Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Discipline for discipline’s sake (or toughness for toughness’s sake), is a stupid, counterproductive religion.  People need the right mix of internal qualities that allow them to get the job done, and also allow them to navigate their cravings.  The emphasis on ANY internal quality should be on task accomplishment and living a fulfilling existence; [discipline/toughness/etc.] shouldn’t turn into sick displays that illustrate how much better one person is than another.

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Know Your Medium, Part 2

My head hurts…

Thought Attempts

Previously, I introduced the topic of linguistic relativity?how the choice of “language” affects what concepts are easy to think about.

Another wrinkle of linguistic relativity is that a language affects what you are obliged to think about. For example, when talking about an event in English, we need to consider when it happened (past/present/future tense). Other languages include what’s called evidentiality1: you need to consider how you know about the event; did you see it yourself, or did someone else tell you about it (first/second/etc. hand).

These considerations (what am I forced to convey? what is going to be difficult to convey?) are important when you are trying to tell a story, as the answers are different for a novel than they are for a screenplay.

For example, a common “bad writing” complaint is a book starting with the main character examining themselves in the mirror

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Keeping for the links (but great article too)

One of the great things about social media is the many writing communities that have formed. Through Twitter, many established authors have selflessly taken time to help aspiring writers find agents and editors. Contests such as #PitchWars, run by Brenda Drake, and #PitchtoPub, run by Samantha Fountain, pair writers with a mentor, who help shape […]

via The Pros and Cons of Pitch Contests — WRITERS’ RUMPUS

Behavourism and Writing


It’s rare for a day to go by without witnessing a post, conversation or other message of the struggle of maintaining motivation, and how hard ‘just writing’ really is and/or suffering all o that myself.

Whether its a dismal word count (although more on that later) a struggle to actually sit down and open a word document and write or the dismal surrender to the multiple distractions of the internet and life, writing is a veritable nightmare for motivation.

Funnily enough I can wear my psychology hat for this topic and provide some insight through the lens of behaviourism (props to this blog where I stole the picture from)

For quick recap for the psychology minded or a whirlwind introduction for those uninitiated, behaviourim is actually one of the most robust methods of understanding and changing behaviour known to psychology and hinges on (more than presented here but) a few key concepts:

  • Behaviour that is contingent (or as I like to say “unlocks”) reinforcement will increase in the future
  • Behaviour that is contingent on punishment will decrease in the future
  • Rule-governed behaviour is contingent on the belief of future reinforcement or punishment

Now this is a very simple overview but I don’t want to turn this into a lecture, because people smarter than me will frown on my poor explanation and people who came here for writing related stuff will fall asleep.

The basic idea of behaviourism is that we will do stuff that brings us rewards, and avoid doing stuff that brings punishment. Most animals have been shown to mainly respond to immediate contingencies, however humans have been shown to respond to ‘rules’ which is mega-simplified form means ideas about future reinforcement and punishment (e.g. agreeing to work for a regular salary)

Just as a side note this isn’t reducing all human meaning to simple input-output machines but rather a useful theory and method of looking at behaviour to understand questions like “why is maintaining writing so hard?”

SO whats the link I’m drawing here?

First of all let’s review things that are typically reinforcing for people:

  • Positive social interactions with others
  • Delicious food
  • Objective indications of achievement

I hope you get the drift.

Basically writing does not present very many immediate rewards, you certainly shouldn’t be getting positive social interactions because as a writer you must lock yourself in a basement, dark tower or otherwise sit in the corner of a cafe scowling at anyone who approaches. And while you might try to provide yourself with extra rewards the truth is writing does not unlock said rewards you do when you go to get them (I’ve tried several times to only eat chocolate after X amount of writing and I’ve always devoured said chocolate within minutes)

As an interesting aside this is why many people worship at the altar of word-counts, because at the very least number of words provides some suggestion of progress and achievement (which tends to last as long as you don’t think about editing)

So this is where rule based behaviour comes in. After all writing isn’t unique in the respect of lacking reinforcement, there are tonnes of behaviours such as work, exercise, cleaning and so forth which could be claimed aren’t immediately rewarding or reinforcing. What gives writing a special place?

Well bear with me on this one – basing your behaviour on future rewards has certain factors and functions which influence likelihood for maintaining behaviour until said reward is reached. The following make it more likely:

  • High probably of reward
  • Bigger the size of the reward the better

So a great example is working, not everyone’s favourite day-to-day activity but with a fairly certain reinforcer (at least under NZ law you have to pay your staff) and generally speaking the higher the salary the more likely you are to do your job.

Let’s consider writing:

  • The possibility of reward is highly uncertain, we don’t really know how our work will be received and what achievement we will make of it
  • Even if our writing gets out there we simply don’t know what the size of that reward will be…

So from a purely motivational point of view let’s consider writing – you’re sitting down (presumably) to pen hundreds and hundreds of words without much immediate reinforcement and uncertain future rewards of uncertain size.

Now lets couple that with another behavioural assumption:

  • Behaviour with more frequent (and larger rewards) schedules of reinforcement will be preferred over less

Now put up your hand if you try to write with the internet still connect. (geeze its hard to type with one hand)

Now finally I’m not trying to depress anyone here, so there are some hopes for how to use this theory to your advantage

  • You can use others to make writing behaviour contingent on some reinforcement. For example telling your SO to take you out for a coffee once you hit 10,000 words. The advantage to this is the tactic also harnesses other useful psychological processes like being accountable to others
  • You can also manipulate the environment to keep you on track, I mentioned a cafe earlier in jest, but in all honesty putting yourself in a position where there aren’t any other options for activity will enhance the appeal of writing (much how like when you’re at work completely bored all you can think about is that story you want to write, but suddenly at home you don’t want to)
  • Finally make sure your goals are consistent with the factors above – don’t make the mistake of thinking about your goal of getting out of your 9-5 though writing success, but set probable goals with sizable rewards to bulk them up. Websites like r/wordcount and programs like WriteTrack can be useful for this (although I could probably flesh out a whole post about the false deity of wordcount!)


What are your strategies for enhancing and maintaining motivation? I confess that despite this post I’m as guilty as anyone of not switching the modem off!

Keywords in reviews.

Huh, never every thought of this

Lizzie Chantree

Like most authors, I am learning new things about the publishing industry every day and try to share what I learn here, in the hope it helps other writers, book lovers and bloggers. I have been looking at keywords and good ways to use them, but had no idea that reviews count as keywords too!

Coffee notebook

For example:

Review 1:

A lovely read. I enjoyed the characters immensely and the way the author used description really drew me in. This is a book I would recommend to friends as I couldn’t wait to get back to my kindle to read the next chapter!

(Reviews literally take 5 minutes to write and 2 sentences is plenty, although a detailed description is wonderful too. They are the first place readers look to discover a new read and are really helpful to both author and reader.)

Review 2: A review from one of my readers…

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How Many Books Will You Read in a Lifetime?

Hey I’m a super reader! (at least I was until that pesky kid came along – although I do include children’s books in my Goodreads total LOLZ!)

Kristen Twardowski


We readers like to imagine that we’ll always have time for a book. We’ll get to finish all the great ones. The classics. The new releases. The fantasy series that stretches on for book after book. The standalone memoir that somehow reflects our own lives.

But of course we won’t read all of the books in the world. We probably won’t even have the chance to read all of the books that matter. Time is finite after all. So are the number of novels we read.

That raises the question: how many books will we each read during our lifetimes?

Emily Temple over at Literary Hub set out to find the answer to that very thing. She found that the answer depends on several variables including how long we’ll each live and how many books we read per year. So Temple created three categories: an average reader, a voracious one, and a…

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Writing and Body Language

Great list reads, it kinda reads like an obscure long verse of poetry in itself 😀

Jens Thoughts

I find one of the most talked about topics in writing is “show don’t tell”. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I try not to I still do, and I also find myself repeating words or not describing actions well.

I stumbled on this list of body language for us to keep near us while writing.


he lowered his head
she hung her head
he ducked
she bowed her head
he covered his eyes with a hand
she pressed her hands to her cheeks

she raised her chin
he lifted his chin

her hands squeezed into fists
his hands tightened into fists
she clenched her fists
she balled her fists
he unclenched his fists
her arms remained at her sides

he shrugged
she gave a half shrug
he lifted his shoulder in a half shrug
she gave a dismissive wave of her hand

she raised a hand in greeting

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Book Promotion: a Reader’s Perspective


In a timely fashion I was linked to the following blog where a self-published author discussed various promotion techniques for their recent novella, simultaneously I had been considering a short (hopefully) rant about what book promotion works for me as a reader.

Disclaimer: I am not a marketing guru, or qualified in this area, nor am I self-published or experienced in the area myself, BUT I am a avid reader and I do see a lot of fiction marketing in my online travels so at the very least I feel qualified to explain what works on me, and what truly, truly does not. It is possible that I am a freakish outlier, but in general I like to think I’m an ideal target for book promotion, I like to read, I review and I’m online a lot (alright probably a more ideal target would be a bit less cynical, heck its 2017 good luck finding non cynical readers these days).

In general marketing books is a unique task. For starters, readers are generally pretty intelligent (if I don’t say so myself) and thusly not exactly prime candidates for  cheesy marketing strategies, (like for say movies which are very focused on hyping people up to go en-mass to opening weekends) and also books as a product don’t really lend themselves to shallow advertising either; when someone grabs a book its not just about purchasing the product but also committing time and energy to reading the thing. This is why I typically disagree with anyone who has a sell or perish approach to their books because I suspect 99% of authors are looking for fans gained not units sold as a measure of success.

So without further ado, (is that the right use of that phrase, GOOGLE, yes it is anyway…)

here are my reactions to various forms of marketing and promotion regarding self-published fiction:


Hell no.

If you’re ever considering sending someone an unsolicited email asking that they buy your book, please take five minutes to reflect on the choices you have made in your life to get you to this point and consider this opportunity to be a better person. If you are considering hiring someone to mass send out spammy messages on your behalf asking people to buy your book you might want to consider studying which religions are most forgiving.

Sorry, too much?

This is supposed to be about my reactions, but I confident that very few people respond well to unsolicited emails asking them to spend money on your product. There is a reason spam filters are popular and this is one of them.

If you do decide to sell your soul and fire away some messages remember a touch of personalisation and flattery goes a long way for example:

‘Hi T, I see you read a lot of books. I’ve read your reviews, you’re a funny guy! If you have a moment check-out my books ‘link inserted’ as a fantasy fan you might like _____

Please do not send this lovely hack-job ‘Hi T, I see you read “THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 4” you will love ZOMBIE PARTY ORGY by never-heard-of who is REALLY GREAT’

And please for the love of Mike, link to a professional author page, bio, blurb of some kind with a bit of passion behind it. The one thing about a spammy message is I am very likely to click a link to better remember what asshat sent me book spam but if I stumble into an amazing looking professional page I might reconsider.

As a teeny caveat, requests for reviews and a free book copy are much more approps this way as the request is a two way street, its an offer for an exchange of mutual benefit NOT a request for a purchase fully benefiting the author.


Humans are funny creatures. We are generally attracted to confidence, yet are also generally turned off by obvious marketing, its actually preferable to be nudged into buying something than to be outright marketed to.

Suffice to say I rarely follow or am persuaded by any tweet, post or whatever that is simply book promotion. It’s probably saturation in part but possibly also what I mentioned above. For some reason if someone just talks about their book in a blog or online conversation, I’m like ‘pass us a link bro’ yet the second anyone includes said link originally I’m like ‘no thanks’. While this sounds like a preference for being duped, I think its more I prefer making up my own mind on the matter, even if a wise marketer has just put together a chummy post to make people think they want to buy their book.

I have to add my overly specific bug-bear at this point, which is having a book promo stickied at the bottom of blog posts. Much of this has to do with presentation but nothing turns me off faster than reading a good article and then getting hit with the equivalent of a spam email at the bottom about the author’s latest book. Firstly it cheapens the enjoyable read I just had because I realize they only wanted me to buy their book and second it leaves a sour end note to the topic.

My advice is to have book blurbs/cover art on a side bar or somewhere easily accessible, again so a reader can make their own mind up.

SUCCESS POSTS (most viral, front page etc)

I’m in two minds about this. If you don’t know what I’m talking about don’t worry. On sites on Reddit and IMGUR you might sometimes find people sharing their successful book publishing with a cute meme or something, which might get them some good fake internet points which in turn might get some more book sales etc. I’m OK with it for the most part, if I see such a post I’ll usually follow it up but there are some turn-offs:

  • Repeated posts – yeah it worked well once, stop pushing it
  • Exaggerated success – one guy posted over and over again on IMGUR about how their book outsold Stephen King, which was sort of true as in for one day their viral marketing worked and on that day outsold the latest Stephen King book on e-book Amazon sales. Talking up sales is a good way to sound successful (and ironically boost sales) but as I said earlier, books are tricky products to market, people will see the latest blockbuster movie and pretend to like it if they think everyone else does but you don’t gain a reading fan if you over-promise a book and it stinks.

Finally last but not least:


I have to say this is probably just going to make me seems cheap, but probably the best promotional activity that sucks me in every time is free books. Now I realize any commerce student reading this (but really are there any) will be biting their fist until bloody, for the third time remember that authors want fans, not unit sales (well both but probably fans more). The best strategies for getting me hooked into a book is to offer it free for a limited time. An astute marketer will make earlier books of theirs free just before the release of their latest, increasing the possibility of future purchases.

Other sneaky strategies include asking for emails or follows and such for a free book which is surprisingly less spammy than it seems because when you receive emails from someone you signed up to, your brain makes you think ‘I asked for this it can’t be spam’

Anyways – my main point of the post was to raise awareness of just how annoying, and just how successful certain techniques can be. Reminder I’m not an advertising expert, and possibly as a reader I’m some kind of aberrant monster who doesn’t like spam emails BUT I have a feeling that most readers have similar opinions on marketing judging by the number of profiles with DON’T SPAM ME ABOUT YOUR BOOKS included.

I haven’t exhaustively included all marketing techniques either, just the ones I tend to get exposed to, it would be to cool to hear of any other off the wall techniques I’ve never heard of – comment below

+ I don’t have a self-published book so you know my ranting is authentic not just an attempt to sell anything 😀