Yearly Admin and Production Update

January always gets lost in a whirlwind of yearly admin tasks. Tax papers start to flood the mailbox, but what’s worse now is that they’re invading my email as more and more companies push to go paperless. I mean, I get that they save money, but my heavens if it isn’t hard to find that email with a generic title and vague link after it’s been flooded out by three weeks of emails.

Anyway, on the good news side, I spent the first two weeks of January re-reading the first half of The Star of Storms that I wrote last fall before falling into a pre-mid-terms news coma and general malaise. That immediately put me behind in my production schedule.

I was sorely tempted to flip the desk and say FORGET IT ALL, but I really, really liked what I had written (it’s still a first draft and mildly problematic) so much so that I reached the mid-point where I had stopped writing and went to flip to the next chapter asking (OUT LOUD) “Ooooh, I wonder what happens next?”

Only, I’m the writer and I HAD STOPPED THERE so now it was up to me to determine WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

I was so mad at myself.

So, instead of abandoning all hope and deciding that January 2020 would be as good a time as any to start a writing career, I ran the numbers and determined that I could catch up on production if I wrote 2000 words per day.

That’s a not impossible goal most days, so I dove in and started writing. On days that I was tempted to do other things (well, hello there Sims 4) I forced myself to write first just so I could mark that one thing off my mental to-do list.

I’m pleased to say that I am almost fully caught up and will likely be fully caught up by Friday. Like, I was only 500 words off goal last Friday night.

That felt really, really good.

The downside is that I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to edit and write at the same time. I reached the point in book two, The Star of Fire, that I needed to do some pretty extensive re-writing and I had to call it quits on that momentarily. The plan now (subject to change at the whims of the writer) is to finish knocking SOS and then edit SOF while also plotting the first in a new series.

And yeah, SOS won’t be the last in the series, but it will give me three books and a natural pause in the story. I decided to break there for a beat and write another book in another genre, because well, money. I can always come back to the SOT world as a fun project (and I imagine Mr. Quinn will push for it as he really likes these books), but I need to see some sell-through to know it’s worth it to keep pounding away at this. I know my fellow authors will hear that one.

So that’s where I am.

As a side note, I also got some mad little tasks off my lingering list of things that need to be done that I don’t wanna do. That felt good too.

My Most Important Lesson {To Date}

I think all newborn baby writers tap away on their first book with the latent idea that their book is for the masses. Everyone will read and enjoy my masterpiece they think.

Other writers know better.

I know better (now).

The truth is that not every book is for every reader. There is no Everyman in the world who will universally love every book ever.

Never was this lesson driven home for me more than over the last week. I found myself, as I usually do around this time of year, wanting to read some good romance novels. This can be tricky for me, because I enjoy specific kinds of romance and Amazon isn’t the greatest place to actually find what you’re looking for in most romance sub-categories.

I love sweet romance, and while I’ll read steamy from certain authors, those have to be highly recommended (so leave me a list in the comments would you, Mama needs some good romances! Still!).

Anyway, I found a handful of new to me authors with books that looked like they might work and I downloaded them to my Kindle.

And I deleted them almost as quickly.

My first reaction was “Those weren’t good books.”

But, I was wrong.

See, the first book was deleted because it was written in first person present. I discarded that one before I was three sentences in. So, I can’t say it was a bad book based on a stylistic choice.

The second one was not a sweet romance and danced over the light steam line with impunity. Again, a stylistic choice, though I wish Amazon would make romance categorization easier/better/whatever.

Those books weren’t bad books, they just weren’t the books for me!

I don;t like first person present. But other people do. They like to write it and they like to read it. I don’t, but that did not make this book a bad book.

I don’t like erotic romance. But, other people do. They like to read it and they like to write it. I don’t, but that did not make this book a bad book.

And that, I think, is an important idea to keep in mind when reading reviews on your own work. The people that didn’t like your book may say that you wrote a bad book. They may offer constructive criticism. But it may be that their dislike should only be read as “this wasn’t the book for them.”

For the record, I didn’t review either book. Nobody deserves a bad review based on stylistic choices in my opinion. And I did find a great book that fit the bill, so that was a good thing as well.

But all of this was a great lesson for me. Readers are allowed to like what they like and they don’t have to justify that.

2019 Goals and Plans

I cringe every time I write goals now, because my reporting back always seems to center around all the reasons why I didn’t make my goals. It gets tiring really fast. It’s almost like my contrary nature makes me self-sabotage. I don’t know. It’s weird.

And yet, here I am writing down the goals I have in my head for 2019.

Writing

I’m sticking with the 5,000 words per week plan again. This should put me somewhere around 200,000 words for the year. I’ve already put together a production calendar that has blocked off vacation and travel time and noted events that may hamper production so I can hopefully plan better.

I also included ample plotting time in the calendar for each new book. I’ve found that I write better with an overview, a framework. It often gets changed on the fly, but giving myself space and time to plan the next book before diving in should help when it comes time to buckle down and write.

Publishing

I have two books that are in editing now. Hoping to get those published soon.

By the end of 2019 the plan is to have three more ready to go or already published.


That’s it. That’s all there is. I decided to keep it super simple this year, in hopes that it will be easier to achieve and evaluate at the end of the year.

Write the book you want to read.

Is that the most dangerous advice ever?

It’s what I’m doing with the Christmas romance experiment, but I’ll be honest, I’m worried. It seems like most romances I read are dual-perspective, told from both parties viewpoints. It’s a style I tolerate. I don’t love it and sometimes it flat annoys me.

So, the romance I want to read is from one perspective. But that kind of flies in the face of the genre norm* which is a dangerous place for a writer to play if they want to make any money.

The Star of Time (affiliate) Series are books I want to read, but they’re hard to categorize and that makes them hard to sell.

Maybe that’s my brand? Genre fluid books that I’m literally one of 10 readers for? Can you tell I’m catching up on Joanna Penn’s podcast?

*Is it though? Or is it just the norm of what I’ve been picking up? I seem to remember (though I’ll admit to being fuzzy on this) that I’ve read romances told only from the female heroine’s perspective. Am I misremembering? Is this a newer trend?

Of Interest

Here are a few things I found while looking around the interwebs:

Free Time Management course from Dean Wesley Smith This’ll be my first DWS course and I’m excited to listen. I’m kind of a time management addict though worse at implementing the steps. It’s aspirational, I think. Anyway, this course usually goes for $50 so jump on this deal while you can.

How to move your books from CreateSpace to KDP Print In case you’ve been under a rock, CreateSpace is closing. You need to transfer your CreateSpace print books to KDP print and thankfully David Gaughran figured out the process. I have to move one book over, Star of Time was already with KDP print.

Working-class kid becomes a writer My Mom’s a teacher. Has been since before I was born. I understand what they, give, sacrifice, and do for their students. God bless Mr. Cheatham and all public school teachers out there fighting the good fight.

 

Current Events, The Catholic Church, and My Books

TRIGGER WARNING: This post will reference child abuse, sexual abuse, and the Catholic Church. Nothing too graphic on this page, but the link is graphic. Please use caution.

Last week I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I scrolled past this article. I kept scrolling. Current events are a struggle for me. I want to keep up but the constant barrage of what feels like raw sewage from a fire hose pointed at my face gets exhausting. News had just broken regarding the Catholic Church and Child Abuses. Again. I thought it was just another article. But something made me scroll back. Did I read that headline correctly?

We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Orphanage

This was new. Anyone even remotely aware would know that previous allegations were limited to male priests so anything against the nuns would be ground-breaking.

I clicked the link.

It took me two days to read the full article. First, because it’s long, and second because … it made me sick and I had to step away. I’m a fast reader. Always have been. But this? It turned my stomach to the point that I had to keep stepping away.

I went back to Twitter when I finished, desperate to not feel alone after having read about the full-on depravity detailed in the article.

I’ve mulled it over for days.

Like most people, I think the question I’m left with is this: How could a group of adults, who should ostensibly know better, conspire in such a way as to damage and hurt children left to their care?

Please don’t read that and think that I doubt, even for a minute, the testimony of the victims. I don’t. Some details may be wrong or missing and everyone’s perception may be different. But that kind of trauma leaves marks and these victims were traumatized. By adults. Representing an institution that put itself in a position to be trusted.

And the harrowing thing is that I’ll probably never get an answer to my question other than the tired refrain when similar things like this happen:

In order to inflict their actions on their victims, the perpetrators had to see the victims as less than human and deserving of their treatment. 

I found it telling that nobody reported the abusers telling them that any of the treatment was atonement or penitence. They told those kids they deserved what they were getting because they were “bad.”

It breaks my heart.

But it also caused a different kind of chill to run down my spine.

In The Star of Fire, Phoebe travels to 1871 Chicago. And she stays with the nuns that are running the newly opened St. Patrick’s Girls School. I used the nuns real names. I’ve looked all over, but there’s just very little to be found about them. They arrive from St. Louis, pay witness to one of the biggest disasters on record, aid in the recovery for a bit, and disappear into the sunset, reassigned to a new location and a new area of service.

Their thoughts, feelings, opinions, dreams, hopes, and in this case, treatment of their charges is left to history*. I chose to write them positively, primarily because I saw no reason not to. There are no classroom scenes, so no reason to talk about rulers across palms or knuckles. The story isn’t centered on the nuns. They’re secondary characters.

And then, in a crazy turn, when I started researching and writing The Star of Storms, I found at the very center of that disaster yet another set of Sisters, serving in the St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum. These nuns didn’t fare so well. They get even less of a role that the Chicago Sisters did.

But what about the article? How does that even apply?

The fact remains that the article states that the treatment of children in orphanages was pretty terrible across the board. That would have to include Galveston.

Was the treatment in schools any better? Did those kids fare better because they had actively engaged (as much as they could) parents?

Was St. Joseph’s an anomaly? Or was Galveston just as bad? How do I portray it without evidence either way? It’s such a bit player in this book, does it even bear mentioning at all?

There were 94 children at St. Mary’s the day the storm rolled in and 10 nuns. That’s an insane child to adult ratio anyway but add to it the emotional baggage the kids would have from being orphaned or given up or removed from their parents care and you’d see a lot of acting out. And the women left in charge were from another country, young, and untrained – in child-rearing and in dealing with childhood psychological trauma. Add to that the possibility of being overseen by a priest who himself was using the church to gain access to children (as was the case at St. Joseph’s) and you have a recipe for disaster.

How could it have hoped to be any different?

It’s certainly an angle that I hadn’t considered before, and an angle that I have to consider now.

On Business | April 2018

Starting a new (semi) regular column here about the business of writing and publishing. I’m by no means an expert at either, but if anything I stumble across or into is helpful, well, then it’s worth it.

As always, I use affiliate links which sends a few pennies my way if you click and shop on Amazon.

I released The Star of Time into Kindle Unlimited on January 2, 2018.

First Quarter Results

Paperback Sales: 1

KU Reads: 1,524 pages (4 full reads)

Payment: $8.80

Y’all. People read my book. They read it and in most cases read all the way through. In one instance, they stopped about 100 pages in and I know this because it was in the UK store. So, I looked, and that’s where my characters start really talking about liberty and King George and they’re, you know, in favor of liberty for the colonies. I guess the poor person reading figured they weren’t going to win here. Heh.

Anyway, I could get really down about all this, but I’m not. It’s the first time I’ve ever been paid for my writing, and $8 is a start.

Second Quarter Plans

I’ll be releasing The Star of Fire during the second quarter, most likely, also into KU, since that’s where the readers seem to be (for now). Honestly, I’m not sure what’s going on in KU. It’s well-established that the system is broken, but the question remains, what is Amazon’s plan (if any) for fixing it?

Until I have more information there, I will tentatively be staying in KU.

I’m also head-down-working on The Star of Storms. New setting, new time period, new characters. What could go wrong? (Pro tip: everything.)

There’s a solid 20,000+ words written so far and I am well on my way to winning Camp NaNoWriMo this month.

Also, I’m adjusting my master plan. I’ve been mulling over the ending of The Star of Fire and it just hasn’t been sitting right. So, I’m pushing that pub date back so I can get it fixed after I have a sit-down with the Beta feedback. (Speaking of Beta readers – if you’re interested, use the contact link at the top of the page and I’ll add you to the list!)

All in all, things are progressing and I’m really still very happy to be in this game. Now, I’ll be taking my $8 and buying a cup of coffee. 🙂

 

 

Winding Down February

I got an email newsletter from Elise Blaha-Cripe yesterday. I love her stuff. She has a great eye for color and craft and her attitude of “just get it done” is something I am trying hard to adopt, knowing that you can only edit words that have been written. Anyway, in her email, she mentioned that it felt like January lasted 7 weeks and February zoomed by. And I identified strongly with this. I know at least once in January I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat fully believing that it was mid-April and I had missed all my deadlines. And now, on the last day of February, I feel like it was just February 4th yesterday. What kind of crazy time-warp is this??

I am winding down the self-edit of The Star of Fire, book two in The Star of Time Series. I have a chapter to go and then I need to drop in some little morsels before I can send this on to beta and editing. Come hell or high water, it will be done by Friday and off to beta.

This is a book that I wish I had written like I laid out in the self-editing post. It really could have benefitted from that kind of writing and I am excited to try it out with the next book scheduled for plotting and writing in March. Will report back.

Completely unrelated, but necessary note: As spring approaches (apologies to anyone who may not see spring for a few more weeks or months – remember this when I complain that it is eleventy million degrees here later this summer) I may be more scarce. We have tractor repairs to do, mowing to start and a bunch of new fruit trees to plant and get situated. We’ve had almost two solid weeks of rain and I shudder to think about what the yard will look like once it is dry enough to mow.

Another, sort of related, yet unnecessary note: In the email referenced above Elise said that she is writing a book on productivity and can I say that I am insanely excited for this book to come out (2019, I think)? She gets more done in a day than I sometimes get done in a week and I’m just … well, I could use the help, I think. Besides that, I love reading about productivity and the fact that she’s got kids and a successful business means a lot. It’s different when you balance those two and a lot of books I’ve come across feel like they’ve been written in a kind of childless vacuum where the only life priority is work. And that doesn’t, well, work for me.

 

Self-Editing for Dummier Dummies (like me)

Every writer generally falls into a process that works for them. But if there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s this: Every writer is always looking out for a process that is better than the one they have. Maybe deep down we all hope that a tweak in the process will result in the next bestseller?

Anyway, I’m no different. My process has generally been this –

  • sketch out a plot (using Tick-Tock Plot*)
  • Move the beats into Scrivener notecards so I always know what’s coming next
  • Start writing at the beginning and power through to the end
  • Let the manuscript rest while wandering aimlessly about the house
  • Think, “I should probably write another book”
  • Procrastinate on Kboards
  • Worry that Amazon is plotting ways to wring more money from indie authors (pro tip: they are. Quit worrying about it.)
  • After a month, re-read the old manuscript. Cringe in places. Nod along in others.
  • Extensive re-write.
  • Re-read again.
  • Tell husband that I’m going to trash the whole thing and go work for Amazon
  • Get talked off the ledge and spend some time moping – maybe take a nap.
  • Start work on another book
  • Send the previous book to editor and hope for the best

Unfortunately, as “writerly” as this process is, complete with despair and ennui, it’s not going to work anymore now that I want to treat this like a business.

I made it a goal in 2018 to write 1200 words a day, 365 days this year. When I sat down to update my personal writing tracker (pick yours here. I use Loki.) I did the math real quick (on a calculator because I am a writer and math makes my writing brain hurt) and realized that if I stuck to the goal that I would be producing 438,000 words this year.

Uhhhhh….. that’s a lot.

Like, that’s almost 4 Lindsay Buroker books. Or, if I’m closer to The Star of Time length, nearly 6 full-length books.

I quickly realized that just bumbling through 2018 wasn’t going to work.

In a delightful fit of kismet, I stumbled into a thread on Kboards (yeah, I was procrastinating, leave me alone!) started by Wayne Stinnett, a writer that I admire quite a bit for many reasons, but mostly because he’s super generous.

Anyway, as people were discussing writing 5,000 words a week someone linked to a blog post he did about his process and I clicked over because that many successful books can’t be an accident.

If you aren’t going to read it, and I think you should, I’ll wait …

It works like this:

Write to your daily word goal. For Wayne, that’s 1000 words. For me, 1200. Sometimes I go over and that’s okay.

He uses Word, so he creates a chapter heading with the word count and moves on with his day. I just write in one scene card in Scrivener then title the scene and add the date in the Notebook, like so:

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 8.42.28 AM

When I get ready to start the next day, I go back and read and edit the previous two days writing. Since doing this, I’ve fixed typos and generally added about 200 words to the daily count. I think the flow has improved and I find it’s easier to edit since I’m already neck deep in the story. It’s also easy to pick out little places where some more detail or finessing of the words is needed.

The goal here is to end with a fairly clean draft that won’t need the rest and re-read. This would significantly speed up my process and, taking that into account, along with my goal word count, I sat down and figured out that I could write and release potentially five books and a novella this year!

I also shamelessly copied Wayne’s production schedule. It was a huge find for me (and again, duh!) because even though I’ve read and heard writers talking about planning out releases for the coming year, I’ve never stumbled across it laid out in a way that clicks with my brain.

The x-factor here, of course, is can I get 1200 words a day? So far it hasn’t been hard. A challenge some days, finding a block of time to sit and write, but I can knock out 1200 words in an hour to an hour and a half. Several days I’ve topped 1500 words and have built up a little buffer for the inevitable sick day. I also planned in scheduled vacations and time off.

I am so grateful for writers like Wayne that put their process into detail and freely share it because it really helped me see more of the big picture for 2018.

I feel like I can relax a little and enjoy the journey because I have a map now – I know what I’m working on every day through October 5. I didn’t schedule anything after that in case I need to move or shift things around to accommodate a lightning strike idea. If I arrive in September and am on track I’ll probably figure out the rest of the year at that point and go ahead and plan 2019 as well.

I really hope that someday I can be as big a help to someone as Wayne has been for me.

*Again, an affiliate link. Thanks for the support, though.

Quinning! | January 2018

I was scrolling back through old blog posts and smiling at how far I’ve come. When I started blogging it was as an unpublished writer. Now I am a full-blown published author. It’s an amazing feeling.

Anyway, I thought I’d wrap up December’s goals and share January’s now that the month is half over (whoops). I got caught up in release day excitement that I forgot all about it!

December Goals

  • Work towards completing my NaNoWriMo novel. This one is a bit of a departure for me (just like 2016, actually, though I never finished that one). It’s a sweet romance set in a little town in Colorado. I’m almost halfway in and still don’t completely hate it, so I thought I’d finish and see if the thing has legs. In the writing, I’ve found some side characters that would be easy to use as expansions into a series. Early stages yet, but…

I worked on this off and on in December. Made some good forward progress, but it just wasn’t clicking. I knew I wanted it to be a romance, but it was draggy and bloated and had all kind of problems. I made it to about the 50% point before I was ready to throw in the towel. Then, randomly scrolling Facebook, I saw a post in one of my writer’s groups about Romancing the Beat* by Gwyn Hayes and I bought it right away. Changed the whole direction of the story. Plotted the thing back out the week before Christmas and then took my seasonal break (Christmas to New Year). This book is in the January goals. 

  • Tie up loose ends for the launch of Star of Time. These are book-related details. Think licenses for cover elements, working on front-matter, working on back-matter. I’d like to have that settled before the book comes back to me.

Finished this one! Obviously. Since the book is totally available on Amazon now. You know, if you’re interested. 

  • Tie up loose ends on the business side of things. I bought my domain, and I set up a domain email address. I also started a newsletter (link in the sidebar if you’d like to sign up). I want to get a simple auto-responder ready to go.

Did this one too! Got y little newsletter set up. Made a simple autoresponder. Baby steps to finding those 1,000 true fans.

  • Complete my edit of Star of Fire. This is book 2. I’d love to be able to send it to the editor in January/February for a first-quarter 2018 release. Still, a lot depends on what happens with the edit of SoT.

Yeah, no. Didn’t even touch it. Reworked my goals for 2018 and created a release schedule. Now that I know how long editing takes and what to expect and what I can reasonably get done in a day, I think I have a pretty good plan.

  • Plan the launch. Look, I have no illusions about how this is likely to go. I am a literal unknown, I’ll be tossing a book into the roiling waters of Amazon and crossing my fingers for the most part. But, I’ve watched a couple of other first-timers make some headway and I plan to evaluate and adapt their strategies for my book.

Did this! Set up a pretty simple AMS ad just to learn the ropes. Low daily spend. Lower expectations. I’ll mess with advertising and planning promotions and stuff for book tow on. You know, when sell-through becomes a thing.

  • Finish the plot plan for book three. That’s the next writing project. Looking to start that one probably mid-January.

Again, nope. Got that worked into 2018 goals too!

January Goals

  • Finish the sweet romance. I am giving myself to the end of the month to knock out this little book. It won’t get published until late in the year since it is a Christmas-themed book, but I wrote out the beats in December and wanted to finish while it was fresh.
  • Write 1,200 words a day. I joined a writing challenge group to hold me accountable and so far, so good. I haven’t hit goal every day, especially at the beginning of the week when I was rewriting the first quarter of the romance. Once I got into fresh territory the words came faster and the goal was reached more consistently. Public shame is a strong motivator, I guess.

*Affiliate link. I might earn a few pennies if you click through and by Gwyn’s amazing book!