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The 7 Elements of Great Storytelling

book-863418_1280What are the elements that make a story great? Recently, I sat down and decided to write the core elements that I feel make a story great, and I came up with seven.

1.      Writing

Writing a great story naturally involves great writing. This is why I put this as the very first element. If you’re thinking about having a career in writing, your writing must be good – a base level of proficiency should consist of:

  • Fluidity
  • Clarity
  • Purpose
  • Proper spelling and grammar
  • Expansive vocabulary
  • Appropriate word choice
  • Logical coherence

The good news is that almost anyone can reach this level with practice, which is actually encouraging. Unlike other disciplines such as singing or playing in the NBA, writing well has less to do with natural talent or physical attributes, it’s just a matter of putting in the effort. Stephen King wrote in his book ‘On Writing’, “the first million words are practice,” and I believe this to be more or less true. If you put in the work and show up every day, your writing will eventually improve.

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2.      Originality

Your idea or story has to be somewhat original and interesting. I say ‘somewhat original’ because it’s very difficult to come up with a completely original and interesting idea. Most great storytellers borrow ideas from others. It’s okay to be inspired by others and borrow ideas – I borrow ideas all the time, but I make reference of them to give credit where it’s due. In my Prodigy book, I use themes from Plato’s Republic, but I make sure to reference them to let the reader know that I’m not trying to steal Plato’s ideas and pass them off as my own. Instead, I’m paying homage to something that inspired me.

To improve originality, it’s important to be well-rounded in terms of your interests and your scope of knowledge. So try to be very broad with your understanding of things, especially areas where you have relatively no knowledge, whether it’s science, religion, cultures, economics, history, geography… It’s also helpful to be:

  • World travelled
  • Read books
  • Hang out with different types of people
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Watch documentaries
  • Challenge your opinions and assumptions – be critical and objective about your thoughts
  • Be observant about the world
  • Develop a new hobby such as archery, yoga, ballet, rock climbing…

Over time, you will uncover things, learn new truths, and develop original thinking in areas where you would otherwise not have gone down if you just stayed in this narrow lane of topics that interest you.

man walking

3.      Characters

Your characters have to be well-defined and relatable. Part of having well-defined characters means they should each have their own distinct voice and unique set of characteristics that separate them from other characters in your story. Here are some things to consider:

  • Your characters shouldn’t all sound alike
  • Each character should have their own point of view
  • Your reader should be able to tell who’s talking without you telling them
  • Your characters should generally behave in a consistent manner

One method I use, and a lot of other writers use, is character profiles. These are simply one or two page summaries of each of your main characters. Start by selecting an image of what your character looks like (you can draw it if you like or find an image online). Next, write down the answers to the following questions:

  • What are their beliefs or values?
  • What is their background?
  • What motivates them?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their interests or hobbies?
  • What are their opinions?

You can then have a few quotables, something like, “I’m working part-time and going to school to become a doctor,” “My girlfriend is a painter,” “I really don’t like how lazy I am, I want to change.” This will help cement the idea of their true nature in your head.

When you take the time to write character profiles, you can put your characters in any situation and have very good understanding of what they would do and how they would behave in that situation.

Biker through tunnel

4.      Pace

The pacing of your story has to be such that the reader does not get bored easily. Make them want to keep reading. I often use the metaphor of a monkey swinging from vine to vine – when it swings from one vine, and that vine has reached its maximum extension, there should be another vine within reach, ready to be grabbed and allow the monkey to carry its momentum forward.

So if you have a really lengthy and verbose opening that describes the house the person grew up in, the colour of the carpet, their lovely neighbours… and you go on and on and on about minutia, then it’s going to be boring for many readers – it’d be like starting a race with your feet in mud. Why have your readers slog through mud at all. They should be able to take off with your story and maintain that momentum (or have the momentum increase) until the very last page.

If you want your book to hit with a lot of people, you need to hook them in immediately and maintain a steady pace. This may not come easy to you in the first draft, but it can be done in the editing process. For instance, maybe in the revision you decide that the first three chapters can be combined into one chapter, or better yet, one paragraph. This gets the story started as deep into the story as possible.

girl reading

 

5.      Story Arc

The story arc must be suspenseful. By nature, human beings are really attracted to suspense. In most stories, the hero always wins, and yet despite knowing this, we still love watching movies and reading books. That’s because it’s not necessarily the payoff at the end that we live for, even though that is satisfying. What we truly crave is the uncertainly of the drama.

In his book called, ‘The Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama’, David Mamet talks about this hypothetically perfect ball game in which he does a very good job of describing the kind of natural tension that we love.

He says, “The perfect ball game – what do we wish for in the perfect ball game? Do we wish for our team to take the field in thrash the opposition from the first moment to the final gun? No, we wish for a closely fought match that contains many satisfying reversals, but which can be seen retroactively to always tend toward a satisfying and inevitable conclusion. We wish, in effect, for a three act structure.

“In act one, our team takes the field and indeed prevails over its opponents, and we, its participants feel pride. But before the pride can mature into arrogance, this new thing occurs – our team makes an error. The other side is inspired and pushes forward with previously unsuspected strength and imagination. Our team weakens and retreats.

“In act two of this perfect game, our team is shaken and confused. They forget the rudiments of cohesion and strategy and address that made them strong. They fall deeper and deeper into a slew of despond. All contrary efforts seem naught and just when we think that the tide may have turned back the other way, a penalty or adverse decision is rendered, nullifying their gains. What could be worse?

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“But wait. Just when all else seems irredeemably lost, help comes, which is act three. A player, previously believe to be second rate, emerges with a block, a throw, a run, and offers a glimmer of that possibility of victory. Yes, only a glimmer. But it is sufficient to rouse the team to something approaching its best efforts and the team indeed rallies. Our team brings the score back even and makes the play that would put them ahead, only to have it called back yet again by fate, or by its lieutenant, a wrong-headed, ignorant or malicious official.

“But see, the lessons of the second act were not lost on our team. People might say that it’s too late or the clock is too far run down, our heroes are too tired… yet they rouse themselves for one last effort, one last try, and do they prevail? Do they triumph with scant seconds left on the clock? Oh, they do. They all but prevail. As the final seconds of the play, the outcome rests on the lone warrior – that hero, that champion, that person upon whom in the final moment all our hopes devolve. That final play, run, pass, penalty kick. But wait. That hero that would have been chosen for the task, that champion is injured. No one is left on the bench…”

There is the perfect game as described by David Mamet. It’s very interesting and obviously points to these kinds of ebbs and flows, this tide, this yin this yang, this push pull tension where they’re up, they’re down, they’re up again, they’re down again. And just when it appears there is no hope, somehow by all odds stacked against them, they come back and become triumphant in the most unsuspecting way in the final seconds of the game. So if you can, your story could follow a similar arc as well.

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6.      Conclusion

Your story must have a satisfying ending, which is indeed difficult. When I write, a lot of times I don’t know how the story will end. I may have an idea, but I usually discover it when I get there. I just wing it and hope for the best. It’s difficult to have a satisfying, original, and unpredictable ending that pays off for the reader. If you build up the story adequately, the ending must deliver so that the previous efforts are not lost. You want your reader to finish the book with a smile, unable to contain their joy – they can’t wait to tell their friends, read the sequel, learn everything they can about you… A good ending can also save, or make up for a lackluster climax. An average story with an amazing twist ending can bolster the story in ways that no other part of the book can.

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7.      *Bonus* — Timing

If you incorporate the first six elements of storytelling into your book, you may come close to creating a masterpiece. However, I think one bonus element could be included in the list that may elevate a great book to a nearly perfect book – and that is well-timed comedy or drama in appropriate places. By this I mean, if you’re writing a really dramatic scene with lots of tension, a great way to keep the reader engaged is to inject some comedic relief (or if your book is funny, inject some drama in certain places). Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent example of this. And if done well, it could really take your book to the next level.

So there they are, the 7 elements of great storytelling. If you have any other insights or feel I missed some, please let me know in the comments below.

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Travel Like a Pro

Travel like a pro

I often take for granted how much work is involved in planning a trip. I hear from friends how they saw my pictures from South East Asia or Europe and wish they could do the same. When I ask them why they can’t, their responses can be surprising. Many of them say that it’s too complicated or too expensive, or they’ll come up with some other equally valid reason for not exploring the world. I agree that travelling can be both complicated and expensive, but hopefully reading this post will help. I’ve outlined the process that I go through when booking “complicated” trips.

Let’s begin.

1         Decide where you want to go

When planning a trip, naturally the first thing you want to do is decide where you want to go, which for some is harder than it is for others. I’ll take for granted that you can figure this one out on your own.

With any trip, there are basically two options:

  • Go somewhere new
  • Go somewhere old

For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume you’ve selected to go somewhere new since that is the most complicated of the two choices. Knowing exactly where you want to go is different than just having a general idea of where you want to go. For example, “I want to go to Europe” vs “I want to go to London” — two common statements; two totally different procedures!

2         Figure out dates

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, you have to determine the dates. This actually entails two decisions:

  • When in the calendar year you want to go;
  • And for how long

Booking a trip that is less than one week, and to only one city, is very different than booking a multi-city trip that’s over one week long.

PRO TIP: If you have a bit of flexibility on your dates, sometimes flying one or two days earlier/later can affect the price significantly, and on some sites, you can view the fares of multiple dates at once which is very convenient when you’re looking for a good deal.

3         Look into finances

Deciding where and when is a start, but you have to determine whether you can afford to go. I assume that if you are serious about planning a trip, you have a little money stashed away, otherwise it’s just a sort of wishful thinking exercise. The point is that often we don’t know how far our money will go. Two thousand dollars for instance is enough to travel some places, but not others.

Looking into finances comes into play in three main ways:

  • How much luxury do you want in your trip?
  • What are the exchange rates (i.e. how far will your money go once converted)?
  • How expensive is the country you want to go to?

The biggest expenses are flight and hotel. Certain parts of the world are cheaper to fly to from where you are than others, and this can vary drastically. You can also take advantage of flight deals if you are flexible about dates.

Hotel prices vary a lot. In developing countries for instance, you can get a room for $20/night vs metropolitan cities that could cost $200+/night.

4         Look at weather

Looking at weather sounds pretty straight forward, right? You may want to go somewhere sunny and pack appropriately. Going to Mexico for instance with a luggage full of tank tops and board shorts will not be good if it’s raining the entire time.

However, there is one very important aspect of looking into weather — you want to see what is the best season to go. There are three travel seasons:

  • Low season refers to really miserable weather conditions, few tourists, really cheap, and overall a bad time to visit. Picture Hawaii during monsoon season = not good.
  • Shoulder seasons refer to an off-peak season usually spring and fall when airfares and accommodations tend to be cheaper. It is ideal for when you want to go somewhere and see some things for a relatively low price. As an added benefit, you often experience fewer crowds. The downside is that the weather may not be suitable.
  • Peak seasons are more popular times to go when the weather is nice or when it conforms to common holiday cycles i.e. summer and Christmas. As the laws of supply and demand dictate, when an influx of buyers desire something of a fixed quantity, the price goes up. In other words, what you gain in terms of good weather and time of year, you lose in it being more expensive, having more crowds, and more sold out accommodations and activities.

PRO TIP: If there is a particular natural attraction you want to see (as in, in nature), check when is the best time to see THAT since it could be that it’s in the low season for that region, but that particular attraction looks best then.

My colleague was telling me how when she went to China, she really wanted to see this particular forest that had lots of nice plants. They go all the way to China just for this one thing and when they got there, none of the plants were in bloom! Aside from being really disappointed, they also wasted their precious time and money to visit a place at the wrong time. Don’t let this happen to you!

5         Look at if there are neighbouring cities/countries to visit

If you spend a bunch of your hard-earned money and effort to travel abroad, why not see what else is in the neighbourhood? This also relates to how long you want to spend in one place and also how much time and money you have. Nevertheless, it’s good to optimize your trip.

6         Look at airfare/accommodation deals

When trying to find the best deal on flights, you can use sites like Kayak or Google flights to help track flight prices and alert you when there are sales.

Sometimes you can find airfare + accommodation deals, which can be worthwhile to consider. If you are travelling from Europe within Europe for instance, you can get some great weekend getaways that are flight/train + hotel for cheaper than booking them separately.

Also consider looking for blogs/Facebook groups/etc. that showcase deals from your local airport (i.e. YVR deals).

PRO TIP: If you are thinking of visiting multiple places, then sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to one airport than another from your home. For example, say you want to go to Paris but there’s cheap flights to London, you can fly to London instead and just take a train to Paris.

7         Look for a convenient hotel

If you want to visit several places, plan out a rough itinerary before booking your hotel. See if it’s better to have one hotel as your base and just do a day trip to the other city/country, or is it better to book a new hotel in each city/country.

Use tripadvisor for advice and prices on hotels. However, if you go to a different site directly, the prices are sometimes cheaper.

PRO TIP: If you plan on doing one-way flights to places, switching orders of cities can make a huge difference in flight prices.

8         Look into Visas/shots/customs

Visas:

BEFORE you book your flight, you must ensure you’ll be able to enter the country! Obtaining a visa can be a lengthy process, often more than one month. If you don’t have a visa, you may not be allowed into the country and they will put you on the next flight home – at your expense!

Shots:

If you need shots, you also need to account for adequate time. Be aware that it may take several months for some vaccines to reach their maximum effectiveness, so you may need to have it done at least two months before your trip.

Customs:

As a general practice, it’s always good to know a little about the local customs. You can research online or buy a book that tells you everything travellers need to know. You never want to inadvertently be rude when you visit a particular country. In Buddhist countries, it’s considered rude to point with your feet. In Japanese culture, it’s considered rude to tip your waiter, and stick your chopsticks straight up in your rice. In other places, your clothing may be offensive.

Also, if you could learn a few phrases in the local language, it will go a long way. Phrases such as: ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘where’s the bathroom?’, ‘how much?’, ‘yes/no’, ‘I need help’, etc. are common phrases. A lot of cultures want to see you at least make an effort to speak their language. Once they see this, they are usually a lot more willing to help you out.

9         Look at things to do, including where to eat lunch and dinner

While it’s not necessary to do every bit of research before you book your trip, you should have a general idea of what you want to do. Once you’ve booked your trip, you can delve back into the research.

If you go to a new city, check if there’s a free tour you can join that will give you an intro to the city. If you would rather have a private guide take you around, this can be arranged as well. It costs more, but they can be well worth the money. Guides can often get you better rates, translate for you, negotiate for you, educate you on the sites, find bathrooms when needed… and you will be travelling around in an air-conditioned vehicle all day and don’t have to worry about transit.

Know what you want to do:

If you have an idea of what you would like to do on your trip, then it makes it a little easier to plan. Just figure out where those activities are located, and plan a route that is convenient and efficient.

Don’t know what you want to do:

If you have no idea what activities are available, then you can do some quick research to see what there is to see and do (forums and travel blogs are good for this). Keep in mind where those activities are located since you’ll need to plan a route that is convenient and efficient.

PRO TIP: If you have just a few days in a city, you can google “(#) days in ____ (city you’re visiting)” and see what comes up. There are lots of guides available online and checking out a few of them can give you an idea of what some of the top sights are.

10    Look at transit/transportation

We’re nearing the end of the process!

Renting a car:

If activities, shops, and restaurants are really spread out, and public transit is too complicated or inconvenient, it may be best to rent a car. It’ll cost you more, but then you’ll have a lot more flexibility and convenience, especially in terms of what hotel you want to pick.

Public transit:

If you opt for a cheaper hotel that’s further away from everything, at least ensure there are places nearby to eat, convenience shops, and it’s close to transit with easy/fast connections to the sights you want to see.

PRO TIP:

If a lot of attractions are near the city centre and you can walk to a lot of them, then when you look at the hotel, you have to take into account how much you save from staying further away vs how much more you would spend in transit costs (or parking costs if you’re driving), not to mention your convenience.

11    Book trip

Before you book your trip, you want to go through the following checklist and ensure everything has been thoroughly researched and considered:

  1. Decide where you want to go
  2. Figure out dates
  3. Look into finances
  4. Look at weather
  5. Look at if there are neighbouring cities/countries to visit
  6. Look at airfare/accommodation deals
  7. Look for convenient hotel
  8. Look into Visas/shots/customs
  9. Look at things to do, including restaurants
  10. Look at transit/transportation
  11. Book trip:
    • Flights
    • Hotels
    • Trains

PRO TIP:

You’ve likely done a ton of research by now and have everything finalized. What I like to do is compile all the notes that are relevant to the trip into a brass-fastener folder. You can have everything you need from activities, restaurants, pre-booked tickets, maps, foreign language cheat sheet, copies of passports and credit cards… As you progress through your trip, you can remove (tear out) the pages and discard them, leaving only the pages needed for the remaining days.

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How to Access the Sidebar and List View in iTunes 12

iTunes 12 update

If you’ve recently downloaded the new iTunes 12 update and are wondering what happened to your sidebar and list view, you’ve come to the right place. As frustrating as it is to have iTunes change your default settings, all hope is not lost. Getting the sidebar and list view back only takes a few steps.

Step One – Restoring the Sidebar in iTunes 12

To get the sidebar back, click the Playlist icon on the media bar (see image below). Miraculously, the sidebar appears.

itunes sidebar

Step Two – Restoring List View in iTunes 12

To restore the list view in iTunes 12, follow the steps below.

1. Click View > View Options

itunes12-music-song-list2. When the View Options menu pops up, selects “Songs

NOTE: For some reason, iTunes wouldn’t allow me to take a screenshot of the popup so I grabbed this image from Google, it will look slightly different in version 12.0.1

list view in iTunes 12

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How to Describe Things in Writing

 

man scratching his head

One question I get a lot is, “I’m not very good at describing things when I write, do you have any advice?”

Play to your strengths

If you’ve read any of my books, you’ll notice I never really tell the reader what my characters look like beyond “she was beautiful” or “he was scrawny”, I let the reader decide those details on their own. Rarely do I describe rooms or tiny details of things. I think the brain is wonderful at extrapolating those details without the aid of the author. So the mental image I talk about is more for the author’s sake than for the reader’s.

hustle_coverFunny story… after reading my book, The Art of the Hustle, someone made a comment stating, “Great story, and I love that the main character is black!” I’m like, “He is? Okay, sure.” So to this guy, his mind filled in the missing details with what was relevant to him and what he pictured in his mind, and I think that’s great.

Another trick some author’s do is put in a placeholder word that is easy to find using the search function and will not appear anywhere else in the text. So for example, use the letters TK any time you have to describe something and are getting bogged down. The idea is that you can go back to those spots and fill in the details later, and not fall into a trap and disrupt the flow of your writing. For instance, “Joe walked into the TK room and noticed a TK couch on his right…”

Turn weakness into strength

So my first suggestion would be to play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses. But if you don’t like that idea, the alternative (there may be more than one) would be to work on your weaknesses much like you would working out at the gym. Eventually, you will get stronger in this area. So for example, what you could do is start your day with a writing exercise to describe some object in your house – something that you know well. It doesn’t need to be in front of you, but have a clear picture of it in your mind. Describe the shape, texture, material, weight, shine… anything you think the reader would like to know about it.

five senses

Usually with good writing, you want to include the 5 common senses such as Sound, Smell, Sight, Touch, and Taste. If you keep those in mind when you describe a scene, you will get the reader more into the story. I’ve been using this approach a lot and I think it’s good. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it and describe the five senses every time your character interacts with something new, but let’s say your character walks into an old kitchen – it should smell a certain way right? And maybe the fridge has a low frequency hum, and maybe there’s s grease stain on the floor that’s sticky, and so on. So you can see how you start to build a mental picture.

I hope that helps.

Edward Mullen

Read Also:

OVERCOMING WRITING RESISTANCE

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL

HOW TO BUILD AN AUDIENCE AS A WRITER

books and social media image

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Google Authorship: A Simple Guide to Adding Your Image to Google Search Results

Google Authorship is simply a way to have your image show up in Google search results. Currently, not everyone is doing this, so for those who use it, it makes their page stand out from the rest and increases traffic to your site or blog. This post will give you a simple breakdown of how to set this up without using a lot of confusing technical jargon. There are a few steps, but if you take my hand I’ll walk you through it.

If you set up your Google Authorship correctly, this is what it will look like:

transcendence explained - Google Search - Google Chrome_2014-06-27_07-39-32

Step One: Set up a Personal Google+ Profile

Google+ is Google’s social media platform. If you don’t have a Google+ account, you can easily get one. Just go to plus.google.com and signup.

NOTE: Currently, Google Authorship only works for PERSONAL accounts and not for corporate accounts.

1. For those who have a Google+ account, login or go to your Gmail account. In Gmail, you can link to Google+ by clicking the Google+ icon, which should be located somewhere at the top of the page.

Inbox - Gmail2. In your Google+ account, click “Profile”. The location of this can always change, but currently it’s located in the upper right corner. You will have to click on your image icon to open the menu.

Google+Profile3. After clicking “View Profile” you should see your profile. You then need to click the “About Tab”. From here, you should edit this information to say something relevant about yourself. This will “optimize”, or enhance your profile.

Edward Mullen - Google+ About Tab

4. On the same page in the “About Me” screen, you should be able to see a section that says “Links”. Here is where you need to add your blog or website to the “Contributor to” field.

Google+ Links

Step Two: Add Your Google+ Account to Your Blog or Website

You need to establish a connection between your Google+ account and your blog or website. It is important to add this link on every page you want your picture to show up on. So if you have a blog, it should go on every post.

1. Find your numeric Google+ ID. This can be found by looking at the URL when you’re in your Google+ profile, and copy and pasting it where needed.

Edward Mullen - Google+ ID

2. Take the following code, and paste in your Google+ ID, replacing my number with yours, and replace “Edward Mullen” with whatever message you want it to say. Usually your name is the best, but you could also put “By” – then your name, or “Written by” – then your name.

<a href=”https://plus.google.com/115324952429618849838?rel=author”>Edward Mullen</a>

 rel=author

NOTE: It doesn’t have to be bolded, I just did that to highlight the areas that need to be changed.

3. Once you have the above HTML code with your ID and name, you need to paste it into the HTML section of every page you want your picture to show up. So if you’re writing a WordPress blog, go to the right corner of your post, and click the “Text” tab.

lorem ipsum

NOTE: It doesn’t really matter where you place the HTML code, but usually at the bottom of each post is good as seen above.

Step Three: Test Your Pages

You want to be able to verify you have your Google Authorship set up correctly.

1. Once you’ve pasted the piece of HTML code on every page you want your picture to show up, go to the following link to test your work:

 

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets

 

Paste in the URL link from your blog or site and click “Preview”. If it has been done correctly, your image should show up.

NOTE: Google will only show your author portrait in search results when they think it will be useful to the user.

structured data testing tool

New book ad

Edward Mullen

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How to Build an Audience as a Writer

The following is a list of advice that can improve your writing.

1069921_10100669193867131_531800510_n1. Practice Makes Perfect

Think about how much practice it requires to be really good at something. If you want to be exceptional, then you need to put in the same effort into your craft as Kobe Bryant puts into basketball – you need to write and edit everyday. To give you an idea, I write or edit around 11 hours nearly every day. There’s a really good quote I like to use often, it’s from Steve Martin’s book Born Standing Up – he says, “Be undeniably good.” If you are undeniably good at what you do, then people will find out about you.

2. Take Your Time

A common mistake a lot of new writers make is they release their work too soon. RESIST THE URGE TO DO THIS!! To give you an example of what I do, I wait at least a year before putting any book or short story out, but usually longer. From the time I write something until the time it goes public is around two years. This is such an important point and should not be overlooked. Trust me, you need some separation from your work and within that time, your skills will have improved. You’ll go back to stuff that at a time represented your best work, but a year later will be complete rubbish. So if you want to make the maximum impact with your writing, it has to be good, and a story hot off the press usually isn’t good.

3. Make a Good First Impression

You’ve heard the saying ‘You only get one chance to make a good first impression’. Make sure your writing is very polished. You won’t be able to do this on your own so you must get editors to review your work. This also applies to the cover art as well. Make sure the product you’re representing is indistinguishable from a professional book. If your writing is of a poor quality, and then your next book is the best book ever written, you may not get that second chance from people.

4. Expose Yourself

If you’re writing for the sake of writing, that’s great, but most of us want others to read our work. There’s nothing wrong with that, nor is there anything wrong with trying to make a living from your art. However, to do this is very difficult. To build your fanbase, you must first reach some kind of audience – a large number of people who will evaluate your work and decide whether or not they like it. One way to do this is to be featured on a website that reaches a lot of people. You want the spotlight on your book for as long as possible to give people a chance to read your words. If your book is featured and appeals to people, you may even make a ‘trending’ list or a ‘hot’ list. This is also a great way to gain exposure. It also helps if you can be number one on those lists, but anywhere in the top ten is good.

Edward Mullen Prodigy #1

Another great way to expose yourself is to have multiple avenues where people can access you, and don’t be afraid to give your stuff away for free. Be active on as many social media accounts, respond to fans, have a podcast, have a YouTube channel, a blog, and be candid. People are usually really good at spotting fakes. If you want success in anything, you have to be authentic to who you are. Don’t be afraid to expose your personality and even your insecurities, because those things are what make you unique.

5. Explore the World

Writing well is not only about constructing grammatical sentences, your ideas have to be engaging and interesting for people to read. Interesting ideas, interesting points of view, and interesting ways of describing things comes with life experience. As a teenager or young adult, your experiences may be limited so I encourage you to experience new things. While you are exploring the world, remember to be observant and take notes. Observe how people behave, how systems work, what the inside of an office building looks like, and capture your ideas in digital form or on paper for later review. The more experiences you have, the more reference points you will be able to draw from in your writing.

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Edward Mullen

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Be a Champion of Mind: The Wisdom of Kai Greene

Be a champion of mind kai greene“What am I doing with my life? Am I just going to some humdrum job that I don’t really want to be at, doing some minuscule task, getting paid to be a mindless drone? Or am I out there living life, on my terms, the way I want to live it, doing the things that I want to do?”

As modern-day philosophers go, you wouldn’t expect Kai Greene to fit the bill. He’s a professional bodybuilder who has won such prestigious titles as the 2009 and the 2010 Arnold Classic, and took 2nd place in the 2012 Mr. Olympia. He walks around with a hulking 300-pound frame of solid muscle, which is usually covered up by a red hoody. But beyond his physical prowess, Kai has an equally impressive attribute —his mind.

Kai looked at bodybuilding as a way to sculpt both his mind and his body. It began back in the 7th grade when Kai was introduced to competitive sports. His discipline and competitive drive facilitated his naturally growing physique. It wasn’t long before he had the desire to measure himself to others in competition. And so the self-fulfilling process began.

Bodybuilding was a tool that modified his behaviour toward achieving excellence. In 1999, Kai won the Team Universe competition, but was still disappointed with himself. He took a five-year break from competition and then returned to the sport to enter the 2004 Team Universe contest. Despite his hiatus, Kai came back to win that competition — a victory that rejuvenated his professional bodybuilding career.

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Upon winning the Arnold Classic (his first major title) Arnold Schwarzenegger asked him what it feels like to win, and Kai replied,

“It feels amazing, and I encourage anyone out there who ever had an idea, a thought about something that they’d like to accomplish, but they know that it would demand the best of their efforts, the most of their concentration, and everything they had inside of them in order to get there and make it happen, I encourage you to do it. And when you do, you’ll know exactly how I feel right now.”

It was statements like this that elevated Kai’s stature to a new level.

Despite his success, he still remains humble and motivated. Kai doesn’t allow himself to be blinded by the spotlight and the accolades. He stays true to his roots and remembers the thousands upon thousands of hours of repetition that got him there.

“…basic fundamentals being applied over and over and over and over again: getting up at certain time, doing certain things, cooking your meals, going to do your cardio, walking through the disciplines, keeping the checklist, and staying on top of them. Those are things that when you string them together you start to create a day of efficient action. The more likely you are to string those days of efficient action together, the more likely it will be that you can set up your own success.”

One such example of Kai’s humility is that he is an expert at posing, but still goes to a two-hour posing class every week. Kai’s poses are legendary too. Just watch his routine to Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’ from a 2007 competition, which now has over 1.4 million views on YouTube.

In many of his videos, Kai delivers valuable words of wisdom in a smooth and deliberate way of speaking that is uncharacteristic of professional athletes today. His wisdom can be applied to any endeavour in life, not just body building or athletics.

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Edward Mullen

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