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Tag: windsor books

 

SQG7 Breathing Cover

Everybody breathes, but some do it better than others. Breathing training is the foundation of my martial practice, and as with everything else I do, I'm happy to teach it to you. The topic for the latest instalment of The Swordsman's Quick Guide  was chosen by my student Cecilia Äijälä, and she picked Breathing Training. I was delighted when she did so, because it forced me to get on and write up my training methods.

This book comes in three packages:

1.The Book, with Video

This package includes:

  • the book in epub, pdf and kindle format with links to the videos,
  • plus a separate download of all the video clips to teach you the exercises,
  • plus an embedded epub with the video clips built in.
  • It also includes a £10 discount voucher for the course.


I want this book

2.The Book with Audio and Video

This package includes:

  • the book in epub, pdf and kindle format with links to the videos,
  • plus a separate download of all the video clips to teach you the exercises,
  • plus an embedded epub with the video clips built in,
  • plus the audiobook,
  • plus mp3 recordings of the instructions for the individual exercises,
  • plus two bonus exercises (video).
  • It also includes a £25 discount voucher for the course.


I want this one!

3. The Breathing Course

The course is a carefully designed progression of exercises, spread out over six weeks (you can pace it as you wish, and do it faster or slower). Each week begins with a lesson, in which you will learn the exercises for the week. The week then continues with a shorter practice session, which you repeat ideally every day for the next six days. In the final week, you will learn how to create 5 minute, ten minute, and twenty minute practice routines, so that you will always be able to find time to do some practice.

The course material  includes everything in the other two packages, so all of the book, audio, and video files. The course is available now, but the lesson and practice routine videos are not completed yet. Week one is ready, and all of the book with all of its audio and video material too. Weeks 2-4 have been shot, and I'm editing them right now. The rest of the course material will be uploaded by October 1st.

http://swordschool.teachable.com/courses/breathing-basics

I released this to my email list yesterday (they get just about everything first!) with a healthy 50% discount. If you would like the same treatment, you can sign up to my list below, and I'll send you the same discount links. These links expire on Friday 9th September, so if you're interested, now's your best chance to save a packet.

 

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I'm working on the latest instalment of The Swordsman's Quick Guide, which will cover my foundational breathing exercises. The book is already out to my test readers who have kindly volunteered to wade through the sewage of extraneous verbiage and excessive punctuation in search of the faintest glimmer of useful text. My fellow writers will recognise that moment when first draft hits first readers…

I intend to release this book with a lot of extra material, such as video of all the exercises and audio clips so you can play the instructions into your ears, leaving your eyes and hands free. This is completely new territory for me so I don't expect it to be very good right away. The only way that I know of to get better at anything is to do it, get feedback on the results, then do it again. A tiny amount of that feedback can happen internally- I can usually spot the utter crap and kill it before it escapes. But it's far more effective, I find, to ask the community that the work is intended for to try it out and let me know what works and what doesn't.

To that end, here are two clips, one for “Walking Breathing” and one for “How to Stand”. This is the worst way to encounter the material – out of context of the book it goes with. If it survives, in other words if you can follow it, then it's robust enough. Please listen to the clips, and let me know in the comments on this page, or by email to me at guywindsor@gmail.com, whether it works for you. Is it clear? Can you follow the instructions?

Walking breathing exercise:

[audio-clammr mp3=”https://guywindsor.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Walking-breathing-02082016.mp3″]

How to Stand:

[audio-clammr mp3=”https://guywindsor.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Breathing-How-to-Stand-02082016-10.43.mp3″]

So, how was it? Posting the most amusing comment will get you a free copy of the book when it's done, but the most helpful will get the book package with audio clips and audiobook. Carry on!

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Last week I ran a survey to find out what I should be working on next. This generated a very clear ‘get on with the “systems from sources” online course' response. I am following orders, and hope to have the first couple of modules up for beta-testers next week. I will set it up so that a small number of people can sign up at a big discount, on the understanding that they will let me know what needs to be improved before I roll it out to the public. I'll send an email to my mailing list when it's ready for preview.

The survey also generated some interesting questions and comments, which I have answered below.

1. Your Syballus for level 4 is a bit confusing when you name the drills but give no clue on how they are done.

My response: Yes. The level 4 drills are all on video, which shows you what they are, but they are not instructional videos. This is deliberate: my syllabus wiki is free, and intended as a reference resource for everyone who is following my syllabus. It is not designed as an online course.

2. I live in a small province on the east coast of Canada and have just started taking longsword instruction at the new and only school in the province. The instructors are basing their instruction on Liechtenauer's work. I know you have an add-on for Audatia based on Liechtenauer, but does any of your work focus on comparing his approaches to the ones you use?

My response: Not really. I actually think that the Liechtenauer material is not a complete system; it is part of a system (as Fiore's Longsword material is too). It seems to me that it assumes a lot of basic training on the part of the user; basics that we find in all other sword styles are simply missing from Liechtenauer. I think that the basic material is shown with the messer, with Liechtenauer's merkeverse being, if you like, the advanced course. I don't find it terribly useful to compare and contrast except with students that have an in-depth knowledge of both.

3. I think a book about building participation on a local level including marketing, weapon and and armour procurement and financing, finding a location and course structure and design would be just jolly. Most new students have a difficult time building momentum, and finding practices. This book should be a ground up treatise on how it was done historically, and how to do it today. Just saying…. I have been at it a few years now and have faced several challenges including being ‘Dear John” ed and the ebb and flow of new faces. Might even want to throw in some info about building a facebook group and how social websites can help(I assume that a social website historically was a pub) TY
The online training course sounds intriguing also…

My response: A book on how to start and run a study group or school… hmm, interesting. I might, but there are already some good books on the subject out there, such as Starting and Running your own Martial Arts School by Karen Levitz Vactor and Susan Lynn Peterson. I don't know anything about how schools were started and run in the past (I have an idea, and there are stories and legends, but hard data not so much). Leaving history aside for a moment, a booklet on how to start and run your own HEMA group might make a good instalment of The Swordsman's Quick Guide. Let me know if you agree!

Too many damn choices: 1. Breathing is my top pick because no one has really spoken on it. 2. The community needs a review of how to create training systems when pulling from historical treasties. 3. Really, your next book should be something fun, why I chose other: contact Mark Ferrari who did the art for Monkey Island, add in what you know of historical come backs, and then make a book!  Just a thought…

My response: I think I'd better get the course up and running and Breathing published, and Sent, before I think about a comedy project… but I'll take that under advisement!

Hi! I love you books and videos! Great work! I am an AEMMA (Canada) club member (Fiore Scholar) working towards my Free Scholar challenge in a few years, so gathering my armour and learning to move, train and fight in armour. Any future material (books, blog entries, videos, seminars) on all things Fiore would be very helpful for me and our club's students – but especially any insights to help with armoured plays/ drilling and sparring would be excellent. Thank you very much, Aaron Beatty (Scholler, instructor AEMMA Guelph, Ontario, Canada).

My response: Thank you Aaron, glad you like my work. Armoured plays and such are a tricky problem for me, now that I'm in Ipswich and not surrounded by armour-wearing thugs. I think this is one area where the guys who run the IAS might be able to help: Sean Hayes, Greg Mele, Jason Smith, Christian Cameron etc all have a lot more time in harness than I do.

I really need the training systems one as it is basically the only thing preventing me from teaching a class.

My response: OK, so the course would be useful for you; but in the meantime have you read this?

Hello, My name is Wiktor Grzelecki, and I'm a long-time reader of your blog. I also bought some of your books and Audatia game. While I disagree with some of your opinions, I greatly value your materials and input. I like the project about online course, but I would also like to ask you about something different. You are a father, I will be a father in a couple of months. I would like to ask you, how do you keep children safe, how do you keep sharp weapons knowing that your children are near them? Would it be enough to just keep them high enough, that they can't reach them? Or would it be better to have a key-closed chest or closet? Similar to those required for firearms? Or simply to show them wooden weapons, and metal ones with you so they lose the “forbidden fruit” taste for children (What I mean is, could kids be less interested in touching weapons if they got used to them? Something like teaching kids to use bb gun so they don't see actual firearm as appealing.). I understand that this is a complex matter, that would also require lots of time to spend with a child to explain what weapons are and how to use them, but I would like to know what do you think?

My response: Congratulations on your impending fatherhood! Kids and weapons.. This is a tricky matter, as it makes people very nervous. I'll explain how I've dealt with it with my kids in my home, but this is “reportage” not “advice”.

Guns: My guns (two revolvers and a semi-automatic) were always in the safe. The kids could ask to see them any time, though they very rarely did, and I would get them out (hiding the 10 digit combination from them), check they were safe, treat them as if they were loaded, and closely supervise how they were handled. They could play all they liked with rubber band guns and cap guns, but the real thing was (obviously) very strictly controlled. Now we live in the UK my guns are at a gunsmith's in Finland, so the issue is moot. If they had wanted to, I would have allowed them to shoot at the range, under very close supervision, starting with a .22 or something similar, when they were strong enough to handle the weapon.

Blades: Blades are easier, as they are less dangerous (it's harder to kill someone by accident with a knife than a gun), and they are everywhere; scissors, penknives, kitchen knives, eating knives… The kids have been helping to cook since they were so little that that meant sitting on the floor and banging on a saucepan with a wooden spoon. They have been cutting and peeling vegetables since before they can remember. Cutting began with them standing with their left hand round my waist and their right hand holding the knife, with my hand on top. I'd hold the vegetable and do all the actual work. That progressed to their hand under mine on the vegetable, and so on. The only person who could get cut was me (though I never was). Now they can chop stuff without supervision, using my proper kitchen knives (they are 7 and 9).

Until a couple of weeks ago, all my swords were at the salle (I didn't keep any in the house, except for a sabre for champagne). I'd take the kids to the salle quite often, and we would fight with wooden swords, lightsabres, or any other weapon. They could ask to see anything they wanted, even sharp swords, and I would get them off the rack and they could touch them, heft them, that sort of thing, but under careful supervision.

In summary then, nothing is forbidden, but some tools/weapons/things can only be handled under supervision. When my kids were very little, I kept everything dangerous out of reach. Since they have been old enough to understand that some things are dangerous, and also old enough to get a chair to stand on when they want to reach something that is ‘out of reach', we have taught them what needs supervision and what doesn't. Kids are curious, so I've always let mine have a go at anything they want to, while I control the situation to maintain the necessary safety. The idea is to teach them to use things properly, so their skill keeps them safe, not their ignorance. I even let them drive my car. They have never been injured or injured anyone else with any weapon or tool. They will eventually cut themselves with a kitchen knife or chisel, but that's ok; it's part of life.

Now, I'd better get on with that course material!

 

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A spot of rapier and cloak in the morning?

I have the enormous privilege of owning an original copy of Salvatore Fabris’s Sienza e Pratica d’Arme, printed in 1606. I bought it from Sr. Roberto Gotti, of Brescia, in 2014. It is in incredibly good condition, and an excellent, clean print. It is still in its original binding. The value of the book comes from two things: the information it contains, and the artefact itself. I own the artefact, it is mine, mine, mine, and woe betide anyone who tries to take it from me. But I believe the information it contains belongs in the public domain. This book is yours. So I asked my friend Petteri Kihlberg to photograph it, and I am releasing those photos (with his permission) free and with no strings attached. If you choose to use them for some commercial purpose (such as printing an edition for sale), then I ask as a matter of courtesy that you give credit where it’s due, but I do not insist on it. I've set it to “pay what you want”, and would be grateful for any donation you choose to give; the more money I have, the more fencing treatises I'll buy, all of which will go online for free.


I want this!

I own this book, but the information it contains is part of your birthright as a human being. I hope you will enjoy it, share it, and make something beautiful with it.

Please share this post so that everyone who wants a copy of the book can get one.

And don't miss my other free books! Marozzo's 1568, Girard's 1740, Seven Principles of Mastery, and many more.

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Spring is in the air, the grass is pushing up under the snow, and books are making their way from my dusty hard drive and out into the world.

Ok, in Finland, spring is nowhere to be seen. My kids are going ice-skating and everyone I know has a cold. Bear with me. I have another book out, and it makes me giddy.

I'm spending most of this week fulfilling the promises made in my last Indiegogo campaign, for Advanced Longsword. That means doing battle with Lightning Source's arcane and wilfully inefficient “short run” printing interface, manually creating over 250 book orders so that the backers of the campaign will get their books in the post in a couple of weeks. I am also manually packing and shipping a boxful of The Medieval Dagger books. This is all, on the surface, very tedious, BUT it is actually really nice to feel that moment of personal connection with every backer, even as superficially as when I input their address into a web form.

Backers of Audatia should already know that WE HAVE SHIPPED THE FINAL PACKS: Liechtenauer and the Patron are done, shipped, and that marathon of a campaign is now 100% fulfilled. It only took about two years longer than expected. But it is a load off my mind. Crowdfunding is all about transparency, value, and keeping your promises.

And somehow in the middle of all this, I managed to edit together and publish The Swordsman's Quick Guide part 5: How to Teach a Basic ClassThis booklet is 10,000 words long, enough to cover the really important stuff, like safety, writing class plans, making corrections, and so on. The purpose of it is simple: to give inexperienced instructors confidence. If you've read it, do let me know what you think!

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Hello.

Do you find yourself explaining the same thing over and over to various friends and colleagues? Wouldn’t it be easier to just explain it once, and then send the explanation to anyone who needs it?

In my case, I tend to explain all sorts of things regarding swords, as teaching swordsmanship has been my job for the last 15 years. But lately, more and more people have wanted to talk to me about writing books. This makes sense, given that I have written half a dozen of them, plus hundreds of articles and blog posts, and these days about half my income comes from the books I’ve had published in the traditional way, or published myself. When I found myself explaining the process I use to write and publish books for the hundredth time, I thought that perhaps it was time to follow my own advice and write the process down so anyone who wants to can use it.

A History Lesson

Back in 1999 a friend of mine suggested I should write a book about how to fight with swords. I had been teaching swordsmanship for about five years by that point, in a club I helped to found in Edinburgh in 1994. This friend was quite persuasive, so I set to, in my spare time from my cabinet-making job. A year later I had left woodwork to start The School of European Swordsmanship, (in Helsinki, Finland), which kept me busy in the evenings and weekends, but left much of every day free to write. It took me another two years to get the first draft ready. What with publisher’s delays and endless edits, the book, The Swordsman’s Companion, did not see the light of day until June 2004.

The day I sent off the final final draft I sat down to write the next book, which became The Duellist’s Companion. That only took two years, including the madly slow publishing process; so about 18 months of writing time.

My last book, every bit as difficult, and much more advanced than either of these two, was written in under three months of actual writing time, spread over the course of a year.

What changed?

I learned how to do it.

The process

Never, ever, try to write a book. It’s too big. Write a word, or a line, or a paragraph, or maybe even a chapter. You can start with a question, the more specific the better. “How do you use a sword” is too general. “How do you hold a medieval longsword” is much better. So, break up the topic into lots of very specific questions. “How do you defend yourself from a thrust to the belly from a low guard on the right?” is good. “How do you defend against thrusts” is less good, unless you already have three or four related and very specific questions answered, and you can summarise them.

One question = one episode/article/paragraph/chapter.

A little question can be answered in 200-3000 words. Just about right for a blog post, or a facebook update, something like that. A big question can be answered in 3-10 thousand words. Perfect for a short ebook.

5-10 big questions on the same topic can be edited together into a book.

Now what about fiction?

Well, I’ve never published a novel, so I’m no expert on this, but I have several friends who have. And some of them have written books about it. Storyteller Tools by M. Harold Page is a very useful book, and so is Jump Start Your Novel, by Mark Teppo. I recommend them both highly. There is no reason why this process would not work for fiction too, though it doesn’t solve the issues of creating engaging characters or thrilling plot. The thing you sit down to write is a scene; many scenes, properly ordered, make a novel. For fiction writers reading this, I’m sure you can draw the necessary parallels.

Step 1: to plan, or not to plan, that is the question!

This is very much down to your personality and experience. If you have an enormous question that can be broken down into 6-12 big questions, then right now you could get a piece of paper and a pen, and organise the questions into your table of contents. The trick to ordering them is to keep in mind the prerequisite knowledge for each answer. I can’t explain to you how to hold a sword if you don’t know what a sword is. For every question, it is usually best to assume that your reader knows absolutely nothing. It’s been my experience that most students coming to me can’t even stand or walk properly. (Really. Most people have problems with their gait.) So I start with how to stand. It’s never wrong to go too basic; it is much better that readers skip over stuff they know (or think they know) to get to the “good stuff”, than it is for readers to be baffled or frustrated because they don’t have the background you imagined, and so can’t follow your thread.

Let’s take my book The Medieval Longsword as an example. The enormous question I’m trying to answer is: “how do you fight with a medieval longsword?”

The table of contents doesn’t look like a list of questions, but here it is, with the questions added.

Introduction to the Mastering the Art of Arms Collection: “how does this book fit into the other books in the series?”

Foreword by Christian Cameron: “does anybody famous and cool who knows about swords think this book is good?”

Introduction: “how does Guy know what he’s talking about?”

Chapter One: Tools of the Trade: “what equipment do I need?”

Chapter Two: General Principles: “what are the fundamental ideas behind how swordfights actually work?”

Chapter  Three: Footwork: Stepping and Turning: “how do I move?”

Chapter Four: One Strike, One Defence: “what is the basic attack, and the basic defence against it?”

Chapter Five: More Strikes, More Defences “what other attacks and defences should I know to start with?”

Chapter Six: More Strikes, and More Guards “what are the less common attacks, and the other guard positions?”

Chapter Seven: Counter Remedies,  Their Counters, and Improving

the Guards: “how do the fighters continue after the first attack and defence?”

Chapter Eight: Counters to the Break,  The Sword in One Hand

and Exploiting Mistakes: “what other cool techniques are there?”

Chapter Nine: Binds, Malice and Deceit: “what tactics are best?”

Chapter Ten: Preparing for Freeplay: “I want to fight my friends without killing them. How do I prepare for that?”

Chapter Eleven: Freeplay! “and how do I actually do it?”

Chapter Twelve: A Final Summary:  The System by Numbers: “how do I remember all this stuff?”

Appendix A – Warming: Up “how do I warm up?”

Appendix B – Glossary: “what do all those funny Italian words mean?”

Acknowledgements: “who helped in the writing of the book?”

Indiegogo Campaign Contributors: “who bought the book before it was even published (bless them)?”

Bibliography: “what other books were needed to write this one?”

Knowing all those questions in advance, it was quite easy for me to plan the book out, and then just write each chapter as it came. I didn’t write them in order though, I answered the question I wanted to answer each day.

Writing a series is a bit different. In The Swordsman’s Quick Guide for example, the questions are far less naturally connected: “what are the fundamental aspects to mastering any skill?” (The Seven Principles of Mastery); “how do I choose a sword?” (Choosing a Sword); “how do I train myself up to freeplay standard?” (Preparing for Freeplay); “what is the ethical dimension of swordsmanship?” (Ethics); “how should I teach a basic class?” (How to Teach a Basic Class (forthcoming)). As I add to the list, I may end up with a coherent book, or I may not. It doesn’t actually matter. But at this stage there is no point in sitting down to plan the whole series, because I don’t have one enormous question I’m trying to answer, just a series of smaller ones.

Step 2: define the questions as closely as possible, and answer them

This is what you will write today. “How do you set up a table-top role-playing game for 3-8 players?” is a good question. “How do I cut lap dovetails for a drawer front?” is a good question. You can write your answer straight out, if that’s natural. Or talk into your phone, and type up the answer, if that’s easier. Or call a student or friend, somebody who has asked the question, and explain it over skype, recording the call. Then type that up.

Step 3: send your answer out to test readers

Only the people who do not already know the answer, the people who would actually need your book, can tell you whether it solves their problem. So you need to find these people (I’m assuming you have some kind of social network, or at least one actual person has asked you this question), and ask them to read it for you, and let you know honestly what they think.

I’ve been writing for a long, long time, and still I get all sorts of negative feedback from my test readers. Positive comments are nice, but negative comments have a much greater capacity to improve the work, so that’s what you need from your readers. Beg them to be merciless.

Apply as much or as little of the feedback to your draft as you like, then sit on it while you go to step four:

Step 4: rinse and repeat

Find and answer at least two more really specific questions, following steps one and two. You now have three or more short pieces, of about 3-10 thousand words each. Go back and re-read the first one, in the light of the other two; you’ll probably find a few more corrections or additions to make.

Step 5: give readers a way to contact you

This is absolutely critical. Your readers must have a way to get in touch, because you absolutely depend on them for critical feedback. You exist to solve their problems; you have to know whether you are doing that well or not. Give them as many ways as possible; email, website, facebook, twitter, phone, snail mail address; every medium that you are willing to be contacted on. Then let them contact you in the way that suits them best. Put this information at the beginning and end of each article.

On the advice of a friend, I got myself a Facebook account in 2010. Within three weeks, somebody in America had got in touch to ask me whether it would be ok to use The Duellist’s Companion as the curriculum for his rapier school; of course he’d insist every student bought a copy. Would that be ok?

Hell yes! By offering a low-barrier-to-entry, unintimidating means of getting in touch, I made it easy for this chap to ask the question. I would have been perfectly happy with email. I prefer it. But it’s not about what I prefer, now is it?

Step 6: cover design

If you have the budget for it, by all means get somebody with artistic flair to make you a cover for each of your pieces. If the questions are closely related, you can go with a series cover, like my The Swordsman’s Quick Guide, but if they are not, use separate covers. You can pay anything from about 30 euros up to over a thousand per cover. At this stage though it’s perfectly ok to just do it yourself. It doesn’t have to be great. Because we are not nearly done. When your complete book is ready, then I would highly recommend hiring a professional cover designer if you can possibly afford it. But for now, it’s not such a big deal.

Step 7: (optional) publish the articles

At this stage you have a few articles, which will either be stand-alone parts of a series, or chapters of the book. You can greatly expand your circle of test-readers by publishing them. It’s probably best to publish them in two-week cycles, rather than all at once. Because while you’re beavering away writing articles 4-6, you can be publishing 1-3 one at a time, and giving the impression of massive productivity. Go you!

Beg for feedback, reviews, any kind of reader response. To get this, make sure your readers have a means to get in touch.

Your sales at this stage are not the point. It’s ok if they are tiny. You sold five booklets at 99 cents each to people you didn’t know this month? Excellent!

You know that an article is ready to publish if you can honestly say to yourself that you are doing the readers a favour by publishing it. That’s the barrier. Will reading this improve their lives at a level commensurate with the price I’m charging?

Before you publish, make certain that at least one test reader is a competent copy-editor. The sort of person who notices  the double space I just put in between “notices” and “the” in this sentence. If you have no friends with this very specific skill, then hire somebody. I recommend Becca Judd, who edited Swordfighting for me, and Advanced Longsword.

Step 8: compile and edit the book

The book of your dreams does not exist. I sat down to write THE BOOK in 1999, and I failed miserably. There are a million other books, all at least as much worth reading. But I did manage to write A GOOD BOOK. And that’s plenty good enough.

You can produce a simple compilation volume (which you should probably do anyway), or you can edit the articles together into a complete new book (with a bunch of extra material, I would suggest; perhaps no more than 60% previously published stuff). There is nothing stopping you from writing extra material for your completed book as you go along, choosing for early publication only the parts that lend themselves easily to being answered as a separate article. Let’s say you have 6-10 articles that together make most of a book. By putting them in order, you can see what’s missing; an introduction to the book as a whole, sure, and usually some kind of conclusion section, but you may also realise that there are logical gaps in your narrative. So fill them.

This process is much easier if you are using a decent word processing program, like Scrivener, which allows to re-order your individual chunks (scenes, questions etc.), and to visualise really clearly how everything fits together.

Further questions:

1. How long should my book be? There is no rule about how long a book must be. I have paid good money for short books and not regretted it. The Dip, by Seth Godin, is a good example. And I’ve failed to finish many thicker books because I got bored half way through. So length is a poor guide to quality. As a basic rule, anything under about 3000 words is probably too short to charge for. Anything over about 40,000 words is definitely a proper book. Swordfighting is about 95,000 words; Advanced Longsword is only about 40,000, but has a lot of photos.

2. When should I produce a compilation volume? How many articles do I need first?

You should produce a compilation volume when the maths tells you to. When you can offer a 30% or better discount on the compilation over buying the parts separately, go.

For example, episodes of The Swordsman’s Quick Guide are 3.99 sold separately. 4×3.99= 15.96. I sell episodes 1-4 together for 9.99; a saving of over 35%. And it does sell. If you’re selling them at 99cents and the compilation for 4.99, then you’d want at least 7 articles: 7x.99= 6.93 6.93/4.99= 1.39

Only six articles would give you a discount of 19%:  5.94/4.99= 1.19.

3. How do I price my work? Regarding pricing, the best approach is to aim for the top price bracket common in your field. Very short romance? .99 cents is probably as much as you can charge; how to write a book? 4.99 seems reasonable 🙂 You need to ask yourself the question “why the hell would anyone want to read this book?” and answer that in your marketing material (for advice on marketing your book, Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book is superb); then ask “what is this book worth to the reader?” Nobody cares how much you sweated and bled over it in the long dark watches of the night. They only care about what it’s worth to them. And if they don’t know you, then it’s probably not much. Examine your own browsing and buying behaviour; it’s amazing how many books you’re interested in that you don’t buy!

And Finally

Lots of people seem to want to be writers. Damned if I understand why. Far fewer seem to actually want to write, which makes more sense. Writing is hard work, bad for your health (especially if you sit down to do it), and exhausting. To be a writer, just write stuff. To write a book, write lots of stuff on the same theme and edit it together. It is actually pretty simple. But simple and easy are not the same thing, so here are a couple of further thoughts to lower the barriers a bit.

Discipline is Freedom. This is key. The ability to push past discomfort in pursuit of a long-term goal is the fundamental skill that underpins all success.

Constraints Liberate. This is a catchphrase of the Dark Angels (the organisers of the writing course I went on in September). It is very hard to “just write a book on any topic, long as you like”. It is much easier to write a book of between 40,000 and 50,000 words on how best to create a card game based on swordsmanship (for example). The more specific the task, the easier it is to accomplish. So impose some specific constraints on yourself. 2000 words on how to tie a cravat, by 5pm Friday. No problem. When I was at school we had a discussion in class about this. My English teacher Mr. Thornberry, set us a challenge. On the first week, we could write anything we liked. On the second, he set us a specific task. We then read the essays out loud, and it was obvious that the second set were much better than the first.

Break it up even smaller. A book is too big to hold in your head at once. A chapter might be too big too. So write smaller. A paragraph describing the problem in clearer terms might naturally grow into the chapter you were thinking of.

Make it personal. If you try to write to the world, guaranteed not everyone will like it, want it or even understand it. Instead, try writing an email. We can all do that.

“Dear Jeremy,

Ok, if I understand your question correctly, you want to know which end of the sword to hold. While opinion may differ somewhat among my colleagues, those of them that actually win fights all agree that you should hold the blunt end; we call it the “handle”. (continue for another few paragraphs)

yours,

Guy

Then strip off the “Dear Jeremy” and “yours, Guy”, edit it a bit, and you have a chapter.

It can liberate your creative juices to simply have a specific person in mind for your work.

If I’d known how much work the first book would be before I wrote it, it would probably have never been written. If I’d known how it would change my life, I’d have written it even if it was ten times as hard to do.

And if I’d had this method? I’d have written it in a quarter of the time.

I have created a pdf of this article, which you can download free. This is an experiment with the “pay what you want” model; I'll be very interested to see how many people download it, and how many choose to pay for it. I have been thinking about moving all my ebooks to “pay what you want”, but I have to be sure I won't starve doing it!

 

 

 

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The crowdfunding campaign for my next book, Advanced Longsword, Form and Function is now live!
Would you like to win free copies of the book, or commission an instalment of The Swordsman’s Quick Guide? For this campaign, which will only run for 30 days, I am running a competition for referrals. There are two categories: eyeballs and sales.

Eyeballs

Whoever sends the most people to see the campaign will get two free copies of the book in hardback, sent wherever you want.

Sales

The person whose referrals generate the highest sales will also get two hardbacks, and can commission an instalment of The Swordsman’s Quick Guide, on any topic you like. I will write the booklet for you and publish it (at my discretion; if your request is vastly off-topic I might choose to simply send you the finished booklet for you to do with what you like).

If the same person wins both categories, I'll add a runner-up prize; whoever comes second in the sales category gets a free hardback, signed and sent wherever you like.

How do you take part? 

You need to log in to Indiegogo, which generates your own specific url for the campaign, which will look like http://igg.me/at/longsword2/x/00000 where the last set of numbers is your unique identifier. Then share this link as best you can, and Indiegogo will track the link for you.

 

https://youtu.be/Ou6dNB-L5iY

And here is the campaign link again.

Thank you very much for your support.
yours,
Guy

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Is this the most famous tower in the world? And is it perfect? Note the two perfect little artists in the foreground, supervised by Mrs Guy.
Is this the most famous tower in the world?
And is it perfect?
Note the two perfect little artists in the foreground, supervised by Mrs Guy.

I understand perfectionism. In some areas of my life, I can see every flaw in what I am doing, and so it feels like everything I do is not nearly good enough.

Good enough for me, that is. But usually, it’s plenty good enough for accomplishing its goal. Let’s take a basic sword strike for an example. My mandritto fendente right now is just a great big mess of inefficiency and flaws. Compared to what it could be, anyway. Compared to what it was five years ago, it’s actually not too bad. I certainly hit a lot of people with it.

That strike is the most common blow in all swordsmanship. What kind of swordsman would I be if I didn’t use it at all, just because it’s not perfect yet? Or if I didn’t expose it to feedback, in the form of resistant opponents or knowledgable peers?

As my writing career has developed, more and more people are coming to me for advice, and excessive perfectionism is one of the more common problems they want help with. It is very hard to let a piece of writing go out into the world when you know it could be better, even when you are well into the realms of diminishing editorial returns, so I thought I’d put together a blog post (laden with imperfect writing, alas) with some mental tricks you can use to make it easier.

Please note that this is intended to help people whose problem is excessive perfectionism. Not to justify sloppy editing or to support writers who let stuff out the door too early. Every published work needs at least two drafts, then editing by at least one, ideally more, external editors, then a final draft incorporating the edits, then proofreading (for typos etc.), then layout, then a final round of proofing, before it should be released. About 10% of the first draft of The Swordsman’s Companion made it into the final version. And I only changed about 5% of that for the second edition. About 90% of the first draft of my second book, The Duellist’s Companion, made it into the final book. (I’m working on a second edition now…)

1. This book is not the final product.

The published book is not the final product. Especially when we are talking about a really discrete work (such as a stand-alone novel, or an interpretation of a specific treatise), it feels like a finished thing in itself, which makes it especially hard to let it go out into the world. But think of this: by denying it publication, you deny it the possibility of perfection. Because you are witholding it from its most keen-eyed critics. The feedback you get from readers who have paid for the book will make the second edition so much better than the first. Look at the first edition as the final editorial pass; the necessary editing round before the second, better edition.

2. This book is only one piece of a larger whole.

Your work over your lifetime is the larger whole. As a training manual, my second longsword book, The Medieval Longsword, is so much better than my first (The Swordsman's Companion). Material I cover in my dagger book I didn’t have to repeat in Veni Vadi Vici. So the work is not finished anyway; any given book is part of an incomplete whole. This lowers the barrier to publication, because it makes each publication feel less of a major event.

3. This book is not the ONE TRUE BOOK.

There is no perfect book. Even a perfect book about swordsmanship, if one could exist, is useless to people who want to learn computer programming. So, this book is the next step in your development as a writer. And it cannot help you develop if it is never published. Because you learn more about what you should have done in it after it’s been published than you can possibly know before.

4. Am I doing my readers a favour?

If you can honestly answer this question with a yes, then publish. You owe it to them. Your book, however flawed, cannot change anybody’s life if you don’t get it off your desk and into their hands. If you’re not sure, then give it to a few likely readers (ideally not your close friends), and ask them if they think the book would be worth paying for. If yes, then go. If no, well excellent, ask them why and you just got another round of editing.

Yes, I just wrote yet another post extolling process over outcome. This is the key to surviving your perfectionist streak. Let every project go out as a work in progress, as a step in the right direction. At the moment of your death, if you have nothing more pressing to think about, you can then review your life’s work and judge it as harshly or as mercifully as you please. Because you will actually have a body of work to look back on, and, for better or worse, it will be finished.

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Some stuff to be done…

This has been quite a month. Since May 1st, here are the projects I have been working on, and some of the stuff I have done, in no particular order.

  • Finishing and publishing the first three instalments of my Swordsman’s Quick Guide series.
  • Working on a complete rewrite of Veni Vadi Vici.
  • Installing a new kitchen in our apartment
  • Moving back into our apartment after the plumbing work.
  • Working on the Liechtenauer expansion pack for Audatia.
  • Preparing my Realities of Steel presentation for Ropecon.
  • Attending Ropecon for three days, mostly playtesting Audatia, and giving the presentation.

All of this in addition to the usual:

  • Teaching at the Salle
  • Running the school, organising seminars etc.
  • Writing this blog
  • And maintaining at least acceptable competence as parent and spouse.

So, as you may imagine, I’ve been a bit busy. But I do not multi-task. So you might very well ask, how do I manage all this?

The short answer is “I don’t”. I let some things slide. Email and social media are the first to go; some poor folk waited two weeks for a reply to some queries. And it’s been a while since my last post, no?

The longer answer is, “prioritise, and do things bit by bit.”

I also delegate where possible.

Let me enlarge on this a bit.

Every project is broken down into tasks. You cannot possibly fit a kitchen. It's too much. So instead one day I laid the floor. On another I painted the ceiling. On another I sanded the worktops. On another I fitted the handles. On any given day, I have only one task. So, today might be the day for sanding down the kitchen surfaces. Or writing a blog post. Or working on Veni Vadi Vici. I start with that, and keep going until I need to stop, or until I finish a given milestone: first draft written; three more chapters proofread; surfaces oiled, whatever.

Then I start on the next project, or lie on the sofa and watch TV, or whatever else I actually feel like, because the day’s work is done. I don’t always get to choose which task is next; those with hard deadlines (like preparing a presentation for an agreed date) go before those with soft ones (finish the Veni Vadi Vici rewrite), but wherever possible, I wake up in the morning with only one work thing to do that day.

Quite often, a task I have built up in my mind as huge and difficult gets done in minutes instead of hours; but my wife will tell you that I have a terrible habit of thinking something will only take an hour or two, and it takes days instead. That’s also sort of part of the system; by underestimating the difficulty of the project I increase the likelihood that I will actually commit to it; once the commitment is there, the task will be done, just not necessarily on schedule. (I hear my Audatia supporters grinding their teeth… the Liechtenauer Expansion is a year late, and it’s my fault for underestimating the time).

I only ever work at 80% capacity or better. If I find that a task is dragging, that I can’t get into the flow with it, then I switch to something I can flow into. So up to a point, my subconscious chooses my tasks for me, and this is a skill I have deliberately developed over many years; I have trained my instinct to tell me what I should be doing. I often don’t know when I wake up in the morning what I will be working on that day. But then I find a particular file open on the computer, or I find myself assembling a tool kit in my head, and just go with it. Dammit, I do use my feelings, Ben!*

I wanted my series out and off my desk this month, as a matter of urgency. So I put that first, and duly published on May 8th. In that week, if (for example) my wife asked me something about the kitchen, I’d say “I don’t care”. Or somesuch. Because right then the only thing I did care about was the series. The major kitchen project was not the one thing I was doing right then.

Task switching has only one useful function: it can be used as a way of productive procrastination, or a rest. If I get tired typing: great, time to put up the shelves in my study. If I’m exhausted from fitting the kitchen: perfect time to run errands. This goes further: I never work late at night. Because with enough rest, food and sleep, I can get twice as much done the next day. Really, it is so much better to work 10 hours at 100% than it is to work 20 hours at 50%.

If I ever am stuck for which task to prioritise, I use a pencil and paper and write down everything that’s pressing. Usually the one on the top of the list is the one I should be working on that day. Also, projects that are likely to make money take precedence over those that cost money. [One corollary to that; when paying bills in a time of cash shortage, I prioritise them according to their impact on the creditor's cashflow. Freelancers get paid before big companies, big companies before governments.]

One trick that I find helps with managing tasks of different sizes, is get one or two of the small ones done first. For example, when I was fitting out my wife’s walk-in wardrobe, I also needed the same toolkit for putting up a shelf in the loo. I did the shelf first, because it got it off my plate, and gave me a feeling of “I’ve actually accomplished something today”, which I could ride on through the tedium of laying floor, drilling 8000 holes for shelving etc. through the rest of the day. If I had left it as something to do after the wardrobe, I would have been too tired to bother with it.

some stuff done. Tiles, painting, tidy up the dishwasher, still to do.

So right now, there are many large tasks waiting, but I also got the balcony table trimmed down a bit, something I’ve been meaning to do for seven years. Having the necessary tools here for the kitchen made resizing the table a small task, easily done in an hour or two.

Delegation is hard, especially on a tight budget when you can’t just hire someone. (I got a lot of help from my friend and student Henry on fitting the kitchen; he did much of the actual fitting on the weekend I was at Ropecon, for example.) But one thing I have delegated a lot of is food-making. My wife and I are way busy, and the kitchen appliances aren’t connected yet (long story), so we have been eating out a lot, delegating the cooking and clean up. It’s not the cheapest or best option, but an ok compromise. But I am so looking forward to getting to play with the gorgeous new induction hob and steam oven…

So, my system in brief, is something like this:

1) Prioritise

2) Do only one thing at a time.

3)  Only work at efficient rates.

4) Leave things of low priority undone

5) Delegate where possible

And one last thing. When a project is not going well, or I find myself stuck or about to take short cuts, I envision a student, and teach them how to do it. While doing the kitchen surfaces, I was running into serious fatigue-related problems, but did not want to switch tasks, so I decided to take my imaginary student, and create a video for her. This is perhaps the worst how-to video in history, because it was not really made for the watcher; it was made because having the video running gave me access to greater reserves of patience. And I threw it up online on the off-chance that somebody somewhere might find it useful, but basically unedited, because I’m too damn busy right now to carefully craft a how-to-sand-and-oil-kitchen-worktops video. It’s not on my to-do list.

* Readers who do not get this reference seriously need to go watch the original Star Wars movie. Right now.

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The first three instalments of my new series, The Swordsman's Quick Guide, are now live!

Just take a look at these covers, by Eleonora Rebecchi (the photo on part 2 is by Nathan Robinson):

7PrinciplesCover ChoosingaSwordCover PreparingforFreeplayCover

I am experimenting with using Smashwords to distribute my ebooks; their formatting requirements are arcane in the extreme (they require vintage formatting, like doc files, forsooth!), so I haven't got my longer books up there (yet), but they have excellent distribution; they upload to everywhere you can think of except Amazon. So you should find these titles on Kobo, iBooks, and so on in due course. The Kindle files are uploaded; one major benefit of Smashwords is, once all the hoops are jumped through, your book goes live in seconds. Amazon usually takes about 8-12 hours, in my experience. So they should be live there tomorrow.

In the meantime, you can get them direct from Smashwords. You can also get them from my Gumroad bookshop here.

These bijou booklettes are each about 6,000 words, and each word has been carefully examined by a host of kind volunteer readers (whose free copy of their instalment will be delivered soon!). So let me here thank each and every one of you that has helped make these better.

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Jaegerstock, part 3

Now that we have a working Jaegerstock, let’s take a look at lessons two and

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