Crappy First Drafts

The last several weeks I have been focused on Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped, and I’ve been taking my NaNoWriMo approach with it.

What is my NaNoWriMo approach?

Well, for those of you who might not be aware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held by the Office of Letters and Light, and it is basically a free-for-all competition where you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. They have little competitions run throughout the year, but the main one starts November 1st.

That’s a lot of words in 30 days and in order to achieve this lofty goal, one must set aside certain things …

Like their internal editor.

So when I say I’m taking my NaNoWriMo approach with Dead Weight right now, I mean that I have gagged my internal editor and shoved her in a dark closet somewhere. She’s still screaming at me, especially about Chapter 14 because I think I broke the rules of gravity in there somewhere, but I’m not listening.

Not yet.

The focus is to get a draft down that I can edit. The focus is that the story line makes sense, the plot is engrossing, and the basic elements of the characters are fleshed out. I can add more color and life to the page later.

The goal is to have a completed crappy draft by the end of October so that … I can participate in NaNoWriMo for real this year. I think I say that just about every year and I end up having to use November as a motivational month to get my current projects done, but this year …

This year I’m going to win NaNoWriMo.

With a paranormal romance novel, no less.

That’s right. I will be writing a full-on romance novel. I know several of my books are in the “fantasy romance” category, but when push comes to shove those are more Fantasy than they are Romance.

It’s going to be fun.

It’s going to be a challenge.

And I am going to win … leaving me with two crappy first drafts that will desperately need editing in 2017.

The Versatile Writer

One of the most important traits a good writer has is versatility. And I don’t just mean in life, but in the writing itself.

Yes, authors who want to see their books completed have to be versatile in their lives just to squeeze writing time into a day. Parents have to find times that don’t clash with the whole parenting regime (get ready for school, take child to such-and-such event, help child with homework, get child ready for bed.)

Those of us with day jobs obviously can’t write while at work, so there’s that obstacle to get around. And then most of us with children also have a day job, compounding the aforementioned things that take up our 24 hours.

So yes … writers have to be versatile.

But that’s not what I’m really talking about today.

You see, once upon a time I did a lot of interviews with a lot of different writers and I started to notice a somewhat alarming trait in most of them.

A lot of them, not all of them but the vast majority, were very stuck in one particular genre. It’s all they read. All they write. All they pay attention to.

I can only imagine that this mindset comes from the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” or “Why mess with a good thing” mantra that we’ve all heard. They found one genre that works for them. They like it. And they don’t see a need to expand further than that.

They “know what they like” and it made me just a little sad.

A book is a whole world, a whole life for the reader to live. By limiting yourself in your reading and writing habits, you’re limiting your readers too. Not only that, but you’re missing out on some really awesome learning experiences in regards to your craft.

Every book is like a cat. They have different personalities and different needs. Such as my cat versus my son’s new kitten.

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Pest. The Grandpa Cat.

My old grandpa cat (Pest) likes to laze around, talks to me while I’m on the phone, and lets me know I’ve been on the computer too long by attacking my head.

My son’s kitten (Nuisance) has a lot more energy, runs about, attacks anything that moves and recently chewed right through my headphone cord because apparently it looked really tasty. (Bad Kitty.)

I can’t approach Nuisance they way I do Pest. He attacks my hand when I do. I have to wait for him to come to me, curl up on my neck in the middle of the night and start to purr before I can really pet the creature.

It’s the same with books. You have to adapt to each one.

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Nuisance. The Kitten.

It’s alright if you really love writing in just one genre, but every genre has elements of the others in it. There’s mystery, romance, crime, adventure, and history in just about every single book you pick up. So if you’re not reading those genres, you’re missing out on seeing it done really well. (Or really poorly, depending on which book you pick up.)

So … versatility is more than just how you manage your time and adapt to your life, it’s about how you approach your craft. Are you willing to try something new?

Read a book you normally wouldn’t.

If you normally write in first person, try third. And vice versa.

Be a chameleon, you know? Your book is going to be versatile, or it should be, and how you approach it should change to match.

Kindle Scout

Alright, so we’re sort of in a mid-way point with the Kindle Scout campaign for Persona and I figured I’d do a little update to give you the sense I’m getting of this thing.

If you didn’t know already, I’m pretty awful at marketing.

Let’s just be honest with that one. I’d rather go to the dentist and have teeth pulled sans Novocaine than market myself. I do the bare minimum by announcing book releases and sales on FaceBook and here on this Blog.

I don’t know why that is, it just is, which makes this Kindle Scout campaign significantly harder for me.

Why?

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Cover Art by Chris Howard, who is absolutely amazing.

Well, because if you want to win this campaign, you’ve got to market it. You have to blast your friends, neighbors, strangers on the street, EVERYONE with news about the campaign for the entirety of the 30 days your stuff is running.

30 days of me shouting to check out my campaign and please, please, pretty please vote for it?

Yeah, no. I can’t do that.

It’s not that I’m not confident in Persona.

I love this book. I love where it started and I adore where it ended. It is a solid book. My style has grown and my understanding of the craft has become such that I know it’s better than anything I’ve written in the past.

So it’s not that I don’t think the book is good enough to be marketed. It is. It really, really is.

The problem is that, in our virtual society today, shouting at everyone for 30 whole days to nominate your campaign is … well … rude.

I know I get annoyed when someone is telling me the same thing over and over again. That little snarky judge that needles at my brain says; “Geez, vain much?” Or … “Ugh, I heard you the first time.” Or … “There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, my friend. Be careful cause I think you’ve crossed it.”

She’s a mean voice. I really try not to listen to her.

But she’s also a voice that I’m pretty sure exists in everyone’s head. So if I’m thinking that about other people … well … Obviously other people are going to think that about me should I start following suit.

Which leaves us to the problem at hand …

How do you market a Kindle Scout campaign for 30 whole days, keeping it fresh in everyone’s heads while not becoming that annoying, arrogant voice that everyone wants to shut out?

…….. I have no idea.

But then, I also have no idea how to really market my books either. So if you, brave author, already have a marketing plan in place and know how to use it, then Kindle Scout might actually work for you.

Because I’m like … 95% sure it’s not working for me.

Doesn’t mean I won’t try it again in the future, just means that next time I’ll know what I’m walking into and how to prepare for it.

Oh … and … um … here’s the campaign again. (See? Told you I was bad at this.)

 

 

Happy Release Day!

41SPrUMbf+LTorven is officially released!

You can find it on Amazon right now in both Kindle and Paperback versions. However, if you purchase the paperback then you can get the Kindle version for free.

Torven is a novelette, which means it is very small – just eight chapters long. It is a fairy tale and I did write it for my eight-year-old son, so it’s safe for all ages … as long as you don’t mind a little violence.

From the back cover:

Torven knows he is no normal beast. What little he can remember of his past tells him that he was a man once, not the wolf he roams as now. And he had known love once; a love that ran so deeply he can feel it even in his cursed form.

The Witch who controls him seems to delight in his torment, and under the watchful eyes of her minions Torven can find no peace. But when a poacher comes into the Blightwood Torven finds himself with a new assignment, handed down by the Witch herself.

Unable to combat the Witch’s magic, Torven goes on the hunt only to discover that this poacher is a woman. And not just any woman, but the woman from his memory. As time runs short and the Witch’s patience grows thin, Torven must find a way to communicate with the girl, to warn her of the danger, before an even more tragic fate can befall them.

Novel, Novella, Novelette

In 6 days my novelette “Torven” will be released for sale. (That’s August 2, 2016 for anyone wondering.)

For those unfamiliar, this is my little fairy tale about a man named Torven who has been cursed into the form of a wolf and how he defeats that curse. It was written primarily for my son but given that it is a story and I am an author, I have opted to put it out for sale for as cheap as I possibly can.

Readers will be able to get it for .99 cents on Kindle OR for those who really like the feel of paper under their fingers, the paperback will be 3.99.

However, I feel the need to warn everyone that it really IS a novelette. Which means it’s a mini-book. A baby book. A teensy-tiny book.

Seriously.

It’s only eight chapters long.

Which brings me to my discussion of lengths.

You see, my original intention was to write a novella. 25-30 thousand words at the most, nice and easy for an eight-year old to consume.

But as I was working on the Outline -since I took James Patterson’s Master Class and have been playing around with the way I do this writing thing – I began to realize just how much of the story I had planned out was fluff.

So I started cutting scenes.

I started focusing on making sure each chapter drove the story forward, on eliminating all those scenes that only showed character development or world building, and then combining all that character development and world building into the chapters that were essential to the story itself.

15 chapters fell to 10 … which then fell to 8.

By the time I had finished the first draft I knew I wasn’t looking at a real Novella.

But it wasn’t a short story either.

So what the heck was it?

As embarrassing as this may sound, I actually had to research it. I’d never heard the term “novelette” before so it was a fun little surprise to learn that these little stories actually exist. (Well, maybe I did hear it in High School once but I obviously forgot.)

In any case, writing this little novelette taught me some extremely important things. You see, I’ve had a lot of editors over the years and there’s always been this fight between wanting to “live in the work” and to “experience life on a space ship” and therefore to have those extra scenes in a novel that create color and perspective … versus the need to drive a story forward and make sure your pace doesn’t snag.

It’s … really hard.

(No, seriously. Writing is hard. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different.)

In working with Torven’s outline and then watching that outline come to life on the page, I was able to understand how every chapter and every scene really CAN drive a plot forward while still allowing me to live in the work and showcase the world. And I could do it without sacrificing forward momentum.

So for any writers/authors out there, I recommend trying to write a novelette. Limit yourself to 10 chapters or less. Cut out the “fluff” chapters and add all that color and perspective to the essential moments of the story. Believe it or not, it works.

 

Kindle Scout Campaign

So! I did a new thing!

And it’s a little bit of a scary thing, but I’m trying it anyway.

Persona, the WWII novel that I have scheduled to publish in December, has been submitted into a Kindle Scout campaign. Basically what this means is that, if I get enough nominations, Kindle Scout will publish the book for me instead.

The process was relatively painless considering the book is already edited and edited and edited some more, as well as formatted and prepped for its launch in December. All I had to do was answer some questions and upload the book.

Well … that and now I have to come out and shout from every virtual rooftop I’ve got that the campaign is now open, that you can find it HERE and that if you like what you see there I would really, really, really love it if you’d click the little “nominate” button.

We’re going to see how this whole thing works and then I’ll give a more critical response to the process and things. I can say that, barring the actual writing process that you have to go through anyway, submitting to Kindle Scout was terribly easy. I got invited to Kindle Scout some time ago, I just hadn’t given it a shot until today.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Brand

So there’s this thing in the writing business where people say writers need to have a “brand” to rely on. Something to shove at a reader so that the reader knows what to expect whenever they pick up a book written by that author.

James Patterson readers know that the plot is going to move fast and it’s going to twist in ways you don’t expect. I remember from his class that he said he wanted people to know when they picked up a book of his that “the pages would turn themselves.”

And considering how many books of his frequent the bestsellers lists I think we all can attest that he’s definitely made his name a brand.

Brandon Sanderson also has a brand name to him. When I pick up a Sanderson novel I expect unique magic, intricate plots, and deep fantasy that can transport me.

When I read Diana Gabaldon I expect rich characters and enlightening history and a more visceral reading experience than I can get anywhere else.

Now then … as an author I have to ask myself exactly what “brand” I might be presenting. I find this highly annoying because, as much as I can recognize the trademarks of other authors, I’m really clueless as to my own. And from what I’ve heard from other authors, they feel the same way.

On my website I have “Writing Mayhem” as the tagline.

Why?

Well … because I love the word “mayhem” and wanted to use it. And because my life as an author feels full of mayhem. I write everything from Science Fiction to Historical Fiction. My Fantasies range from Epic to Steam Punk.

My muse just can’t seem to commit to any one genre, which makes “branding” me quite difficult.

I could try finding that one common denominator between all the books and banking on that … Which would be the characters. In all my books to date, the focus is always on the individual character on the page and the struggles they face.

But again … how do you “brand” that?

A.J. Maguire – Character Tormentor … A.J. Maguire – “The characters will grab you by the throat and demand you free them.”

… Yeah … No thanks.

In all seriousness, and after many years of trial and error, I’ve come to understand that “brand” is a conscious decision.

I have two releases scheduled for this year; the novelette “Torven” and the historical fiction Persona.

One is a fairy tale.

One is a “who am I” story based in WWII.

What “brand” do I hope to attach to them both?

I want readers to trust that if they pick up one of these books they’re going to get a good story.

How do you brand that?

Well, I’m still not sure. But when I find out, you’ll be the first to know.