Sunday, April 23, 2017

Story Exhaustion?

As most of you know, I've been reviewing Akeldama for a while now in order to get it ready for my May 18th publication date.  I've been going over(and over, and over, and over) the formatting, text, and general layout of the story for a few months, and it's beginning to get a bit tedious.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still very excited to be nearing my debut novel's release date, but I'm growing so familiar with the story that I don't even need to look at the text to understand it.  I realize this makes little sense to those who don't write - after all, I write the story, so I should obviously know it inside and out - but it has become repetitive.

I'm a big fan of putting a story away after you write it and before you edit it so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.  However, the work necessary to bring Akeldama to fruition won't let me put it down right now.  Yes, this is a bit like complaining I have too many bills for my wallet, or that I can't decide which sports car to buy, but that doesn't make it any less real to me.

Do other writers have this issue with their stories?  After so many revisions and edits and rewordings and reviews, does it get more chore-like after a time?  Or am I whining over a non-issue?  I find myself wishing the release date will get here just so that I can move on to a new tale.  I'll always love this story, but even a person eating his or her favorite food every day will likely long for some variety.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Unicorns

I recently ran across a post that compared writers like JK Rowling and Stephen King to unicorns - very beautiful but incredibly rare.  Their level of success is something most people dream of but will never even come close to, so why bother to fantasize about it?

Yes, I've previously written that you shouldn't make a career plan based on being Dan Brown of Stephenie Meyer, for most will inevitably fall short.  However, I don't think that harmless daydreaming is necessarily a bad thing all by itself.  Sometimes the fantasy keeps us going in those dark times when we feel like no one will ever read our work.  I believe that as long as we don't make that fantasy the bedrock of our career plan, then it's perfectly okay to occasionally wonder what hitting the literary lottery would be like.

Besides, someone has to be the next unicorn.  It's no secret that I loathe the writing of Stephenie Meyer, for I consider it to be trite and simplistic, but that doesn't mean she didn't find an audience looking for the vision she was selling.  Had you shown any halfway competent and successful author Twilight before it was released, the person would've laughed at it before running down any chance of success Meyer had.  However, most experts have more conceit than powers of prognostication, and Meyer hit a nerve with an audience most couldn't tap, so she went on to grow that horn from her forehead and pranced in as the next unicorn.  Such unexpected success could strike anywhere, and maybe it could strike you.

I think it's such tales that keep many of us going when we feel inadequate.  So yes, keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, working hard and doing what you can to build a viable career, but don't let that stop you from wondering what your own shiny unicorn horn would look like on those starry nights when you're by yourself.  Maybe that spark you feel will turn out to be the next bolt of lightning to open your career up to stratospheric heights.  I mean, we can all dream, right?  And aren't dreams what start a writer writing to begin with?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Not As Good As You Think

I pride myself on being a better writer than most people.  This is a conceit I believe most writers hold, even if they won't cop to it openly.  There's a part of us that sighs when we run across a piece of writing that's out of sorts, for we just know we would've written it better.  Whether it be spelling, or grammar, or just the way the sentence is worded, we're all so certain that it would've been perfect if we'd written it rather than the poor soul who just doesn't have our knack for stringing words together.

However, there's often a difference between this conceit and reality.  And sometimes it smacks us in the face pretty hard.

I've been reviewing the proof for Akeldama, confident that this was merely a formality.  After all, I've edited the hell out of this thing, so this was just to help me bask in the glow of my brilliance, right?  This was the culmination of a project several years in the making, and I needed merely to sit back and revel that I finally had a physical copy of my work.

Wrong!

Much to my dismay, I've managed to find over a dozen mistakes in the work.  I was already annoyed previously when I found mistakes I was certain didn't exist, so this came as an even bigger blow to my ego.  Yes, the majority of what I've found is minor, like writing "rocks" instead of "rock" or "screeching" instead of "screeched," but there was one sentence that had to be totally re-done because I wrote it as a statement instead of as the question it was meant to be.  I found myself growing angrier as I continued to review the book, upset with myself that I somehow missed these points during the previous gazillion rounds of editing.

Needless to say, the process has helped shock me back into humility.  Sure, I could probably let it go since there are so few errors in the 340 pages, and most people wouldn't even notice, but I'd know they were there.  Further, leaving in such stuff would show a lack of professionalism and could get Akeldama written off as yet another sloppy indie job.  And pretending people wouldn't notice may just be another point of arrogance since I tend to notice these kinds of things when I read.  For example, I love Williams Forstchen's novel One Second After.  However, whether because he didn't know any better or because he was just stupid, Forstchen consistently wrote the contraction "could've" as "could of," and it drove me bananas every time I read it, so what kind of hypocrite, not to mention hack, would I be if I just let the stuff I wrote contain such errors?

The process has been effective in reminding me that I'm not as good as I think I am.  It seems like every time my arrogance starts to ride up, something comes along to knock it back down, and this has surely done it.  Akeldama is now in the process of (what I hope to be) the final revisions before my release date.  I wonder what else will come along to remind me to try and stay humble...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Proof Of Life!

Not a long post tonight.  I'm busy...reviewing the proof for Akeldama!  I'll have a more extensive write-up after I finish going over it.  Still, as one guy once said, there's nothing quite like holding a copy of your very own book in your hands.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Popularity

I've been going over my post list here at the blog, and I'm struggling to understand what makes a post popular and what makes a post barely get noticed.  I thought of it when I saw that my most recent post last week got six views.  C'mon, folks...six?  I know I can't rock the universe every time, but six?!?!

The average for most of my posts is somewhere around 30 unique views.  A few get more, and a couple get hundreds of unique page views, but figuring out what will go viral(at least viral in my world) is tricky.  Some are predictable - my cover reveal got around 80 individual page views, and since I've touted Akeldama for quite some time, that came as no surprise.  I reference Salvation Day quite a bit, so that isn't a huge surprise either, although the total number of unique page views for it certainly is.  But my take on going indie versus traditional went waaaaayyyyyyyyy beyond what I thought it would.  And somehow, this post on imagination - a post I found a little dry - is far and away my most popular, with over 1500 unique page views.

I guess I could try and be "edgy" with some posts, spewing venom at the world and acting all cool, but I'm not cool, and edgy can be dangerous if you piss off half(or more) of your audience.  Yes, sometimes something gets up under my rear and makes me go on a tear, but that doesn't happen very often.  Further, it shouldn't happen very often, for if it does, then such "edginess" merely becomes background noise.

(As a side note, being edgy all the time can be exhausting - I get worn out sometimes getting mad over whether or not my favorite team will draft the right player)

I cross post my blog to my Facebook page, so some of my views come from friends there.  I used to post on a writers' forum, so that could've driven some of my early traffic.  However, some posts just go off for reasons unknown to me.  Others, like last week's, wallow in obscurity, like even clicking on the link will cause leprosy or something.

There's not really a point to this post - it's merely a mental exercise in a vain attempt to satisfy my curiosity.  I wish I could figure it out so that I could get more "viral" posts, but as long as I'm wishing, I'd kind of like to have a pony too...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lots Of Learning

Every time I think I have everything figured out, life throws me a new curve.  This time, it was in the form of not understanding as much about the POD business as I thought.

I made the decision to go with Ingram Spark a while back based on the recommendations of several people.  Everyone said that the books would be 100% top-notch professional, and that they could be distributed through every channel imaginable.  And that turns out to be true...but incomplete.

First of all, the process at Ingram Spark is lots more complicated than using CreateSpace.  CreateSpace will walk you through the process step by step, pointing out along the way just what exactly you need to do.  Ingram Spark believes you already know what to do, even if this is your first time.  I had little difficulty until it came time to order the proof copy - I accidentally approved the full proof without getting one because I clicked the wrong button.  I'm working hard to get that fixed, but it has led to lots of frustration.

Another issue with Ingram Spark is that although they distribute through Amazon, Jeff Bezos is apparently not very happy about you not using CreateSpace, so he puts a delay on some of the stuff from Ingram Spark ordered through Amazon.  This has the potential to discourage the customer base when they realize that their order will take a bit longer than usual.

Fortunately, there appears to be a solution - use both.  Based on articles I've read, I can use Ingram Spark to sell to bookstores and other outlets, and I can use CreateSpace to publish through Amazon.  The catch is that I have to only use the Amazon distribution option with CreateSpace or else I'll have to pull everything else from Ingram Spark.  Why not just use CreateSpace then?  Well, because most bookstores view Amazon - and CreateSpace through them - as a competitor, and they're less likely to order your work.  There's also a feeling that CreateSpace is less quality, but I'm not sure that's really the case.

So I'm learning how to use both systems, and it really is a pain in the ass.  I'm sure it'll get easier as I get more used to the actual selling of my work, but the learning curve is steep.  That's why this indie thing isn't for the weak of heart.  As I've said before, it's a business, so treat it like one.  I am, and although it makes it more challenging, it also means it'll be more successful than just being a hobby(I hope).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Read, Read, Read

If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.  I can't stress this enough.  I was reminded of this point recently with the number of people I've run into who've declared they have the next great American novel in their head and need only the time to bring it out.  They've all, without exception, asked me how to do that, so as I've gone over my process, I've asked them how often they read as well.

The most common response has been, "I don't have the time to do that."

"Then you don't have the time to be a good writer," I reply.

You can't just delve in and think you learned enough in a college writing course to make something folks will want to read.  Good writing takes time to hone, and you need examples.  There is no go-to for who to read - it all depends on how you like to write.  Beyond that, you should read more than your favorite authors so you can see how others get a point across.  Maybe you'll find some of what not to do as well.

But you must read.  You need to know how others tell a story others want to hear.  You cannot just start writing and think you'll produce anything more than what your family will look at(and even then, they're only being nice).  You're just not that good.  None of us is.  We need to learn, and reading is the only way to do that.

So read.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On Being A Pest

This will come as a newsflash to almost no one who knows me, but I can be a complete pain in the ass.  I get anxious.  I get jittery.  When I see something that needs to be done, I want it done NOW NOW NOW!


This hasn't done me any favors in getting the last few things I need in order to publish Akeldama.  The two remaining issues that have yet to be resolved are 1) getting the final cover for the print version, and 2) getting the ebook version completed.  These are somewhat small items, but not having them ready to go is wearing on me.


The cover is mostly complete.  I even got the spine and back part of it back from the cover artist.  The problem is that, like a dumbass, I failed to be completely satisfied with the blurb I wrote and sent off to Extended Imagery.  I thought it sounded great when I looked at it in a word document, but seeing it on the actual full-blown cover made me realize that there's some word repetition in it that needed to be cleaned up.  So I had to send off a corrected version to the artist, and I'm anxiously awaiting it coming back.  Each day for the past couple, I've checked my email in the hope that the new version would come back so I could go ahead and order my proof copy.  That the artist needs a few days to finish(since I'm not his only customer) rarely crosses my mind.  After all, I'm important, dammit!


I've heard back from the formatters for the book, but there are a couple of issues, the main one being that I've incorporated a few different fonts in Akeldama to lend to the mood, and not all of those fonts translate well to the ebook format.  I'm waiting to hear back from them, but each day that passes - admittedly, it has only been a couple - is killing me.  I'm very much a "let's-do-it-now-and-get-it-over-with" kind of guy, so I feel helpless when I don't get to do something immediately.


Maybe all of this will be good for my patience.  I need patience, and I have no choice but to wait for them to get back to me, so perhaps patience will emerge out of having no other choice.  I certainly hope so, or else this whole exercise does nothing but make life miserable for those I'm around.  I'll try to stop pestering the folks who are doing this great work for me, mostly because I don't want to come across as a male version of Glenn Close.  I hope they understand my emails are nervousness and not stalker-ish.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Problems With Epic

I like to write grandiose stories that affect the big picture.  Whether it's a vampire story about the fate of civilization, or a political and military thriller about the schism in the United States, or a story about a guy trying to kill God Himself, my stories tend to be about the overall fate of the world.  They're throwbacks to the movies I've always enjoyed, where the hero has to overcome incredible odds or everyone is DOOMED DOOMED DOOMED!

There are a couple of problems with doing this, though.  The first, and most obvious, is that such stories rarely leave room for future novels in that universe.  When you have an epic, the-entire-fate-of-the-human-race story, it gets hard to top it in such a way that the audience wants to stick around.  After all, who's really interested in climbing Pike's Peak after you've scaled Mount Everest.  Don't get me wrong - I've found a few ways to keep them going, but the paths are limited.  It reminds me of comic books where the villains have to keep getting more and more sinister so that the heroes still have something to do, even after beating the bid-bad world ender.  Authors, of course, hope that the audience doesn't collectively yawn in response.

The second is that there are only so many ways for a world to be in jeopardy.  There are countless ways to tell a monster story or a princess rescue story, but how many ways can truly affect everything?  It's one thing to strive to overthrow a military despot, but it's quite another to confront God and change the fate of Creation.  One of my worries is that I'll eventually run out of ways to do this.

Sure, that's not a problem at the moment, and I could always devolve back into more narrow stories, but how would the audience react(see problem #1)?  Stephen King has found ways to slip back and forth(going from The Shining to Salem's Lot, and then back to 11/22/63 are examples), so maybe there's hope.  And I know that running out of epic stories to tell is a bit like saying there aren't enough $100 bills for my wallet, but it still presents challenge.  Let's just hope that challenge is...well...epic.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cool Or Real?

Reading a few books recently, I've found myself in the crux of a dilemma - should the characters I write be more on the "God I wish I was that cool!" side, or the "That is so me!" side?  In other words, should the main character be super-cool, or should the main character be more relatable?


There's nothing wrong with either.  We've read about both.  Harry Dresden and Jack Reacher are both guys' guys who are always able to come up with the right solution and react with little to no emotion beyond, "Eh, no big deal."  Even  alcoholic Bobby Dollar from The Dirty Streets of Heaven always has the right weapon, is rarely afflicted with self-doubt beyond being cool enough for everyone, and always gets the gorgeous girl in the end.  Most people aspire to be this happy-go-lucky, even with all of the problems associated with it.  As an aside, my go-to for cool characters is Dean Winchester from Supernatural - I freely admit to having a man-crush on him, as he is every bit of cool that I've always wanted to be.


But here's my problem with writing guys like that - I'm not cool.


No, this isn't a humble-brag.  I've done some cool stuff(jumping out of airplanes, leading troops in combat, rappelling out of a helicopter), but I'm not personally cool.  I love to watch the news and sci-fi shows.  I like to read about zombies, vampires, and werewolves.  I play online games like Warcraft.  I played chess in high school, and I still know enough to beat the average person.  I didn't date much until college, and even then not until my senior year.  I wear t-shirts that were made in the 1990s.  I'm the guy who doesn't talk much around folks I don't know because I don't want to come across as either stupid or lame.  All of that makes it hard for me to write about "cool" and have the audience believe it.


However, I think us uncool people, with all our geekery and self-doubt, are the ones in the majority.  Sure, most of us like to read about the cool guy, but we know we're not him, which I believe makes it hard to relate to a character that's so cool.  I think that a character can do cool things while being uncool, like the characters I've written in Akeldama and Salvation Day.  The main character in each does cool things - like killing vampires of leading an assault that could determine the fate of humanity - but they're not cool per se.  They doubt.  They're angry.  They hold grudges.  They're horrible with women.  But they're good at heart an strive to overcome the world in spite of their own uncoolness.


Call it a weakness of mine - I write uncool characters doing some cool things because that's who I am, so that's what I can write.  I liken it to the character I tried writing for Wrongful DeathI originally wanted Christian Gettis to be a teenage girl, but I couldn't make her believable, no matter how hard I tried, because I've never understood the minds of teenage girls(especially when I was a teenage boy).  However, I've been a teenage boy about to graduate high school, so it was much easier to write a character like that.


But what does the audience want?  In the end, that's who needs to care the most, since those are the folks who buy our books.  Do they want slick perfection and someone who didn't know the Friday night lineup on ABC?  Do they want the guy who drops the mic, kisses the supermodel, and then shrugs it all off as no big deal?  They might.  Surely we all want to know folks like that, if for no other reason than to pretend we might one day be that cool.  Or will they better relate to someone more like them, the geek who is a bit awkward at times but who rises to the challenge presented to them?  While I like the cool guys mentioned above, I want to know my heroes have flaws, for when they do, it lets me know that perhaps I can accomplish the same kinds of things if I just put in the effort.  To me, the best heroes, the ones who get an empathetic reaction out of me, are the ones who I can envision being.  The cool guy may strive, but it doesn't seem like a big deal when he wins.  However, the real guy who wins is exhausted and allows us to revel in the triumph with him.


Don't get me wrong - either way works.  I just have a hard time writing the first way(cool guys).  Maybe readers don't want the uncool.  I guess I'll find out starting in May.