I’m going back through the second draft of my WIP novel, checking for places where I have to drop things in. Most of these are little things, like another mention of a physical object that figures in the plot (in this case, a necklace), or pumping up a description that didn’t get fully mounted on the page.
But in one instance, I have a whole chapter to drop in. (Because, um, it features an important character that I failed to show anywhere in the novel. Duh.)
So this means I am writing rough draft material again for the first time in a couple of months. I’ve been rewriting and editing and getting the draft ready for beta readers. (Soon!)
And this morning I found myself laboring over every word.
WTF! I know better than this. A rough draft is just that–the draft of a chapter or story or essay that is in its rough stages. And just because the rest of my novel is almost ready for other eyes, doesn’t mean that this chapter needs to be.
I had to remind myself to just put the words on the page. Let them rip. Write fast. Don’t worry about how “good” the words are once they land. Just get the damned thing written!
And that is my Tuesday tip for you–let the writing of your rough draft stink. Make it awful. Require it to be. Because once you’ve gotten those words on the page, you’ve got treasure with which to work. You can rewrite and revise and edit to your heart’s content. But not yet.
Remember there’s a reason it is called a rough draft and let it be, well…rough.
I sent out a notice to my mailing list that my short story, Blue Sky, is available free on Amazon this weekend. (And now I'm telling you. You can download it here. For free. And please tell your family and friends. And enemies. Or the mailman and all your coworkers, and everyone else you know.)
But a client/friend emailed and asked me, essentially, why I was doing this. And that made me realize that not everyone has studied the theory of indie publishing with Amazon as I have. (Why would you? I never thought twice about it until I started hearing other author's success stories.)
So, why would you give away a book for free?
Let me be the first to say that I'm not an expert on this whole thing, so all I can offer is why I decided to do it. Here's the deal. When you publish a book exclusively with Amazon in their program called KDP Select, they offer you several sales tools. One of the most-used is the freebie. For every 90-day period you are exclusive with them, you get up to 5 days where you can offer your book for free.
And–this is its own little mini-industry. There are numerous sites that will list your freebie for free, or a small fee. Some of them list it for free but then say they can't guarantee your book will show up unless you pay them that small fee (anywhere from $5-$50, at least on the sites I saw). If you're interested, I found a page on Author Marketing Club that listed a bunch of such sites.
All this being said, why do it?
For me, its a matter of exposure. I hope that people will read my short story, like it, and decide to buy my novel. I also hope they will come visit this site (hello to you if this is your first time here) and keep an eye out for future releases. And maybe keep coming back for more scintillating posts on writing and the writing life. One of the great things about formatting a book for Amazon is that you can put anything you want to at the end of the book. So, of course, I put a link to this page.
I'm not sure how effective a free promotion would be if you had only one book or story up. There's a whole school of thought that indie publishing is a numbers game and that the more books you have up, the better you'll do. Hugh Howey, the poster child for indie publishing, said at a panel at AWP that he didn't do any promotion until he had five or six titles published.
So, I'll keep you posted on all this. I'm approaching my foray into indie publishing as a grand experiment. Why not try offering a book for free? Of course, it helps that what I have to give is a short story, not a novel I slaved over for years. (Though I did write the first draft of this story when I was doing my MFA back in 2002.)
Here are a couple of posts about publishing with Amazon:
In the mood for a quick read? I’ve got just the thing for you–a short story! It’s called Blue Sky, and you can buy it on Amazon for just 99 cents. Read it while on the treadmill, while waiting for your duaghter’s gymnastic practice to end, or as you drum your fingers wishing that download would finish up.
Nell Malone’s life is changing, big time. Still grieving over the death of her husband two years earlier, she grapples with the empty nest syndrome as her daughter leaves for college. But a visit to Santa Fe yields new insights into herself–and the tantalizing prospect of a relationship with an intriguing artist. This is a short story about loss and love.
And some reviews:
“This is a wonderfully human story about our dilemmas, how intense they can be, and how our escape makes us who we are.” J.D.
“A quick easy read, this story resonated with anyone starting a new phase of life.” Danielle
“Dixon does a fine job herem with a well-written story that will resonate, I think, with any adult going through some difficult changes.” Christopher
And so I have. As of last Wednesday, my first indie project, a short story, is for sale on Amazon for 99 cents.
Blue Sky: A Nell Malone Story
Here's the blurb (which I will no doubt rewrite a million times):
Nell Malone's life is changing, big time. Still grieving over the death of her husband two years earlier, she grapples with the empty nest syndrome as her daughter leaves for college. But a visit to Santa Fe yields new insights into herself–and the tantalizing prospect of a relationship with an intriguing artist. A short story about loss and love.
And here's the inside scoop: Nell Malone is a character who has been with me practically since I started writing. She's a newspaper reporter and columnist with an artistic daughter and a husband who died two years earlier. He was a cop, shot while on the job, and his killer has never been caught. I've got a novel about her all laid out and ready to write when I finish the book I'm working on now. (I'm thinking it will be a great project for Nanowrimo this November. )
But this particular story has been on my computer since my MFA days (and I graduated in 2003). Since Nell seems always to lurk on the edges of my brain, I pulled this story out, drastically gutted it, updated it, and edited it. Then my writing group read it and commented and made more edits. And I went back through it again until I was happy with every word. And then the real fun began.
Let me just say, there are a few obstacles to the process of publishing a book.
First of all, you've got to find a cover. Now, let me be clear: this is a short story, as in short, not a lot of pages, not a novel. I'm very proud of this story and I love that Amazon gives me a venue to publish it. All that being said, I didn't feel I needed to invest heavily in a cover, because, well, its a short story. And I knew a custom cover would be expensive, or at least more than my budget.
So I did what one always does in such circumstances: I asked the Google.
And I found Melody Simmons. She does good work for reasonable prices. I purchased a pre-made cover on her site which happened to suit my story. It also happened to be on sale, which was a lovely bonus. Melody has a good selection of pre-made covers on her site, and she also will do custom work. I recommend her.
And then after you get the cover, you need to figure out formatting. Gee-zus. It's actually an easy process to submit the file to Amazon. They check it for spelling errors and send it back to you and then you preview it and realize that everything is wrong: tabs are wonky and things look awful. So you go back over it again, trying to figure out what you did wrong. And submit it again. And it looks worse. Finally, I got a writing friend with experience to help me with this and that solved the problem. There are also formatters that will do this for you. So that I don't have to rely on friends for help all the time, I'll probably buy this one.)
After you get all the wonkiness out, you submit it, et voila! Your book is up on Amazon. You can create your own Amazon author page, which I highly recommend, and feed your blog and Twitter onto it. You can also create author pages for their UK, German, and French sites. (A tip: keep your English composing page open and you'll be able to figure out what they are saying.)
I opted to participate in the KDP Select program, which means I'm selliing it exclusively on Amazon for 90 days (and probably forever, most likely). In return I get marketing tools such as the Kindle Countdown, which I haven't quite figured out yet, and the chance to offer my book for free. I'm still studying the best way to handle this promotion–when to offer it for free and so on.
The Part Where She Asks for Reviews
Anyway, the story is available for purchase, and at the price of 99 cents, who can resist? If you do buy it, I would SO appreciate a review! Reviews rule the world, as far as the kings of Amazon are concerned, and I've not been good about asking for them. (If you've read Emma Jean and feel like leaving a review, that would make me happy, too.) So if you do decide to buy the story (and bless you if you do), writing a review would be awesome, too. It's a really easy process!
Here are some of the other posts I've featured about Amazon:
A couple weeks ago my dining room table was covered with china, cut glass, pitchers, and an odd assortment of knick-knacks. This was all stuff brought over from my Mom's house, which we were cleaning out before an estate sale.
I was really happy with all the things I'd claimed but the problem was that I needed to find room for them in my china cabinets. A quick glance at the already bulging cabinets let me know that finding room was going to be quite the chore. So I procrastinated.
I'd walk through the dining room, pause, look at the table, look at the china cabinets, and not see any way to make this happen. It was going to take a massive reorganization and I simply didn't know where to begin. So I procrastinated more.
Finally, as is so often the case, I was backed up against the wall. We were having people over for dinner and so I absolutely had to get the china put away. I opened the cabinet door and figured out a plan of action. But then a funny thing happened. Once I started working and putting the china away, I realized that my plan wasn't going to work after all. However, by then it didn't matter because another, better, plan, revealed itself to me. And all the china got put away with relative ease.
As I arranged tea cups and stacked plates, I thought about how often this happens in writing. You start out desirous of writing something–a novel, an essay, a short story–but don't know how to begin. You finally come up with a plan of action, and then you labor under the delusion that you will actually follow that plan. But once you get going on the work, once you are in the china cabinet, so to speak, you realize that the writing wants to go a completely different way.
But here's the key: you would never have found that way if you hadn't just waded in. Found a place to start and began. My dining room table would still be covered with china if I hadn't begun following my initial plan of action. Many a piece of writing would still be left unwritten if we all waited for the grand plan to reveal itself.
So remember the China Cabinet Syndrome and plunge in. You'll find room in that cabinet for everything you need.
Well, its not that far, really. I'm heading up to the Washington coast to visit my Nashville friend Sue at her father's place. What makes it feel far, far away is that there is no internet service and no cell phone service. No blogging! No Twitter! No text messaging!
However, I'm only going to be gone until tomorrow. I'm taking my camera and since my new end-of-the-year resolution is to snap lots of photos, I'm hoping to come back with many of them to share. In the meantime, here's a photo I took last night of the Christmas train at Oaks Park:
Not quite sure how to get that date stamp off it. Words are my forte, not photos.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
I'm feeling a bit tired of it all and in need of some inspiration, which is where you come in. I want to know what you want to read about in terms of writing, and what you need to know. If you feel so inclined, pop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with answers to the following questions and in return I'll send you a free beta bcopy of my Ebook, Set the Words Free. (But bear in mind that I'm going to be out of wireless range for a few days and thus will not be getting back to you with it until the end of the week.)
1. Do you write: fiction screenplays nonfiction poetry
2. What is your biggest writing problem?
3. Do you struggle more with finding time and motivation to write or issues with craft?
4. Are you a published writer?
5. If not, do you aspire to be a published writer?
6. If yes, what do you aspire to publish (ie, novel, short story, get a screenplay optioned, poetry, etc.)
7. Do you aspire to make money writing? If so, in what area?
8. What kinds of posts are most helpful?
9. What kinds of posts do you enjoy the most? (ie, life of a writer or craft)
10. What is your biggest writing goal for 2009?
11. If you are a regular reader of this blog, what brings you back to it?
If you only want to answer a couple of questions, that's cool, I'll take any and all feedback. Thank you so much and I'll be back with photos at the end of the week.
From my buddy Roy, here's a nice essay on the short story. Best quote from it:
"That grain of sand is the story’s salvation. I take my cue from William Blake: “To see a world in a grain of sand.” Think of it: the world in a grain of sand; which is to say, every part of the world, however small, contains the world entirely. Or to put it another way: if you concentrate your attention on some apparently insignificant portion of the world, you will find, deep within it, nothing less than the world itself."
In case you hadn't heard, a Frenchman won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His name is Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio and I'm embarrassed to admit I'd never heard of him until he won. I'm intrigued by him, though, especially given that he divides his time between Albuquerque and France. Check out the list of all the Nobel Prize winners at their website. Its kind of a cool site. Who knew? (The photo at the right is of the announcement.) 3. Le Weekend
I don't have a three. It's Friday afternoon and I've been trying to get to my novel all day and so instead of casting about for some fascinating tidbit to balance out this post, I'm simply going to wish you a happy weekend and go write for a bit.
Reason Number Gazillion why its great to be a writer: because no matter what happens, you get to write about it. When your heart is broken and life sucks, at least you get to write about it. And the worse the things that happen to you, the better story they will make. What other enterprise offers such a fabulous inverse proportion of bad to good?
In writing about it, you will distill it down and see what the true story is. From this, you'll be able to make something of the experience. The solace of this is immeasurable, and I'm not sure how people who don't write exit without it.
Even if the experience doesn't make it directly into the pages of my journal, odds are good that it will be transmuted into a character in a novel or a story, or somehow filter into a blog post, or even color what I write to a student. One way or another, writing is alchemy.
The only thing I remember from Natalie Goldberg'sWriting Down the Bones is the anecdote she tells about a fellow writer about to get mugged on the streets of New York. "Don't hurt me, I'm a writer!" the friend yelled. I imagine the writer friend said that because she needed to write about the experience.
I just remembered another thing from the book (Reason Number Gazillion and One to write: it helps you remember things): how Goldberg, or one of her friends always said that writers live twice. You get this, of course, but I'll explain it anyway. Writers live twice because we experience the event and then we get to write about it. Sometimes it is difficult to say which is the more pleasurable.
So, in these precarious times, give thanks that you are a writer. And, when the check doesn't come in the mail, the man doesn't email, the weight doesn't budge, the words won't flow, the figures don't add up, just remember: at least you get to write about it.