Monday, October 6, 2014

Consitency, and success.

It's a full moon again. That means the madness of writing one of these has taken me again. I know, there was a full moon in September that I missed. My will power was stronger then. Or it could be that I was simply defeated by the crushing weight of life at that time, so you know, the opposite of will power.

Which ever one of those it was, I have come back and am ready to do this thing, and kick it old school.

Or I would be if I had bothered to pick a topic. 

This day and age, it's pretty amazing to have an idea. Now is a good time to try and do something with an idea. The opportunities and resources available to people who want to make something out of their ideas are simply fantastic. There's fewer road blocks than ever before (and almost all of those remaining road blocks are governmental or personal in nature). All in all, its a good time to have an idea.

But of course, having an idea doesn't mean you'll have success, even with the beneficial nature of today's opportunities. Ultimately, the key to taking an idea and turning it into something tangible is the same it's always been. That key is action.

Not just halting and sporadic action, or a sudden powerful burst spurred on by the desire for fame, or fortune. No, the kind of action needed, is the same action that's always been needed for long term meaningful progress. The action needed is steady, consistent, and directed.

To take and idea and turn it into something requires a level of direction that seems harder and harder to come by these days. It also takes a level of consistency that's hard to maintain in our world of instant gratification. Though the landscape may have changed, those things remain the same.

Which, oddly, means my missing my last full moon blog post, reflects poorly on me. Granted, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't mean much, but my point of choosing to write a more personal blog post on every full moon was in part to drive that consistence. It was to give one more regular point around which to focus my efforts. It also had some direction to it by making sure that I would write at least one blog post a month. Right now the results of this effort don't seem immediately obvious, but I'm not just writing for the people who will read now, but I'm training my self to keep writing for when I do have readers.

And that's part of the consistency. Training myself to do something, when I don't yet need to, so I can keep at it when I do need to.

That seems like a pretty good idea.

Anyway, this has been the part time wizard writing a blog post. Tune in next time!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Write what you know.

Write what you know. While I was going school and learning how to write, I stumbled across that thought quite a bit.

Well that's all fine and dandy if you're a fisherman writing about fish, but it's rather limiting when you want to write about magic, dragons, or space ships and computers gone mad. There isn't a person on earth who could say they know what it means to battle a demon while riding a dragon into battle.

However, I do realize that it's an important thought. The problem is, there is a risk of taking it too literally, and thus requiring you to be intimately aware of all the minutiae in the things they're trying to write. Such as learning all the ins and outs of how to care for a horse if you have a horse in the story. It's my new opinion that that is missing the major thing of importance, unless of course the story in question is about raising a horse.

The thing of most importance, and the thing to focus most on when you try to write what you know, is living life. Every story good story is, when you boil right down to it, a human story. All the larger than life settings and awe inspiring settings only serve as containers for the stories of humanity, and of what it means to live.

A story about a fight for survival against all odds against a powerful magical foe is just a story about human tenacity. A story about crossing space and time in search of a lost lover, is just about the driving force of our relationships. The more real the emotions evoked, the stronger the story.

So now when I think of writing what I know, I think of writing what I know of emotion. I think of the need to tell a real story of humanity, of a story that moves us on a level that is understandable on a emotional level, even if we might not know what it's like to ride a dragon.

I think, if given the chance to tell younger me a nice word of advice, it would be to focus more on the heart of the story, and less on the fiddly bits. I am of course still learning what it means to be a story teller, but, God willing, I hope I will be able to keep working at it for years to come.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Switching gears, and the art of getting things done.

So I find myself in a bit of a situation. I have finished writing the sequel to my book 'Wayward Guardian' and I was rather looking forward to resuming work on my next project, which was a fantasy book which I had thought was only about half done. Turns out it was more than half done. So now I don't have a project on the go.

I discovered this while I was doing some quick edits on the new project in anticipation of writing in it again. While I was doing this, and looking at the rest of the plot that I had worked out, I realized that what I had written actually came very close to a story in and of itself, and that what was left to write, could very well stand as separate book as well, with a few modifications.

Now when I say separate, I mean in a physical sense. The stories are still one and the same, and the second book would be a continuation of the first, it's just that what was originally half a planned book actually has all the making of a full and good story in and off itself. So I decided I'd just split the book into two.

This had the advantage of meaning I now have two books waiting to be published, pending editing. However, as stated before, it means what I thought was going to be my next project for the foreseeable future, now isn't.

So what to do?

I could always write book three in the Guardian saga, but I want to let that wait a bit, let the juices flow. I've got a good idea where the story is going, but it needs some more details.

Instead, I decided I work on the scripts for the graphic novel/web comic series I will be doing with my good friend Austin Shurtliff. We've been wanting to do this for some time, but the timing hasn't be write, and we weren't sure how to go forward.

We had a nice long chat about it some weeks ago, and I think we're ready to get rocking. I'll be doing the writing, and he'll be taking care of the illustrations. Personally, I think he has the harder job, though the writing for this is proving a lot more challenging for me than I had anticipated. I'm hoping to fit the script writing into my schedule, while maintaining some book based writing.

So for the next few weeks, it will be editing, and script writing. Once the editing is done, then it'll switch to script writing, and book writing.

How exciting.

Remember, you can keep up today on all our projects over at the Ravania page. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Editing, and the art of quality.

Mmmm good day. It's been a busy one for me. I've gone to job orientation for a new job (Got to pay them bills!) to make up the difference while I kick everything else into high gear. I've done my first draft edit of about 5 chapters of my book. I've written a chapter in another book, and decided how to proceed with said book.

Of all of those things, I think I enjoyed the editing the least. I really don't like editing. If I could do without it, I would. However, I cannot do without it. Unedited, my writing is horrible, my grammar is weak, and my story telling is strained. My rough draft is always a mess. You may have even noticed some evidence of this on my blogs. I try to catch it all, but it's a big job.

Good editing can really set a story apart. I was browsing through the latest free kindle books on promotion by Amazon, and reading their reviews, and I was struck by the common thread in many of the reviews of these self published books. That thread was the thread of many obvious mistakes. One review mentioned that the writer had completely neglected to put quotations around his dialog. So the only way to tell the difference between between characters talking and descriptive paragraphs was the inclusion of the occasional he said, she said. I of course chose to download this, but I haven't had the chance to see for myself yet.

I suppose me downloading it suggests it may have just been a clever marketing ploy, but I find that unlikely.

It occurred to me, that it could well be that the only thing keeping these people from being really big would be the strength of their editing. For many of these stories, almost everyone would say 'It's a great story!' or 'It's full of engaging characters.' but then it would get to the rest and these same reviewers would say 'Full of typos.'. Of course, some reviewers never noticed at all, but the ones that that did were numerous enough to hurt their ratings.

I know how hard it is! I really do, if it wasn't for the lads at Ravania, I would be a sorry mess with my writing. We thankfully have something of a support group, we each bear the burden of editing. I find I can read my work as many times as I want and still won't see what I need to see, because I see what I meant to write, not what I actually write. Add a fresh set of eyes that weren't involved in the writing of the story, and all the missed typos start coming to life.

That said, there is a difference between a few missed words, and typos on every page. If you try to hit perfection every time, you'll never actually finish a book. Just be thorough, take the time and effort, and do the best you can. Remember, the keen eyed will find typos even in New York Times best sellers.

To any new authors, or even established indie authors, I'd recommend passing your works to as many people as you feel comfortable with. Try and priorities those who are willing to actually look and not just read. I pick my Father as one of my readers because if there is a misspelled word, he will find it. The man once found a typo in a crossword puzzle, much to his frustration. He doesn't do so good on story content, but I have other people in my reader group to look for those. Different eyes see different things. The more eyes that go over your work, the more they'll see, provided, again, there the kind of people who will look rather than just read.

Remember, if you don't try to set a standard for yourself, you'll never stand out above the crowd.

Till next time! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Testing what makes you tick.

So I just got back from a weekend camping trip on lovely Vancouver Island. All in all, it was a pretty rad time, but as the time came to a close, I was chomping at the bit to get back and jump back into my work.

On reflection, I realize this is the first time this has happened to me. Most of the time, when vacationing, I find that I dread going back and ending my adventure. Most of the time I would dread coming back and having to sink back into my old life.

Not so on this trip. I was excited to return, happy to resume what I was doing, and determined to make even more progress towards my goals and dreams. I realize that this is a good indication that I'm doing something I love. I was so interested in returning that whenever I heard talk of plans to make the vacation last a little longer, it actually made me unhappy. I decided to jump ship and get back home with one of the campers who had to return early.

I am one of the ones who very much agrees that it's important to take a step back every now and again. Doing this lets you see how far you've come, and lets you regain perspective which may have been lost in the hustle and bustle of everything. I came back from my vacation with a lovely piece of prose and a new short story to be revealed at a later date.

However, the stepping back also lets you see something else. It lets you see how much you're enjoying our life at that moment. If your vacation is marred by the dread of returning home, then there is room for improvement. If it's dampened by all the worries you brought with you, then it may be time to learn to let some things go. Time to step away gives us an opportunity to see what were stepping away from, and also gauge how much we want to step back into it. It's just a good way to see if you actually like what your doing.

I know I do. I hope you do too.

Till next time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blogging about a Blog, Indies Unlimited

So I read a post from Indies Unlimited. You can find the post I am about to talk about, here. I'd also recommend checking out the blog in general, as it does seem interesting. I've been poking at it, and especially under their section about submissions, I was caught by their mission, stated, "We want to dispel the myth that Indie books aren’t as good as other books." Pretty good for a mission. I mean, it sounds like part of our mission over at Ravania.

So anyway, I was reading this post. The blogger, Becky Wicks, was talking about her switch from a traditional publisher to indie publishing, and her experience therewith.

I was struck by a few things, first, when she switched, she realized that indie authors need to be their own marketing team. Yes! Complete agreement there. As she said later in the post, no one will be as passionate about your story than you. Even if you have a great story with all the makings of a best seller, if no one knows it exists, it won't mater one bit. You have to get out there, you have to make your presence known.

This battle is a difficult one to fight, and an almost cyclical one, as I touched on in my last post, but it's one which can be fought, and one which you can make progress with. Thankfully, as she listed off all the outside help she had to get, I realized that between the five of us at Ravania, and our various circles of influence, we've got most of those jobs covered. For the most part though, we're all pretty inexperienced in our various responsibilities, but we will improve.

The other thing she mentioned was how the magic point for getting some traction and seeing good results was about 5 books. Under our banner, we've got about 3 right now, with another 3 set to release by years end (ish). Between us, we've got that number hit, but individually, we've got some time to go yet. I'm hoping to leverage our combined strength as a way to move our brand forward.

She also mentioned something about having a good mailing list. Still working on that.

Lots of work to do. Lots and lots.

That just makes it exciting.

Till next time people!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reviewing the Review system.

Good day readers. I regret to inform you that I am going to be away for week, so you'll have to be without the enjoyment of my words for at least that long, well unless I can find a moment it write, but I don't want that kind of pressure. Hopefully my co-conspirator Vance will pick up the slack in the mean time.

I got a little frustrated again this week. When you are a new author, it very hard to get traction. To get into any of the good book promotional circles, you need reviews, to get reviews, you need people who will read your book, to get readers, you need promotion, and reviews so they know it's worth their time. It is a viscous angry circle.

The most obvious thing to do then, is to pick one thing and try to break the cycle at that one point. Or rather, not break the cycle, but start a positive cycle where a negative one once read. The point that is usually chosen as the entry point is reviews. I'm no different in the this regard, I see that as the point to pick too.

The problem, however, is the whole 'getting a review' thing. The really prestigious ones usually charge money, and when you're a starving artist, with emphasis on starving, it's really hard to justify any kind of expense. The free review sites are usually so swamped by the hordes of other authors who just desperately want a chance to prove themselves. It's hard to have your submission seen when it's lost in a mountain of other books. There's only so many hours in a day, and the free sites, by virtue of being free, can't really afford to pay a reviewer.

Now the best kind of review, in my mind, is from readers themselves. The problem with that, is readers don't want to have their time or money wasted. If you leave a negative impression on them, it'll linger. To make matters worse, the level of quality between those hordes of authors and their works varies wildly. Some have the potential to be the next new york times best seller, whereas others, if writing were like American idol, would be sent home crying by Simon Cowell.

The thing they all share in common though is that no one knows about them. No one knows they exist. Their books languish with a ranking on amazon with entirely too many digits behind it. Not many people intentionally browse the lower levels of the book rankings looking for books, and this is in part because no one wants to waste time or money.

If a book has no reviews, it's essentially a gamble as to what you'll get, and if you have to spend money, then it's a gamble most people don't want to take. This is particularly true because there are plenty of books written by known authors that are quite a lot of fun to read. Why take a risk on a no body, when the somebody does what you want, and you know they do what you want?

The method I've decided to use to try and break the cycle is simple, and has been done before. The first thing I'm doing is offering a free promotion for my e-book. From september 4 to the 8 my e-book will be free on amazon. My hope for this is that as it will eliminate the money concerns when it comes to reader risk. Hopefully some people will be willing to take the time risk, and garner me some reviews. Once I have those under my belt, it'll be that much easier to promote, and should translate into more readers for my next book. We shall see if it works!