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A look back at 2014

I know there’s still a week or so of this year left but lets face it, that’s not much of the year and I’m unlikely to get much done in the way of work.

This year I had quite big hopes in terms of book releases both in print and ebook and I think it’s the first year that I’ve just not managed what I set out to. at the start of the year I intended to publish my Tales of Ethanar anthology, Sherdan’s Country, The Fire of Winter and write and publish at least one more novella in the same world as my novella in the Kiss anthology, The Slave Who’d Never Been Kissed.

The only one of those I achieved was finishing and publishing Sherdan’s Country. It doesn’t mean I didn’t write much this year. I wrote more this year than I did in 2013, it’s just not all ready to be published yet. I did write and publish the first novella in a new series under a pen name I invented this year. The Hundred Year Wait under Amelia Price is one of my best selling books this year so I’ve also now written two sequels. The Unexpected Coincidence and The Invisible Amateur.

The fantasy publications intended for this year haven’t been forgotten. Both of them require some maps to complete the information inside (as well as a few other bits and pieces). Those maps have proved incredibly difficult to handle with my limited skills when it comes to computer graphics and formatting an ebook. I’m getting closer with them but will definitely need help with the last part.

I’ve also started two other series works this year that I didn’t foresee at the beginning. Both are collaborations with other authors. I’ve mentioned the story in the works with author TR Harris and that it will appear under my Amelia Price pen name. The second I’ve not made mention of before and I’m hoping to have a blog post dedicated to that early in the new year.

Sales wise, the year hasn’t been my best, stopping my trend of at least doubling my sales every year but this has still been my second best year so far in terms of sales numbers and if it wasn’t for having no print release this year would be my biggest grossing year, so it comes in second for that as well. Considering the releases I’ve had and expenses it’s not been a bad year.

Across the board authors are talking about how it has been a harder year this year for indies. Several changes have lowered the visibility and I’ve noticed it has been harder to get ads and promote my novels than it was in 2013. I only expect that to get worse in 2015. There’s also Amazons Kindle Unlimited program which is not good for indies. A few have said it’s raised their exposure and royalties but most have found it has cannabalised their sales and made them less per borrow than they would get if they had a sale. On top of that the traditional publishers are finally working out that ebooks should sell for less. That means more and more competition at the lower prices Indies are used to dominating. Something great for the reader, so in a lot of ways I’m not complaining about that one, but it does mean more competition for visibility even if it doesn’t for spending budget.

Over all it’s been a tough year and reminded me that being an author is a fickle business and hard work. I’m definitely not giving up, however. Instead I’m already working out a plan I’ll have more hope of sticking to that should make more use of Amazon’s rankings and the different books that are selling well this year despite the tougher climate, but I’ll post about my plans for 2015 next week.

NaNoWriMo Update 4: 2014

So it seems that I keep losing Tuesdays and always find myself thinking it’s Monday until far too late to blog. I think that says a fair bit about my mental state at the moment.

I have now finished the second of two Mycroft Holmes Novellas. As I suspected the second wasn’t quite long enough to tip me over the edge of 60k mark I was aiming for but I’ve got a few other bits and pieces I can write this month to take me over for the monthly total although I won’t be using it as part of the validated word count on the official NaNoWriMo website.

The last weekend I took off, however, and I definitely won’t be working too hard this week so we’ll see how high the monthly count actually gets. I’ll post it next week as it will probably be my highest monthly count ever.

In terms of the Mycroft novellas I’m going to let them sit for a few weeks before I begin the process of second drafting them both, but that will probably be done quite easily in December and then handed off to my editor. For now I’ve got a bunch of other stuff I simply have to work on but I’m finding myself quite kean to delve into more in the Mycroft world so who knows what I’ll work on after this. More Mycroft isn’t technically on my schedule yet but I don’t like ignoring the inspiration if its tugging me in a specific direction wo the schedule could go out the window entirely.

For now though, time to get back to the other stuff I neglected while writing the last three weeks.

NaNoWriMo 2014: Update 3

So I’m almost three weeks into the month and I’m almost there. I’ve written a total of 49,227 words so far this month, leaving me with only 10,773 to go to hit my target.

Mycroft 2 netted me 32,252 and I’m at just under 17k for Mycroft 3 so if it’s as long as its prequels Mycroft 3 should take me over the 60k mark nicely, although that does seem to be where I might hit a snag. At my current place in the plot I’m only expecting Mycroft 3 to get to about 25k which would leave me 2-3k short of my target word count. Right now I’m not sure about the best way to solve that problem, but there’s a chance it won’t be. I’ve never been amazing at estimating word counts so I could be wrong.

I definitely don’t intend to add filler to Mycroft 3 just to make the count although the plot is the simplist of the 3, probably why it’s coming up short, so I could try and think of a good twist to add somewhere. Alternatively I could settle for not hitting the 60k. I’d have finished the books so my task would be sort of done. My other option is to start something else or continue one of the other projects I’ve got on the go, which I think will be the most likely.

Research wise, Mycroft 3 has been the easiest of the books. It’s mostly winding down on plot threads I’ve created in the previous two and focuses a little more on the relational side of things. Mycroft might even finally decide he likes Amelia. That’s all stuff I don’t need to research so other than looking a little more into a martial art I’ve been able to just keep writing.

My aim is to try and finish Mycroft 3 this week. That leaves me with somewhere between 8-10k to write in 3 days so I’d best get back to it.

NaNoWriMo 2014: Update 2

It’s Tuesday again and still November so I’m still busy writing away. Well actually I’m not, but that’s because I’ve taken a day off. The second Mycroft Adventures novella is finished as of yesterday evening. I’ve written over thirty-two thousand words in just ten days. My aim for the month is still sixty thousand so I’ve got almost twenty-eight to go.

The Mycroft novella really took on a life of its own and really wrote itself which was a pleasant feeling. It’s also given me plenty of ideas for sequels so I think there will be at least five or six of them. The next of which I will probably start writing tomorrow or the day after.

Research wise I did quite a bit of random stuff for the second half of the novel as well, including looking into rare Russians coins from 1897 and more map searching in London for accurate times to different locations. Finally I wrote and borrowed a few more riddles.

So far it’s been a very good NaNoWriMo and I’m hoping writing a third Mycroft story will make it even more awesome.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Update 1

Well so far I’m ahead of target (although I forgot that I was meant to blog this yesterday). As of right now I’m at 13288 words and a good way of the plotĀ  into my Mycroft novella. I’ve also updated the side widget to show where I’m at and you can probably see that I only plan to write about another 20k of this story. I haven’t decided what I’ll do after that so I’m expecting to need a couple of days right in the middle of November to decide what I’ll be doing to hit that 60k mark I’m aiming for.

At this point in time I’m considering starting on the third Mycroft story but it is the haziest part of the plot in my head (the two stories after are very clear in an annoying sort of way). It would be the most satisfying way to spend the rest of NaNo though and probably the one most in keeping with the rules, but I could work on Victorious Ruin instead. I at least have that vaguely plotted out even if it’s a bit slow going on the writing front. And for the fans waiting eagerly for Victorious Ruin, no matter what I decide it will be what I finish once I’ve done NaNo.

But back to how it’s gone so far. For the most part I’m actually sticking quite nicely to my plan and the plot notes I have to hand, although Mycroft is up to quite a bit more than I originally visioned. That’s probably a good thing because this story was going to be a bit weak on his side of things otherwise. International Crime stuff is very new for me so I’m quite literally making that bit up as I go along and hoping it won’t fall apart before I reach a satisfying conclusion of some kind. If I need to I can add in hints and clues that make Mycroft look clever during the second draft.

In terms of surprise elements. I have riddles. Wonderful Mycroft riddles. I wasn’t expecting this at all and it was just a series of ideas that snuck themselves in and led that way so they’re there to stay. Probably the only surprise so far but a good one.

I tried to do as much research as I could before I began but I’ve also had to pull up maps of London a lot and scout out areas. There’s a little hommage to one of the Sherlock writers, Moffat, in there for people to spot and I’ve had to look up quite a few things to do with stalkers and the sorts of things they write in letters. That was a little creepy. I also need to research a disease or condition someone elderly might have that requires constant supervision but I’m going to leave that for after NaNo, for now I just have (Disease) wherever it should be mentioned, which is only twice so far.

With all that said I should probably get back to the writing, and probably watching V for Vendetta, because it’s the 5th and in Britain that means bonfire’s and fireworks and possibly a Guy called Fawkes. enjoy if you’re celebrating that this evening or at the weekend!

How to prepare for writing lots in one month (or NaNoWriMo)

Yup, it’s almost that time of year again when a large chunk of the world wide writerly community goes crazy in the attempt to cram as many story telling words into one month as possible in the aim of having actually got their ideas out onto paper so they have something to work with and polish up, no matter how crap those original words are.

Now I’ve managed to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge the last three years running somehow (typically 50k words in one month) and I’m of course up for doing it again as it tends to be my most productive month of the year even if I’ve come close a few other times. I have found the best NaNoWriMo’s though are the ones where I actually put some planning in and knew what I wanted to write in advance.

I’m not much of a planner, in fact I come much closer to the pantser type of writer, but for November I’m much more of a planner than normal. Instead of having a few scribbled plot notes of scenes in my ideas notebook to go on and mostly ignore, for NaNo I usually spend the last couple of weeks in October mulling over plot details. Important character decisions and the main scenes where important matters happen or dialogue is said are the things I focus on.

This usually leads me to the plot points I’m not sure on yet. By thinking over the scenes and what might link them it forces me to decide on stuff that needs to happen that I normally leave until I’m writing the book. This can be minor details like what someone is doing in a scene while a conversation is happening or it can be a big detail like the motive for an action or even the entire plotline for a less major character who needs to be given more detail. It can even lead to me realising I need another POV character or something as fundamental to the writing as that. I also find it helps me do my research in advance. Knowing the science, history or forensics before the scene is written usually helps me imagine it that much quicker.

As a pantser I often don’t plan too much because I don’t want to take the fun out of writing, and I know other pantsers say the same thing about why they don’t do detailed plans, but whatever your method and whatever your reasons, to get the wordcount at the end, it definitely helps to have thought through enough that there’s no stopping to work out important details that could have already been fixed.

The final thing I try and do to get me off to a good start is harness the part of the book I write best. I know from my own writing habits that the first 25% of any story and the last 10% go the quickest for me. I love delving into a new plot and I love getting close to the end, so I harness this for NaNoWriMo, especially if I’m stuck. I almost always start something new for NaNo (the rules say you’re meant to anyway, but plenty of people cheat) and push myself to get ahead while writing that 25% because I know I’ll find it easier and it will provide me with some grace if I get stuck after.

I’ve also been known to give up on the story I started for NaNo and write a complete shorter work to give me a boost. I did this last year and wrote the first 39k of Sherdan’s Country before switching to write the entire 21k of my novella in the Kiss anthology, which I penned down in only 6 days towards the end. With the little bits I did in the few final days I entirely rescued my NaNo target and smashed it by over 10k, hitting almost 62k by the end of the month. Technically I cheated. I didn’t quite get to over 50k in one story, but I had a completed novella and was over half way through the novel I originally wanted to write and that’s a success for me.

This year I’m going to start with my Mycroft Holmes Adventures 2 novella and then when I’ve got that done, if I’ve had time to plan 3 I’ll try and write 3 as well, if not continue on with finishing Hearts of the Seas 2, Victorious Ruin. Whatever I write though I’m aiming for at least 60k. I’ll be blogging about my progress each tuesday through November for those who want to see if it goes according to plan or not.