Art makes the world smaller

A couple of weeks ago I got a cold email from Phil Ruggiero. Phil said he had never written to an author before but he had just finished reading Version 1.0 and Power Play, loved them, and saw bestselling author Dave Eggers mentioned in Power Play (bonus points if you can find the reference!).

Dave worked with Phil's son Ryan for years at 826 Valencia, the fantastic  non-profit writing center (that Dave founded). He even wrote Ryan's letters of reference for graduate school, where he's now concentrating on social inequalities in education.

It's these kinds of connections that bring true joy to my heart (and that of any other artist/maker/writer/etc.). It's incredible that something as simple as a story can reach through space and time to link people leading entirely separate lives.

Phil ended up writing about The Uncommon Series in his first ever book review on his personal blog. I was delighted, honored, and humbled by his thoughts.

Art makes the world smaller.

What MUST happen next?

One writing heuristic I’ve found useful is to constantly ask myself, “What absolutely must happen in order to advance the story? What scene can this story absolutely not exist without?” Not, “What might happen next?” or “What could happen next?” but “What MUST happen next?”

Then I write that scene. I often feel like I’m getting ahead of myself. Isn’t that skipping a bunch of stuff? Aren’t I jumping right to the end? Won’t that turn this novel into a short story? I always feel that way but I always turn out to be wrong. The faster I advance the action, the more the momentum builds, and the more richness, depth, and conflict develops between the characters.

Complement with the anatomy of story and these three quick writing tips for novelists.


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Building the HBO of books | Sean Platt interview

Sean Platt isn't just a writer. Not content to simply pen novels, Sean founded Sterling & Stone, a self-described story studio where he and his partners have published more than two dozen fiction series across multiple genres over the past six years. They've been very open about their process in the excellent and wildly popular Self-Publishing Podcast. Sean's entrepreneurial perspective and relentless drive to expand his stories beyond the traditional boundaries of literature reminds me a bit of James Patterson's famous thriller-mill or George Lucas's franchise acumen. In short, Sean isn't just a writer. He's an empire-builder.

If you're interested in self-publishing or learning about how artist-entrepreneurs are breaking just about every possible mold, you'll enjoy the interview. We tackle questions including:

1. Why do you only do afternoon interviews? What's your creative process like behind-the-scenes? How is collaborative writing similar/different than solo?

2. How does the Sterling & Stoner [sic] business model work? What does it mean for fans, middle men, and rose purveyors?

3. What are the biggest mistakes that first-time authors make?

4. What's the most counter-intuitive thing you've learned about writing fiction?

5. What tools or resources do you recommend for new writers? How can first timers go about finding their first one thousand true fans?

6. What does book discoverability mean? How is it different for fiction and non-fiction? Why is discoverability for fiction broken? What does this mean for readers and writers?

7. How does your funnel work? How do you mix fiction and non-fiction content into it? How to you ensure you’re delighting your True Fans?

8. What's something about publishing or storytelling that you believe in but most people disagree with?

9. What are your deepest doubts and fears about what you’re trying to accomplish with Sterling & Stone? What keeps your up at night as an artist and entrepreneur?

10. What are the best books you’ve read recently?

11. What’s the most important question I’m not asking?

You can find out more about Sterling & Stone here, check out Sean's books here, and follow him on Twitter here.


Enjoy this interview? Then you’ll probably like my reading recommendations curating amazing books that explore the intersection of technology and culture.

Interview on The Notable

Brandon Sneed is an author and veteran journalist who maintains a blog called The Notable about "how and why people make and do great things." He asked to interview me for the series and although I can't even pretend to lay claim to an archetype that lofty, I was happy to oblige if it could benefit his readers.

I'm glad I did. I've done loads of interviews but Brandon really dug deep with specific and personal follow up questions. I found myself thinking through the responses multiple times to make sure I was really addressing the core issues he wanted to mine. The resulting conversation really forced me to look in the mirror and think through things like creative process, how writing has changed my life, and the sacrifices I've made along the way to bring the Uncommon Stock Trilogy to readers.

Check it out here and let me know what you think: