Aug 162013

I’m going back and filling in some brackets1 on the first draft of the New Book. Once I’m done, the first draft goes out to my First Reader for initial feedback. For all intents and purposes, though, the actual work of writing the draft is complete.

I mark 8/2 as the completion date, after which I took a break for a week to recharge the batteries before diving back in for the aforementioned fill-in pass. I started this draft on 2/12, which means it took almost exactly six months from start to finish.

I’ve noted before the convoluted nature of Ashes‘ drafting process. Where the New Book stands is roughly where Ashes stood at the end of its second draft; the first draft really served as a sandbox, worldbuilding tool, and outline for the book that eventually emerged. Given that, how do the two books stack up to one another?

I keep a lot of records of my writing process. I wrote the first draft of Ashes in about 30 days3. My worldbuilding and outlining process for the New Book spanned the months of December (worldbuilding) and January (outlining, though I would end up retooling the outline midway through writing the draft). So on that front, I arguably took longer with this book, though a great deal of worldbuilding and re-outlining happened between Ashes‘ first and second drafts, too, which that 30 day span doesn’t cover.

Verdict? Tie.

Ashes‘ second draft ends up being a lot harder to pin down. Going by raw time and word count, Draft Two of Ashes took almost two years — end of November 2009 to late September 2011. Final word count for that draft was 94,120 words, representing an average rate of 142 words per day. The New Book weighs in at 90,161 words (prior to bracket-filling), representing an average rate of 495 words per day. That’s an improvement by a factor of almost 3.5.

Verdict: The New Book demonstrates a clear improvement in writing speed.

Why? For one thing, discipline and regularity. I had a regular train schedule to stick to while writing this book, which meant I had guaranteed writing windows. Because of a fun hardware quirk4, my work laptop’s wireless only works at work, meaning I could do little but write while on the train. That provided me a guaranteed 90-minutes of writing time for every day I commuted into the city.

At the beginning of June, I buckled down to hold myself to using the same morning writing window every day (except weekends), which had a marked effect on my progress.
The blue line is total word count and uses the left vertical axis. The orange line is 7-day exponentially-weighted average daily wordcount and uses the right vertical axis.
My daily wordcount from 2/1 to 6/1 averages out to ~278 words per day, but my daily word count from 6/1 to finish averages out to ~914 words per day. That’s huge. It still falls far short of my goal of ~2000 words per day, but it’s closer to 50% than 15%, which I count as a big win.

Upshot: I got faster. A lot faster. Hopefully, these speed improvements will continue to happen and I can eventually hit a point where I’m completing three to five drafts per year.

  1. See this post by Justine Larbalestier regarding brackets. []
  2. Arguably, I started it on 12/5 of 2012, but that was just a dialog spine for the last scene, so it doesn’t really count. []
  3. It was, after all, a NaNoWriMo project. []
  4. If you’re curious, here’s the Launchpad bug detailing the problem []
May 292013

Ashes of Alour-Tan has now been out for just over six months. When I launched the book, I made the decision to pay little-to-no attention to my sales figures for that span of time, at which point I would look at the numbers and decide what they might indicate for future strategy.

A couple of notes before we dig in:

1. I am very happy with Ashes’ performance. As a debut, self-published novel my expectations for sales were quite low and it exceeded them handily. I would have been happy with one sale and made substantially more than that.

2. Ashes’ performance to date means little in the grand scheme of my long-term writing goals. Every self-publishing success story has the common thread of an author with many titles for their readers and I am not aware of any success story that centers on a single breakout title. Until I have at least five titles out and available, I don’t anticipate significantly better sales figures than Ashes garnered, and I am quite content with that. Of course, I do hope that each subsequent release will show progress.

3. I did very little in the way of promotion for Ashes. I announced it here on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Tumblr, on a handful of non-writing forums where I also added a link to the book to my forum signature, created author pages on Amazon and Goodreads, and…that’s it. I did not submit it to any book blogs, writing/author/self-publishing communities, or any other major venue for promotion. This minimal promotion decision was deliberate.

Right, let’s get to the numbers.
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Goals for 2013

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Jan 142013

Rather than resolutions, which strike me as unrealistically rigid, I opted instead to set a few goals to strive for in 2013. Here’s that list, for those curious.

  • Write (at least) two books. This is the biggest and most ambitious of the goals. Seeing as how it took three years to get Ashes done, shooting for writing two books in a single year is an enormous leap. I set an aggressive timetable for the New Book and my success at adhering to that timetable will go a long way toward the success or failure of this goal.
  • Get to and stay at 170 pounds. Holiday fooding is not kind to one’s experiences with the scale. While I haven’t breached 190, I came damn close. My objective is to get to and stay at 170, which is slightly more lean than my exact “optimal” weight.
  • Do 20 consecutive pull-ups. I can currently do somewhere between six and ten, so I don’t anticipate this will actually take much doing.
  • Complete my Ambassador model and complete at least one more model. I’ve been working on the Ambassador model since August 2012, which has included a great deal of re-learning of skills that atrophied while not in use when working as a tech artist in the game industry. A lot of that time went into doing and re-doing the same thing over and over, which while frustrating also ended up informative. It’s my hope that, like writing Ashes, the stumbling blocks and pitfalls of this “first” experience will result in a substantially faster second one.
  • Learn to play (at least) two songs reasonably well on the guitar. I haven’t picked up my guitar in months and that’s a tragedy. Two songs strikes me as a small-scope, attainable goal.

These are my personal goals, as opposed to larger goals that involve other people/family things. I think they’re all attainable, so long as I keep my eye on the ball.

What do you think? What are your goals?

Nov 262012

I just got the notification that Ashes is now available for download on Amazon!

The physical CreateSpace copies are still being processed, but I expect they’ll be available within the next few days.

In related news, I also posted announcements about the book’s release to the two CG forums I visit, Foundation 3D and SciFi-Meshes, as well as tweeted Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and The Morning Stream in the hopes that it might catch their eyes and prompt further spreading of the message. Odds are pretty slim, but doesn’t hurt to try!