Sunday, July 17, 2016

Write-a-lution - Let's Begin at the Beginning

Hi.  My name is Kate.  And it's been 21 days since I published a book.

So, there's a reality to this indie publishing thing that most people don't like.  They don't like it one bit.  They will wail and gnash their teeth and shake their fist at the sky.  They will swear up and down that it effects quality and no one can really write that fast and produce good work and blah blah blah.

Doesn't change the truth.

The truth is you have to publish something on Amazon every 90-days or your sales go into the toilet.

At 30-days there is a cliff where your sales are cut in half.  The reason is that your book is dropped from the hot new releases list.  Your sales will be cut in half again at 60-days.  And then will be cut in half again at 90-days and go into free fall.  It happens overnight and there is no chilling fear quite like seeing that point on the sales chart drop by 100 sales while you slept.

Now, if I was a publisher publishing books by a lot of different authors, this would be no problem.  Shoot.  Most publish a book a week.

As an indie author, I'm a publisher.  I mean, just of me.  But just because I am a single, solitary writer cranking all of this out with my own ten little fingers doesn't mean I get magical rules to make it easier.  I have to have my product compete in the same market as the big dogs.  So.  Every ninety days.  Four times a year.  Whatever makes it less scary.  I gotta do that in order to maintain my status as a full-time writer.

And it is 21 days since I published my last book.

So, it is time to get cranking.

When I look back at my choices as an author, I chose to get distracted by the new and shiny, by the lure of opportunities and other worlds, instead of sticking with my main series.  I would say this was one of my mistakes from a business standpoint.  What other business would have people pounding at the door before opening, demanding more of that unique caramel ice cream, and then provide cheese?  And then be surprised when the audience grudgingly takes the cheese but keeps saying over and over that the reason they are here was for the caramel ice cream.

Give the people their caramel ice cream.

If you're just starting off, learn from my mistakes and write books in a series.  Release in that series regularly.  Keep focused on one world, young grasshopper.  And if, after three books, the series doesn't take off?  Wrap it up and move on. Wrapping things up and moving on is the about-face I made in my business this year.  I ended all of my other series, declined generous offers from lovely people whom I would love to work with but wanted me to bring their worlds to life instead of my own, and decided to devote my time to caramel ice cream... well... with a few other projects on the side for pure fun...

So, Maggie VIII must be conceived today!  The germ of the idea must take shape!  How the heck does a person do that?!

There are two methods writing - pantsing and plotting.  Plotting is just what it sounds like - you outline your ideas and spend about three mind melting days figuring out who your characters are and what happens chapter by chapter, but once you're done, you can write at amazing speeds.  It is a pure joy writing from plot point to plot point.  I think my best was about 8k words in a single day.  And when most of my books are between 50k - 65k words long, it's a GREAT way for chewing through that first draft like a wood chipper.  I wrote my O'Hare House and Dark of Twilight series that way.


I highly recommend, if you're interested in learning speed, to pick up the book 2k to 10k.  There are other books out there, but this is the one that helped me the most.  And I gotta say, too, don't be afraid to try different methods.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Back when I sang, one of the things my teacher would say is that you have to work out the limits of your upper range and your lower range, because it makes your normal range stronger.  The nice thing is that if it doesn't work for you?  You just ditch it.  And if it does work for you?  You have this magical new tool.

Maggie, though, is pantsed (insert the sound of all my UK friends tittering.)  "Pantsed" means writing by the seat of your pants.  You sit down at the keyboard and just let your fingers fly.  Maggie was my second published book and I wrote it before I knew about plotting, and I feel that it is important to stick with the recipe that has connected with readers.

My top speed as a pantser is about 4k words a day.  Usually I'm much closer to 2k... or 1,200... or 600...  and editing is slower...

But pantsing  means you cut a lot of words out.  A lot.  I usually cut 20k words from my first draft.  HUGE swathes of story are axed as I find out what the thread of the original story is.  But it isn't lost work!  I keep a file for future Maggie adventures and when it is time to begin the next book, I flip through that folder and see what I've got.  BOOM!  Insta-20k words.  Only 30k to go.  Okay, so it isn't really that easy, but I have a head start.

The next thing I do is I set up my goal calendar.  I decide when this book HAS to be done.  The ninety day mark is September 26th.  I write this down and work backwards.  My proofreader can turn things around in a week, but it is much kinder to give her two weeks.  My editor has turned things around for me in 48 hours, but if I want to maintain that friendship, it really is nicer if I give him two weeks, too.  So that means I need to have a finished draft by August 29th.  I usually do three drafts.  There is the big, ugly first draft, the second draft where I make all of the huge cuts and smooth out the plot lines.  And the third draft which is a final read for any glaring inconsistencies.

So knowing my habits, I need to start the 1st draft today.  I need to start the 2nd draft August 19th.  The 3rd draft by August 25th.  And have the final draft done by the 29th.  There are 33 days between now and August 19th.  Sounds scary?  That's three days more than NaNo speed!  (Yes, funny that you mention it, NaNo IS how Maggie came to be.  The next National Novel Writing Month begins in November and you should TOTALLY do it.)  I aim for 45k words in my first draft, knowing that I will expand and cut and shift things around and eventually end up at 55k to 60k words by the time I'm done.

SIDENOTE:  Industry Standard Lengths

Flash Fiction:  Under 3000 words
Short Story:  Under 7500 words
Novelette:  7500 - 17,500 words
Novella:  17,500 - 40,000 words
Novel:  40,000 words

/SIDENOTE

So, 45,000 words divided by 33 days gives me my daily wordcount goal of 1363 words.  That's not too scary.  The average page is 250 words, so that's about 5 1/2 pages a day.

I then open up my Excel word count spreadsheet and plug that in.


And then, this might seem a little silly, but you know those chore charts that kids have?  It turns out those methods work for adults, too.  I have a wall calendar and I write down what I should be doing each day.  If I make my goal, I highlight the task (and I color code it.  Maggie, for instance, is orange.  Plays are blue.  Acting is green.)  And then I circle if I've reached the end of a goal (and add little star shine squiggles if I finish it before it is due.)  If I don't make my goal (even if I work on it), I don't highlight it.  It's like giving myself a gold star.

But by color coding, it allows me to see at a glance what I'm spending my time on, if I've set reasonable goals (I reevaluate every Friday and reset goals for the week), and how much time I'm ACTUALLY working on something vs. the lies my brain will tell me.

 


And THEN I start filling my brain with inspiration.  But we'll tackle that in the next post...

3 comments:

  1. I may be guilty of pestering you for the caramel ice cream. I am also a big fan of cheese.

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  2. This is great information, Kate!

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  3. Atta girl. Where do the lounge chairs set on the beach writing sessions go?

    ReplyDelete