Writing on a deadline

I have achieved the American dream: One wife. One house. Two children. A dead-end soul sucking corporate job. My only legacy will be words.

Writing on a deadline.  After more than sixty years on this earth, much of that time spent writing meaningless drivel for others, I am finally writing for myself.  More than just desiring to write, I am compelled to write.  And I am compelled to write under a deadline.  And that’s alright.  I’ve done some of my best work under pressure.  And nothing provides pressure like knowing that your life has an expiration date.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not expecting to cash in anytime soon.  The thing is that since I had heart surgery last year, I have become increasingly aware about the importance of time and how it’s spent.  I mean, sitting around watching Netflix is fine, but creating stories that describe my thoughts, beliefs, and experiences is much more important to me.

Men spend their whole lives hiding themselves away under the cover of masculinity or propriety or societal expectations, and I’m through with that.  I write what I need to, and when I need to, because while I dance like no one is watching, the content of my stories is the one thing that I have complete control over.

So, does that mean that I’m giving up on the world to immerse myself in fiction?  Of course not.  The future, whatever it may be, is there for me.

Since our society demands that you can’t get nothing for nothing, I’m still working the same miserable job—and monetizing this blog by allowing certain ads—because someday I’d like to at least break even.  And I have my family whom I love and would be lost without.  Finally, I have a file of forty or fifty stories I need to finish and publish.  All these are forward looking, as I continue to be.

Looking forward, what’s next?  I’m about 38,000 words into my next novel (tentatively called ‘Clarice’), and what a ride.  And it is a ride, because quite often I have no idea where we’re headed until we get there.  I guess that’s the difference between deciding to write a novel and being compelled to write it.

Deciding to write a novel is like technical writing—and some writers do this very successfully.

  • Decide on the genre and plot.
  • Create and outline or a template.
  • Create the setting for the action.
  • Create your characters, including detailed physical descriptions and backstory.
  • Plug everything into the outline or template.
  • Edit, reedit, publish.

Compulsion to write a novel is more like having a fever—you just have to ride it out until it’s done with you.

  • Wake in the middle of the night with a thought that might be a story thread and scratch it down on the notepad you keep by the bed.
  • A few weeks or a year later, read about something, or hear about something, that triggers a relationship with your late-night thought.
  • Mull over the relationship for a few days, until it grabs you and you find yourself scribbling notes down on a notepad, envelope, or any paper that’s handy.
  • Start writing from your notes. Add more words.  Any words will do.  Write more and more, remembering that it doesn’t have to make sense to you, not yet.
  • Step away. Have a drink.  Mow the yard.  Watch some TV.  Do this until your mind is completely absorbed by the story swirling in your mind.
  • Return to writing. Feel the characters ooze out of your pores onto the page.  Close your eyes and see where they are.  Become overwhelmed by their emotions and desires.
  • Give the writing over to the characters, let them drive the plot, let them drive your fingers.
  • When you can catch your breath—assuming you and your characters survived—edit, reedit, publish.

Which is it for you—decision or compulsion?  Do you have forever or are you under a deadline to finish?  What makes you put down the TV remote and grab your pen?  What makes your creative juices flow from your mind to your page?  And when are you going to get that story published?

So many questions, so little time.  Start writing now!

© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

On Staying Organized

I was planning on writing a nice long article about how important organization is when writing an eBook of over 300k words, especially if the action takes place over a long timeline, several continents, and involves hundreds of major and minor characters.  Just trying to not repeat names is difficult, much less keeping track of multiple relationships and various underlying threads of themes to ensure consistency.

I thought about posting an article about this because of the comments I received from R.B. Hatch and Jo Bryant about my Character Worksheet.  The comments are much appreciated and I would really like to hear how other authors have tackled (or failed to tackle) the problem of keeping everything straight.

Here’s a case in point about why organization and detail is important: I have a character who is initially described as wearing glasses.  Three hundred thousand words later, when reediting the entire novel (now broken into a trilogy) I realize that the initial description is the only time I mention his glasses.  This probably happened because whenever I see the character, he has glasses on, so I assume the reader sees him the same way.  At this point I have to decide if glasses are important enough to actually interject at various points along the storyline, or do I just not worry about it and assume that the character’s glasses don’t matter, that they aren’t essential for the reader understanding who the character is.

Okay, so you may think that glasses aren’t important.  What is important is to ensure that all the details that let the reader see your character the way you do remain consistent.  Some writers develop worksheets that go into exacting detail about their characters and locations, even detailing information that may not be included in the text.  Detail that gives the character structure, fullness, and life.  As authors, we each need to make decisions about what is important for our character, locations, and storylines.

For now, I’ll leave it at that.  I started out this blog by saying that “I was planning on writing” an article and that time had frittered away from me, but instead it seems I’ve captured the gist of what I would have written anyway.

Please let me know if you have something to say about organization in your story writing, or for that matter a comment about anything else I’ve posted.  I’d really like to hear from you.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

To Wait or Not

Writing is a hard thing.  There is nothing easy about it.

I now have the first book of my trilogy, Any Tomorrow: The Calling, out on Amazon and Smashwords (inclusion in the Smashwords Premium Catalog is still pending).

I have the second book in the series, Any Tomorrow: The Curse, edited and awaiting formatting.

The third and final book, Any Tomorrow: The Culling, needs final editing and formatting.

My preoccupation with these books pulls me away from my other writing.  I think I might have enough material for a book of short stories, but I don’t have the time to focus on that project.

My wife, whom I love and whose opinions I respect, has suggested that I wait, say, three or four months before I publish Any Tomorrow: The Curse which may be a good idea, I don’t know.  I think I might be more inclined to agree with that if the time between eNovels would push my loyal fan base into a frenzy waiting for the next book to appear.  (The classic example of that being the Harry Potter series.)  Well, I don’t have a fan base and quite frankly I don’t foresee the untold millions waiting to hit the download button.  What I do know is that I personally don’t like waiting or getting books in installments.  I’d much rather wait and get all the books at once.

I always try to wait for the director’s cut box set.

I am somewhat compelled by a sense of urgency about publication.  After all, fate is an uncertain quantity in this all too short life.  The world is not the slow place it once was.  Fortunes and futures can change with a missed heartbeat or a missed step.  I am willing to lose a little sleep to get my eBooks online.  At least then they will have a chance to be read.  As long as they stay in my hard drive and only I read them, they serve little purpose other than to be one more thing I didn’t follow through on.

In the end I am a realist.  I don’t expect to make tons of money or have thousands so adoring fans.  My writing genre of speculative fiction isn’t for everyone.  It takes a certain type of psyche to appreciate the strange and unusual, the what ifs and could have beens. To see time and space as something other than what it is.  Not everyone can write it and not everyone will read it.  Not everyone can be Stephen King.

It would be nice, though, if I sold a few books and maybe got back some constructive comments.  Look for Any Tomorrow: The Curse to be published soon.  Maybe the world can wait for it, but I can’t.

As always, if you have any comments, questions, or concerns about this post or any of my posts, please let me know.  I would really appreciate your feedback.  Thanks.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Publication!

Okay, maybe the exclamation point is a bit over the top, but Any Tomorrow: The Calling has been submitted to Smashwords and Kindle.  It will be listed for $2.99. It will take a few days before the eBook shows up on Smashwords and even longer before it gets distributed to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, etc.  It should be out on Amazon sometime tomorrow.

Keep an eye out for it.  The cover art is from a photo I took a few months ago of the moon through a Bougainvillea bush in my backyard.  I brought the image into Photoshop and used a red filter on it to give an eerie look.

Since portions of the book will be available for review at the various distributors anyway, probably tomorrow I’ll post the first chapter, so if you follow this blog, you’ll get to read it before anyone else!

As always, if you have any comments about this or any of my posts, please feel free to click the comment link and let me know what’s on your mind.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

The eBook paradigm

Yesterday I made the observation that the publishing industry still seems driven by the paper paradigm and I can understand why. I have friends that go on and on about how they will never give up their stocks of paper books. They like the feel of them. They like the smell of them. Books comfort them like an old sweater. We’ve all been brought up with paper books and we’re comfortable with them.

When I first started writing back in high school, paper books were essential not only to my academics, but to my world view. In those dark days before the internet, before computers, books were knowledge. To my young mind nothing in life was more important than acquiring a good solid library of classic books. The ideal future I envisioned was one where I could spend my days completely occupied with nothing more than reading the works of the learned ancients and gathering their secret wisdom – and writing about it. I wanted to be an author.

Okay, then I went to college and found out that there were many things beyond books. There was beer, girls, whiskey, girls, and music – and girls. I also discovered that one of the objectives of education was to question conventional wisdom and not just accept it blindly. Just because someone was lauded as an expert, it didn’t mean he was beyond examination. And so my ivory tower of learned books crumbled and fell away. The college experience presented me with a new paradigm about the world, one that I could not ignore. That paradigm challenged my view of everything, but most specifically about books and the “wisdom” contained in them. The new paradigm shook my world view to the core and made me question what the very nature of a book is.

With the advent of the information revolution and all the technological innovations it’s brought, what actually is a book anyway? Whether it’s a novel or an encyclopedia, the nature of the book is changing. Tomes have been transformed into digital files and a backpack full of textbooks into a single e-reader. As a digital file a novel can contain links to web sites, video, audio, and reference materials. Writing is limited to ink and paper. A book can now contain virtually anything the writer wants to include to enhance the reading experience. Furthermore, with the advent of eBook self-publishing, authors are no longer confined by the opinions and prejudices of the agents or publishers who would have formerly controlled their ability to get published.

Writing at its very essence is about the creative experience and the desire to share that experience with others. Those others may be listeners or readers, some will be paying customers while others will share the experience through other means. (File sharing is another topic entirely.) From what I’ve read, eBooks still represent only a fraction of publishing world wide, and I doubt paper books will ever go away entirely. There’s a lot more to be said about the permanence of paper versus the impermanence of digital, but that will have to wait for another post.

I guess the bottom line in my mind is that digital files open a myriad of possibilities for authors. They present the possibility for writers to become something more, and for their works to enhance the beauty of the written word. eBooks present the author and the publishing industry with a new paradigm that challenges those of us grown up with the written word trapped in paper to embrace the new technologies of the information age and let our craft flourish.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Final answer? Well, maybe not…

Okay, so it may sound like I’m back peddling, but comments by Catana to yesterday’s post gave me reasons to reconsider my plan for a whole series of books from my original novel.  She provided links to a couple of blogs that suggested that the ideal length for a novel is more like 80K to 110K words.  Those are reasonable figures and I could certainly split my novel into a trilogy.  Based on my novel’s current word count, if I combine the Books 1-5 I’ll have 78,730 words. A minimum of 80K seems doable. It just so happens that there is a natural break at the end of Book 5.

The publishing industry still seems to be driven by the paper paradigm.  The other thing I noticed in links (here and here) Catana provided was that while the ideal length for a novel may be 80K to 110K words, there don’t really seem to be hard industry definitions, except what the market seems to decide based on sales.  And when it comes to novels that will only be eBooks, the maximum figure is sort of out the window since the price of paper is no longer a concern.

I guess that’s one of the main reasons I’m going eBook.  I’m tired of having someone tell me that they won’t consider my novel because it’s not what’s selling today.  Of course, I may get the same message when my number of sales for the Kindle is zero, but that’s a message from the readers.  The readers are who you write for, not for an agent or publisher. If it’s a sign of rebellion against authority, so be it.

By the way, my trusted companion, the OED online, defined “novel” as: a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism. The Merriam-Webster dictionary online was more specific: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events. Neither one actually defined a novel’s required length. “Book length” and “long” would not stand up as metrics.

Does the label (novel, novelette, novella, short story, or flash fiction) matter?  Sure it does. We like things in boxes, prepackaged, and shrink wrapped so we can be sure we get our money’s worth.  Whether you let someone else set your requirements or if you decide for yourself, the bottom line is that you need to meet your reader’s expectations for content and value while remaining true to the story you want to tell.
© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Is that your final answer?

Being an analytical sort of guy, I decided to see exactly where I stood should I decide to publish my novel as a series instead of one volume. The results didn’t really surprise me, because of the way I developed the story.  As you can see, Books 4, 5, and 6, based on the word count, already qualify as novels.  That’s because I started out by writing the core of the novel, and then fleshed out the events leading to and resulting from the action.  That fleshing out process also included reformatting and rearranging to enhance the flow of the action. I think that by publishing the books as a series, in the course of preparing the manuscripts for publication, I’ll be able to bring each of the shorter volumes into their own.  The shortfall in the word count will give me the latitude to expand the shorter storylines without feeling crushed under the weight of a single volume.

Book Series
Book Current Word Count Qualifies as: Goal: Required Word Count
Book 1 39,365 Novella Novel ±700
Book 2 23,900 Novella Novel ±16,100
Book 3 32,579 Novella Novel ±7,500
Book 4 26,653 Novella Novel ±14,000
Book 5 47,189 Novel Novel Okay
Book 6 43,317 Novel Novel Okay
Book 7 43,256 Novel Novel Okay
Book 8 19,454 Novella Novel ±20,600
Book 9 18,845 Novella Novel ±22,000
Book 10 20,594 Novella Novel ±19,500
Book 11 17,007 Novelette Novel ±23,000
Total 332,159 Total shortfall ±123,400

Note: According to the Hugo Awards criteria: a novel is >40,000 words, a novella is 17,500 to 40,000 words, and a novelette is 7,500 to 17,500 words.

Only 123,400 words away from eleven novels.

As you can see, Book 1 is almost at the magical 40,000 word mark where it will change from a Novella to a Novel, so I would expect that within a couple of weeks you can expect to see it out on Amazon and Smashwords.  There now that I’ve made the decision I expect you to hold me to it.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

ISBNs and Other Things

While I was watching the Kindle Video Tutorial last night,  one of the things that I wondered about was the ISBN (International Standard Book Number).  All books have them, but is it really necessary for my eBook? To find out the answer I went to www.isbn.org, one of 60 agencies worldwide that provides ISBNs. They have a very comprehensive FAQ page, but it didn’t expressly address eBooks (or the cost to apply). To get this information I had to go to www.myidentifiers.com. Here I found “Guidelines for the assignment of ISBNs to e-books”,a PDF that told me what I needed to know.  [Please note that this PDF may no longer be available from www.myidentifiers.com.  I recently visited the site and didn’t see anything for free!  Note added on 7/18/17)

The short answer is that an ISBN is not necessary since a retailer like Amazon Kindle will sell your eBook only through the Amazon website, the eBook is formatted using proprietary software, and Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN. Note that, according to arstechnica.com, the Apple iBookstore requires an ISBN and an EIN (Employer Identification Number) US tax ID from the IRS.

The ISBN is critical for traditional marketing, but it isn’t free. The cost can add up since each version, revision, binding, etc. requires an individual ISBN (check with www.isbn.org for more details. Here’s how much an ISBN costs:

A single ISBN: $125.00
Ten ISBNs: $250.00 ($25 bucks each!)
100 ISBNs: $575.00 ($5.75 each!!)
1,000 ISBNs: $1,000.00 (A lousy buck each! What a deal!)

For traditional publishing, especially for prolific authors, there are lots of reasons to buy multiple ISBNs and the links provided will tell you why. The good news is that ISBNs aren’t like a license, they last forever.

Now that I’ve sort of gotten all that figured out, and I’ve finished mulling over all the Amazon legal stuff, I made the mistake of going into one of the Kindle community FAQs where I saw a reference to www.smashwords.com. Smashwords,  it seems uses software that will convert my manuscript into multiple eBook formats for a variety of ereaders including iPhone, iPod Touch, Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and Barnes & Nobel Nook, and to other ereading devices, and will distribute eBooks to major retailers like Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store. At Smashwords you can earn up to 85% or more of the net proceeds and they provide the ISBNs for all the different files to be distributed. Now I have to read all the Smashwords legal stuff and try to finally decide what I’m going to do.

A wider market does sound like a better deal, but wait there’s more. The way I read it, since both Amazon and Smashwords have a nonexclusive relationship with you and me, I can have it all, I can distribute through both services. Yeah!

Have you had any experience with Kindle or Smashwords? I could really use some insider information. Leave a comment.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Learning about Kindle

Like many of you, my weekends aren’t for writing, just the opposite.  My weekends are full of working in the yard and catching up on all those things that tend to slide while I’m at work during the week. Spring is here, the weather is beautiful, and who wants to be chained to a keyboard in a cave-like office, writing?

Me. I do. My mind is boiling over with plots and subplots.  I have a dozen folders on my hard drive with half finished short stories and sketches for novels that might be given life someday.  I guess if I was really dedicated I’d just stay up all night writing like I used to do and let my wife cuddle with an extra pillow instead of me.

Maybe not.  But as I posted last week, there are just too many things  to compete with the drive to write and, at least for me, it’s way to easy to lose sight of my ultimate goal – publication.

And getting published is what this blog is about. While my wife is occupied watching TV, I’m using the time to start investigating getting my book published on Amazon. I started by wading through the Terms and Conditions, Royalty Pricing , and List Price Requirements, but I found it too distracting reviewing them on-line, so I printed them out to look at later. Instead I watched the Video Tutorial which shows in real time how long it takes to actually publish to Kindle – about five minutes if your book is formatted. Once you see the tutorial, additional YouTube videos will become available for you to watch. They give step-by-step instructions on converting your manuscript from Word to HTML, formatting, and other issues.

As soon as I finish reviewing all the legal stuff, I’ll have to finally make that all important decision – one novel or several shorter works.

Leave me a comment, tell me what you think I should do!
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

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.