Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Turkey Break!

I'm in the middle of moving houses and hosting my entire family for Thanksgiving (in my new house. That I haven't finished moving into.)

My life.
Sooooooooooooo no Writing Wednesday today guys! I am still (slowly) answering questions on my NaNo thread AMA though, so if you need some Emergency Author Assistance, pop by! Until then, I hope you have a great holiday/final week of furious novel writing.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #3!

Round 3!

Today (since I'm still moving and I'm in the run up to the end of writing Heartstrikers #3 (SQUEEEE!)) we're going going back to take another look at the best (or, at least, the ones I like best) of my NaNoWriMo thread!

Highlights 1 and 2 are here for those interested, and if you have a question about writing, publishing, or books in general that you want to me to answer, come ask! I will answer you to the very best of my ability.


Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #3!

I'm going to start out with two interrelated questions about starting over. The first is from Midnightatmoon (who's asked some really great questions this year!)

I'm 25k into this sucker, and I might have just realized that everything about my story is wrong. Like, so off, it's not even funny. My core group of characters have rebuilt themselves, and now they're much tighter as a group, which is super important since this is a heist story. They feel like a living, breathing bunch of people instead of a barely hanging together on a string. My MC has decided that the POV needs to be switched from 3rd to 1st, and I re-discovered that one of my core aspect of the story I wanted to incorporate in the beginning fell to the wayside (I didn't know how to add it, but I do now if I change the location to give it the environment it needs to thrive). 
This feels both really exciting and a little aggravating. I wouldn't have known what's wrong with it if I didn't make it this far, but on the other hand I don't feel like it'd be a step forward for my story to continue on in my NaNo. Sure, I'd get to the end of an art theft story, but it doesn't mean much if it's supposed to be a casino robbery. But all that new stuff feels like a much more solid foundation of my story-house, and I haven't even really gotten into the conflict, or the antagonist in the new setting yet. And the whole point of NaNo is to write now, fix later. Writing or the sake of writing isn't always helpful, is it? 
So my question to you is, what are your thoughts on mid-draft rewrites?
My answer

I struggle with some level of this on just about every book I write (Fortune's Pawn being the notable exception), and from the looks of things above, you are on exactly the right path.

The first draft is what you write to teach yourself how to write the book. It's the place where you can try out all those amazing ideas and see which ones can actually hold up. No matter how great a novel looks at the planning stage, you never know which ideas will actually be good until you're in the novel. This is where the rubber hits the road in writing, and it's why the #1 advice for how to be a good writer is to just write. Because there is absolutely no way to find these things out unless you're in there discovering and fixing all the stuff you're talking about.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #2!

Hey everyone! I know I promised a post, but we're in the process of moving to a new house and everything's going to hell. So since last week's AMA highlights post was so popular (and since I'm basically writing giant blog posts for this thing anyway), we're doing it again!!

Here are a few more of my favorite questions from the year so far. And if you have a question about writing, publishing, or books in general that you want to me to answer, head on over to the NaNoWriMo Fantasy forum and check out my thread! Just think of me as your own private pro author :) (unless you already have your own private pro-author, in which case I'm happy to be your second string). I'll be answering questions whenever I can until the end of the month, so drop by say hello!


Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #2!

Rare image of the writer at work loafing on the internet.

First up, DavidJGreen has a follow up to the question I answered last week about how to find a freelance editor and how does this self publishing thing work, anyway?
"Sorry if you've already answered this one. I've noticed you've answered one similar (but that was more regarding the marketing) but I don't know whether you'd categorise it as the same 'question'. How do you go about contacting an editor/publisher? Or, if you tend to self-publish: What are your first steps in self-publishing?"
My reply:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Let's Talk Numbers: Selling Books Sells Books

Trav has put together an amazing post for you guys looking at what factors make a book's sales rank go up once the initial release frenzy has ended, but first...

I'm the Kindle Daily Deal for BOTH of the books in my Heartstrikers series today!! That's right, both Nice Dragons Finish Last AND One Good Dragon Deserve Another are on sale today only for $1.99, so in other words I'm getting nothing done today due to massive Amazon sales rank stalking ヽ(^◇^*)/!

(Chelsie shows up behind me)

Um...maybe writing will be getting done after all! (types frantically)

Anyway, that's what's exciting in my life today. I'm still live answering writing questions on my NaNo thread, so if you have a burning question about writing, feel free to pop over and ask me anything! And now, as promised, here's Travis and his really impressive tea leaf reading of Amazon's sales rank charts, how they change over time, and what we as authors can do to make them move in our favor.

Take it away, Travis!


Hi Everyone,

I've got a treat for you all today! Serious usage of Rachel's author central sales rank graphs! Today I'm going to show you which events over the last several years have made the biggest differences in Rachel's book sales. But first,

I was originally expecting to talk about how the best thing to do to sell books is to write more books and how promo is over rated. I felt that we (and modern authors in general) focus on marketing a lot because its the one wheel we can crank outside of writing to help sell books... I even rounded up a lot of sales data for ya'll to show this. Except that, when I got our data together, this wasn't a black-and-white truth at all.

True, writing more books is a great way to sell more books. Really though, the truth is that,

Selling Books Sells Books

Turns out sales beget sales, and some promotions are almost as effective as releasing new books is. However, cross-promotion is key to maximizing the impact of your sales spikes.

Let's take Nice Dragons Finish Last for example,

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights

First up, I'm DELIGHTED to announce that One Good Dragon Deserves Another was an Romantic Times Magazine Top Pick for November!! HOORAY!

Yep, that is a print page from a legit paper magazine! You can read the review online here if you don't feel like squinting, or you can pick up your own copy of RT Magazine and read it in glorious, glossy color! Whichever floats your boat. 

On to the post!

So, as you've probably already noticed if you're anywhere near my social media, I'm doing my yearly NaNoWriMo AMA thread on the NaNo Fantasy forum.

This thread is one of my favorite things I do all year. I always get a ton of amazing questions, and I love talking to NaNo peeps. They're just so excited about writing, and that makes ME excited about writing my own stuff. It's a lovely, happy feedback cycle, and I really can't recommend it enough.

That said, the thread does take a huge amount of time out of my schedule, which is already packed since we're also closing on a house this week! (FINALLY! My own sequestered writing office! SQUEEEEEE!!). So, since I'm already making giant posts about writing answering questions, I thought for today's Writing Wednesday I'd share some of my favorites so far.

If you're already following the thread, I'm sorry for the cop out! I promise to be back next week with an actual new article. If you're not on the NaNo forums, I hope you'll find this highlights reel interesting.


Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights

First up, we have a great question from BLynchBooks about building characters.
"I know you'd mentioned the "Knife Test" on your blog in terms of testing motivations (which has been a huge help for the book I'm writing now, thank you!); do you have any similar methods for figuring strengths and flaws out?"
My reply:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNo Edition!): How to (Successfully) Write Every Day

Well folks, we are only 4 days way from everyone's favorite month of the year, National Novel Writing Month! To celebrate, I'm going to be doing NaNoWriMo themed Writing Wednesday posts for the next few weeks as well as my annual Ask Me Anything thread on the NaNo Fantasy forum. It should be good times.

Last week, I talked about getting your characters prepped. This week, with the starting line looming, I'm going to talk about how to actually, successfully pull off the hardest part of NaNo for most people: writing every day.

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNo Edition!): How to (Successfully) Write Every Day

The entire concept of NaNoWriMo is based around teaching people who want to write books how to write daily. On the surface, it's very simple: 50,000 words ÷ 30 days = 1666 words per day. Write that every day, and you'll complete a novel in a month. 

Lovely as that sounds, though, if you've ever taken a stab at novel writing before, you know reality is rarely that clean and simple. Life is messy. Even with the best intentions, you might not get to write every day, because stuff happens. Even if you do manage to cordon off your writing time every day, stories don't always go as planned. You might spend an hour writing and walk away with -500 words. (Been there, done that).

All of these setbacks are a natural part of the writing process, and one of the things I love about NaNo is that it teaches us to keep going anyway, to charge past these bumps and just get that novel done! This is a vital life skill for anyone who wants to write professionally. Like all skills, though, it takes some practice to get right. 

To help take the pain out of the process (and to put my own failures/learning experiences to good use), I've put together my best tips for how to successfully and reliably pull off this "write every day" thing without driving yourself insane, having to scramble on catch up days, or otherwise resort to shenanigans.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Let's Talk Numbers: The Nice Dragons MEGA Fall promotion!

Hi folks, Travis here with another look at numbers!

After much talking about the benefits of The Kindle Big Deal vs BookBub, we finally lucked into a BookBub promotion for Nice Dragons Finish Last! Do you want to know what happened?

TL;DR - BookBub is awesome! (But you all knew that already.)

We also might have promoted it in a few other places as well. Ok, like 9 other places. Literally over a million emails were sent out and millions of web/social impressions were gathered. If you subscribe to a bargain book mailing list, you probably saw Nice Dragons up there at some point.

And how did all this promo work out? Splendidly!

Let's Talk Numbers: The Nice Dragons MEGA Fall promotion!

What did we do exactly?
  1. Nice Dragons was on sale for $0.99 via a countdown deal from Sept 27th to Oct 3rd... plus or minus some hours here and there.
  2. Sept 28th was the BIG DAY and we advertised the sale on the following places,
    1. BookBub
    4. Read Cheaply
    6. Genre Pulse
    7. eBookSoda
    8. BargainBooksy
    9. Reading Deals
    10. Choosy Bookworm
  3. Total cost was about $500 total.
Once we'd locked in the BookBub promotion dates, I carpeted the town for marketers. Most indie book advertising services only accept books that are on sale and require at least 60 days of normal price prior to application, so I wanted as many as possible for this $0.99 'cause it'll be 2-3 months before we could do another one.

Why hit up so many sites at once? Well, as Derek mentioned in his guest post, A Salesman Is You, it often takes multiple interactions to get someone to buy. I figured that since many of these book sale email lists have overlap, that that overlap might work in our favor.

Anyway, I'll stop teasing you all and get to the fun stuff. Results!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: Three Ways to Ensure Awesome Characters

It is officially the later half of October, and you know what that means! NaNoWriMo will soon be upon us!

Whether you participate in the organized chaos or not, the huge rush of new people trying writing in November makes this a great time to get together and talk/think about stories, how they're constructed, and what makes them good. To that end, I'm going to spend the next few blogs focusing on basic techniques you can use to make writing your NaNo novel (or plain old regular novel) faster, smoother, and more fun.

Today, we're kicking things off with the my favorite part of writing: creating amazing characters.

Writing Wednesdays: Three Ways to Ensure Awesome Characters

Confession: I am deeply jealous of comics. So much characterization in so few words.
(art via Lackadaisy - SO GOOD! Read it!!)
One of the most common writing questions I see in my email box is "how do you come up with characters?" 

Answering this question is actually really difficult, because honestly, almost all of my characters just kinda...happen. I'll be thinking about an idea I want to turn into the story, and a corresponding character will suddenly pop into my brain like it was always meant to be. Or sometimes I'll have one character already nailed down, and I'll realize I need a love interest/enemy/friend for them, so I'll start thinking about who would this person love/hate/hang out with, and boom, another character is born.

But while all of the above fits into the writing muse mythos I usually try to avoid (I hate the idea of a whimsical muse who doles out inspiration when she sees fit. No one is responsible for my writing and creations but me!), here's the kicker: none of these characters are actually good when I fist come up with them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Writing Wednesdays - Varying Your Pacing For Dramatic Effect

But before we start, did you know that ONE GOOD DRAGON DESERVES ANOTHER, the sequel to NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST, is now available as an audio book?! Well it is! And you should totally get a copy because the performance is amazing!! Go listen to the sample at least, you won't be disappointed!

I had a big NaNo post in the works, but it's not quite November yet (okay, it's barely the middle of October), and so, being the dug-in enemy of holiday creep that I am, I've decided to put the NaNo post off until next week and write about one of the most important and difficult to pull off aspects of writing: pacing. Specifically, I want to talk about how to vary your pacing to make your readers feel different things, sort of like pulling a lever on their emotions!

(Pause for evil author cackling).

Ahem. Moving on.

Writing Wednesdays - Varying Your Pacing For Dramatic Effect

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Writing Wednesdays - Is it Ever Okay to Give Up on a Book?

(Believe it or not, this is going to be a happy blog post!)

One of my all time favorite sayings is: “There’s a name for writers who never quit: published.”

I love the fairness that this quote implies: the idea that if you just keep working hard and getting better, you will eventually be rewarded with your dreams. I believe it, too. I believe that if you love stories enough to keep writing them even in the face of rejection, you will eventually find your voice and your audience. But as huge a fan as I am of the “never give up, never quit on your dreams” mentality that is necessary to the survive and thrive in the writing life, this absolutist mindset can lead to a lot of unhappiness and wasted time when applied to novels.

I talk a lot about how to save floundering books on this blog. I’ve talked about how to fix your problems, how to avoid them all together, and how to fall back in love with a book you’ve started to hate. But what happens when you’ve tried all of that, and the book still doesn’t work? What do you do when you’ve done everything, and it’s still not enough? What happens then?

The normal writing advice I see for this situation is “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” There’s a lot of merit to this approach. If I gave up on every book I’d been sure was broken beyond repair, half my current titles wouldn’t be published. That said, I do feel there is a practical limit to failing better. That sometimes, the effort needed to make a book work simply isn’t worth the finished product.

I know that sounds a little like blasphemy, but hear me out! Writing is a creative endeavor. It thrives on big, new ideas, but big, new ideas don’t always work. Sometimes, the only way to make an ambitious plan actual function is to compromise it until doesn’t look anything like what you originally intended. Even then, sometimes that big hairy idea just won't come together even after months of trying, and you’re just plain sick and tired of beating your head against the wall.

In an ideal world, this is the spot where you would double down on your principles and find a way to make it work, but this isn’t an ideal world. This is reality, and real life doesn’t always have neat endings. There’s only so much time in a life to write, which means you don’t always have the luxury of laboring on a struggling project until you have the stroke of genius that will actually make it all come together. Sometimes, you have to look at the reality of your life and future writing plans and decide if this project is worth all the time and suffering required to make it work, and sometimes, that answer is no.

I will never tell any writer to quit on a book. That’s not my place, because the only person who can say when it’s time to give up on your book is you, and it’s okay to feel really bummed out about that. Giving up on a book is a failure, but failure is not a dirty word. It's a natural part of the creative cycle, and every writer faces it multiple times because the very act of being a writer means doing audacious and ambitious things, and those don't always work out.

But just because failure is natural doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept. I think this is why so many writers cling so hard to projects long after we know the end is at hand. This isn't even an artist hang up, but a human one. We loved these books enough to start writing them, and we don’t want them to die.

I know that feeling much better than I’d like to admit. I’ve quit more projects than I care to count, and every time, it was a bitter decision, but it was also the right one. I know it doesn’t feel that way at the time, especially if we’re talking about a book you’ve already sunk months or even years of your life into. In the face of all that investment, quitting and thus losing all of that time and work can seem unforgivable.

This kind of thinking is what economists call the Sunk Cost Fallacy. We’ve sunk so much time and effort in already, the thinking goes, we need to finish this project, otherwise our investment will be wasted. But while this kind of thinking feels like staying strong in the face of adversity (which is a good thing!) it can also lead you to keep throwing good writing after bad. After all, if you can’t save that project, then sinking more time and writing into it will only mean even more will get thrown away when you do eventually quit.

Normally, this is the point in the blog post where I’d introduce my clever strategy to solve this problem, but not this time. I don’t have any steps or clever Rachel metric to figure out where a novel’s point of no return lies, because the only person who can say “enough” on your books is you. My entire blog is dedicated to clever writing hacks and ways to stay on target, but if you’ve tried everything and your book still isn’t working, if your daily writing feels like pulling teeth, if every page you struggle through makes you want to never write again, stop.

Giving up on a book is a failure, there's no way around that, but you are more than one book. You have entire worlds inside you, enormous stories waiting to be told. You are still a writer, and no single project--no matter how brilliant--is worth giving that up. So if you desperately want to quit a book you hate, do it. It's okay. Walk away. You're still a rock star.

My favorite book break-up song. If you hear this blasting from my laptop, a project is getting burned.

Embrace your new freedom! Go work on the new project that’s been capturing your imagination. Go have fun with your writing again and make something beautiful. Something you can love. And if someone calls you a quitter, just tell them that you had more books to write, and you were sick of this one taking up all your time. So long as you never give up on writing, you’ll never be a quitter in any case. You’re just an artist whose project didn’t work out, and that happens all the time.

But while you're doing all this letting go, don't hit delete. Just because you're giving up on a book doesn't mean it can never be rescued. If you can't stand to even look at it, just stash it in a folder somewhere. That way, when you're washing the dishes a year from now and you suddenly figure out exactly how to fix your broken project, your old book will be right there waiting for you. But even if that moment never comes and the book is truly lost, it's okay. You're still a writer, and you will write many books. Letting guilt over one failure drag you down just hurts your career and takes time and energy away from all the future awesome novels you have yet to write, so don’t waste your time. Go out there and write something amazing.

If nothing else, I promise you’ll feel a lot better.

Thank you for reading another installment of Writing Wednesday! If you enjoyed the post, please consider following me on social media (TwitterFacebookTumblrGoogle+). You can also subscribe to the blog directly via Feedburner. I do new writing posts every Wednesday and tons of publishing business/fun stuff in between. It's fun! Let's hangout!

I'll be back with another writing post next week and hopefully we'll be doing some kind of analysis on our recent BookBub, but we need to gather some more numbers. In the meanwhile, please check out any of my titles on the sidebar for some good reads! I'm kind of biased, but I think they're pretty good.

Thank you again for taking the time to read, and as always, keep writing!
Rachel Aaron/Bach