Got a busy work week ahead of me, plus I need to get caught up with a few things. Sorry about that.
We’ll be back next week, promise!
Got a busy work week ahead of me, plus I need to get caught up with a few things. Sorry about that.
We’ll be back next week, promise!
After three attempts at starting the Apartment Complex story, I think I finally have it under control. I’ve nailed down the introduction of the characters, established the setting, and started them down Main Plot Line Boulevard.
That was a hell of a lot tougher than I expected. Now for the fun part of writing the rest of it!
In retrospect, I don’t think I had as much of a problem when I was more of a pantser writer. Probably because I didn’t really pay too much attention to such things as weak openings and so on. I just riffed until I got the hang of it and fixed it later. I’ve been trying to move away from that ever since, and let me tell you, it’s harder than it sounds. I’m learning to trust my instincts more, instead of freaking out and getting nowhere.
The irony is that this is exactly what my characters are going through as well. One of the biggest themes of this story is learning to trust someone completely and without any second-guessing. In writing this story so far, I’ve been fighting the Writer Demon — you know the one, the ‘OH GOD THIS IS ALL CRAP’ Demon that wants you to purge all these words and take up golf or something. But I’ve also been fighting it with self-trust. I believe in the story, I know I’ve built up a strong plot and strong characters, so all I need to do is shut that demon down and forge ahead.
This is what I mean by writing without a net. For me it used to mean writing in my old pantsing ways, but now it’s about moving forward despite all my doubts and worries. It’s about trusting that I’ll pull this off, one way or another, and I’ll be proud of the result.
It’s stressful as hell sometimes, but the payoff is almost always worth it.
Earlier this week, just a day after I’d released Meet the Lidwells, I started thinking about a lot of different things related to the writing projects I had going on. I was working out how to publicize the new book while also plugging my trilogy, reading over the chapters of the Apartment Complex story that I was going to read for FOGcon, playing around with my daily words (which are currently focused on In My Blue World), and the evening session words for AC. All while hoping the Day Job wouldn’t cause any delays for everything else. In other words, The Typical Day in the Life of a Writer.
What threw me was that I didn’t feel that moment of wondering if I would ever be a pro writer or if I was just going to continue faking it.
I actually had to stop and think about that for a moment. I’ve been writing for over thirty years now. Sure, most of that time was spent learning, hitting roadblocks and dead-ends, wasting time, getting stuck on the OK Plateau, and trying to figure out what the hell I had to do to make any of this work. I’ve rarely had a crippling self-doubt about it, but I’ve certainly had my moments of wondering if this was as good as I was going to get, and that maybe I’d better focus more on a Day Job career. I hated that feeling with a passion.
Self-publishing the trilogy turned that around; this proved I could achieve the goals I’d set for myself. But what cemented it for me was the release of Meet the Lidwells; that’s when I’d proved to myself that the trilogy wasn’t a fluke or my One Shot at Greatness. [The unexpected icing on the cake, I should add, was the multiple downloads of the Bridgetown Trilogy this past week, thanks to the Smashwords sale. One or two downloads makes me happy; five or six a day all week long felt amazing. I thank all of you new readers for that!!]
That feeling when you suddenly realize you’re exactly where you want to be as a writer, though?
That feels absolutely AMAZING. It took forever to get here, but I’m glad I stayed with it.
HEY THERE! One more shameless plug here at Welcome to Bridgetown to let you know that my new book is still on sale for ONLY A BUCK FIFTY at Smashwords! It’s available in all formats including Nook and Kindle. Today’s the last day of the sale, though, then it’s going back up to the insane price of $2.99. Go get it before it’s too late!
You can download it crazy quick by following this link right here.
WAIT A MOMENT! AN OFFER, YOU SAY?
Yes! I know some of you readers out there are also bloggers (and some of you are even GoodReads members), so I’ll lay it out: interested in a fun, quick read about the shenanigans of a bunch of teenage rockers in the 90s? Love reading music bios that reveal all the sordid secrets behind the fame? Interested in doing a review either on your site or at GoodReads?
Let me know by commenting here or emailing me directly at joncwriter (at) yahoo dot com (with the subject line ‘Andersonville’) and I can hook you up with A FREE COPY OF THE E-BOOK, whichever format you need! All I ask in return is that you provide a review, either at GoodReads or on your blog. Doesn’t need to be anything long-winded — even just a starred rating will do!
Thanks for reading!
MEET THE LIDWELLS! A Rock n’ Roll Family Memoir
“Rule number one in the music business: never start a band with any members of your family.
Sure, it’ll start off just fine, everyone having fun, with big dreams of success and gold records, but then you realize you’re stuck in a stinking, too-small tour bus with your siblings for the fifth year running, and your brother hates you. Next thing you know, the band implodes just as it’s reaching its highest success, your family won’t talk to you anymore, the press is having a field day ripping you to shreds, and you’ll need to start your career all over again as a solo act. If you dare to at that point.
Rule number two in the music business: rules were made to be broken.” — Thomas Lidwell
Meet the Lidwells! is the story of four siblings and two cousins who start a band as teenagers and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams. But while they consistently top the charts with their irresistibly catchy tunes, they’re also fighting their own demons: perfectionism, disenchantment, addiction, exhaustion, sexism…and figuring out how to become an adult in front of millions of fans.
NOW AVAILABLE AT SMASHWORDS!
ON SALE ALL THIS WEEK FOR ONLY $1.50!
Come check it out!
How the hell do you self-promote your self-published book, anyway? That’s a damn good question, because I’ve heard so many different and varying (and often conflicting) answers that I sometimes wonder if anyone knows at all.
So I’m doing a bit of everything, to be honest. I’ve created flyers for the trilogy. I’ve posted hither and yon on social media. I’ve sent copies to various websites like BookLife, NoiseTrade, and so on. I’ve posted to GoodReads. I’ve submitted to legitimate novel writing contests. I’ve created a mailing list. I’ve promoted myself at cons. I’ve read a lot of different blogs and listened to various podcasts. I’ve done a lot of it in one way or another, to varying degrees of success.
This isn’t to say no one knows what they’re doing, far from it; it’s that there’s a hell of a lot of different ways to do it, and they’re doing what works for them.
When I uploaded A Division of Souls as a pay-what-you-want e-book on NoiseTrade a few years ago, I didn’t get much money out of it, but I certain got a hell of a lot of downloads, over 250 of them. And even though I haven’t done any major promotion on the trilogy for quite some time, I’ll still get the occasional download hit either on Amazon or on Smashwords. [Those might be few and far between, but they still put a smile on my face when I get an unexpected payment!]
Right now I’m planning out how to self-promote Meet the Lidwells!, and this time out I’m thinking of being a bit creative with it. I’ll reach out to the websites I tried before, with a focus on music-related blogs and sites (such as NoiseTrade) as well as any other bloggers who might be interested in doing a review. I’m also thinking of doing some minor advertising in some of the writing magazines I read as well — maybe a one-column thumbnail ad or something. The book will drop later this month, so I’ve got to work on getting all this out pretty soon!
If I’ve learned anything over the past three years that I’ve been self-publishing, it’s that this field truly is all about the DIY, where the long-established rules don’t always apply. Sometimes your attempts at self-promotion will fall flat, other times it’ll catch on and grow far beyond your expectations. There’s a lot at play here: the kind of book you’ve written, the people and businesses you interact with, the people you’ve hired for production work, right down to the price you decide to give it. And you can do exactly what professional self-publishers (such as David Gaughran or Joel Friedlander) suggest, and it might work for you, or it might not. It really is a bit of a gamble each and every time.
It’s a learning experience every time I release a book. In a way, it’s like the classic Babes in Arms trope: ‘Let’s put on a show in the barn!’ You’re out to show that you can do it, and that you want your audience to enjoy it, but you’re really not sure if it’ll work unless you actually do it. But regardless, the payoff is still worth it.
RIGHT. Let’s try this one more time.
I’m committed to getting this novel down correctly before I venture too far and end up frustrated again. I know exactly what’s been wrong with the Apartment Complex story: not enough action. I do have future scenes with action in them, sure, but I’m just not nailing the landing at all yet. I’m screwing up on the pacing; it’s far too slow. I’m focusing too much on the mood and not enough on the plot. So instead of deleting it all and throwing the outtakes into the compost bin, I gave it a good long think-over during vacation.
Specifically, I thought about what I needed to do during the five-hour flights to Honolulu and back. And during the return flight, I pulled out my index cards and proceeded to do some heavy-duty additional outlining. I added at least six more scenes to the start of Act I (to be interspersed between the scenes I already have) that will help me get back to where I need to be. I realized this was the same outlining style I used for the trilogy, where I focused primarily on the handful of scenes I’d be working on in the immediate future. It worked then, so I see no reason why it wouldn’t work again now.
I’m usually never this stubborn about nailing the beginning, I’ll admit. But sometimes it’s gotta be done, especially if I already believe in the story as a whole. It might take me a few tries to get it right, but once I do, the rest of it should flow just as I want it.
Yes, I’m letting myself have a break here. We’ll be afk for a week while we relax in Oahu. I may pop in with a fly-by via phone, but we shall see.
See you in a week, kids! Play nice!
Oops! I seem to have forgotten to prepare a post for today! Sorry about that, and thanks for waiting!
We’ll be on vacation next week, and I’ve been hemming and hawing over whether I should write posts or fly-bys. I could easily write them tomorrow if need be, but at the same time I shouldn’t feel guilty if I post a fly-by instead. Except that I do. Writing can be like that.
As always, I spend a bit of vacation prep debating what writing-related things to bring with me. Sometimes, like our recent Disney trip, I won’t touch it at all. Other times, like our previous London trip, I’ll actually get work done. So it’s a toss-up. I’ve learned not to overpack like I used to. I never bring my laptop anymore, though I might bring my tablet, especially when I want to do a bit of revision or reading of what I have so far. For this trip, that’ll most likely be it, aside from the notebook and a few printouts for the Apartment Complex story.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to this break. It’s been an unexpectedly busy first quarter so far at the Day Job, which means continual and very annoying interruptions from my work by the client reps, asking when my work will be done. Eesh. I just want a week to not think about much of anything at all except the next time we head over to Rainbow for more loco moco or kalua pork.
Is it 4pm yet?
There’s an interesting conversation on Twitter going on, mainly between webcomic artists, about working on a magnum opus right out of the gate. Many of the comments don’t necessarily dismiss the idea of writing an Epic Epic of Epicness, but they don’t recommend it if you’re just starting out. And if you do want to write it, then you’d better be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
Me, I blame being a kid of 80s tv and movie culture, when ridiculous bombast was de rigeur. I also blame my mid-90s stretch of reading multiple Stephen King books (the ones like The Stand and others that can also be used as doorstops and paperweights). I didn’t just want to write an exciting novel, I wanted it to be EPIC. Something big and exciting. Because it was what I knew, thanks to Red Dawn and Die Hard and Rambo and Schwarzenegger and wrestling and pretty much anything Russell Mulcahy ever directed (including those Duran Duran videos). I refer to my first completed novel as the Infamous War Novel deliberately because it’s over the top epic in idea, if not scope or length.
When I started writing True Faith in 1994, it was very much the same. My ex-gf and I had even come up with a detailed timeline that would encompass multiple novels. This was going to be a multi-book, multi-year project. Then in 1997 when I started The Phoenix Effect, it too was to be a big story in a big universe.
Which brings me to the Bridgetown trilogy…
See where I’m going with this?
It seemed that with every project I started, it would end up being a Magnum Opus. I even used that as an excuse to say that I was incapable of writing a short story or coming up with a one-book novel idea, because I had no idea how to think small. It took a good twenty years of my life from origin to finish for the Bridgetown trilogy to see the light of day. And that is precisely why, by 2016, I was already committed to writing smaller projects. I knew I could write solo stories; I just needed to learn how to do it.
Writing a magnum opus is very tempting to a lot of writers. It’s the lure of rich world building. It’s the lure of stretching your creative muscles. It’s the lure of creating something huge that will blow away the competition (or at least the minds of your dedicated readers). We often try to convince ourselves that it’ll be a blast, that the long years of toil will be worth it at the end. Even if it gets released and falls flat, it’ll have been worth it.
I don’t regret spending all those years working on the Bridgetown trilogy, because I learned a hell of a lot from it. I don’t mind the fact that it took significantly longer than expected for me to get where I wanted in my career. But sometimes I wonder where my writing career would have been, had I dialed it back a bit (okay, A LOT) and worked on less epic projects over the years. If I’d written standalone stories, maybe even honed my short-story writing chops back in the 90s instead of that one-and-done half-assed attempt. Would I have made it professionally? Would I have had more books out at this point? Would I have gained a significant readership? Maybe, maybe not, who knows.
But at this point, that’s all conjecture. Right now I’m doing what I want to do, and that’s writing, and that’s all that matters.
I’d say my own response to whether or not one should start their career on a magnum opus is the same as many others: if you think you can pull it off, and you’re willing to dedicate all that time to it, then go for it. It’s a worthy goal and it is fun, if time-consuming, and a lot of its success really does rely on luck. But be aware that it’s not an easy-in to the field. It may be a bestseller, or it may fall flat. I won’t say avoid it at all costs…just know what you’re getting into!