Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#ROW80 - Back to Business

I missed my check-in last week. Apologies. As mentioned, though, I was skiing. What with the wonderful invention of the high-output lightbulb, I was able to basically go from 9AM to 9PM. Then, as one might expect, I lacked the energy to lift my arms, much less type. Seriously, twelve hours of skiing is rough stuff, but it was hella-fun.

So last week was vacation week. I'm going to go ahead and pretend that those days simply didn't exist, and pretend like this is a check-in for one week (even though it's technically two). I needed the time off.

How 'bout them goals?
  • Lesson Learned - Writing is like skiing. Also, it hurts when you fall, but you generally learn something and get better.
  • WIP - I finished my dare story! It clocks in at about 12k words. I'm pretty sure I beat my 5 page goal, but two weeks makes me fuzzy. The important thing is that I finished it. Now I need to focus on the business side of things and sharing this story and my novel. That means editing mode, so this goal will get wonky, but I'll try to keep myself honest and report real progress.
  • Blogging - In two weeks I slapped up 4 posts here and 3 posts on the gaming blog. Solid if you accept the whole vacation thing. Even so, I'm going to try to get my posting frequency up a bit in the next few weeks, as I won't be writing any new fiction (see aforementioned editing mode).
This year has started off pretty rough for me, but once I get the novel and novelette out, I'll have three very different projects available. I'm excited about that prospect. I still need to find another editor (see Monday's post), but otherwise things are starting to smooth out and line up. I'm hoping to have all this done so I can really move on to the next project by this summer if not sooner.

Is it hard for you other indies to resist the urge to simply "hit the publish button?" That is to say, things need editing. Editing is a super-important part of the process. But sometimes I feel completely impatient with it. I'm excited when I finish something now, and I want others to read it while its fresh to me. Not excited enough to bypass editing, but the feeling is there. Still, it would bet ten times worse with a traditional publisher. Then I'd be saying a lot of: "That project was so last year to me" by the time y'all would see it.

Anyway, we'll end with the word count:
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 5,885
  • New Fiction: 1,634
  • Round 1 Total: 40,407
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Monday, February 27, 2012

I've Been a Bad, Bad Author

I feel like I've been a bad author. A good writer, but a bad author. At its most basic, the difference between a writer and an author is pretty simple. A writer writes. An author has written. Writers keep creating content, which I've been doing, but I've not really been preparing any to share (which I blame squarely on my inner author). I have a manuscript that is hanging out there with editors, and I just finished the first draft of the dare novelette. I don't want to give that to the same editors because I know they've been a bit overwhelmed (for very, very good life reasons, let me assure you).

On one hand, I'm anxious to share what I've written. On the other, life's been rough on my end too, and even if the editing side hadn't been held up, I'm not sure I would have been ready to do what I need to do to get it published. It's just been one of those starts to the year.

The good news is that stuff is starting to clear up on my end. The wife's health struggles are getting under control. The Day Job has settled a bit, or at least I've grown more comfortable in the new position. My car is only springing mild leaks at the moment (and I'm looking to get a new one, but it's not nearly as critical after a couple successful repairs).

With my new-found stability comes a renewed attention to authorial pursuits. Fortunately, I've been a good writer. I have drafted projects in need of publishing. I still face the editorial hurdle, however. So I've been doing some research. I'm looking into freelance editors, which led me to the EFA. I've found a couple prospects close by, but I thought I'd drop a note on here too for my writer friends. Do any of you have an absolutely wonderful editor you'd like to recommend? I'm all for supporting the little guy.

I have to admit, I'm a bit apprehensive about finding a new, previously unknown editor. So far, I've only used people that I know personally. It's worked well for me, but expanding my contact list is probably a good thing.

Specifically, I'm looking to get my novelette in front of a solid copy editor. Price is a concern. So is specialty. I'd obviously want someone comfortable with fiction. Bonus if they like urban fantasy. It's pretty tongue-in-cheek, too. But for copy editing, I'm not sure how important all of that is. I mean, it's still English.

Anyhoo, I'm open to suggestions. Otherwise, I'll probably chase down the leads in town here. I'm not sure if being local is a plus. I mean, after they lambaste my work, will I want to run into them in the supermarket? (Okay, I'm being a bit silly there. Editors won't devour your soul. Not right away.) In any case, it's certainly not a must (what with the wonders of the interwebs).

Thanks in advance for any suggestions. And I promise to get some work out there before summer. For sure. No more Mr. Bad Author.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Writing Is Like Skiing

I did a Google search on the title, and the first hit was this article. A good analogy, and exactly what I was after. This week my posting will be a bit erratic (if existent at all, though I'm going to try to check in on Wednesday as usual), as I'll be travelling. We have a little ski trip planned.

I'm going to take the laptop and hopefully finish off my novelette during the car rides or warming up in front of the fire after a day on the slopes. We're not going anywhere crazy, just Boyne Mountain in Michigan with a bunch of friends. Half of the crew aren't even skiers, instead preferring the tubing areas, shopping, and the spa. Thus, Boyne is a great getaway for us. Plus it doesn't involve a plane ride.

I agree with the points in the article that I linked. Then, I read the comments and the first person points how how much easier it was for a younger child to pick up skiing than your average adult. The claim was that this breaks the analogy, but I'm not so sure. Children tend to learn things much quicker than adults in general, and I think if more children were writing stories, that they could be pretty darned good in a shorter amount of time as well. There just aren't any classes really on story telling. You make get a dash of creative writing through English courses, but really, how many courses are offered to kids when it comes to story-telling?

I'm not trying to go controversial here, because really, if you're not shooting to be a writer, I suppose you don't need story-telling. It's probably not as important to teach as math, science, or geography. Yet, I can't help but think the world could use a little more emphasis on written communication skills. In any case, we can at least say that writing is "sort of" like skiing. And I'll be keeping that firmly in mind while bombing the black diamonds, I assure you.

This... *bounce bounce* so much... *bounce skid* ... like... *swish bounce* ...writing! *swoosh stop* 

That's pretty much what it's like when I'm typing, too.
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Friday, February 17, 2012

My Favorite Quad-Couple

I've been pretty busy today, but wanted to drop off a fun little post before I head out for the weekend. Earlier in the week, on Valentine's Day, author Nathan Bransford posted an article asking: Who is your favorite fictional couple?

Taken at face value, this can be a pretty simple question. I mean, everyone has a favorite, right? But I wanted to go somewhere non-traditional with it. I thought about my opinions on what makes a solid relationship and what I like to read, and I came up with my favorite.

The issue is... it's not a couple. And we're not talking a love triangle, either. More like a love square, but again, not in the traditional sense.

You see, I'm a big Wheel of Time fan. (AMOL is tentatively slotted to come out Jan 8!!). For those that aren't familiar with the series, it's a pretty standard epic fantasy. That is, it has magic, adventure, touches of romance, and spans a whole bunch of books (14 to be exact). One of the original dynamics that hooked me from the start was how successfully author Robert Jordan constructed an effective matriarchal society. Women are the only ones that can wield power in the novels (and retain their sanity), and that fact makes them the stronger of the sexes. It's interesting to see how it percolates into pretty much every corner of the world.

So when I mention that my favorite relationship is a man with three wives, you should keep in mind that this isn't your typical polygamy. One could argue that the women really had the power and choice here. Readers of the series will know that I'm talking about Rand Al'thor, Elayne Trakand, Min Farshaw, and Aviendha of the Nine Valleys sept of the Taardad Aiel.

To me, the relationship is simply fascinating. Now, there's a whole lot of other stuff going on, so it would be fair to say that the circumstances are extreme. I suppose I just enjoy how non-traditional it is. I've not read a whole lot of books where polygamy is dealt with, especially not in a favorable manner. The characters in the relationship really all want to make it work. Communication and boundaries are key, but they all share a deep love that comes through in how they handle the complicated situation.

Like I mentioned above, the final book in the series is set to come out January 8th of next year. A long ways away, to be sure, but I anticipate it with mixed emotions. It can always be a bit sad when you end on of your favorite series and have to part with characters you've grown close to. Still, I'm completely anxious to see how this relationship is resolved. Will they all live happily ever after? How will it work?

I wanted to share this route because I think its important to remember that love has many forms and doesn't always fit cleanly within boundaries society tries to create for it. Yet love, in any form, is quite beautiful to witness. I've been around a lot of what would be considered "atypical" relationships in my life so far (not all mine, mind you), and I can honestly say I'm a better, more complete person for having seen the many faces of love. I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day and, even if you didn't, you can remember to keep an open heart. Because love is pretty darned cool when you think about it (or read about it).
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

On E-Book Pricing

I wrote recently about the length of novels. At the end of that article, I started in on my thoughts about pricing. Then I realized it was a different topic altogether, lopped it off, and saved it for another day. Well, folks, that day is today. The following are my opinions, as both a reader and a writer, on pricing.

As a writer, I'm not too concerned with length, preferring to let the story dictate how many words I need. As a reader, though, I'd like to know what I'm getting for my money. That's why the length labels will, I think, become increasingly important. Should a novel cost the same as a novella, novelette, or short story? What about a 50k novel compared to a 100k novel? Does it matter if the author is a Big Deal or, like me, a minnow in the great ocean of literature?

I have in mind what I think is fair to pay for stories. This is both what I would look for in other works, and what I try to follow for my own. Now, being a minnow, I don't really get to set pricing trends. To some extent, I have to swim with the stream. Especially if I want to entice new readers.

Zoe Winters wrote an article wherein she philosophizes about her pricing practices. I tend to agree with her underlying theory of "I want solid fans, not random readers." That is, I want to write kick ass stories for people that like the kind of story I'm (hopefully) getting good at writing. I recognize that there's no way I can please all the people all of the time, so I want to shoot for my niche, and niche the hell out of it. It's one of the reasons the whole "dare" things makes a lot of sense to me. While I'm not going to compromise a story, I definitely want to try my best to throw the things in there that my readers have said they want to see. To me, that's all part of the challenge.

A big part of that challenge, though, is getting a critical mass of fans where you can subsist on writing alone, and thus give them your full attention. I'm not there yet, and until I am, I have to go with the popular flow. Doesn't mean I have to agree with it, though.

So, here's how I'd lay out pricing in my ideal world:
  •  Novel, >50k words - $3-$5 
  •  Novella, 20k-50k words - $1-$3 
  •  Everything shorter - free to $1 
I'm not sure what to do right now with huge novels. Think >100k words. Should those really price the same as a 50k novel? There's a lot more buying history to overcome there than with the shorter works. Still, maybe huge epic fantasy novels push the $5 into $6 or $7, but still stay completely reasonable for the "entertainment per hour."

Now, this is all for a non-traditionally published author. We have the flexibility to keep our overhead low, so this pricing can work for us to make a living. For an experienced, professional author, I'd be completely willing to pay upwards of $10. I don't really cringe at a $10 price point right now on a traditionally published book. I am, however, less likely to take a chance at that level.

Some of the higher price points of traditionally published books have made me balk, or at least put off the purchase. I used to save my splurges for my absolute favorite series and get them in hardcover. Now, I don't know. I've certainly been thinking a lot more about prices. I could afford to read a lot more at a lower price point. And I'm a lot less likely to be pissed if a cheaper book isn't exactly what I wanted/expected. For the traditional folks, they better make damn sure the quality is top notch (not true of some traditional books I've read, where typos and the like have leaked through.) I would say a good rule of thumb would be to add about $5 for anything traditionally published. Does a publisher add $5 of value? That's for you to decide. I think they can, but perhaps aren't quite there yet

On the shorter end, I like the concept of offering a short story free at some places, and then perhaps for a $1 on major platforms like the Nook and Kindle. It takes a bit of work to get everything set up nicely on there, and asking for a dollar seems completely fair. The between prices can largely be dependent on the amount of work that went into each story.

I love offering coupons and giveaways, too. I think that should be done early and often. A majority of people are likely willing and able to pay $5 for a story, but not everyone can. And I'd rather those people have a shot at reading than be left out in the rain. Limited time offers and giveaways are perfect for this, allowing people to perhaps do a little extra legwork for a price cut. Seems fair to me.

Also, something I'd like to see (and perhaps do eventually) is authors being able to reward fans. The traditional approach has meant that rabid fans get gouged at the release of a book with the highest price, then things get discounted over time. I think I'd like to offer a cheaper price at the front end. Think of it as a "thank you" for the people who have waited for the next book. Then the price could be raised after the first month. Sort of an intro sale. Since new releases tend to boost the sales of older books, I think this is a completely reasonable way to launch a book, but really flies in the face of tradition.

As readers, as writers, what do you guys think? What is "fair?" When do you feel like you're getting a "good deal?" Or, conversely, a bad one?
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

#ROW80 - Finding the Time

Things are still pretty rough around here. Wife isn't feeling great after more procedures last week, and it falls to me to take care of her. It's that whole "in sickness and in health" clause. Obviously, we all prefer the "health" part. Still, we've had great support from family, friends, and - yes - Internet friends. Several of you have left nice comments or stopped by on Facebook or whatever... and that is greatly appreciated. It's pretty cool when people you've never really met face to face can pop in and offer support from a whole variety of different life experiences. Perspective always helps when you're stuck in the doldrums. As do kind words, so thank you.

That being said, let's look at the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - Not related to writing, but I learned a lot about procedures that involve spinal intrusion  in the last week. Apparently this whole "blood patch for spinal fluid headache" business is more common than I thought, especially when you consider women getting epidurals. Also, the silver lining of facing adversity and being a writer is that I'm filing a lot of these emotions and experiences away for later. My fantasy characters may not be having Lumbar Punctures anytime soon, but there are always touching scenes to write when one half of a romantic pairing is sick or injured.
  • WIP Progress - Still working on the novelette. I've been finding the time, though sometimes it seems to take a whole search party. When it's turned up, though, I've made the most of it. The fraction has been stuck at 2/3 because really, I wasn't at 2/3 before. It turned out a little longer than anticipated (I was thinking short story, and ended up with novelette). I'm still plugging away and got my 6 pages in this week.
  • Blogging - This makes 1 here, and I had 2 on my gaming site. I did make an additional personal post (there's a lot going on there, which explains the lack in other areas). I'm not modifying the goal, because I want to keep shooting for 3, I just wasn't able to hit it last week. I have several post ideas started, just need to find the time to write them. I prioritize my WIP over my blogging when they come in direct conflict, and such was the case for most of the last seven days. Fortunately, things should start looking up in this department.
That's really all I have. Let's do a quick word count and get back to work:
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 3,208
  • New Fiction: 1,727
  • Round 1 Total: 34,522
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#ROW80 - Only Mildly Angsty

Last week was the emotional roller coaster that I thought it would be. I got done both more than I thought I would and less that I would have liked. Figure that one out. Work has been busy, too (hence the late posting today), so I'll keep this short. Here are the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - The length of different works. See the post I made yesterday. My short story was getting long and I wondered what, exactly, I was supposed to be calling it. Wikipedia to the rescue!
  • WIP Progress - I decided the length is going to make my dare story into a novelette. I hacked out another 5 pages, so on target here, though I wanted to have more done.
  • Blogging - I did all my blogging early last week in anticipation of being busy the rest of the time. I was only able to squeeze out one post on each blog, two here if you include this. I knocked out my personal post as well, so not bad. A little short, but that was to be expected.
Blogging may continue to be rough it work keeps up the pressure. Home has also been busy. For the long version, feel free to check out my personal blog, but basically my wife had a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) this week. That basically laid her up for a day and I was in manservant mode. I put my WIP ahead of my blogging (for obvious reasons), and it shows. Still, I feel that my priorities are in the right place, so I'm not really angsty about it.

A quick link today before I leave you with the word count. There's a self-publishing survey out there. The point is to collect some "real" data on the current state of self-publishing. From an academic standpoint, I'm always interested in numbers and trends and such, though they don't always tell the full story. Still, I wanted to pass along the link for the survey and a description of what the study is about for any and all that are interested.

That's it from me!
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 3,351
  • New Fiction: 1,690
  • Round 1 Total: 31,314
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Am I Buying?

Chalk this up under the "Public Service Announcement" heading. In the rapidly changing world of commercial ebooks, there are a whole lot of "new" terms being bandied about. I quotationalize (Yeah, that's not a real word. But it should be) "new" because the terms may only be new to me. Even so, as a long time, avid reader, I suspect I'm not the only one scratching my head a bit when I hear these labels.

What am I talking about? The classification of a story's length, of course.

At top, we have novels. Easy so far. Then, the novella. Okay, got that. Then, the novelette... is this like a cutesy novel? And, finally, the short story (eschewing the "novel" theme we had going). Every once in a while, you may even see flash fiction, too. Frankly, these are all just terms for story, long story, longer story, even longer story, and so on. But which falls where on the spectrum? Or, more importantly, I'm about to plunk down $5 straight cash for this bundle of words... is it worth it?

If you claim to know the exact length parameters for each of these works, I'll assume you're either a publishing insider, agent, or professional writer. As a reader, I never really had a reason to care. Before now, 99.9% of what I consumed were novels. In more recent digital days, however, shorter works seem to be gaining a lot of popularity, and it's easy to understand why. Now that things aren't so expensive to produce and easy for readers to find/download, why not check out shorter works? No two readers are exactly alike, and some may prefer quicker stories over the time-investment of novels. What's more, this preference may vary minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour.

As a learning writer, I've struggled to understand the distinctions. Maybe I'm breaking every rule known to writerly man, but I'm pretty sure you don't have to know exactly how long a story is going to be before you tell it. In fact, I've experienced some stories (especially verbal ones) where I'm pretty sure the teller didn't consider length before starting at all. (Also, quite frankly, I'm probably guilty of this one often.)

Now, I've known from the outset that a novel is basically anything over 50k words. Even that is debatable, but it seems a good rule of thumb. What I wanted to do here, then, for both myself and anyone else who may read this, is to write a quick-and-dirty guide to help all of us understand just what exactly am we're getting if we buy a story type we have little experience with.

This is by no means definitive, but I think it'll suffice for most readers and probably most writers as well. The "validity" of your length may vary widely on genre, so this is more specifically targeting science fiction and fantasy writers (I'm using mostly the SFWA definitions here).
  • Novel - Anything larger than 40k (so 50k is a safe assumption, it seems).
  • Novella - 17,500 and 40,000 words.
  • Novelette - 7,500 and 17,499 words.
  • Short Story - Up to 7,500 words. Anything under 1,000 can also be referred to as Flash Fiction, which is a subset of the Short Story.
Simple, right? Not really, since all of this is completely subject to personal/group opinions. Different writing groups may define things with different slices. At the very least, though, we can get a general idea of what the length of the work will be. This puts us in the proverbial ballpark.

For instance, I say I'm writing a short story dare, but what I really should be saying is "novelette" dare. I've just crossed the 7,500 word threshold and have a bit of story left. I anticipate being around the 15k mark. That's totally "short" for me, but almost double a typical short story. If I'm going to be fair to my reader, I should be sure to call it a novelette. (To be double sure, I'll also list the word count, though most readers will end up asking for pages. The problem with pages is that they vary widely based on the consumption medium. Printed pages can be very different from ereader pages. Word count is really the only consistent measurement.)

Anyway, I hope this helps a bit. At the very least, I'll feel more comfortable when I see these terms slung about. In an ideal world, ebook descriptions will contain this information. After all, if you can physically see the book, how do you have any clue how long it is? I think classifications like these will only increase in importance as the consumption of digital books rises.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

#ROW80 - The Calm Before

Services for my Aunt are scheduled for tomorrow and Friday. I'm taking the next two days off and I expect them to be a whirlwind of emotions and familiar faces. It's highly likely I'll squeeze in some writing (emotional times tend to be fertile soil for writing, plus it's a release for me), but it won't be online. As such, I buckled down and knocked posts out early this week, so I'm in good shape. My short story is nearly complete, and I'm hoping to finish the first draft this weekend. I'm still staying productive despite life's speed bumps.

Let's look at the goals:

  • Lesson Learned - I wrote some on what Voice means to me yesterday. I'll point to that as my lesson for the week: a deeper understanding of Voice and its importance to my writing.
  • WIP - I've made some more progress on my short story to the tune of 6 pages. That's right on target. I think I'd officially setting the pace at 1 page/day with two days off, so I'm technically one page ahead, but short story writing is quicker than when I'm working on a novel.
  • Blogging - 4/3 on the gaming blog and this will make 4/3 here. I threw up a personal post as well, just in time for the month to flip. I've got another one in the hopper for Feb, too, so I'm good there.
Goals are good. Progress is good. Weekend is going to be rough, but at least I've gotten all my work in order so that I can focus on the important thing: family. If you're like me, then this is important. Despite my best intentions, I would angst about my writing progress all weekend even with completely valid excuses. It's better, then, to work with my nature instead of against. Get the work done early; get it out of the way.

That's all for now. Let's check out the word count:
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 5,057
  • New Fiction: 1,711
  • Round 1 Total: 27,963
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