Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Realizing I Was Never Cut Out To Be a Full-time Writer



Today is August's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

The realization that I never would have made it as a full-time writer back when I was younger.
 
Here I am in 2020, with plenty of free time due to COVID-19, and my writing progress has been abysmal. Yes, I’m making steady progress on my stories, and I AM happy about that, but not nearly as much as I should be. I spend way too much time on non-writing related activities to be a productive writer. Watching too much TV. Puttering around the house. Getting up late in the morning. Finding reasons to do anything other than sitting down in front of the computer. I’m squandering away precious time.
  
Thank goodness I didn’t try being a full-time writer back when I had a growing family. We would have starved.
 
Then again, maybe the desperation to feed my family would have forced me to be more productive. Perhaps fear would have woken me earlier in the mornings, or kept me from watching TV, or doing anything other than writing. Assuming that's the case, how can I  generate that same urgency to write now in 2020? What kind of stick can I use to make myself more accountable as a writer? I suppose a financial crisis that wiped out our savings would do the trick, but I’d rather find a less stressful method.  

How do you guys drive yourself to write more?

Writing isn’t the only area where my progress has been glacial. My plan of ramping up my marketing platform over the course of 2020 is also way behind. My big accomplishment this month was finally buying the domain name for my new author website. All things considered, that’s a rather small step in my journey to publication, yet I easily wasted a week of research convincing myself to pull the trigger. My next step should be setting up the website, but at the rate I'm going, we'll be well into autumn before I work up the nerve to do that. 

Any suggestions on which Wordpress themes work best for authors?
  
Optional August question: Quote: "Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don't write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be."
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn't planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

When I first dreamed up the story for my debut novel, I wasn’t thinking about genre. I knew it would be fantasy with elements of science, but that was about it.  Only as I neared the end of the first draft did it occur to me that my story might be considered urban fantasy. I say might, since almost all urban fantasy these days seem to have paranormal creatures like witches, wizards, shifters, vampires, dragons, fae, etc., whereas mine doesn’t. So now I'm not so sure what my genre is.

Is there such a thing as urban “science” fantasy?

Be sure to stop by the other co-hosts this month. Susan Baury RouchardNancy GideonJennifer Hawes, Jennifer Lane, and Chrys Fey 


Take care everyone, and stay safe! 

ChemistKen

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Having Too Much Time For My Own Good



Today is July's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

An utter lack of discipline.

Once again, I totally missed the first Wednesday of the month IWSG blog post. I knew it was coming, even thought about it last weekend. But did I act on this knowledge? Of course not.

There is no excuse. I have more time for writing and writing related things than I’ve ever had before. Especially these last few months when COVID-19 pretty much decimated my chemistry tutoring gig. Back when I held a full-time day job, I had to fight and scramble for every minute of writing time. Not only did I make progress with my story, but I managed to blog once a week and critique other authors’s books. It’s as if now that I have all this time, I can’t focus on my author career.

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that I need to start scheduling my activities. I’ve never needed schedules before, but then again, I’ve never had this much time to waste either.

Thank God I didn’t try making this writing thing a full-time career ten years ago. My family would have starved.


Optional July question: There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade? 

All I want is software that can read my mind and write my story for me. An electronic ghost writer of sorts. 


Take care everyone, and stay safe! 

ChemistKen


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Insecure Writer And a Lack of Discipline



Today is June's (belated) contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

The fact that if it wasn't for other writers commenting on my blog, I would never have remembered it was ISWG post day. Arg.....!

I have more time for writing-related things these days, especially what with COVID-19 keeping me around the house. And yet, I still managed to forget about this post. Heck, I'm doing a poor job of posting on this blog in general. My only excuse is that progress on my current WIP is slow enough that I feel guilty about working on anything related to writing other than my WIP. 

Photo courtesy of VisualHunt

If I expect my writing career to go anywhere, I'll have to learn how to spend my writing time more wisely, because the demands on my time will only mushroom once I publish my first story.



Optional June question: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work? 

Perhaps some of you know this already, but I kind of hate writing. Seriously, I always have. It's why I didn't take up writing fiction until about ten years ago. Putting my thoughts down on paper has always been a struggle. Only after a chapter reaches a certain level of polish do I find the writing to be enjoyable. Ninety percent of the time, however, I'm beating my head against the keyboard. 

If that strikes you as depressing, I should point out that I enjoy telling stories, so I'm willing to do whatever it takes to deliver a story that readers would like, no matter how long it takes. My hope is that my readers never pick up on the I-hate-the-writing part.


Take care everyone, and stay safe! 

ChemistKen


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Slogging My Way Through a Sequel



Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Staring blankly at the early stages of my second novel and remembering just how much work it was to write the first one. 

Don't get me wrong. I am making progress on the sequel to the novel I finished (mostly) at the end of last year. But every time I sit down in front of the computer to write these days, I'm daunted by the number of words I need to write before the first draft is finished.

Three hundred pages may not have seemed so overwhelming back when I wrote the first book, but that book was written over the course of four to five years. That's works out to about 5 pages a month, a nice leisurely pace that allowed me to write when the muse took me, work at my day job, and still enjoy life. I wasn't worried about how long it might be before I typed "The End."

Fast forward to the present, when I no longer have a full-time day job, the COVID virus is giving me an excuse to stay home and write, and my goal is to finish the sequel in a year. Suddenly, writing an entire book all over again seems like an impossible task. My rough draft currently stands at eighty pages, which means I'm only a quarter of the way through. How did I ever manage to write three hundred pages the first time? 


Optional May 6 question: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? 

I find that showers are a good way for me to get into the zone. Thinking about a scene while in the shower not only brings it more to life, but the words to tell that story seem to flow out of me, as if I'm dictating the story to someone. The trick is to rush out of the shower as soon as I can so I can write the words down before I forget them.

Unfortunately, I can only take so many showers in a day, so my second ritual is to spend half an hour reading a book whose voice or genre is similar to mine. It puts me into a writing mindset, and once again, the words flow out of me that much easier when I put the book down. 

COVID family update. The family is finding new ways to keep themselves entertained during our self-imposed isolation. My wife has gotten into jigsaw puzzles. Even our cats are doing their part to help out.
My wife and our cat Smokey, arguing over the positioning of a puzzle piece.

Don't forget to visit the other co-hosts for this month. Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, and Kim Lajevardi.


Take care everyone, and stay safe! 

ChemistKen


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Writing Your Second Book



Today is April's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Not knowing if I have a second novel in me or not. 

Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that I finished the first draft of my debut urban fantasy at the end of 2019. I’m now in the editing stages and, though the process can be frustratingly slow at times, I’m confident it will be finished sometime this year. 

I’ve been studying various aspects of marketing and selling books for the past couple of years, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that it’s quite advantageous to complete at least two books in your series before you release the first one. The idea is that allowing too much time to pass between releases will cause your fans to forget about you. If you’re a slow writer like me, that’s a real concern. 

Note: I’m not talking about rapid release marketing, the perils of which I discussed in my previous post

So, I’ve already begun work on the sequel to my still unfinished debut novel. Crazy? Perhaps, but I’m having fun with it, allowing myself to work on whatever chapter appeals to me at the moment, without the pressure of having to show any of it to my critique partners. I’m happy with the results so far, but will this book be as good as the first? 

That’s a fear all debut writers face. Will I be able to do it again, or did I only have one book in me? 

Optional April 1 question: How am I and the family coping with the current crisis? 

As is the case with most of the rest of you, my entire family is stuck inside the house pretty much the whole day, which means boredom is a constant danger. My son is so bored he actually spent a couple of hours cleaning his room yesterday. Talk about the approach of Armageddon! 

We’ve been reduced to the point where we consider any trip away from our house as a sort of mini-vacation. Here are a few vacation pics of our trip to the local pizza place. 

Excitement is in the air!

Success!

Back home again, ready to recover from our trip

Our next planned outing is driving to Costco to gas up our car. The family is stoked! 

Take care everyone, and stay safe!


ChemistKen


Monday, March 23, 2020

The Perils of Rapid Release

Yeah, yeah, I know. This blog has been pretty quiet lately. And it’s my fault. I’ve been so focused on editing my story that I felt guilty every time I even thought about posting. But thanks to COVID-19, I now have plenty of time to write. 

These days, a lot of authors are opting for Rapid Release as a technique for selling their books. Rapid Release is when an author releases multiple books in a series at once, typically about a month apart. The idea is to keep interest in a series high for an extended period of time, stimulating the Amazon algorithms into promoting the books for you. 

Lucy's version of Rapid Release - Photo by Giphy

Unfortunately, turning out that many books at once is problematic. You either have to be a really fast writer (definitely not me), or you have to hold off on releasing any books in the series until they’re all written, something most writers can’t afford to do unless they have a large backlist paying the bills. There are many risks to this approach, one of them being that you may find yourself three or more books deep into a series before discovering none of them are selling. The biggest concern, however, is that the quality of your books may suffer if you’re driving yourself to write too quickly. 

While I’m much too slow of a writer to ever consider this approach myself, I’m disappointed to see some of my favorite authors heading down this path. Not that I don’t want to read more of their stuff, but the quality of their writing has definitely taken a hit. 

For example, one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction writers jumped onto the rapid release bandwagon last year. Normally, she’s pretty good at weaving her worlds into the story naturally, letting us savor her worldbuilding one piece at a time. To my dismay, the first chapter of the first book in her new series (released in early 2019, I believe) was little more than an infodump. I couldn’t believe it was the same writer. 

It was like she was trying to cram all the details of her world in at the beginning, so she wouldn’t have to worry about them later as she cranked out her story in record time. Even worse, much of this info-dumping was done using cringeworthy “As you know, Bob” type dialogue. For those of you who haven’t heard the term before, it’s where the people having a conversation are telling each other things they both already know as a way to force feed info to the reader. It was painful to read, and to be honest, I couldn’t even finish reading the free sample provided by Amazon. 

Recently, another author whose stories I enjoy also jumped into the rapid release pool. I had volunteered to be an arc reader for them, but quite honestly, the stories were so poorly written, I stopped reading halfway through the second book. It was like reading a first draft. Not that the grammar was bad or the editing poor, but the writing needed lots of tightening. 

Pages passed with nothing happening. Mysteries brought up earlier in the story were forgotten. The main character spent a LOT of time thinking about what he should do. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the character kept thinking these same things over and over and over again with no resolution. Entire chapters could have been cut without hurting the story. It felt as if the author was padding the wordcount. To top it all off, so little happened during the story that when I reached the big reveal near the end of the book, it felt as if I were only at the halfway point of the story. 

So be careful if you opt for rapid release. If the quality of your book suffers, you’re going to pay for it down the line with disgruntled readers.

ChemistKen

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Insecure Writer and A Lack of Progress



Today is March's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

I’m not exactly sure. Just a vague sense of unease that I’m not where I should be at this point in time. 

For one thing, my series of posts on building my brand have come to a screeching halt. It’s not as if I haven’t been working on building my platform, but there are so many facets to this marketing stuff, that breaking it down into blog-sized pieces may take a while. In the meantime, the edits on my urban fantasy are progressing at a reasonable rate, but it’s March and suddenly I’m worried I'm already falling behind. 

This month’s question is: Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories? 

The short answer is no. Maybe it’s because I haven’t written that many stories yet, or perhaps it’s because my family and I don’t really have much in the way of traditions. I’ve borrowed habits and traits from family and friends to round out my characters, but that’s about it. 

I'll be returning home today from a very enjoyable trip to Florida, so my ability to visit everyone’s blog may be limited. See you next month.


ChemistKen


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Taking On the Publishing World



Today is February's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

All the things I have to do before my book comes out.

Those of you who stop by this blog on a regular basis know I’ve started a new series of posts chronicling my journey into book marketing. Now that the first draft of my debut urban fantasy is finally finished, I’m entering a whole new world of publishing. There are editors to find, email lists to build, social media sites to conquer, cover designers to interview, a dedicated author website to construct… 

And here I thought editing my novel would be the hard part.

So, if you’re interested in seeing how I approach this book marketing stuff, stop by every now and then and I’ll keep you updated. Comments and suggestions will be welcome. Who knows, maybe you’ll pick up a few new tricks along the way, too.

I took a little break from writing these last couple of days and focused on getting my office back in order. The first order of business was to dig through the huge stack of papers handed to me by my critique partners over the past year and confirm I’d added all their suggested changes to my manuscript before tossing the papers away. Yes, that empty space on the shelf looks really nice. Too bad it'll probably fill up again soon.

I also cleaned up the filing system on my computer. I had too many versions of each chapter. Before crits, after group 1’s critiques, after group 2’s critiques, plus a slew of other variations. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure where the most recent version of each chapter was located. Now that’s all taken care of and it feels good.

Anyway, the year is one twelfth over, and if last year was any indication, this year will fly by so quickly I’ll need to maintain my focus to get my book out the door before it ends.



ChemistKen



Friday, January 31, 2020

Should Author Websites Be For Readers Or Other Writers?

Photo Courtesy of VisualHunt

In my last post, I promised to explain what I would do with all those author names I’ve been collecting in preparation for building my author platform. Unfortunately, the gastrointestinal illness that swept through our house, along with a bit of procrastination on my part, put an end to that promise. So in the meantime, I’d like to respond to a few of the comments I received in that previous post. 

A few of you mentioned that since I have this blog, I already had an author platform. In one sense, you’re correct. I’ve posted on this blog off and on for the past seven years and, in the process, have made many new writer friends. I learned so much about the writing process over that time, I can scarcely believe I’m the same person who first began writing Hogwarts fan fiction ten years ago. So yes, this blog is a great platform for connecting with other writers. 

Unfortunately, it’s not such a good platform for connecting with readers. 

Reason #1. The purpose of an author website is to give your readers a chance to come and meet you as a person. They don’t want to hear about the trials and tribulations of learning how to write, or read about the intricacies of book marketing. They want to learn about an author’s books, his likes and dislikes, and what he’s currently doing. 

Reason #2. I have all sorts of plans for my author website, and there’s no way I can do those kinds of things on Blogger. 

Reason #3. Although I love the title of this blog, it doesn’t seem terribly professional for my author website to be named after another author’s IP. 

My current solution is to keep this website going, along with having a dedicated author website. It’s not that I’m excited about running two different websites—especially when I haven’t been terribly rigorous about posting here as of late—but I think it’s the best way to go for now. I may eventually merge the two once I become more established as a writer, but in the meantime, I think keeping two separate websites is best. 

Is it possible for a writer to have a single website that caters to both readers and other writers? Of course, it is. (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Spann Craig) But until I understand what my author platform should look like, I think I’ll keep my options open.

Until next time...

ChemistKen


Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Road To Publishing – Part 1


This is the first in a series of posts chronicling my journey to publication.

Photo courtesy of Visual Hunt

“So much to do. So much to learn.” 


Okay, I finished the first draft of my debut urban fantasy last month. I’m pretty much done, right? All I have to do is polish up the manuscript, have it edited, and then upload it to Amazon. The champagne is cooling even as I type.

Hold on, not so fast. According to everything I’ve read, I should have been working on my author platform long before now. I should already have an author website, an email list, and a tribe of followers on social media. I should have already begun connecting with other authors in my genre. I should already have a small, yet rabid, group of superfans.

The sad truth is, I don't have any of those things. (Hangs head in shame) My focus the last few years has been on finishing my book, not worrying about how I would sell it. Luckily for me, I’m a slow writer, which means I still have plenty of time to accomplish these things before my book comes out.

But where do I begin? I know I need a dedicated author website, but what should it look like? How often should I send out newsletters, and what should they contain? Which social media platforms should I focus on? What should I put into my automated email welcoming sequence? I’ve spent the last two years researching all this book marketing stuff, but there’s a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. 



There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. In the end, I have to decide which approach works best for me. So, with all the aforementioned questions, what should be  my very first step in my grand plan to conquer the book-reading universe?

Build a list of comp authors.

Not what you were expecting, was it? Think about it. If I want to evaluate the various techniques for building an author platform, what better way is there than studying how other authors go about it? Having a list of authors will allow me to:
  • Compare their websites
  • See how they engage with their readers
  • Discover what social media platforms work for them
  • Find out which editors and cover designers they recommend
  • Lots of other things I haven't even thought of yet.

So how am I compiling this list? 

Step 1. Find 20-30 authors in my genre, urban fantasy. I'll want a nice mix of A-listers, B-listers, as well as authors who are just starting out. Each group has different strengths. Finding them is easy. I read urban fantasy, so I already know seven or eight names of authors whose books I enjoy. By entering their names on Amazon, I can peruse their “also bought” lists and find more authors. This shouldn't take more than an hour.

Step 2. It’s important to find authors outside my sub-genre, too. In my case, there's epic fantasy, magical realism, dark fantasy, etc. Do their platforms differ from urban fantasy authors? If so, how? And I don’t want to forget science fiction authors either. My story weaves in some science along with the fantasy elements, so finding authors that mix fantasy and science is a must.

Once I have all these names, what am I going to do with them? I’ll tell you next time.

ChemistKen


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Stepping Into the Publishing Arena



Today is January's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

It’s the start of a new year, which also marks the beginning of my roller-coaster ride of becoming published.

Last year, my goals were to finish uploading my Hogwarts fanfiction to Wattpad, complete the first draft of my urban fantasy, and begin making contact (once a week) with other authors in the fantasy and science fiction genres. 

As you might expect, the results were mixed—mostly due to events beyond my control. 

Back in February, I was downsized by my company, causing major disruptions both to my family and my writing.  The edits to my fanfiction ground to a halt, as did my plans to connect with other authors. Needless to say, searching for another job can be kind of time-consuming.  

I'm happy to say things have finally settled down. The job market in my area is not good, at least in my area of expertise, but I eventually settled into tutoring chemistry online. It doesn’t pay nearly as well, but we have enough savings to keep us afloat, so all is good. And in a classic “lemons to lemonade” bit of self-delusion, I took all this as a sign that I should become more of a full-time writer. 
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Hey, at least I finished the first draft of my WIP. Woohoo!

So, now it's time to get my butt into gear and buckle down for the real work of publishing my story. Editing the book, formatting it, uploading it to Amazon, and then marketing the darn thing isn’t going to happen by itself. So here are my 2020 goals.

  • Publish my urban fantasy.
  • Make significant headway on the sequel.
  • Connect with other authors in my genre.
  • Build an author website.
  • Post on this blog (the one you’re reading now) on a regular schedule again.

The original goal of this blog was to chronicle my journey as a writer. Although that journey will never really end—there’s always more to learn—my focus has changed over the past few years. These days, I’m more interested in the marketing side of things. For this reason, this blog will now be concerned with chronicling my journey to becoming a published author. I’ll still have the occasional post on the craft of writing, but mostly it’ll be about the trials and tribulations of publishing. 

I’ve done tons of research into topics like reader outreach, marketing, and publishing, but to be honest, these are just abstract concepts floating around my head. It’s figuring out what to do on a day-to-day process that I have to figure out now.

I’ll keep you updated. 


ChemistKen

P.S. This month's question asks what started me on my writing journey. Just consider the name of this blog and you'll have the answer.