A couple weeks ago, I started writing what I thought was going to be a few paragraphs looking back on what I did in writing and publishing over 2019, and then what I therefore plan to do in 2020.
I ended up with 11,000 words. Which is now 11 chapters, plus an introduction and an afterword and is now in pre-order status on Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Kobo. (The book lands on January 6; the pre-order set-up was mostly for my own logistical purposes.)
If you’re an indie author or even dabbling in becoming one, it might be something you’d be interested in reading.
So instead of finishing part-one of the next novel over the holiday break, I did that. Which is okay! It helped me organize my thoughts, realize all the valuable new publishing stuff I learned over the past year, and get myself ready for a running charge at the year to come.
For blogging purposes, I figured I’d go ahead and post one chapter of it here, which is the material I thought I was writing about in the first place! The following is only about what I managed to get published in 2019, despite huge adversities and having spent two-thirds of the year taking marketing classes and learning about the business of writing, rather than writing new words:
CODEWORDS: MON-STAR, WITCH DOTOR, and SUN TZU
Okay, after the gloomy talk comes the good stuff. The celebration. The pat on the back.
MON-STAR is the name of one page in my MS Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of all my writing stuff. I took the name from the bad guy on an 80’s cartoon that I never really cared for called SilverHawks. It was the red-headed step-brother to ThunderCats, which was my show at the time. SilverHawks sucked in comparison.
Why did I name this codeword after the villain in an old cartoon I never liked? I have no idea! Sometimes the randomness of codewords is what makes them effective cryptology!
Anyway, the MON-STAR spreadsheet shows my publications for each year and keeps a running tally. It starts with my first short story score in Tales of the Talisman Magazine in 2007, all the way up to today.
Somehow, even though I have done almost no new writing this year (as I’ll discuss under BLACK TEA), I had more words published this year than any previous one! MON-STAR reports 322,000 words published this year! Woo-hoo!
Now, not all of these words were brand new, never seen before words. Many of them were republished from previous appearances and are now collected in anthologies. But counting each publication separately, about 322,000 words came out this year. That’s a friggin’ accomplishment for me! My general goal is to publish at least 80,000 per year. That’s one big novel or two short ones. This, again, is not enough by some writers’ or gurus’ standards. But like 99% of us, I have a day job, family, etc. So 80K words a year, I can live with for now.
When I get to BAR GRAPH, I’ll talk more about goals, like monthly word counts. Personally, I think counting the end result is more important. For example, you can start fifteen short stories this year, but if you never finish a one of them, who cares? If no one can read a finished book or story, they didn’t do you much good. So, one of the things I count is yearly publications. Then I tally the finished word counts for those.
Here’s how some of it broke down. You may or may not be super-interested in hearing about my books, but... Hey, this is my end-of-the-year discussion, remember? I’m doing it as much for myself as for you, so please bear with me. I’ll keep it brief and then move into the next two codewords.
Deus Ex Machina was the only actual novel I published this year. I worked on that off and on over the course of a few years, starting and stopping due to life issues and poor decision making on my part, and finally got it done in 2018. It seems like a lot of the work that gets done one year gets published the next. Much like Big Five publishing. DXM hit the shelves in January.
The other major book I put out was Green-Eyed Monster, a collection of thirteen stories and novelettes. Some of the stories in there appear only in it, while many appear in other books of mine and were previously published in magazines and other online publications.
The other important items from the year include my short story “The Proposal” appearing in Weirdbook #41 and republishing Kiss of the Maiden. Kiss was originally a free standalone short story (and was a “chapter one” for a book that I started many years ago that has yet to be finished). I re-pubbed the book this year to include four more stories, all of a similar shady mood. I then took the collection Kiss, shuffled it in with A Long Walk Down a Dark Alley and One-Eyed Jacks, recovered them all, and made them a “trilogy” based on the similar theme and feel of the stories.
There were some other, small publishing accomplishments, but we’ll move on. The important thing is that MON-STAR proves to me that 2019 was a damn good year, no matter what my evil, doubtful, bad-mouthing shoulder imp might whisper into my ear!
The other codewords worth mentioning here are WITCH DOCTOR and SUN TZU, both of which also spurred on work done this year.
WICTH DOCTOR is the document that I keep all of my sales blurbs in. The original codeword was BLURB DOCTOR, which then became WITCH DOCTOR in the next stage of its evolution.
Writing these back cover descriptions is the single hardest thing about writing! And I’ve written and rewritten quite a few of them this year. I’ll probably rewrite some more in the future, too, but for now... I’ve got to keep moving forward.
Two of the most important things about selling books are the “blurb” (the description that tells you what the book is about) and the cover. So I have spent quite a bit of time this year tweaking and retweaking those on multiple titles.
Which is where SUN TZU comes in. Sun Tzu, as you probably know, is the ancient Asian tactician credited with writing The Art of War. The basic idea is, don’t fight unless you know you can win. If you know you’re doing something wrong or there’s a weak point in the plan—meaning, you know there’s a damn good chance you will lose and die—why the hell would you go forward and do that?
I use it to remind myself that, if there’s a problem and I know it, then I need to get off my lazy ass and fix it.
Case in point, I improved some covers this year and (as I said) tweaked some bad blurbs. I knew they weren’t helping me as-is, so I forced myself to do something about them, even when I didn’t want to.
And that’s what we have to do: SUN TZU that shit.