Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Writing Wednesday

It's time for another Writing Wednesday, in which I record my writing progress for the week!

  • I wrote 17K of I3 (total 27K). Some of those words were from the original draft, but I'm already diverging from the outline. :P
  • And I, er, accidentally wrote 5K of the new shiny fantasy manuscript. Oops. I'm trying to slow down on this one, because if I dive headfirst in without fleshing out the outline, I can pretty much guarantee I'll either slam into a brick wall or mess up the sequels. Also, I don't even have working titles yet. *headdesk* But if I'm adding notes and whole sections of dialogue to the outline, it's a good sign!
  • The final version of Nemesis is uploaded to retailers! *all the flailing* And the proof copy arrived, so I spent two days trying to fix stupid errors (grr). Definitely not freaking out...

WIP issues: Continuity. *major headdesking* I tend to write series with complicated backstories and all the characters keeping secrets from each other. Keeping track of who knows what, when, is the worst when you a) have a terrible memory and b) tend to divert from your outline. I had to go back and read over the first two books in my trilogy to figure out how much I'd actually told the reader/the characters about certain events. I really need to start keeping a working journal-in-progress of which information's been revealed in which chapter...

Also, getting distracted by the new shiny. :P I can't help it. I love my WIP, but I've been working on the series since 2013 and I'm really in high fantasy mode this month.

Lessons learned: I went through my writing resources bookmarks and found this post on Fiction University. It was so helpful when re-planning the middle of my draft, which is usually where things start to go wrong. :P I think it's because while I use beat sheets/plot points, and have a list of potential scenes, I sometimes find it difficult to figure out what order they go in. (And that's how a draft I wrote last year turned into a jigsaw. :P)

Next week: More words! Still aiming for 2000 per day, leaving me with time for planning my fantasy series and various admin/marketing things for my upcoming release.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Five Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author by Susan Kaye Quinn

Susan Kaye Quinn's Indie Author Survival Guide was one of the most helpful resources I found when I was researching indie publishing, and now she's releasing an updated edition! Here's a post from Susan on her top tips for success as a self-published author.


Can you spot the self-published titles?
Hint: they all are. 
(Caveat: A.G. Riddle started out indie but is now published through Amazon's 47North imprint along with Marko Kloos)

The truth is that self-published titles now regularly top the charts - if not outright dominate them. Successful self-published titles have great covers and lots of fervent fans - often the only way to distinguish them from traditionally published titles is the publisher listing in the description (and the price - indie titles are usually less than $5.99 for single titles).

How do you become one of these successful indie authors? Hard work, luck, and educating yourself about how the indie marketplace works.

Here are FIVE TIPS to get you started. For a full run-down on how to launch your indie author career, see my Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition now available). To take your indie author career to the next level, pre-order my For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career (releases 7.14).

TIP #1: Study the Bestsellers - In both craft and business, studying successful people will help you discern the ingredients of success. Always be striving to take your craft up a level - by craft I mean storytelling, not just the way you string words together. Because as much as we like to disparage that poorly written erotica book at the top of the charts, I guarantee that good stories well told actually do sell. (Alternatively, if you want to chase the latest trend, that's possible now  - there's no sin in giving readers more of what they want, but it's nowhere near as easy as you think.) As far as business, look who is selling in your genre and what they did to get there. Don't follow what people say - look at what they actually do. The actions of successful people often fly in the face of conventional wisdom. (I welcome you to look at my own path to success as well as many other indie authors - often the most successful are not the ones offering advice about it! #yesIseetheirony )

TIP #2: Be a Professional - Don't dabble. Don't dip your toe into indie publishing with a short story that's not going to sell. Go full cannon-ball jump into the pond with professional covers, formatting, editing, the works. Make sure your novel can comfortably sit in the top 100 of your category. This will require up-front investment, but most books can be well-published for under $1000 - and I know of no other legit business you can start for that little money invested. Don't skimp. (Note: on the other hand, don't throw money away on a $3000 cover that will be hard to recoup; be sensible.)

TIP #3: Launch With a Series - You don't have to pre-write an entire trilogy and release the books one month apart... but that's an option now, with indie publishing. If you can write a novel in six months, you could publish the first book, then write and publish Books 2 and 3 within a year. I've seen both models be successful (note: don't wait more than six months between books). Make the commitment to quickly build a backlist and get books into readers' hands. Delivering three connected novels to readers within a year is a strong way to launch a career (note: I'm talking novels here, not novellas or short stories or serials - those are fun, but not career-launchers).

TIP #4: Launch in Amazon then Go Wide -  There's a lot to learn in indie publishing, so staying focused can be key to staying on track - plus launching a new series in the Kindle Unlimited system gives new authors/new series a boost in visibility. Use this to get your footing. Then, when you've established your brand as an author, you can expand to the other retailers (Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play). You'll be a veteran at that point and in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of exclusivity vs. reach.

TIP #5: Never Stop Writing - the single most important thing you can do in your career is write the next book. Generating new IP (Intellectual Property) is the one thing only you can do - the rest can be outsourced. It's tempting to get bogged down in all the latest and greatest changes in the industry, but the biggest lever you can pull to move sales is to launch a new book. Or an entirely new series. You want to study the bestsellers, but always remember: your biggest asset is your uniqueness. Make sure you're continually feeding your creativity, reaching for that next level with your work, bringing out the fullest expression of your abilities. Spend the bulk of your time doing creative work - reading, writing, watching movies, taking workshops, using craft books to boost your skills, exploring new forms, learning how to write faster... whatever works for you to elevate your craft and increase your enjoyment of writing. This is the creative life you want, yes?

I really should have started with TIP #0: Decide What Mountain You Want To Climb - I have an entire section in my Indie Author Survival Guide about making a Mission Statement so that you know you're climbing the right hill before you set off in dogged pursuit of the success you think you want. 
Knowing what will make you happy, then having a plan to get there? That's the only key to success you actually need.

p.s. if all of this terrifies you, I understand. Truly. Watch this webinar on facing your fears and don't let that hold you back. 

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the Mindajck Trilogy and the Debt Collector serial (as well as other speculative fiction works) and has been indie publishing since 2011. She?s not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: she?s one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. The Indie Author Survival Guide is based on her experience in self-publishing fiction?the First Edition was published in 2013, the Second Edition in 2015, updated to account for changes in the industry. It?s a guide to help her fellow writer-friends take their own leaps into the wild (and wonderful) world of indie publishing? and not only survive, but thrive. Facebook | Tumblr | Website | All of Susan's Fiction
Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition) now available
For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career - preorder for 7.14


Those are some great tips (especially #5, which is pretty much my life goal! :D). I'm pre-ordering For Love or Money, which is aimed at authors who've already published one or more books and want to make a career out of it. But I'd absolutely recommend the Survival Guide to anyone considering indie publishing or just starting out!

Friday, 22 May 2015

On Works-in-Progress

Some of you might remember I used to have a "works-in-progress" tab on my blog. I've since deleted it because the level of spam I was getting from "publishing companies" wanting me to pay them money to publish was borderline ridiculous (note: NEVER pay money for someone to publish for you. Just... don't. Been there, done that, et cetera). Anyway, now I only have the books on my publishing plan listed under the "Books" tab. But that definitely doesn't mean I'm not planning to publish other projects - I just don't have any plans set in stone yet. So, because I'm absolutely not procrastinating on a draft right now (heh), I thought it'd be interesting to offer a sneak peek into my "works-in-progress".

Firstly, there are the books on the publishing plan. So, Darkworld books 3, 4 and 5 are all with my editor and set to be published between 2015 and 2017 (as my publisher's in charge of setting publication dates, I don't yet know exactly when that will be). As for the Alliance series, I'm publishing Delinquent: An Alliance Novella this summer, and the third book later this year. Then next year, books 4-6 will be published, probably with 3-4 months between each of them (to reduce the pressure on my poor CPs and beta readers and stop my schedule getting too crazy).

The next stage is "works-in-progress" which have progressed past the first draft stage:
  • YA post-apocalyptic fantasy trilogy. I wrote the first book in 2013 and had it revised, edited, polished and ready for agent submission, but decided to overhaul the sequel I wrote for Camp NaNo last year and turn it into a trilogy. If all goes well, I'll be adding it to the self-publishing plan.
  • Beneath the Waves (standalone YA fantasy). This one's been through five major revisions and is now with a freelance editor. I'll be revising it again over the next 7-8 months or so, then hopefully self-publishing it. But as my editor's busy and there are multiple editing rounds, I don't know exactly how long the process will take. Again, I'll add it to the plan when I have some idea when it'll be ready.
  • I also have a MG fantasy on hold (but polished and submission-ready). That one's still on the "querying" list, for when I decide to jump back into looking for agent representation (as I know from experience that MG doesn't do well in indie publishing). Things are slightly busy right now. :P
Next, I have a project-in-progress list. If I'm committed to an idea (usually when I've created a Scrivener document and have more than a handful of pages of notes), then I'll add it to my list. But the projects on the list can be in different stages, and usually I won't decide on the publishing path until at least the first draft's complete. So, here's what I have on the list:
  • Adult fantasy trilogy - this one's been in the planning stages since February, but I've now done most of the research and worldbuilding and written rough outlines for each book. I've also written some snippets from the first book. This is likely to be my next major project.
  • YA contemporary fantasy trilogy - I drafted the first book last year, but it needs to go through a major revision, and I need to flesh out the outlines for the other books. I'll probably come back to it at some point, though! (For those of you who've followed my blog for a while, it's the mad artists' world project I posted from snippets from about a year ago.)
  • Potential DW spinoff trilogy - I had a random burst of DW nostalgia a few months ago and wrote a rough plan for a spinoff trilogy, but it's not in-depth enough for me to start writing it yet. I need to flesh out the characters and figure out how to make it different enough from DW to stand on its own. I do like the idea, though!
  • Other YA contemporary fantasy - I drafted the first in a potential series last year, but it ended up a complete mess. Again, I really like the concept and some of the characters, so I might go back and re-plan the series before writing it from scratch.
  • Standalone YA paranormal sci-fi/cyberpunk - This one needs more research. I have a vague outline, but like the DW spinoff, I need more notes to be "ready" to start writing it. Plus it's in a genre I've never written before. But I absolutely love the concept and it's been on my list since 2012, so I should probably get to it at some point. :P
Other than that, I have a vague list of things I'd like to write about at some point. Some of them even have their own Scrivener documents, but I'm waiting for more pieces to fall into place before I can add them to the project list. I've mentioned before that I always start with a concept, but it sometimes takes a while to find a plot and characters that fit. Some projects come together more quickly than others. For example, I gathered ideas for DW for two years before things clicked into place. The Alliance series, on the other hand, took two months to plan. Beneath the Waves took a month. My YA post-apocalyptic only took a couple of weeks. But the drafting and editing time can vary just as much. I'd like to think I'm getting a bit more efficient at planning, but it really does depend on the project!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Writing Wednesday

It's time for another Writing Wednesday, in which I record my writing progress for the week!

This week:
  • I finally finished my draft at 68K words! :D
  • I also wrote 10K of I3, the third book! This series is a strange one, because it started as a duology before I decided to overhaul it and turn it into a trilogy. In the original version, I'd tried to cram too much into one book, so I split the final book in two, kept the first half and rewrote the second half. But I think I can work some of the last half of the original draft into the new Book 3. Should be interesting to see if that works! (I do have it worked into my outline, but as I said last week, I have a tendency to reach a certain event in the outline and realise it needs to take place in a completely different way to how I pictured it. Usually, my characters know best!)
  • And I'm still outlining my next fantasy series. I've been working on this one on and off since February, and I now have a complete (well, vague) outline for the first book and most of the main worldbuilding done. I also sort of accidentally wrote 350 words of it yesterday. :P

WIP Issues: Finishing a draft and outlining the final book in a series when (as usual) my brain won't cooperate...

Lessons learned: Don't try to cram too much into one book. I didn't want to write a trilogy, which is why it started as a duology. But there were far too many major conflicts going on and not enough space to resolve them, so it makes more sense to resolve the smaller one in Book 2 and save the big, epic one for the finale and make it even more dramatic!

Next week: I want to write more of Book 3! Going slow at first, because it's a new draft and my outline's lacking in detail.

Also, at some point I need to read over I2 and see what the major issues I need to address in edits. I know the first problem is that the constant re-outlining means the continuity is horrendously bad, and things get pretty repetitive because I kept writing myself into the same corners.

I'd also like to do more planning for my next fantasy series! Two more outlines and some character stuff to do, and then I can hopefully start drafting this summer! My planning process is a lot more slapdash than my drafting process, which is why it takes so much longer, and I have to know the first scene before I can write it. I have a fair few ideas, but I don't quite have the voice nailed yet. (Third person, three POVs. Should be interesting!)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Currently...

It's time for another fortnightly "Currently..." update about what I'm doing right now! :)

Loving

Not having the plague. :P I've had two killer viruses in three weeks, which completely knocked me out. It's nice to be able to write without being all fuzzy-headed from flu...

Also, finishing my draft! Technically, it was a rewrite (I'm reworking a duology as a trilogy, so I split the second book in two and turned the first half into a complete draft), but it's nice to have half the battle done. ^_^ Next up: Book 3!

Reading

End of Days by Susan Ee, the third book in the Penryn & the End of Days series (I reviewed Angelfall way back in 2012!). Such an addictive and amazing post-apocalyptic series!

I also read An Ember in the Ashes, which was... amazing. There's been a lot of hype around this book, but it's definitely well-deserved!

Watching

I finished Daredevil, which I loved! Every series seems to be ending at the moment - Arrow, The Flash, Agents of SHIELD... But I've started watching Gotham, so that's keeping me entertained.

Listening to

Angry heavy metal, because I'm writing about the end of the world. ;)

Thinking about

My WIP. Now I'm onto the final book of the trilogy after finishing rewriting the second (evil cliffhanger alert *muahahaha*), so I've been re-outlining and made a start on the draft.

Also, my next fantasy series. I've been working on the worldbuilding and magic system since February/March, so this one's slow-going. But I'm hoping to start writing the first book this summer!

Anticipating

YALC! I know it isn't until July, but I already have my tickets booked, and I can't wait to go back to London and meet some of my favourite authors! :D

Wishing

I could concentrate on writing while preparing to send out review copies of my next book (Nemesis, Alliance Book 2)! *flails*

Making me happy

Well, Darkness Watching was on sale last week, combined with a BookBub ad, and managed to hit the top #1 in two categories! O_O Wow. I never expected a book that's been out (and, well, not selling) since 2013 to suddenly get a new surge of life, so I'm pretty thrilled with the results! YAY READERS! ^_^

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Writing Wednesday

It's time for another Writing Wednesday, in which I record my writing progress for the week! Jess and I decided to turn this into a weekly thing, so if you're like us and need the accountability, feel free to jump in! :)

This week, I:
  • I wrote 8K words of I2 (63K total ), which continues to resist my attempts to pin it to an outline.
  • I won a full manuscript critique from the lovely Kisa Whipkey! So Beneath the Waves is off for another edit. The process will take a few months, but I'm excited to see what I can do with the story!
  • Formatted Nemesis for paperback and did another check for errors. Next up: formatting e-ARCs!

WIP issues: This story is refusing to be outlined, which means constant false starts and trying to piece bits of chapters like a jigsaw. And then I got the Plague, again (really, immune system? Really?!) which made it impossible to think clearly enough to disentangle the mess of the plan for the final chapters. I can never tell whether my writing under the influence of flu medication makes any sense... :P So, my plans to finish the draft this week were slightly delayed.

Any lessons learned?

Well, I found the original outlines for the Alliance series, and realised 90% of my original plan didn't actually make it into the books! The only things that stayed the same were the character arcs and a handful of plot points. The smaller details came together as I was drafting. So I'm slightly reassured about my WIP, which is running away from every attempt I make to outline it.

I'm thinking of trying a new approach where I plan a couple of chapters ahead but leave the rest vague, which is pretty much what I do anyway. I know the characters' overall journey, but not all the events. I don't think this is a perfect method, but I seem completely incapable of plotting out every detail in advance. (And when I do, it all ends up changing... like with my first novel, in which I obliterated 3 years' worth of outlining within two days. o.O)

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Darkness Watching sale and Alliance short story news!

I have two exciting updates today! Firstly, Darkness Watching is on its first Kindle Countdown promo this week, so it'll be available for only 99 cents for the next two days! Be sure to grab a copy here, if you haven't already. I was lucky enough to be picked up by Bookbub so the book's getting an even bigger boost than usual, and it's all thanks to you lovely readers/reviewers. Promo sites like Bookbub look at the reviews first when deciding whether to promote an author, so every single one makes a difference! :)

Secondly, I've mentioned a free Alliance short story exclusively for newsletter subscribers... and it goes out in today's newsletter! Passages: An Alliance Short Story takes place shortly before the events of Adamant, when Kay's final exam at the Academy takes a detour into the monster-infested swamps of Cethrax. It was so much fun to write! Sign up here for your free copy. :)

And I've set up a review sign-up form (which you can access under the "For Readers" tab above) to make it easier to sign up for review copies of my books. If you're interested in supporting Nemesis (Alliance, #2) when it releases next month and reviewing future Alliance books, this is the place to sign up! I'll be updating the form whenever I have another confirmed release.