The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of JET – Kindle Worlds, wherein interested fans and authors can write in the world of Jet, Mossad super-operative extraordinaire, who faked her own death to escape the clandestine life, but whose enemies won’t let her be.
Here’s what happened. Amazon approached me about taking the series, which has shifted multiple six figures of units and seen over a million downloads over the years, and opening it up to other authors, be they professionals or fans, to write their own stories using my characters and environment – my “world.”
There are really no limits. Books can be any genre – action thrillers like JET, romance, dystopian, whatever. The only caveat is no hardcore erotica…and you can’t kill off Jet, Matt, or Hannah.
Stories can be set before Jet joined Mossad, during her tenure with that organization, or after, sometime in the future. Sky’s the limit. One could have it be steampunk JET, or Jet’s first love, or JET set the day after the end of the world. Part of the fun of Kindle Worlds is taking the familiar and twisting it to do one’s bidding – and getting paid to do it. Those authoring in the world will see a 35% royalty, and will be writing in a world that’s already got many, many thousands of fans. That’s exciting as an author because, besides the obvious economic possibility, it exposes participants to a whole ready-made reader base who just might discover a new name they like. It certainly happened when I wrote in Steve Konkoly’s Perseid Collapse world, with Deadly Calm, my novella (if you haven’t read it, shame on you – you don’t know what you’re missing). I have a slew of new readers I can trace to that little book, which is a bargain at twice the $1.99 price. So the model works – assuming, as with everything, you tell a story folks want to read, in a compelling manner.
I’ll soon have an authors section with more info for those interested in writing in the world, which describes all the do’s and don’ts (there aren’t many). One of the big things is that any characters an author creates for the world, are that author’s property, outside of the world (thanks, Joe Konrath). So if someone comes up with the guy who got away but whose romance with Jet as a teen rocked her world, that guy is the author’s, and can be used however the author likes in non-KW world, as long as it doesn’t include my characters (Jet, Matt, or Hannah, or David, her old control in the Mossad).
Some possibilities are an exploration of David and Jet’s romance. Or missions she undertook before leaving Mossad. Or her years in the orphanage, and then juvy hall. Hell, authors can put her in space, or on a desert island, or in a sub, or on a rocket, for all I care. It’s about what readers would think is cool. That’s the beauty of fan fic. Recall that 50 Shades started out as Twilight fan fic, which is the biggest selling book of the last 3 years. Pretty interesting to consider how something like this can blow up bigtime.
Readers get a new spin on the characters, which isn’t written by me. I don’t have any creative input. I don’t edit or approve or offer my two cents. The approval is up to Amazon. Editing is up to authors. The voices can be near, or completely different. Doesn’t matter. It only matters what readers think.
I’ll be posting details on the world as soon as I get finished with Emerald Buddha’s first draft, which should be in a week, when I will turn to this for several days. Until then, if you have any questions, email me and I’ll do my best to get to you and answer them.
Let me close by saying this is pretty damned cool, and I’m very excited.
Oh, and Ramsey’s Gold goes live on the 29th, and it can be pre-ordered here. It’s a seriously good read, and fans of Cussler, Brown, and Rollins should love it.
I’ll confess to more than a little arrogance. But I’ll also excuse it somewhat by stating that writers need a healthy sense of their own worth, because otherwise they’d never write a word. It goes with the territory – to have the temerity to believe your words are worth reading, much less paying for, you have to believe that you can make magic happen with prose, or at the very least, tell a story well.
I happen to believe that being a writer is a noble calling, in the same way that being any artist of any sort is. Whether or not the world rewards you with riches can be the luck of the draw – consider what an acknowledged master like Van Gogh made from his art, which is basically nothing. No question his work is brilliant, and also no question that nobody really gave two shits while he was alive. The world can be unfair, and we only get one spin of the wheel. If you want fair, look elsewhere than the arts.
But I can remember as a child, reading the work of Poe and Lovecraft and Ludlum and Forsyth and Christie and LeCarre, and thinking that there could be few things as fundamentally important as being able to transport a reader to a different place, into a different world. As I aged and discovered the work of Orwell and Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace and Steinbeck and Hemingway, I further realized that one could tackle serious subjects with a certain grace, and even whimsy, and transform the way people view their reality.
Then the business of being an adult claimed my time, and I turned to mundane adult things, the making of money and chasing of women and building of empires, all the time thinking that to be a successful writer must be wonderful, because then you can have your financial cake and pursue a grand passion simultaneously. I mean, I’ve enjoyed some of the things I’ve done for a living, such as architecture, which still gives me tremendous pleasure for its artistic challenges, but mostly I did things because they made the most possible money with the least expenditure of effort, not because they were particularly redeeming or self-actualizing.
But all along, I managed to find ways to write. Be it ad copy, or manuals, or brochures, or how-to books, I wrote, honing my skills, putting them to use in the interest of communicating ideas or affecting behavior.
When I retired and settled permanently in Mexico, my idle meandering didn’t last long, and I wound up starting a design and build firm that had startling success – but after five or six years and over a dozen “important” builds and at least fifty design projects, I was restless. That too had become a grind, and I remembered why I had retired in the first place. It wasn’t about the money – once you have sufficient to live however you like, more doesn’t involve living any better if you’ve truly chosen a life you find fulfilling to start with. Rather, I’d been bored after a few years of navel gazing on the beach, and it’s not my nature to sit still too long.
A friend of mine had read some of my scribblings and badgered me with article after article about the new wave of self-publishers conquering the world, back around 2010. After a year of that he shamed me into trying my hand at it. I approached the business of writing and publishing the way I do everything – full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. For seven months and about 10 novels, I sold barely enough to buy beer and a couple of decent dinners, but I never let off the gas, and continued to pour all my time, money, and soul into the work. I caught a tail wind in early 2012 as Select was making waves, and hit the market with a decent backlist and the right product at the right time – and the rest is history.
But back to why I think writing is an honorable calling (if honorable can be used to describe inventing lies and selling them for a living), if not also a kind of alchemy. To write well you have to be literate, and it helps if you’re informed and have opinions, because otherwise you likely aren’t particularly interesting to anyone but yourself. To be able to create worlds on the page imbues the author with the power of a god, and if executed correctly, offers escape from reality to the reader, immersing them in a universe of your making. That’s an amazing thing to be able to do.
How many other gigs enable you to do that? Few, besides lying politician, I’d say. But while being a politician is largely anything but noble, to embark on an effort for which there will likely be slim, or no, reward, other than perhaps touching others in a profound way, is a sort of quest – a calling, if you will. It can be transcendental, and I believe can put one in touch with a deeper part of ourselves only reached through artistic meditation – what some might call the creative process, that joy of discovery wherein you read your prose a few months after writing it and think, crap, did I really write that?
That fugue state where you’re something larger than yourself is an amazing thing, to be cherished. To have the ability to share it, to effectively connect one-on-one with readers and enable them to enter your thoughts for a few hours, is incredible. And to be able to entertain to the point where someone’s willing to pay you is validating beyond description.
It would be wonderful if all books received warm welcomes from readers, just as it would be great if all puppies found loving homes. But the world has never been just, and many don’t. I think the trick to persevering in this business is to truly love the act of creation, and if you can earn a living at it, to remind yourself daily that you are the luckiest person alive. That’s what I do. And I believe I truly am. Okay, maybe not as lucky as a Kardashian or members of the lucky sperm club, but still. Lucky enough.
Which is my longwinded way of saying I’m grateful for the support of my readership, and as I close in on four years of publishing (June 11 is the big day, and yes, cocktails will be consumed, no question), I’m humbled at the opportunity the universe has provided me to do what I enjoy, and to be rewarded more than equitably.
They say that a lucky man is one who feels lucky.
I feel lucky.
Apparently the death of the ebook is greatly exaggerated. Perhaps not for the big publishers, whose market share of ebooks is indeed shrinking. But for indie authors, whose share is growing by leaps and bounds, it’s the best of all possible times.
Hugh Howey and the Data Guy just published their latest report on the state of publishing at Author Earnings. What it shows is in stark contrast to what mainstream sources that ignore indie titles are declaring. Contrary to the hype, it would appear that the reason those pundits are claiming a decline in ebook sales is because indie authors are taking significant market share from traditional publishers.
The reasons, I believe, are twofold: 1) Price. Readers could give two shits who publishes a book. What they care about is the quality of the content, and it would seem that indies are delivering as good or better quality as their trad pubbed brethren, at a lower cost. 2) Visibility. Indie authors market. Many are quite good at it. They maximize resources like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., because it’s their money at stake, not some mega-corporation’s. This savvy marketing results in more readers seeing their wares.
To the second point, trad publishers release tens of thousands of new titles each year. It’s impossible for them to market them all, or even a significant percentage, but their model’s fine with that. They just wait to see what catches fire, and then push whatever does. The rest are left to sink.
Forget about marketing backlist titles. That’s a dream. There are an endless stream of new titles to push.
Whereas indies are aggressive at promoting not just their new releases, but also their brand, and their backlists.
Take a trad pubbed author for whom I have enormous respect: James Lee Burke. The price of his backlist is quite reasonable – it fluctuates between $5.99 and $6.99, and is totally worth it.
But he shifts less ebooks than I do at the same price. Why? Because the publisher isn’t screaming about his backlist on every available channel. It’s crickets, so the only ones buying those values are those who stumble across them, likely after buying his latest work.
I’ll take a novel that’s coming up on four years old as an example of what I mean. The Delphi Chronicle is a modest seller for me, and yet it’s shifted over 20K copies since I released it December, 2011. I price it at $4.99. It was languishing for the last few quarters, so I did a promo for it that moved almost 4000 units. Sales post-special price are respectable, and the title’s earned a nice return that’s several multiples of the marketing cost, and continues to do well.
As it will for many years, if I keep marketing it periodically. Because it’s new to 99% of readers on Amazon, regardless of how long it’s been released. That’s an important point – every day there are hundreds of thousands, or millions, of new readers who have never heard of my work. Every day I can be discovered. But I have to help myself, or get lost in the rising tide.
If you look at your backlist as an investment portfolio of IP, it’s a good model. Even if I stopped writing tomorrow, with almost 40 novels out, I could market my existing work, change covers occasionally, and likely make a nice living in perpetuity. But if I were trad pubbed, those books would go unloved and unread as the marketing folks push the latest shiny, and I’d be back working at Burger Barn before I knew it, or eating dog food, or both.
Needless to say, that gives me a significant advantage over a trad pubbed author with similar ranking. I’ll earn around 5X what he will for the same books sold, and I control my destiny. I like that. A lot. So should you.
In other news, I listed the first 10 chapters of Ramsey’s Gold, which releases end of this month, on Amazon for .99. I tried to make it free, but it didn’t work. If you’re interested in checking it out, be my guest, and feel free to return it for a refund once you’re done. Hopefully that will motivate you to purchase the full novel. I think it’s some of my best work, and recommend it highly. Then again, I’m biased. But you should still buy it. Really. I’m serious. Here’s a link.
A friend of mine emailed me today, worried. The email asked whether I’d seen the latest review on one of my books. I said, no, I largely don’t read ‘em anymore. She didn’t believe me, and was aghast at the complaints over the writing in the book. Outraged, more like it.
Here’s my take: criticism is a difficult topic to approach dispassionately as a content creator of any kind, but if you’re to succeed you need to have a system for evaluating it so you can learn from the meritorious critiques and flush the garbage.
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I used to design and build luxury homes. Big ones. Six, seven thousand feet, on the beach.
When you design homes, it’s much like writing a book, in that your target audience (the client) will express preferences in the style of architecture they favor. Some like contemporary, others Mediterranean. Some demand as many columns and arches and curves as possible, others want only straight, clean lines. One person’s fugly might be another’s treasure. Rather like babies, that. And nobody’s really wrong, assuming the design’s competently executed.
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There are three components to a book that people generally review: The story/characters, the mechanics (grammar, editing), and the style. I’ll take them one by one.
With story/characters, some will leave poor reviews if they simply dislike the message/tone/moral of the story, or the language used, or the characters – often because the reader wanted them to do X, and instead they did Y, or because they were mean, or deplorable, or unlikable – or find just the story itself unappealing due to genre (“I hate conspiracy books. This conspiracy thriller reminds me why”). Others will dislike the structure of the story – it doesn’t flow well, there are plot holes, it wasn’t believable. The first complaints address the style of the story, the second, the structure of it. I’ve found it’s worth taking a hard look if you get a lot of reviews complaining about the structure – you may have a weakness in your plotting that’s invisible to you but obvious to others.
Mechanics are more straightforward. Is the grammar correct? Punctuation? Is it edited decently? This is pretty binary – yes or no. Now, you can choose to eschew proper grammar, for stylistic reasons, or because in dialog your characters wouldn’t speak the Queen’s English, and that’s fine – as long as you actually know how to write according to the set of rules consensus agrees are the correct ones, and are deliberately choosing to break the rules for effect. If you aren’t, and you don’t, my advice is don’t publish your book, because it isn’t ready. If you’re going to ask people to pay you for it, or even take their precious time to read it, you better have mastered the basic skills involved in writing before putting it out there.
Style is the tricky one, because it’s often like design: everyone’s got a preference, and none is “right.”
But surely, some are better than others, no?
Not necessarily. It entirely depends on reader reaction. If the majority of readers you’re targeting enjoy your style of writing, it’s right for you and them.
Some prefer short, simple sentences, eschewing any description beyond the most necessary. This is a school of writing made famous by Hemingway. It can be quite effective. It can also bore the crap out of some. Others prefer involved, evocative prose like that of Joyce or James Lee Burke. But those who prefer the former style will likely hate the latter, as there are too many words, too much extraneous detail, etc. Some enjoy very basic prose – almost The Cat Saw The Rat level. Others view that as puerile and illiterate.
The point being that these are all preferences. One person’s overwritten or purple may be another’s amazing read.
Now, authors especially, will tend to confuse their preferences with the “right” or “correct” or “good” way of writing. They’re emotionally invested in it. They’ve taken a stand, decided (or more likely, took some courses in school or read a few books on craft) on a preference, and by God, that’s the way people should write, and if you deviate from it, the work is deficient. And they have been known to leave reviews stating the writing is terrible, florid, overwrought, or alternatively, simple-minded, monosyllabic, barely readable, sophomoric. They might also find work clumsy and inept. And they’re no more right than they are wrong. If it’s clumsy and inept to them, they’re right. But that doesn’t mean it is to everyone else.
Readers also have preferences. A reader of 50 Shades of Gray would probably not be that interested in the stylings of a David Foster Wallace. Likewise, a reader of Faulkner probably wouldn’t be all that excited about a NA romance written in the first person at a third grade level.
And that’s all good. Fine. There are different styles to suit every fancy.
When you read your reviews, or any review, it helps to determine, certainly on negative ones, where the reviewer is coming from. Do they have a problem with the story, the mechanics, or the style? If a story/character problem, is it a stylistic dislike (Bo was an a-hole – I hate him! Sue should have wound up with Jeb!) or a structural dislike (The story was disjointed, lacked veracity, and the plot had holes large enough to drive a semi through)?
If a mechanical problem (“the grammar was TERRIBLE”) does it seem like they have a point, or, not? You can usually tell after a few pages of the look inside whether the book’s written competently from a mechanical standpoint. Likewise, the editing, or lack thereof, will show through pretty quickly.
But when it comes to style, you have to really take a hard look at what the reviewer is complaining about. Often, as in 90% of the time, they’re saying that their preference doesn’t align with the book’s contents. That’s what it all boils down to. That in their opinion, it’s deficient because it doesn’t meet their style preferences, or alternatively, that the performance was a poor one within the given style attempted.
All of which is entirely subjective. In the reader’s opinion, the writing could have been more X or Y or Z, or was too M or N or P. For them, the writing didn’t work.
This is where you have to step back and take a deep breath.
It’s entirely possible that the book’s poorly written within the style it pursues. If there are 90% four and five star reviews, probably not. More likely, the reviewer in question has different standards than the target reader, either because they are an author and believe anything below their quality determination is inferior, or because they are having a bad day, or because they spent six months studying the “right” way to write and this doesn’t adhere stylistically to what they learned, or they’ve read thousands of books and find anything less than an out-of-the-park performance objectionable. Or they just didn’t like the writing because of X.
My usual steps if I have doubts about a review on someone else’s book are to first read the book’s look inside and see if there’s any merit to the poor review, and then look at the other reviews that reviewer’s left. Is this the only book ever reviewed? Hmm – might it be the review is deliberately negative for reasons that have nothing to do with the book? If not, are the preponderance of reviews the reviewer’s left for other books one and two star? If not, are the other books reviewed in a different genre?
Look, there are tons of poorly written books. Tons.
There are also plenty of what I’d consider poorly written books in a stylistic sense that have sold many millions, making their readers extremely happy even as their critics rail about their deficiencies. I recall one in particular from The NY Times lambasting the latest Ludlum years ago – trust me it was about as nasty as anything you can imagine. Of course, he probably didn’t care, because he sold hundreds of millions.
Can’t please everyone, and in my opinion, you shouldn’t try. You should be writing to your audience’s expectations and keeping them happy. Not people who aren’t your audience. Because you’ll never make them happy. And you can’t please everyone. If you’ve told the story competently, and the grammar and editing are good, you have to look at complaints about style with a jaundiced eye. I’m not saying ignore negative feedback by any means. It could be you sort of suck at the style you’re shooting for. We all usually start out sucking at whatever we’re new at, and get better with practice, time, and application. It would be wonderful if we could pick up a cello and sound like Yo Yo Ma. Ain’t gonna happen. And sometimes you can practice for years, but you’re still not going to be Yo Yo because he’s got a different talent. World’s not fair. Boo hoo.
But assuming you’ve got your chops down, if someone doesn’t like the way you write, it’s like someone at a singles bar not wanting to sleep with you. You’re not looking for the ones that don’t want to, you’re looking for the ones that do. Maybe the rejection you just got prefers taller, thinner, blonder, or shorter, heavier, darker, or any and all variations in between. Could be a million reasons, none of which are anything but stylistic preferences.
For the record, I’ve designed literally every style of home you can imagine, and while within each style there are conventions you have to follow and need to know, no one style is “right” while the others aren’t. There’s simply well executed, and poorly executed, and the majority, which are average. But one owner’s average house may be the home of their dreams, making them happy with each new day, whereas another’s average may be a constant disappointment due to their expectations, their eye, their preferences. Worse, as a designer and builder, I’m the absolutely most critical of my own home, so often finding deficiencies – while most who come over think it’s beautiful.
Takes a lot of flavors to make a stew. If most of your reviews are honest, and are good, and you’re selling at a level you’re happy with, then you’re hitting your audience right, and keep on keeping on. Don’t let criticism bring you down. Some exist solely to criticize (yes, Mom, I’m giving you the squint eye), others to further unknown agendas, still others just hate your frigging guts for myriad reasons you’ll never understand. It’s all part of the game.
I had a long discussion with a friend who’s an aspiring author about how to move the plot along and engage the reader at every turn. To that end, I thought I’d share some things about how I plan and outline my own work. If you find it helpful, good. If not, well, it was worth what you paid for it.
Let me say up front that there is no one or “right” way to write a novel. Some start writing with barely an idea, others do 50 page outlines. So I can’t advise the only way to write a compelling draft, I can only explain the system I use.
Here’s how I do it: First, I ensure that if it’s an action book, there are sufficient beats to keep the reader engaged. I do this visually, as I outline (I do single sentence summaries of each chapter, usually in three acts, approximately 15 chapters per act), by color coding my chapters with action beats or reversals. So if my typical book has, say, 45 chapters, and I don’t have a beat every two or three chapters, it’s probably going to be a snoozefest. I’d rather know that going in and contrive more story than discover I lack beats once written.
As discussed, my outline will be single sentence chapters, a la “Giant panda storms Tokyo,” “Protag introduced, narrowly escapes,” “Romantic interest introduced, helps her across river,” etc. The action beats will be highlighted red (or in romance, the conflict beats). I want to see a lot of red in one of my action adventure tomes.
When I do my single sentences, I focus on who’s in it, why they’re in it, and what’s happening. If it’s not essential to moving the story along or imparting important info of some sort, my philosophy is it should be cut – it serves no purpose but to occupy space, and it’s a better read if every chapter has impact, a specific purpose. Purposeful outlining, and then hopefully, writing, is a key in creating a gripping read.
I also try for as many reversals as I can achieve. She’s being chased, the situation reverses, she’s now the hunter, the prey eludes her, and doubles back, putting her in harm’s way again. She was on top, now she’s scrambling. The love interest was making advances, now he’s distant. Reversals make it interesting. The more the merrier, and if you can achieve multiples within a chapter, so much the better.
Probably the biggest thing in a larger sense is to try to demonstrate qualities about the characters, what they’re feeling, attributes, without doing so explicitly, i.e. showing vs. telling, because even the fastest moving novel will lose reader interest pretty quickly if everything’s explicate and obvious.
And finally, on second and third draft, I ask myself with each sentence whether it needs to be there – does it tell us something vital about the story, characters, etc.? Is there a better way to say it? Is it repetition of something I said earlier? Is it setting a tone or mood? Does the reader already know this? Are the characters logically consistent in their behavior?
One of my pet peeves is when a character has to behave stupidly or illogically (outside of the framework of the world I’ve crafted) in order to move the plot forward. So I’m careful to watch for that – although note that in something like my NA trilogy, I deliberately have the protag behaving in contradictory ways, but that’s because when you’re a teen, you can have contradictory impulses in a short period of time. That’s how it was for me. Part of becoming a mature adult is being fairly responsible, but being a teen is the path toward that, so I want that push pull of emotions, that “should I or shouldn’t I” instability. It’s the instability that adds to veracity, that even, while frustrating in a kind of “No, don’t do that!” way, feels true and real, even if annoying that the character is doing something that isn’t in her or his best interests.
And then finally, I’ll check for echoes, which are repeated or overused words. I have an entire list, but it seems like every book has a few new chestnuts I find, new lazy habits.
In summary, I strive for pacing and consistency. I’m not immune to the lure of prose, to the well turned phrase or the bordering-on-purple description, but that’s a personal style preference. I know many books and courses counsel the Hemingway/Chandler school of sparse prose and economic description, and that’s fine, but it’s a preference, nothing more. I do look for readability as a final check – is there musicality to it? Lyricism? Is there suitable difference in sentence structure to avoid monotony? Is there a cadence, and if so, is it one that I like, or could I do better?
The big takeaway is that color coding your chapters might work for you, might not, but I’ve found it a reasonable way to do what a content editor might, on my own, and ensure my characters get into sufficient trouble to keep it interesting. That will help with structural issues and pacing, and then the rest is block and tackling of multiple drafts to get the prose right.
Now, go buy my crap. JET – Ops Files, Terror Alert, is out and garnering impressive reviews, and Ramsey’s Gold is on preorder for release end of May. Both are worthy of a hard look. Terror Alert is as good an example as any of how my approach to pacing unfolds, so it’s not a bad place to look for the structure within the chapters. And Ramsey’s a blockbuster read. Trust me on this.
As to my situation, I’ve got a mountain of work to get done over the next ten days, so will be in and out.
Hope this little glimpse into my process resonates. Now go write something.
I just typed “The End” on my 40th book in 46 months of self-publishing.
It felt pretty good. And I think it reads better than the first book I wrote, but that’s debatable, because that first one (Fatal Exchange) still sells well when I promote it, and still garners great reviews. It would suck if I’ve gotten worse, but that’s also possible. Guess I’ll have to wait to see how the reviews come out on JET – Escape to know for sure.
I’m taking a month off in April to recharge my batteries, and then will be knocking out another couple of novels in May and June.
A buddy of mine asked me how it feels to have written a solid 4 million words in about four years, not counting blog posts or message board missives, which probably easily brings it to 5 million.
I responded honestly that it feels like I’m starting to get the hang of it.
For those who’ve missed my prior posts on process, here’s a quick reminder of the habits I follow to write an awful lot of books in a relatively short period of time (BTW, there’s plenty of historical precedent for this output – look at some of the pulp greats, or even authors like Asimov, Cartland, Bloom, Inoue, Roberts, etc. There have always been, and always will be, prolific authors who can sustain reasonable quality at a rapid pace.). And before we get into the usual debate about quality dropping with speed, I’ll share this observation: Most who believe this are aspiring authors who can’t or won’t produce regularly, and who sneer at commercially successful genre fiction, or who can’t do it themselves and so assume everyone’s abilities must be similar.
Here’s the truth: If it takes you 250 hours to pen 120K novel first draft, it doesn’t matter whether you spread that 250 hours over 25 days of 10 hour writing days, or two years of navel gazing with a few words dashed out here or there. It still takes the same number of hours. So the quality shouldn’t suffer, unless it’s a function of fatigue, or lack of craft.
So my advice, from a message board post yesterday:
1) Plan on writing a lot, every day, whether your muse is working or not. I shoot for 7K a day, and on a lousy day force myself to write 4K. The reason I force myself is because, as with all jobs, I go to work whether I “feel” like it or not. I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid. Just as a Hollywood writer working on a series writes every day regardless of their mood. If you aspire to be a pro, behave like one, not like a teen girl on a shopping spree trying to decide which shoes to buy. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to write well, and write a lot, and demand more out of yourself, regardless of your “inspiration” or your mood or your biorhythms or whatever. You want to be a writer? Then get to it, and stop whining about life getting in the way. Life will happen whether or not your write, and nobody’s holding a gun to your head, so you need to be your own motivation, and be unrelenting in your demands on yourself.
2) Outline. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s going to take a lot longer to figure out how to get there. Couple days of serious thinking and knocking out a chapter by chapter single-sentence summary goes a long way, and speeds the writing along.
3) Turn off the internet when writing. Turn off the phone. The text messaging. All of it. It’s a distraction you can’t afford. Research after you’re done, or before, but when it’s writing time, write, don’t screw around.
4) Write as though your life depends on it. You only get one life, you’ve decided this is how you want to spend a few hundred hours of it, so do it like you mean it, or find something you can muster that zest for, and don’t bother trying to write. Life’s too short to do shit you don’t have passion for, and I guarantee you when you’re looking back at your existence all the soul sucking BS you spent time on won’t give you any satisfaction. If you’re going to do anything, keep it real, do it with 110% of yourself, and take no prisoners, or you’re letting yourself down, failing your obligation to yourself to be the best you can be.
5) Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. It’s a first draft. Lots of it will probably suck. That’s fine. Fix it on rewrite. Don’t try to edit as you go along, or you’ll lose your momentum. Edit on second draft, and then edit that on third. If you fixate on trying to get it perfect on first draft, you’ll kill your muse deader than Elvis before you’re at chapter two.
There’s more – a lot more – but these are the basics.
In closing, pretend you are working on a TV show, where every week you have to turn out polished product at a high quality level. Because that’s what pro writers in Hollywood do, day in and day out. If you’re busy rationalizing why you can’t or don’t work that way, or are unwilling to, or feel you shouldn’t have to because it’ll hamper your creativity or voice or whatnot, fine, but don’t complain when you aren’t able to compete in the marketplace with those who do. Because like it or not, in the new world of self-publishing, being able to hit the HNR lists with regular releases is a game changer for many authors, and to ignore that phenom is dangerous to any career aspirations beyond that of hobbyist.
And it wouldn’t be a Russell Blake blog without exhortations to buy my crap. If you’re looking for my newest, it’s JET – Ops Files, Terror Alert, which is moving a few copies. And Ramsey’s Gold, the first book in my new series, is also shifting a copy or two on pre-order. As is JET – Escape.
I’m thrilled to announce that the exciting sequel to JET – Ops Files has just gone live! JET – Ops Files, Terror Alert, chronicles Jet’s early years in the Mossad as she races to stop a terrorist attack of epic proportions that would claim thousands of innocent lives.
It’s everything you’ve come to expect of Jet, with a racing plot, twists, reversals, evil villains, conflicted good guys, and an ending that will leave you breathless.
Hope you enjoy the book. It was a blast to write and moves like a freight train!
The ninth, and possibly final, installment of the JET series, JET – Escape, is now available for pre-order on Amazon, and soon, on B&N, iTunes, and Smashwords.
Believe me when I say that this one is a juggernaut of a book. It picks up from where JET 8 left off, and follows our hero from Colombia, to Venezuela, to Cuba, as she and the family dodge villainous hit men out for blood.
JET is always a hoot to write, and this one has been no different. I hope you enjoy it.
Here’s a cover reveal. I liked the woman from the old JET 6 cover, so used her for this with the new background treatment.
I read a post by Hugh on his blog, and felt compelled to add my spin on KB – my first post in a year.
I’m linking it because it states my view of the author/self-publisher duality that self-pubbed authors face, and addresses complaints from those who are finding it to be barren economic soil.
Rather than repeating it, here’s the post (scroll down): http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,211162.150.html
Much has changed in the market over the last year, but my view of the best approach for authors to take, that of two separate disciplines recognized as such, hasn’t. Like a student attending a bilingual curriculum, part of your studies will be in one language, the rest in the other. They are different languages, so excelling in one is unlikely to do much for your success in the other.
Many authors dislike my take. That’s fine. There are many ways to skin a cat.
Every author I know who is operating a financially successful self-publishing venture does so as both author, and publisher, and they’ve all developed the business skills to make the book selling business work for them, while honing the book writing skills necessary to create compelling, and more importantly, commercially successful, content.
Anyone who believes this is an easy way to make any kind of a living knows little or nothing about it. Those entering into it with the idea they’re going to earn money at it would be best advised to consider my post, and the merits of my argument, and prepare for a butt-load of thankless hard work in one of the most competitive endeavors I know of.
On the new release front, I have the second JET – Ops Files novel going live at the end of March, and my first installment in my new series, Ramsey’s Gold, at the end of May. I’m currently writing the final JET novel, JET – Escape, which will go out in June, and will be available for pre-order shortly.
Next up you can expect the second installment in the Drake Ramsey series around Sept, the final Assassin in Oct, a BLACK in Nov, and TBD in December. Maybe another Ops Files. Dunno.
Now back to work for me. Damned books don’t write themselves…
I have a new series that will launch at the end of May. The first installment, titled Ramsey’s Gold, is a rollicking adventure yarn that fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark are sure to enjoy.
The story chronicles the adventures of twenty-something Drake, who decides to follow his deceased father’s footsteps into the Amazon rainforest when a journal comes to light that describes his father Ford Ramsey’s search for the lost jungle metropolis of Paititi – the legendary Inca city of gold.
It’s a fun action romp that moves like a freight train, and features wheels within wheels, villainous baddies, morally ambiguous good guys, a love interest that scorches the page, and a denouement that is one of my favorites to date. I foresee it as episodic, one or two installments per year, with the gang embarking on a new adventure in exotic locales whenever the call of the wild sounds.
It’s available right now for pre-order through Amazon, and within a few more days, on B&N and Apple.
Here’s the cover. I’m super excited over this new series, and already have the second one outlined and scheduled for Fall release. Tell me this cover doesn’t say action adventure in a big, big way!
And for a sneak preview of what the book reads like, well, look no further than here. I’ve posted a few sample chapters for your amusement.