Summer Writing 6

The Crusader's Heart by Claire Delacroix, a medieval romance and #2 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series.Last week, I made good progress with my writing. I added about 12,000 new words to Wulfe and Christina’s story, The Crusader’s Heart, but this word count is deceptive. I was at the ugly bit, which happens with each book, when I have to scrub through everything I’ve written so far and ensure it’s consistent. A lot of words go away in this process, even as some are added. I probably wrote 20,000 new words, but I also edited and chucked out a lot. So my net gain is 12,000 words, which is fine by me. Sometimes this phase results in no gain in word count at all. It’s a necessary step, though, because it makes the book so much stronger. It’s no fun to do, but I’m always glad when it’s done. Now, the word count will really add up quickly!

There were other things going on last week, as well. I’m hoping to have some interesting news for you soon, and be able to share one of those things. My monthly newsletter went out last week, and The Rogue was (and is) on sale. I also canned my peaches, an annual job that makes a sticky mess of the kitchen but is totally worth it in the winter. Some new swag arrived, which I’ll show you later this week, and I made my time travel romances exclusive at Amazon so they could be available through Kindle Unlimited. I’m also participating in a big promotion at iBooks, and will tell you more about that on Thursday.

And now, I have writing to do!

Summer Writing 5

I’m past the halfway mark on this seven week sprint and have written almost 50,000 new words on my various works-in-progress. (It’s actually 48,000 words.) I wrote 12,000 words on Project 2 (The Crusader’s Heart) this past week, because Wulfe and Christina wrestled me for every one of them.

The Crusader's Heart by Claire Delacroix, a medieval romance and #2 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series.This is a typical working pattern for me: a project starts with a burst of enthusiasm and word count. Then it stalls because I need to do more research. After that, progress is slow because I need to deepen the characterizations, which means figuring out their pasts and getting them to talk to me, and then to each other. Once all of that is resolved, things usually fly to the conclusion, picking up speed as I go. Now that Wulfe and Christina are talking to me and each other, and I know more about Venetian courtesans, and I know their respective histories, my list of what comes next keeps getting longer. Christina woke me up last night to confide a very interesting detail in me. I’m excited by the repercussions of this and how it will reshape the story. This flurry of ideas and energy is characteristic of the phase of writing the book which will carry me through to the end. I expect this to be a very productive week.

50K in four weeks in the summer is also an excellent accomplishment. I’m pleased about that. Those of you who are joining me in this writing challenge, how was your progress this week?

And now, onward!

Summer Writing 4

I had a pretty awesome week, although it doesn’t show up in the word count. Only 10,000 new words, but I was researching. I LOVE this part of the process of writing a book and totally dug in this past week. It’s a predictable development and happened right on time – after the first flush of starting a book, I need to research and do character studies, figure out back stories and deepen everything. I had a wonderful time doing this. There’s nothing that makes me happier than spreading out the research books and maps, the calendars and the timelines, and working out the chronology, characterization and details. My office is a wreck, but I’m happy.

Some other stuff happened, too. The best thing was that I had one of those fabulous NY conversations this week, the kind I mentioned in my blog post about things I missed from traditional publishing. It might come to naught or might mean wonderful new opportunities come to fruition. I don’t really care. That hour-long chat was marvelous and electrifying. 🙂

And, as a complete bonus, since I need to do something when I think things through, I weeded thistles from my garden this past week. We have a bumper crop of them this year, but there are now far fewer in the perennial beds than a week ago. There are still more, so I’ll be doing battle this week, too. I’ve mulched things in after the big weeding and the garden looks great.

I hope that you had a good week, as well!

Summer Writing 3

Well, I didn’t have a very good writing week. In fact, I didn’t manage to do any writing at all. 😦 That’s because instead of being writer-me, I had to be publisher-me.

What did I accomplish?

• The Crusader’s Bride was released. Yay! An on sale date means a bunch of promo jobs, from updating website links to chatting about the book online. I had print proofs arrive to be approved, too, and I registered the copyright for the book.

• I contracted for The Crusader’s Bride to be produced in audio, which meant a bit of negotiation. I also commissioned the audio book covers for that series, and put them here on the site, as well as updating the production schedule for upcoming audiobooks. I reorganized the Audio page – giving it series tabs – because it was getting a bit crowded. I’ve requested auditions from the producer and we discussed some possibilities. We’re going to have a male narrator for this series. I’ll need to listen to those auditions next week and choose the narrator for the entire series.

• I had proofs of three Dragonfire books from my second POD distributor to review and emails to write to Chapters/Indigo about stocking them. (Fingers crossed!)

• I reviewed the audio production of The Renegade’s Heart and requested some corrections. That’s par for the course and part of the reason it’s time consuming to review the audio. It’s a wonderful recording – as always, Saskia did a terrific job – and should be available soon.

• Reviewing audio means finding typos as well as what Mr. Math calls speakos. I updated the print book files for The Renegade’s Heart, and also sent corrections to my formatter. I’ll be uploading new files for The Renegade’s Heart and also the boxed set, Kinfairlie Knights, since TRH appears in that volume, too.

• I published Firestorm Forever, The Crusader’s Bride and Harmonia’s Kiss to Overdrive. I don’t like their interface so had been avoiding this job. Now, it’s done and the books should be live for purchase this week.

• I managed and tracked two promotions: one for Double Trouble and one for Highland Heroes. Each was successful in its own way, and each one taught me something about how the market is changing.

• I set up a promotion for August – you can read about it in my August newsletter! – and also a second promotion for audiobooks called August Audio which launched on Saturday. I’ll be participating in a third promotion arranged by another author, and you’ll be able to read about that in my newsletter, too.

• I wrote blog posts for August and queued them up.

• I booked a signing in November. There’s a post on that queued up for tomorrow. 🙂

Not an unproductive week by any means, but I’m ready to write write write this week.

What I Miss About Traditional Publishing

Although I am now an indie author, I was traditionally published—i.e. published by big publishing houses based in New York City—for twenty years. It was almost exactly the twentieth anniversary of my first sale when I stepped away from traditional publishing. I sold my first book to a publisher in April 1992, and declined the offer from my last publisher in March 2012.

In the last five years, I’ve repackaged and republished a lot of backlist titles (because the rights have reverted to me from the original publishers) and also have published a good bit of new work myself. The last three books in the Dragonfire series were indie-published, as was the True Love Brides series of medieval romances, as was Tupperman’s story, Abyss. Indie publishing gave me the opportunity to finish series that wouldn’t have been possible in traditional publishing. Five years ago, I thought that would be my main use of indie publishing, but now I’m launching new series. It’s wonderful to begin fresh, and to have the freedom to play with some story elements, too. The Crusader’s Bride, first in my new medieval romance series, is a completely new project with a series structure I’ve wanted to explore for a while. I have two more series in work, also with an unusual structure, and am loving the creative adventure. I’m pretty sure that none of these series could have been placed with a traditional publisher with favorable terms. Indie publishing has helped me to rediscover the joy of writing and storytelling.

That said, there are things I miss about traditional publishing.

1/ Conversation
Most of the people I worked with in publishing were very clever and well-educated. They were interesting, whether talking about books or not. Although going to New York to meet with industry partners could be stressful, it was also often fascinating. I particularly miss talking to my agent, who had seen much and understood more. His insight was invaluable. I also miss the great gossipy chats I would have with some editors when we met in person, catching up on who was doing what and all the news in the tiny pond of romance publishing.

2/ Expertise
There are things that big publishing houses do well, and which they continue to do best. The multi-national release of a blockbuster book, for example, requires skill and timing, as well as a kind of synchronization that is pretty much impossible for indie authors to manage alone. Very few authors write international blockbuster hits, so this doesn’t have much to do with most of us.

One of the things even the newest debut author sees with a big publishing house, though, is their collection and analysis of data. Having a large cache of sales information in a particular market niche gives big publishers the opportunity to discern patterns, even in sub-genre niches, to compare packages and tropes and author voices to try to identify what contributes to success. They can shape what they buy based on what they know they can sell, and they usually can articulate this very well. Like all powers, this one can be used badly—an editor can either build upon a given book’s strengths to make it appeal more strongly to the market without changing its essence, or an editor can insist that everything he or she acquires for publication fits a specific template, whether or not that destroys the work (or the author.) In recent years, the latter perspective seems to have become dominant.

So, I miss the consultations and the expertise the way it was offered fifteen or twenty years ago. This is because I have too many ideas. I truly think of several story ideas per day. It’s just not possible for me to write them all. Even if I could write a book in a month (and I can’t) and do it every month, there’d be at least (365-12) 350 ideas per year abandoned beneath my desk to die. I love all of my ideas, and I could make them all into good books. Choosing which is the most marketable or the most likely to succeed is a skill I don’t have, because I’m not sufficiently objective about my own work when it’s in sharp focus. In five years, I could choose, but it would be irrelevant by then. Another variable to consider: sometimes the book an author has to write isn’t the one that will propel his or her career forward, but will build his or her writing skills instead. It’s good, though, to make an informed choice. I miss being able to tap into that wealth of expertise in order to make the best decision.

3/ The Production Cycle
The production cycle for a book in traditional publishing was at least partly driven by the steps necessary to print a physical book and distribute it. It tended to be about a year, from the final delivery of the book manuscript to its on-sale date. Of course, things have been stepped up (in some cases, at some houses) for digital publications to get to market sooner, but still, I miss the steady incremental progress of a book through the production cycle. Each book would come back to me at least three times for review, which gave plenty of opportunity to ferret out inconsistencies and typos. I would know a year in advance, if not more, what my publication schedule would be. That seems so leisurely to me now, like something from another universe.

In a way, it is. The current market demands that authors and publishers be more nimble, because trends come and go very quickly. I’ve used the past tense in the paragraph above, because I’m not sure that even traditional print houses work at this pace anymore. There’s still a big difference in indie, though. Indie authors often finish and edit a book, then publish it immediately.

There must be a happy middle ground between tomorrow and a year from tomorrow. I follow many of the steps I learned in traditional publishing, but they tend to be done more quickly. I’ve yet to entirely catch up. One of the reasons I’m on a big writing push this summer is to get ahead of the curve a bit, and stockpile some projects for publication in 2016. I’d like to be less rushed in the last month before publication and to be able to sit back, all ready for release day. I’d like to be able to let a story simmer for a while, sit untended while I review its logic.

I also would like to maintain good relationships with my current partners. One of the things that happens in traditional publishing is that authors who manage to perform a miracle and pull something together in a ridiculously tight time frame tend to be rewarded by being expected to perform miracles again. And again and again. It’s not pleasant to be taken for granted, or to know that your partner will always demand too much. I want to be kind to my partners and build even more time into my production cycle.

4/ Print Distribution
I have a considerable readership who likes print books. I like them, too, both as a reader and as an author. Print distribution gives a book visibility in the world beyond online sales portals. That visibility drives sales, by encouraging impulse buys and prompting memory. Granted, print distribution from traditional publishers is more difficult to gain than it once was, but it’s even harder to get physical distribution for an indie-published book.

Because most indie print books are print on demand, there’s no big print run of copies. You don’t need that when you don’t have print distribution: orders can be filled one at a time. But another issue for me is the look of the book itself. POD products are better than they used to be, but I miss the special finishes (like foil stamping or tinted varnish, rag edged pages, step-backs, printing on the interior of the cover, etc. etc.) that are only possible for traditionally printed books, produced in quantity.

I miss my ‘shiny’. I’ll keep looking for it.

5/ What’s Done Is Done
In traditional publishing, once a book is in page proofs (two or three months before the release date) it’s essentially done. It’s hard to make changes at that point, because it’s expensive to update typesetting and reburn printing plates. From that point, the book will be as it is. There won’t be revisions, even if a typo is found. There won’t be updates to the front and end matter. There won’t be a new cover, even if the first one doesn’t appeal to consumers. The cover copy won’t be revised. The book is made the best it can be at that point in time, then left to sink or swim. The machinery of publishing moves on to the next project. The author has already moved on to the next project. Only when there’s a new edition of a book some years later will any updates and revisions happen. Most books don’t go into second editions.

Of course, much of this derives from print publishing and the realities (and cost) of making changes to an existing physical book. Some of it also comes from big publishing companies needing to manage their lists and continue to move forward. Indie authors, in contrast, tend to update their book files (both digital and POD) much more aggressively, as well as their metadata. In essence, the entire list of an indie author can be always in transition. Front and back matter can be updated, typos can be corrected, scenes can be added, covers can be changed and links can be updated. The book is a fluid canvas and one that can always be revised. In a way, this is exciting. In another, it’s exhausting. As an author’s book list grows longer, the obligation of doing this upkeep can become quite burdensome.

I miss the finality of a traditionally published book’s publication date, and the ability to move forward instead of constantly revisiting the past. My formatter and I do an annual update of front and end matter in my digital books, although I don’t do the same with my POD book files. They are snapshots in time, like my traditionally published books. This annual update is becoming quite an exercise, given the amount of content I manage, so I might make it a biannual revision after 2015. We’ll see.

6/ Someone To Say ‘No’
This is the big one. It’s counter-intuitive to most indie authors, and even to many authors who come from traditional publishing. One of the things I love about indie publishing is the freedom. It’s very liberating to not have anyone to shoot down your ideas, to be able to play with different formats of stories or different genres, to take a chance on an idea and see how it flies. That power restores our ability to take a chance on an idea that just won’t let go of our imagination.

But who will tell an indie author if he or she has it totally wrong? As tedious as it can be to build consensus, there is merit in listening to other voices. Where will I find that voice? Everyone I consult in this market is being paid by me. I’m the client of my freelance editor, which reverses the balance of power between us. Just as in the traditional publishing market, I couldn’t tell my editor that I wouldn’t make change X to my book (or do it by Y date), my editor now can’t tell me to make change X. A freelance editor might believe she can’t tell a client indie author things that author won’t want to hear.

Power is held by the one who pays. We salute the ability of indie authors to write what they want, how they want, and publish it as they want, but the marketing of books is complicated. There are stories that can be improved—not changed into something else, but edited into better versions of themselves. There are covers that don’t appeal to the right consumer. There are stories that don’t build on the author’s established brand, and might even compromise it. The diversification of an author brand, the building of its audience, the management of the graphical branding are all careful balancing acts. It’s better to be able to consult with other experts before leaping forward with a choice.

So, I miss the voice of dissent, as funny as it sounds. I think we learn more from criticism. We might not make change X, but having someone point out a weakness can lead to a buttressing of that issue. The book can become stronger as a result of the exchange. It’s hard to see the merit and flaws of your own work, especially when moving from creation to publication really quickly, because we’re not objective about our own creations. Indie authors take on many responsibilities of their publishing career, many designing their own covers or writing their own copy among other tasks, which brings more under the umbrella of what might not be seen objectively. This is compounded by the fact that many indie authors have built communities of affirmation around themselves, so even when they ask for feedback, they might get only resounding approval—regardless of whether they’re right.

There’s a balance to be struck. I don’t for a moment imagine that if I returned to traditional publishing, I’d find all of these things again. Publishing has changed and what I miss are older industry patterns. I’d need a time machine to go back to 1998 or so to have these conversations again, and that isn’t possible.

At the same time, indie publishing isn’t perfect either. As the market matures and we all find our rhythm, the missing pieces become more clear. My freelance editor and I have had some great discussions this summer, for example. Because we have similar industry credentials and experience, we both understand the power of that dissenting voice in making books better. I’m still looking for my shiny, although shortly after writing this, a new means of print distribution for indie authors was announced. I’m learning more. The market is changing and evolving, and I’m optimistic that we’ll find a new balance. Traditional publishing demands too much sacrifice for what they might offer, so that’s not the right choice for me right now. The advantages of indie-publishing outweigh what’s lacking, at least for me at this point in my career. Things are changing, though, and I’m curious to see what the right choice will be—for me and other authors—five years from now.

What about you? Are there things you miss about the way your favorite authors were once published? Are there things you prefer about this current market?

Summer Writing 2

What a great week I had. Very productive, and an exciting adventure.

First off, it was wonderful to be charging away on brand new projects. Instead of finishing up a linked series, or writing the book of a secondary character who had long deserved to have his or her story told, this is all fresh work. All new ideas. All new projects. I had almost forgotten how much fun it is to charge into a new world, meet a new cast of characters and find my way around a new fictional world. It’s invigorating, and just wonderful. The stories started to come to life under my fingertips, which is one of my favourite things.

Then something marvelous happened. Last Tuesday, while I was writing away Project One, I saw another side of it. Essentially, the universe of that story exploded and spawned a subsidiary series. This is exciting, but meant adding Project 3 to my list of works on the go. The words just flowed on this new project, which has to be completed before I can continue with Project One.

I’m having the very best time!

Here’s where things stand.

Project One: 25866 words (that’s 4,500 new words)

Project Two: 6,700 words (no change)

Project Three: 21,233 words (those are all new words)

Over 25,000 new words for the week! I’m very pleased.

The only snag is that I had thought Project Three might be a novella, but as usual for me, it’s going to be longer than that. (If it were a novella, it would be pretty much done at this word count, and it’s not nearly so. I think it’s just getting interesting.) Still, it’s one of those magical stories that is practically writing itself. These don’t come along often enough!

As much fun as I’m having on Project Three, I have to switch things around this week and make some progress on Project Two. Six more weeks to go in my challenge, and at this rate, I might finish all three projects. (Fingers crossed.) I’m off again this morning and am going to try to work on two projects simultaneously. My goal is to make solid progress on Project Two, and also try to finish Project Three. I won’t know whether I can do it unless I try.

The other fun thing is that some of my local writers’ group have also taken up this summer challenge. It’s great to cheer each other on, and also to learn more about each other’s projects and work habits.

Summer Writing

Each year, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is held in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words (which is really only half of a book in my corner of the world) during the month. There’s a fabulous community that comes together for that event and I enjoy participating each year.

The thing is that if you’re a working writer (like yours truly), you need to write at that speed more than one month out of the year. You need to write at that speed pretty much every month. The organizers at NaNoWriMo also put together a summer writing month called Camp NaNoWriMo. This is a cool idea, but I’m going to just do mine here on my blog instead of on their site. I’m calling it Summer Writing.

It’s July 20. The Crusader’s Bride is locked and loaded at all portals, and everything is done for the July 28 on sale date. I have no other promotional commitments this summer, and am just going to write as much as I can. Let’s find out how much that is!

There are seven weeks between now and Labour Day weekend. I have two projects on my desk, and will post my progress each Monday morning. This morning, here’s my starting point:

Project One: 21,500 words

Project Two: 6,700 words

Both will be full length books. I’d like to finish both this summer. Away we go!

The Artist’s Way – Week Eight

I haven’t been checking in a lot with you about The Artist’s Way, the twelve week program that I started this year on the week of October 6. but let’s do that now.

It’s hard to believe that it’s week 8 already! That’s two-thirds of the way through the program. How are you doing? I’ve been great with keeping up on my morning pages, and have made good progress is getting the focus of my day back on writing. As usual, I’ve not been so good about keeping my artist dates, although I have started on a coloring project. This got me to thinking about different tools that writers use to keep track of their books and imaginary worlds. A lot of authors use collages, for example, but I’ve never had much luck with that.

I have a new series brewing in the back of my mind, and that’s got me to thinking about managing the information associated with it. It’s always a challenge with a linked series to keep track of ongoing details. I’ve used a number of different methods – hand-drawn maps, spreadsheets, binders, character forms, etc. – and all of these show their weaknesses once I get past book #6 or so. (Right now, for example, I’m re-reading all of Dragonfire to make sure I don’t miss any of the loose ends.) This new series will be open-ended (instead of finite, which is what I usually do) so I want to make sure I have everything organized from the beginning. I’m setting up the binder (or Bible) and the character interviews, the background details and the story synopsis. Beyond that, virtually all of the books will also be set in the same small town – essentially, the town will be a character. So, I’ve started to build a model of the town. I’m really enjoying this process and the way it’s sparking new ideas for me and for stories in the series. I’ll show you more as we get closer to publication, but I think this is a good example of the kind of fresh thinking that can come out of programs like The Artist’s Way.

How about you? Have you had any revelations or new developments emerge from your journey through The Artist’s Way this time?

NaNoWriMo

This year, again, I officially signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I had to finish The Warrior’s Prize, and was running behind after going to Novelists’ Inc in Florida at the end of October. I wanted the motivation of NaNoWriMo to get my butt into my chair and put those pages down!

I had a pretty awesome first two weeks of November, and posted over 50K words in those two weeks. Rafael and Elizabeth’s book went to my editor, a bit late but much better, and I’ve been writing a few extra scenes since then which I’ll tuck into the book later. (There always seem to be one or two that pop into my mind after any book is delivered to my editor.) This week, I’ve been catching up on those revised backlist titles, including the POD’s, but next week I’ll be writing new work again. The best thing about NaNoWriMo this year is that it helped me get back into the rhythm of writing every morning before dealing with anything else.

How about you? Have you done NaNo this year or any other? Do you like it? Do you find it helpful in setting rhythms or making new habits?