Friday, December 9, 2011

If you didn't make 50k... don't feel bad

Because certain published authors didn't get there, either.

Patrick Rothfuss, the author of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear, posted on his blog about a week into November that he was doing NaNoWriMo.  It was a long post about how he had thumbed his nose at NaNoWriMo in previous years, and it seemed like his reasons for finally deciding to participate boiled down to, "The fuck I can't."

Recently he posted again, about how he had failed to reach 50k, which was quite funny because of how "riled up" (his own words) he was in the previous post.  He also posted about all the things he got out of participating.  As he put it, he wrote 35k that he might not have (or at least not all of it) if he hadn't participated.  He also said that he learned a lot, such as how much he can write in one hour, and that he doesn't need to block off three or four hours of time in order to get any writing done.

Great lessons, for all of us.

But really, don't feel bad if you didn't get to 50k.  The real success is that you wrote anything at all, which is likely more than you would have written otherwise.  And if it still really grates on you that you didn't make it to 50k, well, there is always next year!

Monday, December 5, 2011

To self-publish or not to self-publish

I believe I've mentioned that I intend on self e-publishing Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box.  More recently I've come across a lot of pros and cons to taking that avenue, and I thought I'd share what I've been reading to help you follow my decision process.

First of all, there was a blog post from Dave Cullen, the author of Columbine, a few weeks ago about how to break into publishing.  The gist was basically: Put together a query, find an agent, and let them do the rest.

Then, just the other day, there was this post on Writer Beware: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.  It's fairly negative toward self-publishing, but mostly I think the post is trying to undermine the argument that many vanity publishers (particularly the expensive ones) try to sell you: that your odds of getting an agent (and, ultimately, getting published) are slim at best.

I understand that argument, I really do.  My biggest reasons for leaning toward self-publishing are: 1) I don't want to wait a year or longer to see my books in print when the vampire fiction/dark romance craze is going on right now, and 2) I want to maintain more control over my books (title, covers, website, promotion, etc.) than I would if I published traditionally.

What about you?  Are you planning on publishing your work, and if so, are you going to do it yourself or go the more traditional route?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The art of writing multiple books per year

Since I am writing a series, and planning on getting started on the next book right away, I found this blog post interesting: How Can You Write 4+ Books a Year and Maintain Quality Work?

The article isn't so much about how to maintain quality work, but how to set aside enough time to write a large number of books per year.  While making the point that the same thing isn't going to work for every writer, the blogger gives some advice on getting into a writing routine (setting aside time to write so many words per day), putting book releases and other milestones on your calendar, writing about stuff that excites you (so that you're more likely to want to get it done), and hiring editors so that you can focus on the writing part.

I agree with most of the stuff in the post.  Most obviously, if you're not excited enough to want to work on your novels every day, you should probably reconsider what you're writing — sounds like you're not cut out for it.  And getting into a routine is great advice — something that I think NaNoWriMo and similar challenges really help with.

Hiring an editor is also necessary, I think, especially if you are planning on self-publishing — but I don't think I would do what this author does, and hire people to do all the editing for me.  I think going through your own work and revising is necessary, especially since you might want to make huge changes to the story that an hired editor wouldn't or couldn't do.  I plan to do several rounds of revision myself on each one of my novels, and only then will I have an editor come through to do a final check for problems.

And even then, I will probably read through it one more time myself.

Churning out multiple books a year is definitely possible, and it's also possible to maintain quality while doing so.  But I do want to have a larger hand in revising and editing my own work, even if it means I finish fewer books per year.

What about you?  Coming right out of NaNoWriMo, I imagine a good number of my readers are "wrimos," but if you do write throughout the year (and not just in November), how many books do you typically finish in one year?  Or do you have a plan for how many you'd like to finish?

Friday, December 2, 2011

79,145 words: Finished?

Last night I finished the skipped scene in my novel, the one I had to go back and do after writing the ending.  It ended up being a few hundred words more than I thought it was going to be, but the first draft is still only 79,145 words — nearly a thousand short of my original goal of 80k.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I was hoping at one point that it would actually be a little longer, more like 90k.  I guess when I go back through and make revisions, one of the things I will be doing is looking for places where there is room for another scene or two.  I've been toying with a new idea for the denouement, one that would likely add a couple thousand words (and, in my opinion, possibly make it a little better — I feel like something is missing, like the last 10k of the novel is too rushed and doesn't pack enough of a punch, so to speak).

In any case, I'm going to set this aside and sit on it for a month or so, and then I'll begin revisions.  In the meantime, I am going to take a short break (to get caught up on other stuff) and then start researching Book 2.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Farewell, NaNoWriMo 2011

I am glad I won this year, but I sure am sad to see NaNoWriMo go.  We'll probably be having at least one TGIO (thank God it's over) party or meeting in the coming week or two, but I'm not really glad it's over — I loved how it kept me motivated throughout the month.  I don't know if I necessarily want or need to be writing 2,000 words or more every day on a regular basis, but it did get the job done.

Which reminds me — not only did I finish NaNoWriMo (i.e., got to 50k), but I also finished the novel (more or less).  I wrote 1,283 words Tuesday night and put an ending on it — not several thousand like I'd been hoping for, so I may actually complete the first draft just shy of 80k, but I can always expand later if it needs it.  I have one more scene to write — something I skipped over a few weeks ago, when I wasn't sure what to write, so I just skipped it and kept going — and last night I added 582 words of that scene.  Unfortunately, that was after midnight, so my final NaNo count stayed at 53,557.

Today I'll finish the skipped scene — perhaps a few hundred more words — and then I'll set the novel aside for a little while before I start revisions.  On the question of whether to start Book 2 right away, I've realized that I need to do a little more research anyway, since I'm going to be including some real events in the story, so I'm going to start on that next.

My husband had a good point: If I start on Book 2 before I start revisions of Book 1, I may realize where I want or need to make changes in the first book to make the story flow better, or to make something in Book 2 work better.  So I think, once I am done with the research, I will start writing Book 2, and see where it's going before I go back and make revisions on the first one.  I'm planning to start revisions sometime in January.

The good news is, if all goes well, I may be releasing Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box sometime in the spring or early summer — if I stick with my original plan of self-publishing, of course, but at the moment I don't foresee that changing, since I want control over my own book covers (because of the 1920s images) and book promotion.

I'd love to hear from others.  How did NaNoWriMo go for you?  And do you have any plans to publish?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Word warring and winning

It's amazing how motivating a good old-fashioned word war contest between two friends can be!  I convinced a friend of mine — a published author, John Beachem — to do NaNoWriMo this year, and at first I was amused that my word count stayed consistently pretty far ahead of his.  This was partly because I started the month with flying colors, and partly because he spent time rewriting what he'd already written about a week in.

NaNoWriMo word war widget

He started catching up with me around when my daily pace started flagging, and that made me nervous enough to jump start my writing drive again.  Last night, I got to 50k before he did, though he was only 500 words away when he quit for the night, so he easily could have beaten me if he'd kept going!  Not that I'm complaining...

It feels good to be a winner!

I stopped last night with 51,119 NaNo words (75,119 total words in the novel), for a total of 2,562 words written yesterday evening.  I think I probably have a few thousand words left to write before the novel is finished, plus I need to go back and fill in a scene I skipped, which will probably be another couple thousand words.  In other words, I should be a little over 80k by the time I'm done with the first draft, which will hopefully be in another couple of days!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Restoring my rapidly narrowing lead

I've had an impossibly busy week, and as a result, not a lot of time to work on my novel.  As a result, there have been several days when I've not had a chance to write at all, and several others where I've failed to meet NaNoWriMo's daily minimum goal (1,667 words).  You'll see it when you look at my calendar widget in the sidebar (which is working again) — whereas it used to be almost all green squares and just one yellow (which means I wrote some but not enough), now there are 7 yellow squares and 3 red squares (which mean no writing at all).

One of those yellow squares is today's, however, and I plan to change its color to green before the day is out.  Our 24-hour write-in for the weekend was canceled, which is too bad because I and a lot of others were really looking forward to it.  Tonight, however, is the last of the Friday write-ins I've been going to at our local 24-hour used bookstore and coffee shop.  I plan on staying extra late and trying to recover some of my rapidly narrowing lead: Whereas I did at one time have a 5-day lead, right now I'm only about a day ahead, and that's only because I've already written 1,000 words or so today.

My word count goal for the day is 4,000 words — I'm already a quarter of the way there, but cross your fingers that I'll make it the rest of the way tonight!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creating a blog for your book

Yesterday Barnes & Noble's PubIt! Facebook page posted an interesting article with some tips for creating an author or a book blog.  If you are wanting to create a blog for your book or series, or a promotional site for yourself as an author, the article is worth a quick read-through.

Author Blogging 101: Blog Design

It appears this blog post is one of a series — you can get to the entire series of posts here:

Author Blogging 101

It sounds like the rest of the series has some basic tips such as buying your own domain and that kind of thing — general things that make your blog appear more professional.

The post on blog design boils down to a couple of important points, so I'll give my one sentence summary: Don't get too hung up on all the widgets and other add-ons in your sidebar, but DO make sure you have an attractive, professional-looking header that can be used for branding.

Beyond that, he says, your main focus should be the content.

I agree, but I do think that a well-laid out blog should contain some other design elements.  Blogger, WordPress, and most other major blogging platforms these days make it very easy to customize templates without having to hire a graphic designer (except for perhaps your logo and/or header).  You can tinker with color schemes and font sizes, experiment with various sidebar widgets, and just in general have a lot of fun designing your blog.

After your header and content, I think the next most important thing is to make sure your blog is easy for readers to navigate.  This means links in the sidebar to previous posts and/or archives, and maybe a labels cloud so that they can see posts grouped by label (subject).  Other things — web badges and awards, ads, etc. — can be added and may make the site look more professional or more credible, but aren't necessary.

One final thing that I think is pretty darn important, and that the blogger did not address: Your blog design needs to include, prominently, some way to purchase the book (or a placeholder for that space further on down the road, if you are still working on the book).  For instance, my blog here has a "Books" page (link in the top nav bar) where the book covers, teasers, and sale links will go as the books in the series are published.  Once the first one is published, I'll also be putting a linked cover image in the sidebar for faster purchasing power.

If you have a book or author blog, feel free to post the link in the comments, and let us know why you designed it the way you did!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Victor's unveiling

Here it is!  At long last, Victor is revealing his face to Ruby and the world!

Victor was a tricky one, the trickiest of all my characters to find an accurate representation of.  All of the guys in the old tinted postcards I was finding looked rather effeminate and not at all like how I pictured my star vampire.  Ruby wouldn't fall in love with a dandy, that much I know.

Ultimately, Victor came in the form of an actual photo from the era, rather than one of the tinted photo postcards I've used for all my other characters.  This meant that I had to add a little color on my own (it's subtle — can you tell where?).  It also means that I have the original photo up on my bulletin board.  Yes, Victor is staring me in the face as I write this. Love that intense stare and that faintly amused quirk to the lips — that's Victor to a T!

Exciting news!

I'm just back after a weekend of nothing.  I didn't write either Saturday or Sunday, but I did finally sit down tonight and add 2,818 words to my novel.  I am at a critical point in the story and needed to hurry up and write some more to keep the momentum going.

I am fast approaching the climax now, and will have to figure out how exactly that is going to go.  I have a general idea, but hadn't yet decided on the specifics.  I think I came up with a few good ideas tonight.  My ideas for the next book are gelling as I get further along in the story, too, and I may actually be able to start writing that one right away when I finish my first draft of Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box.  I'll decide then whether or not I need a break from Ruby's world for a little while, or whether I am ready to jump right into the next novel.

My biggest news, however, is that I am finally ready to unveil Victor!  I was waiting for the photograph to arrive, and it is finally here.  So now you all get to see what I picture when I imagine my heroine's vampire heartthrob!

I will post his photo tomorrow!

Friday, November 18, 2011

NaNoWriMo's calender widget is broken!

If you've noticed over the last few days that my NaNoWriMo calendar widget suddenly turned all red, that's because apparently something is broken on the site.  My statistics page, with my word count graph, isn't updating correctly either.

It's probably nothing more than coincidence that my first few slow days happened to occur at the same time as the calendar widget broke... right?

I didn't work on my novel at all on Wednesday, primarily because that's when I moved my newest horse to my barn.  Yesterday was quite busy too (riding lesson, work in the afternoon, and book club in the evening) but I did manage to write 599 words in the evening, bringing my NaNoWriMo word count to 37055.  (I'll wait to update tonight, since only the first update per day seems to be showing on the graph, and with the write-in tonight I should have a big increase in my word count before midnight.)

If the calendar widget doesn't get fixed soon, I'll switch to a different (operational) word count widget!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fun with Auto Summarize

If you need a good laugh sometime, try using Word's "Auto Summarize" feature on your novel.  Just remember to save your novel first, and have it open the summary in a new document!

The shorter the summary, the funnier it is.  According to Word, this is my novel in 10 sentences:

"Victor?" "Victor?" Victor nodded. Victor smiled. Victor.
"Victor. "Victor!" "Victor!" "Victor!

I think I'll be laughing about this one for a while yet.

Monday, November 14, 2011

May the frog be with you!

W.C. Frog says, "May the (word count) frog be with you!"

I am thrilled with my progress so far on my novel.  I had a moderately productive weekend — last night (counting my words after midnight) I got to 31k (31,099 to be exact).  Attending a write-in Friday evening helped me surpass my personal goal of 2k per day with 2,353 words.  Although Saturday is my busiest day, and I just generally assume I won't have time to write, I did at least make the NaNo minimum goal with 1,695 (you have to write 1,667 words a day in order to get to 50k in a month).  Yesterday was wildly productive, with 2,302 words before midnight and 867 after — a total of 3,169 words in one day.

All in all, that makes the weekend (counting Friday night as part of the weekend) a 7,217-word weekend — not far from the 8k weekends that the NaNo Powers That Be are always recommending as a good way to catch up.

Of course, I don't need to do any catching up — at this point I'm nearly 5 days ahead of schedule, which is just fine with me considering my tendency in past years to neglect my novel around Thanksgiving.

I'm also officially two-thirds of the way done with my total word count, at least if my goal remains 80k.  As I get closer to the end, I might revise that up to 90k — we'll see.  It's a lovely feeling to be this far through my novel and still have the feeling of being swept away with it!  I love my characters, I love the story, I love the ideas that I'm getting for future books in the series.

To all others doing NaNoWriMo, may the frog be with you!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Using 20s images in fiction

iconiconI guess I shouldn't be surprised, but it appears I am not the only one who has thought of using original images from the period to illustrate a story about the 1920s.  I've mainly focused on finding images to represent my characters, but Caroline Preston's The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt sounds like it uses the images to illustrate the entire story.

Unfortunately this one isn't available in ebook format, probably because of all the images, or I would have bought it on the spot.  As it is, I put a hold on it from my library, but I'll probably look for it in Barnes & Noble next time I'm there.  I'm interested to see how the author and publisher handle the illustrations, and whether the novel is mostly pictures, or text, or an equal combination of both.

However the images are handled in Prescott's book, I have to say I was very interested — not to mention delighted — to find that I'm not the only one who has thought of using old images to enhance their fiction!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rockin' along

I am thrilled to say that I am really rocking the novel this year.  Maybe it's that I have solid plans to publish this one; maybe it's the excitement and inspiration generated by things like using 1920s images for my characters and listening to a lot of 1920s music.  Who knows.  All I know is that I'm having my most successful NaNoWriMo ever.

Last night I broke 20,000 words.  I am very nearly halfway done with my 50k goal for November, and three days ahead of where I should be.  I'm also more than halfway through with my total word count goal for the novel, 80k, though there are times when I think it may end up being longer, maybe 90k.

There are times when I feel like I'm struggling, such as during the first 1,500 or so words last night.  But I'm finding that if I push through, everything falls into place.  Part of it is this particular novel, or perhaps more accurately, how much I'm feeling this particular novel.  If I just make myself keep writing, eventually it all starts coming together.

This is a glaring difference from previous years.  Every year since 2007, I've failed miserably — some years I hardly even got a word count at all.  Other years I started writing and couldn't keep up.  Even the one year I did win, 2006, it was by the skin of my teeth.  I finished my novel at just 100 words over 50,000, and that was after a superhuman effort to catch up.

But this year, I have hope that I will not only reach 50k, but also finish my novel (at around 80k), so that I can set it aside for a month or so before I start revisions in January!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NaoWriMo word count widget in sidebar

NaNoWriMo still hasn't rolled out their word count widgets, so... I got tired of waiting, and found the code in an old blog post from a few years ago.  Turns out the widgets are still there, they just run off of our old participant numbers instead of our usernames (like they are supposed to this year — IF they are ever rolled out!).  So my calender widget is now in the sidebar!

Now to go make today's box turn green!

Life after NaNoWriMo

I know, I know, it's only November 8th — way too soon to be thinking ahead to when NaNoWriMo is over.  But even though I'm frantically pounding out words, I've had a big picture in mind for this (and subsequent) novels for months, so I found these articles interesting.

It all started with an article in an email newsletter I get, about whether NaNoWriMo is beneficial.  The article assumes that you're following the NaNoWriMo rules, of course, by starting a fresh novel on November 1st, rather than continuing work on a current project and just counting the words you write in November.

I think I may write a lot faster than many people, because 1,667 words each day doesn't normally take that long, so when I'm reading an article like this I don't understand what the big deal is.  At the word war Friday night I wrote 1,400 words in 30 minutes, which surprised me — I've long thought that 1,000 words in an hour was a fairly average pace for me, but I guess I can do much better than that when inspiration hits.  I may also have gotten faster over the years, since I would consider last night to be on the slow side of average (I was struggling somewhat with the scene), and I wrote 1,500 words in an hour.

Anyway, from this first article I clicked on two more links, and found some that were even more helpful.  One was about what to do after NaNoWriMo, if you want to eventually publish the novel, that is.  The article recommends taking a break first, then going back and revising when it's no longer so fresh in your head.  That's pretty sound advice — Stephen King says pretty much the same thing in On Writing.

I've been planning on taking a break for a month or two after I finish my first draft, and working on something else until I pick it back up to revise.  Maybe I'll finish last year's NaNo novel, which has been languishing, forgotten, in a drawer for all this time.  Or maybe I'll rework my first (and only) completed NaNo novel, which I wrote back in 2006.  It's a great idea and I've wanted to go back and turn it into something really good, I just haven't ever gotten around to it.  It means that it'll be a little longer before anyone gets to read Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box (other than my husband and friends who are helping me to revise and polish it), but I don't want to rush it into publication until it's truly ready.  You'll just have to be patient!

One other article I found was this handy little summary of genre novel rules.  A couple of weeks ago I'd been looking for this very information, wanting to know whether my target total word count of 80,000 was a good length.  It's definitely a little on the short side, but still within the requirements — and as I get further into the novel and flesh the story out a little more, I'm thinking it may actually be more like 90,000.

What about you?  What are your plans for your NaNo novel?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Do you have time to write on weekends?

This weekend was a moderately successful one for me.  A lot of wrimos try to achieve astronomical word counts during this first weekend, but I was just trying to maintain a steady pace.  My Saturdays are ridiculously busy right now, so I suspected I wouldn't have time to work on my novel that day, and a lot of Sunday was spent on day-off kinds of things: sleeping in, hanging out at the bookstore drinking coffee, riding my horse, and watching a little TV.

Friday was my phenomenally productive day.  With the help of a write-in, my first-ever win at a word war, and a really late night, I pounded out 4,105 words before I went to bed.  Almost half of those — 1,798 — were written and updated to my profile after midnight, though, so they counted for Saturday instead of Friday.

Which was actually good, since — as I'd expected — I didn't have time to write on Saturday.  The timing makes it look on my graph like I did, though, which I like!

Sunday I didn't get around to writing until late in the evening, and then I only wrote 1,871 words, which means I didn't achieve my normal daily goal of 2,000 words either day this weekend.  That's all right, though — with 15,227 words in November, I'm still cookin' with a 2-day lead!

I updated my total word count in the sidebar, but so far NaNoWriMo hasn't yet rolled out the word count widgets this year.  When they do, I'll add my favorite widget, which is a mini-calender that will show green squares on days when I achieved the minimum (1,667 words), and red squares when I didn't.  So far I won't have a single red square on my widget!  Awesome!

Celebrate NaNoWriMo with free ebooks on writing

I don't know if it's just a coincidence that these ebooks are being offered free during NaNoWriMo, or if it's deliberate, but I thought I'd provide the links for my fellow wrimos.  Of course you probably won't want to take the time off writing now to read them, but do download the ebooks ASAP — promotional freebies are notorious for only last a brief period of time.  There could be only another day or two on these.

iconiconGet advice from the best in the business on every part of the novel writing and publishing process!

In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, 2nd Edition, you’ll learn from the invaluable advice of established writers. Discover new ways to generate ideas, implement intriguing techniques, and find the inspiration you need to finish your work. This fully-revised edition includes a revamped marketing section that covers the unique challenges of today’s publishing market and the boundless opportunities of online promotion.

Inside you’ll find expert advice from dozens of bestselling authors and publishing professionals on how to:

· Master the elements of fiction, from plot and characters to dialogue and point of view

· Develop a unique voice and sensibility in your writing

· Manage the practical aspects of writing, from overcoming writer’s block to revising your work

· Determine what elements your story needs to succeed in a particular genre—science fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense, inspirational, romance (mainstream and Christian), or historical fiction

· Find an agent, market your work, and get published—or self-publish—successfully

You’ll also find interviews with some of the world’s finest writers, including Margaret Atwood, Tom Clancy, Brock Clarke, Cory Doctorow, Dave Eggers, Elizabeth George, Jerry Jenkins, Stephen King, Megan McCafferty, Audrey Niffenegger, Joyce Carol Oates, Chuck Palahniuk, James Patterson, Richard Russo, Anne Tyler, John Updike, and Kurt Vonnegut. Their words will provide you with the guidance and encouragement of your very own writing mentor.

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing is your one-stop resource for everything you need to know about the craft and business of creating a bestseller.

iconiconThe road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings. Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It's just that simple.

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Detailed instruction on how to develop your inciting incident

Keys for creating a cohesive story-worthy problem

Tips on how to avoid common opening gaffes like overusing backstory

A rundown on basics such as opening scene length and transitions

A comprehensive analysis of more than twenty great opening lines from novels and short stories

Plus, you'll discover exclusive insider advice from agents and acquiring editors on what they look for in a strong opening. With Hooked, you'll have all the information you need to craft a compelling beginning that lays the foundation for an irresistible story!

iconiconThe Secret to Good Writing

When asked by the Paris Review what compelled him to rewrite the ending of A Farewell to Arms 39 times, Ernest Hemingway replied, "Getting the words right." His answer echoes what every successful writer knows: The secret to all good writing is revision.

For more than twenty years, Getting the Words Right has helped writers from all professions rewrite, revise, and refine their writing. In this new edition, author Theodore Cheney offers 39 targeted ways you can improve your writing, including how to:

create smooth transitions between paragraphs

correct the invisible faults of inconsistency, incoherence, and imbalance

overcome problems of shifting point of view and style

express your ideas clearly by trimming away weak or extra words

You'll strengthen existing pieces and every future work by applying the three simple principles—reduce, rearrange, and reword. Once the secrets of revision are yours, you'll be able to follow Hemingway's lead—and get the words right!

iconiconTake Control of Your Destiny!

Bottom line: You want to get published. You want to control the future of your manuscript and your writing career.

Best-selling author Marilyn Ross and publishing expert Sue Collier show you how to make your own success —whether you're a published author, entrepreneur, corporation, professional, or absolute newcomer to writing. In this expanded and completely revised 5th edition of the 'bible' of self-publishing (over 100,000 copies sold), they empower you to publish your own work with minimal risk and maximum profits. You'll find:

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* Ways to leverage social media marketing to build your platform and make yourself stand out from the crowd
* A thorough explanation of the difference between POD self-publishing, subsidy publishing, and true self-publishing—and how to decide which is the best option for you
* Practical advice on making the decision between offset printing and print-on-demand
* How to leverage the Internet to create 'buzz' and promote your book with killer PR
* The latest information on e-publishing
* A detailed marketing plan and timetable to keep you on track
* Proven marketing strategies to get free publicity, reach nontraditional buyers, and sell books
* Information-packed appendices with marketing contacts, organizations, and vendors, complete with names, addresses, and Web sites
* Valuable case studies and examples of how other publishers excel
* Dozens of tips and resources for publishing and selling books in Canada
* An in-depth discussion of exclusive distributors, plus coverage of the most recent changes in bookstores and the book-selling industry
* Thirty-one creative ideas for generating capital to launch your publishing company

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing is the one book you need to take control of your writing career. Read it. Believe it. Do it. Your future depends on it.

iconiconBuild a Timeless, Original Story Using Hundreds of Classic Story Motifs!

It's been said that there are no new ideas; but there are proven ideas that have worked again and again for all writers for hundreds of years.

Story Structure Architect is your comprehensive reference to the classic recurring story structures used by every great author throughout the ages. You'll find master models for characters, plots, and complication motifs, along with guidelines for combining them to create unique short stories, novels, scripts, or plays. You'll also learn how to:

* Build compelling stories that don't get bogged down in the middle
* Select character journeys and create conflicts
* Devise subplots and plan dramatic situations
* Develop the supporting characters you need to make your story work

Especially featured are the standard dramatic situations inspire by Georges Polti's well-known 19th century work, The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. But author Victoria Schmidt puts a 21st-century spin on these timeless classics and offers fifty-five situations to inspire your creativity and allow you even more writing freedom. Story Structure Architect will give you the mold and then help you break it.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tips for writing a series

If you didn't already know it, I'm planning an entire series about Ruby Ransome and her adventures with vamps.  I already have ideas for future books, and I need to sit down and brainstorm one of these days to flesh some of them out and come up with more ideas — the first book takes place in 1923, so I need to see how many books I'm going to want to cram into the remaining 10 years of the decade.  Some of the ideas I have take place in specific years — one of them in 1929 — so I really need to get an idea of all the books I want to have in the series before I get too far along.  Initially I thought of doing a book per year, but most will cover fairly short periods, so maybe I should plan for more.

Anyway, Barnes & Noble's PubIt Facebook page linked to a very interesting article today, on dealing with continuation issues in a series.  (The title is somewhat misleading — the article isn't really about continuation issues to avoid, but how to deal with the issues.)

I've already come up with ideas for my covers that I think will create a strong brand, so I'm good on number 4.  I also have a very good idea of the overall story for the series (Ruby and Victor fighting vampire-driven organized crime in the 1920s), so put a check next to number 5.  I also feel good about Ruby's character arc throughout the series, so we're good there too.  And number 7 deals with what I was just talking about: planning out the series ahead of time, so that I can make the time line work.

Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are more about keeping the details straight.  I'm actually not sure 1 and 3 aren't the same thing — 1 talks about getting character details right, and both 1 and 3 talk about rereading prior books to make sure you're remembering the details correctly.  Personally, I keep an "outline" (loosely defined as such) with character information, and I try to add important details as I think of them.  I may develop this to include more detailed character sheets for each one.

Two is a very interesting issue.  Do you make each book a standalone?  Do you repeat information in each book in order to bring up to speed the readers who are just now coming into the story?  While I agree that books need to bring readers up to speed — for those who read the last book or books a while ago, as much as for those who have never read them — I think too much of this really bogs down the story, and in my books I'd like to keep it to a minimum.

I've written novels before (though never published), but writing a series will be a new adventure for me.  I have to say I'm looking forward to sticking with these characters for a while!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

W.C. Frog says, Good job!

I have decided to call my word count frog (from my goody bag the night of the kickoff party) W.C. Frog.  He's pretty happy right now because so far, I'm racking up some serious words.  I got to 1,678 at the kickoff party before leaving (even though I was so exhausted for that last few hundred that I was nearly seeing double), and last night I added another 3,384 for a grand total (for November) of 5,062.  If NaNoWriMo ever makes their word count widgets available, I'll put one in the sidebar with my overall word count status bar, so that you can see how far along I am in NaNo versus my total word count and overall goal.

The key to NaNoWriMo is getting ahead as much as you can at the beginning, so that when things interfere with writing later in the month — Thanksgiving, family obligations, and all the other little things that come up that you couldn't anticipate — you have a cushion to make up for those days when you don't get anything done at all.  That's where I've failed in previous years, and it's kept me from winning every year but my very first, 2006.

For some people, the weekends serve as a great time to get ahead on their word count, but for me it's usually the opposite — it's harder for me to work on my novel on the weekends, when my husband and I are usually pretty busy.

Of course, I have a pretty busy month ahead of me this year, but I am hoping to maintain (and hopefully even increase) my slim lead, so that when the craziness hits later in the month, I won't fall behind!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Live blogging the NaNoWriMo kickoff!

Internet connection is spotty, but I wanted to pop in from the NaNoWriMo kickoff.  There are tons of us here — not sure if we're going to surpass last year's count (which was 76 or 77), but if we don't I'll be surprised.  I think there are at least 50 of us on the side of the store where I'm sitting, and that's not counting the seating area right in front of the cafe counter and the "quiet reading" area on the opposite side of the store.

We're having the kickoff party at Fireside, a 24-hour used bookstore and coffee shop in South Denver, actually in the small city of Englewood in the south Denver Metro area.  This place is AWESOME and besides last year's kickoff party, I did numerous write-ins here last year, not to mention the occasional late-night writing session when I've had a deadline and needed some caffeine and a different environment in order to stay awake to finish.

Last year I came an hour early (at 9pm) to make sure I got a table for me and my friends, since I already knew the place and knew it was small.  I was glad I did, because a lot of people ended up sitting on the floor.  This year, I tried the same thing, but the place was already packed when I arrived — others had the same idea, after last year's craziness.

This quick iPhone picture doesn't show much of the store, but the entire place is equally as packed as in this picture, so it will give you an idea of how many people are here.

The MLs brought goody bags for everyone with NaNo stickers and a couple of little fun things in them.  This is my itty bitty frog buddy.  I've decided he is my word count frog.

Hello word count frog.  Please bring me lots of luck in NaNo this year!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

1920s images for character portraits and book covers

One of the things I'm most excited about regarding my novel — well, besides the novel itself — is the images.

A few weeks ago, I had the idea to look for authentic 1920s photographs as representations of my characters.  Originally my idea was to use them solely for my own inspiration, so that I'd have a visual of my characters to help me in creating them and their world.

But when I actually started looking, I was having a hard time finding real photographs that I liked.  Then I ran across a few old French postcards, showing couples together in romantic poses.  Some of the poses were very risque, and I started thinking about what great book covers they would make, if I just Photoshopped in some teeth and blood.

On Etsy I found sellers who sold scans of postcards, instead of the postcards themselves, and I became intrigued with the idea.  I contact one seller, FrenchKissed, and told her what I was looking for.  Next thing I knew, she was sending me proof sheet after proof sheet of 1920s postcards!  I found the perfect images for my characters, as well as several for book covers — such as the one that is the header on this blog (and the cover for the first book, which you can see on my books page).

Finding a "sheik" for my star vampire, on the other hand, proved to be a bit of a challenge.  A lot of the men pictured alone on these cards are awfully girly — why I don't know — and that just was not the look I wanted for Victor.  Trishia (FrenchKissed) finally found him for me in an old photograph.  I'll unveil him soon — he's somewhat of an exception, since the photograph is coming to me and then I'll have to scan him — but I have to tell you, I'm already half in love with him myself!  Ruby ought to appreciate everything I do for her!

Like I said, I'm really excited about these images.  They've given me to-die-for (literally) covers, not to mention a way for my readers to see the characters for themselves.  Plus, I think the great 1920s images lend the entire story a feeling of authenticity.  I can really feel the aura of seduction and danger surrounding my characters, even more so than I could before I found these images.

What do you think?  Are you in love with all of these images as much as I am?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Noveling playlist: 1920s music

I find that when I'm working on fiction — or just writing in general — music can be either a help or a hindrance.  The right music will help to create the mood I want to evoke in my novel's tone, while the wrong music will distract me from my writing.  I find that lyrics can be especially distracting, especially if it's the wrong kind of music or I have the volume up too loud.

Writing nonfiction and marketing copy, I tend to write without music.  It's been a long time since I've written fiction regularly, but long before there were iPods and playlists, I was choosing specific music as "writing music."  For instance, for one of the novels I started in high school (never finished — still intend to someday, as it was a fantastic idea) I listened to a lot of Enigma to achieve that dark, otherworldly mood.

For Ruby's story, I'm listening to 1920s music.

I could easily get by with stuff like Enigma, and as Ruby gets more heavily involved in the vampire world, perhaps I will.  But I find that 1920s music keeps me pretty well grounded in flapper and speakeasy culture while I write.

When hubby and I got married in 2007, our wedding was 1920s-themed, so we'd bought a bunch of 20s music from iTunes.  When I started working on Ruby Ransome I pulled out those old CDs and created a new playlist.  The jazz of the 1920s is fun and full of energy, but it also does well turned way down, as background music while I write.  If you are interested in 1920s music, here are a few of my favorites from my playlist:

  • Crazy Rhythm
  • Five Feet Two, Eyes of Blue
  • Ain't She Sweet
  • Sweet Georgia Brown
  • Ain't Misbehavin'
  • Coquette
  • Dinah
  • If You Knew Susie
  • My Honey's Lovin' Arms
  • Second Hand Rose
  • The Black Bottom
  • The Sheik of Araby
  • Who
  • The Charleston
  • Honey
  • Shiny Stockings
  • Down Hearted Blues
  • Makin' Whoopee
  • My Blue Heaven
You might notice that a lot of these come from a 3-CD set called Rhythm Crazy, but you can also find a lot of them on YouTube, if you're just interested in hearing some 1920s music!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My vampires don't sparkle

Today Anne Rice shared this amusing article on Facebook:

Should vampires sparkle?

The article gives a brief, but interesting, history of vampire fiction.  The genre has been around longer than you might think — a lot of people think Bram Stoker's Dracula was the first, but that's actually not true.

Much of the vampire lit of the 17th century was poetry, often about the dead returning from the grave to kill a former beloved. The poetry often featured a religious theme as well.

Vampires remained present in literature throughout much of the 1800s. Varney the Vampire, a penny dreadful published in 1847, was the first vampire novel to explore the concept of a vampire entering a window at night to attack a sleeping maiden.

The article goes on to say that Dracula was inspired by the 1872 novella CarmillaDracula was not the first novel to present vampires as sexual creatures, just the most famous one.

The article also talks about how authors of vampire fiction in recent years all want to do things differently.  The ultimate example of an author changing the rules is, of course, Stephanie Meyer's sparkly vamps.

I have to admit, I'm changing up the rules a little myself.  What fun would it be if I didn't?  Then I'd just be writing about somebody else's vampires, instead of creatures entirely of my own making.  My vampires aren't undead Halloween monsters, but they aren't sparkly, either.  They are super-predators, and hell yes, they are sexy, too.  I think my ideas work quite well, but then again I may be biased.

I am curious...  Whose vampire "rules" are your favorites?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Word count woes

I did a little bit of searching yesterday for information on typical word counts for a novel.  I know I once saw a chart that showed the expected word count according to genre, but I don't recall where that was.  I think it was an edition of the Writers Market, back before I realized that the Internet pretty much eliminates the need for that book, but it's not the last edition I bought (and the only one still on my shelf), 2007.

Anyway, I found this most helpful post in determining the appropriate word count for juvenile and YA books, but since I decided some time ago that Ruby Ransome wasn't YA after all, that's not very helpful.  I did some other searching, and finally Googled the titles of a few books I think are most like mine in subject matter and audience.

Dead Until Dark, the first of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, is at right about 90,000 words.  I found another site that stated adult fiction should be above 80,000.  I also found some information about word count per published page (250-300) and according to that, if I want my book to be 300 pages or so (which I do, at least that), what all of this means is that I really do need to make 80k.

So, after a short period of doubting, I'm back to my original goal for total word count.  Hopefully, once I fill in the gaps in my outline, this won't seem quite so impossible!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo countdown!


The kickoff party will be Halloween night, and I will be there, ready to start writing on the stroke of midnight!  Well, not start start, since I've already started work on this novel, but start my NaNoWriMo word count, specifically.

I've currently got a little over 19,000 words on my novel.  I was originally hoping to get to something like 30k before NaNo started, so that I could add 50k and finish my novel out around 80k.  Now I'm aiming lower.  I'm undecided on how long my novel should be, but I don't think I'll get to 80k, so if I start NaNo with 21 or 22k that will enable me to get 50k for the month before I run out of steam.

What else am I planning on doing before NaNo starts?  Obviously adding a couple thousand words before then won't be difficult, providing my life behaves, of course.  (No more days like yesterday, please, with lots of various forces conspiring to keep me busy running errands and such all day long!)

I also plan to work a bit more on my outline.  I know what I want to happen in the middle, and I have a vague idea of the end, but not much of the in-betweens.  I've been kind of winging it, so there are times when I get to the end of what I had planned, and think, Hmmm, what should happen next?  That's not conducive to writing quickly, so I need to make plans for how I'm going to fill in some of the holes in my plot!

Monday, October 24, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Finding time for 1,667 words a day

Since I'm doing NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, in November, I'll be trying to write at least 1,667 words every day (what it takes to get to 50,000 in a month).  This will be especially challenging because it sounds like I'll be starting an after-school nanny position on top of my regular freelancing.  My client work has slowed down a lot over the last year, especially this summer when I decided to work on my novel part-time and back off on client work.  Theoretically I should have enough time to do it all, but I'll have to get a little better about managing my time — I've gotten a little more susceptible to distractions in the past few years.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Facebook.

On average, I write about 1,000 words in an hour when I'm writing fiction, more if I'm really on a roll (and less if I'm stuck.  I probably need to set aside 2 hours a day for noveling during November if I want to meet my goal.  Add an hour or two for blogging and admin, an hour or two for client work (on average — the actual workload varies from week to week), and 4 hours or so for nannying (included commute time).  That adds up to at least 8 hours, which is fine, until you add horseback riding and sleeping in (I am so NOT a morning person) and various time-devouring monsters.

My conclusion: I will have to slay the monsters.  Or hide.  I wonder how hard it is to type when you are laying on your stomach under the bed?

I'm thinking I'll have to work out a schedule in order to keep myself focused and get all of this done.  Most of all I don't want Ruby to suffer!  I'd love to finish the novel by November 30th so that I can set it aside for a month or so before working on the first set of revisions.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this November?  How do you make time for writing?

Friday, October 21, 2011

The NaNo noveler's dream tool

I follow Barnes & Noble's PubIt page, partly because they occasionally have some interesting author promotions, and partly because I'm planning on self-publishing my Ruby Ransome books eventually via PubIt and/or Smashwords.  Last week or the week before, they posted a link to a blog post on cheap technology for writers.

Most of the technology listed is software, and nothing I feel the need to spend money on.  I was, however, intrigued by the description of the AlphaSmart NEO, a word processing keyboard that allows you to do nothing but write — no Internet, no games, no distractions.  A very neat piece of equipment, and the battery life (it takes three AA batteries) is super long.

I think it would have some shortcomings — the screen would make it hard to scroll through text, either to check up on something or to revise, and I'd be worried about losing what I'd written before I had a chance to upload to my computer.  Fixing all the formatting when you upload into Word would also be rather annoying, and how would I participate in word wars at NaNoWriMo write-ins without Word's word count feature?

But I can also see where it would be very useful, especially for NaNoWriMo-style writing: write as much as you can, as fast as you can, and worry about details such as research and revising later on.  The lack of Internet access would be especially helpful for me — I seem to be frequently distracted by Facebook, for instance.  In fact, I checked it twice just in the few minutes it's taken to write this post.

What about you?  What do you find helps to minimize distractions so you can get your novel writing done?

Bringing the 1920s to life

As I was getting ready to start writing in earnest, I started doing some research on the 1920s.  I had a feel for how I wanted to weave the danger and seduction of vampires into the glitz and glamor of the 1920s, but I wanted to make sure I was getting the details right, too.

To that end, I read — a lot.  Stephen King has said that to be a writer, you must be a reader, and I am a voracious one.  I read novels about the 1920s, and I read nonfiction books.  I read online, and I read offline.

Here are a few of the sources I found to be the most helpful.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

According to the nonfiction books I read, the Fitzgeralds had as much a hand in creating the 1920s and the flapper image as these things had in creating them.  The Great Gatsby is his best known work, but he has several other novels and many short stories about the 1920s.  Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Fitzgerald's other heroes and heroines perfectly capture the careless opulence that we think of when we envision the era.


Anything Goes by Lucy Moore

This is an excellent, well-researched nonfiction book that will give you an overview of what the 1920s were like.  Moore talks about everything from the Fitzgeralds to the music of the era.  She also discusses the economy and the rise of organized crime.  A great book if you genuinely want to know more about this era!

Flapper by Joshua Zeitz

Whereas Anything Goes gives you a picture of the 1920s as a whole, Flapper focuses on the rise and fall of the flapper icon during the 1920s.  In addition to discussing the impact that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald had, the book talks about the popular actresses of the era — Connie Moore, Clara Bow, and Louise Brooks — and the impact each one had on the ideal of the flapper.  A fantastic book for anyone who wants to know more about this carefree icon of early 20th century womanhood!

Vixen and Ingenue by Jillian Larkin

These aren't nonfiction books, but novels about the 1920s.  I've read both, and I think they are fantastic representations of life for young women in Chicago and New York during the 1920s.  Although my vampire world is quite different than Larkin's authentic 1920s world, these books provided a lot of inspiration when I was trying to get into the Roaring Twenties mood!

Bright Young Things and Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen

You might recognize Anna Godbersen's name from her Luxe Series, YA novels about the high class world of turn of the century New York.  Although I haven't yet read her newest book, Beautiful Days, I loved Bright Young Things when I read it after it first came out.  Godbersen also has done a fabulous job of recreating the Roaring Twenties in her novels.

The Internet Guide to Jazz Age Slang

This is a fantastic website I found with an alphabetical list of 1920s slang.  I am using some period slang in my novels, so I've found this guide absolutely invaluable!

I'm sure I'll have more to add eventually, as I'm still constantly researching the 1920s, even though I've already started planning and writing my novel.  But so far, these are some of my favorite sources of information and inspiration!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ruby Ransome on NaNoWriMo

Although I've been working on Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box off and on for a few months (and conceived of the idea last November), I decided to work on it during NaNoWriMo this year.  Although it's not really true to the rules, I've worked on novels-in-progress during NaNoWriMo before.  For NaNoWriMo's purposes, I'll only count word count added during November — there will just be a second number, overall word count, that I'll keep tabs on as well.

For those of you who don't already know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is to write a novel (or at least the first 50,000 words of one) all in the month of November.  That works out to 1,667 words per day — a challenging pace to keep up when faced with weekends, holidays, work, and family obligations.  You're allowed to outline, research, write character sketches, etc. before NaNo starts, but you're not supposed to start writing until the stroke of midnight on Halloween.

While it might not seem sporting to work on a novel I've already started, I view NaNoWriMo as a tool to help me stay focused. I figure 50,000 words in November is 50,000 words in November, regardless of whether additional, non-NaNo words exist.  I do it because (even though I haven't achieved that elusive number for the past few years) I find that working on a novel with a bunch of other NaNo participants — doing meet-ups, write-ins, and meeting new writing buddies — helps motivate me to keep going.

I've set up my author and novel profiles on NaNoWriMo.org — click here to see my NaNoWriMo profile, or just click on the NaNoWriMo badge in the sidebar.  I haven't decided yet whether I'll include an excerpt from the novel in my profile, but if I do, it'll probably be the prologue.

I'm planning on attending the kickoff party this year, especially since it sounds like it will be held very near me, at my favorite 24-hour coffee shop and used bookstore.  Last year's kickoff party was great fun — I got to see some old friends (people I only ever see in November), and it's fun to stay up writing until the wee hours of the morning.  I can't wait!


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