Exposed Monthly: Raw Creation!
Ryan M. Williams
Exposed Monthly: Raw Creation! July 2012
Copyright Â© 2012 by Ryan M. Williams
Â Cover art Â© 2012 by Ryan M. Williams
Published by Glittering Throng Press
Table of Contents
Was July 2012 significant?
I’m sure it was for some people. Here in the shadow of Mt. Rainier the days finally turned warm and sunny. I started riding my bike more, imagining riding the Tour Divide race from Antelope Wells, New Mexico all the way up Adventure Cycling’s route to Banff, Alberta. Presidential politics kept the journalists busy commenting on the latest statement by this or that candidate. Olympic watchers waited impatiently all month for the games to begin. Many people, I’m sure, grieved at the news that Sally Ride had passed away. Whatever significance July held depends, of course, on your own personal perspective.
I turned forty-one.
I don’t think that’s generally considered to have any significance. I mean when you turn forty, that’s something for a lot of people. Forty crosses some sort of a threshold. But birthdays that end with a one? Not so much. Except twenty-one. That’s probably the only time that anyone cares about a birthday that ends with a one.
I think that sometimes you can’t see the significance of a month until you’re well past it. Then you can look back and say, “Yes, that’s when everything changed.”
I don’t know if I can say that about July 2012.
But things have changed. Maybe not everything.
In Exposed Monthly I’m going to talk about what happens behind the scenes of being an indie author. I’m not a best-selling indie author, at least not yet. In that sense I think I’m more typical of many writers and artists out there trying to do the best they can to get a handle on our new world of publishing. I’m going to share my problems, challenges and solutions for both the creative and business side of the profession. Whether or not things have worked for me, and what things I might try next.
If you’re reading this I’m guessing that most likely you’re also facing these sorts of challenges. Either that or you’ve read my fiction and are curious what goes on in a writer’s life. Maybe you’re both. Whatever the reason, I hope you find your time here worthwhile. I’ll do my best to make that happen. And just for fun, I’ll also give you a coupon code for a free book for taking a look.
So let’s take a look at July 2012. What the heck happened?
It’s still dark outside as I write this sitting at my prefab student desk that’s followed me around since college days. I’ve got the windows open to let in some of the cool night air and reflected in the window the ceiling fan is turning in quiet circles. I’ve often had trouble sleeping and having a toddler climbing into bed doesn’t help. If I can’t sleep, I might as well write!
My original intent for Exposed Monthly, back when I first launched in November 2011, was very different. I was going to serialize novels as I wrote them, include any short stories I wrote, and have a few articles. I wanted to feature artwork that I created. I planned to include interviews with fellow indie authors. And on top of that I’d lay it all out in a full-color monthly magazine, as well as an e-book edition.
That plan turned out to have a few problems.
First, it takes a lot of time. I wanted to release it right away each month, but the release dates kept falling back more and more until I was issues behind.
Second, and more important, it restricted what I could do with my fiction. By planning to include everything that meant that I couldn’t send those stories to traditional markets. Writers have many options these days. Do you send the story to a traditional magazine market or put it up as an e-book? There are reasons to do both, but by printing my stories in my own magazine it took traditional markets out of the picture. That’s not good. I’m perfectly happy to sell a story to a magazine market, get paid well and get exposure that way, and then release it myself as an e-book when the exclusivity period passes. That makes a lot more business sense.
Third, and also important, trying to do the monthly magazine idea was creating too much stress with all of my other goals.
When I finally listened to my smart wife (she knew I was trying to do too much, of course) I was going to simply stop. For a few days there I redirected the domain to my publishing site at Glittering Throng Press and that was it, I was done with Exposed Monthly.
What a relief!
Maybe it’s just turning a year older, but I was going through my own mini-crisis at the time. I needed to step back and figure out what was important. What goals made sense? What could I let go?
I write under many different pen names, one for each genre. Each of those names in turn had its own web site and blog. Except I wasn’t blogging regularly on each of those sites, and that also created stress. Writing fiction was the priority, not blogging, but I didn’t like having blogs sitting there without regular updates.
What I really wanted was a site where readers could discover my books, and I had that with Glittering Throng Press. Okay, so why not make that my main site? Except I didn’t want it to be my blog too, I wanted it focused on the books.
That was it! Each month I’d do a post (a long post), a behind-the-scenes post about all of the things I was doing. That gave me all month to work on it, and then I’d just post it on the first of each month. Less pressure by far and it took nine sites down to two, with the pen name domains redirecting to Glittering Throng Press which would be the one-stop site for readers to find out about my books.
If you haven’t heard of crowd-funding and Kickstarter, I’m surprised. I’d heard about it, and it sounded very exciting. I read a lot about projects that were funded, often well above their goals.
Here was an opportunity to build buzz and interest for my new novel. I could put it up, get preorders and raise money to pay an outside editor to take a look at the book. It help cover the cost of setting the book up at Lightning Source, so I could do a hard cover, dust-jacketed edition of the book. Not only that, but I could raise money to do the same thing with the first book, to pay the costs of buying a block of ISBN numbers (needed for Lightning Source), and basically make this a “big” release.
Plus it sounded like fun!
I read everything I could about what made successful projects.
I needed a video.
I don’t know anything about making a video.
The book, Goblin Alley: Eleven Lords, was the second novel in my Goblin Alley fantasy series. In the series Dalton Hicks discovers that alleys can act as conduits between worlds. A cross-country champion, his talent for running serves him well as he’s pursued across two worlds.
Wouldn’t it be great to recreate that in the video?
I could appear in an alley, running to the camera to tell backers about the project. Then I could disappear in another alley and come out in another city, cut in between with a zoom on artwork showing the goblin city.
Did I mention I didn’t know anything about making a video?
Oh, and I’m doing the artwork for the book, but that wasn’t done either.
No problem, I wanted to launch in three weeks so that gave me time to do it all.
I was also writing a new novel and had to travel to attend my niece’s graduation and family reunion. But that was perfect, because it gave me a chance to film in different cities!
Still didn’t know anything about making a video.
But let’s go ahead and shoot the footage anyway, and figure out the rest later.
When we got back I threw myself into learning Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, and tried to pull together the video. Oh, then I had to fix the audio using Adobe Audition. What about a soundtrack? Right.
Lesson 1: Don’t decide to do a project, plan to launch in three weeks, when you don’t have a clue what you’re doing.
Given that, I don’t think I did too badly. I scaled back the video (mostly because the footage was almost all unusable), put up a sample of the book, and had a good list of rewards.
The project launched when I’d planned. I sent out messages through my various social networks and sat back, waiting for word to spread and the project to take off.
Uh, yeah. That doesn’t work.
Lesson 2: Don’t think that a project will take off unless it’s really, really amazing, or you have a huge following.
I happen to think that this is a fantastic novel. I believe it has an audience. I’m 100% behind the series. But it hasn’t found an audience yet. If the first book had a big following, this probably would have gone differently. I can see doing a Kickstarter project as a way for an indie writer to offer readers a great preorder opportunity, but do it when there’s already a fan base in place.
Lesson 3: Without fans, you’re building a following from scratch and that’s hard to do.
Was it the right decision to try doing a Kickstarter project when I was unprepared, with this project? No, but so what? I learned a lot about what makes a successful project. I got my feet wet on video work, and had fun. It was also a lot of stress and I’ve tabled plans to do a new Kickstarter project until these other elements are in place. I still think it is a cool idea, and encourage you to check out Kickstarter and support other creative projects.
I’m like a lot of writers, in that I haven’t made the break to writing full-time yet. The income from my writing is nice, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage. Being a father, with a full-time job, while trying to write, paint, read and still have time for exercising or even a chance to sit down and watch a movie or TV show now and then is a challenge.
I find it helpful to schedule and plan my writing time. Often it happens in the morning while the family sleeps, or on lunch breaks. In 15 minutes when I can grab it.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t take as much time to write as people often think.
I budget my time at 250 words per 15 minutes.
250 words equals a page. Do that each day for a year and you’ve got a book.
Of course I set my sights higher than that!
One night my wife looked in on me to find me sitting at my desk, head in my hands.
“Are you okay?”
I wasn’t. Not right then. The trouble was, I was in a rush. I’d scheduled so many projects, so many goals, so much I was trying to study and learn, that it was too much. I was all out of balance. I’d packed so much into each day that the schedule was impossible to keep. And by failing to match those expectations it felt like I was failing at my writing career.
When she walked in I was feeling like my writing career was dead.
Ridiculous, but that’s the sort of thing that happens in our heads.
Ridiculous, because your writing career doesn’t die because you didn’t meet a goal. It doesn’t die because a story got rejected. A writing career doesn’t die when your publisher drops you.
Writing careers, any creative career, dies when you stop. That’s it.
I’m not suggesting you don’t work hard at it, but find your own personal balance.
I’m writing early on a Saturday morning. It isn’t on my schedule anymore.
I use Excel as a tool to schedule my writing.
This shows my schedule for August. One story per week, weekdays scheduled. The 6th is clear because I’m spending that day with my son, so I don’t have any writing expectation. None on the weekends (anymore).
The formulas calculate how many words per day I need to write to meet the goal for the week, adjusting as I update the total word count of the project.
I realized that to find my balance I needed to take weekends off the schedule. That doesn’t mean I won’t write. There will be times (like this morning) that I do write. But that’s all ‘bonus’ words. And if I don’t write anything, that’s fine.
I gave myself permission to use the weekend to spend with family, work on other projects and just have fun. Of course writing is fun, so it might sneak in, but it’s much less stressful this way.
And I still have a goal of writing a short story each week. Then, when the story is cleaned up and ready, it’ll go out to traditional magazine markets first. Later I’ll publish the stories in two-story collections, and bigger collections, as e-books and in print.
For the first half of the year my primary focus was on novels. I haven’t completely stopped working on novels, but I’m working on my current novel after I finish the story for the week. So if I’m done writing the story on Wednesday, I’ll spend the next days working on the next book.
Now, for those curious, here’s how the spreadsheet works:
Each day is six rows and two columns.
Column one is the date column. The date is a formula, example: “=+D189+1″ That is, it adds the previous date, plus one. It’s formatted as a custom cell format “d”, to create a date format only showing the day. What this means is that the dates are all automatically calculated for the whole year. I don’t have to remember what months have 30 vs. 31 days, Excel takes care of it.
The rest of column one are just labels. The formulas are in the second column.
T Total. Formula is +previous total. This is where the work happens. When I finish writing for the day I type in the new total, replacing the formula and all the other formulas recalculate.
R Remaining. Formula that takes the total estimated length â€“ the total cell above. Example: ” =7000-G190″
D Due. When is the project due? I set an end date. The formula just pulls the date from the previous day ” =+G192″, so if I change the date then the new date is automatically pulled ahead into future dates on the calendar and everything gets refigured.
A Average / Daily Count. This is the most complex formula in the spreadsheet. ” =TEXT(+I191/((+I192-H189)+1),”#,###”) & ” / ” & TEXT(+I190-G190,”#,###”)”
Let’s break that down. What it does is take what’s remaining, and figure out how many words per day on average are needed to finish the project on time. It shows that number on the left side of the slash. Then on the right side of the slash it figures out how many words were written on that day.
Let’s walk through the formula.
=TEXT(+I191/((+I192-H189)+1),”#,###”) & ” / ” & TEXT(+I190-G190,”#,###”)
Just looking at the highlighted section. +I191, that’s adding the total remaining word count, divided by the due date +I192 minus that day H189 plus one. That gives the number of days. So it’s basically just saying, how many words left divided by how many days left.
=TEXT(+I191/((+I192-H189)+1),”#,###”) & ” / ” & TEXT(+I190-G190,”#,###”)
All that Text stuff, that’s formatting. It’s taking the results of the equations and formatting them with commas and the slash in between the two numbers.
=TEXT(+I191/((+I192-H189)+1),”#,###”) & ” / ” & TEXT(+I190-G190,”#,###”)
Figuring out today’s count is easy, it’s just that day’s total minus the previous day’s total. On a date that starts a new project you want to take out the minus the previous day, because it doesn’t make any sense to subtract the total of a different project.
Which brings up the point, this spreadsheet is designed to focus on one project at a time. The O Other label in the bottom cell is there to give room to add any ‘extra’ words that you write. So if you wrote 500 words on a side project you could put in 500 there, just to track it. Of course you could also have more rows per day and track more than one project. Or you can mix projects, switching back and forth, but you have to start adjusting the formulas more often.
Is it necessary to do something like this? Of course not. If you enjoy it, fine. If not, forget it. Once it’s set up it doesn’t take much work, mostly just putting in the current total word count. And since I have it set up for the whole year then I can block out vacations, workshops or other things in advance. I find it helpful to schedule my projects, and track my progress. Your mileage may vary.
Just this week I finished a new short story, the first of my weekly story challenge. “The Forest Path” is a new Goblin Alley story, it’ll be under my Michael Burges name. Although the story stands on its own, I think it may end up being included in the third Goblin Alley novel Trow Forge.
I’m right at the end of my new R.M. Haag novel, Full Moon Nights. It’s a fun, bloody, sexy werewolf novel that I think lunatics everywhere will enjoy. I expect to finish it up soon. The writing that is, but I’d really like to get it out and released in October. That seems appropriate, if I can.
As soon as that’s done, then I’m starting my new science fiction novel, the third book in the Moreau Society series with the alien-human genetic hybrid detective Brock Marsden in Past Lives.
And then there’s the backlog! I write faster than I can publish.
Goblin Alley: Bloodied Fang by Michael Burges It’s had a new edit, but needs new cover art and a redesign POD. I want to look at the blurb too, all part of the relaunch along with the second book.
Goblin Alley: Eleven Lords by Michael Burges Written, the Kickstarter project didn’t fly but I’m moving ahead anyway. It needs editing, cover art, layout, the works.
Killing Dead Things by Tennessee Hicks. Another completed novel, still needs editing, cover art, and layout. I also want to revisit Waking Dead Things and Dreaming Dead Things, so that when the third book launches all three have a new exciting, unified look.
Land Lubbers: Cabin Boys by Ryan M. Williams. Another completed novel, a juvenile science fiction / alternate history adventure with intelligent sharks, pirates and lots of fun. I’m also planning some interior illustrations on this one, so it’s going to take time.
Feed Me More by Edgar Allan Clemens. A picture book under a new pen name. It’s written, but I haven’t done the artwork yet. Inspired by “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.
Plus there are a bunch of shorter works out at markets, or waiting in the production line to get online. I’ll hopefully have a new releases section in the post next month.
To kick off the new Exposed Monthly, and because I’m going to start the third Moreau Society book Past Lives soon, this month’s free book selection is Dark Matters. This was also the first novel that I put up at the start of this whole indie, self-publishing new world.
“If you like science fiction and a great mystery, you’ll enjoy this story.” Review by: Kay Ortgiesen on June 22, 2011 :Â
“I have read this book, as well as The Gingerbread House and all I can say is please please please continue this series.” Review by: Mario Sotelo :Â
Brock Marsden. A genetically-modified private detective who solves the toughest cases on a world populated by a mix of humans and aliens.
Â Like this one.
Â A young woman, Chrissy Winston, murdered in a bizarre fashion that leaves police chasing false leads. A case that needs all of Brockâ€™s unique abilities and maybe new ones if he hopes to catch the killer.
Get the book free with the coupon code: ST78J, at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/5412
After checkout you’ll be able to download the e-book in all popular formats for whatever platform you want.
The coupon code expires September 1, 2012.
Each month Exposed brings you an â€˜behind-the-scenesâ€™ look at the work created in the prior month by writer/artist Ryan M. Williams.
What sort of things can you expect from Exposed Monthly?
- Commentary on the writing process.
- A look at artwork, as its created.
- News on upcoming works and publications.
A prolific writer, Ryan M. Williams writes science fiction, but also writes other genres under different pen names, and Exposed covers them all! Fantasy from Michael Burges, paranormal fantasy from Tennessee Hicks, horror from R.M. Haag, mystery from Ryan M. Welch, and romance from Kate N. Ryan.
For all the latest issues, visit www.exposedmonthly.com, or pick up the issues as free e-book releases.
Finished work is available in all popular e-book and print formats through major retailers. Check out Glittering Throng Press for all the details on new releases!
Moreau Society Novels
The Gingerbread House
Past Lives *forthcoming
Other books and stories
The Greatest Gig and Other Stories
Strange Babies and Other Stories
Five More Futures
The Idea Man
Journey to Emberland
Alien Conspiracy Theory
People Love Rocketships
Better the Boy
The Greatest Gig
Bouncing Baby Boy
The Copyleft Heart
Visit www.glitteringthrongpress.com for information on these,
and many more e-books under my other pen names.