Saturday, June 6, 2015

Planning Ahead

Scott D. Parker

I’m an independent author early in his writing career. Year zero, in fact. What that means for me is that 2015 has two main goals. The first is to publish books and start to build a body of work. The second is to see how well I can simultaneously produce new work while publishing new work all the while maintaining a day job.

Ironically, the publishing part is much easier. You see, I have six manuscripts already written. All I have to do, really, is pull another manuscript off the shelf as soon as another is published. I read and revise the manuscript, send it off to my editor, make the changes, make the changes other readers find, get a cover, and then publish. I’ll admit that all the struggles I endured publishing WADING INTO WAR were all but gone when I published THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES. Experience’ll do that for you.

The harder part is the writing of new material. Day job holders, like me, must carve out writing time amid all the other duties. In fact, just yesterday—one of my off-Fridays—was the first time in nearly six months in which I didn’t have something that needed to be done that wasn’t writing. I woke, I wrote, and I nearly completed a short story that should see the light of day this summer.

Earlier this week, as I was looking ahead to the rest of the year, I took pencil to paper and mapped out the schedule I’d like to maintain for the rest of 2015 and into 2016. I started by listing the books I had on my mind. To my amazement, that total was eighteen. Eighteen, not including the eight I’ve already written. It surprised me, so, naturally, I broke out the spreadsheet.

I’ll say that 13 of the 18 are planned as 30,000-word novellas. Some of those books might expanded when the time comes to write them, but they’re planned to be only 30K. The other 5 are envisioned to be 60K on up. All told that’s 1,148,000 estimated words of fiction I’d like to write.

Wow. So, how long would it take to write that many words? Some full-time authors match that number in a year. I am not a full-time author. I guess you’d call me a part-time fiction author since I hold a day job. But, in the past two years, I have managed to carve out about an hour a day to write. That time is 5am on weekdays, 6am on weekends. Hey, I allow myself to ‘sleep in.’ Also, on weekends, I get an extra hour or so per day. When I am in the zone and the words are flying out of my head and through my fingers, I can bust out 1,000 words in an hour. That doesn’t always happen but it does, more often than not. So if I write an hour a day, it will take me approximately 1,148 days to write just these stories. That’s 3.14 years.

3.14 years to write 18 books. One of my thoughts when seeing those numbers was satisfaction. It is really neat to map out future stories on a schedule and know the approximate order. On the other hand, it’s sobering to know that as much of a pull the fiction writing life is for me, I can’t just stop the day job. I have to have it in order to sustain my family. But, like all lists, you take the first one and begin. Soon, it’ll be done and then I can turn to the next one. Others will arise and work their way into the writing schedule so the list will grow.

On Thursday, Alex wrote about “Playing the Long Game.” I consider this list, this plan, to be my long game.

I’ll always consider these 18 to be the Core 18, the foundation on which I will build my fiction-writing career. Business people always talk about the 3-year plan or the 5-year plan. I’ve got the 3-year plan. The only thing left to do is make it work.

So, other writers out there, do you have a business plan for your fiction-writing career? What is it like?

BTW, today is the 71st anniversary of D-Day. Thanks, as always, to the men who did the incredible against the unimaginable. Just a couple of days ago, I ran across this amazing video about the death toll in World War II. Staggering is an understatement.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Playing the Long Game

By Alex Segura

I don’t have a book out this year. That’s probably stressful to a lot of authors. I will admit, it was a little stressful to me at first.

But it’s okay.

As some of you know, earlier this year, I joined the great team at Polis Books. Polis will be publishing my first two Pete Fernandez novels, Silent City and Down the Darkest Street, next year, with another - tentatively titled Dangerous Ends - to follow. I am extremely excited, super grateful and still in that “pinch me” stage that I hope never ends. Added bonus: I’m part of a group of amazing writers. The crime fiction stable Jason Pinter has put together is seriously impressive.

Did I mention I don’t have a book out this year? Right. See? It can be stressful. But seriously, it's okay.

One of the things I’m most thankful for, in terms of being an author and managing my career, is my day job experience as a publicist. Not just because of the contacts I have, but also because I know publicity - and building a career - isn’t about a flurry of activity. It’s a marathon. It’s about knowing when to go loud, when to step back and when to ramp up. It’s about knowing when to step back and “go quiet.”

For me, “going quiet” doesn’t mean I disappear completely. Quite the opposite. I’ve got a few short stories showing up here and there, a few comic book projects percolating, readings, publishing events and conventions, day job stuff to promote, other people’s books to talk about and there’s always The Next Novel. (I’m just starting revisions on Dangerous Ends now, after putting the draft aside. The book feels new and I can look at it as a reader, not as someone who just wrote it.)

On the other end, I’m not doing a ton of interviews. I’m not plugging the books or where people will be able to find them. When I do readings, I read a short story or something different, as opposed to something from Silent City or Down the Darkest Street. I’m not doing any major crime/mystery cons this year, either (though, I would probably still be at Bouchercon if it wasn’t the same weekend as New York Comic Con. It’s just not the right moment. I have to be patient. The time for that is coming.

As writers, we need constant validation and need to know what’s next - but sometimes, what’s next is months away. Maybe more. But publishing isn’t about instant gratification, even if you feel like your work is done. You have to be ready for that, and be okay with hibernating for a bit. You’ll know when it’s time to pull out the bullhorn and start the publicity machine, trust me.

In the meantime - work on your Next Big Thing. Plug a friend’s book. Write something different. Start planning what you’ll do to build buzz for your book when the time is right - events, press, marketing. There really isn’t any down time as a writer - there’s just what we do between publications.

Try your best to do anything but fret.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wise Words on the Writing Life

by Kristi Belcamino

I'm up to my eyeballs in revisions for Blessed are Those Who Mourn. This fourth book in my Gabriella Giovanni mystery series is due to my editor Monday, June 1,

This fast turnaround times is one of the cool parts about being with the HarperCollins imprint I'm with. From what I've read, and my own experience, if someone likes a book in a mystery series they don't want to have to wait around very long for the next one!

But I've worked hard to make this happen.

This book comes out Sept. 29, which means I've published four books in 15 months. On Monday, after I turn it in, that will be the first time in ten months that I haven't been writing or revising a book.

I have a long list of items to do during this free week.

READ my friend's books!
Make biscotti!
Clean the entire house (it has been woefully neglected!)
Send out my author newsletter.
Weed the yard.
Go to doctor's appointments.

Anyway, in the meantime, while I'm finishing MOURN. 'll leave you with links to a few articles about the writing life.

My take away from both of them is that the key to succeeding in a writing career involves lots of hard work and being stubborn enough to never give up.

What do you think are the keys to success in this writing world?

This first article by Lea Wait is gritty and inspirational at the same time. If you want a career as a writer, you can't let the bastards get you down.

When Days are Dark (click on this link for the full article) is on Main Crime Writers

"And, over and over, people (often “pre-published” writers) told me how lucky I was. After all: I’ve had thirteen books published since my first was published in 2001, and I have contracts for more.
And, yes. I am lucky. I also do what most published writers do. I work hard. I do a lot of research. I write and re-write and re-write again. And, when a book is published, I visit bookstores and libraries and schools (and conferences). I blog. (Here I am!) I don’t do as much social media as some of my fellow authors, but I’m on Goodreads and Facebook. (Friend me, both places!) And if I’m not working on a book, and sometimes even when I am, I’m planning another one. Or two. I love my life … but I work seven days a week at my writing job, all year."

The second article, What I Know For Sure, by Rachel Howzell Hall, ran on Jungle Red Writers.

These two points she made really resonated with me. So much so that I am going to buy and read her books for sure. Here is even more from Rachel Howzell Hall on Dru's Book Musings.

      If you really want to write, you’ll find time to do it. A pox on that, ‘I really want to write but I can’t find the time.’ Malarkey. Balderdash. Did you watch the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones? Did you eat that entire pint of Chunky Monkey? Wanna know why? Cuz you wanted to. An hour and three minutes—every episode of GOT. An hour and three minutes—how long it takes to eat a pint Chunky Monkey. An hour and three minutes—how long it takes to write a decent chapter. If you wanna do something, you’ll do it.

      It’s never enough. I landed a book contract. Now, I want another book contract. I have ten book reviews, I want fifty more. I want to win a Rotary Club Certificate of Excellence, an Edgar, a National Book Prize, a Pulitzer, a Nobel Prize, and… and… God. I want to be God. Or Stephen King.