Two Completed Stories

The title gives away the big secret of this post.  But what the hell.  You guys hate secrets, right?  🙂

First, I finished the Writers of the Future story.  I still have not figured out a title yet.  I finished earlier today.  Err…make that yesterday now (it’s after midnight).  Total word count: 18,162 words.  Total time (this is an estimate since I didn’t start tracking until almost 5,900 words into it; it probably took a little bit less time than this in reality): 13.93 hrs.  Avg words/hr: 1303.49.

Not too shabby.  But there is one tiny problem.  Those of you familiar with Writers of the Future will figure it out very quickly.  The length.  The limit for WotF is 17,000 words.  So I’m going to see if I can trim 1200 words from the story.  I started working on that this afternoon and got down below 18,000 words.  But there are several hundred words left to trim.  We’ll see if I can manage it.

So that’s one.

My in-laws came over this afternoon, since my little guy Vasili (the guy who had the heart surgery last year) turns 3 on Sunday.  The better half and I took advantage of their presence to have a date.  We went and saw Act of Valor at the movie theater!  I gotta say, you must go see this movie.  It kicked some serious ass, almost making me wish I’d become a SEAL instead of a submariner.  Almost.

After we got back, we hung with the in-laws for an hour or so, then came upstairs to bed.  Ericka read Catching Fire for a while.  We’re reading this one together since we both loved The Hunger Games.  I got ahead of her, though, so I stopped reading for a few days.  She caught up earlier today, but I decided to write some more tonight, so she’s now ahead of me.  But that’s ok. 🙂

Instead of reading, I wrote a story that I thought of in a flash of insight yesterday.  It’s called Who Ate My Sock?  It came in at 2,064 words (bringing my total for the day to 3,446 – not too bad).  Total time to write: 1.1 hrs.  Avg words/hr: 1876.36.  The story’s premise is simple: have you ever wondered why socks tend to disappear in the wash?  Well, when Justine’s mom asks her to go into the basement and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer, she finds out the reason.  And it is scary.

I liked this story a lot, and it’s been a while since I sent a story to a magazine.  So I went ahead and submitted it to Apex.  We’ll see what they think of it in 20 to 30 days (their advertised response time).  Maybe they’ll like it too!  🙂

Ok it’s now getting late.  I’m calling it a night.  Later, all.

Masters of the Proof Copy

It arrived yesterday – the proof copy of Masters of the Sun.  Check it out!


I will say it was pretty cool opening up the box from Createspace and pulling the book out.  My wife in particular was bouncing up and down over it.  She insisted on taking a picture of me with it and posting it on Facebook.  Suddenly all sorts of people are congratulating me.  One said, “NOW it’s official”.  As though somehow I hadn’t really written it until now.  And for many, I suppose I hadn’t – lots of people still only read in print, after all.  Few are as geeky as I am.  🙂

I found a few things to correct in the proof copy.  I went ahead and uploaded the revised files.  They’re under review now.  Once that’s done I’ll go ahead and order another proof, which I expect will be most satisfactory.  Then I’ll make the book live, probably in a week or so.

Then I’ll officially be a “real” author, I guess.  😛

Progress Update

The last week has been very enlightening, writing-wise.  Since I’ve begun tracking my writing I’ve been amazed at my output.  Well maybe not amazed.  Pleased and impressed, maybe.

I’ve been working on my Writers of the Future story still.  At the beginning of last Wednesday, I had 5,876 words written.  As of this moment, I’m up to 15,058 words.  That’s 9,182 words in a little bit less than a week.  That’s ok, I guess.  Pretty good, in fact.  Not NaNoWriMo good, but good.  Oh, and I did not write at all on Sunday.  I worked on some cover art though.  That counts for something, just not for writing.  🙂

That’s cool and all, but the real metric to look at is time spent writing.  Over the last week I’ve written for 5.9 hours total, bringing my average output to 1,556.27 words/hr.  Also pretty good.  No professional, full-time good, but good.  I mean, 6 hours a week is barely part-time.  If I wasn’t working a day job and was just writing, I’d better be spending a lot more time writing than that.  But for me now, in my current living situation, I think that’s ok.

The best part about how this week’s gone is, like I pointed out in my earlier post, how easy it was.  Tracking my hours and words has really helped make it apparent how little effort (and by effort I mean stress and fretting, not that I don’t pay attention or work at what I’m writing when I’m writing – know what I mean?) I have to put in to get decent daily word counts.  🙂  So that’s good.

Right.  Guess I’ll get back to it then.  Although I’m starting to get nervous.  I’m at 15,000 words now.  The limit for WotF entries is 17,000.  I’m nearing the end…I think.  But I just may go over, in which case I’ll either have a bunch of editing and cutting to do or I’ll just have to write something else for them.  Gee, that would be too bad.  🙂

More to follow.


Going POD

I’ve been meaning to put out a print version of Masters of the Sun for a while now, but for whatever reason I hadn’t put in the elbow grease to make it happen.  I started working on the interior layout a month or so ago, but then got distracted.  And I’d never started the cover.

Until this week.  Hell, until today.  Dean put out a great post yesterday about the reasons to put out a print version of your book.  It was not anything I hadn’t heard or thought of before, but it lit a fire under my butt to finish up.  So I got the rest of the interior layout finished.  Then, the cover.  That was the daunting part.

At first t debated whether or not to hire Jeroen to just make a paperback version of the cover.  I knew he would and could do it.  But I also knew he would charge about $100 to $150 for it.  I can afford to pay that, but I decided to try to do it myself first.  So I downloaded a 6×9 cover template from Createspace and went to it.  Here’s what I came up with.  I think it’s pretty good.

I uploaded all the files to Createspace tonight.  I should hear back from them in a day or two.  Assuming they approve everything, I’ll order a proof and check it over thoroughly.  But I expect the print version will be available within a couple weeks.  Very cool.  🙂

Project Tracking

The last week or so has been pretty good, writing wise.  I got at least some writing done pretty much every day over the last week, but some of those days were pretty sparse.  Until Wednesday.

I’ve read a lot of writing and business advice over the last year.  One thing that many different pros have said is that I need to keep track of my writing – how long I spend each day on which project, how long each project takes, that sort of thing.  I knew this was a good idea for many reasons: accounting, production scheduling, and cost forecasting spring straight to mind.  But I’d never done it, for whatever reason.  I’m actually shocked that I hadn’t, because normally I love tracking data, tweaking and analyzing numbers, and doing that sort of thing (there’s a reason my favorite classes for my MBA were finance and the two accounting courses).

Well Wednesday I decided, after reading a couple good blog entries about how to write fast on Tuesday, to create a spreadsheet to use as a writing progress tracker, arranged by project.  It’s pretty simple.  I enter the start time, end time, and word count, and it runs some easy computations to give me words per hour for the session, total words for the day, average words per hour, and the labor costs for the project.  I also put in fields to track time working on editing and cover art, too, so I can track all the labor that actually went into the project.  Here’s a shot of how it looks.  The project in question is the Writers of the Future story I mentioned earlier:

Wow.  I totally should have done that sooner.  Much sooner.  Because not only is it very cool to know exactly how long I’m spending actually writing and how long the projects really take.  But I also discovered that I write quite a bit faster than I thought.  Over the last three days, I’m clocking about 1,500 words per hour average.  I figured I was more like 1,000 maybe.  Wow was I off.

Beyond that, I’m finding tracking my writing like this makes it a lot easier to get the daily word count up.  Because it becomes a game: how many words can I get out in this session?  If you look at the shot, Wednesday I cranked out 2,400 words in 1.7 hours.  But I did it in a bunch of short sessions: 20 min here, 15 min there.  The longest session was just under 30 minutes.  Yesterday and today are similar.  As soon as I noted the start time, I just cranked until I got distracted or had to do something else, then I noted the end time and called it until I decided to start again.  Doing it that way not only made the words seem to add up quicker, but with a lot less pressure, probably because I wasn’t focusing on some big huge goal but just small, doable chunks.

On Twitter, I will occasionally see writers team up to do writing sprints like this.  At time 10, write for 15 minutes non-stop then come back and report number of words written, thing like that.  This tracking bit helps me do just that, but by myself.  The key, though, is to start the clock as soon as I’m beginning to write and stop it, and record the session, as soon as I stop, for whatever reason.  Wife needs something?  Stop.  Kids need a diaper change?  Stop.  Bathroom?  Stop.  Just bored and want to surf the net or play a game?  Stop.  I’m finding it’s really effective.

Of course, this means I now have no real excuse for not writing quickly, or at all.  Hell, if I can get 350-400 words in fifteen minutes, there’s really no reason I can’t crank out 1,000 words or more a day.  At 1,500 words/hr, 1,000 words takes just .67 hours – 40 minutes and 12 seconds.  I can’t really tell myself I can’t find 40 minutes a day if I care to.  Which just further reinforces what Dean Wesley Smith said in his Sacred Cows post about writing speed.  It really does not take a lot of time and effort to crank out a bunch of words if one simply puts in a bit of time.  And now I know just how small a period of time it really takes.

A New Month

Now that it’s February, it’s time to take stock of how January went.  It was, in a word, ok.  I guess.

As far as writing progress goes, it wasn’t my greatest month ever, only about 14 – 15,000 words.  But I came to a couple of important realizations.  First, remember that whole break up The Pericles Conspiracy into a series of novellas thing?  Yeah…not gonna happen.  I’m at about 41,000 words now, and am still not to the end point I’d figured for the first “novella”.  So this is going to end up being a novel after all (if I use the SFWA definitions it’s a novel already, if I remember the definition correctly).  So given that, I’ve decided to say screw it and just write the whole damn thing in one fell swoop.  So I’m back to my initial plan, and it’ll probably be a 100k+ work when I finish it.  Nothing wrong with that.

That means, of course, that my goals for the quarter are by necessity going to have to change.  Oh well.

Now I know what you’re saying.  41,000 words?  That means you’ve only gotten 2,000 or so down since last time you updated us on Pericles.  True.  But that’s because I got an idea for my Writers of the Future story and I’ve gotten started on it.  This story is, I think, very cool.  Mystical, magical, mysterious, adventurous.  Yeah, it’s going to rock.  So that’s what I’m working on right now.  Don’t worry, I’ve not stopped Pericles.  Just shifted gears for a few days.

So that’s how the writing’s been going.  How about the sales?  Well, December was my best month to date, if you recall, at 21 total.  But January was even better.  23!  20 from the various Amazon sites and 3 form Barnes and Noble (1 directly and 2 through Smashwords – I use Smashwords to distribute titles less than $2.99 because I get a better royalty rate that way).

I can hear the cheers now.  Wow, Kingswood, with numbers like that, you can retire!  Don’t I know it.  But don’t worry, I’m not in it for the money.  I’m in it for you, the great people out there who might like my stories, so I’m not going anywhere any time soon.  🙂  I know, I know.  Who am I kidding, right?  I am in it for the money.  This is a business, after all.  🙂  I’m just not only in it for the money.

And speaking of money, here’s how those sales translate:

$30.05.  Not too bad, by my modest standards.

Now there are a couple things to note with these statistics.  First, they are not complete.  Sony and B&N have updated their Smashwords numbers through the end of the month, but the other distributors are only updated to 31 December.  So it’s possible there may be one or two more sales here and there.

The second thing to note is I did a free day for Dragon in the middle of the month.  That helped Dragon‘s sales, but it’s hard to say if it helped anything else.

The final thing to note is I changed my pricing scale after the free promo.  I set Dragon and Passing in the Night to $2.99, and got five and 1 sale from them at the new price, respectively.  Why did I do that?  Well as I noted before, I had been advised to avoid the $1.99 price point – it doesn’t get the higher royalty rate, but it’s also not as uber-cheap as $.99.  I’ve thought about that advice for a while and also experienced a bit of frustration at watching all kinds of (relatively) good novelette sales with very little $ return.  So I said screw it and decided to put everything >10k words to $2.99.  So I’m going to try this now:

< 5,000 words – $.99

5 – 10,000 words – $1.99

10 – 40,000 words – $2.99

40 – 70,000 words – $3.99

70 – 100,000 words – $4.99

100 – 150,000 words – $5.99

>150,000 words – $6.99

We’ll see how that works out.

So that’s where things stand in my writing world at the moment.  Progressing along quite nicely, more or less.  And with that, I’ll get back to work.

Until next time, go Pats!  As a Redskins fan, I cannot root for the Giants, after all.  🙂

Speaking of Crappy Covers…

Possibly the absolute worst cover I’ve made to date is the one I put together for my short story collection, A Jar Of Mixed Treats.

Pretty horrid, right?  I thought I was being real clever.  The five stories in the collection are from different genres, but as was pointed out in its review, they’re fun, almost like treats themselves.  🙂  So I decided on that title and took a picture of the candy jar in my kitchen, with a bunch of different candies inside.  Looking back on it now, and after considering what the reviewer said about the cover in her review, I fully realized what I’d always known: the cover just sucks.

So tonight I decided to change it.  I had a much better idea, to use the cover art from the five stories on the cover of the collection.  So I spent a little time putting together the new cover and voila!

This is a vast improvement, I think.

The links to purchase this fine reading experience are to the right, a bargain at just $2.99.