Getting the Hang of It

Well, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this blog.  I’ve reworked the About page and added a Bio page. I’ve also added some tags that should make it easier for folks to find the blog. I’ve even had a couple of comments (okay, one was my wife), but the other one wasn’t and that made me feel good. I also wanted to pass on the following email exchange:

Jim to my wife: “tell him to send me a copy.  if it holds my interest over the first 5 pages then it’s a sure seller.”

Jim to me after I sent him a PDF of the novel: “hell so far i like it.  gonna print off the first 50 pages and take home tonight.  Good work Kevin.”

Okay, so Jim is my brother-in-law, but in all honesty getting anyone to take on the task of reading a long manuscript is an accomplishment and I certainly appreciate it.

I recently finished reading a book, a rather long one, where it took probably four hundred pages before I was really able to empathize with the main characters, to really invest myself emotionally in them, which made it all the more difficult for me to give them up when the book ended. I got to the end of the book and literally went, “Huh? Is this it?” I wanted to grab the author and say, “You brought me this far just to leave me here?”

While it is true that the story was satisfactorily concluded, the villain met an ignominious end, the hero lived on and your sympathies remained with him, yet there was a feeling of not quite getting the whole story. I don’t say this so much to criticize the author’s writing style, but rather to illustrate the type of novel.  This type of novel would be difficult to break up into shorter stories. Or would it?

Could it have been reformatted as a series of cliff hangers, leaving the reader on the emotional edge of his or her seat until the next volume in the series was released? It’s a good marketing strategy if the first book is good enough to keep the reader wanting more.

But it’s also a gamble because instances of problematic writing can be hidden in a long novel. I’m sure you’ve encountered this before. “Just slug through this part and it’s got to get better,” you tell yourself. And it usually does. If problematic writing occurs in a short work, I doubt I’d buy the next volume with the hope that the writing will improve. I’d buy something else by someone I know will deliver. That’s the gamble you take when you consider whether to publish your long novel as a whole or break it into smaller novels, novelettes, or novellas.

My novel, the one I’m considering for publication, has eleven distinct parts which could probably stand alone without a large amount of rewrite or elaboration to achieve the length of product I wish to generate.  But while it may be true that the novel can be divided, is that what I really want? Would I take the chance that readers might make it through the first two or three volumes only to leave what might be the best parts of the story sitting on the virtual bookshelf in the later volumes?

I guess a couple of considerations factor into this. The most practical is marketing, what’s going to sell. But there are other things you may not even want to admit, such as pride, self-doubt, and fear of failure or embarrassment.  Would one failure end your career as a novelist? Possibly, if the real end game for your writing is profit. But if you’ve enjoyed the writing experience, the creative process, and, more importantly, enjoy what you’ve written, then that may be enough in itself.

So, I still haven’t decided what I’ll do with my novel, whether to make it one book or eleven. There’s still time for that. And with an eBook, since I control publication, I could actually achieve the best of both worlds. I could publish eleven Novelettes at .99 cents each and a little later publish a special anthology containing all eleven volumes for say, $7.99, giving the buyer a savings of $2.90 over the single volume price.

Life is full of possibilities.

© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

All It Takes Is Time and Money

There is something about getting published that has always bugged me, although electronic publishing has fixed this to a degree. Getting published costs money. Lots of little costs to be sure, but the costs add up. Consider the cost of mailing letters of inquiry and partial or whole manuscripts. Then there’s the cost of printing. Even if you do it at home, printing a 1,000 page manuscript is pricey. (At 10 cents per copy, that’s $100.) Most sources, from what I’ve read, recommend that your manuscript be reviewed by at least three objective reviewers outside your immediate family. Okay, so that’s 3,000 double spaced pages ($300).  The reviewers should be objective, like members of your writers group. You belong to one right?

I did for a while and it was very positive – to a point. At their Saturday meetings, they had guest speakers talk about writing and it was a chance for networking. They also had several working groups that met at various times during the week. They even sponsored a convention attended by nationally published writers and agents. Besides yearly dues ($35), there was a fee to attend the convention ($75-$180), and for an additional fee you could schedule a one-on-one with an agent ($20 or 3 for $50). From what I understand the cost of this convention is one of the less expensive ones.

Okay, I guess I could afford the above mentioned expenses since I do have a day job, but there’s something else very important to consider – time. I’ve looked at my schedule and by the time I subtract work (40 hours), commuting (8 hours), and sleep (56 hours) from the available 168 hours in a week, I’m left with 64 hours for writing, right? If the hours are distributed through the week I have 6.4 hours each weeknight, 16 hours on Saturday, and 16 hours on Sunday. Wow, that’s 3,328 hours a year for writing. With those numbers I should be able to pump out a dozen novels a year. Let’s see, at a moderate speed of 1,800 words per hour that’s a production rate of 5,990,400 words a year. Using the minimum for Hugo Award definition of a novel (>40,000 words) 3,328 hours should generate 149.76 novels per year. Wow!

Well, the metrics seem to suggest at the rate of one novel and a few short stories completed over the past, say, six years my dedication to writing is woefully under served. Using metrics is an incredibly cold and calculating method of describing the writing production process. In some circumstances metrics are necessary. For instance, metrics are essential to contracting technical documents. But metrics can also be applied to any type of writing and helps you to establish a habit of writing, say three hours a day, every day. Three hours is reasonable, but you might have to miss “House M.D.”, “The Big Bang Theory”, and “Hawaii Five-O”. Certainly you can stand to sequester yourself for that long and focus on what is hopefully your passion.

Something else to consider after reading the metrics I threw together. There are a number of necessities I didn’t account for, such as personal hygiene, family obligations (such as weddings, vacations, and helping your son tile his bathroom). Oh, yeah, and there’s thinking, just thinking, trying to mentally see where the words are taking you before they become canonized in your story. All these things are things you have to do and they can take an enormous amount of time. A few lost weekends and you’ll find that what the few minutes you get to yourself where you can concentrate on your craft are like gold.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Develop a Story

I didn’t start out to write a novel. I just had an idea. In this case I had the rather vague thought of a young man who wakes up one day to a world that was utterly silent and in which he was absolutely alone. It was to be a story about isolation and alienation in an utterly hostile world. No, I haven’t given away any of the plot because the story didn’t turn out this way. No matter how I tried to make the story about theme driven, it never worked and, after several fitful starts, I surrendered to the storyline and I became the recorder of events in the story rather than the originator.  The characters grew until they led the action rather than my leading them.

Letting the characters unfold the action can have consequences though. Since the characters are a product of your psyche, especially those corridors of your mind that may often be hidden in shadow. I found myself writing about things that I normally would have steered clear of, yet in the context of the action and dialogue, virtually nothing was off limits. I also found that once the story was launched it wanted to keep going and going, from action point to action point, adventure to adventure. Suddenly 100K words became 200K, and 200K became 300K. Then suddenly it was over. It wasn’t that I ran out of words, the story simply reached its end and the characters stopped speaking to me.

Once the initial writing was completed, editing began. Then more editing, and even more editing.  Editing was followed by doubting. Is it too long? What about consistency? What about style? What about marketability? Oh, yeah, marketability, how do I make money with my creation?  Maybe I should split the novel into several novellas or novelettes. After all, six eBook novellas at .99 cents each would bring in more than one eBook novel at $3.99.  A more compelling argument is that I doubt anyone would pay $3.99 (much less $12.99) for a novel by a previously unpublished author, whereas on a whim someone might spend .99 cents just to see what it’s like.

If you’re turned off by the previous discussion of marketability, not to worry. In the end, the whole marketability thing doesn’t really work for me as I am a terrible self-promoter and a worse capitalist. If I can make a profit at writing, at least enough that I can declare my office as a business expense, I’ll be happy.

© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Starting the Process

Okay, so last year I finished writing my first novel, over 332K words.  That having been accomplished, the next question is, “What the heck do I do with it?” It’s all well and good to be a novelist, but if no one ever reads it, was it worth the effort? Was it worth spending hundreds of hours on the computer writing and researching just to lose it all the next time my hard drive crashes? Would it even matter if my novel vanished into the ether? Would it make a difference to anyone? Probably not, but how will I know unless I put it out there? And I guess that’s what this is all about. That’s why I’m writing this blog.

What does a blog have to do with getting published? Well, I figured that a blog, that is, putting the effort out in public, would sort of hold me accountable. It wouldn’t just be me anymore. Anyone who might stumble on this blog could share my experience and, in turn, the expectation that someone would care enough to keep up with my efforts to get published might keep me motivated to follow this through. Writing, under the best of circumstances, is a solitary pursuit. No matter what gives you the idea for a story, no matter who you talk to or discuss it with, the execution of the story is a lonely, personal process because whether you like it or not, the story is inevitably about you.

To help me through this process, I’ve started developing a flowchart of the publication process (Publishing Process Flowchart) . I know flowcharts are lame, but I’m kind of a visual guy and mapping the process helps me to understand where I am in the process. In future posts, we’ll walk through the process, talk about writing, and hopefully, in the end, get my novel reformatted and sold as an eBook.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

The first step

Somewhere in my closet there is a notebook with dozens of yellowed, worn pages of prose and poetry I wrote in the late 60’s and early 70’s, back in a time when I still believed the pinnacle of the writer’s craft was to have his work captured on paper and hard bound. While there is a part of me that still clings to that belief, I have resolved myself to the realities of electronic publishing. In this blog I hope to document the journey to get my new work published as an ebook, but it’s late now and I have many things to do to make this blog my own.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh