Addition to November reading

I just realized that I forgot one of the books I read last month. Not sure how or why, but I failed to repost on The Magic Bakery: A WMG Writer’s Guide by Dean Wesley Smith.   I am actually happy that I left it for its own post because I found it to be a very important book. It didn’t really change the way I am writing, but it encouraged me to get back and finish these books and get them published. (I am almost done with final edits before formatting of the second book, Once that is done, I will format it and then go back for a final read-through of the first book.) Smith’s point in the book is that you need to have more product available for sale if you want to really sell anything. After all, if you went into a bakery and there was only one pie or only one cake, would you really buy it? He says we probably wouldn’t. So I am working in my writing again, and that makes me happy.

This book also changed the way I look at the books I buy and the books I read. As I have said frequently, I primarily get free books either for my Kobo or my Kindle. I have tons and tons of books I have gotten that way.  Some of them have been great and some of them have been not so great, but overall, I have been happy. Smith says that an author might want to think twice before offering a novel for free, and I understand his arguments. He doesn’t say not to do it, but he raises some good points. He says free should be used to help sales. He seems to favor free chapters of the next book included in the current one or free short stories on your website. In Chapter 6 he says:

The key in sales are LIMITED and SHORT TERM. Keep free short term and limited and never put it on a bookshelf anywhere.

And that makes a lot of sense.  He compares it to the free samples you often see in grocery stores. You don’t get a whole pie there, but you get enough to decide whether or not you want to buy a pie.

He also talks about pricing your work. He talks about new writers who feel they have to give their stuff away or price it at 99 cents. And he says that is wrong. When we walk into a dollar store, most of us assume the low price means poor quality. As a reader, I find myself sometimes feeling the same way. If it is free or 99 cents, I don’t care so much if it isn’t a great book.  But if I pay even $3.99, I expect it to be a good book, a well-told story.

As a reader, I should probably value my time more and demand higher quality books all the time. As I writer, though, I hesitate to think my books are worth even $1.99, much less $3.99! That is an issue I am going to have to come to terms with here soon.

Smith talks about readers like me who (generally speaking, at least) only read free or 99 cent books. He dismisses us as not his customer. And that made me stop and think. I found myself wanting to be his customer. And since I have read many of his books, I think I am his customer. So what does that mean for my addiction to free books?

What it has done is made me decide that I am going to spend more for books. I will buy fewer, probably, but that is OK. I have a lifetime of reading on my ereaders if times get tough! But I owe it to authors whose work I enjoy and those whose work I might enjoy to support them by paying money for their books. Actually, I had started doing this already. I have for some time now spent money for the next book in a series I was enjoying. But now I am more committed to that.

I am also committed to continuing to buy books through StoryBundle and HumbleBundle. That way I support authors and can support charity. I am paying more than I have to now, and it is still a good deal for me.

I don’t think I have adequately explained the way this one book has affected my life, but I hope you can get a vague sense of it, at least. And yes, I really recommend the book to any writer out there who is struggling to get published. All of Smith’s books on writing that I have read have really encouraged me, but this one just came at the right time to have a big impact.

 

 

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About that…

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything about my writing over the past month. That would be because I have done very little writing. I certainly haven’t written even every week, much less every day. I am disappointed in myself, but that is the way things are right now. I hope to get back to it, but I am not going to stress about it. We’ll just see what happens, I guess.

It had to happen!

Yesterday I did not write.  I had three online classes with my students, my husband left to help our granddaughter, and my son and I went out to eat. And I did not write.  As I went to bed about 11:30, I thought about getting up to post something here — just so I could say I had written — but I decided not to. Eventually, there had to be a day I did not write, so why not yesterday!

I know that the main reason for not writing is that I am completely at a standstill on the book.  When I am on a roll, I have no trouble finding time to write no matter what. But I am not currently on a roll. In my efforts to write every day, I have kind of wandered around to the extent that now I don’t know where I am headed.  I think I need to take a few days, maybe print it out and take a hard look at what I have and what I need to do now.  But I don’t know that I ma in the right place to do that at the moment.

So I guess I need a new writing project.  We’ll see what I can come up with. In the meantime, though, I am going to try to at least do some journaling every day. I like the fact that I am writing regularly again, and I don’t want to abandoned that because I missed one day.  We’ll have to see what happens!

Another month of writing

It seems odd to me to be writing about my writing closer to the middle of the month than to the end of it, but that’s when I set the goal, so it’s when I have to report on progress.

Last month I set what I thought were lame but more realistic goals for myself. They were:

  • write 1000 words every day
  • get third book up from it’s current 8900 words to 35,000

Yes, they were lame, but lame as they were, they were still not realistic!

The good news is that I wrote every day again. That is the main goal, as far as I am concerned. There were a couple days it was a struggle and I ended up writing a couple hundred words at 11 pm, but I did it.

Most days, I did not write 1000 words. Some days I did. In so doing, I took the book from 8,900 words to 22,028 words. Not 35,000 to be sure, but I added more than 13,000 words to it in a month.

So what do I want to work toward in this next month? I think 1000 words a day is still kind of a low bar and one that I will keep aiming for until most days I surpass it. And since I wrote 13,000 words on the book, I want to aim for more than that this month. I think I should strive to reach 40,000 words. That’s only about 5000 more than I wrote this month, so it should be doable.

But like I said, the real goal is to keep writing every day. I am now teaching 2 online classes, so I am a lot busier, but there is really no excuse for not doing it. Let’s see if I can.

 

Some amazing photos!

Courtesy of The Portalist, I learned of NASA’s searchable database of space photos. The post on The Portalist had enough photos to make it a no-brainer to go there and check it out.

Going to the main page was not as exciting as I had hoped. It had lots of pictures of astronauts standing around. Then I realized those were just the most recent uploads. All I had to do was click on “Most Popular” and I was rewarded with an array of truly amazing photos. I clicked on one that was a picture of a baby owl in a hangar at Kennedy Space Center. That made me decide to search for other bird pictures, but to see if there were others.  And there were. 894 of them!

These pictures offer a wealth of information in addition to some beautiful views. I searched for Pluto and found there were 491 photos. Most of the photos are accompanied by an explanation of what you are looking at.  So I found this photo:

Pluto badlands.jpg

The description called it the “badlands of Pluto” and told me there was a 1.2 mile high cliff and that the canton system runs for hundreds of miles. That information sparked my imagination, and I suddenly began thinking of a western-themed novel set on Pluto. Then I saw another photo that made it look like there were roads or at least paths on Pluto. And what are those things the road is connecting? Maybe one is a homestead and the other is a town. Or maybe…

Pluto roads.jpg

Now maybe that isn’t a winning idea, but I think you get what I am trying to say: These photos and accompanying information are a tremendous resource for writers! I am going to go back and spend more time on the site!

Another month gone!

The second month of my writing habit development program has ended, and the results have been mixed. Here goes:

On a positive note, I wrote every single day. That, after all, is the primary goal, so I am happy. I know there were several days when I only wrote because I had made that commitment to myself. It would have been so much easier to read a book or play a game or do nothing at all. But I forced myself to open up the computer and write. And I am glad I did. It has been a long time since I can say I have written every day for what is not two months.

My other goals for the month were:

  • write 2000 words every day
  • finish second draft of the second book
  • get third book up from it’s current 3000 words to 30,000
  • continue to develop the blog for the books

Here I was not so successful. While I wrote every day, I only made 2000 words once. Most days I didn’t even make 1000 words! In part I think that is due to the fact that I am early into the third book, and the story isn’t flowing like I would like it to be yet. I know writing is the way to get the story flowing, but I haven’t been as successful with that as I would have liked. As a result, I am nowhere near 30,000 words on the third book. But I have almost tripled its length. And the story is starting to come together more in my mind, so hopefully this next month will be better.

I finished the second draft of the second book, and I am very pleased with how it is going. For the time being, I have kind of put it aside, but I may get back to it before this next month is over. I added almost 5000 words to it last month.

I have added to the blog for these books, too. There is still more that could be done and I hope to work on it more this next month, too.

So now the question is what will my goals be for this next month. This is what I am thinking:

  • write 1000 words every day
  • get third book up from it’s current 8900 words to 35,000

That sounds pretty lame even to me, but I think these are more realistic goals for me than last month’s were. Let’s see if I am right!

 

 

More from George Saunders

Another great interview with George Saunders on The Rumpus.net. He says this:

You probably can’t change your innate level of imaginative-ness, but I think it’s the persistence in the activity that burns through your lame answers until you make space for an answer that seems original. That’s consoling because that means you just have to work.

I loved that! My writing is still so full of lame answers that I am embarrassed. But if I am willing to put in the work, maybe there is hope!

I’ve always felt I wasn’t very imaginative. That always made the possibility of writing fiction seem so daunting. But if work can make up for some of that, maybe I can produce good writing anyway.

Saunders’ responses to questions in this interview and the article in The Guardian have both been extremely encouraging. His approach to revision is one I had already begun to embrace, and I think I understand more clearly what it is I am trying to do now. It will be interesting to see what comes of it.

 

An article you might want to read

The Guardian has an excellent article by George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, entitled What Writers Really Do When They Write.

He describes the work of an artist:

What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs.

The piece discusses that tweaking, that revision at length. This, for me, was the really interesting part. As I am working on revision of our second book, I see that I am already doing some of what he talks about. But I got a better understanding for how to do it and  why it is important from reading this.

He goes on to say:

Any work of art quickly reveals itself to be a linked system of problems.

I hadn’t really thought about my writing in that way. I can see, though, that there is a seemingly endless system of problems — or maybe questions is a better word: How does he do that? Why does he do that? What would happen if he did this instead?  And I think that the more questions I ask and answer, the better the story will be.

I am probably never going to be the kind of writer Saunders is. OK, who am I kidding? There is no question about it. I WILL NEVER be the kind of writer he is.  But I believe that  I better understand what it is I am trying to do now. And that should make me a better writer eventually. I hope so!

All in all, I thought it was a fascinating article. I hope you will, too!

My writing

Last month I read Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox and as I did, I set myself some writing goals. One of them was to check back in with myself one month later to see how I was doing with the goals and, more importantly, whether or not I was still writing.

My goals involved writing at certain times of the day (7-8:30 am) and a certain number of words per day (2000). I was going to finish editing our first book by 2/15 and be be well on my way to finishing the first drat of the second book.

Well, it didn’t exactly work out like that. I have written a few days from 7-8:30, but not many. I quickly decided that I wasn’t going to stress about that goal. I am still usually writing in the morning, but if that doesn’t happen, I write in the afternoon. The important thing, as far as I am concerned, is that I have written every single day since January 19. It has been a long time since I have written every day, and it feels good to be back in the groove.

I also failed pretty big on the word count goal. I only wrote 200o words on 8 days. But, in 30 days I have written over 35,000 words. Not a record, by any means, but I am happy with it.

Part of my problem with word count was the fact that I actually exceeded  one goal. I finished the first draft of the second book on February 1, not March 15 as I had thought I would. Once I didn’t have that bog project to work on, writing 200 words a day got harder. I started on the third book but am just writing scenes. I think I could probably start writing more on it, and I prob ably will this next month.

The first book hasn’t moved ahead hardly at all, and it should have been completely finished by now. I am a little bummed about that but not overly so. I think that having the second one ready to go and being able to publish two books almost at once is a good idea.

So what are my goals for this next month? I want to:

  • write 2000 words every day
  • finish second draft of the second book
  • get third book up from it’s current 3000 words to 30,000
  • continue to develop the blog for the books

That should be doable if I set my mind to it. Starting in April I will be busy teaching again, so I need to get as much done before then as I can.

I am not setting goals about finalizing the first book because it still requires input from my son. I have no control over that right now, so why stress. I am also not setting time of day goals. It just doesn’t work.

I’ll try to remember to come back next month and let you know how I’m doing. Hopefully, it will be good!

 

 

Update on the writing

It’s been a long time since I was brave enough to talk about my writing. Too long. But here I am to say that I think the first book is done and ready to go. We have to do one more read through, but it is all formatted and just waiting for the green light.

I am so happy about this. It has been too long.

Now, I just need to get the second book finished! It’s sitting at over 31,000 words, about a third done. Let’s see how it goes over the next few weeks.