Don’t Worry (or Rejoice) Just Yet, I’m Still Here

letireddog

I’ve been distracted for a while, and I’ve been busy with non-writing work for the last two weeks. Though I haven’t been writing and posting as much as I’d like, I’m definitely not throwing in the towel yet.

Novel #1: Still working on polishing the first novel. After the last revision (which, as I may have stated elsewhere, was the final major revision until I get an agent or professional editor), I sent the manuscript out to beta readers: two re-readers and five new folks; all writers. Waiting to get feedback from at least half of them before I apply some changes and make a final Hail Mary pass for traditional publishing; if no one has the hands to catch the damn ball (perfect spiral and all), I’ll finally invest in going indie by hiring an editor.

Short Stories and Breadth of Style: Starting in June, I’ve been trying my hand at short stories and have churned out a bunch of crap and several pieces which I think are pretty darn decent. For some of these, I deviated from the PG-13-esque style of writing I use in Novel #1 in favor of something darker. This came about from a mix of influences, including but not limited to: On the Road which I’m rereading for the first time since college, bits of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and the unfiltered language of the television show Californication (Hank Moody’s writing seems a bit on the purple side, so I’m trying not to pick up too much of that).

Other Novels: I should update the “My Novels” page. The so-called Urban Fantasy novel I was outlining has changed drastically, and the original intended title no longer makes sense. I’m about 6,000 words into the first draft (i.e., “zero draft” or “junk draft”) and I’m hoping this novel will be more of an obvious high concept work than Novel #1. The superhero project is on the back burner; and I’ve gotten several thousand words into a contemporary (non-genre) novel. Notably, none of these projects are YA (whereas Novel #1 is).

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1st Anniversary Post: Top Posts and the State of the Novel

1stanniversaryimage

I set up camp on Wordpress a year ago to connect with other readers and writers, and establish some internet presence while I tried to get my novel published. As far as publishing goes, I totally failed, but I’ll get to that later. First, some fun blogging anniversary stuff—

The Best of A.D. Martin Posts:

Sex definitely sells—well, according to my post statistics, anyway.

Without looking too closely at all the facts, the posts which garnered the most clicks over the life of my blog—by quite a large margin—has been:

1. Two Seasons of Arrow, Seven Women for Oliver Queen; and

2. Cool-ish Actors, Annoying Characters

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper

Yeah, people click on these guys.

For the post about Arrow, the post seemed to have built considerable SEO which helped it to show up in Google results somewhat prominently (as I write this, if you search for “Oliver Queen” and “Women,” the post will be in the first page or two). I also noticed that not long after I made the post, someone awesome linked to it on the IMDb discussion board for the show. Thanks, anonymous person!

Aimee Teegarden

I should probably watch Teegarden’s newer stuff.

The SEO of the Arrow post aside, there is one thing these two posts have in common: attractive people. By coincidence (not by design; I wish I were that clever), the images displayed on my “Top Post & Pages” are of shirtless vigilantes and Aimee Teegarden, for the Arrow and “Cool-ish Actors” posts, respectively. I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people find Oliver Queen, Mr. Diggle and Ms. Teegarden pleasant to look upon and this seems to have played a part in giving these posts a higher view-count than my other posts.

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From Pantser to Plotter

I’m betraying the Pantser camp. Pantsers are dirty and smelly, and they throw baby carrots at people for no reason. Jokes aside—after nearly two years of editing my novel and outlining new projects, I’ve come to prefer meticulous planning over off-the-cuff writing.

For those who don’t know, a Pantser is one who writes “by the seat of [his or her] pants” without planning ahead, whereas a Plotter is one who outlines the novel’s story and narration to a significant extent before writing the first chapter.

Writing as a Pantser just created more work for Future Me.

pantser story arc

Readers might get stuck in the crotch and never get to the other pant leg.

Three years ago, I started a manuscript with minimal planning. I had some ideas for the world and setting, created psychological profiles and backgrounds for a few main characters, and then I let those characters lead themselves through 80,000 words of meandering hi-jinks. My first draft, more appropriately referred to as a “junk draft” or “draft zero,” suffered from significant structural problems which has required a lot of editing.

Lack of planning leads to excessively lopsided story arcs.

In a misguided attempt to write a commercial YA with a literary feel, I wrote my first chapters as slice-of-life vignettes with the intent of creating a sense of normalcy before crazy junk happened (note: there’s nothing with a commercial-literary hybrid, I just didn’t do it right). I let my characters do whatever they wanted, and they did a whole lot of nothing for too many chapters (albeit with some fun banter). This problem extended into much of the “rising action” portion of the MS which, essentially, rose too slowly.

Characters, like children and actors, need some direction.

To be clear, even as a Pantser, I often had conclusions in mind as soon as I opened up a new plot line. The problem was I’d have two or three conclusions and take too long to decide on one of them.

Outlining reins in the characters and helps build a proper arc.

plottersstoryarc

So much sexier.

Knowing a majority of the plot points, both major and minor, it’s easier to adjust the pace of individual scenes so they properly contribute to the pace of the overall novel. So, the rising action has only minor dips from the resolutions of subplots rather than momentum-breaking pitfalls which results in an anti-climactic ending.

“Double rainbow . . . what does this mean?” Well, it should mean something.

Ideally, everything described in a novel should tie into the overall plot, character development or world building—preferably all three. The more you know of the whole story, the better you’ll be able to emphasize the importance of the individual pieces by linking them together. A lot of these connections can be established and elaborated during the revision process, but it saves so much time if you plan things out a bit earlier as opposed to retroactively squeezing things in.

So, for my future novels . . .

Having more writing experience, I can probably be a much better Pantser if I choose to write without outlining. However, I’m definitely going to try to be a Plotter for my next project or two.

Argh—So Much Editing

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.”

Every time I finish a round of editing on my novel manuscript I think something along the lines of, “Cripes, it’s so much better now.” This has happened about fifteen or sixteen times and it makes me afraid of how crappy the first drafts must have been. Continue reading

Juggling Writing Projects

As it stands, I’m waiting on two more beta readers to give me feedback on REMNANT OF US before I start working on draft 14 of that manuscript. At the same time, I’ve substantially started two other fiction projects: one concerning a demon protagonist, and the other concerning superheroes.

And, yeah, this is a writing post. You’ve been warned.

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Here Comes Draft Thirteen – Editing, Querying, and… Indie-ing

Editingso much editing.

Captain Hindsight on Editing Your Novel

Thank you, Captain Hindsight!

I began my blog seven months ago while working on draft six of my novel.

Since then, I’ve made so many major revisions to this manuscript that it’s nearly unrecognizable from its earlier versions. If not for the names of the protagonists, draft one and draft twelve might seem like they’re set in entirely different worlds. Place names and supporting character names have changed drastically, the structure of the plot has been broken down and pieced back together in so many different ways, and the overall pacing of the novel has (supposedly) been improved to read faster from beginning to end with a surge of adrenaline near the climax.

The process of editing this novel is already many times longer than writing the initial draft and that’s how it should be (I’ll say it again, a novel simply cannot be “finished” until it’s been edited, repeatedly—first, for plot structure, pacing, and feasibility; a focus on grammar, spelling, and typos comes later).

With every round of editing, it was clear that my MS was getting stronger and stronger. However, the feeling that the novel would never be perfect just does not go away. So, my current plan is to go for something “as close to perfect as possible, given a reasonable span of time and amount of effort” (don’t ask me how many years is too long, and how much effort is too much). Continue reading

Punching Self-Publishing Stigma in the Face

Successful novels that were self-published - The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan - My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking Wool by Hugh Howey - Fifty Shades by E L James - Eragon by Christopher Paolini - Daniel's Gift by Barbara Fr

First, a bit of a summary of what I’ve learned about indie publishing over the past six months, and then a glance at some indie successes.

Indie publishing, not self-publishing.

One thing I’ve learned about non-traditional publishing is that many prefer to call it “indie publishing” as opposed to “self-publishing” because the latter carries an outdated, negative connotation.

Traditional and indie publishing: neither is clearly better than the other.

In an older post, I analyzed a number of pros and cons for traditional and indie publishing for a new author. To paraphrase myself: Indie publishing allows for greater freedom in the content of your writing, the cover design, and much more. However, going indie generally requires substantial out-of-pocket costs for the author. Traditional publishing, on the other hand, takes away some freedom but the publisher would provide professional editing and a cover design, and potentially aid in marketing and an advance on royalties. My ultimate conclusion was that new authors should at least chase traditional publishing first because it allows time to understand the market as well as an opportunity to properly edit the manuscript before rushing to print (impatience is one of the worst traits of a self-publishing author).

Manuscripts without a high concept have a tougher time getting published traditionally, but there’s no such bar for indies.

As I’ve previously discussed, high-concept fiction is highly original, widely appealing, easy to visualize, and easy to sum up in three sentences or less.

These days, agents and publishers generally look for high-concept work. Thus, if an author’s query (or even just the hook) fails to demonstrate enough high-concept qualities, traditional publishing folks will be very unlikely to even look at the manuscript. It makes sense considering the quantity of material that goes into their inbox and the fact that a book without a high concept will result in less impressive sales numbers.

If you’re indie, you can publish just about anything—there’s no requirement of a high concept. However, you’ll run into the problem that agents and publishers anticipate when they see a “low concept” book: it’s going to be much more difficult to get people to buy that thing.

A book doesn’t need a high concept to be awesome.

While a book which lacks a high concept may be difficult to market, it isn’t necessarily a bad book: a book that doesn’t seem original on in a three-sentence summary may be original in its details; wide appeal is helps for quantity in sales, but books which cater to smaller, niche markets can great; visualization for high-concept fiction generally should be somewhat of an “action” scene which will be non-existent in subtler works; and there are plenty of awesome works out there that are difficult to sum up in a few sentences while demonstrating originality, wide appeal, and provide a strong visual.

Indie authors should utilize professional editors as well as beta readers.

A lot of the sucking found in self-published titles can at least be partially attributed to a lack of professional editing. At worse, these novels require drastic revisions under the guidance of a developmental editor. In the not-too-bad scenarios, these books merely need another read-through by a copy editor.

Many indie authors probably don’t bother with professional editors due to the considerable cost. In those cases, the author should alternatively gather a substantial amount of beta readers (including a mix of casual readers, other authors, and English Major-y people to provide feedback), and take time to seriously weigh their suggestions.

I’ve seen at least one indie author admit to ignoring all beta reader feedback and simply rushing to print. While it’s a good idea to critically analyze feedback and avoid rushing to change your book based on the opinion of a single reader, you shouldn’t take any feedback too lightly—particularly when the same bit of advice is repeated by several readers.

Too many indie book covers look like stuff I made in seventh grade (some are even worse).

Seriously, I’ve seen covers that look like they were slapped together by some kid in the late 90’s on MS Paint. If you aren’t considerably gifted with graphic design, find someone who is (i.e., a professional with a relevant degree). If you really want to get away from the old stigma of being self-published, it should look like it belongs on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.

If there’s an image, the resolution should be high—I don’t want to see pixel-y blocks unless your book is about 8-bit video games. Also, the book title and author name should be easy to read with genre-appropriate fonts (this article by Derek Murphy may be helpful, though some of those fonts are a bit too flamboyant and illegible for my taste). I’ve also read an article which suggests to use a serif font and sans serif font for the title and author name, but to avoid using the same type for both—one is serif, and the other sans serif.

Book sales will require dedication to marketing endeavors—platform building, book reviews, pricing deals, appearances, interviews, and conventional advertisements.

You can’t just slap your novel onto Amazon, B&N, Lulu, Smashwords, and Kobo and expect sales to magically happen. You’ll need to market that thing. Personally, marketing my book is what scared me into chasing traditional publishing. However, reading about different avenues for authors to get the word out on their books has made it less foreboding.

The first thing an author needs is a platform: a means with which the author can reach an audience.

If you’re a celebrity or a renown expert in some field that relates to your book, then you’re pretty well off. Having none of that, it may be a good idea to make some noise on the internet (e.g., blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). I’ve read some articles that bad mouth the effectiveness of social networking as a means to advertise your book, but I’m of the school of thought that believes some reach is better than none. Continue reading