Joshua C Cook

Author, Husband, Father, IT Manager

Tag: Writing (page 1 of 2)

2017 – A look back in walls, delays, and writing fails

2017 was not a banner year for me as a writer. It started off not great and never really got moving. To start with, January 2017 saw books sales fall like a brick. In particular, the second book in The Echo Worlds series, titled Bridgebreaker, was not doing well. I was am still rather proud of the book. I had really taken feedback and good criticism of the first book, Bridgefinders into consideration, and had written something I though had the story I wanted, but carried a more emotional ‘umph’ than the first book had possessed. But by January 2017 which was 4 months after the second book had come out, it was apparent that the book wasn’t doing so well.

I did a massive ‘blitz’ in terms of using book lists, advertising services and the like to give sales a pump. In retrospect it was totally a foolish move, as I signed up for to much all at once, and it became nigh impossible to figure out which service was working, and which was a waste of what little money I had to spend on the marketing. On top of it, it didn’t really help much and sales stayed flat for the entire year of 2017.

This did harm my motivation a bit, so I sort of pushed off the third book of the Echo Worlds, which I had been planning on writing right away, to explore something else. I had a few ideas floating around, but only one I had fleshed out to any degree. With my normal goal of two books a year, I pushed forward with writing something called “Worker Road”, a post-apocalyptic story. However about a quarter into it, I realized I was struggling with the story. I was having a hard time with the main character, and after several weeks of back and forth in my mind, I shelved the story. I may pick it up again, someday….Maybe.

So, now a bit more discouraged, I sort of started looking at some previously started but never finished stories I had floating around. One a YA sci-fi book, and the other a fantasy novel I hadn’t really fleshed out other than to know it involved Blacksmiths. The YA book I had previously started and shelved in 2016, and I still had a core of a story. But after reading through what was there, the knowledge became quite clear, I’m not a YA writer. I wasn’t much of a teenager when I WAS a teenager. To serious for my own good, I tended to find some of the antics of my peers to be.. annoying. And so, writing YA was a struggle, as I tend to color my writing with a main character who was to serious by half. That story still sits, half done. I might take parts of the ideas for that one and use them else where, someday.. Maybe. 😉

So, the fantasy novel, revolving around Blacksmiths. With a working title of ‘Forgemaster’ I started fleshing out some basic ideas and tenets of the world. It quickly became obvious that this was going to be a large undertaking. Fantasy novels can be that way, as the need to describe and inform a reader about the world they are exploring becomes much more important than what I had been writing before, namely “Modern Fantasy”, meaning stories set in our normal day to day life, but with a magical fantasy element thrown in.  But having got some basic rules laid out for the world I was creating, and a few notes about the plot, I dove in.

Now, if anyone actually reads this, you should be aware that I’m not a outliner by nature. Or as I prefer, I’m not as George RR Martin described it, an Architect. I’m a Gardener. I take the seed of an idea, and jsut let it grow as I write. Or I should say that’s how I THINK I write. As working on this Fantasy book made very clear to me, I’m much more a hybrid of the two.  Forgemaster, which quickly had it’s name changed to “Blood of a Fallen God” became a beast. I realized I wasn’t just working on a fantasy novel, but an EPIC Fantasy novel. Sweeping of breadth, a great many characters, a large number of subplots that intertwine. I had to step back and really change the way I was going to write, as simply, there were to many things to keep track of for me to be a Gardener all the way, at least for me.

Around this time, l hit a wall. Writers block times a hundred, a wall just stopped me, and stopped me cold. I had no ideas, and the discouragement I felt over both Bridgebreaker, and some decisions I had made in terms of the first book, Bridgefinders, spilled over into me just not wanting to write. And I didn’t want to.  I was busy at home with the kids and family, Summer vacations, and major expenditures,  and new distractions, made it less enjoyable to write. And so I stopped. For two months. I was unmotivated, and the few times I tried, I just couldn’t get anything out and into the work.

I honestly began to think about walking away from writing, and diving into other things. Crypto-currencies, a few home projects, and some other things started to absorb what had used to be writing time. While I enjoyed the mental break from writing, there was always hanging around a vague feeling of guilt for not staying on top of it. I pretty much abandoned twitter, and all social media work and outreach, and let it sit.

Then one day while swimming in out (new) pool, an idea for how to solve a problem in the Blacksmith story, Blood of a Fallen God, hit me. As is normal for me (and many others) I wasn’t even thinking bout writing, but the idea came to me, and wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I wrote it out and down, and just like that, it all started to flow again. I was past the wall, and moving forward. I started making a fair amount of notes as I wrote to keep everything straight in my head and in the story, who was who, what did the character want and why? What did they know about what was REALLY going on,  etc.

The rest of the year flew on. I hit another small wall in lake October, but I didn’t walk away, and soon was past it. I already knew I wasn’t going to meet any part of the goal of 2 books in 2017. This bothered me because I always had met that goal, but considering the breadth and length this book was shaping up to be, I still was OK. And finally in December of 2017, I finished the first Draft of Blood of a Fallen God.

I quickly put it away, and didn’t look at it until after Christmas had passed. I needed a break from it. This wasn’t a wall however as I spent the time jotting down some other ideas, for books to explore after this one, including returning to the Echo Worlds, and getting the third book finally done and out.

 

So that’s where I am now. I’ve started the rewrite/edit phase, and clean up of notes. As of this blog post, I’ve already reduced BOAFG from 189,433 words to 174, 122 words. I’m being a bit brutal in the cutting phase of things, but I think that’s needed. This book is almost three times the size of a normal story I get out there and I want it to be as focused as it can be.

Next week I’ll do a goals of 2018 post, but for now, theirs 2017, my wall from hell.

Updates For February

So February has rolled around, and it’s as good as time as any to see where I am for this years goals so far, and what has been getting in the way of making more progress, if anything.

  1. Blood of a Fallen God – This is moving forward, though not quite as fast as I’ve hoped. The main issue though is just day to day life has been a bit busier than I thought it would be. But I AM making progress on the first draft.
  2. Bridgemaker – The third book in the Echo Worlds series. I’ve really fallen behind on this one. I’m not good at working on more than one book at a time I’ve discovered, so I think I’ll pause on this one until I get the first draft of BOAFG done.
  3. Outline for other book. – I’ve worked out a short outline for a story called ‘Timetable 93’ I’m really not sure if this will be a short story, or something longer, but we will see.

 

On top of working on the first draft of BOAFG, I’ve been brainstorming cover ideas. I THINK I’ll need to work with an artist to get what I want for the actual art though, so looking into that. If anyone reading this has any suggestions please (like really, please!) reach out to me.

Other news:

  1. The scammers I mentioned so many times before had another run in with a different person, and lo and behold I got mentioned and had a huge spike in blog attendance, though it was short lived.
  2. Unsure if what happened after was related, but I found it amusing. I got a message via email, through the blog from someone claiming to be another author. This person said they had read some of what I’ve done and had a suggestion. The suggestion was to give up. Stop writing, pull what I had written off Amazon, and stop pushing ‘total crap’ so ‘better authors than you can get attention.’ They also proceeded to say that people like me were what was causing them to sell less by flooding the market with junk, and it was making it harder for ‘True talent’ like theirs to get noticed.

 

I have no idea if I’m talented as a writer. I don’t think in those terms, and never have. I write for me. I write because I enjoy the act of it. I write because I like sharing the stories. Sure, I’d love it if they sold better, who wouldn’t want another income stream? But that’s not WHY I write. So no, I won’t give up and go away.

That’s all for now, and I need to go work on BOAFG, I’m behind for the  word count for the week. 😉

Elves? We don’t need no stinkin’ Elves!

Elves. One of the largest fantasy ‘tropes’ out there. I use them to, though mine are a bit more sinister than the ‘high fantasy’ types of Elves. That being said, I just ran across a great TEDx talk from Terry Brooks, titled ‘Why I write about Elves.”

Now, I have read some of Terry Brook‘s work. Not much as of late, and honestly after this talk I think I may pick up some of his stuff again, because I want to see what he’s talking about from my newer ‘writer’ persona. Mr. Brooks makes a good point about taking things out of our world, and translating them to a fantasy world for the purpose of giving writing some weight. Having been a reader of fantasy for more years than I care to mention, there are far to many fantasy books out there that don’t have any substance. There’s a story there sure, but it’s such a surface thing, and it’s highly highly formulaic. I’ve seen other videos and read books where it’s “Hero, artifact, quest.” that’s it.

And yes, that’s basic fantasy, but if that’s ALL that’s there, it makes for a bit of a dull read. Take Tolkien, at first glance it seems like a very light story, hobbit takes ring, destroys it to save the world from evil monster spirit thing.

But that’s only a slight reading of Tolkien. And yes, the movies (which I greatly enjoy, I have the extended releases for all of them.) sort of made it worse. But there are a LOT of environmental themes (Tom Bombadil, Mordor itself, the Scourging of the Shire, etc.) the overarching theme of the passing of ‘old world’ of magic and superstition to the world of men and technology, etc.

Good fantasy books carry this additional under story out there to the reader, to give them something to latch on to. Even in Tolkien’s work, Elves are portrayed as a very powerful, but old and vanishing race. Leaving the world of Middle Earth to return to their far away true home. In truth the Elves of Tolkien carry a fairly melancholy background, full of betrayal, racism, and tragedy.

I think the point Terry Brooks makes is a very good one, fantasy writers or truly any fiction writer, needs to give thought to giving the reader something real to latch onto, something they can translate to the real world, or even thier own personal experiences. I’ve linked the talk at the end here, it’s a great short video.

 

Making Money as a Writer

So here we go, a post on ‘Making Money as a Writer.’ A subject that seems to come up often, far more than I ever thought it would actually when I began this journey. Let me start by saying of course, when I started this I thought “Oh I’ll write books, make $$$, quit my day job and be a writer for the rest of my life, it will be easy living!” I think that every writer has that same little fantasy that this will come and come fast and easy. It’s normal. It’s also almost never like that.

Yes, it *can* happen. And so does getting struck by lightning, or winning the lottery, or even creating this really new hot viral app that makes you $$$ hand over fist. All of it’s POSSIBLE. But likely? No.  I have been asked more than once, by very smart and well meaning people why I don’t just write full time. Simple answer? Money.

See I think those same people think it’s easy to make money writing books.It’s not. Not even close really. In grand total for ALL of 2015, I made…. 211$ Whoohoo! off of writing. Yes, that little. Why so little you may ask?

  1. Lack of understanding on my part about marketing.
  2. Poor choices of categories
  3. Rushing books to market before they were ready.

All of those hurt me badly when it came to earning $$$, and I’m working heard to rectify those issues with my next book (coming soon!)

Then of course you read things.. things like http://bit.ly/1W64joy.

Basically the statement is to give it up, only 40 Amazon authors made “money”. But lets look at the definition of making money they used.. selling 1 million eBooks in 5 years. Excuse me? What??

Basic math here folks.

You sell a Million eBooks in 5 years, your averaging 200,000 a year. The most “common” eBook price (because the article is short on the details) is 2.99. Assuming your using the 70% royalty plan (and there’s no reason to think your not) you would be making 2.09 PER eBook sold. Which means your making 418,600$ a YEAR.

 

Yeah… That’s a fair amount more than “just being successful.” That’s being majorly AWESOMELY successful. It’s also a highly unrealistic number to use as “making money from self publishing.”

What do I want? My dream goal would be to pull anywhere from 70-90k a year from writing alone. That would be insanely awesome. Truly. My realistic goal, if I can get to 30k a year from writing, that would be great!! Would I quit my day job? Hell no. But if someone came up to you and said “Hey you want an extra 30k a year in passive income?” I think anyone and everyone would say yes please.

Why write then? If money is not so easy to make, why do it?

  1. I actually really enjoy writing
  2. I enjoy telling stories
  3. I get a kick out of creating something that is out there for others to enjoy.

You want to know what you can do to support or help an self publishing author?

  1. Buy their books
  2. REVIEW their books (seriously, telling someone you like their book is great, but writing a LEGIT review on Amazon is better, FAR better due to how Amazon does things.)
  3. Recommend their book to others.

That simple. 🙂

 

 

Bridgefinders First Draft DONE!

I’m very happy to say I’ve finished my first draft of my latest WIP, Bridgefinders. I’m going to take this as a good sign, but I wrote 55,150 words in a little over one month in time, making this the fastest draft I’ve written so far. Making me even more happy was the fact that I didn’t write every day. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a daytime writer. I don’t do night writing well, at least most of the time. I write best in that 9 am to 11 am time frame. I wish I knew why, but that seems to be my sweet spot for output. Bridgefinders was an easy write pretty much from start to finish for me, a refreshing change after the slog my last book became, were writing 300 words was painful.

Even better, my experiment with how I was writing the protagonist and antagonist(s) worked pretty well for me. I really felt like I needed to be in a separate headspace to write some of the antagonist(s) parts. I’d listen to some of Green Day’s American Idiot, or some old school Metallica, a bit to much coffee and then write those parts. And overall I’m really happy with how that turned out.

So what’s next for Bridgefinders?

So glad you asked! (Well you didn’t really, but I’m going to tell you.)

I’ve got 5 Alpha readers who have the draft now, one of these kind souls has already given me feedback. I’m also working with an actual editor this time around who also has the draft. I’m also doing some re-reading of the draft and tweaking things here and there on my own, but no large wholesale revisions yet. I’ve asked all my Alpha readers to please give me feedback in a two week time frame along with a list of things I’d really like to hear from them on. Examples include, what were their least favorite scenes, thoughts on the Protagonist and the Antagonist(s), etc.

With that feedback, and the feedback from the Editor I’ll do a full scale rework. Then I’ll resend to my editor, get a copy edit done, and that will be that. Of course I still need to find a good cover for Bridgefinders both eBook and Print. CreateSpace print.

So things are moving along. I will say I feel better about Bridgefinders than anything else I’ve written. And I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to things like this.

The only other things on tap are:

  1. 1. Trying to work out a Marketing plan for Bridgefinders
  2. 2. Debating doing a vlog on Mind Mapping (or ‘Why I don’t do outlines.’)

Not sure on that second item, debating it for now.

 

Exercise and Writing

Running Man

So, about a month or so ago, I decided to weigh myself. This is something I normally don’t do. I’ve never cared much about that number, as long as I felt good, clothes didn’t feel tight, I was fine, right? But I had to admit, that I no longer felt good, and clothes were getting tighter, far tighter than I wanted them to. So not thinking much of it, I decided to weigh myself. And saw to some dread, I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. (Yay for being 42!)

This bothered me. Then once I started thinking about it, I sort of realized a few things at once.

  1. I was eating like crap.
  2. I had a very sedentary job, I literally sit for hours a day.
  3. I had no energy to do anything anymore. Play with the kids? Nope. Do things around the house? Nope. And even writing was getting hard, I was running on empty every day, pretty much all day.
  4. I really wasn’t ready to have a heart attack and deal with all that. My blood pressure was also getting higher and higher following my weight gain, and quickly dropping muscle tone.

 

See I live in Florida, and so when it’s warm enough I swim for exercise. But even here, there are months that’s not an option (Yes really, as I write this it’s 38 degree’s outside. You don’t want to go swim laps in a pool in this weather.) I had fallen into the practice of just not exercising during that time. But as I got older, that was causing me more and more issues. By the time summer was over I was finally getting back to where I wanted to be, then I’d loose it all over again and undergo a transformation into something nominally human and more hippo like.

This I decided, wasn’t going to work.

So Winter exercise was in. Even though I have the bone structure of an offensive lineman, I hate lifting weights. Really hate it. So more aerobic exercise is what I was after. Not actual like aerobics, I’m also lacking in any sense of rhythm. So with a bit of fear, I decided on jogging. Now I say fear because I don’t have the best knees. It runs in my family to have bad knee’s (and other joints actually) so I wasn’t feeling overly confident, but I wanted to try. To augment this, I decided for upper body to do a boxing exercise. One, it seemed Manly, and two, seemed like a good way to work out any aggression I may have.

And so it began.. at first, 10 minutes of running, then 10 minutes of boxing. The first week.. sucked. More than once my brain told me to pack it in, sit down, and chill. Get a snack and watch a random episode of ‘Diners, Drive ins and Dives’ and forget this whole thing. But, I stuck with it. The first change I noted was, I had more energy. Noticeably more. In fact I actually ended up cutting my caffeine intake, which I’m sure made my heart a bit happy as well.

By the end of the second week, I bumped things up to 20 minutes of running and 20 minutes of boxing. This was hard, and I’m still at that level. I eventually want to move it to 30/30, but I’m not there yet. But the changes…

  1. I have a heck of a lot more energy.
  2. I FEEL better.
  3. And very surprisingly, my writing has gotten better, a LOT better.

(Note: I do not look anything like the man above.)

Writing for me was and still is a creative outlet. I enjoy it. But, when I was in my hippo/slug phase, I quite simply couldn’t write worth a damn. Even putting 300 words on the page was hard. My brain wasn’t working, I felt tired and overwhelmed. No good, and no fun.

WITH Exercise however, my writing has in fact exploded. Before I started working out, I was working on a YA SciFi novel. And honestly it hadn’t been going well. When I sat down and read over what I had written, it was dreck. Worse than dreck. And on top of it, I knew in my gut I wasn’t a YA writer. (I’ll write a different blog post about that.) So right around the same time I started the new exercise regimen, I started a new project.

And it frigging rocks.

I don’t know how else to say this without adding a bunch of curse words, but my writing output has simply exploded. I went from struggling to write 300-500 words, to blowing through 2500-4000 words at a time. I’m a month into this first draft, and I’m already at 30,000 words, and that’s even with me skipping some days writing. I don’t tend to write much on the weekends, family time tends to take over, which is highly important to me. But being at 30,000 words at this stage is mind blowing to me. And it’s GOOD output. It’s not dreck, it’s actually good writing.

There’s been research that regular physical exercise actually causes the hippocampus part of the brain to grow new cells. This area of the brain is involved in memory, and combining information from short and long term memory. Since I tend to keep almost everything about a story in my brain, outside of a few mind maps and maybe a page or two of notes, memory is something I need!

Final take:

Regular Exercise as helped me be a far better writer. (Also a better father, husband, and overall better human being.)

An Experiment

fountain_pen_writing_paper_with_black_ink_313098

So I’ve been working on my new book, Bridgefinders for about two weeks now. It’s going quite well, and I’m happy with the flow and the story so far. But I’ve been mulling over in my head how I’m going to write the antagonist side of things. See in this book the protagonist and the antagonist are almost two sides of the same coin. There are a lot of links between them, though it’s not readily apparent at first. In fact the antagonist who I’ll call “S” for this post, has a VERY different mindset that the protagonist, who I’ll call “C”.  “S”comes from a different place both mentally and physically. And I think I’m going to find my normal method of linear writing hard to do with these two characters. So as an experiment I’m going to do the following:

  1. Totally write the story strictly from the point of view of “C”.  Get that whole story arc done, regardless of length.
  2. Then start a totally new story strictly from the point of view of “S”. Get that whole story arc done, regardless of length.
  3. Merge them. <—This may be kind of hard.

 

The main reason for this experiment is that I think it’s a disservice to the “S” character who I really like a lot to make them a bit player in the story of “C”. The character deserves more. And as they are very different, I’m not sure I can flip between the two and do it well. I need to inhabit the “S” character’s personality and background more than in a superficial way. The main downside to this is going to be the length of time it takes. It’s not going to be fast, but I think it’s going to be worth it.

I’m also going to go ahead and THIS time pay for an editor. I have someone in mind, and I think it will work out well. I’m debating doing something on 99designs for the cover art, just depends on the $$$.

So I’ll update this blog again with updates on how it’s going. Should be interesting at least!

 

–Josh

 

Finding Time to Write Part II

Back when I first started this blog, I had a post on Finding Time to write. This past week has been one of those times when it’s been hard to find time. Part of it is me, I seem to run very much in spurts when it comes to creativity. There are certain times of day I can just sit down and go. It just flows, and I think “Oh man, this is cake to write, I’m so frigging awesome.” Those times always seem to be in the 9-11 am time frame. I’m a morning writer. I just am. At night, as it is now when I write this, I can write, but it doesn’t work well. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just tired after dealing with dayjob (IT) issues, or what, but it doesn’t just flow. Things are harder to hammer out, and thus I find myself doubting myself, and really self editing and censoring myself.

Halfway through this week, I realized I wasn’t going to get as much writing as I wanted done this week. I felt like I had let myself down, and in many ways I still do. My goal is to get this first draft done of CANITUS by the end of May. I think I can still make that, but it’s going to be harder now. I’ve been beating myself up on this all week. It wasn’t that I didn’t get ANY writing done, I did. But not as much as I normally do by far. In addition the fact that what I did write, I’m already not happy with. This as far as writing goes, has not been a good week.

But today I had a thought, and I’m going to stick with it.

It’s OK that I didn’t get as much done on the book this week as I wanted to.

It’s OK.

It’s OK because simply I wasn’t being lazy, I didn’t decided to hang out and watch movies, or video games, or organize my half of the closet.

It’s OK because I was busy with my dayjob, that as much I wish I could support myself and my family on writing, pays the bills.

It’s OK because I was helping my kids with end of the year school projects.

It’s OK because I also played with my kids, went went swimming, I had more than a few lightsaber battles with my son, and more than one cooking and tasting adventure with my daughter.

It’s OK because one evening, I walked away from the computer, and watched a movie with my wife and fell asleep early.

It’s OK.

I was being all those other things than a writer. I was being a father, a husband, an IT manager, and generally a person trying to balance everything.

I love to write. More than I ever expected. I came to this late, but I very much enjoy it. It’s part of who I am, but it’s not ALL I am.

And that.. is OK 🙂

Finding Time to write is important. Vitally. But so is finding time for the people in your life, and unless your blessed to make a living at it, working that day job to support those people, and your writing.

Next week is shaping up to be far better for writing. I won’t be short staffed, and the new boss is backing off some. I’ll make up the time I lost, and should still be on track.

Finding time to write doesn’t for me at least, mean sacrificing the rest of my life. And for me, It’s OK.

Dictation time

So, to update.

 

1) Still a slacker – been writing, but not enough.

2) Went through a very unmotivated time period to write.

3) Going to try something new.

See one of the reasons I write in spurts is getting the things in my head down on paper, things don’t .. flow.. as well they do when I’m thinking them. At times I’ve been known (when alone) to speak it all out loud. It sounds great.. but when I go to type it I forget parts, or it doesn’t flow as well. So I decided to try voice dictation for the PC to finish CANITUS and the other books rattling around in either partial form, or in my head totally.

I’ve been working on training the dictation software to recognize my way of speaking, and going to do it a few more times before I really dive in. The goal is to really push it starting Monday, the 5th. If it goes well I shouldn’t have to many issues with meeting my goal of finishing three books in 2015. And, once i get used to doing it, it may help with my long standing podcasting idea.

Pod casting still bothers me because I *hate* the sound of my voice recorded. I sound like I’m a kid. I’m 40 damn it, not some 17 year old kid. My voice is missing gravity, that weight of age and knowledge. Annoying.

Damn I’m a slacker

Ok ok.. I haven’t updated this as I said I would.

My excuses:

1) Work stuff. – My day job got really really busy, and I ended up doing a lot of work from home at night to get stuff done. I’m only partially out of the woods now, but seeing the other end.

2) Sickness – The flu hit our family hard, and I mean hard. My daughter got the flu mist (live vaccine) and came down with the flu.. pretty hard. I got it from her, and then my son got it from me. My wife, didn’t get it at all. I can’t write worth a damn when I’m sick. Still not 100% there either, but better.

3) Podcasting – I’m finding myself nervous about podcasting, I don’t know what to say LOL

4) Lack of progress on the book – Even more annoying, I’m pretty far behind on CANITUS. The same issues as above, and because of that I’m out of the writing ‘habit’ now.

 

So, I’m going to have to do the timer thing again.. get the groove back. This time I won’t promise anything, I’ll just say I’ll try my damn best.

 

Older posts

© 2018 Joshua C Cook

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑