Tag: novel

Skip To My Luu

Skip To My Luu

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Quick post to remind everyone that I’m pushing ahead on the indie publishing thing.

Skip to My Luu, my first independently published novel, is now:

  • Available as an ebook on various Amazons including com and ca,
  • Getting processed to be a trade paperback (which I’ll link as soon as I see the notification that it’s done),
  • Starts serializing on Wattpad tomorrow if you want a taste (although I think I set a decent free preview percentage on Amazon).

The cheesy “cover” copy: “Just finishing their final year at Tranquility University a group of friends decides they’d rather pool their resources and talents to go asteroid prospecting instead of looking for normal, boring jobs. Even once they manage to secure financing, the challenges only build, and their journey will to take them a lot farther than the Belt. Individually and together, they’ll find pursuing a dream is a lot harder than having one.”

And the beautiful cover.

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What I’m Writing: Scattered On the Wind

What I’m Writing: Scattered On the Wind

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherA quick snapshot of works in progress.

Novel: The Godhead, Book 2

Short: “Hitching Home, A Ghost Story”

Year of Trek: “Scotty’s Enterprise”

Editing: “Babysitting the Taran-Saurus”

Plotting: Scattered on the Wind

Too much? Well, it’s not technically everything I have in progress at the moment, but these are the main things and I am trying to limit myself a bit.

I’ll draw your attention to Scattered on the Wind today. I have, for reasons I don’t understand, decided to attempt NaNoWriMo this year. It’s been a while, and I feel like I need the boost that will come from writing a 50,000 word story in a month.

Except that I think I’ve rough plotted Scattered to 60,000-ish words. So that means I need to do 2,000 words per day instead of 1,667. Assuming my rough plot is roughly accurate.

Oh, and I mostly don’t write on weekends these days, so that leaves only 20 days for me to write during Nano, which means I have to average 3,000 words per day.

Only one conclusion can be drawn from this data: I’m crazy.

But it’s a good crazy, and I’ll tell you why: it’s important to have a variety of goals, both realistic and unrealistic. Sometimes, you’ll actually hit one of the unrealistic ones and you’ll get to revise what realistic means. That’s what I’m hoping to do.

For a little story detail, Scattered on the Wind takes place in the nebulous semi-near future where colonies are placed on other worlds with a Gateway. One such seed colony is placed on an apparently quiet, gentle world without a lot of high end predators or things that want to kill people. But strange signs of mental illness start to manifest among some of the colonists, and at the same time they start to find hints that maybe they’re not on the first colonial expedition to the world.

The primary POV is Jules, a 15-ish year old girl, victim of the colonial program her parents enrolled in when she was a toddler, but having grown up knowing it might happen some day. I’m using bits of behaviour modeled from teenage girls I know to build her character a bit, but not too in depth.

Because this is a NaNo project, you’re not supposed to do any writing ahead of time (plotting and character sketches and that sort of thing are fine), but there’s a line that keeps sticking in my head, not that I promise it will make it into the final draft unscathed, or at all.

“Strange that so gentle a world could kill us so quietly and easily.”

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Shape of My Writing to Come

The Shape of My Writing to Come

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherI’ve found myself thinking lately, trying to decide whether or not to revise my writing intentions, not just for the remainder of the year, but overhauling the three-year plan altogether.

At this moment, I’m not exactly sure how far I am into the second book of the God must. Something in excess of 30,000 words, certainly. But I have a lot of audio still to process and turn into text. It’s entirely possible the actual total might be as much as 40,000, though that seems a little bit much. 35,000 is more likely, I think. I’m must still be enjoying the story. Because at 35-40,000 words added to the 120,000 of book 1 and is the longest single narrative I’ve ever attended so far. If the final total is something over 400,000, that’s okay.

My question is, am I moving in the right direction with such a strong focus on Uber long form fiction? I do want to be a novelist, and I have a lot of stories I want to tell. But am I neglecting my short fiction to do it?

For a long time, it was my preferred form. And while some of the shorter fiction as stretched longer, and I have written novels, I find myself, if not exactly plagued with second thoughts, spending too much time considering what I should be writing.

I don’t want to leave the Godhead incomplete, and I have a good, solid idea of where the story is going, even managing to mostly stick to my outline. (Although, one of the main characters decided without consciously consulting me, that he didn’t want to be Prince Arrogant Jerk, instead becoming a thoughtful Prince of a vast empire always wondering if he was making the right decision. So I replaced a major public weakness with a major private, and not sure that was the right move, but that’s something for another time.)

I think the problem is that I may have subconsciously bought into the whole idea that to be truly successful, commercially, as a writer, you have to write series, or at least trilogies if you are working in fantasy. Series books tend to keep people more interested, coming back to buy more of your stuff.

The problem is that I frequently don’t read that way. I miss the stand-alone novel. Oh, it’s fine if that stand-alone novel someday has a sequel, because the author finds another story they want to tell in that world with those characters, but not everything needs to start at that way. And yet, according to the mainstream publishing world, it does. If it’s not capable of being a series out of the box, apparently they aren’t interested.

And I understand the desire to be commercially successful, not just at the writer level, but at the publisher level as well.

And yet, the biggest names, the most successful writers defy that conventional wisdom.

Stephen King, arguably the most successful writer of the 20th century, and still very successful thus far int the 21st, has written, and I might be wrong, exactly one series of novels. The Dark Tower series, which I believe stands eight books and has been written over 30 years, are the exception to his rule. Everything else was either a standalone book, or I think in one case a pair of books. He has occasionally written a long after the fact sequel.

I can find other examples as well, in other genres, with Danielle steel, MaeveBinchy, and a variety of other names springing to mind, but I should probably stick to the genres that I know best, the ones I read in, and the ones I write: science fiction, fantasy, and to a lesser extent Horror (though I’d class pretty much all of my horror as Dark Fantasy).

It’s easy to pick out the successful series, the people who can go to the same well again and again and people continue to buy the books. David Weber for Honor Harrington, Jim Butcher for Harry Dresden, LE Modesitt for the Recluce novels.

Okay, yes, I should acknowledge the two elephants in the room as well. George RR Martin with the Song of Ice and Fire, originally slotted to be a trilogy, now planned to be seven books (and we’ll see what ultimately happens, but it’s been 18 years since the first book was published and we’re waiting on book 6); and Robert Jordan, who stretched the wheel of Time out so far, exploring so much of the world he created, that he actually died before finishing writing it. In fairness, he died far too young, but that’s almost beside the point.

So it’s easy to find the successful series, and the stand-alone novel, or the bare trilogy, is getting harder and harder to find, even if it’s not quite extinct.

I should probably mention my favorite series, although series is a bit of a misnomer. The Discworld books by Terry Pratchett will always have a place on my shelves. And yet, this isn’t so much one big series, as groups of smaller series and stand-alone novels that happen to share the same universe, the same set of rules, the same magic and physics. But Terry, Sir Terry, is sometimes the exception that proves the rule as well. A couple of my favorite books in the series, while they may have some crossover minor characters, are stand-alone stories. I’m thinking specifically of the Pyramids and Small Gods.

But individual novels are hard to find in the mainstream market place. Unless you’re looking in the right spots.

Stephen King, in spite of primarily being known as a horror author, I would tend to think of as more in terms of a dark fantasy author. Not a series writer, in general.

Neil Gaiman’s one sequel isn’t really. It just happens to take place in the same universe as another of his works.

But if I look back over my reading history, and I been reading science fiction fantasy for as long as I can remember, it’s very easy to find that most of the biggest, most influential, most exciting books and ideas been in stand-alone novels.

One of the biggest and best examples, though unfortunately deceased, is Robert a Heinlein. In fact, you can pick nearly any of the grand Masters of science fiction, and find that most of their work did not consist of series. {Here’s an official list: http://www.sfwa.org/grandmaster/.)

Oh, sure, Lance, but those guys rockedthe genre writing world in the 50s 60s and 70s. Things change, and they have changed, and the series is where it’s at.

I call bull$hit. Or shenanigans if you’d rather.

Guy Gavriel Kay, Robert J. Sawyer, Connie Willis, William Gibson, Joe Holdeman, Vernor Vinge, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Stephen Baxter, Cory Doctorow, Greg Bear. I could keep going, but why be satisfied with just author’s names?

 

Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson (2000)

Calculating God – Robert J. Sawyer (2000)

American Gods – Neil Gaiman (2001)

The Speed of Dark – Elizabeth Moon (2002)

Spin – Robert Charles Wilson (2005)

Blindsight – Peter Watts (2006)

The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)

Under Heaven – Guy Gavriel Kay (2010)

The Lifecycle of Software Objects – Ted Chiang (2010)

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (2011)

 

Examples only. I can find lots more.

 

So while there is nothing wrong with series, and I do enjoy them sometimes, there are a lot of worlds to explore.

 

And I have a lot of worlds to explore, a lot of different stories tell. If I have to make one of them big enough, or allow it to grow to be big enough to fill that many books, to fill four or five 100,000 word novels, I don’t think I can in a come close to telling the stories I want to tell right now, much less the ideas I’m going to have in the future. So 400,000 words across three books sounds like a lot, and not very much at the same time. But I’ve got a lot of thoughts and ideas that fit into the 30 to 60,000 range probably, and a bunch that fit into the 70 to 100,000 word range. How many smaller yet equally awesome stories am I not telling to write the Godhead. It’s hard to put a number on, but I would guess at least 10. Novellas are fun, and in the age of digital publishing, they have a big, solid role to play. Short novels, 40, 50, 60,000 words. I love these, and when I’m doing a lot of reading, I can devour one pretty quickly.

Lately, I’m thinking that’s where I want to be as a writer. I love my short fiction, and consumeit all the time. Maybe I’m a short fiction writer, short fiction and short novels. The thing is, the only way to find out what you love to write, is to try a bunch of different things, explore new territory. And I don’t know if the series is where I want to do it.

And yes, I do remember that the thing I planned to write after the Godhead is also a trilogy, a science fiction one. But you know what, in between the Godhead and PeaceBringers and Troll Wars will and getting back to War Forge, I had plans of half a dozen stand-alones to break things up. I also want to explore more themes and sub-genres in fantasy in the novelette to novella range. Maybe that’s where I should be.

I don’t want to abandon the Godhead midstream, but I don’t want it to be everything I’m writing, either.

I need variety, I need space, and above all, I need to be me.

So we’ll see what the future brings.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Time to Get Serious

Time to Get Serious

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherIf you want to be a writer, you frequently see the advice that you need to build a huge platform, somewhere for people to come and find you, somewhere to interact with your potential fans, many somewheres all connected and tied together. A dominating social media presence, apparently, is critical. Look at <insert big name independent author here>. They built an awesome platform and sold a gazillion copies of their book.

This does happen.

But I think, if you do a little research, you’ll find it doesn’t happen all that often.

The other path, the one that I think a much larger number of people are finding success on, is production. Quite a few people make a living wage in publishing (independent or otherwise) by being prolific writers and putting out lots of good quality work.

I don’t want to get too deep into numbers at the moment, but my math says that at the 70% royalty model (taking Amazon as standard) pricing your novel at $4.99, if you publish 4 books per year and sell 300 copies of each per month, that takes you to a pre-tax income of a little over $50k. Sounds pretty awesome, but 300 copies per month is significant. Still, it’s a good benchmark. More on this another day.

And I can’t be the guy who’s online all the time in my social media accounts. Touch base, say hi, answer questions, absolutely. Fifty tweets and as many FB comments per day? Um, no.

Thinking about that simple math, if I really do want to try making a living at this writing thing, I’d rather be writing most of the time.

So, it’s time for a test to see if I can produce at something approaching that level. The initial test will be for six months, and it started on October 1st. Here’s the basic idea:

  • Limited, but daily when possible, social networking, mostly over breakfast.
  • Podcast listening cut in half, but I’m completely caught up on everything I listen to at the moment.
  • Dictation in the car for at least one direction of my commute.
  • Drafting on breaks at work.
  • Editing before bed but only when no one else is awake.
  • More of everything on my days off and especially when I’m on night-shift rotations.
  • No time may be stolen from my family or other obligations. Family, career, writing, in that order. (And karate, but that’s a whole different subject.)

The plan for each 3-month period:

  • Plotting 1 novel
  • Drafting 1 novel
  • Editing 1 novel
  • 10,000 words in short fiction per month

 

Craziness!

Not really. This, on average, needs 40,000 words per month, or just 1,333 per day. Plus editing. Two hours of dedicated time per day will do it most of the time, and I can get the bulk of that during my work day.

What this looks like for the six-month trial period:

Month

Plotting Writing Editing

Oct-13

Godhead Book 1 Manifest Destiny Graceland

Nov-13

Godhead Book 1 Manifest Destiny Ancient Runes

Dec-13

Godhead Book 2 Manifest Destiny Ancient Runes

Jan-14

Godhead Book 2 Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

Feb-14

Godhead Book 3 Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

Mar-14

Godhead Book 3 Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

 

I’m projecting The Godhead Trilogy at 300,000 words of epic fantasy goodness. Manifest Destiny is a shorter military SF novel to get me in gear. Ancient Runes is a bit of a cheat because I’ve really only got the final draft to do, but I’m doing another pass through the Graceland stories first and I’ll edit a bunch of short fiction I should have taken care of a long time ago to get me through to the end of the year.

Deep breath.

The first 3-month period, the final 3 months of 2013, is really just to gear up. I’m rough plotting the first half of a trilogy, drafting a shorter novel, and doing some editing clean up. Q1 of 2014 will be the real test of multitasking.  Can I reach the pace I need while still keeping the rest of my life constant? Can I maintain it once I get there? Would that mean I have the strength to do it full time?

We’ll see, but I think it’s time for me to make a serious run at things.

If this trial period is a success, I’ve already projected out for 2014, finishing The Godhead and adding in a shorter YA novel that’s been in my head for a couple of years. And I have tentatively selected projects to fill the slots for 2015 and most of 2016. Okay, all of 2016, and that still leaves stories I want to tell.

And somehow, I’ll still need to find time to blog once or twice per week. Podcasting will be pretty much done on my weekends and there probably won’t be a second podcast any time soon. There’s a fair chance at some podcast fiction, though. My final draft is typically of the “read aloud” variety and I can’t let all that go to waste, now, can I? Of course, that audio will need to be edited.

And if I’m going the indie route, there’s the publishing and marketing part of things, too.

But let’s do this thing.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

My Destiny Awaits

My Destiny Awaits

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherSo as I look back through my writing log, I find that there’s been about exactly 275 words of new fiction since I finished a flash piece on May 29th. Oh, I’ve written. Blog posts in the main, at least recently. Book reviews, scripting and show notes for Days of Geek. But not fiction.

The summer was weird, though it did have a fair bit of editing involved, most of it on a single project that’s now only a handful of days from being finished the third draft. I’ve got lots of other things to edit, too, but I suddenly, finally, desperately need to work on something new.

So I dusted off the fragment of an idea I had a while back and turned it into a super bare bones story kernel. Beginning, a handful of major plot points, and end. Stretching that out, I filled in a few phrases in between to get a very rough scene breakout. Voilà, a 255-word outline.

Okay, not exactly an outline, but the beginnings of one. I took a little time each day in the back half of September to turn that basic framework into a real outline. Over the course of the last two weeks, it’s grown from 24 Chapters to 26 and some of those will get broken up because I’ve settled out to 37 scenes and usually like those to be self contained chapters.

It’s now a 5200-word outline for a Science Fiction novel with a working title (Manifest Destiny) and I’m going to start writing it tomorrow. The catch: I want to finish the first draft by the end of the year.

My estimates show about a 60,000 word short novel. Based on past experience with my estimates, it should actually come in somewhere between 66 and 69k. So let’s assume the upper end of that 69,000 words / 92 days = 750 words per day. In the past, when I’m struggling to get the words out, that’s about 45 minutes. I think I can cover it.

I hope I can cover it.

Wish me luck, because I’m still doing the podcast thing while I’m at it and I have lots of editing to do. And plotting the next project. And a full time job, and three kids, and… well let’s just say a life.

But the next three months are a test. Can I get back into the groove, and can I get far enough into it that I go back to working on more than one project at a time? (Sooper Sekrit Projekt still a possibility).

The reason I need to know that is that I want to get to the point where I can replace some or all of my income through creative endeavors. Yes, I know that’s everyone’s goal, but I’m not getting any younger (who is?). Enough waiting, enough stalling, enough excuses. Time to get to work.

If the next three months are successful, I’ve got a serious year planned for 2014.

Manifest Destiny begins tomorrow.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Next Novel

The Next Novel

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherOn New Year’s Day 2010, I started a mystery-fantasy story set in a city vaguely inspired by my impression of Renaissance Paris. Coded Project Stoneweaver, It was a discovery writing project, and I had an idea of what might be going on, oh, two or three chapters ahead of where I was writing, at least until I didn’t. I dragged the dead end in my plot out about another two thousand words, then stared at the story for a couple of weeks before putting it away in favour of some short fiction.

I picked Stoneweaver up again near the end of April this year, a little more than two years after putting it down, thinking maybe my eyes were fresher and I could figure out where the story might go. After all, it had worked pretty well with Ancient Runes, another stalled novel project (this one from the end of 2009) that I’d picked up in December 2011, mildly edited to get back into the story, and taken from a little over 30k to almost exactly 67 over the course of the next four months. At first blush, Stoneweaver looked like it might work as well. Much like Ancient Runes, it didn’t suck nearly as badly as I remember. Unlike Ancient Runes, I had no idea whatsoever where the story was going. Less than 10k after picking it up again, I’ve reached the end of what I know. Maybe it’s time to put it down again. Not being beholden to any publisher, I have that luxury.

Which begs the question: what do I write next?

When I was still blogging on Small Realities, I mentioned a massive Fantasy story I’d decided to allow myself to write long hand while working primarily on the editing of Graceland and Heroes Inc (I’ve also nearly finished with the editing on Skip to My Luu, so I’d better get to work publishing). I’m going to leave that as a long hand project for now because, over the course of late March to mid May, I plotted an entire novel from start to finish.

This is a new thing for me. Traditionally, I’m mostly a discovery writer. Outlines don’t, as a general rule, work very well for me. I often plot out a handful of scenes beyond where I’m working, but rarely more than that. Having put together 12,000 words of plot forming what I think is a coherent story, I’m actually eager to test out how it will work. Reading through the outline, I feel like I’ve got a fairly clear idea of what each scene will look like (there are about seventy) as well as a couple of spots where I can see a gap in a character arc.

My fingers have been getting itchy for a while, so I started on it yesterday during a break at work and carried it over through my lunch as well. 766 words for what was probably less than half an hour, encouraging me to get the story out of my skull as fast as I can type in the time I have available. I’m not talking NaNoWriMo counts, but it should be interesting to see how quickly I can draft from an outline.

Or how slowly, I suppose.

Be well.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather