Friday, January 23, 2015

Off the Cuff

I just passed the 30,000 word milestone in Archanum Manor, 19,000 of those words penned in January so far. My goal has been to do 1000 words a day, and while I haven't quite kept that average this year, I'm only 4000 words off, which isn't too bad. Even though I still have a lot to write, it feels good to be back in the swing of things. I have written at least a few new words nearly every day, which fuels my momentum to the finish line.

I had posted a few months back that I would thoroughly outline this book to maximize my writing efficiency. I've known for awhile now that I need to write faster and I wanted to experiment with comprehensive outlining to accomplish that. It was interesting how my outlining sessions became my most unproductive writing and idea producing days--turned to weeks--ever. I don't know if it was fear of digging into this final book in the series holding me back or simple distractions of the upcoming holidays, but I just had to pick a date to start writing, with or without an outline.

So Archanum Manor is my first book being written with absolutely no outline. I started with a general idea of what was going to happen, a couple major plot points, and a climax scene I dreamt up while writing SUSY Asylum. But that's it. I've been writing daily, plotting the next thousand words during my long work commutes. If I have the next thousand words figured out, then at least I can sit down at my computer each night without simply staring at the screen for extended periods of time (though some nights involve more staring than others).

The cool thing about working without a clear path to the end is coming up with ideas you weren't expecting. I came up with an idea last week that changes the whole ending of what I had planned for the series, which excited me almost as much as getting to the end. A part of me believes that if I'd written my comprehensive outline, I might not have been as open and accepting of this curve ball because it would have deviated from the plan. So maybe this was the reason my outlining wasn't working--it left me open to more possibilities. I like that idea and sounds like something Mr. Gordon would say.

I will attempt to outline my next book, but right now, writing off the cuff is rather exciting. I still have about 40,000 words to go. Who knows what other ideas will manifest just to shake things up. Anything's possible.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

IWSG Wednesday: The Start to a Great Year

Happy Insecure Writer's Support Group Wednesday. Thank you again to Alex J. Cavanaugh, the creator of the group. The first Wednesday of every month is dedicated to this group of supportive writers. If it's something you're not familiar with, then please click on Alex's link above for more information and to sign up!

I’m excited for 2015. I began this writing journey at the end of 2008 with an idea for a young adult series, and this will be the year I finally finish. I hope to have all four books released sometime this summer, hopefully early summer, but everything seems to take longer than anticipated. I won’t beat myself up over a couple of months. Mark my words: it will get done this year!

This week I received the cover for the third book, Doria Falls, and I’m very happy with how well it came out. So now there’s just one cover to go. The covers are visual representations of finished books for me, so they’ll light the necessary New Year’s fire to get this final book done. I’ve put off all promotion with the writing of these last two books just because that would have prolonged the writing process even longer, which was too hard to accept. These books are my training wheels, and at this stage in the game, it’s much more important to focus on bettering the craft than selling books. When I’m more competent and confident, I can find the more appropriate balance.

There are quite a few things that these books in the currently evolving publishing environment have taught me. Here is a short sampling of what I’ve learned:

  • Long books are not my friend: When I started writing, I was inspired by the Harry Potter books. There was something cool about having 700 page hard covers. With most books for self-published authors being sold as ebooks, that coolness factor becomes irrelevant. For me as a self-published author (and at the pace of which I write), it is better to have two shorter books available than one longer book. SUSY Asylum clocked in at 120,000 words, which is quite a bit longer than the other books in the series. Going forward, 60,000 – 70,000 words is a more appropriate length, which in turn will help me add more titles to my backlog.
  • Don’t end on cliffhangers: I will no longer write books that end on cliffhangers because I don’t write fast enough to keep readers happy (or at least I won’t while I still work fulltime). I actually like cliffhangers, but they don’t currently work for my writing. With the books in my current series having cliffhangers, I felt like I had to finish the series before moving onto something new. If I decide to write a serial at some point, then I’ll most likely use cliffhangers (but that’s another discussion entirely).
  • Don’t create a new Createspace file for a reissue: When you create a new Createspace file/page for a reissue it creates a new Amazon page for that book. I did that with Provex City. What I didn’t know at the time was I couldn’t delete the old page. So now I have one Provex City paperback Amazon page that simply says “currently unavailable.” Also, if I unlink that page from other formats of the book, I lose all the reviews originally written on that page. Amazon will not move reviews from one page to another even though they’re for the same book (just different formats). This was a frustrating lesson.
  • Don’t pay for ISBNs: This one goes along with the bullet point above. I created a new Createspace page (which in turn creates a new Amazon page) for the reissue of Provex City to give it a custom ISBN number. I wanted the option that if Provex City ever made it into libraries, then it wouldn’t need a new ISBN number. This is just a waste of money. If my future self published books make it into libraries one day, they’ll just need to be reassigned a new ISBN number. Why worry about that now (and pay $99 for it).
  • Try new genres: The digital bookstore of ebooks make an author’s expansion into multiple genres easier than ever. Why not intentionally try to reach more readers? Some genres may sell better than others for you. You may write some genres better than others. You may enjoy writing some genres better than others (which may not be the genre you started with). So why deprive yourself? Sample all the flavors.
Those are enough of my mistakes for one post, but I am thankful for the learning experiences. Though the day I stop messing up is most likely the day I quit--it's all part of the process, the journey, the adventure. Give yourself permission to screw up because at least you're trying. 2015 can be the greatest year ever or it can be a year that passes by without incident. You get to decide.
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