Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Possibly The Hardest Part About Publishing A Book Is...

Knowing when to release your book to the public

Every writer, dreams about this day.  The moment your latest work is about to be unleashed.  You've worked long and hard for it and the day has finally come.  You've shed blood (preferably not someone esle's), sweat  (and boy didn't you look hot at that moment), and more than a few tears (I'm not even going to try and make a joke on this one, I know damn well I've shed more than few in frustration, or because I wrote a section that moved me enough to shed them).  So you're all set and ready for your book's release, but in the back of your mind you have to keep asking "Is my work truly ready to be released?" 

Is it?

In my case the answer was a resounding "NOT EVEN CLOSE!"

So, as a result of this fact, I've decided not to release my next work "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" until further notice.

How and why did this happen?  The answer is simple.  In spite of my best efforts I could not give my project the full attention and care it needs to be ready.  For those who don't already know, I am currently attending university over in Monterey, California.  I am currently studying Business Administration, with a focus on Marketing as my goal.  However, there have been ever increasing and demands by my classes which makes giving any attention to my writing, almost impossible at this point and time.  In fact, I'm only third of the way through the 2nd draft of the book.  

Furthermore, I still have to have that draft edited and cleaned up before I can try to locate beta-readers to give me feedback.  Originally, I had hoped to have the book already in their hands at this point, but it didn't happen.  And I';m certainly not going to ask people to sign up at this point, not with the holidays coming hard and fast on us all.  Most folks will have family gatherings to plan for, travel itineraries to arrange and a host of cooking and decorating jobs to do.

Furthermore, there's still one final thing I like to do before declaring a book ready to be released and that is to read it aloud with someone who is a good listener and can hear where there might be an issue with the writing.  This takes a long time to do in my case, because I do it via Skype with my editor.  Even though she's gone over the drafts I've sent and everything looks right, she and I like to read it out loud to each other to make sure everything it reads correctly if someone was doing an audio recording of the work.  

An idea that sounded great in my head, or a turn of phrase that both of us thought was really cool, may not come across the same way as planned, which is why we do this.  I know a lot of authors do loud readings of their works and believe me, this may take time but it is TOTALLY worth it.

Why am I so picky about this?  Simple, I released my first novel "The Bridge" too quickly (and had to do subsequent re-releases after a number of errors were discovered).  It was an amateur mistake to make, and even though I was forgiven for it (because, I WAS an amateur at the time) I felt I let myself and lot of others down.  So  I made it my policy to not release a book that has not been thoroughly vetted.  I want people to get their monies worth and be able to enjoy a really nice finished product.

So when is a good time to release your work, some of you may be asking?  Well, here's my answer.  Three to six months after you've got it FULLY finished.  Your cover's ready, it's been looked over for editing issues with a fine-tooth comb, you have a 'Proof-copy' which you've gone through with as keen an eye as possible, etc.  

"Well if I have it all set to go, why wait a couple of months?  Shouldn't I get it out right away?"

Well, that's up to you.  But in my opinion ask yourself some questions.  Is it the right time of year for your story?  Does your tale take place around a holiday?  If  so which one?  Are we getting close to tax season?  If so, you might want to hold off until after everyone's finished stressing because they might need a good read to unwind after all that.  They may not have the time to even give your book a passing glance, much less buy it.

Picking the right moment to release your work can sometimes make or break your sales of the book.  So choose wisely.

I know we're all eager to get our work out there, but sometimes hitting that "Pause" button is necessary for the sake of success.  There might be other issues you forgot to take into account such as, marketing.  What is your marketing plan?  Have you been getting the word out about your project?  Do you have a budget for marketing?  How do you plan to get the most exposure for the book?  Have you been building up a sense of anticipation among prospective readers?  If not, then hit that button.  You're not ready.

I promise to discuss marketing in another entry in the near future.  For now I want to close this entry out with the following.  

My plans for having something published in December at this point is to possibly release a novelette that appeared on one of my other blogs called: "The Vampyre Blogs - Private Edition".  It appeared in six installments, but has never been released as a whole book.  It's a holiday piece that takes place fifteen years before the events in "The Bridge" and involves several characters from that novel, along with my vampyre Nathan.  If I do release that novelette, I will make it available in ALL e-book formats: Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple, etc.  I might also do a printed version, but I'll want to see what kind of demand there is for it first.

After that, I'm hoping to release "The Door" mid-2016, and finally finish Alex, Veronica, Julie and Cassie's current story arc.  I'm not done with those characters by any means.  I have plenty of stories in mind that will involve them, so don't worry.  As for "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home", that will be released around Halloween 2016.  By then it will be in fighting shape, and the time of year will be perfect for a a vampyre story.

I hope today's entry gave you all food for thought.  Timing your release and making sure the product is as good as it can be is crucial to your book's success.  Don't skimp or rush things.  You put a lot of work into that story, so make sure it's in the best shape it can be so it can earn the recognition and praise it deserves.  Until next time, I'll be planning and plotting my own course.  So take care of yourselves and keep writing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Two Most Powerful Words When It Comes to Writing Fiction...

As you all know I talk a lot about writing and the different aspects of it.  Recently I got to wondering about where it all begins.  Where do most stories originate or come from in the first place?  Naturally the answer is a person gets an idea and starts to explore different avenues with it.  But that wasn't good enough of an answer to me.  I had to ask, where does the idea come from in the first place?    Where does idea get its beginning?  What if...  I began to ask and then stopped.  I'd just found my answer.  

Two little words... that's all it takes for a story idea to be born.  But it doesn't stop there.  Oh no, my friends those two little words keep popping up throughout the writing process.  Time and time again, I find myself asking or thinking those two words as I'm working on scene after scene.  Or if I'm trying to decide which direction to take the story next.  

Ask yourself, how many times do you find yourself wondering who's going to be the love interest for your main character?  What sex is the character going to be?  Who or what is going to be the big obstacle for my protagonist to overcome in this story?  

Basically we find ourselves at crossroads time and again wondering which direction to head in next.  We can ponder these questions for minutes, hours, days or even longer.  Every decision we make with our writing brings us back to asking the same question over and over again...  "What if... I do such and such next..."

"What if..." they're not big words really.  Yet they have so much impact on our writing that it seems almost impossible to even create anything without them being involved at least once.  For me they keep popping up over and over.  They're like old friends who help me move things along when I'm really stuck.  Because those words are so powerful, they help me realize that I don't always have to choose between one of two or three paths.

Instead, I can say to myself, "What if I take things in a totally different direction the reader never saw coming?"

Suddenly I'm off and running again because those two words reminded me that I make the path where the story heads.  My options are not always limited.  They empower me to take the reader to places they never saw coming and hopefully have them cheering as they continue reading.  I don't always like to be predictable in my stories.  I like to make unexpected twists and turns that makes the reader gasp in delight.  When people read my first novel "The Bridge" they thought they were merely reading  horror/mystery story.  They had no idea that I was going to suddenly throw in huge science fiction twist during the final conflict that suddenly changed the entire mood of the piece.  They found themselves thrown into a whole new world of excitement and intrigue, and it was all thanks to the words "What if..." 

What do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Please leave your remarks in the comments section below.

Until next time, take care of yourselves and keep writing everyone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More Insights Regarding Writing In the 1st Person...

I've currently been focusing most of my writing time on revising and editing the 2nd draft of "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home".  As I've mentioned in previous blog entries, this is the first time I'm working from the 1st Person Perspective.  What makes this so different from third person, is the fact that the character is the narrator, instead of me just letting readers see inside the heads of the various characters.


This time I had to not only get inside the character's head, but I had to do a lot more.  Each character has something special beside their own thoughts and ideas.  They may walk a certain way, have an outgoing personality, or be quiet and shy, which can all be shown by describing how they behave around the other characters.  But there was one thing I really had to learn about them this time that I hadn't really explored as deeply before.  I had to find their voice.

I can safely say this was have been the most crucial  and difficult part of writing the story for me.  Because, even though I created the characters, each of them would be telling the story as seen through their eyes.  In the past, I could tell the story in my own voice.  I simply had to tell their tale, as they told it to me inside my own head.  But this time, it was different.  I was still creating the story, but now I had to do it from a different perspective.  This time I had to get into the character's head and see the world through their eyes.

I already knew their background, ages, likes, dislikes, personality, the way they dressed etc.  After all, I was the writer and director of the piece.  I knew how I wanted my actors and actresses to look and behave and where I wanted them to go and how to get them there.  But this new perspective I had to take on was a bit daunting in some ways.  Why?  Simple.  I wasn't just getting inside the head of just one character...

I was dealing with a crowd of characters, who were each going to get their turn to help tell the story from their own perspective.  An insane idea?  Not really.  It had been done before. After all, those who've read Bram Stoker's "Dracula" got a taste of multiple first person perspectives in the form of letters, diary and journal entries.  I simply decided to follow his lead and try writing my first vampyre story in a similar vein (no pun intended... well, maybe a little).  This was a suggestion my wife made to me when I told her I wanted to do a multiple first-person point of view for the piece, but didn't know how to pull it off.  Luckily, she simply pointed out to me what Stoker had done, and recommended I updated the concept using Blogs, E-Journals/Diaries, and even written ones.  

For every writer, it feels like you're putting on a one-person show, playing multiple roles as you tell the story.  Only this time, I had to come up with different styles of speech patterns for each character.  This meant more than just giving them an accent or something.  I had to really think hard about how the vocabulary of a man who has walked the Earth for the last 160 years, might differ from an everyday person.  Or how two eighteen year old girls may differ in their way of talking and writing about their lives, based on their interests and backgrounds.  Plus, I had to deal with a pastor who is torn about his sins as well as being haunted by years of child abuse.  The list goes on and on.  

As you can guess, it could get quite dizzying at times for me.  But this was mostly because I wasn't used to jumping heads so quickly and thoroughly.  However, as I continued to write and really got to know the characters better, I found it easier and easier to write from their perspective.  Like an actor/actress who is returning to an old role that performed so many times, slipping back into their persona and voice was easier each time.  

This is true for writing in the third-person as well.  But keeping that 'voice' is very important to me, especially when you have a tale being told from multiple points of view via blog and e-diary entries.  Everyone has a 'voice' when they write that's all their own.  Creating those 'voices' can be a challenge at first, but in time you'll find it easier and easier to slip back into it.

Until, next time.  Take care and keep writing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Always Writing...

Recently I was on one of the buses that I regularly take to get to my university.  As I was riding I was taking in the scenery and smiling to myself.  A girl who had taken the seat next to me noticed and said I must be having a good day.  I responded by telling her I was observing the scenery and thinking about some of the trees.  In particular I drew her attention to the Spanish Moss growing on several of the trees. 

"Is that what's growing on them?  I've heard of Spanish Moss but I never saw it before," she told me.  

I nodded and replied, "Now picture that stuff moving on its own, maybe reaching down and grabbing a someone as they're walking by."

That freaked her out a bit as she looked at me with wide eyes and said, "That's creepy!  You must be into horror movies and such."

At that point I explained that I was an author who had two books out already and a third coming in December.  From there she relaxed and I told her about my Para-Earth Series.  By the time we arrived at the university she said, "I always wondered how writers come up with so many ideas.  You must be thinking about stuff all the time."

Smiling I said, "That's true.  Even when I'm not physically writing, I'm always writing."  As soon as I said this I started really thinking about what I'd just said and realized how true it was.  

While I can't speak for other writers, I can safely say that no matter what I'm doing at any given time my mind is always pondering story plots, new characters, places, what if situations, you name it.  I could be bowling....

And find myself thinking about what goes on behind the scene where the machinery is gathering up the pins and resetting them.  (Note: I have actually been behind that area thanks to my older brother Ernest who worked on the machines.  He took me back there with him a few times to show me what he did)  After thinking about it, I pictured various scenarios like when the pins are brought down by the machine, what if a human arm was set upright among them?  Or what if the machine where your ball comes back instead you get around bomb with a fuse lit. What would you do?  How did it get there?  What's going on?

Other times I could be wandering among the trees and just listening to the sounds of the leaves rustling under my feet.  I also try to make a mental note of what the air smells like at that moment and how peaceful the area is around me.  In moments like that, I'm trying to take a mental photo of  everything I'm seeing and feeling, so I can try and rebuild it with words for a scene in a story.  And then I find myself asking what might happen in such a scene?  Will a unicorn show up among the trees?  Or will a strange little figure appear from inside a tree and start talking to one of the woodland animals or a child who happens to be in the neighborhood.

Ideas sometimes come when you least expect it.  Even when you're just kicking back and maybe shooting a game of pool to pass the time, a thought or an image may come that sets your mind on fire. Sometimes it might even be the atmosphere of your surroundings that may be the spark that sets you mind alight with ideas and possibilities.  

As writers, our minds are always working on ideas or stories, even when we're not aware of it.  And i find this idea to be a great comfort to me.  There are times when the old "Writer's Block" comes to visit and I find myself staring at my computer screen for hours or even days.  I want to write something but nothing comes.  On days like that I'll try working through the block, or exercising, or bouncing ideas off other people... all to no avail.  

But then I'll decide to get out and about for a while.  Sometimes I'll go to a mall, or do some shopping, or wander down by the beach.  I don't always find the answers I'm seeking and after a while may even stop trying.  However, I do so knowing that sooner or later, something is going to fire my imagination up and I'll be ready to get back on my computer and finish the story I'd been working on.  Why?  Because I'm always writing... even when I don't realize it.  I hope the same is true for all of you.  

Until next time, take care and keep writing everyone!