An Outline Gone Bad

I have a confession. I’m not perfect. I preach about things a writer should do, more research, better research. An outline so as not to get stuck.
Except that for the last day, I have been stuck. I wrote a total of 900 words give or take. All day. Distractions? Not really. Certainly no worse than normal. I woke up this morning, had coffee and settled myself in to pound out another four thousand words. Thats my goal, right?
Ordinarily yes. Except that I’m not perfect.
When I finished my first book, all my energy went into creating the book covers (Yes, I’m a padawan of the Gimp) and putting everything else together. Meanwhile, I had only outlined the first eighteen chapters of my current WIP. A damn good eighteen chapters, I gotta say. But still, only eighteen. What happened? You say. I thought you said use an outline?
I did. And then I didn’t finish my outline because I was too busy.
So when I sat down to write, I was really hoping the story would come to me, the words would flow like honey, and all would be right with the world. Except that it didn’t, they didn’t, and it wasn’t.
I was stuck. I didn’t know anything about my bad guy, I was at a complete stand still over where to take the story.
For several hours I sat, waiting. This can’t be happening, I thought. I don’t get writer’s Block. I use outlines. All the professionals told me I’d never get it again. Suddenly the doubt crept into the darkness of my mind. I began to feel as if I’d wasted the last few weeks writing crap. I knew the character was unique, the premise sound, so how the hell did I get to the point where I didn’t trust myself enough to get on with it?
So, I did the only thing a sensible guy can do in that situation. I called my father.
My dad’s served as my main editor throughout my budding career. He’s quite possibly a bigger grammar nazi than me. So, out of pure utter desperation, I sent my seventeen chapters to him to read.
He loved it. Not that I was expecting him to dislike it, but he’s ex-military. If he thought something was complete, utter drivel, he’d tell you.

That still didn’t fix my problem, but for some reason that little bit of “hey, you’re not wasting your time” got my creative juices flowing again.I figured out what was next, and evem got the end semi written. Now I just have to get up in the morning and finish that damn outline….

The Long Haul

On many of the blog I follow, there seems to be a resounding theme in much of them. They use words like “marathon” or long term, when speaking about writing. They say stuff like, “it’s not a get rich quick scheme”. This subject came to mind when ruminating about my current situation. I’m currently unemployed. I mentioned that before. I worked for a very large tool company chain setting up new stores, so got to travel a lot. The problem was, I’d be on the road seventeen days at a time, home for three, back out for seventeen, and on and on. So I was getting 3 days off a month, total. We didn’t get any time off on the road, because our store set up schedule was very strict. We had to get in, get done, and get out. The first and last days were spent flying.

When I was hired, I took the job because I was told that I’d have a week home each trip. The week gradually shortened, until it was the 3 weeks on, 3 days off schedule. After about a year and a half of that, being away from my family for such a long period of time, I decided to transfer into a store. A lateral move, I was told. No fuss, no muss, 40 hours a week, weekends off, yada yada. Only, that didn’t happen either.

Long story short, my hours were cut to nothing, and finally the company decided to release me with a “we’ll hire you back on if we need you, you’re still hire-able” that sort of thing.

When my hours were cut I went back to writing. A lot. Now, I’m writing at the very least 6-8 hours a day. I say at the very least because, quite often, it’s more. Sometimes I put in fourteen hours a day. I wouldn’t have been able to do it before. I took the time I was putting into a normal job, and now put it into what I hope is the start of a long writing career. I don’t care about getting rich. I don’t care about having tons of stuff. I just want to be doing something I love, something I actually care about, something I don’t mind pouring 8,10,12 or more hours into a day.

Because I know that, in the end, It will all have been worth it. I know that I have to put in my time. In order to  be successful at anything, you put the time in first. You can relax later.

I’m in this for the long haul. That means treating it like a business. Getting up early, coffee, write first, then blog, tweet, Facebook,  whatever it takes. Make contacts. Gain readers. Like any business, it takes time to grow. I don’t know what my path to success will be. I’m trying to learn from those who went first, and were successful. I have never done this before, I’m taking the leap because I have nowhere to fall. I’m in a position in my life where the only way to go is up, so that’s where I’m going.

Cheers.

 

Oh, the distractions…

Lots of distractions today. Dog woke me at 4am and needed to go out, then again at 8 am. I didn’t get to bed until later than usual due to being a bit keyed up, not sure why.

Father-in-law wanted to go to the library and asked me to go. Naturally I agreed (how can I turn down books?) and went for about an hour.
The thing I’m discovering is that there’s always something else I can be doing. I re-did the banner for my facebook page, edited my book and short story blurbs, and some other odds and ends. I bugged all my facebook friends to like my page (still need about ten likes) and then finally got around to writing. Got stopped again by the wife (love you honey!) to run to the store. Sat, wrote a bit more, now grilling a pork loin for dinner. So far today, with all the distractions, I’ve done 2500 words, or about three short chapters. I’m still on track to hit my 4k, will be writing after dinner and my evening swim. How about you? Did you hit your goals for today?

Smashed words, Formats, and a Ramble.

So tonight after more than a few
attempts, I managed to get my book uploaded to Smashwords. I lost track of how many times, after getting thoroughly frustrated with it. Turns out, its easier than their stupid guide makes it sound, at least for novel writers. I think whoever thought that guide was a good idea either smoked crack, wrote haynes motorcycle manuals (worthless!) or smoked crack AND wrote haynes motorcycle manuals. The guide is NOT straight forward or as easy as they try to make it sound. It needs to be broken into segments based on what you’re trying to do. Novel? Here’s your version.
The biggest help they had on there were two manuscripts that were formatted properly. Those were a bigger help than the guide.
Once I figured out one small detail (msword 2007 doesn’t show the extension when you try to save a document, so instead of a .docx it says “microsoft word document) i was able to upload it. The one error I ran into at that point, is that Smashwords has its own catalog of books, and a “premium” catalog. The regular smashwords one is not as stringent as the premium one, and you need to include their front matter. For example, copyright blah blah, smashwords edition. Once I included that, everything uploaded fine. I’m now past the auto vetting part, and waiting for submission into the premium catalog.
The premium catalog is how you get your books on Sony, Barns and Noble, etc but the book has to pass a higher bar.
I might write a longer post later, explaining how exactly to format a novel, including screenshots. In the mean time though, the steeple house calls.

A Funny Story…

This was humorous to me, and I hope it is to you as well. I’m using this blog to document my experience with self pubbing, and everything that comes with it. I’m still learning the ropes of the business end of things, taking notes from people such as JA Konrath http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/, this person who calls himself Passive guy www.thepassivevoice.com, and a few others. Now, I just listed my book two days ago.

(you can get the book, called THE BROTHERHOOD, here)  I bought my first copy, so I could read it on as many kindles and apps as I could, to make sure the book looked proper. Almost immediately, I sold a second copy. My book is priced at 2.99. Now this isn’t going to be some story about how many thousands of copies I’ve sold. I’ve only sold 2 in 2 days. my copy, and one other. I have spent the last couple days setting up a blog, a website, facebook page, twitter account, and working on my new book, not to mention finding other writers to follow on the blog and twitter.

The funny thing has nothing to do with any of that. About an hour ago, my sister-in-law contacted me via FB. and had this to say. “a small world. My brother’s ex-wife just messaged me and said she was halfway through your book and loved it. She did not realize you were (name deleted)’s brother. of course, I freaked out. Now, I thought perhaps it was some sort of mistake. I use a pseudonym (who doesn’t?) but it’s actually so close to my real name to be almost negligible. What it does is separate me from all the other people on amazon with my name. And believe me, there are tons. If you look on amazon, currently I’m the only Drew Merten on there.  So I questioned her to make sure that she hadn’t downloaded someone elses book. Sure enough, she hadn’t she’d bought the only copy I’ve sold in two days, the same day it came out. That just goes to show it really is a small world. Also, I’m hoping that it means two things.

A: My book really is good. I’m assuming it’s not horrible, since someone I don’t even know likes it.

B: My cover is as catchy as I think it is. Since the only feedback I’ve gotten up to this point is my wife’s, mother-in-law’s, and my dad’s, I can’t be sure. But if it was enough to make someone pick up an unknown novel at the going price of 2.99 and love it, I’m going with it must not be horrible either.

Writing Resources: Scriptito, Editminion, and unfortunately, the power of MS Word

As I sat down to do my daily writing this morning, it occurred to me that I use a couple of things I’m not sure most people know about, and could possibly make use of. I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing, and while the first one doesn’t “improve” anything, it does make some things easier. This will also go into a bit more of my work flow. WARNING! This post also contains  a shameless book plug. (I said book) But hey, it’s my blog!  So here goes.

SCRIPTITO

http://www.scriptito.com

Scriptito is a free online writing website dedicated to letting you write, in their words, “Any time, any where”, and they do an excellent job of it. I wrote my first published novel THE BROTHERHOOD using their site. You can upload your manuscript to their site, and of course it provides a word processor. Under account, there is a preferences section, where it allows you to set font and spacing.  What scriptito does differently than using just an office word program, is that it breaks your manuscript down into chapters, and allows you to, but also into sections (such as Book 1, Book 2, or whatever). I’m not going to give you a complete verbal tool, you can go to their site and check it out. Hey, it’s free! The two best things about scriptito are this: it allows you to write anywhere, and it allows you to export your books into html, text, epub, pdf, and my personal favorite, mobi. As most of you probably know, epub and mobi are the two most used formats for ebooks, and .mobi is the one amazon uses for their books. In fact, I converted mine from scriptito and uploaded it directly into amazon without a hitch. Remember me saying it breaks your book down into chapters? while it makes your book easily to work on (it’s so much better to work on a small chunk than have to scroll through a whole manuscript to get to your chapter) , it also generates the table of contents for you. That means no need to try to work with kindlegen or any other not-so-easy-for-newbies way of getting your book formatted.

While scriptito is free, it has two paid options, but as far as I know both of those are yearly, and just give you more storage. Currently I still have not reached my limit on the free version, and so far I have 1 completed manuscript, a short story, and a WIP,  but I’m going to upgrade to the first yearly option to support further development.

EDITMINION

http://www.editminion.com

This one I use to help edit my manuscript before I pass it on to my poor unpaid editors, in this case my father and wife. Editminion does a lot of things. It identifies things such as weak words, (probably, directly, easily, etc) that aren’t good in a novel unless you’re writing dialogue.  It identifies things like ending in preposition, passive voice, often misspelled words, different variations on the word “said”, and the use of adverbs. You know what else it does? It HIGHLIGHTS them, so you can go through and see where you’ve done all those horrible things I’ve mentioned. Obviously, you don’t have to cut all of those things out, but I personally try to keep them to a minimum and just leave the ones where either I might have to rewrite an entire sentence, there isn’t another word to use in its place, or hell, maybe I just like the word and it looks good on virtual paper. If anything else though, it will make you aware of these things so you can see how to make your writing stronger.

last but not least: The Evil MS Word.

MS WORD

I hate Microsoft. There, I said it. Why? Overpriced comes to mind.  I have other reasons, but I won’t mention them here. I would rather use one of the wonderful open source alternative such as LIBRE OFFICE or OPEN OFFICE. I would rather say that those two do what I need them to do out of the box, making them completely newbie friendly. Which for most people, they do. But they lack two huge (in my opinion of course) out of the box options when it comes to writing books. Those are easy formatting, and lack of really good spell check. Spell check, you say? Yes. Because MS Office does more than just spell check. It literally catches things like Capitals at the beginnings of sentences. Why’s that so important, you ask? Because in my experience, that’s one of the easiest things to over look, next to using its instead of it’s or visa versa. (Which it catches too.) I was using Libre Office exclusively until I ran across these issues. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a wonderful extension for Libre Office that will catch those things too, but I feel it’s something that should come with the program. You download it, you should be done. But for someone who’s never used the program, or isn’t tech savvy enough to find it, it can be a real pain. Heck, it was a pain for me, and I am tech savvy.

I’m sure I will get lambasted by the open-source group for advocating a MS product. Believe me, I feel your pain. If I had the time to figure out how to make formatting work in Libre, I would. But I don’t. I have writing to do. So if one of you wonderful people want to message me, walk me through it, great!
Edit: One thing to note on the subject of Scriptito’s export, is that places like Smashwords and the Pubit! site require an MS manuscript, you can’t upload an epub exported document,

Research: The .22 Short

After my initial  gun post, and the discussion, I went and did some digging. I’m currently on an extended vacation at my inlaw’s house in rural Arkansas. After questioning my father-in-law about the .22 short, he explained that they aren’t illegal, but are in fact hard to find. He spend his boyhood shooting a .22 short rifle.

Comparison of the .22 short, .22 Long, and .22 Long Rifle

He tells me that, at some point, the .22 short became more expensive than the long, so most people started shooting the long instead, and then of course, the long rifle. The short is indeed, very quiet. As you can see, the case is smaller than the Long and the Long Rifle. Both the Long and Long Rifle share a casing, but the Long Rifle’s bullet is larger. Anyway, back to the short.

I asked him if he had any ammo for comparison.( as you can see, he did) He proceeded to take a rifle out of the corner of his reloading room, and a short.

http://youtu.be/Y6es7pCUkxg

Boy was it quiet. it’s a snap, like dropping one of those snap-caps on the ground that you used to be able to buy in stores. My wife and mother were in the sitting room just inside the house and didn’t hear a thing.

While the .22 short isn’t illegal, it is most certainly hard to come by, and super quiet. If you put a silencer on something that fired it, you wouldn’t hear a thing.