Aim High: Your Time Abstract

Aim High: Your Time Abstract

Aim High: A “Your Time” Abstract

Presenting: Chapter 4 from my latest nonfiction release about Time Management. This chapter concerns setting goals beyond what’s given or ordinary. Aiming high will get you so much further in life. Your Time: Ten Principles for Managing Time Before Time Manages You is available now on Amazon.

Principle 4

Aim High

 

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

-Amelia Earhart

 

Forging an Empire

In the Fall of 2014, I had a dream inhabited by quirky alien characters and a dark, gritty realism that made me jolt awake at six in the morning, just before my alarm. I’d seen humans thrust into the midst of three warring alien species. I’d seen a story that needed to be told. For the next several hours, I wrote a brief outline for an entire book series. Most authors would have stopped there, content to write a few books on the subject and move on to the next idea. Maybe that would be aiming, but not aiming high.

I decided on that day that it wasn’t going to be like every other science fiction series out there. I didn’t wait for someone else to tell me my idea was good, I got to work. There was no marketing plan and no qualms. What I had was a battle plan. In fact, the Word document it still resides in is called “The Battle Plan.” Though it would be called something else initially, The Corsair Uprising was born.

As of this writing, I’ve completed Phase One of “The Battle Plan” in the first year of its existence, with a long way to go. It is, after all, a lengthy plan. I wasn’t content to create another science fiction series to be lost in the mix. Instead, I’m creating a planned expanded universe from the start. The best part is, no one can stop me. I’m opting to publish these on my own, which means I have total control.

Sure, maybe no one reads my books and then where would I be? I’d still be the author of a pretty extensive series and no one can take that away. When people tell me I can’t do something, including a surprising number of friends, I remember that not every series makes it right away. It can take decades for a series to really take hold and capture the imaginations of a generation. These days, almost no work goes out of print, meaning my work will likely be available well after I’m dead and gone.

 

“A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.”

-Catherine the Great

 

Forging Ahead

Almost anyone who comes up with a grandiose plan will be presented with stark opposition, whether it come from family, friends, or enemies. What do you do when confronted with haters? Smile. Smile like you know something they don’t. Because you do. You know that your vision might take a while to come to fruition, but it will eventually happen. Even if it never does happen, what right do they have to hold down your dreams?

 

“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

-William Butler Yeats

“He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”

 

Personally, I’m going to keep writing until my hands can no longer type. Then, I’ll use dictation software until my voice gives out. By that point, I hope someone comes up with a mind-reading software. If not, maybe I’ll use my toes or something. Regardless, I won’t stop. I can’t. And neither should you. Find what you’re passionate about and keep going until you feel you’ve reached success. Once you do that, keep going some more.

 

Aiming High

  1. The End Game

When I started The Corsair Uprising series, I knew exactly where I wanted it to end up: graphic novels, movies/TV show, audiobooks, action figures; you get the picture. It’s one thing to say it, and another thing entirely to do it. That’s where The Battle Plan came in. Everything I’ve learned about the publishing industry in the last twenty years was holed up in that document. Every coming year has specific and time-sensitive goals to help grow the ‘Empire,’ reaching more and more people.

Know what you hope to accomplish and don’t be afraid to aim high. If you set your sights high, success will seem less like a pipe dream and more like an inevitability. The degree of success will perhaps be up to more external factors, but as we’ve learned, those can be manipulated. In the end, ensuring you do everything in your power to reach your end game can’t be stressed enough. The power resides in you.

 

  1. Keeping It Real

So, you have lofty goals? Good. The next step may require a bit of research. If you want to be a Hollywood actor, there are many ways to get there. Being ‘discovered’ in a coffee shop or on the beach is the equivalent of winning the lottery and not a viable plan. You have to keep it real. Most of the people making it in showbiz are working their tails off, doing small productions at first and always auditioning, meanwhile working as a waiter somewhere, naturally.

There’s no reason this can’t also translate to the business world. You could get lucky and stumble into a great job, or you could start in the mailroom with aspirations of reaching the top. Every day you go to work with a plan for how you’re going to excel at your job and continue to ask for promotions and more responsibility. Being stubborn and just a bit hard-headed is a great trait to have when it comes to reaching extremely lofty goals.

 

  1. Measuring Success

Some people go through life and never realize what they’ve accomplished. Some people go through life and tout false accomplishments or take credit for others’ work. Don’t be either. Measuring success might be subjective, but it’s still necessary. Maybe on the way to the top, your goal this year was to land your biggest acting part ever or to get out of the mailroom and to have your own desk. When these wins happen, be sure to recognize them and reward yourself. Always remember the feeling you got when it happened and be determined to replicate it with the next step in your plan.

 

Final Reflections

You’re reading this book for a reason. You probably want to fit more activities into a single day, get tasks done quickly so you can spend more time with friends and family, or you’re an organizational nerd like myself. In any case, it’s important to know what you’re hoping to accomplish in the long term. Maybe it’s not even tangible, just the feeling that you’re on top of your game. If not, no amount of organization is going to make you happy or satisfied.

Yes, it is satisfying to check items off a list, just as it’s satisfying to see a project finally come to completion. Principle 4 is about keeping sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Just as it’s important not to focus solely on the big picture, it’s critical to step back between projects and take note of what you’ve done and how that affects where you’re going. If it turns out you’re accomplishing tasks but not making progress toward your ultimate goal, maybe it’s time to reevaluate.

When I say ‘Aim High,’ I mean go for your best-case goal, the scenario where the stars align and everything you’ve visualized has come to fruition. Regardless of whether this best-case scenario occurs, look back and see how far you’ve come. It’s like swimming in a lake using the front stroke. Most of the time your head is down under the water or you’re focused on taking in air. If you’re trying to cross a large lake it helps to stop every once in a while and see how far you’ve traveled and whether you’ve veered off course. From your position it might not seem like you’ve moved very far, but from shore you’ve traveled a great distance.

Using others as an example of success can be a good thing initially, but when you are measuring your own success, measure only against yourself and from where you came. Ultimately, you are not that other person, be they a friend or a celebrity. You are you, period. Success is not a scale that we can measure with quantifiable units. Success is qualitative; intangible even.

We are often our own harshest critics. It’s certainly true in my case. But, I think there comes a time when we must look at success as more than the way others perceive us. Nobody else knows exactly what you know, sees exactly what you see, or understands everything you’ve accomplished. Maybe you’ve spent your life overcoming an internal struggle that no one else knows about. By overcoming it, are you successful? I would say so. However, I believe Albert Einstein says it best:

 

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

-Albert Einstein

Writing Flashbacks: A Primer

Writing Flashbacks: A Primer

Writing Flashbacks 101: Deja Vu All Over Again

Writing flashbacks can be difficult depending on what type of story you’re writing. There are a number of things you want to keep in mind that will ensure your readers will understand what’s going on and realize that the content is a flashback. Here are the highlights:

Format:

When writing flashbacks, you should do something with the format to make it easy to tell that the scene is not in the regular chronology of the story. This can be done using italics, a header at the beginning that shows a change in the date, or other ways. Be creative. Every author has a different way of doing this, and it’s really a stylistic thing. As an example, I just got done reading The Martian by Andy Weir. Midway through the book, he adds a flashback in which Mark remembers the events that led to him being stranded on Mars (hardly a spoiler). The flashback is in italics and set apart within the chapter by two or three blank lines on either side.

Characters:

Writing Flashbacks
How would these have looked four hundred years ago?

When you’re writing flashbacks, it’s important to have your characters at the forefront of your mind. If you’re writing a much younger version of a character, be sure to distinguish them from their present-day form. Maybe there are fewer lines on their face or they no longer have gray hair. It’s important to be consistent here, especially if there are multiple flashbacks sprinkled throughout the story. In my latest book, Death Wish, I had a flashback to a time before one of my main characters had a facial scar. It was only a few years earlier and he wasn’t much changed physically apart from that, but it was a way to make him stand out. Another example is with the flashbacks in Harry Potter, in which there are younger versions of Snape, Lupin, and the rest. J.K. Rowling does a great job of depicting their much younger selves, displaying characteristics that make sense for much younger men. This includes being juvenile, brash, and horn-dogs.

The Point:

You’re writing a flashback for a reason, right? There are many reasons to write a flashback, but they should be more than “it would be cool to see so-and-so’s younger self.” Make your flashbacks have real meaning for the context of the story you’re writing. History has a way of repeating itself, and that’s a common thing to display between the past and present of your story. The length of the flashback doesn’t have to be overly extensive to get your point across. It could be a paragraph or a page and be just as effective as a whole chapter if done correctly.

Regardless of how you decide to go about writing flashbacks and what form they take, just get on with it! Make your point and get back into the action of the story. Too many tangents will leave readers feeling like they aren’t getting anywhere in the story. Make sure the reader knows they are reading a flashback, and be sure to distinguish the characters from their present self to drive the point home.

 

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis, you say? I don’t have an MBA…

…You don’t need an advanced degree to do a competitive analysis and understand your competition. Use the steps I outline below and discover how to make your book stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Who are your rivals, and what do they do?

Competitive AnaTry to pinpoint the genre you want to apply your work. I know, I know, your writing can’t be categorized in a little box. That’s why Amazon lets you use up to seven keywords and two main categories. Use them all! However, don’t just make up a genre off the top of your head. If you want to be found in the categories Amazon actually uses, look up Kindle ebooks on their website. On the left sidebar (Shown at left for your convenience). Drill down into the various categories until you find several that have less than 5,000 or 10,000 books. This will make it easier to stand out and reach the top 100 lists (something critical for organic sales).

Once you’ve narrowed down the field, seek out books that are similar to your own. Research the authors, including their Kindle ranks in various categories, social media followings, website presence, number of reviews, and anything else you think might be appropriate. Do this for three to five competitors to get a good idea of the current market and what you’re up against. Based on these real-life numbers, set goals for yourself. If you want to stand out, you’ll need to best these other authors in at least one or two of the areas I just mentioned.

Social Media:

As I said before, research the author’s platform (their website, social media presences, and more). Find out if they have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, or Pinterest accounts. If so, how much do they post? What do they post? How many followers do they have? How long have they had the account? These are all good things to know.

Covers:

Something else you’ll want to look at is your competition’s covers. Do they use real photos or illustrations? Stock photography (Istock Photo) or a professional designer? What kind of fonts do they use? What kind of color schemes? I hate to say that the cover is the most important thing you can do to stand out in a crowded market, but the reality is that statement isn’t far off. I made a mockup of a nonfiction cover for my recent book Your Time and the initial design was way off base. I did more research and found that using illustrations with cartoony people for Time Management books was far more common. I redesigned the cover and now it looks like the book really belongs in the same field. Whatever genre you’re writing has similar standards that will help guide you to a more successful cover. If you have already published a book and aren’t receiving many sales, compare your cover to your competition’s and see if you need to make a change.

Know Yourself

Competitive Analysis
Your competition may be hiding in the most unlikely of places. Take this mythical Beer Dragon for example.

Sometimes doing a competitive analysis of the current marketplace can give you a better idea of yourself and where you want to go. In between novels or stories, it’s good to reevaluate where you’re at see if you need to make a change. I hope this blog helps you discover your place in a crowded market.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below. What else do you do when conducting a competitive analysis?