Posts Tagged With: word count

Reestablishing a Writing Routine

We go through great changes in our lives. It’s frankly inevitable. In fact, I remember someone telling me once in high school that in a twenty-five year period, it was likely that we would change our city/town, home, job, education status, socioeconomic status, political party, religion, and/or a whole bunch of other stuff. And when that happens, writing routines established over time and perhaps uninterrupted for years, are suddenly thrown out the window. And then where are you?

A couple of months ago, I moved into a new apartment so I could start a new job after a job search that lasted several months. Now, prior to this move, I would’ve said to anyone who asked that I didn’t really have a writing routine, that I just wrote wherever I could. Well, that is kind of true, because I do tend to write whenever I can if it’s convenient for me. But after the move, I did realize I had a routine of sorts established, and that routine no longer existed.

You see, while I was job-hunting, I lived with my dad, and in the evenings, I would settle down on the couch downstairs in the living room and write or edit while I watched whatever show I liked was playing that evening (you can get a lot written during commercial breaks). This routine lasted from late October 2015 to the end of May 2016. And my God, did it work! I edited the same novel twice and wrote more than a few short stories and blog posts that way during the job search, and it kept me sane while I looked for employment.

However, after I got employed and I moved for work, a lot changed for me. Yeah, I had increased independence, a nice location near work with a grocery store, a Target, and a library very close to where I live, and the chance to be as eccentric as I wanted within the confines of my own home without anyone judging me. But I also did not have a cable package, a TV, or a couch (though that’ll change soon with one of those). So suddenly the routine I had, which I’d been using for months and which I’d been comfortable with, was about as useful as an alchemy textbook at football practice.

For a while, I tried just writing or editing as much as I could when I sat down in front of the computer. Sadly, that worked horribly. I was moving at a snail’s pace, getting through only a couple of pages a week. A chapter could take up a whole month! With work getting busier and busier for me, I was starting to worry if I’d ever get back to the level of productivity I enjoyed prior to the move and in college.

But then a friend of mine gave me a recommendation that I found very useful. She had recently joined a group on Facebook where members sign up each month to try and write 250 words a day, and it had helped her get back into a routine of writing fiction after a pretty lengthy hiatus. That got me thinking: I can’t write every day, some days there just isn’t enough time. But what if I just tried to write 250 words every time I sat down in front of the computer? It couldn’t hurt to try.

To my utter delight, it worked like a charm. The first time, I ended up writing a little over the minimum 250. The next time, I ended up writing over 700 words! And the third, I managed to get out over thirteen-hundred words! It was amazing. Somewhere between words 150 and 250, a switch would flip and the story would just start flowing out of me like a river. In this way, I managed to get out the outline for my NaNoWriMo project in about a week or so.

Once that experiment had proven successful, I wondered if I could do the something similar with editing. It would have to be slightly different though, because editing is editing. Sometimes all you have to do work on is changing a word or a punctuation mark, and word count doesn’t change that much, but sometimes you rewrite whole sections and the word count changes dramatically. I ended up going with editing at least three pages per session, and that worked as well. After I rewrote the beginning of a short story I’d been working on and off with for over a year, I managed to finish editing the rest within a week (it helped that on the last night I worked on it, I was doing everything I could to avoid the presidential debates and I only had twelve pages to go!). Clearly this new routine I’d been working with was doing its job.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to adopt this routine if your old routine becomes impossible to do, but I am saying you shouldn’t just throw yourself into work and expect magic to happen. That didn’t work for me, and I’m not so sure it’ll work for you. Instead, take baby steps. Try writing a little a day until you find something that works for you and you’re at a level of productivity that works for you. If you do that, then I think that whatever life throws your way, you’ll be able to get back into the swing of storytelling with little to no trouble.

Have you ever had to change your writing routine? What did you do and how did it work out?

Categories: Editing & Rewriting, General Writing, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I Met Mark Coker at the Nebraska Writer’s Guild Conference and Some Stats He Shared

I wrote this on April 17, but I wanted to wait until Mark Coker put up his presentation on a slideshow to share with everyone. As usual, I give my thoughts on this further down in the post for anyone who’s interested.

 First, the slideshow:

Now for my thoughts:

I attended the Nebraska Writer’s Guild Spring Conference on April 14, and I’m still excited that I got to meet Mark Coker in person.  It was my dream for over a year now to shake his hand and thank him for creating Smashwords, and I finally got to do it.  He is a really nice person, and it was an honor to meet him.  Like I said, I’m still excited.  It was definitely one of the highlights of my life as an author.

I also attended his two presentations.  One was on E-Publishing Trends and the other was based off his free book The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  In addition to sharing the Secrets, he also gave some interesting numbers he recently calculated on the overall success points like price and book length for the authors at Smashwords.  I think the total of books on Smashwords is about 115,000.  But I didn’t write the exact number down when he said it, so I could be wrong.  On the Smashwords site, it only has numbers of words published. 

I’ll start with the basics from the stats he shared while it’s fresh in my mind and add my two cents.  (I wish I had taken notes.  I took them for the E-Publishing Trends but not for the other, which was a mistake but hey, live and learn, right?)

Anyway, overall this is what I took away for the overall stats:

1.  Full-length books sell better. 

And overall, it looks like it’s at 120,000 words in a book.  However, when he looked at the romance books, it was more in the 60,000 to 80,000 range, and it didn’t vary a lot.  Erotica was only a little less than romance, which surprised me.  For some reason, I thought erotica shorts would do better than longer books.  He didn’t break down sci-fi and fantasy, but I’m guessing the sci-fi and fantasy sells better over the 100,000 word point since it seems that a lot of those books seem to be longer than the average romance novel (at least from what I’ve observed).

2.  Don’t price your book at $1.99. 

Weird, I know, but when he showed us the chart, there was a high point for $0.99 and $2.99, but the price between those two points showed a surprising dip.  Why?  I don’t know.  I thought it was the oddest thing.  So don’t price $1.99.  If you’re going to the low end either do $0.99 or $2.99.

$3.99 through $5.99 looked decent.  $0.99 and $2.99 were higher but not as much that I think there’s a significant “wow” factor.  The “wow” was the $1.99 price point.  I do wonder how many of the higher priced books that sold well were part of a series with the first book in that series being free. 

Adding my guesses (with no proof at all to back this up):

  • Though he didn’t break price down according to genre, I’m going to guess that romance books typically do better at $0.99 and $2.99 overall.  In my experience, romances seem to be priced at those points as a whole with Regencies being higher.  That’s not to say that non-Regency romances sell better than the $2.99 point, but I’ve noticed that Regencies tend to be a bit higher than the other romance genres from casual observation. 
  • However, I am guessing that sci-fi and fantasy tend to sell better at a higher price, but then again that might be because the first book in the series is free and people want to finish up the series so they’ll buy all the books at the higher point. 
  • Other genres?  I have no idea since I haven’t tracked them at all.  I’ve tracked romance and sci-fi/fantasy because I’ve written in those areas.

3.  Most readers find books from their online communities, not from family and friends.

I thought this was interesting, but it’s something he’d already covered before online.  But it bears repeating.  Readers rely heavily on their online communities where likeminded people are hanging out to get recommendations for new books.  This is probably why we need that word of mouth so much.  Those people are hitting our target audience a lot better than we can.  If you think about it, when we go into a community and pitch our book, it’s probably not as effective as a fan of our work who does it.  Of course we’ll think our book is worth reading; we wrote it.  But for someone who is a complete stranger to do it is going to carry a lot more weight because it represents an unbiased source.  If anyone has ventured into the Amazon forums, you know why the unbiased source is getting to be more and more important.

Now, if an author has established a fanbase and comes across another author with a similar writing style and the same genre they think their fans will enjoy, I think that kind of recommendation works well.  I’ve gotten the best feedback from my readers when I tell them about an author I discovered who has books that are similar enough to mine that I think they’ll enjoy it.  My readers thank me for this, so I think this is a great way to not only help your fellow author out but to also share something your readers can enjoy.  A win-win.  I’ve also found this doesn’t work as well if you pass on a book that isn’t similar enough to yours.  I’m not saying my readers say, “No thanks”.  They don’t say anything, actually.  But this didn’t do the author I pitched any good because there was no difference in their sales.  With authors who were similar to me that I pitched, I later found out they got a boost in sales.  So now I try to watch who I pitch and who I don’t so it’s as effective as possible.

A secondary way readers find new books is through searching online bookstores for books, which is why that “customers also bought” list is helpful.  But again, this doesn’t seem to be something an author can control.  I mean, how can any of us boost sales enough to be put on lists?  We can’t.  We have to wait for enough people to buy our book so that we end up being linked up to other books that are similar (as long as those customers are buying books similar to ours).  Then that helps new readers discover us. 

From this, I take away how little we can impact sales based on our own efforts.  I mean, we can do something to reach out and find a few readers, but it takes others we don’t know to really spread the word on our behalf.  I think that’s why JA Konrath keeps saying we need a lot of luck.  All we can do is write the best book we can, put a great cover on it, get the best description we can, and price it at a point that is competitive with other books in our genre.  Then we hope for that luck.  I will add here that Mark Coker said if you have a couple thousand dollars and have to decide between paying for editing and marketing, he said to choose editing.  He also said to never get into debt or pay for anything (book related) if you need that money to pay the bills.  When strapped for cash, barter for services.  If you have cash, do the editing, cover artist, etc costs first.  Then after that, worry about marketing, but in my experience there’s really nothing a marketing person can do that you can’t do yourself so I hesitate to spend money on marketing at all, except for a $10-$20 ad on a site that caters to your target audience (and even then, it helps to already have a name some people will recognize).  When I was a nobody, no ads ever worked for me.

Categories: Book Pricing, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing Trends, The Reader | Tags: , , ,

Tips to Writing a Rough Draft in 30 Days

Writing a novel is an enormous undertaking on its own, but to do so in 30 days is even more so. It may seem to be an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a little planning on your part and depending on if you are a plotter (organize everything in advance; have the story plotted out from start to finish), a panster (writing by the seat of their pants; not planning your writing), or an in-betweener (this is the place between advance planning and writing without a plan), just how much planning that involves.

A few years back I bought two books on how to write a rough draft in 30 days, the first book I hated, the second one I loved and still use. Much of it has to do with my writing style and not the authors writing style or methods. So I thought I’d share a few tips with all of you that I’ve picked up over the years.

Tip #1: Settle On a Word Count

This isn’t a set in stone word count, this is a goal to work towards. When I wrote My Lord Hades, the word count was set at 50,000 words. Setting a word count helped me stay on track and calculate where I needed to be each day or when to step up the paceif I was to meet my deadline at the end of 30 days. It also let me know how many words I needed to write the next day if I skipped a day.

Tip #2: Don’t Stop Writing

Churning out a novel in one month doesn’t figure in time for revision and editing, that is to be done after the first draft is complete. Often writers who complete a novel in one month, let the novel sit for a few weeks before diving back in to revise. Writers will, of course, experience rough patches and road blocks which is understandable.

One important thing to remember is to just write. Don’t go back and re-read or edit your manuscript during the process, it will interrupt the flow of ideas and slow you down.If you are able to stay on track there is no reason to not finish the novel in 30 days. The goal is to get the ideas on paper. Revision can and will come afterwards.

Tip #3: Use a Story Tracker

The Story Tracker was an idea I liked from Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D. I have adopted this simple idea to my own use, modifying it as I like. You are free to do the same or use as is.

The main idea behind the Story Tracker is to keep writing without stopping to rewrite a plot, character, setting, subplot, or revise and edit. What you do is keep notes of changes you want to make to the story, so that you can remember what you need to do later when you revise the finished manuscript. This is where you jot down new ideas and new directions as they come to mind and then keep writing as if you made those changes already.

I tried creating a worksheet in my word processor that consisted of a table with the headings: Page #, What to Fix, and Additional Comments—these can be: why you need the change, what the impact of this change will be on other characters,. This didn’t work for me—needed more room or less than I gave myself in a table—so I made it into columns. However, now I just use a notebook to jot down my notes.

My examples:

Loving the Goddess of Love (Title of work at the top of the page)

-page 1-3, change POV character in Prologue to Aphrodite

-page 6-8, change character talking to Zeus from Hera to Rhea, more impact on Zeus’ decision if it’s his mom rather than his soon-to-be-wife

Categories: Rough Draft | Tags: , , , ,

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