Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Novel Update

So, I keep talking about (and blogging about) the Snowflake Method approach to writing a novel.  But exactly how am I doing in this whole process?  Well, let me take this wonderful opportunity to clear up a few things for y'all (I'm not from the south, but sometimes I just like saying that!).

Well, I think it was sometime earlier this year that I finally got the itch to buckle down and do what I had only dreamed about doing to this point: writing a novel and getting it published (and making sales to people who are not related to me, friends with me, or were otherwise paid off to purchase a copy of said novel).  As I had previously blogged about, I had joined a writer's critique group that I helped form, and was off to the races.  Wow, that was almost 4 years ago now!

But, to catch you up to today, I've been following the Snowflake Method myself for my story idea that I had dubbed "Geocache Murder".  I think that I'm going to be changing it to something a little more understandable and relatable - check my link at the top of my blog to see if/when I change it, as that will be the new title.  Anyway, I am currently at Step 9 in the Snowflake Method.  This is the step prior to actually writing out the first draft of the novel.  I'm quite excited to be this far, as I've never gotten so close to finishing a novel.  Don't get me wrong, it's been a lot of work, but it's also been a lot of fun.

I will continue to blog about each step and provide you with some examples of what I've done for each.  I certainly don't have all of the answers, but there is enough of void out there that I feel like I can help others just by showing them a small example of how someone did it.  And I have plenty of other story ideas that I'm going to use this method for as well.  I know now that it works for me, and it helps me to keep my thoughts from straying too far off course.  If all continues to go well, I'm hoping that by mid-summer I'll have my novel available as an ebook and a print book, as well as be working on an audio version of it to release by fall.  Also, because the first time is the hardest for anything, I am hoping now that I'll be able to get out a second novel by the end of the year, but that could be wishful thinking.

If you've ever thought about writing a novel, whether you intend to publish it or not, I ask:  why not start?  I'm giving you a method to accomplish that, I'm providing examples of how I'm doing it, and if you wanted to self-publish, I'll be providing that information as well.  Basically, a blueprint for how to do it yourself.  So get going!  Write that great American novel that you've always wanted to write.  Then drop me a line to let me know how you are doing.  Cheers!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Snowflake Method - Step 3

Welcome to Step 3 of the Snowflake Method of writing.  If you've been following along so far, we've taken baby steps towards the completion of your novel.  In Step 1 of the Snowflake Method, we attempted to distill our story concept down into a single sentence of preferably not more than 15 words.  Tough to do, I know.  Then, in Step 2 of the Snowflake Method, you expanded that single sentence into a full paragraph of 4-5 sentences.  Congratulations, you've made great progress!

In Step 3 of the Snowflake Method, you will now switch gears a little bit and begin to focus on your characters.  But, at this point, we'll only be focused on your MAJOR characters; your MINOR characters will be addressed later on Step 5.  For this step, you will be filling in the following points for each major character:

* The character's name
* A one-sentence summary of the character's storyline
* The character's motivation (what does s/he want abstractly)
* The character's goal (what does s/he want concretely)
* The character's conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching said goal)
* The character's epiphany (what will s/he learn, how will s/he change)
* A one-paragraph summary of the character's storyline

I'm sure you're saying "Wow, you expect me to figure all of this out?"  Well, yes, that is the point!  The work you do now will help to make your story more vibrant, more real, more enjoyable - both to write AND to read.

Now, there are a couple of things at this point that may come up.  You may discover that as you fill out these character profiles that what you originally had from Steps 1 and 2 needs to be changed a little.  This is normal, and actually expected, with the Snowflake Method.  We aren't perfect people, and we learn from our experiences.  So as you make your way through the steps, be prepared to find yourself going back to revise things from earlier steps as you get deeper into your story.  The efforts you make now with these changes will only serve to make things much easier when you are finally at the point of writing your first draft.

Another thing to keep in mind, which I referenced a little just a moment ago, is that you won't have things perfect.  And they don't have to be!  The point of this whole exercise called the Snowflake Method is that it gets you to start putting these ideas down on paper, in a somewhat logical format, and to continually expand on them, building them up.  You will always have a chance to go back and change things, and at some points you'll have to because you'll discover that the action that you thought you would have your heroine perform in the dead of night - she can't, because she could be: a) dead, b) sleeping, c) somewhere else, d) it could be daytime, e) or any other number of things.

Now, for each of your major characters, you should expect to spend an hour, give or take, filling out the above points.  Hopefully you don't have a cast of thousands!  But again, these are important baby steps to get you to the point where many aspiring writers never get to:  The End!

Now, like my previous posts, I'll share with you my Step 3 from one of my major characters.  Enjoy!

Name: Sam “Sammy” Larson
Age: 25
1-Sentence storyline summary: Sammy loves a good adventure, and when a strange geocache shows up, he just has to investigate – consequences be damned.
Motivation: Answers to adventurous questions. He wants to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Goal: To have a great adventure that he can tell stories about for years to come
Conflict: His inquisitiveness sometimes is his undoing; he needs to be more cautious
Epiphany: To late, he realizes the foolishness of his actions, and how they affect his best friend
1-Paragraph storyline summary: Sammy heads out with his best friend John to do some deep-woods camping and geocaching. They are able to start geocaching that Friday evening, and Sammy is ecstatic, and a little creeped out, at what they find in the newly placed geocache that Sammy had discovered earlier before leaving home. Convincing John that they need to find out who put it there and why, Sammy proceeds to get himself trapped in what turns out to be an evil torture room. As he tries to escape, he makes his own situation worse while also endangering the life of his best friend. He realizes the irony of his greatest adventure...and the fact that he may never get to tell it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Konrath Blows Away Notions of Traditional Publishing

So, I'm wandering around my usual haunts this afternoon, and decided that I needed to take a peek at Joe Konrath's blog site.  By the way, I HIGHLY recommend you do as well, if you haven't yet - you can find a link to his site from my "Blogs I Read" on the right side bar.  Do it, do it now!  But then come back...

Okay, so I read his latest entry, then proceeded to the comments section - always a good time.  There's the usual postings about thanking him for sharing his thoughts, yadda yadda yadda (still good for a pick-me-up, BTW).  But then, an Anonymous poster decided to throw his or her thoughts into the mix about why a traditional publisher is still VERY valuable in the publishing world, and not to be a hater, etc., etc.  Oh my, I could almost see Joe just jumping up and down at his computer, chomping at the bit to answer it.  And answer he does!

Behold, I have copied from the comments section of Joe's blog, Joe's responses to the Anonymous posters comments.  I had a righteous laugh too!  (Italics are the Anonymous poster)
This is why I still allow anonymous posts. Because every so often someone engages in intelligent debate.

JA, it's clear you're making lots of $ self-publishing but it's an error to make a broad brush conclusion that "traditional /legacy" publishing is automatically wrong or stupid.

Legacy only wrong and stupid if you're making less than a million bucks a year.

The benefits are print (with distribution momentum and push)

A dying market. Ebooks are now outselling print. Do you want to give a legacy publisher 52.5% for ebooks when print is a subsidiary right?

library shelf space,

I'm on OverDrive now.

bookstore shelf space,

That's like buying real estate on a sinking island.

editing, cover design,

Fixed costs, not worth paying 52.5% in royalties.


Ack! Sorry, just spit Red Bull on my monitor.

reviews (PW, Kirkus etc.)

LOL. How many books have you bought because you read a great Kirkus review?

Contrast that to Amazon reviews. I now have 8 books with more than 100 reviews each.

I think I'm okay in the review dept.

book signings

Double ack! You do know who I am, right?

That and all the other things that come with a publisher is clearly worth something,

Actually, no, they aren't.

not even counting the advance and downstream royalties.

An advance is a loan that costs too much to repay.

And royalties? Hell, I just got $25k in royalties.

It would have been $200k if I had those rights back.

Many people and almost all big authors have concluded that this is the way to go.

Yeah. And lots of people joined the Tea Party too. That doesn't mean it's a smart way to think.

I don't think anyone can say they're wrong. And certainly no one can say that it's not their decision to make.

I can. And I did. And I'll continue to do so.

But thanks for playing.
If you've ever had these questions run through your head at one point or another, consider them answered.  Now, the only question left is...  Why haven't you self-published yet?  Hmmm???

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Am I Crazy For Self-Publishing?

I think the above question is the one that so many indie authors ask themselves, and also have asked of them.  I've certainly asked myself that question.  The answer that I have for myself now, and what others should be saying as well is:  no, I'm not crazy, I'm brilliant!

Now that's a pretty strong statement to make, I'll agree.  But the evidence is becoming more and more overwhelming that the smart money is on self-publishing ebooks rather than going with one of the Big 6 publishing houses (or one of the many smaller publishing houses).  I think the most important aspect to self-publishing ebooks is the length of time people have to find you - essentially unlimited.

Let me expand on that a minute.  With a traditionally published book (and I'm just talking fiction here), the publisher will work to have as big a push at the release date as possible.  Doing interviews, touring, book signings, etc.  The reason?  Because they know that after a while (in many cases a SHORT while), your book, which was the newest thing, won't be the newest thing anymore, and your sales would slip to the point where it isn't economically feasible for them to carry copies in their stores.  And as a book buyer, if I can't find your book on the shelves of the bookstore, the likelihood that I will have them order a copy of your book is slim to none, and slim is riding away in the sunset pretty fast.

Contrast that with ebooks.  Once the ebook has been published and put on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc., as well as possibly your own website, then you don't have just a few weeks to get the word out.  You have months.  And months.  And MONTHS.  And YEARS to work on getting an audience for your book.  Should you try to get an initial push of sales early on?  Yes, I think you should so that you have more copies floating around out there that people will potential share, give, or otherwise put in front of other people's eyes.  That will lead to more sales as people say "Hey, I want a copy of that for myself."  The virtual shelf space is basically unlimited, so your book can remain active and ready for purchase for a very long time.  And when people search for you or your book title, they will find it in stock and ready to buy, which will lead to more money for you.

Here's another thought for you too:  with going the self-publishing route, you maintain control over all of your rights.  Digital, print, foreign, movie, audio, and any other subsidiary right that might be discovered and potentially exploited in the future.  This means that you are the master of your fate.  You can understand exactly what rights you are giving away for each contract, and you should also have a good understanding of what doing so will mean for your pocketbook.  Many publishers' contracts are not balanced in favor of the author.  What?!  I must be joking, right?  Well, no, actually, I'm not kidding.  It pays to read through and fully understand what your contract says.  Trust me when I say that I've seen and dealt with publishing contracts that I wouldn't sign without major changes if I was the author.

In the end, some people might say that I am crazy for self-publishing.  But, I'm convinced they think that way because they are too scared to give it a try themselves.  Why can't you write a novel and put it out as an ebook yourself, even though you have 10 novels under contract right now?  Give it a try and see for yourself.  It isn't that painful, and you might just enjoy the process, and you'll definitely learn a ton.  Happy writing (and self-publishing)!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Smashwords Acquires Amazon!!!

Unbelievable!  And hilarious!!  I know this was for last Friday, but it's still funny.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Snowflake Method - Step 2

So here we are, at Step 2 in the Snowflake Method of writing.  Brief review:  Step 1 of the Snowflake Method involved distilling your story down into a 1-sentence summary.  Difficult, but not impossible.  Step 2 builds on this by having you expand this sentence into a paragraph.  Finally, we're getting somewhere!

Now, Step 2 should take longer than step one, in my opinion, but it doesn't have to.  The recommendation here is that you would want to have at least 4-5 sentences, and probably not more than 6-7.  This is based on my interpretation of Randy's original description.  Randy stated that he liked a 3 Act run for his story, which works out like this:  the first sentence would start setting the scene for the story, the second sentence would be Act 1 (major conflict #1), the third sentence would be Act 2 (major conflict #2 that escalates in scope from conflict #1, the fourth sentence would be Act 3 (major conflict #3 that escalates and expands in scope conflict #2), and then finally the fifth sentence would be the story resolution that ties everything together.

Interestingly, and Randy explains this, is that the work you do here could, and probably should, be used or at least referenced for the back cover of your book - the sales copy that gets someone to actually purchase your book.  Obviously, you don't want to give away the ending of the story (that's why they buy the book!), but you can use a cliffhanger approach to things:  will he make it out alive; will she discover the killer; will they burn up on re-entry; etc.

This paragraph will help to get you to a resolution for the end of your story, while also giving you very important way-points in your story so that you don't get too far afield when you get to actually writing your story.  At this point, you may discover the need for an additional major or minor character, a new location, another thread to a character's back story, etc.  These are all good things, and should be written down for future inclusion with your story.

As I started in Step 1, I'll provide you with what I have for my current story below.  This builds on what I did in Step 1, so you can see the progress that I've made.  These aren't perfect, and I intend to tweak these a bit in the end, but it's a start, and that's all that I need.

Out camping and geocaching in the deep Wisconsin woods, two best friends unwittingly get drawn into a voyeur's murderous game. They start by following a series of clues to an old, abandoned church, where one of them gets trapped in a sinister torture room. While searching for his friend, the other gets lost in an abandoned mine. Desperately trying to escape, they each meet The Woodsman, the voyeur who's been pulling all of the strings. One of them escapes...but can he live long enough to reach help?