All posts by Dale

I am the CEO of LyfeHack. I seek out like-minded people who want to start their own business and those who desire to purchase the very best products in health-care, sports nutrition and more. I aim to help you hack your way through life, whatever your need.

2 WRITING SECRETS That Will Make You More Professional

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my_writer_by_cactusowa- http://cactusowa.deviantart.com/art/my-writer-166552759

There are two habits that are great tools in helping you with a future and promising career in writing. Today I am going to talk about word count and outlining. I see many authors don’t like either, well I get that. But I also notice that most of the time it is because we complicate it. I say we, but I mean me. :^P

No big, we can’t help ourselves, we’re writers! Of course, we over-think everything. And yes, I mean me again.

So, if you’re a writer and you’re struggling, there are a few things I can suggest. In this post, I am going to tackle two things. And I am going to tell you in easy, bite size tips on how you can improve your productivity.

Yes, there are writers like Lee Child, Stephen King and Dean Koontz who don’t outline. But they find other ways to keep up with their stories, and they probably do more work than they need to, but it does work for them. I know that Koontz hand writes his book. He goes over every page around thirty times then moves on. After he is done he puts it into his old computer that is so old it has Word Perfect.

Point it is, he drafts the crap out of his stories so he is able to keep up with his story. But many writers think that outlining takes the magic out of it, or that outlining isn’t writing, and I am a little offended by that. In fact, the outline itself is writing, it is pantsing. Because no matter what you’re writing the ideas in your head at some point, and that is pantsing. And if you do it good, when you write your prose, you will have signposts that will redirect you The point of an outline is so that as you write, when you get lost you can get back on track. It helps to know where you’re going. At least have that safety net.

So, today I am going to use author team Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant from Sterling and Stone. These guys can write a 100K book from concept to published in 30 days. They can crank out over a million words in a year. They know their stuff. Sean and Johnny have what is called a beat system. I am just going to show you the basics of this system, but if you want to see it in action I recommend their video series on beats, or their Fiction Unboxed series.

Simple Synopsis-

Here you will write your idea for your story from beginning to end or as close to the end as you can. No worries you can always come back to write more.

Rough Story Arc-

Here you will take what you know, tighten it up a bit or expand on it. You might want to add subplots as well.

Elevator Pitch-

Here you will write a paragraph or two about your synopsis.

Single Sentence-

A single sentence of your synopsis.

Then we move onto character beats Which you will use a picture, be it an actor you like for the character, a family member, any face that relates to your character. Then you will fill out all the deets about your character. Granted, things like eye color are important, but here what is most important is their back stories, their narrative, their family, their goals, and what is it they have invested in the story. You can design the layout of the sheets how you feel is best.

And then there is location beats. Here you go location scouting if you have some interesting locations in your story. Google is great for this, but you can also go about your town or vacations and take your own pictures and use them as well. Whatever floats your goat. And then the beats, well tell about these locations. You can keep it brief or go into detail, but also write about things that you will include in your story. It is okay to write more than you will use.

Finally, there is the story beats. Here you will write a few hundred words about each scene or chapter in your story. I do it per scene. And do this through to the end. Then when you are happy with your beats, get to writing your prose! And although you have just written a lot, you are still able to keep it loose enough that you can still pants some. In fact, the beats serve as signposts to bring you back to the track. Where you go in between is entirely up to you.

And as for word count, I do anywhere from 500-2,500 words a day. Some days I get none in. But I am always working on keeping that word count. I really want 3,000 word days, at least on my off days. But hey, we make do. The point is, no matter how hard life gets, we need to acquire a discipline of some kind. Maybe you can only write a 100-350 words a day. Okay, awesome! You’re writing! That is what’s most important here. You’re making word-sauce!!!!

Alright I hope this helps some of you out there. I kept it general for you all to make your own, and if you want to see Sean and Johnny in action don’t forget to check out their videos. They also do a lot of specials and sometimes give away free advice. Especially on their self publishing podcast on Youtube and their personal site.

Have a good one, and feel free to post your feedback below.

Bub bye!

Here is a video Sean was going to use for a free series but ended up making an awesome series in which you must pay for. Which I would have done the same thing in his shoes. I haven’t seen their Fiction Unboxed, but based on the advertisements and what I  know about these guys from their books, it is well worth the price. But here is a video on beats.

STARING INTO THE FUTURE FROM THE PAST WHY I LOVE HISTORY

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By Flint Macwood

As I write the beats for my upcoming novella, REFUGE, which takes place during the American Civil War, a racial calamity is transpiring in our very generation at this very moment.

I am sure most of you have heard the events going on in Ferguson, Missouri. It is beyond tragic although I say that from a different point of view.

CNN reported the case as officer Darren Wilson gunning down a black teenager. Almost right off the bat every one jumped on the white verses black train. Not caring one bit WHY Michael Brown was shot dead. Because what we read in the news is not always true, and no matter how much truth is in a headline the event will always hold more perspective than the snippets we read about.

Regardless of which person here you back, we must not back either based on race, for THAT is racist. No matter where we stand, we must stand on love, justice and the facts. Anyways I won’t get into my soap box like I did on Facebook. But my point is, as far as we have come as a nation and in equality, we are digressing in other ways.

One quote I like to say all the time is that the more we change, the more we stay the same. Sure the things we use change, the slang, languages, some minor points of view, but basically we are the same.

Look throughout history. Look at the good, the bad and strange. Look at governments, look at how people have treated each other and why. Look at the reasoning behind evil acts. We are no different than most societies. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot I love about America, but so much of who we are as a nation is nothing more than a repeat of the past because we don’t learn from history.

People are always quick to say, “I care!” but hold their hearts to the fire and you will see their true selves. The fact is, almost everyone has their own right and wrong, and a lot of the times that is dependent on what the majority says. If the majority says that Michael Brown was a black teenager gunned by a white racist cop–in a time where police brutality climbs and so does the deaths of blacks, and yes even innocent blacks that did not deserve it nor was it any kind of justice–then that is the Pipe Piper that everyone follows in spite of who gets hurt.

So, as a person who is taking Darren Wilson’s side, where exactly do I stand?

I stand on the side of those who are treated unfairly. I do not care about skin color. Your skin pigment does not give you more or less rights than me, to say it does is an insult to us both and that would make you racist.

The fact of the matter is, all men and women are created equal.

The fact is when a grown man (eighteen is grown) continues to assault a cop, they are taking their life into their own hands They are play Russian Roulette. Attacking a cop is a crime as well it should be. A cop’s number one goal is to get home alive. The second is to protect and serve. I learned this from a cop in one of my criminal law classes, which this goal should be obvious. What if you were the cop?

What happened when Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in what Wilson claims to be self defense (I have not seen adequate evidence to support that he is lying, so far it looks like he is a victim of a witch hunt) is that very moment the life of a young man ended due to a shaky upbringing because he knew nothing else other than the criminal life he was raised in (as so many are tragically) and the life of Darren Wilson was turned upside down.

Had Michael Brown been white there never would have been rioting or protests. Some would have cared but not near as many. The opposite of how it was back in the 1800’s.

And this is my whole point, who are we as a people (one people, one race) today? Do we understand that in terms of skin pigment there is nothing to tolerate, but to love? Are we so brain dead that we cannot see that we are various shades and tones that make up a bouquet of elegance? Are we so far gone that we cannot learn from what this country has done to one group or the other in regards to oppression and faux equality?

We The People have done amazing things, and unequivocally evil things. We know better as America seeing that we fought the British in the late 1700’s for freedom and equality. We should have got this right from the get go, instead we have been the very worst.

Reading through the Civil War, I am brought to tears. The lunacy and madness of men who thought they could not only make another person property and treat that said property anyway they felt is horrific. And it is obvious. It is spelled out for us across the pages of history. However, when We The People do it in other ways, we justify it, just like those back in the late 1800’s. Are we really any better? How far will we take it? Will whites end up going through the exact thing the blacks once did, and in some ways still go through?

People need to realize as Martin Luther King Jr once said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This is true for all of us. King was not a well supported man of his time, but today is regarded as a hero. Many of us from all sides even those who are racist love the man and quote him. But King never would have supported a mob action on the innocent business owners of Ferguson, nor would he have supported the mob attack on the character of Wilson. If Wilson is truly guilty of everything that has been said about him, then yes justice needs to be served. But the evidence needs to back it up.

King wanted equality because he knew all too well about oppression, and being treated less than human over the pigment of skin. We all should learn from him, but of course we continue to be horrible to one another, compounding the racial divide further.

The fact is, the more I see the past the more I see the future. We will always enslave and war with one another, the reasons may flip and change, but the acts against each other will always repeat. We are all slaves to this primitive way of life. Unless of course we can evolve into something better as one race.

We will see, I am not holding my breath.

Anyways, I am not trying to be a downer here, but people need to wake up if there is to be any hope for the future. We need to treat each other as we want to be treated. We need to give the same attitude to everyone we want given to us. Because if Darren Wilson is innocent, the man already has lost his career as a cop. It’s not safe for him to go out. His life will never be the same. And the worse it gets for Wilson, will be on those who support this kind of injustice.

Stick to the evidence, and protest in peace. And by that, you will be the very example you wish to make happen in the world. Be the evidence that some people are good, and some people do care, and not every one wants to oppress and war.

God bless, and keep all comments classy. Trolls will be exterminated.

POSTSCRIPT:

After writing this, I feel I need to mention a couple of things. One is that I will be posting more on why I love history, and how it impacts us today. I also want to address that while I have defended Darren Wilson I have done so in respect to the fact we do not know that he shot Michael Brown in cold blood, or that he did so out of racial hate. If those two things can be proven, I will change my view and peacefully protest against him. Because both of those things are horrible and inexcusable.

There a few things that bugged me about Wilson’s news interview, but I don’t know at the facts. Only that some things seemed a little off. What I do know is, if he is telling the truth about fearing for his life, and Brown did charge him, whether or not Wilson could have taken Brown out in a non-lethal manner may not have entered his mind. If Wilson was in the wrong, could have been he reacted instead of thinking. Not to be cold blooded, not to be racial; but possibly out of sloppiness. Maybe.

A stupid cop is not the same as an evil cop. Making a huge mistake is not the same as hating someone based on color. I say if he is guilty of anything, let him be tried on the actual crime he is guilty of.

And is it any surprise that one of my novellas I will write will based on a similar situation as Ferguson? A chiral reflection of REFUGE.

 

MEDICAL EXPERT, Jordyn Redwood on Real Life Zombies

Jordyn Redwood

Dale often poses medical questions to me but one question that seemed pertinent for his writing vice was whether or not zombies are a real-life medical possibility. The truth, even for the fiction writer, has to be grounded in realism for the reader to buy in. You either have to work from reality or create a believable story world from scratch.

So, are there real life examples of something dead coming back to life? In fact, there are. There are three aspects to consider.

One: Let’s examine the compliant aspect of being a zombie. Is it possible to create a wholly compliant individual? Someone without individual will power?

The answer seems yes.

Let’s consider TTX, the neurotoxin found in the blue-ringed Octopus. If this toxin is absorbed through the skin, it’s akin to having a frontal lobotomy and may lead to a compliant individual. Your personal zombie minion. You can find out more about TTX at the Writer’s Forensic Blog hosted by D.P. Lyle: http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/q-and-a-what-are-the-toxic-effects-of-a-poisonous-octopus-bite/

Two: Someone that is alive is actually declared dead.

One truly frightening aspect is that sometimes lay people and even medical professionals aren’t all that great at determining whether or not a person has a pulse. This influenced changes to how the American Heart Association teaches CPR. Now, it’s encouraged to not spend more than 10 seconds trying to figure out whether or not a person has a pulse. If they’re not responding to you and you can’t find one—just start CPR. If they are conscious, they’ll let you know. If not, they likely need CPR anyway.

We’ve all heard the legends of corpses being found with nail marks in the lid. Well, how about the recent story of a South African man who was presumed dead and brought to the morgue by his family and placed in the freezer– only to wake up about a day later amongst the truly dead and decomposing. You can find that story here: http://abcnews.go.com/International/south-african-dead-man-wakes-screaming-day-morgue/story?id=14154534.

Three: Are there real-life examples of things that are truly dead—no pulse, no breathing, no brain activity—yet, come back to life.

Let’s take the case of the wolf spider. A French researcher, Julien Petillon, decided to find out and submerged them in water for several hours—like 16. Now dead, they did come back to life. Check out more on this story and what he says about the 16 hour time frame and its significance at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30348224/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/drowned-spiders-come-back-dead/

So yes, I would say there are examples of zombie behavior in our world. The compliant individual, those presumed dead but still alive, and those that have died yet are reanimated.

What zombie-like plot can you come up with based on these real-life examples?

MAKING YOUR BRAND – Being a Serious Self-Publishing Author

From the blog, MACWOOD’S:

 

No matter what you write, you must write what you are passionate about. If you are passionate about writing about sparkling vampires, yes that is probably what you should write, although you might want to see if there are other areas you have interest, hehe. A writer has to write about their passion if they want their work to be taken serious.

I use to write horror for the point of scaring people. It was fun!!! And while I enjoyed it, there was more I needed to write. Because when I first got into writing I wanted to write about real issues that we all face, that we all witness, things that make up who we are as people. I wanted to write about real things in fiction form. Even if I write a superhero story, or zombies, I need write about real things that we all can relate to. But I also wanted to write stories with heart, and something not only comes from my mind, but the other point of view on things.

We live in a world where a lot of times there are two sides. And I always see the things that are not one of two. Sure as a Christian I know there are things that fall under one or the other, God or the devil, but I am talking about smaller things.

  • Like love. 
  • Right and wrong. 
  • Injustice. 
  • Hope.

So many things that we only see one or the other, when the answer is often in the middle somewhere, or way off in the outfield. As a writer, and one with an opinion and feelings I have to write about what presses on my soul.

I am trying to keep it short about me, there are more posts on that, but I wanted to show an example. The thing is, you must write what you love. Even if it goes against me as a person, I support your right to write about what you love. As a fellow writer I respect you for writing from your heart. I respect your honesty and heart. Of course if you write about hating others, and come up with stories that supports that through-line, I will respect your honesty, but that is all because I hate, hate. And you will be a muse in my stories :^D

But overall, and I am talking to the average writer, write from your heart. You have this gift, use it!

See, we authors-especially as self-publishing authors-need to make ourselves as brands. And if we are honest about who we are, and about our work people will like us and want to check out our books. You need to be true to you, and who you want to be.

Who are you?

What stories do YOU want to tell?

Figure this out, and make it your brand. But I will tell you this, make sure you write about heart. Make your writing come to life, and thrive in the minds of your readers!

How about you, anything you want to add about creating author brand? Feel to share in the comments!

 

SO YOU SELF PUBLISH? Make Sure to get an Awesome Cover!

 

From the blog, MACWOOD’S:

Like it or not, folks judge a book by the cover. It is a worn out cliche. I love a good cover to match a good story. But if it is a bad story with a great cover I look at the book as a lie. The thing is, if you want to be taken serious as a self publishing author, you need to play like a pro, you need to be the author as well as the publisher. Self explanatory I know.

Now that we Indie authors are becoming a force to be reckoned with as top names grow on our side, we fast run out of excuses for acting like a virgin. The above are two covers to a work in progress. One is a few months old (your left), the other is a few days old (your right). The first one was done on old software that took a dump. The second was done on Gimp. I went to youtube and watched a turtorial and got an idea then poof, here came the second cover.

I have some others much better than the first one, but none of them touch the second version. I wanted to show the difference between a bad cover and a good cover. You see, your cover is not only art, but the window into your story. It is the representative of your tale. You not only have to write one heck of of a story, but you also have to get the editing, but then you need an outstanding cover. But… maybe you don’t do covers, so now what?

Well you can hire me for a flat rate of $30 bucks to do one for you which that fee will go into the editing fund for my stories, or you can spend some real money and go to this site here!

Basically 99Designs has a team of cover designers who compete for your cover, you pick the one you like most, and that is your new cover. I haven’t tried this yet, although at some point I’d like to. If you cannot afford $300 bucks to start with, no problem, I will gladly do your cover for the $30. Either way, but you do need a good cover. Even if you don’t go with me or 99Designs.

Make sure to make your book as awesome as it can be, because you are the publisher of your book.

Feel free to add your input on cover design.

 

MAKING YOUR BRAND – Being a Serious Self-Publishing Author

No matter what you write, you must write what you are passionate about. If you are passionate about writing about sparkling vampires, yes that is probably what you should write, although you might want to see if there are other areas you have interest, hehe. A writer has to write about their passion if they want their work to be taken serious.

I use to write horror for the point of scaring people. It was fun!!! And while I enjoyed it, there was more I needed to write. Because when I first got into writing I wanted to write about real issues that we all face, that we all witness, things that make up who we are as people. I wanted to write about real things in fiction form. Even if I write a superhero story, or zombies, I need write about real things that we all can relate to. But I also wanted to write stories with heart, and something not only comes from my mind, but the other point of view on things.

We live in a world where a lot of times there are two sides. And I always see the things that are not one of two. Sure as a Christian I know there are things that fall under one or the other, God or the devil, but I am talking about smaller things.

  • Like love.
  • Right and wrong.
  • Injustice.
  • Hope.

So many things that we only see one or the other, when the answer is often in the middle somewhere, or way off in the outfield. As a writer, and one with an opinion and feelings I have to write about what presses on my soul.

I am trying to keep it short about me, there are more posts on that, but I wanted to show an example. The thing is, you must write what you love. Even if it goes against me as a person, I support your right to write about what you love. As a fellow writer I respect you for writing from your heart. I respect your honesty and heart. Of course if you write about hating others, and come up with stories that supports that through-line, I will respect your honesty, but that is all because I hate, hate. And you will be a muse in my stories :^D

But overall, and I am talking to the average writer, write from your heart. You have this gift, use it!

See, we authors-especially as self-publishing authors-need to make ourselves as brands. And if we are honest about who we are, and about our work people will like us and want to check out our books. You need to be true to you, and who you want to be.

Who are you?

What stories do YOU want to tell?

Figure this out, and make it your brand. But I will tell you this, make sure you write about heart. Make your writing come to life, and thrive in the minds of your readers!

How about you, anything you want to add about creating author brand? Feel to share in the comments!

FIVE Freelance Mistakes to Avoid when Charging Your Rate

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By Dale Szewczyk

As someone who has recently joined the Freealnce writing world of content writing, content strategy, and copywriting; there are some things I just have to pass on to you.

If you are anything like me, you hate doing it wrong and time is money. Well I know we all learn from mistakes, but the best ones are the mistakes of others. One of the biggest is how the freelance writer charges.

MISTAKE #1-Letting your client decide

Writers know what they need to write, the amount of work that goes into it, they have studied hard and late and have done enough time in this gig to know what they are worth.

It is up to the writer to charge a fair price.

You need to quote the amount you feel you are worth. Otherwise you will get screwed out of making more. After all, if you don’t know what you are worth, they might decide you are not worth much, and pay accordingly.

May not seem fair but hey, in the business world you need to know your worth so you can stand on it.

MISTAKE #2-Charging too little

So you figure out your rate, but guess what? You are still not making your bill, and the checks from your clients couldn’t buy a combo meal at the local fast-food joint. What happened?

You didn’t set it high enough.

No, you shouldn’t overcharge, but you need to charge what you are worth. Understand your knowledge of the craft, the time you are going to put into the project and figure out the cost that suits you.

A lot of freelancers get paid $125 a blog post starting out for a company. Don’t charge $50 and think you’re doing it right.

One method that works great is selling a package deal. Like say six blog posts, so many per week, for (price). Make sure to give the client a little break for the package deal, but not so much that you’re better off working at said fast-food joint.

MISTAKE #3-Not setting a lowest rate mark

This is where you need to figure out the absolute lowest you are willing to go. Lets say you believe that you are worth $300 an hour for the project you are about to undertake. Your client only has so much budget. You make a few offers, but the client keeps going for less. You need a limit where you will make a stand. The hill in which you will defend no matter what. Because hey, you are worth what you know you’re worth. If you have the knowledge and skill to do the work, then yes have a minimum amount. In this case say you won’t go below $250. The client was shooting for $230, but considers your price and settles on the compromise.

Figuring this out is crucial.

MISTAKE #4-Not giving yourself a raise

Okay, you can’t give yourself a raise anytime you feel like it, but if you have become worth more than you were then you deserve a raise.

If you were worth $125 an hour, but now you are worth $200 you need to raise it.

Because if you don’t, the bills and groceries are going to go up while your income is going down. Not good and it is hard to blog from a cardboard box on the street corner (not that I know anything about that, actually I don’t and I plan on keeping it that way!).

MISTAKE #5-Don’t set an hourly rate

Wait… WHAT?!

This is for those who are more seasoned in the field. You see, when you get fast enough to do the work in half of the time, if you charge by the hour you will have the same problem you had with the above; not enough to live on.

You also want to be fair in your pricing. So depending on the job will depend on your rate. You might want to check to see how much the work itself is worth to you as the writer and decide a fair amount for the project. You can always break it down to hourly rate for yourself to see how it works out for what you have to do, but you need to clear what you know you are worth.

 

I really hope this all helped.

Comments? Opinions? Success stories? Post them below!