How My Writing Is Progressing

Hello everyone! I wanted to drop a blog post to update everyone on the status of my writing. It’s been a few months, and I didn’t want anyone thinking I’d stopped. I’m still going strong writing and editing but I’ve tweaked a few things. Well, more than a few as it turns out.

I’ve taken my two novels, placed them on a virtual cutting board, and sliced them into manageable chunks. I then glued them into three books in different states of readiness, and now I’m filling in the blanks. So here’s where I was.

  • Book 1 was 135k words
  • Book 2 was 147k words

After slicing it up I ended up with:

  • Book 1 was 86k words
  • Book 2 was 117k words
  • Book 3 was 69k words
  • Not Publishing 10k words

I then set out to write Book 1 to a new satisfying conclusion. My goal is 110 – 120k words per book, which according to my market research is normal for a self-published space opera. Publishers might not touch it, but I’m not going traditional route so I’m fine.

That takes us to about 32 days ago according to Twitter. Give me a follow over there and I’ll follow back if you want to read more randomness about my writing or our new family members arriving soon (see below).

So where are we today, 32 days in the future from my tweet? Well, my THE END for novel 2 was premature and bittersweet but my novels are better for it.

THE END for Book 2

I went heads down, outlined my butt off, and started writing. I’ve always had a lot of ideas where I wanted to take the plots, but the challenge was taking them far enough in another 30k or so words without ending short. That’s were iteration on outlines comes in, and I love me some outlines.

About a week’ish later I had a solid outline in place after mulling it over on walks and random house chores. Then it was back to Ulysses and a few weeks later I finished.

The new THE END for Book 1

So that’s my 3rd THE END for 2 books. I know, weird right. I’ve been heads down editing in ProWritingAid ever since and also using Siri to read to me. I’ve written about it before but holy smokes it helps to have her read my book out loud. Choppy writing or poorly imagined scenes pop out at me listening to them far more than reading them.

So here’s where we are today:

  • Book 1 was 126k words, self-edited, ready for edits and betas
  • Book 2 was 117k words, being self-edited
  • Book 3 was 69k words, the outline is being written to fill gaps
  • Reader magnet, the outline is being written

Let’s be honest, the pandemic has left most people with time on their hands. For me I’ve used some of that time on my books, and they’re better for it.

So today I’m working on finding an affordable editor. Oh yea, that’s an entire different blog post. I’ll queue one up on that little tangent and share my journey there. There, I queued it up 🙃

I’m about to send my book to a few beta readers today and hope to get a final edit round soon. Then I’ll do the same with book 2. My goal is still to release when the three books are done plus a reader magnet. The fourth will be being written when I’m releasing and will do pre-orders for the four of them as they go live.

I hope everyone is doing well in these challenging times. I will leave this little picture here of a few new family members that’ll be joining us in a few more weeks. We’re all super excited.

Pepper and Cheddar

That’s Pepper on the left and Cheddar on the right.

Enjoy and stay safe!

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.