Saturday, June 26, 2010

Things may be quiet around here for a few days

Gina and I are leaving tomorrow on a vacation to the east coast. Heading to Atlantic City for a little beach time and relaxation. We are also going to see Philadelphia while we are out that way. New York City, too. And going to Washington D.C. So maybe it won't be as relaxing as I am claiming, but it should be fun. Gina is, by far, the best traveling partner I've ever had. She's up for anything and she's always excited.

Taking the computer with us so hoping to get some writing done early while Gina is still sleeping. And if we have free wifi in the hotel then I may check in here, but no guarantees. I'll give a report when we get back, but I may be away from the blog for a few days. Vacation is the reason why.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why I changed my stance on self publishing

I mentioned earlier that I was going to try and explain my reasons for deciding to self publish my work. This is the first of what is probably going to be multiple posts on the subject. Get yourself something to eat and get comfortable. This is a long one.


I joined the writers group I am currently with a year ago. When we started, one of the members said she was considering publishing some of her work herself. I told her that she was free to do whatever she wanted to do, but that self publishing wasn't something I was interested in. For me the only way to be a "real" writer was to write and polish a manuscript, send it off to agents hoping one of them will like it, hoping that agent can find an editor interested in taking on your book, then hoping that editor can convince his publishing company to buy the book. Once you get that far there is still another 18 month to two year wait before the book hits the shelves at a store nearest you. That's a lot of hoping and a lot of waiting. But that's how I thought it had to be done.

Besides, there was/is a stigma attached to those who self publish. They are considered, at least in some circles, as not being good enough. Self publishing was the route an author took when he or she couldn't get a book published through traditional channels.

Another thing. In nearly every case self-publishing meant your work wouldn't be available in book stores. The only place someone was going to find you was online. And when they did find you they were going to be asked to pay more than they would for a normal book.

So, on top of the stigma behind it, it just wasn't something that was going to make an author any money. If you were OK with that and just wanted to see your words on a bound page then self-publishing may have been a good way to go. But that's not the only thing I wanted. I wanted to make a living at writing. I wanted to have author be my job.

Then something changed within the last year. I went to my first writers conference. I went to sessions that were nearly all led by authors. In almost every session someone asked how the authors got their start, how they landed and agent. Every answer started with "Well don't use me as an example. I got lucky and ..." Every time they said that. For me that was incredibly discouraging. It told me that this business was a lot of luck. And I knew that, but it was discouraging that everyone who the organizers put in front of us didn't find their agent through the typical route. They didn't find them pitching to an agent at a conference. They didn't find their agents by sending query letters. They did it by getting lucky. I came away from the conference with a ton of great ideas and I learned so much about technique. But still, I was discouraged. Having author be my job seemed to be a farther off dream than I had realized.

So I came home and kept writing. I also started reading some blogs and poking around the internet and realized there was another option. There were people making money -- real money -- by self-publishing e-books. People like Joe Konrath and Zoe Winters, who I link to on the right side*. And I thought that if they could do it, then I could too. At least I could give it a shot. Self-publishing was a real possibility now because it was an opportunity to make my dream of being an author come true. I could make money doing this, something I couldn't do with self-publishing in the past. Well, at least the chances of doing it before e-book readers took off was smaller.

Now that e-readers like the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad are gaining in popularity, more and more readers are having access to the online stores where e-books are sold. They can buy some books for as little as 99 cents, meaning they can take a chance on a author they don't know. And they get that book loaded onto their device instantly. No more inflated price for a book. No more having to wait days for it to come in the mail. You can sacrifice very little cash and have your new book in your hands in minutes. That's a game changer in self publishing, at least in my estimation.

I think as more people have success at this type of publishing the stigma that's associated with self-publishing will start to fall away. I think it already is in some ways. More writers are deciding that they'd like to go the independent route and control their own career, write what they want to when they want to, and, honestly, keep more of their money for themselves.

There are specific reasons (quicker to market, total control over my career, etc...) that I'll go into in other posts.
But that's an explanation of why I've decided to self-publish. It's an opportunity to make real money at writing. I don't expect to have the success that Joe and Zoe and others right away. And it may never happen for me. But I have to try.

* I'd suggest giving their blogs a read. They're both very honest about how well they are doing and how much money they are making self-publishing to Kindle. They're also honest about how much work it is. Going this route isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it work.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Closing in on 8,000

About to pass 8,000 words on the WIP and it's seeming like my 20,000 word estimate may have been a little too long. Although, who knows. Once I get done with the editing and rewriting I could be past that. My concern, though, is that this will be too short. I need to do more research, but I don't know how long the average Kindle title is. I know some people sell short stories on there, but I'd feel more comfortable selling a novella. I kind of think that if you give the reader a choice between buying a short story or novella and they are the same price, they will pick the longer novella every time. But maybe that's just me and the need I seem to have for getting the most for my money. I want the maximum word count my dollar can buy.

I have been feeling that the story needs a bit of amping up. I need to turn up the heat in the second act that I'm writing now. I'd like the action to ride right up to the edge of unbelievable, but not fall off. I am trying something that I have heard others suggest working for them when they need to turn up the tension, and that's write yourself into a corner. I am about to do that, if I haven't already. We are about to have a two on five gunfight that my two main characters have to come out on the good side of. We'll see how I get them out of this. Could be fun and give me a great story, or it could be the last time I try this.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ahead of the game

So, I mentioned my plans to self-publish the current WIP and others through Kindle. In the interest of putting the cart before the horse, I've already got the book cover started. It's also a WIP, but I wanted to post an early version here to see what people thought. If I was headed in the right direction. Give me your opinions. I like it myself, but I made it so that's kind of a given. How well it works as a book cover, especially an ebook cover, remains to be seen. That's why I am putting it up here. There is a movie poster feel to it that really appeals to me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some progress and a little taste

Made some progress on the WIP. About 500 words, I think. Would have liked to have done more, but had a few day job related things to take care of before I started writing. Once I got to writing, though, the words came pretty easy. And 500 words is progress so I can't complain about that.

Figured I'd post another excerpt. It had been so long since I'd posted one I had to go back and see what I'd put up. Turns out that if you read all the excerpts you get a decent idea of what the story is and where it's going. If you do that, know that the present tense thing seen in earlier excerpts and a little here is gone. I started writing it that way, but it was presenting too many problems. I have a printout of the first part of the WIP that is dripping red ink from all the verbs I marked that need changing.

Anyway, here's the unedited excerpt.

The ships along the south bay were loaded with mismatched boxes and shipping containers. Men worked through the night getting cargo ready to drop on to the overstuffed decks. Cranes groaned over our heads, pulling full boxes up to the decks. Men called out instructions and the ships fought against the ropes holding them close to the docks.

Berger watched the action and shook his head.

“Horrible job,” he said. “I don’t care how much you paid me, I wouldn’t do it again.”

Spray from the bay was coming up and catching the men around the ships. Most wore long pants and t-shirts that were dripping wet.

“I don’t know,” said the runner, his jacket now off and thrown over one shoulder. “It can’t be as bad as what we’re doing now.” I nodded my agreement.

“Nah,” said Berger. “That work is worse. You know how much I’d have to work to make what I am going to make tonight?”

“Yeah, but it’s risk and reward thing,” I said.

“How many guys you know died doing that job?” the runner asked.

“You mean physically or otherwise? ‘Cause I’m not sure there is a difference.”

The runner shook his head. “Then you’re an idiot.” Berger popped him in the back and the runner stumbled forward.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Making plans and self-publishing

Gina and I were in Washington state this weekend for our nephew's wedding. It was a great time and nice to get away, even if I only missed one day's work. Gina was gone for longer, ten days if my counting is correct. She went up a week earlier than me for the nieces' high school graduation. She then went to the Oregon coast for a couple of days while I worked and wrote here in Texas.

The area up there is very pretty, and, considering the heat we have here in Dallas, the weather was a nice break for me. I know everyone else who had spent more than a week in the 60 and 70 degrees temperatures was ready to get back to the heat.

On our plane ride back I pulled out a little notebook Gina got me for the writers conference I went to. I opened it and wrote out my plans for my series of stories I have been writing. I plotted out when I could be done with the current WIP and how long it would take to finish another piece that's started and sitting on my desktop. I figured that by September I could have the current WIP written and edited. I have a friend who has agreed to be a Beta reader. And I need to know what Gina thinks. She's nothing if not honest with me, so I know she'll me when something isn't working. So, by September I could have that one done. After that it's up to me to format it and get it into the Kindle store and on Smashwords. And with my plan I'd release one story each month September through December to have at least four titles available by the end of year.

I am shooting for December since I am suspecting that there will be several iPad and other e-readers given as gifts for Christmas and I want to have stories out the for purchase for anyone looking to fill their e-shelves.

So that's the plan for now. Self-publishing my own stuff. Building an audience and maybe supplementing my day job with income from writing. I'm excited about this plan. Wish me well.

And, by the way, I'll have more thoughts on self-publishing in a coming post. Just a year or so ago I was against the idea, but I've had a change of heart. I'll explain what did that.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Adventure tale vs. character study

At a recent writers' group meeting we had an author come speak to us. He talked about characters and the importance of knowing what kind of personalities they had. It was very interesting and eye-opening for me. The speaker handed out a sheet showing what I am going to call a personality wheel. On this wheel one of the pieces of personality pie was labeled "leader." Across the wheel in the opposite piece of pie was a slice labeled "follower." The speaker said that you should be able to place your characters in one of these slices. And for a story to work well it's best to have characters opposite each other on the wheel.

As he was talking I was thinking about my WIP. I hadn't written any of it yet, but was thinking about it at the time. I knew who my main character would be. He was going to be a broken leader. Someone who'd given up long ago on doing the right thing. He had accepted the changes to the world he lived in and had made the decision to do whatever it was he had to do to make ends meet to take care of himself. He's a former cop who, in the deepest part of his gut, wants to do the right thing but is able, now, to justify doing things that he knows aren't right. It's for survival.

The secondary character -- a guy I've named Berger -- is a follower. He's the opposite of my protagonist. He's still principled, wanting to do the good thing, not the bad thing. Notice, that I didn't say right thing. I think there is a difference and it all comes down to interpretation. It comes down to what you consider good. It's more subjective than right and wrong. I think most all of us can agree on what's right and wrong. For Berger it's not about that, it's about good and bad. He wants to be a good guy and he's having trouble coming to grips with the idea that life in his changing world may make it hard, if not impossible, to do the good thing all the time. But he joins up with the protagonist -- a guy I've named Rexall, although he hasn't been named so far in the story. The protagonist is Berger's leader. Joining with Rexall gives Berger someone to follow, someone to listen to. He likes Rexall and can see that Rexall is essentially a good guy, someone who has allowed himself to do what he has to to get by, but at his core is a good guy. And listening and taking orders from Berger lets him justify some of his bad actions. He was just following orders, and that's a good thing.

So, even though there are guns, a little sci-fi technology and a fallen government, the story I'm working on is essentially a study of these two guys and one man's struggle with holding on to his principles while also needing to survive.

Thanks for letting me ramble on about that. It's something I was thinking about as I did a first edit on part one yesterday. I needed to get it written down somewhere and this seemed like as good a place as any. I've got one more thing I've been noodling on -- the difference between doing good and doing right. I covered it a bit here but there is more to it. I've worked it out in my head and it makes sense to me, but I'd like to share it with you all to see if I'm thinking straight.

A fun and productive weekend

We're back from San Antonio all in one piece. It was a great time. I've been there a few times, but this time we saw things I'd never seen before. We did the Riverwalk and did make it over to the Alamo, but spent most of the day Sunday in an area called the King William District. It's a historical district with old homes and restaurants. It's an arty area of the city and we kept seeing groups of people drive by on Vespas. Like eco-friendly biker gangs. And we found a restaurant that I am going to have to go to each time I'm there. Thanks, Tito's, for some awesome Mexican food.

When we weren't out and walking -- and we did a lot of walking -- we were back in the hotel room relaxing and cooling off. It's getting hot in Texas everyone. They are forecasting highs of 103 degrees for the coming weekend. It wasn't that hot this weekend, only in the 9os. But while we were relaxing I pulled the computer our and wrote. Got about 1,000 words out and finished part one of the current work in progress. The ending sets up part two really well. It doesn't stand on its own so well, but it's not meant to I don't suppose.

I haven't uploaded my pictures from San Antonio yet. Gina hasn't either. But once we do I'll upload a few images so those of you elsewhere can see the city and those of you who care can see us.