Tag Archives: publishing

Dear Writer: STOP Releasing So Many Novels!

As I’m sure you know, dear readers (or Mom… Hi, Mom!), I’ve come to a couple realizations over the past year or so since the release of my first novel. The biggest revelation, the one where I decided to go back to writing for myself, I’ve written about extensively already, and you can read that post here (plus, there’s a potato! Who doesn’t like potatoes?!).

Scalloped Potatoes

Hmm… Scalloped potatoes…

But the focus of this post will be on something I’ve wanted to say for a long time, but I’ve been a little wary of the potential backlash I might face. I’d first like to preface this by saying that everyone’s writing/publishing journey is different. Every individual writer is unique, and what works well for one writer may not work well for another. And that’s two-fold: I acknowledge that what I’m about to say is simply my opinion, and it by no means is meant to shame other authors or demean their work. Besides, you do you, fellow writer, you. There are no rules in writing. Well, there are, but you know…

Okay, deep breath. Here goes.

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SLOW DOWN!

I’m not on board with the culture of write-fast, publish-much that’s taken hold of the publishing industry lately. Okay, amendment: I’m not on board with the culture of write-fast, publish-much that’s taking place in the indie author sphere (because, let’s be real, long production times are the norm, albeit necessary, with a traditional publisher).

What is the write-fastpublish-much culture, you ask? Today in the publishing industry, especially in the indie-author market, quantity is king. I’m not saying that quality isn’t being taken into account, because to some extent it probably is, but there is a new mantra for indie authors like myself: write a lot and publish as often as possible. That means that some authors are publishing three or more novels a year, sometimes as many as ten novels a year.

“But that’s not a bad thing, Michael,” you protest. “If I write three or more novels a year, and I’m able to release them, whether through a small press or a self-publisher or on creased rolls of toilet paper, why shouldn’t I? Besides, I’m building my brand, and to expedite the process, I’m growing a catalog  of my titles so that readers can discover my work.”

Well, in my opinion, there is a big problem with that mentality.

The Eternal Quality vs. Quantity Conundrum

I’m not going to lie, I judge authors who feel the need to release more than two books a year. Okay, second amendment (and I’ll be generous): I judge authors who release three or more books within a year ESPECIALLY if the three books are not part of the same series. I’m sorry: a writing career shouldn’t be a puppy mill of stream-of-consciousness vanity projects. I just don’t see how anyone has the time to publish more than three novels a year AND maintain consistent literary quality.

To me, releasing novels rapid-fire-style is indicative of premature work. If five or ten or *gasp* fifteen individual novels are being released per year, how much time was spent on each one? How many drafts did you write? How long did you spend on developmental editing? Copy editing? Proofreading? Getting notes from beta-readers? What about that break you should take between the final edit and the final read-through to clear your palate? I’m pretty sure a single evening of binge-watching Netflix doesn’t count.

Sure, if you’re a full-time writer and you have a really quick team of beta-reader/editor-robots, you could have a really good, polished manuscript in a year. Eight months if you’re lucky. But a quality novel every month and a half? I just don’t believe it’s possible. Sure, if you have a back catalog of novels you’ve written since childhood and you think they’re all ready to go at the same time, by all means, release away. But three or more is overwhelming, and did you ever think that maybe those back-cataloged books are in the past for a reason?

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“You get a new novel! And YOU get a new novel! NEW NOVELS FOR EVERYONE!”

So, where’s the sweet spot? How many novels should you release a year in order to ensure highest quality? I don’t know, frankly. But I have a hunch: unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Shakespeare or Stephen King, or you’ve had independent third parties verify your equivalency, I’d focus more on the quality of your work and not on the quantity if I were you.

And Now: A Moment for Cheese

Because let’s be real. The number of books released in a year is just that: a number. The ratio of novels to years is arbitrary. But you know what’s not? Quality. In my opinion, books are like good cheese or wine. Good cheese and wine need time to grow–time to mature. That’s why older cheeses and older wines are more expensive: they’re better because they’ve been given time to sort their sh*t out. I’m just doubtful that the sixth novel you’ve released this year is any good.

What’s the rush for? Take your time. Be the aged cheddar of the publishing industry: digestable and dependable and a classic. Be the brie: smooth and double-creamed served with red pepper jam. Hell, be blue cheese: an acquired taste but oh-so-prolific.

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Please excuse my drooling.

Just don’t be processed cheese. Got it?

But wait!

I’m not saying it’s not possible to draft a novel in a month or less. That happens all the time, and even though sometimes I take  upwards of a year to complete the first draft of one of my novels, I know that is not the norm. Drafting a novel quickly is not the problem; rather, the problem is releasing everything that touches a Word document within six months of conception in an attempt to inflate the number of works attached to your name.

What do you think? Is it a good idea to release a lot of novels in a short time span? How many books will you release this year?

My State of the Union Address (Why I Quit Writing)

The long and short of this post is that I’d like to say that 2015 was a mess: a good mess in some ways, and a terrible, pull-my-hair-out-and-cry mess in others. I’ve debated about doing this blog post for a while because I’m not really sure what will come of it, let alone where it will go or what it will and will not talk about. But I’ve decided to just do it (in lieu of the freelance editing I *should* be doing, lol) because I think I owe some people an explanation (and a blog post or two) and I definitely owe myself the release of saying some things and letting them go.

So, without further ado, this is my February 2016 State of the Union Address, the state referring to my state (more mental state than anything, as my hobbit stature leaves little to be desired) and the union being my writing career.

Also, I’ve been watching the US primaries on TV a lot lately, and I’m quite political at the moment. But that’s for another post…

First things first, let’s paint the scene: it’s March 2015, I’m working a 9-to-5, I’m getting paid well enough, but my contract is ending at the beginning of April and I know I’ll be flung into the jobless abyss soon enough. But that’s okay! I have a novel releasing in May and dreams of being self-employed as a freelance writer and editor while continuing to work on my fiction career, so I’m hopeful.

Spring 2015 comes, and I’m in the thick of doing final prep for my debut novel “The Black Oracle“. I’m working tirelessly at a freelance writing career, making modest returns but ultimately working more hours than I’m being paid for. At one point, I calculated I was working for $5.00 Canadian an hour after all was said and done — and that was when I was being paid… (We won’t mention the guy who commissioned work and then, when payment time came, disappeared off the face of the world). But again, it’s okay! This is what being a struggling artist is all about, right? I’m happy (tired, but happy), and I feel like I’m moving in a direction that I like, and at the end of the day, I’ve always said I’d rather be poor and happy than rich and miserable. And to prove that, I take a trip to Calgary the week before my release date to celebrate.

And then it’s release day! Copies of “The Black Oracle” arrive at my house, purchase links go live online, and to top it off, an agent (yes, a REAL, live, accomplished agent! THEY EXIST!) responds to a query for a separate novel and says she’s interested in reading it in full. Five days later, I’m at my book launch event, and friends and family and even people I don’t know are buying my book, and even though I’ve only had one hour of sleep (‘cuz I partied a touch too hard the night before), it’s a success!

Needless to say, I’m on top of the world. My dream is coming true right in front of my eyes, and I’m doing everything I said I was one day gonna do. Take that naysayers!

But at that moment, that’s where everything started to fall apart.

I can’t pinpoint why it happened, but it started around June. For lack of a better word, I started to become depressed. This isn’t a woe-is-me post, and I promise I’m not going to focus on this for too long because the POINT of this post is still to come, but the truth is, I just wasn’t happy anymore. After the initial sales bump of The Black Oracle’s release, sales fell drastically. No one was reading my book, few people were reviewing it (even when I was offering it for free), and I fumbled on marketing the book (mostly because I just didn’t know what to do). Further, the agent decided she didn’t want to represent my next novel (which is completely okay!), and the signings I went to depressed me more than anything. For most of them, I sat in the back of a bookstore while customers avoided eye contact and my cookies (who avoids cookies, though, for real?).

This feeling peaked in July after the final signing I went to. I carried my box of books into the store in the pouring rain (pathetic fallacy, much?) and literally did not sell a single copy over the two-hour signing. To add insult to injury, the manager of the store came up to me after the signing was over and told me that I should be more interesting. As an introvert, not only do I not know how to be more interesting, but I wasn’t even sure what that would mean (“Should I dance? Do readers like it when authors dance?”).

Besides, was I not interesting enough already?

The next few months were hard for me. I stopped marketing completely. I stopped looking for freelance work completely and watched my income plummet. I couldn’t write anything, and when I tried, I just made myself angry, like delete-my-document, throw-my-laptop angry. I remember one day talking to my mum on the phone and practically crying.

On top of it, I was for all intents and purposes unemployed. I was unproductive and unhappy. I focused on side projects and watched them crash and burn. I was ashamed and upset and embarrassed for myself and for my work. I was a failure, and I felt like I was wasting time on something that I had a hard time identifying with anymore. I was ready to give up writing.

And then I did.

One day, I just decided to stop. I had some writing-related obligations, some of which I finished, others which I flubbed on entirely. But in essence, I had given up. I wasn’t going to write anymore. I didn’t want to write anymore. I stopped writing completely and became focused on getting a full-time job (the one thing I SWORE I would never return to).

And in a way, giving up was exactly what I needed to do.

*Cue turning point in post. I apologize for the dramatics.*

In that moment, quitting was good for me. I broke away from writing. I didn’t touch it for four full months (after writing non-stop since I was 15, that was a big thing). I moved back in with my parents. I redecorated my childhood bedroom. I decided to start tutoring French and English as a way to create income while I waited for a full-time job (okay, my mum encouraged me, but we made it happen).

And then all at once, the tutoring became the full-time job. I was making enough money to pay the bills (yes, I live with my parents, and I pay bills…). I was tossing around the idea of travelling again and moving out again and starting a business and hiring employees. I noticed my mood was improving (being on unemployment insurance is soul-destroying), and I was enjoying myself more, and I was allowing myself to do things that I hadn’t done in years because I had been so fixated on becoming a full-time writer.

But what was troubling was that I was surviving. I had gone four months without writing, and of course I missed it, but what I didn’t miss was the pressure. I didn’t miss advertising my book and my “brand” to every available ear and eye. I didn’t miss tirelessly emailing reviewers and scouring websites for someone–anyone!–to care about what I was doing. Most of all, I didn’t miss the pressure of writing for some magical, probably non-existent audience that would propel me to the status of full-time writer.

And all of this was troubling because it meant that maybe I could survive without writing. That maybe I was more than my writing.

That maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer.

So, I gave myself a window. I said, “Michael, go back. Write something. See where it goes. If you’re happy, keep going. If you’re not, stop.” I was giving myself the freedom to give up again if I wanted to. I was allowing myself to be creative without worrying about what audiences or editors or literary agents would think.

I was allowing myself to have fun again, something I hadn’t done in years because I had been so obsessed–nay, sick with the pressure of taking my writing and making money on it.

Because what I realized during that time was that I didn’t need to make money on my writing to be successful. I could redefine what success meant to me. If success meant that I never published again but I could have fun doing what I loved doing, then that’s what I was going to do. If success meant writing for myself and not giving a flying f*ck about what would sell or what was marketable or what was interesting (I’m still not over it, bookstore manager!), then that’s what I was going to do.

In short, the purpose of my writing had shifted over the course of 2015, and the focus on the financial side of the arts industry was robbing me of my creativity and depressing me because I was equating sales numbers and review counts with my definition of success. Once I took the money out of the writing equation, once I had stopped freelance writing and editing (minus a few good, reputable contracts), I was left with just the thing I loved in the first place.

And that thing was writing.

So, I’m glad I quit writing. I’m glad I gave up. Quitting writing gave me the opportunity to start to rebuild myself and rebuild my life. I guess the purpose of this post is to say that if you’re in the place that I was at (Editing Note: “In the place that I was at” is sloppy, but I think I’m gonna leave it to make a point), in that place where everything feels hopeless and you’re ready just to give up on your dreams (writing or unrelated), honestly, just do it.

Just give up.

Because if you love it enough, it will come back, and if it doesn’t, maybe it was never meant to be.

Thanks to everyone for sticking by me the past year, and thanks for reading this if you made it all the way through the post.

As per 9gag community etiquette, here’s a potato. Sorry for the long post.

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Wednesday Writerly Update #7

This week’s been a week of ups and downs. Not completely sure what’s to blame for my off mood, but I’ve recoiled a bit in terms of being so scatter-brained and tackling 50,000 things at once, and I’m trying to refocus (successfully?) on what inspires me to write: reading.

Anyways, progress on editing the YA horror novel has stalled. I haven’t edited any of it since last week, and I’m contemplating putting it on vacation indefinitely. The YA contemporary has been planned for what… two weeks now? Yeah, not much progress there either (read: none at all). In better news, the Middle Eastern fantasy novelette has seen an additional 1,000 words which is nice, but it’s nowhere near finished in a first draft form. I did however do another free write (I’m on a roll!), and I hammered out a 4,000 word short story. It’s a horror about teenagers but for adults, and I’m just teasing out plot points now. I’m thinking I’ll add another 2,000 words to fix pacing, develop characters, etc. before starting a comprehensive edit.

As for the NA speculative fiction novel, it is still in limbo. But we shall see, my friends.

Okay, so, goals. I’m not sure I want to make any for the coming week. Frankly, I’m not good at meeting goals. Yes, I like to goal set, but I’m thinking that by attaching expectations to what I’m writing is making me stressed out and a little weary (hence, my weird mood). So, let’s just say I want to write, and it would be nice if I could finish something for the time being.

Now for The Black Oracle news:

  • Reviews have been slowly trickling in which is awesome! If you’ve finished the book and wouldn’t mind leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads, that would be great!
  • In addition to the signing at Roxanne’s Reflections Card and Book Shop in Fergus, Ontario on July 4 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, I have another signing on August 8. That one is at Chapters Woodbridge in Vaughan, Ontario, and will be from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
  • Chapters Woodbridge, you say? Well, yes, “The Black Oracle” is now available at that location. If you’re in the area, drop by and snap a picture of it.
Chapters Woodbridge

Derp faces all around!

Until next week!

Wednesday Writerly Update #6

Good morning!

Just a short update today of my writing progress for Writerly Wednesdays, and an early post at that too because I have a pretty busy day today.

The Inception-meets-The-City-Trilogy NA speculative fiction novel is still in limbo, not quite ready for pre-publication but getting there. I got notes back from a lovely critique partner (check Jessica out! She has a novel coming out soon too, and it’s gonna ROCK!), and her notes have been very helpful.

I’ve started editing my YA horror novel. I’m 20%-ish through a second draft, but there’s a whole lot of work to go. There’s a bunch of plot holes/cliches in the second half of the novel that I need to get rid of, so I’m kind of dreading that. And even then, draft three is going to be just as trying: the tone of the novel isn’t right. I don’t know what will make it right just yet, but it’ll be a process.

OH, and remember that free write from last week? The speculative fiction novel with a Middle Eastern setting? Well, let’s just say it’s been plotted, and an additional 3000 words have been added. Still not sure how I feel about it, but it’s set to be a novelette (around 12,000 words), and there’s a publication I’ve been eyeing if finish the piece and deem it publish-worthy.

So, goals for next week: keep editing the YA horror and maybe even move on to draft three; finish Middle Eastern speculative fiction (I can dream, right?).

As for “The Black Oracle“, there isn’t a whole lot of news to report. I’m still working on some promotion and marketing efforts that will *hopefully* kick off in July. If you’ve read it, though, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I’d love to know what you think!

Until next time!

Wednesday Writerly Update #5

Well, hello!

It’s that day of the week again, the day where I fill you in on my minimal writing progress so that you can feel better about your own word count. And spoiler alert: I didn’t do much writing, but that’s okay because I *thought* about doing some writing, and intention is the first step to progress, right?

Right.

Anyways, I did a free write last week (Thursday? Friday? I don’t know). It was a 500 word scene, presumably some sort of speculative fiction. It has a distinct Middle Eastern edge that I like because I have a fascination with Middle Eastern culture at the moment, and it involves the desert and traveling gypsys. I kind of like it, but I don’t know what to make of it, and I don’t know if I like it because it’s incorporating Middle Eastern culture or if I *actually* think there may be a story there.

In any case, now that my NA Inception-meets-The-City-Trilogy WIP is in that weird limbo between completed self-edits and pre-publication shenanigans, I want to start focusing on other projects. I have the first draft of a YA  Horror novel I wrote over the winter, and the next step is going to be editing that one. I feel like it’s going to take a good bit of rewriting though. My intention was to write a classic horror novel with seances and Ouija boards and the like, but now I need to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of writing stereotypical horror.

Also, I have that YA contemporary WIP that sits at 15,000 words and has been since autumn. It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done (it’s not spec. fiction at all; rather, a drama). I did a chapter-by-chapter outline the other day (which I rarely do) to see if direction would motivate me continue writing, but to be honest, I don’t feel all that motivated.

And lastly, for news pertaining to The Black Oracle:

  • The review tour is winding down, but there are still two stops on June 14th, so if you want to review The Black Oracle, now is the time! You can still review after the tour, of course.
  • The Black Oracle will now be sold at Forster’s Book Garden in Bolton, Ontario (an independent bookstore). Copies should be available shortly. Are you a bookstore owner? Contact me, and we’ll arrange some copies for your store!
  • Some cool promotions are headed your way soon! I have a few ideas in the works for promos over the summer months, so stay tuned.

I hope everyone had a good (and successful) writing week. Until next time!

Filter Words, and Why it Seems You Should Kill Them All

See what I did there?

If you don’t yet know, filter words are words that writers use when they are trying to describe what a character is experiencing. For example, these sentences below could be in any piece of prose (but they aren’t cuz I wrote them):

  • Mary saw that Joe drove his car too quickly for a residential street.
  • It seemed to Mary that Joe drove recklessly, too terribly for someone who ought to know how to drive.
  • Mary heard the tires screech. Mary watched the car swerve.
  • Mary wondered if she should call the cops.
  • She realized she would have to.

So now that we know what they are, why have I decided to devote an entire blog post to them?

Let me tell you a story. First and foremost, I am a writer. It is my dream for my novels to reach readers and for me to spend all my days crafting stories and developing characters and all around having a darn good time. But none of this happens without work. A writer who doesn’t take the time to hone their craft will end up just writing for themselves (which we all say we do, but don’t lie: there’s a *little* part of us that *wants* someone else to read along).

And what has been the best thing for me to hone my craft? It’s been editing other writers’ work. I did it informally for years, and now I work in editing at a publishing house. That work is what helped me name these hideous creatures that I bolded in the examples above and determine why they are so irritating.

Back to the example of Mary and Joe who may or may not have drank a little too much or had too little sleep or may have mixed up his prescription pills by accident. You’ll be happy to know that Mary called the cops, and they caught Joe, and no one was hurt, but the real tragedy wasn’t that Joe’s car got impounded, and he has to take the bus to work. No: it’s the amount of filter words that I used to describe the situation to you.

“Why?” you ask. “What’s so bad about filter words?”

Well, if the example above didn’t already come across to you as annoying, I’d like to point out that filter words create prose that is “filtered” through the eyes of the main character. It’s like hearing something from a friend of a friend of a friend of yours. The story starts to sound passive to the reader, and it doesn’t give the immediateness that readers need to feel involved and invested in a story. Filter words almost make the prose blunted and boring and just… bleh!

Further, most of the time they are unnecessary. For example, if I write “Joe drove his car too quickly for a residential street“, does the reader lose any crucial information if we already know Mary is in her front yard trimming her rose bushes and plotting the death of the neighbor who kept her up until 4 a.m. the night before with his bombastic rap music? No. We can assume that Mary notices Joe’s unsafe driving just by virtue of knowing that she’s outside.

So, can you ever use filter words? Short answer: yes. Sometimes filter words can be essential to a scene or a sentence. Filter words only become a problem when they are part of every sentence. Maybe it’s because I edit professionally now, but I find that too many filter words make me cringe. And you’d be surprised how many get used in any given manuscript. You’d be surprised at how many I found in “The Black Oracle” prior to publication.

Do a ctrl +f in your WIP and look for these words NOW:

  • to see
  • to hear
  • to wonder
  • to realize
  • to watch
  • to look
  • to seem
  • to feel (or feel like)
  • can or to be able to
  • to decide
  • to sound (or sound like)
  • to notice
  • to experience

To finish: filter words should be to prose as garlic is to cooking. A delicate sprinkle is all that’s needed because too much will leave a sour taste in your reader’s mouth and have them wishing they’d bought something else off of Amazon.

How many filter words do you use in your work?

Snapshots of Southern Alberta

I seem to have missed my Writerly Wednesday update, but to be honest, I didn’t do much writing with The Black Oracle’s release being on Monday and because I spent this past weekend in Southern Alberta!

And lucky for you, I have some photos! I flew into Calgary, and though I didn’t spend too much time in the city itself, the trip was amazing. I spent time in Banff National Park, exploring trails around the town of Banff, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon and Falls. I also traveled to Drumheller and went to the Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum and the Horseshoe Badlands.

Check out these photos!

Horseshoe Badlands.

Horseshoe Badlands.

I got photo-bombed by a dinosaur at the Royal Tyrrell Musuem.

I got photo-bombed by a dinosaur at the Royal Tyrrell Musuem.

Banff National Park.

Banff National Park.

Lake Louise all frozen over.

Lake Louise all frozen over.

Just more amazing views in Banff.

Just more amazing views in Banff.

Walking through Johnston Canyon.

Walking through Johnston Canyon.

Also, funny story: we decided to drive across the provincial border to British Columbia. Though we were successful, on our way back we got stuck on the Trans-Canada highway because an avalanche of melting ice blocked the road. An avalanche! We sat in traffic for almost 2 hours. But, what a place to be stuck in traffic.

We made it to British Columbia.

We made it to British Columbia.

View of Calgary from my hotel room.

View of Calgary from my hotel room. Mountains everywhere!

BUT!!

I do have a few writerly updates about The Black Oracle! Check them out:

  • The Black Oracle releases on MONDAY!!! You can pre-order the Kindle edition here and the paperback edition here. They will both be shipped to you on Monday.
  • I wrote a Dear Teen Me post last week where I address the teenage Michael and give him some sound advice.

More posts to come, and I promise I will have an *actual* update next Wednesday.

Authors for Indies Day Recap

Hey everyone,

Just a short post with some photos from this past Saturday’s Authors for Indies Day. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out this post about the Canada-wide, annual event.

All in all, it was a great day! The bookstore was pretty quiet, but in a way, I’m glad. For my first event, I didn’t want hundreds of people to swarm and ask my-awkward-self a billion questions. Instead, I got to hang out with some other awesome writers and meet *hopefully* a few readers for when The Black Oracle comes out.

Check out these photos!

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Look! My name!

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My Mamma and I.

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Derp.

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Me and Roxanne from Roxanne’s Reflections in Fergus.

By the way, the Black Oracle is being released in 21 days!

If you haven’t yet added on Goodreads, check it out now! Do it!

5 Tips to Writing a Successful First Draft (Even if it Sucks)

To date, I’ve completed 4.5 first drafts. I say 4.5 because I have 4 manuscripts of novels that are at various points of editing and publishing, but I also have a fifth manuscript, a contemporary YA that’s on vacation. I say vacation because it’s nicer than saying on hiatus or abandoned or acknowledging that I *may* not be ready to complete it yet.

In any case, writing a first draft is a complicated and emotional process. It’s complicated because you don’t know what you’ll end up with once you start. It’s emotional because of how invested you become: in the story, in the characters, in the frustration that the “art” you’re creating may be nothing more than a carefully-crafted piece of crap.

But worry not: all great literature had to start off as crud. In fact, all those bestsellers you admire yet secretly envy on your bookshelf were probably rejected multiple times.

So check out these 5 tips for completing your heap of crap!

Plan — Or Don’t!

Some writers are planners. Some writers are not. I am a hybrid of the two: I start off by letting things just happen, and then I start to outline, flesh out characters, and plan scenes. I’m a like a liger, if you will. Magic and all.

liger-2

It’s up to each writer to determine what works best for them. Planning can help focus a story, but it can also sap it dry of all its intrigue and leave the writer uninspired to get it finished. I find that when I plan too intensely or too early, this happens to me. Remember that vacation my .5 was on? Yeah… I planned too early. It’s like all the magic is gone, and writing it feels like homework. When that happens, it’s best I back away for some time.

But some writers are the opposite. If they have no plan, they have nothing to hold them to their goal of writing a novel. There are a number of methods out there including chapter-by-chapter breakdowns, pre-completion synopsis writing, and the Snowflake MethodChuck Wendig has a great list of methods to plan your novel.

Don’t Edit

Seriously. DON’T. Put down your red pen. Editing is the kryptonite of writing a first draft. I never do it unless I want to end up in the oblivion of perfection-seeking and aimless toiling. The number one way to self-sabotage your work is by primping and probing too soon. It’s like taking a baby out of their crib, plopping them in the driver seat of a car, and expecting them to win the Indy 500. It will be disastrous simply because they’re not ready.

The same is true for your novel. Your first draft is the infancy of your novel, and should you helicopter-parent too soon, you will experience an adolescence of bad attitude, screaming matches, and underage drinking. You need to give your first draft some space to breathe. Allow yourself to be creative and get your ideas down before you start picking and pulling it apart.

Just Keep Swimming

When it comes to writing a first draft, perseverance is key. It’s easy to entertain an idea, to write the first ten pages of a piece, to daydream about characters and betrayals and plot twists. Heck, it’s fun even! But when the novelty wears off, the only thing that will see you through the middle-manuscript blahs will be your determination to get that sucker finished.

For me, weekly writing goals work. Do I always stick to them? Haha… no. This last week alone I had a writing goal of 2500, and I only made 1600. But, you see, even though I didn’t make my writing goal, I still wrote. I still persevered. I am still determined to complete my manuscript. In fact, my writing goals are more like guidelines. 1600 words is better than none at all, and if I make even half my goal of 2500 words this week, that is 3000 words closer to a completed first draft.

Allow Yourself to Suck

You suck. I suck. Everyone sucks.

Seriously, the first draft sucks. There’s no getting around it. There’s no way to sacrifice a lamb to the demi-gods of the Sahara and write a perfect first draft (but if there is, hook a brother up!). So come to terms with it. Digest it, and make it part of your writing routine. Allow yourself to suck, and writing your first draft will go smoother, I promise.

In fact, once you liberate yourself, you may find that you don’t suck as much as you feared after all.

Expect to Rewrite

If you haven’t realized this by now, I’m sorry to break this to you: your first draft is NEVER the one you show the world. Wallow in self-pity now, aspiring writer, because if you want this, you’re in for the long haul. Even if you manage to nab an agent or an editor off of your first draft alone, they will insist you edit. In fact, my first novel has gone through 12 edits, and it hasn’t even been released yet.

But this isn’t a terrible thing. Your first draft is crap, remember? The only way to make it into gold is by editing. Essentially, the first draft is only half of the task of writing. Editing is where you get to show the reader your storytelling prowess and wow them with your spit-shined, immaculately-constructed prose.

How do you get through a first draft?

5 Ways to Stretch Your Word Count

writing

This time last year, I thought my newest New Adult speculative fiction work-in-progress about the collective subconscious and evil corporations was finished and ready for the world. Since then, I have gotten sidetracked by the release of my first novel entitled The Black Oracle and by the launching of my full-time writing career. During all this time, I have been on a steep learning curve, growing exponentially in the world of writing, publishing, and editing. It wasn’t until I *actually* went to prepare my New Adult speculative fiction novel for publication that I realized I had a problem: the word count of 50,000 words was too short.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. In fact, I’ve already heard it from my critique partner. “When your novel is done, it’s done“. That is to say that once a piece is finished from beginning to end, and it has been edited to the point of being ready for publication, it’s silly to go back. It is what it is, so to speak, even if it is a little short.

But that didn’t stop me from doing research. In fact, Literary Rejections has a fantastic post about standard word counts for all genres, and they peg the average for New Adult at between 60,000 and 80,000 words. “Be the rule, not the exception,” they advise.

And whether or not writers want to admit it, word counts count, and editors and agents judge you on them every. single. day.

So that’s when I decided to pump 10,000 to 15,000 new words into my New Adult speculative fiction novel. Currently, I’m trudging through it, daily word count goals slowly driving me insane. It isn’t easy to add more words to a novel that I thought was finished. I needed a plan. Luckily, I was able to find 5 tricks that help to stretch word counts without adding mindless filler and unproductive storytelling.

Explore Backstory

For me, this is going to be one of the best ways to gain a few thousand words. Writers spend a lot of time fleshing out a character’s past experiences and thinking about how those experiences lead them to their actions within the story. The problem: much of this backstory stays with the author. These character sketches don’t always make it to the finished product.

But why not? Why not make those experiences available to the reader?

Write a good flashback. Have a character tell a story about a past event. Have your main character reflect back on a past event. There are many ways to weave backstory into your plot without writing entirely new scenes and without info-dumping, and doing so is a great way to increase your word count.

Slow Down the Pacing

I must admit, I am a fast-paced sort of writer. I don’t like writing filler scenes, and I don’t like taking my time. I want the action to happen, and I want all my storytelling to be as productive as it can possibly be.

Downside: I write shorter manuscripts. It’s not a crime since some of the bestselling books of all time have been short, but it definitely makes me a touch insecure when I read about word count expectations. So when writing, I try to keep mind to slow my pacing. One of the techniques I use is to plan out my scenes before I write them. Without a plan, I could probably write an entire novel in ten pages (a crappy novel, no doubt).

Secondly, I aim to slow my pacing through my word choices and sentence structures. We live in a society where a lot of description in prose is frowned upon, and though I don’t go all Tolkein-esque and spend pages upon pages detailing trees and rocks, I use my sentences to better flesh out ideas and settings. A longer word count is just a happy by-product of that process.

Develop Your Characters

One-dimensional characters are often the death of a potentially great novel. No one likes to read a character that has no goals, no genuine emotion, no life. The best ways to develop your characters are to give us access to their thoughts and dreams, give them a backstory (see above), and give them reasons for being in your story.

Again, by-product: all of this character development takes a time, thus stretching your word count.

Write a Subplot

This is my favorite word count stretching technique. I love subplots. LOVE. I would write an entire novel of subplots if I could. There’s so much freedom in taking a character and developing their actions into a quasi-separate story. And then when the subplot mixes and mingles with the main plot? Gold. GOLD, I TELL YOU.

Check out this cool post on the different types of subplot and how they can seriously enrich and advance your story.

Make Things Complicated

Last but not least, stay away from easy. This technique sounds like a given, but believe it or not, a lot of authors fail to make their stories complicated and thus interesting. Some stick to the A-event + B-event = Conclusion model, and this is terribly boring.

Give your reader something more. Add additional events to your plot-development equation, ones that make the main character work for their reward. If the story is straightforward and predictable, the reader will also find it straightforward and predictable. Add some uncertainty. Add some misunderstanding. Add some betrayal.

All of this will help to enrich your story and yes, stretch your word count.

Got any techniques for increasing your word count? Do you even bother to try to meet industry or self-imposed word count standards?