Congratulations to Felecia! You are the winner from the Dreams Coming True with Emily T. Wierenga! Please email your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Jon Lewis and I’m the co-author of the Grey Griffins series (Scholastic, Little Brown) and the CHAOS Trilogy (Thomas Nelson). I have a gorgeous wife, three beautiful daughters, and a ferocious Maltese named Tinkerbelle. My favorite book of all-time is Where the Wild Things Are, and my dream job would be third-string quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings where I could travel with the team and watch the games from the sideline, without ever getting hit or even needing to take a shower since all I’d be doing is holding a clipboard.
When did this creative dream begin?
Growing up I thought I’d live a dual life as a Disney animator who moonlit as a comic book artist. I spent every waking moment drawing (even in class), but when I started to develop comic book characters, I needed to write their backstories and that’s when I realized I liked writing, too.
How did this project/idea get started?
After a bout of writer’s block I decided to take a year off from writing, but when I came back I didn’t want to do it alone. So I contacted some friends and asked if they’d be willing to write some stories with me. So while I write Grey Griffins: Night of Dragons, they’ll be writing Grey Griffins short stories that will be collected into an anthology. We’re giving 100% of the proceeds from the anthology to the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Kids Need to Read.
What makes your project stand out from the crowd?
I want to do something unique with Grey Griffins: Night of Dragons, so I’m releasing the book as five mini-stories that will be collected into a single novel. At the same time, I have ten incredible authors, including New York Times bestselling authors like Brandon Mull, Aprilynne Pike, Michael P. Spradlin, and Frank Beddor, who are writing short stories that tie into my book.
What are the goals and intentions of this project?
The goals of all of my books are to entertain, and it’s not different with Grey Griffins: Night of Dragons. But I also tackle tough issues like kids dealing with divorced parents and what it’s like to grow up poor when your friends all have money. The other goal is to raise a lot of money for charity.
How does your project create community?
I think community comes when you touch on subjects a lot of people are dealing with. For instance, Twilight was about a girl who felt unworthy of the perfect guy, but she ended up getting him anyway. Just about everyone I know struggles with self-worth, so when you touch a nerve like that, people take notice and talk about it.
Many have creative ideas but trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly . . . but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
When it comes to writing, that’s me. I love developing plots and characters, but when it comes to writing that first draft my energy (and enthusiasm) fizzles. But that’s the thing: If you want to write (or create) professionally, pushing through when you don’t feel like it is the key. Keeping disciplined business hours can help. So can setting daily and even hourly word count goals.
Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your project. Where do the ideas come from? How many are involved in the process? Does each contributer have a specific role?
When it comes to ideation, I have a hard time turning it off. The bigger problem is deciding what will hold my interest long enough to turn it into a novel. But it’s the next step that’s crucial—rejecting my initial ideas (or at the very least evolving them) in order to develop an even deeper story.
What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
When it comes to writing, the difficult part for me is the first draft. Ideas (for me) are the easy part. Filling up that blank screen with thousands of words can be daunting.
What have you learned?
That my first draft is going to stink no matter how hard I try so I might as well get it over with and then go back and fix it. I love the old adage that you can’t edit a blank page.
Have there been any unexpected surprises?
There are always unexpected surprises when I write. I was originally going to focus on the heroes battling goblins, much like Lord of the Rings, but the story dictated dragons and I went with it.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about starting your project?
That writing is easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but when you see the first printed book you realize it’s worth it.
What are some ways you promote your project?
Lately I’ve relied on my publishers, and that was a mistake. Publishers can only do so much because they have a lot of books they have to promote. As creators, we need to take control of every aspect of the process, and that includes marketing. School visits for Middle Grade and YA books are by far the most effective marketing tactic. Next is a consistent schedule of engaging Facebook posts, tweets, and blogs.
Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?
It’s shocking if you do it right, but I actually like the marketing as much as I do the writing. Nobody will ever be as passionate about your book as you are, and passion sells. And it pays to study today’s marketing. Things have changed drastically since my first book was published in 2006. Digital is powerful, but you need to be dedicated and consistent. The best example is Shannon Messenger. She’s amazing at it!
Any marketing mistakes you would avoid?
Starting a blog or a social media platform, then fizzling out, then starting again, then fizzling out. You need to be committed and consistent. It’ll pay off, but it’s not a quick fix. Content marketing takes time, but it’s powerful.
What social network has worked best for you?
I’ve actually switched a great deal of my attention to Twitter where it’s easier to grow organic followers. On Facebook, you really have to pay to get followers unless you’re a brand like Oreo, Apple Computers or Harley Davidson.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
Be humble. Ignore critical people. Listen to constructive criticism. Have an unwavering belief in the gifts God has given you. Don’t give up. Failure is only failure if you quit. Learn from your mistakes and get better every day.
Where do you see this project in five years?
An important part of my legacy as a writer and I think it has the potential to be the most popular and successful book I’ve written. I’ve learned a compelling story trumps the perfectly crafted story every day, so I’m going back to my roots and writing raw. I want to capture the emotion of my childhood, just like I did in my first book. It really connected with people, and those are the types of stories I want to tell.
Because the publishing industry is changing and I want to change with it. I’m not turning my back on my publishers, but instead I look at it as expanding into a hybrid author who publishes both traditionally and on my own. It will also allow me to give a lot more money from the sales of the anthology to the charities.