Saturday, January 30, 2010

8 Reasons Why the iPad Will Succeed

1. The biggest complaint is that it's "just a giant iPod Touch." True, in many ways, but listen: the netbooks are just small, stripped down versions of laptops, too, but they're selling like hot cakes. Why? Because people want something that is more usable and feature-rich than a SmartPhone, but they don't want to lug around a 5 lb computer, and they certainly don't want to pay $1000 for it. So the whole argument of "it's just a big iPod Touch" seems irrelevant. The point is, there are a whole lot of things you can't do with a 2x4 screen, which you can with 9.7". Reading books, for example, is doable on an iPod Touch, but it's not an "experience." Reading a full-size book on the iPad is the experience.

People said the same thing about the iPod: "Why bother, there are already MP3 players out there?" But iPod revolutionized how digital music was distributed and consumed and spawned a whole new set of personal media devices.

People said the same thing about the iPhone: "So what? We already have smartphones and PDAs like the Palm Pilot and Blackberry." And truth be told, the iPhone wasn't really that great a phone, especially with AT&T's spotty services. But the AppStore made the iPhone a sensation, and now Apple is projecting to sell 40 million units this year.

2. There's nothing like this in the marketplace right now. OK, so you say, what about personal media players such as the PSP or Archo? Well, they don't do apps. What about the iPod Touch or iPhone itself? The thing is, they're too small. They're mobile devices, for sure, but just a tad too small. I mean, have you really surfed the web, checked your email, or watched a movie on the iPod Touch? Sure, we can do that, but the experience is lacking, to say the least. And after a while, my eyesight simply becomes blurry because I can't read those small prints. The netbook-sized screen (just about 10") is the perfect size for media consumption, from the Internet to videos to games to, you guess it, books. Plus the 140,000 (and growing) apps available that do everything from booking your next flight to trading stocks to learning to play the guitar (but forget it -- it will never do your laundry or change a diaper). Simply put, there is nothing like this in the market, not at this size and usability.

3. Most people do not have and will not consider buying a laptop computer. They have no use for one. They don't need an iPhone because they're happy with their regular cell phone simply to make calls. What the iPad does is fill the gap in between, and provide a device for those who want to do most of what they want to do without having to lug around a computer.

A friend of mine, who doesn't have a SmartPhone or a laptop, told me the other day he wanted the iPad. Another friend of mine, who only owns a desktop computer, said the same thing. This is what they do every day: surf the web 80% of the time, listen to music, read, watch TV and movies and YouTube videos, communicate mostly through email and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and look at family pictures and videos. That's what they do most every day. They are not writing business proposals or the next great novel. They are not graphics designer, or architect or politician. They just want a usable device that would allow them to do 99% of the things they do every day. My friend looks at the iPod Touch/iPhone and says, "that's too small. How can anyone do anything on that tiny thing?" He looks at a laptop and says, "I don't want to carry a computer with me. I already have one at home." But when he looks at the iPad, his eyes sparkles: "That's something I could really use!"

And he's right. I'm a computer professional and I'm also a writer, so naturally I love my laptop and desktop computers. But when I'm not writing, or when I'm not doing technical and business analysis, what do I do most? I look at my own habits, and I realize this: my friend is right! 80% of the stuff I do, during my personal time, is content consumption and social networking. I surf the web; I Google and Facebook and tweet and blog; I listen to music or watch online videos; I read; I listen to audio books; I watch movies when I'm driving; I email; I use GPS and look up information when I'm traveling. The iPad can do all that beautifully, especially with a gorgeous 9.7" touch-screen.

4. People tend not to know what they want until you show them. And people are slow to change their behaviors. I remember when the iPhone first came out, I sneered at it myself, thinking: who wants a phone like that with no buttons? Who wants to type with a touchscreen keyboard with no textile feel? I didn't know I wanted one until I actually had one. And now I can't live without my iPhone. The keyboard did take some getting used to, but now I can type as fast as I could with a full-size physical keyboard. People do change their behaviors, albeit reluctantly. But if you don't build it, they won't come. And Apple is building it. And people WILL want it.

5. Real estate is all about location, location, location. And I believe a device like the iPad is all about apps, apps, apps. The iPad is built on a proven concept and business model of AppStore. Nobody buys an iPod Touch just to listen to music or watch movies on a small screen. Nobody buys an iPhone because it's a damn good phone. They buy these devices because of the apps. I know. My brother already has a cell phone that he likes, but he went ahead and got an iPod Touch. Why? Because he wanted the apps. He wanted to play the games. He wanted to have a full-feature translator on it (and dictionary). He wanted to do many things. He has at least 50 apps and games on his iPod Touch now, and he will get more.

So what, you say? We already have the iPod Touch and iPhone. And the iPad is just a bigger version... well, that's when you don't understand. The apps right now are limited by the size. Take Stanza or Kindle for an example -- you can only read 50 words at a time on a tiny screen. But with Stanza for iPad or the Apple's iBook, now you can read full-size books -- with colors and pictures! Graphic novels. Children's illustrations. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Now you can have full-size games (Grand Theft Auto would not be the same). You can have a full-featured PIM (personal information manager) that links to your Facebook account that links to your broker account at E-Trade that links to your credit card companies, etc. etc. The apps are the holy grail here, and I predict there will be an explosion of new apps specifically designed and built for the iPad, and the concurrent release of the SDK is a good indication that Apple is serious about this.

The new iBooks apps and New York Times show us what is possible. And the iWork suite shows us you can do real work on the iPad, too -- it's not just fun and game. And that's just the beginning. Full suites of applications will be available, and with constant connectivity, they include cloud-based applications as well (such as Google web apps). There's literally no limit what kind of applications will be available on this platform, especially when they fully utilize the touch screen capabilities.

6. Form factor. The biggest gripe about the iPad ("it's a big iPod Touch") may just be its biggest advantage. Imagine what people can do with a 9.7" iPod Touch. With the right accessaries (such as a dock, a stand, external keyboard, etc.): a) large-screen LED TV for the car, b) large-display GPS system, c) a real "night stand" appliance, d) a portable transcription device for writers, artists, businesses, etc.

Accessary manufacturers are drooling right now.

Even without accessaries, extended use could go beyond what the iPod Touch can do without the burden of a laptop: a) mobile medical device for patient care, diagnostics, and datastore, b) surveillance, information gathering and data entry for field professionals, c) interactive interface for server-side systems ("cloud" computing), d) news and magazines, e) translation devices with international languages and input methods (such as Chinese handwriting recognition), d) hands-on creative devices (there are already apps that allow you to, for example, finger paint)... the list goes on, only limited by the imagination of software developers.

7. Connectivity. Sure enough, it's not free, unlike the Kindle. But the Kindle also doesn't have full Internet capability either. You can't make softphone calls with the Kindle. You can't visit media-rich sites or do online trading with it. All that data (gigabytes of it per week or month) can't be free.

The iPad has wifi (801.2n -- the faster protocol) , as expected. Higher models also have 3G -- while it's not free, the AT&T unlimited data plan at $29.99 isn't that bad -- in fact, it's cheaper than most 3G full data plans (Verizon's, for example, is $60 a month with a wifi card and two year contract). AT&T's plan is contract free. Don't like AT&T? The iPad will be unlocked, so you can use any GSM carriers. Currently, in the US, we are limited to only AT&T and T-Mobile, maybe with Verizon thrown in in the near future.

The iPad is not iPhone, but you can make and receive calls with it, using VoIP technology. Apple is also opening up their network to allow Voice-over-3G network such as iCall. So, it is possible to use the iPad as a phone (but why would you?).

True, the iPhone doesn't have a true USB port. It has an Apple 32-pin connector, just like the iPod or iPhone does. But this connector can be mapped to USB with the SDK. So it really is not a big problem. What it does is to allow a whole world of existing iPod/iPhone accessaries and connectivity tools (such as docks, A/V connectors, etc.) to work with the iPad. No new investments needed, if you already own an iPod or iPhone. You can connect the device to your PC just as you would with the iPod. You can FTP between it and your PC. Like the iPod Touch/iPhone, it runs the same OS, which is basically a modified OSX. So underneath the slick outer-shell, it's just a robust Unix system.

8. The thing itself. Yes, it may be a large iPod Touch or iPhone, but that's exactly why we love them. The multi-touch screen is simply gorgeous, and now we can have 9.7" of that beauty. The battery also lasts up to 10 hours -- try that with a netbook! Some people gripe about that, though (nothing seems to please them these days): "10 hours? But the Kindle lasts two weeks!" Well, you're not going to use the iPad just to read books either, are we? The iPad also uses a low-consumption chip, so it's environmentally friendly and possibly emits less radiation (plus you're not going to slick it near your brain either -- so there's that benefit). The 16GB to 32GB flash memory will make the iPad practically void of any moving parts, thus robust (you can even jog with it).

The touch screen itself is going to change how people interact and consume their information. Those who have used the iPod Touch or iPhone know what I'm talking about -- I can't think of a more intuitive way to browse the web, scan email, check stock quotes, write, etc. etc. So why is it a detriment that the iPad works like an iPod Touch?

TabletPC is not a new concept (tabletPCs have existed since the late '90s), but they never quite worked out in the market place outside of the IT profession. Would we rather go back to keyboard and mouse, or even a pen or stylus? Or our fingers and hands? My bet is on the latter: it's extraordinarily natural to use.

It baffles me to hear people complain: "But I can't slip it in my pocket." Really, did they really think a tablet device is going to be small enough for that? We already have the iPod Touch. You can't slip a Kindle into your pocket either. How about netbook? Try to put one in your pocket. So why whine about the fact that the iPad is too big for the pocket? It's just a tad bigger than the Kindle or a netbook. Actually, at 0.5" thick and 1.5 lbs, it's lighter and thinner than netbooks (which weigh about 2 lbs on average). With a carrying case, it's about the size and weight of a notepad. You can slip one in your purse or your messenger bag.


The thing is, the iPad is not a device for everyone, and it's not the solution for everyone's wishes and desires. Is it perfect? Heck, no. It is lacking in certain areas (such as, no camera -- but isn't it what your digital camera or even cell phones are for?). It's not a "dream" machine -- at least not at that price. I can probably write another article on why it's far from being a dream machine. It can't be everything to everyone. Some people are frustrated because they don't see anything revolutionary. They may be true -- there's no new concepts such as the AppStore. But that doesn't mean the iPad would be a failure, or disaster. Far from it.

Some of the criticisms baffle me. On one hand, critics are saying it's too big (for a phone, perhaps, but not for a device in this class); on the other hand, they complain it's not a real computer. But they also don't want to pay $1000 for it. So, basically, they want their cake and eat it, too.

What I outlined here are the reasons why I think the iPad will enjoy great success and, hopefully, inspire a whole new category of personal media consumption devices that both fits the budget and most of our media needs: communication, social networking, Internet, video, audio, books, information...

I'm a super user. I have laptops, desktops, smart phones, netbooks, and a Kindle. I have them all, and I use them all, but I've always had reservation about them when they first go to market. For once, I am really psyched about the iPad, and that's very rare. Personally, I do think Apple is on the money. They may not have come up with a totally revolutionary idea or completely new category of technology, but what they've done is create something that fits what most people need, what most people want, under a budget that most people can afford.

Dream Quote

Literally, I dreamt up this quote:

We'll all be fine as long as we have innovators who would take risks, practitioners who won't, and labors who are afraid to lose their jobs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Can you fall out of love with your own child?

I tweeted this just a moment ago. What I've found is this: I no longer love The Pacific Between. I'm still proud of what I accomplished, and I still believe in the book, but I cannot bring myself up to tell people how good it is, or that they should read it. I find myself unable or, even, unwilling to promote it.

Is it a sign of my fickleness? Or have I detached from the book for so long that it no longer feels personal and special to me? Actually, I shouldn't say that. It is and will always be special to me: It's my first (and only, so far)! What I mean is that I no longer think it's the best thing in the world, or that I should run around telling people how good it is. When people ask me about my books, I find myself not wanting to talk about The Pacific Between. Instead, I'm more inclined to tell them what I'm working on, and how excited I am with the story and characters.

It'd be like a parent not wanting to talk about her first-born, but instead care more about her the unborn child in the womb.

Is this normal?

Recently, I reread part of The Pacific Between, and I could already find many things I would love to change. Part of it does show how green, as a writer, I was. I would cringe at some passages and wish I could wave a magic wand and make them go away. I would rewrite a good portion of the book if I could. Over all, I still like the story but I felt that it should have been a novella instead of a full-lenght novel.

Am I too critical? Sometimes I feel like I was reading the story I wrote when I was 14 years old, and I'd feel embarrassed. I'd feel uneasy at the thought that readers are reading the book, now.

On the other hand, I'm happy to realize that I've grown as a writer, that I could see the flaws and faults in my own creation, that I'm detached from my work enough to give it a more objective analysis. Still, this sense of "perfectionism" troubles me as well. Deep down I understand nothing is going to be perfect. 10 years from now, I'd read The Terrapin's Trail and find it amateurish as well. Should that stop me from working on it now? Should I wait until I'm much older and wiser to tackle that project? Will I ever be satisfied with my own work?

Who says writers are not tortured souls?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 149

Since I published my novel in 2006, I've learned a few things, and it's interesting to see how other writers are now going through the same process.

1. Book promotion is a necessary distraction. But don't let it distract you from writing.

I spent most of 2006 and even a bit of 2007 doing promotions: book signings, radio and newspaper interviews, talks, seminars, writer's conferences... the only thing I didn't do was go on Oprah's show. While all of that helped push the book and also got me publicity (and stroked my ego), in hindsight, it was just distraction from what I really should have been doing: write. I didn't write much that year. the whole book launch/promotion/publicity thing basically sidetracked me for an entire year, and by late 2007 I found myself playing catch up, trying to get back to my WIP.

And in hindsight, all the publicity didn't really do much for my sales (selling 100 more books is small potato in the grand scheme of my career). People have short attention spans, too. Once I have nothing in the pipeline and my book becomes backlisted, they'll forget me. My readers keep asking, "When can I read your next book?" and I got nothing. It's been another 2.5 years and I still got nothing, still working on the next book (it's now at 150K -- twice the length of The Pacific Between -- thank you very much). That's not something conducive to my writing career. Writers write. Authors publish. I realized all that book promotion thing has done was about my ego, and not much else. I'd rather have another book coming out now and let the readers be the judge than have had all those interviews and book signings.

I also find that it's difficult to promote myself and get publicity when I have only one book under my belt. Like it or not, one book doesn't a career make. People want to know what else we have. Can they read the next book? Where can they find it? When they realize this is your first and you have nothing else to offer, they eventually will forget about you and move on to something else. You may, of course, keep doing the promotion thing and keep getting yourself out there, but at the end of the day, it's our WORK that defines us. We are selling our work, our platforms, not ourselves. And it's the work we must focus on regardless of all the excitement and wonderfulness of being published (especially our debut).

So in short: been there, done that. I know better now.

2. Write to entertain, not to preach

Writers have things to say. Clever things. Profound things. Unique things. Great writers inspire others to think of their worlds differently, to experience things outside of their own realms. We learn from them. We are enlightened and educated.

And yet, I discovered it's just a byproduct of great writing. Great writers do not set out to preach their views and politics and philosophies. Great writers do have something to say, but they say it in an interesting, entertaining, unique way. All those great symbolisms and lessons and philosophies are embedded in a great story. That's what readers are looking for: stories. If they learn something from the stories, all the better; but readers don't seek out fiction to be preached at.

It's not to say a writer can't have opinions and shouldn't try to influence the readers with such opinions. What great writers can do is make these great lessons and opinions transparent. When you enthrall your readers with a great story and immerse them in that world, they become open to the ideas and opinions and lessons. But when you write the story for the purpose of preaching these ideas and opinions, you will fail.

When I started writing The Pacific Between, I made the mistake of wanting to opine about my views on love, relationships, and the purpose of life through a series of dramatic events. I had themes and ideas I wanted to convey, and I focused on how to mold my plot and story and prose to convey such themes and ideas. The result was a hacked plot, one that was too obviously preachy. By the second half of the book, I was more at ease with the storytelling and my focus switched. I tried to entertain; I tried to make the readers keep turning the pages because they'd want to find out what happened next. The result was a much more engaging second half. Don't get me wrong. The themes and ideas were still there, but they were much more transparent. The final product -- the entire novel -- still suffers from a bit of heavy-handedness and philosophical mumble-jumble, but it's much more pared down and transparent.

With my WIP, I'm not trying to preach at all. In fact, I am not even sure what the themes and lessons are. My focus is now entirely on telling an entertaining, intriguing story with great characters. If my readers find deeper, profound meanings in the story, good for them. But I want them to come back and read it again, then again, and again, and tell others what a great story it is, and not because it's such a "great lesson." I'm not their teacher. I'm a storyteller.

3. Write well, but write a lot

I hate to say it, and I don't want to offend anyone, but readers are loyal but fickle at the same time. They're, after all, consumers. Readers may be loyal because they love your writing, and they want to read everything you've written. That's great. But it's not so great if you don't have much published, is it? I've heard readers asking me constantly, "So, when can I read your next book?" Well, I don't have a next book for them to read, and probably not for a while. So that's the problem. Readers are also fickle. If you have nothing available for them, they move on. They go somewhere else. They read someone else. Call them when you're ready. There's nothing wrong with it; we're consumers and our lives do not revolve around our favorite authors' schedules. As readers, we'll gladly buy the author's next book and enjoy it and talk about it; until then, we have other things to do.

That's what I said before: one book does not a career make. If we want to be career writers, we need to keep writing. We need to keep the products coming. We need to make sure that our readers know we're serious about this business, and that we're productive, and that they can always look for something from us.

The fact is that even as we slave over a book for 5 or 3 years, making it perfect (and then another 2 years to get it published), it only takes a reader a day or two, or maybe a week, to read it. The time investment is disproportionally unfair. But that's the way it is. To us writers, it's our life's work. To the readers, it's just a book.

Yes, even the Harry Potter series are just books. Rowling's adoring fans are now asking, "What's next?"

While I was still working on book 2, I kept writing short stories, and I put them together into a little collection and make it available. Not that a lot of people know about it, or read it. But the fact is, I keep writing, and I keep building my repertoire of literary work.

So, don't take ourselves too seriously. Don't believe for a moment that we, as writers, are the center of our readers' universes. Our job is to tell stories, great stories. Our job is to keep entertaining our readers. So, keep those stories coming.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 148

I'm seriously falling behind. My holidays and vacation significantly threw me off and I have only myself to blame. The new year started with a good writing day: I wrote about 600-700 words, but then I fell off the wagon again.

I also fell off the wagon as far as my health/exercise regimen is concerned. I've gone to the gym exactly four times since December 16. That's not good, not good at all, absolutely unacceptable to offset all that delicious food I've consumed since then (and yes, I've gained a few pounds, and they're not muscles).

So, by my count, I'm now about 6000 words behind and about four pounds off the scale. But that's okay. As a dear friend said to me the other day, "You were on vacation. The holidays only come once a year. Don't be too hard on yourself." Yeah, life is too short. I was content and happy and relaxed. So I can't really complain.

But now is the time to suck it up and do the real work.

I went back to the gym yesterday and pushed myself pretty hard. I think I overworked my legs, but no pain, no gain. I'm now leg-pressing 220 lbs. and I'm doing 160 lbs chest fly. I've slacked off with my abs exercises (only doing 50 reps per exercise instead of 80), but I'm maintaining. As I told another friend: "I'm in the 'bulking' phase, dammit!" But I'm not trying to give myself excuses. I know I need to tone up and trim down. I hope to fully get back to my routines by next week.

The gym, however, is packed, even in 20˚ weather. It happens every year. Gym membership shot up since late December, but they will taper off by February and eventually, by March, the gym will be empty again. It happens every year, never fail. I can certainly understand how hard it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and workout regimen, so I understand how most people would eventually fall off the wagon. Still, I encourage everyone to try to keep up with it. Even one or twice a week is better than nothing. Keep moving.

I've been going to the gym since I was 26. I still remember the pivotal decision to do something. At 135 lbs, I was a skinny guy. Even my girlfriend teased me about it. Then I met a friend who owned a gym and he became my personal trainer. I gained 15 pounds of muscles in just three months. Suddenly I realized I didn't have to be skinny all my life. I also realized it was just a matter of math: Calories in, Calories out. That changed my life (well, at least to some extent). I've been keeping at it since then. I fell off the wagon a few years ago, however. Although I was never overweight (since I came from the other side: being too skinny), I was not in shape. I took some pictures of myself and I was disgusted by how I looked.

In August 2008, I decided to do something about it. I went back to the gym and was determined to find my six-pack abs again (which I acquired when I was 28). By October I could already see some results. I haven't stopped exercising (well, except during the holidays, alas!) since then, and I went from 172 lbs (20% body fat) down to 159 (12%) and now back to 167 (15%) now. My goal for this spring is to get down to 165 (12%) and perhaps by the summer 170 (10%).

Food is the problem. I'm not an overeater, but I also am not 25 anymore. I can't eat the amount of food I used to have, especially carbs such as pastas, rice, noodles, and fresh bread. I don't really have a sweet tooth but I do have a weakness for chocolate, and that includes Starbucks' mocha drinks. I have to make some sacrifice.

It's not all about vanity either. As an actor/model, certainly I need to pay attention to my looks, especially since the first few pounds of weight gain often go directly to my face. That doesn't do well on camera, does it? I can certainly understand why models are so obsessed about their weights. It's not so much about vanity (I am perfectly happy with having "chubby cheeks") but our faces and bodies ARE our livelihood, much like words are for writers. Like it or not, this is a look-obsessive culture and actors and models are judged by their looks, sometimes more so than their abilities. It's a sad but true fact.

So, what does any of that have to do with writing?

I think everything is related. Much of exercising and being healthy, etc. has to do with repetition, the act of "just doing it." It's about endurance, and also perseverance. Many people fall off the wagon because "exercising is hard." Many writers also fall off the wagon, never completing their work because they find out that "writing is hard." Or they get discouraged during the submission process because "getting published is hard."

The fact is, life can be hard. Anything that is worth pursuing can be hard. Living a healthy and productive life is not always fun and game. It's easier to just do nothing, sit on the couch, and eat for comfort. It's easier to not turn on the computer and bang out the words. It is easier, sometimes, to just feel depressed instead of getting out of bed and do something.

It depends on where your priorities are, and how important being fit and healthy (or getting published, or whatever endeavors) is to you.

Is it important enough for you to move mountains to get to your goals? Or are you going to give up and let life pass you by?

My workout regimen taught me this: indeed, no pain, no gain. I've seen people who go to the gym every day but they never lose any weight. The reason? They don't push themselves hard enough. Instead, they settle for light exercises that barely burn enough Calories they took in for breakfast. So what's the point? Why exercise at all if you do not set any realistic goals and stick to them? It's a matter of math: if you want to lose 30 pounds, it means you have to have a deficit of over 100,000 Calories. So, if you want to lose 30 pounds in three months, you only need to have a weekly deficit of 9,000 Calories, and that's about 1,200 a day... So, if you consume what your body's supposed to take in (without starving yourself -- you can survive on just 1200 Calories a day) and exercise moderately, you already can achieve that goal. It's only a matter of math.

The problem is, most people consume more Calories than they take in. Why settle for 1200 Calories when we can eat all we can eat and consume 4000 in a day? The problem is, if you take in 4000 a day, you will have to burn 6000 in order to lose weight, or 4000 if you don't want to gain any. Good luck with that (unless you swim 10 miles a day like Michael Phelps does).

And before you know it, you're 300 lbs.

Writing is also a matter of math, in many ways. That's the reason why I started my 500-words challenge. 500 words x 365 days = 182,000 words. Simple as that. Now, the trick, of course, is to keep up with that goal. And yes, I've fallen off the wagon a few times. Still, it's a matter of math. I've already written more than 40,000 words. That's 40K I wouldn't have written if I hadn't made that 500-words-a-day goal and tried to stick with it.

As any self-help person would tell you: make baby steps; but keep your goals straight and real. I've seen writers who have set their goals too high (2000 words a day) and failed. I've seen dieters who set their goals too high (lose 10 pounds a week) and failed. So why not set your goals a little lower and more realistically? To me, 500 words a day is sweet and much easier to achieve than 1000 or 2000 words. And if you want to lose 30 pounds, why not lose it in 6 months (or even 12) instead of 3? The trick is to stick to your goals and do the math.

If you keep chipping away the stone, eventually you WILL have a sculpture.

It's a matter of math.

4000 words, 41000 words total
217 days and 140000 words to go

Sunday, January 3, 2010

10 Habits of a Successful Author

Historical writer K.M. Weiland posted this nugget of advice on her blog.

Granted, every writer has his or her own process and ways of doing things, but what Weiland outlined was, IMHO, worth following. After all, writing is a profession and a craft. Like anything else, certain routines or guidelines make the job better, if not easier.

1. Write every day -- I truly believe this IS a golden rule. Maybe we don't write creatively every day. Maybe we don't work on our novels or stories or whatever every day. But we have to write every day, whether it's a blog post or ideas or scribblings. People go to work every day, right? So why don't writers write every day?

2. Complete stories -- I do, and I wish more writers do as well. I can't tell you how many times I've heard writers saying things like "I've started on so many projects and I now have 12 novels in progress" as if it's something to brag about. It is if they have 12 FINISHED novels. I see writers quitting halfway on their projects all the time. A story is not a story unless it's completed. Personally, I set out to finish everything I started, and I try not to have too many "open" projects at a time.

3. Learn the rules -- I can't stress this enough. How can an artist paint if she hasn't learned the brush strokes? How can a singer sing if he's never done scales and learned to breathe? How can a dancer dance if she's never learned and understood the steps? Writers who say "I don't need the rules since I'm free to express myself" are those who don't take the craft seriously, and thus they will fail.

4. Break the rules -- that's a funny one. Why learn the rules if we're going to break them, and why break the rules once we've learned them? The simple answer is: You've got to learn to walk before you can run, but once you can run, it's not necessary that you walk all the time. After all, Picasso couldn't be Picasso if he hadn't learned the rules first before breaking them. Master writers break rules all the time, but they KNOW what they're doing. They don't just randomly break rules without understanding the rules themselves. Personally, I like to break rules. For example, I like to use sentence fragments, or occasionally use run-on sentences for effect.

5. Create your own inspiration -- now, this one is a bit vague. What does it mean anyway? I think great writers find inspiration everywhere: daily lives, people around them, news, world events, etc. Great writers are great observers, and they're able to use those observations as inspirations, to help their imagination. I think it's important that we keep our ears, eyes and minds open and constantly let the universe surrounding us inspire us to write about the truth.

6. Don't slack on the hard stuff -- that's something I'm struggling with myself, even though I fully understand its importance. Often I find myself "blocked" because I'm not willing to slog through difficult material or plot or character development, etc. I find it tedious to do endless research just to write a few scenes. But I have to remember, writing is WORK. It's not child's play. It's a profession. It's a job. At the end of the day, if the writing doesn't exhaust us both physically and mentally, perhaps we're not working as hard as we should.

7. Follow your heart, not the market -- I do that all the time, but sometimes I wonder if my heart is in the wrong place. Sometimes I see writers who have the "market" cornered and I wonder if I should write to market as well. However, I think the real lesson, here, is that we must write what we're passionate about and know. A carpenter is not going to make a great astronaut if his heart is in carpentry. A successful writer is someone who does what he/she does best, and not because he/she has a knack of tapping into something "hot" at the moment. Certainly, some writers happen to strike gold -- what they love to write happens to be the hot stuff everyone wants. Still, we can't duplicate success simply by following the market. The quality will suffer.

8. Develop a thick skin -- this I had to learn the hard way. As a newbie, I used to have thin skin. I couldn't take criticism well. But as I mature as a writer, I learn to listen to criticism, however bad it may be, and glean from it. I realize everyone has the right to say what they think, and they may or may not be right. It's up to me to listen and take in every advice and criticism and interpret them and come to my own conclusion. I've learned to not feel too personal when someone offers a critique. It is, after all, about the work and not personal attacks.

9. Set your story free -- this is still a work in progress. How do we set our stories free? They are, after all, our "babies." But I think every successful writer must learn to let go of their creations at some point. They must realize that these are their works, not their lives. And our #1 job is to entertain and enthrall our readers. Let go of our ego, and the rest will follow.

10. Love what we do -- I've said this many times and I'm a true believer. LOVE what we do and do what we LOVE. I can't see it work any other way; or else, writing is going to be a chore. Sure, it's a job and people can do any job without loving it, but what's the point? There are other ways to make a good living. So why do we write? Because there may be a chance that we could become the next JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyers? No, it's because we LOVE what we do. And that's when working is fun and we do our best work. Every day is an adventure.

And I honestly can say I do love what I do, even when sometimes it is difficult.