Writing, Publishing, and 20 Books Vegas

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and I thought it would be good to drop an update. I’ve been busy the past few weeks whittling away at my goals and trying to learn as much as I can about self publishing. So lets jump into it.

Since my last posting I revisited my outline for book two, many times actually. I found a bunch of holes that I fixed, lined up dates and timelines with book one, and teased out each of the POV’s I was going to write. I have a few people in this historical arc I need to flush out the personality of but overall the important points are good to go.

I broke out the outline into all of my chapters and built out my Ulysses folders. On the right you can get an idea what it looks like. Nothing fancy really. A grouping per chapter, some slots for Front and Back stuff, etc. I also included a small screenshot of what the folders in Book one look like after it evolved. I got this idea from Matt Gemmell.

I create Focus On filters to help me narrow in on POV’s or other things. Selecting one of the filters in there brings up all of the scenes with that character in them. I also create a Requires Attention filter to quickly find things I need to cleanup later. To flag these things I use conventions like TODO littered throughout the book or I prefix things like EEP1 or EESHIP to denote that I need to come back later and fill in the name of the first planet in Epsilon Eridani or the name of their ship. It’s nothing fancy, but when I’m writing I want to remain in the flow as long as possible. The last thing I want is to get bogged down with figuring out a ship name on the spot.

So the outline is done, it’s been chopped up, and while I have a few small things to tweak later, there isn’t anything stopping me from writing. WOOT! I’m excited to get into the story lines I outlined. It really shaped up and I surprised even myself with some of the twists I added 😉

Believe it or not I’ve actually been doing some writing outside my outlines. I finished my first few passes of editing for the tail of book one. I’ve been reading through certain POV’s (using the Ulysses filters I mentioned earlier). I know what each character should feel like and where I want them to be as the arc evolves. Focusing in on them I’ve been able to see if I delivered and tweak as needed.

One nice thing that’s helped me edit is using the built in iOS & Mac functionally to read anything you highlight and ask it to.

It allows me to close my eyes, listen to what I wrote, and see if Siri stumbles over the words. Is it the tone I was going for? If not, tweak it.

On to other things like learning. With my new job, I now have a 20-30 minute commute each way. While I love music I’ve been using this time to listen to podcasts on writing. Some of my favorites that I’d recommend are:

  1. Writing Excuses
  2. The Self Publishing Show
  3. The Every Day Novelest
  4. Sell More Books Show

There are more, but these are the ones I’ve been listening to the most. They’ve helped me think about my characters, story arc, tools, publishing, and marketing to name only a few things. Tons of great content and plenty to binge listen if you’re looking for something to pass the time.

Warning: be sure you have something to take notes on while you’re listening. The ideas will come fast and furious sometimes. If you’re like me, and you’re driving, then I suggest you master talking to Siri to take a note while your safe behind the wheel.

So what else am I doing to learn my craft? Last spring I attended the ConCarolinas Convention and did the Writers Track. This year I wanted to up my game a bit and find something with bigger and deeper writing tracks. I wanted more information on marketing and self publishing, something that ConCarolinas was light on. I wanted to up level up my conference experience.

I started looking at DragonCon Atlanta in September. It’s massive and while I found a few reviews online about the writing tracks they were from years ago and sparse on details. There’s no doubt it would have been a level up from ConCarolina but I wanted to know more before I pulled the trigger.

In stepped 20 Books Vegas.

It was an entire conference focused on what I was trying to do. Self publish. They make most of their material available online afterward but I want to meet the people. I want understand how they got to where they are, network and brainstorm ideas for stories, plot, and marketing. I’d joined their Facebook group a while back and have been lurking and reading the awesome posts from the community.

This seemed like the perfect conference. While it would likely be more costly than ConCarolina or DragonCon in my Charlotte backyard, I could still attend on the cheap. So, I queued up last weekend and when they opened the floodgates of registration I pulled the trigger. Well, lets be clear, I did so only after I talked to my wife about it. She’s amazing and said yes 🥰

So that’s in November which according to my calculation, is plenty of time for me to edit book one, write and start editing book two, and dare I say start outlining book three. Heck, I might even be able to get some book covers lined up.

That’s all for now. It’s going to be a fun year.

Talk to you again soon.

Outlining And Planning Book Two

I’ve been working on the outline for book two of my series. I wasn’t sure where it was going but I knew at a high level what I wanted the beginning and end to look like. The rest was filling in the middle with a bunch of cool ideas.

Since I’ve been reading I’ve been inspired by certain literary devices that authors use. In particular I was inspired by how a few other authors wrote their second books and used a device of telling their backstory at the same time they advance the main story line. They do this by switching the POV back and forth between the two.

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery meant I wanted to try it myself. So, I took that literary device and applied it to my universe and my story. I used it to fill in details up to where book one starts and also advanced one of the main story lines.

What I like about it is that the reader fills in important blanks that explain the backstory in detail. They get this satisfaction while at the same time giving them a taste of where things are going in the future. It might take a few chapters to get them into that flow of POV shift but it can be really effective when pulled off.

Let’s hope I can pull it off.

I started by outlining all of the historical story lines. This had a bunch of people and places to take into consideration as it was spread over multiple generations. Once I had that roughly outlined, I took that number of chapters from the historical story line and worked to fit the current timeline story arc into that. I know that sounds painful but surprisingly, it wasn’t. After I knocked that out I then went back for another few passes and refined, cut, refined, and cleaned up the outline some more.

It’s close to final form. I want to let it sit for a few days and read it again to make sure it lines up across story arcs and everything flows nicely. I also want to pull out some key elements and try to lay them out on a visual outlining tool to check for holes. That shouldn’t take long though. Famous last words, right?

It’ll be interesting if this actually works out when I sit down and finally put prose to page. I’ll keep you updated.

I Finished The First Draft

129,319 of 125,000 wordsIt’s been a long time coming but it’s done, the words are written! I wrote the last 13k word chunk over these past three weeks since my last post as I’ve gotten back in the groove. It took me about five years from ideation to completion of book one. I know that sounds like a long time, and it is, but I wrote the entire book over three chunks of time totaling around nine continuous months. There was a lot of outlining, researching, iterating, and even some rewriting after that conference last year.

I’m excited to move on to the next stage of this series. I’ve started outlining book two and I’ve started the editing passes for the book already. I’ve already had a critique parter read the first four chapters but I need to find more. If you’re a fellow writer and interested in swapping manuscripts drop me a message.

Status Of My First Novel

It’s been quite some time since a I’ve written about the status of my novel here. I’ve mentioned it on my twitter account but haven’t yet posted an update here. I thought I’d take a moment to give an update as well as what my current thoughts are around publishing.

A few of you might remember my first blog post 4 years and a few month ago where I mentioned I was going to start writing a book. Yea, it’s been that long. I’ve been much more diligent on twitter documenting my progress. Here’s my tweet from over a year ago when it started writing again after a few years on hiatus. Even that was after a long multi year gap of not writing.

The drought between starting and restarting the first time was due to career interruptions, a cross country family move, and loss of focus. I repeated the career interruption this last time around but with only a four month gap in between. WOOT! I hadn’t lost focus this time, I just wanted to give 100% of my attention to my new job and onboarding.

Well I miss the creative expression of writing and want to use it as an inspirational outlet like I did last year. It positively impacted all aspects of my life and I want that back so I’m back to writing again.

116,854 of 125,000 words

So where am I with my book after all this time? I’m currently 116,854 words into my targeted 125,000 words. To the right is a look at my Ulysses.app goal tracker.

This first novel is book one of a planned trilogy. I know, high first publish goals right?

I refined how I was approaching the trilogy last year. Originally I was going to write the books as open ended continuations of each other but after attending a writing conference last year I changed my approach. Now I’m trying to give the first two books reasonable ends. I’m not closing out all of the major plot lines but the reader won’t be left not feeling some form of closure.

As far as releasing them I’m on the fence a bit. I’d like them to succeed but I also know I’m not a super fast writer and my beta reader pool isn’t huge. My options right now are:

  1. Write each book, edit it, and release it when it’s done. Optimize for release and then write the next book and repeat. It’d say this would put me at about a book a year (with my current rate of beta readers and editing). The first could be done by this summer.
  2. Write and edit the first two books and put them in the can. Once the third book is “close” to complete then release the books staggered by a month or two. This would all me to maximize their release and likely reader purchase. I can also optimize the covers, marketing, etc. it also allows me to write it all the way through and just parallelize some beta reading. So long as I don’t need any mass rewrites this could be ideal.
  3. A combination of 1 & 2 but only hold the first book until the second is close to ready. Then release them back to back and preorder the third. This is hoping I could knock out the final book in say 6 months. It’s risky but could get something to market sooner.
  4. Don’t do any of these self publishing routes and try to query publishers & agents and enter the 2-3 year queue of praying authors. This is the least attractive option to me. Even if I decide that self publishing isn’t for me, I’d now have a back catalog to sell from and I’d have learned something. Publishers rarely touch trilogies from new authors anyhow so I’d have to come up with something completely new to query with.

I’m leaning toward #2 or #3 right now. My goal is success without fizzling out which is what happens often with the first option. Readers can lose interest and getting them back is hard. This is especially hard without a back catalog of books and a glut of reading options on the market.

If you have any thoughts I’d love to hear them. In fact if you’re interested in my writing or blog for that matter you can signup for my newsletter. I’ll be sending out regular non-spammy updates about once a month going forward and you can be sure that my books will be mentioned.

I’ll be updating and posting here more regularly again on my progress and process going forward. Thanks for reading!