Wednesday, February 29, 2012

To Authors: Work on the those summaries

I knew for a month and a half that I was going to publish the story at the end of February.

I had a time-frame for initial revisions, beta-reading, and secondary revisions. I had target dates for getting cover art done and formatting done. Yet somehow I still waited until the night I published The Three Fingers of Death to write the story summary - you know, the little description field you see on Amazon or Smashwords.

Stupid, stupid, stupid me.

It's an old truth that many writers never really get the hang of writing succinctly. For those still pursuing the traditional publishing route (which I am) the mantra is 'cut, cut, cut'. Agents and authors will go on for pages (ironic, eh?) about the need to trim the fat out of your book. Stephen King had a rule of thumb he received from an editor at some magazine which went something like: "Final draft = first draft - 10%".

I'm not sure how I feel about the general pattern of 'cut everything that isn't essential.' I think a lot of that pressure came from traditional publishing's need to save money on printing costs and the general impatience that came from the industry being overburdened with too many wannabe authors and not enough time to wade through them.  I'm okay with the odd paragraph of purple prose as long as it's a pleasant shade.

On the other hand, the story summary (or description, whatever you want to call it) is one place where the ability to write in a more taciturn manner comes very much in handy. Furthermore, you need to be able to use those few words to tease and tantalize the reader, hook them in exactly the way your opening pages should do (though if your story starts out slower, hooking them in the summary is a good avenue of attack!).

Needless to say, I will be re-writing the summary. Come to think of it, I need to do that for both my currently-available works, and I need to generally pay more attention to that aspect from now on. Especially in the self-publishing world, you can't afford to ever come off as an amateur. That summary is the first thing a reader sees of your book. You need to make it shine.

... and by you, I mean me.

(PS: The Three Fingers of Death now available on Amazon and Smashwords!)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hoping for a fever?

Was a bit under the weather on Sunday, but sadly not enough to think about taking the day off of work. It's an oddity of where I'm at in life - wanting nothing so much as to write for hours - that I was hoping to get more sick, so I could justify calling in sick (with the painful little caveat that I really couldn't have afforded that time off, anyway...).

In other news, the cover for "Three Fingers of Death" has been finished by the wonderful Graham Hanks (same artist responsible for the glorious Le Morte d'Arthur cover). Barring some calamitous event, I will be formatting and publishing Three Fingers of Death tonight!

I'm excited to release this one to the world. My beta readers have told me it's some of my best writing yet. It certainly is more overtly fantastical than Swordsman of Carn Nebeth, though retaining a lot of the humble feel.

The third story in the Wandering Tale, "The Giant of Tidesmouth" has been underway for some while now and will hopefully be published by the end of March. Getting covers made at this pace is difficult... I might have to fall back on creating my own, for awhile. I can always replace them later with better, commissioned work when I have the cash.

What's that? You want to see the cover? Oh, very well. Since you've been good:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I wish this were my job

Aie. It has been a helluva couple of weeks.

I've come up against one of the key obstacles to writing 'professionally' - namely, that writing professionally takes the kind of time commitment that doing most anything professionally does, and I don't have that kinda free time. I already have a job, as well as numerous other non-optional parts of my life that soak up free moments faster than I can acquire them.

While I'm perfectly aware that I won't be able to devote eight hours a day to writing - and never expected to - the approach I was taking was to write every day. A few hundred words a day, at least. It shouldn't be too hard. Hell, when I taught Martial Arts for a living I was always telling my students that they waste plenty of time during the day that they could have been practicing in, and now I find myself struggling to free up one hour each day to write in. Some days it's easy enough, but others it really does seem like I can't string 60 minutes together to save my life.

I've tried writing in even smaller chunks of time, but for better or for worse I just can't settle into it enough in half an hour, or fifteen minutes. I need time to decide where the story is going, what scene I want to write, and most importantly to focus on the task. I consider myself a pretty mentally disciplined person, but that doesn't come without a bit of effort, which also takes time. Bloody hell, everything takes time.

The one thing I have been able to do is keep my mind on writing, which helps to a certain extent. If I can solve the little obstacles - like "How do they start this important conversation?" or "Why would character A do activity B which gets them in position C in time for Plot Device D?" - in my free moments here and there, it makes it all the more easier to settle into that writing time when I finally get around to it.

It's a good thing I take the bus to work.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Wandering Tale

My published story The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth is the first in a series (but I must use the term loosely) of novellas I'm calling The Wandering Tale.

This is a series of stories for those who don't feel like starting another epic. Don't get me wrong, I love epic fantasy - Ice and Fire, Sword of Truth, Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, all great stuff - but sometimes I want a "one and done" deal. I don't always want to feel like I'm committing to an entire series by picking up a new book Some authors don't even bother completing a full story arc in their initial novel! Drives me nuts!

Turns out, both The Wandering Tale and my first novel are meant to be one-and-done. The Wandering Tale is a very, very loosely connected series. Each novella will be a completely stand-alone story arc, with one character existing as a connection between the last story and the present one.

The stories will exist in a single world, and yes I will continue to explore that world with each story - it's not like I don't want to reward people who stick with the series. I just don't want readers to feel like they need to read them all to get the whole story. Maybe this isn't good marketing, but I have plenty of EPIC SERIES in mind to write. The Wandering Tale is meant to fulfill a more casual fantasy reader's desires.

I do have a few small tie-ins brewing. Little things that I'm calling Loops where we eventually see previous characters return for a quick cameo. I'm not sure I'll even bring attention to the fact that they are returning characters, though. Returning readers will recognize them, but nobody else will be the wiser.

I'm actually quite excited for The Wandering Tale. I believe Swordsman to be one of the finest stories I've ever written, and I think The Three Fingers of Death - entry two of the Tale - is as good. It's also exciting to be 'discovering' a world as I write it. Many of my other stories, I do world-building as a separate task once the initial story is written (If you enjoy world-building as much as I do, check out the Mythic Archipelago). With the Tale, though, I don't have anything planned. I come up with it as the story needs it. It's like exploring in my own head!

It gets scary in there, sometimes...