A Reincarnation

For a number of years, I ran a couple of successful email courses through The Scriptorium; one was called “The Two-Week Short Story” and the second was “Short Story Workshop for One.” People seemed to enjoy them and I received a lot of very positive feedback from students. The first was (rather obviously) a guide to coming up with a story idea and writing a quick, complete first draft, all in a two-week period. The Workshop was a method for writers who found it difficult to get feedback or critiques to work on developing the kind of critical eye needed to help them improve their stories on their own. The Short Story Workshop itself grew out of an article I had published in Speculations back in 2001, so it had already lived through one reincarnation. It occurred to me that they’d both probably translate well into short ebooks now, and that I might reach a new group of aspiring writers in that format.

Never one to let a good idea fail to distract me from what I’m really *supposed* to be doing, I set to work and did some revising, tweaking, and re-formatting. Also, cover design, since every good ebook deserves a good e-cover. I’m not quite ready to release the ebooks yet, since they need one more good going-over, but I’m thinking within a week or so they’ll be ready to go. But I can share those covers with you now (they might get a little more tweaking, but I think they’re pretty much done):

I expect to price the ebooks around $1.99, which will be a bargain considering the courses used to sell for $8.00 each! However, I did have the hassle of setting up the email schedule, so compared to that, selling ebooks is easy. I believe I’ll test these in Kindle Select at first, and then move to a broader platform after that, as my marketing experimentation continues.

If you or someone you know is looking for some story inspiration and motivation, or have a story that needs some intensive self-workshopping, I’ll be posting here when they’re released. Maybe you’ll find them useful!

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 5

typewriterOne more hard truth, fellow self-publishers, and then I’ll stop haranguing you.

Obstacle #5 – You, the Author

This might sound harsh, but all the other obstacles we talked about really stem from one source—the author. Here’s what a lot of authors miss:

Self-publishing does not mean that you can, must, or should do it all yourself.

I think that’s what trips us up. You may be passionate about doing things your way, sticking it to the “gatekeepers,” or just sharing your story with the world. But don’t lose sight of the fact that publishers do not do everything themselves, either. They use editors. They use cover artists. They use book designers. They use marketers. They use people who are trained in these skills, and like it or not, your book is competing with those books for readers’ money and attention.

Yes, it’s possible to do all those things yourself, and do them all well. Maybe you can. But don’t expect to. Don’t assume you can. Instead, assume you have to educate yourself. You have to learn how to do these things, all of these things, well. And you have to accept that sometimes your best effort will not be enough, and you’re going to need help.

Let’s face it, as writers, we all have to have a touch of ego. We want to tell our stories. We want others to listen. We admit, by the mere fact of writing, that we believe we have something to say. But that ego can be our downfall. It tells us we can make a good book cover—or one that’s “good enough”–with no training or experience at all. It tells us that our writing is pretty darn good without any expensive and time-consuming editing. It tells us that if only we shout and shout and shout about our book enough, make our work “discoverable” enough, people will listen and feel compelled to read it, because it’s just that good.

That ego lies. Don’t trust it. View everything it says with suspicion. Assume you can’t do all those things yourself, and educate yourself if you’re determined to try. There’s a much better chance then that I’ll buy your book, and not put it down after the first five pages. And that other readers will follow suit.

The best news in all of this is that it’s not too late. Even if you’ve made one or more of these blunders, thrown these obstacles up in front of your potential readers, you can fix it. You can upload a new cover for an ebook. You can rewrite and change your blurb. You can upload an edited version of your story. You can start promoting more (or less!) or more effectively. You can decide to educate yourself or get help in the areas where your skills are lacking. If you’re in this for the long game, it’s never too late to improve.

Good luck!

Staring Out the Window

“What no wife of a writer understands is that a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.” ~ Burton Rascoe


…this also applies to husband of the writer, children of the writer, friends of the writer, family of the writer…well, you get the picture.

This is the stage I am at with the rewrite I’m working on. Or “working” on, if you happen to drop by and find me staring out the window. I’m doing a very important step in the writing process, which is actually a precursor to writing itself. I’m thinking.

Which is not to say that I’m spending *all* my time thinking. I’m also re-reading, making notes, drawing charts and creating timelines. I’m juggling characters in my head and on index cards. I’m using colored markers to visualize the interconnectedness of people and events.

I’m plotting.

Plotting is something I’m better at doing on the fly, if the truth be known. Or maybe it’s just that my subconscious is often a better plotter than my conscious. I’ve had many novel and short story plots work out when I don’t have things planned down to the last detail–really, when I don’t have them planned at all–when suddenly, somewhere in the middle of writing, there’s this enormous epiphany and my conscious mind realizes that this, and that, and that tie together and make it possible for this to happen and that’s how it all works out in the end. That is a lovely, lovely moment for me, when my subconscious mind is revealed, and lo, it is good.

However. It’s not exactly…dependable. It doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes the epiphany doesn’t come, and I realize that I’ve lost my way, and the writing comes to a full stop. Which is why I have learned that I can’t completely trust my subconscious. Sometimes it’s a wonder, and sometimes it’s a real jerk.

So now I do this thing where I think and think and think and plan and chart and scribble notes and ask myself questions. It’s not an outline. Anyone who writes actual outlines, like my friend Steph, would either laugh or cry if I pointed to my pile of plot refuse and said it was my outline. It’s not an outline, and it’s not a road map, and it’s not even a really badly-drawn treasure map. It’s more like a heap of organic stuff from which, if I plant the right seed, a tree will take root and grow. Some of the nutrients will get used up in growing the tree, and some won’t. I’ll have to add a lot more stuff like earth and water and sunlight (writing and revising and editing?) because the heap itself is only a starting point. But from the heap, good things can emerge.

Hmmm. Did I just say that my plotting style is like heaping up a big pile of manure?

Time to go stare out the window again for a while.

Photo credit: mjio