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.
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?
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.
Sept 28th was the BIG DAY and we advertised the sale on the following places,
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!
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.
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
(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.
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 (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+). 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!
Travis here again! Since I've been good (still resisting urge to post ponies), Rachel's letting me write some more business related posts for the blog. ^__^ Today I'd like to talk to you about websites. Specifically, author websites, really though... your author website.
The reason I want to talk about this is because your website is perhaps the most important online tool you have as an author. Yet, every day, we see authors who neglect their websites horribly and definitely to their detriment.
Websites can do just about anything, but an author website definitely has some specifics that it provides.
What a Professional Website Does for Its Author
1. It Provides Legitimacy
Would you do business with someone online whose website was old, ugly, and hastily built?
Probably not. Those are all usually warning signs of scammers at worst and a lack of professionalism at best. A sloppy website is like a sloppy office, an indication that not all is well run.