Amazon, Hachette and Smashwords

So – I’m re-reconsidering Smashwords, for several reasons. First and foremost, though the meat grinder is still their prefered method of upload for new titles and though it still sucks mightly, there is now the option to upload checked epub files instead. I’ve yet to figure out how to create an epub that they’ll accept but I think this option really makes them a lot more worthwhile than previously especially since I’ve seen some wonky things happen with my Draft2Digital publications.

Recently files have gone online and offline at D2D with seemingly little rhyme or reason. I’ve cracked down on one cause, which is entirely my fault, while the others seem to have more to do with disputes between the various distributors themselves. My mistakes are bad enough but they come with the territory, I’ll learn from them, make fixes and move onto releasing a better product. My work seemingly caught up in dispute I’ve got nothing to do with? Not so much.

Which is where Hatchette comes in. Initially, I looked on Amazon’s feud with the one of the big six traditional publishers the way I look on anything that seems to spell trouble for traditional publishing – with miserly glee and much mwhahaha’ing. Of course, that was largely because the feud is partially shrouded in mystery (we don’t know what Hatchette’s particular demands are) and slightly because all the articles I’d read on the subject really looked at the situation from a traditional publishing standpoint.

Until I saw an article on Smashwords that clarified a few things I’d been thinking about recently as well as the Hatchette/Amazon feud in a way relevant to me as an independent author. So I’m rethinking Smashwords, again, though the final decision will likely hing on my abilities to use the new tools properly.

 

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Scrivener Series: Write The Damn Thing

Scrivener-LogoThis is the fourth installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing, Timelines & Outlines) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

Alright, now I’ve got my final outline – my map to the novel – and I’m ready to write the damn thing. When I first started writing novels I wanted to be a total pantser, absolutely certain that if I plotted anything out in advance I’d lose all the magic of the story and possibly end up boring myself silly in the process. Indeed there are methods of plotting that are exactly like that but my final outline isn’t.

My final outline is more like having a map on a hiking trip. It keeps me from getting hopelessly lost in the woods but doesn’t ruin the feeling of exploration or wonder at all.

Following the Map

It’s up to you and the way you structured your outline really. Mine is a simple list (I love list) of the characters in the scene, the location and a few key actions that happen there in. Sometimes I manage to pull a chapter title out of that mix as well. Mostly I look at the subsections on my outline, get a general heading of the direction I’m going and then work with my characters to write the scene, one word at a time.

Word Goals and Milestones

Everyone’s actual writing process is different but I find it useful to have an idea of how much ground I can cover in a day and trying to push myself a few extra as well. I average about 2000 words per day (about 8 pages) sometimes I under perform and only manage 1500 and sometimes I have a really great day and manage 5000. Chapters will fall where they need to but a lot of the time they seem to have about 10,000 words in them.

While I’m writing the actual novel I do everything in my power to avoid even the smallest gap in writing. I skip weekends, holidays and invites out with friends or family. There is no such thing as writers block but there is such a thing as having a hard time getting your novelist cap screwed back on and putting the words on the paper, so I avoid the things that make it harder.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable however. When that happens I try working on other aspects of the process like designing the book cover and gathering resources for it.

Still with that kind of word output the novel (mine seem to average around 75,000 words or so) can be written in a little over a month!

Except there’s almost always a hitch.

The Hitch

It just doesn’t work. The flow is off. This bit right here doesn’t have the impact I thought it would. It’s taking too long for this thing to get interesting. Too much blah blah not enough uh huh.

At some point in every novel, you’re going to realize something is wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. So far I’ve been graced with not finding anything so wrong that it couldn’t be fixed with a rewrite but sometimes you look at your whole novel and despair, knowing it has to go right in the trash.

When that happens there’s nothing for it but to stop where you are (writing more only makes the problem worse) and re-evaluate your map and everything you’ve done up to that point, figure out where things went wrong and how to fix it.

This is where Scrivener’s ability to quickly move chapters and scenes around in their entirety is an absolute life saver! About 25,000 words into “Toxic Ash” I realized the opening scenes were all wrong, making the plot drag awkwardly and sublimating the most exciting parts till way too late in the story. I had to cut it out, rewrite it and put it in later, move that bit to the beginning, write a new opening scene and restructure all the scenes I’d written so far so that they made sense again – a task so large that if I was working directly in Word I might have half assed it or tossed the whole novel out in despair. It was bad even with Scrivener (seriously you should see my trash folder) but I was able to make  it through and the book proceeded far more smoothly from there (well there were a few more edits but not anymore complete rewrites so – yay!).

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

Scrivener Series: Timelines & Outlines

Scrivener-LogoThis is the third installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

By now I’ve been writing up a storm in the universe of my novel. It’s still a very random storm but it’s starting to coalesce into something nice and terrifying, a molten doom planet of madness.

I’ve started writing actual scenes for the upcoming novel, maybe the one after that or the one after that, I’ve had tea with my antagonist, put my main character on a psychiatrist’s couch and the story is starting to sit on chest in the night, restricting my breath and stealing my nightmares.

It’s time to let all that awesome out in a focused direction.

Timelines

Every important character in my novels gets one, the antagonist, protagonist and recurring side characters with specific weighty roles to play. These can start at different points in the character’s history, Buddy Jenkins’ starts around about his birth but Helen Raymond’s outline starts when her mother first met Pan, while playing in the woods with Helen I.

When the timeline starts depends on the character and how important or convoluted their history actually is. I find putting it in the form of a timeline allows for the important points to be quickly roughed out so you know when they happened but keeps me from getting too hung up on ‘worthless’ backstory. Without pages upon pages from each character’s past already written out, I find it’s easier to drop the important information in little bites that are easier for the reader to digest and keep them interested, without getting the main story sidetracked with long bits of exposition that can really distract from the main plot.

Still, some characters you really need to work their backstories out in depth. Almost everyone in the Eldritch Elysium series has one hell of a convoluted past, and my Four Horsemen aren’t slouching either. Mitei’s history could probably cover a city mile, and Ananke’s is so twisty the Gordian Knot was probably less convoluted but–a person is the sum of everything that’s happened to them, filtered through the lenses of their personality, so all that information helps create more interesting characters and infinitely more interesting series.

Outlines

Slightly different from timelines though each character can get one of their own as well, depending on the needs of the series. The Four Horsemen series has alternating perspectives from all four lead characters and Leslie Roth, it helps–a lot–to have separate outlines for each character’s perspective within the novel.

Each outline focuses on what they’re doing in a scene, but also on what they’re thinking and feeling, whether it’s happening on camera or off. I find that this helps me to make sure I allow the characters to be themselves and don’t skew their actions just because I want such and such to happen by page 245.

Once I’ve got timelines for any new characters that need one, as well as outlines completed up to the end of the novel, I start incorporating the outlines into a single whole – which is often easier said than done. Individual outlines follow individual timelines that don’t necessarily lend themselves quickly to a single whole. Some scenes or chapters will need serious restructuring to get everything where it needs to go.

So the very first rewrite will likely happen before you’ve written the first chapter. Yippie!

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

Short, Sweet and Sassy

While I was stuck in bed away from my working computer and basically miserable, I couldn’t help but think of writing. Specifically synopsis and what really makes a good one. One that’s interesting, draws you right in but though it doesn’t lie and clearly mentions key point’s also doesn’t give anything away. Brief without feeling like an ad, in short: nothing if not distilled awesome.

In my head if it’s got to be short, sweet and sassy it’s got to be this brief description of the classic film, The Wizard of Oz.

Written Rick Polito for a 1998 TV Guide, this little gem has made the rounds of the internet meme scene for years and it’s entirely true and ridiculously intriguing for a modern audience (on the off chance that there’s someone alive who hasn’t seen the Wizard of Oz) all within the scope of one sentence.

In my fevered state of course I had to try my hand at a few similar snippets for one of my books as well.

Ash of Ambitions

  • Innocent woman gets caught up in the sinister machinations of a murderous family’s plots.
  • Sweet loner has unwanted guests suddenly heaped upon her. Body count rises.

Well that was fun. Got any sassy little blurbs of your own to share? Go ahead and post ’em in the comments.

Guest Post: Spark by Karyn Pearson

Time for another awesome guest post! This time I’m honored to be hosting Karyn Pearson, a writer of paranormal fantasy! Take it away Karyn:

The Birth of the Hellfire Trilogy: An Origin Story

So one of the questions I’ve been asked as an author of a series is: how did the Hellfire Trilogy come to be? Did you plan to write three books? To be honest, I was surprised that Spark developed into a full fledged novel. When I first started writing it, I didn’t think I was going to have enough material to write a book from start to finish. I genuinely had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, which at first, was pretty scary. But despite my fear of writing something that might only turn out to be a few pages long, I pressed on. And as I kept writing, the tiny idea I had began to sprout and grow.

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The Essence of Blargle Splect

Moments ago I was staring at my manuscript – drawing a complete blank. I don’t remember what I wrote yesterday, the day before that, all month long. Worse I’m not even sure what I’ll write next. It’s not that the voices are silent (gods I wish) no, it’s more like they’re holding their council and I don’t have high enough clearance to know what’s going on.

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The Best in Book Cover Design

I’m finally done being sick but my head is full of book covers as I try to finish mine off as quickly as possible. When I say my head is full of book covers, I mean it. Not just the elements to pull together to make my book cover but also what makes a book cover really stand out and stick with you. That makes me think of my all time favorite book cover.

My favorite book cover design of all time is Stephen King’s “Everything’s Eventual,” designed by Mark Stutzman.

On the front is a bight scene. Tableware is laid out neatly on crisp, white linens and in the background there’s just the hint of another table, letting us know that this idealistic place setting is probably in a restaurant. Slightly off center in the foreground is a water glass full of clear water in which swirls one drop of red color.

It is bright. It is beautiful. It is idealistic – and there’s something very wrong here.

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