There’s been a lot going on lately that has taken my focus off of writing, either my books or this blog, not the least of which was my youngest son moving and getting married. Both of these events required a good bit of my time, both for the actual event and for the projects he requested to got with them. I got to enjoy making various items I probably would not have attempted otherwise (a headboard, folding ladder-shelf, decorative wooden crates, hatchet display boxes and a cake topper to name a few). I appreciated the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone with these projects but I really missed writing. Then two days ago my wife had surgery. Surgery is not usually a great thing, but it did force me to spend several hours in the waiting room with nothing much to do, so I decided to crack open my little travel 2-in-1 laptop and give writing a shot.
I’m probably about 90-95% done with Zero Sum, and Mike Locke is such an easy character for me to slip into, so I thought it would be the best place to get me feet wet after a little time off. I opened up the file, read the last couple chapters I’d written and tried to continue. After ten minutes I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. I don’t know why, but sometimes the story just flows, other times I see way to many options and I hop all over the place, and sometimes my brain just freezes. That day, it was the latter. I just couldn’t see what happened next. I thought abut just shutting down my laptop but decided to try again with a different book.
My Life As Death is totally different from Zero Sum, and apparently that was exactly what I needed. I re-read a little of what I’d already written, and just continued from there. I wrote pretty much the entire time I was in that waiting room, and even though it’d been over a month since I’d last written, it was like I’d never stopped. That never happens when I take time off, so for that I was very grateful. Then the nurse called my name and the writing came to an end so I could go back and see my wife. Everything went well but by the time we got home both of us were exhausted so I didn’t get any more writing done.
I also didn’t get any writing done yesterday, choosing to focus on design work and caring for my wife, but most of the big projects around the house are now complete, and there shouldn’t be any more major events in the near future, so once again I can make writing a priority. And when I talk about making writing a priority, I mean both my books and keeping up on this blog. The guitar build continued, even though I haven’t given any updates on it, so you will be seeing the rest of the build soon.
I’ve always had multiple projects going on at once, but lately it seems that my mental to-do list just keeps growing. Between the household projects, my writing, 3D printing, guitar building, etc…, it seems like I’ll never get done with all of them. My wife is big on creating lists, so as much as I hate them, I decided to put together a list of all the projects I’m either currently working on or plan to start in the near future. A lot of the projects are household projects but some of the projects are personal projects (like adding a rasberry Pi/ Octopi to my 3D printer), some are for my online shop, some are for my writing (like finish the four books I’m currently working on) and some are for family and/or friends, but all of them can currently be done if I make them a priority. Additionally, each of them is an actual projects and not just a routine task I have to do often (such as mow the yard, cook dinner or do the dishes). So once I compiled the list in excel and had everything documented like that, I realized why I haven’t been writing much. As of yesterday morning I had 74 projects on the list.
At first, seeing the entire list laid out was a bit intimidating, but then I realized that very few of the projects had a specific deadline. Stuff for my son’s wedding has to be made before the wedding, and the pool landscaping would be nice to have done before we close up the pool for the winter, but otherwise the timing is up to me. And, while some of the projects are large, many of them will only require a couple hours or possibly even less. So with the list made, I now just need to determine my priorities.
I’ve already knocked out a couple projects, and prioritized some writing time, so I think the list will definitely help keep me moving forward on all of the projects, just don’t tell my wife she was right about making a list.
When I first started writing I had no idea what I would do with my book once it was done. It was right about the time that Amazon introduced the Kindle and brought independent publishing to the masses, but self-publishing was also very unproven. I looked into traditional publishing and independent publishing, and one of the most vocal supporters of indie authors, one of the people who convinced me to go the indie route, was Joe Konrath ( http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ ).
If you don’t know Joe, you can read his short bio here: http://jakonrath.com/bio.php , but it really doesn’t do justice to who this man really is. Besides being a “pioneer in self-publishing”, he was also one of the first (and arguably best) to share his knowledge with anyone / everyone for free. He tried new things, blogged about his experiences, and shared exactly what worked and/or didn’t work for him as a traditionally published writer and as an indie-author. Once I found his blog, I was hooked.
Unfortunately, Joe stopped blogging about a year and a half ago. For the first several months I checked back often, hoping that he would have a new post for me to read. That didn’t happen. As time passed, I checked back less frequently, until I pretty much forgot about his blog. There are still a few writer-centric websites I check out from time-to-time, and thankfully one of them (http://www.thepassivevoice.com/ ) alerted me to that fact that after way too long, Joe’s Back!
I’m a little late to the party, so I haven’t had a chance to read all 4 of his new posts, but based off the one I have read, this is the same old Joe so I can’t wait to read all his updates. The post I read ( http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2019/06/trying-something-new-and-different.html ) is very open and honest about what he’s doing as an author, as expected. But what I found most intriguing is that he, an established author with millions of sales, had his latest books rejected by each of the major traditional publishers his agent approached. He listed several possible reasons for the rejections, but regardless of the reason, it did make me start to reconsider the traditional approach for My Life As Death.
I don’t know what the future will hold, but for now I’m going to stick with my plan on submitting to a traditional publisher, though when the book is done I might run a poll to see what you readers think. In the mean time, you can get the first of Joe’s two new books for free at Amazon, Kobo, and Nook.
It doesn’t seem possible that 6 years ago I took the plunge and published my first book – The Dark Genesis of Daniel James. When I first started writing it, I planned on continuing the series right away, and I even have the sequel halfway done, but then I started to play around with other characters and other worlds.
23 Hours came to me in a flash, and I liked the idea so much that I just had to write it. Being a novella, just over 20,000 words, it only took a couple months to finish 23 Hours but by the time it was done, I already had another story I just had to write; The Consciousness Puzzle.
The Consciousness Puzzle took a bit longer to finish than I expected. I was really still so new to writing and filled with self-doubt so I restarted it a couple times, bouncing between 1st and 3rd person view points, and trying different voices before finally trusting myself. I also worked on a sequel to 23 Hours, and hopped back and forth between the two projects for a while before decided to focus on The Consciousness Puzzle. Once I decided on that, and allowed my own voice to flow, I was able to finish the book.
But once again, by the time I finished The Consciousness Puzzle I had an Idea for its sequel, so as soon as I published it, I started on Zero Sum. Everything was going pretty well with Zero Sum when I had yet another idea for a book I just had to pursue – My Life As Death. I tried putting off MLAD until I finished Zero Sum, but eventually I just had to at least start it. So this past year I’ve been working on both MLAD and Zero sum, hoping to complete one so I can get another book published.
So that’s a brief look at the last 6 years of my writing. I definitely wanted to be a bit more productive than that, but I feel this year will be different, and I will definitely have at least one new book out, so keep checking back here for updates.
One of the great things about having a 3D printer is the ability to feel like you’re accomplishing something while you’re really just procrastinating. Load a file, hit print, and then you’re making something without actually doing anything. One of my favorite things to print are these linklings. They print well, print quickly, and you really can never have too many.
Another way to successfully procrastinate is to play around with the 15-or so linklings you’ve just printed. I kind of made it a challenge to see how many linklings I can balance on top of a single one. So far I’ve done a total of 16, in various poses. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve come up with when I should have been writing.
How do you prefer to procrastinate?
I’ve independently published each of my books so far, and I love doing so, but with My Life As Death I’ve decided to try the traditional publishing route. There are a lot of benefits to indie publishing, and a lot of negative aspects of traditional publishing but I think it will be worth trying at least once.
To start down the traditional publishing route it’s usually recommended that you have an agent, so the first step for me was to research agents. Unfortunately there are a lot of them out there and I have no real connections to the literary world so it was a bit like trying to research insurance or real estate agents for the first time. But I found several agents that looked reputable and successful so I then started researching what I needed to do to query an agent. That’s where I got stuck.
Most of the agents I am interested in request a synopsis of your book. Since I’m writing MLAD without any sort of outline and it’s only a little over 1/2 way done , I can’t say exactly what’s going to happen in the rest of the book. And I get the impression most agents aren’t interested in half of a synopsis, so the agent search is temporarily on hold, and it sucks.
But that is very indicative of my biggest problem with traditional publishing – the waiting. I’m one of those people who likes to multitask and keep moving forward but everything in trad publishing seems to take forever. Complete the book, write query letters and a synopsis, then wait for an agent to agree to represent you. Then query publishers and wait for one to accept you. Then go through rounds of editing, cover design, layout etc…, then wait for it to finally be published. Just writing out the process depresses me because I can’t wait to get this story to the readers. But I’m going to attempt the trad route which means I’m going to have to learn to be comfortable with the slower process. And in the mean time, I still have a couple other nearly finished books that I’ll be able to independently publish.
I’ve had a few nights recently where I’ve laid in bed thinking about my books instead of sleeping. I know a lot of people suggest keeping a note book by the bed for just such an occasion but I’ve never felt a need to do so. If the thoughts are really good, and especially if they are about a current book I’m working on, then I have no trouble remembering.
The first night it happened I found myself thinking about “My Life As Death” and some of the interactions the main character had with secondary characters. The scenes were good, the interactions felt natural and everything moved the story forward so I had no idea why my mind was focused on them. But as I laid there, I realized that the secondary character was going to have a bigger part to play in the story a little later on. It was exciting to know a little of what was to come, but with that figured out I was able to sleep.
During the next night of sleeplessness I found myself thinking about the same book and the same secondary character so I was a little upset. I’d already spent some sleepless time dealing with them and I thought I had it all figured out so I didn’t want to spend more time thinking about them and not sleeping. But then my thoughts drifted to their back story. I’d hinted about their history a little, and dropped a few details to add some depth to their character, but I didn’t expect it to have a major influence on the overall plot. Then somehow, those little details that I’d sprinkled into the beginning of the story, began to make even more sense to the overall plot. I saw not only what was going to happen to this secondary character, but also why. And it all tied back to some of the earliest words I’d written about them even though I hadn’t planned it at all. Those details, which I’d considered to be a throw away character description, turned out to be part of one of the biggest twists I’ve written. I loved it and I loved the character even more because of it. Too bad they have to die.
I don’t know what it is about the rain, but I love it. It doesn’t really make sense because I’m very active outside and rain usually stops me from doing most of the things I like to do outside, but I love a good storm. Even more so, I love writing on my back porch, under the steel roof during a good storm and this morning I got to do just that.
I haven’t been writing quite as much as I would like to recently but it’s been for the right reasons. And as I get used to the contract work I’m doing, and the kids and new grandkids get settled into their routines, I’m sure my writing time will increase. But even with the little time I’ve been allowing myself to write, I’ve been making great progress on My Life As Death. This morning I hit 30,000 words which is somewhere between 35% and 60% of where I expect it to end up. There’s a lot of discrepancy in what various people consider acceptable word count for novels but I like shorter books so I target 50,000-80,000 words, especially for a young adult book like this.
But even though the writing is going well, I thought I’d been hit with my first bout of writer’s block with this story just a couple days ago. I had a good writing session one day but when I sat down to continue the next day I realized the main character Nate had agreed to get together with one character (Shawna) but ended up doing something else with another (his best friend Weed). It was a silly mistake, so I decided to rewrite the scene having him get together with Shawna like he’d promised. Only, I struggled with that writing session. I had to work to get anything typed up and when I re-read what I wrote, it didn’t really seem to advance the story or any of the characters; It was just kind of a filler scene. I didn’t like it at all. The scene might have worked at a different point in the story, but not there.
The problem was that I knew exactly what the story needed (the scene with Weed) and I ‘d already written it, but only because I’d forgotten that Nate had made other plans. Then it dawned on me that since I’d forgotten Nate’s other plans so easily, he might have as well. I put the original scene back in, and had Nate realize too late that he’d forgotten his plans with Shawna. This took things in a whole different direction and compounded some already existing conflict between him and Shawna. So what I thought was writer’s block was just the story telling me to get out of the way because it knows what it’s doing.
So this morning, as I wrote in the rain, I got to continue on from that point in the story and I can honestly say that I didn’t see anything that I wrote coming. And because the story keeps surprising me and keeps drawing me further in, I hope it’ll do the same to you when you finally get to read it.
My recipe posts have been getting a lot of attention recently but I want to be clear that this will not be turning into a food site. This is a writing site and the recipe posts are practice for my eventual cook book, tentatively titled “Recipes to Make While Drinking a Beer”. I like the title, even though I haven’t actually been drinking any beer while cooking (or really while doing anything else) lately. I have an obstacle course race coming up in a couple months and I’m just now starting to prepare for it.
My fitness training has cut into my writing time a little, but I’m also spending a lot more time on contracted design work. That, plus a couple new grand kids being born and a wife recovery from surgery means that I’ve not gotten a whole lot of writing done the past couple weeks. But I’m getting a routine worked out, and have several hours dedicated to writing today, so I hope to get back on track. My Life As Death continues to surprise me every time I sit down to work on it so I can’t wait to see where it goes. And Zero Sum is so close to being done that I get antsy any time I think about it. I can’t wait to share these books with all of you, so continue to check back here for updates; I’ll be needing beta readers real soon.
My books haven’t been selling as well as I’d like recently so I’ve attended a couple webinars by extremely successful Indie and hybrid writers on how to improve this. Most of the advice and research would suggest that my biggest problem is not having enough reviews (so if you’ve read any of my books, please post a review on Amazon, Itunes, Kobo, Goodreads, wherever. Any honest review would be great!) but getting reviews is not something I can control. A great webinar yesterday with extremely successful Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson had some good tips on how to encourage reviews, but at the end of the day there’s nothing I can do (short of spending $425-$575 on a Kirkus review) to guarantee I get a single review. So rather than focus on this I’ve decided the best way to expand my readership and grow in my writing career is to “Just Write”.
The phrase “Just Write” has been in my head for a few weeks now though I don’t know why. And while I haven’t been spending as much time writing as I would like, every time I sit down to work on My Life As Death I end up averaging around 1,000 new words. This is unprecedented for me. In the past I’ve usually averaged 350 words, and considered 500 to be great. I don’t know if it’s the story, which is really flowing well, or the characters which surprise me every time I sit down, or even just that I’m getting better as a writer but whatever the reason, I’ll take it. But there are times that I get concerned that because I’m not really in control of the writing process that the creative energy will suddenly stop and I won’t be able to get it back. That bothers me a little but then I realize that I can’t control that either, and in the end the only thing I can do is “just Write”.
By the way – the “Just Write typewriter graphic will be making its way to some merchandise soon. Check back here or at the design shop for updated offerings.
UPDATE! “Just Write” T-shirts are now available! Check them out HERE