15 Days

This novel (currently standing at 7,300 words) is due on the 15th of this month.  15 days.  (I’m shipping out the query package tomorrow).  I need about 72,000 words more to have it be a decent (re: marketable) length.

15 days. 72,000 words. 4,800 words a day.  Go!

So yeah, I’ll probably be fairly absent from my blog for the next two weeks.  But some cool things are coming (more interviews, a fantasy novel released via Doomed Muse Press).  Meanwhile, I gotta write.

The Streak Begins

So the writing in shifts thing has been working out pretty good except for one tiny issue.  I keep working on one thing.  Despite my brain being fully capable and willing to write two (or ten) things, apparently once I get into my groove, it wants to finally settle down.  That’s not a bad thing at all.  I am learning my limitations, however.  Like that it takes me realistically six weeks instead of four to write a novel because I like to goof off and procrastinate and do all manner of things that aren’t writing.  Or that I don’t really like working more than 4 hours a day (some days, I do.  Some days the words and flowing and I’m on a roll and don’t want to stop, so I don’t).  Four hours (broken up into a couple shifts) of writing brand new fiction feels pretty good.  I usually get 3-5k words done in those four hours, which is a totally acceptable pace for my goals.

So I’ve decided to start a streak, a writing streak.  I’m going to write every day for at least 20 minutes.  I find writing is like exercise, I don’t necessarily feel up to it instantly, but usually once I’m doing it I feel pretty good and want to keep going.  I’m usually less focused and more distracted on weekends (weekends being when my husband and cat and stuff want my attention most).  But I’m going to keep my streak up.  Every day. Every. Day. 20 minutes minimum.

I’ve also decided what I’m going to do during my streak.  I’m going to focus my efforts this year on the various novel series I already have going.  I’ve set up a calendar of novels and deadlines because I work best to deadlines.  Most of these books are already outlined.  I intend to use weekends for short story writing so that my short story submissions don’t fall behind and because shorts are awesome.  One and done.  One day (sometimes two) and I’m finished.  They are very satisfying.  When stuck in the middle of a novel, it is nice to remember what finishing something feels like, so I like to do short stories to mix things up.

So here’s the rough deadline schedule:

Wrath (Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division Book 2): March 19th

The Raven King (Cymru that Could Be: Book 2): April 29th

Delilah in Paradise: June 10th

Beyond Casimir (Lorian Archive: Book 2): July 22nd

Casimir Rising (Lorian Archive: Book 3): September 2nd

Hunger (Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division Book 3): September 23rd

The City is Still Hungry (A Remy Pigeon mystery): November 4th

Vainglory (Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division Book 4): November 25th

Delilah in Hell: December 30th

The Slow Beat Down (A Remy Pigeon mystery): February 10th, 2012

Sindra’s Storm (possibly a duology): March 23rd, 2012

So that’s the schedule.  Unless, of course, a giant wrench gets thrown in it due to either success (like a contract or two) or disaster (but hey, I could still type in a hospital bed, so I’m good, right?).  And of course keep the streak up and hopefully get 52 stories written and submitted.  I’ve done two shorts so far this year.  I’m a little behind.

Go go gadget streak writer *grin*

2010 Recap

This is the obligatory post where I look at my goals from last year and then see where I stand on them now, a year later.

Goal 1. Write 4 novels and submit them
Well, I have three submitted. So that’s not a total fail. I’m short one novel, but will have it ready by Feb.

Goal 2. Have at least 30 short stories in my folders and keep them out on markets until they sell or have nowhere to go
This is a win. I have over 30 short stories in my folders and have been pretty good about keeping them out until they sell (and some have even sold, crazy!).

Goal 3. Finish everything I start
This is a fail for a couple reasons. I started a Middle Grade novel back in June, got about 12k words into it, and quit. I don’t know if I’ll return to it because I just wasn’t feeling the love with the story. I mean, I like the story, but I wasn’t so keen on that whole “middle grade” thing and kept wanting to do horrible things that young people probably don’t want to read about. So it might turn into a weird novella for e-publishing.
I also decided to work on beginnings this fall and toward that end started a bunch of short stories without finishing them. I will finish them at some point (probably during the story a week challenge next year).

Goal 4. Submit everything I finish
Win. I’ve been crazy good about getting stuff into the mail.

Goal 5. Keep track of receipts and other things for taxes (I was abominable about it this last year, sigh)
Mostly a win. I know I’ve lost track of some receipts and I wasn’t sure about what counted or not for others, but I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping track of the big stuff (putting it all into a spreadsheet soon is going to be scary. I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve spent at the post office and on workshops etc…).

Goal 6. Try writing at least three things outside my genre comforts (mystery, horror, erotica, something…)
Win. I wrote an entire mystery novel, I’ve been messing around with erotica, and I’m about to start a romance novel. I’ve definitely been writing outside the comfort zone.

Goal 7. Keep going, never look back, never surrender and all that
Well, I haven’t given up yet :)

Basically, I did pretty well this year. I sold three short stories, got a Semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, learned how to put stuff up on Kindle, and wrote almost 350,000 words. I missed my word count goal by about 100,000 but I ran into snags this year that I couldn’t foresee, so I don’t feel that annoyed. I got a lot done, by any measure. And next year is going to be even bigger. I’m just getting warmed up.

2011 Goals (The Numbers)

Yeah, yeah.  It’s only December, which is pretty early to be making a goals post for the new year.  But I’m a rebel or something.  And I’ve been looking back on this year and then looking ahead and figuring out what I want to accomplish.  So this post will be purely the numbers without specifics.  I’ll do another post on the specifics (things to work on, etc) at a more traditional time (like say, January 1st?).

This last year was all about building up my magic bakery and figuring out a lot of things about my writing style and working modes.  I’ll do a full summary post about how this year went sometime this month.  But the short version is that by February I’ll have four novels out to traditional publishers in four different genres.  That’s a decent start to my bakery.  I’ll also have about 25-35 short stories out to markets (depending on many factors like hopefully sales).  That’s a good start, too.

2011 is going to be all about taking it up a notch and all about dipping my feet (and legs and body) into the e-publishing world.  I’m going to be writing novels and novellas almost exclusively for e-publishing next year while I continue to shop around those four novels with trad publishers.  I’m not ruling out writing a novel or two for trad publishing next year, but it won’t be my focus (unless I get a contract and have to write a sequel or something.  But that’s the sort of hiccup in a plan you hope for, not count on).

Besides getting my feet wet with e-publishing, my main goal this year is to get more consistent with my writing.  I’m a bit of a binge writer and I’d like to stop being so all or nothing and work more on just getting *something* done most days of the week.  I’m a generally competitive person, so to further this goal I’ve undertaken a couple of challenges that will hopefully (and are so far) spur me to get just more done in general.

The first challenge is with a friend of mine and the goal is to write 100,000 words a month.  That’s about 5k words a day, 5 days a week.  So about 4-6 hours of work, 5 days a week.  I tried this in November but got derailed at the halfway mark due to wrist pain and some other health issues, but I’ve adjusted my workspace and am working on the other things, so hopefully that will no longer stand in my way.  However, I’m still not sure that, as a naturally shorter length writer, I can quite manage 100k words a month.  So I’ll probably just owe her a lot of dinners since I’m setting my goal at about 75,000 words, which works out to 2500 words a day, 30 days out of the month, or 3750 words if I only work 5 days a week.  Which is 2-4 hours of writing a day, and completely doable even with wrist issues because I can break it down with lots of rest periods.

The second challenge is the story a week challenge.  Ray Bradbury did this, writing one story and submitting it each week.  We all know how well that worked out for him.  Some other writers I know have started the challenge and are calling it the “Write 1 Sub 1” challenge.  The title there will link to the website detailing the challenge.  With short stories I’ll be sending them to all the pro-paying magazines first before putting together any collections for e-publication.  I intend to bring back my old “Short Story Monday” thing for this, so that each Monday will be dedicated to writing a short story and submitting it by Friday.

Ideally, over all, my goals break down thusly:

900,000 words total by end of December 2011.

240,000 words of full length novels for e-pub or trad pub.

200,000 words of shorter novels for e-pub.

300,000 words of novellas for e-pub.

160,000 words of short fiction for pro-paying magazines and/or e-pub.

That’s the numbers for 2011.  It looks like a lot, but it breaks down to under 3 hours of writing a day, which really isn’t that much.  Writing is my job and I damn well better be willing to put at least 2-3 hours a day of work into my job.  Fortunately, having to do only 3 hours or so of writing a day means I’ll have plenty of time to put in the hours for the things that aren’t writing, like formatting, editing, wasting time online (ahem, I mean…researching!), reading, playing videogames, etc.  What? Videogames are totally integral to my job. Really. Seriously.  It’s…uh… consumption of story!  Vital. Totally vital.

That Time of Year Again, or NaNoWriMo

I’ve technically done Nanowrimo (or National Novel Writing Month) three times now.  I’ve “won” it twice.  Last year I intended to be a nano rebel and do a short story a day for the month until my brain got hijacked by insomnia.  This year I’m going for a hybrid of sorts.  I’m going to write a 45-55k novel and also aim to complete 11 short stories.  I predict this will be 90-100k words this month.

There are many conflicting opinions about NaNoWriMo.  Some seem to feel that it encourages bad writing, and for people to try to publish bad writing in the after months (I’ve even seen some agent blogs complaining that they get nano novels in December and how annoying that is).  My personal opinion is that NaNo is what you make of it.  If you want to write a crazy book that is full of in-jokes, word and plot prompts, and probably something only your mother will love, go ahead.  I don’t care.  Doesn’t bug me a bit.  Writing is fun, or I wouldn’t be doing it.

If you want to write a novel with the goal for publication? Do that.  Is it possible to write 50,000+ good words in a month? Hell yes.  In fact, many professional writers do it all the time.  It’s simple to do if you carve out the writing time.  Here, I’ll do the math for my own plans:

11 short stories: word count on this will vary.  I’m aiming for between 2500 and 7500 words per story.  A 7500 word story takes me generally 6-9 hours to write (depending on multiple factors like plotting, research, etc).  Most of my stories tend to fall in the 4-5k word range, so we’ll say 55,000 words from shorts.  That’s about 55-60 hours of writing at my usual pace.

Then the novel.  I’m going for 45-55k words, which is a short novel.  But this novel isn’t going to be shopped to traditional publishing.  It’s going to be e-pubbed (after first readers and a professional editor see it, of course. I wouldn’t put a rough draft up for sale, clearly).  My natural length for novels is fairly short, so I think this is a good length and a pace I can keep up for four books a year.  The novel will likely take about 70 hours of work (I’ve done a lot of world-building and pre-planning over the last year, so now what’s left is to write the damn thing).

70+60=130 hours of work in a month.  130/30= 4.3333333 hours a day.  That’s right.  A bit over four hours a day.  When was the last time you worked a four hour day?  Writing is my sole source of employment, so there’s really no reason I can’t put four hours a day into it.  My actual plan is to put six or seven hours a day in on weekdays and whatever I can fit in on weekends.  November is  full of weddings, baptisms, parties, Thanksgiving, etc for me, so I know I won’t be able to find hours every single day.  Hence the over-writing on some days so I can have slack time for when things come up (because when in life don’t things come up, right?).

So that’s my NaNoWriMo plan.  I’m on the nanowrimo.org website under “izanobu” if anyone is doing it and wants to be buddies there (progress bars are fun!).

Good luck to everyone going along on the fun of NaNo!

Link SMASH!

I have website!

My official Annie Bellet website is now live.  There are still some tweaks happening, and content will be added, but the basics are in place (including an awesome header image by my friend Greg).  Go HERE to visit.

The official Pyrrh Project website (my soon to be here e-pub series put out through Doomed Muse press) is also live.  There isn’t much content yet, but it’s being tweaked and produced and there will be more stuff added to that site as well over the coming months.  But the publication schedule is up, at least.  Go HERE and bookmark it so you don’t miss any announcements/freebies etc.

That’s that for now.

(More) Things I Learned about Novels

The novel is finished.  It’s the third one I’ve written (well, that I count, because the early attempts were just that…attempts).

This novel kicked my ass.  I don’t think I’ve ever found a writing project to be so difficult before.  But I learned some valuable lessons.

1) In the future when choosing to write a novel in a genre I’ve never so much as tried writing a short story in, allow more time than I think I’ll need.  A lot more.  Like twice as much or better.  This will be very important to keep in mind if I’m ever under contract, because I’ll need to allow for a further out deadline than I might otherwise.

2) Just because a book has a lot going on and multiple points of view doesn’t mean it will be long.  I figured that once I added a third semi-major view-point character that I’d be good on the length problem.  No the case (though closer than the book would have come otherwise).

3) Fast pacing doesn’t mean skipping description.  I think I also finally started to grasp the idea that “setting is character opinion” better in this book, so even if the rest of it is a giant fail, I got to practice pacing and setting.

4) It doesn’t have to be good, because frankly, in the middle of a book, I don’t even know what good is anyway.  All I can see is the thousands of words standing in the way of finishing and the giant mess that might be on the page behind me.  Done is good.  Done is my new definition of good.

So.  That’s over.  Now, if my brain will stop trying to write sequels, I’m going back to short fiction and working on the e-book project until the end of the year.  I miss short fiction.  Being able to begin and end something in a single session sounds like heaven right now.  And I’ve got five (yes…five! I’m so behind on admin work) stories that need to go out to markets.

As for the finished book, I have no idea.  It’s being workshopped this next weekend and the query will go out to editors.  I’ve given it to a couple first readers as well.  Whenever they get back to me is when I’ll drag it out into daylight again and see about adding enough words (5-7k should do it) to make it commercially viable.  Unless it gets a full request before then, in which case I’ll go into panic mode and do whatever needs doing at that point.

So… The Eeeevolution

No, this post isn’t about evolution.  It doesn’t matter what I think about evolution anyway because I choose to believe in the Flat Earth theory, which has hot light and cold light and an anti-moon and… (I’m kidding here. Seriously. But google Flat Earth Society if you really really really have to).

This post is about the e-book revolution or whatever you want to call it and some of my history/thoughts at the moment on the whole thing.

About a year and a half ago I decided that this writing thing was for me and that I should give it a real go.  I found a blog called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by an author named JA Konrath.  It kind of blew my mind in many ways for many reasons.  Relevant to this particular topic is that Konrath is currently making a very cushy living doing e-books (he’s also traditionally published) and is very candid about his path and where he’s at.

Back then I figured that self publishing was still pretty much the same as vanity publishing and not really an option for what I wanted.  That’s changed, clearly.  I decided to keep reading everything I could find about ebooks and to follow Konrath’s posts and the comments (more and more e-authors post good comments on his posts, and comments online can be gold.  Except on you-tube, and sometimes even then).

Konrath posits that all you need for success as an ebook author are four basic things (and I’m way paraphrasing from memory, so forgive any inaccuracies, they are mine and not Konrath’s):  1) a good book 2) a good cover 3) a good blurb 4)  a low price point (he recommends, I believe, under 5 dollars).  I don’t think being traditionally published hurts, but he does have an interesting point.

About six months ago, I decided that I would get my feet wet with ebooks in a big way as soon as I fulfilled a couple of conditions.  The first was to sell at least two short stories and be getting more personal than form rejections.  The second was to have a couple more novels for traditional publishing written and submitted.

I set the first condition because that is where I felt my writing would need to be, ie at a level that has proven it can sell, before I would be comfortable with trying to achieve tenant one of the checklist (write a good book).  I set the second condition because a) writing is practice and having a few books written before I write more books is always good and b) I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking away too much time from other parts of my business plan.

I have fulfilled condition one and will have soon fulfilled condition two.  Which means that starting early next year, I’ll be going ahead with operation e-book experiment in which I plan to put Konrath’s theory to the test.  The publishing world is changing, there’s no doubt about that.   This might be paper book nostalgia talking, but I lean toward trad publishing doing all right in the end and sticking around.  I don’t think the big publishers are going anywhere anytime soon.  But e-books aren’t going to either, and I see really no way the author who stays on top of this stuff can lose.

Look at the porn industry (stay with me now…).  The internet caused a huge shake-up in porn. Huge.  The giant piles of money turned into more disparate piles of money because suddenly everyone with a camera could produce and distribute porn.  Sound familiar? But there is still porn. And still money to be made in porn, lots of money.  Even for amateurs.   I look at publishing the same way*.  Things are going to change, but books won’t go away.  The author provides the product and as long as people want to read, there will be demand for what I do for a living.

So basically, conditions fulfilled, I’m jumping on the e-train.  Stay tuned for a post about the specifics in another month or two (as soon as I have some cover art for a preview, perhaps?).  I think the future for authors lies somewhere in the happy middle between trad and indy.  They are both ways to make money, to find readers and connect with an audience.  Each has advantages and disadvantages, and I think there is, in the end, a way to get a bit of the best of both worlds.

*I just know that somehow I’m going to get flack about this porn/publishing analogy. Sigh.

Deadline!

Well, today (the 10th) has passed me by.  And no, the novel is not done.  It’s close, but not quite there.  Oops.

However, I think I know what factors have gone into my total fail to finish on time (mind you, I have some leeway, I set my deadline a little ahead of the actual doomsday because I always try to factor in life things).

First and foremost, a lack of focus.  I’ve actually written quite a few words in the last month (need to update my progress meters, I’ll get around to it), but on multiple projects instead of just focusing down one project at a time.  I switched which novel I wanted to do and lost about a week of productivity before I realized that I didn’t have the time I needed to write that novel.  I could really use that week back (if I’d stayed with the current novel, I’d be done!).  So I’ve learned my lesson there about multiple projects.

Second, writing in a wholly new genre involves a learning curve and the work definitely goes more slowly.  I’ve been working very hard on getting a thriller pace and character milieu and all the other things that come with writing a book like this.  It’s been slower going and a lot of second-guessing and pep talks to myself these last few months.  Didn’t plan on that. But hey, now I know.

Third, I’m sick.  First was migraines, then they left a nasty cold in their wake.  It sucks. Writing while my head is a fog from drugs or stuffiness or fever is lame.  I’m pushing through because I have to, but it ain’t fun and I’m making mistakes in the manuscript.  Caught one today where I’d changed a character’s name mid-book.  Yay for find/replace.

So yeah, /end whine.  I will finish this novel sometime this week.  And then my Q4 entry for WotF which I haven’t even really thought much about.  Then… well, I’ll tackle that once I hit Sept 30th.  Until then, the novel and my Q4 entry are my focus.  That’s what is up with me.  Getting toward the wire, time to work.

(In happy news, I got the proof for my Contrary Magazine story, and that was pretty cool. It’ll be up soon!)

Another Quickie Post, Another Sale

I’m deep in the middle of “oh god oh god we’re all gonna die (before I finish this novel)” land, so this will be a quick post.

First, I sold another story.  My story “Insect Effect” will appear in the next issue of Contrary Magazine.  Does that title sound familiar? It should, because I put it up on Kindle.  See, I somehow mis-marked my submissions records and had the story listed as rejected.  Totally my fault.  Fortunately, the folks at Contrary were kind enough to overlook that (the story is down now, and won’t be available again except at the magazine until after the contracted date).  But it sure has taught me a lesson in double checking everything before doing anything that might compromise a sale.  Fortunately this time I don’t have to pay for my mistake and my story still gets published by an awesome ‘zine.  (They have some very odd, surreal, and beautiful stories, I’m happy that my odd and surreal story gets to be among them).

Well, my Friday novel deadline is looming tall.  Time to drink another monster, stab the short story plot demons in my head (seriously, my brain wants to go back to short fiction. It keeps trying to escape) and go right back to the novel.  I’m almost through the swampy middle and into the home stretch.  Writing a thriller has been different and more challenging than either of my other novels to date, but I think I’m learning a ton doing this, and hopefully will have a kick-ass book at the end.  But first… I gotta get to the end.