders of RTC, had this incredible approach to attracting ideal readers to your blog. By being honest, and following patterns that are often seen in dating, you can be honest about who you are, what you want people to think of you, and what your legacy will be by the time everything is said and done in life.
It all boiled down to one takeaway: write honestly. By writing who you honestly are as a person, you can open yourself up to an audience that will relate to your work. As a result, you’ll also write the books that aren’t on the shelves yet, because no one else has read your story.
Watch the 15-minute documentary made by Round Table Companies to get a glimpse of the experience. I spent hours playing their Vulnerability is Sexy game with other authors and it was beyond a blast. We opened up, laughed, danced, cried. It showed how much honesty can connect you to others.
Another persistent lesson that came up time and time again: keep going. It’s often the differentiator regarding what separates those who will make it and those who will give up. While that seems to be an obvious point, it bears repeating because every keynote and major presentation seemed to be a person who’s faced incredible challenges.
Their challenges were as varied as their writing and career trajectories. But the throughline remained the same: keep going.
Opening keynote speaker Lisa Scottoline performed what could arguably be an inspiring keynote doubled as stand-up comedy. She talked about how she got tons of credit cards and told herself that she could max those cards out, and by the time she reached her max she’d be a successful writer. It came down to the wire, and lesser people would’ve caved to find financial security, but she kept going. And now she’s a New York Times Bestseller and lives the life she wanted, writing fiction while also creating comedic works with her daughter.
Even the marketing seminars said the same thing. Gabriela Pereira had a great presentation about a breadcrumb technique, the way to bring dedicated fans to your platform. Her big takeaway? Once you finish creating one trail of breadcrumbs, you need to make another. You have to keep going.
Write. Market. Write some more.
If you have the means to afford this conference: go. It was on another level. I’ve been to a few conferences at this point and nothing compared to this. It shows why there are benefits to being in New York. I’m not going to move, I love Colorado too much and wouldn’t be able to handle the Big Apple long term. However, I hope I can return again in the years to come.
The help this conference provided from pitching to marketing to craft to just downright emotional courage proved this conference is a great place if you’re ready for a serious level of a writing career.
The writing community is stupidly supportive.
I’m not used to humidity, Colorado is a pretty dry state. Not sure how people deal with that. I was a vat of sweat after walking 5 blocks.
I also don’t understand what people do for food in the city. There were two grocery stores within 30 minutes of my location. It wasn’t easy just in the weekend I was there. Can’t imagine living in New York, but that’s my personal experience.
Big thanks to Date with the Muse and Annalisa Parent, who gave me an incredible giveaway package including Storytelling for Pantsers, Ready Set Novel, as well as gorgeous composition notebooks and pen. Definitely, check out their respective sites to see what they have to offer. Date with the Muse and Annalisa Parent.
PitchSlam showed me how willing agents are to listen to your pitches, especially when you show up ready. You could see them light up when they were given pitches that were well-rehearsed. Even if there were minor issues, they’d look passed it if it meant you had passion, heart and wanted the book to succeed. It’s contagious.
Confident prediction (perhaps to a fault): I will go back there someday as a keynote speaker. Don’t know when, but it’s going to happen and I’ll share a keynote called “You’re going to get your ass kicked.”
This weekend I’m headed back to New York City for the second time this year. And for the first time in a long while I’m going as an attendee. No booths, no panel appearances. It’ll be a nice change of pace.
However, it felt a bit odd deciding to head to the Writer’s Digest Conference. As I saw the agent list come together, I realized it was a hell of an opportunity. Yet I questioned whether I should spend the money for flights, hotel, and the conference. I asked the question: “Was it worth the expense?”
But that’s the wrong question to ask. The more important question is “Am I worth the investment?”
Sometimes you frame a question the wrong way, seeing things from a perspective that doesn’t work. The first problem: I referred to the travel and costs as “it.” This makes the associated cost feel like paying your cable bill or car insurance. No one wants to do that. Second, I referred to it as an expense. It’s not the case. This is an investment. I decided back in April to dive wholeheartedly into this career so I need to adequately invest in this endeavor. So here I go to New York to take part in one of the biggest writing conferences as an attendee.
It’s weird going to a con with only two objectives: absorb as much master-class level programming possible and enter the Pitch Slam. The Pitch Slam is the endgame and the primary reason for the investment. From the description on the Writer’s Digest site, this will be an intense period of time. As seen on their website, “On the day of the event, you’ll meet one-on-one with as many of your preferred agents and editors as possible in the 1-hour time slot. Each pitch meeting lasts 3 minutes, including 90 seconds to pitch and 90 seconds for agent/editor feedback and discussion.”
Because the timeframe will be so concise, I categorized the agents ahead of time. And I’m now following this categorization with queries moving forward, too. Feel free to use this if it helps:
Don’t Leave Without Pitching!
Nearly everything in their description matches my writing. They represent my genre, as well as books or authors that are right up my alley. That or their Manuscript Wish List is a near exact match with what I’ve written.
It may not be a perfect fit, but damn we have a lot in common on what we’re interested in writing and looking to read, respectively.
If Capacity Allows
There’s a clear path for this agent and me to work together, but there are a few things we may not connect with. Therefore I’ll pitch them to see.
There were only one or two things in their agent listing that seemed like we may work. Therefore I’d love to have the conversation to explore the possibility, or to see if there’s a path in the future.
No Chance In Hell
Literally, nothing about their agent listing matches what I write. Not a good or bad thing, just means what I’m writing isn’t what they’re reading/want to publish.
I’ve written my pitches for the Pitch Slam. And since I’m bringing two books to the table, my icebreaker will see which one they prefer. Depending on their answer, I’ve got a single-book pitch ready and a “lightning round” in the event they like both ideas.
Are you going to the Writer’s Digest Conference? If so, let me know. Would love to chat and meet some new writing buddies.
9 hours of programming for Myths and Legends Con this year! I’ve been at this con every year and look forward to it. This will mark my fifth year at MALCon and it continues to be one of my favorites! With the smaller attendance, you get a chance to talk to people, take a breath, really network with people. It’s why I love having a balance of bigger conventions and smaller ones. They’re different experiences.
And MALCon has been a great experience. The vendors there are phenomenal, everyone watches each other’s booths. It’s what the writing and con experience is all about. I’ll be there all weekend. Here’s my full schedule:
Stop by, we’ll be providing sign-ups for our Spine Press + Post giveaway of a complete publishing package! If you missed us, or want to sign up and won’t be there, you can still do so at our contest page.
Thomas A. Fowler, author of nerdy things here! I’ll be at the Spine Press + Post booth all weekend for Denver Comic Con! I’ll be at booth B11 alongside fellow author Melissa Koons. Come see us, we’ve got new books to sell, giveaways and convention exclusive sales! Take a look and we’ll see you there. Here’s a day-to-day breakdown of my panels for the day and what cosplay I’ll be wearing that day too!
FRIDAY, JUNE 30
Friday is going to be the panel-insanity day. With three panels in a 4-hour timeframe, you should come see me before it’s all said and done before I run out of energy to speak. Of course, I’ll be dressed as Johnny Cage from “Mortal Kombat X” so I’ll be cosplaying as a character who doesn’t know when to shut up. Aa a result, if I’m running out of energy, I’ll shout “”Let’s dance!” and keep on going. Full panel schedule is as follows:
Greatest Kaiju Movie of All Time
Room 605 from 12-12:50 p.m. Godzilla, King Kong, Pacific Rim, The Host. There have been an insane amount of cool kaiju movies. But which one is best? We’ve found the 32 best, but now we enter a tournament to determine which takes the real cake as the greatest kaiju movie of all time! Will a classic take the championship or will a dark-horse sneak in and be determined the winner? Audience members will help decide!
A Creative Life: Business and Balance
DCCP1 – Happy Harbor Room from 1:30-2:20 p.m. Many of us pursue a creative career, but we don’t know how to manage it financially. Hear from artists, musicians, and authors on how they achieve this. There will also be book giveaways happening at this panel so come by and enter to win!
Disney Villains: Deliciously Evil
DCCP1 – Happy Harbor Room from 4:30 – 5:20 p.m. Scar, Ursula, Jafar. let’s talk about the evolution of the Disney villain, their growing popularity and why we’re suddenly so interested in hearing their stories.
SATURDAY, JULY 1
Saturday always feels like the marathon day of a con. It’s always the longest, the most events afterward, it’s a great feeling to get through a Saturday at a convention. Thankfully, I’ve only got one panel so I can focus on being at the booth and sneaking in a few photos and autograph opportunities in between. The one panel I’ll be appearing at will also feature a book giveaway so stop by to potentially win a copy of some new releases hitting at Denver Comic Con from Spine Press + Post.
Unsung Hero: Heroic Qualities in Non-Traditional Characters
DCCP4 – Keystone City Room from 2-2:50 p.m. No one likes a cookie-cutter hero. They’re boring, you want the book/movie/game to be over. But when you get a hero with depth and intrigue you want to spend as much time with that hero as you can. Come swing by to talk about some heroes that didn’t walk the conventional line. Coincidentally, I’ll be cosplaying as Daredevil. And our giveaways may have something to do with Heroes and Villains so come stop by and win a copy of two new releases from Spine Press + Post.
SUNDAY, JULY 2
The big finish. It’s the day most people purchase what they’ve been lovingly staring at all weekend, you scramble to get into those last panels and make the most memories you can in the short time you have left before the next convention. Looking forward to Sunday to make more connections with fans and fellow authors alike, as well as an awesome panel and cosplaying as Ash from “Evil Dead,” “Army of Darkness,” and “Ash vs. Evil Dead.”
Other Kinds of Strength: Female Characters
Room 407 – Authors from 1 – 1:50 p.m.
Writing a complex and strong female character can be tricky, but these authors manage to do so very well. Find out the best ways to do that.
Hope to see you there!
Also, conventions can unfortunately have some situtations where people feel unsafe or uncomfortable, if at anytime you need somewhere to go, please come by our booth. We’re happy to be there for you!
Stakes: If your writing doesn’t have them, no one will care. You’ve witnessed writing without stakes. It happens when you verbally yell at your television screen or paperback, “Nothing is happening!”
Then there’s the opposite experience. When you are so invested in the characters and their success that no disruption is acceptable. You have to stay in the material until you know how it ends. That’s when stakes are done right.
So what do The Talking Heads have to do with stakes? Let’s dive in with the latest Literary Music Lesson. First, if you haven’t heard “Once in a Lifetime,” take a few minutes. Watch the video below or check out the Literary Music Lessons playlist on Spotify.
Done listening? Thoroughly weirded out? It’s not the oddest song David Byrne’s created. Trust me.
Within the lyrics is the building of stakes. And it also provides a consistent voice to help navigate the listener through the journey. And with each passing moment, the stakes of the story are increased.
It begins with the struggle to obtain “The American Dream.” The character is finding that beautiful house, that beautiful wife. All the things we’re told are indicators of the successful family in Americana.
We establish the struggle of the character, and understand the journey is confusing and not what many think it’s cracked up to be. That’s when we get the chorus. We think that this is once in a lifetime, only to discover that the struggles we face may be as simple as water flowing underground, a commonly seen event. And after the struggle, we’re back in the ocean of our life’s events, fighting the waves pulling us back.
The stakes of the story are established. Now they’re heightened with the next verse. The character questions how this life is supposed to function, and the things they fought so hard to acquire are becoming hard to recognize. The character, themselves, question how they could ever maintain what they fought so hard to acquire.
What we, the audience, thought was the highest struggle for the character turned out to be the beginning. We’re facing unexpected, and increased stakes in this narrative.
Then we hear the chant, almost 10 times we’re told “Same as it ever was.” We begin to understand where the character is headed. The struggle for the American dream never ends, and while he thought it would end, the stakes are only increasing.
From there, we enter the final increasing of stakes for the character. The phrase “Letting the days go by” become as frequently repeated as “Same as it ever was.” The character struggled and struggled, yet did nothing to change the circumstances, letting the days go by and not accomplishing what he wanted. And thus we fade to black knowing things are the “Same as it ever was.”
It’s an alarming cautionary tale. You see the same scenario in Citizen Kane, a film trying to understand the life of a millioinaire who burned every bridge with anyone who ever loved him. And it turns out (SPOILER ALERT FOR A 75-YEAR-OLD MOVIE), his last uttered word of “Rosebud” was his sled. A childhood toy of a simpler time. After all his success, struggles, all he wanted was to be a child again, sledding in his home where he held his fondest memories.
The Talking Heads did a brilliant job in this song of increasing the stakes. And the poignancy of the lyrics are often lost because it’s a weird song that is decidedly eighties.
How will you increase stakes? What can you introduce to your characters to make them struggle more and get readers invested? Chime in below with the comments section. If you like this, and want to read more, please share and subscribe.
You can read previous Literary Music Lessons by clicking on the images below:
Several weeks ago, I wrote about treating your writing like a mortgage. You owe yourself a daily word count and effort to contribute to your success.
Well, I spent five weeks doing great with it. At one point I even exceeded my set pace. With 2541 words ahead, I had given myself two days worth of vacation. Which was great. However, after that five weeks a few things happened in my life that caused me to slip.
A few rough events and I let it get to my head. I stopped writing for 4 weeks. This blog post being the first thing I’ve written for myself outside of work in a month. I keep a tracker of my word count, making sure I adhere to my 5-year goals.
So I counted up how far I’d fallen behind on the 5-year plan. Wasn’t pretty. The four weeks of negligence, and minimal writing, has left me 21,365 words behind my set pace. That’s from being at a 2,541 word surplus.
I’m sharing this with you for multiple reasons. 1) While I understand that the events of the last few weeks have been stressful, it’s no reason to slow down. In fact, this should have lit a fire under my ass to write and work harder than ever. 2) I had a human moment. A series of setbacks that put me on the mat. 3) This is to hold myself accountable to where I currently stand so I can pick myself up, start the catchup process.
Now I’ve got weeks and weeks of writing to do, and I’ll have to exceed my goals significantly to make up for the lost writing. I’m still holding myself accountable for that 21,365 debt.
That’s it. No big motivational speech.After five weeks of kicking ass, I slipped. Now it’s time to decide what I’m doing about it. Just facts and next steps. It’s because you can’t talk about how amazing you’d be at something to not do a thing about it. You keep moving forward. You fight. You write.