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.

On My Writing Workflow

Writing going forward is going to be both fun and challenging. I thought about it a lot yesterday as I wrote for the first time and worked on setting up the website. I thought about what I would write and when I would write it. I thought about the tools I’d use to minimize the interrupts and distractions. I thought about a lot, mostly because I tend to over analyze things but also because I’m excited about writing.

I don’t really have the time early in the morning to write as I usually work out at 5:00 am and then head to work around 6:30 am. I do have around 30 minutes of time when I’m on the train in the morning and in the evening on the return trip home. I think that’s the ideal time to write uninterrupted with as few distractions as possible. What I’m hoping though is that the train time doesn’t force my writing into a particular direction or box.

Heading into work my mind is usually winding up for the day thinking about what needs to be done or what stressors I’m about to take on (insert demanding traders). Working in the financial trading industry as a programmer is very challenging and taxing mentally. This means that by the time I’m heading home I’m usually mentally drained and most nights just end up reading twitter, my RSS feeds, or a good book.

So between the winding up at the start of the day and winding down at the end I’m hoping to take some time to write. This leaves late at night to write as well but given the fact that I have a loving wife and kids waiting for me I don’t see that happening until well after 8 o’clock.

So before even starting this endeavor it seems I have some challenging goals … all the more reason I need to stay organized and focused on making this work each day. One of the things I’m doing to stay focused is creating a workflow that should make it easier for me to write, edit, and publish without thinking. Most of the time should be focused on writing and little to none on the other two steps. I’m not discounting the editing step, I’m just trying to focus on writing what comes to mind and less about making it perfect.

I’ll be doing most of my writing on my iPad Air, though I can’t rule out using my Macbook from time to time either as I can certainly type faster. For editors on the iPad I’m trying out a few (Ulysses, iA Writer, Byword, Editorial, WordPress, Plaintext, and WriteRoom). The best so far has been Ulysses (which I’m using right now) though it lacks the upload abilities I’d like to simplify my workflow. I can always copy & paste into WordPress and just hit the publish button though which is pretty simple. It’s also a markdown editor which means I can write everything in a nerd friendly format and yet it’s still rich when published.

I have yet to try out Ulysses on the Mac as it costs too much for this early stage in my project. It does have iCloud sync support which is awesome and the developers seem really responsive to users. Perhaps on month 2 or 3 when I’m certain this is going to work and want to try something new. I don’t want to waste a ton of time twiddling and toying with applications later though as that’ll likely eat into my writing time.

For my blog I’m going with my trusted use of WordPress. I’ve used it for years and can configure it pretty quickly. I’m trying to select (or tweak) a theme that’s focused on reading and nothing else. Again, I don’t want to spend the time twiddling and tweaking my blog, I’m doing that all now. I want to focus on writing and at most maybe approving comments or replying to them (assuming anyone reads this).

From time to time if I read something that inspires me I’ll link to it. It could be a blog post, a book, or something else. I’ll try to do the linking as a footnote in the piece or if it makes sense inline. Given the writing is the focus here and not the link I’m leaning toward footnotes.

Finally at the end of each writing I’ll be putting the word count. Mostly to stay accountable to the goal of 750 words but also so you can get a feel for the length of each piece.

Word Count: 765