Tag Archives: Gabby Wells

Writing is like Owning a Mall

For a business owner, one of the hardest goals to achieve is to duplicate your income. For brick and mortar stores, like fast food restaurants or furniture stores, the only way to double your income is to duplicate your location somewhere else.

Like franchising.

The great thing about being a writer is every book you write is akin to another franchised storefront. Some of them will generate more income than others, just like some fast food joints are more profitable than others.

Yet, writing is a bit different. It’s even better. It’s not only like you’re opening another store, but, because of the collective nature of your work (people often read authors as much as they read stories), it’s as if you’re opening more stores in your own mall.

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When people visit your site with a list of books, or Amazon (or other ebook retailer) and see your author page, writing a number of novels is like opening up more shops in the same mall. While the customers are checking out one your “stores,” if they’re interested, they’ll stroll over and check out the one next to it.  And, if you write a novel series, its like creating a series of restaurants located one after the other in your mall, all designed, as a whole, to give you a complete and satisfying meal.

Thanks to the advent of ebook readers and reading apps for phones, there has never been a better time to be a writer in human history. And, because of the availability and freedom associated with the current business model, there has never been a better time to generate “franchisable” income from your work.

Now I just have to finish writing that first novel so I can open up the first of many stores in my mall.

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Inspiration – A Tour of Safety Harbor

Author Pete Bauer gives a tour of Safety Harbor, the small town that he used as inspiration for the setting of the novels.

 

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The Ampersand Dilemma

Now that we’re turning the novellas into novels, we’ll have to change some of the titles.  Here’s why.

ampersandThe original titles of the five books included an ampersand.  The first two are Water & Blood and Shadows & Lies.  For marketing purposes, we’d want to make all of the titles consistent, so we’re going to change the novellas to include the ampersand as well.

Fortunately, the second novella, Lost & Found, already had one.  The third novella, Tears & Miracles, had one as well.  So, it comes down to renaming novella one, The Homecoming Incident, and the fourth one, Skyway, into ones including an ampersand.

What is frustrating is I love both of those titles, however, when looking at it as a marketing strategy, you want the same look and feel for all of the books.  Like Koontz’s Odd Thomas books, for example.

So, we’re hashing out ideas for what the stories will be retitled as they grow into novels.  The only thing we know for certain is that an ampersand will be in the middle of it.

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Word Count and Finding Your Voice

I finished the first draft of Lost & Found this week and the writing process for this novel allowed me to finally find the correct voice and tone for all of the Gabby Wells novels.  It was weird to me that it took two novels (that have since been trashed) and three novellas to find the voice for the overall storyline.  But, that’s just what happened.

When I was about half way through Lost & Found, when I was making Gabby’s life miserable to biblical proportions, it started to feel right.  When I was actually tapping the words on the keyboard, all of the elements started to coalesce and I felt a creative momentum building.  When I was done with the draft, it made me realize two really important things:

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The first was that I had to now match the tone with the other novellas.  It actually won’t be that hard in Skyway.  But The Homecoming Incident was much lighter and would need to grow darker and more gritty.  I have some ideas which will help and they tie into the second thing I realized.

The second thing was that my brother Paul was right and all of these novellas should actually be turned into novels.  That means adding an additional 10-20k words to each one.  With the new tone and approach, it makes sense that the scope needs to widen and it would need to get darker.  I also want to do a better job of layering in the spiritual elements Gabby deals with too.  Not in a preachy way (I hate that) but in the overall world of the story.  It’ll make more sense if/when you read the books.

This continual shifting in approach does bring with it a level of frustration, however.  I feel like the novels are like a bathtub with the plug pulled and no matter how much I write, the words still spin down the drain.  It’s like I’ll never get finished.  But, I have to move forward because these decisions are the right thing to do.  I just want to be able to check off “done” on one of these manuscripts so I can move onto the editing/book cover phase and get them to market.

And I’m sure, at some point, years from now when all of the novels are completed, people will comment on how it all seemed so planned out from the beginning and I’ll just laugh and send them to my blog entries which show the continuous alterations we’ve made since starting this process years ago.

I just have to keep plugging along.  I have some time over the holiday weekend and I haven’t decided whether to start on the third novella or rewrite The Homecoming Incident first in order to be able to check something off my list.  My heart tells me I should start on the third novella Tears & Miracles, but my impatient brain is telling me to rewrite the first one.  I’ll let you know what I came up with.

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Writing as a Business

Whether you are independently published or traditionally published, the majority of the ownership for your success falls on your shoulders.  It is up to the author to write good stuff, build a fan base, establish beta readers and street teams and marketing plans.

It’s why real writers treat writing as a business.  It’s where the term authorprenuer comes from.  If you treat writing as a business, then your books are your product.  They require planning, time to execute, and a marketing plan.  There should be sales goals, expenditures, statistics, and analysis to know whether you are hitting your mark.

In an attempt to take what I have in my head and turn it into something tangible, I threw together a production schedule.  It’s aggressive.  It’s a rough draft.  It’s more of a what-if than a real plan.  But, by doing so, it put into sharp focus just how much work lay ahead of me.

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From the sample graph, you can see I’ve documented in fiscal quarters which month I will write, which month(s) marketing research needs to be done and when each subsequent marketing phase would occur.  I also added time for research and overlapped the release of the beginning of a new series in the middle of the release of the first series.  I don’t know if that’s a good idea, but I know I don’t want to wait until one series is over before kicking off the second one.

However, by performing this simple exercise of playing around with what-ifs… if I release the novellas three months apart and the novels six months apart, I’ll have 20 novels in seven years.  And for that to occur, I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

Let me say that again.  I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

If anyone ever tells you being a writer sounds easy, show them a schedule like this and let them fully digest the work involved.

As I mentioned, this schedule is a draft.  A guess, at this point.  But, it was eye-opening to do it, to see how much time I’d have to write a novel, when I could be writing two at the same time, and added research time frames as well.

Looking at this I’m both excited and daunted, both of which make me feel like my head will explode.

There’s a 99% chance the actual production schedule won’t look anything like this.  But, you have to start somewhere and, looking at the next seven years, I’m glad I got started sooner than later.

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Life After Gabby

The completion of the Gabby Wells storyline will take me some time.  A couple of years.  Not including the time it took to convert screenplays into novels that have since been tossed, just getting the novellas written, edited and published will probably take a year in total.

We’ll release the novellas, one at at time, every three months.  That will give me a year to write as many of the Gabby Wells novels as I can, and we plan to release those every three to six months, depending on how fast I can write them.  If I could have all of those novels written by the time the first novella is released, that would be great.  That’s a lot of words in a short period of time, but that’s the goal.

But, I do plan a writing life after Gabby Wells.

Gabby-HeaderUp until my adventures in novel writing, I expressed my creative storytelling through screenplays.  I did that for over 20 years and many of those stories I plan to turn into novels.

The first non-Gabby story I will probably write is based on a screenplay I wrote called Redemption.  It’s a horror story and my wife’s favorite thing I’ve ever written.  I plan on that being the first in another series of books that involves a nun and modern takes on horror themes.

Plus, there are non-series stories I’d like to tell too.  I have another screenplay called Martyrs that I would love to turn into a novel.  It involves a young girl stuck at her father’s office as it is overrun by terrorists.  And a novella from a screenplay called Forgiven, about a young woman driving across the country who happens stop at a gas station while it’s in the process of getting held up.

And there’s more.  A lot more.  Many, many stories.

I just hope I have time to write them all.

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Word Count and Wreaking Hovac

Been very efficient this past week, typing out over 12,000 words.  I’m nearing the end of the first draft of Lost & Found and I must say I’ve really enjoyed putting Gabby through hell.

Writers have an odd relationship with the characters they love.  They create them, cherish them, give them hopes, dreams, goals, loves and then expend all of their energy trying to destroy every single one of them.  Not all at once, of course.  Just a little bit at a time.

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When I started this novella I didn’t intend to make Gabby’s life so miserable.  It just sort of turned out that way.  And for the better, from a story perspective.  In crisis is where we see what someone is truly made of, what friendships really mean, which convictions are founded in stone or sand.  I’m not sure how much suffering still awaits Gabby in final chapters of Lost & Found, but I’m sure it’ll be just a little more.

As long as it makes the story stronger, its worth it.  She won’t mind.

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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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