Nanowrimo at the castle

IMG_0768v2cropAs I write this it is the last day of Nanowrimo 2017. Looking at my count from a cafe in Bratislava with one eye on the snow falling outside, it’s likely I’m not going to hit the required fifty thousand words. But I had a metric shit-ton of fun trying.

Before November I was thinking to myself how I really wanted to go away and immerse myself in Nanowrimo around other writers where we could all ‘suffer’ together.

Then, I saw there was an opening for CreativCastle in Austria and I didn’t hesitate for a second. Fiction writer and Indie Publishing guru, Derek Murphy aka the creativindie is always up for doing really interesting stuff around writing. I met him and his wife, Lana on the Nomad Cruise and we occasionally met up for ‘write-ins’ to counter-act the all-inclusive debauchery and get some ‘shit done.’

Borg Rappottenstein was no letdown, exceeding my wildest expectations of what this experience might be like. The castle was huge and the seven of us had it all to ourselves! The woods surrounding the castle made for fantastic walks to mull over and talk through the indie publishing business with each other. Yes, that’s right, we weren’t just writers barricading ourselves away inside the Borg but ‘publishers’ with a grip on what it took to create and market our own books. Or at least an attempt to pillage Derek’s extensive knowledge on the subject.

IMG_0753It was also an intense experience, writing from early morning to late at night but this is what we all signed up for. To immerse and break the back of our individual books and destroy the Nanowrimo fifty thousand minimum. (That early gung-ho ambitious bravado is, at least on my part, now a smouldering husk). Still, I now have another book to mound and shape and one which I’ve been meaning to write for two years.

For me, the most valuable experience for the castle was the accountability of working with other writers and doing sprints together in order to stretch those word count sessions. I’m pleased to say I exceeded my pitiful record to six or seven hundred words in forty minutes.

Now I’m focused on taking the Nanowrimo habit forward and keep it rolling on a daily basis. I’m also keeping close eyes on future castle events because that was one experience I won’t forget in a hurry.

Here’s the Nanowrimo video tour:

Finding the right environment for writing

After around three months in Colombia, I’m back in Europe and enjoying the historical city of Lisbon in Portugal. Overall, staying in Medellin was productive and I managed to stick to a routine, working from various cafes as well as joining the co-working space to churn out some words.

We got another novel published through the Dark Paradigm imprint, as well as two short stories. I’m also coming to the end of another novel in the Dark Paradigm series, so it’s been a fairly good first quarter for producing content.

Being productive is a constant battle for me and there have been some lessons learned. I am pretty slow when it comes to writing and am easily distracted. There are plenty of techniques and strategies when it comes to productivity and I am working on increasing the daily word count. However, travelling and writing, while it sounds idyllic actually are often at odds with each other.

Writing requires consistent routine, and for me at least, certain rituals and sometimes a big block of time in which to reflect and mull over the options of whatever I’m writing. Fiction especially requires me to think through scenarios carefully while considering the implications of a character’s decision or a complex plot. For this to happen I find I really need the right environment to work in. Busy cafes or workspaces sometimes don’t cut it and although I have been known to plug into the music and work in some really distracting environments, they’re not ideal. So, to that end, it can be hard to find the right spot when on the road but not impossible.

While I consider my next move, location wise, and look at options, for now wherever I lay my laptop, that’s my home.

Notes on writing and ePubbing progress

2016-03-12 10.21.16As I write more fiction I’m finding it increasingly difficult to focus on blogging (not that I ever did that much) and non-fiction projects. However I think, even as a diary style exercise I should blog more and mark the journey, so to speak.

Medium looks like it could be another way of reaching a bigger audience but if I’m going to increase the output I want to make sure there’s some kind of strategy in place rather than a half heartened reboot.

So onwards and upwards as the first half of 2016 approaches where have I ended up exactly?

Well, the fiction series is going well and we are hoping to finish the first in the new series this Spring. My main obstacle is finding the hours alongside a full-time job but I have a writing schedule that involves meeting up with a local group of writers on Sundays and some week evenings. We all work on our own projects and I also meet up with story collaborator and biz partner, JN, twice a week. This has been hugely helpful for keeping a consistent work count going and slowly pushing the book imprint forward.

I am really keen to get our publishing start up going but it seems like the chicken and egg scenario…without a considerable traction of the existing titles there doesn’t seem much point in putting a lot of time and money into marketing. But…a lesson learned from a previous business I was involved in – plan for success and it will more likely happen. Hence why I’m coming around to the idea of a Kickstarter (or Indiegogo) campaign to help pay for the editor and cover art. If everything goes to plan I will be hitting the road and won’t have the disposable income to put into these costs , as I have so far. Food for thought.

There’s a lot of things, like promotions that are not really working and this is causing a fair amount of frustration. We’re nowhere near having enough reviews to try and get an infamous Bookbub ad so getting reviews has been a slow process.

Facebook ads have brought in around 200 subscribers in the last year and a handful of sales but I’m a long way from actually getting it working on auto pilot!

2016 is all about content creation for me and although there will always be an ongoing marketing process going on until we have a good body of work it’s difficult to commit money to any big pushes. My ambitious target is to write and complete at least two full length fiction novels (the first one is 80% there) and at least one novella this year. It would be great to put out a non-fiction this year but we’ll have to see how it pans out. It may have to come in the form of a series of blog posts (now there’s an idea). In the spirit of re purposing content: build up a series of chapters from the blog posts then re-work them into a book and possibly an e-course. I believe Dean W Smith does this on his website.

Till next time.

Writing and Publishing Fiction

19149215_sFor the last year or so I have been focusing on writing fiction, which is something I always loved doing, especially the story creation process.

Having read and been inspired by other writers and self publishers, especially J.A Konrath (well worth checking out his blog) I decided to go for it and completed my first novel under a pen-name last year (a conspiracy thriller).

From what I’ve learned, and I guess this is true of any product based business, you need a series in the genre you’re publishing to really capitalise and build an audience, so I’ll am busy writing a follow up book as well as planning spin off series involving characters from that Universe. Comics and Science fiction have done this for decades and now fiction writers are beginning bring this element into their strategy.

I am doing this in my own time so outsourcing is key, whether it’s the actual writing of content and ghostwriting, ebook formatting, book cover design, marketing or just administration. Most of my distribution has been done direct to the big platforms: Amazon Kindle, Createspace, Nook and Kobo. For me, submitting directly to Apple iBooks is more tricky as you need a mac so I’ve done this via Draft2Digital and Smashwords.

I’ve also joined Speedy Publishing (affiliate link) who offer a fantastic library of training for those serious about self publishing as well as distribution to over 38,000 ebook retailers including online libraries. If you sign up to their distribution service they will promote your books too via their wide range of book imprints. I’ve only just signed up but I will share my findings on this blog and let you know how it works out.

So back to fiction. Creating strong characters is key as well as a storyline that makes the reader want more. Key points in the stories, such as the hook, game changers and page turning techniques all contribute to the quality of your product. I highly recommend reading J.A Konrath’s book: The Newbie guide to publishing, Write, Publish and Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Turant and also follow Joanna Penn’s blog on writing fiction.