Biting Too Much

Expectations.jpg

It's been over two months since I posted on this blog! Apologies for that. The past two months have been quite a ride. Hell, this whole author journey has been a mad experience (in a good way). Think roller-coaster, plus your choice of hallucinogenic (or substitute with sugar overdose), and throw in a 7.8RM quake for good measure. Then multiply that by ten. You get the idea.

A lot of stuff happening means a lot of change. And some of those changes will inevitably spill over into my work. All good changes, though.

Before we get to said changes, however, I want to point out an essential lesson I recently learned: A writer (or anyone really) needs to manage his/her expectations and understand his/her limitations. This has been a tough one for me, as I'm sure it has been for many. I mean, how many times have you started out with the loftiest of intentions, only for life to throw a cream pie in your face and leave you in a puddle of your own salt water.

The problem is, how do you know what your expectations should be? What is realistic? What isn't? What are your limitations?

I've always found those things out by testing my boundaries. It was never energy efficient, but it was always the quickest path.

In the past I was usually able to take new things up and go at them full pelt. But this time, that just didn't happen. I don't know why. Maybe I met my match in writing. The more likely explanation is I'm just getting older. I find I have less energy, patience, and flexibility these days. I took up the pen and looked at guys who had been doing it for years and thought to myself, "hey, I'ma do what they're doin!"

Big mistake. You see, the problem with biting off more than you can chew is you end up choking. And boy, did I choke? But here's the thing. When you recover from choking do you decide that you will never eat another bite for the rest of your life? Obviously not. And even though it was a tough lesson to swallow, I got back up and tried again, only slower and with a hell of a lot more caution. The result? I'm MUCH more productive than I've ever been and I'm enjoying my writing ten times more. 

The lesson? Don't expect too much of yourself. Start small. And if you did try to run before you could crawl and fell flat in your face, don't give up. Get up and try again. People don't win races sitting on their holes. That is unless you're in a car, or on a horse, or... never mind. You know what I mean.

Anyway, some changes...

Up until now, most of my posts here have been geared toward other writers (well, they've mainly been my own meandering musings, but they would apply more to other writers). Come to think of it, who am I to judge? You guys could love all the writer mindset/marketing jargon, for all I know.

Anyway, my blog posts are going to consist of material readers will enjoy. For one thing, I'll be startling a weekly serial here, that I may also mirror in Whatpad for those who enjoy that platform. I'll also be running monthly short stories on here and at the end of the year, they'll get deleted and compiled into a book.

I haven't mentioned this yet on here (I definitely have on the newsletter), but there have been some significant changes with regards my release plans. Originally I had planned on releasing an epic sci-fi series called The Lost Starchives.

No, it has nothing to do with chives that grow in space, as one of you guys pointed out recently... thanks for the laugh by the way :) 

The Lost Starchives turned out to be another example of taking on more than I could handle. Star and Fury is the first book in that series. It's a great story, even if I do say so myself, and I had a blast writing the first draft. Also, I seriously can't wait to get back to it. That being said, it's currently beyond my limitations. At my current level, I just wouldn't do it justice.

The book follows two very complex characters and tackles some really in depth issues that are important to me. Going from writing short stories to an epic like that was an ambitious decision, but it wasn't a wise one. So I've put that on the shelf until I've had time to get some experience under the old belt and hone my craft a little, which I think I'm making some serious progress with, by the way.

Currently I'm focusing on the Galactic Sentinel series. It's another great story, though be it a little more lighthearted. I'm having a blast with it since I'm no longer missing all those targets I would never have been able to reach in the first place. I'm also still writing short stories and plan to have another collection (called Paradox) out by the end of the year. It will contain about ten shorts based on the theme of man vs machine.

All this means I won't be a full time writer as soon as I'd hoped, but hey it's better than never being a full time writer. Hey, I got a little carried away and wrote a lot more than intended. We'll leave it at that for now.

Have a great week folks!

Cheers,

Killian

 

Authors Should Consider Instafreebie and MailerLite

I’ve been using Instafreebie and MailerLite for over six months now and I can say, with all certainty, that these have been instrumental in growing a strong, healthy mailing list.

Both are excellent tools that any author building a list (and what self-respecting author wouldn’t be) should have in their marketing tool box.

No Mailing List is Not an Option

It has been said often but can never be overstated: To be a successful indie author, one must wear many hats: one of those being, the often loathed, business hat. A mailing list is your business’s life blood. Lifeblood is important.

It’s all about having control. Control is the main reason many authors chose the indie path. You can control your cover, your pricing, your marketing strategy, your content and the list goes on. So why not control who you sell to and how you sell to them? All the other areas where an indie author has control are peripheral when compared to control over one’s audience. Think about it. If one of the platforms you use to sell books suddenly decides to change something one day or decides to close your account due to a breach of terms of service (even if it was an honest mistake as Derek Murphy at Creativindie almost learned the hard way) the carpet could be swiped out from under you and your audience completely taken away.

Whereas, if you can contact your audience directly, you don’t have to rely solely on various sales platforms. This is where Instafreebie and MailerLite come in.

Instafreebie and MailerLite

Given that Instafreebie offers a one month free trial and MailerLite are free to use for the first 1000 users, there’s no reason not to try them at least. I’m confident you’ll be as impressed as I was, and continue to be with every new added feature.

For example, Instafreebie recently announced MailerLite integration. There were already many reasons to use both services, but this new feature was the icing on the cake. And who doesn’t like icing or cakes for that matter.

That I have dedicated a sizeable chunk of my book, Mailing List On Fire*, to Instafreebie-MailerLite integration says a lot in itself.

You may ask yourself why. Surely, it’s only integration. What’s the big deal? Well, let me tell you what the big deal is, my friend.

Time

This integration means you don’t have to manually copy your submission data time and again. This used to mean logging into your Instafreebie control panel, exporting a .csv file, logging into your MailerLite control panel, importing the .csv file and making sure everything was above board. That might not seem like a lot but say this took you five minutes and you did it twice a day. That’s seventy minutes a week. It still doesn’t sound like a lot? Put it this way. That’s more than a day a year. This is precious time that could be spent doing something else productive like writing.

Money

Indie authors place a lot of value on their time. And rightly so. Between writing, editing, design, management, business and countless other demands, it’s a wonder we can squeeze in any amount of marketing. For this reason, I used to pay for a third-party tool to automate data transfer between the two services. This was costly but Instafreebie-MailerLite integration now negates that cost.

Discount

It goes without saying that indie authors also value their hard-earned cash. With book covers, editing, blurbs and ads being only some of the things we need to pay for, every dollar helps.

So, when it was announced that those using both services would receive a 30% discount on whatever MailerLite plan they were on… Well, it was a no-brainer. For more details on the discount, go here.

Instafreebie and MailerLite Vision

Instafreebie has always demonstrated a commitment to helping authors. Their aim is to accelerate great stories and big ideas. MailerLite is also driven by a passion for supporting authors. It is clear that both companies have closely aligned missions, which can only benefit the indie author community.

You can see this in the way both services are designed. They are innovative and user friendly. Gathering submissions through Instrafreebie and contacting those submissions via MailerLite campaigns is a breeze.

You can learn more about Instafreebie-MailerLite over at InstaFreebie.

 

*Mailing List On Fire will be released this Summer. 

DAY 8 - BACK ON THE HORSE

GOAL FOR THE DAY: 

Get back on the horse and finish plotting.

GOAL STATUS:

I've got more plotting done but still have another day of plotting left before I'll be happy to start writing.

Just a short one today.

We all stumble, we all fall, and sometimes we all just need to take a break. Taking a break is healthy... as is falling as I outlined in this post.

But when you get back on your feet and dust yourself down it's time to get back on the horse.

I spent day 10 finishing the synopsis and filling in the chapter headings for LS00. I've gotten behind due to our short break away at the weekend but I'm still aiming to have LS00 written by day 14. I've got another day of plotting and then I can start writing on day 10.

Why all the time on plotting? As I mentioned before I'm a plotter and without a plot my writing losses direction and I lose motivation. As the old saying goe: "If one does not know to which port he is sailing, no wind is favourable." I need to know my port dammit! So I plot my pants off (pun intended) and then write. I'll probably leave the blog for a few days so I can start reporting on my word count.

If you're struggling to get back to writing... or to do something you really should be doing... get up, dust yourself down, and get back on that horse :) 

Day 4 - 7 - The Creative Well

GOAL FOR THE DAYS: 

Refill the well!

GOAL STATUS:

Completed!

I got a little behind on the daily blog posts so I'm going to fill in a number of days collectively on this post. 

I'm going to cover two things in the brief article:

  1. Filling the Creative well
  2. Taking a break from writing

Creativity is a Beast

The more I engage in creative activities, the more I realize that creativity is like a living animal. And living animals need fed and maintained. 

My brother and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2 at the cinema. After a crazy few months of juggling family, work, and writing, it was REALLY nice to relax. I also served to top up my creative well.

If I spend a few days doing nothing but writing, I often find I eventually run out of creative juice. Even though I have a strong plot and know exactly what direction the story is going, I just can't get any new words out. This is when I know the creative well is running low. If I push forward without addressing this, I tend to burn out.

Stopping and filling the well is something I'm constantly working on. The things the usually help me get my creative flow back--playing with my girls, video games, movies, a good book, a walk, travel, rest--often have a measure of guilt attached to them. While engaging in these activities, I at times have a niggling feeling in the back of my head that I'm wasting valuable time which could be dedicated to writing. But, the opposite is true. Doing these things is, in fact, an investment in my writing and I find that my writing flows so much smoother after a refill.

Sometimes refilling the well means taking a prolonged time away from writing, which brings me to my next point.

Getting Away From it All

My brother and I watched GOTG 2 on launch night so started at 12am and it was 3am by the time I got home. Needless to say I wasn't good for much outside of normal work the following day. But I still managed to do some plotting. 

The following day though, the family and I went to stay with my sister in Dublin for the May bank holiday. We spent one day at the zoo, which was fantastic. We spend another day touring around the city. And the next day we took the kids for a walk in Phoenix Park before heading home. Over the entire weekend I thought a lot about my work in progress, but I did not write. Even though this frustrated me, I knew it was a necessity. I did reply to a few emails from my editor but other than that I did nothing writing related.

And guess what? When I got home and got back to writing, everything started to flow again.

Day 3 - Manage Expectations

GOAL FOR THE DAY: 

Think more about plotting, world building, and character development. Make a final decision what book LS00 will be about.

GOAL STATUS:

Completed!

Notes:

I didn't get much time to write today. Things at the day job (I work in IT) are hectic at the minute with pressing project deadlines and my wife has been really ill so I've been focusing in her and the kids a lot.

I think the best part about Chris's videos (and why you should really watch them if you ever try this), is that he showed how far he fell behind at certain points in his project. At times he wouldn't hit his word count and and one point he was over 10k words behind schedule. At times he was working on other writing tasks like plotting. At other times, life just took over. That's okay. It happens. And there will always be time to push a little harder a little further down the line. And before you know it, you've caught up.

Another thing that struck me was how much his word count success relied on his plotting. If his plotting wasn't as robust as it could have been his word count would start to drop off. When he built the plot up some more his word count shot through the roof again.

Many people are discovery writers, but I'm not one of them. Like Chris, I rely a lot on plotting my story, so this is something I will need to be mindful of.

I read Chris's reader magnet novella Planet Strider to get a rough idea of what my 

I'm glad I did this as it challenged certain thoughts/misconceptions I had.

  1. The novella has to be long: Planet Strider is around 10k words. Technical this makes it a novellette. But there you go. In my mind I needed to write a 40k book. I need to work on the MVP mentality.
  2. The novella has to be complicated: Planet strider focuses on the events surrounding one character. It gives us some backstory, the character's conflict, tension and culminates in a battle that nicely leads into book 01. It is fairly bare bones but no less entertaining for it. In my head I was going to write about two different character and it was going to be a long drawn-out story. Lesson learned

These lessons caused me to completely rethink my ideas for the novella. I had intended on writing about Frank, one of the primary characters in book one. But the more I thought about it the harder it would be to make that backstory lead into book 01. It would require a complete novel to do it justice.

I came up with a completely new idea and would focus on Lady Fia, who isn't so much a main character in book 01 but features more in later books. I got really excited about this idea and jotted down some notes and I really look forward to start plotting it on Day 5. I won't be able to give it the time it deserves on Day 4.

It just goes to show, even though we want to exceed our expectations it's important to manage them first.

Cheers,

Killian

Day 2 - Master Plan

GOAL FOR THE DAY: 

Watch Chris Fox's videos 12 weeks video series, make a plan, and fill in the 12 week scedule.

GOAL STATUS:

Completed, yay!

Notes:

Initially I jumped in with the mentality; wirte, write, write! But this couldn't have been more wrong, or counter productive. I mean, I didn't even have a plan. So, I decided to spend a fee days planning. A trilogy in 12 weeks is no mean feat, and if I'm going to do it right I better get a plan laid out first.

I decided the best approach to planning would be first getting a handle of Chris's process. Why labour over building my own process from scratch when Chris has already done most of the leg work? So I opted to binge watch his 9 videos (each one corresponding to another weeks in the 12 weeks challenge).

And boy! Am I glad I decided to do this. It took so much guess work out of it for me. I took a few pages of notes on tips that will come in REALLY useful when it comes to all aspects of the process; writing, managing time, business, marketing, etc.

That's not to say I'm going to follow Chris's process to a T. Everyone is different and Chris and I lead very different lives with different pressures and demands on our time and attention.

With that said, the videos were, by far, the best place to start!

If you plan on giving this a go, I wholeheartedly recommend that you watch them first.

It gave me the kick in the ass I needed to get planning and scheduling sorted out early on. I know this will be key to keeping organised and hitting those tight deadlines.

I scheduled the entire 12 weeks in Google Calendar from April 24th to July 16th.

The first week is all about planning and plotting. Week two will be for plotting, writing, and submitting LS00 to the line editor.

Cheers,

Killian

Day 1 - Where to Begin?

Goal for the day:

Write 4,000 words of SL00 (Fury Rising novella)

Goal status:

Did I reach my goal? No. But I did a lot more than write a few word so I consider this day a success.

Notes:

I only managed to crank out about 2000 words but I spent most of my creative energy on world building and plotting. I also prepared my scrivener file structure, which took some time as I don't yet have a template I'm happy with.

Since book SL01 (Star & Fury book one of the Lost Starchives) is already with the editor, I have a bit of a head start. This helps in two major ways:

  1. I'm up 63,000 words out of the gate
  2. I've already got the bones of my universe and plot created

That being said, it is still in its infancy. When it comes back I know there will be a lot of work to do and plenty of plot holes to fill in. I guess there are upsides and downsides to starting this on the back of other work.

The plan is to spend the next day wrapping up the plotting for the novella and getting started on a timeline and world map to help me keep track of things.

Word Count Progress

SL00: 2,000

SL01: 63,000

SL02: 0

SL03: 0

Total: 65,000

I also relaxed a little last night with some digital painting. The plan is to eventually create my own art and book covers. That's a long way off but I'm having fun. I got a bit carried away and stayed up late, though. Woops! It's just for practice but I'm pretty happy with what I knocked out with a few hours of learning.

Chris Fox - Trilogy in 12 Weeks Challenge

I’ve been half-heartedly keeping tabs on Chris Fox’s videos as he documents his ‘trilogy in twelve weeks’ challenge. The guy’s a machine… What more can I say?

When he announced the project, it struck me as an ambitious undertaking to say the least. But the more I thought about it and the more I saw his videos/posts in my feed, the more it dawned that this is an attainable goal for me. Hell, I just finished a 63K novel in 9 weeks despite some serious curve balls thrown by life.

I realized that if I knuckled down I could do it. However, I decided it would have to wait. There’s so much going on in the lead up to the launch of the Last Starchives series this Summer, after all. For anyone who isn’t aware, I plan to have four books (a novella and three novels) out by the end of August. With that in mind, I filed the ‘12 weeks’ idea away on a shelf in the back of my head with intentions of pulling it down again in September.

Then along came Lon Varnadore. He posted about Chris’s challenge on one of the Facebook groups I follow. Quite a few people (including Chris Fox himself) reached out to Lon encouraging him to give it a shot. After reading his post before bed last night, I thought to myself ‘hell I’m going to give this a shot too!’ Plus, it makes so much sense since it fits in with what I’m already trying to accomplish.

Last night I set my alarm for 0500 and here I am in the office at 0545 so I could get a head-start on the day and make more time for writing. This is important as I have a full-time job in IT and two young children at home. People say they can't write books because they have jobs and families to take care of. Well, I say why not?

To help me get into the frame of mind I quickly rearranged my work desk.

The idea is to complete a trilogy (plus a novella) over three months. I have already finished the first novel in the Lost Starchive series so I’m at a bit of an advantage. However, the first book is still with the editor and will still need some serious work when it comes back in the next two weeks so that can’t be discounted.

Here is how the series will look:

LS00 - Fury Rising - Novella - Lost Starchives Prequel

LS01 -  Star & Fury - Novel - Lost Starchives Book 1

LS02 - TBC - Novel - Lost Starchives Book 2

LS03 - TBC - Novel - Lost Starchives Book 3

By the end of the 12 weeks (July 16th give or take a few days) I should have all the above either launched or on pre-order.

I will post an update at the end of each day to tally up my progress.

Mainly, this is for my own point of reference and motivation. But who know? It might even help other writers who plan on trying the same. I will also put up podcasts or videos (haven’t decided which yet) each weekend, so keep an eye out for those.

Onward and upward!

Cheers,

Killian