Revitalization IWSG

Another round of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This time I’ve been thinking about revitalization.

The Official March Question

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Um…yes and no? “Really old” is pretty subjective. I feel like it’s hard to say yes because I’ve not pulled out anything that existed only on paper. (Though my mom did find a story I wrote when I was 5. It was adorable. But I didn’t feel the need to rework it.)

Dangerous Metal was initially a radically different story. I wrote it, tried to go back and edit it, actually went through and changed the tense and POV for about 75% of the book before I realized that the whole story didn’t work. I finally reevaluated what the story really needed to be about, what was the core of it, what was the conflict, what was interesting. So I sat down and wrote Dangerous Metal with the same(ish) cast of characters and what had been barely a side plot turned to be the focus. What had been the primary plot trashed entirely. What had been the genre trashed entirely. And really pivoted hard. Hard.

I think it turned out really well for the most part. Far better than the initial, which had some good moments, but was still really rough. I’m not a great writer now, I hope to always be able to be a better writer and be able to see that I can be a better writer. But wow was I worse then. I’ve learned a lot of stuff since. And that’s continuing to be true.

Hurdles

Pictured…not me.

I feel like I’ve had several hurdles I’ve manage to climb over (because that’s what you do with hurdles, I mean, you’re supposed to effortlessly leap them while staying low to the ground and maintaining an incredible speed… but when I as not a magician try to deal with hurdles I climb over them). Each time I manage to get to the other side I do better, so I look back and go WOW.

First, characters. This was a long time ago, creating characters-for the most part-seems like the natural thing to do.

Then I spent a lot of time, strangely writing …descriptive things? I once write a wikipedia style thing about an alien solar system, including all the math. That was fun. (I’m not kidding, I quite enjoyed the math and structure that came with it.) Then oddly once it came to creating characters or plot I just went…nah! (And more of these hurdles…dot.dot.dot boring!)

I think I’ve come a long way, and I can see that what I go back to redo doesn’t have the benefits that present me brings to the table so it is hard to rework some much older things, or things that are significant hurdles ago. Sometimes it is easier to set things aside. I know the times I struggle the most are when I try to rework something that has real deeply fundamental flaws because I’m simply a writer with more knowledge now than I was before. That’s ok. I’d say that’s great. But it does make it harder to rework things.

How about you? Check out what other insecure writers have to say too!

IWSG

Read what other authors have to say about revitalizing old work or just what other awesome things they have to say!

2016 by the Numbers

Every year at my day job I have to pull together information for everything I’ve done for the year. Usually, this comes this week, someone several levels above me running through and saying they need it. I try to be prepared.

So this is my 2016 Roundup of all the shit I’ve done.

ALL the numbers from my 2016!

Quick review of my goals?

Back at the start of 2016 I made a post about my goals.

Narrating

I really dove into narration this year. While I’ve done some of it elsewhere and at other times in my life, I’ve never done as much or as all in as this year.

I narrated 3 novels. One of my own, one for another author, and one for another author under a penname. (You can see narration at Audible.) Three novels this year! I narrated three goddamn novels this year.

Oh but we are just getting started.

I also narrated 7 novellas.

Plus I narrated 2 parts for the anthology I’m an author in. (That isn’t out yet, still waiting for the other parts next year.)

Something like 50 hours of professional narration that I did in 2016.

Podcasting

While we are on the topic of talking into a microphone. I created a podcast. Yup 600 Second Saga was an endeavor of this year. I’ve had 46 episodes so far. (A Halloween bonus episode and 5 preseason episodes.)

I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of amazing authors. I’ve gotten the chance to share their stories in a new way and share something I love. Bite-sized stories and audio. It has been a lot of learning, but I also feel like, at least as of now, I made some good decisions at the start.

I still love the name. I still love the format. I still love the time limit.

Some of the stuff I tried I didn’t like as much. I wasn’t thrilled with Halloween month. I liked the episodes, but I just didn’t feel like I did what I could have with it.

Marketing! I need to get better at marketing (Like! Share! Subscribe! Submit!) but I think I have a good, high-quality product. When I started the podcast I subscribed to a few other shows that started at the same time…I’m the only one left.

Studio

Going along with these two I’ve seriously improved my studio. Overall I’m really pleased with it, with the quality of sound I get, with how long it takes to produce things. I’m still improving and changing. But I really did all of this in 2016. So…created a studio.

Publishing

This was the first I did any self-publishing. In 2016 I self-published 1 novel and 3 novellas (1 under a penname).  HOLY SHIT I PUBLISHED. Plural. A fucking novel. I published a fucking novel.

I’ve learned a lot from what I’ve done. A lot of time was dedicated previously, and in this year, learning about publishing and what I needed to do to be successful. I feel good about what I’ve done. I have so much distance to go. But I’m more determined than ever to keep going.

I’ve got plans for publishing a few things in 2017 as well. I have 1 novella in a penname that is 85% of the way there. I have a Smoke Jumpers novella planned for, I believe, March. I’m hoping for a second Smoke Jumpers piece in the fall but I’m less sure on that one. I am very much hoping the anthology I’m a part of (Monsters in the City!) will come out this year. My piece for that is done and has been for…a while…a long while.

Writing

Holy shit I wrote this year on top of all that up there?

I wrote 4 novellas? Wow. I wrote 4 novellas. Wrote, edited, edited, edited, and got to various stages of ready.

I finished editing 1 novel, I am still working on editing another novel.

I wrote…mumblemumble 40 plus flash fiction pieces. Not all of them were good. Many got tossed upon finishing.

Huh. I’d been feeling like I was doing bad at writing this year. Maybe not that bad?

Goals

Most of my goals were writing goals – 30 in 3? Done. So very done. In less than a year at that. I did not write a novel. (Fail.) I did more than the 1 novella. I did not get a full anthology worth of Smoke Jumpers. But I did get a few pieces, and one published.

Other

Also this year? I started an email list. I’ve been trying to be really consistent with blogging. I’ve started trying to use FB and Twitter and Pintrest as an author and better.

Goals

Reading. I did quite a bit more, and in other genres. Not quite as much as I planned, but very much on the right track.

Critiquing. I did a couple of novels. I tried to sign up for Scribophile.

(I had a giant thing at work where I’m part of a training program that has taken a lot of this fall and will take a lot of spring. I also got a promotion to a fancier title this year.)

And I’m sure other things I’m not even remembering.

Holy shit it has been a hell of a year. No wonder I’m exhausted.

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Formatting

I promised to talk about formatting for Dangerous Metal so here it is. (For a straight up roundup of formatting links I’ve already made that post.) If you have questions about it please let me know!

For me there were really two elements to formatting. One technical. (Not entirely difficult, I used Scrivener, which made it much easier.) The other just…what should a book look like. This post got long so this is mostly just the techincal piece. Why I picked the tools, where it goes, etc. I’m not sure what else people want to know, so again, fire away with questions!

ePUB

So the primary decision for me was to make it an epub. A couple reasons.

Works for just about everything. You can use it to upload your book to Amazon and Smashwords (which are the 2 places I’m going for right now). It is portable and reflowable. It is easy to make and easy to read. EPUB is readable on most devices. It isn’t DRMed. It is fairly small. Basically, it holds all I want and flows the way I want.

ePUB is the right tool for me. Or EPUB or epub or ePub or whatever.

ePUB
ePUB

Word?

I don’t have or use MS Word at home. (I do at my day job, I do so much that I cannot wait to be not using it. Some days I want to come home and hug my Mac just because it isn’t MS and I didn’t have to answer 300 questions about why does MS do things they way they do it.)

The Smashwords Style Guide talks a lot about formatting in Word.

Google?

I use Google docs (pretty extensively, especially for sharing, any feedback work I do is within google docs, I also use google sheets almost exclusively for my spreadsheet needs, I use google drive to share audio with authors, etc. So I’m pretty comfortable with the google sphere.

Google docs does let you export as an ePub. I did that once, never again. (Well maybe, if my workflow stops working and google improves I may have to look around again.) I would imagine that doing appropriate things like using headings is very important to getting a good product here.

But google is generally just a stop in the workflow (especially now that I can scrivener on my phone!) so it doesn’t stop here.

Pages?

Sometimes I use pages. I’ve used it for some specific projects. I’ve used it when I want to do a lot of editing on a long document. My biggest issues with google docs is that it slow down so very hard on big documents. I feel like once I pass 10K I need a new solution. Pages has often been the long form editing tool. It’s not perfect either. But it is better so far than Google docs, especially when I want comments or markup/revision/whatever you call it on something longer. The big downside is I basically only use this with myself.

I have liked its direct exports better than I’ve liked the google ones so far.

Scrivener?

YUP! So this is my primary making ePubs tool. It isn’t exactly super straightforward. I recommend this is super long and detailed from Garrett Robinson a whole bunch of steps. At the end of each post is a link to the next post. Or watch some of the videos.

I’d say that it would likely take a few solid hours of practicing, trying, tweaking, adjusting, and just learning. But less than a full day’s work can turn out a very good one the first go round if you know what you want. If you don’t know what you want it is a lot harder. At this point I can put out a ready to go epub in much less than an hour, including testing it out and going back to fix all the stuff I missed, because there is always something I missed.

I like all the tools that Scrivener has, but even if it only easily turned my novels into pretty, easy, useful ePubs that would be enough. Downside? You currently can’t make the ePub from the iOS version. You need the desktop for that. Good news? Highly syncable.

Why not PDF?

Because I’m not writing a textbook? I know this sounds a little snarky, but seriously. Please please please don’t make your novel in PDF. I know there is some value in it. Heck I know I have options for it if you look under “Free” up at the top. But the more I do this the more I go, no! No! Why?! When I have to read one it just feels slow, old fashioned, and clunky.

I will likely be re-evaluating my own PDFs later this year and possibly getting rid of them. I’d rather put in the extra work to make a nice smooth ePub. For me at least they open up nice and smoothly on my iPad. I’m not 100% sure how they flow on Kindles which is my primary concern with dumping them, but I feel like I’d rather make a mobi than a PDF.

I know PDFs are easy. They are SO easy. And they look exactly like what you tell them to look like. I get the draw. I am drawn. They are universal, everyone knows them. Every device opens them. Heck they probabally even work on Blackberries!

But there is no flexibility. The beauty of an ePub (or a mobi) is that in iBooks (or Kindle) I can make the font bigger or smaller, I can do that and it doesn’t make me move the book around. I can make the background a different color, I can go for a dark mode, I can change the font (if you picked a cutsey hard to read one? great, I can change it!). I personally am a sans serif reader. I know many others are serif readers. We can each do what works best for us. I can flip pages or I can scroll. I can do all those things.

So yes, I guess PDFs are important. But not primary!

This got long. I cut the next piece which was more what to include when formatting, and why I picked what I picked.

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Distribution

For Dangerous Metal I went the self-publishing route, and some of my reasons for that were in last week’s post. Today I’m going to talk about distribution, why I am distributing the way I am.

First a failure!

Personally, I read on iBooks most of the time. If I have the option to read in iBooks or Kindle I pick iBooks every time. (I read enough on iBooks that I got enough money back to buy a couple of new author programs and new books!) I got set up with iTunes for the podcast very easily. I went well I’ll try to set up with iBooks directly.

Dangerous Metal ebook cover
Dangerous Metal ebook cover

…….no. Just no.

I knew you needed to own a Mac, I do, so no problem there. I knew that epub would work. Great. I can make an epub. (more on that later) I spent three nights after work fighting with it. Trying to find the iTunes Publisher, and get signed up because I need a different connect account and I need all this other stuff and emails weren’t coming through and you know what? Maybe next time. (And I will likely try again, just my frustration got too much so not this round.)

Actual Distribution with Kindle and Smashwords

My choice has been to submit directly to Amazon and submit everywhere else with Smashwords.

Direct to Amazon?

Some of the things I’ve published I’ve tried the exclusivity thing with. (Nothing has done well. I’m not doing it with Dangerous Metal for that and many other reasons.) I can upload the epub and so far it has always worked smoothly for me. It has been quick and easy to upload.

I’ve also had some concerns about the connection with ACX. For ACX you claim a book on Amazon and then set up from there. If the book is updated there can be Whispersync issues, etc.

For me, it makes a lot more sense to do Amazon directly.

Smashwords

I know that Smashwords is one of several different distribution companies (I read a bunch of stuff about Smashwords vs D2D. The primary downside of Smashwords seems to be that it is “harder” to format. The primary upside is that they have more distribution locations (libraries! and I can set a lower price for libraries). I haven’t had any format issues with Smashwords at all. The epub I’ve created has so far turned out just fine, no formatting throwbacks at all. So Smashwords works well for me.

Audio

You had to know it was coming! Audio distribution for me is through ACX. It is incredibly easy. Once the book was on Amazon (even just for pre-order) I can go into my ACX account and claim the book and then upload it.

The reason my audiobook was out before the ebook is because I can’t set a preorder date on ACX. I have a couple books that I narrated that have been hung up for a long time so I thought that it would be slower. HA!

ACX turned my book around and published it in under a week. It can sometimes take longer so it is a little hard to judge when that goes live. (The other book is still hung up, go figure!)

ACX sends the audiobook to Audible, iBooks, and Amazon.

I’m not 100% sure what gets something set up with Whispersync but most of my stuff has ended up Whispersync.

Distributed!

So Dangerous Metal has 3 primary distribution points. Amazon (KDP), Smashwords, and ACX.

But wait…what about paper?!

Nope. This may be an error, I’m not sure. I am open to working on this later. For me, paper books are a super low priority. I am not excited to see my book in the store. It isn’t something I am pushing for. I know I’m not going to go out and get my local bookstore to sell it on their shelves. (Because that would require talking…to people…) I don’t go to conventions (again…people….) or do events (with people….) so for me at this point I’m not doing that.

I might in the future. But I’m not right now for Dangerous Metal.

Dangerous Metal

I’ve been a bit busy and haven’t been posting as much last week and this. But it is all for a good reason. I’m putting the finishing touches on my novel and getting it ready for launch. Dangerous Metal is a cyberpunk thriller and I’ve got some brand new things to share.

Covers

Dangerous Metal ebook cover
Dangerous Metal ebook cover

I will, of course, be doing an audiobook version as well. (Recording is what has been devouring my time.)

Dangerous Metal audiobook cover
Dangerous Metal audiobook cover

Description

Eva is happy to get her life back to normal, or as normal as it can for a woman who had half her brain replaced by a computer implant of her own making. Then Ernie, the ex who put a hole in her skull, shows up for dinner with her parents.

Preorder

So it is up and ready for preorder at Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords and plenty of other places. Or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

It isn’t up for preorder on audiobook but as soon as that is live I’ll be sure to post a link. I’ll also be giving away a few audiobook codes.

Warning

I keep warring with myself about this. Do I warn people? This isn’t a nice book. One of my beta readers called it unglamorous and a book that sits cold in your gut. This isn’t a warm fuzzy book. This isn’t about people taking a happy vacation. It is a cyberpunk thriller so it really shouldn’t be, but even for cyberpunk…it isn’t just a noir with pretty tech. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of pretty tech. I love the tech. But it isn’t a detached story.

Part of me is like NO!! don’t tell people to not read your book, you have got to be kidding me! That is the worst idea. You are supposed to tell people how awesome it is. (And it is awesome, another beta reader said it had all the feels.)

But…I don’t want someone to pick this up thinking it is a light-hearted romp. So, buy my book, but be aware.

Another week

As I mentioned I still have some finalizing pieces to do so I think I won’t likely post again this week. Podcast episode on Friday (and it will be a light-hearted romp!) but that’s all until next week.

Thank you!

Is it ok to like your own work?

Paperwork
Paperwork! (Sarah@Flicker)

I’m currently recording Dangerous Metal (which I hope to have out by the end of August!) and I’ve a few times run across lines that have genuinely made me smile and go, oh I really like this.

Today’s:

“You watch too many movies. I do more than drive recklessly and shoot blindly.” He was smiling, the tension easing. “I also do paperwork.”

It isn’t entirely a light-hearted romp about paperwork. (Read not at all light-hearted.)

I was going to write a fancier post today but I’m entirely amused with this line and have to go handle some other things, so I’ll leave you with this.

Motivation

I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.

Sisyphian motivation
Sisyphus is not the motivation I’m looking for. I would like to wake up and look at the mountain I’ve made in the morning.

This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.

I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.

I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.

What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.

Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.

So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!

Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!

I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.

I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.

And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.

Related article about the desire to get things done undermining effectiveness