Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 46 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 46 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 46 Results

Book writing solved. Let your books write themselves. Take a day, write a book. Get ‘r done. Proof, publish, repeat.

Metrics

Published Words Fiction:

– free – 0 (Own Site)
– paid – 25272 (D2D, Amazon), 0 (Medium)

Published Words Non-Fiction:

– free –1674
– paid – 0 (Medium)

Subscribers:

New Instafreebie/PW:327
New Others: 0
Overall Total: 3572

Book sales this week:

Amazon – 1, Draft2Digital – 1, Gumroad – 2 = Total Week’s Fiction Sales – 4

Books (pre-)published this week:

Aggregate Production:

Total fiction books published this year: 116
Total short stories published as individual ebooks: 94
Total anthologies published: 21 (plus two 200+ page books)
Countdown to 100 published short stories: 6 in 7 weeks
Planned new short stories: 3 left of 10 through end of Nov (NaNoWriMo), 4 left of 4 in Dec. (101 total short stories, plus around 7 more anthologies for 30 total – 131+ original books published in a single year.)

Analysis

Just wrote fiction. Let everything else go. Wrapping up my writing for the year. NaNoWriMo took over – what a monster.

The Over-Prolific Fiction Writer Surfaces – Again

I simply piled ahead with writing. Meaning I didn’t work to get other stories published to Medium or my own site. And I didn’t bother with writing non-fiction analyses or observation.

What I accomplished was over 33K words written in a single week. That last one I am mid-proofing and it will show up next week, early. And two more this next week (in spite of Thanksgiving) and will complete that Hooman Saga series. (Spoiler: the villains still lose.)

The other trick was to let the stories take the reins. I was thinking in terms of stories all week, asking the character how they would solve these various plot problems. So darned many moving pieces – again, as I say in the book, a chess game where all the pieces can move at any time they feel like it.

And out of those twelve books I had covers for, I ditched three of them. Main thing was the pacing. It kept increasing. Sign of a good overall story arc. And while it all looked good “on paper”,  when I got to those books, there just wasn’t enough material for them – or what I thought was a good idea turned out to be only a couple of chapters in the book just before them (or instead of them).

I also revised one of the earlier covers so I had a moon image visible in every cover. This hold them together as a series. The word “moon” otherwise shows up now in all the books except the first two. Again, to hold the series together.

Could I improve on these? Sure – but I’m not re-writing any of them. When I’m happy with them, and they are proofed, then I publish and move on. Trust your characters and your pen-names to write the best story possible.

Again, the method is writing short stories as a serial and in a series. So you are proofing as you go, and don’t have to go back to revise and proof a huge 300-page book. When you need a detail, you simply go back and find out what their hair color or did they ever have that discussion earlier – by opening up the earlier book. I keep a huge “as I go” document filled with the total works. Once I publish the last book, I’ll then go back to copy/paste the published books into that big document, which then becomes the anthology. I can edit these at that point with inserted comments, etc. But in a serial, they don’t need them. Because I’m writing the beginning of the next story in order to finish up the “teaser” in the last one.

One thing I’ve gone back to do was to add in a preview of the next in series – the marketing hook. That is the great part about publishing everything as pre-scheduled. So revising a book title, cover, and even author’s names (adding a co-author) is simple. The one I’m thinking of revising next is still ready to publish in January, so I can revise for marketing purposes simply.

The only real cost to these is that any title/author revision means your ISBN is a throwaway. You have to simply delete that book and publish a new one – but only for print books, apparently. (I’ve given up on ISBN’s for ebooks until I come back to the two aggregated distributors that require them – again, this coming year.)

The last book will have the complete series listed – all with links to my own site for purchase. Nice.

And points to just a single short story each week is better for marketing. NaNoWriMo is its won monster.

How I Write Books.

Let them write themselves. Let the book live through you. Hold “character conferences” where they can hash out the details. Be their devil’s advocate of “how does this story hold together?” And look for plot holes they miss. You’re the director and scriptwriter. But those characters are going to be doing a read-through of the script and making suggestions. You just hold their feet to the fire and insist they come up with the plot-twists and surprise endings, as well as inter-chapter hooks/cliffhangers.

After you get the bulk of it hashed out, then you start writing.

That means you will be dreaming these books, and using your other humdrum activities to get their input. All you have to do is to commit to bringing their story to life – your job is to “leave out the dull parts” and trim their story into real drama.

Again, read everything you can get your hands on about writing, but feel free to throw out the trite and overworked. Test everything you read. Then forget all you studied about craft and simply write.

If you aren’t enjoying yourself every step of the way, then throw it out and start over. The reason you write is enjoyment – the same reason your readers read. If you put your book down when you’re proofing, then your readers will, too. Fix it, revise it, or ditch it. Plenty more stories around where that came from.

Getting a Book Ready to Publish

Over this year, this sequence has really boiled down to a consistent approach now:

  1. Cover, Title, Marketing Blurb – in an empty book on Calibre
  2. Open up a Blank OpenOffice document, format imported from the last one. Save in to Calibre folder, and import that format into that Calibre book.
  3. Write until your done. Get a habit of asking if there is anything else that should be there if shy of 6K words (not vital, but a simple act that gives you a nice building block).
  4. Ensure you save into Calibre (Save As…)
  5. Generate an epub from that book. Close the OpenOffice file.
  6. Do a word count (take special Calibre plug-in for this).
  7. Download locally and proof on your smartphone (colored highlights as reminders.)
  8. Open the document from Calibre (takes care of renaming you might have done) and edit in the revisions needed.
  9. Set the book up in Draft2Digital, up to being able to download the digital files.
  10. Download locally and proof a second time.
  11. Edit/revise – re-upload to D2D and publish.
  12. Then publish to your own site via Gumroad, Lulu, and Amazon – follow with aggregators Publish Drive and StreetLib, optimally.
  13. Start your next book. For serials, put the cover and marketing blurb inside the last one as “next in series”.

Notes:

When you have the 2 solo proofs done, then either turn it over to an external proofer, or let it go live its own life. Somewhere above 95% of all errors fixed (any that you find) will make you too bored to do a third proof and catch anything else.

I’m a trained graphic artist, did a grammar course three times through, and have been writing and publishing every week (starting with blogs) for over a dozen years. If you (still) need an external editor, proofer, cover designer – that’s your overhead. Means your marketing will have to be even better. Everyone’s mileage differs.

Last Week’s To-Do’s:

  • Emails out. DONE
  • 2-3 new short stories written and published. DONE – 4 written, 3 published.
  • Kickstarter lesson reviewed and homework done. (Tues) DONE

This Week’s To-Do’s:

  1. Emails out.
  2. 3 last short stories in Hooman Saga
  3. (Vacation from PW’s Kickstarter training – their plan.)
  4. Enjoy Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. (New cow this week, a Dexter.)

The post The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 46 Results appeared first on Living Sensical.



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Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 45 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge - Week 45 ResultsThe Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 45 Results

Distractions – learning to guard my writing time. A single book written this week, learned my lessons?

Metrics

Published Words Fiction:

– free – 0 (Own Site)
– paid – 27799 (D2D, Amazon), 0 (Medium)

Published Words Non-Fiction:

– free –3184
– paid – 0 (Medium)

Subscribers:

New Instafreebie/PW:202
New Others: 0
Overall Total: 3461 (-108)

Book sales this week:

Amazon – 2, Draft2Digital – 0, Gumroad – 2 = Total Week’s Fiction Sales – 4

Books (pre-)published this week:

Aggregate Production:

Total fiction books published this year: 113
Total short stories published as individual ebooks: 91
Total anthologies published: 21 (plus two 200+ page books)
Countdown to 100 published short stories: 9 in 8 weeks
Planned new short stories: 3/12 through end of Nov (NaNoWriMo), 0/4 in Dec. (104 total short stories, around 7 more anthologies for 30 total – 134+ original books published in a single year.)

Analysis

The Kickstarter lesson and homework took over two days to sort out. I’ll tell more about this below. Other distractions like getting a load of wood for the fireplace (below freezing temperatures this week) and voting, plus a podcast about that historic scene (link) took about three days out of this week.

I’m figuring that at top speed, I can crank out a book per day, then proofing and publishing will take another day, but usually two. Meaning that out of seven days, I need to do nothing but writing and publishing to make my 18K regular quota. Those guys churning out 20K per week/1M per year are really cranking out 7 days per week, regardless of proofing and publishing. Can be done, but it’s a full-time job.

The Baker’s Dozen Hooman Saga Final Sprint

13 books in this series. I’m wrapping my wits around the fifth one now – and these are tending to roll right into each other. They are definitely not the same as standalone short fiction. They are serials and start building their own momentum as they go. So you need an idea of what the next story is supposed to deal with so you can set the stage for it in the last part of the short story you’re working on.

I had the first one (When the Crow Calls) a month or so ago. Then hit the wall on how I was going to purposely set out to write the rest of that book. The solution for me was to find 12 pieces of artwork that made good covers and were moon-related (or I could make them that way.) I went through the whole graphic scene of creating proper covers with author and a working title. And put these as “empty” books in Calibre for a place to work with them.

After that was putting them in a logical order of how they were going to show up. This followed the rough Heroes Journey where the action kept building, but the heroes start winning about halfway through, with the villian(s) becoming more desperate as they lose. And a huge climax at the end where they are vanquished. You know the cycle, like Star Wars, Die Hard, Da Vinci Code.

Then I wrote down the general idea for each short story in a few paragraphs in its Calibre book.

Of course, that starts to work things back and forth as the ideas come in. You already know there’s a story there – but how is it going to work with the other ones?

Sometimes your title and even artwork will change when your characters (and your pen names) tell you more about the overall story arc.

What you are actually doing is starting to get used to writing full novels, one episode at a time. Evolving as an author, is more like it.

Regardless of whether I can get all these planned books done by the end of November, I will get them all done. It’s getting momentum now and will roll quite nicely as it does. Besides, it’s a great deal of fun.

What I learned about an Author’s Kickstarter This Week

Mainly that copywriting is fiction – with its own story structure. And so, needs to be written regularly and improved on with every essay. Most of it is flash fiction (short-short story) and so is edited finely, just the same.

The other lesson is that crowdfunding is also a conversion program to “hot-up” your subscribers.

Kickstarters are a long, intensive set of marketing. So if it’s going to cut across your daily/regular writing habits, then it’s a no-go. You have to set up your schedule to do your fiction and non-fiction for a certain part of the day/week, and your marketing as part of running your business.

Dropping everything to just do your kickstarter means you won’t be producing as many books in the coming year.

Mostly, I don’t see a real improvement over doing a regular book launch during the 90-days you have a book (we’re talking 200-300 pages) in pre-release. Short stories should all be pushing the anthology that’s in pre-release – meaning that you probably will go back into Draft2Digital/Amazon and update the content for these. Write the short stories and publish them all in pre-order, then compile the anthology and then update all your short stories. This will also work if you later compile a new anthology featuring a different set of short stories – rinse, repeat.

I also don’t see any reason to work your tail off and get little more than a few more subscribers and some of your earlier subscribers more hotted up. Indiegogo would be a better match for that philosophy, as they allow you to keep what you made.

At the same time, you can DIY crowdfunding, using Gumroad for the digital delivery as well as physical delivery (at least the financing end of it.) And if you get swamped, you can always get a quote from disk.com. Lulu can dropship for you, preferably in the U.S.

You are going to have to promote your own campaign, since you won’t have the network-effect of these bigger crowdfunding sites. That’s the trade-off. But again, look to Jeff Walker’s Product Launch series (find his free videos) on how you can do a small/test launch with just the list you have.

Right now, I think a hybrid of what is required for a successful kickstarter campaign and Walker’s system will be the approach.

If you are writing one short story a week, you can do a 300-page anthology launch four times per year, with all sorts of goodies added on for those who are your best supporters. That essentially means that you are planning and building your next launch right after your last one finishes – and you’ve done the analysis of it.

This of course rolls right into the content-based business, which is next year’s challenge.

Here’s the references I got this week from Reedsy’s crowdfunding course:

My current plans will be to honestly do all the work of this course, right up to the point of having a fully-built kickstarter ready to go. But unless I see something better coming down the line, I don’t see firing this off.

Most of that is because their approach is to train the one-book author – who needs editing, proofing, covers and everything else. I’m now at over 110 books published this year alone (on top of several hundred I’ve published since 2006) so all this is rubbing against my grain quite a bit.

As covered above, if you already have the book in pre-order, then you’ve solved editing, cover, proofing, etc. You are doing more of a launch than “fund me so I can finish you a nice book.” And that is exactly where the rub is.

My model says to use the short stories as promo for the anthology, and then create additional special items for subscribers – which is the better model for authors. Those are your true fans. (See k-lytics.com and their pricing points, and you’ll see how that can work for prolific/regular fiction authors.)

Subscriptions Are At a Ceiling

For all the angst I’ve been through, I opened everything back up and still didn’t have to get back into a higher rate for the next level of subscribers. They are still dropping off/being removed at a rate similar to what’s added. But I’m a bit severe with my subscribers that I don’t hear others doing. Because I want an active list – meaning 40-50% open rates, and 15-20% clicks.

In a couple of months, I’ll have the drop-off rate of the “verified organizer” scene – where people are opting in to the organizer. I also have a test giveaway that is only for free subscribers, meaning I get all the opt-ins that occur there. IF/PW is going to promote that giveaway, so it will be a nice little test (very few people are actively joining such giveaways if they are using the free plan. Why should they?)

I also did a test of sending the proposed kickstarter preview out to people who followed one of those two authors and ever clicked on anything. Over 1200 emails went out, and 44% opened, and 3% clicked. So I got something like 160 people interested in the project.

Again, the underlying theory of activating a list it to keep giving them reasons to raise their hand.

And as above, the ideal is to get them to become subscribers. At $1 per week, I could ship them all my fiction books and make as much as I could on Amazon. And just set up a membership or a delivery program through Gumroad for them.

All this is simply lining up. Again, this year was really devoted to building the fiction-writing habit. Next year is about making it spectacularly profitable.

Just noticed that I’m in far fewer giveaways than earlier – mainly as I’ve quit chasing after romance/erotica giveaways (and all their spam books.)

Last Week’s To-Do’s:

  • Emails out. DONE
  • 3 short stories written, proofed, and readied for publishing. KINDA – published last week’s stories along with the one I wrote this week. I wanted to write three new stories.
  • Kickstarter model evaluated and decision made. DONE

This Week’s To-Do’s:

  1. Emails out.
  2. 2-3 new short stories written and published.
  3. Kickstarter lesson reviewed and homework done. (Tues)

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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Fiction Writing: How to Build a Profit-Making NaNoWriMo Habit

Fiction Writing: How to Build a Profit-Making NaNoWriMo Habit

Fiction Writing: How to Build a Profit-Making NaNoWriMo Habit

Just looked up my last two months of fiction writing production and found out I’d produced at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) writing volume for the two prior months.

Meaning: I’d just developed a habit of writing roughly 12.5K words per week for 60 days, where a habit takes from 28-40 days on average to instill.

Why listen to me? Skip down to the bottom and see if you can write and publish that much in a year, let alone 10 months. Yes, I’ve gotten some sales, too. The rub? Each of those books cost me nothing to produce. So all the sales I get are all pure profit.

How did I do this?

Set Goals – my model is to write, proof, and then publish short stories in that week. So I was intending to write at least two short stories each week, of about 6K each.

Hold myself accountable – Each Monday, I filled out a blog post that started with the key metrics I needed to track in order to be successful. Sometimes I fudged in order to wrap up my publishing on Monday, so that post wouldn’t happen until Tuesday. But the vast majority did “hit publish” on Monday.

Focus on the work – by having these metrics, I could start to see common patterns of when I was successful. One of those is to simply blank the screen(s) of everything else. No distractions. All I would have open were one screen (Calibre) that shows the cover and marketing hook for that book. The other screen was a simple text editor. If I needed a browser to look something up, then I’d do that and immediately minimize it again.

Do my writing first – this still haunts me. If I just “check” my email, it will take me into all manner of rabbit holes. So my best success is when I blank the screens last thing at night when I leave for bed.

Play catch up after meal times, away from my work space. Using my smartphone to do most of my email, and all my curation work is simply done in my living room easy chair as a matter of a few minutes after each meal.

Ignore social media – a key rule. Social media is fake. Burns your time with nothing to show for it. How many of those “friends” buy your books, or you can really trust with your life? Some of these are rumored to sell some books, but never enough to earn you a living at it. No perennial bestselling book out there depends on social media for squat. Just the pan-flashers. I remove all the unnecessary apps from any smartphone device I have. Don’t visit social media, only syndicate there. (Only one of them is an actual activated smartphone, the others are all largish phablets as remote handheld Android computers that connect through my local wi-fi. And all Walmart Black Friday Specials.)

Proof on a smartphone device and only revise those points – I use an ereader app that allows highlighting. Then I go back through just those edits and fix them. The first proof is making sure the structure is correct, with all the needed chapter headings in place, and spell-check done. Using a small screen allows me to read every single word, and catch 98% of the rest of the errors. I then will publish through D2D and do a third proof, correcting and uploading a new version. And if I find myself distracted by a sentence or word, I’ll highlight it and correct it. I should be able to read right through a book and keep interested the entire time – even if I know what I wrote and how it’s going to turn out. And I should enjoy that book every time. I’ve only ever thrown one story away because it wasn’t any good – then rewrote it from scratch immediately. And proofed and published that week.

Learned my craft well beforehand –  I spent around two years studying fiction writing itself. I bought way more courses than I needed and kept studying with people until I wasn’t learning any more – or was finding that I needed to correct their erroneous opinions as much as I was learning anything new. And I still have a stack of books on writing that I’ve scraped from all sorts of sources. But early on, I found that you learn best from writers who just happened to write about writing. I didn’t learn much from people who made most of their living from writing texts and courses about writing. (Those books are inflated with redundant material that you’ve already learned. Most every book I’ve read like that could be summated into one or two pages of text.) The rest is all practice. And I wrote years of non-fiction before I moved to fiction. Often two or more blog posts per day, averaging about 2-4K words each. I also ran many of my short stories through ProWritingAid as an editor. (Once I did hire an editor for a non-fiction book. I learned what I needed from her. And I even followed the complex system of Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid for months.) The end result was to quit all the courses when I stopped learning. And threw it all away after I’d internalized and practiced what they said as I tested it all. What tested out and aligned, I kept. This all led me to a study of the truly prolific fiction writers – the Pulp Golden Age writers, as well as the ones who came after them. And those commonalities pushed most of what passes for conventional writer’s “wisdom” right out the window.  (I have a book coming out, slated for December, where I’ll re-compile all this actually useful data based on my year of prolific writing.)

Reading what I love, writing what I love – this I touched on above. You have to be very happy with what you write, every time you read it. A lot of people get behind this concept of “building an avatar” of your ideal customer. For the writer, fiction or non-fiction, it’s far more personal. You write for yourself. You are your ideal customer. Don’t let anyone kid you. There is no “writing to market.” You are your best market. Whatever you love to read is the stuff you’ll end up writing. And if you don’t love what you write, neither will anyone else. Read widely, watch long-running TV series and serials. That’s where you’ll learn how to keep long story arcs going. People today expect that type of entertainment. Provide it – by providing it to yourself, first. You’re going to attract people who like your writing as much as you do. Those are your first 1,000 true fans.

Making each book better than the last – most of this year was simply working out how to get my inspiration trained and work-flows ironed out.I didn’t start out with really long stories, and I did scrounge up all the unpublished short fiction works I had written at any time. Studying these gave me what I needed to improve on. Only in the last couple of months have I gotten into writing real serials. Before that, I’ve been working simply on being able to write single-standing books. The last two weeks were set up for learning how to frame these books into serials, which is how story stories bridge to longer novels and story arcs.

Studying perennial-selling books – ignore the also-rans. Theodore Sturgeon stated a near-universal truth: “90% of everything out there is crud.” While he was speaking of Science Fiction, it’s very applicable to the bulk of the books being produced in any and every generation. Look up Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others. These books continue to sell and get downloaded regardless. Gutenburg.org has lists of these that have gone into the public domain. Those are the ones to dissect, emulate, internalize. There are huge numbers of current “bestsellers” who won’t be selling in a few years – unless someone is keeping them advertized constantly. Love what you read, write what you love – and you’ll publish for the ages.

What Are The Results?

  • This year, in ten months, I’ve written and published 88 short stories. I plan to write the other 12 in October (3 per week) just to make that quota.
  • I’ve published 21 anthologies and two 200+ page novels from earlier NaNoWriMo efforts.
  • Total original fiction books published on Amazon (and everywhere else – by at least Amazon’s minimum of 2500 words per book.) – 111
  • All in 10 months, which is an average of nearly 9 books per month, or just over two per week.
  • 1,798,422 words published (including anthologies.) Nearly 36K words per week (The power of anthology leverage.)

Any perennials sellers? Too soon to tell. L’Amour was first told his books never went out of print after he’d been writing for 10 years. I’ve almost gotten through my first one.

PS. The profits? Come from lots of books available everywhere. Writing short, publishing long. Putting your best out every time will make people want to find out all your earlier ones. Stay tuned: next year’s challenge will be devoted to developing a true profit engine from content-based business.

PPS. Still not convinced? Look me up in 10 years. If I keep up this rate, I’ll have a thousand books published, easy. At least a hundred of those won’t be crud…

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