May 272014
 

I suspect the rash of 3D modeling posts have left many of you wondering, “Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but what about the writing?”

Last time I wrote about writing (hm…), I felt much more optimistic about how the science fiction novel — okay, fine, it’s code-named “Prime” — could be redrafted into something more to my liking based on the invaluable feedback from my beta readers. As I went along, though, I realized that the revision process felt perfunctory. Not that the story didn’t need revision — it did and does — but rather that none of the planned and effected changes were providing that revision. After a great deal of soul-searching (and about a third of a revised draft written), I realized that the idea of the story had simply gotten away from me. As I feared back in October, what I had written wasn’t what I wanted to have written. It wasn’t the story I sought to tell.

Coincident with this realization, my wife passed on a comment from one of her aunts who had finally gotten around to reading Ashes and loved it. Just like everyone else, she was eager for the sequel and wanted to know when it would come out.

The next day, I chose to shelve Prime for now.

Instead, I turned my attention to Ashes’ sequel, for which I now have a much more solid outline, timeline, list of character motivations, and over 10,000 words written. The third Alour-Tan book is also in the late-stage “back-of-my-mind” percolation stage and my plan is to segue directly into working on it as soon as Alour-Tan II goes out to betas, which I’m angling to happen by the end of June.

I’ll return to Prime at some point, probably starting from the ground up but with an eye to using the collapsed rubble as the bedrock for the new version. For now, though, finishing the Alour-Tan series feels like the right thing to do.

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 []
Jun 032013
 

With the tremendous response erupting from last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I wanted to put down some long-form thoughts that I could point people toward in a format where I had some control over spoiler visibility. If you haven’t seen the episode or read the third book of the series, stop reading now.

SPOILERS FOLLOW.

Continue reading »

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.
Continue reading »

Sliding timetable

 Posted by at 16:07  No Responses »
Feb 272013
 

February draws to a close and the New Book’s first draft remains incomplete. In fact, two of the three chapters for it that I managed to write are probably destined for the trash bin. I’ve decided to push my timeline by a month and a half, using that half-month to address the issue that caused the delay in the first place.

At the end of the year, I had finished primary worldbuilding for the New Book. I was (and am) delighted with the setting and look forward to telling its stories and sharing them with you. I set to the task of writing an outline for the first story, which is when things started to go off course. There is a central question that drives the stories of this setting, a central question that instilled the desire to develop the setting in the first place. The outline I created lost sight of this central question, with only superficial and tangential connection back to it.

Furthermore, one of the central conflicts in the story — between a POV character and another main character — had mutated to the point that it painted the POV character in a deplorable light. What had once made sense instead rendered the POV character foolish at best and demographically insulting at worst. The conflict itself also carried unfortunate implications.

So, I need to go back to the drawing board. The setting is still solid and I now have a cast of partial characters1 about whom I want to learn more. In order to do the concept, the characters, and the setting justice, though, the whole plot needs a ground-up rethinking. I need to write a story I can believe in, not just pump out a story that I’ll reflect on with distaste, so that you–the reader–have an enjoyable tale at the end of the process.

  1. Note that phrasing: a cast of partial characters, not a partial cast of characters. []
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!