Oh so busy revising and writing and driving

Well, the Handy Small Child has started preschool, and I’ve started working through the Matchbox Girls edit notes in earnest. The lazy days of summer, when all I had to do was write a Nightlights scene a day and do chores, have drifted away like autumn leaves.

Of course, it’s the hottest weather we’ve had all summer right now. I mean, my tomatoes  don’t care, they’re still stubbornly staying green, because they’re conspiring against me. But still, hot weather.

Anyhow, this weekly post is supposed to be about Matchbox Girls. It’s my novel! It’s coming out in February! I’m going through it closely for the first time in at least six months. It hasn’t faded as much as I thought it might, but I did spend three years weeping tears of blood over it. Maybe it takes more than six months for those to fade.

Yes, okay, hyperbole. I don’t think I even cried salt tears over it. I did, however, reach the 3/4th point in the original draft, then decide it was All Crap and wrote it all over again from scratch. And it took a long time. Three+ years from start to finish, as I said (and for comparison, I’ve written 111,000 words since starting Nightlights in April).

A few scenes from the initial draft made it into the second draft mostly unmodified, but there were huge, huge changes, too. Characters cut, characters added, sub-plots expanded, sub-plots removed. Sometimes I run into brainstorming from before I even started the initial draft and it’s barely recognizable.

One thing I’ve noticed I do in the process of refining a story idea is that I strip information from the protagonist. In early iterations of an idea, the protagonist is often well-informed, with clear instructions and knowledgeable mentors. This makes maintaining tension harder, which affects pacing. So I throw out most of the information and make acquiring it part of the plot. What I do is probably a bit of a cheat, and I’m sure many excellent authors are able to provide a well-paced story without throwing characters in over their heads.

But it seems to be an effective cheat.

Okay, going through editorial comments and changes probably adds a lot of tension to the reading process for me. But while every scene is still laser-engraved in my memory, I still picked up this sense of growing anxiety and dread from the story, an awful sense of ‘Oh God, what’s going to happen next?’ Ridiculous, because I know. I wrote it. Ridiculous and weird. A couple of beta readers mentioned that they’d read most of the story in one sitting, which I dismissed at the time as ‘they were trying to get through it fast’. (Sorry, beta readers! Please forgive me!) Now, I’m wondering if I maybe did something right.

Posts like this are hard for me. The idea that saying something good about myself or my work will backfire on me is deeply, deeply ingrained. But I also need to do lots of self-promotion to succeed in this new publishing world. Or at least– I need to do some self-promotion. I still firmly believe that quality should rise to the top, but I’ve grudgingly come to admit that it can’t happen if it’s hidden in a closet. It’s easier for introverted me to work on quality improvement over selling myself, but I’ve got to work on both.

So, Matchbox Girls. Every sixty pages or so, it changes gears, always going faster. I think people will like it. And you’ll probably be hearing more from me about it.

A blogging platform

I’m tired. I’ve got stuff going on in my daily life that provides a great excuse for being tired, so it’s okay, but all the same, I’m tired.

I’m managing to get my work done. I don’t do as many fun things with the handy small child as I used to when I had more free time, but he hasn’t complained. He may not have noticed. He works hard on his art.

And I’m feeling more threatened by the current political situation than I have since I grew up in the 80s on a military base. And the economy is hurting too many people I’m very close to, in too many ways. And I’m seeing dreams ground underfoot.

And I have to keep writing, because what else have I got? What else can I do?

And it’s time to blog again.

But I’m tired. And I don’t know what to say that’s positive, interesting, and instructional, and not a rehash of places I’ve already spent a lot of time.

So, let’s talk about how authors are supposed to blog as part of building their audience. I’m not good at it and I’ve been honest about that from the beginning. The only way I started this blog was by knowing, at the time, that nobody was reading it. I can write interesting characters, and I understand the idea of making myself into a character and turning my life into an entertaining story.  But all the interesting stuff in my day-to-day life happens around the handy small child, or inside my head. In the stories in my head, specifically.

This is what I think: that if I need to spend time manufacturing content for people to read on the internet, I might as well make that content fictional.

I mean, I like writing posts when I have something to say. Explaining how I do something, sharing something I’ve learned, commenting on an ongoing event. I also like writing posts when I want to rant, but I do less of that these days. But you can consider this a rant, if you like. A quiet, tired rant.

The internet is full of blogs. The writing blogosphere is full of blogs of a certain nature, blogs written by writers talking about writing, passing around advice on the best ways to succeed. It’s odd. Aspiring food bloggers don’t write about how you need to have a food blog in order to be a successful cook. You do, of course, need to cook– and writers need to write.  But I’m not sure how beneficial dutifully writing little nonfiction articles is to the business of crafting good fiction. And I’m not sure how helpful it is to selling fiction, because the people who read blogs on writing are writers, not readers.

I don’t like the popularity of the idea that you have to blog to sell fiction. I don’t like the focus put on crafting the perfect query, either. They seem equivalent to me. It might be helpful, but a lot depends on the audience and persistence and luck and patience and focusing on something that isn’t your fiction.

I saw advice somewhere that said it was easy– just cut out one of your TV shows, or get your spouse to put the handy small child to bed. And I laughed. I don’t watch TV. My spouse already bathes and tucks in the handy small child. It isn’t easy. Writing well isn’t easy, and writing great blog posts is a particular skill that doesn’t take a lot from fiction skills other than basic language arts.

I want to do my best. I don’t want to bore my audience. It’s convenient today that I had something on my mind that could carry me despite my lack of energy and general crankiness  And I certainly don’t want to lie to my audience, so it’s a grey post for a grey day. I could pepper it with exclamation marks, I suppose? And exciting questions! And list off tips you’ve probably already read before!

But instead I’ll just say:

Tomorrow’s storypost is called ‘Home is a Four Letter Word‘ and Friday’s story post is called ‘Monsters‘. And isn’t that the most interesting thing I’ve said so far?


Thank you for reading, and resharing if you have!


Looking Backwards

I’ve just read a list of tips from an author on how to help that author be successful. It boiled down to ‘buy the hardcover at a brick and mortar store the week of launch because only sales of physical books the week of launch contribute to NYT bestseller list. And ebooks don’t count as much for royalties, so please please buy paper books instead/as well’.

Which, well, okay. They know their own contract and royalty statements.

But I was bothered when, in the comments, a supporter said, “If an author doesn’t make good sales figures, they won’t be able to sell their next book to anyone!’.

That was true once, I’m sure. I’ve certainly read enough stories about authors needing to switch names and reinvent themselves in order to keep publishing.

That was true once.

I’m pretty sure these days any midlist author (with a solid readerbase) who made an effort could sell their books directly to readers if publishers decided to ditch them. It might not be as hands-off for the writer, and it might not be as many copies sold,  but I suspect they’d get a lot more money from each book,  including those elusive poorly-reported author-cheating ebooks.


I’ve been tracking the sales of 40 or so semi-randomly-selected novels in the Kindle store, via http://www.novelrank.com/ for more than a month now.

I’m hesitant to make too many declarations based on this casual study…

…but it is vividly clear to me that midlist authors published via the Big Houses in the Traditional Way aren’t selling as many ebooks as either the big names in fiction, or the big names in ebooks. So I can understand why they may not believe in ebooks. It’s actually really interesting to me, and my not-quite-a-conclusion is that there’s somewhat different audiences buying the indy ebooks and buying the trad. ebooks. (Although midlist authors generally have something I’ve observed as crucial to ebook success: an extensive backlist.) But the midlist books are selling solidly, all the same. You know. Midlist.

I do wonder how much price figures into it. I haven’t seen a shockingly-successful indy book at the $7-$10 price point yet– but a lot of the midlist backlist books are less than that, too. I’m sure buying a book for $3.99 is satisfying for many– for older readers (like me) it feels like old times, when that was the standard price of a paperback. And for younger readers, heck, it’s a blended coffee drink of your choice.

But the math is not hard. The royalty rates on Kindle-direct-published books are standard. There are observably ways and means for authors to earn income from writing without being Amanda Hocking. There are certainly ways for your favorite author to sell you books even if their publisher doesn’t renew a contract.


The only physical books I buy these days are for my son, or otherwise full of pictures. I’ve been known to say that I actually think an ebook is more valuable than a physical book. I can’t lose an ebook as easily as I can lose a paper book. I can’t damage an ebook as I can damage a paper book. Paper books are very nice for people who are organized, who are themselves gentle with their books, and only live with pets and children who never, ever damage books. And paper books are very nice as gorgeous, well-made luxury items. But comparing a cheaply-bound paperback, with a cover that will fade in the sun and paper that will crackle to pieces in 10 years (if the binding lasts that long) to a collection of electrons that I can read on my device of choice? Please. For me, the choice is clear.

So I only buy ebooks. I’m excited about the way bookstores are starting to try to get in on this action, with both Google Books and B&N, because I also like bookstores and for a long time it pained me to abuse them as I did. I’d like to buy from brick-and-mortar stores, but I’d like to buy ebooks from them. And I hope all the authors with contracts that allow them to be cheated of ebook sales get those sorted out in the future. I’m pretty sure the benefit to them will be enormous.