Postcards from the Writer’s Den

Tis the season to hunker down with a cup of tea and a pair of warm, fuzzy socks and that’s exactly what I’ve been up to, parked in front of the laptop, typing away at my WIP after a hectic workweek.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been slacking on my blogging and social media duties. Oops.

I marvel at the social media and writing powerhouses who manage to divide their attention in ways that seem effortless: blogging, commenting, writing, Tweeting, Facebooking, Tumblring, etc.

Can I borrow some of your mojo? Pretty please?

Since my job is tied to the academic calendar, I’m extremely fortunate to be heading into a nice break. My plan is to finish “The Cabin” before the end of the year, even in the midst of holiday craziness.

This time of year is ripe for miracles, right?

In the meantime, I’m curious as to how other writers (and creative people in general) juggle their blogging and social media engagement with their primary work, i.e. the big projects. Do you see them as one in the same, means to an end, or do you sometimes resent having to forsake one in lieu of the other? Are you like me in that you prefer to hole yourself up in peace and quiet or do you seek lively, energetic environments like busy cafés to coax your muse out of hiding?

Personally, once I’m in the thick of a major task, I tend toward a certain level of detachment from the outside world, though it’s not often possible or even preferable, in most cases. I am by no means immune to the occasional twinge of guilt when I miss a blogger-buddy’s post, or when friends and family send messages asking if I’m still alive, though the clever ones have discovered that I will periodically leave my hermit’s cave for the promise of a good Irish Benedict and crispy home fries—and maybe a blueberry pancake on the side.

All right, I’m off to put last weekend’s plotting efforts to good use.

10 thoughts on “Postcards from the Writer’s Den

  1. And now I’m picturing you in cupcake-covered PJs… 😉

    So, the good coffee of a French press without all the extra cleanup? Consider an Aeropress (http://www.aeropress.com/product/aeropress/). I have one of these. While I tend to use a small espresso machine at home, this is actually quicker and faster, especially for cleanup. It’s uber-convenient, and it makes a really good cup. Better than the silly espresso machine, actually. Perhaps not as convenient as the old-style pot, if you’re going to drink multiple cups, but for just one or two…

    Anyway, today I took my own advice and spent the afternoon at a neighborhood Starbucks. In among the Christmas music and the throngs of people, and sharing a table with a gentlemen doing his own laptop work (we conversed for a bit, it was quite pleasant actually, and we talked about environments for best productivity), but *no Internet.* Well, almost none — I kept getting text messages. Still, in roughly two hours I got about 1500 words written! P&C is getting closer to a finished first draft, finally! I got past some plotting blocks and figured out how the story is going to end, finally. Finally! Now Eileen and Daryl are nearing the.. ahem… inevitable conclusion. 😉 I really need to work like this more often, it was fantastic.

    Plus they came around with gingerbread latte samples for everyone in the store. Table service! Not sure how my waistline will handle that, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, can I just keep you in my back pocket and carry you around throughout my day for all those little hiccups that need solving? 😛 I watched a few Youtube vids featuring the Aeropress and um, yeah, that’s EXACTLY what I need in my life, like, right now. Thank you for introducing me to it!

      1500 words in two hours? Damn, Lace! That’s great. These days, I’m lucky to pull 1300 in a day and that’s if I have the chance to write for four or five hours. More often than not, it’s closer to 1K. I really want to increase that, though I’m not sure how. Rachel Aaron’s book helped me plot the rest of my story, but there comes a point during the plotting process where I find myself thinking, “This is so detailed, why don’t I just write the damn thing?” It may sound trivial, but I actually think having my outline open alongside my word document (haven’t bought Scrivener yet, so I’m still using MS Word) might help. We’ll see.

      Mmm, free gingerbread latte samples. 🙂 Sounds like you may have found a perfect writing environment! Did you feel particularly scandalous when you got to the steamier parts? I usually prefer solitude while writing anything, but I do get a special little buzz from writing smut amongst strangers. I’m so glad to hear that things are moving smoothly with P&C. Do you know how long it’s shaping up to be yet?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, sure, I love back pockets, and you’re welcome! 🙂 Most days I do *not* get that kind of productivity, but an unplanned day off work (therefore, some extra time not already scheduled to the nines), and actually getting out of the house really helped. The funny part, though, is that I catch myself trying on facial expressions that my characters will be having while I write, and then I remember I’m in public and so, um, maybe better not do that, eh? Especially for the steamier bits.

        I do get a bit of a thrill, thinking “no one here know what I’m writing,” and of course worrying that someone will ask about it, or god forbid want to read some. So I try to find a seat where no one will be right behind me, potentially reading over my shoulder as I write things like “Oh, yes, Nicholas! Oh god, make me COME, Nicholas!” Lol, ok, I hope my dialogue isn’t as bad as all that…

        So, typos and bad editing aside, it really sounds like Rachel Aaron’s book is helping you, and Tamsin said it helped her, too, so I’m going to pick it up.

        So right now, after yesterday, P&C is a little over 8,000 words, and there’s “just” a concluding sex scene to go. I actually think I could have ended the story right before that, that it might have been dramatically more… something… but the readers probably want a pay-off, eh? After all, I keep building up tension, then something happens and they don’t… quite… get there, the pressure drops, and there’s another slow build of tension… Anyway, I almost might have finished off the draft last night, but it was getting late, I was getting tired, and despite the “write tired” advice I felt like my descriptions of them getting it on were becoming too mechanical. So, I put it down and will pick it up again later tonight. So, it could be done in another thousand words, but if the juices really start to flow, well, I’ve drawn these things out longer before… who knows, maybe another 3000 words? I’ve also got a couple ideas about rearranging a few events, so some minor rewriting might occur, but nothing major. Mostly moving some dialogue around to give it more punch.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I’m totally with you on the facial expression thing. 😉 And yes, making sure no one is reading over your shoulder is probably a good idea. Though, I could imagine it being kind of scandalous, in a good way, to be “that woman” at the cafe…then again, that might make for better fiction than reality.

          Rachel Aaron’s advice has been popping up at unexpected moments throughout my process and it’s so short, that I’ll probably end up reading it again within the next year. Yesterday I pulled a little over 2k, which isn’t very much for five hours of writing, but better than what I’m used to. What happened to my 5-8k days of pantsing??

          According to Wikipedia (I know, I’m rolling my eyes, too), fiction over 7,500 words and under 17K technically counts as a novelette, so congratulations on writing a novelette! Maybe I’m a pretentious weenie, but I kind of like the idea of labeling it as such on sites like Amazon and Smashwords. It has the word “novel” in it…teehee. And ah, yes, the concluding sex scene! I’m almost at that point in “The Cabin”, though there will be at least two more chapters afterwards. It’s probably a good idea that you waited until you had more energy to write the sex scene, since, like you said, it’s something the readers will be looking forward to. Mechanical descriptions were a major issue of mine when I first started and continue to be. In my fervor to not write purple prose, I sometimes go too light on the emotional component, which pretty much kills the romance.

          Sounds like you’re already slipping into editing mode. Rachel Aaron would advise you to write the draft as long as it needs to be while taking notes on what you’d like to finish, but that can be really hard once the editing brain takes over. I wish you the best of luck with finishing and polishing. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh, I’m not editing yet… not til the draft is done. Just thoughts are in the back of my head. And yeah, I’ve seen people give bad reviews on Amazon consisting mainly of “This was a ripoff! I paid 99 cents for only a few pages! I mean, they were good pages, but for a whole dollar I expect a full-length novel…!” Anyway, if the description is up-front with a page-count (which I guess is an optional feature the author can choose when publishing), or a label like “novelette” or “novella” or whatever, then people know what they’re buying and shouldn’t be surprised, right? If you’re considering a book in a bookstore, you can see the length of it as you hold it in your hand, so it’s only fair that an e-book should give you the same sense.

            I had come across something once before that broke out the categories by word count — maybe it was the same Wikipedia page! I had been unable to find it again. I’ve also seen different authors’ guidelines on what they like to price a book at based on length, though this seems to be all over the map, and with many other factors involved as well.

            I think I’m going to be scandalous in cafes a lot more. It seems to be good for my creativity. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I’ve begun taking editing notes as I write and just in general. I have a really, really bad habit of editing when I should be writing. I’ll sit down and start editing something at the start of a chapter and then spend half the time I could’ve spent finishing the draft on making a small portion of it better. Not productive! I mean, okay, maybe technically productive, but neither efficient nor organized.

            I would hope that including labels like “novella’ or “novelette” would make people less inclined to complain about length. Here’s the link to the word count Wikipedia article I used: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_count. Pricing, like you said, is a whole different and much more complicated story. Plus, you’re also dealing with Amazon’s own restrictions. I think I read somewhere that if you price anything below $2.99, it affects the royalty percentage overall, or something like that. Don’t quote me. 😛

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          3. With regard to Amazon’s royalty percentages based on price point, yes, that is correct. Basically, for ebooks that are not part of KDP Select (and/or KU), there is a minimum price of $0.99. There’s a maximum price, too, but I forget what it is. However, if your ebook is priced less than $2.99 or greater than $9.99, the royalty is only 35%, whereas if it falls within that range ($2.99 to $9.99) the royalty is 70%. Clearly Amazon is trying to encourage ebooks to be priced within this range! So, there is a quite strong financial incentive to price your book at $2.99 (or higher).

            There are also a number of studies I’ve read (I don’t have the links handy, but I’ve probably mentioned some of them before) that show correlations between price and sales volume, and if I remember correctly, $2.99 and $3.99 were pretty much the sweet spots. $0.99 is popular, but for some reason $1.99 is like a death knell. Ebooks at that price just don’t move. Combine that with the 35% royalty, and pretty much you can see that you should never price a book there. Either reduce it to $0.99 and make it up in higher volume, or increase it to $2.99 and get twice the royalty (and incidentally also probably higher volume, for some psychological reason only understood by scientists wearing white coats in some secret lab deep in the woods of Virginia).

            Free is a special case. Amazon doesn’t let you set your book at free, but other sites (like Smashwords) do, and Amazon will price match. So you can make a book “perma-free” (if that makes sense for your strategy) by making it available elsewhere for free, then ticking the little box on Amazon to “let them know about a lower price elsewhere.” This is a popular strategy for loss-leader books, such as first in a series, etc, and it is what Tamsin did with Alchemy:NYE.

            Kindle Select changes the rules, though. If you enroll your book in Select/Unlimited, you must first agree not to make it available anywhere else: no Smashwords, no B&N, etc, and no Literotica, etc. You are allowed to put excerpts on your own website, but no more than 10% of the book (I think that’s the percentage). So, basically, for anything other than a teaser, Amazon must be the only place the book is available. Also, the minimum price in Select is $2.99 — you can’t go lower. However, with Select you can set the book to free for five days (they do not need to be consecutive) out of any 90-day period, and also have “countdown” deals where the price starts at a low price (such as free), then goes up gradually each day until it is back to full price (I think that’s how it works). These are meant to be timed around marketing pushes. Select is the only program where you can take your book to free and then back to regular price again, over and over. Of course, now Select includes Unlimited, in which KU subscribers can get the book for free at any time based on their monthly subscription. In this case, you still get a royalty for downloads, but it’s a specific dollar amount, and it changes based upon the size of the KU “pool” from which all such royalties are drawn. Also, it only triggers if the reader reads at least 10% of the book (i.e., more than what would normally be in the free sample downloadable for all books). Non-KU subscribers can still buy the book, using the same rules for pricing as Select. The supposed advantage of putting your book in Select/Unlimited is that it gets more exposure to more potential readers, so there’s a chance of much better volume of sales/downloads. So far authors using the program seem to be happy with it, but it depends on having a good strategy, just like the pre- or non-Select strategy. It’s a different strategy, is all.

            So, I have seen some pricing “guidelines” based on length of the book. Here’s one for instance (http://www.writehacked.com/writing/the-definitive-guide-to-ebook-pricing/), with poor website formatting, unfortunately, but seems to be a decent article. Lindsay Buroker has this quite-good article (though it also predates the Unlimited change of the landscape) with her thoughts on pricing (http://www.lindsayburoker.com/e-publishing/ebook-pricing-for-short-stories-and-novellas/). I actually found this article a while ago, but only recently started following Lindsay (she happens to also be a master beer brewer! What’s not to like there, eh?), not realizing that hers was the article I had seen a while back.

            Ok, that was longer than I expected it to be, but I guess we’re both used to that by now, lol.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. It’s times like these when I truly admire those who decide to go the self-pubbing route. Even just reading about the intricacies of pricing has me itching to flee in the opposite direction, screaming, “I don’t do math, I just write smut!” 😛

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  2. It may seem like everyone else is effortlessly managing their time, writing prodigiously while blogging daily and tweeting constantly. It does sometimes seem like there are those who do all that and still manage to publish a book a month! I’m pretty sure they have time-turners a la Hermione Granger so that they can literally do multiple things at once, squeezing 48 hours into a 24-hour day (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Time-Turner).

    Perhaps everyone else is better at this, but I suspect the truth is otherwise. It certainly is for me. I tend to feel a ‘responsibility’ to respond to things on social media, and I do see it all as part of the overall effort, but in the end the writing is what matters most. I think you’ve got the right formula for that. I’m still tweaking my formula. I’m definitely not writing as quickly as I would like — far slower than I expected, in fact.

    As for where do I find my muse, well, most of the time I write at home, on a chaise by the window where I can look out at the world. I especially like this on weekend mornings. In the evenings it tends to be too cold by the window, so I move to the couch near the fire instead. However, both locations have one major drawback: constant and easy access to the Internet. Some of my *best* writing occurs in cafes and/or pubs, where it may be busy around me, but it’s much easier to ignore any WiFi that may be available and cut myself off from the rest of the world for a bit. However, it’s often difficult for me to find time to actually go out and hang out in cafes and pubs, whereas the chaise and the couch are pretty much always here, ready for me, and I don’t have to get out of my pajamas. And the coffee is free. Well, ok, not free, but much cheaper than buying lattes at a cafe. On the other hand, though, I do have to make it for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny anecdote re: coffee and making it yourself. I’m in the market for a new coffee maker and after writing the coffee romance story, I considered getting myself a French Press. Then it occurred to me that the last thing my productivity needs is to take what’s usually a three minute task and turn it into a fifteen minute process with extra clean-up.

      Oh, my, yes. I want one of those time-turner thingies! I’m slightly embarrassed to divulge the shameful secret that I haven’t read past the third Harry Potter book or seen the movies, but I plan on remedying the latter, at the very least, soon!

      You’re absolute right about the responsibility inherent in social media. It’s easy to keep putting one’s own work off when the only person you’re going to disappoint is yourself. Leaving others hanging leads to guilt and the concern that you’re coming off as rude or selfish. Plus, ducking out of social media and then returning to find that you’ve missed fun conversation can lead to a serious case of FOMA (Fear of Missing Out). I know I struggle with that.

      Ah, yes, the internet. I love streaming classical music while I write, but the temptation to venture off to Facebook or Twitter in the middle of a scene can be too much. I’m definitely with you on the pajamas! 😉 The second I get home, it’s “Goodbye jeans, hello cupcake-themed PJ pants!”

      Thanks so much for commenting on my (very brief) post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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