Exposed Monthly: Raw Creation!
Â Ryan M. Williams
Copyright Â© 2012 by Ryan M. Williams
Â Cover art Â© 2012 by Ryan M. Williams
Published by Glittering Throng Press
Table of Contents
What will I remember about August 2012?
Taking my son to see Brave, his first movie in a theater. It was just the two of us, together in a nearly empty theater. He’s three and a half, and didn’t really know what to expect. I tried telling him, to give him some idea of what we were doing, but I don’t think he really understood until we were there. The movie held his attention and he had fun, but for me it was more about seeing him enjoy the whole thing.
I’ll also remember taking him to Deep Lake, at Millersylvania State Park for his first swim. He wore a life vest, floated and kicked about and had a great time. He’s pretty fearless about that right now.
As a family, we also took a day trip up to Mt. Rainier and walked around on the trails at Longmire.
It’s experiences that we live that fuel our imaginations and fill our lives. Take the trip to Mt. Rainier. I know my experience, but I can imagine it all sorts of other ways. Last month I used another day trip to the mountain to ask what if I heard someone scream? That led to a fantasy story in my Goblin Alley series, “The Forest Path.” The trip could also fuel imagining a couple on their first date, someone lost in the woods, and what would happen if that big rock outcropping actually did fall down the mountain?
I’ll also remember that I made a series of incremental changes this month to improve my focus, allowing me to get more projects completed. I’ll cover those changes and more details about what I’m doing. I’ll talk about my five steps to publishing, new releases, and updates on my current work in progress, Full Moon Nights.
One other thing I’ll remember: On August 6th the Curiosity rover landed safe at Bradbury Landing on Mars. Can’t you see the display on that spot seventy years from now? The kids bouncing to get a look at the rover, and Bradbury’s bust on the plaque?
Last month I wrote about refocusing my work on Exposed Monthly. At the time, those changes helped me address the emotional crisis I found myself in after my birthday. As far as most things go, I consider myself pretty lucky. Very fortunate, in fact. It helps to keep that in mind.
The changes I made brought down the number of blogs I needed to keep, leaving me with this one. It introduced more breathing room into my schedule. I basically gave myself permission to take a break and regroup. It worked. I felt better.
But sometimes the monsters are real and they don’t always only come out at night.
The changes I made in July were effective at keeping my monsters at bay, but they were still out there. I could feel them clawing at the edges of my brain, clamoring for attention. In my case my monsters were all of my stories. I had books at various stages. Several were written, but I hadn’t done anything with them since finishing the first draft. I had others that I had written and released, but that I wanted to revisit and relaunch given what I’ve learned and the skills I’ve been developing. Taking a look at my inventory, that added up to ninety-four projects. Some I might leave alone, but most needed at least some attention. Not to mention the fact that I have a huge list of upcoming projects to write.
I don’t lack for ideas.
I said it last month too, I write faster than I can publish.
So even as I was trying to refocus and reduce stress, I felt I wasn’t doing enough to address all of the other projects. I wanted to finish the novel I was writing. I wanted more short stories. IÂ wanted to do art, improve my editing skills, and relaunch older releases.
How could I fit all of that in my schedule?
On the 19th I sat down and started to figure it out.
I started out thinking about how much I’d like to write. I wanted to bring weekends back into the equation. I wanted to set my word count goal higher, because when I shoot for a higher goal I tend to do better. I figured that if I wrote 2,000 words per weekday, and 4,000 words per day on weekends that I’d be making better progress. But how could I do that and get everything else done?
While I was thinking about that I reminded myself of the phrase I use to sum up the artistic process. It’s real simple.
Create. Share. Repeat.
I’ve written about it before, but I suddenly realized that I wasn’t actually following it with enough focus. Focus was the key. I needed to focus on each step.
Create. Create the whole thing, from idea to finish. That means everything from first draft until it is ready for publication.
Share. Then, when the project was ready, share it by either sending it out to editors or by publishing it through Glittering Throng Press.
Repeat. Only then, after completing both of those steps, should I move on and do it with the next project.
This was my problem. I’d jumped too soon from one project to the next, creating a string of projects in various stages.
If I focused on one project, saw it through to publication, then I could move on to the next without the other hanging over my head. Multitasking is a myth. Switching from one task to the next tends to make everything take longer. And I’m not under any deadline. I can afford to take the time to get a project done right before I release it.
That sounded good but it left me with a question. What to do about all of the other projects that I already have?
I’d have to work through them but I still want to write new material. First off, I’d finish the book I was writing, Full Moon Nights under my R.M. Haag pen name. I would use my new word count goals and really focus on the book. In the next section I’ll talk more about the scheduling changes I made.
When I finished writing the novel, then I would take it through all the steps to publication. Although I send some short fiction out to magazines, novels go straight to publication. Then it’d be off my list, done.
Next, I’d start at the beginning of my inventory and revisit four of my previous projects and take them through the same five steps (see the article below). Now, since most of these are already written, it might not take as long, but I at least want to look at them with each hat on. I also decided that everything would come out in print as well as e-book. I’d already done a digest-sized release of “Attack of the Sand Gnomes”, but that was another idea that I hadn’t followed through on.
So at a minimum each project would get looked at and reformatted for print and e-book, incorporating what I’ve learned in the past couple years of indie publishing. And a big change for each would be original cover art. I’ve been hard at work studying and practicing digital painting and I plan to do original art for all of my projects. I’ve released a few things with my art, but even some of those I plan to redo.
After relaunching four projects then I plan to write the next new project. Then repeat that rotation. For each new one I write and release, I’ll relaunch four more. Eventually I’ll get through everything and then it’ll just be one new project at a time. And by that point I should be getting much better, with all of that practice!
Meet the new schedule, based off the old schedule!
Last month I talked about how I schedule my work in an Excel spreadsheet, using formulas to calculate how many words I need to write to meet a deadline.
Well, partway through the month I decided to change my schedule. First, I added rows and duplicated formulas so that I could track two projects at once. That change is visible in the week of the 11th in the screenshot.
I made another change, deciding on a minimum daily word count and I changed the formulas to calculate when I would complete the project with that word count. That way I also had a consistent expectation. If I missed a day, the completion date would change, but not the daily goal.
Then I sat down and figured out that I needed to focus on one project at a time, which meant my schedule needed to change. It also introduced another question. I wanted to work every day, but with the new process I’d have days when I wasn’t actually writing new words. I’d be editing or painting a cover illustration or formatting a document. How to track that given my spreadsheet?
Statuses. If I added conditional formulas then I could have it calculate word counts and completion dates when the status was Writing, but display nothing when it was something else, like Editing. That would let me track what I was doing each day on the project.
You can see the result in this snip. The 23rd, the day I finished the novel, shows the formula results but when the status line says “Editing”, it doesn’t display anything. The background color is manually assigned, I just highlight the cells on days I’ve worked. If I didn’t work I leave them white, just to give me a quick visual of the days I’ve worked. The darker color indicates a day I had off from the day job.
The formulas are changed somewhat from those I showed in the last issue, so let’s go through them one line at a time.
The first line “S”, is a status line. It’s just text, so I can put whatever I want but the other formulas display when it says “Writing.”
Total. This is the current total word count on the project. It’s just typed in when I’m done writing for the day, but the other formulas will refer to it. Before I enter the new total it has a formula:
That formula says simply, that if the status is “Writing” to display the total from the previous day. If the status says anything else then nothing is displayed.
Remaining. This line calculates how much is remaining on the project. I altered this formula from last time so that the amount remaining is calculated from the previous days. This also means I can plug in a different value. Say I initially think a story will be 3,000 words, but when I get there it looks like I have 2,000 words left? I can just type 2,000 and the following days will recalculate. The formula is:
So this has that same IF condition, each of the new formulas starts that way now. Inside is the actual calculation. It’s actually pretty simple. Inside the parenthesis it takes the current day’s total minus the previous day’s total to calculate how many words have been written. Then it takes the amount remaining on the previous day and subtracts how much has been written to get how much is remaining. So it’s always based on the previous day. But what if there’s not a previous day? Such as when I start a new project? That formula is like the old one:
So it simple takes my estimate of how long the project will be and subtracts whatever I write that first day. The 90,000 can be replaced with whatever I like, depending on the project. All of the days that follow will simply calculate how much is left. With the old spreadsheet they all looked like that first day, so to change the amount remaining I had to change them all. Now I can just retype a new value and they all update.
Deadline, estimated completion date. This changed quite a bit, because now this is the value that recalculates if I write more or miss a day, to show when I’ll finish so long as I write the minimum word count.
That formula takes the amount remaining, divided by the amount I want to write each day to come up with a number of days. Then add that total number of days to the current day.
Average word count / Actual word count. This shows the average word count needed to meet the deadline, and then shows the actual amount written after the slash.
=IF(I228=”Writing”,IF(I230>0,TEXT(+I230/(+I231-H227),”#,###”) & ” / ” & TEXT(+I229-G229,”#,###”),TEXT(0,”#,###”) & ” / ” & TEXT(+I229-G229, “#,###”)),”")
I went through it in detail in the last issue, but this has been modified with multiple conditional formulas. The TEXT formulas formats the results. It’s doing the reverse of the deadline formula. It takes the current date and the deadline, gets the difference to calculate how many days, then divides that into the amount remaining. The average word count displays the average goal set in the deadline formula, then a slash and the actual amount written after the slash. The second IF formula deals with the situation when the amount remaining is zero or less, displaying nothing for the average word count (since the project is done) and the amount written on that day.
Either the old or the new spreadsheet still has some issues with starting a new project. There are two places where it subtracts the previous total, so those references need to be removed when you start a new project. In the example that the “-G229″ references. Also, the first day of a new month has to refer up to the total at the end of the last week. But once they’re set the only time it needs to change is when a new project starts. All the following days then work fine. Once one month is set up it’s easy to copy one month to the next and everything recalculates, including the dates. I set up the entire year in advance.
Using the spreadsheet is simple. I write, record the total and highlight the cells on days I work. The highlighting is optional, but I like the visual showing which days I’ve worked. I also shade days off a darker color. When I’m writing then, the spreadsheet shows when I’ll finish. If I write more, then the date moves closer. When I’m doing editing, I record “Editing” in the status and then that carries forward and the other formulas don’t show. So then I just highlight the cells on days I work. When I move on to the next stage, I change the status.
Is it worthwhile to track each day like this? That depends on your preference. A couple years ago I thought I didn’t need to track my work and my productivity greatly dropped. The habits I’ve developed help me stay on track and get my work done. Now my schedule reflects the new focus.
In this issue I’ve written about the changes I made to focus, about how that reflected in the schedule. Now I want to touch on the steps that each project moves through from inspiration to publication.
These steps all fall under the “Create” label in Create. Share. Repeat.
The first, obvious step. Write the story! This is when I set down with a set word count to write each day and try to do that every day until its finished. I’m shooting for 2,000 words per day right now, more on weekends. I’d like to get faster. Right now I’m writing between 1,000 to 1,500 words in an hour. I’d like to get that up to the whole 2,000 words per hour. I think I can reach that simply by typing faster. If I do then I’ll probably increase my goal. To put that in perspective, think of a good-sized novel at 80,000 words. At 1,000 words per hour it’d take 80 hours to write the first draft. If I can get to 2,000 words then it’s down to 40 hours to write the novel.
The next step, after finishing the manuscript. I know that many feel that writers can’t edit their own work. I’m working on improving my skills in this area, with the goal to produce the best possible work. Could another editor help? Possibly, but at $50/hour they don’t come cheap. I plan to do the best I can with each project. For my next project I’m trying out using a text-to-speech program to read the manuscript aloud. In my first trial with it, I found it very useful at catching mistakes. I fully intend to produce professional, clean copy.
Once I’ve got clean copy, I’ll format the project for both e-book and print. The goal here is to produce professional interior layout and formatting. If the project is going out to editors I’ll also do a manuscript format. When this step is done I’ll have several files for the different platforms.
Since I’ve been working on producing my own original artwork, that’s the next thing that I’ll focus on once I’ve got clean interior copy. I’m including everything here from the artwork, to cover design, in the various formats needed. For some projects this may include interior illustrations too. At the end of this step I’ll have a variety of files for each platform.
All the work is done. All that’s left is to pull together the files and upload. I’m putting projects up on Smashwords, PubIt (Barnes & Noble), KDP (Amazon), and Kobo. Print through CreateSpace. Via Smashwords I’ll also reach Sony, Apple, Diesel and libraries.
For me this is part of the exciting new publishing industry we find ourselves in! I’m interested in each stage of the process from writing to publication. Others might want to hire out some or all of the steps after writing the project. I don’t see anything wrong with that, it’s just not what I’m choosing to do. For better or worse, the final product is going to be entirely my creation.
Earlier I mentioned that I was going to take each of my existing projects through this process. That means that I’ll look at each, in regards to where it is in each step. I don’t anticipate doing much at the writing stage (since they’re already written), but I’ll spend time at each of the stages following, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the project.
One new release this month.
Sometimes first contact happens at home. Danny lives in his own world, one that leaves little room for a connection with his parents. How far will a father go to discover a connection with his son?
Includes complete bonus story “Egg Hunt”
“Space Monkeys” was first published in On Spec Magazine. It’s the first featuring my new cover design and original cover art. After I did this one I updated the cover on a previous release, also with new cover art, before I developed my new plan.
Bad enough the planet smelled like lemon meringue pie. But for Uplift Agent Holly Kirk, her future hinges on convincing the furry natives to adopt her uplift contract â€” before her competition beats her to it. Unfortunately, the natives are more interested in dancing! Work and play collide in this story of first contact.
Full Moon Nights by R.M. Haag is my current WIP. Itâ€™s a fun, bloody, sexy werewolf novel that I think lunatics everywhere will enjoy. I finished writing the book on the 23rd and started the editing process the next day.
The first step, a quick initial format and spell check before converting it to an ePub to read through on my Nook. The first pass is just to read the book as if it were any other that I downloaded. Putting it in a familiar format helps, and I’m trying to read it just like any other book.
Next I’ll start developing notes on the changes needed, building a guide to the book of all the things that are inconsistent, mistakes I spot, etc. After that pass I’ll run through it again with the text-to-speech software to hear it and catch more. I don’t plan on getting stuck on editing, but I’ll go through several times looking at different aspects to get it as clean as I can.
Then I’ve got the formatting to do, which won’t take too long to do the different files.
I plan to spend time on the cover art. I want it to look good, and I may need to make several runs at it before I get something that I’m happy with.
How long will that all take? Hard to say. I don’t have a hard deadline. It’ll be done when it’s done, when I’m happy that it is the best book I can create. Then I’ll put it out there. I’d like to have it out by October, but we’ll just see. Getting this ready is my focus right now.
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.