Writing is a Lot Like Golf… or an Ex-Girlfriend.

Writing is a lot like golf. It only takes one good swing to keep you hacking away for another 18 holes.

While working on the first draft of Lost & Found I inadvertently setup a really awesome situation.  The options were limitless.  With that came pressure not to screw it up.

So, I tentatively started into the scene, worried about letting myself (and the reader) down.  Yet, as the scene unfolded, the goals, the obstacles, the failures and the victories became clear to me.  The words were visual and creative and descriptive and effective. (A lot of ‘ives’ I know).

I was so excited when I was done.  I felt like I hit a homerun in the bottom of the 9th to win the game.  Or, to stick with my original analogy, hit the ball off the first tee with force, driving it straight and deep down the fairway.

Remember, preceding this moment of zen, I had been whining on this blog about how much of a struggle the writing process had been for me; having to write the outline backwards, writing words and hoping most of them would remain in the second draft.  Stuff like that.

golfIt’s like I had spent the previous day slicing the ball, digging it out of hazards and high grass and fishing it out of the water, with triple bogies and impatient foursomes behind me screaming to let them hit through.  But that one drive made me sign up for a lifetime membership.

That’s how addictive this writing thing can be when rare moments of inspiration hit.

It reminds me of painful relationships I was involved in while in college.  You date a girl.  She’s cute.  She likes you.  Then she stops calling.  You wait by the phone. Nothing happens.  You still wait by the phone.  Nothing happens.  You see her in class, she barely acknowledges your presence.  Then, one day you happen upon her in the cafeteria and you share a lunch.  You laugh, have a good time, she touches your hand, thanking you for picking up the tab.  Your heart flutters and you forget all of the anguishing minutes waiting by a silent phone.  You have hope once again that your relationship can be saved.

It’s that kind of false hope, but in writing, it’s more like fleeting awesomeness.

I may never get another one of those writing nirvana moments for the rest of this novella.  Or the next one, for that matter.  More than likely all of the future words I ever write will by 99% work and 1% inspiration.

But, it doesn’t matter.

I had one of those extraordinary moments where it all clicked.  Like hitting that perfect drive or the touch of a thoughtless girlfriend; momentary joy that makes all of the prior and future suffering not so bad.

I have the second half of the novella ahead of me.  And, for the first time in a few weeks, I’m really looking forward to writing it.

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Word Count and 50,000

Plotting out Lost & Found has really come in handy.  In a week I’ve written nearly 8,000 words.  The story is humming along.  I’m about half-way through, so it should end up in the 30,000 – 40,000 range, like the rest.

GW-Wordcount-061714I have been amazed how changes in the market, or new information I have come across during the learning process, has altered my approach.  These novellas exist because of a podcast I heard a few months ago.  The more I learn, the more I want to set myself up for success.  Sometimes, that requires changing my path.

There is one option out there that I have not yet decided on.

Bookbub is “a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed ebooks while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans.”  This has been used extensively, and often with great success, by many independent authors.  Just because you want to use Bookbub doesn’t mean you can.  They are selective about who they promote and you have to meet their criteria.  One of those criteria is that the book has to be at least 50,000 words.

They don’t promote novellas.

Now they also want your book to have great reviews on Amazon and, preferably, critical acclaim from sources other than readers.  So, the word count isn’t the only hurdle, but one of the basic ones.

So, as I write, I wonder, “Should these novellas be short novels instead, 50,000 words, so promotional opportunities could be made available to me?”

I don’t know the answer to that question yet.  I don’t want to add words for the sake of word count.  I want to add words because they make the story better.  As mentioned in a previous blog, Skyway will probably leap over the 50,000 word limit by the time it is done.  But, when I look at the rest of the novellas, I’m not sure almost doubling The Homecoming Incident will make it any better.  And, at this point, Lost & Found doesn’t feel like a 50,000 word short novel.

What does all of this mean?  It means I haven’t made up my mind.

I won’t know for sure until all of the novellas are written. Because, when that is done, I want to look at them as a whole, as one large character arc, and see what has to be altered to maximize their overall effect.  Maybe that process will require additional words.

But will that turn into five 50,000 word short novels?

Only time will tell.

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Wordcount and Writing Backwards

I’ve been chugging along slowly, but surely.  Mostly slowly.  I was able to draft almost 7500 words on the Lost & Found novella before I slowed things down.  I realized that I knew the end of the story, but some of the middle parts were fuzzy. And, since I was diving head first into writing the middle section, I knew I had to clear things up.

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In order to hash out the blank spots in my storyline, I decided to write backwards.  Or, better said, outline backwards.  Since I knew how it ended, I wanted to make sure every step in the story lead me there.  Plot point by plot point, I outlined backwards, identifying what happened in that plot section and what was the hook to make the reader want to continue on.  Eventually I made it through the fuzzy middle and to where my actual writing had stopped.

Now I have to move forward again, one word at a time, fleshing out those plot sections with dialogue, action and character.  Yes, that’s the hardest part, especially on the first draft, but at least I’ve devised a road map to get there.

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Pressure

Something important occurred to me this weekend.  Something that placed a crap ton of pressure on me.

As I fleshed out the plot for the second novella, Lost & Found, I realized it is the single most important book in the entire series.  Why?  Because, we intend to give the first novella The Homecoming Incident away for free, as soon as we are able (it takes time to move it from .99 to free in the Amazon world).  So, we’re hoping a lot of people will check out The Homecoming Incident for nothing and be inspired to take a chance on Lost & Found.

If they take that chance and don’t like Lost & Found, then they’re not going to invest any money in the remaining three novellas & five novels in the series.  That’s another eight potential novels/novellas that won’t be read.  And that’s a lot of work not being seen.  Hundreds of thousands of words.

So, this second novella became a hec of a lot more important.  And telling you only adds to the pressure to succeed.

It’s a good thing, though.  I should approach every story as if it’s imperative to the success of the series.  It was just that “Ah-Hah!” moment that kind of jolted me from “let me see what I can flesh out” to “Good Lord, years of work are now waiting for my timid fingers to type something brilliant.”

Only time, a good editor and reader’s opinions will tell if I’m successful or not.

No pressure…

 

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Impatience

One of my continuing challenges I have is my impatience.  I am impatient with my career.  I am impatient when I read.  And I am impatient when I write.

One of the things I have tried to temper when I began writing novels were my expectations.  Ignorance is a bad guide and I have learned from past experiences that hoping to accomplish something is very different than knowing how to accomplish something.  Basing expectations on hope will set you up for failure because it is not tethered to the real world.

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So, I spend a lot of time learning how a thing should be done before telling myself when I should accomplish that thing.  That being said, I’m still behind schedule.  If I had stuck to my original (and ignorant) plan, I would be publishing my first novel this week.  Gabby Wells: Water & Blood was originally scheduled for release on June 4th.

Then I started learning more and more about self-publishing.  I started reading a lot and listening to about ten podcasts a week and learned about sales funnels and permafree and mailing lists and building tribes and street teams.  That led to the idea of writing a novella as an entryway to novels.  That led to writing five novellas.  And that has altered my expectations.

All of the changes have been for the right reasons, but my impatience doesn’t really care about that.  It wants to be done.

I’m also an impatient reader.  I fight the urge to skim through in order to find out what happens next.  I must force myself to digest every word because, now writing novels, I know how much time and effort each of those words represent.

But my impatience doesn’t really care about that.

It is no surprise, then, that I am an impatient writer.  In my first draft I am very much a heads down, get from A to B as directly as possible so I can move onto the next thing that happens.  Only after the plot is complete do I go back and look for the many ways I can elaborate character or intention.  All of those layers take time.

But my impatience doesn’t really care about that.

So, as I am knee deep in daily writing, fighting to go straight from A to B, I force myself to try and be patient.  I know what is supposed to happen in all five novellas.  I know what is supposed to happen in all five novels.  I just can’t wait for them to be done.  Unfortunately (actually, fortunately) those pages are waiting on me, an impatient writer, to fill them with the stories I see in my head.

As much as I remind myself, my impatience doesn’t really care that.

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A Personal Thanks

I would like to take a moment to thank my wife, Dea, for her unending support, not just in art, but in life.

I’ve had Crohns disease for over half my life and, sadly for her, our entire marriage.  This week I had to have yet another procedure and, as I lie in the hospital bed, Dea stood next to me, holding my hand.  As I looked at her, I thought back and tried to count how many times during our marriage she has stood over my hospital bed.  Four surgeries.  Countless other tests and procedures.  Weeks and weeks in hospitals as I struggled to recover.

One time, her sheer force of will and immense love brought me back from the edge. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for her.

So much of our marriage has been spent with me lying on a hospital bed with her standing next to me, supporting me and loving me.  I couldn’t have been blessed to marry a more supportive and caring woman than my wife.

She’s priceless.

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Podcast 12 – Teen Beta Readers and 145,000 Words

Author Pete Bauer and Dorothea Bauer discuss the impact of the novellas on the novels, causing for a rewrite of novels 1 and 2.  Plus the lessons learned from Teen Beta Readers.


Running Time: 41:59

  • Teen Beta Readers
  • Specific Expectations
  • 145,000 Words
  • A Professional Endeavor
  • Art Show
  • Facebook Art
  • Polite Critiques
  • Annoying Analysis
  • Aging Well
  • Novella Novels
  • Semi-Mysterious Mysteries
  • Lost & Found
  • Inspiring Stories
  • The Center of Attention
  • Communicating Art
  • Evolving Industry
  • It Clicks
  • Reading Consumption
  • Traditional Limitations
  • Author Earnings
  • Give and Take
  • Truthful Characters

 

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Pet Peeve

I hate wasting my time.

It’s a pet peeve.  Just ask my kids.  The two main lines they knew not to cross were:

  1. don’t disrespect my wife (their mother)
  2. don’t waste my time.

I’m not saying all of the time with my kids had to be focused and serious.  Of course not.  Spending an hour having imaginary tea with my daughter or spending countless hours with my son at the ball field is absolutely NOT wasting time.  It’s what time is for.

wastedtimeBut, fooling around when they’re helping with chores?  Wasting my time.  Making me run to Walmart at 12 AM because they realized they needed to write a paper that is due the next day and didn’t think to check if we had printer ink?  Wasting my time.

So, to find out the podcast we recorded last night had to be scrapped due to a microphone issue, well, to say I was happy about that would be an understatement.

Now we’ll have to re-record.  More wasted time.  Well, not totally wasted, as I think they have value and people seem to enjoy them.  But, you know what I mean.

Anyway, that’s my vent for today.  I feel better.

Time well spent. 🙂

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Word Count & Novella 3 (Really 2)

I finally finished the first draft of Skyway, one of the novellas of our five novella series.  It’s placement in the series has shifted, as I mentioned before, moving from novella #2, to novella #4.  The current word count is just over 40,000 and will probably need another 2,000-3,000 when all is said and done.

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That means the third novella I’ll be working on, titled Lost & Found, will actually be novella #2 in the series.  I’ve sketched out the storyline and will now work on a chapter-by-chapter outline before diving into daily writing.

As for the first novella, The Homecoming Incident, which also still happens to be novella #1 (haha), it has been out with our teen Beta Readers.  Quick tips about teen Beta Readers.

  1. They don’t understand the concept of time.  Agreeing to read it in two weeks has meant trying to get them to do it four weeks later.
  2. They don’t give detail.  We offer our beta readers an anonymous survey to fill out so they could be free to share their true feelings.  Teens, however, aren’t really chatty, especially in a survey.  You get a lot of “I like it.” Or “It was cool.”  But, not a lot of detail, like you get from adult Beta Readers.

Lesson learned.  On future surveys, they’ll be longer and ask very specific questions that will give us the info we need.  Since they’re our target demographic, we’ll be patient.  But, be forewarned 🙂

Two novellas down, three to go.

 

 

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Book Cover Overlap

Book covers are one of the most important components to getting a potential reader to check out your book.  Especially in the online, thumbnail world of perusing ebooks, people really do judge the book by its cover.

One of the things that has made self-publishing a success has been the ability for authors to outsource the work normally managed by a traditional publisher, such as editing, book covers and marketing.

If you are not gifted in Photoshop, finding an effective book cover designer is must and many of them use their skills to pull from existing stock photos and rework them into something powerful.  However, pulling from the same pool of stock photos can cause some overlap.

Months ago I read a self-published book called A Pius Man and today I heard a podcast about an author who self published a book called The Cleaner.

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This is the first time I’ve seen such an obvious overlap of material in book covers, but with more and more people creating and self-publishing their own works, I wonder if this issue will only increase?

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