So, I usually type these posts on the mornings after the day, but for several reasons, the first half I do on Saturday evening; the rest is Sunday morning. As I write this, I haven’t actually written anything yet, and it’s already 8pm, about time I get some words done. What I have done today, besides catch up on TV, is swimming for two hours. Consecutive, and I wasn’t just paddling around. I really pushed myself, and then just kept on going… listening to podcasts, not some upbeat music that kept me going. That I went to the gym in itself is remarkably, been 4x this week so I really could have stayed home. But after last month’s downtime, I decided that I won’t be using the old “I’d rather work than work out” excuse, because I need to take care of myself first to be able to keep doing what I love. So I swam, for 2 hours, and felt really good about it. Only the second time I ever did this. Later realized that it might not have been the brightest idea when I wash shaking so hard that I almost couldn’t put on my underwear, and still had a 30 min drive home, though the rain, around the woods of Vienna, where a deer running across the street almost smashed into the car in front of me.
Anyway, why am I telling you this, except to brag (just a little bit. To some people I just want to say, hey, I look like a manatee, might as well swim like one, too!)? As I was driving, and musing my way through this blog post to come, I wanted to say something like, doing fine right now, which is awesome. You saw my mind in a bad place a few days ago, this is me doing better, yay! While really, I just wanted to write… so I figured I should add, see, this is “normal” for me, not the start of a hypomanic phase… when I’m so full of energy that I swim for two hours and feel like I could write through the night… yeah. You guessed it. Need a few more days like this but today was def. NOT a normal day! Plus, I feel amazing! Like, really, really good. I’m happy, shit that keeps going on around me doesn’t bother me (compared to my mind sinking into it to the point where it’s an endless cycle of misery and self-loathing. Today I’m like, nah, not going this, moving on, got bigger fish to fry!). I wish I should take a biochemical imprint of my mind from today, label it “preset awesome,” and reload it when I feel myself slipping once more. Because this? This, right now, is just… awesome. I know I overuse that word and it makes me sound way dumber than I am, but I feel awesome. I also feel like the book I’m writing is really good and you all will love it, I don’t care that it might have pacing issues… actually, I don’t think it has pacing issues. Because after how Affliction ended, I’m sure you want to know what happens 2 hours later. And the next day. And a week down the line. So what, I could cut the first 35k or 7 chapters and start the book the way I had intended it to, but really, I was writing those words when I was in my last super productive phase, they flowed, and when I did the first proofread, they didn’t drag. Who complains about an extra 100-140 pages (that are interesting. And awesome!) that you get with the rest of the book, for free? In KU more pages mean more money, so it’s not bad for me, on the contrary. And for the USD 3.99 that the book retails, I feel like you deserve a little extra without having to download the novella from my website. And OMG my mind is DEF. running in more than normal speed, which I feel because after 2 hours of swimming, my fingers are still a little weird and my back muscles def. hurt, so yay! Don’t care. Have fiction to write and people to kill. Soon.
Life is beautiful right now. And amazing. And I’m happy, which after the last weeks I really needed. I’m also happy because the book is progressing well, I’m taking care of myself and even feeding myself well, and we found a good solution for our next summer vacation after not being 100% happy with what we did the last 2 years. Was great, was mostly born out of me going from broke to not-so-broke-anymore, but it’s time for a change. Also slept for 8 hours last night, that was nice, even though I woke up with a killer headache. And while the ghost of my last depressive episode is still very fresh on my mind (and in my Bullet Journal. I even stopped doing a monthly tracker for my exercise because it was so depressing to go that almost completely blank. And my word count was abysmal. Yes, I don’t need to catalogue my mood to know I’ve had a few bad weeks, I can simply look at what has been going on.) After seeing the last dregs of that, welcome to the swing side of the insanity that my brain produces. And why so many people who are bipolar don’t want to take mood stabilizers. Depression is hell. And if that’s all you get, please, go get help, because nobody deserves to suffer like this. But what I’m on right now? I don’t want to lose this. I want to keep holding on to this all the time. In fact, everyone should have some of this, every single day in their amazing lives!! Getting a little concerned about the racing thoughts here, maybe I should lay off the Pepsi max, but I only have 1.5 bottles left so that will have taken care of itself by tomorrow. Very important I told you that, I’m sure your life is so much richer knowing this. Welcome to my brain on hypomania. I’m so glad I’m type 2, because full-blown mania really must be feeling like you’re going insane. I just feel really energetic, like a dog right before a walk, barking, jumping, running circles, ready to be OUT!! Time to get off the blog and into crushing that daily word count (while my guy starts reading the first 17 chapters of said book to let me know if I’m right in that the beginning is good, and this is not just my “I’m large than life awesome!” brain weirdness telling me shit again and making me incapable of judging what I write. Everyone should have an alpha reader like that, particularly if they can’t trust their own judgment half of the time.)
And now for the Sunday part:
(side note: Still feeling good, and didn’t get much sleep yet jumped out of bed at 7am. Seems like I’m all caught up on my sleep backlog.)
Because I’ve been promising it in the past and haven’t delivered it yet, and it came up in the facebook group: A few words about the process of writing a book. Grab some coffee or tea, this is going to be a longer post (writing it while doing some nice Sunday morning TV binging. Hey, I need to watch TV as it’s inspiring. Seriously. I know, best job in the world, right?)
Concept and outline: hours to decades
The very beginning of any story, and the part that’s the least precise. I’ve outlined stories in days, like the short story in the recent anthology. I’ve started writing on an epic fantasy story when I was 13 (up until graduating from high school), and I’m still turning that over and over in my head to one day be able to do it justice. Not sure I will ever get to that. Maybe once my backlist makes enough so I don’t need a release every few months to be able to pay the bills. There’s no rhyme or reason to this part of the process as it just happens in my mind. I’m always plotting one story or another up there. Brushing my teeth, waiting for the train (and often, the consecutive train ride as well), you name it. It’s the part that feels the most natural to me, and what’s impossible to explain, really. I do the most thinking of the recent project that I’m writing, but sometimes, I love to switch it up. Only takes me about an hour or so if I make bigger changes to rearrange an entire book. It happens!
Writing the book: 1-4 months, usually – 35-40% This is the part you know I do, or I presume that’s the case, but the actual writing part takes up less than 50% of my time, with some light rewrites. That’s pretty much me spewing out words that should form a cohesive story. Transcribing the movie that I’ve built in my head and fine-tuned to the point where I can write it. Plus some additions, minus some points that are redundant. I write in a linear fashion, so if I change something, it usually affects only the parts not yet written.
Proofreading & editing: 25%
I write a moderately clean first draft, with maybe 1-5 things that need changing on each page. Some of the cleanup I do right in my Scrivener file, but I find more issues when I print it out, in 8 pt. font, 1.5 spaced, on paper, and then go over it with colored markers. Never red because that reminds me too much of school, I favor light blues, or recently, orange ink. I also proofread and edit on my iPad. Once the draft is cleaned up, it goes to my editor (two rounds) and beta readers. That part takes about a month. After all those rounds of making changes, I use the text-to-speech tool of my mac to read the entire book to me again. That’s painful, but is awesome for finding homonyms and things the reading mind, even in editing mode, skips over. All in all, I probably go through the text somewhere between six to ten times. That’s not that I’m more or less a pro, have deadlines, trust in my writing, and know what I’m doing. It used to be way worse. My first first novel had four entire drafts and three completely different versions. Now it’s usually one version with only very few variations.
I spend at least 2 weeks just editing, one after the draft is done, and one directly before publications. Least favorite part of the process. I try to do some of it while I’m still writing, just to make that a little more bearable.
Once the audiobook is ready, I need about 2-5 days to listen through it all so I can tell my narrator/producer if there are any changes to be made so I can approve it. Depending on how things are, that means an entire week.
Post-production, layout, stats, accounting: 10%
Books might look like just text, but really, you need to format them. You need a cover, and even if you don’t do that yourself, you spend hours going back and forth with your cover artist. You need to check your stats and track something, at the very least your expenses. All that can eat hours at a time, maybe even days. I’m running a business, I can’t just play all the time. It takes me a few hours to do the ebook formatting, about 3x as much for the paperback. I really like doing that, and usually watch YouTube on the side to keep my brain from powering down.
Marketing, social media, research: 20-25%
I don’t count hanging out with you guys on facebook in the group, or writing these blog posts. That’s my free time. I’m not a heavy marketer, but even so, there are things that need to be done. Even more so, I need to know what works for others, so I spend a substantial time listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and being active in writer forums. The podcasts I now listen to while I swim, so that was six hours this week. Usually it’s around 2-4 (I sometimes hop into the pool without wanting to be bothered by anything). Marketing needs to be tailored to each individual author, series, and book, so even if I get a good idea what someone else did, I still need to test, implement changes, crunch numbers, you name it. I spent over half a year learning how to self-publish before I uploaded my very first book to Amazon, and I still need to put hours into that process each month. You can’t just take a word file, slap on an MS Paint marquee cover, and expect it to sell.
Not giving up: what remains up to 100%
Not much, but sometimes, simply restraining your ambitions and not giving up when something doesn’t work out is work as well.
To sum this all up, I LOVE being a writer. I strongly believe it’s what I’m meant to do. I love this job, but in the end, it IS a job, not just a hobby or something I spend a lot of time with. I work somewhere between 50-70 hours a week, and that’s not counting a lot of extra stuff like reading books on craft, or doing story-related research. That’s kind of part of the writing process. I don’t do all of it every day; there are weeks where I just write, and do minimal other stuff, but accounting, stat tracking, and lining up promos is something I can’t really ignore for long or it will bite me in the ass. I now have systems that work for me, and I try to keep it all afloat so I don’t get bogged down in anything for long that isn’t writing. Like editing. Which I hate, with the vengeance of a thousand hells. But I won’t release a book that’s not the best it can be, and that takes time, so even with all the outside help I now get, I still need to put in those two weeks minimum. I refuse to be one of the writers that hurl out books that are “just good enough,” and accept a 10-20% docking in ratings for all the mistakes that could be avoided with a little more time spent weeding them out. Are there still errors in my books? Yes, and they drive me insane, but there’s no real way to get them all out. Also, I refuse to do lengthier rewrites of already published novels because you’ve read them. You might love exactly the part I’d cull down, and I never want to disappoint you like that. My time is better spent making the next book better than the ones that came before, so that’s what I do. I go back and correct typos if someone tells me about them, and I don’t forget. Which can be an issue sometimes, but I usually correct my master files the day I get a notice, and eventually, that shows up in the published versions as well.
I’m not telling you this to discourage you from becoming a writer yourself. Actually, now is a great time to be a writer, or start being one. A decade ago, all you could do was hope that an agent and publisher would take a chance on you, which always is a years-long process. Now you can teach yourself how to do all the many things you need to do to publish a book, work with freelancers to do the things you cannot do yourself (everyone needs an editor / proofreader. You cannot do a complete self-edit. At the very least, you need someone who tells you if your vision actually works, even if you managed to get the grammar perfect on your own. Which you likely won’t because the brain reads what it knows is there, not what you actually typed) and then release it into the world. All you need then is luck, and the right marketing tools so people will find your book. It doesn’t happen on its own, sadly, although Amazon helps a lot once the algos see that you try to grease them. Then it’s up to the readers to love it, share it, or ignore it. For a single book, all the extra work really isn’t worth it, but right now I have 14 books out there that have vastly different sale numbers but are doing a good job keeping me in business. I definitely plan on adding a shitton more in the next decades. Because this is what I love, and I’m blessed to be able to do it for a living, but it sure isn’t just a passion, or something I do when it strikes my fancy. It may not be a nine-ti-five job, but it requires that I do the work, put in the hours, and get shit done. Some weeks that’s more writing. Some weeks that’s trying to find out how to best position my books on the market and pull in new readers. Some weeks that’s creating brand new worlds in my head. It’s the ideal job for me because it allows me to schedule my own downtimes and work around things that I cannot exactly influence. There’s always something I can do, even if I can’t write. Because writing is only part of what I do, even if it’s the part I love the most. So if you see a writer spending a lot of time on social media, don’t tell them to quit because they should be writing. Chances are, they are hungering for all the human interaction they didn’t get because they just spent ten consecutive hours churning out words. Or they do it while they watch movies for research. Or to make sure their audience is happy and slobbering for the next book. Being a writer is more like a lifestyle than a job, really. Best thing in the world!