Why We Write Shitty First Drafts

Dear Reader,

If your English teacher was worth anything in high school, then they should have told you that you must write a “shitty first draft.” I’ve talked about shitty first drafts before, but a friend complained to me recently that they didn’t like that advice.

Why? Because their college professor ripped apart their first draft, saying it wasn’t good enough. It traumatized my friend.

I stared at him a moment, not sure he was serious. Of course, he was. I said, “But darling, you never show your actual first draft to anyone. There’s a writer’s first draft, and then there’s what I like to call a Reader-Worthy-First-Draft.”

The writer’s shitty first draft is, more often than not, a really shitty draft. It is the definition of shitty. The characters are cardboard, the plot is dramatic and full of holes, the grammar is awful. That is the point. That draft is for the writer to get ideas to the page with as little judgment as possible. A Reader-Worthy-First-Draft is when you’ve gone back through so that the draft makes sense.

I am at that point for the first eleven chapters for The Rebel’s Hero. I had to go back through it twice. I wanted to share the result, in all its gory beauty.

I use a Red Pen of Doom because it means serious business. Now you know I’m alive and working on making my shitty drafts Reader Worthy. Look forward to my next blog post where I’ll detail some of the things I look for when the Red Pen of Doom makes an appearance.

Best,

Belinda

Genre Schmenre

Dear Reader,

I am giving up any and all pretenses of having a blog schedule because there have been too many interesting things to write about this week. Such as an analysis of indie authors who have reached the “1000 sales per month club” as described by Derek J Canyon. I encourage you to read his post where he analyzes what is getting authors into this club (hint: number of titles and genre).

What I found fascinating and a bit disheartening is the breakdown of popular genres for ePublishing. Why disheartening? Take a look at the pie chart that Derek uploaded.

This pie chart breaks down the genres of the authors that are making 1000+ sales per month, as self-reported by authors at KindleBoards. Top genre? Romance at 16%. Where is my genre, historical fiction? Do you see where the slices start getting really small as you go clockwise around the pie chart? Historical fiction is in there at 3% (orange).

Of genres ePublished, 3% of the authors who are making 1000+ sales per month are in the historical genre. That’s a really small number. Or really big, depending on the sample size of book buyers.

I suppose it makes sense. I guess a stereotype of someone who likes historical fiction would be someone who prefers a book with actual pages they can flip in hand. It’s certainly eye-opening to see where my genre fits in with everyone else.

Now, depending on who you talk to, I don’t write straight historical fiction, but historical romance. Which could bump me into the 16% slice of the pie.

Come on, Belinda, why is this so important? I really think genre is a huge indicator of “success,” i.e. getting 1000 sales per month. But then, this is a specific result, in that this is self-reporting through KindleBoards.

I don’t know. What do you think? I’m going to continue publishing because I enjoy it so much, and I know there are fans out there if my Goodreads reviews are any indication. I may never make the sales that Zoe Winters, Amanda Hocking, Susan Bischoff, and others are making. But that’s ok as long as I’m getting to my readers. I also, however, want to be successful. I want to get to that 1000 sales a month.

Do you think genre plays as big of a role as I do?

Indie Methodology

Dear Reader,

Let’s talk about the indie methodology. That is, the method in which an author decides to indie publish. This is largely inspired by Kait Nolan’s recent post about Kickstarter (I’ll admit, my heckles were raised), but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I realize I am taking a very different path along my indie publishing journey. Let me break down the “traditional indie method” for you, as I understand it.

Author wants to self-publish. Author has little-to-no money, and no followers. Author decides they need to cut corners in self-publishing. How? By releasing to eBook first (or only). Maybe hire an editor. Maybe hire a cover artist. Use free services like Amazon DTP, Smashwords, PubIt. Send out coupons and giveaways to attract readers. Solicit reviews. Attract followers through social networking. Earn money from purchases. Save up to maybe release a print book, set up a micropress, etc. Or not.

This works for many indie publishers like Kait Nolan, Zoe Winters, Susan Bischoff, Amanda Hocking, etc.

It doesn’t work for me. Why? Because I published in high school and made a profit even though I used a vanity service. I continued to write for the next seven years, but put schooling first and didn’t publish.

Now I’m back. I’ve been at this for three concentrated months, and I decided to use Kickstarter to build up venture capital because I intend to indie publish a little differently.

Author wants to self-publish. Author has little-to-no money, and a number of followers. Author has a print book out, and short stories on Scribd. Author wants a micro-press and to dual-release the eBook and print versions. Author needs venture capital. Author applies to Kickstarter to reach new readers, gain support and excitement for new book. Buy ISBNs. Design cover and interior layout. Register micro-press. Use services like Amazon DTP, Smashwords, PubIt, CreateSpace. Send out coupons and giveaways to attract readers. Solicit reviews. Attract followers through social networking. Earn money from purchases.

The process is very similar. But the reason why I’m talking about this is because there was a lot of questions, even negativity, about authors using Kickstarter, as if they were trying to cheat the system. As if they’re clinging to the traditional method of getting an advance and then receiving royalties, etc.

Independent, as I understand it, means to go your own way. Do your own thing. March to the beat of your own drummer. Who cares if I’m using Kickstarter to raise money? Who cares if I decide to go print and eBook, rather than just eBook? As long as I follow through with my promises, it should be all gravy.

I admire and respect Kait, Zoe, Amanda, and Susan. I love what they’re doing for the indie publisher reputation. I’m taking my own spin on the indie publisher’s path, though, because that’s what an independent thinker does.

What am I trying to say? I guess all I’m trying to say is that if you’re deciding to go indie, read up on it. Learn who the big names are, and study how they are doing it. Make note of the methods that will work for you in your situation, and throw the other methods away. The indie world is too small for negativity about how you’re doing things if you’re producing quality work.

All the best,

Belinda

P.S. We made the Kickstarter goal! Huzzah! We’re still accepting pre-orders for Haunting Miss Trentwood through Thursday Oct 14.

Worderella Interviews James M Turner

Dear Reader,

I’d like to introduce you to James M Turner, my guest from across the pond today at Worderella Writes.

Turner is an author, composer, musician and screenwriter. Having had a successful career as a highly paid professional musician, he now works in the film industry. His first television series screenplay ‘The Taker’ is currently in development and will hopefully move into production later in 2010.

About ‘Beyond the Comfort Zone’

According to James, his newly released work Beyond the Comfort Zone is a memoir of a short period in the life of James M Turner. Having enjoyed a career as a professional musician for the rich and famous, in 2002 he moved to south east Asia where he eventually came into contact with the child trafficking trade.

Together with an acquaintance and the help of a US organization they attempt to gain the confidence of the traffickers and bring them to justice – saving the cargo in the process.

There is a little bit in there about James’ hedonistic days of travelling the world as a high paid musician, but this is really just a foil to throw into stark contrast the subsequent adventure in Asia.

It’s a tale that follows two young men trying to do the right thing and in the process nearly losing themselves as they spiral downwards into a shadowy world where human lives, at least their lives, are worth nothing. There is danger, intrigue, high emotion and a fragile love story woven together in what one reviewer called an exceptional journey …the making of a Hollywood blockbuster, in short a Shantaram for South East Asia.’

I’m very pleased to have James here to interview. So let’s get on with the questions!

How do you transform your passion into focused research?

Well, in the case of Beyond the Comfort Zone as it was a memoir there was very little research to be done, it was more a ‘method’ writing piece. I did a little historical research in the areas where I thought that people needed contextual help to understand the jeopardy, but again I was already fairly well read in that subject and it really was minimal internet verification.

However, when I was writing ‘The Taker’ my main research consisted of putting myself in the environment. I had a rough plot arc, stepping stones as I like to call them, but I wanted to feel the atmosphere.

This consisted of me sitting in downtown L.A. and soaking up the sights and sounds, making notes as I went. Also, as there is a technology component to the story, I researched cutting edge technology and then imagined how I could push it a bit farther.

Probably the longest gestation period in the development process in ‘The Taker’ was with the characters. I think I had between ten to twenty thousand words of back-story before they even set foot on page one of the script. That made for a fairly quick writing process as I had a very good idea how these people would react in certain situations.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?

As Beyond the Comfort Zone is a true story, the entertaining narrative really took care of itself. These were real people, very complex individuals. I had a location which was exotic (Thailand). Then the story itself was as dramatic as any fictional thriller.

I tried to make the writing as concise as I could which meant that if I didn’t feel that something was moving the story along or there was some part that needed to be told in a more succinct manner – then out it would go.

One of the things that people have picked up on is the ‘page-turner’ aspect of Beyond the Comfort Zone most people tell me they have read it in 24-36 hrs. I think that is something that my cut throat editing approach has enhanced. If it isn’t contributing to moving the story forward, then it has to go.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?

Well, there’s an old quote from Don Maclean who wrote the song ‘American Pie’. When they asked him what the lyrics and the song meant to him he replied ‘It means I don’t have to work again!’ But, to be serious, I’m not sure sneak is the right word. I have however been amazed at how people take away all sorts of ‘hidden’ meanings and sub-plots from Beyond the Comfort Zone. Actually I’m quite happy for them to do that and very glad that the book lives on with people for quite some time after they have read it.

For ‘The Taker’ however hidden meanings are very much an integral part of the plot structure. I had a rough idea of interconnections between events and people, but just wrote the story down without expanding too much on any of those. Then, when the story was complete, I went back to those moments I had identified and dropped in little nuggets that at the time don’t attract too much attention. By the end when the revelations appear there is a clear though (hopefully) surprising link.

However, as I said before, I am constantly surprised by the conclusions drawn by others as to what is sub-text and hidden meaning. Of course I’ll take credit for that…even when it wasn’t deliberate.

Thanks for joining us today! For more information about James, visit his website James M Turner.com and read reviews on Amazon (UK).

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Tries Online Marketing

Dear Reader,

I’ve spent most of this week adjusting to all the responsibilities of my new job, as well as calming down a bit with this whole self-publishing thing. I’m the sort of person who sets her mind on something and will work until she collapses to achieve her goal.

But that isn’t healthy, smart, or sustainable if you’re seriously planning on going into a new business venture, which is what I consider this self-publishing journey. I am determined to become a micro-business owner, which I contend is different from a small business owner.

#amwriting

And, I’ve been writing. After I complained about how I hadn’t written in two weeks, I am now on a four day streak of writing at least 750 words a day. Go me! It turns out that once I get past 600 words, I get into the flow of things and my characters stop being characters and start being people.

Online marketing as an author

I felt so good about finishing chapter twelve of Haunting Miss Trentwood tonight that I thought I’d dabble in some marketing.I’ve uploaded the first section of my book, Catching the Rose, on Scribd. I’ve also uploaded an essay I wrote about how English accents are undeniably hot to American women, and my theory why. All tongue-in-cheek, of course.

I’m maintaining a spreadsheet so I know exactly what I’ve spent, where I’ve marketed, what I’ve uploaded, etc. I’m sharing this spreadsheet because I believe in iteration. I’m certain there are many of you who are better marketers than me. You’ve been at it longer, or it’s closer to your day job responsibilities, or you’re just not as shy as I am from the get-go.

Paying it forward

I’m also collecting useful links with my Delicious bookmarks. It’s a small list right now. With your help, we could make an awesome collection of links for authors trying to self-publish, market, etc. Whenever you see something I should link, send me a tweet or leave a comment.

And now, it’s time for Miss Worderella to go to sleep.

A Micropress, a Vlog Campaign, a Contest

It’s been a busy week in Worderella World. I haven’t done much writing because I’ve been busy setting up my micropress, which I finally named Bright Bird Press. I like it; it feels good. I set up the website the other night with WordPress and threw up a fairly nice theme to hold me over until I have time to design one or find something better.

Vlog Campaign

I’m also starting a mini-vlog campaign series a la The Vlog Brothers, Meggin Cabot, and Zoe Winters. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, but with grad school taking up so much time, I didn’t have the resources. Now I have the resources, and I feel like a total copycat because Zoe released her videos a week ago. She made the great point that we’ll have different topics and styles, so I shouldn’t feel like a copycat, but I do anyway.

This weekend I’m going to make my first one-minute video, so look forward to that. It should be pretty fun. I’m having one of my friends help me out with the script and stuff because when I try to be funny, I’m so very not funny, and when I say whatever pops into my head, I’m hilarious, apparently.

An experiment

I tried out a free press release website to announce the re-branding/second edition of my first book, Catching the Rose. If you’d like to win a free copy, comment on this entry about who you are and why you’re following my blog in particular.

I will pick two winners to receive a coupon code to receive Catching the Rose for free. Everyone else who comments will receive a coupon code to receive the book for a dollar, if you so choose. So make sure you submit a valid email address!

So this weekend will be dedicated to working on the video, as well as writing the next couple of chapters to make up for the lack of writing this week. I’m pretty excited. Things are definitely ramping up.

Worderella Becomes Her Own Hero (i.e. Cover Designer)

So I’ve been meaning to release my first book, Catching the Rose, as in eBook format, but wasn’t sure where to begin. As always, I turned to my friend Zoe Winters to see what she’s done, because let’s face it, she has her hand in every pot when it comes to self-publishing.

Smashwords, it seemed, was my answer. Smashwords is an

ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device.

The really cool thing about this is I can upload a Word document and they do all the formatting for me. My book is now, as far as I can tell, available to read in the following formats:

  • HTML
  • Javascript
  • Kindle
  • EPub
  • PDF
  • RTF
  • Sony Reader
  • Palm readers
  • Plain text

How crazy is that?? I’m pretty excited, I’d like to see what sort of sales I get this way. But again, just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it will sell. I should market the new format, right? Well, I have been meaning to update the branding of the book, and since this version is owned completely by me I felt funny using the cover provided by Aventine Press, the subsidy that originally printed my work.

Turns out stock art is an amazing thing, if you find exactly what you want. I searched through istockphoto.com, gettyimages.com, and fotolia.com, and decided that Fotolia was giving me the results I wanted. The image below is the one I chose for Catching the Rose.

There is a masquerade ball during the book, so the masks are absolutely perfect. I wanted to step away from the ultra-pink of the original book, so the blue background really pulled me in. Veronica, the main character, has blond hair, and Brad, the interest, has brown hair. I looked for an entire week at stock photography and my jaw dropped when I found photos by Andrey Kiselev. Just perfect!

But of course, an image isn’t enough to make a book cover. I played around during my break at work today with Pixlr, a great online alternative to Photoshop just to see what I could do with the image (see below). After an hour, I had something I was in love with, and I couldn’t wait to get home so I could buy the image and make the cover for real in Photoshop.

You see, I’d like to do a reprint of Catching the Rose, give it an updated look. So I need a decent-sized file that will print well, as well as make a cover design that will scale to a thumbnail nicely. Smashwords requires that you upload an image that is at least 600 pixels in height. I’m not sure why, perhaps to fit all the different eReader formats. So the final version is below.

What do you think? I’d love to get some feedback. To thank you ahead of time, I’d like to give you a discount if you’re interested in supporting me in my first self-publishing venture. To receive a discount on Catching the Rose (Smashwords edition), type SWS25 into the promotional field at checkout.