Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Indie Writing Advice #1: Write Fast

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Writing

I’m thinking of starting a new segment, as it were, where I give writing advice. I know, how vainbut before I go on with this post, I want to say that there are a lot of different paths to the meadow. This is just the one that works for me and how I’ve been successful at writing five books so far in the space of a little over a year – and if I didn’t have a full-time job, I would have written more. I’ll bet there’s some aspiring writers/already writers out there, and if this post can help out, then why not write it?

My first piece of advice is: write fast.

Write fast. Write fast. Write fast. Don’t worry about whether your writing sucks. It probably does. Just give yourself up to that fact. I do. You have to turn off your internal editor/critic. He/she will have a lot to say as long as you give them time to think. But they have ZERO time to think if you write fast enough.

Once you get into that flow of words, just keep writing. You want to get to a point where your fingers never stop. Even if you can’t think of anything to say, just keep going for the sake of not breaking the rhythm. You want your thoughts to be miles ahead of where your fingers are typing, and it’s like your mind and fingers are in a race to connect your thoughts.

The trail of words you’ve left behind might not be the best material, but there will be a lot there you can use when you go back to look at it later. First drafts always, always suck. You can’t nitpick over words/phrases in the beginning. You have to just worry about the story, the excitement, the rush of your characters doing crazy things.

I think it’s particularly important for writers just starting out to write fast. The more words you write, the more practice you get. The more mistakes you make. And the more you see what works. It took me quite a few books before I was comfortable with publishing one. Even if you have a natural talent for writing fiction, it takes a lot of practice and a lot of reading to get there.

You have to love the work. Work on your writing speed, and you will improve greatly as long as you keep at it.

There’s another reason why it’s important to write fast: you can get more books done! From the standpoint on indie publishing, this is key.  It is one of the main advantages indie writers and publishers have over traditionally published competition. Where in traditional publishing it is extremely common to wait a  year (or even years) for a sequel to your favorite series to be released, with indie publishing, authors are often releasing one book every three months. I personally aim to release a book every 2-3 months. Some authors, like Elle Casey, release one book every single month. It’s definitely possible. It’s a myth that you have to spend two years on a book to make it amazing. In fact, I would argue that it’s possible to work too much on a book, like combing one’s hair too much.

Which probably leads me to my second point of writing advice which I will detail later: don’t try too hard. Things became so much easier to me when I stopped worrying about being so artsy and worried about just telling a good story. Especially when you are beginning, this is important. All the art and prettyness of writing can come later when you’ve built some chops. The most important part of writing a good book is telling a good story. That’s your chief concern as a writer and entertainer and the rest is more like spices. The story is the actual meat, the stew.

Alright, well I have to go now. I wrote this entire post in like five minutes. I’m a huge proponent of “Write Fast!”

I’ve been having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around how fast things seem to be taking off.

I have been stunned by the response the The Wasteland Chronicles has gotten in the past week. I really don’t want to say numbers right now, but let’s just say I’m getting more downloads a day than I got a month, at least when I first started out. It was all because of setting my first book to be permanently free, which probably increased my sales by a factor of three.

Then, on the twenty first, the BookBub promotion, went out, which kickstarted my first book to visibility. Apocalypse got to, and stayed, in Amazon’s top 100 free for five days straight. It peaked at #7 on the twenty second, and hung in the Top 25 for a while after. On Apple, Apocalypse has been the number one downloaded science fiction (or at least held that spot) every day since the twenty first. It’s tapering off, now, and it’s been so much coming in that I’m starting to wonder whether this is going to last a lot longer that the one month I originally expected it to.

It is absolutely amazing. I haven’t really told anyone about it except my parents and family, because I’m still afraid it’s not real. I never expected this much of a reaction. I will be at work, and then the thought will hit me: I’ve sold over 100 books today. It doesn’t seem real. It seems ridiculous.

And it’s not only people downloading the books, they are leaving good reviews and even reaching out to me to let me know  how much they enjoyed them.

In short, it’s a dream come true. This September has been my craziest, best ever month in writing. But I wouldn’t be here today without all the support I’ve received, from friends, family, and fans. And of course, working hard through the times when I’d go days without a sale.

I’m hard at work on Book 4, and it should still be out on the 1st. Needless to say, a lot more people are waiting on this release than Book 3. The pressure is on, but it’s a good pressure. It makes me want to continue improving. I’ve gotten a lot better since book 1, and I’m trying to keep it that way.

So far, Revelation is 71,000 words, the longest installment so far by a long shot. I’m adding on a few more thousand words, but it’s already been edited through three times by yours truly. The majority of the weekend will be spent editing and getting rid of typos. I will have my dad helping me out with that, and maybe some other people. It’s a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. I plan on hitting publish Monday night, so it’s available in the  morning.

I can hardly wait. Thank you so much to everyone – to everyone who found the book for free, and everyone who took a chance on it back in the day. It means the world to me.

I hit a major milestone today that I’m surprised I noticed. The Wasteland Chronicles passed 200,000 words.

That seems a like a lot of words. But really, it’s just a little bit over Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which, admittedly, is a fairly large book).

I finished the first draft of Revelation today – I think. I may add on an ending that’s less cliff-hangery, but for what it’s worth, it’s pretty much done. It’s only 43,000 words or so now, but I imagine that will grow as I comb through it and add on to it. I’m on target to have it out by late September, which would be ideal.

For the first time I’m ever, I’m writing every day and sticking to it. It feels great to have finally conquered the part of me that always wanted to write, but never did. I think putting my books out there and seeing the successes has kept me going on – the believing that it was possible. I finally woke up and went after it probably around last December, when the first one came out. I’m working on it all the more, now.

It’s been an amazing journey so far. Now, the first three books are out, and all have paperback versions. I want to make some slight changes to third one before finalizing it (even though it’s published – that’s the beauty of e-publishing – you can always go back and tweak some things).

Before I know it, Book 4 will be out. Book 4. It’s crazy that this is starting to become normal. It’s the kind of normal I love.

For the first time in a while, I’m going to write a post. I used to do this more often, but I have just been letting general busyness get to me, I guess. I think that is a good thing, overall. With my new job, I have much more time to write, and it’s really showing. I began my new manuscript two Mondays ago (Aug. 5th) and it is already nearing 19,000 words. At this rate, the first draft might even be done by the end of the month – and hopefully from there, will be published anywhere e-books are sold by the end of September (and hopefully, a paperback will be available as well).

So far, I’m very pleased with how things are going. I think I’m reaching a point where all this hard work is starting to pay off. Don’t get me wrong; it was paying off from the very beginning. People are finding my writing, and (generally) enjoying it. I’m finding new readers, slowly. It’s encouraging, especially in that I do very little to promote my work outside of the occasional Goodreads giveaway (to which people enthusiastically respond, just from the sheer premise of the book and the cover art). It’s encouraging to see people going onto the next in the series. It tells me I’m doing at least something right.

I honestly couldn’t be happier (except, maybe, if I became, in the words of Forrest Gump, a “gazillionarie”). To me, it’s always been about the writing. Writing is what I believe I’m best at, and it’s what I have the most fun doing – which is why it’s amazing to see anyone read and enjoy my work. I’ve always known that if I wanted to reach the stars, my best chance of getting there was honing my craft and becoming the best writer I could possibly be. What I write isn’t the most intellectual stuff, but my goal is to write a fast-paced story that is hard to put down, something that hopefully has good characters that readers can grow to love (and hate) over the series. Basically, the kind of stuff I like to read, mostly in science fiction and fantasy realms (though I do read outside of those genres as well).

It’s always a work in progress, and I’m always learning. It takes a while to get where you’re going, especially when where you’re going is always changing. I expect that as I keep writing, my goals will always be shifting. I will always be aiming higher, to craft a better story and to reach more readers. I’d always intended to self publish the Wasteland Chronicles, owing to the novella format. In the end, it was the right decision. Self-publishing allows me to write, edit, and reach my readers faster than any other means.

It’s a lot of fun, and if you had told me a year ago that by this point I’d have three more books published, I’d want to find a time machine. Last year around this time, I was pretty depressed because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I wasn’t writing (at least, not as much as I am now). I dreamed of getting to a point where I was writing and managing my books on a daily basis. On August 13th last year, I was working a depressing job and struggling to cobble together the first, short draft of what was to be called “The Wasteland Journals.” A couple weeks ago, I found a really old manuscript of that draft and thought it had been written by a retarded fish.

I have come a long way. And the progress I’m making now makes me look forward and dream to where I’ll be a year from now. A year from now, The Wasteland Chronicles will have long been done. I might be working on a second series by that point (perhaps set in the same universe). I might begin work on the epic fantasy series I’ve always wanted to write as a kid. I will likely have eight or nine + books published. By the end of this year alone, I will have at least two more published, and hopefully, with the time my new job affords, maybe even more.

I feel like nothing can stop me, for the first time in my life. I’m not my own worst enemy anymore. I’m finally doing what I want to do, and it feels great.


Posted: May 7, 2013 in Writing

7,714 words in. The longer I write, the more I’m convinced that this one will probably be two books. In that case, the title won’t be Extinction, but Evolution, which was alternate title I was playing around with. Extinction would be Book 4. That’s still subject to change, because maybe this won’t be as long as I thought.

I got some really cool ideas of where to go in the next 30,000 words. I really hope I can write on it this week.

Revisiting Book 1

Posted: April 26, 2013 in Writing

Well, I’m kind of bored and need a break. I’m reading through Book 1 right now, trying to make it in line with Book 2. There’s not much to change. Must of the stuff is background, about the xenovirus, xenofungus, xenolife, etc.

I combined Books 1 and 2 into a master copy. So far, it’s 91,000 words. Officially, I believe this is the longest thing I’ve ever written. By the time I’m part way done with Book 3, I’ll be over 100,000 words, which is really cool.

I really do think I’m getting better. Reading over Book 1, I can even tell a difference. I think it will flow a lot better once I’m done with it, but this is just a light edit. It won’t change any of the content, per se, though I do go a little more in depth into the xenovirus in the beginning, to line it up with what’s revealed in Book 2, as well as to keep some consistencies.

I can’t wait for Book 2 to come out. I’ve been working on it so long, and from what my amazing beta readers have told me, it’s good. It’s edited, I could literally upload it right now. But I want to be sure the new version of Book 1 comes out, with a couple chapters of Book 2 stuck in the back as a teaser.

These next few weeks are going to kick my butt as things at work kick into overdrive. I am so exhausted, even now, that even the thought of writing is very difficult to deal with. I want to write, but it’s really hard when you’re so wiped from work that you want to go to bed as soon as you get home, even if it’s still bright outside.

Some form or other, this thing will get finished. I will do five books total in the series, as well as appendices, maps, a glossary, and a bestiary. I loved reading stuff like that at the end of Lord of the Rings, and there is so much action in the books that it’s hard to just pause and worldbuild, even if that’s what I want to do. I could literally write chapter after chapter of my world and how it works. Maybe ten percent of what my world is actually makes it onto the pages. It’s about finding the right balance, and I’m trying to keep things lean and fast-paced, for the most part. If readers want more, then there will be appendices.

Once all the books are done, the whole thing will get a rewrite. Think of it as a “special edition”, with deleted scenes and stuff added back in. By the time I’m done with Xenofall, the final book, my writing skills will be a lot better. Then, I’ll be able to go back and make the whole thing what it should have been…that is, if I’m not so burned out on it by then.

My next big thing after this? I’m going to give my fantasy series another try, the one I’ve literally started five times and have been derailed every time by something or other. This time, I’m going to kick that book’s booty.

If I were to tell my full story of life and writing, it would be many thousands of words. If I were to write this fifty years from now, it might be a hefty book (or two).

Now, I just want to concentrate on my thoughts of my writing and my life in the past few years.

For as long as I remember, I’d always been fascinated with reading. When other kids were out getting into shenanigans, I was in my bed reading J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov, or whatever author I was into at the time. I would read whenever I got the chance, between classes, on car rides, wherever. By the first grade, I was a book junkie, and by high school, my addiction had manifested into the desire to become a real life writer.

Now, at the ripe age of 25, I’ve written five books, two of which are self-published (and a third that will be within a week). If I had started realizing my potential earlier, maybe I would have written much more.

In the past four months alone I’ve started taking this writing thing a lot more seriously. I’ve done more for myself and my writing than at any other point in my life. I was stuck in a rut, writing-wise, for a long time. I feel like there were a lot of years where I wrote hardly at all, and if I did, the book was never finished because I didn’t know what else to do with it.

In 2010, I finished my first real book, with my friend Jelani Sims. It took two years of outlining and writing to finish it, but it got finished. Looking back, it could have, and should have, been done a lot quicker.

We had no idea what we were doing. We just worked on it, taking our best guesses on what should be done. We stopped outright at several points, only to start writing on it again somewhere else down the line.

Then, I learned the job wasn’t over when the book was finished. I learned about the joys of editing, copy editing, formatting, and marketing.

Well, we really did not learn that (at first). We published Night of the Necromancer in early 2011. It was exciting at first. There was a lot of fanfare, and it got some press. I think even to this day the book sits somewhere in OU Gaylord’s illustrious halls (perhaps in the professional writing alcoves)?

But after the first string of sales, everything just…died. It became clear, a few months in, that it was only our friends and family that bought it. No one else was interested, and I had no idea why. The book was great…wasn’t it?

Yeah, the story was good. That’s what a few random reviewers said. But why wasn’t anyone buying it?

I’d read some articles about some authors who found a lot of success by lowering their book prices to $.99 in order to get exposure, so I thought that might be what the problem was. So, we lowered the price from $3.99 to $.99. We got a few more sales, but by the time all was said and done, the royalties about broke even.

Then, I just got depressed about it, because I truly believed that was all there was to it. You write something, it either works out or it doesn’t. I think that depression created a block from me ever writing. I would write, but the projects wouldn’t get finished. I vowed that my next book would see an agent next time.

I attempted a fantasy novel a few times, always getting slammed to a halt about 50,000 words in (always when they got to that dreaded oracle scene). I may have attempted a few other things, I’m not sure. I was also working a job that was just downright depressing and boring, which certainly did not help.

I think the overall feeling was one of powerlessness. I tried to make something work, and it didn’t.

I didn’t know anything back then. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but now I know exactly what I did wrong. And I’m learning what I’m doing wrong all the time. I’m still doing a lot wrong, but the most important lesson is learned: I have a sense of power, and I recognize that even if I make mistakes, I can correct them or at least do better next time. And as I keep on doing that, my writing will get better, and the way I get my writing out there will be better.

What I did wrong:

1. I had bad quality. My problem was not pricing, as I had previously thought. After all, who backs down from paying $3.99 for a book they want to buy? Hardly anyone. Actually, $3.99 is very cheap for a book, even an e-book. That’s just a little over the price for a gallon of gas. The problem was one of quality. Not quality of story, but the actual text of the story. The formatting was horrible and not user-friendly. There were typos galore. The cover art was good, but even good cover art can’t make up for typos. This is just a fact. There are hundreds of other choices within the same genre that a reader can go to. Yours has to stand out above the rest, and be professional, or you will not be taken seriously. Recently, a reviewer pointed out my grammar and typos, giving me one star. At first, I felt upset and angry. Then, I realized that it was my fault. Maybe I couldn’t fix my characters without a complete rewrite, which is something else this reviewer pointed out, but I could at least hire a copy editor to fix the typos. I did. And the book is better for it.

2. I did not stay updated with the industry. I did not read blogs, articles, or forums where other writers gathered to talk about writing and the promotion thereof. I wished every day, when I was not writing, that I had a great community of writers to learn from. For some reason, it never occurred to me to go searching for one online. I think as I read the Kindle forums, KBoards, and blog posts of other self-publishing authors, I started to learn what I was doing wrong. If I had done this earlier, I could have taken advantage of many opportunities to advance my career, opportunities I will never have again. Then again, I’m glad I am wise enough to keep updated with self-publishing related things, because now I am more conscientious of what I need to be doing to be successful at it.

3. I did not promote. You can write the greatest book in the world, but no one will read it unless they find it. And readers can’t find it unless there is someone to tell them about it, in some form or other, whether it’s the author his or herself, or a friend. I have done almost zero promotion for the past month, and it shows. If I had promoted a bit more, solicited more blogs, done more giveaways, or found new avenues for promotion, my sales would not be so slow.

4. I did not read enough. Reading inspires you to write. When you read great books, it makes you say, “Hey, I want to write!” It really is like magic. I find my writing flow is so much better when I’m reading constantly.

5. I did not write enough. It’s really hard to talk about all the steps, and how they work together, but this one is a biggie. I had major lack of motivation. I think it stemmed from the lack of success and discouragement of Night of the Necromancer (which came from a skewed perspective of what “success” was). Success is the journey, not the end. Truer words have never been spoken, because the journey never ends. Success is getting better, being better than you were yesterday, and not giving on something that truly matters to you. Give up on everything else, but don’t give up on something that matters to you – and only you can be sure of what that is. I’ve never doubted, for a moment, that writing was what I wanted to do. I have the talent, I have the drive…why not go for it? Why waste my short life doing things that don’t matter, in the end?  I sort of lost focus on a lot of things post-college, and it took a while to find my feet. It’s important that in whatever field you choose, that you make it your passion and learn all you can about it, and correspond with others in it.

It’s also important to recognize the brevity of life and to do what you want with your life, while you still have it. That realization was very big for me. I have other goals in life, too, but writing books is the main one for now.

I think it’s amazing that anyone can publish a book using Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc.. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books and completely trash it.

I know that I have been downloaded in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, among other places, I’m sure. The few giveaways of done where thousands of copies of my books were downloaded were mind-blowing. The almost two thousand people that requested copies of The Wasteland Chronicles on the Goodreads giveaways section was also mind-blowing. I’ve had real life successes that give me fire to go on, which was something I was lacking before. So far, I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my books. I don’t think I’ve hit the thousand mark overall, but I’m closer to a thousand now than zero. Not enough to live on, but enough to keep trying and to keep pushing. I feel like by the end of this year, things will be moving a lot faster. Even if they’re not, I’m going to keep writing. Because that’s what writers do. And that’s what I’ve learned to do.

Maybe self-publishing isn’t the right path for everyone, but it is the right path for me, at least at this moment. As long as you’re self-motivated enough, and you have the talent and the drive, you have a shot at succeeding at writing. Not a guarantee, but a shot. That’s what I want: to succeed at a job that I’ve always wanted to do, which is to tell stories that entertain, and hopefully, when I get better at it, make people laugh, cry, and think.

Since college, I’ve never truly wanted any other job, other than to write full time. I always just assumed it would happen, that a muse would drop out of the ether and God would somehow write through my pen. Don’t worry, I’ve come down to Earth a bit since then. I’m trying my hardest to succeed, and I am getting better at this. I’m not there yet, I haven’t really found my voice yet, but I will.

Hopefully, I can tell more of my story at some future date. Right now, the main goal I have is getting Origins online. I’ve incorporated my copy editor’s fixes and all things are go as soon as I give both books 1 and 2 a back to back read. That should happen on Saturday, at the latest.

After that? Time to write Book 3, Extinction. And hopefully update the paperback of Book 1 to get rid of the typos. And promotion. Always, always, promotion.